The interface of psychotherapy and somatics
not try to forget the past; it is impossible to forget the past
without forgetting oneself at the same time. You may imagine that you
have forgotten one or another unwanted detail, but it is stamped in
some part of your body. Yet that past experience, awful as it may have
been, can be used now to make your present a vital basis for a fuller,
more absorbingly interesting future. When you have learned to accept
the past and you have made peace with it, then it will leave you in
peace." --Moshe Feldenkrais, The Potent Self
dance, and other body awareness methods can be an important part of
emotional healing. Trauma survivors can learn how to reduce stress,
improve negative self-image, and create more awareness of bodily
patterns around depression, anxiety, and anger. Body and mind are
systemically interwoven within our neural structure; they are not, and
have never been, separate.
The following articles are from Alan Fogel's Body Sense blog on Psychology Today and offer insight into why body centered approaches are increasingly coming into use in psychotherapy:
How the body remembers what the mind does not, and how that may affect recovery
If you are thinking about feeling, you don't know how you feel
Why we need embodied approaches to treat trauma
a pervasive or chronic discomfort or pain can't be traced to a
structural problem or the natural effects of aging, illness, or genetic
causes, it is sometimes linked to somatic (body/mind) states that
developed in response to overwhelming and/or traumatic events: abuse,
abandonment, accidents, crime, extensive medical procedures, the
effects of war or natural disasters.
events can lead you to develop patterns of holding and moving your
body in restricted ways to ward off any physical "reminder" of the
event or the psychological stress that resulted. If there is fear that
the emotions involved (anger, sadness, helplessness, a sense of loss
of identity) are too strong to safely contain, your body will often
take on the function of bracing or becoming rigid in order to "contain"
the emotions so that they don't "spill out". What's important to
remember is that the pain and rigidity serve a purpose which is
essentially self-protective. You wouldn't want to suddenly dismantle
all of the defenses that have protected you. It takes time and patience
to move through this process.
experience is not processed or stored in the same neural systems as
our everyday, non-overwhelming experience. As such, it can remain
"split off" from our cognitive process and resist our best attempts to
integrate it. When pieces of our past experience "pop" to the
surface, we may have flashbacks of sounds, smells, feelings, and
events that are not related to our current life. We may not have that
much cognitive or "thinking" control over the way we physiologically
respond to reminders of the original event.
is where I feel the practice of bodily awareness and some kind of
meditative process, learning how to stay with awareness no matter what
is happening, can be a vital part of healing. We may or may not be
able to completely defuse the triggers that cause us to move into
vigilance, because our response is not a cognitively mediated process.
We CAN learn how to rest with what is happening to the best of our
ability, which helps us assess whether or not a real threat exists. We
can learn how to comfort and soothe that part of ourselves, move out
of fear and go on living. Both meditation and Tara Approach techniques
are extremely helpful in this area.
Feelings arise in the body, and the body is a resource for healing
A raised shoulder or hunched back is not only a "postural"
difficulty that can cause physical pain. It is also a part of the image
of ourselves that lives within us. Holding ourselves this way could
reflect feelings of sadness, uncertainty, guardedness, or other feelings
that cannot directly be said to be "physical" problems. Emotional
experiences, memories, attitudes, and feelings have profound and lasting
effects upon the way we experience our bodies and the way we present
ourselves to others. And, because of the power of the body to affect the mind, our bodies are powerful resources for healing, freedom, and joy.
earned a degree in counseling, and have benefited greatly from talk
therapy. At the same time, I believe that it can be very difficult to
"think" feeling different, because feeling is feeling--it contains far more information than the simply cognitive.
Words alone often don't go directly to the heart of our experience.
When we incorporate bodily experience, art, writing and other processes
into healing, there are more doors through which healing can enter and
enrich us. We can gradually bring our lives back into a sense of
place and a feeling of peace and confidence. That is what
"integration" means, at least to me.
feelings originally arise in the body. Why is it called a "feeling"?
It's because you experience physical reactions to a situation prior to
having cognitive thoughts about it. You could call "feeling" the
preverbal, bodily experience before a label gets slapped onto it. You
feel something--then your brain thinks about it and gives it a
name--angry, mad, sad, scared, happy, etc. All of this happens very
quickly, of course, but that's how it works. In PTSD, your cognitive
mind might not even be able to understand or cogently think about
what's happening until later on. But you have a larger awareness that
you can tap into, one that doesn't need to "know" in order to be
innately good, innately healing, and powerful. In choosing healers to
work with, I encourage you to find those who you feel possess the
capacity and love for deep listening, reflection, change, and clarity.
consider issues such as body image, self-image, self-esteem, stress
relief, and other so-called psychological and psychosocial reasons to
be perfectly valid areas of exploration for body/mind work. We are
discovering the power and presence of awareness--presence--pure
Being--which permeates all aspects of your life whether you notice or
trauma survivors who come to see me possess enormous qualities of
resilience, reflection, determination, and courage. They have often done
extensive talk therapy and yet still feel that something is missing,
unclaimed, that they want back from their lives. Interestingly, the
process of healing I follow is, often, not a dramatic thing but a gentle
unfolding of a new life. Wakefulness and contentment, in its genuine
form, is a sweet and rather unspectacular thing, which can take some
getting used to.
Things can change. It takes time and patience and a lot of love. But they can, and do.