Sunday, September 22, 2013

Have a Dream? Let Your Body Lead the Way

Photo by A.Edmonds

As a life coach, I am privileged to be in a position to hear the dreams of others.  I am privy to the most inspiring, bright and beautiful places men and women want to move in their lives.  I also often hear this phrase, "I don't know what's blocking me." 

In some cases I hear clients tell me that they know they are supposed to be doing something more meaningful, but they are not sure what form that meaning should take in their lives.   

How can we move from sensing into fully knowing?  What prevents us from being able to move our dreams from the body into the light of the world?  In short, how do we get clear, get unstuck, and get moving?

The answer to these questions is simple but not easy.  The body holds the answers.  Our emotions and bodily discomforts give us clues to why those dreams lay dormant. 

When I was in my early 20s, I spent 30 days in the hospital for an eating disorder.  I was diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia, a deadly combination that threatened my life.  While I learned tools to deal with my disorder, it wasn't until I was pregnant with my first child did the lessons my body was trying to teach me through the gift of that dis-order come into view. 

Because of the love I had for the growing child in my body, I gave myself the space to examine my actions when I wanted to restrict myself from eating, or when I had the impulse to overeat and then use exercise to purge.  What I discovered was that I had developed those behaviors when I was a child in order to protect myself.  I turned to food when I was frightened as a little girl.  Toasted bread with butter protected me when Daddy was hurting Mommy.  I, in turn, began to purge when my appearance was not pleasing to my mother.  I ran and ran and ran to make the food inside of me go away.  I did this in my marriage as well.  I ran and ran and ran when I felt I was unpleasing to my husband, when I felt him stray from our marriage.  That scared and wanting to please eight year old was still controlling my life.  Every time I was frightened or felt unloved, I returned to my little girl way of coping.  One simple question shifted my behavior.

What is the most loving thing that the adult Stephanie can do in this moment? 

That questions shifted me away from solving problems as a child into the clarity, wisdom and mature love of the adult woman I had become.  It also opened me up to my dreams.  I sometimes had to comfort that little girl inside of me.  "It's okay," I told her when I felt resistance to a new way of confronting problems.  I could now take that little girl by the hand and guide her right into my deepest dreams and desires without fear because the adult Stephanie was now leading the way.

It takes practice to catch ourselves when old behaviors arise.   The practice of placing our attention on the body, to notice any discomfort, pain or emotion will open us to an awareness of the wisdom of our emotional landscape.  When we ask ourselves, "What is this emotion, behavior or pain teaching me?" the answer can liberate us to move forward.

This work is not new.  Many mental health practitioners use inner child work in their practices, which harkens to Carl Jung's Divine Child Archetype.  The work of  Dr. Doris E. Cohen has informed my coaching practice and deepened my own healing.  Her book Repetition holds valuable exercises to help us heal our childhood hurts, empower our adult selves, and with clarity, take the actions necessary to boldly and fearlessly step into our dreams.