Renter in a small room

One reader responded to Twelve Truisms by asking me to explain #8: When deciding what you truly need, trust the body more than the mind.
I wrote back,
The body is where feelings live.
And the function of feelings is to inform us about what we’re experiencing.
By “feelings” I mean both physical sensations (hunger, fatigue, pain) and emotional reactions (mad, sad, glad, scared).
Attending to these cues is essential to physical and emotional health — to knowing what we need and taking effective steps towards getting it.
Yet each of us is trained to ignore these essential messages on a regular basis.
Don’t pee in your pants, find a toilet. Don’t eat that, it’s not dinner time. Big boys don’t cry. Don’t take that tone with me, young lady. Stop giggling, you’ll disturb people. You can’t nap now, the workday’s not over. Never let them see you sweat.
This is called socialization, and our living together with other people makes much of it unavoidable.
But if we become overadapted – get too good at obeying social cues, and regularly ignore messages from our animal bodies – we end up needy, sick and cut off from ourselves.
Or as John Conger writes, “Many of us have lived like renters in a small room of a house we consider barely habitable. Disembodied, we have dangerously compromised the fabric of nature that supports us.”
So any effective therapy must teach people to listen to their bodies, and base more of their choices on what they hear.
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