Human beings are tender creatures. We are born with our hearts open. And sometimes our open hearts encounter experiences that shatter us. Sometimes we encounter experiences that so violate our sense of safety, order, predictability and right that we feel utterly overwhelmed, unable to integrate and simply unable to go on as before, unable to bear reality.
We have come to call these shattering experiences trauma. None of us is immune.
~David Emmerson & Elizabeth Hopper
I’ve recently completed my training in Somatic Experiencing (SE) and bring it into sessions, incorporating this approach with the work I offer.
The body is our vehicle for experiencing the world but we are often disconnected from it’s experience through a lifetime of hurts, bracing against the fear of the intensity of feeling. When we open to feeling from inside the body, to our lived experience- “the withness of the body”- not as an object, but something we are, we reinhabit the space from our skin deep into our viscera, down to the bones.
Bessel van der Kolk's book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” was the first thing I read as Covid brought life to a halt. How the body holds our life experiences & ways of releasing them were already part of my focus; I’d begun the Somatic Experiencing training that January. As a bodyworker, untangling what lives on in the body is a substantive part of my work as the stresses, the strains, trauma– with a big “T” or a little “t”- separate us from our whole self.
But as Gabor Maté says, “Trauma isn’t what happened to you, it’s the interpretation,
what happens inside us as a result of what happened, that gets embedded in the nervous system as emotional memory.”
The work of van der Kolk, Gabor Maté, Stephen Porges’s Polyvagal theory, & Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing all address the myriad ways these wounds reside in our bodies, live on in our nervous system and how we can heal. What they agree on is that healing, that transformation, cannot be effected solely through the mind, but impacts most meaningfully with the body.
It's in the body we must feel the sensation of being assuaged from the stress. Then the brain, no longer managing the stress on its own, can receive the message, turning off the alarm system. Somatic Experiencing works with this bottom-up approach, by soothing the body, we soothe the nervous system.
SE reconnects us to the body as a container to find safety and regulation, developing a sense of grounding and centering there. This may sound very similar to Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. What opens in a BCST session is actually what led me to study SE and I’ve found it’s a powerful adjunct to what arises, offering a framework with the language and tools to guide my clients safely, gently & slowly into what opens for them in a session.
If you’re not familiar with SE, simply put, it offers a way to become comfortable with discomfort by paying attention to the physical sensations in the body. You slow down, attune, and notice these sensations and learn to let your nervous system release high levels of activation in a slow, careful pace that is unique to each person. Through SE’s gentle, body-based approach to healing the stress, shock or trauma bound up in our bodies and nervous system, one creates new experiences in the body; ones that contradict those of tension and overwhelm, allowing the body to release what is held and restore itself to a new balance & ease.
My curiosity to understand the complexity of how we humans work leads me to continually explore how intricately the body is connected in all ways—emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually. They influence each other. When our body is physically impaired, it affects the other aspects as well. Bodywork helps resolve many layers of pent up restrictions and combined with Somatic Experiencing offers a way to delve deeper into the body’s holding patterns, to break them loose, enhancing the benefits of the session work.
photographer Jan Kriwol and CGI artist Markos Kay
Bodily knowing works implicitly. Embodiment attunes us to that knowing, awakening our “inner ear” into the body’s experience through attuning our awareness to internal sensation, to our visceral interoception. What is learned by the body— a somatic, physical knowing- is not something one has or can present, but something one is.
Untangling those patterns imprinted on our psyches and expressed through our bodies, integrating and awakening what pain, and protection from pain has cut off, numbed or disconnected, returns us to our wholeness in the present moment, instead of caught in an eternal past.
I invite you to join me in this deeper exploration of your physical and mental wellness and how they impact each other. While we work together on your body, I may ask you questions or direct your attention to the internal physical experience. My goal, as always, is to improve your wellbeing.
Please know that this is truly an invitation—you can say no, it is totally your choice and option. I wanted you to know that this deeper work is available to you, if you are interested and want to explore it.