Heal trauma by working with the body

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Trauma is a body-based response to overwhelming circumstances. So to heal trauma, we need to work with the body.

In a traumatic situation, the “fight, flight or freeze” response of our nervous system gets triggered. Through the nervous system, the body senses danger and sends out alarm signals, releasing hormones which act as chemical messengers that tell you to “MOVE!”

The primary goal is to get you to safety. Muscles contract, breathing becomes more shallow, all to enable the body to move fast to safety. When the possibility of moving is not available, the body will go into a freeze state of immobilisation with fear, the “playing dead” in the hope that this will support survival.

The symptoms of anxiety, panic and post-traumatic stress disorder are the same signals that the body sends when you are in danger in order to get you out of danger: your heart beats fast and your breathing races to get oxygen to the muscles to run, your body shuts down extra impulses like hunger, the need to rest, or to pee, your palms sweat, adrenaline fuels your energy so that you can get out. Your brain stops processing and focuses all of its energy on getting you away from danger whether through fighting, fleeing or freezing.

These are normal responses to stress in the short term; the problem is when you get stuck. The memory doesn’t get fully processed and is fragmented in the brain in chunks of implicit and explicit memories. And the body holds on to the impulse to fight, to flee and to freeze, these impulses sit in the body, waiting to be released so that life can begin again. This is why a seemingly small thing such as the way a person touches you, or even tone of voice can trigger a trauma reaction.

We need to address the physical in order to heal the trauma. So the issue is twofold: we need to bring the body’s response down, calm down the hormonal messengers that tell your body that it is in danger and in doing so we can work with the emotions and thoughts that have been caught and become stuck.

The first goal will be to work with your breathing, to open up what has been contracted and expand your capacity to breathe fully. Breathing fully calms the nervous system and brings energy to the body. Then we will work with increasing your body attention, by using hands-on touch in different areas of the body. This could be to work with tense muscles to release the tension held, and with collapsed muscles to re-invigorate them, and in both cases to increase flow and energy in the area. This will also include bringing touch to soft tissue and bone to strengthen your capacity for deep rest and healing, and to experience the different emotions that may held in your body, in a safe and contained way.

Once breathing, body attention and flexibility have been strengthened, we look at your aims, at what you want to achieve in your life today, and how the patterns of old tension, emotions and thoughts are interfering with this. You will learn how to stop putting your energy and attention to these, and so to allow energy to flow in new ways. Traumatic experiences will lose the energy and power they have held, and which are holding you in the past, freeing you up to be more fully present in your life today.

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