When we experience high anxiety or overwhelming stress the autonomic nervous system enters into a fight, flight or freeze response. In life we experience both “little trauma’s” and “Big Trauma’s” in our life. Our brain often does not differentiate between these two, leading to a lifetime accumulation of stress and tension.
Somatic Experiencing gives you the tools to be in your body: healing & releasing unresolved anxiety, stress, trauma and PTSD.
Here are some examples of how trauma may look:
Panic and Anxiety
Addictions of all kinds
Trouble paying attention
Sense of feeling disconnected
How we can best understand how trauma both manifests and resolves is in understanding the biology of the body.
During a traumatic event the body experiences, at the cellular level, a surge of intense energy that can often stay stuck in the system. It is as though this stuck energy freezes there, taking hold of our vitality and strength and replacing it with often debilitating symptoms.
This freeze response holds the key to understanding trauma. Once aroused, our survival responses of fight or flight need to come to successful completion in order for our nervous systems to come back to a state of rest and balance.
When we are unable to complete these responses, our nervous systems become frozen. This frozen, immobilized state may look calm on the outside, but internally the state can be compared to what happens in a car when we step on the brake and the accelerator at the same time. A huge amount of energy is revving, creating the symptoms of trauma.
The Somatic Experiencing (SE) approach, developed by Dr. Peter Levine, is a gentle therapy for resolving and discharging unresolved survival energies, thereby healing the symptoms of trauma.
The symptoms of trauma are the result of a highly activated, incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. By enabling this frozen response to thaw, move ahead in time and then complete, trauma can be healed.
~ Dr. Peter Levine, originator of Somatic Experiencing, author “Waking the Tiger”
SE is a therapy which brings a clients' full attention to their physical experience. This supports the body and nervous system while it renegotiates the effects of trauma. SE is done with the client fully clothed sitting in a chair across from the practitioner or sometimes lying on a massage table.
Some of the common issues explored in SE are:
Ways to safely and gradually come out of the “freeze state” so common to trauma survivors
Building “resources”; i.e., experiences which help us feel joy, optimism, freedom, and love
Awakening awareness of feelings and sensation
Skills in “centering”; i.e., getting “out of your head” and “in your body
Discharging anxiety, grief, stress, and anger in safe and healthy ways
Learning to be present to yourself and to others, in silence or in conversation
Internal and external boundaries; how to say “yes” and “no” effectively
Releasing compulsions and identifying and addressing underlying healthy needs
SE is not “talk therapy,” but we will talk. I will invite you to share with me what is on your mind…what is troubling you. I offer a compassionate ear because I know what it is like to suffer, to not have your life working the way you need it to, to not feel happy. And I respect your courage in wanting to change and asking for help.
In the SE approach to healing and resolving trauma, it is important to gradually bring a sense of reconnection to our bodies through a felt sense of one’s experience. To quote from the epilogue in Peter Levine’s book “Waking the Tiger”:
“To resolve trauma, we must learn to move fluidly between emotion and rational thought. In learning to identify and contact bodily sensations, we begin to fathom our instinctual reptilian roots. The more primitive portions of our brains are not exclusively survival-oriented. They carry vital information about who we are (and) they tell us that we belong here…(that we are connected)…beyond the material world. In the process of healing trauma we become completely human animals, capable of the totality of our natural abilities.”
I am skilled at creating safety and watching for opportunities to “go a little deeper” into becoming more aware of your feelings and sensations. My teachers and my experience have taught me that this is the most direct path to releasing the past and healing from trauma, childhood neglect or abuse, or PTSD.
A SE therapy session often feels quite magical as you remember that your body and nervous system already know how to do this. It is an entirely natural process!
For more information on SE please visit: https://traumahealing.org