Somatic Psychology

Soma means BODY. We focus on the whole person. We believe that the body holds memory at the cellular level. Experiences in one’s lifetime contribute to whatever condition the body may find itself. Physical,rumi emotional, physiological, neurological, structural– the list is endless and I think you get the idea. From birth (perhaps even before) we experience and learn on many different levels, the body remembers and adapts.

Our bodies are a miraculous network of systems and information, an accumulation of everything we have ever known and experienced. Oftentimes we need to re-learn or to re-educate not only our minds, but our muscles and every cell in our bodies. The body knows. It seeks resonance, harmony, perfection and integration. In the field of Somatics, there are many unsung heroes, pioneers who from their own illness or dis-ease accomplished transformational healing and have established that experience as a science; based in phenomenology or more simply, the “lived experience”.

As practitioners, we help to uncover that intuitive self, we seek to reveal that “knowing” that is inherent in all of us. Who is this person, what is your story?  What cultural and family systems influenced who you are, how you are?  Where did you grow up, what was your environment?  What kind of foods did you eat and what role did that play in your family?  What injuries did you have; physically, emotionally, spiritually? What is your relationship with your family, your friends, your work, with everything in nature? How do you experience yourself in the world?  What kind of work have you done around core wounding and attachment?

I like to look at the terrain, both inside and outside. What does your map look like? How do you navigate your body in this milieu we call life? Metaphor is a powerful tool. Is food really love? Discovery and finding meaning and symbolism within our life experience helps us to understand and to strengthen who we are and how we flourish. We all have a linear time-line, but there is so much more. Let’s take a look and see how you got to this place. Let’s start digging, discovering the many levels of this magnificent person that you are.

This is the way to move toward healing and wholeness. Yes it takes some work and there is some pain before pleasure. Make friends with everything you are, embrace the dark side and reclaim your Self. Guess what…it is most definitely possible and I am here as proof. We are all on a journey and sometimes we need a little guidance. It is often said that everything we need to know is already within us.  I find that to be more true, every day, though for many years I had all kinds of reasons why that made no sense. Together we can reveal and heal that within. Your health and well being is your most valuable possession, guard it as if your life depended upon it !!

                                The Somatic Connection…..Memory at the Cellular Level                               by Suzy Karasik, MA Somatic Psychology, DCN, CMT, CIHP, CPD

Anyone who has explored personal growth has probably heard the phrase, “Everything that you need to know is already within you.” In the context of this book, Somatics is definitely worth examining! This isn’t rocket science although thorough investigation will lead you to Quantum Physics, Phenomenology, Systems Theory and the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, just to name a few. I offer a simple, brief introduction to SOMA (body) and how it relates to personal growth and self-awareness.

Have you ever observed an animal for any length of time? Dogs are constantly in the present, assessing the situation and using all of their senses that are keen beyond anything we can fathom. Mention something they know and their ears will perk up. Every bone and tissue in their body is called to attention, prepared and expecting it to appear. Their body lives that reality. However within seconds, if it does not appear or cannot be sensed, they are back in the present, totally immersed in the NOW.

sensesOur body is a portal to exploration and discovery of a knowing that truly is at the cellular level, and often without words. Have you ever smelled something that immediately transports you to your childhood and you instantly sense an experience or a loved one? Words are inadequate when trying to describe that experience. How do you witness that phenomena, is there an observer? Perhaps the way someone says something to you invokes a sense of the very core of who you are emotionally. Are you even aware that is happening?

In Somatic Psychology, not only do we ask you how that makes you feel, but where do you feel it? We might ask you to get up and engage your body in a movement that mimics exactly how your father walked, to speak a phrase exactly as he said it, using words known to all who experienced that environment. This facilitates an opening into your bodymind, your psyche, your subconscious and beyond. The power of positive thinking, what you anticipate you create, and now the wildly popular notion of The Law of Attraction as described in The Secret, these are all pieces of a very fascinating puzzle that is within.

Are you one of those people who can read a poem and be completely transformed, dropping into your senses and your body, simply by embodying those words? Our physical body has a character armoring molded through our experiences. Know thyself. Truly witnessing our own experience brings insight into the physiological, psychological, ethereal, chemical wonders of our body’s specialized systems that function as an integrated, interdependent whole. As a first person observer, through the senses, our body is experiencing itself, acting upon that feedback, self-organizing and self-regulating.

Proprioception (pronounced PRO-pree-o-SEP-shun); from Latinproprius, meaning “one’s own” and perception) is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body. Unlike the six exteroceptive senses (sight, taste, smell, touch, hearing, and balance) by which we perceive the outside world, and interoceptive senses, by which we perceive the pain and the stretching of internal organs, proprioception is a third distinct sensory modality that provides feedback solely on the status of the body internally. It is the sense that indicates whether the body is moving with required effort, as well as where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other. It is the ability to sense the position, location, orientation and movement of the body and its parts.

Insight into these concepts unlocks a world into many disciplines, for example that of Eco-Psychology and our bodies in relation to nature and Mother Earth in all her magnificence. Being IN your body is very empowering. That common sense of oneness and being a part of the whole is more easily attainable when we truly inhabit our bodies. We all talk about the concept of the external, being outside of ourselves, not realizing how we just drove to our destination. Where are you? Come inside to a rich somatic experience.

Wholistic health and the body, mind, spirit connection…. is now mainstream, yet only the tip of the iceberg. One cannot talk about Somatics without giving credit to the pioneers of this discipline; unsung heroes whose work lives on and gains more acceptance as we understand our magnificent bodies and that inner knowing that is critical to our own survival and self-healing.

My goal is to give you as many names, books and terms that I can squeeze into these few pages, so that you can do your own research and inhabit that which is uniquely YOU! I promise you that once you actually “get it” your experience of your body will never be the same. My introduction came from one of the best, Don Hanlon Johnson, Ph.D., a modern day pioneer in his own right who introduced Somatic practices and principles by teaching and writing of those who blazed the trail. Look for his books and the works of Thomas Hanna, Alexander Lowen, Bonnie Cohen, Marion Rosen, Charlotte Selver, Moshe Feldenkrais, FM Alexander, Ilsa Mittendorf and my all time favorite, Wilhelm Reich and his Bio-Energetics! Now there’s an exceptional human being whose teachings are yet to be appreciated but if incorporated, transform perception and presence.

So many, yet the names are practically unknown until you enter the world of those whose focus is simply to pay attention to how we eat, how we sit and stand, how we use our muscles and bones and even how we speak. To understand, or for many of us, to regain that intimate connection with our own bodily processes like breath, movement, balance and the senses, can literally be life changing. Some of these pioneers studied Gymnastik, a sort of “physical re-education” in Germany in the 1920’s. They experienced profound changes, migrated and began to teach others. What we have today are Somatic Practices like Authentic Movement, Sensory Awareness, Continuum, Alexander Technique, and Mittendorf Breathwork; the breath being one of the most powerful tools to our inner processes. And yes, even Yoga embodies many of the same concepts.

pertThe boundaries of Somatic understanding are limitless. Molecules of Emotion, by Candace Pert, PhD, is not only a compelling story of one woman’s trek through the good ole boy’s network of the National Institute of Health; it is her lived experience [through the filter of her scientific training] as she journeys into her own somatic reality. In the final chapters, she is having a somatic experience of the most genuine kind and with the luxury of understanding it at a psychoneuroimmunological level (a term credited to Dr. Robert Ader) or as she prefers to call it, psycho-immuno-endocrinology.

Psycho and neuro are practically synonymous and we know that our adrenal and immune systems (any of our systems) do not function independently. Published in the Journal of Immunology, she states that neuropeptides and their receptors thus join the brain, glands and immune system in a network of communication between brain and body, probably representing the chemical substrate of emotion. Here we find another piece of the puzzle.

What is this incredible body that we inhabit everyday and with very little knowledge of? Our body is sacred, a temple that when entered provides a sense of balance and is a metaphor for everything around us. We seek a state of optimal synergy, of maximum efficiency and minimal entropy. Sensory awareness is a source for defining information within and around us. Gaining appreciation for the functional nature of our skin, bones, organs and connective tissue, we find touch to be a very powerful tool for self-awareness. Manipulation of the fluids and tissue that fill all the spaces between our cells can bring clarity and a sense of consciousness.

The relationship between our habitual behavior and our chronic conditions offers another clue. We are a living system, growing and changing with the potential to have an enlightened sense of self. The road map is within. Knowledge of our body promotes understanding and the power to make wise choices because we live the experience and we know what works. Awaken your senses; come home to your body. Explore the bio-eco-somatic psychology of the marvelous manifestation of who you are, how you live and what that means for your body in this magnificent universe!