This week I had the pleasure of listening to Peter Levine speak about the relationship between somatics and trauma therapy. This was as another part of my Psychotherapy course. The title of the seminar was Going Beyond Trauma Therapy to Find Love & Happiness. It was of course, the somatics aspect of his talk which really caught my attention, since this is the work that I do.
Listening to other facilitators and experts in the field of somatic therapy is like being able to dive into a bag of candy that you've never tried yet. What I mean by that is, if you know that you are someone who loves candy a LOT, you know that this will be a new flavor that will bring new enjoyment. The taste may be better than any you've yet tried, or it may not be as good as any you've tried, yet regardless, you will have a new mind awakening taste to add to your palette of enjoyment!
Here are some of the key points I took away from Levine's talk:
There is a delicate process to having people gradually re-live experiences, and re-negotiate them. Trauma gets locked in the body. At a moment of traumatic experience, your body may want to have a certain kind of response. More often than not, the mind will stop us and this deep desire to move a certain way will get locked in.
Our body stays prime with the responses that would have led to a successful outcome -- to what we believe to be 'an escape'. If there is a recurring pain in one's body, a pain that has been difficult to find the source of, it will almost always help to go in and uncover what may be being held in there. Sometimes, this can even be the underlying cause of a depression that has been difficult to find the source of.
It can be confusing when the body is saying one thing and then you try to interpret it too quickly, without allowing the body to complete its action. Then it can become difficult to remember. When you allow body memories to complete, to come to resolution and release, that memory can be brought into consciousness and put to rest. Somatic experiencing is about accessing this innate inner knowing that the body speaks.
One thing that we may wish to consider: How do we go about putting these memories to rest, so that injuries or ailments don't keep occurring?
According to Levine, there are layers of stored memory:
The first layer is what could be deemed autobiographical memory. Then there are emotional memories - ones where you have an emotional reaction to something and you are not sure why. This usually draws you to begin searching a bit deeper. The deepest level of memories are the procedural memories. When trauma is resolved, one will generally uncover the great power inside of it. This is where true transformation occurs.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is something that works from the top down. This is where we analyze our thoughts, and then we engage in our process from there. Core physiological processes, on the other hand, work from the bottom up, moving the body in order to move up to emotional memories, then cognitive memories, and upward eventually to autobiographical memories which lead to forming coherent narratives in order to be able to say, "This is my story. This is where I came from ... but this is where I'm going."
If you feel that this Psychotherapy course is something that would interest you, please go here.
Peter A. Levine, PhD, holds doctorates in both medical biophysics and psychology. He is the developer of Somatic Experiencing®, a body-awareness approach to healing trauma, as well as the founder of the Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, which conducts trainings in this work throughout the world and in various indigenous cultures, with 26 faculty members and more than 5,000 students. He is also a senior fellow at the Meadows Addiction and Trauma Treatment Center in Wickenburg, Arizona. Levine’s international best seller, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, has been translated into 25 languages. His recent interests include the prevention of trauma in children, and he has co-written two books with Maggie Kline in this area: Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes and Trauma-Proofing Your Kids. His most recent book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, was released to rave reviews. Levine’s original contribution to the field of body psychotherapy was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP).
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