• clare myatt, addiction, recovery, somatic, coaching, psychotherapy

    What is embodiment? How do we embody skills?

    One way to conceptualize embodiment is by considering the simple act of folding your arms. Go ahead and do that now. You'll probably find one arm is dominant, so left folded over right, or right folded over left. Now switch arms. Do you notice discomfort or even confusion? This is to be expected, because you have embodied the way you fold your arms, and interrupting that natural flow feels odd.

    So, changing any behaviour initially feels uncomfortable. Folding your arms is not a big deal, but given the likelihood you want to change much more complex issues in your life, be prepared for discomfort along the way. Once we have identified these goals, we co-design daily (somatic) practices to get the new skills "into your body."

    Back to the arm folding - if this were your goal, you would need to practice folding them each way repetitively over time, and that would embody the new skill. Once embodiment is in place, discomfort is at an end, and a new confidence emerges.

    Embodiment is a process. In today's fast-paced technological world, where we have become accustomed to immediate gratification, being in a "process" may seem slow and frustrating. There is no "quick" way to embody skills. However, the significant benefits of embodiment of skills over a period of months or years are worth the commitment.

    Let me offer an example. Some years ago I worked with a barrister having difficulty feeling confident and assured about his performance in the court room. A series of events had undermined his sense of self-worth and competence and he gradually sank into despair. We began our somatic work with the foundational skill of grounding and centering, gradually bringing hope and with it, the motivation to persevere. Before a stressful public appearance he would spend time in the privacy of a stall in the gents, breathing, grounding and centering. As he increased self-confidence, he built on the success of this practice by adding something Dr. Amy Cuddy calls 'power posing.' This helped enormously. I'm happy to report that by the time we finished our work he had recaptured his poise and, while acknowledging the kind of human butterflies we all have before a performance, had developed the skill to be in a state of relaxed alertness - body relaxed (autonomic nervous system "off") and alert intellectually.