04 Aug BODY ARMORING AND NEUROCEPTION
Interpersonal Touch In some cases, simply touching another person can contribute to enhancing his or her embodied self-awareness, leading to a reduction of muscle tension and armoring, and an increase in parasympathetic relaxation. How does this happen? Touch stimulates receptors in the skin for pressure, pain, temperature, and movement and receptors in the muscles and tendons for stretch, fatigue, and pain. These receptors are linked directly into the neural networks for interception and body schema self-awareness. Because trauma originates in the body, there is clearly a place in the healing process for touch and bodywork. Bodywork helps trauma sufferers to heal because it can stimulate a healthy, safe discharge of trauma. Trauma discharge can manifest in sweating, laughing, sighing, yawning, crying, shaking, flushing, breathing and tingling—these are all symptoms of good release.
With the groundbreaking work of scientists like Wilhelm Reich who discovered and coined orgone energy and character analysis and Peter Levine who wrote the book waking the Tiger and healing trauma and who also set up somatic experiencing Institute, they both believed that when we experience trauma and can not share this experience with a supportive caring witness and process it in a healthy way, this trauma is then stored in our body, in the fibers of our being and it lays dormant in our body like a trapped muscle which disrupts the flow of life force energy and may even cut off completely the flow of energy in a particular part of the body such as many adults of childhood sexual abuse have stuck energy in the pelvis area as a direct result of the trauma and it is how the body remembers the traumatic event. Reich stated, “Armoring is the condition that results when energy is bound by muscular contraction and does not flow through the body”(Reich:1936). He saw that there existed character armoring which, he defined as “the sum total of typical character attitudes, which an individual develops as a blocking against their emotional excitations, resulting in rigidity in the body, and lack of emotional contact ”. He defined muscular armoring as “the sum total of muscular (chronic muscular spasms), which an individual develops as a block against the breakthrough of emotions and organ sensations, particularly anxiety, rage and sexual excitation,” (Reich:1936).
The overall effect of muscular armoring with character armoring created the individual. Alexander Lowen, who was an associate of Reich, best summed up this overall effect as “The character of the individual as it is manifested in his typical pattern of behaviour is also portrayed on the somatic level by the form and movement of the body. The body expression is the somatic view of the typical emotional expression, which is seen on the psychic level as character. Defenses show up in both dimensions, in the body as muscular armoring. ” (Lowen:1976). Specific touch and breathwork may need to be brought to the area of the armoring to release the character defense.
Body De-armoring is an important part of the therapeutic process and the Tantra therapy room can be a powerful space to explore this work. This is where touch is a very powerful healing modality, by placing light touch which may or may not be of an erotic and sexual nature in order to stimulate pleasure in the body with the goal of circulating sexual / life force energy around the entire body and releasing the muscular tension and the body armor.
In Tantra bodywork sessions the dormant energy held by the body armoring may be reawakened when a client, through what is called neuroception picks up in the immediate environment that there is a threat, this may be experienced as an interpretation of the therapist’s body language, tone of voice, and / or movements, actions and words which feels to the client similar to that of the environment in which the original trauma takes place. This is also referred to as the abused and abuser role-playing with sexually abused clients in psychodynamic therapy by Gartner, an expert in working with sexually abused men. When this happens it is important to hold a safe space for the client and ensure them that they are safe and they can safely release the trapped energy through breath, shaking, making sound or in whatever way the client feels drawn to, using touch at this time can be extremely re-traumatizing and if it was touch that has triggered this sympathetic nervous system activation it is important to whilst staying present with the client withdraw from the touch and validate the affective state of the client.
Stanislav Grof, founder of transpersonal psychology and developer of Holotropic breathwork believes that applying touch during a breathwork session can pull a client out of their process even if at the time we feel it is a helpful intervention at the particular juncture of the session, he believes that even if the feedback from the client is positive and feels like our intuition to intervene with touch is a successful intervention we are dismissing the possibility that had we not intervened the client may have accessed deeper layers of the psyche and opened up greater possibility of healing and so our touch becomes an interference to healing rather than a facilitation of same.
“There are more fake guides, teachers in the world than stars.
The real guide is the one who makes you see your inner beauty,
not the one who wants to be admired and followed.”
– Shams Tabrizi
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Life Change Health Institute offers world unique individual & group psychotherapy, Sacred Sexuality workshops, classes and Retreats. We specialize in long-term relational trauma recovery, sexual trauma recovery and early childhood trauma recovery. We offer a very gentle, safe, supportive and compassionate space for deep relational work with highly skilled, trained and experienced psychotherapists. All of our psychotherapists are accredited or working towards accreditation with Irish Group Psychotherapy Society (I.G.P.S), which holds the highest accreditation standard in Europe. Our therapeutic approach is an overall evidence-based treatment approach for working with complex trauma and dissociation, that addresses the root causes of trauma-based presentations and fragmentation, and so results in long term recovery. Highly effective psychological and somatic techniques are woven into a carefully staged treatment approach, which systemically integrates significant relationships into the treatment process. Dynamic (PT) PsychoSocialSomatic Therapy seeks to heal early experiences of abandonment, neglect, trauma, and attachment loss, that otherwise tend to play out repetitively and cyclically throughout the lifespan in relationship struggles, illness and addictions. It is unique in that it approaches the body first (bottom-up processing) and unlike any other form of therapy also integrates the social element of looking at the clients nutrition, environment, support structures, relationships, level of intimacy and attachment style.
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