Trauma Training Tip
Both Eastern and Western medicine appreciate the critical importance of connective tissue in wrapping around, penetrating in, and connecting with all organs, muscles, bones, and cells.
The impact of high velocity injuries on the connective tissue is global. Adhesions, scars, and loss of flexibility in the connective tissue can give rise to localized pain and restricted movement; and brace and/or collapse in the connective tissue may contribute to the debilitating pain of fibromyalgia.
Chinese medicine brings an additional dimension to this exploration. It says that our Yuan Qi – the Qi that we each received at our conception — is the source of connective tissue and is carried by it to every nook and cranny of our bodies. One might say that the connective tissue is the yinexpression of Yuan Qi. Our unique, ancestral lineage is carried on this vital web and impacts every function and action. Imagine the impact of high velocity injuries on the body-mind-spirit from this perspective!
The dynamics of connection and separation, individuation and fragmentation in trauma survivors can be readily explored through the connective tissue and the Triple Burner. If our bodies are unable to function on these dimensions internally, they most certainly will struggle with them out in the world. Habitual patterns of holding our bodies in shame or other strong emotions can also bring a brace or a collapse to this critical web and affect the flexibility of our thinking and our emotional responses.
Check This Out!
Peter Levine, PhD., is one of the leading voices in the emerging world of body-based trauma healing. He is the founder of Somatic Experiencing, and the author of In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.
The Somatic Experiencing model is based on noticing that prey animals in the wild rarely develop trauma symptoms in spite of daily threats to their survival. Humans have similar nervous systems – yet human trauma survivors all too often suffer from insomnia, auto-immune, digestive, cardiac and pulmonary disorders, as well as chronic and confusing pain patterns, addiction, depression or anxiety. The SE model teaches clinicians and their patients to find their animal nature and discharge the stored fight, flight, or freeze response that resides in their tissues – restoring the innate resilience that is always there.
Chinese medicine lends itself readily to the exploration of our inherent animal nature. It brings an additional dimension of understanding neurobiology and supporting healing for trauma survivors. We have so much healing to offer our communities.
Peter Levine, PhD – On Working Through A Personal traumatic Experience.
Alaine’s Two Cents
In the next few months the Veterans Administration will establish an occupational code for Licensed Acupuncturists. This will open the gates for L.Ac.s to practice in the VA system – and will set the stage for similar openings in the Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health – and major public hospitals around the country.
There is a tendency for “magical thinking” about acupuncture in these institutions. They are making every effort to solve major public health issues in an economical way. Many of the issues they would like acupuncture to magically solve have tendrils to dysregulation caused by traumatic stress – conditions such as chronic pain, insomnia, obesity, cardiac, digestive and auto-immune dysfunction as well as the more familiar mental health diagnoses associated with pre- and peri-natal or war trauma, poverty and institutionalized oppression.
While protocol-driven group treatments are extremely useful in large-scale natural disaster responses or in acute (e.g. battlefield) crisis, long-term healing needs and deserves more nuanced and individualized approaches. Chinese medicine has much to offer these institutions and their patients, struggling to find approaches that support long-term healing over symptom-amelioration.
Research such as this study, will help establish the efficacy of acupuncture in military medical settings – and open the doors in civilian settings as well.
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:
“I have patients who suffered a trauma and now do not recognize dangerous patterns. In some cases they are hypervigilant, in others they are unable to see the signs of danger, e.g., a rape survivor who continues to choose unsafe abusive relationships. Is this blindness/denial pattern a function of the freeze response OR is this a disruption of the Fire official’s ability to discern threat?”
Trauma survivors tend to bring organization to their experiences in one of two ways. Like this person, they may “uncouple” today’s experiences from yesterday’s threat – they manage their overwhelm by unconsciously “looking the other way” when anything remotely similar appears. They unintentionally place themselves in similar situations – and they are less safe because they do. Their healing will come with having an opportunity to experience a successful, embodied mobilization response to the original threat response that is still living in their tissues.
Alternatively, a survivor may “over-couple” today’s experiences to yesterdays’ threat; they live in hyper-arousal around anything that seems even remotely similar. In the case of a rape survivor, their pericardium may shut down and possibilities for intimate relationships close with it. This is an example of hyper-vigilance affecting consciousness. Their healing will come with restoring a sense of present-moment, embodied safety and survival. Both examples are in the dynamics of the Kidney-Heart axis.
Our capacity to recognize these dualities, help bring awareness to the coupling dynamics, and restore regulation to the Heart Protector is invaluable to our patients.