Mind-Body Bridging: The I-System

Researcher Stanley Block, MD, developed Mind-Body Bridging, a holistic approach to healing and wellness based on the I-System, an internal system we each have that essentially overrides our ability to function naturally when we are triggered by stressful situations (see last week’s post for a more in-depth look at Block’s definition of the I-System). 

Our bodies are comprised of many systems that regulate our bodies. For instance, we have a system that regulates our temperature, keeping the body at around 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. If our temperature goes up, we sweat, and if it goes down, we shiver as our system tries to get back to the body’s normal temperature. Similarly, according to Block, the I-System works like the system that regulates our temperature, but instead of an ideal temperature, the I-System creates and “ideal picture” (requirement) of how you and the world should be. Each moment, both systems sense whether their requirements are met. When the requirement of the system that regulates temperature is not fulfilled, we shiver or sweat. When something comes up that doesn’t fulfill the I-System requirement, our I-System becomes active, and we have body tension, mind clutter, stress, and a tough time controlling our anger.

The natural state of the I-System is to rest. It’s only turned on when requirements are unfulfilled. Remember, requirements are rules that your I-System has created for you about how you and the world should be at any moment (For example, I should be able to control my anger. My boss shouldn’t raise his voice. My partner should be more understanding). It’s vital to know the difference between thoughts that are natural expectations and those that are made into requirements. All thoughts are natural and start free of the I-System’s influence. It’s not what the thought is about (the content), but what happens to the thought, that makes it a requirement. For example, I Should have a good job and my partner should be faithful are thoughts or expectations you would naturally have. When the I-System makes them into requirements (rules) and something happens that breaks those rules, this creates body tension and mental stress, and makes it hard for you to handle the situation. You are now more apt to lose control of your anger.

When a thought is not a requirement, you still have your natural expectation, but your mind is clear, your body is relaxed, and you use executive functioning. You now have less stress and are better able to deal with anything that may arise. Learning to continually recognize when your I-System is active is a crucial part of emotion regulation and more specifically, anger management. 

It’s important to notice that whenever the I-System captures a natural thought or expectation and makes it into a requirement, you become a victim of circumstances because your ability to act appropriately is handicapped.

Stay tuned. Next week, we’ll take a look at some of the specific tools from the Mind-Body Workbook for Anger, which utilizes the I-System and the evidence-based Mind-Body Bridging modality.

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