Trauma Training Tip
The Self-Protective Response is initiated by the Po, the spirit of the Lungs. When we hear a twig snap, if our Po is intact, a message is sent to the orienting functions of the Liver via the K’ecycle. We narrow our focus, orient our sense organs towards the sound, and are instinctively animated to respond to this felt sense* of threat. We don’t have time to consider whether, where, when or how fast we should move – we respond instinctively.
That capacity for instinctive responses is the gift of the Po. There is a slight sympathetic arousal – which we notice in the correspondences of the Metal – our breath catches, the felt sense of our open curiosity stops, our skin may have “goose bumps”, the hair on our neck may stand “on end”, and there may be a sensation that “something is amiss” in our Colon.
If our Po discerns danger, it sends a message via the Sheng cycle to our Kidney to signal threat. The Kidney is the signaling center for threat. Overwhelming fear provides the signal for initiating a whole-body survival response. The adrenal (ad-renal, above the Kidney) gland informs the body-mind that there is a life-threatening emergency to which we must respond to.
Characteristics of a Metal Trauma Survivor.
The Five Element contribution of Constitutional Focus (CF) can be very helpful in working with trauma survivors. The elements inform how we negotiate and are impacted by traumatic stress. The Five Element correspondences illuminate a multi-faceted and coherent path for restoring balance.
Metal trauma survivors may
- Feel suffocated by grief
- Struggle to find a “fresh breath” to inspire a new chapter
- Display a very primal sense of shut down
- Feel challenged to receive life’s treasures, or let go of life’s tragedies
- Be tormented by the question “How can a loving God allow bad things to happen to good people?”
- Experience deeply soulful survival guilt.
*The “felt sense” is a term adopted by Eugene Gendlin, PhD. When we invite a trauma survivor to explore external phenomena as internal sensory state (e.g. ‘As you share that memory, what do you notice in your body?’) we are supporting the Po’s function to support embodiment. Inviting the felt sense in trauma survivors is a helpful way to help them re-embody their Qi.
Source: Gendlin, Eugene T. (1979) Focusing. Bantam New Age Books, New York.
Alaine’s Two Cents
We come to a sense of calling to work with trauma survivors through diverse avenues. One that feels particularly important in this electoral season is the impact traumatic stress plays in the choices an electorate makes.
Some people are called to educate or register voters, others to change laws to ensure elections are honest and the right to vote is protected. My role is to help voters use their Shen/Mind rather than their more primitive, fear-based and reactive hind brain in the voting booth.
Politicians throughout history have used primal fear to manipulate citizens. The confluence of understanding of Shen, Mind, and Heart is a gift of our medicine. When decisions are made out of fear, our hyper-aroused Kidneys, which rule our primitive hindbrain have overwhelmed our Heart. Our Heart/Mind can’t see the impact of its choices on people it has been told to fear – often that is people of other races, religions or nationalities. We tend to make choices that don’t reflect the Oneness of humanity.
Restoring primal balance between the Water and Fire; Fear and Consciousness; Hind Brain and Neocortex — can help voters make thoughtful, flexible, creative choices in the voting booth.
Check This Out!
Acupuncture in the United States would not be what it is today without the presence of Bob Duggan in our world. Bob was co-founder of the Traditional Acupuncture Institute in 1974. It became TAI Sophia Institute in 2000, and achieved university status in 2013, and is now known as the Maryland University of Integrative Health.
In this season of Metal, I offer a deep bow to Bob and all he has contributed to the healing arts. I invite you to listen to his TedXMidAtlantic speechfrom November 5, 2009. At the time of this publication, Bob is recovering from pneumonia. Consider “being” with his lungs as you listen to his inspiring words, speaking for our profession.
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:
Q: “If someone is so bound up, depleted, and traumatized, do we really need to know their specific trauma history or do we just trust the pulses and gently ease into our rapport with this person?”
A: It’s kind of like playing pick-up-sticks. You take the outside ones first. If you went to the center of the pile, it could all collapse into more chaos. If their trauma started or happened before they had language, they won’t have words for it anyway — and the more we press for words, the more shame they experience. Plus, trauma impacts memory — so the linear “truth” is likely not to be found by asking them to share their story. It’s one of the great things about trauma-informed acupuncture — we can “gently ease into our rapport” without having to know the story. Relationship is so critical for healing the social engagement response that gets wounded in trauma. Simply feeling safe and comfortable with you will be a giant step for this person. Plus — the more comfortable she is in her relationship with you, the more regulated her system becomes, and the more effective and less painful the needles will be.
Good luck! She’s lucky to have you.