‘The greatest benefit of therapeutic help is the act of revealing ourselves in our entirety to another human being and feeling unconditionally accepted.’ Irvin Yalom
There are times in life when we feel confused, lost, disoriented, anxious, distressed, or sad, and we don’t know which path to take. We want to heal our deep disquiet, but we have no idea how. And often, the people closest to us are precisely the ones who trigger intense and contradictory feelings inside us.
It's part of being human to experience periods of tension and stress that disturb our psychological balance and affect our well-being. Psychotherapy is a process through which we are accompanied in our exploration of the inner dynamics that create numbness or confusion in our lives. As we discover how our sense of Self is constructed and functions, we are encouraged to expose the contents of our internal world so that, in the safe, therapeutic space, we can find our true Self. This leads to recovery of our autonomy, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-love, and reconnection with our soul. It also allows us to revitalise our relationships with those around us.
Our emotional wounds begin from an early age in our relationships with those we interact with. However, through our relationships we can also find the possibility of being seen, cared for and healed. The therapeutic relationship, with its qualities of acceptance, empathy and trust, offers a special and unique dimension in which the transformational process can begin. This internal path, when walked and explored together, leads to spaces where love, freedom and repose can occur.
Psychotherapy as a field offers multiple approaches and areas of expertise but my preferences tend towards somatic and transpersonal psychotherapy. In addition to my work on various themes related to human existence, I am also a specialist in the areas of trauma and addiction.
The etymology of the words psycho and therapy gives us the following information:
Thus, somatic psychotherapy, or body psychotherapy, is a therapeutic approach that integrates the relationship between psychic dynamics and their repercussions on physical health through our thoughts, emotions, feelings, behaviours and beliefs. In essence, everything that concerns our psychic functioning has an impact on our physical and emotional well-being. Through the inseparable relationship between mind and body, somatic psychotherapy explores how emotional blockages can cause physical blockages, not only in terms of our posture, bodily tension and muscle patterns, but also in diverse symptomologies.
Advances in neuroscience have helped us understand that everything we experience has consequences for our nervous system which, in turn, communicates with our organs with the same quality with which we emotionally live our experiences. Hence, through the body, we are able to access the contents of our unconscious, where all the information necessary to unblock tension is housed. On the other hand, the body is also a means through which we can work with new stimuli so that new neural circuits and, consequently, more expansive patterns of thought and behaviour can be created.
Somatic psychotherapy uses mindfulness techniques, body awareness, breathing and other tools to create greater contact with our stored tension and build resources to readjust the disarray of the nervous system. Since the body is where we feel our pain and discomfort, it’s in the body that we find the possibility of restoring balance.
The Seven Body Wisdom Principles*:
* Manuela Mischke-Reeds
‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ Teilhard de Chardin
Humans live through the dimensions of mind, body and soul. Through a holistic approach, these three dimensions are seen as being in synergy with one other, and each one influences and enhances the other. Body psychotherapy focuses on how emotional patterns are reflected in body functioning and how the body is the basis on which we can build a healthy and structured Self. Transpersonal psychotherapy emphasises the spiritual dimension of our existence, which is indispensable for creating new meaning and reframing our human experience.
The transpersonal extends beyond the personal, the individual, to connect with something that transcends it, whether this be communion between all human beings, or a feeling of beauty, love, freedom, stillness, or evolution that extends beyond our mundane family lives and our sociocultural environment. It is often this dimension that brings meaning to the challenges we face in life. The transpersonal can help us to contemplate broader horizons.
‘Trauma is not in the event, but in the nervous system.’ Peter Levine
There are traumatic events in life, but not all of us react in the same way nor suffer from the same after-effects. Trauma is a wound that arises in our nervous system following a specific event (trauma from shock) or a succession of painful situations (developmental trauma), and can cause emotional and physical symptoms. Trauma prevents us from having healthy human relationships and feeling safe in our own bodies.
Trauma work involves working with the nervous system through techniques which target the individual regulation (self-regulation) and regulation with others (co-regulation). The goal is to reorganize our physiology, restore self-confidence and recover the connection with ourselves and with others in order to free ourselves in order to flow more with life.
‘The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety – it’s connection.’ Johann Hari
Addiction can be defined as any repetitive behaviour, substance-related or not, in which we persist regardless of the negative consequences on our life and the lives of those around us. Dependence on a substance or behaviour has the aim of gaining a sense of relief. Although the nervous system is temporarily soothed, the long-term effects can be severe.
We all have addictions, just as we all have our traumas. Addiction is one of the mechanisms we have found to deal with the intolerable pain that trauma causes. Addictions trap us in a dead end and contribute to the destruction of our Self in all its dimensions. But the desire to be set free can drive a very deep process of transformation.
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