Physical pain is many times related to the emotional pain, stress and pressures that people are subjected to today. Somatic therapy helps to understand the connection between body, mind and emotions. Somatic psychotherapy focuses on tuning in to what the body has to say, rather than whatever “logical” explanation the mind invents.
The word ‘somatic’ is derived from the Greek word “soma” which means “living body”, in somatic therapy, the physical body is seen as a valuable guide, an ally on the path to mental health and healing. . if we learn to listen, learn from it and what it tells us.
Somatic therapy tries to get closer to someone through their body. Our bodies are like our last journey or death : they have been here since birth. They are there until our death. The body knows everything that has happened to us. It is really a way of approaching the being of a person by having a conversation with the body.
When we are in our brains, our logical minds can get very confused very quickly, and we try to make sense of things, and it can become very stressful. When you begin to communicate the information you have to the body, it is true in a way that cleanses the air in the room. The body can harness the gut instinct to its advantage.
Physical movement in somatic therapy
When you have adrenaline in your system, your body has to process it. We don’t do enough of that in our society . When we get stressed, we tend to hold it back, and then we go to coffee, alcohol, social media, or whatever we use to feel better. But that cortisol, that adrenaline, remains in our system and the only way to release it is through movement, just like lionesses do with wrestling.
You could see the fight of the lionesses as a form of somatic therapy. The things we used to do primitively to escape a threat include running, climbing, jumping, swimming, shaking, dancing – all kinds of movement help to complete that stress response , to overcome it . Otherwise it is stored somewhere.
What happens when we experience stress responses?
Our nervous system doesn’t really know the difference between “it’s a bear that wants to eat me” or “I can’t pay my rent this month” or “this person needs an answer within an hour.” You don’t necessarily know the difference and treat everything the same.
You can have a significant stress response about things that are not critical to survival, for example, when a loud noise makes your heart race or you receive an email that makes you break out in a cold sweat … even if there is no significant physical threat .
What does a somatic therapist do?
We consider someone, really listening to what a person has to say, looking at them, matching their tone of voice, it’s really about allowing someone to feel safe enough to explore their body .
Once they are in a place where they feel safe, they usually work sitting or lying down at a table. There is a practical component, made up of a little touch and slight movement. If you are stuck in a “freezing” state, then you are holding all of that, you need to move. Movement is the available resource. If you can’t turn your head to the right or to the left, you can’t say no, you can’t have a limit. These little things resonate.
What is a somatic therapy session like?
Security is provided so that there can be emotional healing. If we do not feel safe in the world, we cannot relate to another person, be it a friend, family member, lover, or therapist.
So if the client is experiencing anxiety , or is stressed or depressed, any of these emotions that we discuss in a clinical setting, it really comes down to being physiologically unsafe.
Generally, you start sitting and talking and then you start to have light touches. The client is invited to monitor his body, to observe how he feels, what he is noticing … all with specific questions. The body responds well to things like support , warmth, and softness.
Having those things offered is so simple, yet so profound. How often in someone’s life do you feel unsupported or warm from people or uncomfortable? If I can help their bodies to have that, it communicates to their body that it is possible and that they can find it within themselves; This is where the great transformations begin to take place.
Somatic therapy teaches you to listen to yourself. Everything we suppress is expressed. If we have a lot of anger and we repress it, it will escape us in our daily lives. There is a lot of freedom to “release”, and somatic therapy can help to access the places in the body where we cling to things and experience physical, mental and emotional discomfort or pain.