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         Recovering the Embodied Self through Somatic Education

By Abigail Natenshon, MA, LCSW, GCFP

Evidence of the unity of the mind and body and its impact on the self and healing dates back 2500 years as a benchmark of Buddhist practice.  Twenty-first century brain research and technological advancements capable of measuring consciousness and state of the mind validate the notion that the healthy self is an integrative union of body and mind. Anorexia and bulimia represent the fragmentation and loss of integrity of the core self. 


The self as we know it is ‘embodied, accessible through a ‘bodybrain’ that learns ‘from the bottom up,’ as well as through a ‘mindbrain’ that learns ‘from the top down.’  Somatic education offers embodied learning that is kinesthetic and somatosensory in nature.  In conjunction with traditional language-based treatment approaches, mediated somatic education interventions, through movement with attention, awaken a bodily consciousness that counteracts one’s loss of self through identifying solely with the mind, in thinking, in emotions, or in external situations.  In restoring the connection between the mental and physical body, somatic education facilitates recovery.  A somatic education technique that has proven to enhance eating disorder recovery and body image disturbances is the Feldenkrais Method©.  (See the Feldenkrais Method link on this web site.)


Eating disorders are disorders of the brain; their symptoms present as dysfunctional emotional, behavioral and perceptual patterns that stem from imbalances in brain biochemistries, the neuromuscular system, and in sensory integration (perceptual) dysfunctions.  Through the process of treatment and recovery, neurological imbalances become rectified. Drawing from a mindfulness or sensibility derived from the physical or embodied self, somatic education facilitates an integration of sensory functioning which ultimately evokes healing changes in the global structure and function of the brain, through neurons that fire together and wire together. The role of the bodyself in the etiology, maintenance, prevention and healing of eating disorders enlightens our notion of how people learn and of what constitutes effective treatment.                                                 

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