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Understanding The Somatic Experience

Posted Feb 06 2011 5:02pm

Psychological issues will not only impact your mind, but also your body.

In fact, emotional traumas set into motion the emergency function of the sympathetic nervous system known as the "fight or flight" response. When pressed by a psychological issue, your brain will work to problem solve - sending messages to your muscles and organs to be ready to fight the problem or flee from it.

Most times, you'll be able to work the psychological issue without great stress on your mind or body. Other times, the emotional trauma might be too overwhelming to work through. At these moments, the acute stress of the situation causes your body to hold onto the psychological wound. In essence, your body becomes the place where your trauma has been stored. These "somatic experiences" can take the form of numbness, sensations of hot or coldness, even physical pain, just to name a few. Often, the kind of body sensations you have can be quite symbolic of the trauma with which you have endured.

Somatic therapies take psychotherapy one step further by addressing the internal physical experience of the body when emtional trauma occurs. To learn more, check out Dr. Peter Levine's work in trauma psychology.

In my clinical work, and in my personal life, I always look at the literal experiences of emotional pain, and also the symbolic levels of it. Body awareness and somatic experience are important aspects to consider.

Are you mind *and* body aware?



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