Dec 11

Healing Trauma with Body-based Practices

What trauma is and what it does to the body and mind

Trauma is the body’s response to a stimulus in the environment. This may be a one-time event such as a car accident, or it can be a series of events like those encountered in war situations. Trauma can also be a response to relational situations of abuse or neglect.

The core nervous system-response to these types of situations is one of fight, flight, or freeze / please. This means the body goes into a mode of self-preservation by preparing to do one or more of these things. This is a natural and good thing. The challenge of trauma occurs when the danger has passed and we stay stuck in one or more of these patterns. With the fight and flight responses the nervous system is stuck in high-arousal. Being stuck here causes undue stress and anxiety along with a host of associated problems.  The freeze / please response is one of shutting down (freezing) to ourselves, others and life. In this response we often become extra nice (pleasing) to get by in the world.  Whether our response is one of anxiety (high-arousal) or shut-down (low energy), or a combination of these responses, our body and mind have symptoms and life becomes limited. In either case we’re not living up to our potential.

The body remembers

Whether or not we remember the trauma, our body holds the memory of it. While top-down talk therapies have their usefulness, by themselves the approach is limited. In order to fully heal the memory and energy of it being held in the body as tension or numbness needs to be released. There are specific body-based (somatic) protocols that are effective in doing this. While talk therapy is top-down, this is a bottom up approach.  Talk therapy alone can be viewed as the map, while the somatic approach is the territory. Maps are useful, but to fully know a place you need to go there. This is not to say that the trauma needs to be re-experienced. It doesn’t; it merely needs to be released.

How somatic practices work

Somatic protocols guide you to sense into the layers covering the bodily held energy of the trauma and to release it. Generally these layers will include numbness, solidity, tightness, pain, emotions, and subtle tension. As your awareness is guided to these successively deeper layers you gain agency or choice in how you relate to them. You come to a point where you can continue holding on, or let go. In letting go you’re freed of these restrictions and your body, mind, and life can open up.

Let me know if you want to receive information on specific body-based practices you can begin doing on your own.



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