September 4, 2021
I’ve been hearing “connect the dots” a lot recently—from friends, in the community, and in news commentaries. It’s so curious to me, because I’ve used that phrase for years with my clients and students.
There are times when I contact 2 points on the body, just skin level touch, no probing or poking. A client may comment, “I’m feeling all sorts of things going on, but you’re not doing anything, are you? What are you doing?”
As a very visual person, when asked a question, I may “see” the answer. When I first heard that question, I saw a page from a 2nd or 3rd grade workbook: an outline of a playful puppy, but the outline was all numbers, not a line. So I answered the client’s question this way, “I’m connecting the dots, so a picture begins to emerge. The body recognizes anew the connections between its parts.”
That answer made total sense to the client. I’ve used the same answer ever since, it still sits well with clients, and I still see the numbered outline of the puppy in my head!
Likewise, when teaching bodywork students how to sense and contact related points, the phrase “connect the dots” seems to clarify for them how we’re touching a client to reconnect internal relationships and re-start internal understanding.
Assuming the above makes sense to you, you might be wondering now: “Which dots? What even prompts you to locate dots to connect? and what’s it really about?“
As I move one area of the body into a comfortable position to release tensions, another area may call my attention. Or the client says, “that spot feels fine, but now this place is talking.” I sense there’s a relationship between the two areas or more specific points within the areas. Because my job is to help the body self-correct, when clues surface, I want to follow them! Thus, I contact the 2 points simultaneously to connect them, and thereby invite them to “see” each other, to come into a cooperating and self-healing relationship with each other. Connecting the dots.
Connecting the dots creates subtle awakenings and communications through the tissues and leads to clients’ perception of sensations—called interoception. Sensing things happening in their body then leads to that question, “What are you doing?” Which brings us to the second part of the title of this blog: Somatic Solutions.
During the U.S. bodywork explosion of the mid-1960s-80s, Thomas Hanna re-defined “soma,” the Greek word for the living body, as “the body experienced from within.” And he accordingly coined the term “somatics” as the field of study of somatic/body-based phenomena. In other words, somatics is working with human beings as they’re experiencing themselves as living, sensation-filled bodies. Somatic work involves our interoception.
When I’m supporting a client’s body to re-engage its self-corrective and healing reflexes, I’m simultaneously inviting the client to “re-occupy” and become present to their body from the inside in present time. I verbally ask, “Is this uncomfortable at all? Is it more comfortable than it was before?” Nudges to stay present to their body. This is directly opposite of “spacing out” that occurs during so many massage sessions. Instead, we’re awakening presence, awakening interoception and awareness, connecting the dots to invite the larger picture to emerge.
The body integrates all this info to come into greater balance with itself—nothing imposed upon it from the outside, simply helping it to recognize, “Oops. I’ve made a mistake. This other way is much better.” Healing occurs from the inside out: decreased tensions, feelings of well-being, relaxed revitalization, increased freedom in the body, and re-connectedness with ourselves. Because these positive responses arise from the body itself, they tend to be cumulative and, when practiced over time, they are lasting. Connecting the dots indeed creates somatic solutions.
*My gratitude to Deborah Dodge for the title.