Empower your Life through Embodiment
Becoming more embodied is increasingly in vogue these days, due in part, to greater understanding and importance of the nervous system on our emotional state; being more mindful of our general health and wellbeing, including fitness levels.
The last point can be seen in the popularity and affordable monitoring devices such as Fitbit’s etc. In light of this, I would like to explore a little deeper into the importance and implications of working with embodiment from a counselling and psychotherapy perspective.
Counselling and Embodiment
Traditionally, most counselling entails talking about and feeling into the emotions of any given issue at hand, but not usually focusing on an additional domain of our experience – our body sensations and shape. Our bodies hold our history, which is aptly described in the title of Bessel Van Der Kolk’s book ‘The Body Keeps the Score’. This well-known book in the trauma field examines how trauma can be held and locked within our bodies. This is now a widely understood and accepted practice by most trauma therapists. This embodied view of trauma can be expanded, to include our developmental history, personality formation and other emotional roller coaster rides we undergo.
How does this embodiment look?
As stated above our history is imprinted, so to speak, in our bodies. This is reflected in many ways, such as our body shapes, that is, how we hold ourselves physically, the unconscious mannerisms we express in conversations, the tension patterns in our muscular systems, how we store traumatic charge in our nervous systems, or the energetic defenses that block our life force.
It’s as though our bodies are a repository for our life story. From the moment we are conceived to the day we die, each chapter of our life gets mirrored in our body structure. This happens through the impact of our environment we live in, the decisions we make and the subsequent consequences that result, the memories we hold and the various and many circumstances where life impacts us. All this shapes us, not just how we see ourselves from a personality perspective, but also the body that carries this personality around. It is actually a two way processes where our mind and emotions impact the body, as well as the opposite direction occurs where our bodies impact how we think and feel. It’s a dynamic process.
The therapeutic importance of embodiment
What’s so important about embodiment you might ask? Primarily it’s another doorway into understanding our experience that’s not usually available when just talking about an experience from a purely cognitive level. Much of how we relate to the world is medicated through our unconscious patterns, meaning that we can act and react to situations that are habitual and repetitive. Exploring our bodies experience in the moment facilities a process that allows whatever is emerging to become the point of focus.
For example, if the point of focus is tension in the shoulder or a tightness in the belly, paying attention and staying with these sensations may illicit particular feelings, which may draw out forgotten memories from childhood that require therapeutic attention. The trust in this method is based on the idea that the body has its own intelligence and will process unfinished business, so to speak, based on what’s needed to mediate healing.
One other embodiment morsel
Another benefit of embracing embodiment include increased energy. Tension and defensive structures locked in our bodies require life force energy to maintain their existence. When these are worked through the locked in energy is released and accessible for other activities. Babies are full of life force. When awake they are constantly moving with a seemingly endless supply of energy. Where does all this energy go? A fair chunk of it goes into tying up and maintaining tension patterns in the body, locked in trauma and the maintenance of beliefs and self-images of ego structure. The words sort of give it away – structure, patterns – as they describe a fixedness that suggest a sense of substantiality, which require energy to be held in place.
Take it easy