Somatic Experiencing®... So what is it?

      I am glad you asked... So I can finally say I have completed my first year of training towards being an S.E.P (Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner). I know that I promised a lot of people that I was going to come out with a blog to share the knowledge I have learned, to bring some light to what I have committed myself to for the next 3(ish) years.  Well now, 7 months past my original statement, I can finally say I have a firm grasp on the "ball" of knowledge. Granted this figurative ball is quite fluid in nature, but it has evolved so much from my first day till this last November. To me, it initially felt like a ring, something I can hold the sides of, but if I tried to grasp it in any other direction, there were areas of space without substance, but I never did lose touch of that ring. As I learned the fundamentals to the SE model, trauma and how it affects us as humans through tracking sensations my capacity to be fully present, to SLOW down while remaining curious has helped me to arrive to this momentous state! So with out further a due, I will start by sharing a great quote.

"The mind has forgotten, but the body had not - thankfully." S. Freud

      And thankfully so!  Have you ever noticed that you may hold tension, pain, discomfort, rigidity or even feel complete disconnection from any part of your body ; a loss of feeling or sensation? No matter what you do, you can't seem to get back in touch with your old self, or even know what your old self should even feel like?  With trauma, communication with one's internal and external environment can often not sync up to the actual present moment. Trauma by definition is an occurrence that is too overwhelming for the rational brain to manage or cope with. In turn the lower brain, our limbic system, takes charge for our survival. We lose ourselves to our instinctual impulses that can not be swayed; we freeze up, become foggy minded, becoming limp or become highly reactive. When the internal environment is stuck in the past, is can be difficult to accurately assess the present, and triggers appear as threat.


     Much like a tiger that has been trapped in a cage being sustained by only adrenaline, trauma can be debilitating and exhausting. Our logical, reasoning higher brain can be this cage. It can prevent the self from allowing our instinctual selves (the tiger) to naturally bounce back, to allow the body to complete an action or express an emotion that was essential to complete.  When the necessary orientation, emotion or action can not be followed through, the energy that would and should have been released is kept in the body, just waiting for the right circumstances to be continued.  We may block off parts of ourselves that have been injured or violated (physically or emotionally) as a form of safety and protection; possibly loosing touch of necessary healthy boundaries. We may become hyper vigilant to the point we become chronically aware of pains and discomforts that may seemingly grow along with the turns and bends as we float down the stream of life. We may "blow-up," become reactive when things trigger us, feel resentment, shame, anger, sadness or simply dissociate and possibly form unhealthy habits of coping. 


       The silver lining in all of this information... As the founder of Somatic Experiencing®, Peter Levine has once stated, "even though trauma is an inevitable part of life, it does not have to be a life sentence." These unsavory events are a part of the human experience and how we respond is natural and all we need is the right circumstances to help increase our window of capacity to renegotiate the traumas held within one's physiology. Personally I had to work on my own internal environment in order to be fully "here," to retain this much information, let alone embody it. There were many overridden nuances of myself that I was able to reconnect to and in turn, it has built my capacity to be present.  I can say SE has helped me to not re traumatize myself through the telling of my stories or the meaning making that my higher brain has been tasked with, because that is not what SE is about. Rather SE allows the body, through the afferent processes of the Vagus Nerve, to help disentangle the edges of the sensations embedded in the past. The result will eventually become the collage of resiliency, that words alone will pale in comparison to. With mindfulness, curiosity, the "right" pace and approach, the body unravels it's hidden messages and memories. With proper direction and guidance, the trauma may be renegotiated out of the climatic cycle that was once debilitating and confining... into a new pattern of vastness, lightness and self empowered strength. 


   Don't get me wrong, working with triggers and trauma is not a walk in the park, but you are worth the time and effort if this is something you feel pulled towards addressing and possibly transmuting. As a massage therapist by trade, I am not here to diagnosis nor label, but I am here to be present with one's vulnerability and foster the seed of vitality. To share a funny statement with you from one of my fellow SEP and licensed massage therapist colleagues, "We work with "naked" people all the time, but with SE this is just a different kind of nakedness, but we are still working with the body."



Holly Dahl

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