Trauma and Focusing



Are you struggling with being overwhelmed or anxious or perhaps with being cut off and disconnected?
Are you struggling with physical symptoms that seem to have no cure or explanation?
Do you feel that there is a shadow overhanging your life that does not shift?
Perhaps you feel you live in a very narrow and limited way, always a bit scared or on red alert?

Maybe you are experiencing the effects of trauma...

Everybody experiences trauma or is overwhelmed at some point in their life. It is a natural part of being a human animal. The trouble comes when these experiences are unresolved and leave symptoms in our body and being.

Some of the more usual causes of trauma include:
  • Car accidents
  • Violence
  • Abuse
  • Rape
  • War
  • Or witnessing any of these

And perhaps surprisingly include:
  • Surgery as a child or adult
  • Fever and illness
  • Birth (your own) and giving birth
It is important to remember that it is not simply the event that defines trauma but more how it affects the specific individual. Many people go through events like this and live without any symptoms, some don't. It depends on your circumstances and history. Sometimes it is not one event but rather a constant presence of stress, threat or neglect.

Some usual symptoms of living with the effects of trauma (often categorised as PTSD) include:
  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chronic pain and tension
  • Poor digestion
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling of red alert all the time
  • Disassociation
  • Lack of connection and vitality

Focusing alone or in a trusted partnership have a lot to offer and can often be sufficient. Through working with an experienced guide, a well-resourced person can find new ways of being with trauma as it lives in the body. They can let the body guide them to healing and well-being. There are times, however, when an extra skill is needed, and this is where Somatic Experiencing comes in. Focusing with SE is a powerful and yet gentle combination. Read more below…

What is Somatic Experiencing (SE)?
SE is a body-based approach that helps to safely release the energies activated in trauma. It works with your body’s natural systems to help heal and release the symptoms of trauma.

An image of how trauma lives in the body
When something overwhelming or life-threatening (or perceived as life-threatening) happens, powerful forces in the body come into play. Our body gets us ready for fight or flight. Huge amounts of energy are mobilised. For many reasons we often reject that powerful primal instinct and those energies get stuck in our body/being.

It is like a balloon completely full of air that has no way of releasing. This trapped energy contributes towards many symptoms and difficulties.

For some people, they feel that their symptoms come very close to a traumatic experience. For many, however, it can be years or even decades before any symptoms surface
How SE works
How SE works
Put simply, SE allows you to safely release these energies and restore health and wholeness to your life. It uses your self-awareness and the support of the practitioner to listen to what the body needs to do in order to move towards feeling more safety and well-being.

SE is about supporting you to improve your symptoms, whatever they are. It is not about reliving the trauma. You do not even have to know the cause of your symptoms.

The emphasis is working with the nervous system and on finding the body's natural way of letting go of the trapped energy and feeling safe again.

Some elements that are used with SE:
  • Self-awareness of the body, feelings and mind
  • Grounding and finding ways of feeling safe
  • Using movement to help bring release and safety
  • Education about how the body deals with stress and trauma
  • Everyday tools to help you find ease and safety
  • Sometimes SE uses gentle contact or touch in a safe and respectful way
What happens in a session?

  • You will be seated opposite me in a comfortable chair.
  • You will be asked to share your own observations of how you feel in the here-and-now.
  • We will work together to find things in your life and in your present-moment experience that bring well-being, ease and safety.
  • We will gently explore a present symptom or something that is bothering you in a fresh and embodied way.
  • My role is to support you in being with your body and experience without interpretation or analysis.
  • I might offer suggestions of how and where you might take your attention.
  • I may offer instructions and offer ideas of how to be with what is happening.
  • You will not be asked to relive your trauma or even to tell your story (though we may work with small and manageable aspects of what happened).
  • I may bring in some practical tools from Focusing.

Your sense of rightness and safety will guide the session.
What you might notice.

  • Moving from feeling stressed to feeling more relaxed and open.
  • Physical and emotional releases, sometimes subtle, sometimes strong.
  • Body sensations such as trembling and shaking are usual and are a sign of energy releasing.
  • Memories and insightful understandings might arise, which give you new perspectives on your situation

In the longer term, SE hopes to not only ease symptoms and release us from the limiting patterns of trauma held in the body, but aims to help revitalise and restore what has been lost through trauma.
Some skills you might learn:
  • Finding ways to feel ease and safety in everyday life.
  • How to “be with” strong emotion.
  • How to recognise triggers that cause symptoms and respond differently.
  • How to "contain" and hold your experience without needing to run away or act unconsciously.
  • How to be with bodily sensation that feels unfamiliar and difficult.
Origins
SE was developed by American psychotherapist, Dr Peter Levine. Levine observed that wild animals, though routinely threatened, rarely are traumatised. When the threat has passed, that intense energy is discharged. Find out more from the main SE website

See how Peter Levine explains SE
What I offer?
It is essential to have an initial consultation to see if SE and my approach feel right to you. We can do this on the phone or in person, and it usually takes about 20 to 30 minutes. There, or at a later time, I suggest a taster session. In this way you can see what an SE session is like and get a better sense of how I work. After this, I suggest booking a few sessions to allow the process to unfold. Three or six is a good start. Weekly or fortnightly works well, but it is up to you. There are no rules.

Charges: A consultation is free

Taster sessions are £35 and last 45 minutes. Full sessions are £50 or £135 for three.

Contact me to arrange a consultation or to ask more

A little more about what I offer...
I offer support and skills to work with and release trauma symptoms largely through self-awareness. If we find that a more hands-on approach is needed, I can help you find an appropriate practitioner. SE is a short-term approach, and this is what I offer. If you sense you need a long-term therapeutic relationship, I can help you find someone.

Read my article about using Focusing to explore trauma

What Peter Levine PHD says about Ann Weiser Cornell’s book, “Focusing in Clinical Practice”:
“Since Eugene Gendlin’s landmark book, Focusing, first published in 1978, there has been too little in the way of clinical application of his seminal work. In her thorough, illuminating book, Ann Weiser Cornell fills this need. She clearly outlines the essence of change, explaining how it emerges from the client’s relationship with his or her living–sensing body. She demonstrates, step by step, just how these innate transformative moments occur and how we can guide our clients in that direction. It is ‘magic’ made simple, pure and simple.” —  Peter A. Levine, PhD, author of In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness and Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma; recipient of the USABP Lifetime Achievement Award

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