Tonight’s session with my client was a beautiful reminder of why I do somatic work and how simply being with uncomfortable feelings can open the door to  a fuller, richer experience. My client came to our session feeling unusually out of sorts. He is in the middle of interviewing for some very high profile positions and was starting to feel himself cracking under the pressure.

The Outcast

He described feeling really small (he’s 6’3 250 pounds) and kept bumping up against an old memory of himself as the outcast kid who was always getting picked on. He was describing some old feelings of insecurity and embarrassment and was immediately taken to a memory of himself at 13 years old, getting laughed at in gym class because of his weight. I could see the pain fill his face as he was relaying this story, as if he was experiencing it all over again. The more he sat with his feelings, the more memories came to him about moments of rejection and humiliation. His body became tight and filled with angst and the energy in the room felt contracted and cloudy.

As he continued to feel into these memories he became increasingly sad, tears began to fall down his cheeks and he even said that his 13 year old was alive and kicking and as frustrated today as he had been during those adolescent years.

The Peacock

My client, now an extremely self-assured and successful businessman in his thirties, experiences himself in present time quite differently. In fact, he has nicknamed himself “the peacock” due to his seemingly unwavering confidence; these feelings of insecurity were especially daunting to him. He was afraid that if he felt them he would revert back to the same level of insecurity that he had spent so many years working to overcome. At first he rejected them, but soon realized that this pushing away was partly why he felt the need to grow such bold feathers over the years and that by doing so, he was only keeping this very young part of himself rejected and alone and continuing the message that he was not ok.

The Peacock and Outcast Side-by-Side

Then something amazing happened. As he was willing to be with these old, memories and feelings, without trying to do anything with them, without trying to push them away or fix them, he was put directly in touch with the part of himself that feels confident, strong, and capable. He described both of these parts, the wounded one and the peacock, as living side by side. He stated that at first it was a bit challenging to place any focus on the stronger, more confident part because the harder feelings were taking over, as is most often the case.

Staying Present Yields Sweetness

He described not liking to feel those bad feelings because, naturally, he does not want to go back to that negative place in himself. But as he was redirected to them he was able to feel, on the bodily level, that he was not getting taken over by them at all. By staying present and welcoming the whole truth of his experience, the good, the bad, and the ugly, he actually opened to more of himself. He experienced first hand how simply experiencing the present fully opened up space inside himself and he was able to feel into what else was there. By inviting in everything that was present in his awareness, and by his willingness to sit with it, he was able to dis-identify from his pain, contact some sweetness and experience himself as whole.

It is true that we sometimes have to go into the pain in order to get to what’s sweet. Somatic therapy gives us the tools we need to help us tolerate all that is uncomfortable in ourselves, whether it’s a physical sensation, a negative thought, or a difficult emotion. By learning to allow whatever we feel bubbling up inside of us, we actually open to the fullness of who we truly are. And it also helps us to grow our compassion for all of those parts that got wounded along the way.