To read the first post in this series, click here.
Can you tell when you’re pushing yourself past your body’s messages? If you followed the process outlined in last week’s post, Nurturing vs. Pushing, you have the knowledge and tools you need. Now, you just need a little practice. Staying aware of your body is the only way you’ll be able to hear and decode its messages before they reach critical mass and create physical pain. Now that you’re highly motivated (nothing makes us march like pain!), let’s get into more detail.
It’s so easy to avoid paying attention to our bodies throughout the day. It may sometimes feel as though you have a naughty three-year-old inside your adult skin, whining, “I don’t wannnnnaaaaa!”
Even though your logic brain knows body awareness will help you, that inner three-year-old still puts up a fight. I’ve wrestled with my inner three-year-old in so many ways. Though I primarily write about my experience with physical pain, another issue I’ve dealt with throughout my life is overeating. In my early twenties, I was over fifty pounds overweight and completely oblivious to my body. Interestingly, when I started using mind-body techniques for pain relief, I started losing weight. Now I’m at a healthy, natural weight. The two body issues, pain and weight, are nearly one and the same. The key to both of them is being consciously aware of the body’s messages as much as possible.
So if this body awareness skill is so powerful, why does our inner three-year-old put up such a fight? Why would she be against pain relief, weight loss, and less stress?
She’s not. But she is terrified of feeling negative emotions.
I am so amazed at my own ability to avoid facing and feeling emotions. It’s not like they kill people, and it’s not that painful, really, to just feel sad, angry, or afraid. Yet, my primary reaction is to avoid the darn things left and right. Once you’re onto this about yourself, you’ll notice just how many things you do to avoid feeling, including pushing yourself to work, take on obligations, and do anything that will keep you occupied. Then, you can purposefully set aside your avoidance techniques and focus on your body. (It helps to start with just five minutes of feeling, then allow yourself to back to your coping method.)
This is why we resist focusing on our bodies. The moment we bring our awareness back home to these physical houses, un-felt emotions rise up into our consciousness. Suppressed emotion does not go away when suppressed. Rather, it stays in our bodies and unconscious awareness. We end up with physical pain – our bodies can only contain so much emotional energy in the form of muscular tension and a hyper-aroused nervous system.
It’s difficult to get pain relief without feeling emotions. It’s difficult to stop overeating and lose weight without feeling emotions. And it’s difficult to feel emotions without bringing awareness to the physical body, over and over again, throughout the day.
It’s also difficult to feel love, happiness, and joy without also feeling sadness, anger, and fear.
So, practice makes perfect. Practice will tell you when you’re pushing yourself and when it’s time to nurture yourself. Keep practicing. Stick with it. If you forget to pay attention to how your body is feeling, where you’re holding tension, and don’t notice yourself pushing, that’s perfect. Next time, you’ll be more aware. And the next, you’ll be even more aware. The learning process can be gentle and nurturing in itself. Which is a good thing, because, well…we’re never really done learning. Even years after your pain is gone, you’ll still be fine-tuning this technique and taking it to deeper, more conscious levels.