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Not many of us get
through life without
bumps, grinds and dents
along the way. They say that stress
becomes trauma when the injury
takes up residence—when an
event was so overwhelming for us
that we can't seem to recover from
it. We think of soldiers coming
back from war, but some of that
war never seems to leave them.
As a bodyworker and breathworker,
I've worked with releasing
stress and tension from bodies for
30 years. I've learned to trust the
body's ability to self-heal, and that
many problems that seem mental
and emotional, are locked and
blocked in the body's cells and
nervous system too. They say that
75% of the time, doctor's can't
find anything wrong when
patients come to them with complaints.
They call this psychosomatic,
i.e., "it's all in your mind."
Yet stress and the effects of trauma
are often the cause, and
mind-oriented talk therapies,
and/or psychoactive drugs, have
produced less-than-complete
results in many cases. Let's examine
emerging natural therapies,
and new paradigms for understanding
the key role that somatic
experience (trusting the body's
innate self-healing powers) plays
in resolving the effects of trauma.
I was giving a lady from the
east coast a massage recently and
we got to talking about her son,
who recently returned from Iraq.
"I wish you could work on my
son," she said, "that Walter Reed
Hospital patched up his wounds
but didn't do a thing for his
psyche... Boy, does he need anger
I also worked on a psychiatrist
from a major-city veteran's
hospital and I asked him what
they do there for PTSD (Post-
Traumatic Stress Disorder). He
admitted that their approach was
not enough, mostly using drugs
and group therapy. He talked
about how when there is shock or
trauma, the neuropeptides (transmitters
in the brain and nervous
system) get frozen. Locked "at the
scene of the crime," so to speak,
replaying the event, or "stuck in
emergency mode," which is the
body's fight-or-flight response,
and unable to unwind and rebalance,
resulting in the many,
complex symptoms of PTSD:
flashbacks, hypervigilance, dissociation,
memory loss, and a disconnect
from parts of the body,
avoidance of restimulating experiences.
(See the sidebar for a
longer list of symptoms.) If not
resolved, coping with trauma can
evolve into bouts with depression,
anxiety and addictions. This
doctor talked about how the
Alpha or Beta blockers commonly
used for PTSD can blunt the
memory and block the release of
excess hormones (adrenaline, cortisol);
but still, he said, "you've
got to get the feelings out."
We talked about how the
frontal cortex of the brain doesn't
fully develop until the age of 28.

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