Bodily Intelligence

My body hurts. Not in a debilitating way. More like in a dull, aching, inflamed way. The pain reminds me my body is not a machine, despite my predilection to treat it that way. I have to admit I’m angry I can’t control my body; that it’s not doing what I want it to be doing. But when I dig a little deeper, I remember my body isn’t some irrational creature — rather it reacts to something. In my case, I’m realizing my body has stored trauma.

Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, an expert on trauma, has spent more than three decades working with trauma survivors. In The Body Keeps the Score, he uses scientific advances to show how trauma literally reshapes both body and brain, compromising sufferers’ capacities for pleasure, engagement, self-control, and trust. In essence, trauma is not only something that happens in the brain, but in the body.


The body has its own intelligence. Photo by Lucrezia Carnelos on Unsplash

I’ve spent many years unraveling trauma on a psychological level. I’ve read books, enlisted help from others, and engaged in practices such as EMDR to rewire my brain. What I haven’t done as much, what I’ve largely ignored, is the physical component of stress and trauma. Don’t get me wrong, I have a regular yoga practice and have seen energy medicine practitioners over the years, but it’s obvious I need something more because I have a long list of foods I’m allergic to and I keep adding to it. It’s not realistic for me to spend the rest of my life avoiding certain things because if I eat something often enough, I become allergic to it. A friend of mine joked pretty soon all I’ll be able to eat is protein water. There’s a kernel of truth to her joke.

I’m starting to see a network spinal analysis chiropractor. It’s a modality Tony Robbins said is one of the most powerful sources of transformation he’s ever experienced. This blogpost isn’t to extol the virtues of network care, but rather to bring more awareness to the body. How often do we get pissed because our shoulder hurts but neglect to ask why it hurts? How often do we treat our bodies like enemies instead of close friends? I’m absolutely guilty of this, but more so, I’ve been a bit naïve thinking I could experience some of the most stressful things possible and that my body would not be impacted. I thought I could carry on as usual. Turns out I can’t.

My spiritual tradition emphasizes the divinity in all things, and that includes the body. It’s my responsibility to treat my body as a sacred vessel, helping it to calm down and unwind from stress. Sometimes that means taking a bubble bath, but sometimes that means seeing a professional. I realize not everyone has the means to do so, but it is my sincerest wish that everyone has the opportunity to access that sort of care.

I dream of a world where we all take care of our physical forms. A world where we recognize our bodies carry stress and trauma. A world where we help ourselves heal in body, mind, and spirit using modalities that work for us. A world where our society honors and values the lives and bodies of all of us.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

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