Express yourself

Express yourself.

What does that phrase bring to mind for you right now?

Dancing, singing, playing an instrument, painting, writing or something similar?

Are those creative channels the ways in which we express ourselves?

Well, yes.

And no.

Dance is the hidden language of the soul.

Dancer and choreographer Martha Graham said that. I tend to agree. I’m tentatively dipping my toe into the water when it comes to dance, and I’m loving the freedom I’m slowly discovering to express my unique range of emotions through the movement of my whole body.

That’s pretty new to me. The opposite of expression is repression and I know all about that. I was brought up not to show emotion, to never reveal what I was feeling. To not trust my emotions, to view them as dangerous even and to avoid them as much as possible.

That way of being doesn’t leave you in a great place at 50, believe me. Hence the dance.

What I’m learning is that our bodies express emotion whether we like it or not.

When we are happy, we smile involuntarily.

When we are sad, we cry involuntarily.

When we are embarrassed, we blush involuntarily.

When we are angry, we clench our fists involuntarily.

We can try to hide it, but our body speaks its own language. That’s what the science of body language is all about.

Our bodies are integral to our expression, the expression of our soul, emotions, heart, mind, spirit, personality, whatever you want to call it.

Our bodies are what others see, hear, touch, smell, taste of us.

Everything we do, say, buy, eat, wear is an outward expression of who we are on the inside.

Just as each one of us is spectacularly different, the contents of our homes and handbags and wardrobes and fridges are completely different.

Even if we wear what we wear to blend in with everyone else, that is an expression in itself of who we are.

Even if we just eat what everyone else is eating and do what everyone else is doing, that is an expression in itself of who we are.

Connecting with my body has been quite a journey for me. Listening to my body.

Dressing how I want, exercising as my body needs, eating to nurture my body: I have some learning to do.

Our bodies have so much to teach us if we would only listen. I have a book to read on the train tomorrow, a New York Times bestseller called ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel Van Der Kolk. It’s all about trauma, how we store trauma in the body without even knowing it. I have a feeling this is really going to help me understand the idiosyncrasies of my own body a whole lot more. And there’s a whole chapter on yoga. Of course. Because yoga links mind and body in a therapeutic way that is entirely relevant here.

My natural reaction is to clamp down on any emotion that threatens to rise to the surface. I’m learning to ask myself the question ‘How does my body want to express what I’m feeling right now?’ And then (within the boundaries of what is safe, of course) I do it.

Life is definitely too short for repression.

Go on, express yourself.

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