EMDR and Somatic Experiencing ®

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EMDR and Somatic Experiencing ® are treatment interventions that help individuals deal with emotional, psychological, and or physical trauma.

What is Emotional, Psychological, or Physical Trauma?

According to Dr. Peter Levine, “Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood, and untreated cause of human suffering”.   He describes trauma as “anything that is too much or comes to fast”. 

Bessel van der Kolk describes emotional  trauma as “anything that overwhelms the body’s ability to cope.”

Trauma is not held in a single event but in the way the body is able to cope with the trauma.  We become traumatize when our bodies do not have the ability to respond to a perceived overwhelming threat in a way that is helpful to the body.   Our bodies are then stuck or frozen in a in a loop of overwhelming stress.   Trauma can be very subtle and different for each individual and often symptoms of trauma, e.g. depression,  anxiety, and PTSD do not show up until years after the original trauma event.

Trauma ultimately is about the loss of connection: loss of connection to our family, loss of connection to our friends, loss of connection to our environment and surroundings, and the most devastating loss is to ourselves and our soul.

Traumatic symptoms are not caused by the “triggering” event itself.  They stem from the frozen residual of energy that had not been resolved or discharged; this residue remains trapped in the nervous system where it can wreak havoc on our bodies and spirit.  ~ Dr. Peter Levine

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What is Trauma?

  • Trauma can be one-time events (Shock Trauma) such as:
    • Rape/sexual assault
    • Childhood sexual or physical abuse or neglect
    • Natural disasters
    • Being a victim of a crime
    • Car accidents
    • Witnessing a crime, accidents, violent acts, car accidents or death
    • The discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition
    • Death of a loved one or someone close to you
    • Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)
    • Concussions
    • Falls or sports injuries
    • Birth trauma
  • Trauma can also be ongoing, persistent stress, such as:
    • A life-threatening illness or disabling condition
    • Serious illness
    • Domestic violence
    • Developmental trauma
    • Childhood sexual or physical abuse or neglect
    • An unstable or unsafe environment
    • Emotional abuse
    • Neglect
    • Failure Experiences
    • Phobia related experiences
    • Losses
    • Learning problems
    • Stress at work or school
    • Lack of empathy from others
    • A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
    • Ongoing health issues and/or surgery (over 3 years of age)
    • Bullying
    • Living in a crime-ridden neighborhood
    • War
    • Relationship Violence
    • Exposure to Chronic Violence
  • Commonly overlooked stressors or trauma are:
    • Simple medical procedures (especially in the first 3 years of life)
    • Surgeries (especially in the first 3 years of life)
    • Concussions
    • Falls or sports injuries
    • Birth trauma
    • Family dysfunction and and/or  lack of attachment/connectedness
    • The sudden death of someone close
    • The breakup of a significant relationship
    • Separation from a parent
    • Growing up in family with dysfunction (e.g. alcoholism)
    • Dislike of our own bodies
    • Failure experiences
    • Phobia related experiences
    • Losses
    • Learning problems
    • Stress at work or school
    • Lack of empathy from others
    • A humiliating or deeply disappointing experience
    • Bullying
    • Marriage Betrayal (e.g., lies, affairs)
    • Abandonment Issues
    • Divorce Recovery

An event will mostly likely lead into an emotional trauma if:

  • The event happened in childhood
  • It happened inexpertly or was a shock to the system
  • It was unexpected
  • It felt overwhelming to your system
  • You felt powerless to prevent it or escape from it
  • It happened repeatedly

What are the Emotional Symptoms of Trauma?

Common emotional symptoms of trauma are:

  • Shock, denial, or disbelief
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or depressed
  • Feeling overwhelmed or have difficulty coping with things
  • Excessive shyness
  • Diminished emotional responses
  • Anger, irritability, mood swings
  • Guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or confusion
  • Anxiety and fear
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal from others
  • Feeling disconnected or numb
  • Dissociation from one’s body
  • Feelings of impending doom
  • Social anxiety
  • PTSD symptoms

How does Trauma Show Up in the Body?

Trauma will often shows up as bodily symptoms such as:

  • Diarrhea/Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Neck and Back problems
  • Chronic fatigue (having very low physical energy)
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Difficulty falling asleep or waking up frequently at night
  • Nightmares
  • Agitation and /or restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Being startled easily or hypervigilance
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Heaviness in the chest
  • Aches and pains
  • Immune system and certain endocrine problems
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Psychosomatic illnesses
  • Asthma
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Severe PMS
  • Eating Disorders
  • Difficulty concentrating and/or confusion
  • Muscle tension
  • Exaggerated or diminished sexual activity
  • Avoidance of circumstances that remind us of previous traumas
  • Isolation and withdrawal

How Does Trauma Affect Our Spirituality?

Overwhelming trauma will show up as:

  • Feeling detached, alienated, and isolated
  • Feeling like the “living dead”
  • Disconnected from their own spirituality and/or religious practices that help them feel connected to the world and to life itself.
  • Inability to derive purpose or meaning to life

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a method of therapy for dealing with unresolved (stuck) trauma and distressing life events that often produces more rapid results than traditional talk therapy.

What is Somatic Experiencing®?

Somatic Experiencing® (SE) is a short-term naturalistic approach to the resolution and healing of trauma developed by Dr. Peter Levine and is supported by research. It is based upon the observation that wild prey animals, though threatened routinely, are rarely traumatized. Animals in the wild utilize innate mechanisms to regulate and discharge the high levels of energy arousal associated with defensive survival behaviors. These mechanisms provide animals with a built-in “immunity’’ to trauma that enables them to return to normal in the aftermath of highly ‘’charged’’ life-threatening experiences.

SE employs awareness of body sensation to help people “renegotiate” and heal rather than re-live or re-enact trauma.  SE’s guidance of the bodily “felt sense,” allows the highly aroused survival energies to be safely experienced and gradually discharged.  SE “titrates” experience (breaks down into small, incremental steps), rather than evoking catharsis – which can overwhelm the regulatory mechanisms of the organism.

Leading trauma experts discuss: What is trauma? (Hope in Healing Counseling and Wellness, LLC YouTube Channel)

References

Stacy is a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP)