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Monday, 13 November 2017

There is no 'letting go", there is just letting in

Our mysterious beings are held in our bodies by structures which capture
energy into life systems that are held in turn by structures of ancestral and personal experience, culture, societal beliefs, values and aspirations. Just as our physical bodies are held into this time and place by complex structures of DNA, and a multitude of other physical biochemical, physiological and cellular pathways, so too, first at an emotional and spiritual level, our beings are held in place by structures of ego, familial memory, pre conscious and supra conscious layers of being.

Integrative therapy has the purpose of clearing away all structures which no longer are useful. Presently, these structures can be called trauma, but I prefer the term, unintegrated experiences. In the same way that we go into the garden in fall and gather together all the deadwood and dying plants, so too, in therapy we have the opportunity to go into the garden of our souls and clean out all un wanted structures.

This process is not always one of simply ‘throwing away’ or ‘letting go’ of unwanted structures and understandings. Rather, these old structures are recycled or composted into new clearing, maturity and wisdom. These unintegrated experiences were often formed before we had words or discernment to understand them, so they get laid down in pre-cognitive areas of mind and brain. There they dictate the responses of the limbic systems and at higher levels; they also dictate thoughts, actions, identity and interpretations.

This means that distressing memories, although they are not happening now, are kept alive by the limbic system in corresponding parts of the body with messages of distress, hyper vigilance and discomfort. In cases of PTSD or complex PTSD (c-ptsd), these unintegrated experiences stimulate the limbic system to cause insomnia, physical symptoms of threat response and other signs of high stress and the fight, flight or cluster responses. These signals travel from the memory centre in the neo cortex to the rest of the body, telling us that the experience is not finished. So the brain interprets them as still proceeding in real time. But of course, they are not. The unintegrated experience can be from the previous moment or forty years ago. In the kind of timeless state of the interconnected mind body, the essence of the distressing memory remains alive as if it is still happening in the present time.

First, the old dysfunctional structures must be recognised and acknowledged. They existed because, much like the garden in fall, they bore fruit which at one time was useful. So often the first step is not to grab the weed and swear at it as we pull it out with vengeance. But with some careful consideration, first understand how the weed got there in the first place. And then with the same gentleness and sense of the wholeness of our life, to consider what its function was in the past. Otherwise without an understanding of the whole, we are simply pulling out one weed and making room for another to grow.

The resistance to recognize dysfunctional beliefs, thoughts and actions is one of our more egregious qualities. In our drive to ‘get rid’ of those aspects that are causing problems, we want to turn away, ignore, deny or attack these weeds. But the best way to proceed is to first recognize them with gentle compassion. They served a purpose in the past and that purpose often has deep soul connections which we must acknowledge before we can effectively grow beyond them.

To integrate these experiences we must first have the courage to face and recognize them directly, bring them out of the shadows into the cognitive mind. These troublesome aspects are experiences which were too powerful for us to understand at the time. The tragic loss of a loved one, sudden injury, emotional trauma, sexual trauma, ancestral memories of famines, wars and other violence-these are few examples of experiences that were overwhelming at the time they occurred. So we put these memories aside because we don’t have the means to cope with them. This doesn’t mean they ‘go away’. They just get filed for later consideration. They are filed, wisely, by our minds into places within our bodies where we can find them easily.

We know from epigenetics that experiences change not only the body but also change our DNA. Therefore the body can be understood as a kind of physical filing cabinet for all of our memories. Much like any competent secretary, the filing cabinet is well organized into logical sections for ease of access. Sexual trauma is filed in the pelvis; feminine trauma is filed in the breasts etc.
So, unintegrated experience can be found in corresponding physical places usually assigned up and down the spine. Each energy holding centre or chakra is organized according to general areas of human experience. Root chakra: survival and death; sexual charka: creativity and boundaries; solar plexus: will, grief and loss; Heart chakra: love, compassion and connection; Throat Charka: communication and discernment; Third eye or hypothalamus: connections into past and future and throughout the body: Crown chakra: connection to higher aspects of soul and openness to growth and evolution.

One very effective way to find where the trauma is filed is to notice where there is discomfort or dis-ease in the body. And then to relate the area to the closest chakra and then connect that to the experiences that placed it there.

We can layer all kinds of coping mechanisms on top of trauma and the on-going sense of unease. Denial, intense and persistent physical pain, diseases such as cancer; addictions, anger, numbing out or other means of turning away. If the memory is held with dis-ease, then the harm of the unintegrated experience can slip over into interpersonal relationships, violence, prejudice, transference, and armouring of the heart centre.  Over time, these denial mechanisms become so habituated that we no longer see why these mechanisms were created in the first place.
We learn to forget that we are forgetting.

If psychotropics are used by the client to dull the unease of the distressing experience, then denial becomes even more habituated and concretized. Locked into this unresolved state, the client can be held in a chemical straight jacket which prevents any real therapy from occurring because the mid brain does not have access to the memory centres and therefore cannot fully integrate messages of distress and unease.

Psychotropics are like a crutch used by a patient who has broken their leg, after a while, using the crutch seems natural and the thought of trying to put weight on the injured limb seems an indomitable task. And it may be, after years of relying on the chemical solution, the psychotropic has become a highly habituated within the mind body composition. However, these psychotropics tie up the neuropathways and stop any possibility of real change from occurring.
Here is where therapeutic altered states are so incredibly useful. From what we can see from brain scans and MRI’s recording brain activity, altered states first flood the brain with serotonin. This is the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter that is released in situations when we feel connected with others and the environment, when we feel successful and satisfied. So immediately the threat response which may be habituated for decades is diminished. Then the mind can explore the scary parts of the unintegrated experiences which are troublesome without feeling the need to protect the person through evasive denials. The distressing event does not have to be re-lived fully. Only the way the event was embodied by the individual needs to be remembered, brought into consciousness, experienced and then integrated.

The important aspect of using therapeutic altered states is that the patient has the opportunity to fully experience the essence of the unintegrated experience and then to come to terms with it, during and after the session. Also, as the process of integration begins, the patient begins to enter into the most important phase of the therapy, which normally most therapies do not allow due to reductionist beliefs of a mechanical universe which hold that if there is a problem, like a mechanic, you can take out the offending part and throw it away. But in integrative therapy, after we have examined how the distressing event was laid down in the mind and body, then we can gently bring that memory to the surface and finally to allow that experience to inform us in good and practical ways. In integrative therapy, there is no ‘throwing away’. All experience can be integrated towards a more whole person who is compassionate, effective and works with a big picture or soul perspective. So the distressing event isn’t thrown away, its let in, so the individual can learn and grow from it.

There is no letting go in this universe. It is self-enclosed and self-resembling. There is no ‘out there’ to let go of distressing experiences into. There is no garbage dump where we can throw away parts of ourselves. We are intimately interconnected and inter dependent, all of us without in the world, and all of our experiences within also. The therapeutic way to proceed is to recognize, honour and integrate.

Then in a paradoxical way, with this total acceptance, the unintegrated experience or trauma disappears. This is the true ‘letting go’. 
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