I've spoken to a number of people about the body awareness training I've received in body-oriented approaches to emotional wellbeing. One thing I've noticed is that people are often interested in the idea, but they sometimes get confused about what kinds of specific body-oriented strategies we might employ in a typical online therapy session for body awareness. In the past, I have often had a hard time answering these kinds of general questions about "what we do", because "what we do" depends partly on the assessment of "what most needs doing" for the client, as we see them, during the slice of time we have together. Especially since online clients may have even more questions about how a body-oriented therapist may be able to help address emotional patterns, I've decided to write a series of articles detailing some of the kinds of practices at our disposal, and when they might be useful.
The various practices we use can be different in character and purpose from one another, and I don't want to give the impression that any one of these articles completely captures the tone or feel of what we do. So, before getting stuck into the particulars, I want to give a broad overview of some topics I intend to cover in this and upcoming articles:
- Awareness and containment - these topics deal with more subtle and gentle interventions, which for some may serve as a way of gaining a sense of safety and stability necessary to move forward.
- Expression - these topics deal with becoming able to more fully express oneself, particularly in areas where one is chronically held back due to past experience.
- Incomplete or disrupted movements - these topics deal with natural movements that have been disrupted in ways that impact one's ability to move forward, and some ways that we see these issues and work with them.
This article, as the topic suggests, is about some ideas and strategies related to body awareness in therapy. In a therapy session, one thing you--as a client--might hear me ask when an emotion comes up is: "Where do you feel it in the body?" This can be a deceptively simple question. Just by asking, the awareness may become less focused on what's going on in the head. By taking into account any bodily sensations accompany an emotion, the frame may already be widened somewhat from the thoughts associated with it, which can make the experience more manageable if the emotion was particularly intense. The question can also provide clues about where in the body there might be chronic tension, which may be useful for future interventions. Also, looking inward and really homing in on particular bodily sensations sometimes is enough to shift difficult emotions. Already, just through a shift in awareness, the body is a relevant resource for change.
Along similar lines, there is a more specific activity that we sometimes do, which can help gain internal clarity. The activity is simple: I ask you to give me a moment-by-moment narrative of what enters your awareness, only every sentence must begin with one of three things ("I think...", "I feel...", or "I sense..."). In other words, for everything that enters your awareness, you are asked to identify whether it is a thought, an emotion, or a product of the senses. Then, I reflect back to you which of the three I perceive it to be. The aim of this exercise is to help de-couple the three, so that when a pattern (or "schema") asserts itself, it is now easier to recognize its individual components. It also provides practice in close moment-by-moment tracking.
Beyond these two, sometimes there is sometimes a question of what you want to do. You may commonly hear me ask, "What's your impulse?" for example. This can provide clues about what motions the body wants to undergo in order to have a sense of completion, or in order to discharge something pent-up. It can also be a moment of greater internal awareness, as sometimes in day to day life, impulses are stifled before we're even aware of them.
A similar idea that we might make use of is experimentation with movement. I may ask, "What happens if you...?" Sometimes by introducing certain movements, you may find that new emotions, new thoughts, or new understandings come to the surface. Though it may sound like a movement exercise, the aim may actually be the awareness that arises from the movement. This theme will come up again in a future article on expression.
In a short article like this, of course it's only possible to scratch the surface but I hope that this begins to give a picture of how body-awareness approaches can be helpful to working with difficult emotional patterns.
My name is Seth Harris and I practice a body-oriented approach to emotional wellbeing known as Core Energetics. I currently live in Australia, but I spent my formative years in California. General questions or comments can be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information, please visit: https://virtualtherapistnetwork.com/profile/seth-harris (USA) or https://transformative.space/ (Australia and elsewhere)