Slowing Down and Setting The Story Aside

The traumatic event has such a strong pull into its vortex that people tend to dive head first into the story, and the world around tends to reinforce that pattern, “so tell me what happened”?   Unlike more traditional schools of cognitive therapy that encourage a cathartic re-telling of the story to “get it all out”, Somatic Experiencing approaches things in a different way.  There is an understanding that the re-telling of the traumatic story will bring out the dysregulated physiology of the client, and can in fact cause re-injury, if not handled with awareness.

In Somatic Experiencing, they would argue the importance of addressing the physiological phases that the person is expressing while re-counting their story. By encouraging a slowing down in the pace of the story telling, this inner awareness can more thoroughly be accessed.  This slowing down process allows for a renegotiation to take place within their nervous system around the physiological memories and charges.  In using this biologically based system of healing, it’s become evident that trauma is not held in “the event” but rather in the nervous system, which holds the key to it’s unwinding.

This invitation to track the sensations inside their body and slow down, interrupts their body’s traumatic patterns that are contributing to their symptoms, and opens new pathways.  My teacher Steve Hoskinson used to refer to this traumatic pattern as the well worn “rabbits trails through the grass”.  These traumatic habitual pathways inside our nervous system are used involuntarily, and lead us quickly and predictably straight to the center of our anger, fear, and emotional pain where we feel stuck. This approach of slowing a person down and the frequent invitation to “set the story aside for a moment” to track sensations is helpful in the unlocking of the stuck patterns, and ending the cycle of reenactment. Steve Hoskinson would often mirror this idea to his clients with a gesture of his arms moving to the side, as if placing something to the side, saying “let’s put that story over here.”   This lets their physiology know “we’re not going into this head on”, and the interest in the cognitive story telling becomes secondary to the interest in the physiological deactivation of the nervous system at each step careful step.  This is one of the main goals of Somatic Experiencing.

The sensation tracking helps them connect to the part of their brain where the trauma is wound up, and provides a way out of the neo-cortical story telling mechanism, that can become hauntingly repetitive in the minds of those who suffer from trauma.  People often try to “think their way out” of their uncomfortable feelings.  Their mind tells the horrific story over and over, leaving them in a rut.  In the Somatic Experiencing approach a supportive and attuned space is held for an organic discovery of new pathway of awareness through their bodies and beings. This provides new possibilities of how these high-energy states process through their bodies, hopefully leading them to a more balanced, relaxed, and trauma free life.