I love this video! In less than 25 minutes we learn how millions of years of evolution have created our elegantly designed nervous system which permits us, along with our other mammalian friends, to discharge our excess stress and pain, if we let it. Witnessing how Ray, this courageous Marine profoundly afflicted by PTSD begins to free himself from his war trauma which had brought him tothe edge of despair, is genuinely heart warming.
Through the advances of neuroscience, we now know that talk therapy that does not take into account the language of the body and nervous system is limited in its ability to efficiently treat traumatic experiences. Those suffering from anxiety, grief, addictions –which in most cases begin as a way to cope with overwhelming/shaming/guilt inducing experiences– PTSD and C-PTSD (Complex or Developmental PTSD), etc. need their nervous system be attended to if they are to heal the root of the manifesting symptoms. When treating conditions that overwhelm us, we must honor our biology and how we are meant to process and discharge these traumatic experiences.
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The Trauma Resiliency Model (TRM), like Somatic Experience (SE) developed by Dr. Peter Levine, both address the underlying causes that keep our traumas stuck in our nervous system and psyche.
Of all the thoughtful and brilliant information in this video, I want to emphasize Ray’s amazing courage to embark on a journey that felt, to use his own words, “like the dumbest thing in the world!” Even though this approach was totally new and against his cultural background as a man and especially as a Marine, he let himself be guided by Peter and by his own nervous system. In so doing, he allowed his body to safely discharge the fear and immobilization response, which had been locked in his body for way too long.
When people do somatic work, it is very frequent that they’ll experience sensations ranging from: tingling in the extremities (like Ray experienced initially); heat or cold arising or fading away and/or, moving from an area of the body to another; twitching of a specific muscle; shaking of a body part; sudden sweating of an area or of the entire body, etc. Of course, many people also experience deep and repressed emotions such as grief, anger, sadness, etc. All of these body sensations and emotions are signs that the nervous system and psyche are releasing the traumatic stress, which was trapped in their nervous system. It is emblematic of one’s life force is coming back online.
As we can easily imagine, many people don’t know what to think when such release happens on its own. They often fear that these sensations mean that things are getting worse, or that these sensations will take over and become overwhelming. When this is a person’s initial mindset he/she is, of course, inclined to want to stop the process as it begins. Yet, when clients allow themselves to remain curious and track what happens as their nervous system heals, they end up feeling much better and freer on the other end; relieved from the burden of the stress they were carrying. Those I work with know that they are in charge of their own process, and that I have the skills to keep them safe and regulated at all times. While deep healing can be intense at times, it shall never be overwhelming or unbearable. Never! The deep work is done within the window of resiliency, within our zone!
When we learn to trust in the discharge and the release from our nervous system, we give ourselves the gift of living without undue stress and traumas, the gift of truly being who we are. The greatest gift of all!
While we communicate with words, our bodies communicate through the language of sensations. Here are some words from the language of sensations!
Lastly, a comment on yawning. When you feel compelled to yawn, let it happen without trying to control it or repress it, when possible! It is one of the many ways our bodies release stress and return to their natural state of homeostasis, just like animals do in the wild. Yawning is a sign that our parasympathetic nervous system (the rest, digest and repair branch of our ANS) is coming back online and that our state of inner equilibrium is returning. Yawn away and enjoy!!
C. Nathan Bergeron, LMFT, L.Ac. ©