Did you know that sometimes the body can communicate much more clearly than the brain? The human brain is wired for survival which means that our thoughts tend to get stuck running repeatedly through the same neural pathways.
Once the brain identifies a pattern that is successful in keeping us alive, it sticks with it and creates shortcuts to help improve our chances of survival. These grooves or pathways become deeply entrenched within our gray matter and then convert to default programming. This is a very efficient system for survival. But given that the average human has about 60,000 thoughts a day, of these, 90% are recurring and of these recurring thoughts, 80% are negative – this is not so helpful for clear and innovative decision making, problem solving or general peacefulness.
Today, with endless doom scrolling and constant connection to tragedy, horror and disaster via technology, fear, anxiety and stress levels are at an all-time high. This enhanced and constant state of threat activates the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for survival and instincts during fear response, which then results in a flight, fight or freeze state. The brain’s top priority is survival so when the amygdala is activated, the frontal cortex – the area of the brain responsible for reasoning and logic, all but shuts down so the brain can go all in on safety and survival.
Have you ever wondered why you sometimes just can’t get clarity when trying to make a brain-based decision? Maybe you feel like you're caught on the neverending hamster wheel of rumination and frustration? Many of us spend the majority of our days in a hypervigilant state of fear which means that the brain is physically incapable of developing a rational response.
Despite the impaired brain function, life goes on and decisions still need to be made but how can we do this when we spend most of our time in a flight, fight or freeze response?
Enter Somatic Therapy!
The brain is not the only genius in the human body – our organs, fascia and soft tissue have plenty of wisdom to impart to us if we’re open to listening. From the incredibly enlightening book, The Body Keeps the Score, “when our senses become muffled, we no longer feel alive…if you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations…you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings and yourself.”
So many of us are detached from our physical bodies, preferring to live in our heads. But if our brains aren’t functioning clearly, we won’t have much success with that model.
Scientific research has proven that our bodies hold data just as our brain does. So how do we communicate with our bodies? Start by paying attention to sensations.
Creating Somatic Awareness
To cultivate familiarity with somatic exploration, you can begin with a body scan (‘soma’ is defined as body, as distinct from the soul, mind or psyche).
Get Curious with Descriptive Language
Once you’re comfortable with identifying sensations in your body, experiment with descriptive language.
How to Use Somatic Experiencing in Decision Making
If you’re not making any progress intellectualizing an issue or decision, bring it into the body and see what happens!
Of course we can’t have somatic experiencing without bodily movement!
After connecting in with the body, can you sense how it wants to move? Does it want to stretch, sway slowly or gyrate wildly? Maybe you have the urge to shake out your hands like you would if they were wet, maybe you want to windshield wiper your ankles back and forth. Maybe your arms come overhead like a rainbow and arc back down to the floor. Maybe you want to twist and look over head each shoulder or slowly push away all that’s not meant for you. Stomping can be incredibly grounding and effective for transmuting anger and frustration. Can you take a bit of time today to give your body just two minutes of the movement it’s requesting?
Making time to consciously experience the body and listen to its messages can be life-changing. As someone who was previously pretty much entirely disconnected from my body for 30+ years, the revelation that I can communicate with it has been revolutionary for my healing and has opened up a world of knowledge and information I didn't even know was there.
This post just scratches the surface of somatic experiencing, but I hope that it provides a solid foundational template from which to start. I highly recommend checking out my somatic therapist Luis Mojica’s Instagram page, podcast and website for additional information regarding this beautiful work.
Have you experienced any kind of somatic therapy? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Do you have the capacity to receive AND hold on to what you think you want?
Let’s try it – how does it feel in your body to imagine inviting a loving, healthy relationship into your life?
Where do you feel this in your body? What sensations do you feel when you imagine this? How does it feel – expansive or constricting? Do you feel a sense of lightness at the prospect of sharing your life with a supportive partner, or does the thought of this agitate you because your nervous system is used to chaotic relationships? Did you have to self-soothe as a child so now the thought of living with someone else makes you anxious because you are truly most comfortable alone?
Tomorrow marks the Fall Equinox and signifies one of two days out of the year (the other being the Spring or 'Vernal' Equinox) when day and night are almost exactly equal lengths and the entire planet is most in balance.
Taking our queue from Nature's rhythms, this week is the optimal time to examine balance in our lives.