Somatic Resourcing – The Body is WealthSep 11, 2023
Somatic Resourcing is essentially about connecting with our body as the most valuable resource we will ever have.
But it's also a specific set of practices aimed at regulating the nervous system from the bottom up, using simple somatic tools such as breath, sound, touch and movement to increase our sense of somatic safety.
We can use somatic resourcing to increase our sense of somatic safety in two main ways:
- To return to our sense of somatic safety when we have lost it (short-term use)
- To develop a more robust sense of somatic safety generally (long-term use)
Before going on to describe specific somatic resourcing techniques, let’s spend a little time looking at these two kinds of benefits in terms of some theoretical models.
Somatic resourcing and the window of tolerance
Somatic resourcing techniques can be used in the short term to help us quickly return to our window of tolerance when we have been triggered.
If we have gone up out of the window into hyperactivation, we can apply calming techniques to down-regulate the nervous system and restore our sense of safety.
If we have gone down out of the window, we can apply activating techniques to up-regulate our nervous system and return to the sense of safety.
(It’s actually a little more complex than this, but we’ll go more into that later.)
Somatic resourcing techniques can also be used as part of a long-term practice to expand our window of tolerance generally.
In this way we can increase our capacity to remain within the window of tolerance, allowing us to maintain our somatic sense of safety in situations which previously would have triggered us into a survival response.
Somatic resourcing and the triune brain
When we experience emotional dysregulation or trauma triggers, it can be challenging to access the neocortex for rational thinking and self-regulation.
Instead, the limbic system and reptilian brain take over, leading to fight, flight, or freeze responses.
Somatic resourcing techniques can be used in the short-term to support the re-activation of the neocortex and restore our access to its higher cognitive functions.
Moreover, in the long-term, somatic resourcing can actually help us build stronger neural pathways between the three parts of the brain, creating greater connectivity and integration between them.
This integrative aspect of somatic resourcing is super important in our modern world, which, as we know, overvalues the neo-cortex and is in many ways cut off from the instinctual self.
By forging strong pathways between the three brains, we develop a more deeply embodied sense of ourselves, bringing the deep intelligence of our bodies more fully into our lives.
Somatic resourcing and polyvagal theory
As we have seen, in states of safety and connection, the ventral vagal state is dominant, promoting social engagement and feelings of safety.
However, in times of perceived threat or danger, the sympathetic or dorsal vagal states may become dominant, leading to fight, flight, or freeze responses.
In these terms, somatic resourcing techniques can be used in the short term to bring the autonomic nervous system out of sympathetic or dorsal vagal states and back into the ventral vagal state, supporting social engagement and feelings of safety.
Somatic resourcing can also be used in the long-term to increase ‘vagal tone’, that is, to actually strengthen the vagal nervous system in the same way that we strengthen our muscles and cardio-vascualar system through exercise.
The better our vagal tone, the more firmly we remain in the ventral vagal state with its experience of social engagement and feelings of safety; also, the more fluidly we can move between vagal states, returning quickly to the ventral state after a sympathetic or dorsal activation.
From theory to practice
As you can see, these three conceptual models are all slightly different ways of describing the same thing.
Essentially, in terms of our own direct experience, we are either feeling safe, grounded, connected, alert, and at ease with our physical sensations and emotions; or we are activated into one of the two main survival states – fight/flight or freeze/shut down – neither of which allow us to behave in ways that embody our higher values.
Understanding this situation and learning to skillfully navigate these states in both the short- and long-term is known as somatic empowerment.
So, now that we’ve built a firm foundation of understanding, how to put into practice what we’ve learned?
Somatic resourcing is the practical side of somatic empowerment.
So let’s get into it.
Our somatic resources
Obviously, there are many different kinds of resources – social, financial, environmental, cultural, etc.
Broadly speaking, we can describe resources as anything that maintains or increases our wellbeing, freedom of action, and capacity for purposeful living.
As we know by now, somatic relates to the body, so our somatic resources are our bodily resources.
Our core somatic resources are:
- and Movement…
Unlike external resources, our somatic resources are part of us – they come with our very being.
Wonderfully, wherever we are and whatever we are doing, these resources are always with us, always available to draw upon!
We only have to recognise them, connect with them, and learn how to use them effectively.
Now, in terms of short-term regulation, there are different techniques we can use, depending on the kind of activation we are experiencing.
Somatic resourcing for HYPER arousal
From HYPER activation – the fight/flight survival response – returning to safety requires soothing the nervous system, and reassuring it that there is no threat to respond to:
- Taking some slow deep breaths…
- Slowing down the way we speak, or making soothing sounds…
- Placing our hands on our belly and centering ourselves there…
- Taking a grounded stance…
Essentially what we are doing is mimicking what the body itself does when it is feeling calm and relaxed, and by doing so we communicate that sense of relaxed calm directly to the nervous system.
Similarly, we can also use the arms, moving them around us and feeling our boundaries, or pushing them against a wall, in order to allow the fight instinct to complete itself in a connected way.
Our neuroception then picks up on these physiological signs, and automatically shifts us into the ventral vagal state, bringing us back within our window of tolerance and into the conscious sense of safety.
Somatic resourcing for HYPO arousal
Similarly, when we’ve gone into HYPO activation, we apply exactly the same somatic resources – breath, sound, touch and movement – but in a different way, this time to energise the nervous system:
- Taking some faster breaths…
- Sounding more loudly…
- Tapping lightly with our palms all over our torso and limbs…
- Standing and doing some shaking…
Here, what we are doing is bringing ourselves out of collapse, but not directly back into rest and digest mode.
Because of the architecture of our nervous system, from HYPO arousal we first need to move into the state of HYPER arousal before we can reset completely to our ground sense of safety.
And so we first apply activating techniques, and only then move into the calming techniques outlined above.
But because we are speaking the body’s own language, it just works!!
Somatic resourcing as a way of life
All this is why we love the map of the Window of Tolerance so much – it allows us to track the state of our nervous system and signposts to us which way we need to use our somatic resources in order to return to safety.
Isn’t it empowering to know that we have the ability to self-regulate in this way?
With practice, we can learn to return to the sense of safety more and more easefully when we are triggered.
And, in time, by making somatic resourcing part of our daily self-care practice, we can expand our window of tolerance and grow our sense of somatic safety to be such a powerful resource that we are less and less easily triggered in the first place.
As we do so, we spend less and less time in reactive survival mode and more time living from our full range of capacities and possibilities.
By practising somatic resourcing, we can keep ourselves as fully resourced as possible – and therefore able to make the best choices we can in any given situation.
The cumulative impact that this has on our lives over a period of years is exponential!
Stay safe, and remember: you always have your somatic resources available to you.
For a video demonstration on how to use the four somatic resources of breath, sound, touch and movement, please refer to our free Building Blocks of Embodied Intimacy mini-course.
Take it even deeper
Our online training, ReSource, includes so many somatic resourcing exercises and practices, as well as live weekly practice sessions and a community of fellow practitioners. It’s a beautiful container designed to help you develop and ground a deeply nourishing somatic resourcing practice into your life as a way of being.
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