Article By Hilary Jacobs Hendel, LCSW, Guest Expert and author of the award-winning book It’s Not Always Depression.
2 Minute Read
When I feel sad, I feel heavy. When I feel ashamed, I want to disappear. When I am excited, my body is filled with energy. I was curious why this had never occurred to me. Or maybe it had and I just didn't know what to do with it.
Now, after some training and practice, I am aware that my brain and my body communicate in two different languages: 1) the language of thoughts that speaks with words; and 2) the language of emotional experience that communicates through physical sensations.
I used to only pay attention to the language of thoughts. I assumed my thoughts controlled my emotions and my behaviors. Now I know this was false. If anything, emotions influence thoughts and behavior.
My body actually tells me my truth. It tells me my emotional state as soon as I slow down to listen. At any given moment of the day, tuning into my body tells me whether I am calm, confident, in control, getting what I want, getting what I need, feeling good about myself and much, much more. I can choose to ignore what my body is telling me or I can listen to its music and learn about myself and how my surroundings influence me.
There is an amazing world inside you below your neck. It is driving much of what you think and feel and how you behave. And working with the body using tools like the Change Triangle is the key to healing emotional pain, psychological symptoms, and connecting to your authentic Self.
Want to experiment with listening to your body?
A good place to begin is by paying attention to your breathing. Take 30 seconds to try putting language to aspects of your breathing:
Describe what you notice about how you're breathing: "Am I taking long deep breaths or short staccato breaths?" Which one?
Notice where the breath goes: "As I inhale, does my stomach push out or does my chest rise?" Point to the area in your core where you sense your air is going.
Extra credit: If it seems like your breath stops at your chest, see if you can play with it in a different way. Imagine breathing slowly and deeply, filling up your toes with air, then legs, then hips, on up to your head. Now notice if that way of breathing makes you feel better or worse.
Remember, try not to judge yourself as you experiment with tuning into your breath. If you need a goal, let it be that you try this exercise without judging yourself.
You can click here to learn a breathing technique I teach to all of my patients.
Hilary Jacobs Hendel is a certified psychoanalyst and AEDP psychotherapist and supervisor, as well as the inspiration behind our Wiggle Warrior Training. Learn more about her contributions to our programming here >>
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