The Body’s Role in Perpetuating Emotional Injury:
Any experience that overwhelms us creates some degree of emotional injury. Emotional injury profoundly effects your psyche, your body and nervous system. The most noticeable symptoms are having a fight-flight panic response, often experienced as lingering anxiety and depression. In this "triggered" state of mind, like a hamster in a hamster wheel, you repeatedly replay the memory (and/or current disturbing event) and body experience of the event. The recurring physiological arousal continues to create a physically felt sense of threat, a sort of “speechless fear.” This habitual fear and panic response can influence your choices in life, It fosters a way-of-being that restricts spontaneous expression, and reduces personal freedom and passion.
So what is the solution?
Top Down and Bottom Up Approaches:
Traditional therapeutic models contend that healing emotional injuries happen through a process of verbal expression and thought in a “top-down,” mind to body manner. Working with emotional experience in this mental manner actually is a helpful way to accomplish real gains. Yet for profound, full resolution of chronic emotional injuries, it simply is not enough. It does not fully heal the physical symptoms of your panic response or your embodied experience of your underlying healthy sense of self.
I add a “bottom up,” body to mind, approach to address emotional injury related reactions, such as intrusive images, sounds, smells, body sensations, physical pain, constriction, numbing, and the inability to modulate your anxiety and/or depression. These symptoms can be haunting.
By using body sensation, movement, breath, visualization, and touch when appropriate, as a primary avenue to processing your emotional injury and trauma, you cultivate body-centered skills to reduce these symptoms and promote change in your thoughts and beliefs, emotions, and capacity for you to be able to develop healthy, and satisfying relationships.
Integrating Your Mental, Emotional, and Physical:
Both “top down” and “bottom up” approaches to healing are valuable. For instance, your awareness of your body’s panic state (top down), and ability to harness it in a new way (bottom up), has a powerfully positive influence upon your emotion, thoughts and beliefs. One without the other lacks important ingredients...
Yet, because your body never lies and your mind can delude you, top down strategies can be less responsive to what is really going on. They can over-manage, ignore, suppress, or fail to support more adaptive body responses to feeling afraid or overwhelmed. Alternately, “bottom up” alone approaches can fail to include vital mental or emotional processes and thereby sabotage resolution of emotional injury and ability to manifest potential.
Although any of these approaches can have positive effects, the most effective approach has an effect on all three levels: mental, emotional and physical. I thoughtfully integrate these top-down and bottom-up approaches to healing: “top down” insight and understanding that is informed by your body experiences, and “bottom up” processing of your emotions, body sensations, and fight-flight physical responses like collapsing, contracting or shutting down and pushing away.
I blend theory and technique from traditional psychotherapy with body awareness and tracking bodily sensations, conscious breathing, hands-on touch when appropriate, and movement interventions, (such as implementing physical actions) to promote empowerment and competency. These practices and techniques actively incorporate the body into therapy, providing a more unified mind-body approach to treatment of emotional injury and trauma.
© By Zeb Lancaster, 2014