I used to love going into the deepest depth of trauma in sessions, but realized over the years, that trauma symptoms didn’t disappear that way and so I was on the lookout for a different approach. My supervisor pointed me into the direction of Peter Levine, who had developed a therapy model approaching trauma very differently and I started reading a book he wrote for therapists. Every page in this book resonated with me and I just knew I had to do this training, no matter what. I felt very lucky when this training was offered for the very first time in Australia a few years later.
Through my Somatic Experiencing training I have learnt how to carefully renegotiate the challenging past without re-traumatizing a client. As a therapist I now go gently back to the edge of traumatic events with the intention of changing it. Visualizing the support we would have needed back then in an embodied way means shifting the past for good: Receiving the support of unconditionally loving people or beings around us, being caught tenderly by the softness of a mattress to catch our fall, being held soothingly by warm water, carried and embraced, a body hugging and hand wiping away our tears, a "lion" protecting us and an assertive person setting a clear boundary for us. It is important to let our body complete movements it held back for survivals sake – in the traumatic situation it might have been too dangerous or inappropriate for a person to follow these body impulses. But when these movements are not completed the massive energy that prepared for fight or flight will stay trapped, hence the body will perceive it is still under threat, even years later if the charge isn’t released. Sometimes it takes the form of running away, shaking, biting, spitting out words, hands pushing or punching the imagined person away. All this happens in a slow, carefully titrated way and is very different from the emotional catharsis therapy work I used to do.
This of course doesn't change what happened to us in our past, but it does change how it is stored in the body! Instead of the body re-remembering over and over again what happened to it years ago it can now let go, arrive in the present time and become finally unstuck from the past. It is a great relief for the nervous system to no longer be in constant fight/flight/freeze when not required. Instead the whole system can now return to equilibrium and engage with the outside world in a relaxed way.
We can store this new imprint in our body on a cellular level so we know how to truly nurture ourselves and how to self regulate. Neuroplasticity means our brain can build new and better neural connections when receiving a new, good and corrective embodied experience. Clients then can make new and better choices, step into the world in a more embodied, empowered and assertive way. As a client recently said coming out of a deep corrective experience when gently working on her childhood sexual abuse: “I feel proud, enlightened and empowered”. She left the office feeling at peace with herself and the world, experiencing a new joy which is lasting to this day.
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So far I covered “What is trauma?” ,“Freeze state that follows fight flight survival mechanis”, Reptilian, mammal and rational brain “speak” different languages” and “How the self soothing Parasympathetic Nerve develops and how patterns of worrying and over-thinking can be set up in childhood”
Next week I will write about: “When sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve go into chaos and trauma symptoms take over”
Have a great day,
Barbara Schmidt Mental Health Social Worker,
EMDR & Somatic Experiencing Practitioner
Mental Health Social Worker
EMDR, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner
144 Stirling Terrace, Albany &
3/55 Strickland Street, Denmark
m: 0458 234 410