Dear Global Somatic Experiencing Community,
I recently returned from my third trip to the European Association of Somatic Experiencing (EASE) General Assembly (GA). As with my previous trips, I learned a lot about EASE, I learned a lot about SE, and I learned a lot about what we are all doing as an international community to bring SE into the world. It was an incredible time of connection and discussion.
Somatic Experiencing International (SEI) and EASE have worked closely on various projects for several years. Our professional and personal relationships have been growing. And I am constantly struck by the ways in which we are similar and the ways in which we are different. One similar aspect that kept coming up is that both organizations are made up of people. That sounds silly to write but let me explain.
There are individual people behind every aspect of both organizations. Some are volunteers. Some are full-time staff. Some are part-time staff. But we are all communities working to bring more trauma regulation and stress reduction into the world. I have always been impressed by the people who work at SEI, but since I have started in this new role, I’m impressed on an entirely new level. Everyone on staff cares about the SEI mission, cares about bringing this work into the world, and cares about supporting our constituents. Behind every email, every exchange, and every thought, is a person working hard. This is true at SEI and at EASE.
Another amazing aspect of my trip was the ability to see where disagreements arise and how they are navigated in an SE community. EASE operates on a system of deep democracy. In short, this means that decisions are made by consensus. This happens through listening, through work, and through compromise. It means that everyone with different needs must listen to understand everyone else’s needs and how they can be integrated together. Having watched this process for the past 3 years at the General Assembly, I think about how we can operate similarly, even if not identically, at SEI. What does it mean for those of us who work within the SEI community to listen to each other, even when our wants and needs sometimes conflict? What does it mean to make decisions where everyone has the opportunity to have a voice and to still make a final decision? How do we ever know what the right decision is? Is there ever a right decision? I have not found the answer to this yet, but I am absolutely positive that listening and understanding the values and the fears that drive wants and needs is important.
Understanding fears was front and center at the GA this time. I was asked what SEI is doing for folks in Europe who have to pay royalties to SEI for the trainings. This is, of course, a fair question. I do not have enough space here to put the full answer, but part of it is that we pay staff to support the international community, support research, protect the intellectual property of Somatic Experiencing around the world through staff and lawyer time, support translations of the manuals and simultaneous interpretation during international meetings, support new SE locations around the world, offer the media library for free to all students and SEPs, offer free and reduced fee webinars to make SE more accessible around the world, offer many webinars in multiple languages through the SE Humanitarian committee, post all trainings on our website, support the Global Visioning process that will support more collaboration worldwide amongst Somatic Experiencing Practitioners, and so much more. By answering the question to the global community, my hope is that the fear that we are merely taking and offering nothing in return is alleviated. But what I took even more from that conversation is that when we ask the difficult questions, and we take the time to listen and answer, often we realize we are really in agreement all along. Perceptions matter, and it is through conversation and collaboration that we come together to support SE and its reach in the world.
For the past four years, SEI and EASE have been working more and more closely together while still maintaining what makes us unique. As collaborative partners, I could not ask for a better relationship. I am deeply honored and grateful for the opportunity to be a guest at EASE, for the opportunity to share what SEI is doing, and absolutely for the opportunity to hear the fears people have about us so that we can listen, work together, and continue deepening our relationship. It is a wonderful model for the global SE community.
Thank you to everyone at EASE for an incredible opportunity to say hello and visit Edinburgh for the first time!
With deep gratitude and warmth,
Rebecca Stahl, SEP
Interim Executive Director