Week 6 // What is Somatics?

(Thomas Hanna)

Thomas Hanna defines somatic as the study of the body as perceived from within by a 1st person perception and highlights that both the 3rd person and 1st person perspective on the body are equally valuable but whereas an outsider can online observe the body, the soma (inside perception) involves immediate proprioception, meaning immediate reactions to the observation. There is constant self-regulation. Thomas Hanna thus proposes to change Descartes’ philosophical statement to “I am self-aware, therefore I act” to incorporate this element of reciprocity. He describes consciousness as a skill that can be expanded through focusing awareness on the unknown to learn and know it. This, he describes as somatic learning which is somewhat opposite to conditioning which aims to create an automatic response outside of voluntary consciousness. These so called reflexes, he expands, can eventually lead to a state of sensory-motor amnesia where the ability to consciously control our musculature is lost. Society often regards this as symptomatic of old age but actually somatic learning always allows allows to regain sensory awareness as response to such amnesia. Even more beneficial would be to make it part of one’s lifestyle to build and preserver a highly differentiated repertoire of response possibilities to environmental stimuli. Thomas Hanna calls a soma with such high voluntary control and minimized involuntary conditioning a free soma in a ‘fair state’ which from a 3rd person perspective would be seen as a body in optimal physical and mental health.

I was surprised to read about Moshe Feldenkrais in this IM course but it is appropriate when talking about self-perception and awareness / consciousness of the own body. As my family works with his teaching, I am relatively familiar with the effect his practice can have on the body from my own 1st person perspective.

One thought on “Week 6 // What is Somatics?”

  1. I am surprised that you know about Moshe Feldenkrais! Not you specifically, but like I was never familiar with him and I literally knew nothing about him until I also learned about his field of exploration in a psychology elective that I am taking. With that said, I feel like it does relate to almost all fields of study in my opinion.

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