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Nervous System


The Tao of Trauma

Based on Dr. Peter Levine's Somatic Experiencing model and Alaine D.Duncan's "The Tao of Trauma", which examine the Autonomic Nervous System's self protective response as a cycle. The 5 stages of a healthy nervous system response to a potential threat are Awaken arousal, signal threat, mobilize a response, restore coherence, and digest the gristle. Each of these correspond with a season & element in TCM.


Signal Threat

Element: Water Season: Winter Defensive Orienting This phase is the 2nd phase in the cycle, where we are focused on identifying any threats & gather any necessary information to ensure our safety. In this phase, the adrenal glands signal, with adrenaline & cortisol, that we need to initiate a whole body survival response. Fear arrives. We are on high alert. Our Water Element & Kidneys are the signaling center, with the power to fuel the mobilization response (fight or flight). When we meet the challenge & feel safe, our cortisol levels return to normal. This is a healthy stress response. If we are stuck in this phase (unable to move through it), we may have chronic stress, unremitting fear, see danger everywhere, have trouble connecting with or trusting others, or constantly place ourselves in risky situations. The Kidneys will be unable to turn off the constant signals of threat or they may be unable to turn on this signal when it’s needed. Hyperarousal: panic, agitation, hypervigilance. Hypoarousal: collapse, contraction, phobias (often freeze response) In complex traumas you may vacillate between hypo & hyper- arousal. As with any trauma healing, please find the support that works for you & know that this is a journey. The nature of Water invites us inward to do the work. Here are some things that you might try: Building a felt sense of (inner) safety Repairing or building new boundaries Building capacity in the kidney/ adrenal system


Restore Coherence

Element: Fire Season: Summer Completion


Awaken Arousal

Element: Metal Season: Autumn Arrest/ startle This phase is the beginning & end of the cycle, where we return to balance. In this phase, we sense that something is amiss and become alert. Our senses are heightened. In a healthy stress response, we are able to take in the perceived threat and then let it go, returning to balance. Our previous life lessons help us judge potential threats and start fresh. We are able to take full breaths and be present & mindful. If we are stuck in this phase (unable to move through it), we may be anxious, jumpy, and have more rapid breathing. Or in a hypoaroused state, we could be fatigued, have shallow breathing, and present as hollow/ empty. There may be pervasive grief- how could this happen to me? As with any trauma healing, please find the support that works for you and know that this is a journey. Some practices you might bring in, to help you move through this phase: -Restoring regulation in the diaphragm (mindful breathing practices) -Awakening interoception (awareness of your body in space & the sensations you are feeling) -Embodied awareness of the skin as a protective container.

Clouds and Sunset

Mobilize a Response

Element: Wood Season: Spring Flight/ fight/ freeze/ fawn

Flowers on Wood

Digest the Gristle

Element: Earth Season: Late Summer Integration

Garden Soil
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