Here’s an a little Public Service Announcement (PSA) I made about SE and the importance of allowing involuntary behavior.
Sure, Lucky is cute and on a certain level the message here is entirely accurate: shaking, particularly involuntary shaking, is a key to relieving pent up stress. But like every other PSA it’s oversimplified. [Do you remember, "This is your brains, this is drugs, this is your brain on drugs? Often brevity = simplicity.]
As SEP’s (and hopefully the general public) we should keep a few things in mind…
Summary: In Somatic Experiencing circles we talk a lot about the biological cause of trauma and “why the stress response doesn’t complete.” We pass around various explanations that generally point toward something that wanted to happen that didn’t. It’s a little wordy but here’s my current short-hand explanation. (more…)
Summary: Some SE sessions cause dramatic, even magical, changes. Some of those changes are perminent from the start, which is wonderful. However many magic changes are not permanent and gently preparing clients for the swing back to discomfort is an important part of the process. (more…)
If you look up Stress and Trauma independently on Google you get dramatically different results:
- Stress = 590,000,000
- Trauma = 133,000,000
I think this says something about where the dominant culture directs their attention and how they think of their situation. When marketing our work we’d be wise to be conscious of this. (more…)
As SEP’s we have a desire to consistently reinforce empowerment, autonomy and self-direction to the extent possible and intelligible. This makes it so we look to maintain a certain economy of feedback that favors client discovery and limits practitioner intervention. [This fits closely with the Intervention : Resiliency ratio].
A good example of this would be the scaling of Feedback that might go along with calling attention to the emergence of an involuntary expression like rocking.
Renegotiation of Freeze/Immobility states is a central piece of the work we do as SE Practitioners and one of the great gifts that SE has to offer. The relief that comes from quelling the compulsion of Freeze is essentially unmatched by anything else we can do for folks (after all: the true Freeze/Immobility state is associated psycho-biologically with deep conservation, withdrawal, and the neuroception of life-threat. Who wouldn’t like less of these?). All the better to complete the phase whenever possible.
“Whenever POSSIBLE” is key. All because freeze is present doesn’t mean that completing it is possible. And trying to complete it when it’s not possible is a good way to reinforce “I CAN’T” and that’s essentially the opposite of what we want to do.
I think there’s a little list of “needs” we’re looking to have pre-established before we want to encourage an emerging Freeze state/phase. (more…)
“Discovering and facilitating what we CAN DO is far more effective at enhancing resiliency and self-regulation than reinforcing attention on what we CAN’T DO.” -Twig
In my workshop The I CAN PRINCIPLE, I talk about why I believe this statement holds so much weight for SE Practitioners and other helping professionals. I even offer a human ecology based overview of the dynamics behind the drama of so much “I CAN’T” as we find today: in our client’s, society and ourselves. This includes a review of the biology of learned helplessness and it’s associated psychological correlates. I’m also keen on the notion that I CAN’T lives along a continuum of distress punctuated by the “Downward Spiral” at one end and the “Upward Trend” at the other, the later being much easier to achieve with the resolution of accumulated stress caused by incomplete survival instructions of self-protection in the senorimotor and procedural memory systems. A cool part for me in this is making talk like that Fun for participants.
Still, my real focus remains a purely practical one: to encourage a truly creative yet considered approach to titration and structuring our client interactions for spontaneity and success. We can push this sometimes, as in “resiliency testing.” Or by touching the edge so we (or they) get a feeling for the limits of their capacity. Or we might explore extra challenge because we’re trying to find the appropriate level of titration. But by-in-large we’re hoping to *reinforce success* and avoid recapitulating failure and we want to keep that foremost in mind. This includes “taking the hit” when necessary. Meaning, when you get an “I CAN’T” in your office, consider it the result of a miscalculation on your part and reinvest in your commitment to make sure it doesn’t happen again. [Like everything else here, this is a reiterative process for ourselves too. We'll fail. And then we can go back toward I CAN possibilities and try again.] (more…)
Twig, I am looking forward to your blog. I have a question. Can you give some practical information on using SE with groups after a natural disaster? We have been visited by some very destructive tornados in this area recently. Thank you!
Krystal. I’ve been thinking about your question this week and as you can probably imagine, it opens a thousand different paths. For now I’ll mention this.
If I had a group of people willing and interested in meeting together soon after a super big unexpected and heavy natural event like the recent tornados in your area I’d probably think to myself “these people have already done half the work.” That is, just by meeting together they’ve taken significant steps toward alleviating the stress response. We feel safety in the presence of other people we “know, like and trust”. It’s the isolation that really gets us stuck. (more…)
There are times when I know that I’ll need to interrupt my client for some reason or another. Either I need to redirect his attention away from reinforcing over-activation or I need to be able to ask for her to track body sensations somewhere along the retelling of a story or some such thing. In all cases its never a perfect intervention. It’s an intrusion on their autonomy and whenever possible I’m trying to enhance their autonomy, not diminish it. To minimize the impacts of this I often try to pre-establish a “contract” around the potential of this interruption. [I only do this when I think I'll probably need it later, otherwise it's better not to risk the disruption of this comment in the first place.]
I set up this contract for several reasons, most are for the client’s benefit. However, the strongest reason is for me. It is helpful for me to successfully act when I find myself needing to do the the interrupting. Without being able to lean on this contract I often find myself bitting my tongue in a bit of a freeze knowing that I should interrupt but not feeling comfortable or confident enough to do so [Admittedly, I rarely get stuck here now days but there was a time that it happened frequently]. Pre-establishing certain elements of the contract or expectations between you and your client can help structure your sessions for success. (more…)