I have been helping people deal with physical illness since 1994. I’ve been fascinated by the mind/body connection for a long time, and this is how I developed a specialty in psychoneuroimmunology. There is plenty of research to validate the idea that the illnesses that modern medicine is least capable of addressing are the ones with a strong body-mind connection, typically the auto-immune disorders, ‘life-style’ illnesses, chronic pain, and illnesses associated with trauma. For many years, I have worked with people to help them form a healing relationship with their body and immune system, including recovery from surgery, HIV positive clients, and cancer patients.
I have been blessed with two incredible tools. One is the groundbreaking work by a Boulder neurologist, Robert Scaer. After running a pain clinic for thirty years, he wrote two amazing books on the body/mind connection. The books are “The Body Bares the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation and Disease” and “The Trauma Spectrum.” In these books, Dr. Scaer clearly explains the psychophysical foundation of autoimmune disorders and chronic pain. The other is Brainspotting, which allows us to work very directly with non-verbal memory and the auto-immune system, particularly the “freeze” response.
This ‘freeze’ response, is a natural survival mechanism, just as ‘fight or flight’ are also functions of the instinct for survival common to all mammals. Freeze is associated with helplessness, such as childhood trauma, car accidents, medical intrusions and work place, or military ongoing stress. Because of our complex brain and social norms, we typically have not understood the potency or the frequency of the freeze response, nor have we had access to the natural discharge processes that animals use. Freeze involves the reflex to protect oneself, with all of the nervous system activation that that implies, combined with a survival based sort of paralysis or dissociation. This is common for children growing up in volatile or abusive homes because they can’t escape the threat. The nervous system gets overloaded with intense activation, which does not get discharged. Even for people who have ‘dealt’ with their childhood in talk therapy, the nervous system can still hold a tremendous amount of survival oriented energy locked deep inside. Over time this can lead any one of a long list of medical conditions.
Brainspotting combined with somatic therapy is a form of EMDR and hypnotherapy, which allows access to the body/mind, unconscious and nervous system. What is so amazing about this technique is the depth of processing that naturally occurs through using eye focus and bilateral music. An emotionally charged visual spot is located and all the associated memories and emotions start to process, all the way down to the level of the nervous system. Various physical sensations and emotions can start bubbling up naturally, feeling just like they originally, but much less intense. The natural healing mechanisms of breathing, emotional and physical release, and insight can then access and process long buried, or even forgotten trauma. We will also use eye positions that access the neuropathways for connection, support, grounding or other resources to create safety and healing. I’ve done powerful clearing work with issues such as birth, adoption and circumcision, which could never be processed through cognitive work. This can lead to really amazing and exciting symptom resolution. Clients sometimes experience shifts in symptoms they’ve lived with for half their lives after the first or second session. That doesn’t mean that this is a ‘quick fix’. It usually takes some time to access and fully process the material locked in the body. But the bottom line is that the body/mind/consciousness really can heal quite organically when we can connect our natural resources to our buried trauma!