Building a Relationship with Your Body and Inner Guidance
with Dr. Lydiana Garcia
I went down the rabbit hole of watching the information about The Vow on HBO and also Seduced on Stars which are both about NXIVM, it’s kind of a cult and it shows the brainwash, the indoctrination and everything else they do. If you want to see a little bit more about my reflections on it, you can look at my IGTV over on Instagram.
Something that I find fascinating and what’s also alluding these shows to what I’m sharing today is what I think was the common denominator in the people who start questioning or noticing that there’s something off in there, and that was a body sensation. It was feeling that there was something off about Keith Raniere, the founder of NXIVM. The feeling that there was something odd about the techniques that they were sharing, and it was more of a gut feeling.
If we really look in the motivational speakers and personal growth arena, a lot of the speakers and gurus share the same thing about the ability to be in control with your mind over your whole body, about not letting your sensations and your emotions run your life. In essence, I can see why so many people would want that because many are struggling with their emotions and their sensations, and they feel trapped in their bodies. There may be moments where it could be helpful to kind of dismiss the body and go a little bit into our ability to use our thought powers, beliefs and affirmations to try to get us out of a certain sensation and manage it, but it can also cause a lot of damage in the long run, especially with our connection to our bodies.
How to build a relationship with your body
Whenever I do sessions and I'm talking about how can we go back into our bodies, it's kind of something foreign for most people. What I notice is it takes about six months average-ish, for my clients to get into their bodies and start building a relationship with their bodies because at the beginning, it was a big no no of a conversation. One of the factors is that the society does not really ask how your body feels. We also idolize this idea that the stronger you are in the society, the happier and contented you are. And then there’s that notion that you’re not emotionally intelligent if you’re not able to control your emotions which is not accurate.
Even though controlling and/or transforming our thoughts and feelings can become handy at times, we have to remember that the next step would have to be able to go back and regulate the body. It shouldn’t be an either/or situation. Even if it's helpful for a little bit, the next step would be to be able to go back and regulate the body with some coping skills.
Here are some recommendations on how you can start building that relationship with your body.
- Start slow and gentle. Try to think about it as rebuilding the relationship. If you've neglected your body for a long time, it's like a kid that’s feeling neglected or kind of abandoned in a way, or you can think of it as a puppy or a pet that you just adopted. Think of how gentle you'll have to be. You can tend to your body even if it’s just for five minutes every day or it can be whenever you remember it. Some exercises would be to feel or scan your body from head to toe; or by doing some movements that feels good for you, like stretching or doing yoga poses; or even by exercising, running and doing some workout, while also being mindful of how you’re body feels. You can also do something as simple as asking your body how it feels and what sensations it feels from head to toe.
- Listen to your body and validate what it feels without any judgement. Instead of pushing against or fighting what your body feels, or even telling harsh words you can tell yourself, try to really listen to your body and validate what it feels with statements like “Oh, I can see that you're hurting right here, your tensed right here..”.
- Follow through with what your body needs. This could be fulfilling a need with things as simple as drinking some water when you’re thirsty, or if you feel like you need to stand up or stretch, then go ahead and do so. A little exercise that you can also do to keep building that relationship is if you are like stretching or twisting your body, you can try to see how far you can go then stop as soon as your body feels any pain, and try to do it on the other side as well. The more that you practice this, you might notice that you’ll be able to stretch more or find other areas that hurt and be able to massage it or attend to its needs as well.
The more that you listen, you validate and you fulfill its needs, then your body's gonna feel like, Oh, you have my back, then, it can start communicating with you in a better way. You listen, and you validate whatever sensation it feels without judging it at all, and then you follow through what it needs. The more you keep doing this, better your relationship will be with your body.
How to start figuring out your Inner Guidance or gut feeling
We all have that inner guidance that has been kind of “tamed down” by our parents, by society, by our teachers, by all the different things that we did. An example can be with social justice in terms of people wanting to control you, or those times when people would say insults about women being emotional. So, a lot of times we learn to put that inner voice away, and the more we do that, the harder it is to tap into it.
Something I often tell my clients is that if you feel it's urgent, most likely it's not your intuition, unless you're in danger. Because for most people, the gut instinct or the intuition, that inner compass and inner guidance tends to be a very calm and steady voice. If it's urgent and you're not in a dangerous situation, and your intuition is kind of like loud and on you, that could be society internalized, it could be fear, it could be your inner programming.
One of the most helpful ways to building your intuition is by devoting some time to quiet your mind. The more that you quiet your mind or you go back to the present, then the more you'll be able to again, build that relationship. It’s like starting slow and gentle, being able to listen and validate that voice, and following through with what they say.
The more that you follow through that inner guidance, like turn right here even if you’re unsure, then you notice that you were able to find a parking space right away. The more that you follow your inner guidance in little experiments, the more you're going to be able to listen to it, and the more it’s going to be able to guide you.
Taking care of your body after trauma
I worked with a lot of people that have experienced sexual related trauma, a lot of times they are in that moment where they have to disconnect completely from their body in order to survive, and this makes complete sense. In order to survive in that moment, our body was built in a way that we’re able to go into numbing or disconnect from certain sensations whenever we experience any kind of interpersonal violence.
One exercise that can guide in building that relationship with your body is by checking on yourself whenever you feel a sensation. Ask yourself if you are feeling comfortable, uncomfortable or neutral? If it gets too uncomfortable, my recommendation would be to then go out of your body. What I mean with that is by using your five senses - using some scents, weighted blanket, something with a texture, or by drinking water, by listening to music, something that helps you kind of get out of your body but still be present. And then you can kind of come back, then a little bit with the five senses again, and then back up. It’s like a little dance that we go back and forth. It's also art and that's why a lot of therapists exist. You can’t also necessarily expect for it to work if you’re doing this on your own, especially depending on your history. But having someone else to guide you and be able to hold you, and basically hold the container so you feel safe, can be really, really helpful.
Some other modalities in the somatic are includes:
- Somatic experiencing
- Sensory motor psychotherapy, which I’m currently trying to get certified
- Trauma Resiliency Model, it has two levels which I’m getting trained as well
- Yoga for trauma survivors, this should be with someone trained as a trauma-informed yoga practitioner
- Trauma therapy and movement therapy, with people that are trauma-informed as well
Trauma-informed is someone that knows a little bit of the overall of trauma and the different things that can actually trigger. For example, being gentle with close your eyes for certain exercise kind of mode, or being gentle with giving instructions. Especially with yoga, not touching people necessarily, or doing different poses that can trigger them. They learned about these kind of activities and exercise, and they tend to adjust what they offer in a more gentle invitation.
With everything that’s going on in our lives especially during this pandemic, my version right now is to be more gentle with ourselves. When you encounter somebody that is very much about pushing through or even using any judgment and shame to get you to do something, that in itself is something that's a huge red flag. Shame is such a destabilizing emotion and there's research showing how it impacts our nervous system. Going back to the documentary about NXIVM and for any groups or persons in general, some of them is still using shame a way to make you feel less off in order to comply in discipline and that's a big red flag of somebody that is trying, consciously or unconsciously, to control you.
I hope you find this information helpful as you start building that relationship with your body and inner guidance. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out to via social media or send an email to [email protected].