Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a body-oriented treatment method for coping with the effects of shock and trauma.
Somatic Experiencing® (SE) was developed by the American psychologist and biologist Dr. Peter A. Levine, who has compiled this work over several decades with a proven history of success. The trauma expert Peter Levine observed wild animals for years and noted how they cope with threatening experiences without becoming permanently traumatized. Internal mechanisms allow them to activate a self-regulating response that discharges the high levels of energy that build up following overpowering experiences. We humans also possess this bodily wisdom, which given proper support and guidance, allows us to transform our trauma.
The purpose of Somatic Experiencing is to finish incomplete defensive or self-preserving responses such as fight, flight and numbing or immobilizing reactions, and thereby reinstate one’s self-regulation abilities.
This allows the organism to return to a state of dynamic balance.
What defines trauma?
Trauma is an injury that was caused by debilitating fear and feelings of helplessness and loss. It is an experience that was too intense, sudden or lasted too long, such as falls, traffic accidents, operations, loss of (a) loved one(s), abuse, catastrophe, a series of unfortunate events, as well as childhood abandonment or neglect. Threatening situations can manifest in myriad ways, and sometimes we are not even aware of the experiences which have traumatized us, for example in situations of prenatal or perinatal trauma. Despite our conscious ignorance, the body bears this knowledge just the same.
When the energy created for survival remains built up in the body, symptoms may arise such as chronic pain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, irritability, a feeling of disconnectedness, panic attacks, avoidance behavior, or feelings of exhaustion. The affected person cannot draw from their full potential, because energy is invested in the trauma itself, in addition to being diverted into repressing undesired trauma responses.
How does Somatic Experiencing (SE) work?
“The key to healing from trauma is not in re-living the trauma, but rather in creating new experiences in the body.” Dr. Peter A. Levine
SE mainly addresses the physical reaction to traumatic experiences and is a non-verbal communication with body memory, where the entire experience is stored. This is where we are able to access the instinctual powers and resources that were not available or were insufficient to protect or defend us at the time of our trauma.
By activating these resources we can access new physical sensations, sodass die Person die frühere Erfahrung in kleinen Portionen nochmals fühlen und in weiterer Folge auch verarbeiten kann,thereby allowing the person to sense the past experience in small doses and subsequently work through it without feeling helpless. Step by step the process allows the survival energy bound up within the nervous system to be reintroduced into the system and properly integrated.
With Somatic Experiencing (SE) one comes to terms with trauma in a physically, spiritually and emotionally new way. New experiences in the body lead to a feeling of security, presence and a return to vitality. The nervous system is able to rediscover its original powers of self-regulation.
“I am convinced that trauma is treatable and the healing process can be a profound catalyst for awakening–it opens the door for emotional and truly spiritual transformation.” Dr. Peter A. Levine
Disclaimer: SE is not a replacement for medical or psychotherapeutic treatment, in cases where this is necessary. It can be an efficient supplement to these treatments, however.