I this series (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), I’ve been relating my continuing experience of personal transformation through Somatic Experiencing (SE). It’s been a little over 2 years since I learned about SE and started using it with clients, and about a year and a half since I’ve been intermittently engaged in personal work.
At the beginning of this year I started keeping a journal of what I notice as I proceed through the work. Initially I started doing it because I noticed the new, reorganized version of myself seemed so natural I was concerned about being able to remember the “before” version. At the level of absolute/spirit, this is really not a problem, but in terms of wanting to understand the transformation from an experiential perspective aligned with my academic understanding to enhance my clinical application of SE, it seems useful.
The journaling is useful in other ways, as well. I sometimes make an entry after a session about how we worked with a particular issue in session. I also log entries that describe what seems present or at the surface recently: memories, thoughts, dreams, sensations, impulses, judgments, states of mind, emotions, and often after meditation practice. I review recent entries before an SE session so I can remember to share significant progress or challenges with my practitioner. This helps me organize and summarize so I don’t use up session time with stories and long description.
The journaling has also been helpful for noticing that what my mind calls a problem or issue, doesn’t necessarily dictate the content of the work in a session. My thoughts will often say what is most important to work on or how it should go, but it hardly ever winds up being that way. It’s so helpful to have this record of “here’s what my mind thinks is going on and I should be doing” and to witness again and again that what surfaces in session is the right stuff to work on, and bears little correlation to my egoic identification or attempts to plan or control. This is a major support in relaxing the need to control. I now take the thoughts more lightly, rather like I register them, but they don’t dictate anything.
Things I am noticing in addition to the above:
- Continuing energy increases: both in supply and stability. I’m less attracted to overexertion (overly long or intense exercise, yard work, or any other type of work). Now I take breaks, I don’t really bottom out from exhaustion, and I’m more comfortable and productive during periods of high or low energy. I don’t have a preference for relaxed or meditative states, and no state (relaxed, neutral, active) seems better than another; they’re all necessary.
- Increased sensitivity to pleasurable sensation: especially touch. Touch has a dimension of satisfaction it didn’t have before, and there’s more curiosity and pleasure in textures, for example, even just noticing the grit of concrete underfoot, or running my tongue along my teeth.
- Increased interest in play: playing with impulses to make certain alliterative sounds, run my hand over upholstery, tap my feet, play with my hair, talk to the plants or animals in the yard, wander, explore. It’s hard to describe if you’ve always had this. I never saw or was interested in play as such. It had no purpose for me. Now it needs no purpose; it just feels like a fascination with life that expresses itself through me.
- Easier to seek out social contact when I want it: and easier to cope with not being able to have it at times when I really want it. And definite sensation of the need for it. It used to be more like “I can easily do without it most of the time”.
- More consistent, productive work toward goals: it happens organically, and this continues to amaze me. My lists are so I don’t forget the items, not a dictate of the day’s activities. Ego/mind still wants to direct and control the activity and judge what’s getting done or not. I just notice the egoic energy, and then do the thing that obviously needs attention next. It’s not always the thing I want to do, and the day rarely goes how I planned, but it continues to be all right. It all gets done when it needs to, and I’m not as exhausted and discouraged as I used to chronically be. I used to spend so much time reading books on procrastination and productivity, and not one of them ever acknowledged the underlying issue of trauma…bummer!
Self help books all seem to remedy the subjects on the list above with willpower or organization strategies. Even though I used to sense that planning and willpower were always going to fall short, I kept trying, kept searching for the right strategy; resolving trauma is like going to a deeper level than that – the cause level. Self-help or behavioral strategies are like trying to find a channel with a brighter picture on your tv while the dimmer is on; resolving trauma is like turning off the dimmer. It sure seems like the energy freed up by not having to manage trauma symptoms just naturally moves out toward life and expresses. I don’t have to even try. It’s really organic and spontaneous. It’s not a struggle. I could not have imagined or anticipated this result. It’s pretty cool.
Contact me if you’d like to learn more about Somatic Experiencing or to schedule a session.
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