I am often asked if I practice SE with the general population and if I find it as helpful as I do with musicians and actors. My answer is a resounding YES to both parts of the question. In my private practice I see people who have body-related issues. They may be performers or may come from an entirely different perspective, what they have in common is a nervous system that is stuck in a position that does not allow flow between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is coordinated by the middle prefrontal region of the brain. It is responsible for bodily functions such as heart rate, respiration and digestion. It has two branches: sympathetic, which is often compared to a car accelerator and the parasympathetic, similar to the car’s brake. When there is a flow between the two-a balance-our mind feels calm and we are able to let go of much facial and body tension. We are open.
When we detect a threat-environmental, physical or emotional-we usually go into a state of alert and activate the sympathetic branch. It is here the body readies itself for action; adrenaline pumps and cortisol (stress hormone) is released. Often the heart pounds wildly and the stomach churns. Muscle tension mounts. We are on guard.
I have worked with many musicians and actors who perform in this state and feel, as a result of my SE training, much more able to help regulate their systems.
In the last few years I have become very interested in learning about the autonomic nervous system and its role in the healthy (or not) functioning of the body and psyche. As a result, I am now completing my first year of a three year professional training program in Somatic Experiencing (SE). This brilliant model was developed by Peter Levine, specifically designed to heal trauma by restoring regulation to the autonomic nervous system.
Trauma is defined as something that has effected this system, not by the content. So what may be a trauma to your friend may be a difficult experience to you, one you can shake off, that does not impact your nervous system.
I have begun to use SE with musicians and actors who have severe stage fright and find every performance traumatic. I am witnessing changes already, evidenced by reduced fear. I am also finding it very helpful in working with performers who have excellent technique but feel removed from the music, unable to express their musical voice.