Thursday, July 12, 2012

Thursday's Therapy - A Different Kind of Therapy...

Thursday's Therapy
A Different Kind of Therapy...

In attending Dr. Bessel A. van der Kolk's seminar, Tommy and I were reminded that our severely traumatized brains are best approached "through the back door" to our brains so-to-speak. Since the amygdala is the part of the brain that deals with trauma (danger, fear, etc.), the traumatic information gets locked down there, and is not allowed further access to the rest of the brain which could actually help to further process the information in a most healing way. Instead, with the traumatic information locked down into the amygdala, we too often are stuck in a "Fight-Flight-Freeze-or-Submit" mode to deal with our trauma. "Submit" is a term we haven't used before in this trauma-reaction process, but it is an equally adaptive response to stress when the stress is dangerous and/or overwhelming, such that there is no way to conquer the stress; there is no way to run from the stress; it is too dangerous to simply freeze and assess our next action; but we must do something immediately to cope with the endangering stressors:

The submit response involves shutting down the body's active defenses, or a dissociative response... The purpose of this response is to avoid further enraging an aggressor and to disconnect with the pain associated with an attack. 
~from Overcoming Trauma through Yoga: Reclaiming Your Body

Cortisol is sent into the system soon after the adrenaline has been coursing through our bodies to deal with the shock of losing our child as these stress hormones  continue helping the body cope with trauma by knowing whether to run from danger, fight danger head on, stand still and do nothing -- "freeze," or dissociate from our own body and emotions so that we can do whatever is necessary to survive the incumbent danger coming our way -- "submit."

But sometimes this cortisol problem becomes compounded over the years, and we find ourselves in the land of PTSD,  in which we become hyper-vigilant, hyper-aroused, and even confused as to whether we can trust our own brains to tell us whether current circumstances should be alarming or whether we are just stuck in an alarmed state that views even the uncritical as a crisis because our brains are still sending the "danger" alarms. At these times, it is most important to approach the healing of our traumatized systems "through the back door" to the brain, through the senses. Soothing the senses through calming types of sight, smell, hearing, feeling (textures, etc. for instance), and taste begins to calm the amygdala down; senses enter the brain through the amygdala and when the amygdala is already overloaded with traumatic messages, it will continually send the message that we are in danger even when we aren't, so it needs the tender nurturing of taking in healing images, aromas, sounds, tastes, and textures to be able to counter the continual disruptive sensations of trauma.

(Add to this awareness of your senses the movement-of-your-body with walking, jogging, jumping, aerobics, horse-back riding, etc. and you will likely find some amazing results in calming your agitated being - and therefore reducing the cortisol from coursing through your system. As Tommy's medical doctor said to him as he was becoming aware of high blood pressure becoming a potential problem as it often compromises the immune system, "The good hormones are just waiting to be activated by moderate but fairly frequent exercise so that they can restore your healthy immune system!" Otherwise, we are left to the mercy of what adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) may do to the body over time.)  

It is amazing to me that I and many other grieving mothers with whom I have spoken intuitively knew early on in our Child-Loss Grief that we needed to be outdoors a great deal for extended periods of relaxation and meditation, just soaking up Mother Nature all around us to soothe our war-torn beings. And sure enough, in Tommy's and my trauma conferences we have attended, now we are seeing the wisdom of such intuition along with discovering the scientific reasoning behind it. 

The following article is so simple, I don't want you to miss its message, for "mindfulness" is now known to be a clear part of the healing of our trauma, and "mindfulness" is really just a slowing down and becoming aware of the current world around us in ways that are soothing to our emotions and our senses and therefore healing to our bodies and our traumatized brains. The simplicity of such mindfulness can cause us to overlook its real value. So, in this light, please read the following article with an open mind and a willing heart to try the very simple things that can be self-soothing, and over time, incredibly healing.


Everybody has felt the positive impact of being out in nature: we feel the calming effect of sitting in a meadow or by the ocean. We feel energized by climbing a mountain or swimming in a lake.
It doesn’t take rocket science to know how good it is for us to get in touch with nature. But this is what is happening in Japan where a “new” form of therapy is on the rise: Shinrin-Yoku, which means forest bathing.

Scientists have discovered the therapeutic effects of walking in the woods. Before and after they embark on their stroll, they measure the blood pressure and cortisol levels in the blood of their test subjects, which indicate how stressed they are.

After half an hour of slow walking, there is a clear decrease in the measurable signs of stress. Even the body’s natural killer cells, which fight disease in us, are positively impacted. In Japan, forest bathing is becoming a part of preventive medicine, since so many of our modern day illnesses are stress based.
The trick is to walk in the woods slowly. Engage all your senses. Take in the cool air, smell the scents of the forest. Pay attention to the colors and sounds.

This way a walk becomes a form of meditation. We become mindful of our environment. The slower pace makes us more perceptive of subtle details. The over stimulation of the city environment is lacking and everything slows down.

This is when relaxation sets in.

Article, thanks to walk-in-the-woods/


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