The ProblemYour body is a physical reflection of who you are. Few people will tell you that. Most will tell you if you want to make a good impression, fake it, puff yourself up, be someone you aren’t. This is no different than a cheesy pickup strategy. These same people want us to believe that we are stupid – that we can’t be perceived through acting a prescribed way. We are always sensing what is true. The question becomes, are you or others connected to what you are sensing? You need to be connected to be aware. You may not be conscious that you are subtly changing your posture when a man commands the room. It’s when you are connected to your body that you start having the power to change your responses.
Root of the ProblemHow your body moves or doesn’t move comes from a physiological survival response and cultural training. Before anything else, your body is hardwired to survive. You are set up to defend yourself (fight) or run away (flight) when you are in danger. When you can’t express those actions, you have a third physiological option: to freeze. Freezing is your body playing dead as an attempt to not be attacked when you can’t fight or run. The physiology of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs when we get stuck in a frozen state. It doesn’t take a major trauma to create a chronic freeze state. Serial micro-traumas (stress) are usually what creates tension in your body. Depending in part on the type of stress you experience, you will tighten different areas of your body. Over time, this cycle repeats. Your back tightens, your shoulders knot, maybe even your leg muscles tighten up, and that leaves you with a particular gait or posture. Attempting to disguise your body’s adaptation to stress doesn’t remove the stress. You may not be aware of the tension or how covering it up doesn’t work because as the tension increase, awareness decreases. I was unaware of how tight and disjointed my body was until my high school friends began to tease me. I still had no internal sense of how tense I was, though, until the tension was gone. Looking back, I now understand why I got the reactions from others that I got. Outwardly, I hoped I was portraying strength. But unconsciously, I projected insecurity and weakness. I thought I got good at hiding it. I would act as if I were powerful, and it worked some of the time. But I never truly felt confident. Inwardly I had a stress response that I did my best to deny. My body became more frozen, disconnected, and tenser. The longer I was trapped in this cycle, the less aware I was of my and other’s experiences. I had very little sense of what others were feeling. That meant I was bad at reading others’ deeper intents. There was no way I could know what another felt or wanted beyond what they spoke – I was too focus on projecting power. My macho attempt at being tough was also perpetuated by our cultural training to not show or express emotions, to look tough at any cost and stay in control. The recent film, The Mask You Live In, does an excellent job describing how we are trained to be someone else’s man. For centuries, it was the emotional water we swam in. We grew to accept this disconnected archetype as the norm, and we train each other to follow this. Beyond shaping your beliefs, this imprinting shapes your body. Remember how as a kid you started hiding emotions to be accepted by others? How you worked to project confidence? These intentions lodged themselves in your body and its movement. It may be easier to see this somatic conditioning in others. Scan the boys and men in your life. Start to see how their personalities and behaviors are reflected in their bodies. Look at a man whose boyhood survival strategy was to be tough, in control at all cost, and impress others – he has a different body than your friend who is shy, sensitive, and accommodating. There are benefits to how we learn to adapt to our stress. They will always remain. It’s the limitations that are restricting your body, movement, and life.
Transforming Your WalkFor decades now, I continue to see men blown away by how quickly they can change when they begin to accept, experience, and express their emotions. When a man breaks out of these physiological and cultural binds, he becomes his own man. We see men’s bodies and walk change as they change. What they are telling the world changes because on the inside they changed. They realized their disconnection from their emotions and body was incongruent with who they wanted to be and the life they wanted to lead. Your emotions and your body are two aspects of the same phenomenon. You change one, you change the other. Again, we aren’t talking about imposing a new behavior set. We are talking about releasing what restricts you. There is no better way to enter this than through movement. Movement can:
- Be powerful
- Be sexy
- Represent your relative age
- Produce self-confidence and joy