Somatic Experiencing as a body-oriented method to release and integrate trauma

 

Trauma is usually used to refer to very severe experiences, but actually it is a much more pervasive fact of life. Most of us have experienced overwhelming situations, and while often this resolves again, sometimes we don’t find our way back to balance. 

In such a case the aroused energy that the body mobilizes to deal with the threat or danger (our fight, flight, freeze response) has not had the chance to discharge, and gets trapped in the body. This might feel as if the trauma is still alive inside, or it manifests through various symptoms like chronic pain, tensions, illnesses, anxiety, problems with sleep, emotional instability, flashbacks and nightmares and many more. Sometimes there is a clear connection of the symptom with a specific experience, but sometimes people are puzzled by their sensations and they can´t make any sense of it.

 

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>>> My Background in working with Trauma
>>> Trauma and Spirituality
>>> About Somatic Experiencing – The Method

In the last decades we have seen an incredible increase in the understanding and knowledge of how the body and the nervous system relate to constant stress, overwhelm or traumatic events. According to Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing®, the traumatic event isn’t what caused the trauma, it is the overwhelmed response to the perceived life threat that is causing an unbalanced nervous system.

Additionally there is more understanding that even seemingly “unimportant” situations, especially when they occurred in childhood, may leave a traumatic imprint in the body. Especially with developmental trauma, when there were very early challenges (e.g. around birth), or chronic absence of necessary resources and attachment, we might have no specific memory at all, but our bodies do remember – and the intelligence of our system is still looking for healing and a resolution of this internalized stress or fear.

My Background in working with Trauma

My work with trauma is mostly based on Somatic Experiencing® (SE), a body-oriented approach developed by Dr. Peter Levine. I am a certified SE Practitioner, and since 2011 I am also part of the assistant team of Itta Wiedenmann (Institut of Neurotracking in Munich), one of the senior SE Teachers in Europe.Additionally I keep learning and updating myself with the newest developments in the larger field of Trauma-therapy and Neuroscience. Especially the understanding of attachment theory provides a rich combination of working with trauma, and informs all my other work around relationships and an integral development. Some of the works of other people that I follow through training or studying are Marianne Bentzen (Neuroaffective Psychotherapy), Diane Heller (DARE), Daniel Siegel (Mindsight), Bessel van der Kolk and others.

All my work is deeply influenced by the understanding of the dynamics of trauma in the body-mind system. I offer individual sessions on trauma based on Somatic Experiencing. I also offer specific workshops for self-regulation based on those principles. This work has influenced and informed my own life in the last 10 years so deeply, that now any work I am doing incorporates the essence of this understanding.

Trauma and Spirituality

I am also passionately interested in the correlations of Trauma and Spirituality. I have come to understand through my own path and working with people over the last 15 years that both dimensions can immensely benefit from each other. Bringing spirituality and mindfulness into working and dealing with Trauma can enhance the quality of the therapy and healing process tremendously, as has been shown by numerous studies.

Some luminaries like Bessel van der Kolk (in his groundbreaking book "The body keeps the score") even call it a fundamental necessity for any successful work with Trauma. Similarly Meditation and Spirituality can benefit from the refined understanding of the nature of Trauma and dissociation in the body, in order to avoid using spirituality as means to get away from the places in ourselves that needs our attention the most. The term spiritual bypassing has gotten more traction in the last years, describing a phenomenon where we use spiritual practice or wisdom teachings in order to avoid our difficulties in life.

Bringing the understanding of SE to spirituality, can deepen the awareness of what one is really doing in meditation or any other form of practice, and can shed a light on sometimes very intractable patterns and deep structures. It is an invitation again to bring my deepest human experience into connection with my higher potential. Especially early life experiences or developmental traumas can sometimes fly way below the radar of conscious awareness, but can set the tone how one engages with life in general and more specifically the way spirituality and meditation is being approached. Intimate relationships are often the place where we meet the most challenging aspects in ourselves, and we might have a tendency to interpret spirituality in a way that drives us further away from life and the complexity of human interactions. Others might have a strongly inbuilt longing for intensity of experiences or relationships, while finding it difficult or simply boring to maintain regularity, commitment and healthy structures in life.

All of this might point to incomplete early life experiences that might be still longing for integration. This is the place where sitting on the cushion and simply “watching” or “witnessing” finds its limitations. Bringing our experiences here into a skillful and caring human contact, can help to really meet our blind spots. All trauma is based on the disruption of connection, and the resolution always comes with the right offer of contact. People often report after working on such issues, that their quality of relating to themselves, others and life in general is on a whole new level.

If you want to find out more on this subject, feel free to connect with me and see how we can work together.

 

»I DIDN’T COME WITH A SPECIFIC ISSUE, MORE LIKE A SENSE OF SOMETHING NOT QUITE FEELING RIGHT IN MANY SITUATIONS IN LIFE, AND ALSO THE WAY I REACTED OFTEN SEEMED OUT OF PROPORTION.«

"We landed very quickly in my early life experiences, and it was very touching for me how deeply empathic and at the same time very clear and direct, you were able to guide me through those situations, through conversation, sensing into the body and also supportive touch when necessary. The work with you helped me a lot to react very differently to stress and I feel more authentic in my responses. Also I have a real sense of wellbeing in my body now, and it helps to look back at old and terrible experiences with equanimity. Thanks a lot!"
(Wilfried)

About Somatic Experiencing – The Method

Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a body-awareness approach to trauma. Based upon the realization that human beings have an innate ability to overcome the effects of trauma, Somatic Experiencing restores self-regulation, and returns a sense of aliveness, relaxation and wholeness to traumatized individuals who have had these precious gifts taken away.

In the process the client is guided through bodily sensations to allow the stored activation to discharge or complete. This is done in a way that ensures that no re-traumatization occurs, by safely releasing the energy slowly. Somatic Experiencing operates in cycles, where you sense your way through the normal oscillations of internal sensation – contraction/expansion, pleasure/pain, warmth/cold – but only at the level that you can handle. This repeated, rhythmic process helps you to develop a greater capacity to handle stress and stay in the present moment.

The sessions are also beneficial to get more understanding about behavioral patterns and the way one experiences life emotionally. When old residual stress is released, we have more chance to move out from our instinctual defensive patterns, and can bring more awareness and relaxation into our lives. The gift of the work is to bring this understanding into an embodied level, where your deeper self understands what your mind has maybe already understood a long time ago. It can restore our natural ability to relax, and our willingness to learn and evolve.