I myself have done the same thing. Not trusting - as Shakira so eloquently put it - “the signs of my body”.
There was that time several years ago, when I stood gasping for air outside the building of the job I thought I wanted. I had a degree specifically for it. I had actually already been working in the field, and this was a better position than the entry level one I had at my last post. I deserved this job. However I felt like I had been punched in the stomach the moment I THOUGHT of walking through the doors. Yet I still walked in, and got to work.
In hindsight, I should have listened to my body. That was most definitely the wrong job for me. And although I kept it for two years, and yes had some treasured moments - because such is the way of life - my body was clearly knowing something that I wasn’t ready to face. I should never have walked through that door.
And in truth, my body sends me signs ALL THE TIME, as I’m sure yours does. Recently, I was on date. And my body CLEARLY sent signals saying, “Let’s keep this night going” as my date kissed me in the car. My head however, interrupted this lovely moment, with a long winded internal (thankfully) discussion weighing the pros and cons. And while I value the logic in this rather annoying list I was contemplating, EVERYTHING in my body said “I want this.”
But is there actually wisdom in the signs our bodies send to us? Is it possible to know, without realizing it logically, what the right thing is to do?
Actually, modern science says YES to those questions.
The call it interoception - which is defined as “your brain’s representation of sensations from your own body […] and is central to everything from thought, to emotion, to decision making, and our sense of self.” (*1)
In other words, we might not consciously register what we see, hear, smell, taste, or touch, but our brain takes in all the information, processes it, and then directs us on what to do.
But if that’s the case, why the other night, did it feel like my body was saying “Yes” and my mind was saying “Maybe”?
Well here’s where things get a bit more complicated. Our brains take in ALL the information - including into the analysis memories of what has happened in similar past experiences. So perhaps my head was simply reminding me, that the last time my body said “Yes” to a stud, he turned out to be quite the dud when it came to relationships. Thus it was wise for my brain to give me a momentary pause and evaluate whether continuing the evening was the right move for me.
Yet this still doesn’t explain why we as a society, no longer trust the wisdom of our bodies, and crave external signs telling us what to do. I have a theory though:
I’ve noticed that we human beings appear to be burning ourselves out to the point of exhaustion, in the glorified pursuit of success or money or external validation. So much so, that our brains are no longer able to process the information our bodies send us.
Interestingly, according to what I’ve read, my hypothesis is not out of line with modern science. In fact, people who are under extreme stress, have suffered much trauma, or have chronic pain, may have difficulty with interoceptive awareness. (*2)
This is because a lot of what we process about the world happens on an unconscious level. However, if you are fatigued by experiences or illness, your body is less able to process the input, and bring the awareness to you at a conscious level.
Catherine Tallon-Baudry, who studies cognitive neuroscience at École Normale Supérieure in France, explains that although we tend to think of our internal systems working WITH the brain directing the body, in truth, it may be the exact opposite. The BODY is the MAIN SYSTEM, and BRAIN acts as an INTERPRETER. (*1)
So therefore, if we wear out the body, it’s not going to give the brain enough information to work with, perhaps causing anxiety during decision making. Or even the inability to decide at all.
The general consensus is that the human race is evolved enough to know what to do in most situations, because our bodies pick up on enough clues to make a decision.
And then, if we are still not listening to our brains’ interpretation, it gives us a kick in a very physical sense to know what it is trying to tell us to do. Hence the gut wrenching pain when I was about to walk thru the door of that job several years ago.
But that that moment in the woods, I was searching for the external cue - the trail marker - which wasn’t visible. Yet suddenly I knew that turning to the right would get me back in the correct spot. There was nothing discernible to my naked eye that consciously said “Go this way”, however my instinct was correct. I quickly got back on the trail.
If you asked me in that instant how I knew, I would have laughed and said “Damned if I know. All these trees look the same.” But nevertheless I was right when I picked which way to go, and felt no panic over my choice. My eyes had seen on an unconscious level, the direction I had just come from.
As for the night of my date, I know you naughty rascals are dying to know whether I listened to the signs my body was practically shouting saying “More more more please and thank you”…well… a lady never tells.
Lucky for you though, I’m not a lady, but rather a full grown woman who knows her worth, and values herself enough to trust the signals my body - and his - were clearly sending out. Let's just say it was a good evening for both of us.
As for whether it will go any further? Well, I’m sure I’ll receive a sign if it’s the right thing to do. ;)
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Tink, world traveler, positivity muse, and adult entertainer, has also freelance written for a number of companies as their ghostwriter. Now talking directly to YOU on this platform, she is also writing two books at her community's request.