Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The Body Keeps The Score

I'm currently reading Bessel Van Der Kolk's book 'The Body Keeps The Score-Mind, Brain & Body In The Transformation Of Trauma' for the third time. Its a fabulous book and written with such an understanding of the content that it's recreated in a way that is easily accessible to people with limited experience in this area. The most valuable aspect of the book for me is that Van Der Kolk has such an open and inquiring mind and explores many often controversial therapies and is seldom dismissive if he thinks that there is some value in them.

He looks in depth at the history of treating trauma and the latest developments in this area and also looks at new therapies that are becoming recognized by therapists including EMDR, yoga and meditation, neurofeedback and many others. His chapter 'Healing From Trauma: Owning Yourself' is alone worth the cover price. Here he explores 'Defending The Emotional Brain'   and explains a very simple but effective technique to deal with hypererousal.

Learning to breathe calmly and remaining in a state of relative physical relaxation even while accessing painful and horrifying memories, is an essential tool for recovery. When you deliberately take a few deep breaths, you will notice the effect of the parasympathetic brake on your arousal. The more you stay focused on your breathing, the more you will benefit , particularly if you pay attention until the very end of the out breath and then wait a moment before you inhale again. As you continue to breathe and notice the air moving in and out of your lungs you may think about the role that oxygen plays in nourishing your body and bathing your tissues with the energy you need to feel alive and engaged'

This has been a technique that I have successfully used with clients who are at the effect of past trauma and so consumed by this that they have no access to any other way of being. Once the limbic system takes over there is no possible progress until calm can be restored. An effective way of doing this is to place your hand on your heart whilst breathing in for six and then out for eleven. All the while focusing your attention on your heart filling with oxygen and your nervous system becoming calmer.

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