The body is a library of everything that has happened to us, our ancestors, and even our species. Buried in the folds of the more primitive parts of our brains are memories of the swamp, the jungle, and the treetops. Every joy and trauma has left an imprint.
The body catalogues what is painful, un-forgiven, shamed, fearful, and blocked just as it does well-being, joy, and pleasure. It unfailingly reports the responses of our emotions to the world, the tracks of consistently held thinking patterns, and the intentions of the soul, whether freed or fettered. As a friend quipped, “my body sends faxes to my mind.”
We might forget, but the body doesn’t. It consistently files away data in the cells. We’ve all heard about people craving beer and French fries after a heart transplant, even though they never liked either one before surgery, only to discover that the heart donor had loved them. The cells remembered.
In my practice I find myself frequently saying to students and clients: “Did you notice that you just started rubbing your throat when you talked about so and so, that you crossed your legs when you mentioned this or that, dropped your voice, began breathing shallowly when a particular subject was mentioned.” My intention is to help them increase awareness of the tight connections between memory, emotions and the body.
Since we were in the womb, we’ve all been recording memories in our bodies of a world perceived as safe, or not. We learn early on where the power is, who can be trusted, whether ourneeds will be met or not. We learn about “yes” and “no” from the set of a jaw, a look in the eye, a tone in the voice.
Children raised in abusive households learn that even physical safety depended on correctly reading the energetic climate. They learn to use their bodies as detectors. They don’t always have accurate interpretative skills, and sometimes they believe their bad thoughts or behavior caused the abuse, or even a death or divorce in the family.
In ancient diplomatic training in Asia, one learned not to move a muscle during a negotiation, lest one’s position be revealed. Lots of children learn that ancient skill simply from growing up in emotional or physically dangerous environments. If the separating of feelings from the body becomes severe, one dissociates, buries the feelings deep in the cells, and then repeats the inner script over and over in the world. The body has to be reeducated in such circumstances, and that is best done by spiritually aware therapists.
Great pain can be stashed behind intellectual armor. Many bright children learn to hide in mental realities. It hurts less than feelings. The pattern then carries over into an overly intellectualized adult who is afraid of feelings and vulnerability. But we really can’t fake out our deepest feelings, no matter how much we intellectualize. The cells in our bodies know what we really believe reality to be.
Usually we have quite a collection of paradoxical beliefs.
By Gloria Karpinski