Have you listened to yourself lately? I mean really listened…
As we speak we have tonal qualities in our voices. This is called the “prosody” of the voice and it is what conveys the emotional meaning of what we are saying. In the brain our limbic systems are highly attuned to these sounds, and from them we decode the meaning of a message. The lilt and drop and tremor and resonance in our voice convey much more meaning than does the content of the words themselves.
This music is the message. Can you hear the sound of your music as you speak? Especially when you speak to yourself?
Someone commented on my YouTube channel recently as follows:
Dr. Parker, my stomach is sending me messages about my vulnerability since ages.. I still don’t know exactly how I should react in a balanced way.. either I fall in a hole of fear and anxiety or I am getting angry with my stomach. I mean.. my last fifteen years in my life where I’ve had catastrophic events in terms of job, relationships etc..could my body not at least shut up and stop sending me messages? I know by now that I am vulnerable…
Kudos to this person for sharing this. So many of us do not know what to do when we feel these feelings. This person is doing the brave work of tuning in to the body in the moment and is precisely aware of the signal of vulnerability in the stomach. This much is fabulous!! But then this person is not clear what the next task is… and they do the natural thing which is to “fall into” the anxious feeling or fight with it.
Fight or flee – that is what the sympathetic nervous system seems to be asking us to do. Get away from it or stop it!! That is natural.
In fact, we need to do what does not come naturally. We need to approach the discomfort and really feel it. We need to give our body the message that what it is feeling is not danger. It is discomfort yes, but not danger. These sensations do not speak to us of any threat to life and limb in this moment. They tell us we are vulnerable. Vulnerable means there are limits to our control over outcomes that matter to us. We lose our job or we have trouble in our relationship, and these things do not feel good. But we are not in actual physical danger in this moment.
The body is physical and its’ concerns are immediate and physical. It gears itself up with arousal to deal with things that are physical and in this moment. But unless we are jumping out of the way of a bus, or running from a pack of wolves, or scrambling away from the edge of a cliff- face, we do not need to be in that state of muscle tension and agitation. We do not need to fall into the feelings or fight with them.
We need to hear these feelings as a question from the body. The body is asking “Am I safe?”. And we need to answer with warm interest and nonjudgement. Because the answer is yes we are safe. These are only sensations. This moment is only vulnerable. We are facing limits to something that matters to us – there is uncertainty or loss or difficult feelings. We need to bring our conscious awareness to the body in the moment, and slow down and care.
Care is where the sound of you comes in. Your body needs to sense warmth as you bring precise attention to the sensations. You need to be truly interested and open, without judging. Hear your inner voice as you ask your stomach to tell you more about what it feels. Bring specific attention to the quality of the sensations and look for words to describe what those sensations feels like. How intense are they? Do they fluctuate at all? Do they get stronger or softer? Do they spread or shrink in size? Ask your body again, with a warm tone in your inner voice… “Tell me more…” Perhaps you can see an image that helps you to feel the sensation more deeply. The knot in your stomach is now a thick jute rope. Stay there and get close. Reach out and touch the rope, feel the texture of it on your fingers. And feel that warm interest without judgement.
Notice how patient you need to be in order to notice all this. Even more important than anything you actually say, is this tone. If it is annoyed, impatient, threatened or threatening, the body will not get the sense that it is safe.
Your warm attention is the medicine your body needs to know it is safe. The warm sound of your inner voice says more than your inner dialogue. The sound of your music has the power to soothe your fretful body. Hear the sound of you, warm and interested and nonjudgemental, and open to your power.
Photo Credit: Peanut