Beautiful insight by my friend and colleague Barbara Schmidt:
Most of you know that I am not a conventional therapist. As well as being trained in many interesting trauma treatment modalities I enrolled in a three year training in Somatic Experiencing four years ago.
After finishing this training and quickly becoming booked out I did realize towards the end of last year that I needed to take a serious break and look after myself. I couldn’t really afford to take that step, but I deeply felt I had to follow my inner voice and respect my own nervous systems needs. It is of tremendous importance to me to role model what I teach my clients. It didn’t come easy saying “No” to clients, but I knew that I just had to do this. I didn’t work for two months and then only continued with very few clients until recently when I felt I was ready to take on new clients once again.
It has been an important time caring for myself, letting three years of intense Somatic Experiencing training integrate naturally and giving myself this precious time to re-evaluate carefully how I work with clients. I became more and more aware of my own body sensations when working with clients and it often surprised me immensely what my body was able to pick up when working with another human being. At times it felt a lot bigger than just myself, kind of sacred, and I felt very humbled and honoured witnessing these moments of grace. I learnt to trust when something in myself didn’t feel quite right despite a client in front of me insisting they were okay and things looking truly fine on the outside. It has been such an interesting journey learning to completely trust my intuition – there were plenty of moments when I doubted it as it went so much against my mind’s judgment. But over and over again I found out that in the end it had been my intuition, my own body’s finetuned feedback system, that had been right!
Seeing a lot less clients gave me the space to notice reoccurring patterns: It is incredible how many clients don’t have either flight or fight available to them. They live being stuck in one survival mechanism or trapped in the freeze state and it makes their life so much more difficult. Often clients don’t have any healthy anger available to set boundaries and hence become door mats to others or turn all their rage against themselves, hence sabotaging their own healing and progress.
Trauma causes our boundary skin to break – and without boundaries we feel too much, are constantly overwhelmed and easily hurt, can’t set clear boundaries and lack assertiveness. As parents we then energetically merge with our children instead of helping them become their own empowered selves, which in return hinders our personal growth and ability to stay present. Everyone is so unique and what they need to heal their boundary skin is just as splendidly unique.
Sometimes it is like a detective story, following the bodies’ sensations and secret messages and hence finding out what needs repairing in the present caused by trauma of the past. It is amazing discovering what the body wants to complete now (it couldn’t do so when in a stressful and overwhelming situation). Working with the hurts of the ”inner child” and supplying it in the here and now with what was needed back then is another reoccurring topic in my sessions. Finding what resources and supports now has a tremendous healing effect and brings the cells in our body into a mindful present time state. Instead of being stuck in the past we can then truly move forward, making more room for joy, kindness, appreciation and gratefulness.
I love exploring with a client their own nervous system’s functioning. Every person’s nervous system is so different and it is a dance working out what nourishes each individual. Clients can sometimes learn for the very first time what really supports them (and what doesn’t!) and are empowered to regulate their affect. They are then no longer at the mercy of their emotions and overwhelming thoughts, instead they can pendulate to a more relaxed way of being. For me it’s like going on a very exciting treasure hunt with great curiosity and gentleness while slowing down and noticing deeply.
Through my training I learnt to understand my own nervous system better and better. I became skilled at noticing what nourishes and resources, and, what overwhelms me. I finally understood why getting too excited and becoming ungrounded can have such a negative backlash for me. I also learnt that being great at making big brave decisions and jumping into cold water is a strength I will always have, but learning to make smaller steps between decisions instead is much more helpful for me in the long run.
I have been working closely together with other therapists in this time and it has been interesting watching myself in the role of the client. I became faster at realizing who was good for me and who wasn’t. It sometimes was confusing when someone working with me was so nice and well meaning, but my body gave me signals that this wasn’t really going to help me move forward. I learnt that I always need to listen to my body. It knows best. Full stop. Even when it is against all rules, theories and expertise in another healing field. We are all unique and in the end only our own self can determine what is right for us.
I have had my break and lived through it with all its ups and downs (yes, there were plenty of downs as well!) and am now ready to go onto more of these detective treasure hunts with you. I am taking on new clients! Since I know my nervous systems limitations I however will only take on a limited number of clients at a time.
If you want to find out more about your nervous system and the incredible healing of trauma I am inviting you to read the short articles on my blog under www.counsellingsomatic.com.au or on my Facebook page “Counselling Somatic Barbara Schmidt
Artwork by Meera Jacka (first left handed painting) meera.mazdamoo [at] gmail [dot] com
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