The after effects of your trauma – whatever it was – do not have to afflict you forever. There is hope.
Marwen is the fantasy town created by Mark, a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury and PTSD following a savage assault. Marwen includes all manner of villains, dilemmas and allies that parallel his conscious everyday life. Marwen is the stage upon which his drama unfolds.
It was my pleasure to view the new Welcome to Marwen with Play Therapists and for them it all made perfect sense: Our imagination projects our issues into a third space of potential transformation. The narrative stories and characters all unfold there, even as they do in our conscious and unconscious memory. When the space is safely held we can resolve trauma and even write new endings to the unfinished narratives. This is true for children and really everyone.
In terms of Matrix Reimprinting Marwen is the place inside us where memories abide and the energetic selves of our past continue to interact with charged memories and their characters. As in Marwen, our present egos may enter that space to assist our younger energetic selves negotiate the trauma resulting from particular situations. In that special matrix our present selves may interact with past selves and other past characters. Like an internalized Gestalt exercise we are able to resolve and amend our story.
In the quantum levels of reality time is really more fluid than we imagine it to be. What we perceive as past, present and future really overlap, interact and co-exist as one. The past is not really past. And the future is simply that of which we are yet unaware.
The good, the very hopeful thing about Marwen, the Matrix, and the Child Therapist’s sand box, is the way that carefully held space can transform. We really do have the ability to rewrite our stories, especially their endings. In that sense it really is possible to heal the past from the present. And those are the gifts that an enlarged consciousness and loving support may actually bring.
One of the remarkable insights of integrative approaches to healing is the somatic dimension, the body. Our consciousness manifests traumatic memories that live in the energy fields of our bodies.
This is why embodied pain/conflict/suffering manifests in our bodies in particular places. Because the emotional energy is localized in our bodies we are provided a powerful tool for both identifying and healing all that is blocked or unresolved. Our bodies speak to us and provide a channel for touching the untouchable.
If you ever wonder how it is that pain can actually move around our body it is because energy is fluid, shifts and may be shifted. In EFT there are many times that we “chase the pain” as it moves around the body – and therefore around our consciousness. It starts one place and moves to another, usually to the more important place.
The wisdom of our bodies speaks and provides a pathway to wholeness and healing.
One of my great pleasures has been to engage in co-therapy with a trained and certified play therapist. Her finely tuned skills and experience escort children through some of the most difficult developmental and situational challenges of childhood. When it comes to trauma EFT has provided a powerful adjunct tool to deal with those traumas in a gentle but effective way. The somatic approach of tapping serves to not only stimulate the energy meridians as conscious and subconscious material surfaces, but the repetition acts in a semi-hypnotic way, simultaneously soothing and reducing levels of resistance and fear. The emotions attached to critical stories are exposed and then drained off. The fact that we have a method or practice to employ, a defined way to approach a problem, is comforting. The use of “proxy” stuffed animals or dolls are very helpful in not only teaching how to tap but allowing the child to project their feelings upon a “third object” outside of themselves.
In the most recent issue of Energy Psychology (vol 8, no 2), Dawson Church, PhD, presents research that identifies the link between our triggers – those events that signal our defense mechanisms including the autonomic “fight/flight/freeze” response and bring them into play – and the “set points” that make those triggers more or less easily activated.
Our set points for almost any emotion or cluster of emotions are learned and shaped by deep experience and continual reinforcement. And what starts as a behavioral adaption becomes translated into an automatic biological/neurological function. Church draws an analogy between the presets on your radio in the car; each of those stations have a particular level at which they are activated. Under stress certain stress points become obvious. And they vary from person to person.
For example, the same event is received very differently by different persons. A lamp unexpectedly falls over and crashes to the floor and one person is mildly interested, the next irritated, and the next diving under the chair. Their set points are located very differently and automatically so. Over time the set points become habitual. Some people have very low set points for sadness, anger and fear and they are triggered easily while others have much higher set points and it takes much more intensity to affect them. The same can be said of pain and what is experienced with or without great suffering; people have different set points for the experience of pain.
Initially set points served as part of the evolutionary survival instinct. They keep us alive. But when activated too easily in settings that are not representing real threat they become maladaptive.
Thankfully, it is possible to reset these set point presets. This is where energy psychology comes in. The practice of tapping on meridians – the body’s energy points – while imagining or experiencing triggers actually soothes and helps reset the triggering intensity. In clinical trials EFT and EMDR have been shown to have high effectiveness in decreasing Beta brain waves and increasing Alpha waves. Of special importance is the way that coupling tapping or eye desensitization with verbalizing, imagining and experiencing those triggers soothes the amygdala, seat of the fight and flight response which releases cortisol into our system to mobilize our defenses. Persistent and constant cortisol presence is destructive to the brain, resulting in decaying quality of life. Tapping on body meridians while exposing troubling images, memories and emotions reverses the stress response and resets the set points.
The good news is that set points can be changed. We can actually shift our habitual set points from terrible emotions to the set points of greater relaxation, peace and happiness. It is what the great spiritual traditions have taught and practiced for centuries. Now we call it mindfulness. But in the past it was simply called prayer, contemplation or meditation. Coupled with the ritualized behavior of tapping which stimulates the meridians of our natural energy network healing is more possible than ever before.
Disassociation is the phenomenon of a personality that splits off from itself, most usually separating from unresolvable conflicts or painful emotions. It is a coping mechanism that often results in a flat affect, the feeling of being out of touch with one’s feelings and body. When asked “How are you feeling?” the person who is disassociated is usually unaware and has accompanying sensations of numbness and looking in at life from the outside.
EFT coupled with somatic approaches connects with submerged emotions; tapping on the meridians stimulates the flow of energy and the repetitive nature of the tapping allows for subconscious and repressed material to surface much more easily and with a sense of safety. Continued tapping on the emotions that arise helps to drain off the raw emotion which resides in the consciousness/body and block the natural flow of energy.
As a paradox, when working with Matrix Reimprinting one attempts to remain disassociated from the earlier subconscious self (the ECHO) in order to listen to, assist, support and help it to release a variety of persistent emotions.
EFT and other somatic approaches are often more effective than cognitive/behavioral talk therapy. Why? Because disassociation is a function of the rational ego state of the mind which is itself the locale of resistance. Limiting oneself to cognitive approaches generally slows the process down without addressing the real root of disassociation. It may in fact reinforce it.
I have just received certification as a Matrix Reimprinting Practitioner. Matrix is an advanced specialty of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). Matrix work involves going into the subconscious, past memories and energetic selves where we may resolve that which still operates beneath the surface of our awareness. Through a variety of techniques we clear the painful and troubling emotions and thoughts affiliated with past trauma. It is a wonderful extension of and accompaniment to EFT.
Nothing stands in isolation, and that is especially true of trauma.
Most usually current traumas are preceded by early forms of the same thing; there is a progression of occurrences and the emotions/thoughts that have been attached to them. If we address and clear the present struggle its more complete resolution is most usually found as we follow the energy to the early places. Once visiting, clearing and reframing those energetic aspects that are alive and functioning in our subconscious the present challenge frequently resolves very quickly.
Two outstanding books that address trauma parallel one another:
Touch by Michael Changaris (Life Rhythm, 2015) and Waking the Tiger by Peter Levine (North Atlantic Books, 1997). They both assume that the body is the key to understanding psychic pain as well as the pathway to its healing.
For Changaris there is a direct neurobiological link with touch and that explains everything from developmental delays to techniques of healing. Therapeutic interventions most often utilized include touch of various kinds in different settings. For Levine trauma is body-based and healing comes through an awareness of sensations related to the trauma.
However important cognitive therapies are our emotional selves live in and express themselves through our bodies. Our interaction with body – listening to it as well as physically touching it – gets to the root of emotional suffering much more quickly without re-traumatizing the person.
EFT utilizes exposure therapy and cognitive restructuring. But it does so while simultaneously tapping on the energy centers of the body, activating the body’s innate power to clear trauma and replace it with the unimpeded flow of energy.
Ritualized Handwashing often becomes compulsive as it functions as a magical personal spell against perceived contagions. A sense of control is provided by a behavior that functions as a sedative for anxiety. Since different aspects of the perceiving mind are at odds with one another – one aspect repeating the compulsion and another at the same time knowing that it is fictitious and magical, EFT tapping on those opposiites reveals and exposes the polarities. Clearing and identifying the anxiety, ritual and sensation in the body often results in freedom from the self-enforced captivity.