We often use the phrase ‘Body Talk’ or ‘Body Language’ for good reasons. The body actually articulates its own language through signs it shows and movement it makes. There are many people who are quite expert in reading body language or ‘cold reading’ expressions and body composure. They can tell with 100% accuracy when somebody is lying and what state of mind he or she is in.
Some of the best ‘cold readers’ in fact are world-class stage performers amusing the audience with their skills to their disbelief. This body reading appears almost like some psychic ability since they can even tell the person’s name, what they do, some things from their past, etc, without knowing this beforehand. There is nothing abnormal or extraordinary in this, just that these people have developed a sharp skill through listening and learning attentively to how the human body talks and identify the hidden emotions.
Now although understanding body language is an interesting subject for most because it helps understand better the people we are in a relationship with, it is in my opinion a more powerful tool in helping us understanding better ourselves. After all knowing yourself better is great power indeed. So yes, many people read books about body language because they want to know if someone they have a crush on is interested in them or they want to read the true feelings of their partner and find out whether they are being lied to. This is fine if it floats your boat but for me it is like using a powerful engine sub-optimally.
Listening to the body
The body is all the time in listening mode. It ‘listens’ or ‘feels’ whatever emotions and states of mind you are having. This is only natural as your body is connected to your thoughts and emotions. A positive and negative emotion has its underlying chemistry and effects which run throughout the body even down to cellular level. So for example, if you are passing through a rough emotional patch, the body is listening to whatever is happening. Not only that – and perhaps this is the most important point – but the body will represent that emotional state in a physical, bodily way.
In other words, the body is listening to our emotions and states of mind no matter how deep and relaying the information in its own way. This means that we should listen to the ‘listener’ carefully and understand its signs and languages. The reason for this is that it is easier to interpret the language of the body than directly trying to find and understand hidden emotions, especially if these are traumatic or particularly sensitive.
Looking for cues
So what signs should we be looking for in the body? While all the body can manifest signs of what we are going through, there are some areas that are easier to listen to as their signs are rich and clear – The throat, the chest, the stomach and the abdomen area. These areas of the body are like the notice boards of our body telling us something important. Of course we have to be aware of this and then learn to listen.
Here are very common things associated with feeling in these areas of the body:
1. The Throat
The throat is directly responsible for two things – it is the place where our vocal chords are, hence it has to do with communication and also it is the upper part of the digestive tract, hence responsible for ingesting food. Symptoms in this are could be a feeling of constriction, like a sort of tightness.
Interestingly in some cases one can feel a constriction that almost makes the food difficult to go down. This is the metaphoric way of the body to tell us that we cannot take in or put down a particular situation. Perhaps a difficult family situation that is very hard to accept and reconcile. The important point is that the body can make you aware of these hidden emotions if you listen to it.
In less acute situations, tightness of the throat can in general mean that we are having problems in communicating. Very often it’s perhaps because we feel that we are not given a voice or the chance to express an opinion. Perhaps we are living in an environment that is muting our voice or worse oppressing our opinion. It is not surprising in fact that this symptom is felt very strongly in countries which have an oppressive regime governing the country and where people’s voice is heavily censored or shunned.
2. The Chest
The chest is the location of the heart, the motor of our bodies. Tightness or heaviness in the chest can mean several things but all have one thing in common – the feeling of powerlessness. Perhaps it’s a heart breaking situation, a difficult relationship, a tragic situation one feels no control over. It feels almost as if its heavier to breathe and in many ways it is because the chest would literally be tighter.
Everyone feels heaviness in the chest to different degrees and it is pretty normal. It is a good indication that your body is telling you something deep inside is worth taking notice of. Before trying to go for the remedy, try to stay with the feeling. I had read a book many years ago about body listening. I remember that the most important aspect highlighted several times throughout the book is to stay with the feeling and communicate with it. That means for example trying to identify the feeling or give it a name and if you are hitting the right chord that feeling will change. You will instantly feel that you hit the right answer.
If the heaviness in the chest is acute, breathe deeply and slowly several times. Stretch your arms wide open and expand your chest as you inhale. Interestingly, there is a form of Tibetan Yoga that addresses this in particular exercises. Also be kind to yourself, love yourself and accept whatever mistakes you have made or situations you face. This tends to help immensely.
3. The Stomach
How often do we hear “I cannot stomach this person or situation”? The stomach is very sensitive to hidden emotions. It very often reacts quickly to anxiety – you know the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ effect. Continuous stress and anxiety in fact ultimately leads to stomach ulcers. The stomach, like other areas mentioned reacts to both positive and negative emotions.
On the positive end, a sudden feeling of excitement and joy can sometimes feel like a light punch to the stomach but we would be so overwhelmed by joy that we don’t even take notice of this. So in general, feelings in the stomach, like upset feeling, pressure and nausea are a symptom of anxious feelings or stress. If the feeling is persistent you are definitely going through a stressful time and your body is feeling it. It is a good way of knowing that you should start doing something about it or get some advice.
4. The Abdomen
Worrying thoughts and feelings can have an affect in the abdomen area. Many people including myself react to sudden shocks or sudden worries with bowel movements that lead us to the bathroom. The key feeling in the abdomen area is discomfort and it is coming from emotions associated with worry. So the first thing your should be asking yourself is “what is worrying me right now in my life?”. You know sometimes the reason for what we feel can be pretty obvious but sometimes it is not and this is again why it is important to take heed of our body.
On the other end of the scale, the abdomen reacts to feelings of relaxation and euphoria. When you are really relaxed you feel a comforting and warm feeling in the abdomen. Although it can be quite subtle it is one of the first things I notice when I am relaxed. I cherish it and tell myself “Ah! Relaxation at last – enjoy it!”.
Uncover your hidden emotions
The above walk through of the body areas and signs that we should listen to is an immensely helpful guide to first of all understand that there are bodily signs corresponding to emotions we need to identify. Once we know what the cues are, it becomes increasingly easy to get into the habit of noticing the hidden emotions and to understand that our body is trying to tell us something. This may sound simple but very powerful considering that most people live without ever realizing that their body is constantly manifesting or externalizing what they are feeling internally no matter how deeply hidden.
The other important point as you learn to identify the signs is to stay with them, to give them space and to let them ‘talk’. Once we give them heed, a process of change and healing would already be initiated. Also, the more we listen the more we become adept at understanding our emotions, hidden or otherwise. The process can at later stage evolve from just active listening to directly communicating with our bodies. Some people constantly do this through meditation and daily exercises. They develop a deep connection with their bodies, which in turn means that they have opened up a deeper connections with the rest of their self.
I highly recommend you try this – start simple.
Sit quietly somewhere you feel comfortable in. The more comfortable the place, the better. Your body needs to feel comfortable. Breathe slowly and deeply at first so as to relax the muscles and the mind. This will give you better focus and clarity to feel even very subtle signs in your body. You then scan the body in those areas I mentioned above. See if you notice something odd like a tightness, heaviness, constriction or pressure. Do not try to do anything at first. Just be with it. Keep observing the feeling and try to describe how it feels – whether it is sharp, acute, deep, spread over a large or small area. If there is something worrying you or troubling you, your mind will eventually touch upon it during the session. This will make the feeling change – like feeling it suddenly become more acute. This is how you start noticing the connection between the cause and the bodily symptom (unless of course you didn’t know already).
In more advanced stages, which is beyond the scope of this article, you can eventually start to communicate back with the feeling by for instance talking positively, visualizing a solution to the problem or just embracing it in soft acceptance. The beautiful thing is that it will respond. You will feel it change, release, soften and eventually disappear.