Mindful Somatic Awareness for Anxiety Relief by Michele L. Blume presents a body-based approach to dealing with anxiety. It’s based on Somatic Experiencing, which is a type of trauma therapy. While the book talks about fear, worry, and anxiety, there’s no explicit mention of anxiety disorders.
The book describes anxiety this way:
“Anxiety is a clamp that inhibits your impulses to live freely and authentically. It constricts your emotional, physical, and mental mobility, hindering your natural instincts to expand, reach out, connect, and create. Living in fear and worry blocks access to the abundant resources that dwell within you.”
The book uses a somatic approach to anxiety that focuses on the connection between mind and body. The author explains that our nervous system holds implicit memories of our past experiences, and while these memories aren’t recalled in a narrative fashion, they can be accessed through the body. In terms of anxiety, the idea is that mindful somatic awareness can help with accessing the memories that are producing fear and hypervigilance in the present and predicting negative outcomes in the future.
There’s information on neurobiology, including the autonomic nervous system, the limbic system, and the differences in function between the left and right brain. I thought it was explained in an accessible way.
The author explains the SOAR process: sense, observe, articulate, and reflect, with the reflection being key to integrate left and right brain responses. She acknowledges that it will be difficult at first to try to resist fear responses, and encourages a nonjudgmental acceptance of whatever is felt.
The book describes a process of over-coupling different aspects of implicit memories so that triggering in the present produces a sense of threat even when there is none. Another concept that’s described is dual awareness, which involves consciousness of implicit memory activation in your body (“then-and-when” experience) while also being aware of the “here-and-now” experience in the present moment.
Other topics discussed include core beliefs, setting boundaries, and using play to balance the nervous system. The process of coregulation in social relationships is explained in the context of how our nervous systems respond in interactions with others.
Throughout the book, the author provided examples from her own work with clients, and how the approach helped with issues that they had. The examples were well chosen to illustrate the concepts.
A very minor thing that bugged me was that Mindful Somatic Awareness was always capitalized throughout the book. I’m not a huge fan of arbitrary capitalization, and while Somatic Experiencing is capitalized because it’s trademarked, I didn’t find a trademark for Mindful Somatic Awareness.
This book offers an interesting alternative to cognitive methods for treating anxiety. While I suspect it wouldn’t be effective for everyone, I think it could be really helpful for making connections between the past and the present, particularly for people who’ve had traumatic experiences without having a full-blown trauma disorder.
Mindful Somatic Relief for Anxiety Awareness is available on Amazon (affiliate link).
I received a reviewer copy from the publisher through Netgalley.