My faith in our innate capacity to heal is deeply informed by my own history of chronic pain, which was relieved by integrating Hanna Somatics with the Somatic Experiencing trauma resolution process. My pain started with a dance injury and migrated from one area of my body to another for fifteen years. Whether it was knee pain, repetitive stress pain, or chronic hip pain and abdominal pain -- sensations of aching, burning and tension would take up residence in one area for months to years, and then move and settle in another part of my body. I explored every form of standard and alternative treatment I could find, with no improvement. Over time, I came to feel responsible for my suffering. Each doctor and practitioner eventually grew impatient with me, and in their eyes I saw myself reflected back as the problem patient.
Finally, I made two important discoveries. I learned about Hanna Somatics, a powerful form of neuromuscular re-education. Thomas Hanna described the source of most pain conditions as a breakdown in the dialogue between the brain and muscles that causes muscles to stay chronically contracted. Soon after I heard Dr. Peter Levine speak about his approach for resolving symptoms of trauma. His method, Somatic Experiencing, focused on quieting the stress response and helping the body discharge survival oriented energy that had gotten stuck in the nervous system. Levine’s work initially caught my attention, not because I identified as a trauma survivor, but because I recognized myself among his list of trauma symptoms. I started to connect the dots.
As a child, I had frightening medical procedures, a car accident resulting in prolonged hospitalization, and a stressful early home life. As an adult, I had multiple pelvic surgeries and suffered the sudden death of my partner. The physical and emotional bracing I developed to cope with these experiences had been quietly percolating below my radar for years, until it finally emerged as persistent roaming pain. My body became increasingly untrustworthy and unpredictable. I came to live 'beside myself', exiling and compartmentalizing my pain - and thus rejecting an essential part of myself.
What turned things around? I learned to hold my symptoms in a sacred way, not as evidence of defect but as an indication that my body's protective mechanisms had gotten stuck in over-drive. The more I learned about the psychobiology of stress and trauma, the more I understood my physical pain, my childhood anxiety, my shyness
Stop leaving and you will arrive.
Stop running away and you will be found.
~ Lao Tzu
and learning difficulties - and the more I appreciated my art process, the only thing I felt good at as a child. The essence of the creative process is: 'stay open, believe in yourself and see what comes'. Like my art process, these two modalities shared the philosophy that the information I needed to find my way out of pain was inside me (in my body, in particular), and could be found by keeping myself really good company as I traversed fearful and unknown terrain. While pain had caused me to step away from myself, the best healing occurred when I was able cultivate radical curiosity and radical acceptance.
Learning how to read the sensory language of my body helped me gather essential clues that led me out of pain. I learned how to cultivate curiosity while being with distress, and to pay attention to the changing nuances of moment to moment experience. This helped me experience my physical and emotional pain not as a solid, monolithic thing, but as something quite alive and constantly evolving. The more I was able to witness how my body knew how to lead me out of pain, the more faith I developed in myself. Contrary to what I had experienced as the bad patient where I felt like the problem, this new combination of tools helped me investigate my internal experience and find that the solution was inside me.
Becoming a Somatic Experiencing practitioner and Hanna Somatics Educator was the beginning of a major shift in my life – from identifying as the client, to learning that I could be of help to other people. I have had some remarkable teachers help me navigate my suffering and, even more importantly, to trust my own experience. In the end, it was the combination of committed guides and my commitment to myself that allowed me to be with my pain, use it as fuel for inquiry and find my way out of suffering. My hope is that my ability to sit with the mystery and fear of the unknown will help you feel safe enough to do the same so that your brilliant body can show you what it knows so deeply.
abby rose somatic therapies ~ oakland ca ~ online sessions available
narm, somatic experiencing & hanna somatics for stress, trauma, ptsd & chronic pain
Copyright 2021 by Abby Rose. All Rights Reserved. Trauma Therapy & Somatic Education. Oakland, CA. firstname.lastname@example.org 510-465-4630