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 a safe space where the body can tell its story through a sequence of sensations. This space is often called dream-time, as it allows 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 in which you are successful, allowing the body 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 a person's body, we often attempt to get rid of them, alleviate them, or fight them. Frequently these symptoms are there, to point us towards a direction that needs attending to. Or perhaps we need to ask the symptom, what is it that it is protecting underneath? Often we can find a dilemma there. Underlying the symptoms, we will always encounter energy that wants to move and re-establish flow within the body, or discharge it all together. Energy will follow where we place our attention, and when we slow our attention down we shine a light on a whole world of new possibilities within.
When working with trauma, we face the possibilities of fighting, fleeing, 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 meaning. We can also look at traumas as balloons of vital life-energy that get frozen along the edges of a person's aura, waiting to be reconnected with through careful pendulation towards a healthy self-regulating and self-protecting nervous system and orienting response. Working slowly and safely is a prerequisite for this work.
Somatic experiencing has taught me that we are stronger than whatever trauma we have suffered, for otherwise we wouldn't still be here. Our survival is the 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 here, present, alive.
Remember that the fear of falling, is one breath away from the joy of flying. - Lael Keen