„I have come to the conclusion that people come into the world with an innate ability to conquer trauma. I believe that trauma is not only curable, but that the healing process can be a catalyst for deep awakening – a gateway to emotional and truly spiritual transformation.“
Potentially traumatizing events can be one-time experiences (shock trauma), such as an accident, fall, surgery, assault, violent experience. Or longer lasting situations, such as bullying, divorce, abuse. Traumatic events in childhood (developmental trauma) can have particularly severe consequences because they can interfere with healthy development of brain function and identity. Examples include traumatic birth, long hospital stays, mentally ill parents, or loss of a parent.
Consequences of trauma
Depending on the extent and subsequent processing of the trauma, a variety of post-traumatic symptoms can occur. Post-traumatic stress disorder can also appear years after the traumatizing event. Some of the most common symptoms are: – Anxiety – Panic attacks – Sleep disturbances/nightmares – “Flashbacks” (reliving the trauma) – Dissociation (e.g., feeling of splitting into an acting and an observing person) – Depression – Psychosomatic illness – Relationship problems – Overexcitability.
Somatic Experiencing is a trauma therapy assisted by touch developed by Dr. Peter Levine. Levine sees trauma disorders as the result of a biological reaction in the body that has been interrupted and not successfully completed. Compared to humans, wild animals are frequently exposed to life-threatening situations, but do not suffer post-traumatic symptoms as a result.
The physiological ‘freeze’ response, when flight or fight are no longer options, is resolved as soon as the danger is over by shaking. In humans, however, this discharge is often impeded by fear or other circumstances, so that they remain stuck in torpor, and this can result in post-traumatic physical and psychological illnesses.
It is also possible to get stuck in an activation reaction as a result of trauma, through which relaxation is no longer possible.
Levine developed the method of Somatic Experiencing to help traumatized people dissolve the physiological numbing reaction so that the nervous system can relax again and energy can flow freely in the body. In addition, Somatic Experiencing can be used to determine where someone has become “stuck” in activation due to being stuck in the flight -or-fight response. Through SE methods, these fixations can be dissolved.
The goal of the treatment is to restore the self-regulation of the body, as well as to dissolve the physical and psychological symptoms caused by the traumatic experience. The method is very gentle and due to the slow and careful approach of the therapist, re-traumatization is avoided.
It is also possible to work exclusively on the physical level in cases where the memory of the trauma would be too stressful. With the help of body awareness and the gradual discharge accompanied by the therapist, the body can complete the reaction interrupted in the trauma. In this process, the therapist also supports by including the client’s resources that were not available in the situation at the time