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Dissertation Research Study


Somatic Reclamation: Exploring the Lived Experience of Word Woundings


Cacky Mellor

Pacifica Graduate Institute


Hate speech, verbal abuse, and verbal microaggressions have wide reaching and long-lasting traumatic biopsychosocial impact. This research examined a facilitated embodied artistic exploration of word woundings, the negative felt sense of a word. It drew primarily on the fields of somatic studies, depth psychology, and expressive arts therapy to explore how the words of others—from verbal abuse to careless verbal slights—can impact an individual physically, psychologically, interpersonally, and spiritually. Background: Concepts from embodied social justice and critical theory are used to examine the possibility of how identifying with and internalizing a wounding word can internalize the oppression that the word represents. Methods: The study utilized a body-centered, art-informed research methodology to explore word woundings. Six volunteers located in the continental United States participated. In one-on-one sessions the participant and researcher worked together in a somatic reclamation process to cocreate a visual representation of the participant’s word wounding and apply the image to their body as part of coming into relationship with it. Results: The process facilitated a new and deeper understanding of the origin and experience of the wound. The participants reported a transformative experience as a result of the process. Discussion: The study suggests that the somatic reclamation process can be utilized to heal personal and collective word woundings.

Keywords: somatic depth psychology, critical theory, trauma, social linguistics, art informed research 

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If you'd like to check out more of this somatics based study, please find the published dissertation here:

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