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PTS While You Sleep – Part II

Here it is time to post again, and I haven’t come up with any definitive answers on how one copes with Post-traumatic stress in sleep. As I wrote about in my last post, the constriction of my breathing results in painful neck and shoulder muscles upon waking. I’m still searching for information to help me change this sleep pattern. Some more quotes from Dr. Peter Levine’s book Waking the Tiger are getting me closer to the truth.

“If large areas of our neo-cortex were destroyed, either surgically or by accidents, we could still function. However, one tiny ‘nick’ [of unresolved trauma] in the reptilian brain or any of its associated structures, and animal or human behaviour patterns are profoundly altered. Extreme imbalance will be reflected in changed patterns of sleep, activity, aggression, eating, and sexuality” (105-6).

“Regarding trauma, pathology can be thought of as the maladaptive use of any activity (physiological, behavioral, emotional, or mental) designed to help the nervous system regulate its activated energy” (106).

“It is essential that the unresolved activation [from trauma] locked in the nervous system be discharged. This transformation has nothing to do with memory. It has to do with the process of completing our survival instincts” (215).

When I sleep, my brain mistakenly initiates and maintains constriction in my body. According to Levine, this situation is due to the fact that a trauma process has not been completed. Maybe the “Transformation” chapter will reveal some answers. I’m getting closer. Watch for “PTS While You Sleep – Part III.”

0 Responses to PTS While You Sleep – Part II

  1. Chinese medicine adresses stuff of this very nature. Trauma and unreleased emotions are diagnostic and we see them as a cause of disease. Every emotion is associated with a deep part of the body. Anger is the emotion that rises (think angry red face, shouting etc.) and can become stuck in the head, neck and shoulders as it is energy that is trying to move (by rising to the upper portion of the body) but is not coming out. Energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be transformed or transported. When energy becomes trapped in the body and begins to transform into dis-ease, we call it a “pathology”. Sadly, the mind-body disconnect is so strong in our culture that the root causes are almost never addressed or even thought about. But there is an alternative history of healing out there for us.
    We tend to do much information processing in this society. Information is a wonderful asset, but it is the material form of knowledge. It is the “body” and “flesh” of information. I am often searching for a healthy mix of information processing and meaning processing. The meaning is the heart and consciousness of knowledge, the conceptual, intuitive-knowingness of knowledge.
    I am very intrigued by this book, Dr. Levine seems really tapped into widening the body of science to support the widening gap of medicine and healing, what a wonderful way to reach all those who seem to be so easily swept under the rug by the medical textbook paradigm and thats many of us!!
    Perhaps, I have my own traumatic reaction to words like “neo-cortex” and “reptilian brain”. I always find myself intrigued and even enlightened by such information but the meaning processing is always left hungry and silenced.
    Isn’t our search for meaning so ancient? It fascinates and drives me/us.
    Thank you Wendy for supporting your readers in their search for meaning. <3 YOU are a healthy and amazing mix of meaning and information!

  2. Chinese medicine adresses stuff of this very nature. Trauma and unreleased emotions are diagnostic and we see them as a cause of disease. Every emotion is associated with a deep part of the body. Anger is the emotion that rises (think angry red face, shouting etc.) and can become stuck in the head, neck and shoulders as it is energy that is trying to move (by rising to the upper portion of the body) but is not coming out. Energy cannot be destroyed, it can only be transformed or transported. When energy becomes trapped in the body and begins to transform into dis-ease, we call it a “pathology”. Sadly, the mind-body disconnect is so strong in our culture that the root causes are almost never addressed or even thought about. But there is an alternative history of healing out there for us.
    We tend to do much information processing in this society. Information is a wonderful asset, but it is the material form of knowledge. It is the “body” and “flesh” of information. I am often searching for a healthy mix of information processing and meaning processing. The meaning is the heart and consciousness of knowledge, the conceptual, intuitive-knowingness of knowledge.
    I am very intrigued by this book, Dr. Levine seems really tapped into widening the body of science to support the widening gap of medicine and healing, what a wonderful way to reach all those who seem to be so easily swept under the rug by the medical textbook paradigm and thats many of us!!
    Perhaps, I have my own traumatic reaction to words like “neo-cortex” and “reptilian brain”. I always find myself intrigued and even enlightened by such information but the meaning processing is always left hungry and silenced.
    Isn’t our search for meaning so ancient? It fascinates and drives me/us.
    Thank you Wendy for supporting your readers in their search for meaning. <3 YOU are a healthy and amazing mix of meaning and information!

  3. Thank you so much for this thoughtful reply. I am glad that the Peter Levine material is interesting to you. I too am not entirely satisfied with terminology like the “neo-cortex” and “reptilian brain” and considered prefacing the quotes with explanations in the hopes of introducing the meaning he is trying to get to. But then I decided to let the material stand alone. I did not really understand these terms as I read his book and don’t feel he did an adequate job of introducing the basics of brain anatomy and neurobiology. What really educated me on this topic was Dr. Robert Sapolsky’s lectures that I listened to on tape as part of the Great Courses material. He also has some excellent lectures on Youtube. According to Levine, the “reptilian brain” refers to the brainstem, which evolved first and the “neo-cortex” is what evolved in primates. Of course, we have it too–that part of the brain behind the forehead, if you will, that analyzes and is logical. Levine also writes about the “limbic brain” which evolution-wise appeared before the neo-cortex and after the brainstem. He refers to it as the “mammalian brain” or the emotional brain. (Interestingly, Sapolsky says that the neo-cortex and the limbic system are not separate–that a part of the cortex IS shared or in direct contact with the limbic system.)

    What I’m most intrigued about is what you said and I quote:”Every emotion is associated with a deep part of the body.” Yes! And what you said is so true–“the mind-body disconnect is so strong in our culture that the root causes are almost never addressed or even thought about.” Thank you for sharing this wisdom and for your thoughts about anger getting stuck in the head, neck, and shoulders. You reminded me of an image that brought me a lot of pleasure the other day: I imagined myself as a baby standing up on the gurney before my operation and brandishing two giant swords. I swung them threateningly at the surgeon and the medical personnel. How satisfying! I am smiling right now thinking about it.

  4. Thank you so much for this thoughtful reply. I am glad that the Peter Levine material is interesting to you. I too am not entirely satisfied with terminology like the “neo-cortex” and “reptilian brain” and considered prefacing the quotes with explanations in the hopes of introducing the meaning he is trying to get to. But then I decided to let the material stand alone. I did not really understand these terms as I read his book and don’t feel he did an adequate job of introducing the basics of brain anatomy and neurobiology. What really educated me on this topic was Dr. Robert Sapolsky’s lectures that I listened to on tape as part of the Great Courses material. He also has some excellent lectures on Youtube. According to Levine, the “reptilian brain” refers to the brainstem, which evolved first and the “neo-cortex” is what evolved in primates. Of course, we have it too–that part of the brain behind the forehead, if you will, that analyzes and is logical. Levine also writes about the “limbic brain” which evolution-wise appeared before the neo-cortex and after the brainstem. He refers to it as the “mammalian brain” or the emotional brain. (Interestingly, Sapolsky says that the neo-cortex and the limbic system are not separate–that a part of the cortex IS shared or in direct contact with the limbic system.)

    What I’m most intrigued about is what you said and I quote:”Every emotion is associated with a deep part of the body.” Yes! And what you said is so true–“the mind-body disconnect is so strong in our culture that the root causes are almost never addressed or even thought about.” Thank you for sharing this wisdom and for your thoughts about anger getting stuck in the head, neck, and shoulders. You reminded me of an image that brought me a lot of pleasure the other day: I imagined myself as a baby standing up on the gurney before my operation and brandishing two giant swords. I swung them threateningly at the surgeon and the medical personnel. How satisfying! I am smiling right now thinking about it.

  5. I too am smiling thinking about a revengeful, strong and able infant Wendy!!

    I thought more carefully about my discomfort with certain aspects of humanness (if you will) being explained in scientific terms. Without doubt, there is absolutely a scientific meaning and map that can help us navigate and understand our experiences; How do we change? What does it look like? What are the longterm outcomes and consequences?

    I realized that because a lot of my trauma revolves around hospitals and male authority, terms like “neo-cortex” resonate as just that!! It is a man, in a white labcoat that confidently states with his authority, “neo-cortex!!” I get protective of my humanness when I hear (or read) words like that. I want to assert that I am more than this, that I deserve more reverence and care and that “his” methods are damaging to the spirit and to the feminine principle that nourishes all life.

    Funny thing to take a phrase that intends to enlighten and support other beings so personally and to be so protective and hurt. But thats trauma, the triggers are everywhere and protectiveness reigns–we don’t see whats really there, we go straight into safety mode. I look forward to a day when I don’t have to feel hurt and unsafe by the realities and circumstances that govern my world.

  6. I too am smiling thinking about a revengeful, strong and able infant Wendy!!

    I thought more carefully about my discomfort with certain aspects of humanness (if you will) being explained in scientific terms. Without doubt, there is absolutely a scientific meaning and map that can help us navigate and understand our experiences; How do we change? What does it look like? What are the longterm outcomes and consequences?

    I realized that because a lot of my trauma revolves around hospitals and male authority, terms like “neo-cortex” resonate as just that!! It is a man, in a white labcoat that confidently states with his authority, “neo-cortex!!” I get protective of my humanness when I hear (or read) words like that. I want to assert that I am more than this, that I deserve more reverence and care and that “his” methods are damaging to the spirit and to the feminine principle that nourishes all life.

    Funny thing to take a phrase that intends to enlighten and support other beings so personally and to be so protective and hurt. But thats trauma, the triggers are everywhere and protectiveness reigns–we don’t see whats really there, we go straight into safety mode. I look forward to a day when I don’t have to feel hurt and unsafe by the realities and circumstances that govern my world.

  7. Yes, these men in their white lab coats have done a lot of damage. They’ve hurt us with their pronouncements, ignorance, assumptions, misogyny, so-called logic, and outright prejudice. I’m thinking of Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s book For Her Own Good–150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women (have you read it? you’d LOVE it!) At one point in the history of medicine, the reproductive organs were thought to be the source of many diseases from backaches to indigestion, etc. The typical course of ‘treatment’ involved “placing leeches right on the vulva or the neck of the uterus” (123). It gets worse, so I’ll leave it here.

    On the other hand, there are men who strove to advance human understanding with compassion for all beings, as you know. It’s a matter of sifting through the medical model to find those people. That’s why I love the study of Medical Humanities. I am finding those men and women who choose to honor the human being and study what makes people healthy instead of what makes people sick. Healing is gaining traction in Western medicine. It’s slow going though and that authoritative, unlistening type of white coated doctor is still doing a lot of damage. When will western medicine wake up to realize that the person is the one with the power to heal him or herself? When will doctors be taught to call this power forth? When will doctors’ training involve studying wellness? And when will emotions and nutrition and a clean environment be considered in the treatment plan? When will doctors learn that their attitude is key in their patients’ healing?

    I am hopeful. People are beginning to want a different system. And you and I are part of that change!

  8. Yes, these men in their white lab coats have done a lot of damage. They’ve hurt us with their pronouncements, ignorance, assumptions, misogyny, so-called logic, and outright prejudice. I’m thinking of Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s book For Her Own Good–150 Years of the Experts’ Advice to Women (have you read it? you’d LOVE it!) At one point in the history of medicine, the reproductive organs were thought to be the source of many diseases from backaches to indigestion, etc. The typical course of ‘treatment’ involved “placing leeches right on the vulva or the neck of the uterus” (123). It gets worse, so I’ll leave it here.

    On the other hand, there are men who strove to advance human understanding with compassion for all beings, as you know. It’s a matter of sifting through the medical model to find those people. That’s why I love the study of Medical Humanities. I am finding those men and women who choose to honor the human being and study what makes people healthy instead of what makes people sick. Healing is gaining traction in Western medicine. It’s slow going though and that authoritative, unlistening type of white coated doctor is still doing a lot of damage. When will western medicine wake up to realize that the person is the one with the power to heal him or herself? When will doctors be taught to call this power forth? When will doctors’ training involve studying wellness? And when will emotions and nutrition and a clean environment be considered in the treatment plan? When will doctors learn that their attitude is key in their patients’ healing?

    I am hopeful. People are beginning to want a different system. And you and I are part of that change!

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