“The Somatic Experiencing® (SE) method is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.” - Taumahealing.org
Until the person has dealt with and sufficiently resolved the physiological shock, they can't deal with the emotions.
Dr. Peter A. Levine
Somatic Experiencing offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others.
The results from Somatic Experiencing therapy include relief from shame, stress, anxiety, panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, depression, habits and addictions, patterns and vicious cycles, self-sabotage, syndromes and dissociative behaviors. It brings on a sense of vibrancy and reawakens feelings of centeredness, boundaries, empowerment, being “in the moment”, safety, and joyfulness.
We can become traumatized when we are pre-verbal, precognitive, and pre-conceptual. If we can become traumatized before we have the capacity for thought, words, language, and perception, then how can the wound of trauma be psychological in nature? There is a psychological component, however, but it is has more to do with how, in hindsight, we have compartmentalized, suppressed or defended ourselves against the pain and fear of the original wounding experience.
Unlike traditional talk therapy and other cognitive modalities, the focus is on the biology rather than the biography. Talk therapy works more with the higher brain (cognitive rational mind), while somatic experiencing (SE) therapy focuses on the lower brain (animal survival instinct) responses, the autonomic nervous system, and the “felt” sense.
Touch can also be incorporated as a way to resource the client with a sense of support and to increase attention and connection to sensation and the body itself, but this is not a massage. The client may remain seated or recline during the session.
A Somatic Experiencing session is similar to traditional “talk” therapy (for lack of a better term). Somatic Experiencing is not a formula or an equation. It is a journey of self-discovery. All of us have had wounding experiences, but not all of them were traumatizing. But unresolved past traumatic events increase the likelihood of being traumatized again in the future.
A skilled Somatic Experiencing Practitioner will help you to track current re-enactments and patterns back to their original wound, the beliefs that were formed around that wounding experiencing and to the defense structures, coping mechanisms and survival strategies that were put in place to protect you from future similar threats. Through focusing more on what you feel than on what you think about the event, the nervous system is enabled to discharge and reorganize and return to resilience.
A lot of time and attention is spent getting the client resourced (feeling better). Delving into past events cathartically is avoided, as that can re-traumatize and further set trauma into the system.
Shame is a ubiquitous human experience. It is used in every culture to socialize children and to protect the tribe. Our physiological reaction to shame helps us to maintain the interpersonal bridges that are imperative for our survival. It not only increases the likelihood of being embraced by and remaining a part of the tribe, but it teaches us how to thrive in community. Without healthy shame, we would lack the self-awareness of our own limitations, have no moral compass and there would be no rule of law. During the pre-verbal, precognitive and pre-conceptual stages of early development, rejection and abandonment equates with death. Shame is an instinctual survival response to a nearly impossible situation. Shame’s function is to lower affect and thereby reduce the risk of falling out of favor with the care-provider. Shame also binds old wounds and grief to the present moment and influences most of our thoughts and behaviors.
Like other developmental trauma, Shame also informs how we come to see ourselves and others. In doing so, it forms our beliefs about who we are and how others relate to us. Over time, these conscious and embodied beliefs may manifest into toxic shame. When shame is internalized and identified with, we spiral into self-loathing and form the belief that we are without value or purpose and therefor unlovable. Toxic shame debilitates us and isolates us from humanity.
Transmuting toxic shame into healthy shame, releases clients from mind fog, isolation, social anxiety, self-loathing, lack of confidence, self-sabotage and perfectionism, and all pervasive nervous system shut down. Truly healing and releasing the underpinning of toxic shame, by transmuting it into healthy shame, restores vibrancy, self-esteem, resilience and self-reliance.