Very briefly, this is how trauma and stress get stored in the body: It happens quickly, a stress reaction, an accident, a sudden shock - environmental or manmade, a paralyzing thought or fear. Or more slowly over time, we become numb to an ongoing situation in our lives. And sadly, misattunement, neglect and abuse - both emotional and/or physical - in early childhood.
Not knowing how to respond or unable to respond to a threat or danger - real or imagined - we freeze in our emotional tracks, as Dr Peter Levine, the founder of Somatic Experiencing® says, with the frozen look of "deer in the headlights." Deer, however, will typically run or shake off the energy and while humans can, we often can't.
By applying this gentle yet powerful body-mindfulness process of Somatic Experiencing®, releasing this frozen energy is your key to freedom from physical pain or self-defeating emotions and patterns of behavior that have consciously or unconsciously controlled your life.
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Somatic Experiencing® or SE™ for short, is a method of releasing stress and trauma that gets “stuck” in the body. SE™ utilizes the latest research on the connection between the brain and the body. When we become stressed by an overwhelming life event, a traumatic incident, or a mentally tough situation, our brains tell our bodies to either run, fight, or freeze - otherwise known as flight / fight / freeze.
Dr. Peter Levine, author of the ground-breaking book, Awakening the Tiger*, has helped us to understand that we are not biologically designed to live in today's stress-filled society. In many ways, our brains have not evolved since prehistoric times, so our nervous systems react to overwhelming situations as if we were being chased by a saber-toothed tiger. During the stress of a traumatic event such as a car accident or physical or mental abuse, our brains tell our bodies to run, fight, or freeze. Even in the stress of a big test, sleeplessness, or just friends who are not being nice, our bodies go through a stress response similar to being chased in the wild. When the brain sends a message to run or fight, all the blood rushes from our brains to our extremities so we can escape danger. But since running or fighting doesn’t make logical sense to us, we stifle all of that energy, and it gets trapped inside the body. We know that trauma is physiological energy, a sort of cloud of trapped energy inside of us, that can cause all kinds of symptoms.
Dr. Levine holds doctorate degrees in Medical Biophysics and in Psychology. During his thirty five-year study of stress and trauma, Dr. Levine has contributed to a variety of scientific and popular publications. Dr. Levine was a stress consultant for NASA during the development of the Space Shuttle, and has taught at treatment centers, hospitals and pain clinics throughout the world, as well as at the Hopi Guidance Center in Arizona. He was a member of The Institute of World Affairs Task Force of “Psychologists for Social Responsibility” and served on the APA “Presidential Initiative on responding to large scale disasters and ethno-political warfare”. He is a Senior Fellow at The Meadows Trauma and Addiction Treatment Center in Wickenburg, Arizona.
*Dr. Levine's best selling book, Waking the Tiger; Healing Trauma, is published in 20 languages.
Rose, Graduate Student
After 3rd session:
"Before I began the SE process, I was skeptical. Spending years in therapy I wasn’t sure that this process would help me. But I entered into the experience with an open mind and I am already surprised. I have had three sessions with Marian, each diving a little deeper into the reasons that brought me to her. She is caring, empathetic, knowledgeable, and nonjudgmental. All of these characteristics make me feel safer and give me the ability to let down my walls and allow myself to be vulnerable. Both of which I had really struggled with in the past. In three sessions, I have become more aware of the messages my body is sending me and I already feel less anxious on a day-to-day basis. I am excited to continue my work and believe this process can help me." ~ Rose
Rose, after 5th session:
Anxiety has always been an issue for me in general, and in particular around the area of my neck. Since I can remember, I have never felt comfortable around my neck. I couldn’t wear a scarf, clothes that were too tight in that area, certain necklaces, and it was a constant source of anxiety. Anytime someone came close to my neck I would tense up and become increasingly anxious. One day, I even had a panic attack just because my significant other was too close to that area. That is when I started thinking about the source of the anxiety. The only thing I could come up with was my birth story. When I was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck. That is the only incidence I could come up with that involved my neck area. But I had trouble believing that something I couldn’t even remember was causing such a physical reaction.
I met Marian and she told me that she thought SE could help. She said the mind doesn’t remember, but the body does. I spent so many years in therapy working on things that I was skeptical about trying this. I constantly thought “how is it possible that this can help me wear a scarf?” But I went to the first session with an open mind and some willingness to try and I was pleasantly surprised.
We began with some history and with setting a goal. My goal was to be comfortable wearing a scarf. For 30 years I felt trapped. I felt restricted on clothing and fashion. I felt this was never something I was going to get over. But I did; with the work I put in and Marian’s guidance.
Now, I finally feel a sense of freedom I never had. I no longer have this anxiety associated with my neck region. I am able to be who I am and not have worry about what will happen if someone comes close to that area. I no longer have a fear that I am going to break out in a panic attack just because someone touches me on the neck. I have decreased my overall anxiety, and how to listen to my body. Moreover, I can finally wear a scarf! I am eternally grateful that I was able to open my mind and put in some effort, because my experience shows how powerful the short treatment can be.
If I can have this experience, I really believe anyone else can too!"
Vanessa Duek, Marketing
"It's not a regular type of therapy where you start by investigating where your problems come from. Here you come straight to the point. I've had a fear for many years of traveling by car, why - it turns out - didn't matter. Being guided through a process, my issue got resolved in two sessions. If the fear comes up, I now know how to get rid of it. I tested it and it works! Thank you, Marian."
Anon, International Foods Import/Export
"I did three sessions with Marian and I'm very happy with the results already! Marian is a person you feel comfortable sitting with. She has a calmness around her that is very soothing. In the sessions we would focus on anything that came up that might need attention. It felt like she was guiding me to the answers by letting me find the solution myself. It gave me confidence to trust my gut feeling again. Although it’s a process that’s not nearly finished Marian gave me the tools to get me through the most “overwhelming” period in my life. I don’t get overwhelmed that fast any more by setting boundaries and taking my own time to deal with things. Without Marian’s help I wouldn’t have seen it this clearly."
Beverley, Special Education Teacher
"I found it so helpful and enabled me to understand how my body responds to certain triggers and how that manifests in pain or discomfort. I enjoyed your calm and kind approach and would recommend you highly."
JA, Dancer, Yoga Instructor
"I’ve become really mindful about what I'm feeling and my bodily sensations. I am a lot more aware and less judgmental. When I was noticing feelings of jealousy in my body, I was able to get relief by noticing the feeling and, with ease, the feelings passed quickly."
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