There are three simple diagrams below that will further help you to understand how Somatic Experiencing Therapy works. An SE session looks very much like the traditional talk therapy session; however, SE sessions facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and encourages you to be aware of body sensations, in order to address the root cause of trauma symptoms.
Robin Morgan of A Path of Heart, uses Somatic Experiencing to guide you to develop an increased tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.
Figure 1 How People Get Stuck in High Levels of Activation or Shut Down in Depression
Wave A (the middle white line with arrows underneath) is what a healthy regulating system looks like. In a healthy regulating system, activation (such as anger, fear, stress) will come into the body (signified as the wave goes up) and then it will be discharge out (shown as the wave goes down), and when this happens, the body comes into a normal resting state or range.
Trauma causes vast disturbances in your body’s ability to have this healthy regulating system. Someone with trauma will start to get activation in their system (the wave rises) and their body does not know how to release the activation, so the activation keeps increasing inside to a HIGH level and they get stuck there. Thus you see people with trauma with higher than normal levels of anxiety, anger and feeling over whelmed. For example, a person may have a very large reaction to a seemly small stimulus. The high level of sympathetic energy in a body that is not regulating properly then causes a person’s system to shut down, and this is where people get stuck, in a LOW freeze response. Basically, what happens is a person’s whole body shuts down; they will feel stuck, heavy, have low energy, and may experience numbness or stillness inside, and as well, have a lot of hopeless despair, and negative thoughts. This is where you see a lot of people who get stuck in depression.
Robin helps people to recognize that what is happening in your body somatically and to learn to how to quickly come of out these HIGH and LOW states; thus, creating a more healthy regulating system. In therapy, you will learn how to discharge pent up energy or emotions from your system. Over time, your body relearns how to regulate itself and naturally release stress and activation.
Figure 2 The Tube Man
Another analogy Robin uses with many clients in terms of Somatic Experiencing Therapy is a term she made up that she names the “tube man.” Basically, imagine a stick man made of tubes. A healthy regulating system deals with stress in a regulating manner; the energy from the stress (or anger or anxiety) comes in to the tubes of the tube man and then flows through and out. However, if you add some kind of trauma in a person’s life, this flow is interrupted. For example, if a little tube person is traumatized by abuse, does not get their childhood attachment needs met, or even if they witnesses violence it creates blocks in the tubes. The activation (energy) from the trauma that comes is too big for those little tubes; thus, causing them to freeze and too much energy to get “stuck” in one spot. Their system needs to shut down to protect itself from the over activation. In essence, they end up holding this excessive energy in their throat, chest and/or stomach and their system stops regulating normally. It is like you literally take that tube person and squeeze the tubes, and then there are all these blocks and there is no longer flow in the system. These blocks mean that survival fight and flight energy is locked in their system and their system is no longer regulating normally. Robin helps you to safely and slowly open up these tubes and release the trapped energy from current and past events. In doing this, you create a regulating system where energy can naturally move through. This increases your capacity to deal with stress and move things through your system to also process things from the past that may have been too big to deal with before.
Figure 3 Trauma resolution through body therapy
Imagine that your life energy is like a river. People often end up with these trauma vortexes that lay on the outside of the river. Instead of being in the flow of life, people go into these trauma vortexes and start to think of all their negative feelings about their current situation or things from the past; and end up stuck in a lot of negatively and may experience a lot of anxiety, anger or feel low energy, heavy and shut down. People can feel stuck and like they just spin in these trauma vortexes where they experience obsessive negative thoughts and feelings from the present and past all at once. They can be also hard on their partners by being stuck in negativity and blaming or constantly repeating themselves, without being able to be calmed down. However there is help to get out this trauma vortex. Robin will help you build a counter vortex that is full of your own tools and inner resources which enables you to cope better, think more positively and release yourself from the trauma vortex and the fight, flight, freeze energies from the past.
Survival energies like fight, flight or freeze can remain locked in your body for years after a traumatic experience. Many people are plagued in relationships, as these energies from the past wreak havoc, and couple this with current events, this can lead to angry explosions or hopeless depressive symptoms.
When you work with Robin, you will gain a lot of self-awareness by learning what is happening in your body and will also develop effective skills to self-regulate and to release these trauma related survival energies for good!
Let Robin Morgan at A Path of Heart Counselling Services show you firsthand how SE Therapy can work for you!
Call Robin now to book your first session at 250-863-7863