Finding a Relationship, listening to the body

Oct 09, 2010

Marc’s perspective

Each one of us has a body. Obvious, yes? Yet so many people do not really inhabit their bodies. They spend most of their day in their minds, their heads. We are so engrossed in our thoughts that we hardly notice the rich tapestry of sensations and communications being offered by our bodies.

The body can become a kind of semi-conscious vehicle for carrying the head around. Many years ago it occurred to me that when a man puts a tie around his neck he is symbolizing how his head and body are kept separate.

Do you feel alive and vibrant or have you become habituated to hardly feeling your body except for those places that carry stress and tension?

Not only are we generally alienated from our own bodies, but we are generally alienated from each other’s bodies, as well. In a culture where touch is often interpreted as a prelude to sexual activity that may not be wanted, we hold back so as not to be misunderstood. While good boundaries are essential so as not to violate each other, I believe we have generally gone too far in this protective direction. It is unhealthy for us to constrict ourselves by holding back our normal impulses to touch each other.

Isn’t something terribly wrong when a schoolteacher has to worry about being fired for putting a supportive hand on a child’s shoulder? Why have we allowed ourselves to become a society so characterized by isolation?

In our childhoods, many of us learned to armor ourselves against a dangerous world, real or imagined. Many of us have kept that tough exterior as a way of continuing to feel safe. This body armor forms a shell that acts as a wall to keep out intimacy. Isn’t it time to learn to remove this armor when we know that we’re in a safe situation?

Of course the place where all of this suppression of the body does the most harm is in a relationship. A relationship is about opening to the other. Opening one’s mind, one’s emotions, one’s soul, and one’s body.

As Novalis said, “We touch heaven when we lay our hands on a human body.”





Kathrin’s perspective

Some enchanted evening
You may see a stranger
Across a crowded room
And somehow you know
You know even then
That somewhere you’ll see her again
Who can explain it?
Who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons
Wise men never try.

Rodgers and Hammerstein, "South Pacific"

Haven’t we all had the experience of meeting someone, whether at a party, job interview, or on a bus, and knowing, within the first 30 seconds of meeting that person, that they will become an important  part of life? How do we know this? Our body tells us.   Whether your heart skips a beat or your gut speaks to you, or you find yourself dizzy for a moment, or it dawns on you,  it’s your body/mind connecting and coming up with your Truth.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of "The Tipping Point," explores in his book "Blink" the phenomenon of choices “made in the blink of a moment.”  He talks about accomplished people who rely on their first impressions, or snap judgments that are quick and unconscious.  For example, Thomas Hoving, a renowned museum curator, writes down the first word that occurs to him when he is evaluating a work of art. Is it authentic?  Does he want it in the museum’s collection?

How different would our relationships be if we were to write down the first word that occurs to us when we meet someone? We might save years of heartache, or divorce, or sickness.  But this would mean that we learn to trust our bodies and what they are saying to us.  And, surely, this would overcome the Tall, Dark and Handsome issue.  That is, so what if he is tall dark and handsome, what do I feel about him in the first 30 seconds of meeting him?  Maybe I had a creepy feeling all over my body.  Hmmm.  Better not pursue this!

John Gottman, a noted psychologist and marriage educator, asks couples to sit in a room and talk while he watches from a booth and records their interaction. He has proved, by doing this with many couples, that he can predict which relationships will last and which will fail. How does he do this? Intuition, the first unsullied reaction, a feeling in his gut? Yes. Of course, his intuition has been developed and modified by years of experience of watching couples interact and paying attention to his own intuitive response. Gottman learned early on to pay attention to his reaction in the first blink of his eye. And then he tested these reactions.

In thinking about this article, I realize that I learned early on to pay attention to the signals from my body and, in many ways, I have lived by questioning, “what does my gut say about this?”  My mentor, Dick Duane, would say to me on a daily basis, “listen to what your body is telling you and don’t act until you get a clear signal. And when you get a clear signal, act on it.” This admonition has served me well.

OK, so how can we apply this to our own lives, and to our relationships, whether they be family, romantic, business or, simply, when we meet a stranger? Here are the suggestions I would make:

  • Take your full awareness to all encounters, especially ones in which you are invested; for example, first dates, job interviews, parents and children.  And honor your body – what is it telling you?
  • Write down a word or two so you don’t forget your first impression.
  • If the signal is unclear, sleep on it, instructing your unconscious to reveal the truth to you when you wake up.
  • Take risks because this is the way you learn to trust your intuition. You have a hunch about someone, pick up the phone and call him or her. What will you lose?  Thirty seconds of your time. What will you gain?  A lifetime of great discovery and adventure.  A lifetime of compelling and fun-filled relationships?

And I would add, that if we don’t do this, we may live a lifetime of regret.

Some enchanted evening,
When you find your true love,
When you feel her call you,
Across a crowded room
Then fly to her side
And make her your own
Or all through your life you
May dream all alone.

Rodgers and Hammerstein, "South Pacific"

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