Why it can be hard to trust our bodies
One of the first things I work on with many of my clients is learning to trust their bodies. Most Christian communities teach people that our bodies are suspect. Often we're taught that our desires for food, pleasure, and happiness can all be overdone if we're not careful, and lead to gluttony, lust, and avarice/greed. Most of us are already aware of how our churches have taught us to not trust our bodies, but this lack of trust is also coming from our general culture.
When I think back to my public school education, I remember that my life was dictated by bells. Each year I would look at my schedule and see when my lunch was... 11:30 or 12:00 or 12:30. I would be discouraged from going to the bathroom unless it was between classes. I was forced to wake up to an alarm most days.
We were never taught to listen to our body's natural rhythms and signals. I was never told I could eat my lunch when I noticed I was hungry, or could just leave to go to the bathroom whenever I needed without having to raise my hand and announce my need to the whole class. I definitely was never encouraged to sleep until I was ready to wake up and come to school then.
If we weren't taught or encouraged to listen to our body's most basic needs (eat, sleep, and relieve ourselves) why would we expect ourselves to be able to trust, or even hear, what our body needs in the bedroom?
All that to say, be gentle with yourself if you're having trouble trusting your body. It's a skill, and one that we weren't encouraged to learn. If you want a good place to start choose one day to eat on your own timeline, or to be extra attentive to when you need to pee without getting too swept up in other activities (like work). If you want something more advanced, take a moment at the top of every hour to do a body scan and ask your body what it needs in that moment (movement, water, snack, to look away from a screen, some touch, a pleasant smell, etc.)
A word on anxiety.
Someone in my Facebook group this week asked about how to trust our bodies when we have anxiety.
Anxiety is your body communicating a need to you. Regardless of if you're anxious because of the way a previous trauma is impacting your body or if there's just something that's making you anxious right now, your anxiety is your body's way of telling you something's not right. Get curious about what's off in your life. Are you trying to get too much done? Is a relationship feeling scratchy? Is there something else not quite right? And then take just one simple step toward finding more comfort. Now, if there is trauma that needs attention, I encourage you to seek out a mental health counselor for help (and as a reminder, I'm not a licensed mental health counselor... I'm a sex coach with some trauma-oriented training, and a MA in theology. I work with people who've experienced trauma, but I don't work on the trauma directly.)