Body Talk: How to Read What You’re Feeling

Ever get to that place where you “lose your cool”? The hotter it gets, it seems, the easier it is to lose it. And when you loose your cool, nobody feels good afterwards. Your target doesn’t like that kind of attention, and then there’s the guilt that swamps over you, leaving shame and embarrassment in its wake. How do you keep cool in tense situations? Emotional self-awareness is key to regaining calm and going for a solution instead of a dump.

If you don’t recognize what’s happening with you on the inside, there’s no way to stem the rising tide. So the real question becomes “How do I increase my emotional awareness enough to understand what I need right now?” With so many external distractions, it’s often easy to lose sight of what is right there inside us. How do you get past the externals in order to get in touch with the internal?

You start with the physical, with your body. That’s my go-to answer, and here’s why.


I myself am not the best at being physically aware. Sometimes I’m so distant from my body that I actually lose track of where I am in relationship to the physical world. This has led to bad stumbles, scary falls, cuts, bruises and stitches.

Unfortunately, those who’ve known me longest are not surprised when they hear I’ve taken a tumble, again. Here’s a story that says it all.

When I was a little girl, my body image was very poor. In the 2nd grade I had to take my own lunch to school when it was all the fashion buy lunch from the cafeteria line. I remember distinctly the other kids clink-clinking their quarter and dime together—and I remember how acutely aware I was that I didn’t have that quarter and dime. The aroma of warm bread and gooey enchiladas wafted out to the breezeway ahead of my, and I knew I wasn’t going to be getting any of it.

By age 7, I’d already learned to be wary of other people, so I preferred joining a group rather than holding chiefdom over one. However, bringing my lunch meant I always took my seat before the kids in the cafeteria line got their food.

So I would sit and take my chances on who would join me as I unwrapped my lunch. And every day my lunch was the same. Two curled pieces of rye cocktail bread and dry tuna. Some well-meaning adult at home thought I was too fat. The experience of eating that dusty sandwich confirmed it. I was fat and didn’t deserve more.

It was awful! Dry tuna sandwiches, day after day. No matter how little I ate, no matter how little I enjoyed it, I was definitely losing this battle—the battle with my body, which I came to know as my enemy.

I got as far away from myself—from my body—as I could manage. I learned to ignore my unacceptable body, to suppress any relationship I might have with it. And the two of us—my body and me—have been in this war dance ever since.

Each of my physical calamities (and there have been many) has been an experiential curriculum in my struggle to make peace with my body, my physical home. And, as my body awareness accumulates, I find myself becoming increasingly grateful, and a bit more graceful. I’m working to change my reputation from attic klutz to healthy embodier.

As newborns, we are all about the physical. Learning to breathe, discovering hunger pangs, making our muscles move into a grin, suffering teeth coming in through tender gums—all this body action gets our attention.

All these years, I never really paid attention to how my body worked until it broke in some way. It’s like going blind or deaf and having to find a whole different way in which to navigate the world. The key is to start paying closer attention, before something breaks. Increase your curiosity about how your body is feeling. Focus on your physical experience—how things feel right now—and you’ll find that as you get more in touch with your body, you’ll get more in touch with your feelings. Becoming aware of your body is a direct link to reconnecting you with yourself.

Here’s one way to increase physical awareness. Sit still—so still you can feel your own heart beat. Can you pinpoint where your breath warms to body temperature inside your nose? Sit so still that you can feel every small breeze that brushes past your skin. Can you get that still?

If you can, get even quieter. Listen to your body. Listen to what it might be telling you. What part of you is comfortable? Uncomfortable? Restless? At peace?

If you find yourself unable to sit still, pay attention to that. What is distracting, interrupting, or getting in the way of sitting still? Stay with the feelings; there may be some emotional insights awaiting your discovery.

As you sit, feel your butt in your chair. Feel the clothes on your skin. Feel your hair brush the nape of your neck. Feel where your feet touch the floor. What emotions are connected to that physical experience? Hone in on where your body is reflecting those emotions.

Is your heart heavy? Is your throat tight? Is your jaw clenched? Is your stomach knotted? Or, is there a flutter of excitement in your gut, a warmness in your heart or a smile on your face?

Are you calm and content or are you riled up? What signal is your body giving you? What information does your body have that reveals what’s up for you now?

Your body and what’s going on physically can be an invaluable gateway to messages about your emotions. When you pay attention to your body and access its signals, it’s much easier to know what you need. Knowing what you need means you get to find or ask for the resources that can comfort, reassure, protect or validate your current experience.

Try it. Sit with your body to hear what it might be telling you. You just may discover that life moves along more smoothly, with fewer meltdowns and sweeter days. That’s one way to stay cool this summer.


Posted in acceptance, inspiration, judgement, Successful relationships on 07/17/2017 05:34 pm

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