What Stress Does in the Body

How Stress and Trauma Cause Autoimmune Illnesses

Book Review: The Missing “First Domino” In Autoimmune Conditions: Nervous System Dysregulation

stress, trauma, PTSD, autoimmune disorders, Larry Kessler, helphealingtrauma, thecausesofstress, anxiety, Peter Levine

Click Here to Order Book

This eBook by Dr. Lori A. Parker is an excellent resource for understanding how the body reacts to stress. She uses simple language, clear graphics, and concise metaphors to enhance her  discussions of the biology of stress and trauma.

Although this book can be read by anyone wishing to understand the mechanisms of stress and trauma, Dr. Parker focuses on the roles stress and trauma play in the formation of autoimmune disorders and syndromes, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, etc.

While Dr. Parker acknowledges that the etiology of syndromes is complex, at the beginning of the book she ponders two questions: “What causes the body to produce an immune response against itself?   What are the circumstances, mechanisms, and triggers?” These questions set her off on her quest to find the “First Domino” in the sequence of syndrome formation.

What then follows is a Sherlock Holmes-like investigation into the role genetics may play, the nature of trauma, the interplay of hormones and body chemistry, the dance of the autonomic nervous system, and the sequence of internal events that occur in stress and trauma that lead to autoimmune illnesses.

This book is simple enough for the lay reader (I plan to suggest it to my clients) and thorough enough for a medical researcher. I can’t recommend it enough.


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Beyond Sandy Hook: How Somatic Experiencing Can Help Us Heal

What Happens During Trauma?

This follow blog was sent to me by THE SETI STAFF on FEBRUARY 12, 2013. I was given permission to share it with you below.

trauma, PTSD, Sandy Hook, Somatic Experiencing, Larry Kessler, Peter Levine, SE, healing from trauma, helphealingtraumaThe horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, remind us of the terror and uncertainty of trauma.

At the SE® Trauma Institute, we believe that with the right techniques and support, children, adults, and communities can begin to heal the effects of trauma. This page describes how the principles of Somatic Experiencing® (SE®) can be applied and how we can begin the healing process.

What Happens During Trauma?

It is important to understand the naturalness of our responses to traumatic experiences. Biologically, we have only a few ways to respond to overwhelming circumstances:

  • We can become hyper-aroused or constricted in our bodies, emotions, and thinking
  • We can dissociate, as if we’re just not even there
  • We can numb ourselves to the point of feeling helpless and hopeless

trauma, PTSD, Sandy Hook, Somatic Experiencing, Larry Kessler, Peter Levine, healing from trauma, helphealingtraumaWe are born pre-wired with a process for recovering from these symptoms. Think of an animal in the wild: after surviving an attack, the animal may tremble, but will eventually go back about its business. As humans, we have those same circuits; the problem arises when our bodies cannot complete these natural processes. The incident becomes stuck in our wiring and our body.

Example: At Sandy Hook, children and adults had to hide while listening to terrifying sounds of gunshots. It’s likely that impulses to run, to shout, to look to see what was happening— all strong, natural survival impulses— had to be contained or overridden, or were in direct opposition to equally natural survival impulses to hide, to freeze, to look away. These powerful impulses bring the body and nervous system into a terrible state of conflict, as if one foot is full on the gas and the other is on the brakes.

Without the chance to complete these intense physical reactions the body locks them in place, and this is when trauma symptoms can begin to develop.

How Somatic Experiencing® Works and How It Helps:

Maggie Kline, MS, LMFT, SE® Practitioner and faculty member, points to the premise of SE®:

“We believe that trauma is not in the event itself; it lies in the resiliency of the nervous system. In other words, how quickly does the person who experienced the overwhelm bounce back, if at all? This means that after the event is over, if the children or adults affected are still registering danger signals in their body, they may easily get stuck in a vicious cycle of fight, flight or freeze, become alternately hyper-vigilant or dissociated and aloof. Either of these states may cascade into a myriad of symptoms, including sleeplessness, aggression, social problems, academic problems, and eventually, if unresolved, PTSD.”

Continue reading

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Why You Won’t Get Rid of Your Stress or Trauma

Fear, Stress, and Trauma

fear, stress, trauma, PTSD, somatic experiencing, trauma therapy, stress management, stress reliefWhat would your life look like if you had no fear? Would you finally be be able to say “I love you” to someone? Or maybe you would be able to leave someone you should have left long ago. Without fear, would you ask your boss for a raise? Or would you leave your job and find something better? Maybe you would finally get the help you have been afraid to ask for but know you need.

As you know, fear has the ability to take over. Does anxiety ever jump on you when you are getting ready to give a talk in front of a group of people and jumble your thoughts? Or perhaps it just nags at you with a vague feeling of dread when you have to introduce yourself to strangers at a gathering of people you don’t know. Whether it’s overpowering or subtle, fear can stop you from doing what you want to do.

Fear is designed to protect your body from danger–fire, predators, etc.–and take you out of harm’s way. In this way it is a beneficial emotion that spurs you to either move to safety or protect yourself. After you have taken action, the fear usually dissipates. When it doesn’t go away, however, and lingers in the background, it turns into either stress or trauma. The fear can then be paralyzing at times and low-grade at others.

You may think that trauma comes from a single event, such as an accident, an attack, a serious injury, a disaster, or war. However, much of the trauma you have experienced in your life took place at a very young age, sometimes before you could speak or even remember what happened. Continue reading

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Falls and Trauma

How a Fall Can Cause Trauma

trauma, PTSD, falls, Somatic Experiencing, SE, Peter Levine, It’s obvious that a fall from a ladder or down a flight of stairs can have serious consequences physically. But what about the more subtle effects they may have years later  on the mind and body that could be classified as trauma? And what about smaller falls that we don’t think mattered? We have all had trips and falls that haven’t necessarily resulted in trauma. So what are the indicators that a fall has produced a traumatic effect on the body and mind?

Some of the common symptoms of a fall trauma include:

  • dizziness
  • frequent loss of balance, unstable
  • a heightened sense of being physically vulnerable or absolutely no sense of vulnerability
  • anxiety about falling
  • clumsiness
  • over-control of the body, stiffness
  • a fear of heights
  • large gaps of memory loss
  • unable to feel grounded, feet may feel like they don’t reach the earth

Several or all of the symptoms above may indicate that a fall wasn’t as insignificant as we had thought it was. It usually takes a fall that has resulted in an injury to develop into an ongoing trauma that will impact us years later. People who have fallen may quite often continue to trip over their own feet, knock things over, and bump into furniture. These may not seem like much, but they can be serious depending on where they trip or what they knock over.

The good news is that falls and their symptoms can be treated and the effects on the body eliminated. We can regain a healthy sense of being grounded and balanced, a sense of stability.

Somatic work is especially good at working with serious falls. This is particularly important if an injury resulted from the fall, which will add another layer of trauma symptoms.

If you have suffered a serious fall, see if the above symptoms apply. If they do, get help.

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Battle Neurosis and PTSD–“Let There Be Light”

A John Huston Film on WWII Vets Recovering From PTSD

While serving with the U.S. Army Photographic Unit during World War II, John Huston made three documentaries. In 1945, he filmed “Let There Be Light,” the third and final one in the series.

It was one of the first movies that documented what was then called Battle Neurosis and Combat Psychosis, diagnoses that would later be labeled Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1980. When shown to the Army brass, the film was yanked and not allowed to be shown to the public for 35 years. This is a moving film that follows a group of combat vets from admittance to recovery.

Watch the Full Film Here (60 minutes)


Hypnosis, combined with psychotherapy and group therapy, was the main treatment. We now know of better ways to treat trauma and PTSD, particularly using somatic-based therapies, such as Somatic Experiencing®.

Following this movie, I’ve posted a short interview by Clete Roberts with John Houston, who talks about the reaction of the Army to his film.

Clete Roberts Interviews John Huston (10 minutes)


If you follow the links to YouTube, you will find the movie broken down into 7 parts.

I’m grateful to Misako Miyagawa for bringing this historically important film to my attention.

Please Share This Movie by Clicking Below

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Finding the Source of Stress and Trauma

How You Can Pinpoint the Causes of Stress in Your Life and Eliminate Them.

stress, trauma, Somatic Experiencing

photo by Betty Miller

Quite often, we think stress comes from what is going on around us. But more often than not, current feelings of stress are the same feelings we experienced in events that happened long ago, events that may not have been significant enough to have remained in our memories. The reactions we had to them in the past can remain active in the present, whether we realize it or not.

Recently, I had a client, a retired nurse, get confrontational with me. Now it isn’t unusual for people who are releasing trauma to get angry and act aggressively. Normally I have no difficulty with this. But for some reason—perhaps because she was particularly nasty, or maybe it was the way her nostrils flared—whatever the reason, she pissed me off.

Even though I finished our session in a calm manner, I continued to feel shaky and perturbed for days later. Finally, after a week of continually thinking back on it and getting upset, I realized that something from the past was skulking around inside me and trying to make itself known.

Continue reading

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Preventing Early Childhood Medical Trauma

How Early Childhood Medical Traumas Can be Helped and Prevented.

If you have ever been hospitalized as a child, had one of your own children undergo medical treatment, or know of a child who will undergo medical procedures, this video is for you.

In this moving and informative 10-minute video, several authorities talk about the trauma that can come from early childhood medical procedures. Dr. Robert Scaer and Peter Levine talk about the how hospitals routinely cause traumas that have effects years later. Then Ana do Valle addresses the case of Emma, a young girl who had many medical procedures when young.

You will be touched by the story of Emma.


We tend to think that what happened in childhood stays in childhood. But medical traumas stay with people the rest of their lives, impacting emotions and behaviors and their abilities to live fully.

Please share this video and get the word out. Peter Levine has said that traumas are the number one cause of suffering on the planet.

Knowing what trauma is can help you take steps to prevent future traumas in yourself and in the ones you love. It can also help you heal from the traumas you may have already had.

Share by clicking on the buttons below.

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Independance Day for Vets with Stress and Trauma

Vets Share Their Stress After Coming Home

As you watch this short video, remember that trauma and PTSD is treatable. The suffering these brave men and women still go through is totally unnecessary.


Notice that many of the vets in the video were older. This highlights the fact that trauma and PTSD do not get better over time. Also notice how their symptoms affected their families and children. Far more than just the vets are destroyed by trauma and PTSD. And all this damage can be avoided.

Encourage anyone, whether a vet or not, who has gone through traumas to seek help. A happy, vital life for both the vets and their families is possible. And they deserve it.

Click on the links below to share over social media and get the word out.

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Dr. Bob Scaer on the Nature of Trauma

In this excellent 46-minute video, Twig Wheeler interviews the neurologist Dr. Bob Scaer  about just what trauma and PTSD is and how it affects one’s body and life. This is discussed in a way that is easily understandable and concise.

They bring to light just how many chronic illnesses, syndromes, addictions, and personality disorders can be better explained by what we now know about what happens in the body and the brain in trauma and PTSD. This opens up entire new ways of looking at them and treating them.

Twig Wheeler, a Cultural Animator, has said that our culture needs a better understanding of just what trauma is and how it can quite often be easily treated.

Many of our everyday stresses sometimes overwhelm us due to an overwhelming event in the past. Once this awareness about the nature of trauma has spread, more people will look for help with what they think is merely stress and be treated. This will yield happier people that will in turn make the world a better place.

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Somatic Experiencing of Trauma and PTSD

Energy and the Body in Trauma and PTSD

In this 6-minute video, Peter Levine (the creator of Somatic Experiencing) explains how trauma traps an enormous amount of energy in the body, energy caused by an overwhelming event that remains in the nervous system long after the event has passed.


The Somatic Experiencing approach to trauma and PTSD differs from other forms of treatment that involve “talk” therapy and/or the reliving of the event. SE deals more with the whole body, its nervous system, and the energy they still hold from the trauma that needs to be integrated .

That difference is what makes Somatic Experiencing the most effective, gentle treatment for all types of traumas–from a simple fall to surviving an explosion, from a visit to the dentist to a car accident, from the trauma of neglect as a baby to full-blown PTSD. Somatic Experiencing can change the physical and emotional damage caused by all types of traumas and bring one back to leading a rich, joy-filled life.

To find out more, click here.

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