Love can make us feel instinctual ecstasy and bliss in our bodies. It can make us alive and open, hopeful about ourselves and the world. But the romantic ideal of blissful love repeatedly fails us in contact with reality. Over time, the erratic pursuit of amorous passions and uncontrollable emotional outbursts endows us with heartbreak, self-destructive behaviour and a litany of injured others. Films and books depicting instances of such ‘tragic’ love abound.
We ‘mature’ as we learn to suppress our instinctual urges, exhausted and traumatised by the melodrama. We settle for reasonably satisfying relationships of care and emotional accountability which are devoid of passion, a key ingredient that makes love feel so good. We live under a constant fear that reconnecting with our instincts and passions could ruin it all for us. But what can we really offer to our loved ones, or anyone, when we don’t feel alive inside? Can we share ourselves with another when we are disconnected from our playful and dynamic primordial energies, from our sense of awe and wonder? Forgoing our passions for reasons of emotional safety is like holding our breath to survive.
Psychological thinkers have called this phenomenon disembodiment, since bodies are the home of our instinctual energies which connect us to the present moment and make us feel alive. To cope with our disembodied lifestyles, we look for external stimulation such as overwork, drugs, alcohol, compulsive exercising. We use them to fill the void of disconnection from our bodies, while an inner restlessness gnaws at our life satisfaction. A growing recognition of disembodiment of the modern person is also reflected in an eruption of interest in yoga, dance, massage, performance arts, bodywork therapies, conscious eating, gastronomy, oenology, and other activities that serve to awaken the sensing capabilities of our bodies and increase our body awareness.
There is good news. What if we don’t have to say goodbye to our instinctual nature to be able to experience safe love? Recent neuroscience shows that increasing body awareness allows us to access feelings in a way that transforms our negative emotional patterns. This is very different from being held hostage to instinctual eruptions of negative emotions which we are unable to control, and which threaten our relationships with others as much as disconnection from our instinctual nature. Working on changing our attitude to the initially uncomfortable and threatening bodily sensations thus pays off in the longer run. It improves our ability to experience and appreciate life, and allows us to safely incorporate our passions into our daily existence and personal relationships.
This pandemic has pushed us further in the direction of body awareness, by abruptly reducing external stimulation that is available to us. Those with an upbeat attitude towards life have recognised the crisis as an opportunity to awaken our senses in interaction with nature, or through a more profound appreciation of food and the arts. Yet, the pandemic has also been a postcard from the underworld, a hard lesson that showed us how much we actually crave external stimulation, often to escape the uncomfortable inner sensations and itches of anxiety, inadequacy, loneliness, absence of direction in life. Add to these sensations the fear of the virus, and the incessant scanning our bodily sensations for warnings about an impending illness (Have I been invaded? Am I now a threat to my loved ones?), and we quickly realise that being told to work on awakening our senses and bodily sensations through slow food, tantra, or appreciation of nature under such circumstances can sound very threatening. Paying too much attention to the body under duress can be overwhelming and traumatising unless we figure out how to engage with our instinctual energies thoughtfully, patiently and lovingly.
Learning how to read the signaling of our bodies and channel our instincts productively without having to suppress them can significantly improve our experience of reality and offer us a safe and passionate existence all at once. Connecting with our bodies is therefore an act of love towards ourselves, and towards those around us. It offers us a new hope for a more sentient and sensory world where we can share goodness with others because we can finally feel it within ourselves. Yet, beware that the body communicates to us in weird ways, much like the rest of the natural world. We need to open up to this queerness if we are to benefit from it, rather than judge it by the standards of our ‘civilised’ existence. Here is to this brave new world of instinctual love through body awareness. Not for the faint-hearted.
Words by Sonja Avlijaš
O Love, Where Are You Leading Me Now? – From poem “Kore” by Robert Creely
Image by Federica Putelli & Enrica Lamonaca for DSCENE Magazine
Originally published in DSCENE Love Issue.