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NHI Believes: Every Body has a Story
Step 9/10: EVERYBODY HAS A STORY
By: Dr. Jeff Rockwell
“The body is sacred.”
Let’s try a little experiment. I was tempted to call it a “thought experiment,” except I want to focus on something deeper than thought: namely, the often-unexplored world of our bodies’ stories.
Read the quote by Walt Whitman again. Let it land in your body. Where do you feel it? What does it feel like; truth or fiction?
While it is true that everybody has a story, so does every body. Whether you feel your body to be sacred or not has a lot to do with the stories you’ve told yourself over the years. “I am sacred. I am scared. I am whole. I am a victim. I am perfect as I am (and I could use a little improvement). I am too fat/thin/young/old.”
Over time, what we tell ourselves, in addition to what has happened to us, becomes the “issues in the tissues” that massage therapy works so well to help resolve.
A recent article in the Atlantic explores a study as to where people “feel” emotions. Interestingly, almost always there was a strong correlation between an emotion and a location within the body.
Years ago, I heard a little formula for healing: “Attention plus Intention Equals Healing.” Of course, the attention and the intention meant loving attention and intention. Most of us have received very mixed attention and intention around our bodies. We all have been saturated with societal, religious and family expectations, abuse and disregard for the sacredness of our bodies. Thus, removing interferences to loving our bodies is the antidote.
What you say to your body and how you say it through your words, self-talk, actions and behaviors can be a source of nourishment that results in more wholeness. In my opinion, more wholeness equals more love which, in turn, equals more aliveness. The changes in this direction that massage therapy can facilitate are described in numerous studies by the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute (for more information, go to https://www6.miami.edu/touch-research).
We were all brought up in one relational field or another. Our particular family system is one of those fields, as is the media and the culture we live in. Often—sadly—these relational fields are toxic, contaminated by fear, neglect, or abuse. When a new client comes for their first massage, it may very well be their first experience of a completely safe and non-toxic field. Their physiology shifts from “fight or flight” to “heal and feel.” They come to court relaxation in their life and to trust the wisdom of their cells. The issues in the tissues become less of a threat. Tension becomes gradually replaced by bodily joy; granted, this experience is not an all-at-once” event, but a process.
Below are questions to consider. Which ones resonate with you? As you consider each question, focus on where in your body you experience a physical reaction or emotion:
1. Do you sometimes wonder why you cannot find true meaning or a place for yourself in this world? What is your body telling you? What part of your body responds to the question? How?
2. Are you easily depressed or agitated by specific people, events, memories or comments? Where and what is your body experiencing as you ask yourself this question?
3. Do your neck and shoulders ache all the time? Are those muscles responding to this question? How? Do you tend to put things in your life on the “back burner?” Do you realize that your body is that back burner?
4. Do you have severe back problems or the everyday “ordinary” headache? What or who are you thinking of when this pain occurs? What is going on in your life? Do you know that the leading causes of low back pain include job dissatisfaction, financial stress, and relationship troubles?
5. Are you worried about why you can never seem to lose weight? What is your body telling you? What part of your body responds to the question? How?
6. How does your body respond when you pay your bills? Where and what is your body experiencing as you ask yourself this question? What might be your body be trying to say to you?
7. Do you feel safe in your world and within yourself? This is a very important question. Many of us don’t realize that we live fear-based lives in which we are afraid to express ourselves.
Deepak Chopra has written, “Now we know that the mind and the body are like parallel universes. Anything that happens in the mental universe must leave tracks in the physical one.”
The accumulation of negative emotional energy is often referred to as emotional baggage, a contraction of muscles and the life force that becomes our body language and posture. This holding onto unresolved or repressed emotions such as anger, resentment, unresolved grief, feelings of not being good enough, guilt, and shame can cause pain. Persistent pain is the brain’s way of getting out attention. It is an invitation to change. When we allow the safe and healthy release of these emotions, the energy that was trapped there also releases and we feel more vibrant and alive. It’s been said that “emotion is energy in motion.” To restore healthy balance we need to be able to process those emotions. We need to move, and otherwise nurture, our bodies.
There are many useful strategies for liberating and learning from our “body stories.” Some people may benefit from somatic (or body-centered) psychology. Running, hiking and, even, walking can be very helpful. But the place to start, in this writer’s mind, is with a wellness lifestyle that includes regular and consistent massage therapy. While our biography often influences our biology, receiving (and giving) massage can turn our life story into one we can really love!
Want to begin taking care of yourself and your story? Book a massage at any of our campuses! Visit here!