Wars, displacements, refugees. How Somatic Experiencing therapy can help with war trauma?

Wars, displacements, refugees. How Somatic Experiencing therapy can help with war trauma?

Somatic experiencing therapy specialize in PTSD and trauma recovery including man-made disasters, category wars and horrors.

The person who has experienced the war, gun violence, persecution, forced displacements, genocide, being refugee has direct confirmation in their experience that they should not trust others, that the world is a dangerous place, and that life can change dramatically in an instant.

As someone who lived in and survived three wars ( About me ), and is a somatic therapist who’s specialized in war trauma and PTSD recovery I can personally say the most challenging trauma work is right in confronting the experience that humans were actively intending each other harm, and they continued to act on those intentions, sometimes for years. A person who has been subjected to these types of traumatic events has direct personal experience of the darkest sides of human nature. In wars, genocides, persecutions, harm is mostly done by your neighbours, community, your government, police or army you should trust and feel protected by and not betrayed. Deep betrayal trauma and moral injury are coupled with war trauma. 

The most common states we can see in clients who were victims of human rights violations, including refugees, victims of abductions, persecutions, child soldiers are dissociations and isolations. 

Since attempts at escape or defense would likely have made the abuse worse, active defensive responses will have been consciously repressed and access to fight response gets frozen. Limiting the abuse as much as possible trauma body will move into a dissociation response. Rarely, I would see flight/fawn as first response coming up in war among civilians.

After prolonged period living as a refugee and being in displacement and in the war zone, it is not uncommon for children, particularly and women, to move into complete withdrawal shutdown known as Resignation syndrome. 

Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare observed and discovered resignation syndrome or abandonment syndrome in the 1990s among children’s refuges coming from war-torn countries from former Yugoslavia and SSSR. I was one of those affected. 

Second state among war survivors is isolating self from others, trusting no one, feeling that no one can be relied upon, and that one must do everything alone.

Focusing just on surviving and being in constant hypervigilant state are frequently seen in clients with war trauma.

Very dominant are symptoms of deep helplessness, a crisis of faith, lack of faith in humanity or spirituality. Belief that the world is a dangerous, evil place. It’s never safe, even if on the surface it seems so. Others always intend harm; others can turn against them in an instant.

How somatic experiencing can help with clients who are refugees and victims of wars and forced displacement is by a process of bringing back safety and trust into the nervous system, into the biology of a client first and then bringing back trust to others. It is a long process and yet it can be achieved. 

Client needs to gain back trust into their own experience since it is common to feel confusion in reading social situations and facial expressions (social engagement system is disrupted) and someone who has experienced gun violence and war interprets social interactions in the most negative way possible.

Somatic experiencing therapy is helping clients with war trauma re-learn appropriate social cues and social interactions, re-form appropriate boundaries, re-gain back body safety, helps interpret benign or helpful intentions as safe and not as only intentions to do harm, helps re-establish trust with others, helps release stored shock trauma from the body in an organized, titrated and safe way. 

Beside help of somatic experience therapist survivor of gun violence, genocide and war conflicts needs to seek support of community. Here is what Judith Herman, M. D wrote:

In this process, the survivor seeks assistance not only from those closest to her but also from the wider community. The response of the community has a powerful influence on the ultimate resolution of the trauma. Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the community depends, first, upon publicacknowledgement of the traumatic event, and second, upon some form of community action. Once it is publicly recognized that a person has been harmed, the community must take action to assign responsibility for the harm and to repair the injury. These two responses – recognition and restitution – are necessary to rebuild the survivor’s sense of order and justice.”

Source: https://traumahealing.org

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