Coming Home to Your Body

Wherever you are at the moment there is a house that bears your name. You are its sole owner but it is possible that a long time ago you lost the keys, forgot you are a property owner.  So you don’t occupy this house; you don’t reside there.  That house, the holder of your most deeply buried, repressed memories, is your body.  The walls of your body are your muscles which have registered everything.  In the tension and the stiffness, in the aches and weaknesses of the muscles of your neck, back, legs, arms, stomach, heart, face, sexual organs, your complete story is revealed, from the moment of conception to this very day.

From the first days of your life, your body became your armour against family, social, moral, educational and other pressures.  ‘Sit up straight’; ‘don’t go near that’; ‘don’t touch that’; ‘don’t touch yourself’; ‘be good’; ‘stand up for yourself’; ‘hurry up’; ‘don’t fall behind’; ‘don’t run.’  In order to survive you bent your will and your body, you wisely conformed.  In conforming, (meaning ‘false’ form) in the place of your real body, naturally graceful, dynamic and harmonious, you created a foreign body or totally forgot you had a body.  Samuel Becket wonderfully describes his main character, Murphy, in his writings: ‘Murphy lived a short distance from his body.’  In your innermost self you may have come to reject your own house, your body.

As adults, many of us pass the responsibility for our physical health, our overall wellbeing, our security, our happiness to husbands, wives, employers, lovers, teachers, medical doctors, psychologists, friends, architects, politicians, our own children.  We entrust our precious lives, our sacred bodies to others, many times to those who haven’t asked for this responsibility and find themselves burdened by it.  We give ourselves over to institutions whose primary objective is to reassure us, and in that way, repress us.  And how many individuals of every age are there whose bodies still belong to their parents?  Obedient children, they wait in vain all their lives for permission to live their own lives. 

Because of the fear and sometimes terror of living our own lives, the memories of rejection actively protect us and we do not want to re-experience the harsh abandonment – we necessarily sacrificed our autonomy and abdicated sovereignty of our own selves.  But how could we be anything else since we daren’t be even masters of the house of our bodies?

In reclaiming our lives and our bodies we need the safety of warm and supportive relationships.  Such a relationship is not likely to be found in the entrapped relationships you have, but outside them.  When you seek the help of any person, it is the quality of the relationship that will determine whether or not you will begin to take up ownership of your own life and body.  Many people start their journey towards autonomy with the body and this is wise.  After all, our body is our self.  It is our only perceptible reality. It is not in opposition to our emotions, our dreams, our thoughts, our soul.  It includes them and shelters them.  By becoming aware of our body we give ourselves access to our entire being.  In taking possession of our body, it is essential that whatever physical practitioner you go to that the movements they encourage and support you to do originate from inside your body.  There is evidence now that little individuals in the womb have some amazing natural movements which they lose after birth in the pressure to conform.  Those adults who are addicted to ‘keep fit’ or those who are into the ‘body beautiful’ are operating from the outside-in.  No matter how much exercising they do or dieting or cosmetic masking or cosmetic surgery, they never come to a place of security.  They are attempting to fill an empty house, not with their sacred presence, but with an external façade.

Be sure then in your pursuit of an intimacy with your body that the guidance you seek is of a nature that is in tune with your body and in tune with you as a unique person.  Being physically at home with self is the beginning of the discovery of the well-made individual you truly are.

Dr. Tony Humphreys is a clinical psychologist and author of Whose Life Are You Living?