Somatic Experiencing

Somatic Experiencing
Somatic Experiencing
Dr Peter Levine developed Somatic Experiencing (SE) by observing how wild animals released trauma. SE is a non-touch, body-oriented approach that aims to increase the body’s resilience and ability to self-regulate. In this way, symptoms of trauma are reduced and the body is better able to respond to everyday situations with a sense of aliveness and flexibility.

Why is SE so effective?
Trauma affects the autonomic nervous system and lower brain. Because these systems evolved before language, they can’t be healed through words. Unlike other approaches that focus on talking or thinking, SE is effective as it focuses mainly on body sensations, imagination, gesture and emotion.

What happens in an SE session?
SE involves tracking internal sensations, known as 'somatic experiences'. The aim of this work is to reduce symptoms by releasing stuck survival energy and rewiring neural networks (memory re-consolidation). SE sessions typically include working with 'activation cycles' as outlined below;

  • Resourcing using body sensations, movement and images to create resilience. Resilience means supporting the frontal cortex and autonomic nervous system to better contain activation
  • Titration  working slowly and carefully to connect with only a manageable amount of activation at any one time
  • Pendulation  encouraging the body's natural movement between resource and activation
  • Discharge  the gentle release of energy through tears, trembling, warmth and easier breathing
  • Integration  the time needed to allow the body to take in the changes

SE is described by one of my teachers as 'sneaky powerful'. The process may seem subtle, but by working slowly and observantly, small changes integrated by the autonomic nervous system can be profound.