Updated: Nov 3, 2021
One of the several big questions posed to humanity concerns the relationship of the body and the mind – Are the body and mind distinct entities? Are they one and the same? Is one a product of the other’s doing? Or are they engaged in a reciprocal interaction resulting in life?
These, and many other questions regarding the mind-body relation have intrigued philosophers, physicians, biologists, and mental health practitioners for about as long as humankind has persisted on the planet. While the answers to these questions remain elusive to human inquiry, one foundational truth has been recognized since time immemorial – that the mind and the body share a deep and intrinsic interrelation.
This understanding of the reciprocal relationship of the brain and the body can be traced back to philosophers in ancient Greece – Plato was amongst the first to describe health as emerging from the harmony of the body and mind. Years of philosophical debate, everyday observation, scientific inquiry, and meticulous research have all led to the understanding that in the human body, everything biological is psychological, and everything psychological is biological. In fact, it is not entirely possible to separate the effects and pathways of the mind from that of the body.
What is Somatic Intelligence?
The concept of ‘Somatic Intelligence’, pioneered by Dr Peter Levine, is an addition to this long tradition of recognizing the power of the mind-body connection. It is founded on the hypothesis that the body is a storehouse of intelligence that is more primal and instinctual than our higher brain-based intellectual capabilities.
This body-based intelligence (hence the name ‘somatic’ intelligence) is considered the key to optimal health and wellbeing. The theory and practice of Somatic Intelligence shares several roots with ancient practices such as Yoga, T'ai Chi and Qigong, as well as several modern therapeutic systems such as the Alexander Technique and the Feldenkrais method.
How is Somatic Intelligence Linked to Healing?
Somatic Intelligence practices seek to achieve healing by emphasizing various basic, crucial bodily processes. These bodily processes could include breathing, sighing, touching, and moving. Gaining mastery of these various bodily processes is believed to eventually aid an individual in taking control of how their brain and body react and respond to danger, allowing for a sense of safety.
The therapeutic processes attempt to track and trace various bodily habits and patterns, and thereby unclog any restricted energy, which is then redirected to deep healing. By attuning an individual to their own body, Somatic Intelligence enables self-regulation and harmony within the body.
How is Somatic Intelligence Distinct from Talk-Based Therapy?
As opposed to focusing on the thoughts and feelings associated to an experience, healing via the
theories of somatic intelligence is considered to be more ‘bottom-up’ in nature. Somatic intelligence claims to direct attention to visceral and musculoskeletal sensations within the body. However, practices and techniques based in Somatic Intelligence easily lend themselves to integration with talk-based therapies.
How will Somatic Intelligence help?
Somatic Intelligence is thought to equip an individual to self-soothe, and better handle several negative emotions like anger, fear, stress, and sadness. It also enhances resilience, better arming an individual to mitigate the challenges and stresses in life. One of the key applications of Somatic Intelligence, is its role in the management and treatment of trauma.
Somatic Intelligence attempts to modify the foundational pathways used in mindfulness meditation to enable processing of traumatic material, and to thereby gain mastery over one’s reactions to such traumatic memories. Somatic Intelligence has been used to treat post-traumatic symptoms, traumatic pain, and several other kinds of trauma.
Somatic Intelligence has also been applied in the organizational setting (via a set of techniques known as ‘Embodied Leadership’) and is thought to enhance leadership strategies and behaviour that individuals exhibit. Evidently, the benefits of engaging one’s Somatic Intelligence are many, and hold vast potential for self-growth, and being the best version of oneself.
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Learn More About Somatic Intelligence
Blake, A. (2009). Developing somatic intelligence: Leadership and the neurobiology of embodied learning. Stonewater & Strozzi Institute. Retrieved from: https://embright.org/wp-
Donovan, M. (2019). What is Somatic Intelligence? Retrieved from:
Graham, L. (2018). How Tuning Into Your Body Can Make You More Resilient. Retrieved from:
Payne, P., Levine, P. A., & Crane-Godreau, M. A. (2015). Somatic experiencing: using interoception and proprioception as core elements of trauma therapy. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 93. Retrieved from:
Strozzi-Heckler, R. (Ed.). (2011). Being human at work: Bringing somatic intelligence into your professional life. North Atlantic Books.