Creating new body memories

As a spin off from yesterday’s post Shaking it off!, it occurred to me this morning…as I strode across the kitchen to the juicer feeling just so GREAT in my body after an extra long dance session… that part of the POWER of moving the body in a whole new way is that its an opportunity to create brand new body memories, which is like pressing a total reset button.

Chronic illness (and most other forms of illness) can usually be traced back to  one kind of emotional trauma or other because this is where the dis-ease (or lack of ease) starts. When traumatised memories, fears, dysmorphic ideas of self etc, flood a person’s life to the point they feel overwhelmed, the body will store them away, so they get squirrelled into every nook and cranny of body tissue…hopefully, to quietly sit there and do no harm; but that’s not always the case, as many of us know. Or, we set about the deep-releasing work in order to recover ourselves, as many of us recoverees from chronic health issues are familiar with.

When you are recovering from deep trauma, especially if some of that trauma goes all the way back to the beginning of your life, you are (basically) in the process of releasing defunct memories from body tissue and it can be a long and arduous process. When you’re done, the body is left somewhat like a husk (which I can relate to the feeling of having becoming almost too weak and physically unviable to enjoy a normal life, due to all my extreme sensitivities etc, which was my experience of the last few years) because so much old substance has been cleared out. In a sense, its as though you built your very foundations on so many false premises about yourself that, when they are dissolved away, you have almost no substance left…so you just know you have to start building up physical resilience again, which is where I got to last year. I felt so clear and light and ready to get going again, having almost cleared everything that felt traumatic and “old” out of my system…yet I was fragile, not knowing which way to turn to build up that new core strength required if I was to get back into a physically enjoyable life.

I said almost. When the body has wallpapered its rooms with several decades of emotional memories…and we all do this, since the body is the primary “memory storage facility” we each have (not the head, contrary to popular opinion) then, even when we are very thorough about clearing out what no longer feels authentic to who we really are, its still liable to hold something back “just in case” it ceases to exist without it. Its like a sort-of rainy day policy based on existential crisis…”who am I without that trauma to define me?” lurking in our subconscious.

So, when we think we are recovered and revert back to the familiar old kinds of exercise we used to do before we got ill, or even old habits and behaviours, we are likely to tickle those remnants back to life. I give you last summer when, almost exactly a year ago to the week, I thought it would be a good idea to get back on my bike and pound some country lanes to celebrate feeling fitter than I had for a while. The thing is, the last time I had regularly cycled like that was at a time when I was always cycling under terrible duress and stress. I was in a miserable marriage in which I “wasn’t allowed” to have a car and was usually late to get to one freelance job to put in a few hours of admin or to  drop off some freelance editing work to another, often carrying way too much shopping on the back of my bike and always with my toddler strapped to a seat on the rear and, of course, machinating away in my head about just how miserable and stuck I felt (that was almost 20 years ago). Cycling was never for enjoyment anymore and that was also the time when I did so much damage to my back that I ha to scrimp and save for regular treatments…you get the picture. So, it was pretty much the last kind of regular exercise I did before a decade and a half of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue….and it was the first thing I went back to when I felt like I was getting better!

So, hopping back on that bike last year may feasibly have triggered some body memories that led into my complete collapse in mid July, leading to several months where I could hardly walk; it all felt like a total relapse but I see it differently now….because, in hindsight, it was the rerun that launched me into something different. Collapsing like that forced me to rethink my body by asking for its opinion…what brings it joy, how would it like to move…and dancing was the result of that; bringing me so much enjoyment and, yes, so much physical improvement it’s been astonishing. Yet it may not have happened at all if it wasn’t for the reappraisal time of lockdown. Yes, it’s been a bizarre year. If anyone had told me, a year ago, that I was about to end up stuck on a sofa for over three months and then, just as I started to get out and about again, the world was going to get locked down and my whole family come home to roost for over 4 months so that I never got any time on my own to be truly in my creative flow-zone anymore (I love my family but, as an introvert I really NEED those alone times to refuel), I would never have believed them. Yet here is the gift that I carry forwards into the next phase of my life…I feel thoroughly reunited with my body, more so than I have been since I was a very young child!

Of course, I have danced before (I loved it in my youth), but the kind of dancing I now do is completely new and self-expressive; unexpectedly so, and often so very physical, that it takes me by surprise because I am allowing myself to be led by my body…or, the spirit coming through it. It’s as though my body is creating a whole load of brand new understandings and expressions of its preferences…how it moves, how it feels, how it responds to gravity and air flow and rhythm. Its the blank canvas kind of exercise that I needed to reinvent my experience of being human and fill in the blanks left by years when associated trauma was locked up into almost every kind of physical activity I ever got to do…until I stopped for long enough to let it all go.

Its not unlike where we all are right now, in that micro meets macro way, in that the whole world has had to stop for a few months and now…well, now we get to either go back to our ingrained old habits, including the “bad” ones, or form brand new ones based on higher choices and healthier principles. They say it takes 90 days to form a new habit (I’ve been dancing for about that…) and I know I’m not alone in hoping the majority of people are ready to take their newly formed, more conscious and aware, choices out into the world to fill the blank canvas of life with far brighter and more healthy colours for the planet…rather than those old ones, made up of historic trauma-memory, that used to be stuck on perpetual repeat!

5 thoughts on “Creating new body memories

  1. Three years running at the beginning of the nineties I took a fortnight out at the beginning of the academic Summer Holiday to cycle solo from John 0’Groats to Land’s End. Three successive years taking a different route; averaging 92 miles a day. The bodily memory persists – combination of Intellect, Emotion & Physicality. Lifelong cycling probably did for both hips! I really miss cycling. Five years ago I attended an NLP course during which for three days I thought, “Blow the hips!” and literally danced very free style through every exercise – keeping the whole body (= the brain) moving which activates intellect & emotion.. In 2003, after the first hip operation, I took to motorbiking and did a circuit of mainland GB staying as close to the coast all the way as I could – 3000 miles in a fortnight. Maybe it’s the internalisation of distance that works some magic for NOW. I must go and mow the lawn!

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    1. That’s a wonderful anecdote and I’m impressed at the cycling track record. The internalisation of distance as now is exactly how I experience such body-memories, as though they collapse spacetime into timespace to realise the quantum potential. I also do what feels like powerful processing when staring at a road…I would love to get the happy feeling back again re cycling but there’s the practical consideration of what my elastic body can now take, recumbent bikes are recommended for EDS but they look far too vulnerable “down there” and not the same thing at all. My husband has in mind to get a pair of electric bikes to take some of the pressure off, so we’ll see. I understand the power of NLP, I had my own wake up moment (like all the obstacles in my psyche were removed suddenly to allow me to see myself far better…) in March 2011 via a session of NLP and things were never the same again!


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