Traumatic events can sometimes hijack our brains leaving us feeling out of control and experiencing nightmares, panic attacks and flashbacks which can be frightening and confusing. We appear to have lost control of how we store and deal with the memory. This is often called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) where the memory is trapped in the emotional part of the brain and unable to connect with our reasoning part of the brain, therefore keeping us in the moment of trauma.
In their article Calming Trauma – How Understanding The Brain Can Help, Dawn McClelland PHD and Chris Gilyard MA, explain that the Amygdala stores the visual images of the trauma as sensory fragments rather than a story. Consequently, post trauma, when triggered by sensory input (smells, sounds etc), the brain can process normal circumstances as dangerous, and it loses its ability to discriminate between what is life threatening and what is normal (3).
McClelland et al advocate the use of a ‘bottom-up processing’ approach which uses soothing and calming treatments to help the patient to access the deeper regions of the brain. Sensorimotor Therapy helps the patient to engage the body and mind by noticing the sensory body responses. In the article in Trauma Institute & Child Trauma Institute [online] the article entitled Massage Therapy Can Support Trauma Healing, Ricky Greenwald states “Massage therapy….can provide relief from physical, emotional, and mental stress, and decrease levels of depression, anxiety, irritability, and other symptoms associated with trauma exposure” (Collinge, Kahn, and Soltysik 2012) (4).
Ricky goes on to say that massage has also been found to help people with PTSD-related dissociation, to be more in touch with how certain emotions manifest in physical sensation, and experience comfort and safety in their body (Price, 2005) (5)
- D. McClelland, C. Gilyard. 2021: Calming Trauma – How Understanding The Brain Can Help [online]. Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors. [Feb 2021]
- Ricky Greenwald (2018) [online] cites from: Collinge,W, Kahn,J, & Soltysik, R. (2012). Promoting reintegration of national guard veterans and their partners using a self-directed program of integrative therapies: A pilot study. Military Medicine, 177, 1477-1485
- Price, C. (2005). Body-orientated therapy in recovery from child sexual abuse: An efficacy study. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 11, 46-57