Tag Archives: soma

Psyche & Soma

Psyche, in Greek, means soul or spirit, especially that part of the soul which manifests in the mind, in the conscious and unconscious parts of our wholeness. Soma refers to the body, especially to the nerve cells of the body. Psychosomatic is a combination of these two root words, meaning that which the spirit manifests in the body.

In my books, comprising the series called The Recapitulation Diaries, I write often about the incessant pain in my body. As real as the pain was, excruciating and debilitating at times, I discovered that it was really messages from my spirit, my psyche, directing me to what needed attention as I progressed on my journey. I discovered that during recapitulation what is manifesting in the body must be explored.

At first, I had almost every pain checked out by one doctor or another. I was doing this long before I even knew about recapitulation or began my journey of change and transformation. I’d go to a doctor and describe my pain, but there was never any diagnosis that those doctors could come up with to pinpoint what was causing the pain.

When I was in my early forties, I developed a skin cancer, a small red spot that turned out to be two types of cancer, basal cell and squamous cell. It’s unusual to have two types of cancer manifesting in the same area, the doctor who did the biopsy told me, but as soon as I had developed the red spot, and as soon as I was informed that it was cancer, I knew immediately that it had nothing to do with my exposure to the sun as a child, as was repeatedly questioned. I knew it had to do with what was festering inside me, that there was something much worse, that that little red dot was just the beginning of something far greater.

I knew, instinctively, that I had some dark thing inside me that I had been trying to forget my entire life. By the time I was forty, I had been pretty successful at forgetting, though I suffered in numerous physical, mental, and spiritual ways. That small red spot was just another indication that I might have to remember.

It was then that I acknowledged that my psyche was hiding something from me. It had protected me up until that point, but if I was to not get more skin cancer, or any other disease, I knew the time had come to face what it really meant. It took another five or six years before I finally took the leap, the leap into my own darkness and what lay there waiting for me to discover.

Pain is an indicator that the body has something to tell us. It might indeed be that we have a serious illness, or it might be that it is trying to protect us from that which we do not want to know. Pain can be a defense against that which is too painful to know.

As I recapitulated, I began to look at the pain in my body as a message from my spirit. I would ask it to show me what it knew, to guide me where to go next. I developed nerves of steel so I could face what my body had to tell me, what it knew and what it meant.

As I faced the pain and asked my body to be my guide, I also discovered that I always had the strength to face what it had to show me. I knew that it would not be asking me to face it if I was not ready. Whenever the pain showed up, and it showed up incessantly, relentlessly right to the very end of my recapitulation, I used it to heal.

That’s a strange idea, to imagine that our pain is actually our healing balm, but it’s true. Without my pain showing me what I needed to face I might not have freed my spirit and my body from the torment of years of abuse that had been so well-hidden inside me.

I often thanked my body and my unconscious for showing me what it knew, for revealing to me the truths not only of my own past but the truths of what the spirit and body are truly capable, how they inform and guide, how they really only want us to heal and discover the magical beings that we all are.

Even today, I still use my psyche and soma to guide me. I constantly question any pain I might have. Often, I realize, it is what I call “stuck energy,” a thought, idea, or attachment, a conjuring of the mind that I’ve latched onto that does not belong to me, stuck energy that needs to be moved along and out of my body, tension that when allowed to naturally release brings instantaneous relief.

Or it might be something that my psyche, my spirit wants me to be alert to, something that needs recapitulation. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons of recapitulation is that we are always being asked to grow and evolve, to confront our deepest issues and resolve them so we can move on into even greater freedom.

Our minds and our bodies, our psyche and soma, are amazing partners as we take our journeys through life, as we seek to know ourselves at the deepest of levels and as we seek to find the meaning in our lives.

I highly recommend any of the books by Dr. John Sarno, especially The Mind Body Prescription, as guides to understanding how psyche and soma work together to bring us to consciousness, to help us heal.

Our defenses are incredibly strong but our spirit is stronger. That is what we discover as we recapitulate.

I wish you all well on your journeys, and I send you love,

J. E. Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries

Recapitulation: Movement is Crucial

Just Breathe… anywhere, anytime…
– Photo by Chuck Ketchel

There are many phases of a recapitulation, especially a recapitulation of childhood, especially a recapitulation of a childhood of sexual or physical abuse with its many layers of psyche and soma.

Each layer needs its own separate recapitulation time. Memories are multifaceted and multidimensional, like the skins of an onion, layer upon layer of thin veils of information that must be addressed one at a time. This is one reason that a recapitulation can take a long time. But we can facilitate a recapitulation by consciously attending to each of those layers with intent and awareness, paying attention to where we need to go next by what comes to guide us.

Recapitulation is guided by spirit, that of our body and that of our high self. Dreams guide us too, and we should pay attention to where they take us; our spirit speaking to us in its own language of symbol, myth, and possibility, tapping into other dimensions of truth and fact that we may be missing during our waking life.

During my own recapitulation, I discovered how the many layers of memory came. First there were visual flashbacks. Then those flashbacks fused together into movie-like scenarios, with sounds, smells, feelings, in both physical body and emotional body. Eventually each of those separate somatic experiences required their own recapitulation, so that in the end my recapitulation became a many-layered experience, as each part of each experience took its own time to show me what it had to show me.

The body holds just as much memory, or possibly more than the mind. This is what I came to discover, that the body holds its own memories, separate and yet connected to the memories that come from the deep recesses of the mind, that which is stored in the memory centers of the brain.

These body memories appeared as stuck in my body, energy caught in various places, causing pain and discomfort, anxiety and tensions, and they often acted out real physical disabilities, such as unexplained limping, numbness, swelling, rashes, etc. Often, just the remembering and reliving of a memory did not fully release it from my physical body. Such memories remained deeply embedded in my muscles and sinews until I did something physical to urge them out of me.

I found running, walking, doing yoga, Magical Passes and breathing, Embodyment Therapy® and energy work by an energy worker helpful in releasing these memories from the sinews of the body. Massage, making love, with a partner or alone (yes, masturbation is an excellent means by which to release stuck energy); physical work, gardening, creative endeavors like painting, dancing, singing, playing music, even taking lots of soothing baths. Don’t force; do what comes naturally to you. Anything that stirs the body is helpful in addressing the deep needs of the body to release what it has stored alongside the mental memories.

If physical activity is limited, pain and incapacitation will continue. Mysterious symptoms that no doctor can explain will continue. Illnesses of no origin will continue. So, I urge all of my readers to get up off the couch, out of the bed, and onto the yoga mat. Do some exercises that appeal to you. Put on some running or walking shoes, ride a bike, do something you enjoy in order to get moving.

If physical movement is difficult, even just lots of deep breathing will begin to open the passageways to release what’s stuck; either the recapitulation breath or any other deep breathing technique will suffice. Or simply breathe consciously, with awareness, paying attention to the gentle and natural in-breath and out-breath that your body makes on its own. Breath is life; breath is healing.

Whatever you choose to do, begin slowly, proceed at a pace that you and your body can handle, but be persistent. Ask your body to show you what it needs; this is often the best way to start the physical release of recapitulation. Your body will respond and show you what it needs.

Both your psyche and your body will thank you for getting in touch at a new and deeper level. Your recapitulation will get unstuck, and you will be better prepared to handle what it reveals to you.

It will make you stronger in mind and body, psyche and soma. And your spirit will be overjoyed.

Wishing you well on your continued journey of recapitulation.

Sending you love and support,

Jan Ketchel, Author of The Recapitulation Diaries

•Published simultaneously on The Recapitulation Diaries Facebook Page

#701 Chuck’s Place: Love & Sex

Love is of spirit; sex is of body. Our deepest challenge as human beings is to reconcile our ethereal, eternal spirit —that which precedes and succeeds our current life— with our corporal, animal, instinctual, physical body —that which has a definite beginning and a definite end. Animal/Spirit, Soma/Psyche, Finite/Infinite; these are the oppositions we are forced to suffer if we are to achieve fulfillment and solve the true riddle of life on this plane. Of course, there are those who would argue, with rational stamina and certainty, to the contrary.

At a recent dinner party, in a somewhat instigative and provocative mood, I posed the question: “What do you think happens when you die?” I got a quick: “Nothing, lights out!” I turned to another: “Lights out!” With this, I just let it rest. My reason wasn’t up to the argument. Lights out is simply a deus ex machina that doesn’t do justice to the paradox of a life fully lived.

I begin with the following paradox: Why, so often, are so many people so sexually dissatisfied with the person they are most secure and compatible with—spiritually in tune with? I suggest that this fragmentation of our spirit and animal selves begins with our birth into family. The family is the matrix we are born into and which ultimately forms the foundation of what we strive for: love and fulfillment. However, the incest taboo creates an impenetrable barrier to the animal that we are: sexual feelings for family members are strictly verboten. The place where we begin our lives, hopefully in unconditional love and security, does not welcome our animal, sexual selves.

I already sense a growing anxiety in my reader at this point, even the mere mention of sex and family can be alarming, such is the power of the incest taboo. Let me assure all, I am a firm upholder of the value and necessity of the incest taboo. The incest taboo is universal, a part of human culture from time immemorial. Some suggest it to be the humanizing instinct, a powerful archetype governing the behavior of the human animal. My focus here is examining its impact on splitting the psyche, the bearer of love, from the body, the bearer of sexuality. This universal fragmentation is a necessary consequence of being human, a wound that haunts the individual in acceptance of his or her instinctual nature. The consequence for relationship is the challenge of bringing love and sex together in relation to one person.

I stress that I am writing about the incest taboo and not incest. I have spent much of my professional life helping clients traumatized by familial violations of this taboo. My purpose here is to point out the inevitable consequence of the taboo: the splitting of love and sex. The incest taboo demands that family, as our first and often deepest experience of love, completely disallow our animal, instinctive, sexual selves from attaching to the same object of our deepest love. This most primal experience of love, rejects, denies, and repels the animal, which must be repressed, ignored, sentenced to the darkness and reserved for some future expression elsewhere, beyond the family. The byproduct of this most necessary separation of sexuality from family is the experience that love and sex are incompatible. This is the indelible primal imprint that we all take forward into adult life.

This is the incest taboo wound, the archetypal fall that we all suffer. Once man stole consciousness, that is, spirit, he was thrown out of the paradisal garden of instinctual freedom. In life, we strive desperately to return to the garden but are saddled with the split between our spirit and our body. We cannot return to the garden as full human beings —psyche and soma— if we cannot merge love and sex in a relationship with one person. We are granted respites in the garden when we mysteriously fall in love. In this bewitching time of falling in love, we reenter the garden, fully united in spirit and body: paradox resolved, psyche and soma as one. Our animal selves are fully released as we unite with our lover in carnal and spiritual bliss.

Unfortunately, the spell of falling in love is time-limited and soon we must return to the barrenness of life outside the garden, as we discover mother, father, sister, brother, in the eyes and behaviors of our lover. Once our lover becomes too familiar, the incest taboo is stirred, with the necessary consequence of the lifting of romance, as we return to the primal dilemma of the incompatibility of love and sex. Sex becomes labored, uncomfortable, avoided, or routine; the animal wants out of this incestuous cage, perhaps through secret fantasy or secret affair. Perhaps bliss can be extended until the arrival of a child in a family. With the addition of child, lovers must contend with a new role in their own relationship. They are now parents as well as lovers, which triggers the prohibitions of the incest taboo in their own relationship and can severely impact a return to a loving sexual relationship.

It was Freud’s bleak view that the achievement we call Civilization, with all its Discontents, is the sublimated byproduct of the incest taboo. Essentially, for him, ego, or spirit, is the psychic humanizing factor that substitutes civilization for its forsaken instinctive, unrealized, incestuous desires.

Jung, from a more positive perspective, viewed the frustrated libido as the birth of the imagination, which offers a venue for the human animal to reconcile psyche and soma, love and sex, and achieve wholeness.

For the seers of ancient Mexico, the resolution of this dilemma never went beyond the body, as they do not recognize a separation of psyche and soma. As I quoted Carlos Castaneda, last week, from The Wheel of Time (p. 199): “All the faculties, possibilities, and accomplishments of shamanism, from the simplest to the most astounding, are in the human body itself.” The seers’ path is to discover the body as solid and as energy, one in the same. For those seers, achieving the fluidity to alternate between these two states —one finite, the other infinite— solves the riddle of life on this plane.

For those engaged in relationship as a path to wholeness, I encourage containment and openness. For a detailed description of this process I refer the reader to The Book of Us, in particular to chapter three, A Jamaican Retreat, Our Alchemical Oven, where Jeanne and I undertook such a journey in this world. By containment, I mean commitment to a process within a sealed relationship. Interestingly, as I was preparing this essay, I opened the latest Psychotherapy Networker magazine. The picture on the cover is of a wedding cake with a bride flanked by two grooms. The title article is called: The New Monogamy, can we have our cake and eat it too? I quote from the article:

Within the new notion of monogamy, each partner assumes that the other is, and will remain, the main attachment, but that outside attachments of one kind or another are allowed—as long as they don’t threaten the primary connection.” (July/August 2010 p. 23)

This direction in marriage essentially maintains the fragmentation of psyche and soma, as they remain unrealized and un-united in an individual’s relation to one other person. It’s simply another form of triangulation, where the tension of combining love and sex is dispersed, allowing for fragmentary visits to the garden in separate relationships.

With the container sealed there must be openness. By openness, I mean a gradual, but ultimately full revelation of all the truths of the self, including the deepest somatic fears and desires of the animal. This is the healing of the incest taboo wound, as we push beyond its taboos and allow for ultimate spiritual intimacy and animal sexuality to come together with our lover.

The riddle of psyche and soma, the core paradox and challenge of life on this plane can be resolved through many paths: a journey within the self, a journey of relationship, or a shamanic journey. The essential tools in all of these journeys to wholeness are containment of the opposing forces within the self and openness to all the truths of the self inherent in these forces.

If you wish to correspond, please feel free to post a comment below.

Until we meet again,

The books mentioned, The Wheel of Time under the Shamanism category and The Book of Us are available in our Store.