Yesterday we began a series on Dr. Peter A. Levine’s Somatic Experiencing, a fascinating perspective on trauma and the healing of its fallout. We’re going to wrap it up today, as we delve into how we can apply it to our lives.
In review, Somatic Experiencing (SE) came to life as Dr. Levine made the observation that though wild animals of prey are under constant threat and siege, they’re rarely traumatized. Levine’s explanation is these animals possess an innate mechanism that manages and discharges the energy that accumulates in their bodies as a result of self-preservation behaviors.
Levine supports his theory by observing that when an animal of prey survives a potentially deadly chase, it physically shakes-off unused survival energy before moving on with the herd.
Now, according to Levine, we’re equipped with essentially the same mechanism; however, it’s greatly inhibited by our more advanced cognitive capabilities. As a result, we brain our way out of a complete purging of survival energies; which, in turn, prohibits the nervous system from regaining equilibrium – homeostasis.
And that, in yet another turn, leads to trauma because the body now has to try to manage huge quantities of high-voltage unused survival energy; residual from an incomplete biological response to a threat. This is a highly toxic force, locked within, that tears our minds and bodies apart.
Levine believes the foundation for treatment must be set in what we feel in our bodies, as all of the distress we’re tolerating is as a result of thwarted physical attempts to escape disaster. To Levine, relief lies in the removal of learned and dysfunctional freezing and immobility responses as we face potential trauma-generating situations.
And this is accomplished by reconnecting with the very natural defense and orientation responses that were interrupted as our previous escapes from threatening situations were foiled.
Okay, so how might we do that? Well, here are two therapeutic examples. Many more are available, and a qualified therapist should be able to be of great assistance to you.
An insight-oriented therapy works with the unconscious mind; in this case in the search for the traumatic event causing all the problems. And it’s very likely deeply buried. Once the trauma is located, the goal of therapy would be to find oneself at the very moment in time when escape from the ensuing horror was aborted; and establish some means of physical, mental, and emotional escape. Theoretically, this would allow unused survival energies to flow forth.
How ’bout this one? Bioenergetic analysis, a method of coming to know one’s personality using the body and its energetic processes, may be incorporated to identify and bring forth the trauma. And a custom application of, say, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) could be used to manage the emerging energy – symptoms.
Now, a big-time word of caution here. Dealing with buried trauma is a very delicate and dicey bit of therapy and should only be facilitated by someone who really knows what they’re doing. Keep that in mind, okay?
Well, between what you’ve just read and yesterday’s article, you ought to have a solid Somatic Experiencing knowledge base. It’s incredibly fascinating and potentially efficacious stuff and I encourage you to take the time to research Dr. Levine’s work. It will be well worth your time.
Again, here’s a link to his website – traumahealing.com.
We’d all love to read your comments, chipur readers. Remember, that’s how we all learn and grow…
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