The nervous system’s normal cycle involves alertness and rest, and under normal function, the body is at rest. When there’s positive or negative stimulation, the nervous system gets excited in response to a danger or a pleasurable moment.
Trauma happens when this normal cycle is interrupted, and the body fails to pendulate in these two states. The energy charge gets stuck in the system at that particular moment. Whenever you encounter places, people, or things that remind you of that earlier experience, you get triggered. This process is accompanied by various reactions such as shaking, fainting, screaming, or even convulsing. Somatic experiencing (SE) can help you deal with trauma and live a normal life. Below we explore somatic experiences as trauma counseling and how they can help you recover from trauma.
What is Somatic Experiencing in Trauma Counseling?
Somatic experiencing is an alternative therapy developed by Peter A. Levine, a trauma therapist, to treat trauma and other stress-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It helps uncover the bodily sensations associated or linked to the specific traumatic event. Unlike other psychotherapy processes, it does not concentrate much on memories and emotions.
SE aims to reset the nervous system in a way that there is a connection between the physical body and the mind. The main focus is the physiological response experienced in the body when you remember a traumatic experience besides the psychological connection. The nervous system plays a big role in trauma response. Unfortunately, most people assume it’s only the mind and cannot link the physical body with trauma.
For instance, someone involved in a fire accident may argue that the door was right next to them, and they do not understand how they never escaped. There’s a possibility that the physical body froze. In this case, the nervous system plays dead, hoping the danger will be gone in a moment. The problem is this happens automatically, and if the danger, in this case, fire, does not pass, the person may not experience the burning sensations since the body is numb.
How Does It Help You Recover
Somatic experiencing in trauma counseling resolves the various symptoms such as trembling, shift in posture, or shallow breathing when you relive the experience by reintroducing curated traumatic experiences. This is done in a careful way not to trigger or retraumatize the patient. Some of the techniques used in Somatic experiencing include;
Pendulation: The nervous system should move like a pendulum between alertness and action, calm, and rest without being stuck. Trauma is a stuck state. The process includes relieving carefully resourced experiences to enable the body to develop confidence in its nervous system to move between these states by integrating the two polarities. You are likely to shake, cry or shiver. This is considered a form of discharge where your body releases the trapped energy. The therapist then uses relaxation techniques and other methods such as breathing to help you process the trauma. They later help you move to a calmer state using other methods, back and forth to a calmer state, which helps release the trauma.
Titration: The process involves revisiting the traumatic experience and the related sensations. It reintroduces small amounts of trauma-related distress intending to build tolerance and reduce the overwhelming feelings that accompany traumatic memories. When you pay attention to the sensations experienced after revisiting a traumatic event, you gradually become less affected going forth.
Resourcing: identifies and instills coping skills. The practice attunes the body and the mind to sensations of safety and security while resolving trauma. The process also attunes the nervous system in a way it can experience a stressful event and still come back to normal without being stuck.
Trauma can hold you hostage for life if not treated. With the above process, it’s key to seek help from a therapist to ensure you resume normal functioning before it’s too late.