Dr. Peter Levine, American psychologist developed a unique and pioneering method for trauma healing. His research on wild animals led him to ground breaking discoveries of the human nervous system. While studying animal behavior Dr. Levine questioned why animals in the wild constantly exposed to threat and injury do not get traumatized. Why do human beings that have a similar nervous system as wild animals are undergoing severe traumatic stress disorders?
This question led him to the discovery of a new methodology of trauma healing – Somatic Experiencing®. ‘Soma’ in Greek means body. To experience one’s body.
Dr. Levine explains that animals in the wild utilize the innate capacity of their nervous system to self regulate and neutralize high levels of stress and charge associated with their defense survival behavior. They know instinctively how to discharge. They shiver, shake, tremble, jerk, growl, stretch, curl up, roll around, get up and get on with it. Their body does not hold on to the high states of arousal and activation in threatening situations. Through their physiology they know how to let go.
As humans beings, social animals in societal conditionings, in our attempt to keep ‘good manners’ we have forgotten this instinctive language of the body and its natural ability to let go of a stressful impact. We are not allowed to cry or scream or allow the body its natural recovery time from a challenging event, we always want to appear brave and calm “I’m ok, nothing happened” are the famous words we often use when something hurts us or shocks us.
When our system is unable to release and discharge, traumatic energy gets held in our body interrupting its natural flow and resiliency.
In Peter Levine’s words:
“Trauma is an internal straightjacket created when a devastating moment is frozen in time. It disconnects us from ourselves, others, nature and spirit.
When overwhelmed by threat, we are frozen in fear. It is as if our instinctive survival energies are all dressed up with no place to go”
This modality highlights that trauma is not in the event or the story or in a moment frozen in a past time, it is in the nervous system. Therefore healing happens in the body HERE and NOW. By experiencing our body and tuning into the ‘felt sense’ of the nervous system we are able to track the resolution of trauma energy held in us in the present moment.
“There is no future in the past”
This therapy recognizes the nervous system’s inbuilt response to trauma – the Fight, Flight, Freeze Response. It works with states of high activation through the skills of Resourcing, Tracking, Looping and Re-establishing the flow of life.
Resolution happens when a system finds a way to complete a cycle of defense against threat. And when this happens, resiliency and the trust in the capacity to cope with future overwhelming situations are re-established.