Feeling Your Way Through

creative feeling somatics Oct 19, 2017

If you’re a “talk therapist” like me, you’re used to knowing a client mainly through their story: what they talk about. This typically includes a developmental history, significant life events, and key relationships, all within the context of symptoms from which the client wants relief. But this isn’t the only way to proceed.

I trained in Somatic Experiencing, an approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine to address trauma. Somatic Experiencing sets aside the story to work instead on felt sensation in the body. By setting aside the narrative, clients are able to work their way through trauma by feeling their way through it - noticing sensations that arise, developing the capacity to contain them, and allowing them to resolve.

While Somatic Experiencing is primarily associated with trauma treatment, I use SE skills to work with clients addressing anxiety and other states of “over-activation,” including irritability, anger, and chronic pain. You can try it right now through a simple skill called “pendulation.”

Notice a part of your body that feels a little more charged (activated). Stay with the sensation for a while. Now bring your attention to another part of your body that is less charged, more settled. Stay there for a while. Now move your attention gently back and forth from the more activated place to the place that is less so. What do you notice now?

Somatic skills help clients get back in touch with their feeling states by recognizing their range and intensity, identifying finer distinctions between them, and gently supporting their resolution. Clients become more fully embodied, better able to be with (that is, tolerate) the wide range of feeling states that come with being human.

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