Somatic Experiencing

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Somatic comes from the root word, soma, which means the body.  Somatic Experiencing™ (SE) is a naturalistic, body-oriented approach for healing from traumatic or overwhelming life situations and chronic stress with a specific focus on emotional regulation, arousal modulation, and the biological discharge, release and completion of self-protective responses (orienting / fight / flight / freeze).  It was originally developed by Dr. Peter Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices and medical biophysics. SE releases supports the release of stuck energy and supports the body’s natural ability to regulate itself, which is key to transforming PTSD, chronic stress and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. It helps people to move out of immobility and freeze (collapse/shutdown), into more flow, embodiment and aliveness, which in turns supports us to engage socially and sustain intimate relationships.

Somatic Experiencing

Somatic comes from the root word, soma, which means the body.

Somatic Experiencing™ (SE) is a naturalistic, body-oriented approach for healing from traumatic or overwhelming life situations and chronic stress with a specific focus on emotional regulation, arousal modulation, and the biological discharge, release and completion of self-protective responses (orienting / fight / flight / freeze).  It was originally developed by Dr. Peter Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics.  SE facilitates the release of stuck energy and supports the body’s natural ability to regulate itself, which is key to transforming Post Traumatic Stress Injury, chronic stress, and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.  It helps people to move out of immobility and freeze (collapse/shutdown), into more flow, embodiment, and aliveness, which in turns supports us to engage socially and relate more fully and authentically in relationships.  "So really for me, to work with trauma is seeing what the injury is and finding the solution that helps support the innate healing that all human beings exhibit, to rebound and become resilient again after these overwhelming events. "

 

In this 5-minute video, founder of Somatic Experiencing®, Dr. Peter Levine discusses how he came to create his powerful approach to trauma.  Peter discusses how trauma can be thought of as an injury rather than a disorder.  Published by the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute  on Jun 18, 2012,  YouTube.  

SE is based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though threatened routinely, are rarely traumatized.  Animals in the wild naturally regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal (fight/flight) associated with defensive survival behaviors and chronic stress.  This provides animals with a built-in “immunity” to trauma and stress that enables them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly charged life-threatening experiences.

SE does not require you to re-tell or re-live the traumatic event, which is helpful especially in the case of pre-verbal trauma.  Working through the trauma narrative can be done more safely using SE, as it works more gradually to build capacity and resilience than typical prolonged exposure techniques.  SE offers the opportunity to engage, complete, and resolve—in a slow and supported way—the body’s instinctual fight, flight, freeze, and collapse responses.  Individuals locked in anxiety or rage then relax into a growing sense of peace and safety.  Those stuck in depression gradually find their feelings of hopelessness and numbness transformed into empowerment, triumph, and mastery.  SE catalyzes corrective bodily experiences that contradict those of fear and helplessness and seeks to restore a sense of aliveness and pleasure.  This resets the nervous system, restores inner balance, enhances resilience to stress, and increases people’s vitality, equanimity, and capacity to actively engage in life.

Processing trauma is not the same thing as simply talking about it. Focusing exclusively on the story or cognitive content can trigger a highly activated state of survival energy with no opportunity for resolution of the built-up charge in the body.  Unlike traditional talk therapy, SE emphasizes the renegotiating of traumatic or stressful experiences to achieve resolution and experience empowered vitality and balance, as opposed to finding temporary relief through talking, medicating or catharsis (a large buildup of venting of emotion or energy).  SE’s guidance of the bodily “felt sense,” allows the highly aroused or frozen survival energies to be safely experienced and gradually discharged.  SE “titrates” your experience (breaks it down into small, incremental steps) so that you can remain embodied and present, rather than evoking a mindless catharsis or becoming flooded.   SE can support you to befriend and come back into your body in a safer way, and work through disassociation and fragmentation to greater wholeness and presence.

Dr. Peter Levine on the development of the Somatic Experiencing Approach and the concept of titration.  Published by PsychAlive on Mar 10, 2014

  Somatic Experiencing™ focuses on:

  • using sensory awareness to help your nervous system to settle and re-establish the body’s felt sense of itself

  • awareness of body sensation to help people “renegotiate” and heal rather than re-live or re-enact trauma.  

  • building confidence to notice sensations and emotions with curiosity without bracing, judging them, panicking against them, or getting overwhelmed so you are less likely to lose yourself in a flood of emotion, act out, or self-medicate.

  • finding more flexibility in your responses to life’s stressors as opposed to being stuck in hyper-arousal and/or hypo-arousal.

  • building the capacity to tolerate both pleasure and pain through the skill of titration (taking on one small amount of emotion or sensation at a time until it integrates).

  • self-nurturing and self-soothing to support settling and containment.

  • coming back to your Window of Tolerance as well as growing your window or capacity for resilience.

  • restoring healthy boundaries and connection with yourself and others.

  • working with interoception (your internal awareness of body sensations), exteroception and neuroception (your awareness of safety or threat in the environment), and proprioception (your body’s felt sense of itself in relation to gravity, pressure, balance and the outside world).

  • settling anxiety, honoring anger and exploring healthy aggression.

  • recognizing the tendency to disregard or override your body responses and learning to heed their wisdom.

Somatic experiencing is a part of trauma therapy which can be used to treat depression, body memories, flashbacks, panic attacks, etc. Since Post Traumatic Stress Injury can express itself in many ways, trauma treatment has to be able to work on many various symptoms. Somatic experiencing works to gather all of the information we have about a trauma and put it in to a nice cohesive narrative or story. 

Published by Kati Morton on Jan 30, 2017

SE sessions sometimes involve working with various body systems and micro-movements within them, like the muscles, fascia, eyes, jaw, joints, diaphragms, organs, and breath. SE sessions could include the gentle use of touch (either on or off the massage table) to support settling in the nervous system or renegotiation of survival responses, or more active exercises involving physical contact to mobilize energy or explore relational dynamics, embodied self-hood, or freedom of expression. Somatic Experiencing can be used with or without touch, and SE™ Touchwork is not mandatory to experience the benefits of SE.  SE™ Touchwork is only used with full informed consent. . 

What if the traumatic event wasn't the cause of trauma? It's time to rethink trauma by looking to the body's memory of the event, not the mind's interpretation of the story. In this short video, Peter Levine explains how the body holds the energy of trauma and why we can't begin to process the emotional suffering until we first resolve trauma on the physiological level.  Peter Levine Demonstrates How Trauma Sticks in the Body.  Published by PESImentalhealth on Jul 20, 2016

SE facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms, which can result in subtle or more intense experiences as the body discharges.  This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations, impulses, movements, triggers and suppressed emotions, so as to not get overwhelmed.    This helps people to move out of immobility and freeze (collapse/shutdown), into more flow, embodiment, and aliveness. In this way, SE can support you to befriend and come back into your body in a more connected way, and work through the stuckness and fragmentation to greater wholeness and presence.

For more information about Somatic Experiencing

  • What is Somatic Experiencing? http://traumahealing.org/about-us/  Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute website TraumaHealing.org

  • Levine, Peter (1997).  Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books

  • Levine, Peter and Kline, Maggie (2007).  Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes:  Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing.  Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books

  • Levine, Peter (2005, 2008).  Healing Trauma.  A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of the Body.  Boulder, CO, Sounds True, Inc.

  • Levine, Peter (2010). In an Unspoken Voice:  How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books

  • Levine, Peter (2015). Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a search for the Living Past. A practical guide for understanding and working with Traumatic Memory.  Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books

  • Nature's Lessons in Healing Trauma: An Introduction to Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmJDkzDMllc (In this video, you will learn about the physiological basis of trauma and how Somatic Experiencing® (SE™), developed by Peter A. Levine, PhD, helps distressed individuals recover a sense of well being, stability and vitality). Published by the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute on Oct 15, 2014.

I invite any curiosities and questions, please contact me below!

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© 2018 Nicholas Bolton Counseling, LLC

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Nicholas Bolton Counseling, LLC

Nicholas Bolton, M.S.Ed., LPCC, SEP

3528 N. High St. Suite B

Columbus, OH 43214

​​614-333-9957

Info@NicholasBoltonCounseling.com

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