Our bodies have always been giving us signals.
For example, you’re probably familiar with the feeling of having eaten too much.
If you were taught as a child to finish everything on your plate, you likely learned to prioritize finishing what was on your plate even over what your body was telling you about how much more food you needed.
That’s because you needed to stay in harmony with the nervous systems of your parents in order to survive.
The result for many grown ups is eating more than you need to.
Your mind is good at learning, so if it consistently got the message that the “feeling full” signals were not only unwelcome, but caused conflict, then your attention would stop sending you those signals.
The same goes for any other body sensations that you were taught to override.
If you were socialized as a boy, maybe your body learned that tears needed to be overridden in order to have belonging.
If you were socialized as a girl, maybe your body learned that allowing your voice to get louder when you were angry was unwelcome (or even dangerous).
When we consistently don’t use something, it stops being brought to our conscious attention.
The signal goes quiet.
This is the way that our wonderfully adaptive, made-for-learning nervous systems work.
There weren’t nefarious intentions behind our parents’ and teachers’ behavior (in most cases). They were doing the best they could, because they loved us and wanted us to be prepared for the world.
And yet — because of our neuroplasticity — when we’re thirty, fifty, even eighty-five years old, if we start to tell our attention, “Hey, body, I want to notice when I’m full!” the signals come back into our conscious attention.
This isn’t instant.
If you decide you want to become a runner you can, over weeks, train your stabilizer muscles so that you’re not hobbled by a three mile run.
Same thing with your body sensations. It takes time and small noticing.
The first time you try eating and seeing when you genuinely feel full, you might just notice a numb feeling, or loneliness, or anxiety.
The first time you try to tune into what the other person is feeling in a difficult conversation, you might have no idea.
There’s so much information coming up from our bodies into our brains. We need time for our conscious awareness to re-learn which information we’re interested in, and what it means.
1. Ask yourself, using your own name, “Amanda’s Body, what are you feeling right now?”
2. Wait, and listen, and welcome whatever arises.
3. Offer compassion to yourself for whatever your experience is. You might feel nothing. You might be flooded by sensation. Maybe something in between.
Practicing this over time will transform you. It’s one way to unlearn domination patterns in your everyday life.
Do you want more help learning to hear what your body is telling you, so you can be more free to do things that you want to do? That kind of support can be transformative. As Lori put it, after working with me, “The process that you facilitated made a profound shift in my body.” I’d be glad to help you one-on-one. Email me to find out more.