If you had asked me this two years ago, I honestly wouldn’t know what to say. This was because my primary body sensation was numbness and disconnection.
What I’ve learned since then is that our emotions and our experiences, both good and bad, are held in our bodies. When we are afraid, anxious, socially isolated, and have to mask ourselves daily in order to earn a living, this causes constriction, tension, heaviness, and pain. When we feel safe, like we belong, and we will be seen and held, our bodies relax and can expand. This often feels like a breath of fresh air when you didn’t even know you were holding your breath. When we pay attention to our bodies, we can actually start to feel these sensations as we tune in.
Surviving in a colonizing, capitalist, white supremacy culture causes a whole lotta pain for the global majority of our world, myself included. In particular, BIPOC folks are taught that we have to leave parts of ourselves behind and only show up in ways that are palatable for those in power (because we all know what happens if we don’t play that game). And then we’re constantly gaslit by being told that our workplace values equity while we experience both racial micro AND macroaggressions daily.
When we experience trauma (like living in a colonizing, capitalist, white supremacy culture), our nervous systems often get trapped in a state of perpetual activation. Our nervous systems are actually designed to be in a cycle of activation and relaxation, but this is disrupted. Instead, we are always tense and on the lookout for the next danger, and we don’t release the energy so we are grounded and centered again. And thanks to colonization, we are cut off from our ancestral teachings on how to heal in community with one another.
So my default response was (and still is) to disconnect and numb myself to both the emotional and physical pain. This is an unconscious survival strategy – an adaptation to living in a world that dehumanizes me and causes me so much pain. And in the past, this would leak out because as a human being, I have feelings that could not stay bottled up anymore. For example, in the past, I would feel something so deeply that I would be crying and at the same time, yet not be able to name the emotion I was feeling. I now realize this was a symptom of how deeply disconnected I was with myself.
Since becoming a coach, I’ve been working on my own somatic growth as an integral part of my practice. I continue to learn how I hold my emotions and experiences, practice paying attention to where I feel it in my body, and allow my body to share its wisdom and insight with me. It’s just like exercise — the more I practice the muscle of mindfulness, the deeper I am able to feel into my body, and the more healing I experience. As much as I’ve grown since beginning my somatic practice, there are still specific parts of my body where I feel numbness and disconnection, and that’s ok. What I’ve learned is that these areas are extra sensitive and tender, and so I practice lots of patience and gentleness when I sit with them.
So as a coach, “where do you feel that in your body?” is a question I gently ask again and again, because that is where the healing and transformation happens.