Working with Our Somatic Intelligence

Joe the horse (see previous blog) demonstrated his emotional intelligence by identifying and responding to tiny physiological changes in those around him. These changes occur largely unconsciously and are a result of our somatic intelligence responding to the world around in ways programmed by our previous experience and our beliefs.  Our somatic intelligence speaks a different language from our cognitive intelligence. It is one not of verbal language and socially constructed thinking but one of ‘felt sense’ or ‘embodied knowing.’ We acknowledge its presence when we refer to having experiences such as a ‘gut feeling’, a ‘weight lifted’ or a sense that something ‘sits right’. Because we have become less familiar with and ‘tuned into’ this type of intelligence, we are often deaf to its more subtle nudges, often only responding when flooded with unwanted psychosomatic symptoms.

Our emotions, thoughts and behaviours are intricately connected, and as we, as therapists, work with our clients to engender change in any one one of these so we might see their whole system begin to shift. Often it is a change in a way of thinking or behaving that is the catalyst for this type of change and this is the stuff of the behavioural and cognitive therapies. However, this kind of approach can have limitations if the cause of our distress is largely out of our conscious awareness.

Increasingly these approaches are acknowledging and integrating approaches from more ancient and traditional wisdoms. Mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis, and the use of metaphor, gesture and movement, allow us to tune in to the more subtle language of the somatic intelligence and to utilise it in ways that complement our cognitive intelligence. These approaches seem to allow us to widen our consciousness, giving us access to, and allowing us to adjust, learnings that he have hitherto been stored unconsciously. We begin a dialogue between the different parts of our intelligence and are able to make subtle adjustments to bring them into an alignment. Shifts and insights are made and healing allowed to occur. When we seem have sudden moments of insight, or creativity, when things suddenly seem to ‘come together’, a process of learning has been going on much of it consciously but often the crucial step unconsciously. In a similar way our journey of self-development or therapeutic change might be largely a cognitive, intellectual process, and yet it may be our unconscious mind or somatic intelligence that facilitates us in taking our most crucial steps.