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  • Antoinette Kavanagh

Disconnection is a trauma response

I didn't know that I was disconnected and that it was a symptom of trauma until I was introduced to SomaSensing. Hey I'm Antoinette. I had been teaching Pilates for 20 years before becoming a SomaSensing therapist. This is is my journey of awareness.


How did I know I was in disconnection?


Yasmin asked me a question the other day that made me ponder on this


Here is the question


Think of your awareness before Somatic practice. How would you describe it?


And this was my response, this is how disconnection felt for me


I was disconnected from myself

I was functioning but never truly present.

Doing and living by some sort of external code, the way I thought things should be done, or how I had been taught they should be done, without really bringing myself to any of it

It’s as if I never really had my own opinion about anything

Always in need of outside validation



And then the next question comes, as it so often does with Yasmin, who is incredibly curious …

I’m so grateful for this curiosity that has made it impossible for me to remain stuck, to remain small...


So here is the question that followed


I also wonder...


What made you realise you were disconnected? How did you find connection?



I didn’t even know that I was disconnected.

I had no idea that I was in overwhelm, though there were glimmers of awareness.

When I went in to shut down and dissociation, I didn’t connect the dots either. I thought I was just really tired, and yes, I was really tired. Eventually diagnosed with chronic fatigue


What I didn’t realise, was that my disconnection was allowing me to function in ways that were not good for me at all. I couldn’t tell when an environment was overwhelming when I was doing too much.


If you asked me what I wanted to do at any particular time. I couldn’t tell you. If my husband asked me where I wanted to go out to eat, or what I felt like eating, or what do you feel like doing today?, for example, I couldn’t tell him. My response “I don’t mind, you decide” or “whatever you feel like”


There were glimmers of awareness.


And I remember thinking to myself that I actually have no idea what I really feel like eating, and or doing, how come he usually knows what he feels like eating or doing. At that stage, if it was up to me, we would not have done anything much at all. Now that I know what was going on with me, that’s probably exactly what I needed.


If you asked me my opinion about a certain topic, I would search my mind for information that I had heard about the topic. In other words, other people’s opinions about it. I could usually quote this stuff verbatim, without really making a connection with what I really thought


Learning was always like that for me. It was how much I could remember and store in memory without having any real connection to it. There was a complete lack of curiosity, I was in survival mode. There was no room for curiosity to emerge


Another way that I knew something was disconnected was when good friends would notice that I was not ok, that I was not happy and would ask me about this. My reply was always “no I’m fine, nothing’s wrong” and I would wonder, what were they seeing that I wasn’t. How did they know?



Through the work of Dr. Gabor Mate and the recent movie about his work “The Wisdom of Trauma”


I understand that the disconnection I felt is a trauma response.


“Trauma is not what happens to you but what happens inside of you as a result of what happens to you

Trauma is not the external event but the internal response to it”

Dr. Gabor Mate


The body's way of dissociating from something that was too much for me to cope with at that time. The body's way of protecting itself.



This is how I describe connection


There were moments in some sessions where a major shift would happen

I would feel something change within me, and I would know something, truly know it. It felt like I was remembering something that I had always known, but had somehow forgotten for a very long time. When I felt this shift, this remembering, I wanted to clutch it and hold onto it.

Yasmin, describes these moments as quantum leaps in awareness. An inner knowing arrives.

What comes up for me is that, you can only truly know something when you embody it. You know it with every fibre of your being because you have felt it, in your body, in your fascia. You have embodied it


I never wanted to forget, I knew how important this was. I knew that I had to feel this again and again, keep doing these practices until they were truly embodied.

Through the intuitive somatic movement practices I was shifting implicit memory and trauma from my body and I began to notice that I was changing, effortlessly, without having to talk about it or even know cognitively what it was that was shifting.


The SomaSensing way of healing through connection


In SomaSensing we shift the biology to reshape psychology. The premise is that everything that happens to us, shapes us. According to fascia researcher Robert Schliep. Our fascia is highly sensitive and is responding from moment to moment to everything around us and within us, from before we are born. It is our sixth sense. Our fabric of embodiment. Inextricably linked to our nervous system. In fact, our nervous system is encased in the fascia, as is every other biological system. Every cell, from our immune cells to our heart cells. We are fascia, it's what gives us shape and what shapes us.


Tuning into fascia as our felt sense is how I learned to connect with myself.


At the same time building quiet sureness through this interoceptive awareness, the practice of coming to quiet and tuning in, to noticing sensations as they arise from within the body. Without the overwhelm. Our fascia has millions of nerve endings, most of these are interoceptors, connecting us to our insula cortex which is linked to emotional fortitude


Neurobiologist Dr Bud Craig, author of "How Do You Feel", has identified the insular corte as the place where interoception, or the processing of bodily stimuli, generates feelings. It is also the area associated with homeostasis.


There are other neuroscientific approaches to the body, brain and emotional connection.


What matters is that we can reshape the brain through sensory information.


Sensing in nature is another newfound interoceptive practice for me. I am tuning into nature with connection.


How does it tie in with healing trauma?


Through the lens of “The Polyvagul Theory”, the work of Dr. Stephen Porges.

I understand that my sense of connection was what he calls social engagement. An optimum state for the nervous system to maintain homeostasis. The vagus n nerve in particular.


“If our bodies are under threat, we lose the higher function of our brains, we are not deep thinkers. We cannot solve problems


Our underlying physiological state shifts our perspective of the world

So, if our bodies are in a state of mobilisation, we see the world more negatively

If our body is calmer, we see the world optimistically.

If we’re shutting down, we have no contact with the world.”

Dr Stephen Porges



This ties in with the work of Dr Dan Siegal’s “window of tolerance” and understanding your state.

Especially Faux tolerance, which is this false state of being ok. Everything looks ok from the outside but on the inside there is chaos.


“The key to transformation is the experience of connectedness


We are constantly bombarded from the time we are born with information about disconnection

Disconnection is not only the source of addiction and depression, it’s a form of trauma


Belonging not only to our families or our skin colour but belonging to the earth


Connection is the baseline truth that true awareness allows you to access”

Dr Dan Siegal



When we connect to our Soma, we heal


Above all else, this is what SomaSensing has helped me with. Soma being my true original self.


The outcome is a life that is fuller, with a capacity to be present to life as it unfolds, all of it.

The heartache and the incredible joy, the capacity to stand in your truth where nothing and no one can shake you. A life where you feel connected to others and your surroundings, where you know no separation. You feel held, you feel whole and you feel connected.


Knowing who you are, the very essence of yourself gives you compassion, curiosity, and capacity.


It's always been there, SomaSensing just guides you back to yourself and allows you to once again stand in your truth with ease and grace.

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