How I Got to Somatic Experiencing

I used to describe myself as a huge left-brain, and found little to no use for my right brain and everything that came with it like emotions, creativity and a sense of my body. I was a big head walking around the world with no body attached. And I was very proud of it, proud of being extremely logical, rational and sensible. Then I found out about attachment theory, found I fell into the avoidant attachment style continuum and realized that having a huge left-brain was a defense mechanism and not a choice. I was fascinated with this information and read everything there was to read and learn about attachment theory, (a left brain function, I’m sure!) The person who I had become, my adult self, began to make a lot of sense.

In my journey through the attachment theory world I learned about Somatic Experiencing and started my training. It was there that I discovered I had a body and that my body had lots to say. Not only did my body have a lot to say, but it was also instrumental in helping my brain stay calm, think and not react. This, I found amazing! I thought I had the market on self-control with my very over developed left-brain and did not realize that when I was overwhelmed with stress, my right-brain took over causing me to react in ways that, at times, scared myself and others around me.  Having this information was invaluable to me. It satisfied my left-need-to-know-the-why-of-things-brain and opened up the possibility of exploring something new, a right brain function.

I embarked on a mission to get in touch with my body, found a lot of wonderful techniques and wanted to become a practicing expert in all of them. I bought meditation CD’s, went on many retreats and even got a machine that measured the time in between my heart beats to let me know (my left-brain knew no bounds!) how relaxed I was. Not surprisingly, I became overwhelmed with everything I was trying to learn and incorporate in my daily life.

It was then that I recalled the very simple ‘grounding technique’ I learned on my first Somatic Experiencing training day. Because noticing my body was not something I had ever done before, it was not “on my radar” and I would forget to “just notice” my feet on the floor, or my butt in the chair. So, what does a left-brain person do? I put little post-it notes all around me that just had the words: feet, butt, hands, arms, legs on them to remind me to just notice those parts of my body and where they were or what they were doing in that moment. It took a split second to do and thanks to the notes, I did it quite often throughout the day.

This simple practice has allowed me to become so in tune with my body that I now notice the slightest change, offering me the space to wonder with curiosity what is going on. However, the most amazing and valuable gift of this practice has been that in times of stress, this now, automatic, organic awareness of my body sensations: fast heart beat, tight chest or knotted stomach, gives me that extra split second to think about how I want to respond to the stress in front of me, instead of just reacting to it without thought. Disagreements with my eighteen-year-old daughter look very different now, and for that I am eternally grateful!