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relating to self and others

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Our relationship to our body mirrors how we relate to the different aspects ourselves: physically (appearance), mentally (narrative/inner dialogue), emotionally (feelings), and subtly (sensation). Generally speaking when we think about our body, we picture our physical appearance. This is often the most attuned to and focused upon aspect ourselves. However, it is not nearly the whole or most accurate representation of who we are. While each aspect or dimension of us is important, it is vital that we know and relate to all layers of ourselves. How we relate to ourselves as a whole, reveals how we relate to others and the world around us. It also influences our capacity to be with and accept our whole selves and others. Our perceptions of those relationships is also guided by our ability to accept and make space for our multidimensional selves. We are often more fluent in connecting to certain aspects of ourselves more than others. However, because everything is interconnected, it is likely that when we notice or receive information in one area, like a subtle sensation, we will quickly notice an emotional and even narrative response. Our first informational cue, that leads to subsequent layers of informational cues, may even happen too quickly to be conscious or aware of. Taking time and space to bring presence to ourselves and each dimension or aspect of us can help shed light and bring wisdom to our patterns of relating and perceiving, as well as any incongruence in our fluency of receiving and integrating information. Below is a list of questions or prompts to help you access yourself and start to create fluency and relationship to the various aspects and dimensions of you. Before the questions I have offered a starting place for sensation and emotion words as examples of what you might perceive and feel while contemplating the following questions:

Sensation Words: slow, fast, warm, cold, hot, buzzy, pulsing, undulating, wave-like, clenching, grasping, shaky, light, heavy, dense, dark, light, contracted, expansive, knotted, restricted, open, spacious, empty, full, rough, smooth, sticky, slick, squishy, held, supported, unclenched, organized (often associated with settled), chaotic (often associated with fast).

Emotional Words: calm, anxious, safe, afraid, agitated, disoriented, moved, overwhelmed, defensive, defiant, frustrated, hesitant, patient, sad, apathetic, discouraged, helpless, worried, excited, peaceful, joyful, content, angry, surprised, hopeful, rested, alert, connected... etc.

Please also feel free to use your imagination and creativity as a way to describe your experience. It's likely that over your lived experience, you associate some of these sensations and feelings as 'positive,' some as 'neutral,' and some as 'negative.' Recognize that 'good' and 'bad' are highly subjective and individual experiences, but not universal truths. Learn what 'good' and 'bad' sensations and feelings are for you, and be open to your associations changing.

Questions for Reflection:

  • What do l sense, feel or notice as I bring awareness to my body as a whole unit?

  • What do I sense, feel or notice when I bring my attention to a specific area of my body? Is that sensation or feeling similar or new?

  • Where do I sense or feel good in body?

  • Where can I sense spacious in my body?

  • Where do I sense or feel my body making contact with something else? What sensation is evoked as I make contact?

  • Do I sense constriction, contraction, or resistance anywhere?

  • Are there places of numbness or areas where I am unable to sense, feel or make contact with?

  • How long can I maintain connection and presence with what I am sensing or feeling?

  • Is it easier for me to sense or feel my body in stillness or in movement?

  • Can I discern between sensations that are pleasant, neutral, or negative?

  • Can I discern between a sensation of discomfort or pain that is asking me to stop and pain or discomfort that is an edge of growth?

  • What do I notice as my body transitions from movement to stillness?

  • What do I notice when I rest?

  • What is the earliest information I get that lets me know I am stressed?

As you explored these questions, you may have noticed being able to access various layers of awareness between sensation, feeling, and inner dialogue. For example, when you asked yourself, 'Where do I feel good in my body?' if you were unable to find any area that felt 'good,' you might have quickly noticed the emotional experience of sadness, frustration, overwhelm, or even defeat arising. On the other hand, if you were able to access sensations that felt good, you may have experienced emotions like peace, joy, contentment, relief, or ease. Another layer of connection and awareness is the mental body. As we sense and feel, we may also hear or notice an inner dialogue. For example, when you asked yourself, 'Where do I feel good in my body?' maybe you sensed warmth in the chest and emotionally this elicited a feeling of safety or relaxation. Mentally, you may have thought, 'I feel safe right now, or I am okay right now.' Understanding these connections and associations between sensations, emotions, and mental narratives can lead to greater self-awareness, growth, and ability to connect and relate. It also creates an relaxation in our system that encourages digestion or metabolization of the experiences of our day to day lives so we can free up space for new experiences, perspectives and relations.

One of the topics that has piqued my interest and curiosity, as of late, is how our discernment, attunement, and capacity to cope with pain and discomfort across various layers of ourselves influences our potential for growth and maturity. I've noticed that the way we handle subtle or sensational pain can mirror our approach to being with emotional and mental pain. We can excel at understanding one form of information but remain underdeveloped and immature in comprehending other forms of information.

For instance, a person might possess a high tolerance for sensation or subtle discomfort, yet struggle with emotional discomfort or mental anguish. This raise the question: Why can one tolerate sensational discomfort but find emotional or mental distress so challenging?

One theory I am investigating is the idea that sensation, feeling, and story are all energy in vary different forms of formation. This energy in formation can also be perceived as language. These different layers of ourselves are conveying the same or similar information or energy in various forms or languages. Therefore, it's understandable that if a person is proficient in the language of sensation but lack proficiency in the language of feelings/emotions or narrative/mentally, this person may be less distressed when receiving information in the form of sensation. Therefore, they can understand and organize that information in a way that keeps their system open and receptive. However, we often don't get to choose the pathway through which we receive information. Hence, it's crucial for a healthy and optimally functioning person to be fluent in all the languages of our layered bodies. In other words, it benefits us and those we are in relationship with to be able to receive information from all the parts of us: physical, mental, emotional, and subtle. Otherwise, we may encounter limitations in our ability to connect and relate to ourselves and others.

Consider this: If a person can tolerate sensational discomfort up to a level of 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 before needing to rest, but can only tolerate emotional discomfort up to a level of 3, there's likely an incongruence and confusion in that system. This person can progress and mature at a subtle layer much faster and more easily than they can emotionally. It's important to note that incongruence isn't inherently problematic. However, without awareness of this, we may unconsciously halt our growth and maturity in areas that require more effort or discomfort to translate and organize the information, while continuing to seek growth in areas that are easier to navigate and help us feel more competent and connected. As social beings, we naturally yearn for connection. As we grow, if we have not continued to know and grow ourselves at all layers, we may begin to notice a disconnect in our capacity to relate effectively. Neglecting to attune to any part of ourselves: emotional, mental, or subtle, in the same way we do with our physical or appearance self will certainly create disharmony within ourselves and between ourselves and others. Understanding these different layers and developing proficiency in their languages can profoundly impact our overall growth and ability to connect with both ourselves and others.

In reading this, I hope you have learned something about yourself and gained a greater understanding of the languages you are more adept at understanding: appearance, sensation, feeling, or narrative. As well as, consider which languages you might want to practice more of, as this can enrich your ability to relate to yourself and others with greater attunement and fulfillment. Please keep in mind that our bodies are processing systems, and if you've been out of touch with anyone of them for a while, there may be a backlog of information waiting to be processed. Similar to a printer with a lot of jobs in que, the old information will be processed before the now time information. Even though you are seeing in now time, you might be sensing, feeling, and having an inner dialogue about past time. Slowing down, creating space, and approaching this process with curiosity and playfulness can help you witness, attune to, and shift these associations in more easeful and efficient way.

The is the magic of attunement and co-regulation is that by sharing regulation and holding safe space, we can help each other increase our capacity to feel safe and curious enough to explore our bodies and learn the various languages of sensation, feeling, and inner dialogue. As you learning to create more space in your system, you can offer the gift of attunement and co-regulation to others. We don’t have to do this work alone, and no one can do it for us. When one of us heals, we all heal.

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