Whether it’s in everyday life or during a therapy session, we continuously process our thoughts and emotions, sometimes really well, sometimes not. But, we rarely even think about what is happening to our bodies on a sensory level. So, what does that mean? It means that we need to check in with our body to get a sense of what’s happening inside of us. If we can do that, we can gain valuable information about our thoughts and emotions. We benefit greatly by becoming aware of what our body feels like when we are really anxious and when we are feeling really well. We tend to notice when we don’t feel good more than when we do feel good.
The body is such a wonderful instrument and we barely tune in to it to listen to what it is saying on a sensory level. We simply are not taught this language in school. The sensory vocabulary can be quite limited and it’s really not part of our everyday conversation except on rare occasions and when we’re not feeling well. Usually we hear and talk about what ails us.
So what would it sound like to hear from the sensory level? Maybe something like this, “I’m feeling vibrations in my arms today, my legs feel really heavy, and my shoulders feel like a block of cement and have felt like this for years.” Who actually talks like this? No one I’ve met. However, if we tune in, we might notice something about ourselves that can help us be more in touch with ourselves.
We also rarely share sensory information with each other, even if we are aware of what is happening. Although it’s something we may not talk about, we can still acknowledge and listen to what’s being felt. I find when I check in with my physical body experience, I get a sense of what I’m feeling emotionally and what my thoughts are doing. For example; if you think about public speaking, real or imagined, most of us get anxious, and when we do, our body starts to speak to us. We might feel shaky from the adrenaline running through our body, it might be difficult to take a breath, we may have thoughts of wanting to run out of the room, we feel afraid, our mouth gets dry, our vision changes, and gets narrow. For a quick body map of the fight/fight response, check out this link: http://media.psychology.tools/worksheets/english_us/threat_system_en-us.pdf
When I’m more aware of being in my body, I’m tuned in and can make better choices because I’m listening on a sensory level as well as recognizing what thoughts and emotions are coming up inside me. I can discover something about myself in the moment, like if I’m starting to feel anxious, or tired, calm or happy, etc. It’s a way I’ve come to realize of staying grounded, connecting with myself and being more available to others.
Tuning into my body also helps me to notice those patterns that bring me into negative states. Because I’ve been checking in frequently with myself, I’ve been doing a much better job of recognizing when I’m starting to feel stress and how to bring myself back to feeling more balanced. It certainly doesn’t work all the time, but at least I can get myself back on track some of the time, and I keep learning more about myself.
Stress takes us into threat responses of fight, flight or freeze and this brings us out of balance. We end up losing control, and feeling down about ourselves. These primordial responses kept us alive for millions of years (and we may have needed these in our early childhood too!) However, we can learn to have a relationship with them so they don’t unknowingly drive us and make us feel out of control. We can develop skills!
Only by tuning in can I start to make decisions and recognize that I have choices. I don’t have to follow the habitual pattern of negative self-talk and emotional disturbances like I used to, and when I don’t, I’m in a better place to change these patterns.
Each time I work with redirecting these negative patterns, I’m able to see the changes and differences in my life. I’m able to feel more at peace.