Cultural somatics

Even though I was one of the first people to use the term ‘cultural somatics’ to describe their work (others include Dare Sohei who has been a long-time companion of my practice as well as black somatic therapist Resmaa Menakem who came to the term a few years before me), I never thought of myself as a founder-gatekeeper of the term.

Cultural somatics, to me, has always been an emerging field of practice with an organic body of common knowledge and shared language – not a modality with a set approach that is tightly defined by a select group of teachers – that sees individual and collective change as an inseparable, interconnected, and embodied processes.

So if my personal work within cultural somatics contributes to your practice, including the use of some concepts I’ve stewarded such as ‘cultural soma’, ‘cultural nervous system’, and ‘cultural attachment’, I simply ask for respectful acknowledgment as you see appropriate.

Some key cultural somatic concepts I’ve worked with

Here are some terms and concepts that have formed the core of my involvement in the field of cultural Somatics. Please feel free to refer to these terms I have stewarded along with attribution that you feel comfortable with:

Cultural soma
The invisible sensing, feeling, and thinking body that emerges out of networks of complex relationships.

Cultural nervous system
The nervous system of cultural somas.

Cultural attachment
The concept that we form attachment relationships with cultural somas. Cultural somas can also form attachment relationships with one anothe e.g. white culture has an attachment relationship to ancestral European cultures. Also independently termed by indigenous social worker Estelle Simard.

Cultural attachment pattern
Securities and insecurities in cultural attachment can manifest in patterns that parallel attachment patterns articulated in standard attachment theory. e.g. cultural appropriation can be seen as a behavior that arises from anxious cultural attachment.

Cultural somatic context
The cultural context of a body, impacted by everything from furniture, clothes, customs, medicine, and other key cultural factors.

Cultural posture
Even though cultural somas are invisible by nature, they can be understood to have postural qualities like rigid or supple, just like our fleshy local bodies.

Cultural dissociation (privilege)
Cultural somatics understands terms that describe systemic oppression through the language of neurology. In the case of privilege, it is understood as a dissociative mechanism in the cultural nervous system that protects privileged identities from processing trauma.

Trauma diversity
Trauma diversity refers to the phenomenon of how trauma held in cultural somas interact with our natural diversities in terms of race, culture, gender, neuro-divergence, and so on, to manifest diverse trauma experiences associated with different groups. It is similar to ideas originally explored through the idea of ‘intersectionality’ in social justice theory.