Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a form of body psychotherapy developed by Dr. Peter A. Levine who wrote the books, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma and In An Unspoken Voice. Based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though threatened routinely, are rarely traumatized due to an innate mechanism that regulates/discharges the high levels of energy arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors thus enabling them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly ''charged'' life-threatening experiences.
Although humans are born with virtually the same regulatory mechanisms as animals, this function is often overridden or inhibited by, among other things, the ''rational'' portion of our brains. This restraint prevents the complete discharge of survival energies, and does not allow the nervous system to regain its equilibrium. The undischarged energy remains in the body, and the nervous system becomes stuck in ''survival mode.'' The various symptoms of trauma such as anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, being easily startled, phobias, panic attacks, restlessness, irritability, eating and sleeping disturbances, chronic bracing & pain patterns or even feeling lethargic / frozen or "out of body", result from the body's attempt to ''manage'' and contain this unused energy.
Somatic Experiencing employs the awareness of body sensation to help people ''renegotiate'' and heal their traumas rather than relive them. With appropriate guidance into the body's instinctive ''felt sense,'' individuals are able to access their own built-in immunity to trauma, allowing the highly aroused survival energies to be safely and gradually discharged. When these energies are discharged, people frequently experience a dramatic reduction in or disappearance of their traumatic symptoms.
Listen to Peter A. Levine in an Interview explaining what happens to the body when something traumatic occurs and how Somatic Experiencing is used to clear trauma symptoms. (Click on screen expansion icon to see this in full screen)
For more information on Somatic Experiencing, please visit:
Recommended Readings on Somatic Experiencing:
In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness by Peter A. Levine
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