From tummy to heart, to head, and back.

Being Born: the body leads.

The minute we exit our mommy’s bodies, we relate to the world through primarily our tummies.  We will respond to anyone who will feed us and not cause us bodily pain.   Most of the time we have little choice.  We are slaves to our bodies ‘ survival instincts.

As we develop, we begin to recognize our primary attachment figures.  We still are driven by hunger, however, it is moderated by recognition of the person who is feeding us and the feeling we have about them.  If the heart doesn’t feel the security with them, we will hesitate to take their offerings if not refuse altogether.  We are attuned to the physical and emotional needs of our bodies.

After we enter school, we start to fill our heads with the knowledge human society requires us to have in order to function well in this existence.  Our prefrontal cortex retains information and performs problem-solving like no other species can.  On the surface, we strive to excel in classes and score high on achievement tests; on a deeper level, we are using our intelligence to enhance our physical and emotional urge to survive.    We need to accumulate resources(food) and community connections(love).  The head is still connected to our tummies and our hearts.

The mind takes over

At some point, we become lost in the symbols of survival society ingrains into us, such as a great career, fancy car or clothes, status in an organization, beautiful spouse, or even high-performing children.   We forget that survival ultimately means being physically whole and emotionally authentic in the present moment.  We detach ourselves from the physical and emotional needs we were so attuned to as children.  We forget to eat when we should. We over- or under-eat.  And we become afraid of our emotions.

It all starts out when we no longer felt permission to express them with tears or words.  Society says being strong means suppressing emotions. Those are childish.  Gradually we learned to hide them in order to appear strong.   So along with the tantrums, we also lose the awareness of our emotions.  Losing touch with our emotions also meant over time we lose connection with our own bodies.   Emotions are in some way the pressure meters of our inner organs.   Even when we are not speaking, our bodies have subtle reactions that reflect our emotional currents.  They carry vital messages about how safe and loved we feel.  Losing touch with our bodies, we start to live in our heads.  We lose our ability to interpret feelings correctly.   We become angry when we are really sad.  We act grumpy when we really want to reach for emotional contact.  We become aggressive when we are just looking for reassurance that we are safe.  While our heads are isolated from our bodies, we can misinterpret other people’s intentions and fail to relate to their pain.  It is no coincidence that the more educated the people are the more likely they have lower level empathy.  Their heads have taken over.  Their heart and tummies have been sidelined.

The head reunites with the body

At some point, perhaps somewhere close to the halfway point of our lives, we realize our heads simply do not have all the answers. We become overwhelmed with the pain life’s travails have brought us.  Thus there is the proverbial midlife crisis. However, this doesn’t always happen, nor does it necessarily happen in midlife if it does.   Most of us are lucky enough to have no major traumatic events that threaten our lives if we live in peaceful territories.  So this realization usually only happens when enough quantity of life challenges accumulates within a short period of time.   For many of us, that tends to be at midlife when the demands of career development, couplehood, rearing children, and signs of aging bodies kick us hard in the ass.

Our head is jolted by a current of emotional pain.  We could no longer ignore the messages our bodies have been trying to send us, for decades in some cases.  All the pain of not being seen by ourselves and others comes to afore.  Some of us numb that with all kinds of external dependencies, such as drugs, alcohol, work, sex, etc..  All of those are not unhealthy in an absolute sense if they were used in the right place to the right degree.   Yet when they become a go-to solution, they will further harm our bodies and our emotional connections.

On the other hand, if we haven’t completely lost touch with our bodies, our heads will learn to acknowledge their needs.  The head can then use all the tools it has accumulated to enhance physical and emotional safety, as was originally intended.  Instead of being slaves to the pursuit of earthly gains, it reunites with the body to serve its authentic human needs for safety and love.

The head renews the body.

If the head successfully re-integrates with the body, it also holds great potential to heal some wounds the body has accumulated.  As a child, the body was naturally aware of its small size and its vulnerability.  It develops fear toward things or situations that either hurt it or seemed threatening.  As an adult, the body might not have caught up to the fact it is bigger now or has left the situations that were unsafe.  It will retain the memory and the fear of being hurt.   It avoids situations that used to be unsafe or over-react when caught off guard.  This is where the head can step in to help the body realize it is in a different world now. The process will be slow.  It will also be painful.   The body can only feel safe after it becomes aware of the original source of pain and how it differs from the present experience.  However, with strong support from ourselves or another attachment figure(parents, spouse, coach, or therapists), this can happen.  The head can renew the body.

The journey of finding the self

Sometimes I wonder if the head’s relationship with thebody is all that different from what children have with their parents. The body supports the head as it matures.  The head is entirely lost in its own narcissistic explorations.  It will feel superior to the body’s seemingly primitive functions.  At some point, the head feels so engaged with all that it is learning in the world, it undermines the importance of its headquarters or forgets its existence altogether.  That is until life teaches it otherwise.  As children, we are primarily narcissistic in our development.  As teenagers, we want to individuate. We intentionally distance ourselves from our parents, feeling they don’t understand the new world out there.  However, if we are lucky, after we have children ourselves or as we age in general,  we realize there is so much wisdom in the heritage of our families.  Reconnecting with them becomes a way to enrich ourselves and support our further development in society.   And if we re-integrate successfully with our family of origin without losing our individual differences, we can bring regenerative power to our parents’ lives by introducing them to new things they might be unfamiliar with. As the head renews the body, we renew the people who gave us life.

We only hope our minds reunites with our bodies before the disconnections drain them beyond repair.  Depression or medical problems are all warning signs.  And we hope we can reconnect with our parents before the emotional distance becomes too far to bridge or their human forms pass away.

Our vulnerability is also the source of our resiliency.  I believe we can do that!

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