Body-mind therapeutic approach for trauma resolution and strengthening resilience
What is Somatic Experiencing ?
Stress, overwhelm and trauma are sometimes facts of life. They do not, however, have to be a life sentence. That is a guiding principle of Somatic Experiencing (SE).
SE is a life-work of Peter Levine, who developed thes mind-body therapy fourty years ago. His apporach builds on deep understanding of how human nervous system reacts to stress and trauma, as well as what is needed in order to re-establish equilibrium and balance. In SE session the clients are guided to be in the present moment and tune in and cultivate their “felt sense”, a present moment bodily awareness (aka interoception), which requires practice, as it is not something everyone intentionally does. Bodily sensations, trackable also by the therapist in the quality of breath, posture or muscle tone can be divided into two main categories, constriction (e.g., tight, tense, heavy, burning) and expansion (e.g., light, airy, spacious). Often, an image, feeling, thought or an impulse to move, may be linked up to these bodily sensation. This amplified body memory can then be used in the therapy to work through overwhelming, stressful or traumatic experiences and issues in gentle and titrated (as opposed to katharsic) way. SE looks at the client from the perspective of heath and wholeness, seeking to find and strenghten what works well, what the client's resources are, not through the prism of pathology.
As the clients become increasingly able to identify how different body parts hold sensations of constriction (e.g., heart palpitations, throbbing temples, tense neck), they learn how to alleviate these constrictions via various SE exercises, first practicing this in the therapy session. During this work, their body spontaneously discharges cumulated, unused, excess energy stored in the neuro-physiology.
This energetic discharge allows us to become better able to function, and to contain experiences and feelings of all kinds (including positive ones) without the nervous system becoming excessively burdened, overwhelmed or stressed.
“The body has been designed to renew itself through continuous self-correction. These same principles also apply to the healing of psyche, spirit, and soul.”
― Peter A. Levine, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma