Why Trauma Matters

Our discovery of the impact of trauma on the brain may well constitute one of the biggest paradigm shifts ever in the history of healing.  When the history books of healing get written about this age, we may well see paradigms of healing divided into “Pre-Trauma” and “Post Trauma” paradigms. Not only that, but I suspect they may also talk about the ‘Pre-Touch’ and the ‘Post- touch’ approaches to healing. This is because the most direct way to access and change the traumatised parts of the brain is through simple human touch – something that bodyworkers have been doing for millennia with almost zero recognition of their work from society in general.

It is now becoming clear that we are no longer at the mercy of illnesses as if they were predatory invaders. Most (if not all) mental and physical illnesses seem to have their roots in trauma.

This means that trauma is now creating a single unifying theory of healing: soothe or remove the trauma and we can remove the causes of most illness.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the field of mental health. For over five decades the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illness  (DSM) has been used as the bible for the diagnosis and for the subsequent psychopharmacological treatment of mental problems as if they were a disease. It is as if certain individuals were randomly made with faulty brains. In this model, God or creation (however you view it), operates on a cruel and random lottery basis. Mental illness is just a brain malfunction suffered by those marked out by a cruel God to be ‘malformed’ – like some malevolent computer malware. In this approach, all that such illnesses need is simply the right diagnosis and the right drugs. Let the experts put you right.

No prizes for guessing which multinational corporations are invested the most heavily in this particular model of mental illness. The latest version of this ‘bible’ of mental health (DSM V) now stretches to over 1,000 pages with illnesses such as “T.V. Addictive Disorder” qualifying sufferers for their very own drug treatment regime.

The only trouble with this model is that there is practically no science and certainly no diagnostic or statistical evidence for its compilation. Unless, of course, you count the statistical presence of numerous psychiatrists whose training was largely funded by, and is totally influenced by…that’s right, you guessed it – those same pharmaceutical multinational corporations.

What has been emerging over the last 20 years or so is a growing body of actual science that has been examining the brain and how it actually operates as seen and measured through MRI scans and the chemical analysis of neuropeptides. The picture that actually emerges is one that is very different from the ‘faulty and malevolent’ philosophy of the (very wealthy) human ‘experts.

The emergent picture is actually very clear and alarmingly simple.

The neuroscience that has emerged shows very little difference between the brain activity of the so-called mentally ill and those people who are experiencing trauma. It is all rather similar. When in stress or traumatised, brain activity to the Medial PreFrontal Cortex (MPFC) is reduced. At the same time, activity in the mid-brain and highly irrational fight or flight centres (the limbic brain) increases. In terms of my own approach to psychotherapy (Transactional Analysis) this single discovery explains just why so many people struggle to access the all important Adult Ego State – the psychic structure we all need to access on a daily basis in order to function well in the reality of human society.

In this emerging model, it is becoming clear that whilst the vast majority of humans may be made perfectly, the greed, violence, and abuse that humans so often inflict upon each other creates traumatic damage to the patterning of the brain pathways  – damage that can last for several generations. Whilst we do not yet know the full mechanisms by which traumatic brain patterns pass across generations, its presence has been noted as far back as in biblical times. In Exodus 20, verse 5, the Bible records an explicit reference to the way in which trauma is passed down. It states that “I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those that hate me.” Whilst we do not want to get too theological about this excerpt, it is possible to see that “those who hate me” could be interpreted as ‘all that in human behaviour which is not loving or caring’. Scientists and psychotherapists are now revealing this transgenerational nature of trauma on a regular basis.

Likewise, the neuroscience is indicating that the traumatic triggers in the brain can actually be permanently dissolved through soothing and gentle touch. This is why Prof Francis McGlone of Liverpool’s John Moore’s university declared to a conference of educationalists recently that denying children touch is a form of child abuse.  As one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, he realised that soothing the trauma centres of the brain is needed in order for children to think clearly and that touch is one of the simplest ways to do this.

What this means for Bodyworkers is that we must be right up to date with this neuroscience and work out just how it informs or changes the treatments we give our clients.

By Gerry Pyves, NO HANDS Massage Founder & Creator
MA (Oxon), PGCE (Man), Dip T.M. (CHM), CTA (UKATA), PTSTA (EATA)

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