News ‘n Views on Integrative Healing, March 2018

Trauma Training Tip

The eyes are the Wood Element’s sense organ. Together with our senses of hearing, smell, taste and kinesthesia, they support the Wood’s function to orient to our surroundings, assess threats, and strategically plan successful mobilization responses.

Eye placement is different in animals that are predators from those that are prey. Predators need to see long distances across a wide range to seek out prey.  Their eye placement is necessarily in the front of their face, with round pupils. Cats, owls and humans are good examples of predator eye placement.

Prey animals need to see up close and in all directions to perceive threats.  Their eyes are particularly attuned to movement. Prey eye placement is necessarily on the sides of the head, they excel in peripheral vision. Rabbits, squirrels and mice are examples.

Human beings are unique in the animal kingdom in that we are both predators and prey.  Our eye position is at the front of our face, supporting us to scan across large areas and distances, like a predator.  Our neck allows us to move our senses around to locate and interpret threats, and to facilitate exploring and navigating for safety.  It is our neck that helps us function when we are in the position of prey. It aims our senses to help us discern potential threats when circumstances require it.

The high winds we have been experiencing lately on the East Coast of the U.S. may result in braced and rigid neck muscles. Freeing up your patient’s neck is critical to supporting their ability to move their sense organs around and orient to their surroundings.  If our physiological capacity to orient to threats is compromised, we won’t be able to gather information from our environment, orient to, or complete a successful threat response.

We can’t feel safe if we can’t orient to our environment.

Alaine’s Two Cents

The Wood Element mirrors our Sympathetic Nervous System.  It is always “on” — always available to defend and protect us.  It is highly skilled at orienting to and then mobilizing appropriate responses to threats.  If that response is thwarted, it will remain in our tissues, awaiting an opportunity to complete.

Thwarted mobilization responses are an important aspect of the complex dynamics of violence in our homes and on our streets. The most important contribution to conflict resolution that providers can make is to provide conditions that allow our client’s thwarted mobilization responses to complete in a titrated, paced and safe way.  Survivors need an opportunity to access the impulse under their unsuccessful mobilization –and allow it to complete.

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. Until I took your class on “Mobilizing A Response”, I didn’t realize the significance of my patient’s chronic neck stiffness.  She occasionally complains of having to turn her whole body to check traffic when returning to the right lane of traffic — but it seemed like a small thing.  No wonder she is timid and lacks assertiveness!

A. Great insight!  If we can’t comfortably orient to our surroundings, we may be timid and unable to step out into life with a sense of power and confidence.

This person may also be deficient in their Liver Blood.

If we’ve got plenty of Liver Blood and Qi, we may instead be blustery and commanding in our relationship to the circumstances in our environment.

The important thing for us to realize as providers, is that in either circumstance, we are less able to negotiate obstacles, and more likely to be re-injured.

Alaine DuncanNews ‘n Views on Integrative Healing, March 2018

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