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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bruce's Lecture

Somatic Recall

Children who suffer from traumatic abuse before they are five years old do not have any powers of language or abstraction to place between themselves and the abuse. They cannot even say, "I was a bad boy" or "Mommy was in a bad mood." They have no words or theories help them understand why they feel pain, fear, or shame. The only place for the sensation of abuse to land is on their bodies, and their bodies record the same as "somatic trauma." Like all trauma, it is stored and will be released when a later event triggers an analogy to the original abuse.

Even if the abused child has become an adult, the triggering of somatic trauma returns him to the young ego-state of his first infliction. The pain, fear, or shame is not felt as an idea or something that can be talked about, but a bodily sensation -- what we call "body memory." Helpless children have no cognitive control, and adults feel body memories as a child would: one-down, bewildered, disorganized, helpless. These early imprints are the most severe kinds of trauma, and the most difficult to treat, but not impossible, because they originate in preverbal wounding for which the therapist's language is incomprehensible.

When, later in life, persons with early wounding begin to work on their trauma issues, body memories may cause bewilderment, fear and shame. These feelings can be so out of control that the adults experiencing them can believe they're going crazy.

I have watched people in group therapy react to other members of the group. When listening to another person's story, they become what we call "triggered." There are pockets of energy stored in our bodies. When something we sense -- see, hear, smell, feel, or taste -- "triggers" or opens up these pockets of memory, we get somatic recall. These body memories sometimes make people spontaneously start to cry. Sometimes their entire expressions and physical presentations change. They literally start to take on a frightened young child's appearance. Their shoulders slump, their faces become drawn and colorless, and they might even shake and begin to breathe shallowly. In this state, they are not able to articulate what they are experiencing. During this somatic (bodily) recall, energy that has been locked in the body is released.

End of part one of Somatic Recall


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