Working with Depression in the Body
Part of being human is to experience difficult emotions such as sadness, depression, anxiety, frustration, disappointment etc. Yet these emotions do not make us feel “good” and so we have an unconscious tendency of not wanting to feel whatever we are feeling. We might brace, not breathe deeply and develop ways and means to numb ourselves and not feel. Commonly, this is what births addictions that range from food, alcohol, drugs, TV watching to excessive exercise, shopping, sex, and over working to name a few. However, these methods, at best, provide short-term relief, and at worst, create other issues for us, while lodging the disquieting feeling deeper into our psyche-soma, allowing it to eat away at our soul.
These obsessive self-numbing activities are called in psychological terms, “defenses.” In some cases, we are even lauded for being defended against our true experience, especially, if we wear the mask of productivity as a “workaholic” or have a great body because we are a “fitness freak.” Yet beneath that veneer, we chronically don’t feel so relaxed and much to our chagrin, nobody realizes our underlying state or empathizes with us.
Most mainstream psychological treatments for depression involve talk therapy, like psychoanalysis, which is known as the speaking cure or laced with some cognitive and behavioral interventions like CBT. While talk therapy, definitely has its relevance, sometimes, it maybe more palliative then corrective. The emotions will arise again and again and don’t really leave our system, unless they are fully felt, digested and processed through. Somatic therapy is a novel way to work towards a more permanent release of distressing emotions by increasing our capacity to really feel and tolerate troubled emotions in the body. In somatic therapy the understanding of what an emotion is expanded to psycho-motor holding patterns, like a permanent ache in the heart at the loss of a loved one or a knot in the throat due to not following one’s true calling, indicating a profound sadness that needs to be alleviated through the very physiology of the person.
These trying emotions are akin to muscular knots that need to be released. We are aware of the discomfort when we have a muscular knot in the neck; we often massage and stretch that part of the body to release the knot. Similarly, emotions metaphorically get knotted up and stuck in the body in half digested ways and need to be energetically discharged. Working with a somatic therapist allows one to truly embody, endure and expel difficult emotions in a self-regulating capacity. As the only way out of a distressing emotion is literally through it.