This is part three of a four week series on the power of emotion and today I will talk about how finding my body was an essential part of my own recovery. If you would like to read from the beginning, you can start here.
Finding My Body
I resisted finding my body for a long time. I didn’t even know I had been resisting it. But, eventually my body found me.
It had tried for decades, maybe even my entire life, to find a way to speak and to be heard, but after trying to listen to anything but my body, it let me know that it would refuse to be ignored any longer.
I had already turned over every rock trying to find a solution to myself. However, after about the ten millionth rock (yes, it took that long), I finally caught sight of the pattern. And I began to wonder what it was I was looking for.
I thought about this and realized that I couldn’t actually answer the question with any specificity. The only thing I knew was that I just wanted to feel good. That was the extent to which I could describe my desire. I had no other words. No lengthy and detailed explanations of what good actually meant. And the only thing I knew was that I wasn’t feeling what I wanted to feel.
And, just about the only place I hadn’t looked for this happy feeling was inside myself. Finding my body would require a different approach.
The Turning Point
I sat in my meditation group one night and heard these words, “The pain we feel. It’s inside of us. Our only job is to care for that pain, for that hurt and wounded part of ourselves. And when we take care of our pain, what we see and experience outside of ourselves changes. Our outside world is a direct reflection of our internal state of affairs.”That’s what the woman who was leading my meditation group said to us one night.
I won’t lie. It was a tough pill to swallow. It sounded to me like she was suggesting that I was the fault of everything bad in my life.
Now, I was in recovery from a decades long eating disorder at this point. I was trying to walk away from self-blame and condemnation. And this felt counter-intuitive.
I was out of options though, or so it felt like. So, I was willing to look at this idea a little more closely. I didn’t really want to, but the fact was I couldn’t ignore it. Apparently, there was some connection between my body and emotions and it seemed that finding my body was the next journey I had to take.
Everyone gets into the pool in different ways. Some people dive right in, without hesitation. Some people wade slowly in to acclimatize themselves to the cool water.
I moved slowly, cautiously. I needed to take my time.
This idea of turning inward, didn’t feel safe to me. But it was also intriguing and held some interesting possibilities. I did some recon work for a while (months actually), neither wholly rejecting nor accepting the idea. I was contemplating.
There was nothing that was screaming in my ear to get away and not listen to this idea. There was also something else in me that said, “Tread lightly.” I did.
Finding my body was going to require patience.
I didn’t take every word as truth in exploring the world of emotion though. The things I was learning had to be applied in a very specific way, a way that would neither hurt me nor hinder my recovery efforts.
I took it slow. I began with the idea, spent time in contemplation. Then I did a bit of practice. It was a frustrating process.
But I was making progress. I started to see exactly how difficult it was for me to care for myself. There was so much anger inside me. It was a deep, dark anger at myself.
I was perplexed. How was I, someone who was so angry, also supposed to take on the role of caregiver? How could I be both angry and loving? The loving part felt impossible. All I felt was anger.
I almost couldn’t tolerate the loving part. It was too dangerous. But, I was also acutely aware that there was a deep wound in me and it would continue to fester if I didn’t let it out. That meant I had no other option but to feel it.
The protective shell began to crack and I started finding my body. I started to let it speak.
I Feel Fat
You know that feeling, when you just feel fat? And it doesn’t matter how many times someone tries to reassure you that you’re not, you still feel it?
Well, I got it. A lot. And that feeling I felt in my body? Well, it was directly correlated to how I was feeling emotionally.
They, whoever they are, say fat isn’t a feeling. I disagree.
Fat was definitely a feeling for me, in a very real sense. It was the physiological sensation that occurred in my body when I was disturbed, and the only thing that I felt when someone told me that fat isn’t a feeling was invalidated.
A Different Approach
As I continued to venture into the world of emotion, I found other people who already knew this language and who spoke it well. They talked to me differently, yet it made sense to me.
Traditional therapy was concerned with words and labels. It tried to get me to explain my feeling of fat by way of words that had been defined in a textbook. And I couldn’t. The divide grew deeper. Even in recovery that feeling of fat never did go away. It always returned. Yet that is what I kept resisting and trying to find an escape from. That’s why recovery was such hard work, day in and day out.
I was trying to suppress an emotion that needed expression and attention. And, in an attempt to suppress that emotion, I was rejecting the very feeling I was feeling. I was, in essence, rejecting myself.
This new approach was asking me to accept. It asked me to show up for the discomfort, to stay with it, to respect it. To feel it…in my body…the very thing I did not want to feel.
But my heart also said, “This is what you have to do.” So I kept going. Deep in my heart, I knew freedom was beyond the pain if I could just allow myself to enter into it and feel it.
As I began to open and allow myself to feel, the urges began to fall away. The suffocating hug that had held me closely tucked away from danger began to loosen. I could recognize sensations in my body and feel them without wanting to shrink away. My world started to expand. I was finding my body.
Had I tried to stick with words and labels to help me sort things out, I would have stayed in my head. Dropping into the emotion, though, has allowed me to more deeply understand and appreciate my body, to feel it as a source of wisdom not of blame.
They say that which we resist persists. The more I resisted my body and the sensations, the greater they got. Allowing my emotions through feeling them in my body ended the fight against myself. The effortful effort of recovery eventually became effortless. Finding my body was the way home.
Please join me next week for the final week of this four week series on the power of emotion where I share some of my own story about how delving into my emotional nature has helped me find myself and find freedom from my eating disorder.
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