We all want to live our most authentic lives. We all want to be as happy as possible. We all want to have solid tools for managing life’s inevitable stress. Somatic Self-Compassion® training is birthed out of a series of understandings about the stressful world we are living in today, and a desire to find tools for making sense of, and remaining grounded and nourished in, these difficult times.
Why Somatic Self-Compassion?
- We live in a society experiencing a pandemic of stress. The Sidran Traumatic Stress Institute reported that 70% of Americans have experienced something traumatic in our lives (meaning we had an experience where our emotional coping skills could not keep up with our reality) and up to 20% of us go on to develop some kind of post-traumatic stress problem that affects our ability to function (like PTSD).
- In order to heal stress we need to address ourselves at the level of body experience. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, author of the seminal book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, after the events of 9/11 in the US, asserted that talk therapy alone is not enough to address stress-related problems. He writes, “You can be fully in charge of your life only if you can acknowledge the reality of your body, in all its visceral dimensions.” We need to address our body experience as well as our mental experience in order to heal.
- In order to stress-guard our system for the future, we need to stay in touch with our bodies. Research shows that we are more prone to stress when we are not aware of our bodies. Those of us with lower levels of emotional resiliency also have lower levels of body awareness (interoception). If we can’t obtain information about what’s not working for our body, we can’t then identify what would work for our body and we are less able to adapt to difficult situations because we don’t have the information we need to act.
- Most of us need to re-learn how to get in touch with our body. The experience of Strozzi Institute instructors who teach the Embodied Leadership curriculum is that around 80% of people need to be reintroduced to their body as a source of information. One of our survival mechanisms, according to Dr van der Kolk, is to dissociate from our bodies as a way to manage stress. Given the many stressors we experience every day, many of us have forgotten how to tune in to our bodies. We need to be re-acquainted with our body.
- We need to re-acquaint ourselves with our body safely. Many modalities of healing work have emerged historically to help us get back in touch with our body safely. The soft animal of our body needs to be treated with wisdom and compassion, especially when it is learning to recover from stress.
- Our body knows how to wake up. As Christine Caldwell writes, “Your body knows how to wake up. You only have to attend to its signals, actively include the associations that emerge, move with body memories that need to complete, and allow present-moment movement inquiries to inform you as to your direction.” This “bottom-up” approach to learning and responding invites us into a course in emergent body wisdom, a re-learning after culture trained us to ignore and judge our body. Rather than categorizing our experience, we need to learn how our body understands that events in the present moment have associations from the past. Honoring body signals, associations, memories and present moment experience is key to midwifing ourselves into embodiment.
- Awareness of body experience is not enough; self-compassion is the missing piece. As Dr. Christopher Germer writes, “… just noticing what’s happening is often not enough. We need to embrace ourselves. While mindfulness tells us, ‘Hold your suffering in spacious awareness,’ the wisdom of self-compassion says, ‘Be kind to yourself when you suffer.’ Self-kindness opens a new path to healing. Warmth creates space. Mindfulness invites us to ask, ‘What am I experiencing right now?’ Self-compassion invites us to ask, ‘What do I need right now?’”
- Loving ourselves helps us set boundaries and offer ourselves permission to be healthy. In his book Yoga and the Quest for the True Self, Stephen Cope writes, “As we begin to re-experience a visceral reconnection with the needs of our bodies, there is a brand new capacity to warmly love the self. We experience a new quality of authenticity in our caring, which redirects our attention to our health, our diets, our energy, our time management.”
- Maintaining self-compassionate body practices moves us through the rest of our life with grace and courage. Maintenance is the key to a successful practice: Learning about our personal values and continually reaffirming our soul’s purpose helps us to stick to a regimen of self-care because we see our practice in the context of our life goals. Ongoing community support and developing beautiful daily rituals for ourselves shepherd us through our lives with grounding, nourishment, and a sense of meaningful connection. Ongoing practice builds and maintains our emotional resilience muscle. One-by-one we change the cultural paradigm of stress, and as we do that we give others the permission to do the same! Stress is not a status symbol!
- Becoming embodied is key to creating more safeness for our community members. As Christine Caldwell writes, “If individual members of a society learned to readily know and value what they feel, if they listened to and respected their embodied experience, they might be more equipped to resist being “othered” and less likely to succumb to any social pressure to “other” people different than themselves. A person who keeps track of their embodied experience is more likely to keep track of their rights as an embodied being, value the rights of others, and feel empowered enough to stand up for them effectively.” One of our greatest tools in co-creating a more just society is to develop a sense of justice for our own emotional and sensory landscape: Somatic Self-Compassion companions embodiment which companions self-empowerment which supports a desire to empower those we come into contact with.
“If you’ve ever been asked “where do you find that emotion, feeling, sensation… in your body?” and your answer has been “I don’t know” or “it’s all in my mind” then you’re like me and this introduction to somatic awareness is for you. My body longs to hear “I love you and I’m listening” and Kristy’s somatic self compassion course nurtures this conversation.”~ Mac from Tucson, Arizona ~
Somatic Self-Compassion teaches us that our body is simultaneously:
- the source of information about our emotions and needs,
- the wise teacher we need to teach us how to respond to these emotions and needs,
- the gatekeeper that allows us permission to tend to our body,
- the nurturing arms needed to soothe our distress, and
- the “soft animal”* that offers us exquisite pleasure, deep spiritual connection and a source of authentic joy.
Locating SSC in the field of Somatics
Somatics can be thought of as the study and practice of the how the body is experienced from within by the experiencer. Somatics is not being aware of a body – it’s being aware as a body**.
Three branches of somatics are: 1. psychology, 2. bodywork, and 3. movement. While there are invitations to some movement practices and some self-touch bodywork, Somatic Self-Compassion mainly falls under the category of Somatic Psychology, the psychoeducation branch of somatics that supports the two other branches (bodywork and movement).
Somatic Self-Compassion is concerned with helping us understand how experiences in our body support the way we navigate through the world, in particular body memory about ways to keep ourselves feeling safer, and exploring proactive methods of helping the body feel safer in the present moment and into the future.
Somatic Self-Compassion training implements a trauma-informed approach as outlined by the US National Center for Trauma-Informed Care in that it is designed with these principles in mind. We work to:
- Realize the widespread impact of trauma.
- Recognize the signs and symptoms of trauma in community members.
- Understand potential roads for recovery.
- Respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices.
- Actively resist re-traumatization.
Please note this training is not group therapy, but does train in skills useful for tending to yourself and your stress on a day-to-day basis. If you have unresolved traumatic stress (you feel that you do not yet have skills to regulate your emotions around previous trauma), the invitation is to reach out to a therapist, teacher, healer, or shaman who specializes in trauma integration work, to help you on your journey. Please see the “Trauma Recovery” information on the right side of this page for resources to help you.
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
I don’t know where to start in praise of the Somatic Self Compassion online training and especially Kristy. The experience has been life changing. I feel humbled and privileged to have worked with such a professional that Kristy is. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience and delivers materials with passion, care and sensitively. Kristy’s research is robust, current and easy to understand and she often adds her own ideas and experience making the materials even more rich. The course is well paced and there is ample opportunity to check things out and share experiences. I live in the UK and stayed up until 2am to do the live sessions which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. I would do every minute again. I met some great people on the course who I will keep in touch with and I intend to do further courses with Kristy.
~ Lisa Thorpe, participant from the UK ~
*”…allow the soft animal of your body to love what it loves…” Mary Oliver
** Mark Walsh, Embodiment: Moving Beyond Mindfulness