Recently I was engrossed in a discussion about listening more closely to what our bodies tell us. Everyone had a story of a physical injury that occurred because we didn’t listen when our bodies’ essentially said ‘enough’.
A couple of years ago, I attended a training with Dr. Gabor Maté, author of When the Body Says No, and other worthy books. He identified some key characteristics of the stress-prone personality, including:
- Difficulty saying No,
- Automatic and compulsive regard for the needs of others without considering one’s own,
- Rigid and compulsive identification with duty, role and responsibility rather than with the true self,
- Habitual suppression or repression of healthy anger and assertion.
As I read this list, a couple of things stand out for me. This list is about lies we tell ourselves and about compulsive behaviours to please others or to live within the status quo you assume others expect of you (fear). – And we wondered why we got sick or injured because we ignored our bodies?
What struck me even more as I began to examine my own life is how we find it acceptable to lie on a regular basis. We lie to others when we say ‘yes’, but we want to say ‘no’. We lie to ourselves saying we aren’t worthy enough and so we push onward when our bodies need to relax. We lie about our real needs and who we really are, compulsively rushing to the needs (and perhaps drama) of others (or our own). We lie about feeling angry at the boundaries that have been trespassed and then stay silent and perhaps punish our partner or child or friend because of all the feelings inside we have lied about.
Lies create stress and conflict, both internally and externally. Conflict disrupts our peace and our health. When we lie to ourselves and disregard the messages our bodies send us, we impose a hidden emotional stress on ourselves and our bodies.
Just as good relationships with others keep us healthy and can heal us, good relationships with our bodies keep us healthy and can heal us. Good relationships require healthy boundaries that support our sense of true self and protect us against what drains our essential vitality. Healthy boundaries are like a good immune system – protects against what takes life and sustains our essence so we can participate in our purpose and what is truly life-giving.
Several hundred people were in attendance, all in the helping profession in one way or another, all trained and paid to be supportive and respond to the needs of others. With a healthy sense of one’s own true self and a reliable use of healthy boundaries, these professions can bring an enormous sense of satisfaction. However, when we disconnect from our bodies and neglect our own needs, we risk illness and violate our spiritual core. An inner war begins. A keen awareness of this potential reality dawned on us all.
We are hard-wired to need closeness, to need connection and belonging with others. We are equally hard-wired to need to express ourselves, to know who we are and then to be seen and respected. In other words, we are hard-wired to be authentic. When these two needs are in conflict or when they are incongruent over time, we are at war with ourselves. This war leads to illness. As Dr. Maté writes, ‘illness is not random’. (Please read his book if you wish to understand this statement more completely.)
If you are like me, listening to your body is a daily task I have to remind myself to do. What does my body need to eat? What kind of exercise does my body need today? What is the decision I need to make in my work that is congruent with my life purpose so I can stay healthy? What anger must I be honest about and what must I speak up about in my intimate relationships to increase my own sense of inner peace?
Here in Canada we are coming upon the season of Thanksgiving, a time of remembering and celebrating the abundance of what Mother Earth gifts us with her body. So I invite you this week to listen to your body and in gratitude do what it asks of you. What improves in your experience of inner peace?
If you struggle with finding the joy of the body you have and opt to ignore it even more – if you find yourself suppressing your own needs to look after other’s needs making you depressed, injured or always living in chaos, consider participating in my upcoming workshop called Cultivating Joyful Living: Balancing Self Care Within Relationships. After two full days, you will leave with a clear understanding about the mind/body/spirit connection – empowering you with helpful skills for your life and relationships.
Still wondering if this workshop is right for you? Call or email me.
Peace & Namaste