In Peter Levine’s, In An Unspoken Voice, he refers back to Greek mythology to provide a visual of how to move through trauma.
“Out of Medusa’s [fatal] wound, two mythical entities emerged: Pegasus the winged horse and the one-eyed Chrysaor, the warrior with the golden sword. The golden sword represents penetrating truth and clarity. The horse is a symbol of the body and instinctual knowledge; the wings symbolize transcendence. Together, they suggest transformation through the “living body.” Together, these aspects form the archetypal qualities and resources that a human being must mobilize in order to heal the Medusa (fright paralysis) called trauma. The ability to perceive and respond to the reflection of Medusa is mirrored in our instinctual natures. “
Levine goes on to briefly tell another version in which Pegasus saves two drops of Medusa’s blood. One holds the power to destroy and the other the power to “transform and resurrect.” Either course holds that the trauma will change you and your life in profound ways. The direction the trauma takes you, is yours to choose.
Assuming you choose transformation and resurrection, how do you move forward with that decision? By listening. And I do not mean with your ears.
Culturally, we are taught to ignore and disregard physical sensations, aches and pains, gut intuition. I am here to tell you to allow yourself to pay attention. Our bodies instinctively know and they are often screaming at us, yet we’ve deafened ourselves to all they have to teach.
Studies show that 75-90% of all doctor visits are stress related. Given that trauma is a fact of life, you can bet that it factors in there heavily. Though, if we’re honest, overly stressful lifestyles are a trauma in and of themselves. Regardless, the ailments that send us to the doctor, can often be mitigated, if we simply honor what our bodies are telling us. If you have not already done so, I urge you to read Somatization to learn more about the breakdown of our bodies when we chose to not hear.
To learn to hear, I suggest engaging in a head to toe body scan daily. Several times a day. Any and every time you think of it.
- Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Shift your limbs, torso, head, until you feel settled and relaxed.
- Beginning at your head (or toes), concentrate on any and all physical sensations that rise to your awareness in your head, face, ears. Maybe you become aware of a tension; a pain; a tickle; whatever. Don’t analyze it; don’t try to change it; just be aware.
- Slowly move down every body part….neck, shoulders, arms, back, etc. all the way to the tips of your toes. Be sure to slow down and pause when it seems a part has a little more to say. You’ll learn to recognize what feels right.
- While it’s important to not try to interpret during a scan, it is equally important to be open to hearing what you body begins to tell you in between scans. Trying to be more aware throughout every day, honor your thirst, hunger, pains, etc. and tend to each in a loving way. Do not begrudge what your body needs. While we tend to live in our minds, it’s our bodies that provide for that ability and so much more. We are not our minds. We are our mindbodies. A whole. Learn to take care of the whole.
Sometimes the things our bodies tell us require we do something, such as get more sleep; drink more water; eat healthier; etc. Many of our bodies chatter, however, doesn’t require any more than to be heard. If you have ever worked in customer service, this may be a concept you are well aware of.
Years ago, I was working in the reservations department of a vacation rental home property management company. They opened a new department and I was asked to be a part of the beta phase. Essentially, my job was to field any guest who was unhappy to an extent the reservationists couldn’t appease. That meant that nearly every call I took had an incredibly loud, irate guest on the other end. My first order of business was to just listen. I did not interrupt. I did not make excuses. I did not try to offer solutions. I just listened. And I acknowledged their experience. Once they felt heard, they evolved into a highly intelligent human being with whom I could have a satisfying and productive conversation with.
The body scan is the time to just listen. To acknowledge. To be present for yourself and to honor your experiences. It will absolutely blow your mind what transformations you can experience when you feel heard and acknowledged; honored and respected; worthwhile. And once you learn to demand this from yourself, you’ll learn to demand it from others, as well.
Remember to have faith in yourself, in your body and in the natural systems God has provided. Listen closely because you know what to do.