Marty Wolins

Cultivating Capacity

Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing® is a body-oriented approach to healing trauma. While the mind is part of what trauma affects, the roots of trauma are held in the body. Trauma results from the body’s inability to process or protect itself from an adverse event. This understanding sets Somatic Experiencing apart from, and complementary to, a psychotherapy model of healing trauma.

Trauma can show up in our bodies as anxiety, depression, chronic pain, fears, bracing patterns, and relationship patterns.  What creates trauma is anything that’s overwhelming in such a way that the nervous system cannot regulate completely back to neutral afterwards. It’s like the stress gets frozen in time in the body, waiting to be released, or for the stress to be over with. Even after the actual event is over, the feelings of distress can linger. These patterns can persist for decades.

I help clients build a felt sense of resource and renegotiate (not relive) the body's current experience of the "back then", so they can have a different outcome and thus a different experience in the body today. This reduces hyper-vigilance, restores the body’s ability to protect itself, and broadens our capacity for life.

Receive Somatic Experiencing for:

  • Overwhelm
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Chronic stress
  • Concussions (MTBI)
  • Hyper-vigilance and flashbacks
  • Increasing a sense of safety
  • Improving athletic confidence after injuries & falls
  • Breaking old relationship patterns
  • Improving your capacity for inclusion and equity

One of the mysteries of trauma is that symptoms can take years to develop – which can be confusing. There’s no one thing that causes trauma. We tend to think of trauma following events such as assaults, abuse, neglect, invasive medical procedures, war, and natural disasters. Events that are brushed off as minor can be the link to trauma, such as bullying, falls, 5 mph car accidents, sports injuries, breathing difficulties, and loss.

Animals typically give themselves 'down time' after a stressful event - they may hide in dark places, and typically shake the trauma out of their systems. Our higher human brain allows us to compartmentalize what our lower survival brain knows was a threat to our existence. One example of this would be someone who is rear-ended, gets checked out in the ER and goes back to work as if nothing happened. We do this all the time. Meanwhile, we can become less safe driving if, for example, we develop a hyper-vigilance to looking in the rear view mirror, a hypo-vigilance to looking elsewhere. Both would increase susceptibility to running into another vehicle or object because of our lack of awareness.

In another example, the same hypo- or hyper- vigilance in orientation can happen when a soccer player is hit in the head by an unseen ball and knocked out.  The body may register a certain periphery sector as dangerous and instill a pattern of having that sector off-line, making the body more susceptible to incoming dangers from that same sector. This can affect athletic confidence and set the path for repeated injuries on and off the field.

Somatic Experiencing is the life work of Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger. While studying for his PhD in clinical psychology, Peter made the inquiry: why do animals experience immense – even mortal – threats in the wild but do not become traumatized, and humans do, even with no “traumatic” event to blame for the symptoms. Humans share the same anatomy / physiology and basic responses to stress and threat with all other mammals. And he questioned – if animals can be resilient to stress – even major stresses, we must have that ability too. 

For more information on this modality and a world-wide listing of practitioners, visit the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, www.traumahealing.org

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