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After the appalling attack on the World Trade Center -- which for me came on the heels of harassment by neighbors and a life-threatening riding accident -- I was often reminded that an ancient Chinese curse was: "May you live in interesting times!" When things get too interesting, in a way that threatens our life or sense of security, the times are traumatic and the result often is anxiety and a state of hyperarousal, or the tendency to be easily alarmed. Trauma can be caused not only by life-threatening events, but also by events which we perceive as putting ourselves or loved ones at risk. This is called "Posttraumatic Stress Disorder" (PTSD) if: 1) two or more of the above symptoms are present and persistent, 2) the condition follows experiencing or witnessing "an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others," and "the person's response involved intense fear, helplessness or horror," and 3) the symptoms go on for more than a month. Characteristic of a stress disorder is persistently reexperiencing the traumatic event - in thoughts, images, perceptions or dreams. Bodymind distress is intensified by things identified with the traumatic event, so activities, places, people and feelings associated with the trauma are avoided when possible.
Often there is a numbing of general responsiveness and a constriction throughout the body, so that the range of emotion is restricted. Repetitive thoughts about and images of the threat or attack are normal, but they can add to our fatigue. When you notice yourself going into a stressful spiral, take a deep breath, and remind yourself that 'in this moment, I am okay." Appreciate just being okay right now.
Repetitive thoughts and images may be a clue that we need to process the traumatic event, when we have enough stability and support, so that it gets put into long-term memory. Today, in work with trauma survivors, a common caution is to avoid retraumatization, because it intensifies the symptoms of hyperarousal. The 'kindling' hypothesis explains that repeated stimulation can result in a decreased capacity to modulate physiological arousal, so that the nervous system becomes more excitable and more easily activated. Another part of the physical response to hyperarousal is the secretion of an enormous amount of endorphins. When the range of feeling and emotion has been restricted, positive emotions have been suppressed too, and they need to be nurtured. Whenever you recall part of a traumatic event, go back to the comfortable or competent feeling. To unthaw physically and emotionally, we need to allow and recognize feelings which were frozen in our musculature. A main problem with maintaining the frozen posture is that it requires chronic muscular tension, which does not help us feel healthy and happy.
This reminds me of an incident last summer with my rodeo horse, "Freddy." Although flight is the main defense mechanism of the equine species, Freddy has several times chosen the intelligent response of freezing rather than panicking in a situation from which he cannot escape without help, and which threatens life or limb.
One morning I awoke to see Freddy standing still in the middle of two acres of arena and pasture, with his front legs splayed out. After getting the cone off his leg, I put a halter on Freddy and walked him to see if he was sound, then led him out of the pasture. As I reflected on this, I felt and saw a big shudder go through his shoulder and leg muscles! As a good friend said recently, "I know whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger, but do we have to be this strong?" It can be encouraging to realize that a side effect of recovery work is neurogenesis, or brain growth. For example, when I was in the frustrating process of dealing with Monterey county officials in an attempt to stop environmental destruction and ongoing harassment by neighbors, my mom's minister from North Dakota twice called when I was in the blackest night of the soul. In recent years it has become apparent that the brain is the single most powerful acting force upon the body. In fact, psychologist Ernest Lawrence Rossi wrote in his book, The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing, that the placebo effect accounts for nearly 56% of the effectiveness of analgesics, like morphine. Other research suggests that generally happy people are three times less likely to get the common cold (and other ailments) than unhappy people (Journal Of Psychosomatic Medicine, July 11, 2002).
2) In order for the body to be kept in peak physical condition, the mind must also be kept in a peak mental condition. Basically, trauma means that the organism enters a state of shock and is physiologically altered by it. Hyperarousal is a common reaction after a threatening or catastrophic event such as a natural disaster (flood, earthquake, hurricane, tornado), fire, shooting, vehicle accident, physical or sexual attack, or act of war or terrorism.
There may also be flashbacks, intensifying the feeling that the traumatic event is recurring.
However, hyperarousal can also include hypervigilance regarding body sensations, and this can intensify chronic pain problems or lead to somatization disorder (i.e. Remembering or reexperiencing part of the traumatic event can bring up the same feelings that we had at the time, and this can be draining. This might sound like focusing on the negative, but actually is a reminder to focus on what is positive in your life [on what you still have and still can do]. However, the first project is learning to contain the feeling(s) and "switch channels," focusing on feelings like competence or comfort, so as to avoid feeling overwhelmed and retraumatized. Twenty years ago, a common therapeutic approach with abuse issues was encouraging the 'victim' (or 'survivor') to relive the experience and exaggerate emotional reactions like crying, sobbing, shouting and screaming. Animals who are severely and chronically stressed have physiological states similar to that of dependence on high levels of opium or morphine. To heal from PTSD, we need to recover the ability to feel - but we also need to avoid retraumatization. A simple way to do this is to look for a place of comfort in the body - perhaps in the chest or abdomen, or even just a finger or toe - and really notice the comfortable feeling. This helps both to avoid retraumatization and to restore what was lost in the traumatic experience.
One of the safer ways to do so is with JSD acupressure, because it helps us feel our muscular tensions while balancing the Qi (energy), and it brings us back into our bodies.
Physically freezing, or remaining motionless, can save our lives in situations where one more step could bring disaster, or one little noise could invite attack.
When parts of the body are immobilized for a long time, or if mobility is extensively limited, this affects circulation - not only of blood and lymph, but also (and first) of Qi or energy. This posture can be a sign of colic (a bad tummy ache from which a horse can die), so I ran out there in my pajamas to find that Freddy had somehow stepped in the middle of a highway cone which I had used for a riding lesson.
After doing cold packs for the swelling, I let him loose in a small grazing area and did some acu-points, figuring that it couldn't hurt and might help. I continued to hold points on his leg periodically, until the veterinarian arrived (for his scheduled semiannual visit!). In JSD sessions with a practitioner we trust, as we feel cradled and supported, it can become pleasurable to allow ourselves to feel immobile. She led us through an exercise demonstrating a somatic approach to the treatment of traumatic shock. Eckberg next suggested that we recall some experience in which we felt competent and powerful, noticing the body feelings that accompanied the experience of competence. Ericksonian hypnotherapist Ernest Lawrence Rossi (author of The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing) said in a lecture that neurogenesis results from three main things: 1) novelty (a new kind of approach), 2) environmental enrichment (including of the inner world), and 3) physical exercise (or a heightening of physical sensations). Rossi said that a key to supporting neurogenesis is staying in touch with that which is fascinating and tremendous about what's happening.

The synchronicity of these calls was fascinating and helped me feel that I was being supported and guided through this stressful time, which was more difficult because of a trail riding accident that knocked me unconscious and landed me in the hospital for over two weeks. This means that when you take a pain killer, more than half of the effect is the direct result of your belief in the pill. This could be linked to the infamous stress hormone, cortisol, which has numerous adverse effects on the human body. There is growing awareness surrounding the issue of dangerous vets returning from combat. On the other hand, there may be 'dissociative amnesia,' or an inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma.
In this state of hyperarousal or the inability to modulate arousal, a traumatic memory or violent movie can cause the heart rate to become significantly elevated - and it doesn't go down right away. A simple way to start is by writing about the traumatic experience, in a journal or in letter form. Another way to nurture positive feelings is to recall an experience of competence, and notice where you feel that empowerment in your body.
It is a way of reprogramming the bodymind, so that we can remember how to feel comfortable and competent. Holding distal points at the same time as tense or blocked local points makes it easier to feel and release the tension or armoring. When the trauma is such that one feels impotent or powerless, and the defense mechanisms of fight and flight are blocked, then freezing may be the only remaining option. Many animals employ the defense mechanism of freezing, because most predators recognize prey by their movements, and may bypass an animal which is motionless. The energy which would have been discharged by fighting or fleeing is bound up in the nervous system. Jin Shin Do sessions are indicated, because two main aims of JSD are releasing tension and balancing energy. To find out where your body is tense or frozen, it could be interesting to take a few deep breaths and check inside, taking a little trip down through the segments. While I was holding points in the shoulder and leg, I remembered that trembling is a natural way of releasing trauma. There can be little trembling sensations as the breath moves into body areas which had been frozen. First she suggested that we briefly recall a traumatic experience, noticing the body feelings that came with the memory. Highly trained in military mayhem, stealth and special ops, many of these vets declare themselves to be ticking time bombs. At an extreme, the autonomic nervous system is activated much of the time and everything is seen as a threat, but the symptoms of hyperarousal can also be subtle. There may be a feeling of not wanting to be here, or just a lack of the feeling of wanting to be here, and this can lead to substance abuse and other self-destructive behavior. Because the muscles are bound up, the person often doesn't get enough deep sleep to nourish the body tissues.
A threat need not be life-threatening to trigger the hyperalertness, because we tend to startle and scare more easily than we normally would. Bessel Van der Kolk theorizes that this may be] why battered women often keep finding abusive men.
Another simple way is to take a deep breath and feel the relief of a threat being even temporarily past.
Holding tense points for several minutes tends to bring consciousness into that body part, and sometimes also into feelings or emotions which the tension helped us suppress.
When no immediate escape is possible and the emotion is overwhelming, we often 'numb out,' or lose touch with our feelings. The opossum is best known for feigning death when attacked, as reflected in the phrase 'playing possum,' which is defined as pretending to be asleep, dead, ill or unaware. After the threat has passed, animals generally discharge this energy through muscular movement or sound, and then return to normal functioning.
The Nei Ching says that "in times of excitement and change" the Kidneys create fear and trembling. I was afraid that he had seriously hurt his leg and might be lame, but he had only minor abrasions and some swelling.
Freddy "shook it off" as soon as he could, and holding the points helped him relax enough to feel the tensions that he needed to shake off. As we thaw out, or emerge from the immobility of chronic tension, there can also be surges of feeling or emotion, which need to move through us. This may be partly because the stimulation of acu-points induces the secretion of endorphins, which can produce an analgesic effect stronger than morphine. I remembered walking against the current of knee-high water during a flood in 1997, when my son and I evacuated. As we went back and forth between the traumatic experience and the competent feeling, there was less emotional response with the traumatic memory, and more awareness of the pleasant feelings accompanying the experience of competence. When what's happening seems negative, then noticing positive synchronicities is a way to stay in touch with what is fascinating. Her pioneering work into the brain-body connection has led to the discovery of a complex network of chemicals, stimulated by the brain, directly affecting the health of the body on the cellular level.
Many, if not most, find that to be impossible, because they are not the same as they were prior to deployment. Therefore, a traumatic history often underlies chronic pain problems, sleep disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, psychosomatic illnesses, immune disorders and fibromyalgia - a chronic pain condition in which there are multiple "tender points," like in the neck, shoulders and lower back. This effect is enhanced when verbal body focusing techniques are used to help clients feel into blocked places and focus on the 'felt body sense,' being open to any thoughts, feelings, colors, images or sensations that might come up. During trauma, we don't have to pretend to be unaware, because dissociation and shutting down feelings are normal parts of the shock response. In human beings, the highly developed neocortex can override completion of instinctual responses, and feelings like fear, anger, hatred and rage can build up until they overwhelm the nervous system and we collapse or freeze again. After a threat has passed, animals move out of the frozen state through a trembling discharge.
He probably had tried to get the cone off his leg, then determined that he'd better stay put until help arrived and started telepathically calling for me.
Instead of leaving him alone after freeing him from the cone, I had walked him immediately, in my panic to find out if he was sound.
Some feelings, like fear, can be released through trembling or shaking, so it is wise to welcome and allow these release phenomena. As we get a felt body sense of how immobility was part of our reaction to trauma(s), we can sense how the body can unwind or emerge from the frozen state.
I felt fear in a way I couldn't at that time, because then I couldn't lay down, relax, and feel my belly trembling.

The exercise ended with the latter, which is important because we need to remember how to return to feelings of competence and comfort after the threat is past. She discovered a number of cellular receptors and preferential chemical bindings that act as information pathways from the brain to all cells in the body. As we become more tired, we are more easily frightened.] It's like the entire bodymind system is on overdrive. Find out whether there are changes in breathing, or body sensations like trembling or shaking (which can be the body's way of completing the emotional sequence that was interrupted by the need to constrict the body and restrict the feelings). They literally "shake it off." Their so-called superiors, human beings, are often not so wise. Some of the fear had not been processed, though I had channeled much of the adrenal energy into fighting for restoration of the creek and levees.
She suggests that all events, from sex with a preferred partner to a traumatic event, have a direct effect on the body – positive or negative.
We are hypervigilant, yet it is difficult to concentrate, because of the toll which the trauma and stress has taken. As there is an average of 10 failed suicide attempts for each actual loss of life, the figures suggest that more than 1,600 serving army and marine personnel tried to kill themselves last year. Despite our diligence, threats and losses may continue to occur, making it harder to distinguish between paranoia and appropriate fear.
If tears come, or if your throat feels achy or your lips tremble, allow yourself to cry, even if it seems to go on and on.
It is still present in our muscular tension, body posture, defensive attitudes, and tendency to hyperarousal. An estimated 30 percent of soldiers who took their own lives in 2008 did so while on deployment. Crying is a normal part of the grieving process and a natural part of recovering the ability to feel. By gradually thawing out enough to feel the fear and other feelings, we can realize how really hard it was to survive the traumatic experience. We can empower ourselves to resist status quo politics and shape ourselves a better destiny - a 21st century Manifest Destiny that fulfills our positive spiritual potential.
Even so, many still experience attacks seemingly out of nowhere, mimicing their Iraq experiences.
If we don't want a dark future for humanity, we must reinvent ourselves and our culture from the foundation upwards. Twenty percent of female soldiers report "military sexual trauma." The boundaries between friend and foe collapse.
Even if that is fantastically radical, it can still happen, one inspired person at a time and cascade toward a visionary approach to large-scale societal transformation that heals personal and global socio-economical scars.
When PTSD was first discovered in combat veterans in WWI, it was known as SHELLSHOCK, and studies of these vets by Britain's Tavistock Institute led to new discoveries about the breaking points of personalities and how lives could be shattered by the faultlines of unseen wounds lacerating the soft connective tissues of the personality and self-image.The big question is what happens when today's vet becomes a danger to him or herself or others? Our cultural crisis is characterized by symptomatic numbing, dissociation, impulsive aggression, depression, denial, shame and anxiety. How can we best help our friends, families, and fellow citizens who now feel lost and alienated? Veteran's PTSD is a multidimensional issue involving disabilities, traumatic brain injury, psychophysical regulation, stress-management, depression, grief, dissociation, and perhaps ADHD, T-type behavior, chronic pain management, alcohol and drug use, and compulsive disorders.
Soldiers in the 101st Airborne claim most use alchol and drugs in excess, including Valium and marijuana. That is the short list, as each unique individual will have particular adjustment issues depending on their life and combat histories.
Some also have service-related chronic health issues from vaccines, Gulf War Syndrome, DU, etc. Regardless of which war or conflict you look at, high rates of PTSD in veterans have been found. Throughout history, people have recognized that exposure to combat situations can negatively impact the mental health of those involved in these situations.
In fact, the diagnosis of PTSD historically originates from observations of the effect of combat on soldiers. The grouping of symptoms that we now refer to as PTSD has been described in the past as "combat fatigue," "shell shock," or "war neurosis."Regardless of the war, soldiers involved in a war consistently show high rates of PTSD. If you are a veteran, the National Center for PTSD provides some excellent information on coping with the effects of war. According to a Truthout report, Chuck Luther, served 12 years in the military and is a veteran of two deployments to Iraq, where he was a reconnaissance scout in the 1st Cavalry Division. Fox)A Torturous Existence As if the horrors of combat aren’t enough, there is no let-up when troops return to the US.
My unit was the first in to the theater of operations, the so called "tip of the spear" as Marines Mike. It comes at them from every angle including replaying 'tapes' inside their heads, with 'coulda, shoulda, woulda' about incidents where people were let down or died. The healing processing and imagery must come from within the individual, not be imposed or mandated from without. It is like all these vets went through the breaking down portion of brainwashing and are still unglued.
The complication is that only those of similar experience can be trusted, so 'talk therapy' is limited and useless done by those who don't know the blunt experience or war, firsthand. It is like saying 'have a hypnotic regression NOW' and they are back 'in it', immersed in toxic traumatic memories.
They don't want to think about or discuss it, yet are compelled to do so internally -- physiologically always on Red Alert. Further, there is tremendous shame associated by themselves and the military for being in this state. How can we translate what we know about ‘ordinary’ PTSD to the extreme and recurrent issue of the battle arena?
What happens when the life-giving magic is sucked out of a person by harsh realities too overwhelming to deal with? The way of the hunter is to focus silently on the second attention without the distraction of the internal dialogue leading us back into the merry-go-round of uncontrolled folly.
The ways people view themselves and their world can be compounded by a host of self-destructive behaviors (e.g. Goleman, Daniel, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self Deception, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1985.

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