Trauma Training Tip
The Sympathetic Nervous System, informed by the Liver & Gall Bladder in Chinese medicine, supports our ability to mobilize for food, mating and protection. It guides us to orient, strategize, and implement our “fight or flight” response. The Sympathetic Nervous System is always “on”. Even in our deepest sleep, we have the capacity to protect ourselves by mobilizing to a perceived threat.
We have two ways our fight or flight response is tempered by the Parasympathetic Nervous System. Primates, including humans, are gifted with a social nervous system, enervated by the subtle, relationship-centered Ventral Vagus nerve. Depending on previous experience, constitution, and the level of threat, we use this social engagement system to manage conflict. Our Fire Officials help us ask for what we need, regulate our heartbeat when we’re aroused, and engage with our neighbors in response to common threats. (We will be exploring the Fire officials’ function in the self-protective response in the June 9th &10th Workshop: Restoring Coherence.)
If we lack capacity for relationship, experience overwhelming life-threat (like earthquakes or tsunamis), or if our mobilization response is thwarted or overwhelmed, we use our powerful freeze response to help us dissociate. This is governed by the somewhat clumsy Dorsal Vagus nerve. This important function is turned “on” by terror and is ruled by the Water Element.
Massive fight or flight responses lie in tissue memory, underneath this freeze. Thwarted fight manifests as rage and thwarted flight manifests as anxiety. It is critical when working with thwarted mobilization states to access them thoughtfully. It is easy to either be unaware of these hidden-away responses or to over-stimulate them — resulting in overwhelming rage and powerfully contracting shame. Survivors are easily overwhelmed by the magnitude of their response if released too fast.
Helping trauma survivors access these powerful states in a titrated, thoughtful way will restore their capacity to replace their anxiety or rage with the inherent, benevolent and true nature of the Wood Officials.
Alaine’s Two Cents
Those who know my Quaker background will often ask me, “How do you resolve the Quaker peace testimony with your work with military families?
The Quaker peace testimony reads, “How do your actions serve to remove the root cause of war?” I can’t think of a more important way to reach the “root cause of war” than to help survivors whose “fight or flight” response was thwarted or truncated to move it up and out of their tissues. It is in the nature of our physiology to want to complete a successful defense to a life threat. It is these unconscious impulses for self-defense that often give rise to road rage, domestic violence, or anger management problems. I can’t believe that any survivor actually wants to kick their dog, beat their child or run another car off the road. Our work is critical to helping trauma survivors move their incomplete mobilization responses out of their tissues and free up their conscious mind to access more life-giving choices.
Is it mere coincidence that the Columbine Massacre, the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Waco Texas Siege, and the Boston Marathon bombing all happened in mid-April? Spring is surely the season for mobilization, and helping people find their way to complete their instinctive survival response without harming others is a gift we can help create for individuals, our communities and our nation.
We can use our needles, our touch and our intention on the Wood meridians and correspondences – the tendons, ligaments, and blood, as well as their emotional and spiritual expression to help “remove the root cause of war”. It’s just that big. What we do is just that important.
Check This Out:
I recently collaborated with Maggie Phillips, Ph.D. as a guest in her Best Practices in Therapy webinar series. The focus was on Polyvagal Theory. Understanding Polyvagal Theory will help you with increasingly nuanced approaches to access hidden-away dysregulated states and restore balance and regulation in survivors.
If you missed it, you can still get the video replay and audio download, a full transcript, and a live Q&A segment. The webinar also featured my video, Restoration and Balance after Trauma, in which I review the Self-Protective Response and Five Element theory. It forms the foundation of the book I am writing with Kathy Kain, newly titled, The Tao of Trauma: East Meets West for Integrative Healing, which explores this integrative approach and offers strategies for intervention for trauma-informed care.
If you register for this webinar, you will also receive:
Polyvagal Theory eBook
A video clip where Kathy Kain and Maggie Phillips discuss Nurturing Resilience – a book Kathy is writing with Steve Terrell, about their work with developmental trauma.
A case consultation call with Maggie. This consultation event will help you apply the polyvagal theory to your clients. There will be an audio replay available if you cannot attend live.
Learn more about this opportunity here.
Clinical Curiosity – Where is your clinical curiosity carrying you? Send me a question or two and I will explore them with readers in this corner next month.
Q. My client came to me in tears. An accomplished, financially secure young father, his tears were overwhelming to him, and unfamiliar since his childhood. Full of anxiety, he can’t sleep, and his blood pressure is dangerously high. His worry about the political direction our country is taking is overwhelming to him. He is a Wood CF.
A. I would focus your work on his Liver Blood. The physiology and function of Blood are critical to AAM trauma physiology. The Heart communicates its messages to the Kingdom of the body as a vibration carried in the Blood. Traumatic dysregulation is communicated by the Heart, via the blood, to every cell with each heartbeat.
The Liver’s job to “restore” the blood in the night is critically important for trauma survivors. It can be compromised by:
dysregulation in the capacity of the Liver Official
Blood deficiency from blood loss, poor diet or compromised assimilation
Overwhelming traumatic stress vibrations in the blood.
When the spirit of the Liver, the Hun, is not well-rooted in vibrant and juicy Liver Blood, any combination of the following experiences may ensue:
a general lack of direction or mental confusion,
a compromised capacity to create a vision for their future,
difficulty displaying expansive and flexible emotional and spiritual expression,
challenges with resting into peaceful sleep at night
I recommend including mindfully touching his liver in addition to your needles. With his permission, place your hand over his liver. Focus your awareness on the beautiful blood contained inside it. Invite him to join you there with his attention. Help him harvest any experiences he has of greater “juiciness”, vitality or flow he notices in your connection.