This week I had the pleasure of listening to Peter Levine speak about the relationship between somatics and trauma therapy. This was as another part of my Psychotherapy course. The title of the seminar was Going Beyond Trauma Therapy to Find Love & Happiness. It was of course, the somatics aspect of his talk which really caught my attention, since this is the work that I do.
Listening to other facilitators and experts in the field of somatic therapy is like being able to dive into a bag of candy that you've never tried yet. What I mean by that is, if you know that you are someone who loves candy a LOT, you know that this will be a new flavor that will bring new enjoyment. The taste may be better than any you've yet tried, or it may not be as good as any you've tried, yet regardless, you will have a new mind awakening taste to add to your palette of enjoyment!
Here are some of the key points I took away from Levine's talk:
There is a delicate process to having people gradually re-live experiences, and re-negotiate them. Trauma gets locked in the body. At a moment of traumatic experience, your body may want to have a certain kind of response. More often than not, the mind will stop us and this deep desire to move a certain way will get locked in.
Our body stays prime with the responses that would have led to a successful outcome -- to what we believe to be 'an escape'. If there is a recurring pain in one's body, a pain that has been difficult to find the source of, it will almost always help to go in and uncover what may be being held in there. Sometimes, this can even be the underlying cause of a depression that has been difficult to find the source of.
It can be confusing when the body is saying one thing and then you try to interpret it too quickly, without allowing the body to complete its action. Then it can become difficult to remember. When you allow body memories to complete, to come to resolution and release, that memory can be brought into consciousness and put to rest. Somatic experiencing is about accessing this innate inner knowing that the body speaks.
One thing that we may wish to consider: How do we go about putting these memories to rest, so that injuries or ailments don't keep occurring?
According to Levine, there are layers of stored memory:
The first layer is what could be deemed autobiographical memory. Then there are emotional memories - ones where you have an emotional reaction to something and you are not sure why. This usually draws you to begin searching a bit deeper. The deepest level of memories are the procedural memories. When trauma is resolved, one will generally uncover the great power inside of it. This is where true transformation occurs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is something that works from the top down. This is where we analyze our thoughts, and then we engage in our process from there. Core physiological processes, on the other hand, work from the bottom up, moving the body in order to move up to emotional memories, then cognitive memories, and upward eventually to autobiographical memories which lead to forming coherent narratives in order to be able to say, "This is my story. This is where I came from ... but this is where I'm going."
If you feel that this Psychotherapy course is something that would interest you, please go here.
Peter A. Levine, PhD, holds doctorates in both medical biophysics and psychology. He is the developer of Somatic Experiencing®, a body-awareness approach to healing trauma, as well as the founder of the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, which conducts trainings in this work throughout the world and in various indigenous cultures, with 26 faculty members and more than 5,000 students. He is also a senior fellow at the Meadows Addiction and Trauma Treatment Center in Wickenburg, Arizona. Levine’s international best seller, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, has been translated into 25 languages. His recent interests include the prevention of trauma in children, and he has co-written two books with Maggie Kline in this area: Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes and Trauma-Proofing Your Kids. His most recent book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, was released to rave reviews. Levine’s original contribution to the field of body psychotherapy was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP).
I have just finished listening to another wonderful seminar in my Psychotherapy course. This seminar was led by Michele Weiner-Davis, author of Divorce Busting, The Divorce Remedy, and The Sex-Starved Marriage. I completely agree with her belief and approach to couples counseling in the way that even when we believe there is no other option than to part ways, there are multiple ways to learn to communicate anew.
In the following post, I discuss some of the key points that I learned in this training session.
The vast majority of problems that couples are having, which cause them to want out, can be solved. It is important to come first from a place of "this marriage can be saved". This is not always the case, but it is a better place to start from - and this is not coming from a religious perspective. She watched more experienced clinicians shift the conversation really quickly to divorce topics once it became "established" that the relationship was not salvageable. As she watched this happen, she thought, I wouldn't have done that ... I could think of many different options to help this couple out.
We come complete with values, beliefs, and assumptions that affect our life choices. Many therapists feel that they can't do anything for a couple if only one person shows up. That a lot of them feel like if only one partner is present, the marriage is DOA. Time and time again, she herself would cancel a session if, for example, only four out of six family members showed up.
Imagine a mobile, and if you set one piece of the mobile into motion, then the entire mobile begins to move. Relationships are like this. It just takes one piece to set the entire framework into motion. Many people don't think this could be effective; however, many times it is considered that a session will be ineffective without a proper 'head count'. But it has more to do with what the therapist has to say, and not so much about interactions.
Another prevalent myth is that you need two people in order to solve relationship problems. The truth is, in many ways, we are doing our clients a disservice if we allow our clients to believe that the only way to have any impact is through words. The truth is, there are many people who are much more action oriented - men in particular. We tend to ask men to talk more and open up, but rarely do we ask women to become more action oriented. Most divorces these days are initiated by women.
Stereo-typically speaking, women are the relationship caretakers. What tends then to happen is that a woman's concerns about certain things spill over into other aspects of the marriage. And rarely does a man, when his wife begins 'nagging', want to spend more time with his wife! Women will generally then decide the relationship is over, and this leads to her growing quieter, because in her mind, there is nothing left to bother with. Ironically, the husband will then think, 'Great! She's not complaining anymore, things must be fine now.'
Many women say, 'I've said everything I can say, and it goes in one ear and out the other' and of course in many ways she has said everything. But there is a clue in there - if nothing is smoothing over, perhaps less talking and more doing needs to happen. We don't have to be extreme. Helping people be more action oriented, changing how they approach things can make a huge difference.
We all know how to push the buttons of our partners, we all know what to do to get a shift in their behavior, or to get a reaction. So it may be true that we can't change other people, but we can change the way that we do something in order to get a different response. For example, let's say someone gets nervous when their spouse is driving too fast. Rather than saying it to them each time, they begin to tap their foot - their 'braking' foot - and their spouse begins to clue into this. Chances become good that they will slow down in order to save the confrontation or argument.
Look for solution oriented responses. It is difficult for most people to do this. Try to turn negative statements into positive ones.
It is important to know what your goals are, so that you can remain aware of whether you are moving closer to or further away from your goals. It is important to know what 'improvement' looks like through the eyes of your partner. Identify what works - even a little. Identify what has worked in the past - even a little. If a couple fights on a Monday, then they have a great week until they have another fight the following Monday ... this can lead to a belief in each of them that they fight all the time. Call to mind the times where things were working.
Sometimes hurt can be translated into anger. This can be commonly seen in a couple after the birth of their children, when there is less time for each other. In what ways does your partner communicate to you their emotions? You may want them to say a specific thing to you, such as "I love you", but are they a verbal communicator? In many cases, when asked, one partner is able to call to mind numerous ways that they know for certain their spouse communicates their love.
If you are interested in checking out this Psychotherapy course for yourself, please go here.
Michele Weiner-Davis is an internationally renowned relationship expert, marriage therapist, and professional speaker. Michele is the director of The Divorce Busting® Center in Boulder, Colorado. Her work has been featured in most major newspapers, magazines, and on shows such as Oprah, 48 Hours, 20/20, The Today Show, and many others.
I am taking a course right now in Psychotherapy, and there are some great recordings I've been able to listen to. The most recent one is an interview with Dr. Ellen Bader, co-author of Tell Me No Lies. There is some incredibly rich and enlightening information in this recording and in this book regarding relationships, lies, and how to self-reflect in our own partnerships.
A study was done in which it was discovered that more men than women wish for more honesty within their relationships. This has surprised some, given the recent occurence with the Ashley Madison site. The Ashley Madison site was hacked, and it was discovered that the vast majority of members were men, and that a large amount of the female profiles were fake. The founder of the company itself is noted as having said, "People are more willing to cheat than to be honest". Key points from today's lecture:
There are four main types of lies we see in relationships. In the early stages, partners tell "Loving Lies". These are used to create bonds with each other. They are also used to build up the others' self esteem, or to promote the illusion of similarity. People are generally very mute about topics that they feel may get their partner riled up. We tend to see people very positively in the beginning, and it isn't always based in a solid reality.
Some people may be addicted to the illusion, and they just move on continuously from one partner to another. In order to sustain a healthy relationship, it is common to experience a bit of a grieving process in which we learn to accept our partner as they really are. We take them off of their pedestal and learn to be with them as they are.
The second stage of lies is "The Dark Side of the Honeymoon". Couple start building up conflict-avoiding lies. This includes saying something you don't really mean, or agreeing with something you don't really agree with. We tend to ward off rejection, or we may not have role models or experience in knowing how to bring things up that need to be addressed.
There is differentiation, while partners sit still and really listen to the wants, needs, and desires of their partner. Many people often say to their partner, "You're not the same person I married". Well, none of us are. Passive-aggressive lies can begin to dig us a deep pit, for example, one partner says things like "Sure, I'll clean the garage", while having no true intent to do it.
There is also something called Felony Lies, where a partner may challenge the sanity of the other - particularly when that partner is caught at being dishonest. Having unprotected sex with multiple partners is also considered a Felony Lie, or having an affair in which lots of money is given to the affair partner, or an attachment with the children is made to the affair partner without the children realizing who it is they're getting attached to.
There are times where a felony liar has told loads and loads of lies, but the partner has also discouraged any real truth telling. This is where the real intricacies of clinical work come into play. Partners really need to ask themselves, how much honesty and authenticity do they really want? And if they really want a truly honest relationship then they need to be willing to look at the sorts of defenses they use that get in the way of them having the type of relationship they really want to have.
None of us when we come into a committed relationship have the emotional muscle that it really takes to have an honest relationship. We have to learn a lot about being able to tell the truth, but we also have to learn a lot of being able to hear the truth. A person really has to be willing to internally self-reflect. It is a trial and error process, because very few of us learned these skills in our families of origin.
Truth telling takes personal self revelation, and it takes courage. It is inevitable that you are going to hear things that you don't want to hear. Will you be able to hold still, and ask high caliber questions? It takes a lot of skill to handle ambiguity, and to let your partner know that you can handle the truth. Women tend to say, "I want an honest relationship". Yet, when the husband is honest with something even as simple as saying "I'd rather watch the football game", they get clobbered. Most people with lie invoking behavior are completely unaware of it. When you have classic lie inviting behavior, it really inhibits honesty.
In our society, it has somehow become normal and expected for the partner being lied to, to leave the marriage. It is common to be harsh and blame the spouse for being weak, or a doormat. How is it that it is more acceptable to bring children into a broken situation, rather than to give something time to heal and see where it can go? There are many variables in a situation like this of course. We need to recognize the impact we are having on other people.
The key is to stay conscious of being a positive way that you say you want to be. Be aware of where you may be falling short, but also put reshaping into practice. Confronting lies is also key, but there are skills with which this can be done in a healthy fashion. Some examples of these are:
Phew! Well, I won't give away all of the good stuff here, but here is the link to the book again.
If you are interested in checking this course out for yourself, please do so by going here.
Much love and many blessings on your journey!
Dance heals: Newly popular therapy makes big strides with movement
We'd rather keep the thought out of our heads, but the fact is that anyone at any time can be betrayed by body, mind or both, whether the cause is illness, accident or simple old age. In that event, the little-known treatment of dance-movement therapy holds out hope to people, from cradle to grave, to live as fully as possible.
Fame and money are no defense against poor health, as "Dancing With the Stars" judge Carrie Ann Inaba learned. After seeing the effects of cancer on her mother six years ago, she became the national spokesperson for L.A.-based Drea's Dream, a dance-movement therapy (DMT) program for children with cancer and special needs.
On Tuesday, Evanston's Institute for Therapy Through the Arts confers its first-ever Lamplighter Award on Inaba for her support of DMT. And next fall, a significant three-year growth spurt will enable Evanston's 40-year-old provider of arts therapy to become independent from its parent organization, the Music Institute of Chicago. The field of dance-movement therapy in fact seems to be undergoing something of a boom, at least in Chicago. Columbia College's master's program, one of only six approved by the 50-year-old American Dance Therapy Association, drove a 33 percent jump in enrollment in the creative-arts therapies department last year — the largest growth of any college department, according its chair, Susan Imus.
With the observation that "war changes medicine," Imus notes that DMT got its start in the 1940s, when St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, D.C., invited dancer Marian Chace to work with traumatized World War II veterans there. That was before the advent of antipsychotic drugs, so the benefits of DMT alone were obvious, Imus says. Claiming the therapy's scientific basis, she says clinical studies have measured "how dance changes your biochemistry."
But it's a big jump from the science lab to a DMT session for brain-injured clients at Chicago's Anixter Center: Students of all ages, abandoning wheelchair, walker, or cane, each dance in their own way and — remarkably — in time with the music, which ranges from perky electronica to down-home fiddle tunes. A man with a big scar across his head worms his way, hips waggling, between another man and a woman, who are dancing face-to-face, if not cheek-to-cheek.
Still, this isn't a nightclub, or a dance class. Though dance-movement therapist Lisa Goldman does give verbal instructions, the aim isn't aesthetic but therapeutic. Trying to get participants out of their vertical planes, for instance, or create more diagonals with their bodies is intended to "heal the brain," she says.
Some comply with her directions, some don't. And in the talkback after the session, Goldman focuses on the difference between being on-task and off-task.
That kind of verbalization, Imus says, is part of what defines DMT, which aims for "coherency between nonverbal and verbal communication." Significantly, M.A. candidates at Columbia take numerous psychology courses, and their degrees are in DMT and counseling.
DMT can be hard to define, especially since its wide-ranging methods and goals overlap with those of other movement practices aimed at improving quality of life: physical therapy, yoga, the body-language training sometimes given to executives and job seekers. Plain old recreational dance can enhance mood and physical functioning, and classes can be tailored to special-needs populations: Hubbard Street has held adaptive-dance classes for Parkinson's patients since 2008, and started its Autism Project, for kids 5-14, last year.
But those are not DMT. While it may share some methods or aims with other movement practices, with DMT the goal is nothing less than reconfiguring the brain through neural repatterning.
The DMT group class I observed — Goldman offers two such sessions weekly at Anixter, which provides a huge number of services to people with various disabilities — is a case in point. A 1994 graduate of the M.A. program at Columbia, Goldman has directed Anixter's New Focus brain-injury program since 2003. And she believes DMT is perfect for such clients.
Assuming a body-mind connection, DMT posits that a larger movement vocabulary makes the client more capable and flexible not only physically but mentally and emotionally. So, using Rudolf Laban's system of movement analysis, DMT explicitly aims to grow clients' movement vocabularies, enabling them to take the body in all three dimensions at once, for example, and to increase movement's "flow," or "goingness."
DMT is beneficial to brain-injured clients in other, less tangible ways as well. Aphasia is common, Goldman says, and "when you don't have words, being able to express yourself and communicate with others through movement is a relief."
DMT can also provide "a spiritual experience," she says. "These people have survived — some have died and were resuscitated. Then the question is, 'OK, I survived, but I have all these challenges. What is the meaning and purpose of my life?' DMT provides an outlet for that, and it's a way to connect with other people who survived. That interpersonal connection is in and of itself brain candy: It affects the brain chemically and can create neurological repatterning."
One of New Focus' biggest success stories belongs to a man who suffered a stroke at 41. Afterward, despite having "used the computer up, down, all the way around for his work," Goldman says, he no longer even knew how to turn one on. After months of struggle ("he worked so hard!" she adds), he broke out of his movement prison dramatically one day by launching into a chair-bound jazz layout. (Goldman demonstrates, leaning back in a complex, flowing motion in three directions, arms and legs thrown out.)
Eventually Anixter hired the man to teach computer classes. And though right after the stroke his marriage "struggled," Goldman says, the family got back on track and survived.
Nancy Toncy, who has a 2003 Columbia College master's, is the clinical supervisor of a Rogers Park program for victims of domestic violence, Between Friends. When hired five and a half years ago, she introduced DMT to the agency, where she counsels English, French and Arabic speakers (she's originally from Egypt).
Body language and self-image are hugely important in this field. "I let the client know that we're going to pay attention to how their bodies experienced the abuse — a first step in recognizing that your body actually matters," Toncy says.
When she first meets clients, Toncy looks for the physical effects of habitual violence. "Someone constantly worried for their safety will be adjusting in their chair, trying to find a stable base," she explains. "If someone is predominantly depressed, I might see a collapsed posture, slouched shoulders, shallow breath." Using a "body-up" approach, she empowers the person partly by adjusting posture.
Physically mirroring clients is also crucial. Poor self-images result from the fact that with "their partner — their mirror — the constant reflection was negative, critical," says Toncy. Mirroring clients' movement and breathing enables her to both understand their experiences from the inside out and to model with them a healthy "mutual" relationship.
For survivors of domestic abuse, Toncy says, an expanded movement vocabulary can translate into "life feeling more ordinary, experiencing life more fully." Clients have told her that "just to have the space to move and breathe, to get bigger and smaller, stronger or softer, to be and do what they want and for that to be witnessed: That is healing."
Molzahn is a freelance reporter.
Welcome! Thank you for visiting my blog space. In this place, I will share writings of my own, along with other events and musings from the world of Movement Medicine, Dance Therapy, Yoga and Shamanic Healing.