Trauma Training Tips
Did you know you have a brain in your guts?This visceral brain informs us about our comfort in relationships and helps us make nourishing attachments. You actually do “know it in your guts” when you meet people. In life-threatening conditions, all our Qi goes to mobilizing a flight or fight response; we shut down our digestion temporarily. Repeated early traumatic stress may result in chronic shut-down of digestion – or a freeze response in our viscera.
As adults it will be hard for our Spleen qi to transform food into qi; we may have trouble assimilating trace nutrients, we may be obese, or have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or gastro-esophogeal reflux disease (GERD).
On a more subtle level, the job of the Fu is to process and move impure substances. How can we process and move traumatic experiences if our Fu are frozen? Perhaps more importantly, how can we navigate challenging situations or people if our belly brain isn’t communicating accurate information to the brain in our cranium about the nourishment or comfort available to us from the people we meet in life?
Working with the Spleen and Stomach in their season can help trauma survivors transform their traumatic stress, harvest important lessons and create nourishing and comforting attachments with the people in their lives. Really important!
Here’s an example: “Sue” was born septic. Her high fever gave her a sense of life threat coming from the inside. She’s had lots of trouble managing life, experiencing abuse and neglect in multiple arenas. As an adult she has the characteristic “around the middle” obesity, chronic aches and pains made worse by damp weather and is a pre-diabetic. Treatment has focused on dispersing damp, tonifying spleen and stomach qi, and using touch techniques to wake up and bring comfort to her viscera. Her stomach is now able to “gurgle”, expressing restoration of her parasympathetic nervous system. She’s now 5 months off narcotic pain medication and is starting to make comforting relationships with others. Nice!
Check This Out!
The Strange Location of your Second Brain
In this short, informative video, Vanessa Hill of PBS Digital Studios program, BrainCraft explores our Visceral or Enteric brain. She explains the relationship between the brain between our ears and the one in the gut, the role of our microbiome, and the mental and physical impact of gut health. The Belly Brain is an especially critical player in pre- and peri-natal trauma.
Alaine’s Two Cents
Our world is being rocked with violence and life threatening situations. Tragedy seems to be everywhere: Orlando, Minneapolis, Dallas, Baltimore, Charleston, San Bernardino, Ferguson; Munich, Greece, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Israel… the list goes on.
Thankfully, we acupuncturists are in a position to help our neighbors and friends coping directly and indirectly with the impact of our troubled world. Trauma doesn’t know geographic, chronological, or personal boundaries; its impact is far reaching.
When we feel threatened, our frontal cortex can go “off-line”. We may make reactive decisions, based on immediate survival, rather than long-term health and vitality – or even our values.
Think about what you are offering when you help restore balance to trauma survivors:
- Unresolved trauma is a principle cause of violent, impulsive acts. Traumatic re-enactment is one way our unconscious attempts to bring closure to life-threatening experiences. We can help people resolve their histories of trauma in more meaningful and much healthier ways.
- Helping trauma survivors make thoughtful, flexible, creative contributions in our political discourse – decisions that are not straight-jacketed and molded by fear sold cheap by political candidates or the media. Think of these dynamics in the upcoming U.S. election!
- The children of parents who are so traumatically frozen they can’t gaze lovingly into their infant’s eyes have higher rates of drug abuse and suicide than those whose parents made visual and tactile connection with them as infants. We change children’s futures when we help their parents restore balance! Nothing is better than that.
The world community is feeling the impact of a culture of violence. Traumatic stress has a vibrational quality. Please, never forget:Reducing stress anywhere reduces stress everywhere.
Healing trauma spreads like honey on warm toast.
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.
Here’s one that recently came to me:
“Why do so many of my trauma patients have pernicious damp conditions?”
Part of the mobilization response involves shutting down the viscera to provide all the blood and Qi we can muster for our muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments to flee or fight. When the Spleen’s function is thus impacted, it can’t transform food into Qi; and instead it accumulates the byproducts of digestion as dampness or phlegm. Common TCM diagnoses will be: accumulation of pernicious damp; Liver invading the Spleen; deficiency of Spleen yang; deficiency of Spleen qi; or accumulation of food in the stomach.