To my knowledge cell movement is a complex phenomena. These little blighters are full of interesting and inexpiable notions that keep our scientists forever on the look out for new developments. Research says that cells begin to move in response to an external signal in its surrounding environment. And receptors detect the external impulse and decide what action to take, amazingly in order to keep our homeostasis ticking along at an even pace. And these are just your regular cells, other unspecialized cells let’s call them Stem Cells, actually their real name, are capable of morphing, dividing and growing in order to replenish our worn out parts and repair the damage we incur over time.
Now given that my understanding is limited and looking at this from the perspective of a psychotherapist working with the body and movement there does seem to be a common thread here. Take this picture for example of heart cells dancing to the beat of music, they look quite jolly to me.
Supposing our cells react to not only our external but also internal stimuli, I am convinced that our cells look different according to our emotional state. Recently research has started to acknowledge the effect our cells have on the way in which we relate to others, and the feelings that get created in relationships, which in turn has an enormous impact how our cells perform, according to how good or bad they are feeling. A major influence on the state of our health, and perhaps the link between a sense of holistic well being and ill health.
Ultimately cell research is a huge area with many sub-topics to be considered, my personal favorite being mirror neurons and dance movement psychotherapy. As a key component in the therapeutic process of DMP (Dance Movement Psychotherapy), mirroring another’s movement is now the subject of neuroscience. Mirror neurons are certain brain cells that are linked to empathy and the ability to instinctively and immediately understand what other people are experiencing. For example when you see a stranger bang their elbow you flinch in sympathy or when your friend laughs at something s/he is reading you smile along with them. These are the gorgeous interactive system of cells that allow us to feel engaged in the an action or expression whilst we are only witnessing rather than experiencing the event itself. Possibly this is why watching sport, in particular football, is so popular since we inadvertently feel every foul, each adrenalin filled goal as we urge our team to victory. It seems we do not need to ‘play’ the game in order to feel the physiological and emotional empathy towards the players.
Thus the use of mirroring in DMP has grown to really encompass neurological underpinnings which are helping us to understand how we acquire social skills and communicate our innermost feelings and intentions to others. And as psychotherapists, either directly or indirectly using the body, we can help build more robust or heartfelt attachments in the therapeutic relationship, laying the groundwork for more fulfilling personal relationships in life.
The mirror neuron system also appears to allow us to decode (receive and interpret) facial expressions. Whether we are observing a specific expression or making it ourselves (a frown of disgust, for example) the same regions of our brain become activated. And the better we are at interpreting facial expressions, the more active our mirror neuron system. Thus, the more we are in relation to someone the more chance we have of developing ourselves. What an amazing thought! Studies have found that people with autism, a disorder characterized in part by problems that occur during social interaction, appear to have found a dysfunctional mirror neuron system. An incredible discovery but does that mean we can really make a change?
The question for me is; if our cells are responsive to more than biological information and programming how can we affect them? Another massive topic where the word Meditation is screaming at me, although I am a great advocate of mediation, and do not dispute its benefits , my interest is more along the lines of movement; is our cell movement linked to our physiological movement. Can we alter defective cells by adapting our movement to support a healthy cell, and vice versa? Let’s say, very simplistically, that some cells, for example stem cells are not repairing our liver properly and this is causing liver disease. Is it possible to mirror the healthy movement of the cell designed to repair liver damage in our physical movement. Say the healthy cell needs to move side-ways in order to repair, could we explore more side-ways movements in our daily repertoire to encourage the cell, to re-connect with its original adaptive behavior. Alternatively could it be that our individual movement repertoire can reflect where in the body cells might not be functioning accordingly?
If this is so what are the implications of this connection? It is plausible to assume that we need to believe that healing is possible and that the treatment we receive is beneficial in order to activate the necessary cells to work for our good. I have a hopeful bias towards the synthesis between our cell biology, emotional map, movement and our outer reality. And feel sure our bodies can be changed as we retrain our movements so we retrain our feeling about the movement, that has to have a knock on effect on cells which emanate their actions from our positive or negative being in relation to others in our world.