Often when asked about the kind of work I do, my response of Somatic Psychotherapy is met with a curious look and the question…”What is that exactly?”.
This sends me on a long stumbling description about body awareness and the mind body connection.
I’m pretty certain the point I am trying to get across often gets lost in translation.
So this is my attempt at trying to describe some of my work, through the use of actual examples.
When I teach groups about somatic work, I like to start with the children’s book The Way I Feel. This book illustrates a different feeling on each page and a catchy poem to go with it. I invite folks to be the feeling on the page. For example, if it’s angry, make an angry face. See what angry feels like in your body. Do you feel tense or relaxed? Hot or cool? Where does anger live in your body?
Yes I know, this sounds a little silly, and perhaps childish. I see how uncomfortable this exercise can make people. My argument for that is, “Who is more present in their body and their immediate experience than a child?”
This is a concrete experiential way to discover the connection that emotions have with our bodies. No matter the feeling we are having, it is always living somewhere within our bodies as well as our minds.
I work with clients to help not only bring awareness to the places in the body where these feelings reside, but also learn ways to move and transform these feelings. The way this transpires varies from person to person.
Some people find sound and/or movement can help with this process. Maybe there is a phrase or word that also makes it’s home in this area of the body and feeling. Giving voice to this can help some people work with and through this feeling.
Perhaps there is a movement that your body wants to do. Maybe you feel afraid and you find your body wants to curl in on itself. Or your are angry and you want to hit or punch. I get curious about what happens if you allow yourself to curl up tighter. What happens to your fear? What if you punch a pillow or tear up a phonebook. Does your anger move and change?
Our bodies hold a font of information about our emotional landscape. I believe that by enlisting our bodies in our process we can more deeply heal and grow.
This is not a one size fits all method of psychotherapy. Nor is it the only method I use when working with people. It is however one of my core beliefs that our bodies are one of the richest sources of knowledge we can access to find out more about ourselves.
Emily Morrison is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Sonoma County California. She has a private practice in downtown Santa Rosa.
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