Somatic Experiencing Helps to Regulate the Nervous System, Bringing Mental and Physical Relief
By Beth Nawrocki
Trauma often calls to mind soldiers overcoming the consequences of war, but what if our very own homes were battlefields, too?
According to the increasing research prompted by a CDC-Kaiser-Permanente study of 17,421 participants from 1995 – 1997, what we experience in childhood can have continuous effects on our physical, mental, and social health as adults.
“Research has linked high levels of stress-related inflammatory biomarkers to a greater risk of chronic pain, depression, heart disease, digestive illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis,” says health science journalist, Donna Jackson Nakazawa, for the news site, ACESTooHigh.
The crucial findings of this study—now known as the “Adverse Childhood Experience” (ACE) study—indicate that childhood traumas can encompass a range of experiences, like physical and emotional neglect, losing a loved one, divorce, having a caregiver who suffers from mental illness, or witnessing the physical or verbal abuse of a caregiver. Encounters such as these can initiate impactful change in a child’s brain architecture and nervous system response, later leading to chronic and mental health issues, no matter the child’s socioeconomic status.
Stress (like that resulting from the types of experiences listed above) causes our nervous system, the network of nerve cells and fibers that transmit important messages throughout our body, to go into what scientists call the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. This response releases vital chemicals into our body systems so living creatures — humans included — can protect themselves from harm. This response originates from our base need to stay safe from predators.
However, unlike the predator that hunts you in the forest, traumatic life experiences in the home of a child may never resolve without some form of caring intervention. If this nurturing support is missing, the threat response becomes the norm, and the daily stressors of an adult life become much more difficult to manage.
It’s also key to remember that the long-term effects of stress can begin at any age; adults who experience a drastic event, like a car accident, might find daily living less manageable or develop a chronic illness after such a stressful incident.
Fortunately, there are emerging healing modalities that can come to the aid of those with trauma and stress overload. Somatic Experiencing (SE) is one of these. It’s an alternative remedy for trauma and stress management from American psychologist and Doctor of Medical Biophysics, Peter Levine. In his research, Levine saw the biological connection between stress, the nervous system response, and body system organization, launching an opportunity for the body to heal itself and regain resilience from trauma.
SE cultivates the nurturing support for those individuals who may never have had it. It’s encouraging the natural regulation of the nervous system, for its return to pre-threat state. SE is a titrated approach that aids in restructuring the nervous system and developing resiliency to the stressors that will come down the line. This, especially in combination with other natural therapies, like naturopathic medicine or acupuncture, can bring physical and mental relief.
“SE is a deeply relational model that respects and moves at a pace that suits the client best,” says local SE Practitioner (SEP), Beth Nawrocki. “It’s a grounding partnership to observe the whole picture and support holistic recovery.”
Throughout her time as a SEP, Nawrocki has seen the body do extraordinary things, just by supporting the natural regulation of the nervous system itself.
“If your nervous system is stable,” Nawrocki adds, “this stability will transfer to coherency in other body systems and ultimately allow for greater resiliency in stressful situations and sickness.”
For more information about Somatic Experiencing, visit traumahealing.org. If you’re interested in setting up an appointment with Beth Nawrocki, visit her website at www.bethnawrocki.com or call 928.533.6177.