SOMATIC EXPERIENCING (SE™) is a potent psychobiological method for resolving trauma symptoms and relieving chronic stress. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.
The Science behind SE
In his studies, Dr. Levine found that prey animals in the wild are rarely traumatized despite routine threats to their lives. Yet human beings are readily traumatized. Since humans and other animals possess nearly identical brain- and body-based survival mechanisms, Dr. Levine worked to identify what was interfering with the human threat-recovery process, and to develop tools for restoring people’s innate capacity to rebound following overwhelming experiences.
Although humans are similarly designed to rebound from high-intensity survival states, we also have the problematic ability to neo-cortically override the natural discharge of excess survival energy. Through rationalizations, judgments, shame, enculturation, and fear of our bodily sensations, we may disrupt our innate capacity to self-regulate, functionally “recycling” disabling terror and helplessness. When the nervous system does not reset after an overwhelming experience, sleep, cardiac, digestion, respiration, and immune system function can be seriously disturbed. Unresolved physiological distress can also lead to an array of other physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms.
How SE Works.
SE teaches that trauma is not caused by the event itself, but rather develops through the failure of the body, psyche, and nervous system to process adverse events. SE facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
SE does not require the traumatized person to re-tell or re-live the traumatic event. Instead, it offers the opportunity to engage, complete and resolve — in a slow and supported way — the body’s instinctual fight, flight, freeze, and collapse responses. Individuals locked in anxiety or rage then relax into a growing sense of peace and safety. Those stuck in depression gradually find their feelings of hopelessness and numbness transformed into empowerment, triumph, and mastery. SE catalyzes corrective bodily experiences that contradict those of fear and helplessness. This resets the nervous system, restores inner balance, enhances resilience to stress, and increases people’s vitality, equanimity, and capacity to actively engage in life.
Peter Levine, Ph.d trauma resolution with Iraq War Veteran with PTSD
Peter Levine, Ph.D on the Somatic Experiencing Approach