In recent posts we’ve been discussing the value of a paradigm shift to thinking of the body as a carrier of meaning and the health care opportunities it affords. As one commentator observed: finding ways for patients to shift their perspectives, to achieve “…a shift in personal insights from the body as object to the body as a ‘talking’ subject, may be one of the most powerful prescriptions for health…Awareness of possible connections between thoughts, feelings and bodily reactions in various situations and social relations (was found to be) essential.” (Merleau-Ponty, 1996)

When a person starts to comprehend her or his experience in terms of a metaphor, they find the power to create a new reality. ‘‘If a new metaphor enters the conceptual system that we base our actions on, it will alter that conceptual system and the perceptions and actions that the system gives rise to,’’ write Lakoff & Johnson (1981).

The approach of “reading” the messages of the body has clinically important results for the management of pain. Giving patients tools that can engage and encourage their ability to read the messages of their body helps them recover faster.

I share with my patients that the low back pain they are experiencing may be associated with the kidney. I explain to them that in Chinese medicine the kidneys are emotionally associated with fear. In cases where back pain may have elicited fear resulting from fearful circumstances, this knowledge appears to reassure them. It is as if they are able to make more sense of their symptoms. Thus, when I perform the work, their attention addresses the fear. This is something we’ll need to look at more closely in my next post.