“Trauma is a fact of life. It does not, however, have to be a life sentence.”
Dr. Peter Levine
What is Somatic Experiencing?
Most of us can easily identify with the feeling we have when we are faced with a threat of any kind. The other day I was driving down the highway following an ice storm. It was a sunny day and the roads had cleared, however, many vehicles were still carrying around sheets of ice as they traveled at a high speed. Twice as I was driving, huge pieces of ice flew off of another vehicle and hit mine. Each time I startled and noticed my breath change and my heart rate increase. I was gripping the steering wheel tightly. This was my body’s response to the threat. It was preparing me to respond. Thankfully, I was safe and only needed to settle my system. I took a few deep breaths, widened my field of vision, and paid attention to my legs as I grounded myself. This type of situation happens all day at varying levels in our body’s nervous system. We have activation and then deactivation and settling. The choreography of the central nervous system. When it is in a state of flow, it moves along naturally without incident, doing what it is designed to do.
Trauma can be defined as an experience that was too much, too soon, or too fast for us to process. It overwhelms our coping mechanisms. It is something that we are not able to process or digest at the time. The result is that all of this energy that we can’t process at the time is stored in the body. The experience of too much or too soon can be more of a shock type of trauma such as an accident, a fall, or a single incident of violence. It can also be experiences that are more ongoing such as childhood trauma, domestic violence, cultural or generational trauma. When this survival energy is stuck in our bodies it can result in the onset of many debilitating symptoms such as:
- Sleep issues
- Somatic complaints and syndromes
- Relational problems
- Mood disturbance
- Memory difficulties
- Loss of interest
- Emotional regulation difficulties
Somatic Experiencing is a treatment approach created by Peter Levine, PhD., designed to help facilitate the processing and healing from trauma. This method is a body-oriented approach working to release the unprocessed energy held in our bodies while restoring connection to self and to others.
SE works from a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in fight, flight, or freeze responses and provides the tools to resolve these fixed states. This approach facilitates the completion of this survival energy which is bound in the body and the nervous system, addressing the root of many traumatic symptoms. It is a gentle approach designed to help someone build their capacity and resilience over time while learning concepts of containment and resilience. This can be deeply encouraging to those suffering from traumatic symptoms as these feelings, sensations, and thoughts can be overwhelming to the survivor. Rather than focusing exclusively on the thoughts and/or emotions related to the traumatic event, Somatic Experiencing utilizes the body or somatic responses and also their innate capacity for healing.
As a client works with a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP), they learn to navigate the symptoms of traumatic stress and build awareness, coherence, and self-regulation. Together they are able to help release the unresolved trauma response and work to manage stress and navigate life transitions. A person finds they are able to re-engage in life. Renegotiating trauma is the process of restoring life and a connection to life.
Several therapists at Little Rock Counseling and Wellness are committed to helping individuals, marriages, and families recover from the impact of trauma. There are many wonderful treatment approaches which have been designed to work with those suffering from the symptoms of trauma. Many are trained in several specific approaches to the treatment of trauma including Somatic Experiencing.
If you find you feel “stuck” in your trauma or the symptoms of trauma we can help. Please contact us to find a clinician who can help you navigate as you work to heal. You can also visit the Counselor’s page on our website to learn more about our clinicians who are trained in Somatic Experiencing.
For further information of Somatic Experiencing here are resources: