“There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
As a Somatic Psychotherapist, I’m usually asked what role the body plays in practicing therapy. Often, when thinking about sitting with a psychotherapist, most folks visualize someone lying on a couch, talking endlessly about childhood memories with no real awareness of anything happening below the neck. For me, the body holds a vast amount of experience, data about our world and how we perceive it. Did you know that as babies we learn tasks in our bodies like crawling or walking up to 9 months before we have a cognitive understanding of it? Furthermore, our bodies, our skin is the mediator to the world, how we sense and make sense of our place in it. All of this and much, much more happens in the body.
Don Johnson, a professor in grad school and the founder of the Somatics Department at CIIS, used to scream at the top of his lungs with his slender arms flailing wildly above his head, “WHERE IS THE BODY!” His lament was really his frustration at how much the bodily experience is denied in the field of psychotherapy, even discounted as valid. Have you ever had the experience of jumping at a loud noise from a passing car on the street, or even gasped at a particularly gruesome image on TV? These are unconscious bodily reactions often done just below our level of awareness. It is just this wisdom that I work with in the room when sitting with a client in therapy. Incorporating the somatic details of the issue a client comes in with enhances and completes the gestalt, making it whole – and there is a truth in this wholeness. Organicity is one such principle I use, going with the flow of the session and working with the content a person brings in, in mindfulness, always asking for details of the bodily experience. Mindfulness is another principle I use, bringing a deeper sense of awareness to client’s bodies, and helping the unconscious emerge. In my mind, the body IS the way out and through, and integral to any psychotherapy session.
So, the next time you are feeling a tension in your chest or stomach, try opening yourself up to the wisdom of your body because there is a rich story there. The body is right here.