What is somatic psychology? is a question I am often asked. My mentors taught me the word soma is derived from Latin, meaning “a lived in, or an experienced body.” Meaning not only are we our physical anatomy, but we are also the experiences we have felt in our bodies. In a sense we are our own thoughts, our memories, our dreams, and physical activities we have engaged in over the course of our lives, our feelings about other people and ourselves, and the interaction of our body with our thoughts and actions. It’s a structure we can use to explore the mind-body connection.
An experiential workshop is known as “learning through reflection on doing”. Its an active learning style that is that is meant to teach to the individual’s unique perspective. There is literally no right or wrong way to discover what you feel during an experiential. We can utilize guided meditations, movement, art, or and begin to observe what thoughts, feelings or sensations we are having. This is a really fun way to let our bodies inform us and be our best teachers.
Many of us have heard the term psycho-somatic, which we tend to associate with a exaggerated attention to real, or made up illnesses or injuries a person is experiencing. There is a often a lot of negative tone when we hear psycho-somatic being used, as if it’s all “in the person’s head.” But take that judgemental way of looking at it out of the way, and many of us have heard “he is worrying himself sick,” or “she is a pain in my neck/ass,” “heartbroken,” or one of my favorites “I lost my voice” – like where did it go? These phrases are used to intuitively describe very real experiences we are often having in our day to day lives. This is the profound acknowledgment that not only are we feeling our emotions manifest physically in our bodies, but that our bodies are informing us as well.
This is especially helpful if it’s difficult to find the more obvious source of the dis-comfort. Its fairly easy to pinpoint where you picked up a bug, at the office or school, or from family. But when we have illnesses that seem to come out of nowhere or if we sustain an injury during a stressful period of life, it is easy to ask, “why does everything seem to happen at the same time?” So we must look beyond the physical. A greek pre-fix for the word “beyond” or “among” is meta. The metaphysical can be understood as “beyond the physical”. This gives us a lot of latitude in the search for deeper meanings or answers to our the ailments we sustain. A question I will often ask my clients when they have pain they can’t trace back to an injury or repetitive use, is “what is was happening in your life around the time the injury or pain occurred? More times than not, there was an event or stressful scenario that the person was also dealing or continuing to deal with. A classic example is whiplash from a car accident, often the pain doesn’t resolve until the case is fully settled. We have emotional relationships with our pain, it can make us angry, depressed, or act out. It would follow that if we are emotionally affected by our pain, why wouldn’t our emotional state have an effect on pain manifesting in our bodies?
We can use the diverse array of maps that have been designed throughout history and across cultures as a beginning. As knowledge of anatomy, cellular memory, energetic systems, and pathologies have increased, we can continue to add to the ever growing understanding of humanity. We can fully participate by tracking our own personal journey, for no map can tell us the story of ourselves. One of my favorite ways to facilitate this is The Legend of Your Body workshop.This is an informative, directed experiential workshop where we can discover the depth of our emotions and where they reside in our bodies. Once we can learn the tools to safely and compassionately observe our own stories, it becomes easier to see others with empathy, understanding, and expansive vision. The next one is coming up on February 18, 3-6pm, at the Yoga Abode in Ocean Beach. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to register. I hope to see you there!