Disorders and Treatment
- Mental Illness
- Bipolar Disorder
- Mood Disorders
- Borderline Personality
- Mental Health Diagnosis
- Mental Health Treatments
- Alternative Meds
- Case Studies
We have been taught that thinking (cognition) happens in the gray matter housed in our skull.
It is natural for us to assume that everything we do is the result of complex mental computations that go on there. And it is logical for us to assume that if a person is not managing life well, the problem must lie between the ears.
Embodied cognition is an idea that turns our belief about the brain’s central role in thinking on its head. This theory suggests that what the body perceives as we interact with the environment is just as responsible for our behavior, and getting us to our goals, as the brain.
This idea changes the brain’s job description.
This means the environment and our bodies are not just influences on our thought process but are essential mechanisms of thought processing.
The concept of embodied cognition has not altered mainstream perceptions of mental health or mental illness, but it might. Anyone who has holistic thoughts about well-being can relate to the implications of embodied cognition:
This expanded notion of cognition complements our current knowledge and treatment of mental disorders. Our brain is, after all, part of the thinking process, and current treatments address this. Yet embodied cognition does imply that the traditional psychological focus on brain function is too narrow.
Because of embodied cognition, it has been theorized that the symptoms of schizophrenia are owed to a disruption of communication between the environmental, body and brain processing mechanisms. To put it another way, thinking becomes disembodied, losing its connection to the body and the environment.
The disembodiment leads to feelings of emptiness or loss of self as well as alienation from others and one’s surroundings. It necessitates navigating through life by performing everyday behaviors as separate, unrelated actions instead of fluid brain-body-environment behaviors.
Melancholic depression, in light of cognitive embodiment, might be viewed as “hyper-embodiment.” The body loses some of its ability to connect with the world and cannot fluidly process data from the environment. Without this connection, an individual is less attuned to others and feels both detached and emotionally stunted. The body becomes too solid, and the person feels trapped in a world of reduced possibilities.
The theory of embodied cognition may someday change the way we view mental health and thought disorders. In the meantime, it is fascinating food for thought and inspiration.
Detail from "Encuentro", Remedios Varo Uranga (1908-1963)
The information provided on the PsyWeb.com is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of PsyWeb.com nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.