Just at a time when the wider world is waking up to a more compassionate and inclusive way of understanding trauma and addiction, a timely book that addresses these issues in personal, historical, embodied, and practical ways has arrived. In Treating Trauma and Addiction with the Felt Sense Polyvagal Model: A Bottom-Up Approach (Routledge, 2021), author and psychotherapist Jan Winhall both demystifies and depathologizes addiction.
In my office I have stuffed animals - a rabbit, a dog, and a bear that sit together on one of my sofas. They represent an alternative somatic psychotherapy. Treatment with them involves talk, but it also involves touch and somatic awareness. Clients usually don’t notice them. However, often in therapy, themes emerge that arise from my clients' repressed bodies. These themes deal with both present and past events and how these clients were treated by their parents. This information is presented to me both quickly and as an affectionless series of stories. I stop my clients. I encourage them to take full slow breaths, to place their feet hips' width apart on the floor. Then I ask them if there is a feeling beneath the story that they are telling me. Often, after the breaths, they come back to the story slower but void of feelings. At this point I change the focus and ask them if they are drawn to one of my co-therapists — the bear, the dog, or the rabbit—and let them make their choice. After choosing, their fingers may start to caress or grip the co-therapist of their choice.
My mother’s life was not easy. She dealt with and battled domestic violence, child abuse, suicide, and eventually mental illness. She was affected by and surrounded by the nature of mankind’s cruelty. And yet, she gave my siblings and I her gift of strength. In writing The Shattered Oak, I came to terms with her thought process and experienced her level of bravery and reliance. I finally comprehended her intense strength, courage, and determination by acknowledging her survivor skills and her deep love of faith that provided her comfort that she was never alone.
The Tuning Board is a somatic tool that addresses this problem of a non-resilient ability to return to a fluid vertical nervous system. It is increasingly known and used for this purpose in the SE community as well as among other somatic therapy practitioners. A unique balance board device, the Tuning Board gives the individual the task of relating to a comforting constant motion while the spine is in a state of vertical orientation.
I recently saw a pre-publication version of an editorial by Stephen Porges, “The COVID-19 Pandemic is a Paradoxical Challenge to Our Nervous System: A Polyvagal Perspective.” In it he says, “The pandemic impacts on our biological imperative to connect.” Polyvagal theory says that as mammals we need to connect to co-regulate. In fact, we use the minimal cues that come from the face and the tone of voice of each other to co-regulate our nervous systems. These cues let us know we are safe. The problem is that during the pandemic, we are being given the imperative that we need to stay away from each other in order to be safe.
We are so pleased to be able to share a recorded version of a conversation Deb Dana had recently with Liam O Mahony, Accredited Psychotherapist and Addiction Counsellor and Co-Founder of PCPSI* on a Polyvagal Approach to COVID-19.
It was reassuring hearing the title of Babette Rothschild’s book (Rothschild, 2000) all those years ago, recommended to me by my core process psychotherapist. ‘The body remembers’. Yes, it does, my body, turning towards me, nodding - suddenly engaging - a door opening inside. The body remembers. This body remembers, and what a journey it’s been – so far – in my body stepping through that door and in deepening my understanding of trauma and working with trauma in myself, with clients, with supervisees, and with trainees.
Michael Ostrolenk speaks with Dr. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized neuroscience educator known for her unique ability to present complex ideas in clear and humorous ways that are useful for her audiences. Dr. Coulter discusses COVID-19 and the cognitive complexity that would be necessary to adequately deal with the pandemic.
Because many of our readers do not follow our website or Facebook page, SPT Magazine is offering the first three of Serge Prengel’s Active Pause articles in one PDF so the flow from one to the next is maintained for our offline readers. We invite you to follow us online as Serge will continue to offer articles in the Active Pause series.
Time is up for humanity’s relational style, currently dominant on our planet, with its reactively phallic, defectively insufficient oral trait prevalence, which is ever more borderline and narcissistic. It has produced the entropic collapse in which we find today’s Social Living Body. We now need other trait patterns and other relational styles, with a different how in our relationship with the Other-than-Self World!