This website uses cookies to allow us to see how the site is used. The cookies cannot identify you. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with this. If you want to use the sites without cookies or would like to know more, you can do that here

Home / Advice / Resilience / Somatic Psychotherapy and Mindfulness Meditation

Somatic Psychotherapy and Mindfulness Meditation

By: Michael Kaski

Updated: 29 June 2023

Somatic Psychotherapy and Mindfulness Meditation

Somatic psychotherapy acknowledges the neuroscientific fact that body and brain physiology and the mind are intertwined (Levine, 2015; Van der Kolk, 2014). It recognizes that our thoughts, emotions, and memories are not confined to the mind alone, but are also stored and expressed in our bodies and nervous systems. Drawing on research on the hierarchy between emotion, cognition, and behaviour this approach emphasizes the significant impact our automatic biological responses have on our emotional and physiological regulation and how this affects our cognition, emotion, and behaviour (Selvam, 2022). Understanding the role of the autonomic nervous system plays in trauma, these therapies address difficulties through the concept of titration to avoid setbacks or re-traumatization. As Payne, Levine & Crane-Godreau (2015, p. 10) write, “trauma must be approached very slowly, “drop by drop,” so as to avoid unnecessary distress, flooding and potential re-traumatization.”.

Somatic psychotherapy has a great focus on identifying and building resources and promoting resiliency in individuals as it explains that getting in touch with a sense of embodied inner safety is a crucial first step towards restoration of balance in the nervous system, or ‘trauma healing’ (Porges, 2017; Levine, 2015). Distinction between abstract mental states of positive feelings and embodied feeling states is important, and as such slowing down and taking time to feel into, and abide in, the positive sensations is crucial as this allows the nervous system to begin to regulate and the body to experience safety again.

Trauma, which in this definition is any event that overwhelms our capacity to cope with life and which leaves lasting impacts on our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, is a core area of focus in somatic psychotherapy. Symptoms such as chronic back issues, migraines, chronic anxiety, anger, and depression have been addressed through these approaches (Maté, 2022; Selvam, 2022; Levine, 2015; Van der Kolk, 2014).

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation, a practice that emphasizes non-judgmental attention to our experiences, can play a crucial role in promoting our well-being. By focusing on the breath, bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions, mindfulness meditation trains the mind to be present and aware, free from being entangled in the drama and pain of automatic thoughts, emotions, and judgments (Kornfield, 2012; Epstein, 1996). These practices also encourage the questioning of thoughts and beliefs, enabling individuals to move towards inner freedom from feeling stuck and/or rigid (Katie, 2018; Smernoff, Mitnik, Kolodner, Lev-Ari, 2015).

Research supports the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation in managing stress, anxiety, and chronic pain (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017). By cultivating awareness of thoughts and emotions and responding to stressors in a calm and centred manner, one may develop their capacity for compassion towards themselves and others. Mindfulness meditation can also help regulate emotions by observing and accepting thoughts and feelings without judgments or immediate reactions. Additionally, by observing thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations without judgment, individuals may gain greater insight into their behaviours and thought patterns, fostering personal growth and development (Kornfield, 2012; Epstein, 1996). Furthermore, mindfulness meditation has shown to produce physical health benefits such as reducing blood pressure and improving sleep quality (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017).

The Wisdom of the Body

Our bodies are not mere vessels, and they hold invaluable information and wisdom that is deeply intertwined with our emotions, thinking, and intuition (Selvam, 2022; Levine, 2015). Our nervous systems and bodies store the history of our experiences, including emotions, memories, and traumas. The autonomic nervous system, which oversees our survival responses of fight, flight, or freeze, plays a crucial role in our sense of well-being. Somatic psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation can guide individuals in learning about their triggers, discharging or transforming stuck survival energy, and regulating their nervous systems and emotions with more skill and tact. Paying attention to sensations, feelings, emotions, images, thoughts, memories, and physical reactions allows for insights into emotional and psychological well-being (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017; Kornfield, 2012; Epstein, 1996).

For instance, overwhelming anger may be traced back to an unresolved fight response, that in everyday language could be thought of as bottled-up anger, that keeps interfering with our lives. If we have learned to suppress our fight/anger it may over time lead to symptoms such as chronic irritability, frustration or overwhelming and inappropriate (to the situation) levels of anger. As few examples, road rage, sarcasm/passive aggressiveness, chronic irritation of how someone else does not know how to wash the dishes the right way, or chronic frustration about how the neighbour's cat does not know how to keep away from my lawn.

By skilfully cultivating a relationship with our bodies and emotions, we can enhance resilience, regulation, and pleasure, leading to a more positive and fulfilling life (Van der Kolk, 2014). Slowing down and feeling safe are essential factors in this process. By learning to find and hang out with our pleasurable, strong, calm, steady, or neutral sensations in our bodies, we are on our way to mastery over our sometimes-chaotic feeling inner environments (Levine, 2015).

Taking Control of Our Well-being

Realizing that more of our health and well-being is within our control than we might be customed to believe may empower us to make positive changes in our lives. This applies to our physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being (Kabatt-Zinn, 2017; Levine, 2015; Van der Kolk, 2014; Josipovic, Dinstein, Weber, & Heeger, 2012; Kornfield, 2012; Epstein, 1996). It might be good to keep in mind that the state of our wellness and health directly affects our families and communities and through personal growth and work on self, we automatically contribute to the well-being of everything in our environment (Maté, 2022).

Conclusion

Understanding the interconnectedness of the body, brain and mind is crucial for promoting overall well-being. Somatic psychotherapy and mindfulness meditation offer valuable approaches in this regard. Somatic psychotherapy addresses the impact of biology on emotional and physiological regulation, by focusing on restoration of balance and building resources. Mindfulness meditation cultivates present-moment awareness, regulates emotions, and promotes personal growth. By deepening our relationship with our bodies and emotions, we experience increased resilience, regulation, and pleasure, ultimately contributing to a more positive and fulfilling life.


References

Epstein, Mark (1996): Thoughts without a Thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist Perspective

Josipovic Zoran, Dinstein Ilan, Weber Jochen, & Heeger David J, (2012), Influence of meditation on anti-correlated networks in the brain, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00183

Kabat-Zinn, Jon (2017), Wherever You Go, There You Are

Katie, Byron (2018) A Mind at Home with Itself

Kornfield, Jack, (2012), Living Dharma: Teachings and Meditation Instructions from Twelve Theravada Masters

Levine, Peter, (2015), In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

Maté, Gabor, (2022), T𝐡e M𝐲𝐭h of No𝐫𝐦al: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture

Payne Peter, Levine Peter A, & Crane-Godreau Mardi A, (2015), Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy, doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00093

Porges, Stephen, (2017), The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe

Selvam, Raja, (2022), The Practice of Embodying Emotions: A Guide for Improving Cognitive, Emotional, and Behavioral Outcomes

Smernoff Erik, Mitnik Inbal, Kolodner Ken, & Lev-Ari Shahar, (2015), The effects of "The Work" meditation (Byron Katie) on psychological symptoms and quality of life--a pilot clinical study, doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2014.10.003

Van der Kolk, Bessel, (2014), The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain, and Body in the  Transformation of Trauma

MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS WORKING WITH Trauma ISSUES:

Gloria Tolongo Psychotherapist Location: Online

Approach: Gestalt Therapy , Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) , Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy , Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Works with: Children & Adolescents , Individual Session , Couples

Specialities: Addiction , Anxiety , Depression , Relationship issues , Self-Esteem , Trauma , Work Issues, Work/Life balance

Next avaialble appointment: 18:00 15 April 2024

Lee O’Neill Psychotherapist Location: Online

Approach: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) , Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy , Mindfulness , Person-Centred Therapy

Works with: Individual Session

Specialities: Anxiety , Bereavement / Loss , Depression , Isolation / Loneliness , Personal Development , Self-Esteem , Stress , Trauma , Work Issues, Work/Life balance

Next avaialble appointment: 9:00 16 April 2024

Jonathan Monahan Psychotherapist Location: Online

Approach: Humanistic & Integrative Psychotherapy , Mindfulness , Person-Centred Therapy

Works with: Individual Session , Children & Adolescents , Couples

Specialities: Addiction , Anger , Anxiety , Bereavement / Loss , Domestic Violence / Abuse , Eating Disorder / Body Image , Fertility , Isolation / Loneliness , Obsessive Compulsive Disorder , Personal Development , Personality disorder , Relationship issues , Self Care , Self-Esteem , Sexuality (LGBTQIA+) , Suicidal Ideation / Self Harm , Trauma , Work Issues, Work/Life balance

Next avaialble appointment: 13:00 16 April 2024

NEXT ARTICLE
Comfort Zone

Search

Get The Support You Need
From One Of Our Counselors


News

Isolation

Anxiety

Depression

Relationship Issues

Counselling

Personality Disorder

Addiction

Trauma

Children and Adolescent

Anger

Bereavement

Chronic Illness

Communication Issues

Eating Disorder

Post natal depression

Stress

LGBTQI+

Panic Attack

OCD

Resilience

Parental support