“As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself…The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.” – Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score
“Neuroscience research shows that the only way we can change the way we feel is by becoming aware of our inner experience and learning to befriend what is going inside ourselves.” Bessel Van Der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score
“How do you feel today?”
“How do I feel? Well, happy I guess.”
“Happy, you guess?”
“Yeah, sure! I’m happy.”
“That’s great. How do you know you’re happy?”
“I just am.”
“Okay. But how do you know?”
“I don’t know. I guess because I’m smiling.”
“Is smiling what makes you know that you are happy? Or is smiling a result of feeling happy?”
“I don’t really know…”
This is a conversation I had with a coaching client. Like many of us, she grew up without much encouragement to really express emotion. It seems common in some of the older generations. I witness it a lot with my own grandparents. It also seems more prevalent in men. I think because of the association of emotions with weakness.
WHY DO THEY CALL THEM “FEELINGS?” Somewhere in there, you feel something right??
I coached the above client to close her eyes and breathe down into her feet (which had also been a practice!). Then asked her to breathe in happiness, noticing as soon as I said it where it landed, where her attention went. Once she was able to pinpoint that it was in her chest, she was able to describe a lifting, giggle-y sensation there.
For someone who is used to somatic awareness, this seems so simple. But for those who have been forced to turn it off for one reason or another, this is profound.
There is actually a FEELING associated with an emotion! It doesn’t just happen in our heads. It happens in our hearts, our guts, our backs, or anywhere! How cool is that?!
Maybe you say, “So what?”
But So WHAT? First, we are now more emotionally intelligent and able to communicate a little more openly in relationships.
But as soon as you learn to tap into these cues, what your body has to say, you can start to use that in every aspect of your life.
Sit and breathe. How do you feel about this outfit?
Take a moment to pause. How do you feel about tacos tonight?
Ground yourself. How do you feel about this job offer?
AND: What is the difference between anxiety and excitement? Sadness and fear?
When is your body saying “YES!!” And when is it saying, “ABSOLUTELY NOT!”
Your WISDOM is in your body. We ALL have wisdom. Our deepest selves can be found within the whispers of our tissues.
If you are able to listen to what your body has to say you can begin to grow a healthy relationship with it, instead of continuing to fill it with disappointment because your logical mind said, “this is what’s best.”
It could prevent an evening of self-consciousness in an outfit that your mind told you would fit the occasion. It could prevent a sluggish cycle of heavy foods and feeling weighed down if you surpassed the tacos for a salad instead. (Or an evening of being grounded in pleasure because you consciously chose tacos!)
Being able to tell what is healthy anticipation and what is really anxiety can help prevent a stomach ulcer six months into a job that your body said “no” to.
Do you ever ask your body what it wants and needs? Do you examine the emotions you’re feeling and ask what they mean? Do you know how to listen?