Somatic Experiencing

What is Somatic Experiencing?

Somatic Experiencing is a pioneering body awareness approach to healing trauma. It focuses on experiencing the ‘felt sense’ in the present moment to relieve the physical, emotional and physiological effects of post traumatic stress disorder and other stress and trauma-related health problems.

Somatic Experiencing (SE) was founded and developed by Dr. Peter Levine who wrote the well-known book, Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma. It is based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though threatened routinely, are rarely traumatised. Instead, they utilise innate mechanisms to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with the defensive survival behaviours of fight, flight or freeze. These mechanisms provide animals with ways to deal with trauma that enables them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly ”charged” life-threatening experiences.

Although humans have virtually the same regulatory mechanisms as animals, the function of these instinctive systems is often overridden or inhibited by the ”rational” part of our more highly developed brain, the neo cortex, or by learned behaviours. These restraints prevent the complete discharge of survival energies and do not allow the nervous system to regain its equilibrium. The body stays in a state of alertness even if the ‘danger’ is no longer present. Over time a variety of symptoms can develop.

Using the innate ability humans have to overcome trauma, SE encourages and utilises the awareness of sensations in the body (or somatic experiences) to help people re-negotiate and resolve the effects of their trauma. The approach allows the instinctual actions that were unable to complete at the time of the trauma to be safely and gradually discharged in present time.

While gently pacing the process so that each individual can safely assimilate the changes within their nervous system, SE® helps return a sense of aliveness, relaxation and wholeness to the individual.

Source: Somatic Experiencing Australia

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Who can benefit from Somatic Experiencing?

Anybody who wishes to regain a sense of empowerment by learning about and experiencing their body’s natural ability to calm itself after strong feelings or activation caused by a situation they perceive as being stressful or threatening can benefit from SE.

SE can be helpful for many individuals, both adults and children, who have experienced either overwhelming traumatic life events or periods of continual stress. A traumatic event is an experience that causes physical, emotional or psychological distress, or harm. It is an event that is perceived and experienced as a threat to one’s safety or to the stability of one’s world.

  • Physical trauma as in car accidents, whiplash, sporting accidents, high impact falls
  • Surgeries, medical interventions, prolonged illnesses, high fever, poisoning
  • Inescapable attack, mugging, threat of violence, abuse of any kind, rape, incest
  • Drowning, suffocation or choking experiences
  • Unrelenting stress, work, bereavement, divorce, loss of a loved one or a pet
  • Emotional and domestic abuse, bullying
  • Development trauma such as childhood neglect, abandonment or betrayal
  • Birth trauma, pre and peri-natal experiences
  • War or conflict, torture, terrorism
  • Natural disasters, fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis,
  • Horror, being a witness to any of the above