This exercise combines Somatic Therapy and Art Therapy. I have gotten so much from doing somatic therapy for PTSD. Although I am an artist, I have not yet explored expressive arts therapies for PTSD (art, dance, music etc.) In this exercise the main healing mechanism is somatic, however the art component enhances the somatic component by providing a means of recording and seeing the body-level experiences. I feel this mirroring of the experience back to oneself using color and line is an important piece to the overall exercise.
Exercise 1 – Coloring In Your Felt Sense
One exercise you can do with this printout is to become aware of your felt sense in your body (see Felt Sense Exercise) and color in each of the different kinds of emotions and sensations you feel. You may create your own colors and patterns or use the ones in the Key and create any that are not listed in the Key.
Exercise 2 – Coloring in Your Experience of Pendulation
Goal: This is a version of the Pendulation Exercise. The goal of pendulation is to learn self-regulation. There are certain triggers, even unconscious triggers, that set off fear and immobility reactions that can last for hours or days. Sometimes it feels like we are caught in a kind of storm or swamp of fear or paralysis; it is overwhelming and feels impossible to escape. Doing exercises for self-regulation gradually changes the nervous system – slowly over time reducing the degree of hyperarousal (fear, panic) and hypoarousal (immobility, spaciness, deer-in-headlights, unable to think) that occur when triggered. Gradually we begin to realize that, with effort, we are able to move ourselves out of these states of arousal or numbness and back into a state of “calm alert”. Hopefully doing exercises like the following will result in the triggers having markedly reduced power over us.
Materials needed: 2 printouts of body mapping diagram and pen or pencil
To Print Out Diagram: When you click on the image below it will open a printable PDF. Open it and print 2 copies.
Optional materials: colored pencils, crayons or paint.
Place the printouts and your drawing supplies next to where you will be sitting.
- Tune in to Your Body. Sit in a quiet place where you can relax. Relax your body and begin to sense the sensations in your body. You can do PATH, noticing Pressure, Air, Tension, and Heat, if you like, to tune in.
- Tension. Pay attention to any areas where you feel TENSION.
- Draw & Color. Fill in the TENSION on your Body Mapping Diagram – Follow the KEY, either use a pen marking xxx or use color orange.
- Deepen Attention for 5 Breaths. Rest your attention on just ONE area that you feel TENSION. Keep your attention resting on that spot without moving it away for 5 breaths. If you have the temptation to wander your focus to other areas of tension, remember you will be coming back to the body many times in this exercise and can focus on that area the next time.
- Bring to Mind an Oasis Spot.
Definition: An oasis spot is a location – inside the body, in the imagination, or in nature – where there is complete calm and peace. It embodies the “calm and alert” state that is natural to all living beings when they are feeling safe. There can be a lot of energy, for example life force in plants, and electric energy in clouds and weather, however it is still deeply peaceful.
- place within the body like thighs, calves, feet that feel unperturbed, natural, still, serene and calm (this changes from day to day so be alert to the true sensation in the moment, for example, my feet sometimes are an Oasis Spot, sometimes are numb and outside my awareness, and sometimes are activated – tense or holding nervous or stuck energy)
- place in nature that you feel the calm emanating from, for example blades of grass in the lawn, moss in a forest, pine trees, a flower patch, branches of a tree, clouds. This can even be a memory of a place you have experienced.
- animal – a pet – sleeping cat for example, or a wild animal – rabbit munching leaves for example
- place within the imagination – for example a guided visualization to one’s “Safe Place”
In this exercise we will tune into an Oasis Spot in nature. Think about a place in nature familiar to you, or within your field of vision (like clouds out the window). Bring it to mind and close your eyes.
6. Focus on Space. Now pay attention to the space in and around this Oasis Spot. For example, sense the space between the blades of grass, the space between clouds, between branches or trees. Rest your attention on this Oasis Spot especially the space for 5 breaths.
Optional: Ask: What would I feel like if I was that space? just to get a deeper sense of the calm alert state.
7. Pendulation. Rest your awareness back on your body and sense a place of TENSION (the same or a different one). Rest your awareness there for 5 breaths. Then rest your awareness on the Oasis Spot you have in mind. Rest it there for 5 breaths. Keep going back and forth.
Go back and forth until you feel a shift in the overall felt sense in your body.
8. Draw & Color. Now go to the second paper and color or draw in the areas that feel different now, you can use your imagination and draw any symbols and colors you like. For example if you feel more sensation in your legs now, you can draw spirals or green, whatever comes to you.
9. Repeat the above steps, this time for FEAR. You may use the same diagrams or print out two additional diagrams.
You are now finished. Congratulations for taking care of yourself and your healing!
You may do the other emotions: Absent Numb Nothing (Repressed Frozen), Angry, Sorrow, Regret, and Guilt during another session. Two emotions are usually enough for one sitting, but use your own judgment. You may do them all at one time if you feel that is best.
Thanks for reading, and I wish you the very best on your healing journey.