Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reparenting Your Body

Oftentimes, we treat our bodies the way we ourselves were treated in our families.
We might, for example, tell them to be quiet, criticize or disparage them,care about how they perform rather than how they feel, or put them last on our list after everything else gets done. In our body relationships, we are often reenacting old familiar patterns of how we were taken care of or not taken care of as children. In fact, it might give you some compassion for yourself to consider that you may not have been taught any other way to be with your body than the ways you yourself grew up with!

When you were sad did you get held and heard or did you feel like your feelings were inconvenient? When you did something really great, did you get rewarded or simply feel like that's what was expected? One client shared the insight with me that growing up in her family there were simply certain unspoken goals, a certain level of perfection she was expected to achieve. Before she knew what had happened, she had applied that same thinking to her own body, making her a stern and unloving parent to her body's needs and feelings, always expecting more from it without really listening to it moment to moment.

This is one reason why the work of reconnecting with and learning to listen to our bodies can feel so deeply healing and corrective. We are literally reparenting ourselves, learning to listen to our most basic needs and feelings in ways we may never have experienced before in any other relationship, probably from early on in our lives. As we learn to do that for ourselves, of course, our other relationships change as well. We begin to expect and elicit a certain amount of care, attention and compassion from those around us as we learn to give it to ourselves.

Think about the kinds of relationship patterns you may be reenacting with your body. Are you capable of really listening to it? Caring for it? What old patterns might you be breaking within your own family in order to do that? Does that feel scary? Possible?

When we choose a different way of being with ourselves, we drop the conditioning we grew up with. Often, the clients I work with grew up in households that valued how they looked or performed over how they felt or what they needed. The work of reconnecting to their bodies is being willing to give up just judging their bodies by how they look and also beginning to consider how they feel, what they need. Learning when and how your body actually communicates hunger can be a huge step if you're used to ignoring it. Noticing where feelings get felt in your body and finding ways to be loving toward them is also huge.

What can you do today to care for yourself and your body as a good and loving parent? Forgive your parents for doing the best they could and truly consider whether or not you can break the spell of old relationship habits and make new ones in the way you will treat and be with your body. Choose one different behavior to work toward every day with your body: is it being more verbally appreciative and loving? Listening more closely to what it wants or needs? Spending time with it in kinder and more connected ways?

What would the little child inside of you have loved to get from her parents that you can now bring to this relationship with your body, healing the old longing? As you find ways to fill those needs with your body, you may watch the world change around you as well, into a place of greater openness, wonder and joy: a place where anything is possible, where YOU are possible.

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