You can get in trouble when you treat relationships as tools.
You can also have problems when you treat tools as relationships.
Your body, however, falls into a grey area.
You need to treat it both as a tool and a valuable relationship.
This can be tricky and hard to do.
If you manage this, you can inoculate yourself against psychosomatic illnesses.
What is a psychosomatic illness?
It’s an illness caused by a mindset.
That doesn’t mean it’s “in your mind” or it doesn’t exist. Psychosomatic illnesses are real.
They consist of practically an infinity of different troubles rolled up and consolidated under one tidy label.
Examples: Smoking because you’re stressed out. Overeating because you’re stressed out. Grinding your teeth because you’ve gotten used to doing that. Regurgitating your food and playing with it in the area that ranges from your esophagus to your mouth because you’re bored, thereby causing damage to the structures over time—making light scratches and cuts in your wrist because you’re bored.
The list can go on.
The mindset brings the illness into being.
Remembering how relationships aren’t tools and tools aren’t relationships and how your body needs to be treated as a tool and relationship can make a huge difference in your life. It can help you set the right priorities.
For example: Don’t sit for hours on the computer even if you both have work to do and a challenging deadline to meet.
Your body is a tool like your car or something else valuable! It’s more valuable than your car, actually, but it’s an easy comparison to make.
Maintain your body. Stand and stretch now and then. See that you get at least some light exercise. Avoid the illness.
Maybe you’ll take steps to eliminate compulsive eating. Perhaps you’ll tell yourself something like, “Boy, that candy is tasting good, but at this rate, I’m going to finish the whole box by the end of the day. I’m not going to take more than one piece every 30 minutes.”
The problem isn’t so much that you’re enjoying a treat. It’s the number of treats. It would be best if you employed a breaking mechanism to curb that quantity.
Set limits. Within and with those limits, you can prosper.
The body needs proper nutrition to run well. You want to have a good relationship with the tool. Yet candy doesn’t fall into the category of good food, and soda doesn’t either. Yet you enjoy the sweet taste. It’s a reward for your mind and a sense of taste than your body. Within the intertwining concepts of tool and relationship, you find some moderation.
Vaccines aren’t 100 percent effective by themselves. They always have to work alongside the body’s immune system. They rely on other factors like viral load and herd immunity to bolster their efficacy. They do mobilize your immune system to assist it in its fight, and they’re just one factor. That’s why this bit of mental programming isn’t a cure, but it is still useful for curbing psychosomatic illness. You can still be blindsided by the effects of a habit you’re unaware of. Bolster your self-awareness when you can. One way is through dream journaling. Remembering your dreams is an underused form of mediation that boosts self-knowledge and overall awareness.
Having and remembering the dreams themselves are part of a primary feedback mechanism. You’re supposed to dream and remember that you’ve had the dream, though the details may escape you. Dreaming when you sleep is natural.
What are tools?
Tools are things you use to accomplish a task.
Cars are tools getting you around from place to place.
Computers are tools enabling you to get around the Internet, do your banking, go to school, and do many other things.
Clothes are tools keeping you warm, covering your body, sending various messages, and allowing for self-expression.
If you treat any of these things as relationships, you lose objectivity about them.
Tools are material. They’re replaceable. They might be expensive, sure. You still need to take care of them.
Don’t think about them in the same way you’d think about a relationship. You won’t employ them efficiently. You become overly attached to them. You overthink them. You obsess about the interaction between you and the item. None of these ways of being are good.
Your body has some of the characteristics of a tool.
You can take your body mountain bike riding or skateboarding. It’s fun, and it’ll make you feel good. True, you might get hurt, and that would suck. However, unless you go too far with the activity, it’s not something from which you wouldn’t recover. A little risk is a good thing.
People and pets are relationships not tools.
A relationship is an association you have with a living creature. When you lose a relationship you’re not going to be able to replace it the way you replace a screwdriver.
Relationships can be complicated, just like a relationship with your body can be.
People often take up cigarette smoking habit to cope with stress. They develop an addiction. Later in life, they often develop illnesses.
One can say cigarette smoking can be linked to breathing problems, cancer, and various other maladies. Yet nobody forced the individual to buy cigarettes and smoke them. They were trying to relieve the stress they felt.
Not everybody who feels stress starts smoking. Some people have better ways of coping than others.
They name the stress for what it is (that’s half of the battle) and then neutralize it somehow. They have ways to take their minds off of it.
Ultimately, that’s what the person was doing when they started smoking. They enjoyed the flavor and smell of the cigarette.
So, does the tool/relationship dynamic help you when it comes to psychosomatic illnesses, for it gives you a framework for understanding the body relationship you must strive for.
The body needs to be told it’s valued. The way you tell you it’s appreciated is through your actions.
I’m not going to put foul cancer-causing smoke into you. I’m going to nurture you with good food. I’m going to stretch gently, so you don’t have pain. I’m going to learn ways to quiet my mind, so you get enough rest. I’m not going to drink too much alcohol, get drunk, and fall downstairs. I’m going to leave rattlesnakes alone and play jokes on people because I might surprise the snake and get bit.
Love, love, love your body in wholesome ways like this, at least like a tree you’re trying to get to grow well.
You’re not going to beat up someone you love, are you?
Don’t. That’s not high-quality love if you do. Loving means that through action, you’re trying to find ways to make the individual prosper.
That’s what you should do with your body.
Here’s the way ancient wise man Lao Tzu put the concept of mental programming that ends up in psychosomatic illness:
“Watch your thoughts; they become your words.
“Watch your words; they become your actions.
“Watch your actions; they become your habits.
“Watch your habits; they become your character.
“Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
Body and mind are interrelated, and it’s not a direct cause and effect. You can’t do a study on this and say precisely that this leads to that. To see its truth for yourself, you need to open your eyes and learn from the examples around you.
Relationships need to be cultivated and nurtured. You need to meet the person or creature. That’s the cultivation aspect. Then it would help if you treated them right. That’s the nurturing part.
Treating them right is defined as a way of behaving that’s acceptable to them.
If the relationship is to grow and deepen, the communication must be clear and understood. It’s not always the sender’s fault when the messages aren’t clear. Sometimes it’s the receiver who isn’t listening or injecting meaning into the message that isn’t there.
In comparing relationships to tools, it’s helpful to remember how beneficial relationships can be. You can quickly start to think of the relationship like a tool, but that’s a mistake because there’s a particular replaceable aspect to tools relationships don’t have.
Relationships have different characteristics, too in that sometimes they’re asymmetrical, sometimes they’re between equals, and other times they’re with people with more power than you have.
Friends and friendly people do favors for others all the time. Those favors can be handy.
You always need to express appreciation in return. Or do something nice for them in return. Or express regret you’re never going to be able to repay their kindness.
There’s a little dance that goes on that’s partly culture-dependent.
Gestures of appreciation are lost on tools though gratitude is good for your soul.
Treating a tool as a relationship is a waste of time.
Do you cajole your screwdriver into unscrewing things?
If you do, you’re a fool. It’s better to either not waste the time you spend on the screwdriver getting it to work or to get another one that doesn’t need cajoling.
Computers are tools. Cars are tools.
Tools are inanimate objects.
While you shouldn’t have to coax a tool to do its job in an ideal world, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have to maintain it. Cars need their tires inflated and oil changed. Computers need decluttering. If you have a kit you use to work on a particular job, you need to organize it so that you can find the tool you need when you need it.
Your body, however, needs to be maintained like a tool. It also can be influenced, and therein comes the relationship aspect. One such example of this is sports and fitness.
Give me one more rep! Push! Push! Push! Do it!
Never giving it a break or something fun to do. Not making any plan for its growth. Not allowing it to prosper. That’s souring the relationship with yourself.
We can go a long way with this analogy defining tools, defining relationships. It shouldn’t be necessary to make the point I need to make. After all, even most small children know how to treat their friends and family. Even small children get the idea if they want their toys to be available to play with that, they need to put them in a place where they can find them.
Your body is a tool. It’s the tool you use to explore the world.
It’s a tool you need to take care of. You need to do what you can so it has the best chance of getting rest possible. You need to get some exercise. You need to take care to feed it in conjunction with what you need it to do, and when it stops working as well as it should, you need to fix it so you can continue to enjoy it’s proper use. There are plenty of books, articles, and videos created on health. They’re like the instruction manuals for any tool you might buy at the store: a vacuum cleaner, a blender, or even a pressure cooker.
Too many people don’t do this. They ignore problems until they get to be too big. Or they blow up small problems into oversized ones for a variety of different motivations.
Your body is a relationship, too. How you feel about it is crucial. The care with which you tend it is essential. Do you abuse it with overeating or alcohol?
Some people can be great friends to others; how come they’re not good friends to their body? To themselves? A poor relationship with your body will complicate your life.
No doubt, you do need to get a little extra work out of your body for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because you’re training. Sometimes it’s because disaster strikes. There are a lot of different reasons.
You need to know how to do this, and you need to realize your body is both a tool and a relationship. There are times when you might risk your health for the greater good. Steven Covey calls it the P/PC balance, where ‘P’ stands for “production” and ‘PC’ stands for “production capacity.” You have to take care of your ability to produce golden eggs.
If you can, you can avoid many psychosomatic illnesses, and with a high level of awareness, maybe even all of it.
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Updated April 15, 2022