Don’t get your head stuck inside of a barrel

For once, my “don’t do this at home” advice isn’t based on my own experience.

At least not directly.

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Recently, I happened upon this scene at the Oregon Zoo.

Lion head in barrell

It wasn’t immediately obvious why the lion’s head was in the barrel or how it got there.

So I waited to see what would happen. Maybe the answers would reveal themselves.

Five minutes later, I started to wonder something else: will the lion ever get its head out?

That’s the thing about getting your head stuck inside of a barrel. It’s a vulnerable position. Your eyes can’t see what’s happening to your torso. And if someone or something decides to attack your skull, your arms and legs are powerless to stop it.

This is why most of us don’t voluntarily get our heads stuck inside of barrels.

We’re pretty smart about that.

But we’re not smart about everything body-related. All too often we forget that we even have bodies. Sure, we employ them for sports and sex. But otherwise our level of body intelligence is relatively low.

We might as well have our heads in a barrel.

One time years ago, I got steamed at someone for telling me “Amiel, you’re in your head.” What bothered me is that I like being in my head. It has served me well. And it has served our species well (for the most part).

What’s wrong with being in your head?

Nothing. But that wasn’t this person’s point. What she meant is that I was out of touch with my body. That I was speaking only from my head. And she was right.

How did I know this? Not long after, I was telling someone how frustrated I was about a particular aspect of my life. (OK, it was dating. You forced it out of me.) He said to me, “OK, how does this frustration show up in your body?”

I had no idea.

These days as a coach, I ask people the same question.

“How does this feeling show up in your body?”

Half the time, people have an answer. “Tight shoulders,” they reply. Or “my jaw is clenched” or “knots in my stomach.”

That’s a lot better than I used to be able to do.

But the other half of the time, people are as clueless as I was. They give me that sincere yet pained looked that says, “I have no f__ing idea what you are talking about.”

And for good reason. They’re not as connected with their bodies as they could be. Nor are most of us in modern western organizations. Bodies are a great source of wisdom, but you wouldn’t know this by studying the leadership literature or reading the list of competencies that companies consider significant. Emotions have broken into those clubs, but the body is still on the outside looking in.

Just like that lion at the Oregon Zoo.