Photo Credit: Jack Arts campaign for the V&A, Tim Walker: Wonderful Things
“How does your body want to be supported?” Addie asked me at the start of this training session. As I felt into my body what came was “the space around me: my space”. I looked around the room. I became aware that my space, as in the room in which I was sitting, activated two very different feelings in me.
The first one was of a snuggly-cashmere comfort. A settling into the safe ground of being in my room, like being wrapped in a soft blanket. My breath just flowing gently. A deep sense of spaciousness filled my body and an invitational quality of “just allowing” came.
Then a jangled jarring feeling took hold. Another part of me butted in – it just saw a room full of heaps. A room needing tidying NOW. Seeing the heaps brought a twisting in my gut that was stopping my breath. With this came highly judgemental thoughts: “it should be xxx”, “What will people think?” Queasy seasickness of unease colonized my gut.
Holding Both Brings an Unexpected Body Memory
Holding both experiences was only possible through a yo-yoing between the two parts. A new awareness came: the heaps reminded me of my mother. Her house was full of heaps.
I was with a place of historic and “as-yet unresolved/unhealed” pain to do with my relationship with my (now dead) mother. Tightening came in my body as if it was trying to “hold me together”. This was accompanied by the queasy ungroundedness as my body was hijacked by these old experiences; being on the receiving end of my mother’s toxic contempt.
My breathing stopped; the impact of contempt was as a body blow. A being doubled-over by a thump in the solar plexus coming out of the blue. The air literally being knocked out of me. The life source in me being stopped. “I am stopped” was the core experience here. My left hand moved spontaneously to the solar plexus area and just tenderly held it. A tactile “I am here with you”.
The sense of nausea intensified and with it a memory of something I had read by Sarah Peyton*. She invites those of us who struggle with nausea to celebrate it. To recognise it as a return of my body’s ability to feel safe enough to acknowledge a sense of violation! Nausea is a signature aspect of the body feeling of disgust. (Along with a wanting to pull away from and escape what is toxic to us.)
Can I Really “Celebrate” Disgust?
Naming the nausea as disgust brought an awareness of a tightness. A pulling back within all of me, a contraction against the environment. Then came a restlessness that had become increasingly familiar to me over recent months. A sense of urgency in my body that something needs “doing”.
I allowed myself to open to the “something needs doing” energy; and my arm spontaneously moved forward in a deliberate sweep down. A demarcation of space in front of me. With it came words: “a boundary needs to be set”.
An “aha” came. Of course, my body felt this way: this is a historic felt memory from my past. I now have the safety and resources to feel this memory. The function of healthy disgust is to offer us protection from what is toxic to us. Poisonous not only in a food-gustatory sense but also in a relational ingesting way. Implicit in the experiencing of disgust is the needing to do something – to withdraw and to remove oneself from the toxicity!
I continued to sit with the nausea, the tightness, and the restlessness, supported by Addie. I noticed, at an emotional level, there is a seemingly never-ending internal negative judging commentary going on. An awareness arises that “I breed within me a vicious perfectionism”. I then recognised that, at a body level, I experienced this experience as one of feeling very physically unwell.
As I described this to Addie my right hand moved in a sort of horizontal circling motion. He invited me to connect to my hand and it’s moving. Addie reflected my body experience, reminding me of my other hand that was still holding the solar plexus. He then asked whether there is a part of my body not caught up in all of this. And maybe it might be able to offer support to me here in holding all this?
Transformation through Wholebody Connection
This changed me: like sudden seeing a light ahead, having been lost in a dark cave, I became aware of the possibility of support around me and in me. I saw again the heaps in my room. But they looked completely different. They were my heaps. The separate heap items reminded me of the love, kindness, and fun I now have in my life.
Something in me opened my arms to “embrace” all of my room. Addie summarised: “This all gives you a sense of you, and space that is larger than disgust and contempt” Embodying this larger spaciousness, I discovered, dilutes the disgust body experience. A “morphing” came – an expanding into a much larger holding space within me. This was warm, relaxed, it’s had a wide-angle lens quality to it. I felt at ease and joyous even. A sense of allowing came, an opening to new possibilities.
Addie invited me to sense into this newly discovered body experiencing of allowing, of open spaciousness. What came was the opposite of vicious perfectionism. Looking around my room again my eyes alighted on a postcard. I had it bought at the V&A museum’s “Wonderful Things exhibition. It was a photographic display by Tim Walker.
The postcard is of young men in amazing dresses dancing in a field of delphiniums. It is whacky, vibrant, and full of fun aliveness. My whole body filled with lightness. A sensation of the little bubbles in a glass of prosecco went sparkling through me.
Joy permeated all of me bringing a sense of infinite spaciousness within and without. My face could not stop smiling as I opened to all this. A word came: “delight”! Delight – the opposite of disgust I realised. I just revelled in being infused with delight, joy, and love.
Addie asked how the disgust was sitting in me now. Has it shrunk? Immediately I knew from my embodied feeling that the disgust-feeling had not shrunk per se. Rather it was I that had grown. There was more of me to hold the disgust. To dilute it.
I had expanded, become larger. Then I noticed that the restlessness had gone. It had found what it needed for me: love, joy, and delight. Vibrant dancing with delphiniums aliveness!
*Sarah Peyton is an author, neuroscience educator and certified trainer of Nonviolent Communication
Credit for image: Radhika Nair, Chawntell Kulkarni and Kiran Kandola. Fashion: Richard Quinn. Pershore, Worcestershire, 2018. © Tim Walker Studio