Being first and foremost a bottom-up approach, Somatic Experiencing® does not aim to relive a traumatic event. Instead, it allows a gentle exploration of the physiology of the nervous system, that is the body’s instinctive responses to stress or overwhelming events.
Stress caused by a threat, whether perceived or real, or chronic stress, can significantly compromise our resilience and ability to live in the moment. Accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assaults, emotional abuse, neglect, war, racial discrimination, oppression, natural disasters, losses, birth trauma or other harmful stressors can all be a source of trauma.
It is not so much a situation that leads to trauma, but the physiological imprint that the experience leaves on the body. During difficult events, the nervous system reacts to protect the body with a response of fight or flight, or even immobilization. If this natural survival mechanism is thwarted and is not completed once the event is over, the energy deployed to protect oneself remains locked in the body. The nervous system stays in an alert mode and no longer functions in a balanced way, which can lead to various emotional and physical problems in the long term. Somatic Experiencing® aims to access the body’s memory to complete this unfinished survival mechanism and release the locked energy to allow for a reorganization of the nervous system and a restoration of the capacity for self-regulation.