Elements of Embodiment, Part 3: Emotions in Our Bodies

jelly beans of many colors on a white background

I used to spend so much time in my head. Of course, I inhabited a body at the time, like everyone. But I didn’t really feel it much. That’s because for so many years growing up, feeling in my body didn’t feel good, or safe. So I simply stopped. This wasn’t a conscious choice – and as I grew into middle adulthood (in my 30s or so) I realized how much I was missing.

I remember vividly the first time I felt the feeling of joy. By then, I’d become deeply familiar with the bodily sensations of sadness, and sensations of fear. But the sensations of joy had been elusive. It was, for me, mind-blowing. There was this full bodied sense of deep connection with myself, and sense that I was complete, and whole, as I was at that moment. It was fleeting, but its influence was lasting.

Learning how emotions, the emotions of fear, sadness, anger, and joy (and their complex combinations and outliers) feel in our bodies is a practice so worth engaging in. We get access to so much wisdom about our bodies, how they operate, and how we interact with the world.

And, as trans and gender-expansive folks, unlearning those coping mechanisms that many of us have used that tamped down our abilities to be aware of our body sensations, gives us so much more access to pleasure and joy.

I have a small jar of jellybeans at my desk. I love about 30% of the bean flavors. I feel neutral about 50% of them, and 20% of them I absolutely hate. But I eat all of them. I make it a practice to take one, blind, place it in my mouth, and slowly bite into them, and notice the subtleties of the flavors as I chew. If it’s one I love, I notice how my mouth feels when the sweetness, or sourness hits my taste buds, then notice the feelings that come from recognition of the taste I love, and the small sense of joy I get when I taste it. And if it’s one I hate, I’m notice how I recoil from the taste, wishing it wasn’t in my mouth. I notice any disgust I have. I notice any feelings that are unpleasant.

This practice often surprises me, because I wouldn’t generally think that the taste of one jelly bean would have such an effect. And the practice teaches me how subtle, but also not subtle, our sensations and emotions can be in our bodies.

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