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"The Mind-Body Connection"

By: Patricia D. McClendon, MSSW

Date: May 1995

Note: The following material was written in response to some discussion on Peter Barach's dissociative-disorders mailing list (part of InterPsych). Peter Barach, Ph.D., is the member-at-large for ISSD. To subscribe to the dissociative-disorders mailing list, go to the "Trauma News and Updates" page for more information.

Somatization IS a complex phenomenon ....

Here's a rather lengthy quote from "Mind-Body Therapy: Methods of Ideodynamic Healing in Hypnosis" by Ernest L. Rossi and David B. Cheek, 1988, WWNorton & Co., p.163-4:

The Brain-Body Connection

Most people think of the brain as being connected to the body by nerves. We also know, however, that hormones from the pituitary, the "master gland" of the brain, can regulate body processes. The previously separate fields of neurology and endocrinology came together when the Scharrers (Scharrer & Scharrer, 1940) discovered that some neural cells were able to produce hormones. They were the first to document how certain neurons within the hypothalamus of the brain convert the neural impulses of mind into the hormonal information substances of the body. This conversion of the neuronal signals of mind into the messager molecules of the body was later termed neuroendocrinal transduction by Wurtman and Anton-Tay (1969). The more general concept of information transduction in current day psychobiological theory apparently evolved from that point. Information transduction at this level usually refers to the conversion or transformation of information from one neuromolecular modality into another. The most familiar examples of information transduction come from the area of sensory-perceptual psychology. Information in one form of light is transduced into chemical information when it is encoded by the molecules of rhodopsin in the retina of the eye. The photochemistry of rhodopsin transduces this chemical information into neural information via the "bipolar" and ganglion cells within the retina, which, in turn, transmit the neural information through the optic nerve to the visual association cortex of the brain. All sensory-perceptual systems operate by an analogous process of information transduction. Information transduction at this level of mind-body communication has been used to update Hans Selye's theory of stress and the General Adaptation Syndrome as the basis of psychosomatic medicine (Rossi, 1986c d; Rossi & Ryan, 1986). Selye's life work demonstrated that there were three routes, channels, or systems by which mental stress was transmitted into the body's "psycho-somatic" responses: the autonomic, endocrine, and immune systems. We now know that the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary system of the brain plays the major integrative role in the mind modulation of all three of these major systems. That is, the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary system is the major mind-body information transducer: it is the translator between the languages of the mind (in the forms of sensation, imagery, verbal language, etc.) and the languages of the body (information substances such as neuropeptides, hormones, immunotransmitters, etc.). It has been proposed that the state-dependent memory, learning, and behavior system that encodes many mind-body problems functions as an "experiential filter" modulating the activity of the limbic-hypothalamic-pituitary system (Rossi, 1986d). This leads us to conclude that information transduction and state-dependent memory and learning are the two fundamental processes that bridge the so-called "mysterious gap" between mind and body; they are the two basic channels of mind-body communication and healing.

The next 4 pages -" The Celluar-Genetic Connection" section- discuss the mind-gene-molecule communication network, the classic psychosomatic responses to stress, Selye's three-part psychosomatic response, "mind-gene stress operon" and Rossi's theory that a mind-gene healing operons also exists.

A short quote, p.167:

"...The mind-body-gene information loops usually operate at an `unconscious' level. The ultimate goal of all mind-body healing methods is to learn how to consciously facilitate these processes for psychosomatic healing."

Now, what does all that have to do with dissociative disorders? As I previously mentioned, I believe trance (dissociation) can disrupt the survivor's neurochemistry even on an autonomic level. The reason that hypnosis is successful when other treatment modalities fail, is theorized to be its ability to "bypass" the client's conscious mind which is "blocking" treatment. Perhaps, Francine Sharpiro's Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, EMDR, also works to "bypass" the conscious mind and honors the mind-body connections as does hypnosis.

I believe, survivors do not have conscious control over their somatization because somatization is tied to neuropsychophysiologic (NPP) state-dependent memory (SDM). However, they do have control over whether or not they embellish their symptoms and disabilities. And, whether or not they are cooperating with treatment to desensitize "triggers" that make their somatization symptoms worse. They did not chose to be abuse and end up with somatic symptoms/illnesses. These symptoms are natural outcome of enduring significant trauma.

All people dissociate, so somatic illnesses aren't limited to dissociative disordered clients or "borderlines" (just a different type of dissociative disorder).

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Last updated on January 13, 2011.

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This photo was taken just days shy of my 49th birthday. Copyright © 1995 - 2015 by "Pat," Patricia D. McClendon, MSSW

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