How (and why) to trust your body

Do you trust the messages your body sends you? If you feel something either physically or emotionally, do you let that be your guide?

Far too many of us answer no to these questions! Whether it’s not trusting what/when and how much you feel called to eat, not trusting your emotional read of a situation, or not trusting your feelings of safety or danger, many people have learned to distrust their body.

If you want to dive straight into the solution, scroll down to the tapping meditation at the bottom of the page. If you’d like to understand more about this, read on…

The Background to Body Distrust

This lack of trust in your body often develops in childhood. It might be that someone told you to eat all the food on your plate, even when you were no longer hungry. Or else you were told you were greedy, when you were hungry. Perhaps you were told not to upset someone (your parents or wider family). Or maybe it was being told only babies cry, or ‘be quiet or I’ll really give you something to cry about!’

There are so many messages you may have been given as a child. For the most part, the person saying these things was not ill-intentioned. They wanted the best for you, or to keep harmony in a given situation. However, the effect is that you came to distrust your body. It was telling you things that other people said were wrong or bad.

The Body as Survivor

Really, though, your body always wants you to survive.

Now, surviving isn’t the same as thriving, and sometimes your body gives you messages that are based on perceived threat. And your body may react only to the survival aspects of a situation, when there are other factors that your rational, social mind would want taken into consideration.

Wetting yourself in a situation of danger is a response that scientists are still arguing over. It may be that it happens just because your limbic brain – related to fight, flight, or freeze – interferes with the messages from your prefrontal cortex that tell you where it is appropriate to urinate. It may be part of a strategy: part of the freeze response to pretend you are dead, as a dead body releases control of its sphincters. It may be intended to make prey less appealing to a predator – yuck, you stink!

Whatever the case, the fact is that in our society wetting yourself is never considered acceptable. So, the fact that your body might choose to urinate in a way that your conscious mind cannot control does not help you thrive in a social situation, even if your body feels it can help at a survival level. Your body’s message isn’t wrong, it is just not considered appropriate by your rational mind.

Equally, with hunger, your body sends you messages. If your stomach is empty and it is around the time you normally eat, your body will send you a message. Most people interpret this as ‘I am hungry, I must eat now!’ However, actually it is ‘I am empty and there is normally food available now.’ Not quite the same thing!

If you choose not to eat when that signal comes through, you will survive just fine for quite some time. While you could eat, and it would be an appropriate response, you do not have to. If you are a normal weight person, you can survive a good three weeks without eating anything. However, your body wants you to survive long term, and eating when you can was a good idea for most of human history, when food was often scarce. When it was there, it was a survival mechanism to eat it.

How Your Mind Interprets Messages

The issue here is that you may have developed a particular, rational interpretation of your body’s signals.

These may be oversimplifications of what your body is saying. In the example above, it is not that your body is wrong about you being hungry, rather it is that your interpretation of ‘I’m starving, I must eat now!’ is incorrect. Your body is providing a helpful piece of information, but it still needs to be understood by your rational mind.

It may also be that you have learned to incorrectly interpret your body’s messages. If every time you feel sad, you are told ‘Stop crying or I’ll really give you something to feel sorry about!’ then you may have learned to swallow your sadness, to hide it. You may have learned to feel guilty when these emotions emerge, or perhaps scared – it seems like they put you in danger.

How and Why to Trust Your Body

Your body’s messages are always intended to be useful and to support your survival. That is a good reason to trust them. While you may need to learn how to interpret them, taking note of the message is always worthwhile. That’s the why to trust your body – it really is on your side.

As for the how to trust your body, a large part of that is letting go of distrust. A good way to do this can be to tap on these patterns and behaviours you have learned. Below is a video to get you started. If you think of any particular situations that made you distrust your body, or specific instances when you find trusting it hard, you could carry on and tap on those, just saying what you feel. Then, as you carry on tapping, remind yourself that it is safe to listen to your body’s messages, and to let go of these old, learned habits.

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