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The Body Speaks: Listening to the Opportunity

Posted by Tizita Seifu - Licensed Professional Counselor | Harmony Counseling Center on

The body speaks with lumps in our throats or a knot in our stomach.  The body speaks with headaches or tightness in our arms.  The body speaks with tears in our ears or racing thoughts.  When we have directly or indirectly experienced sudden, severe, or life-threatening violation or injury, our body speaks through many ways.  Any of these experiences are a normal response to a difficult experience. 

It’s confusing because sometimes it feels like it’s happening all over again.  Other times I feel disconnected from it.  I’m over it but every once in a while, I get angry about it.  I know it’s not my fault.  Sometimes my dreams are unnerving and other times I can’t sleep at all.  We may find ourselves overwhelmed with thoughts or discomforted by certain emotions.

There are things I want to do I but its hard to get motivated.  Sometimes I wonder if I could have done anything differently.  Since it happened, it’s hard sometimes to respond in ways I want to respond.  Past life-threatening experiences will often affect our current function and/or responses.

God created us with this natural ability to survive some of the most difficult of times.  We each have a whole system designed into our biology that automatically focuses on us surviving danger. This helps us to automatically prioritize surviving.  This system kicks in as soon as we are in danger not only to help us survive.  Our biology also works to ensure that we do not become too overwhelmed by what is happening at the time of a life-threatening violation or injury.  At the time of danger, we will only process the information needed to survive the danger.

Once we are back in a safe environment, the body begins to reduce its primary focus of physical and external safety.  Now the priority automatically becomes pursuit of safety for our personal inner systems.  At this point, the body will begin to speak in new ways.  The mission becomes coming to terms with the impact of our life-threating experience. 

To help us toward that mission, the body will now speak to help us understand more about how we have been impacted by the sudden direct or indirect violation.  The body and mind will speak while continuing to make effort to not overwhelm us.  The body will speak to help reveal more fully the impact of our experience. Our progress toward felt and actual safety will create additional room for more memories, thoughts and feelings related to the event. 

When we’ve gone through a life-threatening circumstance, there’s likely at least one thing not yet known about how we are still being impacted by that experience.  The lump in our throat may be saying, “I didn’t get to scream”.  The tightness in our hands could be saying, “I’m still so angry”.  The uneasiness in our stomach may be saying, “I don’t feel safe”.  The difficult dreams may be saying, “I remember that now” or, “I’m only ready to remember in my sleep what I can’t bear to think of when I’m awake”.  The restlessness or racing thoughts might be saying, “I don’t want to remember that part”. 

Moving into the opportunity for relief and/or healing begins with listening as the body speaks.  As readily as we would remain engaged with a child coming to us in discomfort, I hope we will also offer ourselves such consideration.  As we might ask a hurting child questions such as, “What happened?” or “What’s making you feel uncomfortable?”, I hope we can offer more compassion to ourselves and others through open and present attentiveness when our body speaks.  As readily as we would offer gentleness and kindness to a stressed friend or family member, I hope we will offer ourselves a kind response of non-judgmental curiosity.

After such a life-threatening experience, the body or mind may speak so loudly, painfully or overwhelming that it may impede our quality of life.  As we begin to listen, it may prove tiring to hear and be present to what comes up.  You may find yourself waiting long periods before you are ready to tune in to how your body is speaking.  You may be working hard to assure yourself that you are ok even though you know deep down that something is still weighing you down. 

It’s ok to be exactly where you are.  At the same time, there is enduring hope that how you feel today is not how you have to continue to feel tomorrow.  There is assurance that how we are functioning today is not how we have to continue to function in the future. 

Having someone to listen and identify tools, can be so helpful in finding relief and resources through such experiences. Consider contacting Harmony Counseling Center to help you take another step toward relief.  You are invited to reach Harmony Counseling Center directly at the main number: 214-751-3932.  For more information, visit www.harmonycdc.org

Tizita Seifu is licensed by the State of Texas as a Licensed Professional Counselor.  She received her M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Dallas Theological Seminary which included studies in Clinical Counseling, Bible Exposition and Systematic Theology.  She has worked for over 10 years facilitating and managing nonprofit social services for individuals and families facing personal and social conflict.  Most recently, she has counseled individuals and families for 6 years primarily in the areas of anxiety, depression and family conflict.  She finds joy in supporting adoptive families who choose to love each other forever.