Somatic Intelligence: Learning How the Body Stores Trauma and Emotion

physical body. This is because it is not so easily explained. The mind- body connection is not causal or linear, meaning there isn’t always a clear antecedent and we cannot say with certainty which came first in the sequence. In addition, there is often a delay between an anteced- ent and a response, making it difficult to say with certainty whether or not they are related. With that said, I have observed certain patterns with enough con- sistency over time to be able to give a general overview of how the body processes an emotional experience. For the sake of teaching, imagine that the chain of events looks like this (see Figure 1):


Every single cell in your body is doing two essential things: It is listening and it is responding. ~ Richard Rudd, The Gene Keys Early on in my career, I had a patient who received treatment from me for debilitating hip and low back pain. It was obvious to me that these regions of her body carried dormant emotional pain, which contributed to her physical pain. Yet, anytime we would discuss the connection of her physical symptoms to possible emotional stress, she would deny the correlation and tell me she does not believe the body holds memory and emotion. Our sessions felt limited by her beliefs, yet as a young therapist, I continued to treat her physical body for as long as I could until her progress hit a wall and she discontinued treatment. Fast-forward a decade later, I operate my practice very differently. I educate my patients on how the body stores trauma and emotion from day one. If I get a response like the one above, I gently inform the patient I am not a good fit for them and I refer them to another therapist. Fortunately, most of the people who are referred to me are see- ing me specifically because I understand how their emotional history contributes to their physical symptoms. This is partly because I am teaching and writing more, but it is mostly because our society can no longer afford to deny how our emotions affect our physical health and vice-versa. Despite our willingness to accept that emotions and phys - ical symptoms are connected, most of us do not fully understand why or how. Until we are able to fully understand it, many of us will con- tinue to ignore the body’s subtle cues until they become debilitating. My courses and workshops teach people how to listen to and in - terpret the language of the body in order to address the underlying causes of their pain and dysfunction. The body’s subtle cues are of - ten overshadowed by salient pain symptoms. It requires a multi-step process to peel back the pain symptoms in order to get to the more subtle cues. I outline this multi-step process in the Four Quadrants of Embodiment , which I teach to clients and therapists who are ready to learn this work. The process of speaking the body’s language is often referred to as Somatics , or Somatic Intelligence . The term Somatics was first de - fined by Thomas Hanna in the mid-1970’s. At this time, his work was focused on how the soma , or body, perceived sensory experiences, and how the body expresses those experiences, particularly in movement or lack thereof. The field of Somatics has gained momentum in the past 5 years, as many mental health therapists begin to specialize in fields such as Somatic Experiencing and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Books like The Body Keeps Score by Bessel van der Kolk and It Didn’t Start with You by Mark Wolynn bring awareness to how our behaviors and emo - tions are a result of dormant memories or intergenerational trauma within our physical body. Books like Understanding the Messages of the Body by Jean-Pierre Barral and Molecules of Emotion by Candace Pert explain how the physical body can create our perception of emo- tions. There are hundreds of books bringing awareness to the connection between our emotions and our physical symptoms. Yet, many of these books fail to explain why our body holds emotion or how it affects our

Figure 1

1.) Our sensory input triggers a cellular response. ➜ 2.) A cellular response releases neuropeptides. ➜ 3.) Neuropeptides change our emotions. ➜ 4.) Our emotions change our behavior. ➜ 5.) Our behavior changes how our body feels. ➜ 6.) How our body feels changes our posture. ➜ 7.) Our posture shifts our perspective on the environment. ➜ 8.) Our perspective deter - mines what sensory input we take in. When it comes to what causes the body to store emotion, it often becomes a “chicken or the egg” conversation. Let’s start from the be - ginning of this chain reaction by analyzing how sensations can cause the body to store emotion. Sensations come from our external environment, but how our cells perceive them have everything to do with our epigenetic history, cultural influences, neurosensory processing, cellular and systemic health, and trauma history. Something as simple as the smell of jas- mine tea can trigger an adaptive cellular response in one individual, while sending another individual into complete cellular chaos. We can use sensory stimuli to change our behavior or body sensations; but if our cells are in dysfunction due to one of the aforementioned influences, then we must start with addressing these barriers first. Working with an integrative doctor and nutritionist to figure out which cellular systems are in dysfunction is often the first step. There are many products on the market that support health on the cellu- lar level by decreasing inflammation, lowering oxidative stress, and balancing the nervous system. Some of these products include CBD

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PATHWAYS—Spring 23—11

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