The Body Remembers

Aug 09, 2023

Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.

-Sigmund Freud

The body remembers. This was the whisper in the dark that jolted Wilheim Reich from his feverish nightmares. As a student of the esteemed Sigmund Freud, Reich probed the murky depths of the human psyche, searching for the roots of neurosis and psychosis. But in the forgotten attics and boarded-up basements of the mind, he discovered something far more disturbing.

Trauma lingers in the body as surely as it haunts the soul. Every traumatic memory of the past leaves its imprint on our nerves, muscles, bones. Our so-called "body armor" records the damage inflicted on us, even as our waking minds struggle to forget. No pill can erase these embodied memories. They persist like ghosts, their chill touch palpable in inflammation, tension, and pain.

To become free of these echoes of the past, Reich developed a new practice for penetrating the veil between mind and body: somatic psychology. This novel branch of therapy aimed to help patients consciously access the unconscious traumas trapped within them. By unearthing repressed memories and giving voice to wordless agonies, Reich sought to dissolve his patients' psychic and somatic suffering once and for all.

Of course, the medical establishment decried his methods as quackery, just as they dismissed the possibility of a true mind-body connection. But other maverick psychologists soon took up Reich's cause, morphing his techniques into new forms of somatic treatment. Thomas Hanna defined somatics as the experiential study of the living body. Pierre Janet theorized that unintegrated memories of trauma corrupt both psyche and soma. Together, these taboo thinkers laid the foundations of a radically holistic healing.

Today, somatic psychology takes many shapes. Therapists guide their patients in mindfulness, teaching them to sit with darkness rather than shut it out. They use grounding techniques to overcome dissociation, gently returning traumatized individuals to the present moment. Rhythm and movement provide other paths to reintegrate fragmented body and mind.

Yet beneath all its varieties, the core ritual remains unchanged. Through somatic psychology, the traumatized are taught to listen to their bodies, to honor its wisdom over that of so-called rational thought. By opening themselves to messages buried muscle-deep, they can finally give voice to the body's truths and weep for all it has endured. This is the first step toward reconciliation and redemption.

Photo credit: Austin Chan @Unsplash

So if you, too, suffer from unspoken remembrances, perhaps, it might be wise to not deafen yourself any longer. It might be that your body is calling to you, telling tales no doctor can decode. Seek out those who understand how to practice somatic psychology. Let them be your guides into the forgotten realm of the body. There, you may finally excavate old trauma, turn it over, and at last begin to heal your deeper wounds. For the body remembers, even when the mind refuses. Befriend it, listen to it, and let it whisper all its secrets. Only then, perhaps, may you be whole once more.

Photo credit: Ashley Batz @Unsplash

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