The Mind & Body Separation. Revisited.

If you’ve ever taken a Medical Anthropology or Complimentary and Alternative Medicine course or read any literature on holistic healing practices, chances are you’ve become familiar with the short-comings of Western Medicine in separating the “mind” and “body” when approaching treatment plans. Example: Chemotherapy as a treatment for those living with cancer is separated from cancer support groups. Here, the “body” takes the front seat in aggressive care measures while care for the “mind” is coined as optional and not completely necessary. Now, I understand this and so did many of my peers with whom I took these eye-opening courses with and discussed the literature of my favorite bad-ass anthropologists and public health professionals. And from my own experiences, this knowledge base has only been applicable in my academic and professional life. I’ve cited this theory in my feminist health articles and papers. I’ve had cunty conversations with like-minded public health workin’ folks like myself. I’ve even worked on a thesis extending this theory (topic was “PMS” as a diagnosis used to treat the female body rather than the social understandings that make female menstruation “abnormal”). You can say that I’m committed, but its continuing rewards in understanding came only 2 days ago.

Now, stay with me. Many of experiences are understood either mentally or bodily. There’s a Western notion that defines “you” as your personality and “soul.” The rest, the physical, is just a mere presence. But how does this affect intimate relationships between people.

  • To love one’s personality is to “truly” love said person. Loving appearance is seen as secondary and, if primary, shallow.
  • Relationships are understood as dialogue communication and verbal understandings. Bodily interactions (sexual intercourse and foreplay, physical intimacy, etc.) are supplements and are separate.
  • Sex (bodily pleasures) between peoples means “nothing” without the foundation of a defined, heteronormative (in that it’s monogamous and adheres by social norms of appropriate actions) relationships.

I’ve been a believer of all of these notions at one point or another. Parts have been challenged as I’ve broadened my understandings, but for the most part, they have been taken for granted as truths. BUT, what’s wrong with sex being an equal or, brace yourselves…. bigger, component of an intimate relationships between peoples? It has been researched by sexual pioneers like Betty Dodson that sex heals, it brings people together in real ways. And let’s face it, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of having an orgasm with yourself or another or others, sex feels great.

But back to the mind/body conundrum… I argue that holistic attraction, one that doesn’t separate one’s personality from the physical extension of it, would allow perhaps resulting intimacies and relationships to be about both sex and appreciating verbal connections. On the same note, sex without the label of partner/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/fiance (whatever tickles your fancy) is still a relationship that should be valued, respected and appreciated. In the same way that sexual pleasures should be a component between partners, verbal respect and understanding should be a component of sexual encounters between individuals. Keeping them separate let’s many go unable to explore desired sexual experiences with their partners, sexual abuse, lack of respect toward sexual partners, etc.

I completely realize that this is a short blog post. I do not wish to be appear unaware of the diversity found in intimate relationships between people and the many encounters and connections people seek. But let this be a piece of the never ending puzzle of relationships.

Maybe once we all bring our bodily pleasures up to speed with the parts of relationships that are valued so highly (financial stability, conversation, getting to know one another, marriage counselling) the displeasure many of us find can be somewhat avoided.

I plan on extending this post. Growing with it. I know my understanding is limited and is itching for additional perspectives. Feel free to comment with criticisms and your continuing inputs.

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