00:01: Hi, I’d like to answer the question today, what is Somatic Experiencing®? You might have seen some recent posts and shares from me and I’m starting a private practice using Somatic Experiencing® among other healing works modalities, and it occurs to me that if you’re not deeply embedded in the world of alternative healing modalities that you might not know what Somatic Experiencing® is. In fact, even if you are embedded in that world, it’s possible that you still might not know what Somatic Experiencing® is. And so I thought I would take a moment here and just offer a brief overview of Somatic Experiencing® in my own words and how I’m using it to work with my clients.
00:48: So to start by answering the question what is Somatic Experiencing®, we might ask the question, “What is trauma?” as Somatic Experiencing® was primarily developed as a means to treat trauma. And let’s define trauma in sort of two ways. It’s a little bit oversimplified but for the purposes of just communicating and teaching. So let’s start with acute trauma. So that would be your sort of blunt trauma, if you think of car accidents and falls or inescapable attacks, that kind of thing. Single incident trauma would be an example of acute trauma, relative to, at another end of the spectrum, if you will, complex trauma, so that would be experiencing profound neglect as a child, or ritualistic abuse, something that’s ongoing and particularly in the developmental stages of life and of childhood.
01:49: So those are the two sort of primary forms of trauma, we could say, and our organism is designed to have a kind of intelligence to cope with and integrate and negotiate with these sorts of adverse experiences, and sometimes that intelligence is disrupted, so that it can’t go through its process. And the process can be disturbed or redirected in a way that is not beneficial to our organism’s flourishing. Things that can disrupt that trauma. Social norms, a good example.
02:33: So let me take a sidebar here and just say that part of the way that Somatic Experiencing® developed was by observing animals in the wild, when the gazelle escapes the jaws of death of its predator. One way that it resets its own nervous system after going through the adrenal charge of fight-and-flight, in this case, maybe both fight and flight, is by shaking. And our social norms, certainly, in our culture, in the West don’t allow a lot of room for random shaking. And frankly, our conscious mind sort of prevents us from getting in tune with what our organism might want or need most, right? We have a lot of power to consciously override and redirect and in some ways that serves a very important purpose, too, right? Like it would be a little bit unnerving if we just saw each other shaking, say, in the streets—and shaking is a very basic example, right? There are a lot of ways in which the completion of this sort of a trauma recovery process can happen, shaking one of the more dramatic ways, but essentially, everything points back to helping us get in touch with our visceral or felt-sense experience.
03:57: Okay, so a lot of the time, it’s very common: we’ve heard of the fight or flight response, so there’s also the freeze response and a lot of what we’re working with in Somatic Experiencing® is the sort of energetic residue of the freeze response. And so the way this unfolds in a session is Somatic Experiencing® first works to create a safe container. So, this is partly happens through social engagement, our very basic, wouldn’t quite call it small talk but just being present, being really present myself and my clients, inviting my clients to be really present and just take a moment to drop in in a way that the pace of life generally doesn’t allow a lot of space for.
04:45: And from there, we can slowly dip into one sort of more visceral experience and we can touch on that energetic residue of a traumatic experience. And I should insert here that while SE, Somatic Experiencing®, was developed to treat trauma that its uses and applications expand way beyond that and in so far as improving one’s quality of life. So it’s not meant exclusively right to treat trauma. And using the body as the doorway can help us to create improvements in all sorts of realms of our life and our ways of being.
05:33: So we start by creating that container and then we touch ever so lightly on what’s happening in the body and then we find ways to track that experience, right? And in the case of the more acute trauma we might find that there’s a process that wanted to happen, some kind of pent up energy or attention from a high-intensity experience that wants to unravel and unleash and so there are techniques and tools that I use with my clients to invite that energy to unleash and to kind of bring the system back into a neutral, more neutral kind of steady rhythm and flow.
06:12: And there might be more subtle patterns that are happening. So when we start to track the experience, and we then integrate that with what’s happening around us. So we touch into our internal experience, and then we touch into our external experience and learn to be able to observe both our internal world and our external world as they play and move together.
06:40: Now, the emphasis here in Somatic Experiencing® is really on felt-sense. So, it differs from other applications of therapeutic approaches where there is more focus on narrative and more focus on thought and even more focus on emotion. All of those things are certainly welcome here, and, we really work to bring the focus back to the body and let that be the guide. And the process is slow and almost deliberately so. Again, because a lot of what we need is the ability to track—the body moves slower than the field of thought and than the field of emotions.
07:29: And so the last thing I’ll share is just a little bit of an analogy. So if you imagine that you had to say a pile of books and you wanted the books to end up on a shelf, that you can’t just pick up armfuls of books and shove them on the shelf, but you have to pick up the book one at a time and place it on the shelf and you have to do it deliberately and it takes a little bit of time. But you can imagine if you were doing this task that you might also, after the first few, you might find a certain flow or certain rhythm to doing it at a pace that was even satisfying or soothing.
08:08: And so in the same way that we teach, if you will, the books how to be kind of aligned on the shelf by tracking and getting in touch with what’s happening internally, then we can sort of teach or retrain or reorganize our cells and our bio-physiology through some of these practices and patterns to engage and organize in a way that serves us to flourish more in the world. So, that’s Somatic Experiencing® in a nutshell. And I would love to work with you and hear what you’re working with and see if I can be of support.
08:47: If you’re curious to learn more, check out my website. It’s at davidrowancounselor.com. Or feel free to shoot me a message by way of Facebook or email (email address linked at the website) and I look forward to hearing how this video impacts you and maybe seeing you sometime soon. Alright, take care.