Tuning in and listening to the way we relate to ourselves is a way to honor this relationship.
Responding to the messages of our mind, body, and emotions is a way to build trust and hope that we can meet our own needs and persevere through challenges with resilience. For the sake of this dialogue, let’s assume again that most of us have from time to time ignored the signals from ourself and continued with a behavior, or activity, or relationship that really wasn’t working for us.
Making the choice to become conscious and commit to our own wellness is making the choice to listen and do our best to respond appropriately to our own messages. As we do this more and more, we build the skill of listening and realize that the messages become subtler and subtler. The journey continues to evolve as we evolve. In other words, there is no static end or destination of finally getting it right. It is an ongoing practice of checking in with ourselves, taking the time to be in relationship with ourselves and being willing to hear our own feedback.
Sometimes this is difficult, I get it. Even as I am committed to listening to myself and do hear the feedback from my body and my moods, I don’t always necessarily want to hear it. Its at these times, when the temptation to override caring with wanting is strong, that we really have an opportunity to strengthen that inner muscle, so to speak, of choosing to value ourselves. Its when the idea of getting our way seems more important than our health, that we are most at risk of undermining our own worth. And this is the habit worth interrupting because no matter how delicious or “fun” or whatever, the thing or action is, let’s be honest, it comes with a price when it is not truly aligned with what we really need.
Another level of communication, or expression, is our feelings and emotions.
How do you respond to your feelings when you are feeling them?
Do you notice your feelings at all?
Can you name them?
Do they make sense to you?
Some feelings may be more comfortable to feel than others, such as happiness, or a feeling of love or being loved. I find it quite easy to feel content, for example. Other feelings, such as anger, sadness, or jealousy can often be harder to discern because we may believe that it isn’t ok to feel those things. This can lead to a more general sense of feeling “upset” and maybe not even knowing why. Paying attention to our feelings as they arise, by listening and honoring their message (their communication) to us can help guide us to getting to know ourselves better, from what we need, to what works for us, and what needs to be expressed.
The body has another level of communication that is more recently being understood and respected as a message of health.The aches and pains of our body can give us great insight into our physical needs. For example, if you spend a day traveling by air or car and sitting for a long period of time in one place, the next day you might notice feeling some aches and tightness in the body from that lack of mobility the day before. A natural response to this “information” would be to move around, maybe go for a walk or do some light stretching to give the body what it needs to feel good. Discomfort in the body is more often a sign to pay attention to something that needs tweaking, rather than a sign we need to take some pain relievers and continue doing what we’ve been doing.
The developmental psychologist, Erik Erikson, identified eight psychosocial stages for ego development.
The first stage he titled Trust versus Mistrust. In this first stage, Erikson theorized we are under an essential crisis, which is the question, “is the world safe or not safe?” Depending on the consistent loving care of our parent or provider during infancy, we develop a sense of trust in the world to meet our needs or not. This sense of trust or mistrust, carries over into all relationships. Including, we can assume, one’s relationship with herself.If we complete this stage with a sense of trust, then we also complete this stage with hope, or confidence, that future crises or challenges will be managed successfully.If we complete this stage with mistrust, that is, if our needs were not lovingly met in a consistent way, than instead of hope lies anxiety, or fear, and a lack of confidence in addressing the inevitable obstacles of future reality. To read more about Erikson and his psychosocial stages click here.
Let’s take this premise and apply it to the essence of Conscious Wellness. Let’s also hypothesize that most people have a mixed experience of trust and mistrust, that it isn’t so black or white as Erikson describes it in his stages. Let’s assume that one could complete the stage with trust and mistrust, and that this stage may never actually be complete, but continues to evolve within us as we move through each relationship and experience that life has to offer.
The one person that we will always be in relationship with our whole lives is our own self.What does it mean to be in relationship to our own self? How is that even possible? Well, let’s consider for a moment the different levels of communication that we can participate in. The first thing you may think of when I say communication is talking and then you might think that it is ridiculous the notion of talking to yourself. Unless you’re me, and I talk to myself all the time.
Modern psychology identifies that the majority of our thinking on a daily basis is negative self talk. So maybe we are not talking to ourselves out loud, but there sure seems to be a lot of chatter in our minds and many of us are not even aware of the constant self talk that is going on and guiding the way we feel and how we make choices everyday. If you are interested in discovering what your self-talk might be I suggest sitting quietly, with no distractions, and writing in a journal. Without censoring yourself or worrying about correct spelling or grammar, just let yourself write the flow of thoughts onto the page and observe what comes up. Additionally, noticing what you are thinking about others can also be an indicator about how we talk to ourselves internally as well.
While it is important to develop autonomy for wellness, it is a delicate construction, especially if we have been significantly hurt in the past.
It is easy to swing too far into a stoic independence, which can really be a masked rebellion towards an experience of authority in our past that wasn’t so kind or nurturing. It is critical to understand that true autonomy is free from rebellion, and will point us in the direction of relationships that reinforce what we are discussing here.
In other words, as much as we need autonomy in health, we also need each other. Others provide new insights, and can reflect to us areas in our self and our own lives that we might still be missing, or flat out ignoring. It would be contraindicated to promote the idea that anyone of us should be tackling our health needs and goals on our own. This is often a sure way to get lost in the “information” and develop new rules to live by to keep us safe, or right, or free from whatever it is that we fear. Truly, our relationships in all their joy and discomfort help guide us ever more into self-awareness.
Indeed, from birth, it is by being in relationship that we learn anything about who we are, and what the world is to us. Certainly be discerning about the relationships you choose, and remember most of all to always be in relationship with yourself foremost.
As we give attention to ourselves in this way, with our neutral curiosity and inquiry, we invite the self to emerge. As we get to know ourselves even more fully, and we merge this awareness with the growing and evolving knowledge regarding health and wellness, we reach exciting territory. We begin to design in a dynamic way, a lifestyle (including diet), and way of approaching life that is unique to our own individual make up. We participate fully in creating a reality that is for our benefit and actualization, and places our wellness at the heart of that reality, so that all of our creations flow from our health and thus sustain it.