How Somatic Therapy is the missing piece for Bloating, Hormone Health, Fertility, Chronic Pain, Autoimmune, Brain fog, ADHD, and more…
Can you fathom telling your child or best friend to just wait until they are done with their task for water or food? Or to just be quiet if they are filled to the brim and take one more bite? Likely not. AND that is often what we do to ourselves, our body, our greatest consort in life.
When we hit rock bottom, what happens? Our bodies and minds desynchronize. Our bodies begin to scream for attention.
This is where I was when I found Somatic Experiencing. Peter Levine found the method after years of study in Physical Therapy and animals’ responses to stressors or traumatic experiences. We each have our own unique nervous system architecture that determines our capacity to respond to stressful situations.
It turns out that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are the only direct link to health.
The greater the stressors during development actually CAUSE illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. The only other causation in science and health is smoking. Wow…. Nadine Burke’s The Deepest Well is a great book to refer to for more information.
Adverse experiences can cause psychological issues such as anxiety and depression and lead to physical conditions such as chronic injuries, pain, autoimmune, fatigue, and diseases.
This is where somatic (pertaining to the body) experiencing thrives as a therapy. Somatic Experiencing (SE) focuses on the mind-body connection in order to address both mental and physical concerns. The focus of SE is to help you complete processing experiences, notice the mind-body connection and cultivate awareness until you have enough capacity to work through distressing situations.
What is the freeze?
Much of the focus of SE is on the “freeze” response. An example of an actual freeze is the body’s response to drowning, your body shuts down to conserve energy in order to survive.
When we are faced with a threat, we can fight-flight-freeze or appease for survival. The freeze usually happens when our bodies assess a threat and realize that the chance of escaping harm is questionable. Your body builds tension, in your muscles, your heart rate increases as do shallow breaths, and your body is flooded with stress hormones. This is great when you have a chance to confront the said threat or run, but when you don’t and you freeze, that moment in time becomes stored in your fascia.
Fascia keeps all of our memories, holds our muscles and organs, and communicates with our entire system. I like to think of it as the mycelial network of the body. Mycelia helps trees and plants communicate for survival and growth. Our fascia does the same for our entire system.
So, when you are no longer faced with a threat and have no way to mobilize in order to protect yourself, the level of activation remains the same in your system, someone is trapped. In response to freezing, you may no longer be in a fight-or-flight response, you froze, the energy wasn’t used, and your system often does not return to baseline. Another way to say it is your body doesn’t reset in order to prepare for the next response and continues to repeat little bits of the trauma response, which leads to symptoms.
Symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Chronic pain
- Digestive concerns
- Hormone issues
- Muscle pain and tension
- Sleep issues
- Heart rate dysregulation (racing heart or slow heart)
- Autoimmune like symptoms
- And more..,
What Does Somatic Experiencing Look and Feel Like?
Somatic Experiencing is a “Bottom-Up” approach to adverse stressful experiences. The primary focus is to uncover bodily sensations linked to feelings rather than examining memories and emotions associated with a traumatic event or an event that caused major stress.
Almost every Somatic Therapist begins with education to help you learn and understand your nervous system more. From there, your therapist guides you to become more curious and familiar with your body sensations, which are almost always connected to your story. Your therapy sessions are designed to help you stay aware of your body; or embodied, as you build tools to stay with your body as you explore.
SE therapists use various tools to do this, to experience a Somatic Session, Book here.
What my clients are saying…
I never expected my hormone-healing journey to heal my relationships. But time would prove that the removal of these unhealthy relationships would be intricately intertwined with my physical healing. And as my comfort level with SE grew, I began to want to explore its connection to my spiritual growth.
I had come out of a tradition that focuses on the spiritual at the expense of the physical. This tradition was uncomfortable; at best, with the merging of the areas of health; as if somehow the spiritual life would be placed in jeopardy. But I have found that Somatic Experiencing and Five Elements have deepened and expanded my spiritual life.
My discovery of that powerful space in which the physical and spiritual realms of health overlap has been reframing for me. My paradigm shift does not exclude gives me a new context in which to understand and expand my view of my earlier beliefs of whole health.
SE can be the cord that binds the two dimensions of physical and spiritual healing together. This can increase the power of any healing journey.
But for those of us in menopausal transition; SE, when used in combination with other forms of natural healing, forms a foundation that sustains us through both the physical and spiritual challenges of this life season. The integration of life experiences mitigates stress on our bodies during a time in which we are already very susceptible to the impact of unpredictable hormonal shifts. This has provided vital support for me. Dr.Cope’s advanced skill; coupled with her powerful intuition, has made the unpredictable hormone shifts so much more bearable.
Now I can walk more steadily and with much less trepidity as I navigate the unknowns of perimenopause. To learn more about stress reduction during the perimenopausal transition, read here.
I have learned to recognize certain sensations in my body, I can be aware and call in resources to support me during challenging interactions.
This helps to minimize the impact when unpredictable hormonal fluctuations occur simultaneously with difficult relationship dynamics. I have seen it work for me over and over! And, it has been critically important for me when life has thrown extra stressors at me…like getting bitten by a dog while running or watching a stranger die from a heart attack in a parking lot! Dr. Cope has been so accessible for last-minute zoom SE sessions that have calmed my emotions and greatly reduced the impact of the stress on my body.
My reflection on SE as part of my overall management of perimenopause has led me to compare it to my previous experience of working with counselors as a form of therapy. For me, SE has proven to be more effective. It has been more than worth the difficult symptoms associated with discontinuing the Pill; and then finding myself in perimenopause, to discover SE as a therapy and to reap its many benefits. And to experience this form of healing coupled with physical healing is more than just empowering. To me, it is a miracle.
Celia Layman, age 51- Harrisonburg, VA
***Somatic Therapy is slower therapy and a body-first approach to stress. If you are feeling a disconnect between your mind, body, heart, and others, try SE with a practitioner, and feel free to contact Dr. Cope for referrals for counselors that work from a holistic mindset. It is often the missing link in order to resolve chronic holding patterns. Any vagal-nerve approach to dis-ease must be considered in your healing plan, or else you are leaving a key piece of the root cause of discomfort and/or disease out of your plan.