Did you know that the body remembers? Yes, it remembers physical pain, but it also remembers emotional and psychological anguish as well. So, if all the work you are doing doesn’t seem to be yielding results, ask yourself if you’ve healed in your body, mind, and spirit.
One of my many goals is to reconnect with my body. Through doing that work, I realized why talk therapy is not always the most effective for many folks. Last summer, I took a continuing education course on healing trauma. The instructor talked about resilience, triggers, and moving forward with self-love and acceptance but only briefly touched on stored memories in the body. Frankly, that could be a standalone course, but the topic made me think about my own body.
The importance of clearing the body crystallized for me when I attended a webinar on healing anxiety. The clinician was very blunt. Simply put, if you are only healing your mind, you’re only doing half the work, which translates to half the healing. True healing attends to the conscious, subconscious, and physical body. She also said anxiety is a physical manifestation of trauma. Let me tell you how desperately I wanted to join this woman’s intensive 8-week program. But the price tag! Wow. So, I settled for her videos instead and continued my search.
Your body hears everything your mind says.Naomi Judd
When I searched for a new therapist, I knew that I needed a holistic approach. I wanted to be whole and merge my parts, so I knew I needed to find someone who could use multiple therapeutic techniques as I moved through my healing. I quickly discovered that most clinicians who say they specialize in spirituality mean religion. Period. I didn’t want or need help to dive deeper into my religion. I wanted a spiritual therapist. I wanted someone who would help me release the pain memories stored in my body in conventional and unconventional ways. So, instead of searching for “spiritual,” I searched for specific techniques like yoga, meditation, reiki, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), also known as Tapping, Mindfulness-Based, SandPlay, Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing (EMDR), art therapy, etc. The goal wasn’t to use all of the techniques. However, if a therapist used any of mind-body techniques, they would be a better fit than others.
Here’s a simple example of stored physical memories. I went to a birthday party when I was about five or six. My father took me, so of course, there were no rules. It was a hot summer day in Maryland. The other kids and I played in the scorching sun for hours, and I ate and ate and ate from the time I arrived until I was reacquainted with my last snack. The last thing I ate before my body rebelled was crab chips, Oreos, and milk.
It took me more than ten years to start eating Oreos, and I have never touched crab chips again.
My body determined crab chips and Oreos were the culprit and rebelled against them. For years, I believed the cookies and chips made me sick. My brain and body had forgotten about the heat exposure, cake, juices, cheese balls, several hot dogs and wings, chips, and the half dozen or so other cookies I ate before the hand games and soul train line. Still, even years after the party, I would gag, and my stomach would flip whenever faced with Oreos or the smell of crab chips.
Need another example? I got into a car accident in 2008. It was 7 am, foggy, and pouring rain. I was driving downhill on the right-hand side of the road, getting close to my exit, when everything stopped abruptly. The multi-passenger van in front of me stopped without a problem. I stopped without a problem. I settled in to wait when, all of sudden, I was slammed from the back and bounced in front. The car behind had slid into me, pushing me into the van in front.
I don’t remember much of what was said, and the rest of the day is a complete blank. I don’t even remember whether I was sore after. However, when I drive on that stretch of road, I tense, especially when it’s raining, I can almost hear the slippery skid-thud-crunch of the car crashes. I haven’t seen or been involved in an accident on that hill since, but I am always bracing for impact.
Health is a state of complete harmony of the mind, body and spirit.B.K.S. Iyengar
Just as my body braces for an accident that occurred thirteen years ago, it does the same for negative emotions tied to bad memories. My body remembers the anguish, rejection, betrayal, and fear associated with the abandonment and conditional love I’ve experienced. They feel like yuck, and bubble guts, and the moment right before a fight. I brace and tense when faced with potential rejection. I can almost hear my defenses locking into place. I can hear the machine gun, my mouth, readying for rapid-fire protection. You know that saying, “I have a good heart, but this mouth?” Yup. That’s me.
Do you know what happens when you prepare for a conversation that way? Well, what does it look like when a most likely friendly but protective dog encounters a stranger? Aggressive. Threatening. Dangerous. Bared teeth and stiff posture.
Walking into a tough conversation like a dog guarding territory changes the energy. It lights a spark to an already charged situation. It has occurred to me that the very act of bracing myself could be what turned some of those dreaded conversations into arguments. By physically and emotionally reliving my pain during triggering situations, I inadvertently created more painful situations. I can see when it happens to others, but I can’t see it in myself until it’s too late. However, I can feel the changes in my body. So, it is my job to learn when to pause. I need to train my body to stay neutral, to speak to others without needing to arm myself, and to keep my body loose and open, vulnerable.
No one wants to be hurt, yet everyone has experienced it. How terrible is it that I have hurt others to prevent from getting hurt? And round and round it goes.
Don’t underestimate the mind-body connection, especially as it pertains to healing. Even inane things can leave an imprint. A spider crawled up my leg when I was young, sometime around first grade. I distinctly remember every footfall that thing made as it crawled up my bare leg while I tried to shake it off. One, it pushed my dislike of spiders into a near phobia, and two, I can feel those icky legs on me every time I have to kill a spider. Just saying or typing the word spider makes my skin crawl. We often think of our bodies as suits, but it’s just as aware as your mind. So to truly be free from certain trauma, you’ll need to release the memory stored in your body.