What defines a somatic approach to healing, and why is it becoming so popular?
When asked to define a somatic approach to well-being, the obvious place to start is with the body. In fact the dictionary definition of somatic is as follows:
Somatic: Of, relating to, or affecting the body, especially as distinguished from a body part, the mind, or the environment; corporeal or physical.
Personally, I have always struggled with the term ‘mental health’, as popular as it has become. The main reason is that people don’t generally suffer from ‘wrong thinking’, or the fact that their thoughts are ‘broken’, or indeed from any other ‘mental’ ailment. No, people suffer because they are in pain. And how do they know they’re in pain? Because they feel it! Where do they feel the painful sensations and emotions? In their body – every time.
So it seems strange that we use the term ‘mental health’ to describe what is primarily a matter of feeling. Perhaps also, from a personal perspective, with a 25 year meditation habit, and with mindfulness being quite as popular as it has become, I was unwilling to pin all my suffering on my whimsical and transitory thoughts, or mental constructs. I already ‘knew’ that there was a place of Zen-like peace beyond those thoughts. Much like clouds in the sky, if one doesn’t get too hung up on them, they pass easily and naturally. And yet I always felt that this ‘mental’ focus was really only half the picture. It always felt like the full experience was somehow missing, and even though I couldn’t always articulate it as such, I know see it was the direct bodily experience of feeling.
Haven’t feelings always been the cornerstone of therapy? Well, this is the subtle but all important distinction that gets to the heart of the term somatic. One turns up at therapy and says ‘I feel bad’. And then for weeks/months/years afterwards those feelings are discussed and dissected conceptually, intellectually even, but hardly ever truly ‘corporeally’. Where in the body do you feel that sadness? Huh? What sort of question is that?!
So what’s the difference? Essentially what defines a somatic approach is just that. It’s a willingness to acknowledge and to directly feel the sensations that are present in the body. So it is no longer a conceptual conversation but rather a direct experience, and that’s what makes all the difference.
Another way to describe it is that you are experiencing your stories in 3-D. Not just through words and pictures (the story) but through experiencing all the feelings, emotions and bodily sensations that accompany that story (memories). This welcoming of all parts of yourself is what brings you back to wholeness, and forms the foundation of true healing.
All the modalities offered at Somatic Studio are what have become known as the “bottom up” approach to health and healing, including Somatic Self-Inquiry and Biodynamic Breathwork. This contrasts with more common “top down” approach of talking therapies which engage, first-and-foremost, with the mind. If you would like to learn more, why not book a pressure-free (and cost free) Discovery Call?