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Body Language - It's about more than you think!

Understanding more about what your body is telling you and how your emotions are connected.


Earlier in 2024 we decided to move ahead with doing some updates to our home. It started with needing to fix some issues with our main floor ceiling. We knew that we would have to remove all the belongings from the main area of our house to protect them from damage.


Then we got to thinking that since all our stuff was going to be out of the main level, we might as well remove the old carpet and put down some different flooring. Which, of course led to knowing if we did that, then we better make the changes we eventually wanted to do to our kitchen cabinets. After all the kitchen area was connected to the main living area and we wouldn't want to change the flooring later when we did move the cabinets!


This line of thinking continued until the project grew to include our bedroom and our two bathrooms. What?!!


At first, all of this was kind of like window shopping. There was no real commitment until we actually did something. For me that "something" was when we would start to cut the carpet out of the room. Up until that point, we could change our minds and leave everything as it was.


Couple looking at life's choices.
Window Shopping

As we made steps toward commitment, I found myself becoming more agitated, irritable, short tempered and anxious. I felt that I couldn't breathe deeply and I couldn’t sit still with my legs bouncing when I was sitting. Even my normal calm demeanor with others was quickly going off the rails.


You've likely already deduced that all of my physical symptoms were related to the overwhelming number of aspects involved with our home project. On the surface you are exactly right. Even for the best of us, when you can't rely on knowing where to find your underwear, you will likely feel overwhelmed or any number of physical symptoms as a result. But there is more to this than just being overwhelmed.


In talking with my therapist (Nathan) about these events and how I felt, I quickly told him that I knew why I felt the way I did. He asked me to tell him more about my understanding. I continued to tell him how I was a highly sensitive person (HSP) and as such, have the tendency to take in a lot more information to process than most people. This additional information and processing, burns more energy and depletes my reserves very quickly, which causes the irritability.


I had the whole thing figured out and I felt quite pleased with my own self-diagnosis. But then he paused and said, "That does sound plausible, but I feel like there might be more to this whole thing than just you being highly sensitive. Tell me more about how your body feels in those moments?"


"In the process of sticking with things, we honor the ancient Greek aphorism, "know thyself".

I sat back in my chair and closed my eyes and recalled a recent moment where we were talking about all of the interconnected aspects of the project. My mind shifted into high gear, finding all the factual aspects of the project, giving each of these things a name, considering how we are going to live in the house at the same time, putting each of them into an order that would allow maximum efficiency and effectiveness for the project and our lives. 


As I recalled these events, I shifted my attention to how my body was feeling. I remembered feeling a shortness of breath. I remembered having a tightening of my chest and it felt achy. I remembered feeling nervous and that I had to pay attention to everything around me.


Once I'd finished telling Nathan my memories and how my body felt, he asked, "If you think back in time what is the first memory you have where your body felt this way?" Instantly a memory flashed in my mind of me at about age 10, driving a tractor in the field tilling the soil when suddenly the machinery got caught up in a tree line and no matter what I did, I could not figure out how to fix the situation. The more I tried, the worse it got until finally I ended up bending a piece of the equipment. I ran back to our house balling all the way. I could hardly catch my breath while telling my father what I had done. Then I ran into the house and hid in my room.


Nothing happened. My father went to the field and was able to disentangle the machinery and drove it back to the farmyard where he began to fix the bent piece. He didn't do anything to me, and nothing was ever said about it.



Boy running home and crying.


After relaying these events, Nathan said, "What I heard you say is you felt overwhelmed by the situation you got yourself into with the farm equipment. You then ran back to your home and out of breath you told your father what happened. Then you hid in your room. Why do you suppose you hid in your room?" I said, "Well, I suppose I felt scared and unsafe." "Was your father abusive to you as a child?", he asked. "No, well I did get a couple spankings from him, maybe two in my entire childhood. He really didn't talk with me too much. Mostly in growing up, I had to observe and pay attention to what others were doing in order to figure out if what I was doing was right.", I answered.


"In the process of sticking with things, we honor the ancient Greek aphorism, "know thyself".

Nathan continued, "Do you see how each of the moments of your memory correlate back to the physical and emotional feelings you are having now? You are undertaking a project that you don't feel like you can completely understand or wrap your arms around which makes you feel overwhelmed, much like your situation with the tractor. You ran back to your farm feeling out of breath and anxious, just like you’re feeling with the unknowns of the project. And you hid in your room because you didn't feel safe with your father because interactions with him were a kind of unknown to you, especially when there was a stressful situation that had no ending or resolution to the situation. He just left you hanging there without any consequences or allowing you to be part of solving the problem. Therefore, you now have no way to feel confident in being able to resolve complex situations, especially when other people are involved, and you don't know how they might respond."


Nathan explained to me that the trauma energy of the event I experienced as a young boy became embedded into my body with nowhere to go. Because there was no resolution, it became stuck and every time I experienced a similar situation, this would trigger a physical response that replays what I experienced at 10 years old.


After my session that day, I began to see how I used other reasons (like me being an HSP) as an excuse for how I was feeling during this stressful time in my life. Yet, my body remembered clearly what happened and was reminding me of the events in the only way it knew how by making me feel them again. 


In the book, Healer in Heels by Jasna Burza, the author writes about how she used to be a yoga teacher and one of the poses she hated was chair pose. Her teacher told her this is precisely the pose she needed to do repeatedly to break through a deeper resistance she was holding on to. She goes on to say, "In the process of sticking with things, we honor the ancient Greek aphorism, "know thyself", which is more closely translated as "know your measure". When we create the space to explore the spaciousness and limits of the mind and body, and take the time to reflect and observe, we can do so with a clarity that often seems hard to find."


Being willing to stick with and following the path of your physical and emotional feeling to its origin, will enable you to have more clarity in understanding their source. I was willing to betray myself, in a way, by distracting Nathan with my HSP story and hoped he buy it and give me accolades for my brilliance. This too was an attempt to be acknowledged and have some sort of confirmation that I was intelligent and capable. Since I had no resolution to my farm incident, this led me to doubt everything I ever attempted to do that was new or uncomfortable. 


I encourage you to consider that there may be a deeper source to the body language (physical and emotional signals) you are getting. They are likely interconnected and together will tell a never ending story until one day when you choose to know thyself fully, even in the dark places of your past.


 

If you resonate with this article and you have challenges with physical and emotional triggers, Know Thyself Healing & Therapy can offer you tools that will enable you to better understand who you truly are. You can take your life back and uncover your own superpowers.


Please like and share this article with a friend who might find this helpful!


Contact us at (952) 222-7936 or visit our website to schedule a consultation with one of our therapists at https://www.knowthyselfpllc.com/contact.


Citations:

Burza, J. (2023). Healer in Heals. Panteon Press.

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