Jeanne Denney
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About Trauma Remediation and Somatic Experiencing

In recent years neuroscience has been turning up huge volumes of studies and information on the human nervous system, the effects of trauma on the human nervous system and the human body. In the wake of this, the phenomenon of trauma has become a very important subject in both psychology and health. Some trauma experts, such as Robert Scaer, M.D. assert that most of human psychological disorders can be traced to early trauma of some kind, even the “little traumas” and that this trauma is a strong factor in human mental and physical disease. Since trauma experts believe that trauma has played a part in every human life, trauma is an important phenomenon to understand and remediate in any mind-body therapy.

Trauma has been defined by Dr. Peter Levine (author of Waking the Tiger and originator of Somatic Experiencing) as a situation in which there is both a perceived threat of death and a perception that escape is impossible. In this situation, Levine and others assert that our nervous system goes into a “freeze” mode in which the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic nervous systems are both activated at once, resulting in “autonomic system dysregulation”. Without processes to discharge or relieve this energy of freeze, both body and mind retain permanent imprints from the experience that diminish mental performance and energetic flow in the body. Experience has shown that with adequate support and remediation of trauma, the body and mind gain resiliency and are better able to handle future events without re-traumatization.

Trauma can also be seen from an energetic perspective as an experience in which the energetic draw of a situation or crisis exceeds the energy available for dealing with it creating a kind of “energy debt” that is sourced from the body tissues (called a block) and held in the nervous system and musculature. From a healing perspective, trauma is remediated by supplying the needed energy to the area or issue either in the moment or later, supporting a process of refunding deficits and rebalancing energetic flow.

Somatic Experiencing is a set of techniques developed by Levine for “discharging” the nervous system of this “freeze” energy (or uncoupling the PNS and the SNS) through tracking sensations in the body, completing incomplete defensive responses and mindfulness. SE generally works with micromovements of the body rather than large muscle movement. Wikopedia offers has a good section on SE for more information on this body of work.

Most body psychotherapies deal with the remediation of the held energy of trauma in some form. Some, such as Core Energetics and Bioenergetics, do it by working with the guided movement, voicing , touch, and gesture in cycles of “charge” and “discharge”, as well as relational dynamics with the therapist, emotional release and completion of defensive responses. These are more large muscle methods and are often more directed by the practitioner than SE, which is more concerned with a client’s intrinsic movement. All have their own way of holding a client in a session, special applications and form of effectiveness depending on a client’s trauma level, resiliency and how long ago it occurred.

Finally, methods such as Eye Movement Desensization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) have also been shown to be effective in working with trauma.

What is important to know in summary is that trauma has a profound effect on our body and psyche and that remediation is possible through many means, most of which are body psychotherapy methods.