What is SomatoEmotional Release®?

SomatoEmotional Release® (SER) is a therapeutic process used in CranioSacral Therapy that helps to release emotional energy of past traumas that for reasons deemed appropriate has been retained, suppressed and isolated within the body. 

Dr. John Upledger, developer of CranioSacral Therapy, in the clinical application of his method and during his work and research with Dr. Zvi Karni, a biophysicist and bioengineer at Michigan State University, came to realize, that very often the body retains, suppresses and isolates the negative emotional energy and physical force of an injury that penetrated into its tissues, rather then dissipating it.  This localized and concentrated energy, that Dr. Upledger named Energy Cyst, is disruptive to the controlled, functioning energy system and efficient function of the body.

An Energy Cyst doesn’t produce its full effect right away.  Initially, the body accommodates to the presence of the Energy Cyst as best it can, but slowly this accommodation comes at some cost to the total body.  Over a period of months and years pain, physical dysfunction and emotional disturbances my occur.  Most often it manifests itself in chronic physical illness, though it can be much more insidious, such as decreased immune function, autoimmune disease, fatigue, anxiety or even social, mental or psychological dysfunction, e.g. lack of confidence, panic disorder.

The aim of SER is to discover and release the adverse effects of past physical traumas, emotional traumas, pathogenic microbes, excessive radiation, toxic substances, etc. from body, mind and spirit, as well as to facilitate the realization of their effects on our physical, emotional and mental health.

Most modalities separate body and mind, offering either physical therapy or psychotherapy.  It is known, however, that a radical change in physical health, for the better or worse, is always accompanied by mental change.  It is also known from studies of behavior that the reverse is equally true - a significant change in mental perspective is always accompanied by a change in body activity, posture and movement.  Body and mind are inseparable and actually just different facets of a single, unified being.  SomatoEmotional Release® provides a gentle and creative framework and toolkit for working with the tissues of the body and the emotions simultaneously, allowing a release of adverse energy or memory of retained traumas.  SomatoEmotional Release® facilitates personal growth. It also supports us moving from illness and unresolved issues towards health, wellbeing and fulfillment.  CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release® combine all aspects of human nature (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) into one, that facilitates profound change and growth in our lives.

What is Tissue Memory?

Tissue memory plays an important role in SomatoEmotional Release®.  Body cells and tissues, such as fascia, muscles, bones or viscera have the ability to retain memories of experienced trauma without necessarily depending upon centrally located neurons for the storage and interpretation of these memories.  Further, somatic and visceral tissues and cells of all kinds store energy of specific emotions related to the remembered experienced trauma.  Such traumatic experiences can be physical trauma, sports injury, car accident, surgery, life-threatening situation, childhood trauma, sexual, emotional or physical abuse, trauma in our intimate relationships, war trauma, post-traumatic stress, etc.

When, for example, a particular muscle group is injured during a physical trauma, a memory of the trauma is stored in the affected tissues.  This usually means that a small, nonconscious contraction has formed in that particular muscle group as a protective reminder of the trauma.  If tissue memory is not sufficiently released, the contraction will remain in the muscle even after the injury itself has healed, leading to further pain and dysfunction.

When these nonconscious contractions are not released, they may spread tension to other parts of the body.  Usually the body accommodates to these tension patterns and we begin to feel completely normal.  Over time, however, this accommodation requires more and more extra energy, and these tension patterns can cause chronic pain and other symptoms of which the origin is unknown.

The therapist applying a special CranioSacral Therapy/SomatoEmotional Release® technique (Therapeutic Imagery and Dialogue combined with gentle physical techniques) connects with the tension pattern, facilitating the healing process at the level of the source of the issue, the memory of the original trauma can emerge to the surface.  Once the memory and the associated negative emotions are present within the patient’s conscious awareness, the patient becomes able to relate to them in a different, more appropriate or healthy way.  At the same time the physical tension from the muscle in question releases, the pain will begin to heal.  Release can occur in a single treatment session. In case of a more serious issue several treatment sessions might be required in order to make sure that the body has safely and completely released the negative effects of the retained physical or emotional trauma.

What Is a SomatoEmotional Release® Session Like?

A SomatoEmotional Release® process is initiated by permission - communicated through touch by the therapist.  If the patient deems that entry into the SER process is appropriate in view of all surrounding condition present, the process begins with the mutual, usually nonverbal and nonconsicous agreement between patient and therapist. 

Once the mutual decision has been made, the decision is signaled  by very subtle to very gross, seemingly spontaneous movement of the patient’s body part.  The whole body, in fact, may go into some pattern or other.

The therapist supports the movements by neutralizing gravity without leading or inhibiting movements, while paying close attention to the craniosacral rhythm, as it signals a significant position, thought, memory, image, etc. in the SER process.

When energy is discharged from an Energy Cyst, the patient can re-experience the emotional component of the energy and the memory of the trauma which infused this extrinsic energy into the tissues.  Emotional expressions are welcomed and encouraged to go to completion by the therapist applying certain CST/SER techniques.

Authentic release is signified by general body tonus decrease, warmth radiating from significant areas of the body, pain decreasing or disappearing completely, improvement of range of motion, release of emotionally charged energy, and a sense of relief, either at the time of the SER experience or within 24 or 48 hours.

Realizing that an SER will happen when it’s appropriate and cannot be forced, one can still say that clinical applications would be: 

Any number of emotional issues; anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD, mood swings, nervousness, etc, as well as psychiatric conditions and any number of physical complaints which may well heal faster or disappear when the underlying emotional/spiritual aspects are addressed in order to release energy from the body.  For instance, the case of the sprained knee (which occurred coming out of the courthouse from getting divorced) and only began healing when that grief was found in the body and expressed. 

In a multi-hands session (well-coordinated group of experienced therapists acting as extra energy sources, extra hands and extra brains) the SomatoEmotional Release® process and the empowerment of the patient can be greatly enhanced.

The process of SomatoEmotional Release® requires particular professional skills, sincerity, sensitivity and experience from the therapist, as well as trust from the patient.  All therapists working at the Clinic of the Upledger Institute Hungary have taken advanced CranioSacral Therapy and SomatoEmotional Release® training and are well prepared to facilitate their patients in their healing journey towards a deeper awareness, understanding and releasing of physical and emotional traumas.


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