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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

Overcome Trauma Without Reliving It

By Evan DeMarco

Even the happiest person has experienced trauma. The type and extent may vary, but everyone has had some type of trauma. If you work through your issues and resolve the trauma, you can go on to lead a happy life—but many people carry unresolved trauma with them for years, if not their whole lives.

Medical practitioners have spent decades researching methods for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, in addition to wide-ranging physical and mental trauma-related conditions. One of these researchers is trauma therapist Peter A. Levine, PhD, developer of the Somatic Experiencing® method for addressing and healing trauma and other stress disorders.

Fight, Flight, and Freeze There are three animal responses to imminent threats: fight, flight, and freeze. They’re designed to help you protect yourself from or survive the encounter with the threat. In a split second, your brain assesses a situation and decides if it’s better to fight it off, run, or play dead.

When you’re in danger, your body automatically activates your sympathetic nervous system (SNS). This triggers a primal response in the brain to either fight, flight, or freeze. Your adrenal glands simultaneously release the adrenaline you need to maximize your strength—whether you plan to fight back against the threat or turn tail to escape from it.

This whole process is completely automatic and something that’s been ingrained in humans and animals since the beginning of time. It’s why we’ve survived!

How Does Trauma Affect Us? Trauma develops when the freeze response is disrupted—that moment before your body can fight back or flee. Your body creates energy to fight or flee, and then the freeze phase of the cycle must run its course to release that momentum. If the energy isn’t channeled, the result is trauma. Think of it like shaking up a soft drink, then putting it back in the fridge without opening it to release the pressure.

The Somatic Experiencing (SE) framework states that trauma occurs when the unresolved freeze response causes an imbalance in your nervous system—not during the event itself. SE helps patients complete the freeze response. That is, once a patient has worked through any lingering freeze responses, the body can release the energy the SNS created during the traumatic event.

To overcome trauma with SE methods, you work to access your “body memory” of the event, instead of the event itself. That means you don’t need to discuss the traumatic event to move past it, which is often helpful for people who become anxious addressing or reliving a traumatic event.

How SE Can Help You Overcome Trauma
A certified SE practitioner (SEP) will focus on reconnecting you with the physical sensations of the traumatic experience in order to become aware of them. Then you can use SE tools to release the trauma.

Resourcing: SE treatment begins with resourcing. Patients create internal resources to make them feel safe. They discuss cherished memories, loved ones, favorite pastimes, and other comforting touch-points to figure out what is a resource for them.

Titration: After patients create the resources to comfort themselves, they can address the trauma in a productive way. The therapist works with the client to revisit the physical sensations of the trauma—not the event itself. The SEP monitors the patient’s responses, noting any changes in breathing, crying, shift in voice tone, shaking, tensed muscles, shivering and/or clenched fists. This trains the body to gradually release the trauma.

Pendulation: This stage is also known as “looping.” Pendulation helps your body regain homeostasis and balance. The purpose is to train the body to naturally move back and forth between states of alert and calm, without triggering the fight-or-
flight response. This creates a more resilient nervous system, so the patient can handle future trauma.

Why SE Works
While other psychological approaches prioritize memories and thoughts, SE addresses the manifestations of trauma. It’s designed to reveal the habitual behaviors that trigger PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms. The patient can then work to mitigate triggering behaviors.

Traumatic experiences can take over your life, leaving many people feeling trapped in their own minds and bodies. If that sounds like you, find a trained SEP to help you address and process your physical trauma manifestations. Everyone deserves to be free from trauma. To find an SEP in Sonoma, Lake, or Mendocino Counties, go to and click on “Find a Practitioner” in the upper right corner of the homepage. 

Evan DeMarco is a leading sports medicine scientist and nutrition expert, published author, public speaker, and frequent guest on television, radio, and digital platforms. He is the co-founder of Complete Human ( This new multi-media platform takes a deep dive into the areas of mind, body, soul, and planet while exploring what makes us who we are and what will make us better.