Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Other Side of the Story

So what's another thing that stands in the way of a positive relationship with our bodies? Never looking at things from the other side of the story. In other words, never checking in with the body's perspective. Of course we do this in all of our relationships: we always want to be right, or we may be so sure that our way is the only way that we can't step out of our own view to take a look at someone else's.

A great deal is lost when we do this with our body. For one thing, without looking with compassion at what our body is experiencing on the other side of this relationship, we may not have to really examine our behavior when we are overly critical, abusive or distant toward it. When we begin to explore things from the body's perspective, begin to pay attention and actually care, we have to acknowledge how we may be harming it. We might, out of our realizations, have to change. Allowing our bodies to matter also changes our behavior toward them.

It's interesting to consider what your body's perspective has been on your whole lives together. What have you gone through? How have you treated it differently depending on how it looked, acted, or how you felt about yourself? If your body could write a biography about its life with you, what would it highlight and what would it be sad to remember? When have you been an ally to your own body and when have you distanced yourself or taken on negative beliefs toward it that created awkwardness or sadness?

In my work I sometimes have clients outline all of the major 'body events' that have taken place in their lifetime, and the beliefs or impressions they may have taken on as a result of those events. Several women, for example, have felt strong and powerful, grateful for their bodies, through the process of giving birth. Others remember childhood teasing and the moment when they decided their bodies were too fat, too short or too slow. Without realizing it, the critical voices outside them became their own toward their bodies.

You and your body have an entire history together. It has a story to tell as well as you. The next time you find yourself criticizing it, ask yourself when you took these beliefs on and how your body has felt about putting up with them. If you really pay attention now, is there anything that you would want to do differently to reclaim your relationship? What would you like your body to be able to say about you and the kind of partner you've been or not been to it?

Use this perspective as a check-in point for yourself from time to time, continuing to ask yourself how your body would relate the story of what's happening between the two of you in any given moment. Watch to see if you're being fair, being a good partner. Is there anything you can learn by acknowledging the body and beginning to respect its side of your life story?