By: Kelly Benedict
I have chosen the topic of Somatic Experiencing because I am a trauma survivor myself and this was the most effective method with which I healed. When I first started working at the Refuge as a house manager I was overwhelmed with the extent of pain I heard on a daily basis. I was overcome with a sense of love, and wanting to help all these wounded people, that I had luckily come in contact with. Little did I know then that I needed it for myself first? I had no idea how my life would change after that. You cannot help but start healing yourself around this environment of love and healing.
I did not realize when I began on this journey that I had the big “T” word myself, not unlike most people that I meet every day. It was not easy at times but I believe it made me a better therapist to have begun my own healing process. My clients will know that I am not asking them to do anything that I have not already done myself. I continue to work on my healing, and learning new ways to do this, for the benefit of my future clients, and for myself. It is essential when working with trauma survivors to be open and willing to heal yourself.
To begin to describe about S. E (Somatic Experience) I have to first tell you what determines trauma. Trauma is the body’s perception of what it sees and feels from an event not from the actual event itself. “Two factors are crucial to understanding traumatic experience: how far our systems are stretched and for how long.” This definition is fairly shallow in helping to understand how trauma affects the body. There are many ways trauma affects us. Our primary reflex when facing a perceived threat kicks in from our basic instincts. Our brains main function is to SURVIVE period! Somatic Experiencing is learning to quiet the mind enough to listen to what the body needs. In SE we can go back to a trauma event in the past and work through it presently with the support we did not have that was imperative for resolution. Our bodies have an innate awareness to heal itself if we can just take the time to hear it. Somatic Experiencing is learning the language of the body. You cannot talk to the body and have it respond unless you have the correct language such as prickly, shaky, cozy to name a few. These words cannot be understood from the higher part of the brain. These are sensation words directly speaking to your inner world.
We can learn a lot about our brains from the animals around us. Peter Levine’s work developing Somatic Experiencing for over 35 years has replicated what the animals do in the wild when they are being attacked, and helping many people overcome their biggest fears, currently. Animals use the fight, flight or freeze response to trauma when it is happening just like humans do. The difference with animals is when the event is over they go and literally shake off the residual effects of the trauma. They do not hold on to it like humans do.
Somatic Experience (SE) is one of a few modalities that works immediately and regulates the nervous system normally. The biggest obstacle of releasing trauma in our bodies is our selves. It can be healed but first has to be recognized and heard. Many years of research has showed that trauma does not have to be a life sentence. In some instances such as a simple trauma like a car accident can be a one session resolution. Once you are aware there is something going on in your body do not push it down until later. Feel it now shake it off and be finished with it. This is the whole concept behind Somatic Experiencing.