Every Element stores an aspect of spirit. The Metal’s spirit is called the po, or animal soul. Our po gives us a sense of being animated. It inspires our most primal and instinctive nature and gives us the capacity for embodied awareness. It resides in our Lungs and travels with our breath. It brings a sensate experience of animation to every dimension of our body. It supports instinctive, reactive, physical responses, like raising a hand to protect us from an object flying at us. Spiritual practices that focus on the breath cultivate our po.
Understanding the nature of the Metal Element and its role in alerting our arousal system to potential threat illuminates the role of instinct in the self-protective response and our essential animal-like nature. It gives providers a context for their efforts to help restore an embodied sense of self in clients whose traumatic stress has left them dissociated or disconnected from their bodies. It will help survivors find a fresh breath to inspire their future and support them to let go of things from their past that no longer serve life and are best left behind.
Inviting your client to cultivate their sensate, embodied experiences will help them restore their po, embody their qi, and negotiate their life with greater awareness of the signals arising from their instinctive, self-protective responses—like grabbing a railing when our feet slip on a set of icy stairs.
These kinds of questions may help:
- Where do you notice that in your body?
- From the outside, I’m noticing this (e.g., the muscles in your face softening, a rhythmic pulsing in your kidney, your belly softening under my hands, your liver expanding and becoming more juicy). I wonder—what are you noticing from the inside?
- As you notice this (e.g., the muscles in your back softening, your deeper breath), what do you notice in the rest of you?
- As you took that deeper breath, I wondered what you noticed in the rest of your body?
Alaine’s Two Cents
My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem is the first self-discovery book to examine white body supremacy in America from the perspective of trauma and body-centered psychology. He explores the imprint of traumatic stress on white-bodies, black bodies and police bodies and provides exercises that explore routes for transformation of braced or collapsed states remaining from ancestral as well as current-life traumatic stress. He gives me hope in his affirmation that we can change our collective minds about racialized trauma by healing the imprint of trauma in our bodies.
Mr. Menakem is a clinical social worker and Somatic Experiencing Practitioner. He teaches workshops on Cultural Somatics for audiences of African Americans, European Americans, and police officers. He is also a therapist in private practice in Minneapolis.
Here’s a video featuring Resmaa Menakem, exploring the foundation of trauma in American’s race relations. A great introduction to a tender conversation.
Find out more here: https://www.resmaa.com/#
Check This Out
Some of you were in the Digesting the Gristle workshop earlier this month. When we closed, you asked “what’s next” for my skill development?
I have been in contact with Kathy Kain and Stephen Terrell who teach the Somatic Regulation and Resilience training that has been so meaningful to me. It explores body-centered practices to help people wounded by pre and peri-natal trauma.
More info is here: http://www.somaticpractice.
They have agreed to accept the Tao of Trauma/Restoration & Balance After Trauma course as a prerequisite for their training. (Knowledge and experience in a bio-physiological model of trauma resolution, such as Somatic Experiencing, Saensorimotor Psychotherapy, or the Hakomi Method, is required. Completion of the Touch Skills Training, or Somatic Experiencing Advanced year, or the equivalent, is a necessary foundation for this course.)
If you are missing a module or two in the Tao of Trauma series, refer to the registration information in the right column of this newsletter for next year’s schedule. While I am presenting it as one year-long course, previous attenders will be eligible to register for individual modules. Be looking for an email with more on that process.
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.I have a patient with a very quick startle response, he often feels very anxious and has lots of GI symptoms, a quite “irritable” bowel. While all these things are guiding me to the kinds of disruptions I’ve found in trauma survivors, he can’t identify any particular event or events. I’m confused.
A.You are right to be confused! Many survivors have made an effective use of a freeze in their physiology and a dissociated state in their psychology in the presence of an overwhelming event. It protects them from remembering and being consumed by it in the aftermath. While helpful at the time, in the long run, gentle and titrated opportunities to remember and assimilate their experiences are their route to healing.
Invite your client to cultivate awareness of their sensate experiences – “Which end of the table would you like your head?” “How’s this distance between our chairs?” With some light acupressure on two different points, “Tell me which one feels the most helpful?” The neurobiologists call this cultivating “interoception”.
Survivors may also have experienced traumatic stress in their pre or peri-natal life — before they had language to describe it. They have no story to help them make sense of their dysregulation and symptoms. They may never have “a story” to go with their symptoms, but with some skilled assistance, they can restore regulation in their tissues, organs, and “muscle memory”. It is fortunate that restoring such regulation and balance in survivors of early trauma can repair the developmental steps and stages they may have been disturbed early on.
You will be helping him restore his po, embody his qi, and negotiate his life with greater sensate awareness. Not only will his symptoms be tended to, he will be safer navigating future threats with his new-found greater sensate awareness.
Good luck. He’s lucky to have you.