What is Somatic Experiencing® and how did it develop?
Dive into the world of Somatic Experiencing®, an innovative approach designed to alleviate the effects of trauma, shock and stress embedded within our physical being. Somatic Experiencing (SE) offers an elegant solution to breaking free from the chains of fight, flight, or freeze patterns that impede our well-being, paving the way to recovery, release, and enhanced resilience.
SE's versatility transcends boundaries, offering its restorative potential to an array of professional fields including psychotherapy, medicine, coaching, teaching, and physical therapy. The robust foundation of this therapeutic model is the result of a multidisciplinary fusion, encompassing disciplines such as physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics.
Decoding Trauma - How Peter Levine developed Somatic Experiencing®
Trauma originates from two primary sources: acute stress arising from a perceived threat to life and cumulative stress accrued over time. Both kinds wield the power to gravely undermine an individual's capacity for resilience and seamless functioning. The diverse types of trauma include accidents, invasive medical procedures, various forms of abuse, war, natural catastrophes, loss, birth trauma, and the insidious stress from relentless fear and conflict.
Delving into the realm of trauma healing, Dr. Peter Levine pioneered the groundbreaking method of Somatic Experiencing, inspired by the case studies in his acclaimed book, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Drawing parallels between the animal kingdom and human responses to stress, Levine noticed that wild prey animals, despite their constant exposure to danger, rarely succumb to trauma. By observing their impressive resilience, he shed light on their innate mechanisms that regulate and release energy built up from defense and survival instincts. By employing these natural coping strategies, creatures in the wild demonstrate an astounding ability to regain their equilibrium after intense, life-threatening experiences – a lesson human trauma sufferers can learn from.
While humans share similar regulatory mechanisms with animals, our advanced pre-frontal cortex and learned behaviors can interfere with these instinctive systems. Consequently, the nervous system may struggle to find equilibrium, leaving the body in a prolonged state of alertness, even when no danger exists. This chronic state may eventually manifest in numerous symptoms over time.
Examining the innate human capacity to overcome trauma, Somatic Experiencing harnesses the power of bodily sensations to facilitate the resolution of lingering traumatic effects. Somatic Experiencing guides individuals through a gradual journey, allowing them to safely integrate transformative shifts within their nervous systems. This results in a rejuvenated sense of vitality, tranquility, and innate harmony within the body.
Celebrating more than four decades of clinical application, SE stands as the crowning achievement of Dr. Peter A. Levine, reflecting a lifetime of dedication to exploring the intricacies of healing trauma and stress disorders.
How does Somatic Experiencing® work?
By tackling the root cause of trauma, Somatic Experiencing supports clients in cultivating greater resilience for confronting challenging physical sensations and concealed emotions.
Somatic Experiencing can be helpful with:
Diverging from traditional therapeutic techniques that hinge on cognitive abilities, Somatic Experiencing uses a bottom-up approach. It unravels bodily sensations first and then navigates back to cognitive thoughts. Somatic Experiencing practitioners employ a methodology called SIBAM, which stands for Sensation, Imagery, Behavior, Affect, and Meaning.
The SIBAM framework
During the therapeutic process a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner will work with a process called “pendulation”. Pendulation is a technique that navigates between sensations of trauma-induced arousal and feelings of safety and tranquility. It focuses on recognizing the sensations as trauma will often diminish our ability to recognize our internal state. Pendulation reverses this process of self-estrangement and dissociation by reconnecting us to our own body.
In a SE-session the client will also learn how to become aware of the physical sensations associated with trauma, such as increased heart rate, shallow breathing, or tight muscles, and will then be guided on how to process those sensations in order to reduce symptoms such as anxiety, depression, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts.
The therapist will also use talk therapy to help the patient explore any thoughts or emotions related to the traumatic event that may be affecting their physical state. The goal is for the patient to gain insight into their own body’s responses in order to better manage symptoms associated with trauma in the future.
Another important component of SE is helping patients learn how to regulate their nervous system in order to stay grounded during moments of stress or anxiety. Therapists will teach various relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation that can be used when needed in order to calm down and stay present during times of distress.
Somatic experiencing is an effective tool for helping individuals process traumatic experiences and regain control over their bodies and emotions. Through this type of therapy, patients are able to better understand the connection between mind and body and learn practical skills for managing symptoms associated with trauma.
Somatic Experiencing is one of the foundational modalities at Red Beard Somatic Therapy and we would love to support you in your somatic journey. Start your healing journey today and book your free consultation call now!
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