Embodied is a thrown-around word to mean anything. I hear it in Instagram stories, YouTube workouts, and Drag Race episodes. Podcast hosts should have a bell to ding each time a guest uses it in a conversation. (I googled a phrase to mean the overuse of a word and landed on semantic satiation.) Semantically, I’m satiated.
Embodied or Embodiment is an awareness of being flesh, skin and bones.
It makes sense why the word is so popular and leaned-on. As we navigate a digital life, away from our physical world, we need language to describe our unease and reinforce our bodies. Definitions grow and usages change, but it makes me chuckle that this word has become disembodied through repetition, parroting, and overuse.
I’ve spent a few years attempting to find a solid definition for embodied. There are many great definitions, but here’s one that offered me some footing.
While browsing a tiny sidewalk library in Yorkville, I found a 1965 Penguin Book called The Divided Self: An Existential Study in Sanity and Madness by Scottish psychiatrist R.D Laing. The book is dated, but here is Laing’s definition (updated for gender-neutrality):
“The embodied peron has a sense of being flesh and blood and bones, of being biologically alive and real; they know themselves to be substantial. To the extent that they are thoroughly ‘in’ their body, they are likely to have a sense of personal continuity in time. They will experience themselves as subject to the dangers that threaten their body, the dangers of attack, mulitation, disease, decay, and death. They are implicated in the bodily desire, and the gratifications and frustrations of the body. The individual thus has as their starting-point an experience of their body as a base from which they can be a person with other human beings.”R.D. Laing