Your Body Is A Compass: How To Use Your Symptoms As Guidance


That’s a bit of a mouthful, I know.

It’s also the technical term for what happens when our intense, unresolved emotions manifest as physical symptoms - something we all experience, whether we are conscious of it or not.

For me personally, there’s almost an inside joke among my close friends around how intensely I ‘somaticize’. That is, how my emotions and the misaligned energy of others I interact with can easily, if I am not careful, manifest as unpleasant physical symptoms.

Call it being highly sensitive or empathic, it is a colourful reality that I’ve come to respect and see as both a sacred blessing (when I am aligned - in a way it makes the work I do with others as a facilitator possible) and a liability. To put it really simply: when my brain loses the plot - when mentally I am comfortable with things that are totally unacceptable to my core self - my body doesn’t miss a beat in staging a revolt.

The unresolved emotion or energy manifests in my body like clockwork.

One such experience comes to mind:

Years ago, I worked for a few months at a raw vegan restaraunt. My coworkers were a lovely group of people, but from day one there was an obvious, extreme dysfunction within the business.

The owner had the style of, to put it politely, a benevolent dictator. They micromanaged the actions of their employees, gossiped behind people’s backs, shamed and denigrated individuals, and generally created a toxic environment.

I attempted to have a constructive dialogue with my boss on a number of occasions, only to hear the following day from my coworkers that I’d been the subject of the latest behind-the-back gossip.

Anyhow, you get the idea, it was a bona fide shit show.

After I had figuratively shown up, spoke up, and tried to shift things to no avail, it was obvious I had to quit this toxic workplace. But I wasn’t sure when or how - out of fear and scarcity, I stalled.

Then came the symptoms. One day when I got to work, I began to get an intense pain in my groin. It felt as though someone had literally kicked me in the balls.

As the day progressed I began internally freaking out, thinking I had some major medical condition threatening a particularly significant part of my body. On my lunch break I anxiously googled what my symptoms could mean (the short answer: nothing good).

Then, when my shift ended and I left, the pain went away. And the worrying stopped. Until the next morning - when I stepped though the doors into work, and there the feeling was again, like a swift kick in the nuts.

As you can see, a pattern emerged pretty quickly: When I was at work = pain in the balls. Not at work = no pain. Working at this place and giving my energy to someone who did not treat me with respect was an emotional kick in the nuts. But because I wasn’t listening (or responding, rather) at the emotional level, my body had to step things up and manifest those symptoms more clearly.

What at first was a shocking, confusing and extremely troubling symptom that seemingly came out of nowhere, transformed, under closer examination, into a kind of hilarious, beautiful slap in the face.

My brain was willing to compromise, but my body - hell no!

I quit the job and the pain went away with it. 

Nowadays that type of guidance is a normal occurrence in my life - when I misalign my energy, I understand that my body will reflect that.

Now, you might be thinking: that’s a funny story, but it’s also just a silly personal anecdote. Isn’t it fluffy and irresponsible to not seek qualified medical advice for an illness?

Yes. That certainly can be fluffy and irresponsible - my intention here is not to convince people to puritanically, dogmatically eschew all allopathic medicine. Not at all.

BUT, having said that, my experience both personally and observationally as a facilitator, for what it’s worth, is that the physical symptoms we manifest are often a form of guidance. And it isn’t unusual that they can be resolved by following that guidance. I personally believe that it should be common sense to look for the emotional and energetic roots of any seemingly spontaneous symptom, just as it is common sense to go to the emergency room to get stitches.

Sometimes our symptoms come and go while we remain totally oblivious to what their purpose as guidance coming through our bodies is - in time our bodies simply realign and heal. Sometimes, however, we don’t heal. Or we don’t heal fully, or our symptoms are recurrent. Perhaps these symptoms, like a recurring dream, manifest at specific times, mirroring specific emotional and psychological patterns we chronically repeat.

In any of these cases, we have an opportunity:

Our bodies are intelligent. Nothing happens without that intelligence animating it. So when any symptom simply seems to arrive out of nowhere (that is, not as a result of very clear physical cause), we should not be trying to just shut our body up or see it as some kind of malfunction - we should be looking for the intelligence. 

Is our body saying NO to something we are doing or choosing? If so, what is going on in our lives that would throw us off so much? At an emotional or energetic level, is there something that, if we were to be really honest with ourselves, just feels off?

The amount of healing and transformation that can potentially come from humbly asking these simple questions and honouring what comes up is outrageous. 

Try to not see your physical symptoms as a chaotic, unjust and purposeless problem - see them for what they are: guidance helping you move toward something that is healthier for you, moving you into alignment with your soul.

When you receive that guidance and choose to align with it, your body can start to calm down.

The Earlier The Better

The earlier you pay attention to your body and get the guidance, so to speak, the less extreme the alarm bells it produces have to be.

Let’s be clear: usually if an emotional or energetic disturbance manifests as physical symptoms, it’s because we missed the memo when it first arrived - at the emotional or energetic level, as a distinct felt sense. Our emotions and felt sense are guides - and they can be tricky to work with, as many of us have become detached from our emotional bodies to such a degree that feeling and listening to them doesn’t happen automatically, or we don't trust ourselves at such a pure level.

If we want to live truly healthy lives and reach our fullest potential, though, obviously we want to learn to listen and respond to ourselves at this level. That’s called true integration. It’s also the goal of mindfulness practice - to become aware of that sinking feeling in your chest when a certain someone comes into your space, for example, and explore what it's telling you.

But let’s say we missed that level of emotional/energetic guidance, so now our body has begun to stage a revolt. A couple of my body’s classics here would be the old spinal misalignment (when I misalign myself with poor choices of course), or losing my hearing out of one ear (not listening to something). Whenever these or other symptoms show up, I assume a position of humility. I know I’m off centre. I know I’ve been missing something or ignoring my truth. I know it’s time to turn inward and listen, or reach out to someone trustworthy who can offer some reflection to me. 

To be clear, the message might just be that I need to sleep more, or that I simply overexerted myself and need to rest. But if there is not a clear physical cause at hand, I’ll begin to examine my energy and life.

My body is a genius. It is a manifestation of my soul, and it is guiding me in extraordinary ways.

Sometimes this can be really, really, really frustrating, but once I process my frustration, I know I’m being given a gift.

And, at a purely practical, minimum-suffering-possible level, the sooner I listen, the less extreme things have to get. The quicker I can arrive at a position of accountability and humility, the less additional stress I'm putting into this process. 

The betrayals of our soul that we may intellectually be able to deny, ignore, justify or forget, often remain held in our energy - our body - until we address them. And if we are being betrayed or betraying ourselves in an ongoing way, that inner storm is going to be so much more acute.

I have a deep sense of awe and reverence for the intelligence of our bodies. I am endlessly amazed at the guidance showing up for me both personally, and in those I work with and interact with daily. It’s such a beautiful thing to live in a body, and a universe, that is attuned to truth and love. Our bodies, even when manifesting uncomfortable symptoms, are guiding us towards a life where our sanctity is truly embodied. They are rejecting something what we've learned to compromise and misalign ourselves around.

It’s pretty damn amazing. 

And I won’t oversimplify things by saying it’s always easy to deduce what that guidance is, course correct, and see a corresponding shift in our bodies.

However, sometimes it is. And that is extraordinary.