What is Somatic Experiencing?
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body based method of healing trauma and other stress disorders. When we experience intensely stressful and traumatic events our bodies have natural ways to protect so that lethal harm doesn't come to us. We call this fusion of energy activation and it's felt in our bodies, energetically with a rush of sensations produced by hormones and other chemicals in our nervous systems. They are designed to help us move in some way, to fight or to flee, in order to survive. When the intensely stressful event or traumatic event is over our bodies try to come down and restore our equilibrium. We release all that energy through various methods such as shaking, laughing, and crying. Our bodies experience our aliveness after escaping. This is part of the natural cycle that all of our bodies want to do.
Yet we are often not able to move in some way when we experience trauma. Our bodies, again, in their wisdom "know" what is the right way to survive and makes this decision before our conscious minds even register it. The feeling of being stuck or frozen is the freeze response to trauma and it comes on when movement (fight or flee) in the moment is not the safest option. The energy to move is still there but it becomes locked in our bodies, in certain parts of our bodies such as our hands, arms, legs, feet, stomachs, chest, throat, and neck. This is often why we have certain parts that always hurt or certain parts we may be disconnected from.
When working with the body to heal trauma we are working on giving your body a voice and allowing it to move in ways that it wasn't able to when the trauma was happening. We work with releasing the bound up trauma energy so the cycle can complete itself. The body will have a felt sense that the trauma is over and it is now safe. When you experience a felt sense of safety you have access to all parts of yourself. No longer will you experience yourself as broken or fragmented but as a whole integrated person. This experience is felt as a sense of freedom and openness which leaves you more open and ready for connection with yourself and others.
Can Somatic Experiencing Help Me Have Better Relationships?
The beauty of working with the body to heal trauma is that you get to experience new parts of yourself. Parts that you have been disconnected from. As you become more connected and familiar with your body you will begin to love and appreciate all that your body does for you. You will essentially become more aware of your gifts and in doing so you will be more open to the gifts that others bring. That is you will be more open to connection with others and this aids in having mutually enjoyable relationships with others.
Whether you need to set more boundaries, feel less anxious in social situations, or you want to date more, we begin by setting the foundation of you feeling safe in your body. When you are able to experience a felt sense of safety you can anchor yourself when inevitable stressors or triggers occur. Rather than freezing into dissociation or reflexively lashing out aggressively at others, you can take a moment to respond from a more mindful place.
Somatic Experiencing For Prenatal, Birth and Postpartum
Parenting is one of the hardest things you will ever do. Not because your not capable but because parenting inevitably brings up our own wounds from childhood, and we all have them. Whether we are survivors of sexual abuse, had parents who didn't meet our emotional or physical needs, or we experienced bullying and not fitting in during those tumultuous middle school years, we all have vulnerable parts of ourselves that we want to protect. And nothing brings this out like the journey to motherhood.
No matter where you are in your journey it can be powerfully healing to work on those unhealed wounds. As we work through our own traumas and feel like we are our whole authentic selves we can be more available for other people in our lives. This includes our babies who we want nothing but the best for.
Using somatic experiencing at any point can help you become friendly with all parts of yourself, the anxiety that lives in the pit of your stomach, the anger that you keep wrapped up tight, or the "shameful" thoughts you have. Again we are focusing on having you get in touch with all parts of yourself and have them be integrated and connected rather than separate parts of you which can leave you feeling like something is wrong with you.
In 2021, I began my 2nd year of a three year training process to become a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP). I currently seek supervision and consultation with SE practitioners as part of growing my own SE muscle. Prior to beginning on my formal journey to SE I was using attachment theory and Bruce Perry's Neurosequential Model, which also focuses on healing trauma through the body (from the bottom up). I have been treating developmental trauma and child sexual abuse since 2011, and I am excited about the progress my clients continue making using somatic experiencing interventions.
Expert tips from trauma therapist that will help a sexual abuse survivor live a better and happier life