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Complex Trauma & Medical Syndromes: Using Somatic Psychotherapy to Heal

November 10, 2019

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EAT: Embody, Awaken & Transform

 

EMBODY. If the warfare of unmet needs, disowned emotions and disenfranchisement from cultural norms is waged in the body, and if low interoception is associated with poor mental and physical health, the first step in this process would be to become more embodied. Body-oriented approaches to healing could be critical in restoring body awareness to increase interoceptive capacities and to restore self-regulation. The use of mindfulness and somatic practices that increase body awareness and assist in the development of autonomic self-regulation, is quickly gaining relevance in the treatment of eating disorders. Yoga, the expressive arts and psychodrama, movement and dance therapies, and integrative mind-body psychotherapies such as Somatic Experiencing® are increasingly available at treatment centers.

AWAKEN. These right-brain therapeutic approaches increase interoceptive and proprioceptive – the awareness of the relative position and shape of the body relative in space -- awareness through the use of sensory-motor tracking skills that strengthen the insula, the anterior cingulate gyrus, and awaken the connections between sub-cortical (reptilian and limbic) and cortical areas (neo-cortex) of the brain. As awareness increases, people report feeling less “empty” and therefore not as hungry for things that do not “fill” them. In this process of awakening to their authentic inner realm, all aspects of a person’s experience --sensations, images, behaviors, affects, and meanings -- can be gradually integrated to restore their sense of wellbeing and resilience. This includes the internal hunger, fullness, and satiety cues necessary to establish long-term recovery and end the dieting, starvation, binge eating, and purging cycles.

TRANSFORM. Regardless of the eating disorder presentation, somatic awakening to deepen therapeutic interactions, provide access to disconnected emotions and sensations, and nurture a sense of ‘safe’ embodiment becomes crucial to healing. Conscious embodiment restores the wisdom of the body to move towards healing. And the skillful direction of awakened awareness begins to create new neural pathways that will pave the way to a conscious evolution of the whole person. What does this mean? It means that inner resources previously unavailable become available. At a practical level, people begin to have a different experience of themselves and their relationship to food, their body and their world. 

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