The body remembers

This is the start of a new series on Bodymind.

I want to write about how your body remembers the experiences that weren’t good for you, recalls the emotions associated with them, and reminds you what you need to do if they happen again.

I will also be writing about how you can use cellular memories to recall the experiences that have been useful for you in the past.

Let’s start with a story from the history of Psychology. Specifically with the work of Claparede, a Swiss Psychologist, who worked with patients suffering from brain damage in the Salpetriere, an asylum in Paris.

One of his patients suffered from a type of amnesia that left her incapable
of forming new memories.

What Claparede experienced when he met with her was this:

Each day Claparede would say ‘hello’ to her and introduce her to his colleagues. Fifteen minutes later she would forget who he was. So he would have to go through the same round of introductions over and over.

Now, Claparede noticed that this woman always ‘remembered’ how to get to the breakfast room in the morning, even though she couldn’t tell other patients how to get there. In short, her Bodymind remembered what to do when Headmind didn’t.

So Claparade tried an experiment.

When he greeted her next he concealed a pin in his palm and shook her hand.

The next day, his patient greeted him with the usual blank welcome— no memory of yesterday’s meeting, no memory of yesterday at all— until Claparède extended his
hand. Without being able to explain why, the woman refused to shake. She could not recall Claparede’s name or his face but, unconsciously, she recalled the pain.

Nowadays, we call this type of remembering implicit memory. And implicit memories are stored in the cells, some in the brain, some in the immune system, some, even, in the muscles. Next up I will write about what these have to do with emotional states.

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