How does your body feel right now?

Walking down steps

When looking at an unpleasant reaction to an event you have had, imagine you in a four-story building.

On your first floor, there is the event: perhaps the event is tripping over some wires around your computer table. Your brain recognizes what has happened. On your second floor is pain. Your brain is well equipped to recognize pain and, to do so, is adaptive. This experience has critical information, and the “owie” that comes on your third floor brings this message home. You climb the first three floors in a second. Then, you spend most of your time in your loft on the fourth floor.

There is not much to do beyond normal measures, such as brushing yourself off, checking for bruises, etc. Yet your mind is just begun. There may be thoughts that start with an “I can’t believe I just did that; what a stupid moron.” You may create an entire dramatic narrative in response to the actual event that has you paralyzed and traumatized before you know it (known as catastrophic thinking). Ask yourself, “Is this thinking valuable? Is it necessary?” If the answer to these questions is no, it might be time to begin your walk back down the stairs.

To get downstairs, ask yourself, “How does your body feel right now?” By this, I mean, how does your actual body feel beyond your idea of the body? Making this distinction—noticing the difference between physical sensations and thoughts about the body—may take some practice. Much of this repeatedly practicing involves pulling the thoughts out of your mind and bringing into it the actual experience of the here and now as the physical sensations in the body. And this is how you begin to experience your change subconsciously.

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