Stop Those Attack Thoughts with Somatic Experiencing
We think of ourselves as having one brain but functionally we have three. The front brain or frontal cortex is the brain of clear thinking, analysis, inspired thought. The mid brain or limbic brain processes emotions. The back brain, called the mammalian brain because it is the brain all mammals have, is an amazing emergency response system that releases high levels of 18 different hormones when we perceive we are in danger. It is the brain that would allow the mom to be able to pick up the Volkswagen because the baby is stuck under it. Our life and death survival is the domain of this brain.
However, once the danger is over those levels have to come down, or they attack our immunology, our respiratory, digestive, and reproductive systems, the fascia around the muscles and so much more. Also to the extent our back brain is activated we cannot access the front brain, so children witnessing violence or going to bed hungry often show up in school as ‘low IQ’ but it has nothing to do with IQ. It is that they cannot focus or concentrate or take in information, the functions of the front brain.
For humans, our back brain is activated when we are attacked but also by our own ‘attack thoughts’, such as ‘I’ll never make enough money, I’ll probably lose my job, fail that test, trust people and they’ll stab you in the back’ etc. So even when the danger is over, or when the threat is more emotional or psychological than life threatening, our holding attack thoughts keeps the levels from releasing and keeps the levels perpetually high. These high levels are a dysregulation of our Central Nervous System.
To tap the tremendous healing opportunities offered by the information stored in the body, I use Somatic Experiencing, a field of psychological intervention developed by Peter Levine Ph.D. Somatic Experiencing sees most of our symptoms as reflections of a dysregulated central nervous system (CNS), and indeed healing happens when CNS regulates, and when resiliency is restored to the CNS.
Since physical sensations in the body are reflections of the dysregulation, they are also the entry points to working to heal the dysregulation. There are ways to work with the actual physical sensations in the body, to trigger regulation of the CNS, and that is what the interventions of Somatic Experiencing are about. I use the techniques in the work with my clients, and they are techniques that the client can learn and do for themselves. In this way, we learn to experience the body as the partner in thriving that it is to us. Instead of staying away from uncomfortable sensations we learn to go toward them in a way that releases injuries to trust and to self-esteem, which expands our capacity for living a spirited life.
I feel that my incorporation of metaphysical principle, the best of what I’ve garnered from the psychotherapeutic schools, and this awareness of how to work with the CNS, to move out of fight/flight/freeze responses embedded in our approach to life and the way we feel about ourselves, defines a mind-body-spirit approach. I also see each of us as existing in the context of community. Whatever issues we have: betrayal, despair, resentment, negative relationships, depression, isolation, are issues in the collective. ‘When I heal, I do not heal alone’ is a metaphysical principal. Through various meditational techniques, I help the client see that when they reach the level of consciousness where they’ve mastered an issue, that is their contribution to the consciousness of the collective. Thus, the work addresses mind-body-spirit and also our belonging in relationship to the community, our relevant life.
Sandra Eagle, LCSW, Transformational Psychotherapy is a psychotherapist with a mind-body-spirit approach. She has over 40 years experience with techniques from both the psychotherapeutic and consciousness traditions to promote breakthrough and well-being in clients. She uses CBT, DBT, Hoffman process, psychosynthesis, psychoanalysis, family systems, addictions work, subpersonality work, and also helps clients tap into information under the radar of usual consciousness through hypnosis, past-life regression, breathwork journeying, and other deep meditative states.