I’m a passionate advocate for embodiment. Human beings function best when they’re connected, present, not dissociated and able to be coherent with what’s happening inside them and what’s happening around them.

This is an ongoing negotiation. In my clinical practice, I’ve noticed that most people dissociate, most of the time, and it takes consistent work to be embodied and present.

In myself, I notice that my left side can disappear and my breathing can speed up. As I work with clients or guide groups of people, I have to constantly track those things. I’ve learned that the slower I breathe, the more connected I am to my left side. The more I can find consistent sensations that I can rely on, the more slow, present and open I tend to be for other people.

Embodiment is key to creating safety as you’ll see below. However, it’s important to start with the really simple things… 

1. Simple, social interactions start to build a rapport

Really simple, social interaction puts people at ease. A smiling voice, a neutral environment, moments of genuine interest in them as people; “how did you get here today?”. I’m English and we often talk about the weather. Be aware of the tone of your voice, how much eye contact you make, how fast you talk – all of these things are powerful signals that other people will pick up on.

2. Ensure you have confidence in your skills

You need to feel safe in yourself and what you’re doing. If you feel safe, the human being you’re with will begin to pick up on clues that they can be safe. They’ll mirror your physiology – if you’re heart rate is slow and your breathing is slow, and if you’re present in the moment that begins to help their nervous system resonate with and mirror what’s happening inside you, and that’s a very powerful therapeutic tool. 

“We can meet this suffering, I can be with you. Let’s make sure you know where you are right now. Let’s make sure you feel comfortable. Let’s make sure there’s a clear contract or framework for what we’re going to explore.”

3. Find sensations inside your body that you can rely on

There are a couple of sensations that I use as a resource ongoingly. They used to be quite hard to find, but they’ve been very present now for five to ten years. There’s a quiet, still place in my belly that’s very reliable for me, as well as a sense of ease in my back, which I’ve worked hard to find. I know generally, if I check in, the ease is there and it helps me know that I’m ok. If it’s not there then I start arguing more with my wife, or I become reactive and tend to speed up. 

You might like to feel your feet on the floor, or become aware of the weight of your body. The trick with grounding is to find specific feelings and keep repeating them to make them into reliable anchors, even in stressful or difficult times. 

4. If you notice your client is dissociating, help them to become more present

Firstly, it’s important simply to recognise the dissociation and not to pathologise it. It’s a strategy that’s a gift from evolution and it can work really well at certain times (the hard part is living your life in this state all the time, without having much choice about it, which can happen as a result of trauma).

Since most people dissociate most of the time, we can all work to be more present, connected and grounded. The opposite of dissociation is having a clear experience of your body; feeling the ground, feeling the tension in your calves, feeling the weight of your body, and being coherent with what’s around you. 

So do anything that’s possible to help your client notice the room they’re in, or notice the texture of their clothes, or notice the weight of their body as it sits on the seat. You can invite them to do a slow head turn around the room, noticing objects, colours and pictures.

All of these little things contribute to a slow, steady journey of building the possibility of connection and a sense of safety in the here and now.

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