A Painful Case by James Joyce ( 1914),
“He could not feel her near him in the darkness nor hear her voice touch his ear. He waited for some minutes listening. He could hear nothing: the night was perfectly silent. He listened again: perfectly silent. He felt that he was alone.”
― James Joyce, Dubliners
In the novel ‘a painful case’ by James Joyce, the reader is introduced to the character of a man who is no longer able to feel his body or experience sensations like love or joy. This narrative is seen in hearts that whisper cries of despair. The whisper is accompanied by a shadow being of ourselves, one we may not always recognize. A shadow that represents the hollowness of our bodies. Remembering the body is an act that can be seen as profoundly healing – it is a remembering, a re-piecing of who we actually are. The Maggie Rogers song, “back in my body” sings the following tune:
This time, I know I’m fighting
This time, I know I’m (back in my body)
This time, I know I’m fighting
This time, I know I’m back in my body
Her song speaks about our relationship with our bodies and our lives; the fight to remain present and true to ourselves. The feeling of being embodied means acknowledging the crippling immorality of humans. If we only have one body and a preselected amount of time to spend it in, we’re meant to recognize the aliveness of our being (of our bodies). We’re blessed with the diversity of biomatter. Yes, your overall body is composed of about 7 octillion atoms, produced by exploding stars in the universe. We are essentially matter. And yet, we’re cursed by a society that categorizes and socially distinguishes our biological matter as good and bad.
Population geneticists agree that all of us are literally one human family. And wouldn’t it be magical if we believed all bodies and minds were the same? Our brains and bodies interact and connect with one another using millions of neurons and neuropathways that direct and make up our being and experiences. We’re miraculous creatures on this planet.
Slyvia Plath writes, “This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary. The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.”
Our minds and our bodies are one and the same. In eating disorder treatment, it feels like all of the clients are mirrors of one another – looking into each other and finding something of themselves. If we’re stuck in disorder thinking about our bodies, then both our body and our mind is affected. All that we think deeply becomes a part of us. What we allow ourselves to think becomes a part of who we are – mind and body. A difference in opinion becomes us. Our waist size becomes us. A wrinkle becomes us. Our childhood becomes us. Healing the hollowed shadow within us helps us find wonder in the world again. Your body is your biggest chance of survival. And yet, we take our bodies for granted every day because we’re scared of being alone – of losing our innocence and becoming adults. The fight to be thin is a representation of an individual’s loss of hope in their search for identity. Opening the flowers of the heart begins by finding the hollowed body and welcoming it back home into your mind. The solution is in remembering who you are.