Member Musings: The Body, Streaming Joy

Catherine Auman, LMFT
Supervisors SIG Chair, LA-CAMFT

When pent-up emotional trauma gets released in psychotherapy, it’s a giant upheaval to the entire system – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The release changes lives for the better, of course. All that secret, shameful, repressed garbage can finally be put out with the trash. A deep sense of relief and of lightness follows from not having to carry around the burden any longer.

It can be a great help during or after the time period when this cleaning-out is going on to have a series of sessions with an experienced bodyworker in addition to the regularly scheduled psychotherapy. Talk therapy alone is sufficient to release enough of the repressed material for major improvements to be experienced, but for a more complete resolution, bodywork can assist the process by working on it physically as well as intrapsychically.

The repressed material does not exist only in the mind or the heart. It has been lodged in the body: in the tissues, the organs, the muscles, and the fascia that connect the muscles to the bones. Trauma, whether emotional, physical or sexual, can show up in the body as poor postural alignment, stiffness, lack of flexibility, or as more serious health problems. When the bodyworker skillfully eases the physical release of this holding in the body, the result is often a whole new way of being in the world.

Rolfing is one such bodywork discipline that changes the structural problems resulting from trauma. I have personally found it to be highly effective. Once when the Rolfer was working on my foot, it suddenly began kicking on its own, expelling anger that was trapped in it. I found myself literally “putting my foot down.” In another session, I began crying with relief as he worked on my spine, and the greatest surprise of all was the session when trapped joy that I never knew was there was released and began streaming out into the world.

Other forms of bodywork that can be useful during therapy are acupuncture, chiropractic, the Alexander Technique, Reiki, and Feldenkrais. Receiving a massage is a necessity for those folks who have not been touched enough, which is nearly everyone in the Western world. Of course it’s always helpful to take up a physical practice, such as running, hatha yoga, martial arts training, dancing, or even walking around the block. It’s wonderful to explore the myriad methods of enhanced physical awareness that can bring levels of well-being you had never imagined for yourself.

© 2014 Catherine Auman This article is an excerpt from Catherine’s book Shortcuts to Mindfulness: 100 Ways to Personal and Spiritual Growth