My Personal Journey
This is a story of my own personal journey into a more intimate connection to myself and others.
I worked in management consulting for over 7 years. The firm I worked for was committed to changing how people perform at work. They helped people to think differently, which would lead to new actions. I thought this approach was very useful, and that it was going to change the world. But eventually I felt disappointed. Something seemed to be missing in the methodology. How was the ability to think new possibilities not sustainable over time? How was it easy to revert back to the past way of thinking and behaving? These questions led me to discover a whole new direction in my life.
After one year with the firm, I got married and moved across the country away from my friends and family. I soon realized I needed help. This major transition in my life was causing me to experience depression and anxiety more than any other time in my life. My massage therapist recommended that I work with a body-centered psychotherapist. I didn’t know what that meant exactly, but I trusted her and got myself into therapy over 13 years ago.
One day my therapist asked me to close my eyes and explore how I experienced myself physically as I was sharing my concerns. It was the kind of question I needed to slow down my thoughts enough to answer. I soon discovered that I felt tightness in my chest. I was asked to deepen into that feeling of tightness while also exploring any texture, color, or emotion. Eventually an image of wood appeared. I didn’t expect that image to appear. The wood was thick and it stood directly in front of my heart. My therapist asked me how I felt having the wood there. I replied, “I felt numb. Yes, it felt familiar”. She asked me to stay with the familiar feeling of numbness and then suddenly the image of wood transformed into the memory of my bedroom door when I was a child. I remembered using that door to lock my brother and sister out when we got into fights.
I realized how I used this door to protect me. It wasn’t just to lock me into my room where I felt safe. This door lived inside me, allowing me to deaden my sensitivity to feeling, forcing me more into my thoughts. My therapist pointed out how my face looked numb too. I could then see how I showed little affect or expression which allowed me to keep others from being able to see my vulnerability. I hadn’t realized I was doing this on purpose. Between my face and my heart, I felt like a knight covered in protective armor.
Soon I came to feel that I wanted my playfulness and joy back! How do I open this door now? Where is the key? These questions led me to study somatic psychology. I learned how the key was right there inside how I experienced my physical body. I just needed to access the door I formed with my tightened chest muscles. By using voluntary muscular effort (Keleman), I exaggerated the tightness and then I learned to let the tightness go. I learned to release it slowly until my muscles softened and I felt them release. I then was able to feel my pain and grieve my loss without it overwhelming me. I was in control of how I used my self and more able to regulate my emotions. Soon enough, I began feeling joyful again and eventually a deeper longing appeared, a connection to my passion. This experience furthered me on my path.
Somatic Psychology addresses the mind, body and spirit as a whole. No wonder changing only how I think doesn’t last. Lasting change happens at the level of the whole person.
My door is useful sometimes, but most of the time it gets in the way of feeling and sensing into what I need, love, and strongly desire ~ the sense of feeling alive! Aliveness is a whole array of experiences. Feeling the depth and breadth of my experience ~ my aliveness ~ fuels my actions, creating a life that is full of passion – a journey in discovering my whole self.
I want the same for you.