Mind, Body, And Spirit
Our bodies natural wisdom to heal itself from an experience of overwhelm is incredible. We don’t tell our bodies to prepare, it just knows. It all works together in order for us to survive, to survive repeated traumas or single incident traumas. However, our brain tries to override the wisdom in the body for healing after trauma. Our evolved brains shame us into believing that it’s not ok, to not feel ok. So we shut down and numb out what needs to be felt, what needs to be healed. Healing comes from within ourselves and within the context of connected relationships. We are meant to be connected to ourselves and to others to truly transform our trauma.
Somatic Experiencing Therapy
Somatic Experiencing is an approach to healing trauma in the context of a therapeutic relationship. This modality takes into account the theory of human Biology and our nervous systems. Integrating the mind, body, and spirit as one. I have an understanding that trauma creates separation from self, and others. Somatic Experiencing focuses on what is positive in ones life, while also creating a greater capacity for that which brings discomfort and struggle. As a therapist, my role is to gently guide my clients into this healing process, not by focusing as much on the story (Content) of the traumatic experience but on what sensations are experienced in the body. As these sensations are integrated, the content or core belief that was formed from that experience will shift, new awareness comes forth and thus a greater capacity to live an enriched more meaningful life. The approach I aim to take is one of integrating areas of greater resource from within you as well as your relationships. It’s not about reliving the trauma, its about providing a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight, freeze, or collapse responses and provides tools to integrate these physiological states, so one can become unstuck.
Somatic Experiencing is a body-awareness approach to trauma. Body-awareness, meaning the felt sense experience within the body. This can be accessed by what is noticed in the body, the sensation that one feels. IE: Hot, cold, pressure, heavy, light, relaxed, soft etc. This Modality was developed by Dr. Peter Levine. Based upon the realization that human beings have an innate ability to overcome the effects of trauma, Somatic Experiencing has transformed the lives of many. SE restores self-regulation, and returns a sense of aliveness, relaxation and wholeness to traumatized individuals who have had these precious gifts taken away. This work has been applied to combat veterans, rape survivors, Holocaust survivors, auto accident and post surgical trauma, chronic pain sufferers, and even to infants after suffering traumatic births.
Symptoms of Overwhelm or Traumatic Stress
• Heart palpitations, breathing problems, dizziness
• Hyper vigilance, being on guard or over alert
• Extreme startle response
• Extreme sensitivity to light, sound or touch
• Involuntary behavior: tics, jerking limbs
• Anxiety, including chronic low level anxiety
• Panic attacks and phobias
• Fears and terrors
• Flashbacks and intrusive memories or images
• Overwhelming emotional responses such as shame, anger, depression
• Insomnia, poor sleep, nightmares, night terrors
• Psychosomatic illnesses, particularly some headaches, migraines, neck and back problems
• Muscle weakness, muscle pain e.g. fibromyalgia, myofacial pain
• Digestive problems, e.g. irritable bowel syndrome, spastic colon
• Immune system disorders
• Skin reactions
• Environmental sensitivities
• Physical, mental or emotional exhaustion
• Mood swings, shame, depression, rage, aggression, lack of self worth, easily irritated
• Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness
• Mental ‘blankness’ or feeling spaced-out
• Amnesia, forgetfulness
• Indecisiveness and feelings of overwhelm
• Attraction to dangerous situations or people
• Addictive behavior: smoking, alcohol dependency, drug abuse
• Avoidance behavior: avoiding places, activities, memories, situations or people
• Attachment difficulties in nurturing, bonding or committing to others or receiving from others.
How Does SE Differ From Other Therapeutic Modalities?
Traditional cognitive and emotional based ‘talk’ therapies can be considered as being “top-down” approaches. They focus on insight and emotions first, as well as how to renegotiate the narrative though challenging distorted beliefs. Talking about the trauma can have an adverse effect as the person can be re-traumatized with the flooding of emotions and overwhelm that rises during the process if their nervous system is not able to regulate itself. Somatic Experiencing is a “bottom-up” approach. SE focuses on the brain stem – the reptilian brain and its survival-based functions that are not under conscious or emotional control. Our way of surviving before brains evolved. Access to these instinctual action and arousal systems is through the mode of physical bodily sensations, imagery and motor patterns. In the process of working with the ‘felt sense’ of the body other elements of the trauma experience may arise such as meaning and emotions. Thus cognitions and emotions are included in SE practice but they are secondary from physical sensations through the bottom-up processing.
“I have come to the conclusion that human beings are born with an innate capacity to triumph over trauma. I believe not only that trauma is curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening—a portal opening to emotional and genuine spiritual transformation. I have little doubt that as individuals, families, communities, and even nations, we have the capacity to learn how to heal and prevent much of the damage done by trauma. In so doing, we will significantly increase our ability to achieve both our individual and collective dreams.”
― Peter A. Levine, Healing Trauma: A Pioneering Program for Restoring the Wisdom of Your Body