While we might expect to engage our minds while talking through issues in counselling, comprehending something cognitively only goes so far. Frequently, it requires more than our rational minds to gain a fundamental understanding of ourselves, particularly as intense rationalising can often be symptomatic of attempts to avoid difficult or painful feelings. 

As Freud asserted, the psyche is first and foremost somatic; by which he meant that our primary experience is one of physical embodiment. I encourage clients to pay close attention to their immediate experience — to get curious about the sensations in their body, where they feel their emotions as well as their thoughts — in order to gain a fuller understanding of their whole being.

We might wish we could think ourselves well, yet when we try we can remain largely unconscious to complex psychological processes. While they remain unconscious, we may only be able to identify them by recognizing their effect over the longer patterns of our lives. Often in patterns that repeat themselves time and time again.

Psychological wounds and painful emotions may become locked in the body with abiding change only possible when we are able to release the enduring rigidity of body and mind. Not only can we let go of pain and fear, but by connecting with ourselves as embodied and emotional beings, we bring greater colour, richness and discernment to our lives.

Somatic approaches allow us to access early memories and retrain our emotional systems to perceive our environment more accurately. Stressful events and disruptions in early life mean we struggle to soothe and regulate ourselves. Even when the threat has passed, we continue to perceive our surrounding environment as hostile and default to fight, flight or freeze survival defenses. The body engages these responses based on states of perceived safety. Only by addressing our whole human system can past trauma be effectively healed. Working mindfully with the body, we gradually come to identify and listen to those parts of ourselves that are crying out for care. 

Listening to the body helps us better understand our habitual responses and offers a method of effecting profound transformation. It is vital therefore that we learn to trust our somatic experience and learn to actively engage the body in the processes of our physical, psychological and spiritual healing.