Trying to get whole after a traumatic experience can feel like a lesson in acronyms — NLP, EMDR, CBT, etc.
One method in particular deserves to be better understood, because if you’ve heard of it, you’ve likely seen videos of powerful physical reactions as people release the trauma their nervous systems have been holding onto.
To participate, you need an SEP — a somatic experience practitioner.
Karlee Holden, someone who’s been in the healing game for a long, long time, is once such a practitioner. She came onto The Urban Monk Podcast to tell me what she knows, what she’s seen, and what she’s found to be true about herself.
Karlee had a unique experience growing up in that her parents knew the founders of NLP — neuro-linguistic programming — so she didn’t have to learn emotional vocabulary in adulthood.
She came equipped.
And that helped for a while in her twenties, while she was working with major comedians in Hollywood who, though rich and famous and doing what they loved, weren’t happy.
But she was. She was 22, and broke, and happy. What was she doing that they weren’t? What did she have that they didn’t?
She attributes a lot of her early stability to simply having the tools to express herself that so many people didn’t have.
Once life started throwing curve balls, however, she found that NLP simply wasn’t enough to tackle the kinds of problems she was dealing with.
So she searched.
SEP vs. NLP
For those who don’t know, neuro-linguistic programming is an approach to healing that hinges on rewriting your state, your beliefs, your body, your physiology. You’re moving your body differently, and you’re replacing old beliefs with new ones.
It can be incredibly beneficial in disempowering old neural pathways and building new ones.
But after several “incomplete” life experiences, Karlee needed more than that. (Check out the episode for more details.)
She learned about the somatic experience and tried it herself. It’s important to note that nothing is a Hail Mary Miracle; but when it comes to trauma, we should be investigating any and all tools that have worked.
Here’s where somatic experience therapy is different from NLP…
It gets into the physical life of the trauma lodged in your nervous system.
When we go through a traumatic experience, the body begins its ascent up the mountain as it engages the fight or flight response.
Unless we complete the experience, that’s where we remain — stuck at the top of the mountain, frozen in time.
Instead of using talk therapy to try and make sense of our feelings, somatic experiencing situates our feelings where they belong — in our bodies.
As a somatic experiencing practitioner, that’s the bulk of Karlee’s work.
She anchors thoughts and feelings to places in the body by helping her patients move the energy in their nervous systems.
Wait, Really? How?
Think about it like this: You know you feel anxiety. You know that because your mind is reeling and your heart is racing and your chest is tight.
Okay, go back. Your heart is racing and your chest is tight. Those are two physical locations and two real sensations you can hook on to.
When you need relief, that’s what you’re really asking for — you want your heart to slow and your chest to release.
If you can do that, you can pull yourself out of panic-brain long enough to get to the core of the issue.
That’s why somatic experiencing has a reputation for physical reactions. When you get your adrenaline moving, and you’re connecting that movement to your emotional experience, amazing things can happen.
Shaking, trembling, warming, digesting, sweating — “So much of your body starts to come online,” Karlee told me.
Why does all of this happen, though?
It’s because your body wants to go back to that traumatic event and do what it didn’t get to do.
It wants to run, or cry, or yell, or hide, or hit, or…
And until it does what it didn’t get to do, you won’t be free. That’s the crux, anyway.
There’s so much more to it. We had an incredible conversation that outlined what’s missing from many other healing practices, explaining why some therapies can make you feel better but only temporarily.
We get into…
- What SIBAM means, and how you’ll only get to M by completing the nervous system response…
- How many traumas are a result of not having boundaries, or having those boundaries disrespected…
- How attraction patterns can travel down through families, even when the link isn’t always obvious (they did for Karlee, and she learned something very important that led to her finding the love of her life)…
- The distinct differences in parenting at older or younger ages as regards passing down trauma to your children…
- Why so many people avoid the raw, viscerality of somatic experiencing and instead live half-lives for many years…
- How somatic experiencing doesn’t have to be a violent release — it can be incredibly gentle and loving…
- Why all emotions are valuable and useful, but not outside the bounds of propriety…
- And so much more.
This is Karlee’s life work, and the passion she feels for it is contagious.
You can check out the episode here, and her own personal work at www.karleeholden.com. You’ll find the two books — Can You Please Talk to my Girlfriend? and Can You Please Talk to my Trauma? — she’s written there, or on Amazon!
Tune in to learn more about her journey as an SEP and her insider’s look at how healing it can truly be.