What is Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experincing ® is a form of body-oriented therapy that works with the regulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the vagus nerve, and the healing of physical, emotional, and soul traumas. It was developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine over the last 45 years and today is taught world-wide.

The premise for any SE® session is to create spaces of relative safety where the body can tell its story through a sequence of sensations. This space is often called dream-time, as it enables for a therapeutic session that operates outside of the usual constraints of time, whether revisiting past incidents in slow-motion or visualising new endings to traumatic stories that did not end well. In this way the body finds new opportunities to discharge that which may have been frozen.

The somatic approach often privileges movement within the body that may surface involuntarily. When this happens, the most important thing to do is attend to simply what is, resourcing the client out of states of freeze, and paying attention to the positive shifts that may occur. Oftentimes in an SE® session, the therapist may simply act as a companion to the client's nervous system and it's regulation. It can take immense courage to seek out therapy, and to begin speaking about the traumas of one's life story. Bearing witness to these stories, in a titrated and gentle manner, is often more than enough for the healing process to begin.

Trauma can often come hand in hand with a variety of symptoms. When they show up within the body, we are often tempted to seek to rid ourselves of them, alleviate them, or fight against them. Frequently these symptoms surface to point us towards a direction that needs attending to. Sometimes we just need ask the symptom: what or who is it that you are protecting? Underlying symptomatic states, we often encounter energy that wants to move and re-establish flow within the body, or be discharged all together. Energy will follow attention, and when we slow our attention down, we shine a light on a whole world of newly accessible neuro-pathways within.

When working with trauma, we face the possibilities of fighting, fleeing, appeasing or freezing. Each one of these physiological states can leave a lasting impression on our nervous system, and our ability for interaction, connection, empathy, and self-protection. Subsequently it influences the relationship between our sensations, associated imagery, affect, behaviours and meanings we may construct. We can also look at traumas as balloons filled with vital life-force energy that got frozen along the edges of a person's aura, waiting to be reconnected with, through careful pendulation. Working slowly and safely is a prerequisite for this work.

Somatic Experiencing® has taught me that we are stronger than whatever trauma we have endured in our lives, for otherwise, we would not still be here. Our survival is in itself the ultimate proof. Once we allow that truth to sink profoundly into our conscious being, we can always come back to it as a resource, a reminder of our strength and all that we have had to overcome in order to be present and alive.

Remember that the fear of falling, is one breath away from the joy of flying. - Lael Keen

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