When we think of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) many of us think of the thoughts, the fears and the emotions. These are not the only parts of us that are broken apart with years of trauma. Our bodies are completely required and confused about sensations, intuition, danger, safety and what should be natural impulses like sleep, sex, hunger, emotional release, emotional control and love. You may not understand why your mom gets mad every morning when you give an attitude, or why your brother disappears for a few days after a breakup. Did they have a traumatic event in the past? Do they even know they have? Do they remember? Do they choose to forget because their brain has chosen? That, as an adaptation to survive? Hot flashes, sweating, shaking, shortness of breath, dilated pupils, poor immunity, chronic pain, tension, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome. These are not discussed as often as the violence, outbursts, irritability, flashbacks, dissociation. We know that therapy can help the mind - cognitive therapy - but we are not just the mind. Trauma affects the whole self.
What can we do for the body.....?
Please let me know what has worked for you and your loved ones.
Here are some ideas based on my own experience and that of those I have worked with:
- Obsessive cleaning
- Staying active
- Staying busy
- Calming aromatherapy
- Breath work
- Grounding exercises
If we can heal the body, the mind and thoughts, our feelings; we can start to heal the whole self. We are disconnected in every way when we have trauma as a developing fetus, infant, child. What if you are faced with trauma at every stage? How do we heal ourselves?
There is hope...
The right type of therapy and a close relationship with a trusted therapist can heal the body, the nervous system, and our spirits. With time, the circuitry that has been rerouted through dysfunction can reroute to a new, healthy normal. Our body and spirit can heal as well, when our brain stops sending danger signals throughout. Just a fairy tale? Wishful thinking? Take a look at the evidence.
How do you support total body, mind, spirit healing?
“Over six months of therapy, we found that connections between certain key brain regions became stronger,” Dr. Liam Mason, a clinical psychologist at King’s College and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post in an email. “What we are really excited about here is that these stronger connections lead to long-term improvements in people’s symptoms and overall recovery across the eight years that we followed them up.”
Body-oriented or body-centered psychotherapy is an expansive, emerging, multi-faceted field that affirms the inseparability of mind, body, and spirit. It draws from somatic psychology which sees the mind revealed not only in relational styles, dreams, and cognitions, but in neurophysiology, posture, gestures, movement, bodily tensions and more. It explores the therapeutic possibilities of somatic roads to the unconscious and healing while honoring the wisdom of general psychology and psychotherapy through expanding and contributing to it. Body psychotherapy and somatic psychology are currently taught in a number of modality training programs and academic settings. Some of the ones you might recognize are: Somatic Experiencing (Peter Levine) California Institute of Integral Studies; Hakomi (Ron Kurtz) Pacifica Graduate Institute; Focusing (Eugene Gendlin) Naropa University; Bioenergetic Analysis (Alexander Lowen) Prescott College.
For those of you who don't usually read scientific articles, I am including the abstract with some comments from the following study.
"Experimental animal and adult human data suggest that stress exposure is associated with alterations in immune system function that may underlie increased susceptibility to disease and behavioral disorders. The implications of these data for child psychology and psychiatry are not yet clear. The current review seeks to distill and translate the relevant animal and adult human work to children to advance a developmental model of psychoneuroimmunology. In addition to reviewing key specific findings, we consider biological/conceptual models and technical aspects of psychoneuroimmunology work in pediatric populations, and outline the rationales and advantages of integrating hypotheses concerning neuroinflammation in developmental studies of psychopathology."
The trauma and stress during development can alter our immune system, how we fight illness, how our body detects self versus cancer or infection...this is huge! Why are we not talking about this more at our annual doctor visits, our well-child visits? Even if more practitioners and parents are aware, how do we translate this within the insurance system, the healthcare system, the educational system, the public health awareness and culture in our society? I have hope for the future when I watch leaders such as the doctor in the link below:
She is the embodiment of the change I hope for. Thank you,
Jessica Milone, MS, RN.