Trauma is a fact of life. Most of us, not just soldiers or victims of violence, have experienced trauma. The sources of trauma are wide-ranging and include but are not limited to natural disasters, exposure to violence, accidents, falls, serious illness, sudden loss of a loved one, medical and dental procedures, childhood injuries, neglect or abuse, difficult births, and even high levels of stress and/or toxicity during gestation in the womb. Any event that engenders a sense of helplessness may be experienced as trauma.
Not all traumatic events will create symptoms; however, trauma related symptoms are rampant in our modern lives. These symptoms can include: panic, anxiety, hypervigilance, chronic pain, depression, sleep disorders, addictions of all kinds, gastrointestinal disorders, autoimmune disorders, sexual dysfunction, dissociation, and many more. The key to understanding why these symptoms occur lies in our biology.
Whenever we are faced with a perceived threat we go into a flight or fight response and an enormous amount of instinctive survival energy is released. Once aroused, our survival response needs to come to successful completion for our nervous systems to come back to a state of rest and equilibrium. However, so often in our modern society we are not able to fight or flee, in which case our bodies go into a state of immobility or “freeze.” The immobilized state may look calm on the outside, but internally the state can be compared to a car with the brakes and the accelerator on at the same time. A huge amount of energy is revving, usually below conscious awareness, creating the symptoms of trauma as we know them. Trauma symptoms develop when we cannot complete the process of moving through the immobility response and discharge these powerful survival energies.
Because these instinctual energies are generated in the most primitive part of the brain, it is there that we must direct our attention to dissipate the blocked energy and achieve release and relief. The truth is our bodies are biologically designed to do this. Just like our bodies know how to heal broken bones, cuts and bruises, they also know how to release blocked survival energy. The problem is that very often our higher brain, which governs emotion and cognition, interferes with this “body wisdom.” We tell ourselves, “I’m okay.” We don’t allow ourselves to shake and cry because we are afraid or embarrassed by these responses. Somatic Experiencing (SE), developed by Peter Levine, is a gentle method of supporting our bodies to access this body wisdom to allow healing and the resolution of trauma symptoms.
To work directly with the inherent wisdom of the body, SE largely bypasses the higher brain by utilizing the “language” of the primitive brain—sensation. By working with a person in a state of resourced, pleasant body sensations and gradually working with the edge of the nervous system activation, the inherent body wisdom takes over. Essentially, by providing time, a safe environment, and support, the primitive, oldest, wisest part of the brain is given permission to take over and discharge the survival energies which are no longer needed, resulting in a restored sense of settling and well being.
There are six different articles that site SE at the above link.