What is Somatic Experiencing and How Can it Help?
Somatic experiencing is a body-oriented approach to healing trauma and other stress disorders. It’s an alternative, research-backed therapy that has shown to help heal past trauma such as abandonment, war, illnesses and injuries, loss of a loved one, rape or assault, violence or witnessing violence, natural disasters, and childhood psychical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Common symptoms of trauma are anxiety, panic attacks, intrusive images restlessness, being overly guarded, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, mood swings, and excessive anger. The basis of Somatic Experiencing, which was founded by Peter Levine, is that there is residual energy from the traumatic event in the body of the person who experienced it. Overtime, this stress can cause difficulty and create severe trauma symptoms. Somatic Experiencing is a way to release this energy and heal trauma.
Peter Levine uses wild animals as an example of how the fight, flight, or freeze mechanism inhibits them from experiencing trauma. Animals in the wild fully express their responses to stress. Humans, however, have been taught to repress our emotions and natural stress responses. This suppression, in turn, can result in an accumulation of stress and trauma in the body, which overtime can cause mental and physical ailments. A Somatic Experiencing session is held in a safe environment where the Somatic Experience Practitioner encourages the client to track their bodily sensations and notice their bodily sensations and which thoughts, movements, and emotions are connected to various parts of the body. As a result, the client can experience greater relief from symptoms of PTSD and other deeply held stresses in the body.
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