This weekend I participated in The Alliance for Eating Disorders 5th annual walk that helps raise awareness and educates people about eating disorders. There were 750 people who participated in the walk that took place in Boca Raton, FL on Saturday morning.
I find it so powerful when people come together as a community to give and receive support and work towards healing and a greater good. When we struggle together it lightens the darkness and we don’t feel so alone.
Eating disorders are rarely caused by one event, but usually the result of trauma, or accumulated and extreme stress. As Peter Levine, author of Waking The Tiger states “Trauma is not in the event, but in the nervous system”. Trauma can manifest in many ways, and eating disorders are symptomatic of these anxious and stressful states.
Throughout the morning, I had the opportunity to talk to many people about Somatic Experiencing, which is a model created and developed by Peter Levine over 40 years ago. It’s one of many valuable tools to help people get in touch with their body and discover what they are feeling. Some of the ways to work with the body includes being aware of what it feels like in the body during anxious states, more relaxed states and the process of being able to shift from a more anxious state to a more relaxed place. This is important to access sensory experience so we can orient to ourselves, know what we feel and be able to self regulate. We can be in touch with ourselves, and more comfortable in the body.
Somatic Experiencing is a model that integrates mind and body and it’s very helpful in the treatment of eating disorders. Eating disorders can be expressions of feeling very separate from others and negative towards oneself. Once we start to listen to our bodies through Somatic Experiencing, it’s a big first step in listening and learning about ourselves. As we begin to listen, we start to track what we feel during a therapy session and in this process, we can experience more connection to ourselves through our sensory experience. Connecting deeply with the felt sense helps us to be present in the moment, and to be more objective, and identify less with our critical voice, and experience more calm and peaceful states. Our bodies can guide us to places of healing and wisdom, if we can have compassion enough to listen.