What Is Somatic Experiencing?
Somatic Experiencing (SE) was developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine, a clinical psychologist and biologist, who was inspired by his observations of animals in the wild. The foundational principles of SE emerged from Levine's interest in understanding how animals in nature recover from life-threatening situations without developing symptoms of trauma.
Levine's work was influenced by his personal experiences, including a fascination with nature and animals, as well as his interest in the mind-body connection. He began to notice that animals, when faced with a life-threatening situation, would instinctively go through a series of responses, such as fight, flight, or freeze. After the threat had passed, these animals would visibly and energetically discharge the residual energy, returning to a state of normal functioning without lingering trauma.
This led Levine to explore the idea that humans might also possess an innate capacity to recover from traumatic experiences without developing long-term symptoms. He began to integrate his observations of animal behavior with his understanding of human psychology and physiology. Levine theorized that the incomplete or thwarted completion of the natural survival responses (fight, flight, or freeze) could contribute to the development of trauma symptoms in humans.
Over several decades, Levine refined his approach and developed the principles and techniques that eventually became Somatic Experiencing. He published his groundbreaking book, "Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma," in 1997, where he presented the key concepts of SE and its application to trauma recovery. The book emphasized the importance of addressing trauma not only through traditional talk therapy but also by incorporating the body's innate wisdom and natural healing capacities.
Since the introduction of Somatic Experiencing, the approach has gained recognition and acceptance in the fields of psychology and trauma therapy. Training programs have been established to teach therapists how to apply SE principles, and it has been utilized in various therapeutic settings to help individuals recover from trauma and post-traumatic stress.
In my therapeutic practice, I combine hypnosis with somatic process, neurolinguistic programming, energy psychology and more. First step is to recognize that trauma occurred and start talking about it with a practitioner you trust. Once you consciously decide to break the veil of silence, Somatic Experiencing can very effectively assist in releasing trauma.
Here's an overview of how trauma gets released from the body using Somatic Experiencing principles:
Understanding the Survival Responses:
* SE recognizes that during a traumatic event, the body goes into a survival mode, activating the fight, flight, or freeze responses. These responses can become stuck or incomplete, leading to the accumulation of unprocessed energy in the body.
* SE therapists guide individuals to become aware of bodily sensations associated with trauma. This involves paying attention to physical experiences such as muscle tension, trembling, and changes in breathing.
* Titration is a key SE principle, emphasizing the gradual and gentle exploration of traumatic experiences. It involves breaking down overwhelming experiences into smaller, more manageable parts. By addressing small components of the trauma at a time, the individual can gradually build tolerance to the intense emotions associated with the experience.
* Pendulation involves moving back and forth between the sensations of safety and those associated with the traumatic experience. This helps individuals regulate their nervous system and prevent overwhelming feelings. Through this process, the therapist supports the person in developing a greater capacity to handle distressing sensations.
Completing the Survival Responses:
* In Somatic Experiencing, the therapist helps the individual complete the interrupted survival responses that were initiated during the traumatic event. This might involve supporting the discharge of energy through physical movements or expressions.
* Resourcing involves helping the individual access internal and external resources to promote a sense of safety and stability. This can include positive memories, supportive relationships, or grounding techniques. By establishing a foundation of safety, the person is better equipped to explore and process traumatic material.
* As the individual processes and releases traumatic energy, there is a focus on integrating these experiences into the present moment. This helps prevent the reoccurrence of symptoms associated with unresolved trauma. It's important to note that the specific techniques used in Somatic Experiencing can vary based on the individual's needs and the therapist's approach. The overall goal is to support the release and resolution of trauma by addressing the physiological and nervous system aspects of the traumatic experience.
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