Trauma is often only understood as a psychological reaction that we need to deal with in the mind. Trauma is very much also a physiological reaction that circulates in the body long after the event, as our reactions and responses to trauma are primarily bodily ones. During a traumatic or threatening situation we tend to go into a highly charged freeze or fight/flight response. This undischarged residual energy can, unconscious to us, remain in our body for many years as an incomplete physiological response manifesting itself as physical symptoms like e.g.: sleep disturbances, anxiety, hyper vigilance, irritability, ear ringing, digestive problems, jaw problems, back problems, migraines and be a host to all sorts of various pains and conditions. The key to resolving and healing Trauma lies in our physiology, in our bodily responses, that needs to be resolved and discharged.
Craniosacral addresses a wide variety of symptoms and conditions from physical pains, structural misalignments, muscular tensions to emotional blockages, but trauma and stress release was definitely my favourite subject: working with the nervous system survival responses and the residual effects of trauma lodged in the body.………. ironically, never in a million years did I think trauma would strike me.
I came to experience what I had learned during my education when a good few years ago, my world became a very dark and lonely place as I suffered a severe physical & emotional trauma. As a result, I experienced a multitude of physical symptoms: non-stop raging headaches, migraines, ear ringing, neck pain, anxiety, nerve tingling and extreme sensitivity to light, to name a few. For months, I was unable to sleep or eat. The rug had been pulled out from underneath me, I was lost.
So my Dr's, specialists and hospital rounds began, from A to Z, each with their own well-intended prescription pads: pain killers, beta blockers, digestive relief, anti-anxiety, anti-depressants, muscle relaxants, laxatives, anti-inflammatory, stomach acid reduction pills, sleeping tablets, valium and narcotics in all sorts of varieties form tramadol to oxycodone to oxycontin. I ended up being the Pharmacy! Being originally from Amsterdam I could have easily paid off my student loan by selling all on a street corner in the red light district.
I wanted to clear my anxious state, calm my nervous system, improve my sleeping but most of all find relief for all my physical symptom by resolving them at root cause. Thank goodness I knew Cranio and turned to my colleague: a highly skilled buddy and certified Cranio angel extraordinaire.
During my first few cranial sessions we focused on my mental and emotional body by getting me back into my body, becoming less disassociated, as my body was a terrifying place to be in after the trauma. In fact, for the first 2 sessions I was not able to get on the table as touch was just too overwhelming. Subsequent sessions focused on calming my nervous system allowing me to become less anxious, less hyper-vigilant and releasing the undischarged residual energy in a very safe and contained way. My therapist could only move as fast as my body felt safe to let go, peeling away the layers whilst she facilitated an incredible safe space and presence for me to do so. In the final sessions, we were able to deal with my physical body and its pain. I became aware of how much tension I had really been holding, as my therapist was unwinding the tissues, releasing all my restrictions and pain. I could feel this immense anger bubbling up, because of what had happened. I had no idea that this anger but also sadness had been living so deep inside of me. I had suppressed my emotions in order to cope, a common theme amongst trauma victims but also for many people in day to day life. I have lived through what I had learned in my education and I have an even deeper respect of how the body deals and expresses itself through, any kind of life event or circumstance, big or small.
Thank goodness I am completely back to my happy, bubbly, pain-free, belly laughing self with even a greater passion, empathy and understanding for my work and for all my clients. In my own practice I see people with all kinds of symptoms: acute, one-off or with more chronic and long-standing problems. For these clients their history often reveals that there has been a long road of other seemingly unrelated problems, inflammations, anxiety, autoimmune conditions or neurological problems. By the time these clients come and see me, they have taken various roads to try and resolve their symptoms. They have had things cut out, removed, fused, worked on but are still in pain and often on long-term medication as a symptom management. The source of their symptoms however is often traceable to a form of trauma in their past that is still being carried in the present through unconscious emotions, the biology of stress and/or cut of body responses.
Trauma can be a one-off significant event but trauma can also be experienced in a more slow, cumulative kind of way through childhood adversity like an abusive parent, an emotionally cold, alcoholic, absent or mentally unwell parent. It can be experienced through work, accidents, illness or relationships. Most of my clients are aware that there is some level off trauma on an intellectual level but are unaware of the imprints the trauma has left in their body, mind and soul on a more primal level. Their experiences have created physiological effects in their body and left marks, continuing to behave and react as if the experience is still happening and therefore can be triggered by seemingly unrelated new experiences.
Renowned Boston based Dutch Psychiatrist and my favorite author on the subject matter Bessel van der Kolk states: ”the most essential aspect of healing is learning to fully inhabit our inner sense of self in all its dimensions– not only emotionally and psychological but bodily as well, as they are inseparable from one another”. “Some of the best therapy is largely non-verbal”. “I always recommend incorporating a bottom up approach like Yoga and Mindfulness and I always refer people to Craniosacral work”.
My pharmacy shop? I tried, but the pills were not for me, although they do have a place and can give initial support, just like a good psychologist. Some of my clients see a psychologist at the same time, which works really well and complementary together. I was fortunate that I had already discovered Cranio as a holistic mind-body approach and knew from experience that there are other fabulous complementary medicines. So I chose natural medicine, homeopathy and naturopathy as my multi-disciplinary approach. In the end I decided to let my own internal pharmacy go to work and found relief in a quote from Hippocrates, the founder of Medicine: “Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease”
Kern, M. (2005) Wisdom in the body.
Van der Kolk, B. (2017) How Trauma lodges itself in the body (online) available from http://www.onbeing.org
With immense gratitude to Monica Bovy - www.cranio-sante.ch
For further reading on Trauma – please see printed articles on my website on how “PTSD could be treated with Craniosacral Therapy” (click here) a “Research in to the effectiveness of Cranio on anxiety and depression” and a promising paper into how CST reduces pain and is helpful in anxiety and depression (http://delhibusinessreview.shtr.org/V16n1/dbr_v16n1j.pdf)