Recently I attended the first weekend of a year-long somatic therapy training program. When it was announced on the first day of the training that we would be self-selecting practice partners with whom we’d be meeting throughout the year, I felt my heart sink. As a kid, I was always the last one picked in gym class, and often spent recess at school alone outside with no one to play with. In fact, our training leader had just been talking about how somatic memory can set us up unconsciously for reenacting patterns. I quickly scanned the room and felt a fluttering of dread and anxiety, an old familiar grief in my belly. As the weekend continued, I approached a few people, but it seemed as though everyone had already selected a partner.
By the end of the weekend, everyone else had already paired up, so I was assigned to partner with the one person who’d been unable to attend the training because of an unforeseen family emergency. I tracked my emotional and somatic reactions in the days that followed, and was able to reframe this as an opportunity to heal an old wound. I was also able to bring some fresh curiosity to the experience without shame or blame. Why was this happening? What remnants of those old hurts were still lurking inside me? My body was remembering and letting me know with waves of sorrow and tears pushing through.
When I met with my spiritual direction supervisor, I told her this story, and felt a little voice rising in my throat as tears streaked my cheeks. “Choose me,” I heard myself whisper, patting my chest gently. “Choose me.”
A few days later I reached out to the person who’d missed the training, with compassion for myself and for her; it is really tough to miss the first session when the seeds of relationship and trust have already been planted in the group.
Two weeks later, I attended a gathering of over one hundred longtime colleagues from the Center for Courage and Renewal. As part of the weekend gathering, each person is assigned to a committee of five or six participants for clearness committees, a small group process that is a regular part of our gatherings. As I scanned the list of names posted on the wall, I discovered that everyone was assigned to a committee but me! I was incredulous, and a little bit amused and curious. How did this happen again?!
Building on what I am learning in sensorimotor training, and braiding in some of my spiritual direction training as well, I am in the process of reframing this experience as a multilayered experience that includes an internal archetypal template of the unchosen, the one left out.
I marvel at the body’s memory bank, at the nervous system’s natural inclination to complete the cycle, rather than shutting down, denying or minimizing the somatic experience. For example, as I listened to the inner voice that said, “choose me,” and allowed the somatic sensation of grief to flow through my body, I experienced a palpable sense of clearing and arriving. (this is hard to describe) Trauma specialist Peter Levine has written about the feeling of peace and spiritual energy that he’s witnessed in supporting trauma survivors with his model of Somatic Experiencing.
Here are a few examples of some tools and resources from my own toolbox that support this path of healing and wholeness:
- Compassion and support from colleagues and friends
- Mindfulness meditation and other self care practices
- Strong sense of faith and spirituality
- Music and creative expression
- Movement and breath work
- Guidance from mentors and supervisors/consultants
The human body is wired to respond in rich and complex ways, and it is designed for survival and wholeness. Our task is to create the supportive container that allows the body/mind/spirit to do its job.