Somatic Experiencing™ (SE) is a method for resolving shock trauma and relieving chronic stress. Founded by Dr. Peter Levine, SE is an approach that assists the biological completion of the fight, flight or freeze response which, in turn, can resolve shock trauma and release chronic somatic holding patterns.
Trauma is not caused by an event, but rather develops as a nervous system response to being overwhelmed and unable to fully process stimulation. Overwhelming traumatic reactions may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war or natural disasters.
Animals in the wild are rarely traumatized despite routine threats to their lives. Under threat, massive amounts of energy are mobilized in readiness for self-defense. Once safe, animals spontaneously “discharge” this excess energy through involuntary movements including shaking, trembling, and deep spontaneous breaths. This discharge process resets the autonomic nervous system, restoring equilibrium.
While humans can similarly process high-intensity emotional states, our adaptive survival styles often override the natural discharge of excess energy through an array of emotional defenses and unconscious fears of our bodily experience. This often results in disturbances in our sleep, digestion, respiration, and immune system functions. Unresolved physiological distress can lead to an array of physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.
The SE approach facilitates the completion of self-protective responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body to address the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is done by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult and complex bodily sensations and emotions.
SE does not require the traumatized person to recount or re-live the trauma. Quite often traumatic experiences can be fully processed without any explicit discussion of the events. SE can skillfully process the persons reactions to those events and bring many of the bodies systems out of shock and into present time. SE offers the opportunity to resolve the body’s instinctual responses in a contained and supported way. This can bring about or restore inner balance, enhance resilience to stress, and increase the capacity for a better life.
*This section was in derived from the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute website.