How am I Supposed To Know “How It Feels In My Body”Nov 23, 2022
Have you recently been to a session with your coach or therapist and they've asked you "and how does that feel in your body?" or "and what sort of sensations do you notice in your body as you're telling me about this situation?" and you just LITERALLY had no idea where to start? You might have even noticed that it felt like an aggravating question, or unhelpful, or just plain therapist-y annoying like, "how is that even helping me?!"? Yep. You're not alone! Let's discuss:
Embodiment is a big word these days isn’t it! It’s popping up on the titles of books, in headlines of fitness classes, on covers of magazines, in articles about feelings, in podcasts about sex. You can even hire an embodiment coach or therapist who might ask, “and how does that feel in your body.”
And you’re just like… I literally have no idea.
You’re not crazy or stupid or any other negative judgment that might be popping up for not knowing how your body feels! Unless you grew up in a household or a school system or did extracurricular activities as a kid that taught you how to understand your body and express what it’s sensing, it’s likely that you don’t know how something feels in your body.
So many things that we do in our society actually teach us how to push through and ignore what we’re feeling in our body: think athletics. Athletics are all about peak performance so if you can feel the pain of your foot bleeding in your point shoes or be honest about the headache that you have after a collision, you’ll get taken out of the dance, or off the field. Even our professional environments are set up so that we go to work no matter how we’re feeling, we behave "professionally," and then if we need to, we go home and collapse in our bed, or numb out with some alcohol and TV, and do it all over again the next day. There’s truly just not a lot of time in our days for us to sense into our bodies and process our emotions.
But that doesn’t mean that those emotions and physical sensations go away. It just means that they try other ways of getting our attention. Unprocessed emotions and sensations negatively affect our physical health as well as the health of our relationships. So if you’ve started seeing a coach or a therapist, it’s likely that they’re going to help you take a look at your emotions so that they can be more understood, and processed so that you can be more present in your life and in your relationships without the big heavy burden of unprocessed emotions.
Processing our emotions is an ongoing, lifelong practice because our emotions are part of what make us human. As we grow and evolve, so do our emotions.
They send us signals that help keep us safe and connected to each other and even ourselves. For instance, anger is an emotion that’s often showing us that something feels unjust and the energizing nature of anger helps us do something about it! It helps us say that we feel hurt, it helps us make changes to systems that aren’t working, and it can even drive us to ask for help - another one of our built in safety mechanisms: each other’s support! Shame is an emotion that reminds us that we want to belong to the group. It sometimes says things like, "hey, I don't think you did a great job back there. Let's do better next time so we don't feel this way or lose our sense of belonging. What do we need to shift?" So that when we DO need help, there will be someone there to help us. Joy is an emotion that gives us energy and reminds us that we’re alive - this helps us find the will to survive. Hardships are a part of life, and our emotions are the part of us that help us navigate the world around us.
In fact, you know how we’re taught that we can have 5 senses: hearing, sight, smell, touch, taste. The truth is that we really have 6! Our emotions make up our 6th sense. They give us a “sense” of what’s going on around here: we can sense whether or not we feel safe and that in itself is a key part of survival.
So what should you say when your coach or therapist asks you how something feels in your body and you have no clue how to respond?
First of all, you can tell them: “I literally don’t even know what that means and I don’t know what kind of answer you’re looking for. Can you help me understand why you asked me that and also how to figure out the answer for that question?”
One of the jobs of a coach or therapist is to ask you questions that the two of you can explore together that support you in finding some understanding to what’s going on in your life. I remember going through an experience with a therapist in my late teens who asked me how something felt in my body and, because I didn’t understand the question, the question itself made me angry! I wanted to get to the point and I didn’t understand why he was even asking that question. I felt like he was asking me that in the tone of “I’m better than you because you don’t already know the answer to this question.” I immediately felt judged and unsafe. You shouldn’t feel judged or unsafe when a coach or therapist asks you a question. If you do feel that way, that person might not be the right person to help you through whatever you’re going through. However, you will likely feel challenged by your coach or therapist because they’re asking you questions that you likely don’t already know the answer to. And in a world where we’re supposed to already know the answer and just saying, “I don’t know” feels vulnerable, it makes sense that you’ll feel uncomfortable and challenged while in a session with a coach or therapist but you should also feel safe and not judged by them.
”I don’t know” is one of the very best places to start with a coach or therapist. Because our job is to help you figure it out overtime. So as a coach myself, when I ask a client “how does that feel in your body” I’m looking for two things: maybe the client knows how it feels in their body and we can explore that together, and maybe the client doesn’t know how that feels in their body and we can explore that together. Either way, we’re going to be exploring together because the more we explore, the more we understand, and the more you understand about yourself, the more access to choices you'll have and from there, you're more able to choose what's right for YOU.
Learn more about the language of your emotions by reading Atlas of The Heart by Brené Brown
Not all approaches work for all people and that’s totally ok. So if you’re working with a therapist or coach, no matter how great at their job they might be, it’s ok if you just truly don’t vibe with them and need to find someone else. The same goes for your doctor - if you have access to shopping around until you find a better fit, someone who you sense that you feel more comfortable talking to about vulnerable things, who you feel understands you a little more than the last person, do that. The way that you relate to the person who’s supposed to be helping you feel better or even heal is an important part of the coach-client/therapist-client relationship. Part of that means that you get to advocate for yourself in these settings - it’s a great space to practice speaking your truth. So if you have a therapist who’s only ever asking you, “how does that feel in your body” but not ever trying to help you understand how to figure that out or you’re unable to see how that question is helping you, if at all, you are totally allowed to say, “That question is starting to feel really frustrating for me and making me not want to come back to our next session. It’s not feeling like it’s helping me. Can we try this from another angle or something?”
Also, consider this if you’re someone that has chronic pain or has never really spent a lot of time paying attention to the way your body feels:
If the first thing that you notice when paying attention to your body is how much pain it’s in, it makes sense that that’s not somewhere that you look forward to going due to its unpleasant nature. Your coach/therapist should be able to help you navigate this in a safe and compassionate way. Not that they’ll never ask you to go there, because there’s some really juicy information in there that’s helpful to get in touch with, but they should also have additional tools to help you other than just asking you, “how does that feel in your body” and you feeling just overwhelmed with pain.
Truly, there’s no wrong answer for “how does it feel in your body.”
And, if you’re really looking to explore your body more you can start by noticing what your 5 classic senses are experiencing once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once before you go to bed.
Write down 5 things you can see, 4 things that you can feel through touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Practicing this every day for a week will help you bring your senses into your awareness.
Next, you can start to add how your body feels throughout the day. Start by noticing your feet and work your way up your body.
This is called a body scan. This will begin to expand your awareness of what’s going on to also include your body.
You don’t have to do anything about what you notice (unless it’s readily available and you can do something! Awesome - we love it! Yay for meeting your own needs!) Notice how your feet feel. Can you feel a temperature on your toes? Can you feel your legs? Notice any sensations in your hips. Notice your torso and chest, neck and back, face and head.
It can help to write these things down in a journal so that you can stick to the facts: I feel a tightness in my throat. I have a slight headache on the top of my head. My mouth feels dry. My low back feels stiff. My feet feel comfy in their slippers. My belly feels full. My body overall feels tired... What else do you notice?
Lastly, give yourself a break! You're already on the right track if you recognized that you needed support in your life and hired a therapist or a coach to help you out. There's no pressure to know anything before you get there. You're doing great. I seriously mean that.
Also pro tip: take therapists and coaches off of a pedestal. We're not better than you. It's our job to help you, not to be better than you.
Hi, I'm Kate of the Duality Project and I'm one of those people who might ask you "and how does that feel in your body?" or "do you notice any physical sensations present for you right now?" Ruby and I offer one on one Self Study Coaching where we help you figure out the answers to that so that you can move through your life with more clarity, trust, compassion for yourself and others, and courage. We'd love to help you learn more about your body. Click here to schedule a discovery call with one of us to see if we're a good fit.
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