How is a sense of deep hunger helped by Wholebody Focusing ? A few years ago, I was experiencing chronic anxiety due to a stressful situation at work. My body was deeply affected. My blood pressure, heart rate, and diabetes markers were all higher than usual. I relied on my focusing practice to help me. In a Wholebody focusing session, a wordless felt sense of anxiety transformed into a sensation of me experiencing my birth. As I exited the birth canal, I felt free from the stress that I had been experiencing. A new understanding emerged about how my body experienced anxiety.
My History with Hunger
I was my mother’s second child. Her first pregnancy with my older brother was traumatic, and she came close to dying. A few months before my brother was born, my mother’s friend, Mrs. C, a parishioner at our Catholic church, was pregnant with twins. C-Sections were out of favor during more than half of the twentieth century because the medical outcomes were unacceptable due to inadequate surgical procedures and lack of antibiotics.
As a result, there was a heightened possibility that a crisis might happen in the delivery room. The mother or the fetus might be in danger of dying. Because the Catholic Church saw the mother and fetus as two human entities, Catholic hospitals had a policy that prioritized saving the fetus’s life in circumstances in which the doctors could save either the mother or fetus. Mrs.C died in childbirth along with one of her twins. The other twin, a baby girl, was born with severe cerebral palsy. She could not walk, talk, or feed herself.
My mother, having witnessed how this policy impacted her friend’s life and family, felt great anxiety about her fate. Then she also had her crisis in the delivery room. My brother was a large baby in the breech position. The doctor told my mother that she might not survive the birth. Fortunately, both survived; however, my mother was deeply traumatized by the experience. My brother also suffered from this experience. His trauma showed up as severe learning disabilities and emotional difficulties.
Three years later, my mother became pregnant with me. She decided to lose weight during her pregnancy so that the birth would be less complicated. Throughout her pregnancy, the danger she experienced with her first birth and the memory of her friend’s death caused her great anxiety. As a result, my mother starved herself and me during her pregnancy as a strategy to circumvent a possibly fatal outcome.
At the end of a full-term pregnancy, I was born weighing only five pounds. It took me four years to achieve an average weight Moreover, I have had a lifelong struggle with anxiety and panic disorder.
Wholebody Focusing and Anxiety
I always had a felt sense that the level of anxiety I experienced was not all mine– that it was stronger than my constitution created on its own. From this early morning WBF session, I became aware that her anxiety bathed me in my mother’s high cortisol levels for nine months. I carried my mother’s experience of body tension in my body along with my tendency to be anxious. Since that session, my level of chronic anxiety has dramatically subsided. My anxiety connection with my mother had ended. My fear is at a much lower level.
Now, I can be with whatever anxiety emerges in grounded presence. Being grounded gives my body space to carry itself forward in its own way and at its own pace. Under these circumstances, the anxiety sometimes transforms into something else. Before, my stress level was often too overwhelming to be with it in grounded presence. Wholebody focusing helped me experience the release of my mother’s panic from my body and allowed me to understand how it had impacted her and me.
A new awareness about my birth experience happened years later when I attended a week-long workshop at a Catholic retreat center. I often felt hungry because the portions and total amount of food served were inadequate. This experience triggered a bodily sense of hunger, agitation, and anger.
The Intelligence of our Bodies
It wasn’t until early morning on the last day of the conference, during a focusing session, that I sensed what was triggering me. This session started with a felt sense of guilt for my surliness toward the staff in response to the lack of food. An image came to me of working as a young girl in the convent, stirring a pot of soup. I was feeling hunger in the pit of my stomach. I did chores after school in the convent. None of the Sisters ever offered a snack. Finally, one day, I was so hungry that I found the courage to ask for a snack. The sister told me she was not allowed to give students a snack.
It occurred to me in that focusing session that my anger at the staff was due to hunger, a deep historical hunger linked to Catholicism. First, my mother starved us when I was in the womb because of her fear for her life while giving birth in a Catholic hospital. Then there was a longing for food while I worked for almost a year in the convent. Then, 50 years later, I returned to a Catholic environment for the first time in many decades and experienced hunger again. This experience allowed me to be with this deep hunger hidden in my body.
Social conditions, pre-birth experiences, laws or rules that influence medical or educational practices, and other people’s personal decisions can cause trauma. Yet, unfortunately, we sometimes live our whole lives never learning these stories.
Freeing Ourselves from “Not Knowing”
Wholebody focusing gives practitioners a path to be with those hidden parts. One gives their body permission to be with what is there and to move in any way it needs. One’s awareness of something outside yourself and neutrality toward what comes are the only requirements. Often, internal or external movements emerge, and they carry forward without words or images.
The practitioner stays with the movement until a shift happens. In the process, a felt sense, a phrase, or a picture might emerge that gives more information. Other times an agitated movement, for example, might shift to a comforting one without any additional information. When I experienced my birth, I observed the felt sense of my rapid heartbeat during a panic attack. Suddenly, I felt myself moving through the birth canal. I remember what it felt like on my arms and the release of anxiety when I exited the birth canal.
Wholebody focusing trains the practitioner to rely on body wisdom for its information. Body wisdom does not need the right word or image to carry forward. Deeply hidden truths may not have words. Their foundation may not be related to your particular life story. Those places where the unknown parts live also have the ability, with our attention, to tap into the abundant benevolent energy that surrounds us as a support to carry forward our healing. Whenever we rely on only words and images from our narratives, There is a possibility that we may miss the vast resources and stories the universe offers to help our recovery. Wholebody focusing gives us this kind of range of opportunity.