Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
I heard something the other day that made me bristle. It was a white woman in wellness talking about how we can use our bodies & our intuition as a "barometer of truth."
There is a lot of talk about this in the wellness space. That we "know" the truth for ourselves. When it comes to filtering through stories, information and perspectives, people are called to "use their discernment".
On the surface, I buy in to this.
Like many with trauma histories, it has taken me a long time to feel that I could trust myself - my decisions, my body, my intuition. My body does house my history, and I have used talk therapy, yoga, writing & creative tools to regulate my nervous system and to move outside of the fight/flight/freeze/fawn trauma response.
Under the surface though, I question it the whole "your body is a barometer of truth". Especially in the world today where violence against black people being filmed and disseminated.
Police officers "seeing" guns in people's hands when it was really candy/a phone/nothing. Women putting keys through their knuckle-creases as they walk in a parking lot, sensing that something was "off" - but no one is there. A young child sees monster in the corner of the room, which turns out to be a pile of clothes.
These feelings, no doubt, felt very real to the feeler. And yet, here are instances of your intuition leading you astray. None of these situations were truly threatening, but the person sensed a threat none the less.
And what of the bias that is steeped in our culture regarding the "threat" of black people? Of course we use language to demonize and de-humanize black and people of color. We also have built in biases FELT in the body when we see black bodies. Crossing the street, averting eyes, assuming wrong-doing. It is highly prevalent.
So how do I reconcile these two things? Does your "body as barometer" hold true? Or is it just upholding our fears, biases, and past traumas?
I've come to the conclusion that our intuition *might not be* magic. I don't want to say it isn't magic, because there are still elements I can't quite explain. But the brain is magic, after all, and intuition is a brain function.
Our brains are constantly predicting what is about to happen in order to keep us physically safe. So in this sense, the brain is total magic. These predictions are based on previous experiences (inclusive of thoughts, feelings, and actions). The predictions help us navigate through our lives so that every occurrence isn't a complete shock to the system.
Intuition is knowing something "without evident rational thought and inference." Intuition is still our brain trying to predict the future - just without our conscious involvement.
But what about the tingling in the stomach? The feeling of a cold shadow? What about The Body Keeps the Score? Yes. We feel memories in the body. We have these sensations and we have attached stories to them, patterned it in to our bodies, and we feel it. It is a programmed pattern.
The intuitive senses we receive are predictions based on past situations. They are shouts of "making sense" that our brain offers to us. AND, our intuitive senses can be wrong. They are delivering our past to us as present. Including all of those old thoughts, movies, songs we listened to, emails, past boyfriends and side-ways glances, past slights and digs and lost loves.
Just like our brains and our bodies, our intuition is also steeped in our culture, our education and experience, our families, etc.
Our intuition is just as racist as you are - maybe even more than your conscious awareness! Since intuition is often subconscious, it is mired in the implicit bias that might not be at your attention in any moment.
So what can be done?
Keep growing, keep opening up, keep finding new perspectives.
The more that we broaden our experiences and concepts (thank you, Lisa Feldman Barrett), the more you open your mind to new predictions. It is possible to continue shaping and honing your intuition.
We TRUST our intuition because we are NOTICING when we are right about it. The more you notice it, the more you see it. Our intuition is the "barometer" of truth because you are shaping your perception that it works.
The next time you sense there is danger ahead or feel like "the right next step is x, y, z", I'm not saying don't listen to it. I'm not saying DO listen to it.
I'm saying - get a little curious about it.
Could you intuit even more when you start to move outside the box?
What do you see in these eyeballs?
This was me, last Wednesday. And I was so effing afraid in the moment I took the photo. I wanted to capture it "just in case" something happened to me. Sounds morbid? Maybe a little melodramatic?
When I was newly nine-years-old, my mom left me alone for the first time when she went to the store. I was pumped. An introvert, artist, writer - I LOVED being alone. With older siblings, however, I never actually FOUND myself alone. So this was a gift. My older sister was nearby, at a neighbors, and my mom would be home in a short time.
The long story short of it is that a man came to the door. He was selling - or maybe fixing?? - vacuum cleaners. Electrolux. I answered the door (ugh) and let him know that my mom would be home soon (double ugh). He pushed his way inside and went to the living room couch. "I'll wait."
I am not going to go into the whole story. I was not raped. It's sad that I feel as though I have to say that. For years, people would tell me how lucky I was (to have not been raped). But I never felt lucky. I felt robbed of my innocence. The whole experience left me terrified of people in general and of men, specifically. I feared being alone, answering the door, walking on the street.
I have experienced a lot of healing. I am so thankful for all the work I've done, all the exercises and tools at my disposal. But there are still times...
Our oven is broken and I have been putting off calling the repair man for months. I was embarrassed to be scared of having a repair man in the house. But I am scared. Logically, of course, I know that it's all ok and I'm not going to die-- but in the moment? It really does feel like life or death. Once the time window (10a-12p) was set, I found myself disaster planning. I asked my husband to keep his phone on - LOUD. I checked windows, unlocking them in case I needed to jump out for a quick get-away. I put my car keys in my pocket, phone in my hand.
And then I took this picture.
For years, I tried to make the fear go away. Now, I notice that it's there. I do what my brain needs for a little bit (plan, prepare, talk to myself), and then ultimately, I tie my brain to a mantra and focus on my breath.
My mantra on Wednesday was "I am safe." I remembered to breathe.
- breathe in 4 count,
- suspend the breath 4
- breathe out 4.
The man came. His name was Dan and he was kind and jovial. We laughed and I felt ok. But I kept my phone close and I patted the keys in my pocket. I kept breathing and counting my breath. And I was ok. I am safe. I am ok.
There is no climax to this story. Dan the repair man came into my home to fix an appliance. He was a regular person with no mal-intent. We interacted without incident. I was in fear, I breathed through it. He left. I am safe. I am ok.
I almost didn't write about this experience. The small moments in life that we don't share with the world. In the past, I have minimized my experience(s). I remember reading a post during the #MeToo movement when people asked "did it count"? The same thoughts of "you are lucky" that you weren't raped. I told myself I was ridiculous, silly, not worth expressing.
But seriously, fuck that.
Then I read a post by my lovely friend, Joanne. Telling her story of survival. And I realized that the world I want to live in is one where we express how we feel. Where we support each other.
You are not alone. You are safe. You are ok. And if you're not? If you need help, reach out.
You gotta feel it to heal it.