Somatic body psychology is the science of the body ‘soma’ that focuses on our inner relationship between psychological symptoms and physical states. Somatic therapies utilizes numerous holistic, alternative and experiential approaches to help clients understand their ‘bodily’ experiences and connect with their inner truth.
Soma is also the home of most repressed and un-integrated trauma. Safety allows that which wants to be known and voiced to surface from the depths of psyche’s underworld to be processed and integrated.
While body psychology has been around for hundreds of years and is widely practiced in Europe, only recently has their been serious interest in somatic body psychology in the United States, due to major advances in neuroscience and fMRI imagery brain mapping capabilities.
Somatic body psychology consists of various holistic and alternative therapeutic approaches, which serve to integrate the way body and mind connect and interrelate. It is our adverse behavioral issues, belief patterns, projections, communication challenges and fears that hold us back in life, which are housed deep within the underworld of our unconscious psyche.
Somatic psychotherapy utilizes a “bottom up” rather than “top down” approach. For instance cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is a classic example of a “top down” approach. CBT works with our cognition’s and the so called “thinking brain” to instill behavioral change. Top down approaches such as CBT rarely involve the body and the nervous system, and if so only minimally, if at all. In comparison somatic body therapies utilize a “bottom up” approach, which assists the nervous system in feeling safe enough to alter how the autonomic nervous system functions and discharges trauma. This safety and calming of the nervous system physiologically reduces stress and anxiety.
How Somatic Body-based Therapies Work
Mind and body are intimately interconnected. Somatic Practices engage the body and bodily processes such as breathing, muscular tensions and posture, patterns of movement, facial expressions, quality of emotions, neurobiological stimulation, touch, hearing, smell and vision.
Re-connection with our body and development of greater self-awareness facilitates and bridges the gap between the ‘ego-based’ conscious, and the ‘psyche-based’ unconscious. The majority of our behavior, decision making and thought processing originate from the unconscious psyche. One cannot heal the unconscious psyche through the conscious ego. Greater body awareness allows for re-connection with our natural instincts and intuition, which in turn opens the proverbial gateway to access hidden truths, separate fact from fiction, and allows for unity with the authentic self.
When we experience trauma, the body freezes in time and gets stuck in a highly activated state. This activated state of mind does not allow the body and brain to process and integrate trauma from a neurobiological and neurophysiological perspective. This incomplete process is a primary reason of why we carry past trauma into our present life, and allow old wounds to become triggers, which infiltrate our present life
Awareness of bodily sensations, or ‘interoception’ allows us to reestablish the body’s natural rhythm and recover inner regulation and wholeness. This process facilitates the integration of unresolved trauma, and returns us to an empowered state that includes inner harmony, greater access to empathy, compassion and forgiveness.
The human brain didn’t evolve for rationality. Our brain did not evolve so we could think or perceive the world accurately. Our brain didn’t even evolve for us to see, hear or feel. The human brain evolved to better regulate our bodies so we could function in the world more efficiently.
The core task of the human brain is to be of service to the body for allostasis, or regulation of the body’s internal systems, through anticipation of our needs and then satisfying those needs before they arise. Interoception is our brain’s representation of sensations coming from our body, or the sensory consequence of this process. Self-awareness and interoception are central to every sensation we feel and our thoughts, emotions, decision making ability and our sense of self.
Benefits of Somatic Body-based Therapies
- Supports being more present in our lives, which supports authentic expression.
- Helps us to feel safe in our body and in the world.
- Increases our ability to expand our range of emotions. Through increased self-awareness we learn to distinguish the various qualities of feelings and emotions, which helps develop our self-understanding and expression.
- Increases our awareness of new ways of behaving and transforms our way of being with self and in the world, as our relationship with self improves.
- Increases our self-regulation ability, which allows us to slow down our thoughts and connect with our inner experience. Self-regulation is a muscle that needs to be strengthened for the development of resilience.
- Increases our capacity for empathy, patience, compassion, connection, love, understanding and spiritual exploration.
Components of Somatic Body-based Therapies
Embodiment: This is the process of interoception or knowing what we feel in any given moment, and what it feels like to be “in our bodies”. Interoception includes sensations like pain, fear, anxiety, sadness, and withdrawal from addiction.
Felt Sense: These are internal sensations of movement within the body, which are often conveyed through images, metaphors, thoughts, revelations.
Conscious Body Awareness: Research has shown that from a neurobiological perspective increased bodily awareness equally increases neurological sensory awareness. The sensory awareness of muscles we use goes hand in hand with voluntary motor control of those muscles.
Sensory Movement Amnesia (SMA): There is a direct relationship between chronic bodily pain and stress. SMA is a neurobiological condition in which the brain and body forget how to work in sync. What ends up happening is that certain muscles are overworked through constantly being contracted. These muscles do not receive the electrical signal that they can rest and are no longer needed. Constant contraction produces excess lactic acid, sore muscles and chronic pain.
Somatic Body-based Therapies
- Attachment Theory
- Affect Regulation
- Mindfulness-based Practices
- Gestalt Therapy
- Depth Psychology
- Object Relations
- Character Analysis
- Mandala-art Therapy
- Movement & Dance
- Meditation Practices
- Focusing & Tracking
- Hakomi Therapy
- NeuroAffective Touch