Somatic Experiencing is a gentle, talk and movement method of guiding traumatic experiences to become less emotionally charged. The definition of traumatic experiences is widened in this theory, to include anything that overwhelms the nervous system. Some examples of trauma can include a divorce or sudden health issue, a difficult job loss, a fight w/ a friend, chronic criticism, medical treatment, or a car accident.
Not all of these experiences are automatically traumatic – that varies among individuals. But some moments hold great physical “charge” in our bodies, even though our logic tells us that we have survived. By helping the body bring down that emotional charge, then, we see many external symptoms (ie sleeplessness, anxiety, flatness, low motivation) decrease naturally as people learn how to regulate their own systems more effectively.
Sessions at first glance seem just like traditional “talk” therapy, but the focus of sessions quickly becomes one’s internal experiences/body reactions, instead of details of a story. It is comparable to EMDR in that the clinician is assisting the client’s body to become more regulated/ balanced; SE can be a gentler, more subtler method, however, than EMDR. In addition to talk, SE brings in simple movements; some clinicians bring play and artwork to the work as well.
At Family Resilience, our clinicians think daily in terms of the SE principles and how to teach them to clients. We believe it is important for our clients to become aware of the effect their nervous system reactions (ie anger spikes, constant sleeping, distant stares …) are having on partners, family members and significant others in their lives. It becomes the “missing puzzle piece” once explained.
Some sample SE principles we invoke often include –
The body is wise and able to rebalance if we don’t override that process with our thoughts.
Our defensive reactions are there for a protective reason; allowing them to emerge and complete is important.
We can learn much from nature and are happier when we live more in tune with naturalistic processes (ie allowing ourselves to breathe naturally, not teaching controlled breathing techniques).
The resources/ supports that are in our worlds are often overlooked or rushed past and can be sources of much strength and peace when noticed and internalized.
Recovery from trauma is an age-old process. Today’s culture can inhibit that process.
Here are two links that give further information: