For years the traditional style of “talk therapy” has been around. People have come to counseling hoping to process through their experiences, having a place to feel and tend to their wounds through story. So often, when things are given the space to be said out loud in the presence of a compassionate ear, healing begins to occur. However, what happens when we have experienced trauma but cannot recall the events? What do we do when our bodies respond to certain stimuli, and we have no idea why? According to Susan McConnell (an expert in Internal Family Systems and Somatic work) “the neural receptors in the brain are present in most of the body’s cells establishing that the “mind” does not exist in the head but in the entire body. Our parts’ beliefs, conscious as well as unconscious, are held in our cells and affect every cell of our body.” If what she, as well as numerous other researchers, have asserted about the body holding trauma, how do we begin to approach our experiences with this new lens?
Somatic and IFS therapies have emerged because of the many therapists that have sought after bridging the gap between mind and body in the psychology field. Internal Family systems therapy is an evidenced-based therapy style that helps people access and love their protective and wounded inner parts which have formed out of painful experiences. Somatic work aims to help an individual notice physical sensations stemming from their mental health issues while using that same awareness to work through painful feelings and emotions. Other ways in which you can increase body awareness include breathing exercises, massage, physical exercises, or other mindfulness based practices.
Feel free to engage with the following script written by McConnell, which involves both IFS and somatic therapy in order to begin finding and experiencing areas in your body that hold tension and burdens:
- Lying or sitting, bring your awareness to an experience in your body.
- Focus on this place in your body. Stay with the sensations.
- As you stay with the sensation, consider if there are words that go with it. If it could speak to you, what would it say? What does it want?
- Is there an emotion that seems to be at the heart of this sensation or that seems to connect with the words? What is the feeling?
- If these experiences of sensation, words, and emotion lead to a part, perhaps the part also wants you to see it, to know its age, its gender, where it is.
- Ask yourself if you feel open and curious towards this part. If so, let the part know how you feel–in word, in your body energy, in your touch. If not, find this part in your body and start again with step 2.
- If the part responds and is willing to talk with you, let it know you are listening.
- As you hear from the part, you may have a sense of the category of the part. If the part is using your body for its job, it is a protector. If it is using the body to tell you its story, it is a vulnerable part.
- Thank the part for being willing to share with you.
**The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).