Dear all, I hope this finds you well and you’ve found some time to soak up the end of the summer sun. It’s that time of year when we start getting out our cardies out. Myself, I find a good clearing of my house comes upon me. It clears my head and helps me feel ready for Autumn.
I’ve also been spending the last few weeks super charging my practice by studying the ‘Polyvagal Theory’ of Stephen Porges. I’m in the middle of a course which, by the end of October I will be a Trauma Savvy Practitioner! Read my article below,‘Understanding Trauma and How Massage can Help’. It gives you a general gist of what I’ve learnt so far. 🤓
Trauma is loss of connection with those higher brain functions that help us put everything in perspective. One of the ways to bring the brain back online is through sensory input – one way being MASSAGE!
What exactly is Trauma?
Trauma is an injury a wound, physically or mentally, it happens to you and it’s too big for your mind to comprehend, it is overwhelming during the traumatic experience, then if a person gets stuck and the trauma repeats creating fragility and coping mechanism i.e. the person becomes traumatised, Bessel van der Kolk
Whether a person who experiences trauma becomes traumatised has to do with circumstances and how resilient they are. After the traumatic event did you feel alone? Or was there anyone with you? A kind and caring friend? Parent? Other? The more helpless the more traumatised. We’re less likely to have long term trauma if we’ve been able to process it in some way. Integration or healing, is when we can differentiate between then and now i.e. that was then, the trauma is in the past. Being traumatised has to do with reliving the past in the here and now repeatedly by being triggered in the here and now in some way i.e. it’s often, but not always a sensory occurrence that is the trigger; smell, sight, hearing, touch, taste i.e. five senses. So as previously mentioned, we can bring the brain back online; heal, by sensory input and that’s when the sensory practice of massage can be really helpful. Now ‘healing’ is a contentious word and it means different things to different people, as does ‘cure’. Can we cure trauma? If trauma means take it away as if it never happened then no, we cannot erase the past.
As a massage therapist, the first task in working with a traumatised client, is to establish safety, then proceed slowly, very mindfully, responsively and offer gentle, well paced, regular sessions which are called for so as to not trigger the trauma, as the defences are softening. It might also help the client if they have talking therapy in place but not to revisit the past with the client as such, rather to hold them in the present.
Aftercare: Help create, what Dr Ruth Lanius calls a ‘grounding kit’ using the five senses especially body ie mindful movement, walking in nature, 5 rhythms, qi gong, aerobics (according to BVDK, for some people can use hard exercises to dissociate) but also listening to music. Drumming can also be a very effective way to release trauma. It’s important to establish an activity which spikes appeal and interest.
Take in the good feelings in present moment = mindful moments. BOOK: Just One Thing, developing a buddha brain one simple practice at a time – Rick Hanson
Dissociation, which is a survival strategy – taking self off until it’s safe to come back.
Congratulate yourself when you have developed that survival strategy. To a greater all lesser extent we can all dissociate when needed.
Make it a resource which can be called up, but when the trauma is over, you can return to your body when it’s safe, this is called ‘integration of the traumatic experience’.
Frame it as a growth opportunity in some way…. – Health is not the absence of illness. Real health is the will to overcome every form of adversity and use even the worst circumstances as a springboard for new growth and development. Simply put, the essence of health is the constant renewal and rejuvenation of life •what happened shaped you in a way they can use to grow, i.e. I wish it hadn’t happened, but it did, and you responded in a way that saved your life, you did the right thing to keep you safe and your distress now might hold you back or you could move into a space where you can move forward.
Massage therapy, I believe, can help someone suffering from trauma move forward. Bessel van der Kolk says- Demons from the past can arise. None of this has to do with understanding and understanding why you’re messed up does not stop you being messed up. And saying to someone they shouldn’t feel this way because it was a long time ago doesn’t help.. Trauma is not a problem you can rationally solve, the rational brain has nothing to do with trauma. It’s to do with your animal nervous system.
Regular massage can help a traumatised person tolerate their present life. Understanding what happens in the body when we encounter a traumatic event comes down to physiology….
…..‘It starts off as feeling safe in your body…do something that allows you to feel your sensations without being freaked out by them…the experience of trauma…relived in the form of heartache and gut wrenching physical sensations, a bodily experience of ‘o my god I’m in danger and it’s intolerable…the reason people take drugs is because they have intolerable physical sensations and they cannot stand the way their body feels…and so the core issue is to help people feel safe in their bodies…breathing, moving, chanting yoga, qigong, dancing, massages…they have to discover first how can I make my body feel safe? Once the body feels safe you can go to the past that has been too horrifying to encounter. BVDK
Trauma is experienced in the body. But what is meant by that? Well it’s a physiological process and the systems involved are specifically the nervous system & the endocrine system and how they effect a persons body. Massage is a great form of support for these systems. A well informed practitioner will be able to integrate this level of support in their bodywork sessions.