To better understand what makes this style of work unique, here is an evolving list of points for inquiry… If any of these points don’t make sense, feel free to reach out, because it will give me the opportunity to clarify more.
Over time, I will try to put the shorter/simpler points closest to the top and the more thorough points down below, so as to not overwhelm. Also, welcome to copy and paste these to print out, so they can be digested in shorter doses.
Let’s not fix your anxiety
Too often we try to fix ourselves, which gives the deeper/formative/young parts of our system the message that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. With this, crucial aspects of us can freeze while trickling out waves of anxiety (flight energy) and refusal/protest (fight energy). In some ways of working with trauma, core experiences of fight/flight/freeze are given the message that they are not wanted, which invalidates the dormant gift that they are. For sensitive people, these energies are really needed because they become the life force and buffer that we have been missing, so must be treated with care.
What are the results of this sort of process?
More space for me as I am. compassion… ease with myself… understanding survival energies and the importance of feeding oneself orientation/stabilization/deepening relational maturity… a non pushy experience of embodiment…ability to not push for intensity to solve all my issues… more ease in relationship…
Supportive Conditions that are present within sessions
Being with someone that doesn’t have a problem with survival responses (but understands their benevolence) and can track subtle processes of body
Most of us feel we are stuck in a number of ways. We may have had the experience where we were really able to meet the intensity of a core issue, and feel a sense of relief afterwards. In terms of intensity levels, you can feel intensity going up when you get to the core issue, and then the intensity level coming down as relief sets in. This is a basic pattern that our bodies know really well. A nerve cell approaches a threshold, it peaks in intensity upon firing, and comes back down to rest. This is a language that our body understands. However, there is a fundamental misconception around what makes healing/growth happen when it comes to intensity. People say, “feel it to heal it,” and in some forms of somatic trauma healing, a discharge in the nervous system is emphasized (which basically means that a body trauma memory is being tracked until it discharges the intensity through shaking, deep breathing, energy moving freely, etc). On a simple level, all of this is fine, as long as it’s understood that it’s not the whole picture that most of us need. Think about it, if we are focused on a high level of intensity to hit in order to have a come down, this isn’t very sustainable. It too easily leads to the experience that we are never enough, because how could we always hit these peaks? Maybe we try to hit them in other ways… through drugs, overeating, stimulation through browsing the internet, sex… anything that will raise the intensity enough so we can just relax again. You may be able to see how this operates as the basis of addiction for many people.
So what is the alternative? Could it be that the intensity level could come up to a lower level and be satisfying enough to come back down? What are the less intense pleasures and supported experiences that can come up in a way that doesn’t get stuck on obsessing about a higher and higher level? Think about sitting in the grass and looking up at the clouds. “Ooooh that one looks like a wizard, there is a horse, and oh look a dragon!” Maybe you have noticed after such moments, that a nice restful contentment finds you. What are other examples of these more simple, non-addictive pleasures? Within the realm of gentle somatic work, people are supported to go slower, to take smaller pieces, to orient, to offer their systems an experience of stabilization, to do this with another attuned human being, to open up to more support (often creatively showing up in the moment), and gradually experiences of intensity can come up and come down. This can happen without the old obsession over the highest addictive intensity, but find varying degrees of intensity. It can be like learning a few different notes, and then different scales so that there is range, so there is choice for once. With this, survival energies/imprints in the body can gradually begin to be included in a new way. Instead of being pulled into them and feeling young/powerless yet again, there is the range to have them be just another scale of the same chord. Does this make sense to you? If it doesn’t please reach out, I would be happy to add more examples or ways of unpacking this.
The body’s security system, boundaries, and the contraction/expansion of the space around the body
Do you have any intuition of what I mean? How do you feel when in dynamic relationship with trusted friends? How do you feel when someone ignores the space around you or your boundaries? Maybe when you were young you remember certain friends or family members who treated you like a tool, or as a mere object for affection. Could it be that the space around us, our skin, and even deeper into our body/energy are adjusting and responding moment to moment based on what we are confronted with?
The space around our bodies, our skin, limbs, and deeper into our body/energy are quite responsive when we encounter old friends, strangers on the street, a car speeding past, delicious food in front of us, as we touch an old tree, as somebody we don’t trust approaches us… Something important in us pays close attention, and may expand and contract depending on the circumstance of what/who we are confronted with. Further, this “something” is semi permeable, which means it is not always open or always closed to receiving info/energy/impact. For example, I am sure you know the experience of being so open that you felt your body receiving all kinds of things from people and places you encountered. Alternatively, you’ve also likely walked through a group of people, or crazy place and found yourself receiving nothing, like there was a brick wall around you. These points relate to the function of the body’s security/boundary system. This system can freely and intelligently expand and contract, open and close, and help us navigate our relationships with place and beings.
Why is the body’s security/boundary system important?
When this system is healthy and able to be intelligently responsive it functions without need of our attention, similar to how we don’t need to help our liver do its job. However, for many of us, we likely could benefit from a lot of support in this department. Many people have the experience of receiving impact/injury/angry words from the same angle and to the same area of the body again and again. The other week I fell and injured my leg, and when I looked at the swollen area, I saw a scar from a large rock falling on the same spot of that leg a few years before. If you feel the space around your body, you may notice that while some areas feel solid/simple, others feel like they are perpetually bracing for some kind of impact, and may feel contracted. I noticed a few years ago, that on airplanes, I wouldn’t like anyone sitting on my left side, like I would just receive indiscriminately all kinds of things, because that side couldn’t believe it could filter or offer protection.
The good news is that the breeches to this system have most likely always occurred in some kind of relationship, even if it was just the relationship to a stone falling towards you. So with the aid of another person who is attuning to your boundary system, the boundary system can actually gradually begin to restore its ability to open/close and expand/contract.
Why do we go slowly into the body?
Many forms of body and somatic work go swiftly into the body, whether with awareness, touch, or needles. All of that has its place. Yet, with this gentle somatic approach, we have the option to more slowly approach the body with attunement. It is an option we often choose, due to how often our body’s boundary/security system has been ignored or overridden in relationship with others and ourselves. It is also because we have the aim to work/attune in a way where the body and deeper parts of the system have an opportunity to show up on their own terms. For this, we have to prove we are trustworthy from the start. That involves taking the time to allow attention to be outside of the body. Orientation through the senses of the space/time around the body, sends the message that, “we are not going to bombard you with another experience, when you are already in indigestion, so please take time to receive the simple senses of this moment.” Our bodies are designed to be in the nervous system state of orientation most of the time, and so we are letting this happen. So as you can see, we are literally going from the outside in. After and during this process of orientation, there is an attunement to the body’s security system. So if I am offering a session to someone, I will respect this, and if there is a contracted area on the left side, and I am sitting on the person’s left, I might adjust to sit on the person’s right instead if needed. Also, just being aware of it with respect allows it to be a bit more fluid, and potentially present some kind of restorative process. We could even spend whole sessions on either of these two points if desired/needed.
Then when orientation and the boundary system are given care, arms and legs may start to show up. They may show up in a refreshed way, may present a layer of unfreezing that wishes to happen, fight/flight processing, or any sort of integrative process…
A breakthrough experience doesn’t necessarily stick!
Partly because it’s often too intense for certain key (and neglected) parts of our system to digest. and we ARE a system after all. If we experience ourselves as sensitive, the gentler parts of our system usually need to grow capacity on their terms. This isn’t measured by a big breakthrough, but steady, gentle, reliable attunement. These layers are often put into the category of developmental trauma, so it’s good to think about how young parts develop instead of looking for a flashy experience to solve our recurrent issues.
Also, here is some older information from my site on the two of the trainings I have done (Somatic Experiencing and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy)
“Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a potent psychobiological method for resolving trauma symptoms and relieving chronic stress. It resets the nervous system, restores inner balance, enhances resilience to stress, and increases people’s vitality, equanimity, and capacity to actively engage in life.” (From SE Trauma Institute)
SE could be described as a specialized form of mindfulness that specializes in building resilience in the autonomic nervous system. Sessions are guided by tracking the body’s experience through sensation, images, touch, emotion, and spontaneous movements. With certain traumatic/difficult memories stored in the body, it can be tempting to experience them in an overwhelming way. With SE, we slow the process down and attune to the body in a way that notices supportive processes that easily go unnoticed.
Here is an introductory video to SE…
Personally, I have found it essential to approach this work very gently. So instead of storming right into the body’s experience (especially if stuck in states of intensity or shut down), getting good foundations established. Particularly, offering stabilization to the system through having the senses receiving time and place, which is a gentle way of shifting into ventral vagal toned states. Also, as so many of us have deep relational trauma, making adjustments that invite the client’s system/person to show up on it’s own terms, instead of as a performance for the practitioner. With these conditions set up/cultivated, it becomes a lot more natural for the body to reorganize trauma patterning in a less intense way that actually can integrate. When people become aware of trauma memories in their systems, there can be the idea that something intense needs to happen to make it repattern or go away. However, these intense states can be addictive or overwhelming, and many of us have found that it’s much more effective to work in a less intense way. In fact, I find it common to have enjoyment and laughter in sessions (of course, it takes some time for systems chronically stuck in intense states).
Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy
I offer trauma informed biodynamic craniosacral sessions. Trauma informed, because I have had training and experience in working in a way that is especially kind to the body. Honestly, many of our systems aren’t always ready for BCST work. Even though it’s so gentle and deep, we may go through periods where our systems are needing boundary repair, or to relearn how to show up as ourselves and not to please the practitioner. Further, our body/mind/spirit systems may need extra time, to get the nervous system re-calibrated in states of orientation to the outside in time and place. I say this last bit, because although it can be valuable to dive into the inner experience, we are likely to end up disoriented (not in easy connection with the outside world) if we keep doing this… Personally, I think BCST is profound and so beautiful, but even more so when there is the opportunity to listen to the client’s system and sense with them how they made need some foundations re-established to better receive the work.
In terms of general education… here is information about BCST from a flyer published by BCTA/NA:
What is Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy?
Biodynamic craniosacral therapy (BCST) is a gentle, light-touch, non-invasive therapy that helps restore and maintain health in the human body. While not a manipulative therapy, it has its roots in osteopathy and has evolved to include advances in neuroscience, human development, pre and perinatal psychology, and trauma
resolution. Practitioners are trained to facilitate the resolution of conditions resulting from stress, overwhelm, and injury.
What is a Session Like?
The length of your session may vary, but is usually between 45 and 90 minutes. During a session, you rest fully clothed on a comfortable table. The practitioner aims to create a calm and supportive environment. The guiding principle for a session is that your body is always moving toward health. Through a light touch, your practitioner will listen for any compensatory patterns that may be present, and assist your body in accessing its own healing capacities.
What is the Craniosacral System?
The physical craniosacral system extends from the cranium (skull) down to the sacrum (tailbone). It encompasses the brain and spinal cord, which governs the health of the nervous system and affects every other system in the body. Our biodynamic approach to the craniosacral system is a wholistic one, so no part of you is left unattended. The breadth of our craniosacral work includes the physical body as well as its fluid and energy systems, all of which naturally support our mental/emotional
What Conditions Can Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy (BCST) Help?
BCST addresses the underlying conditions that can inhibit the expression of health in your body. The source of our particular discomforts are commonly trauma-based or
symptoms of overactivation from stress. Your therapist will facilitate a favorable environment so your body can return to a natural state of ease. BCST helps bring forward your body’s expression of wholeness and wellness. It supports your body in remembering, reorienting to, and renewing the health that is never lost. Part of what differentiates our work is we do not see you as a list of symptoms or as a disease. The underlying principles of BCST highlight the health and innate healing wisdom that exists in your body. We see you as a whole individual and work with you to create the right conditions to allow your body’s health to express itself. BCST is gentle and safe, making it effective for people of all ages. Many clients find it supports the relief of symptoms associated with a wide variety of health conditions. Because BCST promotes expression of health in all the body’s systems, it fosters well-being in all aspects of your life.
And in my own words…
So what is BCST? The honest answer is that I give as many definitions as there are different types of people I meet. Although this is consistent with the work’s fluid nature, I understand it can be frustrating for those who want a set definition… One way of pointing to the nature of the work that I really like, is to start by looking around to things like walls, tables, doors.. just noticing how you experience these kinds of inanimate objects… and then looking at trees, plants, and the living world outside… You may notice that there are rhythms of life that the natural world expresses, and often slow rhythms… look to the tides of the oceans… then look to your own body… surely this body has these same marks of the natural world? In states that feel like stuck on (anxiety) or collapse (depression), there isn’t much space to express these slower natural rhythms in our body. And that’s a shame, because they are the ones that bring natural healing and repair responses, especially with another person present who is kindly attuning to your body. How else is the natural world able to flourish without all the supplements, medicines, and complicated homes that humans seem to require?
I find it refreshing that BCST is a non-manipulative and enables inherent expressions of healing. BCST does not center around searching for the issues in ones body or mind, but attunes to the forces of health in the body. This is like the difference between being listened to by someone who is seeking out your flaws as you speak and someone who is noticing your benevolent intentions and qualities. I love how this is such a simple principle, and yet is able to be so effective.
Sessions involve light, gentle and negotiated touch, while the body is listened to as a whole. What does this mean? Well, instead of narrowing in on certain locations, the body is tuned into as a whole system of many systems, with awareness of space around. Each body is different, and in order for the nervous system to settle and make way for healing processes, there needs to be an attuned way of palpating the body and giving it appropriate space to find it’s own rhythm. When the body settles sufficiently, different layers of the body come to the foreground with healing processes that wish to happen. This is similar to how when you feel safe and at ease with someone, you may be able to share something that really matters to you and find relief or wisdom from it (but here it involves the whole body). The important point here, is there has to be an initial settling, which allows for the body’s self healing capacity to work with the BCST practitioner to determine what wants to happen in a given session.
The historical roots of BCST, besides it being a timeless form of healing practice, actually come from Osteopathy. In my humble opinion, BCST was at the roots of what Andrew Taylor (founder of Osteopathy) was teaching. Yet, with mechanical expressions of science becoming the most trusted, this “gentle” way of working became not so dominant in the Osteopathic community. Though due to the work of William Sutherland, this kind of work experienced a revival that continues to the present day. It is now being taught outside Osteopathic schools, usually in the form of 2-3 year long training programs.