Somatic experiencing, helps restore the natural energy balance in our bodies. It helps with restoring the energy flow in our bodies, in places where it is stuck due to stress, injury or trauma.
Somatic Experiencing® (SE™) was developed by Peter A. Levine, PhD to address the effects of trauma. Levine developed this approach after observing that prey animals, whose lives are routinely threatened in the wild, are able to recover readily by physically releasing the energy they accumulate during stressful events. Humans, on the other hand, often override these natural ways of regulating the nervous system with feelings of shame and pervasive thoughts, judgments, and fears. Somatic Experiencing aims to help people move past the place where they might be “stuck” in processing a traumatic event.
The Autonomic Nervous System and Somatic Experiencing Theory
The autonomic nervous system (ANS), which includes the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS), and the enteric nervous system (ENS), is triggered into action when we’re faced with adversity and it governs the fight, flight, or freeze instinct. Although designed to be self-regulating, the ANS can become dysregulated, particularly when full expression of one’s response to trauma is repressed. As a result, the body continues to respond as if it is under threat. Somatic experiencing contends that negative symptoms of trauma—such as anxiety, hypervigilance, aggression, and shame—result from denying the body the opportunity to fully process the traumatic event.
Though many people who experience traumatic events recover completely, for those who do not, unresolved trauma can lead to larger mental and physical health concerns, such a post-traumatic stress (PTSD),sleep problems, mood swings, or immune system problems. Somatic Experiencing aims to restore the body’s ability to self-regulate in order to achieve balance and integrity.
Method of Somatic Experiencing
Somatic Experiencing sessions involve the introduction of small amounts of traumatic material and the observation of a client’s physical responses to that material, such as shallow breathing or a shift in posture. The therapist will frequently check in with the client to assess and record somatic sensations that may be imperceptible to the practitioner, such as feelings of heaviness, tightness, or dizziness. Practitioners proceed carefully and cautiously to avoid retraumatizing or triggering the client, and they help people to develop and employ self-regulating strategies. A key component to enhancing one’s ability to self-regulate is the practice of alternating, or “pendulating,” between the sensations associated with trauma and those that are a source of strength and comfort.
The SE practitioner will help the client find places of safety, whether that be a place in the body that is not activated by the trauma, or a physical place to retreat to in one’s mind. Experiencing the sensations related to the traumatic event in a safe way allows a person to fully process the trauma. Clients also achieve heightened awareness of their physical responses to stress, and this skill can serve them in everyday life.
The above text is from the goodtherapy.org website and is the best explanation I have found on somatic experiencing.
As somebody who lives with muscular armouring, which is a result of my CPTSD, I know how uncomfortable my body feels, especially around my neck, chest and back. Due to high stress throughout most of my life, this has resulted in a feeling of tightness in my chest, headaches, clinched shoulders, tight upper back and more. I also notice myself neurotically holding my belly muscles, which in turn disrupts my healthy diaphragmatic breathing. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to relax my breathing and in turn relax my muscles but unfortunately this isn’t enough in the long run, as my painful symptoms always return.
Muscular armouring causes Myofascial pain. Myo stands for muscle and fascia is the connective tissue that holds everything together. In more simple terms, when someone is stuck in a hyper vigilant state, this causes intense muscle tightness (muscular armouring) which results in Myofascial pain. Fibromyalgia is also a condition that can develop from prolonged trauma and is very difficult to diagnose in a lot of cases.
For those of you who have suffered trauma in your childhood or any other sort of trauma, it is worth paying attention to your physical symptoms, as body and mind are connected. If you have only tried talking therapy but haven’t tried somatic therapy, then I highly recommend that you consider it.
The theory behind somatic therapy is that the mind, body, spirit, and emotions are all related and connected to each other. Talk therapy is combined with physical techniques, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, and meditation. Other techniques used include dance, exercise, yoga, or other types of movement, vocal work, and massage.
It is important to be in touch with your body and to practice self-care as much as possible.
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Love Athina ♥