I tend to fuss over decisions, considering all possible options while weighing the benefits and risks for everyone involved. Sometimes I choose the most difficult path even when it clashes with my admittedly Hobbit-like nature, in part because I have the annoying idea that growth comes from taking on new challenges.
Unfortunately the process of logical decision-making tends to wedge us into what we intellectually determine is best even if it doesn’t feel right. (I’ve gotten myself into plenty of tough situations doing exactly that.) Many of us tap into our intuition as well, but we usually give much more weight to what reason has to say.
These days I’m trying to rely less on my head and more on gut feelings for decisions large and small. It doesn’t take much to realize the glad expansiveness in my chest is a “yes” while a heavy clenched feeling in my throat is a “no.”
I don’t always succeed at this. Recently I agreed to give a series of talks and already dread them. The process of trying to be more aware of what’s authentically right for me is gradual. (NOT public speaking, my body retorts.) I suspect many of us push ourselves until our bodies force us to start paying attention….
Let’s remember, each one of us is a whole person with intelligence coming from our hearts, our guts, maybe all of our cells. But our culture teaches us from our earliest years to be in our heads while ignoring, even shutting off inner knowing. When inner promptings are so strong they override the left hemisphere of the brain, children are often labeled something else entirely—-lazy, reluctant, stubborn, headstrong, picky, anxious, timid, fussy. In reality, our bodies are telling us we need:
1. time to process or time do things at a pace natural to us
2. to step away from a particular person/situation/food/obligation
3. to honor the voice inside that already knows the answer
This is the kind of awareness that people have used since the beginning of humankind to make decisions fully, in ways we rarely access in today’s world.
Here’s a recent example of what can happen through listening to body wisdom. I have poor posture. I fight it, when I think about it, by holding my head up straight for as long as I can remember and more recently, by learning to practice natural posture. But when I’m working at the computer my head tends to sink forward until I’m hunched like a half-conscious orangutan. I know that listening to the body means, in part, paying attention to the body’s messages. So one afternoon I stopped resisting, just for a few minutes.
I listened to what my slumped posture had to tell me. It didn’t say “sit up straight!” It said go with the slump. Feeling a little silly, I let my head sink forward to a ridiculously exaggerated degree. Instantly I recognized in my body the way my father slouched when he was sad, the way my mother’s head jutted forward and down with disappointment. Their postures are in me, speaking to me. I didn’t analyze this, I just sat with it, paying attention to my body in that posture. Strangely I felt relief, even comfort, as my upper body curled like a fetus.
Then I tried the opposite. I pulled my head up into rigid “good posture”and was surprised when tears came to my eyes. My throat felt vulnerable and exposed, as it did when I was a little girl and couldn’t sleep unless my throat was covered. Again, I didn’t analyze right away, I just sat with it.
The whole process took about three minutes. Yet afterward I felt a wonderful strength up my spine. My posture felt buoyantly upright. The feeling lasted all afternoon. It was astonishing to get so much benefit from such a short body-awareness experience.
What I am saying is that your internal guidance system is there, ready to be accessed. You possess logic, which is invaluable as you consider variables and imagine outcomes. You have remarkably instructive emotions—you may feel excited, a little scared, a little eager, and pretty relieved when you imagine yourself going forward with one decision while you may feel let down, hesitant, and resistant when you imagine going forward with a different decision. Just past logic and emotion are actual body sensations. You may feel tightness in your jaw or churning in your stomach or tension in your back. You might feel the urge to stretch or dance or take a deep breath.
Simply remember, when you have a decision to make, consult your thoughts and emotions and body wisdom. The answer is there, waiting for you to pay attention.
For more on this, check out:
7 Ways To Access Your Body’s Unique “Knowing”
3 thoughts on “Decision To Make? Ask Your Body”
I do think that sometimes pushing past the fear is worthwhile, and for me that requires ignoring or squelching those feelings temporarily to achieve something I really do want, but am afraid of.
That sounds like it was a powerful moment you had!
I’ve been doing Somatic Experiencing therapy for a couple of years now, and much of that practice involved tapping into body wisdom and going into postures and gestures through the “gut” instinct that precedes and emotion or thought process. I have gained a very powerful understanding of how all of my emotions, my history, and my ways of being in the world are “written” in my body. Following my body seemed silly at first, but it’s been incredibly powerful for releasing trauma. I’d encourage anyone curious about how the body absorbs trauma/emotions to look into SE!
I’ve been reading about Somatic healing via Peter Levine as well as Gendlin’s Focusing and the Alexander Technique. Absolutely fascinating stuff. I can’t afford to visit a practitioner, but doing what I can to learn about body-based wisdom.