Podcast 6/52 – The disembodied western culture

On Being is, as you might have guess, a favorite of mine, when it comes to podcasts. And this episode is as good as the next. Because they truly all have something special.

In this episode I met Bessel van der Kolk for the first time, and just from spending fifty minutes with him and Krista, I know I would love to listen more to him. He’s an interesting man, and I would love to meet him, talk to him, listen to him tell me more about what he’s discovered during his life.

There’s a part of the show, near the end, where Bessel and Krista talk about the disembodied Western culture, and I’ll just let you read for yourself:

DisembodiedDR. VAN DER KOLK: … Western culture is astoundingly disembodied and uniquely so. Because of my work, I’ve been to South Africa quite a few times and China and Japan and India. You see that we are much more disembodied. And the way I like to say is that we basically come from a post-alcoholic culture. People whose origins are in Northern Europe had only one way of treating distress: that’s namely with a bottle of alcohol.

North American culture continues to continue that notion. If you feel bad, just take a swig or take a pill. And the notion that you can do things to change the harmony inside of yourself is just not something that we teach in schools and in our culture, in our churches, in our religious practices. And, of course, if you look at religions around the world, they always start with dancing, moving, singing …

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah. Crying, laughing, yeah.

DR. VAN DER KOLK: Physical experiences. And then the more respectable people become, the more stiff they become somehow.

Disembodied. Stiff. Detached from ourselves.

Watched The Imitation Game for the second time the other day, and flinched at the ”stiff upper lip”-reference the head master makes when telling the teenaged Alan Turing about his friend Christoffer passing away during a holiday. I flinched, and feel very sad. How much pain have we, as a culture, not inflicted upon each other, by using words and phrases like that, setting that as the norm; being highly disembodied, clearly making it the thing to strive for.

And I think, even though Alan Turing must have been a school boy during the 20s, that it’s still so to a large extent. Rather than make use of our body for learning, school children in many many places are still told to sit still. Disembodied, that’s the culture we live in. And this is just one example, I’m sure I could come up with a number, if I wanted to. I don’t though.

Because perhaps there is a change coming? What with new research such as neuroscience, and new discoveries on learning, physical and mental development etc. Dare I hope?


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