Why Even Smart Women Choose To Ignore The Signals Of Their Bodies

    Robin Kolleman, No Photo/ Fragments of Agony/ Agitation (2), 2013. The installation consists of 21 body parts, such as the heart, skin, lungs and kidneys. Image: robinkolleman.nl

‘As if nothing has changed over the last 20 years! I have grown older but am I not supposed to also be wiser by now?’ I was having a phone conversation with Elsa, a smart woman who had recently picked up some of her old journals from when she was in her early 30s, only to find out that the issues that bothered her then were the very same things that she is facing now in her 50s.

I felt how painful this discovery was for her. And I sympathized with her. But I wasn’t surprised.

One thing I know for sure: it’s not about the job we’re in or the lover we are involved with. It is us that is the red thread in all of our stories. If we choose not to heal the parts in us that require our attention – yes this is a deliberate choice – we’ll run into painful situations over and over again. For 20 years or for a lifetime. This has nothing to do with bad luck or coincidence. It’s law. Both physical and emotional pain can help us initiate the necessary changes, so we better respond wisely.

Are you battling with dreadful back pain, sleeplessness, tinnitus, headaches or other sorts of body issues? Go see your GP. And don’t forget to ask yourself this very question: what is it that I need to see here that I haven’t been willing to see thus far? Sit down quietly by yourself, make sure you have both your feet on the ground, take some deep breaths and ask yourself the question. Trust that whatever comes up within you, whether it is an image, a word or a feeling, is the very thing that you need to see, hear or feel right now.

Instead of reflecting on this question, we all have the tendency to do the opposite: to either send the painful parts away to a dark corner of our existence and pretend they are not here. Or to dwell on them, retelling the same drama stories over and over again, feeling very sorry for ourselves.

Whether we are playing hide and seek or indulging ourselves in our drama, either way doesn’t work. As long as we are not willing to look at our stuff, it will hit us in the face over and over again with the signals only becoming louder, clearer and more painful over time.

A headache becomes a heavy migraine. Refusing to spend time on a project one is supposed to spend time with, turns into a bike accident (this one is from my own life). Tiredness develops into a depression.

Let me give you an example to clarify how this works. I’ll again use Elsa’s story, the talented woman who reread her diaries after 20 years.

In the early days of her career, Elsa had developed the habit of working long hours, also on evenings and Saturdays as she felt very excited about the projects she worked on. But after a couple of years, her body started to protest and she got severe migraine attacks. Because she also suffered from a depression, she started to take antidepressants.

As a result, her feelings – both the highs and the lows – became much flatter. It became harder for her to recognize what her body was experiencing, with the antidepressants enabling her to continue to work for long hours. And the signals that the migraine had been sending her – ‘Stop! Stop right now, right here because we can’t handle this anymore!’ – got buried.

Elsa had been putting the feedback system of her body out of her awareness in return for extra work time. Not in exchange for more happiness, or joy or fun or pleasure.

Although extremely unhealthy, this was Elsa’s deliberate choice. Working long hours and suppressing her migraines and depressions was what she felt she had to do at the time.

Rather than beating herself up for it, she took a much healthier approach and decided to make a more conscious choice. She is now introducing small doable changes into her life. For example, by keeping one day a week free from appointments, building in time for reflection. In consultation with her GP she is also gradually reducing her dosage of antidepressants. These are small steps that lead to immediate success so that she will stay motivated.

Elsa has decided to listen to the signals she had been ignoring for so long. She’s determined to change her story.

Her diary 20 years from now? Unrecognizable.

Now your turn. How have you been acknowledging your own body feedback system lately? Or do you tend to dismiss the signals? If you feel it is time for you to start to deal with what is going on underneath the surface, do get in touch with me and request your discovery session here.

Remember: the changes you are about to make don’t have to be big. And it doesn’t have to take months of self-discovery. What is important though, is that you do direct your attention to where it is needed. Start today and request your conversation here.

Of course, I would love to hear from you. Does any of this resonate with you? Maybe your body is requesting your attention right now? How do you respond? If you feel like it, share your story in the comment’s section below. You will always get a response.