Interview with Janice Geller, Therapist and Bodyworker in Durham, NC

7.) KP:  Can you talk more about what you mean by the term grounding? 

Janice:  You can see it often.  When somebody is grounded, their awareness is going into the lower part of their body.  From their head all the way down. Walking on the earth. Their jaw movable, breath released, heart relaxing, pelvis supported, their legs moving down into the earth, and feeling their feet and toes making contact with the ground. All of this is grounding. A relaxed being state.

You can see where somebody is grounding in their body and where they are not.  For example, some people are more in their brain and thought process.  If that’s the case, then the work is about helping them come into the awareness of the other parts of their being that may not be as known to them.

The reason why people “leave” certain parts of their body is because it doesn’t feel safe.  For example, if somebody suffered some type of abuse, then it’s common to leave certain parts of the body, because it didn’t and still doesn’t feel safe to inhabit.  In the case of sexual abuse, it may be one’s pelvis or sexual organs that one leaves or dissociates from.  The breath and diaphragm is another area, too scared to fully breath. The embodiment process is about gradually, slowly working through the pain and suffering both physically and emotionally. It is a process of embodying the physical body parts which were abandoned or frozen, integrating the psychological parts that were hurt or felt unsafe, and coming into the true nature or authentic being of the person.

For people experiencing other types of disconnections from the body, then the grounding work may happen more through their breath, or through their digestive organs.  It can have many manifestations.

Often people hold in their digestive tract. The digestive tract is a metaphor for processing experience. Through the mouth, eyes and nose, you choose what you will take in, or not take in. Smell is closely related to memory, and the limbic system. Then you chew something, and briefly you can make a decision that it is not something that you want to ingest. Then you break it down into smaller and smaller morsels so it can be assimilated, your body takes in the nutrients and utilizes them to build healthy cells. Then you keep what is needed and let go of what is not within a certain amount of time. Then there is a finished product.

The metaphor of digestion can be seen in completing projects, assimilating information or understanding another person. It is a rich metaphor for understanding where things get difficult for people, beginning a project, getting overwhelmed by too much food or information coming in, and the need to break it down into small enough tasks, which can be completed.

Perhaps someone says they always start a project, which they cannot complete, and talk about constipation as the physical manifestation. For example, I worked with a women, who had been a dancer when she was young, with irritable bowel syndrome. Irritable bowel syndrome can be seen as an imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic phases of the autonomic nervous system. We carefully traced and gave her the physical sensation of her digestive organs, through hands-on work. While she was bringing awareness to her belly and organs, she felt how much resistance she had to allowing her belly to relax and widen, since she had always been told to hold her belly in while dancing.  The woman worked with the digestive organs, dropping into a healthy relationship with gravity, taking up space, softening and widening. The woman has had little trouble with her irritable bowel syndrome since, learning how to notice that when she gets anxious, her tendency is to pull up and tuck, and how to counter this tendency and let go and widen. With my guidance she has also learned to sit down before she eats, pause, relax, breath, prepare her digestive track for the food, eat mindfully and slowly, and take time after eating to rest and digest which is the job of the parasympathetic nervous system.

KP:  So, what you’re describing is that when people are more fully grounded in their bodies, versus operating primarily from their head, you’re probably going to see different things?

Janice:  Yes. There’s often more clarity and more ability to discern reality.  From that place, people are typically able to make more grounded decisions and life choices for themselves.  If most of one’s awareness is in the mind, and there are parts of the body that are dissociated, then they might experience life in a more limited way, feeling stuck, and feeling that life does not offer them choices.

Next Question8.) How would you work with a client that presents with both psychological and physical concerns, like chronic pain or an injury?

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