I read the book “The Body Keeps the Score” several years ago, probably before it had become the household name that it seems to be today. I had been working with survivors for a while when I came across this book. What I hadn’t really understood until I read the book was how much wisdom our bodies hold. How the stories of our lives are held in our chronic stomachaches or the pinched nerve in our neck. Many of us even have chronic illnesses that can be traced back childhood abuse or neglect. I went to a training recently, and at the end of the training, each of the trainees was given a straight pin to stick in the map of the world to show where we came from. The map was filled with little bulbous topped pins. Some spaces were more densely clustered and some places had just a splattering of pins. I think of our bodies as maps with destination markers on them. Hips with dense markings as the emotional storage lockers of our bodies and other parts of our body like those outlying places on the map with just a few indicators of stress and trauma.
When I am stuck with a client who so badly wants help, but is having trouble finding their feelings, or remembering what happened to them, I will often put my hand to my heart, chest or stomach and ask them to tell me what they feel in their body. Sometimes our brains are blocked and sometimes our mouths can’t find the words, but with some pretty perfect accuracy, our bodies can guide us to the issue, and the solution. When I ask that question the answers I get are so honest, there’s no way to deny that they are coming from a deep place within. I get things like “my heart hurts. It hurts like it used to hurt every time my parents would fight” “My stomach feels like its all-in knots, like when I was a teen and I wasn’t sure how angry my dad would be when he came home drunk.” This simultaneously breaks my heart and blows my mind. How our bodies are capable of cutting through the bullshit and finding the truth of our stories. How easy it is for our bodies to share their stories if they’re asked the right
Teaching my clients about the wisdom of their bodies is a life hack that I am all here for. I continue to be pissed by all the things we weren’t taught as children in our families, or that our schools didn’t think was necessary for us to learn. Encouraging our young ones to trust and attune to the messages of their bodies is one of those things that we never hear fall from the lips of our trusted elders. If you are a woman, you were probably taught to distrust your body. You may have gotten the education that your body regularly betrays you by being too fat or too short or too something that didn’t fit the thin, white ideal. Sometimes it seems to me that the bulk of my therapeutic energy goes to teaching folks to unlearn all the stupid shit they learned over the course of their lives. I don’t mind helping people uncover the real truth; I just think we could do better.
Reading The Body Keeps the Score is not how everyone wants to go about their healing. I’ve listened to lots of clients tell me that it was quite triggering for them. I think it can be shocking to pick up a book like that, giving us so much information about things and parts of ourselves that we’ve tucked away. I’m sure it can be overwhelming. A way to warm up to a self-help experience like that one might be to work some at developing a deeper relationship with this amazing body you have. When I was in graduate school, I realized for the first time (I was in my 30’s ugh) that I spent a bunch of time hunched. I was hunched because I was hiding myself, making myself small in a way. It was a protective measure and one that I still have negative body consequences because of (ask my chiropractor!). Had I been in anyway in touch with my body, I would have realized that if I just sat back and took a breath, I would have actually felt less anxious. In that hunched position I wasn’t getting enough air down to my diaphragm, which kept me feeling scared and in need of protection.
What I’d like to suggest to all the humans with bodies is that we take a break from our phones, our computers and TV’s. A break from the endless thinking we do as the only way we’ve ever been encouraged to know. In this space, notice, just notice. See what messages float up if you close your eyes and give your body just one moment to communicate with your head. What might you learn about yourself that you didn’t know? What spot could you put a new pin in?
These bodies are wise. However, untapped wisdom is just a void. If we never lean into the wisdom within, we struggle. We struggle unnecessarily. Be a rebel. Listen to your body. Be weird, ask your body for information. It may be hard to listen to the answers, but I promise you it will change you for the better to know your body in a more precise and intimate way.
Oh yeah, come see one of the therapists at Mending Roots Healing Center. They are all geeks for this kind of stuff and they can be your new teacher.