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  • Fe Robinson

Embodying experience

Trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk once remarked that psychotherapy can not really begin until the client is having a embodied experience of themselves. I agree with him whole-heartedly, and think that embodiment is so important, yes in the therapy room but also in life more generally. So what does it actually mean?

An experience is embodied, according to Janina Fisher (founder of sensorimotor psychotherapy) when awareness is brought to how the body participates in an experience. Awareness can be brought to the sensations, movements and emotions that arise, as well as to the images and beliefs that are part of the experience.

This embodiment asks of us that we are tuned into both our physical experience, and to our thinking, or cognitive experience. Oftentimes therapy clients are primarily accessing one, or the other. For some people physical and emotional experiences can be very full on, flooding them and causing them to lose connection with their thinking selves. For others, thoughts can become so dominant that the client is stuck in them, and not experiencing their physical self very much at all. Holding dual attention, being with both, enables a generative and creative interplay, in which so much more information is available, and so much more is possible.

An important part of any personal development process is learning how to pay attention to your own experience, building the flexibility to work into those aspects of it that are less comfortable or familiar for you. This may be through grounding exercises, or experimentation with movement. It might be through creative expressions and noticing your internal experience as you draw, or write. It might be in learning to allow sensations and emotions to move through, staying in connection to your thinking self as they do. Almost always it will involve slowing down, and attending, without judgement to what is present. It’s a really mindful way of being.

Awareness changes things, without anything else necessarily needing to change. Awareness is essential to meaningful change, without it our evolution is accidental and choice and control are limited. There is always more to attend to, the important thing is setting the intention and bringing conscious awareness to what we are able to, moment by moment.

If you’d like to explore your own experiencing more broadly, psychotherapy may be a useful support to you. For more information, get in touch.


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