Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a therapeutic approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine that is focused on trauma resolution. When a traumatic experience surprises us, our body and psyche can’t integrate it. Our innate instincts set us in motion to either fight the threat or flee from it. When we are unable to do either of these, we freeze and become immobile. Our survival instinct is on high alert, adrenaline is coursing through our veins, but remains trapped in our system because we were unable to fight or flee.
This is when the symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress start to manifest. Somatic Experincing works on processing the frozen energy that is stuck in our nervous sytem, allowing the completion of the fight/flight action, restoring balance and self-regulation, consciousness, integration and wholeness. The approach centers on becoming aware of the trauma trapped in our body and nervous system and releasing it in a safe environment.
Unlike animals, human beings are unable to "shake off" high levels of energy arousal. In nature, when an animal has been successful in evading a predator, it is able to return to the herd, tremble and literally shake off the excess adrenaline. This release of the residue of energy happens in a spontaneous manner. We notice that while animals in the wild are threatened on a daily basis, they are not traumatized because they have the capability to recover and move on.
Human beings who are traumatized have lost the ability to utilize intuitive mechanisms to regulate themselves. This is due, in part, to our inability to yield to uncomfortable or frightening feelings and remain"stuck" in our intellect. In this way we fool ourselves into believing that we are in control, but control is deceptive: while our minds are trying to make sense of the event, we are inhibiting the natural instinct of processing the trauma and so remain trapped in survival mode.
Somatic Experiencing guides us back to using our natural mechanisms in a safe setting where we are given the opportunity to revisit the fight or flight options. Mobility is restored because we are able to take action, which in turn releases trapped energy. We learn to trust and utilize the immensely powerful container that is our mind and body and become familiar with a method of experiencing and releasing sensation that does not traumatize us.
The process of Somatic Experiencing is evolving constantly.
Please visit traumahealing.com to get more information about Dr. Peter Levine’s work and to find a SE Practitioner near you.