Cultivating A Loving Relationship With Your BodyJun 15, 2022
So much of the work that I do in therapy is about helping my clients experience embodiment and pleasure. Without pleasure there is no desire, and without a connection to one’s body, there is no pleasure.
It may sound simple, but reclaiming or reviving physical pleasure and connection to sensation can be very difficult. Many of us are lacking a strong loving connection with our physical self. Instead we tend to approach our bodies as if they were not a part of our integrated systemic whole. We often treat our bodies with shame, loathing, and punishment, both in our actions and in the way we think about our bodies. This strongly negative approach doesn’t work to create a positive experience of any kind.
But how do we change how we think about and experience our bodies?
Here’s a short and sweet exercise I use with my clients when they want to experience more embodiment, pleasure, or desire through strengthening their connection with their body. It’s designed to get the mental and emotional gears turning in a new direction.
- What are your goals for your relationship with your body? Go ahead, write them down. What kind of relationship with your body would you like to have?
- What kind of relationship do you currently have with your body? Write that down too.
- Now consider. How far apart are those right now?
- Here’s the kicker: What would YOU NEED TO DO to get closer to the relationship with your body that you aspire to have? (Clue: don’t write down anything about what your body needs to do or become).
If you want to explore a little more, here are some questions to consider:
- Is your body happy about how your mind is handling body-related decisions these days?
- How could you be kinder to your body? Make a list. If anything you write down feels bad to you, take a closer look; it might be more of a “should” based on judgment than a kindness.
- Get curious about how you talk to your body. When you look at yourself in the mirror, listen carefully to what your mind is saying to and about your body. Think about what you are hearing yourself say. Is this what you want to tell yourself? Do these thoughts and messages support you feeling like you want to be inside of your body? Do they support an experience of pleasure? If not, today is the day to change.
- If you have difficulty thinking of anything positive to tell yourself about your body, start by considering the zillion miraculous and totally automatic processes your body does every second that allow you to function at all. Your body is a miracle, and one that even our fairly advanced medical science barely understands. Your body is mysterious, miraculous, and amazing.
- Now that you have thought about what your body might like to hear, and what kindnesses you might like to treat yourself to, make a note of one or two small things you would like to do differently for the next week or two. Don’t put down too many things, and make sure you are 90% confident you can actually make the changes you decide on. Put a time on your calendar to re-evaluate the experiment and decide if it was useful, if you want to continue, or if the experiment needs tweaking.
How are you feeling right now? I hope you feel empowered and inspired. You get to choose what kind of relationship you want to have with your body. It’s not anyone else’s decision but yours; you can choose to craft a relationship that makes you feel fabulous, joyful, and vibrantly alive.
Now I want to share an important fact: You ARE your body. Your brain is a collection of nerve cells that connect throughout your body, which is made of more cells, and that communication and connection happens via electrical impulses, gasses, and liquids. Your body and brain are completely intertwined and cannot be separated.
Learning to tell yourself honestly positive things about your body, and learning to access the pleasure of embodiment, allow you to tap into the “rest-and-restore” parasympathetic nervous system where healing (and also arousal) happen. This is all fabulous for your body. Your mental health and your physical health are not separate. So, take a deep breath, unclench, and give yourself some love. It’s good for you.
Originally published on Psychology Today.