COVID-19 and SOMATIC EMOTIONAL MEMORIES, (SEMs)
So why is a virus creating such pandemonium for so many? Why is it causing so many peoples’ amygdalae to go into overdrive? Let’s take a look.
The first relevant place to start is to understand the following:
“Trauma is not in the event but in the experience of the event.”
Peter Levine, World Trauma Expert and Pioneer of Somatic Experiencing®, (SE)®
So, COVID-19 is an event evoking experiences in the body. Right now, the physiology of every one of us is responding with LOTS of experiences! And these experiences are made up of different neurophysiological components:
• somatic aspects in the form of body based S-ensation
• visual aspects in the form of visual I-mages in our mind’s eye or sensory I-mpressions
• movement aspects in the form of B-ehaviour
• emotional aspects in the form of A-ffect; and
• cognitive aspects in the form of M-eaning making
According to SE, the above aspects of experience are represented in the acronym S I B A M, where:
• S = Sensation
• I = Image or Impression
• B = Behaviour
• A = Affect
• M = Meaning
When all the experiential aspects, (all aspects of SIBAM), come together in your nervous system’s awareness, your nervous system experiences the gestalt, (whole) of the event. And if your nervous system can experience the whole of the event, it is able to process and complete the experience of the event. Your body physiology then re-turns to a re-balanced, re-connected and healthy state.
Applying the above further enables us to appreciate that, an incomplete experience of an event prevents the nervous system from processing the experiential energies of that time. Those energies then remain in your neurophysiology as somatic emotional memories - SEMs.
Such SEMs can lie dormant in your body for years, even decades. You are completely unaware they exist. That is, until you are involved in an event in your current life that smacks of an experiential aspect of the hidden SEM.
Now back to COVID-19. The pandemonium going on in the world right now is evidence of so many people being reconnected to SEMs they had no idea existed within their neurophysiology. But what SEMs am I referring to? Let’s explore the historical experiential events COVID-19 is tapping into and why.
• IN-UTERO TRAUMA, e.g. pre-eclampsia, mother taking medication or drugs, or mother too stressed or suffering grief when pregnant with you:
o when you are in-utero you are not yet differentiated from your mother. You do not yet have a sense of your self and so do not yet have a sense of autonomy – you are still part of a bigger energetic field
o In utero you are connected to “Mother” via the umbilical cord and the placenta. Thus, you are directly impacted by the energies of “Mother”; by the energies that surround you.
o Right now, COVID-19 feels like the relationship with “Mother”, as in Mother Earth, is unsafe. “Mother” is no longer positively sustaining your ability to live and have life. “Mother” is even actively threatening your ability to survive, i.e. there are currently so many ways COVID-19 is emulating aspects of in-utero trauma. So, if your neurophysiology still holds unprocessed in-utero trauma, it is likely these SEMs have been reactivated within your body.
• UNSEEN TRAUMA, e.g. events that happened unexpectedly
o A common characteristic of anything perceived as traumatic is that it happened too fast and so was “unseen” by aspects of your nervous system – there wasn’t enough time to prepare and ensure safety. There was insufficient information available about the nature of the threat.
o Trauma is also unpredicted and so experienced as unpredictable.
o Right now, COVID-19 feels like it’s happening far too fast to ensure sense of safety. The virus also feels very unknown and very unpredictable. AND, you can't see it!
• ENERGETIC TRAUMA, e.g. rowing parents, bad atmospheres in the family home
o Remember an experiential aspect of SIBAM is I which not only stands for Image but also Impression, where Impression is a much more energetically based experience for the five senses.
o Energetic trauma can relate to all forms of external environmental trauma, (see below for Natural Disasters)
o Energetic trauma can also relate to trauma within yourself, i.e. internal environmental trauma. Examples of this would be: all the “what ifs” that can be created by your mind; or big emotional experiences when you were too young to handle such energies on your own without the co-regulation of Another; or an infection, illness or very high fever, (see below for contamination/poisoning trauma).
o Right now, there are so many Impressions of COVID-19, letalone COVID-19 also retriggering big emotional energies within.
• NATURAL DISASTER TRAUMA, e.g. earthquakes, floods, bushfires, hurricanes/tornadoes
o Again, there is threat coming from the environment that surrounds you. This category commonly re-triggers in-utero and birth trauma for people for the reasons already explained above.
• EARLY ATTACHMENT TRAUMA, e.g. lack of attunement of primary caregiver; the Other not keeping you safe
o Sense of safety is gained through relationship and relational dynamics. The wiring of your sense of safety is laid down when you are still in-utero and whilst you are a very young baby, (reference Bowlby’s Attachment Theory). And your ability to feel safe is incredibly important through the whole of your life. If you did not experience a regular and thus reliable sense of safety of Another/with Another when very young, your nervous system becomes wired with the need to be hypervigilant about the Other and your environment.
o Right now, COVID-19 is generating a plethora of situations of the Other not keeping you safe: Others who are not washing their hands regularly; Others who are coughing and sneezing into air around you; the government, (the authority figure/the parent) who isn’t instigating social distancing fast enough…..
• CONTAMINATION/POISONING TRAUMA, e.g. early childhood infections
o A severe illness or infection in your very early life is utterly overwhelming for your nervous system, mainly because the perceived threat is inside you. Thus, more neuro-developmentally mature ways of defending yourself, i.e. flight or fight, are completely futile and rendered impotent. The only defense option available at such a time is the freeze response. This then locks the high survival energy within the body – it remains unprocessed, like an internal bomb waiting to be detonated by a similar experience later in life.
o COVID-19 is now that similar experience: getting it poses an internal potential life threat!
• WAR TRAUMA, e.g. – the lock down of community; the hiding; the rationing of essential supplies, food and sense of freedom
o War trauma is a specific category of external environmental trauma and so is also likely to re-trigger in-utero trauma, birth trauma and energetic trauma.
o War trauma can be considered an example of inescapable attack and so re-trigger other “attack” traumas such as: attack by an animal; physical abuse; sexual abuse/molestation…
o War creates situations of isolation; inability to trust the other; inability to access what you need; the experience of lack/insufficiency. In these ways it can again re-trigger very early babyhood trauma and attachment trauma
o And due to the losses above, war trauma involves the sense of loss – loss of life the way it was; loss of freedom; loss of hopes and dreams
N.B. There are billions of people on our planet holding the impact of war trauma in their neurophysiology. Here I'm not just talking about those who have been involved in war in recent times. I am also talking about the generational and thus epigenetic impact that still exists in our global population due WWI and WWII. Most of our grandparents were children in WWI and then our parents were the children of the WWI children and then experienced first hand the impact of WWII. HUMANITY CARRIES A LOT OF WAR TRAUMA 😟.
o Right now, COVID-19 is indeed creating energetic fields associated with war
So, no wonder there is pandemonium going on in the nervous systems of practically everyone right now! According to the above, the current COVID-19 situation has the potential to re-trigger all manner of unprocessed SEMs held within each of our neurophysiologies. BUT WAIT! Is it all doom and gloom? No! On the positive side, COVID-19 is unearthing what we need to process if we are to re-turn to a better place of balance and health. WHAT A TRULY CLEVER VIRUS IT REALLY IS!