Psychotherapy and Embodiment

There are numerous reasons why many of us struggle to feel comfortable in our own skin. The struggle with embodiment usually entails a fear to fully occupy the body. If we are suffering psychological or emotional pain and are not getting the appropriate support to deal with it, we will suppress or even repress the issues. We will likely become dissociated from the body to some degree. This seems to cause the body to ‘tighten up’ against difficult feelings because the body has now become the carrier of the pain, which, if you will, has been displaced from the mind. We might then say ‘my body is doing something to me’, but actually we are holding the body in a tense state to keep difficult feelings at bay. We might then take steps in a healthy way to keep the body in a good condition with diet, exercise as well as rest, but as the feelings press for release, what began as a good intention can lead to over exercising, excessive screen time (computers, tablets, smart phones and TV) as a way of numbing out, and even eating disorders or other addictive behaviour. The addiction is to numbing the feelings which are held in the body. The often unconscious attempt to escape the body can be a dissociative response to trauma – an overwhelming experience of some kind.

Many, without realising it, do not feel safe in their bodies, and this may be for good reason. If this resonates with you, try an easy way to start feeling safer by just paying attention to one small area of your body that does feel safe. This could be as simple as paying attention to the tingling sensation you might feel in your hands and fingertips. Then slowly allow your felt sense awareness to embrace more areas of your body that feel safe. No need to go to areas of the body that may not feel safe until they do. Go very gently. Have fun with it. It’s a simple practice from Mindfulness called Body Sensing. If you don’t feel anything, just notice it and let it be Ok. In time you will feel something. It also takes your attention away from the surface busyness of the mind, bringing you into your felt experience of the here and now. If you feel it’s putting you in touch with difficult emotions and that you may need help with this, consider seeing a psychotherapist or counsellor to help with your emotions and help you ground yourself in the body. Also, when you walk, just feel your feet making contact with the ground with each step; and when sitting on a chair just take a few minutes to feel your feet making contact with the floor. We cannot be fully present if we are attempting to escape aspects of our own self.