Pathways SU24 Digital Magazine


Why Body-Led Healing?


The study of how our bodies store trauma and emotion is still in its infancy, leaving the field of Somatics ripe and ready for new growth and learning. Mental health professionals like Peter Levine, Bessel van der Kolk, and Gabor Mate pioneered an entire field of somatic psychology with their books about the impact of trauma on the phys- ical body. Thanks to these brilliant minds, we can now acknowledge the Body truly does keep score. But, there is still so much we do not know about how to use our body’s ancient wisdom to heal our complex trauma patterns. When it comes to unlocking the hidden secrets inside of our body, there is still much for us to learn. In my opinion, most of the somatic methods for trauma resolution are still too dependent on our logical mind’s need to make sense of things to truly be called body-led. The most popular somatic approaches still rely on our higher brain centers to scan the body for sensations and emotions, asking questions like: “What do you feel in your gut?” Or “How old is this feeling?” These methods use our mind to generate awareness in the body, with the understanding that when we name something, we tame it. How very egoic of us to think the body is going to give away all its secrets just because we asked. If our brains had that much control over our subconscious state of being, then why are we still playing out our old trauma patterns on repeat? Our bodies are intelligently designed to keep us safe and function- al, despite our trauma history. When we experience a trauma, whether it be one traumatic event (capital-T trauma) or long-term exposure to a traumatic situation (chronic repetitive trauma), the brain process- es it until it feels done; then it buries the residual information in the body. This becomes our subconscious memory. This process allows us to stay present and adaptable in response to ongoing stressors or environmental demands. Whether we are aware of this biological phenomenon or not, the somatic memories that are stored within our body influence every as - pect of our human behavior, right down to our posture, our biases, and our belief systems. Our body is a container for centuries worth of trauma, memory, and emotion, and our fascial system holds the key. Understanding Fascia Fascia is connective tissue. It will often have a different name de - pending on where it is in the body. For example: Dura Mater is fascia that surrounds the brain; Pleura is fascia that surrounds the lungs; Pericardium is fascia that surrounds the heart; Myofascia is the gener - al term for fascia surrounding the muscles; and Viscera is the general term for fascia surrounding the organs. Don’t let all the fancy names confuse you. No matter what you call it, this thin membrane covers every organ, muscle, bone, vessel, and cell. Fascia separates our parts from one another and is what allows our internal organs to slide and glide along one another as we move and as our organs move inside of us. Fascia compartmentalizes our body parts, but it also connects our body parts on the inside, which is why we sometimes refer to it as connective tissue. We are made up of fascia from our head down to our toes, with all parts connected to one anoth- er by way of the fascial system. The fascial system looks like a three-dimensional webbing when seen under a microscope. I highly recommend searching for the video “Strolling Under the Skin’’ by Jean-Claude Guimberteau to see fascia in action. He was one of the first medical researchers to record fas - cia in movement inside of a living body. His discovery revealed that

fascia has a polyhedral (3D) architectural framework that allows for its dynamic interplay between all other adjacent connected parts. Its movements are random and non-reproducible, creating an un- predictable sliding system within the body. He calls fascia “fibrillar chaos”. The individual strands of fascial fibers are hollow microtubules filled with collagen, lipids, proteoglycan gel, water, molecules, and light. Fascia is theorized to respond to sound, energy, thoughts, and emotions. I believe our fascia is the consciousness of our inner world that responds to and is affected by what we perceive and experience in our outer world. Fascia-Trauma Connection Fascia is the great conductor of information inside of our body. It sends and receives signals from all other connected body parts. However, when our fascia experiences damage, due to dysfunction of an organ or repetitive strain to the body, the surrounding tissue becomes thickened and dehydrated over time. If the tissue is cut or damaged in that area, the fascia repairs itself, but never returns to its hydrated state. Damaged fascia becomes dense and fibrotic, losing its pliability and elasticity resulting in restrictions. Fascial restrictions can no longer conduct information, but instead become a sponge for emotions and stress. Our trauma and emotions go to the place of greatest fascial re- striction in our bodies. As mentioned earlier, when our brain is done processing a trauma or emotional stressor, it dumps the remaining information into the body. More specifically, that information goes to the body part or organ whose function mimics that trauma or emo- tion. This is what somatic practitioners mean when we say our body “resonates” with something we are experiencing in our field. When these pockets of stored traumas and emotions remain trapped in the fascial tissue, they begin to change our behavior over time. Our personality becomes the survival patterns that were creat- ed in response to unaddressed trauma in the body. It is possible to release these stored traumas and emotions by releasing the sticky or damaged fascia tissue. The fascial system re- sponds to slow sustained pressure or stretch over time, which will rehydrate the tissue and decrease stiffness in that region of the body. When we release a fascial restriction, we release the toxins stored in that tissue, which include buried memories and emotions.

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PATHWAYS—Summer 24—11

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