Treatment of PTSD using Somatic Experiencing
Somatic Experiencing (SE) is developed by Peter Levine. It is a psycho-therapeutic approach to deal with and resolving trauma. Animals in the wild are exposed repeatedly to stressful events but hardly bear the marks of trauma that human beings seem to retain and suffer through.
Levine set out to observe and discover if human beings have the same potential as animals in the wild have to regulate their nervous system and avoid traumatization.
How the Body is Involved when Suffering PTSD
Somatic Experiencing uses ‘tracking’ of body sensations through dialogue to access high energy arousal of the nervous system. It states that trauma is an incomplete biological process where the fight/flight mechanism has been activated without having had, by dint of social morays, the possibility of expressing or discharging it.
It is this aroused ‘high energy’ within the nervous system that leads to a multitude of physical and psychological suffering and syndromes. Focusing on body sensations facilitates accessing trauma which is held within the body-memory tissues, or in other words – the unconscious.
Trauma, from a physio-biological point of view, is a disruption of the free flow of energy within the nervous system. This will lead to hyper-activation of the nervous system with the following symptoms: anxiety, panic, hyper- vigilance, inability to relax, emotional flooding, sleeplessness, rage and hostility. When the nervous system is negatively discharging through hyper-activation it tends to vacillate in a counterpointing mode to the opposite extreme of hypo-activation, followed by these symptoms: lethargy, stasis, disconnection, exhaustion, depression and equilibrium.
It is as though the high energy arousal of an adverse event or period in one’s life hasn’t been able to discharge through fight or flight mode and has paralyzed itself within the body systems.
Working Safely towards Resolution: Titration and Containment
SE allows the accessing of trauma through listening to and observing body sensations. It does this in a way that is not overwhelming to the patient, and has the ability to regulate and integrate the release of energy by slowing down the whole process. This goes by the term: ‘titration’.
It uses vacillation between a state of regulation, where the patient feels safe, and dysregulation, where the trauma becomes apparent and activated, to step by step assistance in digesting the energy of trauma and dysregulation into the regulation of body systems and related psycho-pathologies.
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