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*Definition: Extimacy - a Lacanian term disrupting the space between the personal and the social.

 

[Cisgendered, able-bodied,
medium dark, black woman with
long dark dreadlocks bearing a 
pleasant, closed mouth smile with
soft eyes.  This impromptu selfie
was cropped, such that only
face, hair and high upper chest 
appear in the photo, for the
purpose of strategically hiding
“the mess” in the background :-)….]

SOMATIC APPROACH

 

….unfeeling cannot be understood without addressing the dimensions of how they are racialized, queered, and gendered as part of legacies of hegemonic oppression….what can we apprehend if we stay with the negativity of (self-preserving) unfeeling and suspend its rehabilitation….

— Xine Yao

 

Not only can the human’s being not be understood without madness, but it wouldn’t be the human’s being if it didn’t carry within it madness as the limit of its freedom. 

— Jacques Lacan / Frantz Fanon

 

I’m an independent scholar and a social practice-centered educator, group facilitator, consultant, and somatic therapist. My work is shaped by 25 years of engaged theorization on neoliberalism, universalization, normativity, colonialism, race, gender, labor, migration, and diasporization. In its broadest sense, my work troubles how de-historicized expressions of intimacy recreate white/western universalisms in therapeutic and group encounters, things that render therapy and group facilitation complicit in the reproduction of social injustices and ultimately intergenerational social harms.  To this end, I engage the whole person or community and the lineages in which they are situated, as well as historically juxtaposed and aligned.  Equal attention is given to individual/familial experiences and the broader socio-historical and political contexts in which these experiences are violently and mundanely normed in the present and over time: conquest; slavery; colonialisms; genocides; forced and voluntary migrations; indenturement; economic and legal disfranchisement; communal consequences of land dispossession, geo-political border shifting, and environmental crises; cultural and institutional enforcements of ableism, binary sex/gender normativity and criminalization; and other non-repaired, historical and political formations and events resulting in the harmful, normative social practices that contextualize individual, familial, communal, and societal trauma.  Through attuned sensorial and verbal connection, I facilitate careful engagement with somatic expressions that communicate silenced, unvoiced, and unmet needs reflecting current, intergenerational, and historically unintegrated harms and stresses, as well as sustainable presencing of the disarray of now, and future, alternative imaginings. 

My intention is to recognize and presence each individual’s, community’s, and/or group’s current capacities and the unrepaired, hierarchized relational fields in which these capacities are lived and navigated.  I foster a tender, sustainable process of capacity-building toward resilience and profound connection with self, one’s communities, and the world.  A first step in this direction is having the experience of sincerely being seen and met for who you are and for what you and your communities/lineages live/d.  I whole-heartedly hold the space for this encounter.

Traumatic experiences – whether relational or event-centered, or situated in the past or ongoing in the present – share a common thread: the experience of the absence of choice.  My approach supports new explorations of spaciousness that yield opportunities to creatively mobilize experiences of agency, however small or grand.   This process of knowing, feeling and acting from a place of engaged agency and sovereignty is foundational for transformative healing: it can allow us to vulnerably, intimately, and extimately appear to ourselves and the world, even within the context of current political conditions. 

I support social justice-centered groups, communities, and individuals who are living the somatic, social, emotional, and physiological effects of early relational or developmental trauma, in ways that complicate sustainable political and social engagement.  Early relational trauma refers to daily or regular social, political, and familial harms and stresses experienced early in life, such as growing up in active war zones and/or racially and economically criminalized environments, and/or having to fend for self and siblings to manage emotional misattunement/neglect or physical/sexual violence from unsupported caregivers and social environments.  Early trauma can manifest as dysregulated emotional, somatic, and physiological states (like depression, anxiety, and autoimmune/gut complications), and can be experienced in adult life as the inability to 1) slow down or feel present to one’s body, other persons, or the moment, 2) sustain and contribute to the nurturance of communal and/or intimate relationships, and 3) access, practice, and share one’s truths and wisdom with their communities.  

EXPERIENCE

My practice is informed by 13 years of training in Somatic Psychoeducation, also known as Perceptual Psychoeducation and the Danis Bois Method <danis-bois.fr> & <cerap.org>.  Created in France in the early 1980s by osteopath and physiotherapist Dr. Danis Bois, Somatic Psychoeducation is a fascia-focused practice whose roots originate in the osteopathic tradition.  As the practitioner’s empathetic hands perceive and slowly follow an autonomous ‘inner movement’ – a vital life force permeating all tissue matter – they guide individuals through the perceptual experience of sensing this ‘inner movement’ themselves.  The process of sensing this curious phenomena solicits the experience of ‘appearing to’ or ‘sensing’ one’s self at a profound existential and tissue level. Such perceptual entrainment brings sharp awareness of the enlivened intelligence inherent to physical matter; it awakens individuals to their embodied potentiality, thus supporting or accelerating personal inquiry processes.

I’m a certified Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner (SEP) and my current work is deeply informed by intensive training and assisting in Kathy Kain’s touch practice <somaticpractice.net>.  This is a trauma-focused practice that uses attuned touch to sense an individual’s immediate capacities for physiological and behavioral regulation.  The intention is to explore the unique pathways through which each individual is available to contact an internal experience of agency that can support resilient existence. This approach is foregrounded by the idea that sustainable change and resiliency will not occur until some internal sense of agency is tangibly felt and known.  Kain’s approach taught me how to creatively apply the deeply refined touch sensitivity I developed in the Danis Bois Method to trauma-based cases.  

A rich and stormy research past as an academic equally enhances my approach to my work.  I previously taught in the Departments of Anthropology at the University of Florida and the University of Chicago where I focused on theorizing the re/production of pervasive social norms tied to racial, gender, class, and citizenship discrimination; I assessed how violence is systematically justified as normative, daily existence.   Today, as a social practice-centered somatic educator, and a ‘recovering anthropologist’, I employ an embodied approach that’s skilled at excavating un/subconscious social patterning that is reproduced in therapeutic and group fields. And now I work from a reversed perspective: instead of assessing how or why patterns work and normalize everyday injustices, I attend to the socio-political conditions that can disrupt such patterning such that people acquire access to sustainably mobilize their agency for personal, communal, local, and global transformation.  I had the opportunity to integrate somatics and social justice praxis as core faculty in the Somatic Studies specialization doctoral program at Pacifica Graduate Institute (2016-2019).  I left academia, again, to create space for an exclusive focus on justice-centered work, outside of an explicit institutional context.  My work today can be described as follows: an integration of embodied social theory and somatic awareness as preparatory groundwork for sustainable, transformative, and collective engagement.  I have a forthcoming book on a practice I call ‘somatic extimacy’.