Published by Brazos Press on October 12, 2021
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Many of us have a complicated relationship with our body.
Maybe you've been made to feel ashamed of your body or like it isn't good enough. Maybe your body is riddled with stress, pain, or the effects of trauma. Maybe you think of your body as an accessory to what you believe you really are--your mind. Maybe your experiences with racism, sexism, ableism, heterosexism, ageism, or sizeism have made you believe your body isn't the right kind of body. Whatever the reason, many of us don't feel at home in our bodies. But being disconnected from ourselves as bodies means being disconnected from truly living and from the interconnection that weaves us all together.
Psychologist and award-winning researcher Hillary McBride explores the broken and unhealthy ideas we have inherited about our body. Embodiment is the way we are in the world, and our embodiment is heavily influenced by who we have been allowed to be. McBride shows that many of us feel disembodied due to colonization, racism, sexism, and patriarchy--destructive systems that rank certain bodies as less valuable, beautiful, or human than others. Embracing our embodiment can liberate us from these systems. As we come to understand the world around us and the stories we've been told, we see that our perspective of reality often limits how we see and experience ourselves, each other, and what we believe is Sacred. Instead of the body being a problem to overcome, our bodies can be the very place where we feel most alive, the seat of our spirituality and our wisdom.
The Wisdom of Your Body offers a compassionate, healthy, and holistic perspective on embodied living. Weaving together illuminating research, stories from her work as a therapist, and deeply personal narratives of healing from a life-threatening eating disorder, a near-fatal car accident, and chronic pain, McBride invites us to reclaim the wisdom of the body and to experience the wholeness that has been there all along. End-of-chapter questions and practices are included.
I don’t think that I really understood the way in which some forms of Christianity and some aspects of culture take a low of the human body until I read this book. It’s something that should maybe be obvious, with culture’s obsession over the perfect look, or with Christianity’s obsession with the “glorified body” of the eternal state, but The Wisdom of Your Body really presented the problem and offered the solution with a clarity I hadn’t perceived before.
Because of this, Hillary McBride’s chapter on how we become disembodied is the one that stood out to me the most. She systematically works her way through the common untruths that are spoken by culture and shows how so many facets of life can lead to this sense of disembodiment. I think within that scope everyone can find at least some point at which they struggle to some extent, which brings people together as they realize that disembodiment is not a problem for someone else but is, in fact, a common part of the human condition. We often don’t feel at home in our bodies.
With the stage set, The Wisdom of Your Body then turns to how to change that. McBride talks about the influencing factors of stress and trauma. She encourages us to connect with our feelings. The chapter on pain, illness, and injury is transformative for those with any form of disability. She isn’t afraid to wade into issues of politics and oppression, writing about how skin color, sexual orientation, and disability have been—the nature of the body—has been used to oppress and demean. There’s a chapter on sexuality and its role in embodiment. From beginning to end, from multiple angles and perspectives, The Wisdom of Your Body manifests a deep understanding of physical humanness in all its diversity and nuance. Whatever brought you to this book—for whatever reason you’re seeking, as the subtitle says, “healing, wholeness, and connection through embodied living”—The Wisdom of Your Body ensures that you are seen.
Every chapter of this book gave me a different perspective to look through and different questions to consider. Each chapter ends with a practical bullet-point list of things to think about and things to try. For example, in “The Body and Oppression,” McBride encourages readers to think about what kind of bodies they have been taught to perceive as “other” and gives specific book recommendations to read. Way more than just theory, The Wisdom of Your Body shows a therapist’s practicality by giving clear, actionable items to do or consider.
McBride also offers just enough of herself to be personal and personable. This isn’t a diagnostic manual or a textbook, it’s a personal conversation of how ordinary people encounter these struggles. And when McBride’s personal experience doesn’t apply, she offers the stories of others whose experiences do in order to keep the tone and the understanding that we are not alone, whatever it is we might be facing.
The Wisdom of Your Body is introspective and educational. Hillary McBride writes with clarity and precision, pinpointing the problem and offering incisive and practical solutions. Now, overcoming feelings of disembodiment can’t happen entirely with a book. I’m aware of that. McBride is aware of that. But as I read, I just kept thinking of other people reading this and feeling seen and understood for the first time.
I’m a white male who has always felt comfortable in his body. I haven’t had the experience of disembodiment personally to the extent that many people have. This book gave me the perspective I needed as a pastor to help those in my congregation. It helped me as a friend understand some of the things they are going through and what I can do—and what I need to not do—to help them. It helped me as a parent think about the influences my children are going to come across in their lives. It really is a revolutionary book. “Embodied living” as a concept has been sort of trendy, but The Wisdom of Your Body proves that it’s more than just a fad and is instead, a pathway into human flourishing.