Browsing: body psychotherapy

Reflections

For much of my professional life, I have been fortunate to do work that I love; work that is profoundly meaningful to me, and that I consider to be “who I am” as much as it is “what I do”. Early in my career, that professional identity centered on being a somatic psychotherapy practitioner. Like many of the readers of Somatic Psychotherapy Today, my life has been enriched and forever transformed by my own experiences as a somatic psychotherapy client. As a therapist, I understood my clinical work as not just potentially “life-changing” for my clients, but “culture-changing” as well. I lived and breathed the work, and brought a somatic perspective to my whole life – how I moved, how I interacted with others, and how I understood the world.

Later in my professional life, I had the opportunity to broaden my focus to include teaching somatic psychotherapy graduate students and conducting research into the various ways a somatic perspective might inform a range of topics – for example, working with trauma survivors, integrating somatics and the expressive arts, and transforming the process of teaching and learning. So now when people ask me what I do for a living, I am much more likely to describe myself as a somatic scholar/activist than a somatic psychotherapist. This shift in professional identity is important in understanding how and why I came to write Embodied Social Justice, because like my previous books (Elemental Movement, 2000; Knowing in our Bones, 2011), this book is based on original research. Although I have tried to write it in a way that engages and inspires readers, at its heart it is research document.

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People often find themselves stuck in emotional states where they feel unhappy, anxious or depressed. They know what they feel but they are unaware of their own behavioral patterns that keep them immobilized there. Over and over they focus on their frustrations; they wish things were different. They wait for the bad feeling to go away. The more they focus on their frustrations, however, the more they find themselves stuck. They ask themselves, “What in the world is going wrong? Why won’t it change?” They continually repeat the same behaviors with the same results. For me, I ask, “Who’ calling the shots?”

Too often the answer is the neurology and hormonal chemistry of a child or adolescent who did not get recognition, confirmation, or encouragement. This youngster did not have a parent or guardian who knew how to provide a healthy role model of how to handle difficult, compromising situations. These youths saw inappropriate models or none at all. They did not necessarily feel safe or protected. As a result, they developed coping mechanisms that were the best they could manage for their age, knowledge, and resources. Often these coping mechanisms were the same as those of the parent with whom they used to identify —their dominant role model. These patterns are evolved or are created during developmental times when intellectual ability is not fully developed, when knowledge of situations is limited, when freedom of choice is restricted, and when alternatives are not available. These coping mechanisms then generalized to other situations; as time went by, when challenging, threatening, or hurtful events presented themselves, these environmental stimuli triggered the learned psychophysical protective coping mechanisms from deep in the unconscious mind. Those somatic-emotional patterns habitually, and quite automatically, jumped out and took charge. Their familiarity overrode any conscious awareness of either their happening or their origin. One might even have an intellectual sense of this pattern but the pressure is on and when push comes to shove the patterns are reenacted without the ability to control them. Let me share some examples with you.

Currents

Addiction is rampant. Drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, shopping, food, social media, digital games, movies, whatever the ‘substance’ the effect is the same—numb out, dissociate, flee from the perception of pain (be it physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual). The number of people who are considered addicts has reached pandemic proportions—no one place, no one race, no one culture is free of this infectious disease.

But, is it a disease as many associations responsible for intervention state? Or is it a reflection of our inability to self and/or mutually regulate our affective state? Are these behaviors, labeled as addiction or addictive, are these monikers—addict, addicted— accurate? Or, do labels simply shadow deeper manifestations motivating people to reach for something to quell their emotional fluctuations, to smooth the ups and downs in their bodily being?

These questions and more are considered in our Winter issue. Our contributors share their thoughts on addiction, on behavioral patterns that become ‘stuck’, automated, reactionary in the face of overwhelm and affective arousal. Possible physiological causes are considered—think trauma and all that comes with that terminology—and potential interventions are pondered.

We invite you to read our articles and to respond to our authors.

Reviews

Written by Rae Johnson Reviewed by Nancy Eichhorn A story to start, to illustrate potent nuances that, without awareness, perpetuate inequality outside…
Currents

According to Serge Prengel, “The theme of the 2019 International Focusing Conference is about being human, just human. This is such a great theme. Why should we wait all this time to explore it? I suggest we just declare the conference open as of right now. And we start exploring this theme internally, in conversations with others, as well is in our communications through social media and otherwise. So, by the time of the conference, we will not be simply discovering the theme, but we will come to the conference already enriched and ready to go even deeper in our explorations.”

Reviews

I am, admittedly and unabashedly, enthusiastic about Stephen Porges’ work. I’ve attended his workshops, learned his process for measuring heart rate variability as an indicator of vagal tone, interviewed him for several articles published in this magazine, and have read his books and articles. This review is clearly biased. And with that said, I will offer my honest opinions and not side step points that for some may or may not be considered 100 percent positive.

For those new to Porges’ work, he is noted as the originator of the Polyvagal Theory (PVT), which is his perspective of how our autonomic nervous system, dependent on phylogenetic transitions/shifts that occurred between reptiles and mammals, resulted in specific adaptations in vagal pathways regulating the heart, which in turn impact our lives.

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My clients lie. Friends, family, colleagues, strangers, themselves, no one is excluded from their liar’s club, myself included. As the clinical director of an inpatient detox and rehabilitation center (addressing all forms of substance addiction), I was lied to by my clients so often I started to expect it. However, and this is even more important, I did accept it as a symptom of the disease called addiction.

After five years at the center I realized that dishonesty in general and manipulative behaviors in particular, especially when clients were still struggling with active addiction and frequent relapses, were not embedded in their personality or characteristics. Rather, they resulted from past experiences and how the addict viewed his/her problem and its solution. I believe that accepting such a point of view can help therapists improve their ability to handle their countertransference and enable them to remain compassionate even when confronted with their clients’ dishonesty.

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“Well, it’s done!” Bonnie said with a sideways glance, her eyes not quite meeting mine. A twist of her lips said, I survived, but barely.

Bonnie had come to see me shortly after A.H., her high school sweetheart and husband of more than a decade, told her he was moving out of their condo; he didn’t love her anymore. Within the throes of this shock and the stress of reordering her once familiar and stable life through a mediation process, Bonnie had been emotionally floundering.

“I didn’t lose it in the mediator’s office,” she said, recounting the ordeal. “But I’ve been crying ever since I left. I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that now we are legally separated.” She settled into the soft couch across from me, and reached for the box of tissues. “This has made my back ache worse; my whole body feels like it’s in a vice. And on top of that he’s not responding to any of my texts!”

Currents

What can the theory and practice of somatic/body psychotherapy, ecopsychology and Buddhism offer to each other?

For the past five years, Kamalamani has shared life and work at the confluence of these fields in her quarterly Bodywise articles for Somatic Psychotherapy Today, an independent international publication representing various modalities in body psychotherapy, somatic psychology, and pre-natal and perinatal psychology. This volume brings together these quarterly Bodywise articles. Kamalamani explores client work in embodied and relational ways, drawing upon her practice of Buddhism. With her characteristically warm, immediate, accessible tone, Kamalamani encourages personal reflection and professional consideration as she offers insights illuminated by traditional Buddhist texts along with personal and clinical anecdotes that range from birth to death, from meditating with character to Reich’s character structures, from trauma and terrorized bodies to diversity, embodied spirituality and pre-natal and peri-natal psychology.

Reviews

Trauma is pervasive in our lives, from smaller situations that trigger feelings of inability and fear to larger catastrophes that render our entire being useless as we careen out of control. Be it a result of human inflicted acts of violence—war, terrorism, genocide— or the result of natural occurrences such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and wild fires that leave us feeling victimized, isolated, abandoned, people walk through their lives numb to their reality. Their senses are overwhelmed; scenes flash in as if happening now, not then. People exist in the past as if it is the present. And when these people become our clients, when in fact these people are in part, ourselves, we, as therapists, need to offer hope and possibility to move from then to now, to live a better quality of life than what we are experiencing in the current moment.

But, how?