Not the mind but the body

This post is for those who feel and think a lot.

This post is for those who don't want to feel so much.

This post is for those who continue to feel the same even though they think a lot.

I don't have a solution. Because I don't think this is a problem. But I have a suggestion based on my experience: 

 Stop asking "Why do I feel that way?" and look right into "What do I feel?"

This question is not addressed to your mind, but to your body

Body is special.

Before the mind perceives the body can detect and respond to conditions.

Many practices that support personal development and well being work with thoughts as main objects of focus. Coaching is one of those. Emotions are part of the process but we ask the client to think about the emotions most of the time. Cognitive behavioural therapy - which I had benefited highly, too,  works with thoughts. It works with the principle that unhealthy emotional states come from distorted thinking patterns. It brings awareness to the thoughts behind long-lasting, unhealthy emotional states and challenges these so the person can free themselves from the unhealthy thoughts  and make new behaviour choices.

These practices are very helpful but I feel they give less space to the body.

The more I work with body, the more I realize its power and it makes me curious to learn more. And I do learn more.

Body is special

Before the mind perceives the body can detect and respond to conditions.

For example I've learned that the body keeps the score, there is even a book that is titled that. (The Body Keeps the Score,  Bessel A. van der Kolk). Body records the moments of shock in its entirety and it plays back (part of ) the record  whenever an element that was present in the past shock presents itself  - until the record disintegrates.

Here is how it could work: Let's say I went on an adventure as a 3 year old. I opened the door,  left the house and crossed the street to go to the supermarket. On the way back I saw my mother approaching me in complete panic.

This tiny moment is trivial and it poses no life-threat but regardless, it might be a shock to a little child so the body might record it. Now, whenever I start something new, to a new adventure, my body might be playing the old record of fear, helplessness and anger. I might be experiencing this as an adult now when I go to the supermarket or when I meet someone on the street. Noticing an element in my current experience, which was present in my first shock experience might trigger the same old response in my body. And maybe I call this response as fear.

The Body Keeps the Score

Bessel A. van der Kolk

The example I share is not a big trauma, I probably will not even remember this experience. There might be millions of records like this one in my body and most of my feelings might be variations of these old records.

Therefore, asking "Why do I feel this way?" would probably not be useful as I will never know which record I am replaying. 

If you do ask "Why?", you probably will find an answer but this answer will be incomplete as you probably will not have access to the full picture.

The Full Picture

What I mean with full picture is not only all the big and small traumas you experience which you might not even be aware of, but also all the traumas of your family members that you've heard of and all generational trauma that you've inherited.

Evren though we think of ourselves as individuals, we are a member of a social net. We feel each other's feelings and we are probably capable of receiving (thinking) each other's thoughts. While we do that, we might be mirroring another person's bodily responses or responding to the record that gets activated by another person's emotions.

What I am saying is that it is nearly impossible to find the exact reason of what we feel.

But I understand why we would want to do that. We want to find a solution, we would like to control how we feel. We don't want to experience this emotion anymore. But when we find a reason - if we do - this is not the real thing, it is a handle. If we are not ready to embrace the reality as it is, holding it via the handle is useful. The handle then keeps us in touch with reality rather than letting it go. It can help us to feel safe. If we want to have new / original experiences, we need safety in our own body and knowing and feeling in control can provide this safety.

But I don't want to live with handles. I want to live the reality.

Because for me, real living as living with the reality.

I know the sensations in my body are real.

But the reason I found for the sensations are probably not.

Therefore, I choose to stay with what is real.

Staying with What is Real, Staying with your Feelings

In my experience, when you stay with the sensations without labeling them, diagnosing them, solving them a couple of things happen:

One: The sensations change. The feeling might expand like a wave and move like ebb and flow and slowly fade. Sometimes, it might burn in flames and leave in ashes.

Two: The more you practice staying with the feeling, the more confident you get about embracing the waves so you are not that afraid of the feeling any more. You can welcome the feeling. An intimacy develops between you and the feeling. As you continue to open the door every time the feeling knocks at the door, love comes along. You start feeling compassion for your broken heart.

Three: Sometimes the feeling brings out a bigger piece of the record. Your might notice an expression of disgust on your face, or start seeing memories. These memories might be from the moments where the record was taken or not, I don't know. But I know that as you observe these memories, you bear witness to your own suffering so your wish to embrace yourself and show yourself compassion arises. You seize fighting because you had fought not to see these records, now that you saw, you can let go of the fight and your mind and body can unite.

Four: When you stop fighting, you can start hearing the inner wishes and desires. You can see and choose what really interests you. Maybe you start being aware of what makes you you. Now your being influences the world not as a reactive force but a creative one.

The long term benefit of being with your emotions without finding why is the sense of inner security and confidence.

When you know you can be with your emotions, they stop being the center of your decision making. Now you can make decisions from your calm confident conscious state .

Being with your emotions is a constant practice. The more you stay with your emotions, the more this muscle grows.

And every emotional wave is an invitation to this practice.

I received an invitation while I was writing this post.

A real life example from me

I was writing in full concentration when my husband entered the room and started asking my opinion on something. I told him I was writing but he continued. I felt my temperature rising and soon I was furious. I raised my voice and told him I was angry because I got interrupted. I also told I did not want to be angry and I was sorry for that but it was really important to me to keep my concentration. When he left the room, I could still feel my anger very alive. My heart was beating fast, my cheeks were burning and my stomach was turning. My arms were tense. I breathed in and out,  and stayed with the rhythm and sensations of my breath. Then, a sense of sadness came. My shoulders dropped. My heart ached.  I heard a voice inside myself that said "I can't do what I'd like to do". I sat with these feelings. In 10 minutes or so, I could not feel the anger anymore. I still had the sensations which were different than what I had in the beginning. Even though I had not asked "why?", I still remembered scenes from a sad, helpless moment. I accepted myself that way. I bore witness to my pain and continued writing.

The practice of being with your feelings is  so connected to our life and we get lots of opportunities for practice during the day. What will these practices show us?

Our truth that wants to be seen, our vulnerable heart, uniqueness of our lives and love.

We are one in this love.

Isil Uysal Calvelli

If you ask me who I am in one word, I say “Human”. If I should do it with two words, I say “Loving Human”. If I am allowed to do it in three words, I say “Loving Creative Human”

I create words, emotions, connections, energy and spaces. 

I do that through coaching, writing, speaking, podcasting and training.


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