17 May Healing Trauma Through the Body
Recently Dr. Barry, our 22 year old daughter Aliya and I all spent the weekend at Kripalu in Lennox MA, taking a weekend workshop with Bessel van der Kolk M.D., the author of “The Body Keeps the Score; Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma”.
Here are a few powerful quotes from the weekend:
“A traumatic event can change your brain, identity and perception, so that even if the trauma was many years ago it lives on in the body right now.”
“Trauma dramatically increases the likelihood of dying from a chronic disease because of the amount of time the body spends in fight or flight”.
“Traumatized people need to relearn how to feel pleasure, joy and connection through their bodies.”
“If you can help a person to feel safe in their body they will be able to relax enough for their mind to open and imagine/create new experiences for their future selves that are different than what they experienced in the past.”
Trauma is any experience (like an injury, accident or loss) or series of experiences (like childhood abuse or neglect or an ongoing stressful adult relationship) which overwhelms the brain/body’s ability to cope.
Post traumatic responses can create challenges to our physical and mental health because our natural survival mechanisms leads to an over activation of some areas of the brain, and an under-activation of others.
The areas that are over-activated during and after trauma are related to emotions like anger and fear as well as increasing stress hormones to support an overall fight or flight response. On the other hand, the brain areas that become inhibited or depressed relate to our self-awareness, body awareness, concentration, and the balanced function of our internal organs especially the digestive system.
Our Bodies Keep Score
“The body keeps the score”, because if we do not have the opportunity to resolve the effects of the trauma, either through connecting with another person who offers comfort, protection and support, or through some kind of movement or action, which discharges the energy built up in the fight or flight response, it remains trapped in the body in the form of chronically tight muscles, restricted breathing patterns or a compressed or slumped posture.
So, it then becomes the body that continues re-telling the old story to the brain.
The bodily message is conveyed in the form of tension and compression and reinforces fearful or angering thoughts and emotions, which can lead to ongoing anxiety, panic attacks or anger outbursts.
Our overall biology is also affected and can lead to episodic or chronic problems involving headaches, neck or back pain, fatigue, digestive problems, difficulty concentrating, sleeping and generally feeling well, hence the increase risk of chronic disease.
The solution he explains must come from the body up (not thoughts down) because only the body can send the information necessary to rebalance the deeper parts of the brain that are involved, the thinking area of the brain does not have a direct connection to these areas.
There are many ways work though the body for this healing and rebalancing effect like; Yoga, movement, singing, breathing, EMDR (eye movements for right/left brain balance), neurofeedback, and TOUCH!
This helps to explain why over the years people under our Care have said that they experienced dramatically less or a complete resolution of recurrent flashbacks, and nightmares, panic attack or high anxiety, difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, chronic headaches, neck pain, back pain and more.
It also explains the increase in body awareness, healthy boundaries, flexibility, improved posture, joy, self-love, making a decision to go in a new direction, and overall wellbeing.
The quality and placement of the gentle Touch we use send “safety signals” directly to the deeper parts of the brain, and help the body relax deeply enough to continue to reinforce this message allowing for progressive and real change in a positive feedback loop.
Healing touch can talk to our brain and inner being to a depth that words alone cannot reach and this is what makes our work so rich and rewarding and so much more than just classic Chiropractic treatment for neck or back pain.
Thank you Dr. van der Kolk for helping us to tell the story of our healing work!
The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma September 25, 2014
by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.