Somatic Experiencing is a gentle body-mind oriented approach to dealing with and healing from trauma and stress disorders. Human beings have an innate inner impulse moving us toward well-being, aliveness and connection, however both trauma and stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease, and live in the here-and-now.
Somatic Experiencing (SE) evolved to help people tap into and restore their impulse and innate resilience to rebound from the effects of trauma and overwhelming events. SE teaches that trauma is not caused by the event itself, but rather develops by the failure of the body, mind, spirit and nervous system to process extreme adverse events. If the nervous system does not reset after an overwhelming experience, sleep, digestion, cardiovascular, respiration and immune system function become disturbed. Unresolved physiological distress can also lead to an array of emotional, cognitive and behavioural symptoms.
SE works at the physiological level where trauma activation is held in the body and show up as various symptoms. The variety and severity of symptoms may be different for each person. They can range from obvious things like flashbacks, nightmares or panic attacks. Many symptoms are less obvious, even subtle, digestive issues, headaches, migraines, depression, chronic pain or fatigue, just to name a few. Easily stressed, feeling spaced out or dissociated as well as neck and back pain are just a few examples of the residual effects of trauma.
Some people find they are constantly unsettled in some way without being able to identify why. It’s important to note that not all these symptoms are caused exclusively by trauma, nor has everyone who exhibits one or more of these symptoms been traumatised. Somatic Experiencing in practice has a different feel to most talk therapies. Talking is part of a bigger process to working with the body, mind and emotions. It has a foreground focus on bodily sensations (felt sense), guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions and building their capacity for containment and resilience.
Learning to observe and tolerate physical sensations and reactions is a pre-requisite for safely revisiting the past. We believe that if we feel the sensations, they will overwhelm us forever. The fear of being consumed by these terrible feelings leads us to convince ourselves that avoiding them will make us better and, ultimately, safer. Unfortunately the opposite is true. When we fight against and or hide from unpleasant or painful sensations and feelings, we generally make things worse. The more we avoid them, the greater is the power they exert upon our behaviour and sense of well-being. What is not felt remains the same or is intensified, generating a cascade of destructive emotions.
Expanding a person’s tolerance of their bodily sensations helps them to trust the innate wisdom of the body, and begins to uncouple or separate out, the fear and terror experienced during an overwhelming event. Giving rise to a greater sense on aliveness and well-being.
In an unspoken voice. How the body releases trauma and restores goodness:
Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body:
Somatic Experiencing Manual: Foundation for Human Enrichment
Somatic Experiencing: Using Interoception and Proprioception as Core Elements of Trauma Therapy
Peter Pyne, Peter Levine, Mardi A. Crane-Godreau
Modality Description provided by Tracy Bergel, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and Gestalt Therapist, Brisbane
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