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How Somatic Therapy Taught Me to Surrender to The Swamp

Updated: Mar 24

Today, I surrender to The Swamp.


Anyone else in The Swamp? That’s what Carolyn, the Somatic Therapist who helped me heal trauma during my journey healing Chronic Lyme Disease called what is also known as “The Abyss” in Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.


We renamed the journey The Heroine’s Journey for obvious reasons, but whether we called it The Abyss or The Swamp, that part of The Heroine’s Journey sucked.


The Swamp is the part of life where we feel like we’ve tried everything to reach our goals and we’re still flailing around like one of those giant inflatable tube men outside a used car lot. We question everything we know and do. We try a million things to make life better, and still things suck which, obviously, can be really scary and frustrating.


Yesterday, the first thing I did when I woke up was shout, “F&CK!”


(Yes, I was by myself.)


The day before, I ran an AmpCoil Emotions Detox on myself because I felt worried and hopeless, but it wasn’t until after I yelled obscenities at the ethers that I reminded myself of what I tell every client when we run that journey, “You might cry, or you might want to punch something. If you feel big emotions, it’s because your body is clearing them. So, just let it flow.”


Let it flow. Sounds so easy, right?


Just chill out. You know, sit back and let all the problems spin you like a Tilt-A-Whirl.


In other words, just sit in The Swamp.


In my memoir, Pre-existing Conditions, I wrote about the day, about 10 years ago, when Carolyn and somatic therapy taught me to surrender to The Swamp. I'd been dumped by someone I’d thought was “the one,” and the heartbreak manifested in a herniated disc in my back which caused spasms that landed me in a hospital.


A few weeks later, still unable to walk, high on painkillers, I cried, staring at my ceiling and thought, “Maybe I need to get some help.”


That moment led me to somatic therapy with Carolyn and sparked a healing journey, and most recently, a memoir. Here's an excerpt.


 

She pulled a piece of paper off her desk and rolled her chair over to me. At the top of a big circle, she had drawn a dot labeled, “Ordinary World.” An inch or so clockwise on the circle was another dot, “Call to Adventure.” Pointy mountains overlapped parts of the circle and weeds scraggled over the bottom.


“I labeled it The Heroine’s Journey for obvious reasons.” Carolyn smiled.


“Why, thank you! But how does this apply to me?”


“Well, before your back herniated, you had an ordinary life, right?”


“Yes.”


“So, the next spot on the map is Call to Action. What was your call to action?” She tilted her head and waited.


I thought of Fingerprints, Choosing Tally, Fantasy Dating, and Nate. “There have been so many.”


“Focus on your back right now and ask it what your call to action was.”


“Nate.”


“Yes, Nate was your call to action or Call of Love. So, what’s next on the chart?”


“Refusal of the call.” I thought for a moment before saying, “Ohhh. I get it now. The refusal of the call is Nate dumping me.”


“Yep.” Carolyn smiled, delighted I was finally catching on.


“The Mentor is next. That’s you!” We giggled and I pointed at the bottom of the circle.


“What are these weeds?”


“Technically, it’s The Abyss. But I like to call it The Swamp.”


I studied the rest of the map. Transformation surrounded by pointy mountains was next, followed by Atonement and Return with the Elixir.


“I’m in The Swamp.”  


“And how do you feel about being in The Swamp?” Carolyn pushed her chair back to where she usually sat.


“Like I want get the hell out as soon as possible.”


“Where do you feel that in your body?”


“What do you mean?” I asked.


“A lot of adults who were traumatized as children learned to disassociate from their bodies so they wouldn’t have to feel scary things. Now that you’re safe, it’s important to reassociate. A good way to do that is to pause and notice sensations in your body.”


As a kid, I disassociated by hiding and reading books, but until now, I never thought about disassociating as an adult. I remembered the day Lisa D and I discovered my rings had been stolen from my house and she said I wasn’t “really there.”


I had disassociated from the entire process of losing my home too.


“What if you gave yourself permission to sit in The Swamp for a bit?” Carolyn held her out her palms, as if offering me something.


“No.” I shook my head.


“Where do you feel ‘no’ in your body?”


“My whole torso feels stiff, almost panicked.”


“Take a deep breath. Tell your body it’s okay for things to suck right now.”

I closed my eyes and breathed in and out. I couldn’t shake the stiffness.


“That makes me very uncomfortable.”


“Why?” Carolyn asked.


“Because I have to figure out how to get out of this situation fast.”


“I hear that. Society says we have to power through our challenges. I like to call it John Wayne-ing through life.”


Carolyn stood up, hooked her thumbs through imaginary belt loops, crooked her elbows, and with a ridiculous drawl said, “Howdy partner.”


Then she lifted one foot and clomped it down. She slowly raised the other foot, clomped it down, and continued to talk in drawl, “Cowboys are supposed to buck up, trudge through things on our own. Except, there’s one problem – you’re not a cowboy.”


“Definitely not,” I replied.


Carolyn sat, ditched the drawl, and said, “On The Heroine’s Journey, there will be swamps, mountains, and other obstacles before you reach “at one” ment, when your body will completely become one with your soul again and allow you to finally return with the elixir. It’s going to take time, patience, and a lot of work. Work you’re not meant to do alone.”


I held up the Heroine’s Journey map and pointed at The Mentor. “That’s where you come in.”


“Me, your friends, and your family. We’re not supposed to John Wayne through life and handle huge problems on our own. Think about tribal cultures. The phrase “it takes a village” comes from tribes where a child was born and the village would come together to care for them.”


“I never thought of it that way.”


“So,” Carolyn leaned towards me. “How do you think your village would feel about you sitting in The Swamp for a little bit?”


My friends drove me to doctors, brought me groceries, and did my dishes. My mom paid Dr. Nino and my dad paid Carolyn. I realized that the only person rushing me was me.


“I think they’d say, ‘take all the time you need.’” I exhaled and the stiffness in my chest loosened a bit.


“Great. Then let’s slow down, give your body some time, and not rush the journey.”


 

Today, I surrender to The Swamp. Anyone else in The Swamp? Let me know in the comments.


"I surrender" typed on white background
It's official when it's a meme.

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