Using Body Sensation to Heal

Karin has over 400 hours of training in somatic therapy. She was instrumental in bringing a 3-year training to Gainesville, and is currently co-coordinating and assisting at that training. 

She is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner which uses a powerful healing therapy created by Dr. Peter Levine.

Levine worked with NASA to help astronauts deal with overwhelming stress, and developed this process after studying how wild animals do not become neurotic or develop PTSD even after having been attacked. He found that humans have the same abilities as animals to deal with stress and trauma, but also to heal chronic stress and past traumas. 

Unfortunately, most people with eating issues try to ignore the body, and are no longer in touch with or misinterpret body sensation. And this is a significant roadblock in resolving the stress and overwhelm that lead to overeating. 

The body that we often take for granted is the most intelligent being in existence and should be our first health adviser. It's language is sensation. We are all familiar with this form of communication when we are in pain. But the more subtle bodily sensations are easy to miss; in fact, most people not only do not listen to these messages, many simply no longer hear them

Somatic therapy will help put you back in touch with, and show you how to work with body sensation to help you resolve the stress and negative emotions that trigger overeating, even if they are caused by something in your past. 

You have an incredible, intelligent body. Let somatic therapy guide you in reconnecting with this innate healing guide. 

More About Somatic Therapy and Emotional Eating

Those with emotional eating often have difficulty managing stress and other life issues without turning to overeating and/or restricting, and even purging, to manage stress, calm themselves, and find comfort. Sometimes emotional eaters do not realize they are under stress, as stress feels normal; however, a closer look would show a nervous system that is struggling to maintain balance.  

Source: Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute

Source: Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute

When the nervous system is off balance, it will be either revved up (you may be anxious, constantly on  the go, have a hard time relaxing) or shut down (low energy, can't get motivated, disconnected). Believe it or not, the nervous system can actually be revved up and shut down at the same time, resulting in a complex of systems.

The result is a wide variety of problems, including eating problems, eating disorders, panic attacks, anxiety, chronic pain, thyroid or autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, etc. We end up trying to cope by overeating and undereating, as well as working out, drinking, drugs, overworking, angry outbursts, blaming others when we feel terrible, etc. 

At first I questioned how this "laundry list" of diverse symptoms could all be listed together. Surely all these issues had different causes, and therefore different solutions!

It only made sense to me when I began to understand how the nervous system works. Think about a car with the accelerator or the brake constantly engaged. What would happen to the car? It would begin to break down. The same with the body. When the nervous system is chronically on or off, the body begins to break down.

It also makes it very difficult to learn change behavior. Bear with me for a brief anatomy lesson to understand why. 

We have three parts of our brain:

  • The Logic Brain ("neocortex") which is in charge of thinking, planning, and figuring out if things are logical or not.
  • The Feeling Brain ("limbic") which is in charge of feelings, emphathy, the ability to connect, etc.
  • The Primative Brain ("reptilian") which is mostly automatic and which reacts before the other two brains have any idea of what is going on.

When the nervous system is "on" or "off," the primitive brain is running the show. To do that, it sends chemicals to the logical brain to shut it down. In survival terms, this makes sense. Our bodies react to danger BEFORE the mind knows what is happening. Even one or two seconds can be the difference between surviving or not. So the brain doesn't let us think, it just acts--to save us.

If you have lived with overwhelming stress, or have experienced trauma, the nervous system begins to change. In fact, MRI studies show stress and trauma literally changes the structure and function of the brain, making it much harder to challenge old behaviors and learn new ones. SE calms the reptilian brain and brings the logic brain online, making it much easier to change.

The focus of SE is on connecting with sensations in the body in a way that allows stored energy from negative events and stress to be gently released. SE allows the nervous system to return to balance so that emotional eating and other ways we try to cope are no longer needed.

The underlying issues are diminished and even eliminated, literally, and the nervous system becomes more balanced:

With SE, you will find it easier to negotiate life and relationships without being knocked off balance. You will be able to let go of old coping mechanisms, like overeating, and will be much less likely to erupt in anger, or get caught up in grief, sadness and fear. This, in turn, facilitates recovery from eating and weight-related issues.

Somatic Experiencing is also ideal for psychosomatic issues such as pains in the body or other symptoms that cannot be explained medically, such as digestive issues (Irritable Bowel Syndrome, yeast problems, etc), chronic fatigue, etc.