Image from Feldenkrais Institute
Today’s blog post could be the final one in this series meant to provide readers with a wide range of choices when it comes to accessing the wisdom of the body. As those of you who have been reading this series know, I believe different models are right for different times in our lives. In my own experience, the body gets “bored” with any one model. What was once provocative and moved us forward, no longer inspires the body. The organism is so adaptive it becomes dulled to the catalyst that once stirred it into absorbing new stimulus: into revealing the body’s wisdom.
When I first discovered Focusing, I had vivid imagery, unmistakable body shifts and clear messages. My early experiences amazed and excited me. They provided me with insights and directions for the rest of my life. Today, the messages are subtle and nuanced: not definitive and bold. I continue to Focus all day, every day, but I’ve never had those earth-shaking shifts and insights of the early days.
Recently, I knew I needed a new kind of bodywork. I’ll always be a Focuser and a yoga person, but I needed a new stimulus. That’s why I decided to try Feldenkreis. As Focusing, it’s uncontaminated by the therapist or teacher. It understands that the body holds our truth and that the body taps into a deeper knowing than we can access with our usual level of awareness.
In my next post, I’ll tell you what I’m learning about Feldenkreis.
When we’ve been traumatized by child abuse, we generally feel we’re the only person in the whole world to experience strange emotions and physical symptoms. I’m grateful to guest blogger, Cathy, for sharing her own somatic results of trauma.
Over the course of my 17 year journey in recovering from childhood trauma, I have come to understand that past trauma can manifest as physical sensations in the body (‘somatics’). Throughout my healing journey, I have regularly experienced physical sensations in my body and symbolic imagery in my mind’s eye. I now believe that these symbolic images are ‘messages’ from my subconscious mind (‘my depths’) to my conscious mind (‘my surface’) which help me to understand, comprehend, process and ultimately, to work through an aspect of my original trauma or a particular stage of my healing. My understanding is that these symbolic images in my mind’s eye are a bit similar to what happens during Focusing (www.focusing.org), where we’re able to get in touch with our own ‘felt sense’ or our innate, inner wisdom within our bodies.
Below is a summary of the somatic sensations and symbolic imagery that go with my own sense of the emotional pain and tension that I’ve experienced within my body over the years:
- A strong sense that there is a fist-sized boil in my heart area that needs to be lanced.
- Fantasising about using a large diameter drill to drill into the fist-sized boil in my heart area, releasing a huge spurt of pus that flies across the room, immediately releasing and freeing up the massive build-up of pressure, discomfort and pain in my heart area.
- Fantasising about lying on a table in an operating theatre in a hospital and having a surgeon cut open the area around my heart to surgically remove my emotional pain. My EMDR/trauma therapist told me that some of her clients had actually had body parts surgically removed due to a “persistent pain” in this area only to find that their “persistent [emotional] pain” returned to another area of their body post-surgery.
- Fantasising about a zip running down the centre of my chest that I can unzip to release a flock of doves out of my chest, allowing them to fly away freely off into the sky.
- Feeling as though I have a volcano inside my torso that is about to erupt.
- Seeing another adult me sitting within me, in the pit of my stomach, naked, in the snow, shivering, defenceless, cold, alone, isolated and desperately wanting to get out.
- Watching another me bending down to look into the shards of a broken mirror shattered all over the floor and seeing my fractured self reflected back at me from the many, many shards and fragments of broken mirror spread across the floor.
- Experiencing my own sense of internal fragmentation as: can you imagine that you’re staying at my house, you have a bag of belongings with you and your belongings are spread out all over my house, with at least one of your belongings in each room of my home? Then I say to you, “we have to leave in 30 seconds” and in response you experience a sense of panic as you attempt to collect all of your belongings from their sprawled out places all over my house in an instant. This is how I often feel, I need to ‘collect’ all of the different parts of myself to literally ‘bring or pull myself together’ before I get out of bed, begin a task or step out of my front door.
Over the course of my 17 years of therapy, particularly over the last 5 years as I’ve discovered and increasingly explored different body-centred healing modalities, such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), FasterEFT, reiki, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Network Chiropractics (www.reorganizational.org), I’ve progressively experienced more and more somatic releases (ie. expressing, ‘surfacing’ and releasing of my inner pain from within, out through my body). Here is a summary of the full range of somatic releases that I’ve experienced over the last five years of the emotional pain, terror and tension resulting from my childhood trauma that I have carried within my body/being/organism since the original trauma occurred:
- Burping – burps that come from deep within me, they almost have an old, musty book smell or quality to them, suggesting to me that they come from my past (not the present moment), sometimes my ‘trauma release burps’ demand my full attention, I have to drop everything, brace and prepare myself in order to allow them to surface.
- Sneezing – excessively loud and powerful sneezing, often demanding that my whole body gets involved in my sneeze. Did you know that our current tradition of saying “bless you” after someone sneezes originated from an ancient idea that we are releasing bad spirits when we sneeze? This makes perfect sense to me!
- Coughing – excessive, lung wrenching coughing for sustained periods occasionally during Network Chiropractic sessions, like a chain smoker, even though I’m not a smoker
- Stiffness in my jaw and aching and soreness in my face, particularly around my temples and behind my eyebrows
- Excessive stomach grumbling, gurgling and tingling
- Spontaneous full body shaking, jerking and tremouring (as per Traumatic Release Exercises, TRE, bercelifoundation.org)
- Contractions or tightening in one area of my body such as my heart area, almost like labour contractions, suggesting to me that something substantial wants to be ‘birthed’, or released from deep within
- Giggling and laughing
- Crying and sobbing
- Yawning and sighing
- Nausea and vomiting
- More frequent urination.
My Network Chiropractor informed me that the body’s capacity to suddenly and rapidly expel substances from our bodies is a primal fright or flight instinct, designed to ‘free up’ the body, to literally ‘lighten our body’s load’ in response to a life threatening event (or even an event that is ‘only’ perceived to be life threatening, consider a vulnerable, defenceless small child’s take on this!!), to allow our mind/body to focus it’s attention and energy exclusively on preparing for freeze or flight, similar to a pilot in a hot air balloon who decides to throw heavy objects overboard in the event of an unexpected descent.
Our mind-body system is endlessly fascinating to me. Through my somatic experiences, symbolic imagery and somatic releases, I’ve come to understand and know that our mind and body are intricately and completely linked.
Peter Levine has developed a healing technique called Somatic Experiencing (www.somaticexperiencing.com), he is also the author of a book called Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, a fascinating book about the phenomena of somatic experience.
The other day I was reading the obituaries in the newspaper. An elderly woman had died and her grandchildren were writing an essay to tell what they missed about her. I was interested in the fact that they especially missed her listening skills. Too often, the gift of a really good listener is underestimated.
How many of us ever get listened to by someone who has no agenda but simply wants to know what it’s like to be living in our skin: someone who isn’t just waiting for her turn to speak?
Would you like to be good listener, that rare being who knows how to listen in a way that allows the other person to figure out her life issues by herself? That happens if we honestly listen.
Here are the rules for empathic listening:
- Don’t try to “fix” the other person
- Don’t give advice
- Don’t ask questions
- Don’t tell your own similar story – or something you’re reminded of.
Strange as it may seem, when we truly listen to the other person, he or she finds her own uniquely right answers.
Greetings! I’m giving an Inner Child/Focusing Workshop. Read on for more information.
AN INTERNATIONAL FOCUSING GATHERING
Have you thought about learning to Focus but don’t know where to turn? Do you have young children in your life with whom you’d like to share this compassionate way of being with yourself and with others? Perhaps you’re a teacher of children. Are you aware that your own inner child holds untold joy, wisdom and much of your history? Read more