Connecting Reflexology and Mirror Neurones…
woman with raised arms at dawn in front of sea
I have recently been pondering on the importance of face to face interactions and how important they are.
With so much of our time spent working virtually these days we are so lucky to have supportive technology that enables us to see each other while we talk. It is incredibly valuable to be able to smile at another being and hopefully pick up signals as to how they are feeling by seeing their facial expressions whilst listening to their tone of voice.
But despite this hugely valuable advance, I have been struck recently by the limitations of virtual life, and the experience that something intangible, yet fundamental, is lacking in these exchanges.
I wasn't quite sure what it was and why I felt that way but what I did know was how energised I felt when I interacted - with almost anyone! I have found myself chatting to shop keepers and strangers in the park far more often these days; and when I get to spend time with groups of friends I get home and I am literally buzzing!
One of my clients, a physiotherapist, and I were discussing the mind body connection one day. Now, most of us will have heard, for example, that we are learning a lot more now about about the link between the mind and what is happening in our gut, and how the bacteria in our stomachs has an impact on our mental state. But what other connections are there?
My client very kindly lent me a book: The Body Keeps the Score, by Bessel van der Kolk. The book itself is fascinating for many reasons but it particularly resonated with me was what he says about empathy.
There are specialised cells, known as mirror neurones in the frontal lobes of our brain. These were only discovered in 1994 when Italian scientists discovered that these neurones are like wifi and they pick up signals from other humans - whether movement or emotions and intent. This explains why people who are 'in sync' with others may adopt similar poses or vocal tones and rhythm. But it also explains how our moods are affected by others - when you are with a person who is feeling negative, for example, it can drag you down as well.
Van der Kalk's book is about trauma but for me, the existence of mirror neurones also helps provide an explanation as to what is missing when we do not meet our colleagues in the office or we don't spend enough quality time with friends and family as much as we used to. When we are with them - in close physical proximity  -  our brains and our bodies are connecting to theirs - absorbing their energies, emotions in a far more visceral way than if we are not in the same place. Not being in the same space, essentially deprives us of a really important social communication channel - it is as if we get just half of a story .
So what am i doing with this deeper understanding? Well as a reflexologist whose work depends on physical contact, I am far more aware now of the importance of the unspoken communication that is happening between client and therapist. This is particularly relevant for a client whose life has become more insular due to home working or because they are isolated for other reasons, but it is important for all of us. Interactions between a client and a reflexologist or reiki practitioner gives even further meaning to the concept of holistic therapy and why so many of us benefit. We don't need to understand the science or have a theory to know that some things just feel better when we are together.