What is the Somatic Consent Engagement System ?
Somatic Consent is a multidimensional personal and spiritual development system inspired by verbal dynamics of consent, the Polyvagal Theory and other practices of embodiment.
This system enables people to experience embodiment of trust, safety and connection based on the neurophysiological function of the Somatic Nervous System combined with the expression of consent through permission and agreements.
Every human being has had the preverbal experience of being touched against their will and learnt to undermine their feelings about it. We have all learnt at an early age to adapt ourselves to like what we don't like by trying to change how we feel about it rather than changing what is happening.
The intention of Somatic Consent Education is to help realign the nervous system with cognitive behaviour and emotional competency through somatic embodiment and empowerment.
Through practicing the engagement zones, two people can explore different scenarios of consensual relating based on clear communication of permission and agreements. To enable empowered communication and safety in intimate physical connection, the key questions to ask are: “who is doing the action?” and “who is it for?” This creates the following scenarios:
- When you are 'doing', the action is either for yourself or for the other person. When you are doing something that you desire, you need permission and you need to respect the limits of the other person. When you are doing something to fulfill the other person’s desire, you need a clear request from them and you need to take care of your own limits.
- When someone is 'doing' something to or for you, it is either in response to your desire and request and within their limits, or they are doing it to follow their own desire and you gave permission within your limits.
In all scenarios, the action is either for your benefit or for the other person’s benefit. You cannot simultaneously follow your desire and put your desire aside.
When you engage with another person, it is consent that creates the safety needed for the Somatic Nervous System to work effectively and for sensations to be experienced fully. Your sensory nerves receive the inflow of information from the senses and relay it to the brain, producing the experience of sensation, pleasure and connection, while motor nerves send information to muscles and generate movement of the body. When you align cognitive understanding of consent with neurological embodiment, there is opportunity for personal and spiritual development.
Polyvagal Theory Map
Direct/Indirect Pleasure Map
Engagement Zones Map
The Basement: what are you doing if you can't ask for what you want?
Permission - "Can I...?" / "You can..."
Your action / their action
It's either for you or for them.
Agreement - "Can you...?" / "I can..."
The Basement: what are you doing when you can't say no?
Based on this, I created the six levels of personal and spiritual development in a pyramid structure
Level 6 sky – transpersonal, spiritual, non-dual (above)
Level 5 apex – interpersonal, love, care, intimacy, play, connection
Level 4 agreement - "Can you...?" / "I can..."
Level 3 permission - "Can I...?" / "You can..."
Level 2 foundation - self-care, boundaries and limits
Level 1 basement - survival, shadows, the unconscious (below)
Engagement System Map
Spiritual Development Map
The six levels form a multidimensional map in a pyramid structure, beginning at the basement where shadow dynamics and survival strategies reside, rising up through self-care, several levels of empowerment and the engagement zones to the apex where love and care is offered unconditionally as a gift to and from the world around us, then merging into spiritual and interpersonal oneness beyond any concepts of duality.
Somatic Consent Engagement System Map
What is the difference between the Wheel of Consent and Somatic Consent?
The Wheel of Consent is a graphic of what happens when two people play the 3-minute game. It differentiates between ‘who is doing’ and ‘who it is for’.
Somatic Consent looks ‘who is doing’ and ‘who it is for’ from the somatic and neurological perspective of the nervous system. When the benefit is for you, it is either your action or it is their action. The difference is: do you need permission or an agreement and how does that feel in your body?
As the Wheel of Consent takes the dynamics of doing and receiving gracefully apart, you realise that giving does not equal doing.
In Somatic Consent, you can go a step deeper, realising that receiving does not equal doing either. We make a quantum leap from doing into being from a spiritual perspective. This is about being a gift where no action is required to belong, either in giving nor receiving, and finding the freedom of choice beyond any obligation of action.
That is the top point of the pyramid structure of the Somatic Consent Engagement System, known as the apex; the interpersonal state of being a gift and relating with the world in a conscious and transformative way.
The Somatic Consent Engagement system is a structure for personal and spiritual development.