Years ago, when I was in sales, I went to see a “Rolfer” for some body work. A coworker had told me it was “really cool”. I was in my 20’s, I had extra cash at the time, and I thought it would be fun.
When I arrived at the practitioner’s office, he sat me down before starting the work and said to me: “This work is going to change your life and you need to take responsibility for that”. I thought he was being a bit dramatic. I laughed and said: “whatever” (in my head). Funny thing, within 3 months I had decided to change my career.
When I was on the table, I remember him saying things to me that sounded very foreign. He would say things to me like: “be in your body” or “when you drive home – just drive your car”. I remember driving home having absolutely no idea what he was talking about.
But I also remember becoming increasingly sensitive to what my body was telling me. This was actually all very new to me. I did not realize it at the time, but in many ways, I had been living my life separate and apart from my body. I would not have scored particularly high in emotional intelligence at this point in time in my life.
Now, years later, I could hardly imagine what it would be like to experience myself apart from my body. I could not imagine what the state of my psychological nor physical health would be, if I had not made this vital connection.
Body awareness and counseling
As a counselor, the mind – body connection is a core part of my work. I tend to think that we wouldn’t even know we had emotions if we didn’t have bodies. As a former teacher of mine used to say: “Our body is like the car we use to drive ourselves around in through our lifetime.” We need to listen to it. We need to take care of it. Truly, we are inseparable from it.
Next time you feel an emotion, take the time to do a “body scan”. That is, focus in on your body at the time you are feeling this emotion and scan our body throughout. You will most certainly notice at least one (if not more) physical sensation. This part of your body will be speaking to you.
Literally, it could be any part of your body. You may notice muscular tension. You may notice changes in your breathing. You may feel hormonal surges, changes in temperature or changes in your heart-rate. The list goes on.
Often it is healing just to pause long enough to acknowledge this sensation. To honor and “sit with” the felt connection between your emotion and this sensation. Just to taking the time to breathe into the felt sensation can be a profound experience and the catalyst for change.
Many of us have learned to disconnect ourselves from our bodies and our emotions. We walk around in our heads. When asked how we feel, we state our opinion or what we are thinking about instead. Cognitive Therapy techniques can also help us make a clearer connection between our thoughts and our emotions. Since we carry our emotions in our bodies, we can then linkup many of our thoughts to our physical reactions as well. It’s all connected anyhow.
25 years following my first Rolfing session, I still greatly appreciate the work of a good “bodywork” practitioner. True, I decided to study “the mind” when I first went back to school, but it was my body that brought me to appreciate the workings of my mind.
Lisa T Perry, MEd, LPC, CCMHC, VMT-R is a Licensed Professional Counselor who loves working with the mind in harmony with the Body.