Counter to the Problem Story Foraging:
An Invitation to ‘Glimmer and Glow’
HILDA NANNING, RSW, MSW, RCC
A Narrative Therapy Rendering of Somatic Attunement Practice
For those folks interested in the ‘Hello Body’ and ‘Vagal Toning’ practice we get up to in our therapy together, and for which you might be integrating into the moments of your day, and/or for those ‘Doing Political Therapy’ and Narrative nerds, read on.
Despite the problem’s (for some of us, a gang of problems), convincing nature and its gaslighting effect, somatic COUNTER STORY RE-MEMBERING can be an effective resistance and supportive to the pursuit of a preferred felt experience.
From a ‘DOING POLITICAL THERAPY’ point of view (because I can’t help myself), resistance to the problems’ oppressive tactics and counter story re-membering can also have a feel-good, political value. This political value can translate to some double resistance power, because oppression is dangerous and harmful in our world, and any protest of its wrongdoing is good for all and a meaningful ‘line of flight’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987)1
The ripple effect of protesting the internalization and entrapment of problem oppression, by way of acknowledging, including and integrating that which nourishes, can invite more generative co-regulation opportunities with those we are close with and this can be seen as offering a triple resistance power. The PERSONAL IS POLITICAL is a core principle that feeds my work and has nourished my own lifetime of counter to the ‘problem foraging’ (as named in research with HNC client, J). When we look after ourselves and defy the stuff that makes us unwell, we have more to offer the world.
When we look after ourselves and defy the stuff that makes us unwell, we have more to offer the world.
Deb Dana, LCSW talks about “glimmers and glows” as a helpful somatic focus, to deepen connection to the ventral vagal nervous system. I liken the somatic attunement call of “glimmers and glows” as a leaning towards the light that supports the healing the body intrinsically wants (a kind of ‘human phototropism’, as named in research with HNC client S) enabling nutrient acquisition for our roots and our malnourished spots).
Deb describes the human tendency towards ‘negativity bias’ versus the good stuff, as a biological condition that finds us programmed to chase the idea of safety and survival. In Narrative therapy land, we might refer to this ‘negativity bias’ as the PROBLEM TERRAIN and the ‘glimmers and glows’, somatic focus as COUNTER TO THE PROBLEM TERRAIN.
We get to know these terrains in our work together, and as we grow our awareness of how the problems operate and the effect they have upon our felt experience, we get to know better the rocky terrains that challenge our energy, hopes and dreams, and the dense valleys that obscure the views of the beauty around us and the peace, calm and pleasure that become more accessible when not lost. As we orient ourselves to a more expansive view, we explore where the problems might be tricking us into thinking that if we just work harder, worry more, keep vigilant watch on the wrong that might be coming.. we will be safe and we will survive. We learn more about these activating defense responses and when they serve us and when not, and we discover access to the breath and clearings that offer refuge, more light, and a whole other menu of felt experience choice. As we see and feel more and find choice beyond the hyjak of the problems’ terrorizing opertations, we can navigate better, whatever the terrain.
Resistance to problem oppression and foraging micro-moments of ventral vagal energy supports nervous system ‘regulation’, relational connections and the re-membering to breathe, which as we discover is no small thing. The Somatic Therapy world offers us the language of science to understand how we can befriend our nervous system and somatic practices such as Deb’s ‘glimmer and glow and our own HNC ‘Hello Body’ and ‘Somatic Journaling’ (HNC and clients) and this gives us tangible daily foraging practices that support the re-membering that there is always more to the problem story terrain.
Re-membering to Re-member to do these practices is a whole other practice.. but as you will hear me say so often, “Trying is the Practice” and “practice is about the feedback” and not about the success/failure or the final destination (ideas given therapeutic prowess, in practice with HNC clients). My thoughts go to the many clients here, like HNC client A, in honor of her practice effort as resistance.
PRACTICE: Somatic Counter Story/Vagal Toning and Resistance Forging
Naming and Noticing:
A moment of pleasant or calm.. a relaxed body.. a laugh in the belly.. when you took a deep breath to interrupt an agitation and it felt good. What is the sensation, does it move, is there a shape to it, where in the body does it most reside? What happens when we breathe into it and take refuge??
A problem invasion moment such as anxiety, worry, overwhelm. Where is it located in the body? If you breathe into it, does it respond in favor? What do you do to ‘unwelcome it’?
Naming the problem intrusions can invite a lessening of activation.. I liken that phenomena to how, when we name the bullying, it can offer us relief. Power-over tactics have more power when they are invisible and insidious. Naming it can disrupt the absence of consent and any harmful gaslighting effect, which can invite choice. Naming the intruders, can invite that ‘triple power resistance’ as described above. Naming the glimmers and free from problem times can support the remembering there are glimmers and breath opportunities.
Listening in to the Body Talking:
If the tears could talk? What more does it have to say? If the pain could just breath without the pressure of needing to be fixed or dissected? What is the sensation of that worry and how might it respond if we free it from the worry about worry or the anxiety about anxiety.. if we slow the thoughts and let the breath take the reins?
When we feel heard, it can feel reassuring, and once we acknowledge the somatic experience we can then remember it is also responsive. It is here we can deepen our neuroception discernment. Listening in to ‘more to the story’ beyond fear or shame or or the aversion to anxiety, supports remembering the counter terrain as a place we can revisit and makes the pathways to get there more readily accessible. Acknowledging and honoring the feelings provides access to what it might need. When we check in to this body of stories and sensations, we invite dialogue.
Leaning Towards the Light:
Resourcing the body is resistance, as it is saying no to the somatic problem activity and saying yes to a preferred felt experience, and this can debunk the problem bullying tyranny and reveal intimidation tactics and gaslighting entrapment. Getting to know better what is going on, as it is ‘safe’ to do, exposes the operating systems at play from a safe zone.. What is the ‘safe zone’ (Thank you HNC Client S)? How do we know when we are there and what are its borders? What supports us to return to the somatic safe zone? What supports it to root there? Does that body appreciate a soothing messages like “I’m ok… Its ok.. I can do this, I am worthy of calm..” Might the body be receptive to the vagus toning and somatic grounding that can be found with comforting movement like butterfly tapping and torso hug, generous deep breaths.. cold water on the wrists or face.. grounding.. calming that can come with vibration humming/ “vooooooo”/“om” sounds
Feeling is our way back from the confines of any entrapment, whether it be an abusive relationship, unhealthy career, or internalized oppression. Growing our discernment of what’s right, good and ok and exercising choice is the way forward to reclaiming the present and a preferred future.
Dear clients, I thank you for your trust and courage, and the opportunity your growth and recovery offers others and this work.
All my relations,