“Trauma is not what happens to us, but what we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.”
― Peter A. Levine
Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a technique that was developed to resolve the symptoms of trauma in your body, such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and other diseases. It is a holistic approach that helps “re-set” your nervous system and establish a natural flow between mind and body.
Created by Dr. Peter A. Levine, with over 45 years of successful clinic application, Somatic Experiencing® combines the studies of stress physiology, psychology, etiology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early childhood traumas.
What are the symptoms of trauma?
Trauma is an emotional response to something that happens. This includes anything that is too much or happens too fast for your nervous system. It is said that our nervous systems are only meant to be experiencing this kind of activation every 2-3 months, yet many of us experience this overwhelm daily, overstressing our systems and causing disregulation.
Symptoms of unresolved, long-term trauma include:
mysterious illness or bodily sensations
challenges controlling anger responses
reoccurring physical pain
exaggerated emotional/startle responses
These symptoms are the body’s way of communicating that the flow and the rhythm of the nervous system is out of regulation. The reason you want to create a more regulated nervous system is to restore the natural flow between alertness and rest. When trauma occurs, this cycle is interrupted and an energy charge can become heightened/stuck in your body. This energy charge gets continually triggered when you encounter people, situations or anything that reminds us of that earlier experience you never got to “protect” against. This can create challenges in being fully available in the present moment.
How Somatic Experiencing® works:
The Somatic approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotion.
SE employs awareness of body sensation to help people “renegotiate” and heal rather than re-live or re-enact trauma.
You do not need to re-tell the story to engage in Somatic Experiencing.
SE’s guidance of the bodily “felt sense,” allows the highly aroused survival energies to be safely experienced and gradually discharged.
SE may employ touch, with the permission of the client, in support of the renegotiation process.
SE “titrates” experience (breaks down into small, incremental steps), rather than evoking catharsis – which can overwhelm the regulatory mechanisms of the organism.
Somatic experiencing covers various interwoven focus areas, including trauma recovery, somatic touch, self-regulation skills, and building resilience and capacity. These focus areas ultimately weave together into a unified somatic approach to touch, awareness, and relationship.
Nurturing a balanced, regulated nervous system allows us to settle into more peaceful states of ease, curiosity and joy.