Reality Check: When Your Body Speaks Out

Do you listen to your body? If you’ve ever had an aching back from lifting too much, a foggy brain from sleeping too little, or an upset stomach from eating unwisely, you know there are times when the body can’t be ignored.

Occasionally, we even learn from those responses and change our behaviour!

Sometimes, it’s difficult to interpret what our body is telling us. Pam has been offered a job with more money and benefits. The move makes practical sense and her friends and family are encouraging her to take it.

Yet whenever Pam thinks about it, her body protests. Her head aches, her stomach churns, and she just feels drained.

From time to time, you’ve probably experienced what Choice Theory refers to as the “frustration signal.” It’s one way the body responds to comparisons.

Think of comparison as a teeter-totter, where what-we-want sits on one end and our perception of what-we-have sits on the other. When they match, the teeter-totter is balanced and we’re satisfied.

When they don’t match, the teeter-totter goes off kilter and we feel the frustration signal.

The fact that your body sends out, “I’m not happy” signals doesn’t mean that your most effective action is to stop at the first sign of discomfort! Sometimes our bodies signal us with anxious feelings and physical upset because we’re unsure or afraid.

But engaging in only comfortable activities won’t necessarily lead you to where you want to be in the long run.

So, the frustration signal isn’t always easy to interpret. Perhaps it’s telling you, “I’m afraid of trying something new. I might be uncomfortable, embarrassed, or inconvenienced. But this is what I want in the long run, so I will push on anyway.”

Or the signal might be saying, “This is not the right move; this is not what I want, and my body is telling me so.”

When you feel a frustration signal, what do you do? Carry on regardless? Or accept that this is the wisdom of your body saying “Stop”? If the signals feel essentially the same, how can you tell what to do?

One perspective is to ask, “Will this lead me toward what I want? Or away from it?”

When Pam used that outlook to examine her job offer, the discomfort became clearer. Although more money would be nice, it wasn’t really what she wanted. Instead, she craved more creativity in her work. Taking the new job would put her on a hamster wheel of well-paying, but dull tasks.

The prospect of losing the opportunity to pursue her creative interests brought on physical discomfort—her frustration signal.

Now the choice is clearer. Which does Pam value most: more money? Or interesting work? Because it looks like having both is not an option just now.

The frustration signal is valuable—it tells you that what you have isn’t matching what you want. It prods you to make changes. You can change your expectations (what you want), or you can change your perception of what you have.

Are you physically aware of your body’s frustration signals? Let me know

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