Showing posts from June, 2014

June Project: Day 11: Body Awareness

Identifying traumatic triggers is one of the great challenges of trauma therapy. Stimuli from the environment can inadvertently set off a traumatic reaction in a client. Often the client is left with the reaction but has no idea what caused it. Tracing the reaction back to the source, the trigger, can be an important task. To that end, body awareness can be a useful assistant. ---from The Body Remembers , by Babette Rothschild. In a chapter titled "The Body As Resource," Rothschild tells of a client with chronic hip pain, which had come on a year after her husband's death. Their time together in therapy typically focused on the woman's grief, but one day, in attempt to address the pain, Rothschild employed techniques to develop body awareness. As the woman focussed on her hip pain, her heart rate soared, and she became fearful and anxious. Rothschild asked her to sit with her emotions for a bit, notice them, and as she did so her right foot pressed solidly into

June Project: Day 10: Stress Response

Now I have a name for what I did when a knife was held to my face, and when a man thrashed at my rental car and no one else was around: dissociation . "It is possible that dissociation is the mind's attempt to flee when flight is not possible," writes Babette Rothschild in The Body Remembers , which, you'll remember, is a book I'm studying throughout the month of June. Fight, flight, or freeze are t he autonomic nervous system's responses to perceived threat. Whereas those bunnies I mentioned in an earlier post run when the dogs walk by, the mind, during dissociation, finds its own method of getting away. The process of dissociation involves a partial or total separation of aspects of the traumatic experience... One person might become anesthetized and feel no pain. Another might cut off feeling emotions. Someone else might lose consciousness or feel as if he had become disembodied.  (page 65 in The Body Remembers ) Taken to an extreme, this separation

Posture (June Project, Day 6)

And today, the somatic nervous system (SomNS) in brief, again with a focus on psychotherapist Babette Rothschild's writing in order to understand the connections between trauma and exercise. Think of this as the notes I take for myself--an amateur study of one woman's life's work. There's so much more to these concepts than I can flesh out here, but I want to try to grasp the scope of the theories before diving into the part I'm interested in most. (See "june project" label for previous entries.) "The autonomic nervous system... directs blood flow away from viscera and skin to the muscles for the duration of fight, flight, and freezing responses. The somatic nervous system directs the musculature to carry out that response." page 53 of The Body Remembers . Rothschild points out that the SomNS operates via neural impulses, making any contraction of muscle an active state. "Relaxation, usually thought of as an active process, 'Hey, jus

June Project: Day 5: The Nervous System and Bunnies

It is fitting, perhaps, that today's foray into the workings of the nervous system was interrupted repeatedly with jolts out of the chair. "Bunny!" "Chipmunk!" "Two chipmunks!" Our yard is a veritable zoo, which never ceases to overwhelm us with its cute factor. Even the slimy frog that visits my kitchen window is soooooooo CUTE. But anyway: these times are lessons on how to stay motivated on day 5 of a monthlong project, even when you're not really feeling it. My study of muscle tension as therapy in Babette Rothschild' s work needs to begin with nervous system response, even though I keep flipping to the really fascinating stuff in the book that finally arrived from the UK. Okay, can't resist. Here's one to tie you over (from page 5 of The Body Remembers ): A woman whose 3-year-old daughter had died four years prior was recalling, in a therapy session, a medical visit that had been particularly challenging. The details eluded he

Brain Drain: Stopped

A recent article in a local paper instructs us parents to "stop the brain drain!" and "keep kids' brains engaged until school starts again." To that end, the writer suggests such non-parallel tips as "Read" and "Educational apps." First one: done, done, and done some more. My kids read, and I've grown weary of explaining why this is not a good thing Any benefit to their brains is outweighed by the decrease in lifespan caused by sitting all day, if I'd let them. Another good tendency gone bad in same kids is the abandonment of a fine idea after a short burst of effort. Maybe most kids are like this, but I can only speak to the brilliance of mine, who, if they'd follow through, would be president by now, or at least a relatively unknown yet respected indie filmmaker. Knowing my children, then, and wanting to "stop the brain drain!", I suggested we undertake together what would become known as The June Project. We

Tension Relieves Tension: The June Project

Two memories: one, twenty minutes into meditation at a Buddhist temple, thinking, "Jesus, my legs hurt," and two, seeing stars during a session of Christian contemplative prayer. Pulsing, color-changing stars, so fascinating that I knew I was about to either go unconscious or fall over; I opened my eyes and there was the teacher, sitting up but fast asleep. Meditation, prayer, relaxation--each person holds their own interpretation, but typically, these would involve quiet and calm. If I say I'm stressed, you say take a day off and sit by the lake. If I'm stressed and want to exercise, you say yoga. Indeed, these activities contain qualities that would soothe the maddest of souls; I've always thought that the primary reason people come out of a yoga session feeling wonderful is not due to the downward dog, but to the deep breathing. Who takes the time to breathe fully during a busy day? But as my memories indicate, I've never been good at traditional calmin