Don’t Trust Your Feelings: Somatics and the Pre/Trans Fallacy


A great article applying the pre/trans fallacy to somatics and body-work. Steve Bearman brings some much-needed balance to the alternative healing field.

via Interchange Counseling:

It’s easy for counselors, and the people we counsel, to get stuck in our heads. Counseling as we know it originated as “the talking cure”. Over the generations, counselors have discovered how to use dialogue as a powerful medium for facilitating change in our clients. Even at its best, however, conversation can only get us so far. We are more than mere talking heads.

In a tradition that has long been top-heavy, the growing prevalence of somatics has brought counseling back into balance, adding much-needed weight to the body’s role in healing and growth. “Soma” is the body, and body-oriented work takes us places talking never can, but just like mind-oriented work, it has significant limitations.

For those of us in the world of counseling who strive to live fully embodied lives, somatics has seemed like such a godsend that we can fail to recognize its limits. A practice that was once top-heavy can instead become headless, too much talking and thinking tipping over to become too much sensing and feeling. People get somatics happy and lose their balance.

This swing of the pendulum too far in the other direction happens when somatics supporters fall prey to a particular fallacy, elevating somatics to a transcendent position above the mind, instead of down below it where the body belongs. To understand how this fallacy, the pre/trans fallacy, grabs onto those of us who are proponents of somatics, we first have to take a moment to get embodied.…

Read more at Interchange Counseling.

18 Comments on "Don’t Trust Your Feelings: Somatics and the Pre/Trans Fallacy"

  1. Simon Valentine | Jun 1, 2013 at 3:52 pm |

    but, there’s also a balance of keeping the body abovebefore(happening) the mind. sometimes it is good to be robot 😉

    and of course there’s always that other body > mind
    and that they can both be true >.<

  2. Liam_McGonagle | Jun 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

    On late night weekends, at least, my most profound somatic feelings cluster around bladder distress. While I don’t claim to ‘trust’ those feelings as such, I certainly can’t afford to ignore them. So it’s probably best described as a wary, watchful state of truce.

    • Andrei Serde | Jun 1, 2013 at 7:47 pm |

      You clearly didn’t read the article =)

      • Liam_McGonagle | Jun 3, 2013 at 10:00 am |

        Did anything in my post lead you to believe that I claimed to?
        Anyone with two brain cells in their head, looking at that diarrheic mess of tags would immediately have been alert to the fact that this is one of those articles with no actual content, but merely written to burnish the ego of the author. Only a person swallowing a copy of ‘The Ascended Master’s Guide to New-Agey Bullsh*t’ could have crapped out a longer list of Maharishi-type nonsense.

        • Ted Heistman | Jun 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

          The article made sense to me. I am just skeptical of certain premises of it. But that’s just my long standing beef with organized religion. In other words, for people conversant on topics like meditation, yoga, Buddhism, Ken Wilber, etc. It makes perfect sense, presents an argument etc. Lots of tags though

  3. Ted Heistman | Jun 1, 2013 at 5:13 pm |

    dead link

  4. Ted Heistman | Jun 1, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

    I think this is an important article. Living in your head is no good but neither is just always going with what feels good all the time. Finishing an important goal or keeping a commitment may not always feel good.

    I am a bit skeptical of Buddhism though, as being as complete a slam dunk on the path of enlightenment, as is being presented here. OK so pre-trans fallacy makes sense, but the ‘trans’ part seems not as solid as the ‘pre’ part of this fallacy. I mean for example this paragraph:

    ““You have to be somebody before you can be nobody.”
    Buddhist psychotherapist Jack Engler gave us this memorable sound bite.
    Higher development, and cultural evolution, requires that we transcend
    the flawed model of separate self. Like all developmental processes,
    this one requires steps in a particular order. To move through the
    world as an integrated person, you must develop a strong, stable sense
    of self. If you never developed basic somatic and emotional capacities,
    you’ll need these. If you never developed the capacity to think,
    you’ll need that too. A healthy ego, and a strong sense of self,
    requires embodiment, emotional self-awareness, and clear thinking
    informed by the somatic and emotional levels of our experience.
    Integrating these three levels is a prerequisite to be able to go beyond
    them. With a strong sense of self as a stable foundation, a more
    complete model of being human can develop and a larger self can be born.”

    Its like I know what they are saying, about the danger of being a disembodied person living in their head disconnected from reality, and falsely seeing that as a higher State.

    But as far as what the higher state is, its doesn’t seem 100% clear to me. I feel like its more of a potential place to get to. Not a perfectly fixed solid place to get to, where millions of people have gotten to before. So I dunno.

    • Ted Heistman | Jun 1, 2013 at 5:40 pm |

      Maybe the author sees it the same way. Its just weird how the false paths seem clearer than the true paths. I mean I feel like you have to carve your own path.

      Maybe this is because I have been reading Existentialists.

      • There’s a reason you want to carve your own path. Its because you are a unique expression of God and to doubt your Self, your Actual Self, would be to doubt your Creator. But to denounce and judge yer counterfeit self is just as important in that it is a denunciation and judgement of the Usurper

    • Just read a bit about pretrans fallacy.(in my earlier reply, I didn’t know much about it)
      It makes sense and I believe it is accurate in some ways for some spiritual seekers or even all. But I believe the image or archetype of childhood bliss is actually a representation of our Spiritual Reality, not the other way around. But this can’t be proven, per se, scientifically

  5. Ted Heistman | Jun 1, 2013 at 5:56 pm |

    I have heard this “pre-trans fallacy” applied to a critique of Primitivist Anarchism, a.k.a. John Zerzan etc.

    But the thing is, still, this trans part-seems to be a future goal of perfection, that nobody, as far as I can see, has totally 100% figured out yet.

    Spiral Dynamics always kind of bugged me in a way. Like for example the color codes of different levels of civilizations. Are Rain forest Shamans, for example, on a “lower” level, like Europeans were at during cave painting days? Or are these Shamans just as present day as First World people, with some wisdom to share?

    What is the ultimate goal of Human experience? If there is a spelled out path and an arrival point that has been all mapped out, who mapped it out? And how do they know?

    Is the future indeterminate? Do we have any choice in the matter of how things will turn out?

    I feel like the future is something we create together, and there is some wisdom of past pitfalls and dead ends and also things that have worked for people before but ultimately nobody knows and nobody has really arrived.

    I could of course be wrong, but can I be proven wrong on this without having to have some type of faith in some type of dogma?

    • How is the “pre-trans fallacy” applied to a critique of Zerzan’s primitivism? I don’t fully understand what “pre-trans fallacy” really means, by the way.
      As for the path that has been mapped out, it has been mapped out by those who have gone before. I believe Jesus walked this path to completion, is the creator of the Path, and is actually identified as this Path. I believe many shamans have traversed the Path as well. See, for example the different shamanic “maps” of the underworld, the physical cosmos, etc. Is there a goal to human embodied experience? yeh, it’s get the hell out of dodge before you get trapped forever. How do we do that? Know thyself and from whence you came. If you know yerself, you’ll begin to understand Jesus and His Way. If HIs teachings simply obscure you, that’s fine right now. You know what to do, look inward, observe. That ties into the above article, I believe, because to observe means observe yer observation of observing the body. Neither love the flesh nor fear it, when you observe. And anyone who observes “dispassionately” or even observes the throes of the passions, will come to agreement with Jesus that the world is a carcass, and the Observing Self, the Spiritual Self, is greater than the world. By this I mean, the world can not move the Self, harm the Self or even effect the Self, for an object that is greater can move a lesser object.
      Our Future? Our Past? What is Reality? What is Myth? What is the Reality of Myth? What is this myth we call Reality? Can you imagine “arriving”? Don’t doubt that others may have “arrived”, conquered the world, and Know. And don’t doubt that you can, have, and will “arrive”.

      • Ted Heistman | Jun 2, 2013 at 3:47 pm |

        Well, the thrust of the article is basically tracking on a zig zag path to the truth, they zig where your Christian/Gnostic duality zags.

        Gnostic dualists went kind of overboard in denying the body, and it fucked people up, leaving them disconnected.

        So various therapies such as yoga, qi gong and the Alexander technique help people become more “embodied” the article cautions that this should be seen as a step to greater integration and not a good in and of itself. The pre/ trans fallacy is seeing the state you were in before you went of course as superior.

        Its seen as a fallacy because the idea is that you are making progress in a zig zag way while moving forward, not backwards.

        I see it as a fundamental debate and wonder how people can be so sure they are moving forward on a path if the path is not pre-ordained. If it is pre-ordained, who pre-ordained it?

        • but the gnostics didn’t deny the body until they knew the body, and they knew the body when they observed the body, time and the cosmos.

          the “somatic” method(of achieving wholeness) appears to me to be very similar to the gnostic method of achieving wholeness. I think the goal is different, though. The goal of most psychoanalytic methods and the goal of most(or at least some) spiritual methods seem to me to be at odds. the psychoanalytic method aims to achieve a life that is “full” in achievements in this world, to work well with others and to basically not feel bad about this life we live here. but for all their talk about repression they forget the one major thing they repress. hatred for the world. to them, it is a sign of a diseased mind to hate the world and hate the self. but the gnostics knew this to be a genuine expression of the soul. although you can’t hate something until you know it. probably the nearest of kin to the gnostics, in modern times, are the existentialists. they, too, chose to be honest with themselves and confront the horror and absurdity of existence.
          as for yer questions concerning the path and progress on the path, what exactly is the goal that yer envisioning? what is the goal of the somatic method and these other methods you list?

  6. BuzzCoastin | Jun 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm |

    chop wood, carry water, build a fire, eat, drink, rest

  7. Somatics sounds kinda like Vipassana meditation. I think it also ties into the Way of Jesus. His Passion on the cross was an example of observing suffering of the body in the moment and transcending the body, not by evading suffering, not through manipulation, magical techniques, and/or technology, but through observation(perhaps there’s a better term). The purpose of some spiritualities, like Qabala and others, is to redeem the Light trapped in matter. And that is done with the Light of Mind. Instead of chasing experiences and evading experiences, one ought to observe experience in order to transcend and/or redeem the physical. Its the simplest thing and yet the hardest thing. But that is why certain spiritualities, like Buddhism and Xianity, are at odds with magical technique(you can’t practice Vipassana and also practice reiki and other energy manipulations), because the latter involve an imposition of self-will to evade or acquire fleshly experience. It is also why, I believe, that a Living Spirituality is at odds with technology.

Comments are closed.