As you all may well recall, last year I learned that emotions occur in the body as well as the brain. I don’t mean bodily reactions to emotion, like crying at a movie, or gagging when people talk about the inauguration this weekend. I mean heartache that feels like Heart-Ache. Sadness that manifests like your chest feeling as though it’s caving in on itself. Or anger that makes your eyes burn. I always thought songs and movies were exaggerating but it turns out our bodies hold a wealth of knowledge that a lot of us never even think to access.
I feel our bodies often sense things way before our brains do, like how animals can tell when there’s a natural disaster coming before humans even see the clouds forming. Our bodies can tell us when a person is unsafe, when a situation isn’t working, when we need to take a step back, when we need to avoid a certain social event, when we need to break up with someone, when we need to find a new job, or when we need to slow down and give space to our thoughts/feelings. We may have a persisting headache or something and then get home, turn on Netflix, and start crying “for no reason”. (Hint: There’s always a reason). (Bonus Hint: You’re sad). Listening to our bodies allows us to process and release that emotion long before it turns into an outburst at the grocery store cashier, or snapping at a roommate over the trash.
Nevertheless, instead of paying attention to our physical feelings, most of us rather try to override or explain them away. You leave work feeling completely drained every day and you’re like “Well that’s just how work is! Everyone hates their job.” No dude, you need to leave your fucking job! Or you’re talking to a new person at a bar and your stomach turns and you either don’t notice at all or blame it on eating something weird earlier, when really, you should probably get away from that person! But we don’t want to be judgmental, we don’t want to make snap decisions, or quit our jobs on a whim, which are all valid concerns. However as my therapist pointed out, having a negative gut reaction to something isn’t always necessarily a judgment call about the something. It could just be that the something isn’t right for you. Maybe your workplace does great things for the community and gives to charity and other people love working there, but for whatever reason it’s not gelling with you. That’s okay, give yourself permission to leave. Maybe that girl you’re talking to at the bar isn’t like, Jezebel incarnate, but for whatever reason it’s just not a good match. That’s okay too, your body might be trynna tell you to bail before you get caught up.
Listening to your body though, first requires making space for your body to speak. Which is probably another reason why we never do it. It’s like meditation, you can’t rush it. You have to sit still and pay attention, which is a most fundamentally un-American practice. Taking time out of your day to focus inward and take a body scan can be reallllll awkward and uncomfortable at first. And sometimes, I’m not gonna lie, the things you start to sense make you feel crazy, or like you’re being overdramatic. One time my body told me I couldn’t go to a party. I know right? #Annoying. I was like “it’s a fucking PARTY just let me go and have fun!” Long story short, I shouldn’t have gone and I did not have fun. It’s confusing in the beginning, and unnerving to feel like you sense something is wrong, but you can’t readily see why. I’m here telling you, trust that instinct. Trust your gut. It’s probably trying to help you out, and it’s probably right.