Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a stress and trauma resolution practice. Unresolved stress and trauma patterns can contribute to debilitating fatigue, digestive problems like IBS, anxiety, adrenal imbalance, depression, frequent colds and flus, memory problems, brain fog and chronic pain. A traumatic experience can be anything from a car accident, to a bad fall, to the death of a loved one, to the experience of physical or emotional abuse. What tells us it is trauma is how the nervous system responds. Like all mammals, we respond to trauma by going into survival mode (called fight, flight or freeze in SE). Imagine you are running away from a bear. The high gear state that you would go into is survival mode. This is healthy in the short term. It saves your life as you run away from the bear!
Problems arise, though, for us as modern humans, when we get stuck in that survival mode, long after the threat is gone. This is called the fight, flight or freeze response. It's as if you are running away from a bear, 24-7. When you are stuck in survival mode you can't rest, digest, and recover. Your cells' ability to repair becomes inhibited. You stay in “high gear” and stress patterns become lodged in the nervous system. Being in chronic survival mode takes its toll on the body. Blood pressure, heart rate, breath and muscle tone are affected. Body systems that don’t contribute to direct survival in the moment - like digestion, the immune system and the reproductive system - are down regulated. Inflammation can run rampant and brain chemistry can become imbalanced.
This survival physiology can commonly can lead to adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, anxiety, depression, a lowered immune system, memory issues, chronic pain and brain fog. The solution is to gently work with the nervous system to unwind the stress patterns stuck there so the brain understands that you are now safe, no longer under threat. This is the powerful work of SE. It teaches your body to come out of high alert. It takes a nuanced look at how you are holding onto trauma, and tunes into the instinctive (but previously unseen) ways in which your body can naturally deactivate that stress. This balances adrenal health and lowers inflammation. You are then free to comfortably rest and digest. The body can go into deep repair mode, and long-standing health issues can be resolved.
What Does SE Look Like?
And what do you actually do in an SE session? Although it can look like traditional talk therapy, SE is different, in that the work is rooted in the nervous system—in the body. While talking about your experiences is part of the process, the emphasis is on how stress is showing up in your body. We carefully track sensations, images and other present moment experiences that come up in reference to trauma and stress. We then look for and follow the ways in which your system is able to deactivate, release, relax and integrate. While the work is often done in chairs, sometimes gentle touch and a massage table are used.
Solving stress and trauma patterns in this way is the missing link in modern healthcare, both holistic and traditional. Thorough stress and trauma resolution is a key step in repairing digestion, brain function, emotional health and overall wellness. Through SE, you can feel clear, present, resilient, and confident—and long-standing symptoms can resolve. By unwinding chronic stress, you find you are full of energy, at peace with yourself, and ready to connect with the world.