When we begin to think about our bodies as something we're in relationship with, we also have to begin to acknowledge all the ways we may have ignored them or treated them badly. One client who had always judged and blamed her body for being overweight found herself needing to take a new kind of responsibility once she realized it was a two-way relationship. What was she doing to contribute to her body's feeling unhealthy and heavier than she wanted?
Often we think of our bodies as being to blame for what we don't like about them, but really when we start to check in, we may realize they were doing the best they could with what they were given. Based on our behavior, we may need to be forgiven too. Letting go of our own guilt and shame around how we have been with our bodies is essential to our healing moving forward.
This is especially apparent with clients who struggle with binge-eating, who frequently find themselves in a cycle of overeating, then feeling horrible and restricting, then feeling deprived and once again overeating. The cycle repeats again and again. When they can learn to partner with their bodies and forgive themselves for their behavior even as it's happening--staying connected to the body rather than shutting down with shame or guilt--the cycle often ends.
Darren, who would frequently eat an entire package of cookies after a bad day at work, used the tools of our work together to keep dialoguing with his body even through a binge: "I'm so sorry, I know I'm doing it again. Please forgive me." Something about choosing the connection to his body over his own cycle of shutting down eventually made the whole cycle lose its power. He found that instead of acting out with food, he could check in with his body and find ways to relieve stress together rather than at odds with each other: go for a walk, call a friend, take a hot shower.
Forgiveness is powerful. Our intention to forgive and be forgiven often changes negative behavior altogether. Forgiveness is an expression of love and a willingness to change and transform a situation, even if we don't exactly know how. When we do this with our bodies, we say that we're willing to look at a situation differently, and that we're primarily committing to being in our experience together rather than separating or shutting down.
Think about the ways that you may shut down in your body relationship when you blame or judge your body or when you feel guilt or ashamed yourself. What might happen if you chose togetherness and forgiveness instead? Try these three steps:
1) Let yourself feel and express your feelings as they arise. If you're in a binge, say how you feel even if you can't stop right away. If you're judging your body for how it looks, acknowledge that it's happening even if you'd like it to be different.
2) Ask for forgiveness and/or be willing to forgive. Instead of shutting down and feeling guilty or pointing the finger and blaming, see if you can simply say you're sorry and stay open to repair. Be willing to offer the same kindness toward your body and the misperceptions you may have toward it.
3) Notice what follows when you stay connected to your body instead of separating from it. Though it may take time for a negative behavior like bingeing or judging to change entirely, you'll probably notice a shift right way in terms of how you feel. It takes a lot of energy and emotion to blame, judge or carry shame. Choosing forgiveness and connection keeps you more open, relaxed and present--like choosing to tell the truth instead of covering something up.
As you move through the week ahead, continue to pay attention to opportunities to forgive and stay connected to your body. Also notice if you can accept forgiveness for your own negative behaviors and practice communicating and being honest. As in any of our relationships, we can't always change overnight. But we can express our feelings, our desire to work on things together, and ask for forgiveness along the way.