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Irrterrelatedness a n d Interdependency

of M i n d and Body Action


separate and independent entites are, in reality, inseparable and
interdependent aspects of a single organismic whole. The mind is
a function of the brain which is a part of the body; it is a product
of the brain's activity. An organic change in the brain will result
in a corresponding change in the way it functions. Contrariwise,
the mind or mental activity is responsible for physiological changes
in the brain as well as in other organs of the body.
For example, emotions are phenomena in which both physical
and mental activity are involved; any change in the nature or inten-
sity of either will cause a corresponding change in the other. That
is to say, if we use the word "feel" to describe the organism's per-
ception of an emotional experience, the way one thinks affects the
way he feels. Illustrative of this was the observation made by a vet-
eran who had spent two hopeless years of suffering in a German
prison camp. He complained that whenever his thoughts drifted
back to that period, he would virtually relive many of the indignities
and privations to which he was subjected. These meditations were,
in themselves, sufficient to cause him to become moody and de-
pressed and on several occasions he even contemplated suicide.
Fortunately, thinking can be constructive as well as destructive.
It is possible at times to dispel gloom and murky meditations by
entertaining joyful thoughts and mentally reliving pleasant experi-
The way one feels affects the way he thinks. It is as difficult for
a melancholic to see the bright side of things as it is for an optimist
to see the dark side. Our predominant mood at any given time will
even more surely determine our outlook on life than our thoughts
can determine the way we feel at others. A salesman who is a student
of human nature will never waste his time trying to sell a prospect
who obviously has just had a fight with his wife or is suffering from
a headache. A man who is feeling bad is not in the mood to be
persuaded that buying a new item or repeating an order will make
things lovely. Everything looks black to him and, if the salesman
isn't careful, his product may become identified in his customer's
mind with the misery he is suffering.
The predominating emotion, whether it is anger, fear, sadness or
joy, is extremely important and, at times, the only factor in deter-
mining one's attitudes and trends of thought. This principle of psy-
chology has been known to crooked politicians and demagogues such
as Hitler throughout history. By arousing the emotions of the pop-
ulace and keeping them at fever pitch, they made it difficult or
impossible for the people to think clearly and logically on important
issues and, in this way, they were able to perpetrate horrible crimes
which would otherwise not have been possible. To touch on a
lighter note, the way to a man's "heart" or mind is via his stomach.
Give him a hearty meal of his favorite dishes, make him feel good,
and he is sure to be a pleasant and agreeable companion. Keep him
waiting and hungry and he isn't fit to be spoken to.
It is obvious that the way one feels affects the way he acts. Sad-
ness spells tears; happiness, laughter; anger, rage; fear, flight, and
so on. Contrariwise, the way one acts affects the way he feels.
Whistling in the dark is an age old treatment for knocking knees.
Seasoned soldiers are aware of the courage inspiring effect of sing-
ing their way into battle. In the days of the silent films, we are told,
directors often resorted to using sliced onions to bring tears to the
eyes of their heroines. Once they got the tears rolling, the actress had
little trouble experiencing the appropriate emotion and gave a truly
realistic performance. There are many instances in everyone's ex-
perience to demonstrate these facts. When in the extreme, emotional
and logical behavior cannot operate simultaneously; they are mu-
tually exclusive. In lesser degrees, they may be mutually beneficial.
Love and romance have inspired many great works of art, literature
and music. It is in excess, when the emotions get beyond reasonable
control, that they are undesirable, dangerous and destructive of the
personality. Crime and some types of mental disorders are instances
of this.
The way one thinks affects the way he acts. Although it is possible
Interdependency of Mind and Body Action 45
to perform an act automatically, much behavior is set for or plan-
ned. The thinking may occur so rapidly that it appears to be auto-
matic, yet unless the act is a natural or conditioned reflex, it must
be determined as we go along. Thus action is no accident; it will not
happen unless it is made to happen.
The way one acts affects the way he thinks. In playing a game of
chess, working a mathematical problem, painting a picture or bak-
ing a cake, it is necessary to plan the successive moves to reach the
desired goal. If any of the steps taken prove to be incorrect, or tend
to lead away from the goal, the behavior must be adjusted so as to
lead back toward the goal. Or if the procedure is proving successful,
the problem is being solved, the game won, etc., the appropriate
behavior is continued. Thus thought determines behavior and be-
havior determines subsequent thought.
These ideas may be expressed diagramatically as follows:
Manner of action
^ d, (muscular) ^ )|
Manner of thinking _^. Manner of feeling
(cerebral) ^. (thalamic)
Understanding and applying these psychosomatic principles offers
an additional means of dealing with problems encountered in block-
Of the three types of behavior, i.e. feeling, thinking and acting,
the most easily modified in most circumstances is acting. Our emo-
tions are deeply entrenched and usually of too long standing to be
readily altered. They are not under direct control of the higher
nervous centers and can be reached only indirectly through control
of muscle or cortical action.
Our customary manner of thinking, on the other hand, tends also
to become routinized as well as somewhat emotionally tinged. When
we are confronted with problems with which we have had to deal
repeatedly, we tend to follow along lines similar to those we have
previously normally followed. Emotional bias plays a great role in
determining the lines of thinking that we follow and a good deal of
what is sometimes thought to be reasoning is actually emoting.
Muscular behavior, however, may be changed at a moment's
notice in all but extremely emotional states. It is possible for a per-
son to make himself act in a way he does not think or feel is right,
whereas it would be difficult or impossible for him to feel good
immediately about what he was doing or to see the logic of it. By
the process of changing the behavior, however, the individual may
come to see the logic in the change because of the results evident
and consequently he may feel different about it.
A southern white doctor of our acquaintance came to a northern
hospital for his internship. He came loaded down with all the usual
racial prejudices and was outraged to learn that he had to eat in
the same dining room with Negro interns and share the same
building as sleeping quarters. For some time he took his meals out-
side but the press of hospital duties and finances soon compelled
him to return to the free meals available in the doctors' dining room.
He was careful to sit only with whites, but one day a Negro doctor
with whom he was friendly on the wards came and sat down by his
side. He described his feelings in lurid colors later to a group of
friends. Regardless of his feelings, good manners forbade his leaving
the table. During the subsequent ten months of his service he was
compelled again and again to eat and converse with one or more
of the hospital's seven Negro physicians. By the time his year was
up, there was no further question of tolerating these men; he had
come to respect them and enjoyed their company. This could never
have been accomplished through reasoning with him about the
equality of man and so on, or by emotional means such as pleading,
teasing, shaming or threatening. The simple procedure of eating,
talking, working and living with these people as he would with any
other human beings, resulted in his feeling and thinking of them as
such. Acting as if a thing is so, eventually leads to feeling and
thinking it is so as well.
This action principle is constantly used in the treatment of block-
ing. A person may have a conditioned response to block in a given
manner whenever it becomes necessary to produce a certain word
in a certain situation. However, when he anticipates the block he
has the choice of responding with blocking or employing the delayed
reaction, changing his mental set and producing the word in a new
and more desirable manner.
The changing of his response, the way he acts, will change the
way he feels and thinks about his blocking both as regards any par-
ticular block and his blocks in general. When he has behaved a
great many times in a great many situations as if he knew he had
Interdependency of Mind and Body Action 47
control over his speech, he will begin to think more nearly like one
who knows he has control and that in turn will reduce his fear of
speaking situations.
Each successive time he substitutes a more fluent speech pattern
for the one he customarily used, his confidence is increased and
emotional interference is lessened. Repetition of this type of treat-
ment eventually eliminates the old blocking pattern completely by
unconditioning it and there is then a corresponding change in the
attitude of the patient toward himself and his speech. When con-
sidering the reasons for use of a blocking pattern, it is important to
remember that the way one acts affects the way he thinks and feels.