How often have we been told; “to feel better, just tune in to your body and then do what it is telling you,” or, “just slow down and breathe.” The message is that if we listen to our body tell us it is tired and needs to stop doing so much, then we must just slow down. Or that if our neck and shoulders are sore from trying to carry too much responsibility, then we must manage our lives better and delegate. On the surface, listening to our bodies is a good idea, but there’s a problem with this message. If all we hear is “exercise”, “meditate and breathe more”, or “slow down” we’re not going to be able to really respond to the more complex messages we are getting. These responses won’t address the more nuanced, deeper communication the body is trying to convey.
The body communicates in pains, sickness, and injuries. If we don’t know how to translate that information, and how it relates to who we understand ourselves to be, we have a conflict. Who we understand ourselves to be is formed by our family of origin. The roles we held and the expectations we managed while in our family of origin remain encoded within us. We are all influenced by emotional experiences and deeply held family belief systems that permeate down to our cells, that dictate what we believe and what we do, and are not easy to just erase or go against.
Believing that we can just listen to our body and then do what it says can cause a real conflict of identity. If we come from a family that believed in the paramount importance of hard work and dedication over everything else, we won’t be able to just slow down. If our shoulders are telling us to give up and release the weight of the world, but our role in the family was the one who got things done, how do we go against that? If our body keeps getting sick and not functioning despite our busy lives, but we were the one in the family who held it together, what do we do? The conflict becomes, either our body is wrong, we are wrong, or our family is wrong. Holding these complex and opposing thoughts and feelings in order to come to a resolution and act on behalf of our bodies sounds easy but it isn’t.
The next time you hear, “just relax, let go,” or “go to the gym,” please consider that while endorphins are temporarily soothing, and breathing isn’t optional, and slowing down helps briefly, this doesn’t resolve the complexity of your inner conflict. There may be more that your body is asking you to do. Working with a professional to assist us in discerning the information from our bodies and how to take effective action on our own behalf is a gift of wellness.