Stories Touch Us In So Many Ways

 
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There is a story I like to tell others when I notice a stress response showing up in the absence of a real threat. If you don’t know already, a stress response creates a physiological response to danger that among other things, pulls us out of the time the body and mind need for restoration, recovery, healing, cognitive thinking, spirituality, social engagement, and well-being. There are a whole host of indicators that point to how long term stress can affect long term outcomes too. 

A story invigorates it’s listener. I think about the saying I’ve heard Douglas Brooks say many times, “You are every person in the story.”

It is the experience we each have that paints how we imagine each element of a story. 

These experiences affect what we believe and the meanings each component has. These beliefs and meanings have a physiological response that have the possibility of creating a response to danger in the absence of real danger. A stress response. Notice if that sentence causes alarm. That’s what I mean. Just how those words are used together has the ability to cascade down all the experiences to touch just enough upon bits and pieces of all the turmoils we’ve had or know about. 

This important understanding in the trauma field that I work in, allows for working on stress responses when someone is experiencing:  feeling numb all the time, has trouble getting out of bed because of chronic fatigue, addictions, procrastination, having trouble functioning at social events, or constant anxiety that feels debilitating. A real stuck response!

Meaning and beliefs are also affected by images; which brings me back to where we started with this blog piece. There is a movie classic about a shark that has affected all who have watched it. What is interesting to learn about the making of the movie is that they couldn’t get the mechanical shark to work! This referring to the movie, “Jaws”. When they were making the movie, they were relying on a mechanical shark; except they couldn’t get the shark to work. The movie producers had to come up with creative ways to show images that looked like a shark moving in water. This forces the viewer to draw upon experiences of sharks. With the right cinematography, this touches into how scary a shark might be if moving that much water around as it moved with a dorsal fin that big. Again, just notice the physiological response to those words and images. 

This important understanding of how meanings and beliefs affect us both physiologically and mentally, creates avenues for change.

Working with a belief system that is perpetuating a stress response, is one way of helping those who struggle with chronic anxiety, fatigue, depression, addiction, trauma, and social anxiety, when it feels like their body is at war with themselves. If you know of someone who is struggling in this way, please pass this along. You could be the person that initiates the change that helps this person to alleviate their suffering! 

#trauma #nervoussystem #shark #beliefs #story #anxiety #aces #adversechildhoodexperiences #addiction #depression #chronicfatigue #numb #socialanxiety 

 

The practice of orienting

When I was being introduced to the power and practice of orienting, I was at a training in an old monastery in New York here in the United States. Orienting in this context is a focused awareness on what can be seen in the environment. Orienting also encompasses what is noticeable through all of the five senses. The instructions as I remember were to see if I could listen to my system enough to notice where my visual attention wanted to take me. As someone with years of experience in body-based or somatic explorations, I was baffled at how challenging it was to explore my perception of what was happening on the outside. I had spent years tuning into internal processes through my trainings in Rolfing, yoga, pilates, continuum movement, and somatic experiencing. The felt sense is something I thought I had an incredible attunement with and that had served me well. Being able to feel the smallest of experiences in myself was important to me and being able to feel and sense the same in others has been incredibly helpful in supporting the understanding of their experience.

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One thing I found incredibly helpful as I learning, was a practice of orienting. I remember taking walks in the woods outside the monastery and allowing my attention to be free enough to notice where my attention wanted to go. Like a meditation of sorts where I am consciously trying to free my thought patterns enough to live into what is happening at the present moment outside of my internal experience. This speaks to the importance of the conscious observer but what I found in the beginning was that my attention only focused on threat and responded with a self-protective reaction. As my eyes would take in the environment and be attracted to something, I could feel subtle levels of tension, often times through my face. I would see a clumping of leaves, and a slight tensing would follow. I would see a rock outcropping, a tensing would follow. I would notice at the time that all of my reactions where self-protective in this way. I lacked the ability at that point to be drawn to things that were pleasurable in the environment. Eventually, I have a bird to thank, for helping my system understand how to shift from self-protective response to a settle response.

As my attention that day in the woods was drawn to a bird that was moving through the forest with me, instead of feeling a tensing in my system, however small, I began to notice a softening would come with seeing the bird. I remember my attention being drawn to the bird song as well. The bird would fly ahead. It would eventually come into my visual field. I would see it and my system would begin to relax or settle even more. It was one of the most profound experiences in understanding how the nervous system works. Understanding it more in the coming months, it would shift in the most profound way, how I came to understand how visual cues in the environment supports nervous system health.

Happy Transitions

I’m excited about settling back into my private practice after a dedicated couple of years in graduate school. I have fallen in love again this summer with my work as a Rolfer after having to set it aside while I completed my yearlong internship at Swain Recovery Center in Black Mountain, North Carolina. 

I finished my Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in August and I am awaiting my Licensed Professional Counselor Associate license from the state licensing board. My concentration in graduate school was in Expressive Arts. Here is my definition of Expressive Arts as I experience it:

Expressive Arts is the use of creativity for greater understanding, self-exploration, mediation, and process. So much in this world is defined, mapped, discovered, labeled, pigeon holed, reduced, discriminated against, oppressed, misunderstood, banished, targeted, ignored, etc. Expressive Arts is an alternative to this kind of thinking and being. Expressive Arts is an opportunity for experience, ritual, and meaning making. In this way, it is part of who we are and how we came to be through the evolutionary process. Creativity is part of being human just like breathing, sleeping, eating, and sensing. 

In addition to loving Expressive Arts work, I’m excited by how the use of creativity enhances what is possible when resolving trauma. Experience is such a huge component to both EXA and trauma resolution. Being with the experience that arises is necessary to solve some of the mysteries of how trauma affects day to day living. Most often, good trauma work is understanding the right time to facilitate experience. Expressive Arts is no different.

I am grateful for the skill set I have and I am looking forward to serving those in my community. I am additionally grateful to work with the online communities I help through the work I do as a trauma consultant and program moderator with Irene Lyon and everyone on her team. Irene has created some amazing online programming that has been particularly helpful to so many wanting to know more about nervous system health. You can find out more about her programs at Irenelyon.com. I help moderate on Facebook in the Healthy Nervous System Revolution group, 21-Day Nervous System Reboot group, and the Smart Body Smart Mind group. 

Thanks for reading my blog! I look forward to hearing from you about your questions and what is happening in your experience of the world.