Nervous System & Trauma
As you know, I am studying to add Somatic Experiencing Practitioner to my list of services offered for Trauma Recovery.
What this essentially means is re-setting our nervous system, by building awareness, tolerance and resilience to the sensations within the body.
The way I understand it, is that the nervous system has the ability to both self regulate and to also get stuck, because we have overridden its capacity. So those who have experienced trauma, may not be starting at the “calm” stage or 1 on the scale of 1-100 for example, they may already be starting at 50.
In some typical forms of counselling, all that happens is the the person remains overwhelmed and their nervous system cannot tell the difference between the trauma itself and being overwhelmed and overloaded in the present.
Dr. Peter Levine identifies a 9 Step Method for transforming trauma, which underlies the Somatic Experiencing Training I am doing. I thought it might be helpful to identify that here, as a starting place for understanding. I will expand on each as time and experience allows.
- The first thing to do is to create a sense of security. If safety is not present, there is no way to actually stay present enough to experience the sensations within the body.
- The second step is about a gentle exploration of the sensations, while learning to stay present.
- The third part is about becoming aware of “pendulation” which is essentially the rhythm of expansion and contraction of sensations, so that it doesn’t “feel” threatening as we move through the process of resetting the nervous system.
- The fourth step which is present in all steps, is called “titrating” which is carefully experiencing the smallest portion of the survival based arousal within the nervous system. This “touching the edges” creates an increase in stability, reorganization and increased resilience and tolerance resulting in a reorganization of the nervous system.
- The fifth step is providing the “corrective” experiences by helping the person recover their positive, empowering responses, replacing the old ones of passive, collapse and helplessness as typically experienced in “freeze” mode.
- The sixth step is to deregulate the fear and freeze response. Obviously this needs to remain in tact for future possible scenarios, so the utmost care is required during this process as a lot of activation and arousal is expected.
- The seventh step is helping to discharge the high arousal states, redistribute to where it should be i.e.: for life preserving actions while freeing up the balance of the energy for higher level brain functions etc.,
- The eighth step is about re-engaging self regulation to restore dynamic equilibrium & relaxed alertness. Essentially getting to the “original” starting place of 1 on the scale of 100.
- The ninth step is about re-orienting to the here and now, connecting with the environment and reestablish capacity for social engagement.
I know this all sounds a bit too much right now and that is absolutely ok. I am actually posting this, in order to explain that there is a process in how to deal with such a sensitive issue, that treats people with tender care for a positive and thorough resolution. This isn’t done overnight, but healing is possible and in fact proven.
It is my intention to, over time, explain each piece, so that you have a sense of what this treatment is about, how you will be held with care, while healing your deepest wounds.