As a life and health coach, I constantly point my clients back to the fact that we are animals — animals that fight, fly, and freeze with the best of them. In fact, the only thing that separates us from them is that our stories render the ecosystems we live in.
Consider this, two people walk into a crowded room. One person senses a buzziness in his chest that he associates with excitement. Another person senses clamminess in his hands that he associates with anxiety. Their outward behavior will be noticeably different. Same physical surrounding; two completely different interpretative ecosystems. We are very special animals.
Our power lies in the ability to adapt to your interpretative ecosystem, else manipulate the parameters thereof. We can do neither if we do not observe sensations.
Men — I dedicate this post to you because, as one of your tribe, I began my journey of becoming a coach with a lot of insight into my musculoskeletal movements (e.g. how to balance on my hands) and very little awareness of my endo-movements (e.g. gut tightness and how to release it). It took me at least 3 months of practice before I developed any nuance around my endo-movements.
The men I talk to bring up emotion words like anger, sadness, frustration, joy but have very few words to describe the physicality of said emotion. For example, a friend might say “I was angry she said that in front of all my friends” but have no awareness of how his body does anger. Without that awareness, there is no leverage for adapting behavior the next time the universe shows up contrary to hopes and expectations.
Emotion is a body sensation combined with a story. It is utterly useless to think one’s way out of a story. The body has to come along.
Observing body sensations is a journey each man must make on his own. Emotions show up differently in each body and they point to stories that matters. When we are in the practice of observing emotions impacting the body, we get cues throughout the day to bring our interpretative ecosystem and our adaptive traits for thriving in it into alignment.
Here is an account of things I observe coming and going regularly. Use it as a starter set of terms to help you explore your own endo-movements.
Notice your body sensations — attend to location, direction, quality. Go deep on texture.
- Tightness in the forehead, chest
- A rising sensation in the chest; an opening sensation
- Gut clenching around where the ribs meet
- Back of throat tightness
- Shallow breathing; holding breath
- Unfocused vision; ringing in the ear, blockage in the inner ear
Do this throughout the day. You’ll notice the same sensations showing up over and over. Don’t be surprised that they map to the parts of your life where there’s been more trying than doing. Those are the places where coming into your senses will set you on a path of discovery and growth.