Trauma Training Tip
Be playful with your patients! Relationship heals! We humans are tribal creatures that require community and the need to feel connected to others is primal. In fact, shunning or ostracizing a community member equated to a death sentence in ancient cultures.
In a recent Washington Post article, “A Hunger To Connect: Loneliness Hurts, but where would we be without it?” Marta Zaraska, reports that being lonely is bad for our health – she quotes a study that indicates the risk of dying over a 20-year period was 50% higher for lonely men and 49% higher for lonely women. Zaraska also asserts that loneliness is detrimental to community life, stating that, “lonely people are more aggressive, more sleep deprived and more likely to see unfamiliar people in a bad light”.
Interestingly, she explores a hypothesis that the pain of loneliness serves survival. It pushes us to seek connection with others. We can build on this longing for connection, embedded in the biology of our species, to support our work with our patients.
Sebastian Junger, in his book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging makes a strong case for the impact of a loss of tribal consciousness in modern society – and in particular on the experience of traumatic stress. He is clear: people who survive a life-threatening situation as part of a cohesive group experience less depression, anxiety, or other trauma symptoms than those who are isolated. These survivors even grow and expand from their experience. He further asserts that returning home and not finding relationship and connection is a greater problem than the experience of war for Veterans….interesting.
For those of you who were at the Restoring Coherence workshop in June, reading Junger’s book will mirror and deepen many of the themes and skills we explored in our work with the shen, the ventral vagus nerve, the emotional and psychological role of connective tissue, and all of the Fire Officials. I highly recommend it.
Alaine’s Two Cents
Acupuncturists Without Borders of the National Capitol Area is recruiting acupuncturists to volunteers to treat refugees, immigrants and other neighbors in need. We anticipate opening two clinics in September:
Spectrum Center for Natural Medicine, 8555 16th Street, Suite 402 in Silver Spring, open on Wednesdays from 3-6.
Espaço Cultural Samba Trovão, a Brazilian Cultural Center, at 4318 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville, MD, open on Fridays, from 2-5.
We are looking for volunteer acupuncturists, acupuncture assistants, translators, and child entertainers. Fill out volunteer application and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There will be an orientation session for acupuncturists on Sunday, August 27th from 2 – 5 pm at one of the loations. The fee for the training is $50, and will offer 3 PDAs (pending). We will review the 12 Pts4R&B approach including point locations, clinic procedures, and patient management. Funds will support operating expenses.
If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to our modest expenses, please send your check to:
Acupuncturists Without Borders,
3538 Anderson Avenue SE,
Albuquerque, NM 87106
*note AWB-NCA in the memo line*
Check This Out!
Basics Principles of Somatic Experiencing (SE)
August 12, 2017, 9 am – 12 pm.
Crossings, 8270 Georgia Avenue,
Silver Spring, MD 20910.
The fee is $55 (there is a $50 discount if you register for Beginning 1 SE training). Hear an overview of the SE model and get an introduction to the basic skills of SE. This is a great opportunity to explore how SE can complement and augment traditional approaches to working with trauma – and an opportunity to determine if the full professional training is right for you.
Q. I’ve been to several of your workshops and I’m fascinated by your teachings around shame. I’ve noticed that some of my patients seem to be ashamed when they are unable to provide detailed responses to my questions about what sensations they notice in their bodies during and after treatment. How can I encourage development of interoception without triggering shame in my patients
A. This is a great and important question!
Shame creates a powerful contraction. It needs to be powerful to function in its healthy form to teach social and cultural rules and mores. Adults use shame to teach children not to bite or scratch and to share food and toys. The critical necessity of shame is clear in cultures with limited food resources – if someone takes more than their share, the whole community’s survival is at risk. This tribal consciousness was critical for all members. Protecting the community protected everyone in it; there is no survival even for modern humans without community. People who grow up without knowing “the rules” or developing the capacity to suppress primal violent or selfish instincts will have trouble living in community – and at worst become sociopathic.Toxic shame is another matter.
Individual perpetrators and governments install shame as a tool of coercion and control. “Don’t tell anyone about this or I will tell them what a dirty, bad little girl you are.” Racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, etc. create states of contraction rooted in the shame of feeling “toxic” or “wrong” simply by one’s ancestry or essential nature.
Children experiencing chronic emotional or physical abuse may “borrow” shame to help them contract against their experience– “At least I don’t feel like I’m going to die.” Shame feels better than life threat. It becomes part a survival strategy.
Toxic shame creates humiliation. The contraction of shame lands in the wrong place, with the wrong intensity. Survivors feel worse about who they are than what they did or didn’t do. Its locus is often in the body.
This is where inviting interoceptive awareness, or the sense of knowing ourselves from the inside, becomes tricky for trauma survivors. It may be hard for a survivor to trust their interoception. Am I hungry, do I want another cupcake? Is this person safe or honest or trustworthy? Their body’s signals and instincts can become unreliable and sometimes even toxic. “Checking in” with their body is like entering a field of land mines.
Our ultimate goal as clinicians is to bring our patient’s qi fully into their embodied awareness. If body awareness has been coupled with toxic shame, then we have to titrate that awareness; we have to go slowly with our invitations and build awareness mindfully. Initially it may more helpful to invite your patient to notice changes in the atmosphere in the room than in their body. Asking them notice their favorite color in the room may be a safer way to bring their attention to the present moment than asking them to notice their breath in their belly.
With time they may speak their awareness of their back on the table, or their breath being softer or deeper. When they notice these interoceptive signals and speak them, you know they are building a sense of trust in their body’s signaling – and in you. Delightful.