Depression and Panic - The Somatic-Emotional Connection

An interview with Stanley Keleman
by Terrence MacClure

Interview Part 2

Abridged Journal kept by a client

The somatic emotional exercise that has helped me the most, I know as a pressuring exercise. It amplifies and then lessens what's going on in myself during panic or depression. I began doing the exercise every day in the morning three years ago, but now, I do it informally wherever and whenever. I started out doing obvious movements, but now the pressuring movements are micro. Nobody would know I'm doing them even looking straight at me. But, inside, the movements seem quite dramatic and large.

In one of my forms of depression, I become frozen stiff, my concentration is fragmented: I pace, pick up the telephone, and shuffle papers. My panic is there responding to an impending depression and sometimes the other way around. A lot of times, I don't know whether I'm depressed or anxious. It's an awful experience. I've found that I automatically stiffen and depress myself in order to deal with the fragmented concentration. I may not even know that I'm doing it till several days later and wondering what the hell is going on.

When I first started, I discovered that disorganizing the depression led to higher amounts of anxiousness coming through. So, I didn't do it so much. I seem to be able to live with a higher threshold of anxiety. The amount of anxiety that used to drive me up the wall doesn't bother me as much.

Here are the steps I do during my own prelude to depression:

Step one:

I find out what's happening. Usually, I'm stiff on the outside. I'm rigid. A mild terror.

Step two:

I make myself a little more rigid. I also ask myself why I would be rigid. May be there for good reason. Maybe something is making me anxious that I can't deal with right now.

Step three:

I back off the rigidity I've added, just a little. Then a little more. I usually do several tiny levels of 'rigid'. This sort of digitizes it giving me sort of a sense of management of all these increments.

Step four:

Wait. I kind of incubate. There generally are some pulsations. I wonder if I've undone anything besides what I purposefully made. Am I more anxious? Am I more depressed? And if so, so what? And if not, what changed? Was it an old habit?

Step five:

What is different? Sometimes I don't like showing my terrified face of panic. Nor do I want to show someone a telling face of 'downness'. But, after running through the steps, sometimes just sitting at my desk, I'm less likely to hide what's going on. I'm spending less energy masking all of it. That's just the way it is. And I can live with it publically.

The main configuration I always run up against is 'who's on first'? In other words, I can seem depressed, but it's masking lots of anxiety. So, maybe that's good. Or, I can be nuts, and maybe that's like sensing a storm coming on. I always find that when I disassemble one, I'm left with the other, so I've learned to manage both. What is amazing is that I know pretty much how depression and panic are organized in my body. But, it's taken a while. In the beginning, I did several rounds of the steps, to get to know the effect, in short spurts.

4/17/98

Frequently asked questions about the somatic-emotional exercise practice

Terrence MacClure is a writer and video producer from Berkeley.

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