One of the most common statements I come across in the body positive community is:
“You are not your body”
And even though I totally understand and appreciate the intention behind it -to remind us that we are whole human beings, much more than how our body looks, what it weighs, etc.- I don’t personally feel that a (further) disidentification from our bodies would actually serve us, especially those of us who have struggled in our relationship with it for years.
In my experience, one of the main reasons we face such widespread, collective challenges with food and our bodies is our alienation and deep, deep disconnection from our bodies. As a culture, we live almost exclusively in our heads and minds. It is through the mind that we learn to experience our bodies too; the mind determines what the body should be like, has certain desires and expectations from it, and takes action to make them come true -even when that action is harmful for both body and soul. From a very young age, we are taught to ignore, suppress or rise above our bodies’ messages, which include but also go far beyond those that are related to eating and movement.
From this perspective, it makes sense that, in order to heal our relationship with our bodies, we need to bridge the gap, restore the connection, and re-member all that the body is, beyond its appearance, shape and size.
Somatic/body-based approaches value the body as the epicentre of human experience, as both the gateway into and the container within which both our emotional and spiritual lives unfold.
Feminine/Goddess spirituality traditions see and treat the body as sacred, as the body of the Goddess, and womxn’s mysteries are centered in the body itself.
In Jungian psychology, the body is seen as the realm of, as well as one of the main ways to access the unconscious; the deeper, inner dimension of our being that holds the key to true healing and transformation, and which is not accessible through the rational mind.
From a psychospiritual perspective, the physical body gives us access to the energy body, in which the chakras, our energy centres are located; the underlying layer and source of all our life experience, covering the whole spectrum from the material to the spiritual, and bridging the seen and the unseen. (For more on the chakras and their role in food and body matters, please click here)
Jung himself, who had researched and written extensively on the psychology of the chakras, said:
“Soul and body are not two things. They are one”
By stating “I am not my body” we immediately equate and diminish the body to its appearance, and miss its essence. We perpetuate and deepen the split between body and mind/psyche/soul.
On the contrary, when we identify with the essence of the body, we inevitably value it more. We naturally want to take better care of it -not in order to look a certain way, but because it is us and we are it. We nourish it in ways that nourish our mind, soul and psyche all at the same time, rather than choosing to work on one at the expense of the other.
In all honesty, I don’t know of anything that has the power to transform our relationship with our bodies (and our lives, really) in a more profound, lasting way than rediscovering the body in its totality. It can feel like a whole new world opening up, like unlocking the world’s best kept secret.
So, for me, the answer to our collective overidentification with our appearance is not rejecting the body, or disowning it more than we already do. On the contrary, it is (re)claiming it as ours and us, inhabiting it fully and seriously deepening our perception and experience of it.
For real embodiment and body freedom to take place, we need to lift the body up, re-sanctify and re-whole it -not put it down even more.
We are our bodies. But our bodies are SO much more than what we have been conditioned to believe…