Many of us – especially of collectivist cultural upbringings – carry a lot of stress in our bodies. We hold back. Bite our tongues. Shape-shift depending on context. On purpose and unconsciously.
Code-switching involves somatic habits. Of course, we tense our bodies to do so. Similarly, we change posture, tone of voice, language and more…
Instead, you feel tension in your body, and inexplicable pain at times. You’re often anxious and stressed. Exhausted. Burnt out. Overwhelmed.
However, such habits often lead to unsatisfying relationships and difficulties as an adult, especially navigating an individualistic society, like the US. You may feel that you’ve done everything ‘right.’ Despite following the rules, you feel unfulfilled. Maybe dissatisfied and wondering why. Regardless of your successes, and perhaps you also minimize those.
“The body does not lie. You cannot fake the sensation of true pleasure. You cannot trick your body into believing that you are safe. Your body knows what it feels, and it feels what it feels for a reason. The body does not easily bypass its feelings or reactions quite like the mind is sometimes capable of doing. The body is much harder to distract from or gaslight when it is feeling overwhelmed.”
—Jenny T. Wang, PhD, author of Permission To Come Home
How somatic therapy works:
Have you ever had a whole conversation without even saying a word?
Somatic therapy can teach you how to respond to your body’s signals. Ignoring your body’s alarm bells can be highly stressful.
Using present-moment awareness, such patterns in your body can be attended to. Gentle attention invites the body’s habits to reset and transform from the inside-out.
We live in a society that privileges the brain and intellect. In fact, there are actually fewer (top-down) signals from the brain to the body. Therefore, why somatic therapy can be so effective. With awareness, the body gently unwinds. Relaxes. Finds easier ways.
Changes at the somatic level can shift habitual thought patterns, behaviors and responses to stress.
By and large, somatic therapy can even shift how you understand past events. Positive elements of experiences will resurface, while unpleasant aspects shift into the background. Surprisingly, you will gain new insights about yourself. Make new connections. Furthermore, you may find yourself sharing different stories… because you’ll reclaim your narrative from empowered and resilient perspectives.
Frequently, chronic stress is the culprit.
Somatic therapy will introduce breathing patterns, invite movement and subtle posture changes, engage your imagination as well as all of your senses.
Somatic tools and practices will be developed in sessions, and then you’ll experiment with them day-to-day. In time, you will learn to connect with your body more. In turn, you may uncover hidden needs and impulses. By listening in deeply, you will discover alternatives. New options, perspectives and behaviors will come available.
Various themes will require time and space for close examination. Eventually, you’ll feel happier from taking better care of yourself. In time, you will learn to trust the wisdom of living in heartfelt alignment, body and mind.
In sum, somatic therapy leads to feeling more like an active agent in your life choices. Empowerment and greater vitality. Increased resilience. Freedom and excitement. Exuberant joy. Liberation.
“I know what it means to feel invisible. To be picked on, bullied, misunderstood, and dismissed. But when… called me out on my anger, it was clear that she saw me in a way that I wasn’t particularly interested in being seen. She helped me to realize that my anger could be a powerful force for good. She had called my rage eloquent. Clear. Expressive. To the point. In her estimation, it had made me a good teacher, and it had inspired her and other students.”
—Brittney Cooper, PhD, author of Eloquent Rage
A very brief history of Somatics…
Body and mind are an integrated experience.
“Emotions, memories, values, outside demands, internal expectations, environmental conditions and social norms almost always have a perceptible bodily dimension. For example, integrity might be experienced as warmth in the heart or lengthening of the spine; internalized social norms might manifest as immobilized muscles or a lump in the gut. Encouraging learners to ask themselves where these features of the experience live in their bodies can give voice to hidden dimensions and suggest new pathways for change.”
—Rae Johnson, PhD, RSMT, Embodied Social Justice