Healers, body workers, therapists, and others on the front lines of helping people heal, agree that embodiment is the key to healing.
But having had trauma in one’s life complicates matters.
Today, we are going to talk with holistic life coach, Alison Rothman, about the subject of embodied living in the face of past trauma.
We’ll be discussing embodiment and what it means.
We’ll explore what it means to live an embodied life, which is no small thing, especially if there’s been trauma in your life.
We will discuss the problems people face in their lives that hinder the process of embodiment, such as addiction.
Alison Rothman, MA CYT is an embodied trauma expert up the road from me in Boulder, Colorado.
She is a speaker, runs retreats, has the Embodied and Awake podcast, does body-centered holistic healing, and runs acceptance circles for women.
If you prefer to watch videos, below is the complete video interview between Alison and myself:
…or listen to the audio podcast version and/or look for the BioSoul Integration Podcast wherever you listen to your audio podcasts:
Dr. Jay: Let’s unpack some things around embodiment and trauma.
It looks like embodiment is a big part of what you’ve got going on.
What is embodiment?
Alison: To me, it is foundational to who we are and how we go through the world.
It is about deep alignment with the truth of who we are, with how we speak, how we work, how we mother, how we father, and how we engage with our community.
There are no gaps between who we are and our embodiment.
Dr. Jay: What is trauma?
It’s a pretty big term.
People are like ‘my upbringing was normal’.
Is it stuff that happened early in life or late in life?
Is it like car accidents or abuse or are there less obvious forms of trauma that have a lasting effect?
Alison: In the therapy world, they label it the big t and the little t.
There are small traumas and then the bigger ones of abuse, near death, car accidents, etc, but every day we have little things like somebody cut you off on the road, somebody says something that gets under your skin and you haven’t let go of that, or your child gets into something.
It’s really anything that imprints the system.
Obviously, we have to approach the big t and the little t in different ways but there are parallel tools to be using so we can practice these.
It’s about learning how to work with these little situations in a way that doesn’t slow your system and get into your cells and imprint.
You are moving from a place of post-traumatic stress and you know if you happen to encounter a bigger traumatic experience you’re like “Oh, I’ve got these tools that I can pull into this larger experience.”
Dr. Jay: It’s kind of like lifting weights, working out at the gym to strengthen your muscles.
If you needed to lift a car off of someone in an emergency, you could.
People often wonder if they’ve been through this big trauma can they really heal.
It sounds like you are saying embodied healing is possible.
Alison: Yes 100 percent.
What I know to be true is that we have our stories.
We all have experiences that we’ve gone through but they don’t need to dictate who we are.
That will always be a part of me.
It imprinted who I’ve become.
You never get rid of it.
You never clear it.
But does it run the show?
Dr. Jay: Do we have to remember the trauma?
I’m thinking about things that happened when we were too young to remember.
Or what about things like familial stuff?
Does that count?
Alison: Of course, it counts because it’s in our bodies.
It’s in our cells.
It’s in our being.
I’m not a believer in rehashing the past.
There’s a time and place to go back into childhood and do your own healing but I struggle with practitioners who are constantly taking them back into the mill.
We can go back and just honor and acknowledge it.
I believe we have a choice on whether we want to live and reside in the past stuff or if we want to choose to turn towards our current selves, right selves.
Dr. Jay: You started giving me an idea of what a session might look like.
How does that unfold?
Alison: Everybody’s different.
I have a gazillion tools and, for some people, a lot of movement and they shut down, so I can’t do that.
I always talk some, but I’m constantly interjecting and asking them,
“What’s going on in your body?
Can you track the sensations, where things are, and where things are moving?”
Sometimes we get on the floor.
Earth is very supportive for a nervous system.
That’s their comfort level and that’s where they can have the emotional release.
I do hands-on stuff, movement obviously, sometimes mirror work.
My main work is keeping people as present as possible.
I aim at giving people tools, so when things come up and they aren’t in session they have those tools to work with.
Dr. Jay: It’s sort of like giving them permission to be who they are.
I suppose a lot of the problems happen when we think “I shouldn’t be feeling this.”
Giving them permission to feel however it is that they feel is a relief and things maybe start to unfold and there’s some wisdom in it.
Then embodied trauma healing can occur.
Dr. Jay: So, how does addiction play into this?
Alison: Addiction’s a distraction and it’s a way of coping with any discomfort of life.
That goes with big t and little t.
I have clients who don’t even realize they are addicted to something because it is as benign as social media.
Addiction is anything that is distracting us from the discomfort of the present moment.
Dr. Jay: Yes, even meditation could be used to distract us from other things.
Otherwise good things like working out or work.
Alison: Yeah, spiritual practice can be.
Sex can be an addiction.
People who are so full bore into something are not dealing with their lives.
Yes, there are big addictions such as drugs and alcohol but I think it’s really important to recognize our human tendencies towards these addictive ways.
What am I avoiding?
What am I not dealing with?
Dr. Jay: So, that kind of connects trauma and addiction.
I guess it’s something that we use to distract ourselves.
So how does embodiment play into this?
How does embodiment “solve” the problem or help addiction?
What can someone expect about the possibility for healing that through embodiment?
Alison: Embodiment is learning how to be with ourselves in any terrain, any flavor of life.
I also want to say that sometimes addictions play out not when we’re feeling uncomfortable but when we’re feeling great.
Embodiment just kind of bridges the gap.
It’s like a home base.
How can we feel peace in ourselves from deep within no matter what’s going on around us?
It’s this constant conversation with ourselves to bring us into alignment, embodied alignment with the truth of who we are.
We are imperfect humans.
We’re going to #%[email protected] up.
But how can we bring it together?
Dr. Jay: Awareness sounds like a big piece of how to heal from trauma.
We need to be aware of all the parts of ourselves.
Alison: Self-awareness, self-reflection, that is key to coming back in the center.
You forget to remember.
But we do the best we can then we come back home and we walk back in.
By doing these embodiment practices, be it meditation, be it movement,
I consider writing an embodiment practice.
Really, anything that brings in a deeper sense of awareness of who we are, that just becomes our anchor, our focal point.
And we can strive to move from that place in all of the flavors of our crazy human life.
Dr. Jay: It’s a challenge it sounds like, but a worthwhile challenge.
It sounds like making the best of what we have here.
I feel like we’ve got a lot of great nuggets from you.
Dr. Jay: I do have a question.
Who are the people who would hit the ground running and land with you?
You guys could take off and run together?
Alison: I primarily do work with women at this point.
I’m not opposed to working with men, that’s just kind of what I feel my forte is.
I work with women in midlife a lot and, interestingly, I’ve been drawing in a lot of young women in their early 20s who are kind of struggling to find themselves.
So women in transition, women who have lost connection of themselves.
I work a lot with addiction.
A lot with trauma.
I would say my work is not a quick fix and it’s not “Okay, I’m gonna sign up for two sessions then I’m going to go back and you can pull the band-aid off quick and all is well.”
The people who get the most out of working are those who really commit.
They really understand and they’re willing to do the work.
The work is so powerful. It’s so meaningful, so deep, so transformative but you have to be willing to show up to really do the work.
Dr. Jay: So, it’s not something you do for them?
Alison: No, I’m a guide.
I can offer tools.
I can offer wisdom that I’ve gleaned over the years.
I can be of tremendous support but I can’t do the work for them.
Dr. Jay: That’s the way it is.
We can have help, our guide, but inevitably, we all have to do the work ourselves.
Alison: Another thing I was going to add in is the importance of community and reflection.
I’m really into group process and that’s why I run those retreats.
We don’t always need to do it alone.
Our healing is enhanced when we are in a super community because there are so many mirrors and reflections.
We really feel like “Oh, there’s nothing really wrong with me here.
They have something going on today that’s like the same, same but different.
Dr. Jay: I think a lot of us when we are isolated we do a lot of comparing to others and you don’t realize “Oh, this person I’m passing on the street is going through something maybe worse than my problem or really intense.”
So, yes, community seems big.
Dr. Jay: Alison, thanks for sharing your heart and your passion with me here.
I saw on Facebook you have something coming up.
Alison. I do have a super awesome women’s retreat coming up in July at Joyful Journey Hot Springs, which is in Moffatt, Colorado.
It is absolutely gorgeous.
It’ll be a combination of gentle embodied yoga, dance and movement meditation.
Women’s circles and ritual ceremony.
I’m bringing one of my dear friends who is an incredible chef, holistic chef.
Organic food, hot springs, nature, it’s going to be a beautiful experience.
That’s happening towards the end of July and registration is live on my website.
My book, If It Didn’t Hurt: How To Resolve Your Pain And Discover Your Life Purpose is the ultimate guide to embodying your pain’s wisdom and integrating your soul’s essence.
Click the link to read the first chapter of my book for FREE!
I look forward to helping you express more life,
Dr. Jay is the founder and owner of BioSoul Integration Center in Louisville, Colorado. He’s a chiropractor, a hands-on healer, an in-person and online soul integration coach and the author of If It Didn't Hurt: How To Resolve Your Pain And Discover Your Life Purpose. For two decades Dr. Jay has been helping people navigate their healing journeys. Over the course of that time he’s worked intimately with thousands of people. Those who are most drawn to Dr. Jay's work are those who are seeking to integrate and embody their soul's essence and their soul's gifts so they can share them with others. Life will keep nudging us in that direction, anyway. BioSoul Integration helps to speed up the process and smooth out the rough spots created by the innocent and unconscious resistance that lives in our primal brain and nervous system. Click the link to get your Personalized BioSoul Integration Guide.
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