The Body and Emotions

The following video is an interview with Raja Selvam, one of my teachers, who teaches a program on Integral Somatic Psychology.

In this interview, he talks about how traditional psychology has focused on the brain as the source of emotions and uses talk therapy as a result of this belief. He makes an argument for shifting the focus from the brain to also include the role of the body in generating emotions.

The video is 50 minutes long. But start at the 3:30 mark to get into the discussion.

If you find this interesting, click here to find out more about trauma and whether or not it may be impacting either you or a loved one.

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Joseph Campbell“People say that what we are seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that that’s what we are really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
~Joseph Campbell

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The Trauma of “Not Belonging”

The desire to belong is common to most mammals and inherent in all human beings. As individuals we behave in accordance with the desires and norms of our groups in order to belong or fit in. Our beliefs, values, and actions are aligned with these groups. When we feel secure in this belonging, we feel a sense of comfort and safety, a grounded emotional base that allows us to explore the world as we grow.

The strongest group we are attached to is our family of origin. After that, we identity with groups that represent our cultural background: family religions, the racial and ethnic backgrounds we were born into, the people in the area we come from, our state, our nation. The values of each of these groups exert an influence on our own values and behaviors.

Sometimes, however, we must break or disconnect from a group. If we marry someone from another faith and convert, we leave the religious group we were previously attached to, which may even include the family. Or if someone is homosexual (in the U.S.) he/she must disconnect from the family values, the family’s religion, and quite often the peer group in which he/she was raised. This disconnection may not be an overt break; it may only be internal. But even so,  whenever we leave a group trauma results.

These breaks with the groups to which we formerly belonged will cause guilt (feelings that come from within) and often shame (feelings that come from without, from the responses of the members in our group to our leaving). This creates another level of trauma. As justified as we are in making these breaks, they will take a toll on us mentally, emotionally, and physically and affect our relationships.

These are traumas that may recede into the background over time. We may not even be aware of them. But they still remain in the psyche and cause deep, untold suffering until they are addressed. While Somatic Experiencing® can help free the individual from these effects, Family Constellations has the added bonus of being able to resolve the traumas between the individual and the group they left. When the two are used together in treatment, they form a deep, soul-expanding whole experience.

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On Developmental Stress and Trauma

Developmental Trauma and Survival Styles

This 2-hour video is well worth watching. Dr. Larry Heller talks about developmental traumas and how children survived them by creating survival strategies that become ways of being and acting in the world as adults.

His approach, called NARM, is a treatment based in a long tradition of somatic psychology, Somatic Experiencing®, and bio-energetics. It’s very effective and transformational.

Being a Certified Practitioner of NARM, I use it to help people with great results. I can’t speak highly enough of Dr. Heller and what he, along with Dr. Aline LaPierre, has developed.

Their book is excellent too: Healing Developmental Trauma: How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Sel-Image, and the capacity for Relationship–The NeuroAffective Relational Model for Restoring Connection

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Stress and Trauma and Healing Power of Pets

How a Dog Saved a Vet with Trauma and PTSD

In this 7-minute video, an ex-Marine talks about his PTSD and how a dog saved his life.

This video is inspiring and full of heart. Enjoy.


It is well known how the support of friends and family can help those suffering with stress, trauma, and PTSD. But sometimes those people withdraw from those around them and isolate themselves. Well, the love of a dog can be just as helpful and assist the victims of trauma in moving towards better relationships with people.

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The Brain: The Source of Stress and Trauma

In this 3-minute video, Dr. David Berceli gives a concise explanation of how the brain is involved in stress and trauma. He explains how trauma originates in the lower parts of the brain that then have a lasting effect on the limbic system–the mid-brain–and the emotions. The top part of the brain, the neo-cortex, then has to deal with the actions of the lower brains, trying to cope with the trauma and make sense of it.

His main assertion, which forms the basis of my own practice in treating stress and trauma, is that stress and trauma need to be treated with this dynamic in mind. In other words, the lower brain structures, the sources of the  trauma that produce lingering effects in the body, need to be addressed first.

(There is an ad at the end of the video asking you to join an organization.)

Dr. David Berceli is the creator of Trauma Release Exercises.

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Is PTSD Common?

PTSD can happen to you if you have ever been through a trauma.

Trauma is a stressful event that happened to you, or you saw it happen to someone else, that was shocking and scary. Usually, you had no control over what happened and may have felt trapped with your life, or the lives of others, in danger.

Roughly half of all women and 60% of all men will have at least one trauma in their lifetimes. While women are more prone to sexual assault and child sexual abuse, men are more likely to experience accidents, physical assault, or witness death or injury–such as combat vets and first responders.

• About 8% of the U.S. population will have PTSD sometime in their lives.

• About 5.2 million adults suffer with PTSD each year.

• 10% of all women and 5% of all men will develop PTSD at some point in their lives.

• Some ethnic groups, such as blacks and Hispanics, are more likely to develop PTSD since they are exposed to more traumatic events than whites.

Who is Prone to PTSD?

Although going through a trauma doesn’t mean you will get PTSD, you have a greater chance of developing it if you:

• were either the victim or witness to a trauma

• were seriously hurt

• went through a long-lasting trauma or something very severe

• thought you were in danger

• thought a friend or family member was in danger

• was not able to help yourself or a loved one during a trauma

You are also more likely to develop PTSD if you:

• had medical procedures when young

• were abused as a child, either physically, emotionally, and/or sexually

• have little support from family and friends

• have unexpectedly lost a loved one

• have had recent, life-changing events that were stressful

• drink a lot of alcohol or take drugs

• are a woman

• are young

• were adopted

PTSD often develops long after the traumatic event. So you may not link the symptoms you develop with the traumatic events that may have occurred years earlier. You won’t think that your anxiety, depression, fits of anger, or extreme fatigue have anything to do with a traumatic event.

You may seek help for these isolated symptoms not realizing you have PTSD. But PTSD requires its own treatment.

If you have PTSD, or think a loved one may, then get help. Without help, PTSD will begin to grow and develop new symptoms as the body struggles with the damage it suffered so long ago.

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The Effects of Trauma on Children

How Stress and Trauma in Children Go On and On

For years babies were operated on without anesthesia. It was thought that since they had no memories until after about 18 moths, they couldn’t remember the pain and trauma of surgery and wouldn’t suffer any after effects. Luckily, that practice stopped. But as late as 1986, a survey of American hospitals reported that infants up to 15 months old were still not being given anesthesia.

Today, a common belief is held that children will outgrow the stress and trauma they experienced when they were young. Whether they suffered from early surgeries or were victims of violence and abuse, the thought is they will get over it.

But the effects of stress and trauma remain well into adulthood. The devastation they caused on the brain in childhood continue to ravage the adults psychologically, emotionally, and physically.

Childhood traumas are commonly missed when we look at the problems an adult faces. Syndromes like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lupus, Depression and other systemic illnesses can often find their sources in what happened to the sufferers in childhood.  But because the sources were so far in the past, the links aren’t made.

No matter what happened and how severe that after effects, help is still possible. But as we’ve seen, this doesn’t happen on its own. One needs to find someone who can work with trauma and tease out the childhood source.

Fortunately, Somatic Experiencing® is one of the few techniques that can work with and resolve traumas that happened in infancy before the capacity to remember came online. This sets it apart from other systems that work with trauma from a cognitive level like EMDR, Prolonged Exposure Therapy, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.


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Pain Expert Talks About Mind-Body Benefits

Reprinted from NIH Report, March 29, 2013

What happens in your brain when you experience pain? Can mind-body approaches really help ease pain?

Dr. M. Catherine Bushnell

Dr. M. Catherine Bushnell, scientific director of NCCAM’s Division of Intramural Research, tackled these topics when she recently spoke on “The Neural Basis of Mind-Body Pain Therapies” in NCCAM’s Integrative Medicine Research Lecture Series.

“Pain is a multidimensional, complex and individual experience,” said Bushnell, who is leading a new, cross-cutting NIH research initiative on pain. Research has been yielding fascinating insights on pain’s underlying biology. For example, imaging has shown that even in conditions in which the causes of pain are not visible or known, the brains of pain patients do experience pain. And it is evident where in the brain this happens.

When someone is exposed to a pain stimulus, a series of signals ascend from the body site to the spinal cord and then the forebrain. Then, as part of pain processing, a series of signals descend in the opposite direction. In both directions, multiple pathways and cells, such as neurons and neurotransmitters, are involved.

Continue reading

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Washing Away the Trauma of Birth

Just being born is a trauma for a baby as it leaves the warm, moist comfort of the womb and enters the glaring lights and abrasive sounds of a new world.

This video shows how a newborn’s raw nervous system can be soothed and calmed into a peaceful state. How lovely to have been welcomed into the world this way.

This is a must-see video.

Notice how the touch and gentle massaging helps the baby’s nervous system to calm  after having gone through the hardship of birth. Likewise, gentle touch can have a profound effect on soothing an adult’s nervous system that has been ravaged by stress and trauma. Early traumas in adults that occurred before 2 years of age are particularly well-treated with this type of therapy.

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