The Discovery of Somatic Experiencing
Beginning in the 1970’s, Peter Levine's exploration into how animals deal with threat in the wild led to the development of the Somatic Experiencing method, a method that is highly effective in dealing with the effects of overwhelm on our nervous system. It is a clinical methodology based upon an appreciation of why animals in the wild are not traumatized by routine threats to their lives, while humans, on the other hand, are readily overwhelmed and often subject to long-lasting traumatic symptoms of hyperarousal, shutdown, and dysregulation.
How Animals Discharge Shock
Dr. Levine was inspired to study stress on the nervous system when he realized that animals in the wild are constantly under threat of death from predation, yet rarely show symptoms of trauma. He discovered that deep trauma has to do with the third survival response to perceived life threat, which is freeze and collapse. When fight and flight are not options, both animals in the wild and humans freeze and immobilize, like “playing dead.” This makes them less of a target. The freeze and collapse response is time-limited; in other words, it needs to run its course and allow the massive energy that was prepared for fight or flight to discharge through spontaneous gentle inner shaking and trembling. If the immobility phase does not complete, then that charge stays trapped, and, from the body’s perspective, is still under threat and often continues to perceive the world from that perspective. Somatic Experiencing® works to release this stored energy and turn off this threat alarm in our human bodies that causes dysregulation and dissociation.
Don't Relive, Renegotiate
Dr. Levine believes that the traumatic event isn’t what causes long-lasting trauma, it is the overwhelming trapped response to the perceived life-threat that is causing an imbalanced nervous system. Somatic Experiencing aims to help one access the body memory (procedural memory) of the event, not the story. It is not necessary to share the details of your trauma history to do SE. The objective is to diffuse the power of the narrative and remap the body memory to regain aliveness and flow. The Healing Power of SE. Somatic Experiencing has the power to heal many different kinds of traumatic experiences.
● accidents, (car, sports,)
● invasive medical procedures,
● sexual or physical assault,
● emotional abuse,
● racial discrimination,
● natural disasters,
● birth trauma,
● the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear, conflict, and chronic shaming.
Somatic Experiencing uses the body’s innate intelligence to relieve and resolve the symptoms of anxiety, depression and fear. Simple yet powerful tools help your body release physical tension, and accumulated stress, so that you can return to your natural resilient state, feeling grounded, confident and at ease. Because we work in the here and now, Somatic Experiencing can be especially helpful if you have experienced long-term challenges in childhood. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover that you are not “broken.” Your body is simply trying to solve a different problem. And with the kind of skilled support that you will enjoy with Somatic Experiencing, you’re able to return to a natural state of balance and health.
I highly recommend working with Ari. With her facilitating, I feel safe to explore memories and traumatic experiences that would otherwise overwhelm my system. Unlike other therapies I’ve tried, I don’t feel completely exhausted or depressed for days after a session. In fact, most of the time I feel more peaceful. Depending on what’s needed for the situation and how my nervous system is responding, Ari asks the right questions and gives the right prompts to either move me deeper into or shift me away from the experience at hand. I trust her to guide me and respect my feedback. She is kind, understanding, and nonjudgmental. Best of all, since working together, my capacity for intensity and for safety has expanded and overall I feel more aware of my body and sensations — things I could not say before. My recommendation: work with her, you won’t regret it!