Somatic Experiencing is a powerful tool to help people heal from various traumatic experiences. This was developed by Peter Levine to listen to the body’s own natural wisdom to restore balance in life.
Peter developed this technique when he experienced a car accident several years ago and he also studied wild animals and how they react to dangerous and/or life-threatening experiences. He found that wild animals, unlike humans, don’t develop long-term debilitating symptoms of anxiety and PTSD. He was curious what was different. He then noticed that animals are able to progress through being startled, alerted to danger, react with survival of fight, flight, and/ or freeze; then, once the danger is past, animals discharge the leftover energy of survival and go back to normal life. Humans however, have trouble allowing the body to naturally go through this process and instead, tend develop symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress reactions.
So, he then focused on developing techniques that would decrease these debilitating symptoms, bring freedom from anxiety and stress, and increase overall life satisfaction. These techniques focus on listening to what the body has to say or the impulse to do. As humans we tend to focus more on the judgements and fears that our brain thinks about past experiences; these are key contributing factors to anxiety and stress. Instead, SE clients learn to be more aware of their internal body sensations. This awareness gives them an opportunity to notice those survival responses of fight, flight and freeze. They begin to understand what the body needed to complete and resolve to find regulation and resolution to traumatic experiences. This process helps them to move past “being stuck” in their trauma. Clients then are more aware of their own strengths and resiliency in all of life.
The therapist’s role is to provide support and build the client’s internal awareness of their natural survival responses and how those responses helped them then and now. It doesn’t require clients to re-live their trauma experiences, but to gently notice their internal responses and will to survive traumatizing experiences. Somatic Experiencing can provide relief in troubling life experiences, trauma, anxiety and post-traumatic-stress symptoms. Clients can then feel more confident about facing and coping with stressful life experiences.