Trauma can often leave clients with debilitating feelings of fear.
And according to Peter Levine, PhD, it can be difficult to help clients break free of chronic fear without addressing its psychophysiology.
So in the video below, Peter shares how he works with clients suffering from chronic fear and guides us through one simple exercise that can help clients regulate themselves.
Have a look.
Fear is where you’re actually feeling threatened, but I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the kind of chronic fear that so many people are in and what kind of tools we can use to not be gripped by this fear and to not be worn out from this fear. And the trick here is to be able to separate the physical sensations of fear. So it could be the heart beating, tightness in the chest, twisting or turning in the gut.Those are the physical sensations and when we’re able to be guided, which is a lot of what somatic experiencing is about, when we allow ourselves to be guided by those sensations or to be able to feel through the sensations. So for example, if a person reports their heart is pounding and it’s racing. So a question I might ask to a client is as you notice your heart pounding and racing, just as you notice it now, as you notice it, does it seem to increase, does it seem to stay the same, does it seem to decrease or does it somehow change to something else?
So just by asking this question, we’re letting the person kind of stretch out their experience of the sensation of fear in the heartbeat. We’re able to enter into the sensation without being overwhelmed by the sensation.
So helping ourselves contain those sensations, those sensations will shift, absolutely, positively, as long as you can uncouple the thoughts or the images from the bodily sensations, allow the bodily sensations to change, and then the fear is gone.
I mean, of course, if there’s something to be frightened about, of course we will respond to that. But basically we’re not feeling fear as a constant companion. So that’s really one of the keys and there are different ways to go about it, especially when we’ve been in the shutdown state for such a period of time, because we then have to find some tools or some kinds of exercises, I call them “awarenessizes” where I just have people feel the fear sensation in their bodies, stand up, and I’ll often do that with them, even if it’s on Skype.
And I’ll do very simple things like skipping. Why even talk about it? Let me give you a demonstration, okay? So I’m feeling just tired, I’m exhausted, I can’t think clearly, I have a hard time even reading and I keep trying to read, and it’s just really more and more frustration. So I say, okay, just for now, see if we can just put that to the side. All of those thoughts and images would come into your mind and let’s just do this together.
And this you may very well have done as children. And if not, I invite the child in you, in any case, invite the child in you to be with the child in me, as I will demonstrate a little teeny exercise we can do. So you’re not going to be able to see the whole of me. All right. Well, you can sort of see me.
Wow. My fingers are tingling. I feel tingling in my feet. I feel warmth in my belly just by doing this one very simple, trivial, put in quotation marks, exercise. So again, we need to mobilize a certain amount of energy. And then through the body sensations, allow the energy, the sensations to go up, and then to come down.
For more expert insights from Peter, check out this course – he’ll get into strategies that can help you work with the part of trauma that clients can’t verbalize.
Now we’d like to hear from you. How have you helped clients who suffer from chronic fear? Let us know in the comments below.