As my personal work and my work with clients in Somatic Experiencing continues, the significant and dramatic changes also continue to amaze me (also see Part 1 and Part 2). This work includes not only addressing things we might commonly refer to as “trauma”, but also traumatic stress resulting from chronic stress, insufficient support and attunement at a young age and/or following difficult events (sometimes referred to as relational trauma), as well as birth trauma. The resulting changes are difficult to adequately describe, but here’s my attempt:
- Space between past and present. After working on a specific event, having a distinct felt sense of space between the event and myself, as in, I suddenly clearly FELT that the event was just something that happened, separate from me, not here, not me, but truly back in the past.
- During and after working on an event: involuntary, spontaneous, lasting thoughts and visceral felt sense that “I’m ok”, and that the actions of others didn’t have anything to do with me or my worth, or anything about me and that is was THEIR STUFF; a distinct felt sense of space or boundary between me and their stuff, and that their stuff was not mine, and never was.
- A sense of coming into, or “filling up” the legs below the knee, and lots of energy and movement wanting to express through the legs afterward.
- An influx of energy. Not manic, buzzy, frantic energy, but clear, light, free, open energy. Openness to easy, spontaneous interaction with others, and desire to move my body (walk, run, lift weights, do yard work).
- An increased access to sense of touch. It’s like touch in color instead of black and white. It’s deeper, more satisfying, more accessible, not so much work. Just incredibly enjoyable to have even the simplest touch, like a hug or holding hands, or even touching my own arms or legs.
- A sense of brighter colors, clearer vision/detail in the visual field.
- A felt sense of safety and connection with others who are safe and capable of connection, as well as ability to take in connection where it is available even if inconsistent or not someone I’d want for a best friend.
- Increased ability to freely ask for and offer support, and to really be able to take in/receive the support, and to feel really good about providing it. Both are difficult to describe. I mean feel really good, like visceral, felt warmth and pleasure, rather than ego benefit from providing support. Receiving feels like a sense of being physically held. It’s pretty incredible to feel that supported, supportive.
These changes are things I could never have imagined. They are feelings I didn’t have access to before, and didn’t even know they existed in order to want them, until I started to do Somatic Experiencing work. My clients all report similar experiences. I think I suspected all along something might be missing, if so many others seemed okay with life’s imperfections, but there was no way for me to know this was it. If you don’t have the capacity for deep connection, you might yearn for it, but it’s elusive because you don’t have the neural networks to recognize and receive it. If you have the capacity for such feelings, you can’t imagine what it’s like to not have it, and you don’t even suspect someone could not have it. Without these connection and support feelings, it’s like being two dimensional, black and white, half alive, out of focus, looking through a curtain or dark glasses. The further I get in the process and the more I work with clients, the more I understand what Peter Levine says:
Trauma is a fact of life, but it doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
For so long, I’ve been only half alive. It doesn’t have to be that way, for me, or for you. Call me for more info or see the directory of Somatic Experiencing practitioners to find someone in your area who does this work.