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- Hungry Love: The MacWilliam Method Practitioner Training Introduction
- Evaluation and Certificate
- Certificate for Module 1
- Module 2- A Trauma-Informed Approach to Parts Integration
- Lesson 4: Safety in The Body
- Lesson 5: Discovering The Root Pain
- Certificate for Module 2
- Module 3 – Experiential Interventions for Emotional Catharsis and Integration
- Lesson 6: Focus Wheels and EFT Tapping
- Lesson 7: Visioning Versus Visualizing
- Lesson 8: Scribbles and Non-Dominant Dialogues
- Lesson 9: Drumming and Authentic Movement
- Lesson 10: Toning and Sound Healing
- Certificate for Module 3
- Module 4 – Experiential Sequencing for Reduced Anxiety and Increased Felt Security
- Lesson 11: Putting It All Together
- Certificate for Module 4
- Bonus 1 – Meet Your Guides (Clone)
- Bonus 2 – An Introduction to Past Life Regression (Clone)
- What Comes After Hungry Love? Deepening Your Practice With The Chakra System. (Clone)
Safety In The Body
There is a lot of information in this module to draw from, to inform your understanding. The most essential lessons to complete before moving on to the next, would be the following lectures and activities:
- 3-Charge in The Body (45 min)
- Activity: Watch the demos for activating and deactivating breath (12 min)
- 5-Accessing Your Intuition (15 min)
- 7-Reclaiming The Body (14 min)
- (skip first activity)
- Second Activity: Reclaiming the Body Gratitude Exercise (20-30 min)
“How can I trust my intuition? How do I know if my feelings are real?”
If you are reading this text, you probably already know I am a creative arts therapist, author, educator and energy healer with over 15 years of clinical experience.
But I also happen to be a divorced single mom with a history of disrupted attachments in childhood, which bled into rocky romantic relationships in adulthood.
Over time, layers of loss and grief became compounded, until a confluence of very difficult events in my life was catalyzed by yet another romantic heartbreak, which included a miscarriage. At the same time, I lost my job and was caring for multiple family members with chronic illnesses. The stress and emotional pain forced me into a new level of self examination.
This heartbreak was different for a variety of reasons. It was the cherry on top. The straw that broke the camel’s back. And as a result, I experienced a psycho-spiritual breakdown...and ultimately, breakthrough.
But it didn’t come without reading a TON of self-help books, textbooks, and research on attachment theory, and how it might be manifesting in my adult relationships. It also didn’t come without asking myself difficult questions.
On the one hand, I felt like I HAD known, all along, the way this relationship was going to end. I could look back at every instance in which I had thought to myself, “Oh, god. I should just walk away NOW.”
But I didn’t.
I wanted one more kiss. One more night. One more laugh. One more moment of connection and feeling special in the spotlight of someone else’s attention. But as the “one-mores” added up, I was digging myself a deeper hole, until it felt impossible to go a day without this person in my life.
And my body felt like my enemy. It yearned, ached, desired, and burned for this partner.
My head said, “not a good idea” and my body said, “one more hit.”
My body didn’t belong to me. It belonged to my partner. I had given it to him. And I had put him in charge of my sexuality too.
And when the relationship finally arrived at its inevitable end, I was furious with myself and with my body.
“How can I trust myself anymore?” I would lament. “How can I trust my own intuition? How can I know if my feelings are real? If it was all just a projection of messed up childhood stuff, do I even know what love is anyway? Were either of us really even in this relationship? Or was it all just an illusion? How can I know anything?”
But I did know. I was so mad at myself because, deep down, I had always known. I just didn’t know which voice should be in charge.
For a time, this anger and distrust of myself blurred my vision of all the wonderful and amazing things I experienced as a result of that relationship. My attachment to that specific partner held me back from realizing the full purpose of our relationship, which, I came to believe, was to step more fully into the expansion of love it had catalyzed for me.
Ultimately, through researching and publishing my first book on the subject, Complicated Grief, Attachment and Art Therapy: Theory, Treatment and 14-Ready-to-Use Protocols, I was able to find my way to an expanded sense of meaning, purpose, and self, as a result of that experience. And the lessons and tools in the Hungry Love program are intended to help affect a similar explorative and transformational process, for you.
Much of what I will talk about in this lesson and those that come after, is informed by the research that went into my book, but also my own experiences with this topic. The gist of today’s lesson is about establishing safety in the body, so you can learn how to listen to yourself.
When we find ourselves caught in insecure patterns of relating to partners, or struggling to connect in intimate ways, its typically because there is an underlying script that just keeps playing itself out with new actors, in the unconscious mind.
And so, to redraw our love maps, we must rewrite our scripts. That means listening to what our feelings are trying to tell us, instead of denying them, running away from them, or numbing them out with ingestive and non-ingestive addictions.
Feelings are housed in the body. We call them “feelings” because we feel them. A thought might trigger a feeling, but that energetic charge expresses itself through the body.
The fears we have around identifying, monitoring and managing our own feelings would suggest that many of us suppose our emotions, our bodies, and our visceral experiences are somehow a mystery to us--they are thought of as separate from our sense of self. And so, we perceive them as confusing, inadequate and/or scary.
We see this play out over and over again archetypally in our popular culture. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Luke and Darth Vadar. Vampires that struggle between love and blood lust.
As the story goes, we either become a slave to these parts of ourselves, or we become over-controlling and cut off--sometimes without even realizing that's what we are doing. And we may fall into addictive behaviors or substances as a way to cope with either circumstance.
This can lead to an internal "split," when our conscious self splits away from the essence of who we are, and then splits everything outside of us as well, into “good” and “bad” camps.
Okay, well, how did that happen?
Somewhere along the line, we were taught that the outsides don't match up with the insides, so we stopped trusting ourselves and our intuition and relied instead on the outside world to fill us up and validate us, in various forms.
In this lesson, we will address how we come to be disconnected from our bodies, and thus, distrusting of its resources, in the first place.
At the basis of our understanding of loving feelings, is physical contact. A mother (or any caretaker) holds her baby to her chest, and that baby feels safe and loved because it feels warm, supported, can hear her heartbeat, and has a full belly. The physical contact with her makes the baby feel safe and protected. As if its needs are attended to.
As adults (in healthy situations) physical intimacy, affection and closeness has the same effect on us. And our body boundaries tell us how much or how little we need of these things, to feel safe and loved. Naturally, everyone’s boundaries will express themselves differently.
Taking responsibility for the health of our bodies and the choices we might make that impact the body’s wellbeing, as well as listening to the cues of our body, are manifestations of body boundaries; do you listen when your body is talking to you? Or does it have to scream at you to get your attention (i.e. make you sick)?
Body boundaries can also impact your level of connection with your life force energy in general. It is also what allows you to experience pleasure, play, and the sensual aspects of life.
Today we are going to explore 7 of them (if you would like to learn more, this is a peek into my course called Personal Boundaries in Love).
Activity Challenge: Body Scan
Listen to the guided meditation to perform a body scan and notice how you may be holding energy and tension in your body.
If it is physically challenging or you have significant health concerns, be sure to consult your doctor before fully participating. However, you may listen to the recording and notice what resonates with you, and journal about it.
(Optional Extension) Draw a body map to indicate where you experienced areas of tension or other notable sensations. Label and free associate about what you discovered.
Probably one of the most confusing things for individuals that struggle with insecure attachment is learning how to sift and sort and prioritize their own emotions--and emotions are the most commonly shared experience of life force energy, moving through your body.
Through childhood experiences or difficult adult relationships they’ve often learned not to trust their own instincts, most likely because they have been dismissed or invalidated, misinterpreted, manipulated or completely ignored, for whatever reason. This leads to significant boundary confusion.
And so, sometimes they’ll have an immediate reaction to a trigger that completely baffles them. They may have been happily headed in one direction, and then all of a sudden their body has an emotional reaction that completely pushes them off the path.
Once you’re better able to sift and sort and properly prioritize your emotions, however, you experience a better quality of life and an ability to deepen the intimacy in your relationships with more compatible partners.
You also feel a deeper sense of security from an internal locus of control, which means you show up more consistently and confidently to every relationship and situation, rather than get pushed around by circumstances beyond your control.
And so, in the remaining lessons, we are going to...
- Talk about emotions as an expression of your life force energy, following the framework established by Aneoda Judith in her book called, Charge And The Energy Body.
- Talk about how attachment styles reflect being in survival mode, which will always throw you into an over or under charged state.
- Talk about how to build an emotional vocabulary by conceptualizing emotions and letting them move through your body as energetic states.
- And finally, we’ll explore 3 steps to reclaim the body as a sacred vessel and conduit for the spiritual self.
In this lesson, we will talk about emotions as an expression of your life force energy.
- An explanation of over and under charged states in the body,
- An introduction to trauma and the body,
- How to expand your comfort zone through exaggerations of bodily sensations and strong emotions,
- The 5 Energy Bodies
- How your "core" energy (Spiritual Self) communicates
Below you will find some demonstrations mentioned in the video and in your workbook. These are meant to help you with increasing or decreasing the charge, or emotional momentum, that may be inhabiting your body.
Demo 1: Activating Breath - "Charging Up"
If you are feeling a lack of energy, listless, unfocused, or a lack of motivation, there are certain activities that can "charge you up." This is a demonstration of a breathing exercise that is a good one to practice.
Demo 2: Deactivating Breath - "Discharging"
If you are feeling overwhelmed, panicked and anxious, or struggling to control your emotions, there are certain activities that can "discharge" some of that energy. This is a demonstration of a breathing exercise that is a good one to practice if you are feeling dysregulated.
It's also important to keep in mind that there are certain activities that can BOTH activate and deactivate you. This is a very brief list of those. I would add to this that "art making" is also an activity that can go both ways.
Demo 3: (Optional Video) Exaggerating Emotion to Discharge It or Create it! - "How Neediness Can Empower You"
“Survival mode” is a condition in which you experience an uncontrollable impulse to fight, flee, freeze or fawn, in the face of impending threat.
Because our attachment system is part of the survival system in our instinctual brain and nervous system, we can be thrown into survival mode when we perceive threats to our relationships. (I talk a lot more about the chemistry and neuroscience of this--including polyvagal theory and trauma informed approaches-- in my course Healing Attachment Wounds, if you are interested.)
When something triggers your survival instincts it's almost always accompanied by a strong charge. That charge has a distinct purpose. And that is to make sure that the body continues to survive. All of these actions require a tremendous amount of energy and can steal energy from other parts of the body and mind. This is why we might make ill-informed and unconscious decisions when we are in survival mode.
The high arousal of charge in a traumatic situation can freeze and immobilize your ability to receive, assimilate or express energy effectively. It can create an inability to feel anything, leave you feeling tapped and unmotivated, inhibit your breathing, or even undermine your ability to speak up.
Folding/fawning is a kind of resignation, self-abandonment, or collapse. It looks like charge disappears from the body altogether leaving that person feeling cold, vacant or empty. It's like blowing a fuse in your home, when a circuit becomes overloaded. When the body can't run away, the energy takes flight instead. While it might appear as if there's no energy at all, truly the charge is still locked away in the body somewhere, it is just dissociated from consciousness.
Spice of Lifers with disorganized/fearful-avoidant attachment--would struggle with this.
If you are a preoccupied-anxious anxious open heart, you’re more likely to have an overcharged disposition, and so you will manage that by overshooting discharging the energy and wind up depleting yourself--through things like people pleasing, over-doing, overanalysis, and clinging protest behaviors.
If you are anxious-ambivavlent, you are more likely to struggle with “double troubles”- which means you are anxiously aware about how anxious you are, and how that comes across to your partners. So, you will lock down your inclination towards discharge--and that looks like need suppression, trying to make yourself less of a burden, and not saying what you need to say.
Rolling Stones can have undercharged energy, and deal with it in varying ways. Some Rolling stones might get charged up by being charismatic and the life of the party, because they are fed by the external stimulation of groups of people and novel and entertaining activities; but remember, relating to a group can be safer than relating intimately to any one person in particular.
Others might prefer the quiet of staying home and reading a book, but they will still most likely be drawing to partners that “charge them up” on some level, which might include a partner that plans all the social engagements, initiates most of the contact, and keeps them connected to their community--because that is outside their own comfort zone.
Just remember growth happens at the edge of your comfort zone, not situated in the middle of it, but also not outside of it.
The trick is knowing which feelings are your intuition (i.e. coming from your Spiritual Self), and which feelings are the result of survival wiring that needs recalibration; in other words, are you suffering with over or under charged states?
In the next lesson we will talk about how you can tell the difference.
When we are in survival mode we will usually revert to over or under charged states. And these will express themselves through the nature of your thoughts and how you experience your body.
Both your thoughts and your body will want to convince you that everything is urgent. It must be done now. And if you make a wrong decision or misstep, it will mean the end of the world. Or, mean something worse about your value and you’re worth; your “enoughness.”
It’s a hunger that has to be fed IMMEDIATELY.
An answer you must find or produce NOW!
And it must look EXACTLY LIKE THIS, or it’s completely worthless to you.
It also is a feeling of needing to be in control.
Of distrusting your environment and the people in it.
Of believing you are all alone and don’t need anyone.
Your intuition (or “core energy” or the voice of your "Spiritual Self") will give you a nudge. It will alert you to something that needs to be worked on. It will basically say, “Let’s take a pause and examine this a little bit longer...There’s plenty of time to figure this out.”
And it’s the part of you that will have you asking questions like, “Is this in service of my greatest good? I am wanting this, but I’m not so sure it’s healthy for me… maybe I should ask more questions.”
It will also say, “Maybe this person isn’t the right person to help me, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of people who will want to help me, and I have plenty of resources to find those people.”
THIS is the voice that emerges, once you are out of survival mode.
Remember, the body’s immediate job is to protect the core, so it will respond instinctively and immediately. Once it is safe however, now you can hear the voice of your core (Spiritual Self).
Most of us when we reflect back on significant experiences can identify a moment when we had an inkling about something, but ignored it and just kept going. Some people refer to these as “red flags,” but that is the external label. Usually it’s your spirit whispering. Telling you, through your more subtle emotions, to take a pause and personal inventory, before things reach a critical point.
If you find yourself feeling "triggered" a lot, and struggle to find your emotional equilibrium when it comes to love and relationships, you may struggle to tap into your intuition.
People use the word ‘triggered’ to mean many things. Those that use the word casually usually mean, “I had a feeling I didn’t like, so I did whatever I could to get away from that feeling.”
For others, ‘triggered’ means they experienced a cue that activated their survival mechanisms. When that happens, we often find ourselves acting in ways that are not of our “true nature” but rather of our body’s need to survive. And so we might do or say things that we later regret, and feel embarrassed, remorseful, or humiliated as a result of it.
Then we might try to compensate by bending or breaking our own boundaries in atonement or running away because we “can’t face the music” (its an expression which means, deal with the consequences of our actions). When this happens, guilt festers (the shadow aspect of the sacral chakra).
I want to clarify something: when you are in survival mode, you are not necessarily demonstrating your “true colors.”
You are doing what you believe you must, to survive. This doesn’t excuse everything you do when in survival mode, but it is a way of understanding the importance of engaging with an inner dialogue, so you are increasingly in conscious command when you ARE in survival mode.
It is only when we feel safe that our most authentic selves can emerge, because there is enough space for it. And safety starts with developing a loving relationship to your own core energy (Spiritual Self) and vitality.
Individuals that accomplish this are the individuals that are better capable of finding grace on the other side of tragedy--but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily “resilient.” Resilience is the presence of a trait or characteristic that allows someone to hold onto their fixed identity, beliefs and core values, when experiencing something traumatic. ‘Finding grace,’ in my opinion, is more like “post traumatic growth.”
Post traumatic growth is the ability to deconstruct and reconstruct your core identity, values and beliefs, in a manner that better serves you, after a terrible experience. This involves gaining access to, and a cultivation of, one’s core energy (Spiritual Self)--which may have been catalyzed through the “inciting incident.”
Post traumatic growth will always be anxiety provoking, because we are metaphorically dethroning a rigid ego and replacing it with a flexible one. Anxiety is often the result of opposing forces butting heads, within us. Often, if we try to reduce anxiety, escape anxiety, bury it, ignore or deny it...it only picks up more steam and momentum.
The irony is once we are willing to bear witness to our anxiety, and be in dialogue with it, without pushing or pulling at it, we become LESS identified with it, and so it has less of a hold on our inner emotional life, and how we choose to act on it.
The tools I share with you in this course are intended to provide some structure for how to practice "witnessing" and being "in dialogue."
Optional Video: Is it My Intuition or Survival Mode? 7 Questions to Tell The Difference
Taking command of your energetic states is greatly benefitted by developing a robust and varied emotional vocabulary, since it is the subtler emotions that can clue you into the guidance of your Core, or Spiritual Self’s intuition.
There are many ways to classify emotions, and some emotions are considered to be primary, tertiary, and secondary emotions.
While many studies have focused on isolating categories of emotion, it's worthwhile noting that at any given moment in time, you are usually experiencing a number of emotions simultaneously, even if some are more prominent than others, or in contradiction to each other.
For example, in a 2017 study, researchers found that people experienced 27 distinct emotions, along a gradient. After analyzing the responses of more than 800 men to more than 2,000 video clips, researchers created an interactive map to demonstrate how these emotions are related to one another.
This means that emotions are not states that occur in isolation; there are gradients of emotion and different feeling states are deeply interrelated. The point is, the more skillfully we can identify, name and claim these interrelated expressions of emotional energy, the more sophisticated and mature our sense of “self” and expanding spiritual awareness becomes. That means the more secure you will feel within your own body, and in your interpersonal relationships.
Evaluations vs Emotions
Marshall Rosenberg, author of the book, Nonviolent Communication, also contributes to the work of clarifying our emotions with greater maturity, discernment and sophistication. One of Rosenberg's most notable contributions to nonviolent communication is identifying a habit we have of mistaking our thoughts for our feelings. For example, in the sentence, “I feel I didn't get a fair deal,” the words “I feel” could be more accurately replaced with “I think”.
Additionally, we may use evaluating words as feeling words, but they are truly about assessment.
Here’s an example from Rosenberg’s book, p. 42:
Description of what we think we are:
“I feel inadequate as a guitar player.”
In this statement, I am assessing my ability as a guitar player, rather than clearly expressing my feelings.
Expressions of actual feelings:
- “I feel disappointed in myself as a guitar player.”
- “I feel impatient with myself as a guitar player.”
- “I feel frustrated with myself as a guitar player.”
The actual feeling behind my assessment of myself as inadequate could therefore be disappointment, impatience, frustration, or some other emotion.
It is also helpful to differentiate between words that describe what we think others are doing around us and words that describe actual feelings. Here are some statements that are usually mistaken as an expression of feelings but really reveal more of how we think others are behaving, rather than how we are actually feeling ourselves.
- I feel unimportant to my partner.
The word “unimportant” describes how I think others are evaluating me, rather than an actual feeling which in this situation might be I feel sad, or I feel discouraged.
- I feel misunderstood.
Here, the word “misunderstood” indicates my assessment of the other person's level of understanding rather than an actual feeling. In this situation I may be feeling anxious or annoyed.
- I feel ignored.
Again, this is more of an interpretation of how the other is or is not responding to me. It is an evaluation of the actions of others, rather than a clear statement of how I am feeling. There might have been times when we thought we were being ignored and our feeling was relief, because we wanted to be left to ourselves. Then there might have been other times when we felt hurt when we thought we were being ignored, because we wanted to be involved.
Activity Challenge: How Do You Feel?
- Go back over your notes and mining scripts.
- Identify any of the feeling statements you may have written.
- Notice what words you used to describe your feelings.
- How many of them are truly evaluations of other people’s behavior or attitudes?
- What true feeling words might you now replace these with?
Now, let’s take a look at how we can begin to use CREATIVE and FUN approaches to recovering a sense of basic trust in ourselves and in our bodies (without having to talk in circles around our feelings for hours on end). And we are going to accomplish this in three steps.
Step 1. Stop looking for quick fixes. The first step is to stop looking for quick fixes, i.e. short-term escapes. This includes things like drugs, alcohol, food, TV, workaholism, shopping addictions, jumping instantly into a new relationship, sex addiction... doing things to distract yourself from what you are feeling, including “doing” for the sake of doing.
Yes, we all need to take breaks from hard stuff, that’s true--in fact, taking breaks is healthy. But when it becomes a compulsive escape that blocks the processing of difficult feelings altogether, it becomes an impediment to living the life you’d rather be living. Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds...not on its own, anyway (and that’s a fact confirmed by neurological research).
There is no cure for hard times in relationships, even in secure ones, there are only better ways of coping, and making meaning out of them.
Step 2. Slow down and make feeling your feelings a choice. The second step, is to slow down, and commit to allowing for raw feelings that may be scary and uncomfortable, to communicate with you. I like to think of this as embracing your “darkside” for a while.
For example, let’s say your partner broke up with you, and you feel sad and depressed. Maybe you find yourself eating ice cream and watching netflix in bed for a week.
You might look at that from the angle of… “Oh, I fell into this behavior because nobody loves me, and what’s the point of anything anymore.” Or, you can make it a choice. And if it can be an angry one, all the better... “I feel crappy and depressed and dammit I am going to eat the hell out of that ice cream and watch the bejeezus out of Netflix for as long as I want!”
If you can manage to make eating ice cream and watching Netflix all day an unapologetic choice, rather than a circumstance that befalls you with a woe-is-me attitude, you’ll find that the impulse to eat ice cream and watch Netflix for the rest of your life dissolves much more quickly. And maybe even the judgement around it too.
Because if you are falling into it, you’re probably also beating yourself up around it... “Oh, woe-is-me, nobody loves me. Look how lazy and ineffectual I am, all I can do is eat ice cream and watch Netflix all day long.”
But, if you can make it a choice, you can make other aspects of your life a choice as well. And that ultimately empowers you to take charge of your life in other areas.
Step 3. Build trust by cultivating a loving relationship to your body. The third step is to work on trusting yourself again, and that means, getting in touch with your creativity and your spirituality, because that is the loudest voice of your inner knowing.
In this self-directed lesson, we are going to approach this in two experiential ways:
- A guided visualization to establish safety in the inner space.
- A ritual for re-acquainting yourself with your body, and reclaiming it as your sacred temple, with appreciation and love.
Remember to pace yourself and to attend to what feels manageable for you. If you are feeling overwhelmed or dysregulated, be sure to pause or take breaks. You can always come back when you are ready.
Activity Challenge: Establishing Safety
In this activity, I invite you to listen to the guided visualization.
During the visualization, you will be invited to ground yourself in the body and locate your safe place. You will also be asked to explore this space and experience what it is like to fully inhabit safety in the body.
The goal is to begin building a visual language and vocabulary for making contact with, understanding, and organizing the inner landscape.
This is foundational for building confidence in trusting your own feelings and intuitions; in the same way that you would feel more comfortable visiting a foreign country, if you were fluent in speaking the language.
Oftentimes, people wonder...
- "How do I know if my feelings are real? How can I learn to trust my intuition?"
- "How can I feel confident and unafraid of expressing my feelings?"
- "How do I know the difference between judgement and discernment?"
This is how we begin to establish sovereignty with respect to these questions.
Following the visualization, I invite you to journal about and/or sketch what revealed itself to you during the activity.
Here are a few prompts to get you started…
- How did witnessing your safe place inside your body, in the meditative state, affect you?
- What did you notice?
- Anything surprise you?
- Did anything change for you, in your perception of your safe space?
- How do you feel about this exercise as a whole?
Activity Challenge: Activating Acceptance and Reclaiming the Body
Our second activity is a reclaiming of your body. We are liberating your body from objectification, criticism and judgement. We are naming it as worthy and deserving, when others may have dismissed it as “not good enough” or discarded it with no regard at all. And we are taking it back from those that may have taken it without permission.
Of note, for those that have a history of physical and/or sexual abuse, this lesson may feel a little scary. But I would encourage you to try not to fear the fear, and to allow your body to receive the love and acceptance you are wanting to give it.
If you have additional counseling support, I would also encourage you to discuss this exercise in your sessions, or you might even bring it into your session, if you feel you would like the support.
To begin, you might write a few reflective notes regarding the following...
- Do you have any chronic physical ailments, aches, or pains that you struggle with?
- Any serious injuries in the past or present?
- How do you feel in your body when you are upset, depressed or anxious? What are the physical symptoms?
- If you are asked to reflect on a partner, or a past relationship that is particularly painful, where does that live, in your body?
There are no right or wrong answers. If it's hard to connect to the sensations of your body, it's okay to use your imagination. For example, if you can’t tell where something “lives” in your body, consider where might it live? The first thing that comes to mind is usually your answer.
Please note, you may find that you have a resentment towards a certain body part, especially if you have had an illness or injury that gives you pain, or if you feel a part of your body drew unwanted attention.
It’s important to realize that continuing to resent or criticize this part of the body is a perpetuation of violence against it, and yourself. However, beating yourself up for beating yourself up, is not the solution, either. That is a “double trouble,” which only perpetuates the self-abuse.
The purpose of this lesson is to put an end to that vicious cycle, and so I invite you to try recognizing and loving the resentful parts, as much as the parts they resent.
After transcribing your reflections, write a statement of gratitude for each of the different parts of your body. You may use the body parts listed below, but feel free to add in any parts that are not listed here.
- Mouth and Throat
- Arms and Hands
- Chest and Heart Space
- Pelvis and Genitals
- Legs and Feet
At first, this may feel a little silly. But it is a necessary step in understanding that your sense of “self” --the “me” “my” “mine” or “I”--is actually a collection of “selves” that work together to create a gestalt that is your sense of identity. Which is to say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But if you are experiencing internal and/or external conflict in your life, it may be that your parts are not integrating at full capacity, into the whole. To facilitate integration, we have to name and claim our parts first, with love and compassion.
Here is my personal statement of gratitude...
Dear Head, I am grateful to you for containing my brain, and eyes, ears, nose, and throat. I am grateful for the capacity this allows me to take in information, and make sense of my world around me. I am grateful for my face and its shape, and even find it aesthetically pleasing, (at least in so far as I wouldn’t trade it for someone else’s face). Over time, I have become accustomed to this face, and to my brain, and to the way I perceive the world. I appreciate the sense of self and of agency I derive from all of these structures performing optimally. I quite literally couldn’t live without you! Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Ears, thank you for listening. For allowing me to enjoy music. To hear the lectures of mentors I respect. To hear the sounds of pleasure I have given my lovers. To hear the sound of the waves crashing against the ocean. To hear the words of love and affection from family and friends. Thank you for affording me the ability to welcome these beautiful frequencies, rhythms and vibrations into my experience. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Eyes, thank you for my vision. For being able to perceive the variety of color and shape and form in the world. For being able to read the books I love. For being able to navigate through space with a sense of agency and security. For being able to regard something I find beautiful, and take pleasure in what it evokes in me. For being able to look at natural wonders, giving me the opportunity to feel small and uniquely precious, at the same time. For being able to look into a loved one’s face and see their regard beaming back at me. Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Mouth and Throat, there is so much to thank you for. Thank you for allowing me to receive sustenance, and the ability to taste delicious foods and beverages in wide variety. Not only does it keep me alive and healthy, but affords me the ability to take part and pleasure in social bonding rituals with friends, lovers and family. Thank you for also giving me the ability to speak my mind. To express outwardly what I inwardly experience. To be able to voice my needs and have them met. To be able to communicate with clarity and establish connections when and where I need and want them. Thank you for affording me the ability to sing along, when I feel inspired, and to scream and cry, when it affords me relief. Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Shoulders, thank you for carrying the things I need to carry, especially my heavy book bags in school, and my suitcases when I travel! Thank you for holding my head up high, and for connecting my arms to my body, and for the sense of agency this affords me. Thank you for allowing me to learn and survive by the things I take with me, and for the sense of strength I derive from having broad shoulders. Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Arms and Hands, what would I do without you? Thank you for allowing me to engage with the world! And to affect my will upon it. Thank you for being able to grasp, hold, protect, shelter, stop a fall, swing on the monkey bars, swing on a swing, carry my things, pull myself up, stand upside down, and cook my food. Thank you for allowing me to hug and pleasure my lovers, and to pleasure myself. Thank you for allowing me to do my hair and makeup the way I like it. To know the sensuous aspects of nature, and to experience the variety of tactile sensations and the natural world through direct contact. Thank you for my ability to write and to type and to sew and to play the guitar and to make art! Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Chest and Heart Space, thank you for housing my heart and lungs, two major organs that generate and transmit my life force. Thank you for letting me know when I feel happy and joyful (I sense you as open and light in those moments) and for letting me know when I am heartbroken and grieving (I sense you as heavy and achy in those moments). Both of these experiences enrich my life and cultivate my empathic abilities when it comes to creating meaning around my pain, and making authentic, heart-centered connections with others. This informs everything I do in my professional and personal life as therapist and healer. I also thank you for my breasts and the way it informs the overall shape of my body. As a ciswoman, I derive pleasure from that part of my body, and it afforded me an ability to nourish my child when he was born. This part of my body reminds me of the power that comes from an ability to melt into the soft receptiveness of my feminine nature, and its sensuousness. Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Abdomen, thank you for your power and your core strength. For digesting my food, and transmitting nourishment to where I need it most. For letting me know when a situation doesn’t “feel right.” For the butterflies when I am excited and anticipatory. For connecting my upper and lower halves. For letting me know when I am sick and/or allergic, and need to throw up a virus or a poison. For letting me know when I need to eat, so I can keep going. Thank your endless patience, when I have criticized and deprived you with crash diets, or ignored you and overstuffed you when I was in emotional pain. I appreciate all you have done and continue to do for me. Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Pelvis and Genitals, thank you for holding me upright, and for holding my center of gravity. For housing my potential as a creator of life and of sensuous pleasures. For the ability to move in rhythm to the music, and to find the rhythm of mine and my lover’s pleasure. For the feeling of arousal, and for the physical intimacy it affords me, when I feel safe and fully present with a sexual partner. For connecting my body to my legs, allowing me mobility. Thank you. I love you for this. And I promise to take care of you.
Dear Legs and Feet, thank you for allowing me to stand, walk, jump, run, and dance! Thank you for getting me to where I need to go, and allowing me to carry heavy things. Thank you for my ability to climb and to exercise and to bend and be flexible. For your shapeliness and for your power. For connecting me to the earth, and for keeping my balance. For allowing me to know the delicious sensations of sinking my my feet into sand, or being tickled by blades of grass. For affording me the sensation of dipping my toes into cold water on a hot day, and appreciating a good pedicure and foot rub. Thank you for all of this. I love you for it. And I promise to take care of you.
After you have written your gratitude statements, it is time to deliver them. To do this, I recommend sitting up right in a hard-backed chair with ample support.
Starting with the head, read your statements outloud to each body part, and touch each part as you progress downwards towards your feet.
This downward direction is intentional.
It is a reflection of top-down processing, which is intended to titrate any anxious energy you may have spinning around in the headspace. It is also meant to call down any energy that has dissociated from the body, and is likely floating around just above the crown.
This exercise is intended to help you feel more grounded, and to introduce you to the idea that you are establishing a relationship with your various parts. However, this exercise can also draw attention to parts of ourselves that we have been avoiding or have admonished for whatever reason.
While the exercise is intended to be a fun and easeful way to acquaint yourself with your body, it is equally important to note where you feel those pangs of contrast or pain.
Be sure you write down your reflections, and we will further process these on the call together.
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