Yesterday I gave a short introduction to self consent. Today I’m starting a week-long series of exercises on how to recognise your own sense of yes and no in your body.
Everyone has a different experience of emotions in their body. There is no one place that anger, happiness, love, gratitude or stress sit within all bodies. That means finding where those things are for you has to be a personal journey. As a survivor of intimate partner violence, it took me many years to learn how to recognise my emotions. I dealt with my trauma by disassociating from my emotions because I believed that would keep me safe. Eventually, I recognised that my emotions were actually more likely to help me stay out of danger than to put me in danger, but by then they were deeply buried. I had to re-learn what emotions felt like, how to label them and where I felt them in my body. As part of that, I had to learn what ‘yes’ and ‘no’ felt like for me. That was surprisingly hard!
Fortunately, there are many contexts in which our bodies tell us ‘yes’ and ‘no’. From foods that we love and hate to animals that we have visceral reactions to, our bodies are full of information about what is OK and not OK with us. When starting off, it is best to look for how your body says ‘no’ and ‘yes’ in the edges of things that you love and hate the most. Some people hate snakes or spiders, I will take either of those over flying insects or birds near me. For many of us, the sense of ‘no’ is accompanied by fear, distrust or dislike. I invite you to be more open to your body saying no, by understanding your own no’s as your body giving you important information. This can take some time, but it will help you to be more aware of your limits and when you might want to say no to something that you may otherwise have agreed to.
An exercise in finding yes and no in your body
Before you start doing the daily task, find somewhere quiet and comfortable. If you enjoy meditation you might want to do a breath meditation or body scan before you start. If not, then just try taking a deep breath or two to help you to relax.
Day 1 – Yes and No lists
Today I invite you to write two lists. One is a list of things that feel like ‘yes’ to you, and the other feels like ‘no’. Your lists should include a wide variety of things from all different parts of your life that you love and hate the most in ways that are different to each other. You might find this worksheet useful for making your lists.
Once you have made the lists, cross out anything that is traumatic for you. At this stage, I’d be crossing out Body Shop’s ‘white musk’ scented things because I was in a serious car accident where a bottle of the stuff broke. It reminds me very strongly of that day, and that clouds all my other feelings. If you have similar stuff on your lists, get rid of them. Similarly, if you have an extreme phobia, scratch that. If you have an eating disorder then removing all food items is a good idea.
You will finish the task by making a top 7 list for yes and no.