somatic experiencing

Are you a rule follower? by Ariel Carson

I am a confirmed Rule Follower. Anyone else? My rule following self is one of the most humorless aspects of my personality. She’s no-nonsense, bossy, and easily flustered. You can find her standing off to the side with her hands on her hips and a furrowed brow while everyone else goes out and has a good time. 

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Your Song: a guide to nurturing self-expression by Ariel Carson

Whatever is inside of you wants to come out. Can you feel it? I promise you it’s there. Stop whatever you’re doing for a moment, and shift your attention to your body. Feel the weight of your bones, the movement of your breath, the gurgling of your digestion, your heart beating in your chest. What is in there? What wants to be expressed? A burning? A yearning? A pulsing? A swirl? A painting? A sound? A movement? A story? 

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The Walking Alive by Ariel Carson

When is the last time you checked to see if you were alive? How do you even know that to be true? These may seem like silly questions, but I think many of us forget. We take our aliveness for granted, and/or traumas trapped in our nervous systems prevent parts of us from understanding that we are survivors, and are therefore living breathing beings. Unresolved fight/flight/freeze reactions may cause us to subconsciously believe we didn’t make it through whatever overwhelming experiences we’ve had. It's that feeling of walking around dulled, numb, and flat. So how can we unearth our vitality by reminding ourselves that we are alive, and bring this awareness to a conscious level?

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Vulnerability & Defense by Ariel Carson

Photo by  Miriam Miles  on  Unsplash

Photo by Miriam Miles on Unsplash

Let’s take a moment to thank our defenses.

Established out of necessity in response to physical, mental, emotional, and energetic boundary breaches, our defenses are what have gotten us through to this moment. They may arise as attempts to exert control over our lives when we feel unsafe, unmet, unseen, unheard, helpless and overwhelmed. We lock down, shut down, and close off when our boundaries are overridden. Another person may initiate these ruptures, for example, in obvious cases like abuse. However we may also be responsible for overriding our own boundaries, like in instances of empathic individuals who give more of their time and energy than they are able to without taking care of their own needs first.

Sometimes though, our defenses interfere with our ability to connect with those we care for and love. They may hinder us from becoming the people we wish to become, and doing the things we want to do. So what’s the alternative?

There are those who might tout radical vulnerability as the answer, total openness. And because so many of us are so closed off, this may seem like the obvious answer to move in the opposite direction. However, just as a turtle has the option to retract its head, arms, and legs into its shell, we want our systems to be able to contract and expand with manageable conscious ease. We want body-mind-selves that respond appropriately to the demands of whatever situation is at hand, wherever that lands us on the spectrum of choosing to put up our defenses or choosing to open up more.

Repairing boundary breaches and becoming conscious of our habitual defenses helps us achieve a greater sense of wholeness and agency. Somatic Experiencing guides us to detect how our boundary breaches manifest psycho-biologically, and discover our innate capacity to repair these ruptures.  Alexander Technique helps us understand how our coordination may be keeping us trapped in defensive postural patterns. Excess tension can act as a suit of armor against sensing and feeling. We learn how to gently unwind these fortified patterns and experience greater safety and freedom in more open, vulnerable, embodied coordination. Both modalities cultivate a more accurate internal barometer to judge when something is an actual threat or just perceived as such.

We are filters for a vital life force moving through us, permeable beings in connection to our environments and one another. Healthy boundaries mean we are more capable of choosing who and what we allow in, and more intentional with what we share with the world. 

Control & Surrender by Ariel Carson

Instead of tying up our cognitive resources consciously deciding how to tie our shoes, eat our meals, and get to work every day etc., we create habits to ensure these activities are reliably completed in order to free up space for other, potentially more fertile, thought processes. Habits satiate our desire for predictability. That which remains static is much easier to control. In a life dominated by unconscious habit, we can maintain our status quo, for better or worse, in attempts to minimize having to manage our relationships to change and unpredictability.

In the other direction, we may long to lose control as a means of disrupting this stasis, perhaps helping us to remember that we’re alive.

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Three Cheers for Despair!!! by Ariel Carson

Hope is a prized value woven prominently into the fabric of America. Our culture urges us not to sit in the discomfort of despair. We insist on striving for a hopeful outlook no matter how bleak the circumstances. However, I write this in defense of despair. Allowing ourselves to be with this discomfort can act as a catalyst for change. Rather than thinking in mutually exclusive terms: hope or despair, I’d like to propose a spectrum containing both.

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