What is Somatic Experiencing®?

Somatic Experiencing® is a dialogue-based technique that focuses on the body to heal trauma. To understand how it works, it helps to understand how wild animals stave off trauma.

Wild animals are rarely traumatized

You see that zebra in the picture? It’s in trouble. That lion has ambushed it and it’s seconds away from death. At the final moment before the lion pounces, the zebra collapses…plays dead. And physiologically it is close to death. It’s frozen. All of its life processes have drastically slowed and it’s numb to pain—a mercy.

But it’s this zebra’s lucky day. This death feigning is so convincing that the lion is tricked into walking away. The unhurt zebra gets to live. Next comes the crucial bit.  

As the zebra comes out of freeze, it starts to tremor and shake. It’s discharging all of the pent-up adrenalin and power that got buried under the freeze. It might also stand up and buck or kick to dispel the urge to fight back that got trapped in its limbs. Then it calmly returns to grazing—not traumatized.  

But humans…get traumatized

Ideally, after coming out of a collapsed, helpless freeze state, we would do exactly what the zebra did. We’d shake. We’d kick or punch or run. We’d let all of that massive survival force move through and dissipate. But…we don’t.

Instead, we tamp down these natural urges. We stop the shaking. We don’t punch or kick or run. And that survival energy implodes inside and starts cycling through our nervous system, where it slowly creates havoc. We become traumatized.

Somatic Experiencing® can help

All of the body’s instinctive ways of releasing trauma are still there. They just need a little help to emerge. Somatic Experiencing® practitioners (SEPs) “talk” directly to the body physiology—where both trauma and resilience are stored.

The body speaks in sensations and feelings, in imagery, movements, and symptoms. So, trauma may be sensed as a buzzing energy, as tension or compression, or as a flash of imagery. There may be terror or rage layered on top.

Practitioners and clients use attention and dialogue to track this somatic language together, starting with anything that helps ground and stabilize you, like a calm feeling in the belly. From there, bite-sized pieces of trauma can process.

Once you can safely tune in to the way trauma is holding in your body—say, as constriction or buzzing—it will typically transform. Trapped energies discharge, frozen parts thaw, and defensive urges move through the limbs.

Trauma can heal. It is not a life-sentence. 

Learn more or schedule

I offer remote Somatic Experiencing® sessions combined with craniosacral therapy from western Massachusetts to people everywhere. To learn more or schedule an appointment, visit my Somatic Experiencing page.

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