According to Dr Peter Levine, symptoms of trauma may be explained by ‘energy trapped in the body,’ and, as a direct result of his theory, he has developed a therapy known as SOMATIC EXPERIENCING THERAPY.
WHAT IS MEANT BY ‘ENERGY TRAPPED IN THE BODY?’
If we have experienced chronic trauma and have felt frequently under threat of physical and/or psychological harm during childhood we can become ‘stuck in the fight/flight response’ which, in turn, can lead to a build-up of trapped energy in the nervous system that fails to be discharged. It is theorized that this ‘trapped energy’ in the nervous system is a fundamental cause of the symptoms of PTSD and Complex PTSD and, in order to heal from such conditions, it is necessary to discharge and release it (ideally. as I have already stated, using Somatic Experiencing Therapy.
10 TECHNIQUES AND STRATEGIES THAT CAN HELP TO RELEASE ENERGY THAT HAS BECOME TRAPPED IN THE BODY AND, THUS, REDUCE ASSOCIATED FEELINGS OF STRESS :
Ideally, seek Somatic Experiencing Therapy. However, if this is not feasible, the following suggested techniques should prove helpful in healing the trauma trapped in the body.
- If you are very nervous and shaking, allow your body to shake rather than trying to resist it
- Likewise, if you find yourself crying, allow yourself to cry rather than trying to fight it.
- ‘Zoning Out: technically, this is known as ‘dissociating.’‘ Whilst mild dissociation is normal and acts as a ‘defence mechanism’ against psychological distress if it starts to significantly impair daily functioning ‘grounding techniques’ can be effective for remedying this (grounding techniques involve using the five senses – sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch to help the person ‘reconnect with reality’, return to the ‘here and now’ and return his/her body to a state of homeostasis). Also, going for a walk/jog / swim etc. or doing yoga can help the individual to break free from his/her dissociative state.
- Remember the importance of good nutrition.
- Spend time where you feel safest with people you can talk to and trust. Affectionate physical contact such as hugging also has a calming physiological effect. If all else fails, Dr Peter Levine (see above) even suggests ‘hugging oneself’ to feel safe and comforted by putting the left hand under the right armpit and the right hand on the bicep of the left arm.
- Unreleased energy trapped in the nervous system may manifest itself as tension in various parts of the body, including the arms/shoulders and legs. Swimming is a good way to release tension throughout the body as the act of swimming involves so many of the body’s muscle groups. To release tension in the legs, walking, jogging cycling etc. can be beneficial whereas tension in the arms may be alleviated by sports such as boxing.
- Learning to breathe in a way that helps to keep one calm is also important, especially if the individual suffers from hyperventilation.
- Getting as much sleep as you need is important as it is believed that it is during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep when we are dreaming that the brain processes stressful events that we have experienced.
- Mindfulness is useful for learning to ‘live in the present.’ I
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).