Culturally we are conditioned pretty early to shut down aspects of ourselves. Usually in early childhood we learn to constrict parts of ourselves, likes, dislikes, feelings etc. If we do this we lose connection with different aspects of self.
In therapy I often see people hold their breath or try to stop themselves from crying when they’re feeling sad. But when we stop ourselves from crying, we are actually shutting off the physical anatomy involved in crying and feeling sad by contracting parts of the body. We contract/tense ourselves to not feel things; things we’ve been conditioned to not feel okay with or that make us feel uncomfortable.
We learn to shut down as a protective measure.
There are many good reasons for shutting down emotions. Sadness isn’t the only emotion people shut down. Maybe shutting down was an important safety strategy for living in a family that valued having a stiff upper lip and dismissed feelings. Constricting feeling can also be an important safety mechanism if you experienced early childhood adversity. But overtime holding the tension of unexpressed, unresolved emotions takes its toll on the body, your energy, and on your relationships.
From Shutdown to Ease
In body-centered work the focus is making contact with your emotions held in your body. By tending to what is experienced you can learn to allow the direct experiences of your body to be there. Slowly you discover, without shutting down, getting overwhelmed, or getting lost in endless analysis about experience to show up for your life and experience it fully. Through contacting the contractions in your belly, chest, throat or shoulders you learn to be with it and with awareness, so you then can start to let go. As the pressure and tension eases, you uncover the parts of self that is a calm and steady presence.
Contacting Inherent Wisdom
When we can make contact with our body and allow the experiences of it to be there, we begin to contact the part of ourselves that is disentangled from the content of our experiences; our inherent wisdom. So by touching upon the contraction in the chest and being present with it you can start to relax and let go of the contraction. Underneath those exiled experiences we access a part of ourselves that is grounded, calm, steady, present. It’s an inner resource we each possess.
Less Resistance to Life = More Joy
Often when people engage themselves in this way they encounter material about their lives, past and current hurts, choices and ways of being that no longer work. By being with the direct experience of the contraction there is transformation and possibility for new choices that support well-being.
The lasting benefit is that when we learn to trust our bodies, to relax and not habitually shut down to our life and emotions we’re more open and receptive to life. The content of experience is experienced more fluidly within that calm ground of our being. Finally, people often report feeling more vibrant, feeling and experiencing more of life as they unbind the constrictions.
If you are curious about how body-centered therapies might work for you, give us a call.