5 Growth Challenges That Could be Impacting You Now

What effect does the mind have on the body?

Let’s put it this way – everything that happens in the mind is reflected, expressed, or stored within the body. Think of your mind as the software that informs the hardware. The two are undeniably intertwined. 

For holistic practitioners like myself, this connection really becomes apparent when clients come in seeking relief from being stuck in some recurring cycle, whether it’s chronic physical pain or some aspect of their life path that’s continually not working well for them. It’s never just about the pain, the relationship, or the job; it’s about unlocking, understanding, and addressing what’s going on deep in the nervous system that’s impacting their physical world.

The body isn’t just responsible for manifesting pain. Our thoughts, feelings, and mindset are reflected in every physical expression – from our posture and the way we carry ourselves to our energy levels and how we connect with others.

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While what happens in our mind is expressed in the body, it’s not one-size-fits-all. We are not all created in a factory under one standard model.

Decades ago, Freud protégé Wilhelm Reich studied how human behavior creates physical structure, leading to an understanding of five existential challenges that we all face as humans very early in our lives, and potentially on a recurring basis as we grow and develop.

These growth tasks are something we all learn to navigate, though some of us are impacted more by one (or a few) than others. They are:

  1. Safety – feeling safe and welcome in our environment

  2. Support – getting our needs met and feeling satisfaction when that happens

  3. Independence – having the ability to be autonomous and authentic

  4. Freedom – freely expressing our will in relationship

  5. Acceptance – feeling valuable as a person and included in community

As we navigate these challenges, sometimes our caregivers and environment help us successfully develop these aspects of ourselves, and sometimes there are misses (ranging from small, incidental misses all the way to trauma and abuse). When there’s a miss, we immediately begin searching for coping mechanisms.

These coping mechanisms, when successful, become operating strategies that we take on, and that become interwoven with our character – who we are. While we each have a unique way of dealing with our specific circumstances, these strategies generally fall into eight different categories.

Most-often unseen by us, the strategies we subconsciously call upon to address these challenges show up in everything from our personalities and our outlook on life, to how we deal with conflict and relate to others. The body and mind are enmeshed so these strategies often also show up physically, and over time can lead to pain or dysfunction.

Past challenges aren’t just in the past – they create our “operating software” and can show up anytime we’re under stress or in situations where that same foundational need feels at stake again.

Follow along in this series of blogs, where I’ll delve into each of the five existential challenges and the coping strategies that emerge. In each part, I’ll give you stories of how I’ve seen them show up with clients and sometimes myself. When the series is through, you’ll be ready to start looking at yourself through the lens of the strategies you may be using.

Building awareness of the strategies in your unique system breaks you free of them, giving you the chance to unlock recurring stuck places and, potentially, do something radically different with your life.