Emotional Trauma; a Solution
I have been seeing a somatic experiencing therapist, and all I can really say is wow. I’m left so speechless by the subconcious thoughts, actions and behaviours I have, and the emotional trauma and baggage I’m carrying around with me everywhere I go. So together, let’s learn a little about somatic experiencing, what it is and where it came from.
What is Somatic Experiencing?
So firstly, the word somatic is defined “of, relating to, or affecting the body”  and this makes more sense, when you understand the premise of somatic experiencing is that the body’s somatic memory has been traumatised and is unable to process this trauma. Somatic experiencing “offers a way to explore where a person is “stuck” in the stressful fight, flight or freeze responses” and in doing so, effectively release the stored trauma, and restores peace and balance to the body. This website has more information on the founder, Peter A Levine.
Why Should I Care?
Now you might be thinking, this is all great and amazing, but I don’t have PTSD, I’ve not been to war or had a significant trauma and why would I be interested? Well I’m here to tell you, without a single doubt in my mind, that you are traumatized in some way or another. The fact that you’re not even aware that this trauma is controlling your behaviour on a subconscious (below conscious awareness) level is a scary thought, and it’s something we all need to work on.
As we grow up, between the ages of 0 and 7 we are primarily in the Alpha and Theta brainwave states. These are the brainwaves we can detect in adults during hypnosis and meditation. This shows us that during these 7 years, we are in somewhat of a trance, and we are being programmed by our environment. We are very vulnerable and malleable, and something that seems innocuous to us when were conscious and rational can be imprinted as a trauma with a different interpretation of the circumstance. An example might be that, as a child you want to play with toys with daddy, but daddy snaps ‘I’m busy’ because hes working at the time and trying to provide for you because he cares about you. We can see that rationally the father is clearing trying to care for the child, but all the child can understand is, daddy dosent want to play with me, I’m not important.
This imprint that gets stored in somatic memory, programmed into us during our hypnotic upbringing, is subconsciously dictating and controlling our actions, until you bring awareness and somatically experience the trauma, and reprocess the experience. These kinds of early life trauma have been studied, a large study (the ACE – adverse childhood experience) has correlated childhood traumas to considerable issues later in life including self destructive and sabotaging behavior, increased heart disease risk, obesity, depression, suicidality, and almost anything negative you could imagine. So speaking more on my personal experience, what a session is actually like for me, when I see my therapist and try to somatically experience. It starts off like you’d imagine any therapy session; pleasant greetings, how are you, and then to the juicy stuff. I often have mild anxiety about what we’re going to talk about, but its almost never what I imagine. I just get talking, then, just at the right time my therapist will say something like, ‘and where do you feel that in your body?’ And there’s almost always a distinct feeling, either numbness, a hole like something missing, or tingling and heat. My therapist guides me to gently pay attention to that feeling, sit with it, and let it slowly do what it needs. Sometimes just bringing awareness causes the feeling to fade, and I intuitively find some insight, like action I need to take, or something I’ve been lying to myself about. Other times bringing awareness causes intense, seemingly irrational emotions. I’ve experienced pure heart wrenching heartbreak, overwhelming detachment, isolation, and petrifying fear.
I once, in one of my sessions, felt as though I was child, the world around me felt distinctly like I was looking through a child’s eyes, nothing had names, everything kind of felt whole and less individual. I was absolutely paralysed with fear. My therapist reminded me to just stay present with it, continue breathing (I was holding my breath, part of the freeze response) and it eventually passed. After a few minutes it felt as though I had just awoken from a strange nap, but could immediately feel different in how I held myself, my posture, and my confidence. my sessions may sound scary and daunting, and I wont deceive you, they where. It took me just about all the bravery I had to go back and face those issues. But working on these issues I’ve developed my ability to experience feelings I haven’t felt for years. Joy, contentment, even elation! and lots and lots of gratitude.
It’s easier to stay centred and in control of myself in intense emotional situation, and not buy into others emotions so easily; like an emotional force field. I always doubted whether intuition was real, and now I have no doubt whatsoever. I’m noticing improvement in non emotional aspects too, I’m physically less tired, I sleep SO much better, and I recover from anything that gets me down just that little bit faster. I’ll admit, I still have a long way to go. Right now, to me, the emotion ‘Love’ seems so strange to me so I know I need to work on that, likely a trauma from childhood compounded upon by relationships. I know I can do it, and I will given time.
Just imagine how amazing and unstoppable you will be when all of the bad things that have happened to you in your life aren’t weighing you down any more. Your heart and your emotions are powerful, perhaps the most powerful thing you have, and with somatic experiencing, you can help your emotions to help you.