The theme on this Articles page is the

                    Concept of  SAFETY in all of these approaches (especially well defined in the Polyvagal Theory article).


ARTICLES:

I'm certificated in Biodynamic Craniosacral, BSP, CRM, Safety Sound Protocol, TJR, and have further studied these therapeutic approaches listed, taking workshops from Peter Levine PhD., Dr. Stephen Porges, Lisa Schwarz, Stanley Rosenberg, Christopher and Mary Louise Muller, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Biofield Tuning, Sensory Integration,  Dr. Robert Scaer and Ana do Valle, and Upledger coursework.
contact me


1.   CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY  - 


                  BIODYNAMIC -  Craniosacral Therapy 
(I'm here on this website as a certificated RCST)

                               www.craniosacraltherapy.org


                  UPLEDGER INSTITUTE - CranioSacral Therapy (And I'm here)

                            www.upledger.com



2.   POLYVAGAL THEORY

                          www.stephenporges.com         www.stanleyrosenberg.com  

                             SAFE and SOUND PROTOCOL

 
                 

3.  SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT PROTOCOL

                     
                             www.stanleyrosenberg.com  


4.  SOMATIC EXPERIENCING

                    www.traumahealing.com



4.   EMDR and COMPREHENSIVE RESOURCE MODELING/CRM and BRAINSPOTTING/ BSP
                                         (I am here as a  certified BSP and in Comprehensive Resource Modeling)

                             www.lisaschwarz.com   comprehensiveresourcemodel.com


5.   THE TRAUMA SPECTRUM  Dr. Robert Scaer




CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY and Safety

             BIODYNAMIC Craniosacral Therapy

What is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy?

from:

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy Association of North America ... https://www.craniosacraltherapy.org‎

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy is a gentle yet profound non-invasive, hands-on treatment for the whole body.  Performed in a chair or on a massage table, the client is fully clothed and the touch is generally light and still.  The treatment is focused on supporting the health of the whole being, especially the nervous system.  This is the system that dictates all of the body's functioning,  constantly sending and receiving information.

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapists understand how an optimally functioning healthy nervous system performs.  We are trained for years to use acute perception skills to perceive subtle physiological changes.  We also are aware of the energetic map that underlies one's basic health and symptomology.  We believe that health is never lost no matter what the ailment.  We use our ability to identify the parts of the nervous system that are not functioning optimally and our awareness of the "always available health" in the body to assist the system in bringing itself back into balance. This supports greater ease and helps the body decrease symptoms.  contact me

WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM BIODYNAMIC CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY?

Because of the gentle non-invasive nature of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST), there are few contraindications for treatment. Everyone can benefit and it can even be enjoyed by those too young, old,  frail or ill for other more manual therapies. The improvement after a session may be more dramatic with some clients than with others. Because BCST builds health in the brain and nervous system, it is effective in assisting the prevention of chronic conditions, including the problems of aging, stiffness, dryness, memory loss, inflammation and immune imbalances.The beauty of the Biodynamic approach is that it strengthens our whole system and creates a safe environment, so that the body can gain new perspectives about unresolved issues, and the Biodynamic Craniosacral practitioner can facilitate a resolution. Our inner health is capable, when skillfully supported, of presenting the strains one at a time, in an order of priorities initiated by the body, in a way that does not overwhelm the system but makes it increasingly stronger. We do not need to remember or relive our traumas in order to benefit from their resolution.

ARE THERE MANIPULATIONS INVOLVED?

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy is distinguished by its minimal reliance on manipulations of any kind. If the various Craniosacral methods could be characterized and compared based on this criterion, the Biodynamic style would be placed at the non-manipulative or yin end of the spectrum.

In the Biodynamic approach, the healing process comes from within the client, not from the outside by the practitioner, and the hand contacts are based on listening and following/reflecting the client's process rather than pushing or manipulating the client towards a theoretical ideal state.

HOW DOES BIODYNAMIC CRANIOSACRAL THERAPY WORK?

Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy begins after a level of safety is created for the client. This is achieved in the communication between client and practitioner who together negotiate the space and contact between therm. Once contact is established, the practitioner listens deeply to the fluctuations of the cerebrospinal fluid within the craniosacral system.

A Biodynamic Craniosacral therapist learns to listen deeply to the system, tapping into its inherent intelligence, while focusing on the system remembering its original blueprint of health. The therapist encourages the client's system to access its resources, offering new choices and possibilities for the system at every level. Training, then, includes deep perceptual and centering skills as well as extensive study of the anatomy, physiology, and inherent motion of the craniosacral system.


MORE below:



              UPLEDGER INSTITUTE - CranioSacral Therapy

DR. JOHN UPLEDGER - Past and current article

upledgerA New Kind of Pulse

By John Greenwald  Time.com, April 16,  2001 - Dr. Upledger died Oct. 26, 2012

While assisting in a spinal operation in the 1970s, Upledger was startled to notice a strong pulse in the membranes that surrounded the patient's spinal cord. He determined that the pulse " which did not appear in the medical books " was coming from the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. He came to believe that anything that blocked the flow of this fluid could cause physical and mental distress. "All these membranes affect brain function," he says, "and when they're not moving properly, there can be harm."

To free up the restrictions, Upledger applies light resistance to parts of the body that seem to be stuck. These frequently include the bones of the skull, which Upledger says remain mobile throughout life " a point many medical doctors dispute. During a craniosacral session, the therapist may gently lift a person's head to allow a skull bone to shift and the normal flow of fluid to resume.

How well does it work? Upledger says the treatments have relieved conditions ranging from headaches and chronic back pain to autism and learning disabilities in children " and there is no shortage of testimonials. He is currently working with Vietnam veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder at his clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., a facility that has trained some 60,000 craniosacral practitioners. And while many M.D.s remain skeptical of the therapy, others have followed the lead of pain-control centers and physical-rehabilitation units in sending Upledger their patients.

"What we do is take away obstacles," says Upledger, "like removing stones from the road." And that, he might add, has proved far easier than cutting out an appendix in the center of a storm.

What is Upledger CranioSacral Therapy? - article from the Upledger Institute - 2013 www.upledger.com

A light touch, noninvasive technique, CranioSacral Therapy can be safely used on patients of all ages, from newborns to senior citizens " and on those with varying degrees of pain. It complements the body's natural healing processes and patients report improvement for a wide range of medical problems including headaches, neck and back pain, Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ), central nervous system disorders, motor-coordination impairments, orthopedic problems, neurovascular or immune disorders, fibromyalgia and other connective-tissue disorders, learning challenges such as ADD and ADHD, emotional difficulties, as well as other ailments.

Patients also find the technique extremely relaxing. It is very effective for reducing stress and is increasingly being used as a preventive health measure to bolster resistance to disease.  Learn more

Practitioners of CranioSacral Therapy represent many disciplines including massage, physical, and occupational therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors and osteopathic physicians, doctors of acupuncture, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, dentists, animal caregivers and others.

Among Dr. Upledger's outreach programs were work with military veterans coping with PTSD and the use of dolphins in conjunction with CranioSacral Therapy.

Most recently since 2015, strides have been made with athletes suffering from post concussion with the Ricky Williams Foundation  - prnewswire.com                              





THE POLYVAGAL THEORY and Safety including
 
Safety Sound Protocol


  Adapted from Somatic Psychotherapy Today, Spring 2012

Safety: The Preamble for Social Engagement An interview with Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D
- By Nancy Eichhorn

Our bodies, brains included, are designed to respond without thinking. Primed to protect our personhood via reactionary behaviors, the reliance of our brain on pre-patterned programming impacts how we interpret what we perceive and how we react behaviorally. Yet, if we slow down the automaticity, if we read our environment from a state of openness and conscious awareness and override our internalized, evolutionarily-organized, knee-jerk response, our lives change.
To save time, unconsciously of course, our brains learned to scan and capture parts of experiences real and written, a glimpse or two, a syllable or so, and fill in the rest, for better or worse, right or wrong. And in that instant we determine the situation, assign meaning, and respond.
Interview with Stephen W. Porges, Ph.D.


   www.stephenporges.com


Dr. Porges addresses the concept of safety. Without safety there is no social engagement which is the precursor for healthy social bonding. The real issue in therapeutic modeling and relationships is whether the individual is safe in the presence of the other, he said. If safe, then you (the therapist) have created a neural platform, a biobehavioral platform appropriate for attachment and social bonding. If the platform is not safe, if it is chaotic with unpredictable relationships, it will fail.

Safety, it seems, is tied to predictability. If we are in a predictable environment (geographically as well as relationally) people may experience a sense of inner peace and connection; unpredictability triggers the physiological states of flight/fight associated with the sympathetic nervous system.
The degree of predictability colors our experiences, Porges said.
To feel safe in a defined environment and to turn off our adaptive defensive systems is the goal of civilization; the underlying strategy to optimize attachment is to negate evolution, Porges said. We have wonderful defense systems, but we cannot create relationships, cannot access wisdom and creativity unless we can turn off our evolutionarily programmed defense systems.

When we are mobilized for defense we give up access to social engagement components: benevolence, care, compassion, shared experiences, he continued. Being mobilized for defensive states results in biological rudeness and the whole aspect of what is gained by being interactive with another cannot play out because we are in survival mode. The parts of the prefrontal cortex that give us the ability to be relational go offline, we cannot separate beyond good and bad. Our expansiveness, creativity and social relationships are hampered.

Addressing our current educational system, Porges noted that current theory assumes humans are learning machines which conflicts with the reality that we are mammals trying to survive. Because adaptations to survive perceived dangers limit our processing systems, children who do not feel safe in the classroom setting cannot process language. There goes following verbal instructions.
Children who do not feel safe in their classroom cannot remain calm. Their bodies are primed for defensive maneuvers.
Despite the reality of physiological impacts on learning and engagement, the predominant features of learning theory minimize the importance of individual differences and developmental differences. Colleges of education base their curriculum on a behavioral level learning model with no respect for individual development and state (affective state). By understanding features of the environment that trigger sympathetic nervous system responses, we can change where and how we learn (and work), such as focusing on low frequency noises and predictable environments to create states of safety that promote proximity.

If we are not safe, we are chronically in a state of evaluation and defensiveness, Porges added. However if we can engage the circuits that support social engagement, we can regulate the neural platform that enables social engagement behaviors to spontaneously emerge. From a Polyvagal Perspective, this is the objective of therapy.

Our nervous system is bombarded with cues to be on the alert, to be prepared to protect and defend. Yet, safe environments are important for everything we do, especially psychotherapy. Thinking about various therapeutic approaches such as Sensorimotor, Somatic Experiencing, and Mindfulness Meditation, Porges realized that even these exercises need to be conducted in a safe environment. Mindfulness meditation, for example, involves experiencing a state of non-judgment existence while our defensive system associated with the sympathetic nervous system is all about judgment and evaluation. Furthermore, if someone is practiced in the art of self regulation during a meditative state, he often loses that regulatory ability when he returns to the outside world (and interacts with others).One goal of therapy, then, might be to help clients regulate their visceral state both together and then in varying degrees alone in order to engage and enjoy interactions with others. Perception involves a degree of awareness and cognition, while Neuroception emphasizes that the process also occurs on a neural basis.

Safety is an embodied experience, sensed first within the pulse of our blood, the beat of our heart, the rate of our respiration, even the sweat on our skin. Our bodies offer subtle cues, a slight sense of dis- ease, as well as overt reactions. In social interactions our bodies function very much like a polygraph, Porges explained, and we need to learn more about how to read and to respect the responses of our body. We have to know that when we feel uncomfortable there is a reason our body is feeling uncomfortable; rather than dismissing or denying this bodily feeling, we need to adapt and adjust to it.

People are often pushed to evaluate behavior as good or bad rather than being supported to see the adaptive function of their behaviors as regulating physiological and behavioral states.Learn more When we can view our adaptations as a means to secure survival and respect how our body and nervous system put us into a physiological state to survive, Porges said, "we can also acknowledge that those same adaptations now hamper our ability to live fully and creatively and engaged."

Dr Porges, PhD, is a Distinguished University Scientist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University Bloomington and Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He is Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Emeritus Professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a former president of the Society for Psychological Research and also the Federation of Behavioral, Psychological, and Cognitive Sciences. He is a former recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Research Scientist Development Award. He has published more than 200 peer reviewed scientific papers across several disciplines including anesthesiology, critical care medicine, ergonomics, exercise physiology, gerontology, neurology, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, space medicine, and substance abuse. In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory, a theory that links the evolution of the vertebrate autonomic system to the emergence of social behavior. The theory provides a theoretical perspective to study and treat stress and trauma.




Professor Porges is the author of The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-Regulation (Norton, 2011).

Safe and Sound Protocol, SSP - developed by Dr. Porges originating from The Polyvagal Theory


In March 2017, The Safe and Sound Protocol, formerly the Listening Project developed by Dr. Porges, was made available to professionals, as a five day listening program designed to create the SAFETY here described. After many trials over the last few years SSP has been effective in treating Autism, anxiety and many studies are underway to determine the effectiveness with other conditions as well-------------From the website stephenporges.com:

The "Safe and Sound Protocol" (SSP) is now available for professional use!   Dr Porges has chosen to work with Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) to introduce this product to the therapy market.  iLs is a neurotechnology company that integrates music, movement and language exercises for the purpose of improving brain function.  The SSP, formerly known as "The Listening Project Protocol" is based on more than 40 years of research investigating relationships between the autonomic nervous system and social-emotional processes. The SSP protocol is designed to exercise the neural regulation of components of auditory system involved in listening with specifically processed music.
Research suggests that following completion of the intervention, individuals will have reduced auditory hypersensitivities, improved auditory processing, improved behavioral and emotional regulation and will be better able to focus and attend in school, therapy and everyday life.


I am a trained Associate of the Safe and Sound Protocol or SSP and can be contacted to implement this effective 5 day program.
 

Victoria Behrends - 760-753-1493 




SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT PROTOCOL -
Inspiration for developing the Social Engagement protocol comes from Dr. Stephen Porges (Brain-Body Institute, Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois, Chicago). In 1996, Dr. Porges published a paper presenting the "Polyvagal Theory", a wrote the book The Polyvagal Theory in 2011.This is a new understanding of the function of the autonomic nervous system.


Application of Craniosacral Therapy to The Polyvagal Theory


- developed by Stanley Rosenberg at the SR Institute in Denmark - working with Dr. Stephen Porges


www.stanleyrosenberg.com       From the website: To read the Articles, CLICK the English tab at the top  


 What is the Social Engagement Protocol (and craniosacral therapy) good for?

Traditionally, cranio-sacral therapy has been known to help with functions of the autonomic nervous system (stress/relaxation) and the central nervous system (by improving circulation to the brain, brain stem and the spinal cord), hormone balance, orthodontics, and muscular-skeletal problems.

The Stanley Rosenberg Institute has developed a special protocol of selected techniques taught by Osteopath Alain Gehin and Stanley Rosenberg, We call this unique form of cranio-sacral therapy "The Social Engagement Protocol" in order to underline that this is not the usual, popular form of cranio-sacral therapy, but rather a new and effective combination of techniques from the French tradition. In addition to providing the same benefits that are often ascribed to treatment with cranio-sacral therapy as listed above, this new protocol developed by Stanley Rosenberg is unique in its effectiveness in lifting people from chronic states of stress (fight/flight) and depression and (introverted apathy) to a state of clarity, peace and openness, where they enjoy being together with other people.

His book, Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve: Self-Help Exercises for Anxiety, Depression, Trauma, and Autism  is due to be available in 2017.

contact me


 
SOMATIC EXPERIENCING
- SE

Founder of SE is Peter Levine, Ph.D
  www.traumahealing.com


Peter Levine is a contemporary psychologist specializing in trauma. He developed Somatic Experiencing therapy.
Professional Life
Peter Levine received his doctorate in medical biophysics from the University of California at Berkeley and another in psychology from International University.  
 
Levine worked for NASA as a stress consultant while the Space Shuttle program was being developed and has shared his expertise while teaching at various facilities throughout the world, including pain clinics, hospitals, and treatment centers. He is particularly interested in the effects of trauma and oppression on indigenous populations; he is a member of World Psychologists for Social Responsibility, an organization dedicated to forming effective responses to ethnic and political warfare and wide ranging disasters.
 
Levine is the founder of Somatic Experiencing (SE), and he established the Foundation for Human Enrichment in Boulder, Colorado, to serve as a training facility for SE practitioners. Levine is a faculty member of the Santa Barbara Graduate Institute, and his 1997 book on trauma, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, was a bestseller.

Contribution to Psychology
Levine developed Somatic Experiencing therapy, an approach that grew out of Levine's observations of wild animals. He noted that animals tended to recover relatively quickly from traumatic events and that humans may benefit from adopting the trauma recovery behaviors animals use.
 
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is responsible for regulating automatic body functions such as heart rate, digestion, and respiration. Levine argues that the symptoms commonly associated with trauma such as fear, flashbacks, and a heightened startle reflex are the result of trauma-induced disruptions in the autonomic nervous system. The goal of treatment is to enable the ANS to re-regulate itself.
 
In their definition of trauma, practitioners include both one-time traumas and developmental traumas, such as neglect or abandonment, and focus on helping a client to gain awareness of emotions and physical reactions. In the early parts of therapy, clients are encouraged to increase their emotional and sensory awareness, progressing to awareness of physical tension in the body. Somatic Experiencing practitioners argue that trauma causes chronic tension because the body's fight or flight system was not able to fully react to the trauma.
 
SE also uses a technique known is titration, which is common in other trauma treatments, such as exposure therapy. The client is progressively exposed to more and more of her trauma, usually by talking about it and processing the physical and psychological sensations it causes. As a client progresses in treatment, he or she will discuss more traumatic elements of the experience. Through treatment, clients are encouraged to develop resources, which are any forms of assistance that help the ANS to self-regulate. The therapist also uses pendulation, which involves helping a client become unregulated and then enabling him or her to progress back to self-regulation. This approach is thought to help the client regulate the ANS independently.
 
References:
Cross, J. (2007, Sep 13). The Healing Space: Somatic Experiencing Releases and Relieves Trauma. The Taos News.
Peter A. Levine. (n.d.). Sounds True. Retrieved from http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/authors/Peter_A_Levine


Peter Levine is the author of the best selling book Waking the Tiger - Healing Trauma, (published in twenty languages) as well as four audio learning series for Sounds True including the book CD, Healing Trauma, a Pioneering Program in Restoring the Wisdom of Our Bodies; and Sexual Healing, Transforming the Sacred Wound.  He is the co-author of Trauma through a Child's Eyes, Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing. And Trauma-Proofing Your Kids, A Parents Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience.



COMPREHENSIVE  RESOURCE  MODEL

  Comprehensive Resource Model developed by Lisa Schwarz M.Ed, strengthens and enhances internal resources and allows contained, gentle, yet deep processing work with attachment issues and dissociative disorders.(www.comprehensiveresourcemodel.com)

Lisa Schwarz is the co author of  The Comprehensive Resource Model, with Frank Corrigan, Alistair Hull and Rajiv Raju, published in 2017. she is a licensed psychologist, consultant, international educator and the developer of the Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM).

From the website: (where you will find me as a practitioner)

The Mission of CRM
To remember, re-process, and release traumaatic material from the nervous system in order to provide the opportunity for re-connection to one's true self, the meaning of the truth of one's life and to the ability to embody love in one's actions.
CRM is a neuro-biologically based trauma treatment model which facilitates targeting of traumatic experiences by bridging the most primitive aspects of the person and their brain, to the purest, healthiest part of the self.

"Brainspotting or BSP and Comprehensive Resource Model, CRM are based on the profound attunement of the therapist with the patient, finding a somatic cue and extinguishing it by down-regulating the amygdala. It is not just PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) activation that is facilitated, it is homeostasis."
Robert Scaer, M.D., The Trauma Spectrum


EMDR / BRAINSPOTTING

  DAVID GRAND, Ph.D., author of This is Your Brain on Sports and Emotional Healing at Warp Speed: The Power of EMDR,
and Brainspotting: The Revolutionary New Therapy for Rapid and Effective Change.
 (www.brainspotting.pro/) Where you will find me as a practitioner


David Grand, Ph.D., the developer and trainer of Brainspotting, is an internationally recognized trauma expert. He is the author of Emotional Healing at Warp Speed: the Power of EMDR.

Dr. Grand has also been part of a research team using fMRI scans to study the effects of trauma on the brain. Committed to the worldwide use of trauma healing as a tool to ease human suffering, Grand is the former chairman of the EMDR-Humanitarian Assistance Program. He has coordinated pro bono trainings of trauma therapists in Northern Ireland and inner city Brooklyn, N.Y.

Dr. Grand has been featured on NBC Nightly News, Dateline, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsday and O Magazine.

Brainspotting works with the deep brain and the body through its direct access to the autonomic and limbic systems within the body's central nervous system. Brainspotting is accordingly a physiological tool/treatment which has profound psychological, emotional, and physical consequences.

A "Brainspot" is the eye position which is related to the energetic/emotional activation of a traumatic/emotionally charged issue within the brain, most likely in the amygdala, the hippocampus, and/or the orbitofrontal cortex of the limbic system.

The maintenance of that eye position/Brainspot within the attentional focus on the body's "felt sense" of that issue or trauma stimulates a deep integrating and healing process within the brain. This processing, which appears to take place at a reflexive or cellular level within the nervous system, brings about a de-conditioning of previously conditioned, maladaptive emotional and physiological responses. Brainspotting appears to stimulate, focus, and activate the body's inherent capacity to heal itself from trauma.

Article is from (www.brainspotting.pro/)
Learn more



TRAUMA SPECTRUM - Historical and Physiological Overview of Trauma

Robert Scaer, MD -  neurologist - author The Trauma Spectrum, and The Body Bears the Burden 


- Adapted from The Trauma Spectrum, written in 2005, with permission of the author, Dr. Scaer - a comprehensive overview of the origins of the most leading edge trauma modalities mentioned so far.

The effect of the experience of trauma over the life span lays the seeds for most chronic, poorly understood disease processes that defy explanation by our current concepts of health and disease. These chronic diseases make up the majority of symptoms for which patients present to doctor's offices.

The Brain / Mind / Body Continuum - The brain, mind, and body exist on a continuum, wherein sensory input from the body shapes and changes the structure and function of the brain, which concurrently shapes and alters the body in all of its parts -- particularly those that provided the sensory input to the brain. The brain and body are intimately inter-related rather than two distinct parts of the greater whole. These two parts of the continuum form a dynamically changing servo system, constantly and reciprocally adapting based on the influence of the other. The mind is a receptacle for perceptual experience, including body sensations or feelings, and the positive or negative emotions that are related to that information. The mind is based on brain activity and is the conscious manifestation of what we sense and feel based on the dynamic interaction of the brain / body.

Threat and Trauma - A life-threatening experience, either real or imagined, may also become a traumatic experience if it occurs in a state of helplessness. The field of psychology accepts the premise that such trauma affects the mind. Through imaging studies we now know that trauma affects the structure and physiology of the brain as well. If we accept the idea that the mind, brain and body exist on a continuum, then we must also consider the ways in which trauma affects the brain / body. Ideally, the brain / mind / body uses what it learns from a traumatic event to develop resiliency and fortify the individual against future similar occurrences. However, depending on the individual's prior experience and the nature and outcome of the event, the trauma may actually lead to dysfunctional physiological change in both the brain and body. The dynamic interaction of the brain / body in turn sends cues to the mind affecting what it senses, feels and perceives. If the brain / body has been overly conditioned and sensitized to react to life threats, the mind will perceive threat in situations where none may exist. This hypersensitivity to threat amounts to what I call 'the imprisonment of the mind' - a state in which the mind is primed to perceive threat, is continually assaulted by and frozen in the past, and cannot conceive of a self that is free of physical and emotional pain.

Reality and Our Senses - Our concept of reality is tightly bound by the amount of meager information that our sensory organs are able to provide us at any given time. Other species possess organs of sensory perception that we totally lack. The entire function of the brain / mind / body continuum is altered by the nature and quality of the sensory information that the senses provide.

The Brain - The brain is defined as a plastic, fluid, and ever-changing electrical / chemical / structural system that generates new synapses and neurons and discards old ones in response to sensory / emotional / experiential input. Life experience therefore changes the brain permanently in the way that it specifically reacts to subsequent similar experiences.

Conditioning and Unconscious Knowledge - Unconscious learned behavior is all species is primarily directed toward survival-based activities. This behavior is established primarily through the repeated chance association of successful forms of complex behavior with escape from a life-threatening situation or with access to a life-sustaining reward. The behavioral patterns which emerge from this learned association are called conditioning.

Like Pavlov's experiments which showed how animal behavior is classically conditioned, these conditioned responses, which are based on cumulative life experiences, are the basic means by which species accumulate knowledge to enhance survival. Because this knowledge must be available at all times and at a moment's notice -- and must be independent from the complexity of conscious problem solving -- it is basically unconscious knowledge. Such unconscious knowledge constitutes the primary source of learning and behavior, not only in animals but also in human beings. Although the brain's reciprocal responses to sensory experience are central to its role, they may be corrupted by traumatic experiences which drastically alters its ability to be an effective participant in the goal of survival.


Trauma and Learned Responses - Traumatic life experiences often contribute to learned habits of movement and posture that reflect the self-protective movement patterns associated with those threats. Many of these trauma-related movement patterns affect the way that we move, sit and stand. They may lead to patterns of movement and posture that are abnormal and they may inhibit our normal coordination and our learning of other desirable motor skills.

Self-protective movement and postural patterns of the experienced trauma are stored in the brain and the body's survival memory. These learned dysfunctional patterns persist because they are, in a metaphorical sense, necessary for defense against future threats similar to those that elicited the defense in the first place.

If traumatic memories are implanted in the brain, internal cues (such as dreams, imagined scenarios, and memories) as well as sensory information from the external environment will evoke motor, autonomic, somatic, and visceral responses to a perceived threat. This process is almost entirely unconscious and occurs typically before any conscious recognition or awareness.


The Fight / Flight / Freeze Response - All animals must have the capacity to learn from life-threatening experiences. All animals learn to survive through the functions of the areas of the brain that process information through a complex behavioral process that has been termed ' the fight / flight / freeze response'. The brain pathways and behaviors in this response are common to all animals from reptiles to primates. But these instincts only form a template on which exposure to a series of life threats builds specific survival skills. Whether one fights or flees when exposed to a threat must be learned very quickly through such experiences. The information from these learning experiences must be stored in unconscious form in order to be of use in the survival game. It must be capable of triggering a predictable behavioral response learned through trial and error without thinking or planning. The process through which we learn these survival skills is called classical conditioning, a term coined by Pavlov (1926).

The capacity to initiate the fight / flight response is determined by the sympathetic nervous system - one of the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for activating the cardiovascular and motor systems of the body and for making available the extra energy for the vigorous physical activity required to fight or flee.

The Freeze Response - Sometimes fight or flight options are no longer available. Under these circumstances a third survival option is available: the freeze response. The freeze response, common to all species, indeed may allow the animal to survive, but in mammals it sometimes comes at a terrible cost. Animals who survive the freeze response experience an unconscious 'discharge' of all of the energy and stored memories of the threat and failed escape through stereotyped body movements as the animal 'awakens'. If they don't experience this discharge, a host of adverse behavioral and health problems may follow. Classical conditioning in this context can fool the brain and lead to a host of inappropriate and ineffectual survival behaviors. When this happens we may say that 'trauma' has occurred.

When fight or flight are unsuccessful or not possible, a third instinctual and quite unconscious option will be exercised. The animal collapses and becomes immobile. This is the freeze response. If the freeze response is successful in preventing the animal from being killed, the animal will gradually emerge from immobility.

The freeze response is made possible through the functioning of the parasympathetic nervous system. When the parasympathetic response is very strong or extreme, the animal in freeze is in a precarious state of abnormally dysregulated and fluctuating autonomic nervous system activity.

One of the expressions of the freeze response in humans is the phenomenon of dissociation. Dissociation is reflective of a state of shock, stunning, trance, numbing of emotion and cognitive fogging. Dissociation is physiologically the same as the freeze.

The work of Peter Levine showed that PTSD patients experienced a dramatic clearing of many of their symptoms when they were allowed to complete the motor discharge of their freeze response through unique therapeutic behavioral techniques. In the absence of of this freeze discharge, the 'energy' of the intense arousal associated with the threat and attempted escape remains bound in the body and brain, leading to a host of abnormal symptoms that we attribute to PTSD. Levine also noted that repeated freeze events without discharge seemed to be cumulative, adding to a progressive worsening of post-traumatic symptoms and to the development of progressive helplessness in the face of threat.

The varied symptoms of trauma, of which a small number are included under the diagnosis of PTSD, fall under the definition of conditioned responses. These symptoms are incredibly varied. They include abnormal memories (e.g. flashback images, intrusive conscious memories, recurring physical sensations, nightmares), abnormal arousal (e.g. panic, anxiety, startle), and numbing (e.g. confusion, isolation, avoidance, dissociation). Their broad spectrum of expression of these symptoms reflect a dysfunction involving the brain and most of the regulatory systems of the body (i.e. autonomic, endocrine, and immune). They are based on a disruption of the usually modulated regulation of brain centers that govern arousal, emotional tone, memory, and perception.(The core of this problem is the fact that procedural and declarative memories for the traumatic event, and the conditioned sensory perceptions and reflex motor responses associated with those memories, continue to replicate failed efforts of successful fight or flight responses.

The Neurophysiology of Threat and Trauma - The frontal and central areas of the right cerebral hemisphere are the regions in the brain which attend to the arousal response and to threatening information. The parts of the brain that function in an executive fashion (e.g. thinking, planning, communicating, using any type of rational thought) are, in general, not essential for the execution of emergency behavior.

Typically, the first level of information that warns us of an impending threat is accessed and received by the primary senses (smell, vision and hearing). Messages from these basic senses are routed to the locus ceruleus or blue center - a tiny cluster of cells in the brainstem. The locus ceruleus sends the message on the the amygdala (the 'olive') which is the center for memory of emotionally laden information. Because of its function as the storehouse and processor of emotionally charged experiences, the amygdala plays a crucial role in the mediation of the response to a perceived / conditioned threat experience. Therefore, any part of the brain receiving information which has been processed by the amygdala is likely to be influenced significantly by the emotional conditioning attached to the threat experience.

The amygdala then sends messages to the hippocampus (the 'sea horse'), as well as to other parts of the brain. The hippocampus forms a conscious structure for the threat-based message that includes its emotional / conditioned importance, and then sends it on to the orbitofrontal cortex, the master regulator of survival behavior (both conscious and unconscious). The orbitofrontal cortex then sends information to many parts of the brain which may then organize and initiate the necessary behavior patterns which can help the individual survive. It also activates the body's endocrine response through the hypothalamic / pituitary / adrenal (HPA) axis. The hypothalamus is a center deep in the middle and base of the brain. In addition to regulating many other complex functions (e.g. sleep and appetite), it also regulates the autonomic nervous system. In the case of a threat, the sympathetic nervous system (the energy-burning survival part) is activated. The pituitary gland (the master endocrine gland) is also activated and initiates the body's endocrine response.

The pituitary gland, through the hormone adrenocorticotropic homone (ACTH) stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which puts a brake on norepinephrine - thus modulating the brain's arousal response.In the event that the individual survives the immediate threat, cortisol also prepares the animal to manage ongoing stress through changes in its circulation, metabolism, and immune responses.

This complex interaction of nerve centers, glands, and chemicals is typical of the multiple interactive feedback systems by which the body is designed to not only survive a threatening event, but also to regulate itself and to promote stability of the entire organism. (Adaptation printed here with permission of the author.)