I recently completed my fifth module of a nine module (3 year) training in Somatic Experiencing. I am still in awe, still so grateful I found Peter Levine’s tremendous work. I want to share some of the most striking things I have learned; if you are unfamiliar with Dr. Levine’s work, you might read “Waking The Tiger”.
I particularly love learning about the reptilian brain, also known as the brain stem. I think of a reptile slowly dragging itself around, always on the look out for danger, constantly scanning the environment. We, as modern 21st century people, don’t think too much of this part of our selves, being more identified with the thinking, rational cortex. But it’s there and it still scans and when it senses danger it signals the automatic nervous system.
In previous blogs I wrote about Peter Levine’s model being based on the way animals shake off trauma; if the prey survives the predator, it literally shakes the experience out of its body; the reptilian brain is satisfied all is safe, and then the trauma free animal continues along its way. I’ve seen a number of videos of this phenomena; it’s quite striking. The animal is not left with trauma in its nervous system; humans often are. Remember: what makes an event a trauma is if it’s been locked in the nervous system with no apparent way out. The reptilian brain is thwarted and the autonomic nervous system is is deeply affected.
This effect can show itself in many ways and can effect the sympathetic and/or the parasympathetic systems (please see previous posts). Next time I’ll write more about this-