I Tell My Body What to Do

Back in 2002, I remember a gentleman coming to speak to me for a moment during his break from the Narcotics Anonymous meeting that was taking place at our school.  He said, “They try to tell you that you have control over your feelings, but when your stomach feels like it’s going to drop out and you are doubled over in pain, how are you going to control that?  That is a feeling and it is real, I don’t care what anybody says.”

His words have replayed in my mind over and over again in all the years since then.  I am a true believer in our ability to control our feelings.  Often, we will say things like, “She made me mad.”  But most of us know that if we slow the process down a bit, we would realize that it wasn’t what “she” said or did that made you mad, it was whatever thought that YOU had about what she said or did that made you mad.  So, getting in the habit of being present with our thoughts, helps us to be in the driver’s seat because we can choose a thought that suits us better.

In addition, through the power of imagination, we are able to manufacture whatever emotion that we want at anytime.  If I were to ask you to feel proud right now, most of you would know how to tap immediately into that feeling.  The same is true with asking you to feel courage in your body or to feel sadness.  Most people don’t have to really put too much work in causing themselves to feel the different emotions and can switch from one emotion to another from one second to the next.

Some emotions may take a little more imagination.  But, if you imagine that happy place, you can be instantly transported there.  Or if you remember a time when you were sad, then it is easy to recreate those feelings in your body right now.

But, this guy was talking about physical pain.  His interpretation of whatever they were talking about in his group was a novel way of looking at feelings for me.  I kept thinking is that the kind of feeling that we have the power to control?  Is a physical feeling the same thing as an emotional feeling?  On the one hand, I would say NO.  Slamming your finger in the door is a very different thing from your feelings being hurt.  But on the other hand, you do feel emotion in your body.  So, doesn’t that make emotion a physical sensation? And, if emotion is, indeed, a physical sensation, then hadn’t this guy just identified a loophole in the argument that we have the power to control our feelings?

Yet, haven’t I controlled these more physical pains before?  Haven’t I felt a wave of nausea coming on that I willed to go away because, well, that wouldn’t be a good look on me now?  And hadn’t I held off that impending cold until the day after the party?  And why had I never dropped from pure exhaustion until after I completed everything that needed to be done?

Surely, though, if you get hit by a MAC truck, you can’t expect to be able to control how your body feels, can you?  My initial thinking was NO.  But then I know of a person who fell off a two-story building while sleep-walking who did not get hurt.  While I won’t try to advance any explanations for how he managed to not get hurt, it does open the door for possibilities…

So, you know I walked right through the door!  I will tell you how in Part 2 of this article.