What is Somatic Experiencing?

By Peter Levine, Ph.D.

Somatic Experiencing® is a naturalistic approach to the resolution of traumatic stress reactions. It is based upon the ethnological observation that animals in the wild utilize innate homeostatic mechanisms to regulate and neutralize the high levels of arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors. Somatic Experiencing® normalizes the symptoms of trauma, which bind this arousal, and offers the steps needed to resolve the activation and heal trauma.

 Although humans possess regulatory mechanisms virtually identical to those in animals, the function of these systems is often overridden by neo-cortical inhibition (by the rational mind). This restraint leads to the formation of a constellation of symptoms, including pain, patterns of bracing and collapse, intrusion, anxiety and cognitive dysfunction. Through the focal awareness of bodily sensation, individuals are able to access these restorative physiological action patterns, allowing the highly aroused survival energies to be safely and gradually neutralized. Unregulated arousal previously “locked in” the neuromuscular and central nervous systems can be discharged and completed, thus preventing and resolving traumatic symptoms.

Image of Tiger symbolizing the Somatic Experiencing Method.

For a more detailed discussion of shock trauma, see Peter Levine’s books Waking the Tiger and/or In an Unspoken Voice (both readily available in bookstores). For more information on Somatic Experiencing® (including articles written by Peter Levine) go to http://www.traumahealing.com.

"The past doesn't matter when we learn how to be present; every moment becomes new and creative."

- Dr. Peter Levine

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