Bodily maps of emotions by L. NUmmenmaa, E. Glerean, R.
Hari, J. Hietanen, published in PNAS
“Long-lasting responses to trauma result not simply from the experience of fear and helplessness but from how our bodies interpret those experiences.”
Talking about trauma doesn’t make it go away.
If you have been told that, you were sold a bill of goods.
Focusing solely on the story of how the trauma happened can actually be dangerous. You can re-trigger the trauma, flooding yourself with intense, overwhelming emotions. Even your biology can change – if you keep re-living the story, you will strengthen the neural circuits for the trauma, cementing the trauma experience in yourself. That is the opposite of what you want.
Research shows that strong emotions, old patterns, and trauma are held in the body. That means that to heal these old wounds you need to access body memories. Somatic therapy (soma means “of the body”) uses talk therapy, body awareness, and mindfulness to access deep emotional pain to provide lasting relief from the pain.
Somatic psychotherapy is grounded in neuroscience, how the body stores memories, and how to release the pain of those memories.
Experiencing emotions in the body is a universal experience. A study done in 2013 shows that no matter where you come from geographically, the felt sense of emotions is the same. “More than 700 participants in Finland, Sweden and Taiwan participated in experiments aimed at mapping their bodily sensations in connection with specific emotions.”
Emotions can trigger body sensations, and body sensations can also trigger emotions, creating a feedback loop. With somatic psychotherapy, we can access painful emotions through body sensation and interrupt that feedback loop, creating lasting change.
Sensorimotor psychotherapy has been developed and refined over the last 40 years by Pat Ogden, founder of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and co-founder of the Hakomi Institute. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy blends traditional talk therapy with a mind-body approach to effectively treat childhood trauma, neglect and abandonment that often lead to PTSD and complex PTSD.
“Sensorimotor Psychotherapy blends theory and technique from cognitive and dynamic therapy with straightforward somatic awareness and movement interventions… that promote empowerment and competency.”
~Dr. Dan Siegel, award-winning educator, researcher, and author
Great Books on Mind-Body Approaches
Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body, Reginald Ray
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, Peter Levine
The Body Remembers, Babette Rothschild
Articles on Somatic Psychotherapy in Trauma Treatment
“The Treatment of Structural Dissociation in Chronically Traumatized Patients Published in In Anstorp & Benum (2014). Trauma treatment in practice: complex trauma and dissociation. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.