Titration vs. Catharsis: How Fast Should We Heal?

The Somatic Experiencing method of healing is committed to working in a titrated fashion. This means getting to the core little by little by deactivating each physiological charge met along the way.  Titration is a term derived from chemistry, that when two opposing chemicals are put together quickly there is an explosion.  If chemicals can be slowly mixed together by adding one drop at a time an explosion is avoided.

Along those same line, in Somatic Experiencing therapy it’s helpful to break down the big charges in small manageable bits that are easily integrated and moved through successively.  This gradual pendulation back and forth between the inner resources and edges of the activation caused by trauma is what allows for the renegotiation.

This graceful and sensitive movement is what distinguishes Somatic Experiencing in the field of trauma recovery. Conventional systems of healing that are purely cognitive focused unknowingly are reinforcing the downward spiraling patterns of the dysregulated physiology without first establishing physiological support.  This cathartic approach may lead a person’s physiology deeper into dysregualtion.

My teacher Steve Hoskinson, who is on the faculty of the Foundation for Human Enrichment, shared with us the danger of opening up a conversation with a client who has been severely traumatized by saying “so tell me about your traumas”. He explained that a direct question into the core of the trauma for a person’s physiology, is like lighting a match in their room full of dry grass, and upon hearing that question, inside them they’ll be screaming “please put that match out right now or the whole room will catch on fire!!!” It will ignite their nervous system’s reactions so quickly that there won’t be any time to set the initial conditions so their bodies can find their inherent rhythm within their system of activation and deactivation, and solid resources that act as a counter balance to the activation.  As practitioners we’re trying to help them find this natural rhythm within, so they physiologically can experience that “what goes up must come down”.  A traumatized person’s nervous systems are stuck on the “up”, and they can’t see that coming down is even a possibility.  What Somatic Experiencing is trying to get at is supporting a person toward uncoupling their fear (which caused the immobilization) with the arousal of sensations. Peter Levine brings attention to this idea in his book “Waking the Tiger”, stating, “Because of fear, the traumatized person will prevent or avoid completion of the arousal cycle, and remain stuck in the cycle of fear”. How do we help a person move through toward completing these cycles so they can return to homeostasis once again?