When mind and body are disconnected
As I sit here drinking my coffee in absolute silence, watching the trees outside my window seeing the smoke from the incense waft through the air I notice the calm feeling in my body. It´s a feeling I never knew I had because I never noticed my feelings. There was only one feeling I could actually feel in my body and that was fear. This fear would present itself in many different guises. I could be fear of the unknown, stress, sorrow, sadness, and anxiety. Just think of any negative feeling you can think of, that´s what I was feeling in my body. If I didn´t have the piercing pain through my heart then I would say to myself that I was ok. That was the extent of my being in touch with my feelings. To break it down for you: the piercing pain in my heart meant something was wrong. No pain meant I was ok. And I knew I was ok because I told myself that I was ok. I did not feel it in my body.
When I started on the coaching journey in late August 2015 I had no idea of the monumental effect it would have on my life. At that time I had no idea that I had being walking on this earth for eons it seemed with body and mind split in two.
When we did practice sessions, coach and client, and was asked how I was that day I would say that I was ok, fine, happy, content…..whatever. Then I was asked “how does it feel to be ok, happy” and I would just look at my fellow student who was coaching me and think to myself “what the fuck do you mean by that?” And I would say that I knew I was ok, happy… because my mind told me I was. How difficult is it to understand this perfect logic that I lived by?
This question would result in a standstill, I had no idea how to answer that question and my coach in training, just kept asking the same question over and over again until both of us would become frustrated and annoyed.
I wasn´t being an asshole or being difficult on purpose, I truly had no idea how feeling content, let alone happy, felt in the body. It would make me so frustrated having to participate in all this talk about where we feel our emotions in our body. I would feel the pain and that was it, and I really couldn´t understand what was wrong with that, and I thought that´s how everyone lives. How wrong I was. And how utterly frustrating it was to go from the thoughts in my mind to the emotions in my body. And just to clarify. I am not there yet, but I am getting there one baby step at the time.
So what does it mean, and how does it affect you when you are not in touch with your feelings? Well what it means in simple terms is that you do not know your own boundaries and when you have to make a decision you tend to make the wrong ones because you do not understand what your instinct is telling you. Have you ever stopped and taken notice of the sensation in your body when you are asked to do something, asked for an opinion or you find yourself in a situation that demands some action from you?
Let´s take an example most women recognize.
You receive an email from your children´s school saying that it would be really great if any parents could bake a cake for the next class event. You are already stretched thin for this event as the week is filled with deadlines at work and you are not even sure you are going to have time to make dinner for the joint eating after the event. So you sit there reading the email and as you are reading it this heavy pit in your stomach just seems to fill you out completely. You really want to be one of the parents that bring cake, cause you know, all the kids will love you, especially your own. So before you know it, you have sent a reply saying of course you can bring cake. You then sit in front of the computer plotting just buying the cake and put it on a plate at home, knowing full well that your kids are going to tell everyone and their uncle that you bought the cake instead of baking it.
What just happened there? Well the pit in your stomach was your cue to take a moment and really consider the circumstances. The pit was telling you NOT to offer to bake cake! But did you listen? No you did not and now you start beating yourself up for not knowing how to say no and even worse you start bashing those other parents, in your mind, for never offering to bring cake, it is always you.
All this because you didn´t know what the pit in your stomach was telling you. So how do you avoid putting yourself in that situation? Because believe me when I tell you that you yourself put yourself there. Not the other parents for not offering to bring cake, not the kids for having to have cake and not the teacher for asking for a cake. It was you. So it´s no use playing the victim here, you have to step up and take responsibility for your actions. It can be tough but I know you can do it. By taking responsibility for your actions I mean look within yourself at reasons behind your actions. What prompted you to offer to do something you didn´t want to do? What need were you fulfilling in saying yes to this?
We all have six basic needs and everything we do is to fulfill these needs. Sounds straightforward right? And it is. It´s when we fulfill these needs through negative behavior that we have a problem.
So what are these needs ? On a personal level they are:
Certainty – Variety
Significance – Love and connection
And on a spiritual level they are:
Growth – Contribution
So all our actions and behavior are in order to fulfill those needs, and in order for you to understand and thus take responsibility for your actions you need to look at which need you were fulfilling.
Could it be that by saying yes you knew that others would appreciate you for bringing cake? Be honest here, was it the thought of a compliment that did it for you? If it was, then you were fulfilling your need to be needed, to be special, to be seen. You wanted to be significant. And believe me when I tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Everybody has that need, that´s why it´s one of six basic needs. What you need to learn to do is to fulfill this need through a positive behavior.
How do you do that? You listen to what your body is telling you, if a decision leaves the slightest bad tingling in your body that means you should rethink that decision, because it´s not right for you.
A few years ago I was on one of many dating apps because I was lonely. I matched with a man younger than me and we chatted at bit and he than asked me out on a date. I accepted and the discussion of where and when to meet started. He invited me to his place for some wine, and I said that I would prefer meeting somewhere public. As I was writing this to him my stomach did a backflip and I had to run to the toilet, hoping I wouldn´t explode before I could sit on the toilet! At the same time my thoughts were all over the place, what if he just cancelled, what could be so bad about meeting at his place. I mean my hearing is bad so it might just be easier to meet at his place, at least I would hear what he was saying. And this is how the day went while I waited for is response.
He then wrote to me that actually I was much safer at his place with him than out and about in the city and he really supported his theory with a long explanation, which I have now forgotten. And his response resulted in another session in the bathroom. I was so torn, on the one hand I wanted so badly to go on a date and o the other hand I wanted him to see this from my perspective, that as a woman I do not feel comfortable alone with a man I don´t know in his home. I literally had no idea what to do and funnily enough at that moment I did not make a connection between all the bathroom trips and my dilemma.
In the end I called my coach and explained the situation. She listened and then asked me if I could perhaps see how all the trips to the bathroom were related to the situation I was in? Hmmm well yeah, maybe, uhhh what do you mean, was all I could say.
She explained to me that one of my issues had been with setting boundaries and what was the dilemma about? Yes it was about boundaries. In the past I had not set boundaries, instead I would let people come way too close to me at the expense of my mental well-being. What had happened here was that I had set boundaries and there was someone who did not respect that. I had a choice to listen to the signals my emotions were sending me through the agony of stomach cramps, or I could trample all over my boundaries and say yes to a date with a man who, before we even met, had no respect for my wishes. As I wrote my reply that those were my wishes and needs and they were nonnegotiable I could just feel my body relax. Although the answer I received back was full of criticism of me it didn´t bother me because I felt so triumphant for having stood up for my values and myself. At that moment it was important for me to recognize what I needed and I realized that it was love and connection. Being single with my children with their dad this weekend it felt like the only choice I had was to show myself some love and care. So with a smile on my face and a relaxed feeling in my body I went to store and bought the food that I love to eat, some sweet treats and spent the evening under a blanket with Netflix. I chose a new behavior to fulfill my need for love and connection. I also fulfilled my spiritual need growth because I had learned something new about myself and I new that this was the first step in learning how to connect my mind to my body. The only way to move forward is through growth and once we stop growing we die.