I have a prop that I carry with me
just for these reasons, and it kind of illustrates what happens in trauma. OK, this represents our energy, our
arousal level, and so we’re just taking walk and our energy is, you know,
basically moving like this up and down. If we’re taking a run there’s more
movement in our energy. If somebody is chasing us and threatening us then our
energy is really excited. Now, what happens in trauma is that we have this tremendous excitation, and then, boom, we’re overwhelmed. This energy becomes locked–it becomes stuck in our bodies and our nervous systems. When this arousal, this activation, this hyperarousal doesn’t get released, it leads to all kinds of symptoms. Not only the classic symptoms of PTSD like flashbacks and nightmares, which Ray experiences, but to many physical sensations, physical symptoms–chronic pain, chronic stiffness in different parts of the body. What is the key to resolving trauma? First, we have to recognize that trauma has emotional effects, it has cognitive effects, but primarily it’s a physiological process. And until we begin to resolve it at the physiological level, it’s not possible to resolve the emotional and the meaning issues that traumatized people have. One of the conundrums in trauma therapy is that therapists are trained, and are usually very good, at being empathic. And with many clients, that really helps them settle enough to be able to work with their issues. When a person is deeply traumatized, the ability to read others’ emotions by their faces and their postures is very much compromised, so that they’re really not able to take in that empathy. And often clients even feel like they’ve done something wrong because they’re not able to take in that soothing, to take in the kindness of the therapist, and then equally the therapist is often very frustrated because they don’t know why what they’re doing isn’t working. The traumatized nervous system can’t take too much activation, as I illustrated with the Slinky, because they’re overwhelmed, easily overwhelmed. So it has to be done one dose at a time, one small experiential quantum. And an analogy that I use is what happens when you take a strong acid and a base. If you put them together, there’s a tremendous explosion. However, if you take one drop of the base and add it to the acid, there’s a little bit of an Alka-Seltzer fizzle, and then it quiets down. And then another drop. And then finally it’s neutralized. It’s neutralized but without the explosion. And this is what you see with Ray and with traumatized clients in working this way, is that they come to rest, they come to equilibrium, and their life energy is restored to them. And for me, any trauma therapy really isn’t successful until the person regains, re-owns their life energy and lives within their life energy.