Leaning in to the very specific microcosm of the story of my plane encounter with the older southern gentleman* presents a view of the three factors of body compassion identified in research1,2:
- Defusion – the ability to experience one’s body from the stance of an observer, rather than as the body itself. Why yes southern man, my body is larger than most. More defusion means less attachment to evaluations of my body (by myself or others) as reflective of the “truth” of who I am.
- Common humanity – this is a recognition (a) that all human beings are interconnected, and (b) of the shared human experience of navigating life through the physically tangible interface of a body. Oh the joys of being a woman receiving unsolicited comments on her body (we’re all in this together) – AND I wonder if this southern gentleman is experiencing some cognitive decline as his body shifts with age. Growth of this recognition is infused with an ease of allowing for the myriad physical manifestations of the body, in self and others.
- Acceptance – the intentional embrace of the appearance, state of health, and function of one’s body exactly as it is in the present. I’m not fully at an “embrace” of my body in this story, just moving in that direction. This is an important focus on shifting one’s relationship to experience (in this case I was mildly amused and non-reactive), rather than on shifting the experience (I could have thought I need to lose weight and been mad at this man for having no filter!).
The body is literally with us wherever we go, experiencing life in the moment. Enhancing our relationship to our body enhances our experience of life. Body compassion describes a way of being in relationship with the body—with defusion, common humanity, and acceptance.
*there are, of course, many directions I could take this discourse, and I do acknowledge the levels of societal structure and hierarchy at play in this dynamic. I also agree that these and other societal structures need to be changed and am in full support of that ongoing work (and hope to contribute in some small way by empowering the individual).
- Altman, J. K., Linfield, K., Salmon, P. G., & Beacham, A. O. (2017). The body compassion scale: Development and initial validation. Journal of Health Psychology. doi: 10.1177/1359105317718924
- Altman, J. K.,Zimmaro, L., & Woodruff-Borden, J. (2017). Targeting body compassion in the treatment of body dissatisfaction: A case study. Clinical Case Studies, 16(6), 431-445. doi:10.1177/1534650117731155