Without our bodies we wouldn’t be able to ‘act’ in the world, they allow us to experience, to express our minds, to be objects (when touching something) and subjects (when being touched). They give us the chance to emphasise emotions and intentions through body language. Speaking one’s mind is one thing, but observing the body can often tell a different story. Hence paying close attention to gestures, facial expressions, and tone of voice of others can help to understand them, and if you ‘tune in’ with your own body the connection between you and the other may be enhanced.
Is my physical behaviour just an unconscious reaction determined by my brain or can it also be my body’s own will? I believe that, while my mind can control my body, my body also has a – to me unconscious – ‘mind’ to itself, which I would like to call ‘my body’s Innerness’. It’s astonishing how our body can speak for itself. While it’s often our mental voice making our bodies do something, it can also be the other way around; gut feeling, for example, is a bodily sensation we get about a particular thing which then in turn affects our thought system. Years ago I watched a documentary in which a man reported how he had an important business meeting yet didn’t go on his flight due to a bad gut feeling. The plane crashed.
Our bodies are self-sentient; they perceive, react and have intentions.
I try to live in harmony with my body; I try to listen to my bodily needs because then I can act upon them. My body may be a being for itself and offer me to realise my (mental) self in the world, yet it is also dependent on my higher brain functions to maintain itself. Thus, it is also a body-for-others, i.e. an object that I have to look after just like a doctor looks after several (not working) bodies (or body parts). The only difference is that, for the most part, I do it automatically. We become most aware of the function(s) associated with body parts and of our ‘job’ when something feels ‘abnormal’ (hunger, illness, injury…).
Several languages reflect the relationship between the body as object and subject, that we’re somewhere ‘in-between’ (the ‘middle mode’), via reflexive verbs such as ‘ich beschütze mich’ (German: I protect myself), ‘se soigner’ (French: I look after myself) and ‘me miro’ (Spanish: I look at myself).
In my opinion, a good example for the lived body is love. Love seems to have little to nothing to do with consciousness and thoughts. There are various scientific views that try to explain love in terms of brain chemicals etc. I believe that is undeniable that there is also a strong physical aspect to love; a feeling that comes from deep inside one’s body. It is a bodily sensation, powerful and extremely hard to describe and probably very unique to each individual. Love creates butterflies in my stomach, it makes my heart race and ache, it makes my brain spin, it makes my legs shiver, and it makes me feel drawn to that one person. We can’t (yet) explain why our bodies behave in such ways, it lies within our body’s Innerness which we cannot control, and it exemplifies what effects our body can have on our mind (love-sensations probably make us ‘think’ to be more in love).