Healing PTSD: Emotional Integration and Nervous System Reorganization
Let me stress that a therapist is there to facilitate the healing process. By all means, it is within the natural capacity of the body and mind to heal itself!
Nevertheless, it helps to know the mechanisms of dissociation and associated neurobiological effects so that you may return to emotional integration and the reorganization of the nervous system.
Emotional release is often part and parcel of psychotherapy, especially when you are working through deep-seated issues that have had a lot of meaning connected to them. These releases help clear up emotional residue and assist in rebalancing body systems and mental/emotional functioning.
Release, Resolution and the Dangers of Retraumatization
It is of the utmost importance, though, that when you go through emotional release you have a sense of containment. What I mean by this is that you have enough strength and resources available to be able to observe and allow release without becoming overly focused on shame, guilt and blame, or feeling overwhelmed by the emotional release. The initial trauma is made up of exactly these properties, and you need to avoid retraumatization.
In order to provide containment, you need to make sure that the processes of emotional unfoldment and accompanying body sensations are slowed down. As overriding feelings and resistances arise, they need to be addressed and processed before you move on. When space is given to you to digest and integrate by slowing down and verbalizing what is occurring, there is the potential for the healing of the body and the mind.
The Therapeutic Process and What is Needed to Heal PTSD and CPTSD
Within the unfolding of the therapeutic process, there can be a constant moving back and forth between working with resistances, overwhelming feelings, and other emotions like anger, grief, and sadness, through resourcing, providing containment and context.
Containment, resourcing and providing context go hand in hand. To contain is to be able to hold the space for the emotions that surface. Resourcing is to provide the tools to discharge and neutralize harmful emotions, and providing context gives a new perspective to an experience or period in one’s life and levels of strength that have developed as a consequence of that.
It is necessary to address resistances whenever they arise; monitor them as bodily sensations, trace and acknowledge them as protective mechanisms which were put in place during times of crisis.
A Body-Oriented Psychotherapeutic Approach for Effective PTSD Treatment
Tracking body sensations while resourcing helps in working towards a resolution. Tracing and acknowledging provides a new perspective on what has happened and where one is at present psychologically. All aspects are equally important: containment, resource, and context. Most of all, you have to stay and work with “what is” in the present until that drops away and a new state of mind presents itself.
We have a tendency to act based on how we feel. If we perceive feelings as heavy, dense or upsetting we instinctively want to move away or try to get rid of them. If we perceive feelings as light, upbeat and pleasant we very quickly develop an attachment towards them. We are constantly choosing, based on what we perceive as negative or positive. Within the therapeutic process, this is no different. Trauma, which is emotional residue, is based on resistances. It’s inevitable that they will present themselves as such while we’re working through them.
Resistance can show itself as a reluctance to open up, focusing on resolve or understanding, being too quick to accept or move into a process, being stuck in the remembered narrative of what happened, and dwelling on blame, guilt, and self-reproach.