Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Redefining "Body"

My mind is a battlefield.  Joyce Meyer says this a lot.  But what I’m talking about here is Engel, specifically, the first exercise of Chapter 10 in Healing Your Emotional Self. 

When I read the title of Chapter 10, I put the book away for three weeks.  “Learning to Love Your Body”.  Bird poop.  I could not bring myself to continue on my emotional healing journey by way of this book with those words looming over my head.  Though I put the book away, I kept thinking about my body and my love for my body.  As the weeks past, I realized on many occasions that the way I was treating my body at a particular moment wasn’t loving at all; in fact, it was more like punishment.  While sitting down for dinner last night, with my boyfriend’s plate full of chicken and corn and rice, with my plate empty with a sad, plain chicken breast and some spinach leaves, after days of barely eating in order to lose weight, I said, “So, I’ve been putting off reading the next chapter in that book I told you about.  The chapter is about loving your body and I haven’t wanted to read it.  But after seeing how I’ve basically been starving myself to lose weight I think reading the chapter would be good for me.”  “So, read it,” he replied.
I woke up this morning with a mission to tackle “Learning to Love Your Body”.  I didn’t get very far.  Within two pages of my reading was an exercise.  More bird poop.  Engel asks a series of questions about my breathing (Is it deep or shallow?  Do I ever forget to breathe for long periods of time?).  She tells me to pay attention to my breath today.  All day.  Excessive, if you ask me.  She asks me to identify the emotions my breath is expressing (anxiety, fear, etc.).  She wants me to pay attention to the parts of my body that are most tense.  “What would they tell you they need?  What would they tell you about past trauma?”  When I read the word trauma I notice my breath.  It stops.  About past trauma.  The word trauma is holding me up.  I don’t like it.  With it brings denial of any such thing, of such a severe word.  With it brings memories, what I felt at the time the experience was taking place.  Memories and feelings bring truth.  Trauma is a part of my life.

I move on from trauma to the last question.  “Which parts of your body are the most numb? Why have these parts of your body lost all feeling?”  Here’s another kicker.  “Underneath the numbness is probably a lot of pain; what is this pain about?”  Again, I notice my breath.  Again, it has stopped.  I have a choice to make.  Do I want to answer these questions?  If I do, how much time do I want to put in to finding the answers to all this stuff?  All day? 

I open up my journal and thumb through used pages upon used pages.  I’m already into the last one-third of this journal.  The first two-thirds are all filled with notes I made while reading this book.  Revelations, memories uncovered, more truth.  Trauma.  I remember how difficult the previous chapters in this book were to read.  I remember the arguments with my boyfriend in the days following those chapters.  Defensive.  Alone.  It was like I had a third-degree sun burn and I couldn’t be touched without cringing, without yelling and blaming.  I return to the blank page in my journal, and I want to fill it.  I want to use up this journal, feel every ounce of pain as I scribble from top to bottom, sideways, arrows, bullet points.  I want the final stretch of this journal to resemble the beginning – chaos while reading, remembered pain while reflecting, asterisks by the truths I’ve uncovered.  I’m ready to answer the questions. 

I breathe deeply after reading a striking passage.  I’m taking it all in.  A deep breath because I was holding my breath in suspense of the words I’m about to read.  I relate too closely to what I am reading or watching.  I hold my breath because I am uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable with the truth that is before me in black and white.  My breathing pattern is irregular – short and shallow or all out deep and filling.  My breathing pattern is like my other patterns – all or nothing.  Every part of my being has been conditioned for unhealthy, negative living.  Even my breathing, the simplest, automatic and most fundamental activity of a human being, has been tainted.  Exhaling deeply, I am tired.  I’m weak from the truth I just inhaled.

My stomach is tense.  I need to relax.  I need to feel safe.  I couldn’t relax as a child.  I was always on alert for danger; the changing atmosphere meant I had to be ready.  I am that child today.  Watching, listening, waiting for an attack, and those who are closest to me are the most likely attackers.  I live life with a tense stomach, with a defensive demeanor.  Nowhere is safe.  No one is safe.  I have to be ready at all times so I don’t get hurt.

My mind is numb.  Yes, it’s constantly analyzing, comparing, on alert.  But that is all done on autopilot.  My mind is not interactive.  It doesn't engage with the rest of my body; it’s not curious about my surroundings – it only reacts, reacts, reacts.  Reality has proven too difficult.  My mind means feelings, feelings mean actions, and all is negative.  It’s easier to be numb than to feel.  I am that child today.  I shut off my feelings and needs as to cause the least ripples.  I let my mind take me through life, numb and on autopilot, only to react, react, react.

I sit in silence for a while as I take in what I’ve just written.  Truth, trauma -- my words, my feelings.  Until I read the words “Learning to Love Your Body”, I never considered the idea that I didn’t, at least not anything past aesthetics.  My boobs are too small and I need to lose another 15 pounds.  But that’s not the body Engel is speaking of, at least not in this exercise.  I never considered my breathing or my tenseness or numbness as part of my body, and certainly not part of how I treat my body.  I never connected the dots between this treatment and past pain.  These are the dots I need to connect.  These are the dots which connect me to my healing.  Not “my boyfriend said this which really means that; therefore, he doesn’t love me, he is interested in another female which makes me unattractive, damaged and inherently unlovable.”  Yes, people, this is the nonsense that runs through my mind. 

“I never considered” has become “now I know.”  I am reminded again of Joyce Meyer and her podcast I listened to yesterday.  “Once God reveals something to you, once you realize something about the way you’ve been living, you now have the responsibility to act different.  To whom much is given, much is required.”  I’ve been given truth, painful and surprising, but truth nonetheless.  I am the only one responsible for what I will do with the truth I’ve just received.  The expectation for change is greater now than it’s ever been. 

I’m ready to answer.

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