A weekly dose of dauntlessly dealt reality from the What It Is Wednesday Blog Carnival…
Years ago, when I was in spiritual emergency, I sought out a holotropic breathwork therapist. I recognized my distress wasn’t mind-level, and despite my awareness of that fact, I couldn’t sync myself. Even though I knew what it was, I couldn’t stop feeling funk. I worked with this woman for a while, and she became my mentor. One of the things she taught me was how to find a somatic connection to what I wanted to create in my life. It is one of the most valuable self-help skills I hold, and a tactic I use with pretty much every client.
Somatic means being able to experience something through the body, particularly as distinct from the mind. Somatic release is the ability to feel distressed, yet in the moment of that distress recall a soothing detail of the past, such that the body feels it. For example, consider the coziness of a warm blanket. As soon as the body registers the sensual memory of snuggling under softness against the skin, its comforting weight cocooning peace, its secure confinement holding gently… stress diminishes. When the body can register being soothed, the mind can find purchase to begin doing the same. It seems simple enough, yet the challenge of somatic release comes when there is no memory for the shift that’s needed.
For me that lack was joy. For the longest time, when I looked back at my childhood, I couldn’t isolate moments of joy. As an adult experiencing PTSD, that meant my repertoire of what I could draw on to bring my body to a sense of peace was limited, if not nonexistent.
Keep in mind, all modern self-help and New Age proselytizing is built on victim-blaming. If you want to participate in the triumph of creating your own reality, you have to be able to feel what you want. The trope stops there, hinting that if you can’t feel what’s desired, you’re screwed. Regarding somatic release, that’s a really important detail to be missing, and I just couldn’t find it.
One afternoon when I was particularly lost to myself, my mentor decided to regress me to find a moment of joy in my childhood. Regressing trauma survivors is a very risky undertaking, one even seasoned practitioners don’t rush into. As someone who did that work for others, I wondered if she was prepared for what we may encounter.
At first there was a lot tension. I just didn’t really want to meander back into my past at all. After all, I was there the first time, and I’d spent a lot of therapy hours and money slogging through it years later. What could be left unwitnessed?
Following the tension came a lot of angst, frustration, and me thinking the session was a bust. Then, just around the edges of bright blurred lights and whirling motion, I found myself on The Scrambler with my cousins. I was about 8 years old, maybe 9, and I was at the annual Wayne County fair with my cousins.
About every year, Uncle Marvin would take me, my sister–Ellen, and our cousins, JC, Tammy, and Eddie, to the Fair. It was a big deal, and Uncle Marvin was brave for taking the five of us by himself. We must have ranged from 3-13 in age, and surely been sugared up on every sweet treat available. But he took us, and in that session the world spun by. The aroma of popcorn and cotton candy filled the air. Hair bands blasted from the Super Himalaya. My shoulder pressed into whoever I was smooshed up against, squished by the body on the other side of me.
We spun through space, and I was laughing.
I was elated.
I was a perfect moment of joy, then and now.
And it was enough.
Last night was the funeral of my youngest cousin, Eddie, and as true mystery works, the County Fair was just across the way. As the family gathered to remember him, brights lights flashed and fun house music played. It was so appropriate, not just in my memory, but in saying goodbye to someone so precious.
My thoughts are with the family. Please consider them in yours, as well, and consider your moments of joy. Let them embody you, every chance you get.
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