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My Highlights from the Embodied Psychology Summit

Last updated on July 28, 2020

So many amazing sessions on this week long online conference. Enormous thanks to Dr Scott Lyons and everyone else involved in bringing the Embodied Psychology Summit to so many people.

If you’re interested and missed it (I shared links to register to the free event via my social media accounts in advance), you can still buy recordings to watch in your own time (link above).

My biggest highlights were Drs Pat Ogden and Peter Levine (separate sessions, complementary approaches and both enormous influences on my own embodied trauma therapy practice).

Pat Ogden’s Sensory Motor Psychotherapy

A pioneer in the field, I remember studying her work during my yoga therapy training and it was a joy to better understand it as I listened this week. Also, as ever, am shocked and delighted to hear of how different models emerged.

For Dr Ogden, bringing Rolfing and Psychotherapy together meant clients were able to work with whatever came up for healing in the session.

Her affirmation of healing as a process helped me exhale that bit more deeply as I reflected on some of the things that STILL come up for healing for me even though my life is transformed from when I began this work (attempting to help myself since my teens and with various trainings since 2001).

For therapist readers of this blog, especially body workers, you might want to check out this podcast interview with her

Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing – Restoring a lust for life

Waking the Tiger changed my life and is one of the first books I recommend to clients and others who express an interest in trauma work.

Speaking about how embodied psychology has evolved, he said, ‘I’m not saying that the body is everything but, without the body, at least when we’re alive, there is nothing.’

Understanding more about how our bodies react to trauma and how we can use them to process and heal – even decades later – is nothing short (even now in 2020) of revolutionary.

Levine described healing as restoring that life vitality.

His gentle approach helped me, and helps me help my clients, feel less afraid of what might emerge and more empowered to understand, experiment and heal.

Simply understanding a little about the neural correlates and what’s happening physiologically means we can reduce the shame that so often accompanies trauma. We’re humans. And resilient.

Stephen Porges and a lovely definition of success

I love the idea of us being able to regulate for ourselves and coregulate with others (ie creating and maintaining enough safety to enable us to help each other heal.) being success.

Polyvagal Theory has already had a big impact on my practice so, what a joy to hear him speak again. Lockdown 2020, you’re spoiling us with all these online summits!

Nkem Ndefo, Dr Sara King and Niralli D’Costa on Resilience

I could have listened to 22 hours of these delightful panelists rather than the excellent 90 minutes.

Raising as many new questions as were asked, Nkem Ndefo voiced the concern about the idea of individual resilience (and wellbeing) being commodified so there’s an expectation on individuals to ‘take it more’ from oppressive systems (be that white supremacist or patriarchal systems or toxic workplaces).

Dr Sara King talked about white privilege and white supremacy systems being harmful to the white people who embrace them as it means missing out on so much richness.

She also raised the idea of post traumatic growth as particularly problematic where seen as linear when there’s no end in sight.

And I especially loved her idea of a mandala with representations of all the people in her heart. At certain points, some people may need to be moved to the edges of the mandala (for her own self care) but they are still in her heart.

They also talked about how chronic illness can make being embodied feel impossibly painful. Ndefo said she sometimes watches videos of other people being massaged when she can’t have a massage herself.

Sometimes, it’s about getting through the day. Embodiment can feel like a luxury that’s not necessarily available all the time – as every, be kind to yourself wherever you are and whatever you need.

Arielle Schwartz on Post Traumatic Growth

All these years of working with trauma and post traumatic growth and I adored the simplicity of Schwartz’s definition:

That, when we have support during and / or after trauma, we grow.

Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy – relational / interpersonal trauma can make asking for help or even accepting help feel like an impossible task.

I have very few childhood memories but, after listening to this session, kept having a feeling of being in primary – infant, probably – school. A teacher (who I didn’t recognise or remember) BEING there. Us kids working on whatever work we’d been given and the teacher gently wandering around and being available to offer support if and when needed.

I have no idea if this was an actual memory or something imagined but, of course, in real life, we rarely have benevolent people passing by, ready to pick up on the smallest hint that we need support with something.

Still, we CAN ask for help.

We can access a whole range of support. I have loads of free self care coaching resources throughout the site as well as the membership programme (coming in September if I can get this tech issue – I need to access more support there! – sorted).

And while I’m pretty much at capacity for one to one work, if you’re interested in becoming a client or supervisee and my approach appeals get in touch ~ even if I can’t help you myself, I might be able to help you find someone who can.

I loved Schwartz’s advocacy of self care, saying, that when we hold ourselves, we can hold others.

You might want to try this right now – if yoga and Seated Forward Folds don’t appeal, simply sit on the floor / yoga mat and, with your knees bent, wrap your arms around yourself and let yourself hold yourself for as long as feels good.

Additional Highlights

These included Dr Richard Strozzi-Heckler sharing some centering tools and encouraging thinking with our whole bodies. (I did some training with Clare Myatt years ago and included the Dragon’s Tail, grounding and centering tool she taught me in the book learned from him).

Also:

  • Dr Gail Parker advocating embodied practices to support post traumatic growth
  • Dr Christine Caldwell on the need to allow ourselves to be moved as well as moving deliberately ourselves
  • Albert Wong on trauma, embodiment and fragmentation, a panel on embodiment and psychology
  • Sally Goddard Blythe on the brain body connection in infants and children
  • Bernadette Pleasant on embodying joy and other emotions (and no longer worrying about being too much)
  • Michaela Boehm on the need for intimacy with the self to have intimacy with others
  • delightful panel with Sue Johnson, Stella Resnick and Ilan Stephani where they talked about having been in at the deep end in their early days
  • Am going to finish now by listening to Nkem Ndefo, Dr Anouk Shambrook, Dr Kesha Fikes and Dr Rae Johnson on Embodied Social Justice.

Experiential challenges

Listening to so much (not just of this but the Coaching Summit, Super Conference, Action Trauma Conference) means my brain hurts!

It’s all amazing stuff but fitting as much in as possible over a couple of months now (including weekends) means I really noticed my own lack of embodiment when it came to some of the more experiential elements.

I enjoyed Michal Yarknoni’s yoga and movement (including a facial massages to activate hearing and bone tracing – powerful dreams that night) but, other that that, have been doing my own stronger than usual outdoor yoga practice.

When I’m relaxed and at ease in my own skin, I delight in this kind of experiential learning.

At the moment, though, on this luxurious treadmill of learning, I gave myself permission to simply listen to what I could listen to.

And, of course, when I gave myself permission to not attempt to do EVERYTHING but dropped into SOME of the embodied practices, 3 minutes or less and ahhhhhh.

It makes me laugh that all these years of doing this and that self care practices work STILL surprises me.

I can still get caught up in the hecticness instead of connecting with the breath, grounding and being open to the wonder in every moment.

If I were to do this whole summit again, I would block out more time but am grateful that I’ve been able to benefit as much as I have.

Have you been watching/listening?

What have been your highlights?

With love,

Eve Menezes Cunningham self care coach therapist supervisor

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