Trauma and the Nervous System
In my practice, I tend to see a lot of clients who are recovering from some sort of "trauma". I have seen first hand how trauma deeply affects people’s lives; it causes pain, misery and steals people’s joy and lives. I have also seen miracles through CranioSacral Therapy and how the work has changed lives. I have been doing this work for 16 years and am still amazed by the body; both what gets held in the tissues and the healing the person on the table is willing to do. Dr. Upledger often said, that it was essential to instill hope in the client during the treatment.
What happens in the body when there is trauma? According to Peter Levine, PhD, he indicates that trauma is a body reaction. It is not so much what happens to us, but how our body responds to and organizes around the events. It involves the autonomic nervous system and how the body is holding itself whether in a heightened state of sympathetic or parasympathetic distress mode.
The sympathetic system is the flight/fright response and a survival mechanism. When you are in a dark alley at midnight and hear a sound, you want this system to “up regulate” or turn on to meet the emergency demands. It works by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure, stimulate adrenals to produce adrenalin, contract your muscles all getting you ready to fight or flight. And then when the emergency is over, you want the parasympathetic branch to “down” regulate and bring your body back into homeostasis. To do this, it uses certain chemicals to slow heart rate, lower blood pressure, initiate digestion and elimination, restore and conserve energy. What often happens, is the body stays in this “up” regulated state and never comes back down. So this constant state or arousal really messes up the chemicals that help you relax. It leads to exhaustion, emotional excitement, fear, anxiety, panic, etc.
The other thing that happens when a trauma enters the body is that it either gets dissipated or it gets encapsulated. If it gets dissipated, it enters, moves through and then moves out of the system. It gets encapsulated if the amount of force or the perception of too much force will overwhelm the system and cannot be managed by the ANS. This process allows the body to survive and organize around the encapsulated event. Think of a piece of glass when a rock shatters. There is a large spot where the insult occurred and then lots of lines moving out from the one spot. So now these lines are pathways of stress in the body.
How can CST work help to relieve trauma in the body? 1) CST helps the body shift out of the “up” regulated state so the system can now do its job. 2) CST helps to release the encapsulated energy and all of the vectors or lines of energy in the body so the body can resynchronize to its original health and balance. This can’t be done only in the mind it must be done with the whole system. CST works with the whole system.