If you haven’t heard of Dr. Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing take a moment to read this post. If you’ve tried everything else and are still struggling Somatic Experiencing might be exactly what you need.
Past trauma can mean not feeling fully alive in the present. Trauma is a deeply distressing or disturbing experience. Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict. In Dr. Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing approach he teaches that trauma is not caused by the event itself, but rather develops through the failure of the body, psyche, and nervous system to process adverse events.
All mammals automatically regulate survival responses from the primitive, non-verbal brain, mediated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Under threat, massive amounts of energy are mobilized in readiness for self-defense via the fight, flight, and freeze responses. Once safe, animals spontaneously “discharge” this excess energy through involuntary movements including shaking, trembling, and deep spontaneous breaths. This discharge process resets the ANS, restoring equilibrium.
Although humans are similarly designed to rebound from high-intensity survival states, we also have the problematic ability to override the natural discharge of excess survival energy. Through rationalizations, judgments, shame, and fear of our bodily sensations, we may disrupt our innate capacity to self-regulate. This can show up as functionally “recycling” disabling terror and helplessness. When the nervous system does not reset after an overwhelming experience, sleep, cardiac, digestion, respiration, and immune system function can be seriously disturbed. Unresolved physiological distress can also lead to an array of other physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.
The SE 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. In SE clients are gently guided to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
SE trauma resolution does not require the traumatized person to re-tell or re-live the traumatic event. Instead, it offers the opportunity to engage, complete, and resolve—in a slow and supported way—the body’s instinctual fight, flight and freeze responses. Individuals locked in anxiety or rage then relax into a growing sense of peace and safety. Those stuck in depression gradually find their feelings of hopelessness and numbness transformed into empowerment, triumph, and mastery. SE trauma resolution catalyzes corrective bodily experiences that contradict those of fear and helplessness. This resets the nervous system, restores inner balance, enhances resilience to stress, and increases people’s vitality, equanimity, and capacity to actively engage in life.
If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Peter Levine visit his website at http://somaticexperiencing.com/
If you are interested in Somatic Experiencing contact me for an appointment to discuss if SE is right for you.