Somantic body therapy

Somatic body therapy

‘Here I look to explore the question… what is somatic body therapy? It’s’ not all in your head — your body holds on to memories too; of experiences, of trauma, of difficult situations, of fear, of defences. Somatic body therapy can help gain an understanding, help you develop a language for it, connect with feelings, make sense of what you are experiencing & can help release. I also believe that real shifts & change come from using body sensations & the discomfort we feel & don’t want to feel. Somatic psychotherapy is an umbrella term for therapies that centre on the mind-body connection. The term “somatic” means “relating to the body.” And although treating the mind-body connection is a relatively new concept in Western medicine (in the West, the mind & body are often treated separately), this concept has long been recognised in Eastern medicine & philosophies. So for this I believe East is best 🙂

More than just the visual memory

Somatic therapy is rooted in somatic psychology, a body-oriented approach to psychology. Somatic therapies work by addressing the feedback loop that continually runs between the mind and the body. Somatic therapy is different from typical talk therapy. In regular psychotherapy, the practitioner engages only the mind. In somatic therapy, the body is the foundational point for healing. I also believe that when only using the mind & visual memories, we can only go so far in therapy. Of course talking therapy is super useful, it’s just we’re potentially missing out on a ton of useful & important information. The pace at which you access this is also incredibly important, for some people going too fast too soon can be over-whelming. Especially if it’s been important for somebody to not feel their body & to disconnect or disassociate.

Pain in the bum!

I regularly think about the true nature of phrases such as pain in the neck, carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders, touched a nerve, heart broken, pain in the bum! If you really think about these in a literal sense what comes up for you?

Suppressing or boxing off

It may also be that our defence mechanisms or childhood messages & beliefs have meant that we are unable to process experiences or emotions & in which case the likelihood is that these are then suppressed & pushed down or boxed off. And here’s the thing, they don’t just go anywhere, they are tangible. And there is only so long that we can ignore & suppress before it or they leak out inadvertently, which can feel really distressing. These negative emotions can also turn into psychological disorders or physical problems, such as neck or back pain. Chronic pain is very common among people who’ve been diagnosed with PTSD. So not only can our mental health be affected, it’s also our physical health. Additionally stored trauma memories in the body can be reactivated during familiar or stressful experiences, with ‘old data’ ruling the show & most likely triggering a fear & or a survival response.

So how do these emotions get caught in the body?

After a traumatic event, the nervous system can get stuck in survival mode. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, are continually released, leading to an increase in blood sugar and blood pressure, which can weaken the immune system. When the body is under this level of constant stress, physical symptoms begin to emerge. In addition, some of our bad experiences can produce deeply rooted beliefs that our conscious minds can’t even access. These might include negative or unhelpful thoughts, like “I’m a bad person” or “I’ll never be successful.”

Techniques for somatic body therapy

One way I use to understand the body memory is to describe the sensation or experience through giving it a size, shape, colour, consistency etc plus putting words & emotions it. Then perhaps thinking back or looking back to see ‘what’s back there’. For some clients this can feel too much too soon, so this is about acknowledging the ‘window of tolerance’. Techniques I offer to clients for somatic release are for example breathing exercises, body tapping, body brushing, meditation, cold showers & other forms of body movement. All of which are non-touch, it is the client who is doing the technique on themselves. Emotional regulation techniques I favour using the body are body scanning, light streaming & calm place. These are often really important to use alongside therapy when going near ‘stuff’.

What would it be like to understand our bodies in a different way?

Our bodies are constantly trying to give us clues & information. If we were to learn what it is & to differentiate from ‘reactions based on old data’ & ‘true intuition’ we could access a whole load of valuable information we haven’t accessed before & also be able to break free from old unhelpful patterns.