By Kate White and Myrna Martin
It has been nearly a century since pre and perinatal psychology was introduced by Otto Rank, a student and colleague of Sigmund Freud. His slim book, The Trauma of Birth, was a gift to his mentor and friend in 1924. This birthday surprise detailed how Rank thought that difficulty during birth could affect the psyche of the person being born in such a way that it would affect them the rest of their lives. While first warmly received by Freud, it was rejected and the relationship between teacher and student was forever affected. Since then, this pattern of considering that babies have experiences that have lifelong implications has taken similar course in the world. A small cohort of practitioners took on the belief that yes, these early experiences do influence behavior for a lifetime while the medical, scientific and popular communities ignored, disengaged or even repudiated this idea.
Now, in 2012, a confluence of neuroscience, cellular biology, trauma resolution therapies, and human development are supporting how early experiences prenatally, during birth and in the first year of life have lifelong implications for health and happiness. These experiences affect the child in positive and difficult ways, depending on what happens. Healing is possible, no matter what difficulties occur.
After Otto Rank, several influential practitioners took up the thread that these early life
experiences were deeply meaningful, yet it was not until the 1960’s, after the publication of
research articles on how caregivers and babies interact, that the vital importance of this early bond received scientific support. This research detailed how the style of attachment between mother and baby could have lifelong and multi-generational implications. Then in the 1990’s, considered The Decade of the Brain, and many government dollars supported scientific research into embryology, neurology and related fields, especially the human genome project. It was thought that humans had over 100,000 genes that could be mapped and therefore disease and health could be easily tracked and hopefully manipulated for the greater good. However only 25,000 genes were discovered and research turned to looking at how the environment influenced gene expression. This field of study is called “epigentics,” or how the environment and genetics interact. The nature/nurture fight was forever settled and the era of the “epigenome” was born.
These days, researchers, scientists, therapists, medical doctors and other professionals realize that while the genes tell the body what to do and how to develop, electrochemical information in many forms coming from thoughts, feelings and experiences that a person has influence how the genes function. In addition, chemicals in the environment around a human will influence how the genes express themselves. Experiences that grandparents have, especially at crucial developmental times, influence their grandchildren’s life, as these epigenetic changes can be multigenerational. Geneticists are now tracking a variety of diseases through the generations. Professionals can track how experiences influence the baby in utero, especially high levels of
This is what parents and professionals need to know: that how they are with their baby starting preconception can influence their baby’s development and also that of future generations. Mothers, fathers, and families can look at this paradigm and take away what many mothers have asked for over and over: an instruction manual for being with babies and children that will help them help their children find happiness in the world. Every parent wants the best for their child.
Those of us supporting human development know best practices and optimal processes that parents can consider, and also, offer support if life experiences have been difficult. Life is unpredictable and mostly not in our control but we can do our best to positively influence the outcome. Metaphorically, we can chart our course like a sailor consulting the starry sky. Let us consider positive early life experience as a constellation of stars. Here is a list of the points:
Ancestral lineage- people are securely attached and there is no disease (rare)
Dad and Mom “conscious”, prepare for baby
Lovemaking is tender and intentional
Conception and implantation are easy
Uterus is healthy and baby is growing in a good spot
Mother and father lead healthy lives, mild to moderate stress.
Good and regular prenatal care
Birth is optimal, natural, no interruption, not too short, not too long
Baby is not separated, has lots of skin to skin, “self attaches;” there is no difficulty
Neonatal period is relaxed and uneventful, completely breastfed on demand until at least
Pre and perinatal approaches to health and healing can be broken down into several broad areas that support human development preconception through the first few years of life. This makes supporting new families of vital importance. These days, neuroscience, cellular biology, attachment research, and advances in understanding genetics and the brain all support these best practices. As mentioned before, this was not always the case.
Secure attachment or interpersonal health is one process that can be highlighted that crosses all disciplines and development stages. Attachment, or the bond between parent (caregiver) and child, has been intensely studied since the 1960’s starting with the research of Sir John Bowlby. Generations of researchers have studied studying the impact of caregiver behaviors on human
development, eventually leading professionals to categorize these relationships resulted from his initial observations. Training programs now exist to teach all kinds of professionals how to recognize trauma in these early relationships, as well as patterns of behavior that can influence a person’s world view. Many aspects of cognitive and physical health have their roots in this one aspect of human life.
Today, researchers can effectively predict with 85% accuracy which attachment style a parent will develop with their child, based on how they were treated as a child and how they have come to terms with it in current time. The bottom line is that children need the presence of a non-stressed, consistent caregiver who is attuned to the needs of the child for optimal health. Furthermore, this parent does not need to be perfect, just “good enough.” A big part of the formula of resilience is the ability of the parents to recognize mistakes or “misattunements” and genuinely apologize to the child, and change the behavior. Parents help their child in the development of self regulation by being well regulated themselves, being able to name and be with their own emotions and to help their babies and children name and be with their emotions.
Parents gain greater understanding of their physical, emotional, and spiritual inheritance by
understanding environmental and health patterns in their ancestral lineage. They can also seek out professionals who understand attachment and get help to address relational patterns in their lives. Much of early childhood trauma lies in these relational patterns. The good news is that awareness can shift these patterns and that even the most stressed patterns can become a healthy, happy present.
What Babies Need: Preconception, Pregnancy, Birth and Postpartum
As pre and perinatal specialists fanned out from that initial core group of practitioners who kept the fire originally lit by Otto Rank in 1924 alive, regular practices in birth, baby care and child rearing came into question. Originally thought to be born more as objects with no feelings, pain receptors or thoughts, professionals and parents alike approached babies as though they were blank tablets upon which could be written a script. These days, we know that babies have experiences in utero and can be affected chemically, hormonally, and by the birthing process. Research has also shown that babies who are spoken to and played with prenatally and postpartum develop at a faster rate and with higher cognitive and physical developmental scores. Awareness of what is optimal can move us beyond or capitalize upon what our ancestors and historical experiences have set us up for.
Conscious conception: The mother is the first home for humans. Once a woman or a couple decides on pregnancy, this early in utero environment can be nurtured with nutritional changes and awareness. The best thing that a parent can do prenatally is resolve their own early history. An adult’s unconscious pre and perinatal pattern can influence how a baby is conceived, nurtured, born and raised. Couples can seek out counseling to decide on how they want to parent and what their family values will be.
Preconception, women can cleanse, ridding their organ systems of possible toxins in plastics and other chemicals ingested without their knowledge, hidden in foods and air pollution. Whatever is going on around a mom three months before conception will influence the DNA selection for a baby. The father’s experiences, environment and stress levels also influence the DNA in the sperm. Their state of mind as parents move towards conception can influence DNA selection. It is also important for moms to take prenatal vitamins especially folic acid, and fish oils (omegas 3,6,9). Moms and dads can cultivate a sense of safety and protection in their bodies, in their relationship and in their environment to help prepare for the pregnancy
Prenatal communication and bonding: Secure attachment begins prenatally. A deep nurturing connection between the mother, baby and father will develop feelings of safety, lovability, and a potential to be loving and develop optimally in the baby. Research studies have shown that reading and singing to the baby in utero begins the attachment process, as well as seeing their unborn child as a participant in the pregnancy rather than simply a passenger inside the mother waiting to makes its appearance. Historically called “prenatal stimulation,” holistic practitioners developed other tools to connect with the unborn including interactive kicking games, massage, and the use of music and light. Parents can communicate with the unborn their intention in
loving manner, even if it is just a thought.
Birthing practices and recovery from birth: Pre and perinatal psychology approaches respect a family’s wishes for their birth experience, but what is optimal for babies and moms are births with little or no intervention. This allows for the endorphins related to the birthing process: oxytocin, beta-endorphins and other natural, endogenous pain-killers to flood the mom and baby. Couples can also hire a doula (a skilled person trained to support women and families in labor) who helps promotes easier labors through touch, movement, and positive state of mind. Research shows a decrease in cesarean section rates and other interventions for births attended by doulas, and even an increase in the satisfaction of marriage in couples who hire them. The midwifery model of care also has excellent outcomes, relying on continuous support of the mother during labor.
Yet, many couples often find themselves with overwhelming experiences related to birth: long labors, little support, fast labors, babies who need help through forceps or vacuum assist, anatomical anomalies in mom and/or baby, placenta placement issues, and more. Interventions save the lives of babies, but they are often overused. Therapeutic methods such as telling and writing the birth story, bodywork like massage, chiropractic and craniosacral therapy, and psychotherapy help decrease post traumatic stress that can lurk in the background should birth become overwhelming. Skin-to-skin has amazing results for babies recovering from difficult experiences. Putting the baby on the mom right after birth has become so important that the World Health Organization is supporting a movement called the Baby Friendly Initiative, providing incentives to hospitals that leave the baby on the mom one hour after birth without interference if there has been no intervention, and two hours afterwards if there has been.
Skin-to-skin and self attachment: The benefits of skin-to-skin practices after birth include
temperature regulation, improved breastfeeding initiation rates and longer, glucose regulation, heart rate variability is normalized, bonding between mom and baby increases, crying and fear in the baby decreases. Research has shown that preemies brought into skin-to-skin contact with their moms need less oxygen. Skin-to-skin bonding also increases oxytocin production for mom, better milk production, and breathing regulation in babies. Overall, it has a calming and healing effect on babies.
Breastfeeding and baby massage: Breastfeeding exclusively and on-demand until 6 months of age is also a perinatal best practice. Benefits include: increased immunity, greater bonding, longer periods of sleeping by three months, a decrease in common ailments such as ear infections, allergies, and asthma. Data shows that breastfeeding lowers the risk of diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers as well but more research is needed to confirm these findings. In addition, parents can be taught to massage their babies, promoting bonding, decreasing stress, increasing circulation and immunity in babies, and overall supporting well-being in the family.
Mom as support, mom as healer: If a mom is not feeling supported during the pregnancy, birth and the first year of her baby’s life, it can be difficult for the family. Depression and anxiety during pregnancy and postpartum translate in the baby’s experience such that he or she may have behavioral, physical and cognitive issues later in life. Moms need to feel good after they have their babies, with circles of support to bring food and help spell the new mom and dad in the care of their new baby. They often sacrifice their well-being to take care of the family however. If they can be gently shown that care for the mother equals care for the whole family, then the first year of life for the new family goes better.
What Adults Need: Healing Early Trauma
After studying all the possibilities in environmental, chemical, hormonal and practical influences on a developing human, there may be a feeling that we should know now how to cure these huge epidemics in mood disorders, endocrine difficulties, behavioral challenges, and various illnesses, even cancer. The truth is more that we are aware of patterns that can influence our physical, mental and spiritual health. Determining the right path for reaching optimal health for each individual once grown into adulthood is tricky and takes time. It involves rebuilding the brain and the nervous system to a more optimal state, and it can be done! Adults can often track their difficulties back to the pre and perinatal period in a variety of ways and select from a group of practices ways to influence health and healing.
Initially, adults for whom pre and perinatal practices are ideally suited are those who have
difficult physical, emotional and relational patterns in their lives that they can’t seem to shake. These are most often chronic states such as lifelong depression and anxiety, attention and comprehension disorders, relational difficulties such an inability to feel safe or connected, sleeping and eating disorders, and endocrine issues.
First and foremost, adults need to understand their history and acknowledge how it affects them in the present time. Early difficulty does not need to be gone over and re-experienced to be healed. However, the person who has such a history needs to make sense of what happened and feel settled around it. Dysfunctional compensation patterns are part of the survival pattern for adults who had to respond in these ways when the early trauma was occurring. These compensation patterns, that have outlived their usefulness for the most part, are brought to light without shame and then transformed with compassion and presence of an attuned therapist trained in early trauma resolution. Often working in a small, safe, nurturing group is very effective as these relational traumas occurred in the context of a family, and a small, nurturing group can create the environment of a healthy family in which the repatterning can occur more easily.
Current trends in trauma resolution include body-based or somatic therapies because the roots of unhealthy patterns lie in preverbal, birth or even embryonic states. True healing of difficulty during this early period requires a somatic component, not just talking. Therapists are trained in a variety of techniques that safely lead an adult to understand and repattern early difficulty. Most often there are dynamic and profound resources within an individual that also play a huge role in a healthy outcome. Known as “resources” or what some bodyworkers call “the health in the system” of the person they are working with, therapies reorient an adult toward this healthy place within.
The Future of Pre and Perinatal Science
The pre and perinatal paradigm for health and healing has immense importance to human
development. New research supporting the vital importance of this period is published weekly. Healthy medical trends influenced by advances in these therapies include the mother and baby friendly initiatives, increases in breastfeeding initiation rates, increases in home birth and natural birth, increased awareness and practice of skin-to-skin practices and policies, and the integration of therapies led by advances in neuroscience and the importance of healthy, balanced relationships in early life. The latter is coined interpersonal neurobiology. The future is bright for further integration of practices around human development.
By Cherionna Menzam, PhD, LMT, OTR/L, RCST ®
Initial Hardness Melts Away
When I first put my hands on a client, I often feel hardness beneath them – like how we usually imagine bones to be. Hard. Rigid. Solid. Heavy. You as client may also feel these kinds of sensations, and tell me about the pain, tension or discomfort that brought you to Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy.
Initially, I may feel a rapid pulsing under my hands, or a chaotic kind of activity. Lying on the table, you might experience a busy mind, perhaps some anxiety or feelings of stress or tension that you have brought with you from your day.
As I continue to sit with you in a quiet state and attend to the subtle movement my hands detect, things gradually change. It is as if the tissues under my hands begin to melt. I have a sense of softening and spreading. There seems to be more space within the tissues. I begin to feel like I’m holding a bag of fluid, gently fluctuating back and forth within its sac.
Eventually, the movement becomes smoother and quieter. I begin to feel less like I am holding a particular part of the body and more like I am holding the whole. What has been separate and isolated is now connected. As client, you may feel lighter, more peaceful and more whole. For example, you might suddenly realize that you not only feel your feet and your hips but that you now also feel the space between them. You now “have legs” and a new sense of connectedness.
Where there was pain or tightness, you begin to feel more ease and relaxation. As your system lets go and relaxes into a state of relative stillness, you breathe more easily, and we both spontaneously take a deep breath. After these kinds of changes occur, you begin to notice improvements in your health and sense of well being.
When you get up from the table after having felt the new sense of connection through your legs, for example, you are surprised to feel the support of the floor under your feet in a way you have never felt it before. You feel a new connectedness with the earth under you. You discover the tension in your neck and shoulders has also relaxed as they can now rest upon the support from your lower body. Your body has started to function as it was meant to – as a whole, connected system.
Problems are just Part of the Picture; Love Embraces the Whole of You
While I may spend time during a session with my hands directly holding a problem area, I no longer believe it is generally necessary to directly “treat” a problem in this way. Regardless of where my hands are, my focus is not on “fixing” a problem. Instead, my intention is to tap into the field of love I believe is holding all of us: me, you, your issues and their resolution.
When we bring love to a problem, instead of trying to get rid of it, change happens. When we judge something as wrong or “pathological,” we miss an opportunity to learn from it and receive the gifts it has to offer. We also withhold from that aspect of ourselves the energy it needs for healing, for wholeness.
Every aspect of you deserves to be loved. Love is all-inclusive. When we’re afraid, we separate, divide, and reject what we do not understand or respect. In love, we can accept what is, understand there is a reason things came to be as they are, and begin to perceive a mysterious intelligence behind them.
Your patterns have come into being to help you survive and function in your life. While a pattern may no longer serve a purpose, we need to honor and respect the wisdom that brought it into being, and to welcome back into our hearts whatever aspects we have tried to exile or escape from. Then, they can heal. With the power of love and appreciation, we can return to wholeness.
To me, this is the essence of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy. I sit with the whole: the wounds and the health. I invite them to hold council together, so they each have an opportunity to express themselves and know they will be heard and received with fairness.
Within this larger field of love, we hold whatever arises, knowing it is just this moment’s expression of an aspect of the whole. In this context, your problems become less overwhelming. Instead of filling the entire picture, they begin to melt into the soft expansiveness of the background. As the clouds clear, your deeper essence, your inner sun, emerges. You remember what you had forgotten as the hardness formed and your mind got busy. You remember and come home to who you truly are.
Copyright Free. You may copy and freely distribute this article, as long as you acknowledge the author and give the website address. www.cherionna.com
A: Neurofeedback is a specific type of biofeedback procedure directed toward the renormalization of the brain and central nervous system. It utilizes the very tiny EEG (electroencephalogram) signals obtained from sensors on the scalp, to monitor the brainwaves and provide a corresponding signal (feedback) to the brain. In short, Neurofeedback is brainwave training, a tool for the brain to directly learn flexibility, mental control and increased stability.
Well-described patterns of optimal brain function are cultivated over sessions, accompanied by diminution or elimination of pathologic conditions as the brain orchestrates its own improvements. Results are at least long-lasting, often permanent, and continue to advance following training.
Common applications of Neurofeedback include addressing learning disabilities, particularly those involving, or related to, ADD or ADHD. Such individuals frequently show a “slowing” pattern in their EEG (Electroencephalogram), so-called because of either the pronounced level, or “surging”, of Delta and/or Theta (slower, or lower frequency) waves. Training to ameliorate these signature patterns over several sessions has been shown to increase the trainee’s ability to attend and focus. Such patterns are frequently experienced following brain injury or insult, and in these cases often respond quickly to neurofeedback.
Q: What is LENS Neurofeedback? ?A: LENS is a specific type of Neurofeedback.
The LENS Low Energy Neurofeedback System provides feedback to the brain in the form of an extremely weak electromagnetic signal. Although the feedback signal is weak, it results in a measurable change in the brainwaves, all without conscious effort from the individual receiving the feedback. This aspect is especially welcome with young children, or those unable to fully consciously cooperate.
The unique LENS procedure creates a highly personalized and detailed plan that accelerates the training process.
During the session, the trainee sits in a comfortable chair, typically for about 45 minutes. The Neurofeedback Practitioner places an EEG (electroencephalograph) lead at different sites on the trainee’ s head. A computer that is connected to the EEG encoder analyzes the brainwave signal and signals the encoder to produce feedback that precisely tracks, and is offset from, the brain’s own signal at that point in time.
The procedure is completely painless and results are often noticed immediately.
The result of this training is a changed brainwave state and greater ability for the brain to regulate itself for higher, more flexible functioning.
s head. A computer that is connected to the EEG encoder analyzes the brainwave signal and signals the encoder to produce feedback that precisely tracks, and is offset from, the brain’s own signal at that point in time.
The procedure is completely painless and results are often noticed immediately.
The result of this training is a changed brainwave state and greater ability for the brain to regulate itself for higher, more flexible functioning.
|What is CNS dysregulation? ?A: CNS dysregulation is a condition that may underlie the following:
If a person experiences three or more of the above, there is a likelihood that CNS dysregulation is present, and that one would benefit from LENS Neurofeedback.
Q: How many training sessions does it take? ?A: As you might expect, this depends on the individual, the issue being addressed, and often the length of time the issue has been in place. For one practitioner, in one specific practice, the average over all clients is about 20 training sessions. Some trainees may be complete in 6 or even fewer sessions (more typical of certain mild traumatic brain injury), while others may require 30 or more sessions.
The brain is mapped initially, and at intervals throughout the training. The brain map shows a 2D color image of the brain that reflects the training progress, updates the training plan and helps to determine when training is complete.
Issues that are similar to ones your parents or even your grandparents had, may take longer. Serious disorders such as Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, and Paralysis, may require many sessions, but over time, there is usually a steady gradient of improvement, rather than decline.
Q: Are there any dangers? ?A: LENS and Neurofeedback have never been known to cause any new problems. However, like homeopathy, and other subtle and energy-based healing methods, they may occasionally cause a temporary intensification of symptoms that have been experienced in the past, as part of the process of the condition being resolved. The best preventative is to let your practitioner know at each visit how you have fared in the 24 hours following each training session. An optimal level of stimulus intensity and duration can then be found that operates within the level of comfort of each individual.
Q: What else can Neurofeedback help? ?A: The following is a short list:
Q: What are some of the potential benefits of Neurofeedback training?
Q: What happens if Neurofeedback clients are taking medications?
A: With successful neurofeedback training, medications targeting brain function may no longer be needed or they may be needed at lower dosages as the brain takes over the role of regulating itself. Although neurofeedback typically takes longer to produce change than medications do, it appears to yield long-term benefits in all key areas of attention span, impulse control, academic achievement and social adjustment without the physiological side effects often associated with medication. Those on medication should be closely monitored by their physician, as dosage changes may be (and typically are) indicated. Although certain specific medications may slow down the training effects of neurofeedback, it is not necessary (and typically not desirable) to discontinue existing medications in order to do neurofeedback.
Q: What are the research results?
A: 80% of adults who received neurofeedback as children for ADD showed continued positive focus results in a three, five and ten year follow-up study. Decreases in impulsivity, distractibility and hyperactivity and increase in IQ have been documented in over 50 studies. As neurofeedback dramatically shifts the brain’s arousal level, modifying the usual response to fear, many otherwise intractable, brain-based emotional problems decrease. See the comprehensive neurofeedback study bibliography prepared by D. Corydon Hammond, PhD, Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, University of Utah School of Medicine. It is organized by areas of interest.
Q: How do I find out more? Read the book, The Healing Power of Neurofeedback: The Revolutionary LENS Technique for Restoring Optimal Brain Function (Paperback) ?by Stephen Larsen, Thom Hartmann (Foreword) , Ph.D.
Set up a two-hour interview and initial LENS Brain Map. This meeting includes a more detailed inquiry into whatever issues you are experiencing, and how our approaches might address and ameliorate them. You can ask any questions you wish during this interview, and obtain detailed information on how neurofeedback works, and an estimate of its likelihood of working for you.
Lobe Specialization and Functions: from Getting Started with Neurofeedback (2005) by John N. Demos, published by Norton
Frontal lobes- sites: FP1, FP2, FZ, F3, F4, F7, F8
Key Functions: attention, memory, social awareness, character, motivation, planning, prefrontal lobes have connections leading to the amygdala so are involved in emotional regulation. They modulate emotions, and give social awareness, empathy, time management and initiative.
FZ AND FP SITES may have an impact on social behavior and consciousness. FP1 and 2 may help when clients have excessive fear as a result of trauma, anxiety and neglect. Neurofeedback training to the right prefrontal cortex may lead to a reduction in fear, and assist with developing a sense of clam and well being.
Parietal Lobes: PZ, P3, P4
Key functions: math, naming objects, complex grammar, spatial awareness
The parietal lobes solve problems that have been conceptualized by the frontal lobes..they are the association cortex. Complex math processings is in the left parietal, but the right parietal is strong in spatial processing so is also involved. The posterior parietal lobe allows us to attend to multiple objects at one time, and to shift attention from one location to another, and perhaps from one sensory modality to another.
Temporal Lobes: T3,T4, T5, T6
Key functions: Left hemisphere: verbal memories, word recognition, reading language, emotion
Right hemisphere: music, facial recognition, social cues, object recognition, and close proximity to the amygdala (emotion) and hippocumus (memory). Long term memory has two braches..sematic and episodic. Semantic memory includes the recall of objects and word understanding. This memory extends form the midtemporal into the hippocampal lobes. Episodic memory involves functional tasks like remembering to pay bills, where you put your glasses or keys. It involves connections into the prefrontal cortex.
In some dyslexia the two main language areas may not work in concert and therefore an important neural link in the insula cortex is not activated.
Occipital Lobes: Sites are OZ, O1, O2
Key functions: visual field, helps to locate objects in the environment, see colors and recognize drawings and correctly identify objects, reading, writing, and spelling depend upon an accurate visual field, some connections extend to the amygdala, so emotional regulation involved. Traumatic memories that accompany visual flashbacks are often processed in the occipital lobes. PTSD is part of a pattern that is a unique connection between the visual cortex and the amygdala. This can also be involved in depression and anxiety.
Sensory and Motor (sensorimotor) Cortex: Sites are C3, C4, CZ. It is the division between the parietal and the frontal lobes and serve as a junction that co ordinates movement, and especially movement guided by sensation.
Key functions: the primary motor cortex: conscious control of all skeletal muscle movements. This cortex runs parallel with the sensory cortex which manages spatial discrimination and the ability to identify where bodily sensations originate.
Damage in the right sensory cortex compromises reasoning/decision making and emotion/feeling and disrupts the processes of basic body signaling. The motor cortex maintains skillful movement and smooth repetitive operations including fluid speaking. Neurofeedback here can assist in stroke, epilepsy, ADHD and disorders of sensory/motor integration. The sensorimotor cortex shares in both physical and mental/emotional processes.
Cingulate Gyrus: Sites: Fpz, FZ, CZ, PZ
Key functions: contributes to mental flexibility, cooperation, attention, helps the brain t shift gears and helps the child to make transitions, helps the mind to let go of problems and concerns, helps the body to stop ritualistic movements and tics, contributes to the brain circuitry that oversees motivation, the social self, and our personality, is closely aligned with the amygdala. It also has a role in orientation in space, eye and senory monitoring services. In ADHD and anxiety the cingulated gyrus sites are involved with emotion/feeling, attention and working memory.
by Georgia Argyle
As our children are born they leave a world in which they have been completely embraced by our physicality, where they are ‘held’ 24 hours a day for many months. That all encompassing touch is vital to the wellbeing of the child long after they are born contributing to their emotional, physical, psychological and social well being. As children grow older their need for touch diminishes in quantity but the need for touch remains throughout life. We depend upon touch as clearly as we depend upon food and water and the consequences of lack are equally dire.
From birth onwards we require touch to provide us with feedback about ourselves and the world in which we live. The quality of touch we receive informs us about our environment, the people who care for us and what we can expect now and in the future. A loving hand caressing a baby’s belly as she is being washed conveys love, nurturing and respect; the baby knows she is safe and can relax in that knowledge. Holding the baby or child while she cries, rages, laughs, and rests tells the child that all parts of her being are loved and valued and that she will be cared for and responded to in a way that helps her grow into a healthy adult. (See the Attachment Parenting website for more information.)
This instinctive caring of our children, by holding them, massaging them and gently washing their bodies, meets a cultural road block as the child ages. In western society we have forgotten how to touch each other as friends, coworkers, parents, siblings and fellow humans. Touch has been reserved for the bedroom and an expensive monthly massage rather than remaining part of our daily interactions with one another. Yet our children continue to require nurturing touch for the healthy growth and development of their entire being. Touch helps develop the brain, physical growth, emotional intelligence, compassion, empathy, connection and much more. So how do we continue to give our children the benefits of touch in a society that has sexualized all touch and where the dangers of inappropriate touch are very real?
I believe the answer lies in developing a healthy attitude about touch within yourself and your family. Explore your beliefs, fears and judgements around touch and seek a new understanding of the importance of touch in all of our lives. From this point, you can create nurturing touch within your family that supports healthy growth while honouring the always changing needs of every family member. As your child grows she will move away from you naturally seeking more independence as she explores her environment but you remain her touchstone, the place she returns to for safety and security. You can foster a healthy attitude around touch by snuggling with your child while you read, placing a hand on her shoulder as you speak, offering hugs as needed and providing a nurturing back rub in the evening. This contact strengthens bonds, reduces stress and provides space for caring and connection. Teaching our children about the importance of touch includes relearning it ourselves and modeling caring through healthy touch with the people we care for.
Touch is a basic human need that in our Western culture goes largely unmet. Without touch both people and animals lose their connection with themselves and others around them. Neurotic behaviours develop within the individual as they suffer from the effects of physical isolation. We are social beings and our survival depends upon the continued connection with one another including the connections and communication forged through touch. Make an effort today to reach out to your family, literally and watch the difference in your interactions; notice if you are able to enjoy and appreciate one another more. The benefits of regular human touch are infinite and I would love to see our community reconnect with this important part of human interaction.
Georgia Argyle is a regular contributor on the ilovenelson.com website. View all of Gerogia’s articles.
by Georgia Argyle
I recently re-read the following poem by Kahil Gibran in which he speaks clearly of our work as parents to be the strong foundation from which our children go forth to build their own lives.
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.”
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
by Kahil Gibran
I really love the essence of this poem, the idea that we are to do our own work so that our children may fly cleanly and clearly forward into the future that waits to receive them. We are encouraged to lovingly hand our children to themselves, to be content within ourselves to the extent that we can allow the soul qualities of our children to shine forth unencumbered.
I strive to do this with my son by looking at each situation from multiple view points, by pulling out the pieces and finding where my work remains. I am committed to continued growth, acknowledging that perfect parenting does not exist only perfection in the desire to always do my best.
When I engage in doing my own work, seek to know more and give myself the time and space I need, I am serving both myself and my child. We are both being freed to do our soul work and to create the reality in which we want to live. I have seen this time and again in my life and the life of others. I believe that our children are perfect mirrors, polished even, showing us what we love to look at and what we most fear.
There is no discrimination in a mirror, it simply reflects back what stands in front of it. We may not enjoy what we see in the mirror yet trying to make the mirror change what it reflects gets us nowhere. By taking an honest look into the mirror; identifying and owning both what serves us and what does not we are enabled to pull out the pieces that need support and attention. We can simply name what is no longer working and seek ways to change the pattern.
When my child does something I have modeled many times before, no change can be made in his being until I make the change first in my own. When I have done my work I can then, with integrity, request that the same change be made in my son. I have also noticed that when I am doing my work I come up against far fewer challenges with my son, he is free to be that arrow to shoot forward as his own being without my thoughts, my dreams and my desires weighing him down.
I rejoice at the prospect of what the next generation brings forward. They are bringing with them an energy that we have not seen, they bring with them an entirely new way of experiencing life that will take us all in a direction we have sought throughout the ages. I believe “we are the ones we have been waiting for”; we are being called upon to take up the tasks that will bring about change and our children are the ones who will step freely into this change as enlightened, energized beings aware of their inherent power to create in joy.
By doing my work and clearing the path my son and the children of his generation will bring us the change that we have all been seeking.
Georgia Argyle is a regular contributor on the ilovenelson.com website. View all of Gerogia’s articles.
Returning to our Origins and Repatterning our Responses to Life and Relationships
Myrna Martin, MN, RCC, RCST®
This model of therapy has grown out of research that shows that prenates, newborns and children in their first two years of life are conscious, aware, perceptive, feeling and respond to these very early experiences throughout the rest of their life. These experiences imprint and become our subconscious programming. The name for this process is the attachment process.
Attachment is the bond co created between a baby and the person who cares for him/her in the first few years of life. This bond lays down in the body, in the brain and nervous system, a template for who this baby becomes in relationship to himself, in relationship to other people, in relationship to his body and in relationship to learning. This is the place of the mind, body, spirit connection. It is a primary determinant of cardiovascular, neuroendrocine and immune system health lifelong.
We have known for a long time that nicotine, alcohol, drug use or poor nutrition have traumatic effects on prenates and little ones. We now know that how a child is welcomed during the pregnancy, supported through the birth process, and the quality of the infant parent attachment process in the first eighteen months of life all form the foundation of the psyche, brain and the nervous system’s approach to life, as well as the structural aspects of the body. Physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health in adulthood can be linked to prenatal/birth/attachment experiences. The patterns we use to deal with stress and how we approach cognitive learning are laid down in these pre verbal times.
This work is based in a broad knowledge base of embryology, infant / child development and attachment processes, neurobiology, craniosacral therapy, trauma resolution, family therapy, and midwifery and obstetrical practices.
Because the template for our life is laid down in preverbal times this therapy works with the root source of life’s difficulties and well being. It is an intensive approach that repatterns difficult, painful historical experiences at the somatic level. The work can offer deep, profound and often comparatively quick resolution of problems and issues that have resisted other therapeutic approaches. The nervous system’s response to stress can be repatterned: neuroendrocrines can be released differently, differents parts of the brain are activated and new ways of being with situations arise. We can change our brains and nervous systems, truly healing.
The model is founded on the truth that, as our birthright, we have the resources within us to live full, creative, gratifying lives. We can reconnect with our authentic selves and reclaim the health and wholeness within us. We can release and repattern unwanted and unnecessary imprinting from our nervous systems, so we can regulate our actions, emotions, beliefs and thoughts in ways that support us. We can learn to slow down, experience and name the sensations, feelings, images, memories and not get lost in the ‘story’ so that our health and full energy can emerge . In this non judgemental, gentle process we co create the space to understand and accept our history, and see the ramifications of these imprints and more accurately understand how certain patterns show up and repeat in our daily life. The client works at his/her leading edge (I will use the feminine for the rest of the article, but the process is the same, no matter what our gender is), where she is in touch with her resources, to create and integrate the changes she wants in her life. The result is a deeper commitment to one’s authentic self, more compassionate, loving relationships, and the creation of healthy families that support the optimal growth of infants/children through effective parenting. Healing early trauma imprinting makes a major contribution to emotional connection and secure attachment in the entire family.
Prenatal/Birth/Attachment Therapy with Families With Pregnant Couples or Mothers
We examine what best supports an optimal beginning. Parents resolve their own early traumatic imprinting to support their baby to grow within a healthy legacy and experience an optimal early life. They work through fears, phobias, conflicts and learn new ways to establish and deepen their relationship with each other and their relationship with their baby. They learn to support and stay connected to their baby during the prenatal and birth process and afterward, no matter what comes up. These babies begin life on the outside already being imprinted with a felt sense of loveableness, safety, protection, and accurate reflection of who they really are.
Healing Early is the Easiest, Best Possible Way With Babies
Coming into the world is a huge event in the life of a baby. The pressures on the cranium, getting stuck, the use of interventions (whether chemical or surgical, even if they are life saving) greatly affect the infant’s body structure and nervous system.
Adverse imprints may show up in diverse ways, such as breastfeeding or feeding difficulties, colic, sleep disturbances, difficulties with transitions, brief separations and the inability to settle or self calm. These stress imprints can be healed early and completely.
When babies and children co create secure attachment with their care givers they are self confident and resilient, even through times of internal and external stress.
Adverse imprints from earlier times can show up as hyperactivity, headaches, stomach aches, inappropriate social skills. I help children and their families to re-establish the child’s natural healthy growth and well being, and to establish ease in their relationships with siblings, parents and peers. Parents develop new ways to approach and support their children during difficult times.
Children and babies who heal within themselves and within their family relationships when they are very young resolve adverse imprints so they don’t become the foundation for life patterns of relating to one’s self and others.
Sandplay therapy with older children (approx. age 3 and up) and their family
Both the child and the parents can approach their inner world through play with sand, water, and a wide variety of miniature figures (people, buildings, vehicles, trees, animals, stones, gems, fairytale and mythical figures). The sand tray enhances focus and concentration and encourages the unconscious to give uninhibited expression. This process helps children and parents speak to each other and their respective unconscious in a creative way that deepens their connection without words.
Sources of Early Traumatic Imprinting
Everyone experiences some level of stress in our prenatal, birth process and early life. The long term impact is proportional to the extent and duration of the trauma and the quality of connection we had with our parents at the time. If we had strong support and loving connection the impact will be less.
Some possible sources of early trauma are:
Biochemical stresses during pregnancy from poor nutrition, exposure to alcohol, nicotine, pesticides and other chemicals/drugs
Moderate to high levels of maternal or family stress, fear, anxiety or depression
Unwelcoming or fearful responses to discovery of the pregnancy, or not being wanted in some part of the pregnancy
Consideration of abortion or attempted abortion of the beginning baby
Domestic violence or stressful abusive relationship between the parents
Death in the immediate family
Loss of a twin during pregnancy or at birth….this can be in very early pregnancy when a twin pregnancy was not even confirmed. With very early ultrasounds now becoming much more common we now have evidence that many more of us than previously suspected were conceived with a twin, who died in the first trimester of pregnancy
Chemical induction of labor
Fetal monitors that are screwed into the baby’s scalp
Unusually long or very fast short labors
Being stuck during labour
Cord wrapped tightly around the babies’ neck
Deprivation of oxygen from many causes
Near death experiences from any cause
Surgical Interventions such as C Section, forceps, vacuum extraction
Analgesics or anesthesia that breaks connection between the mom and baby
Neonatal (at birth or in the first few weeks of life)
Separation from the mother after birth or for any extended period of time during infancy Adoption
Maternal postpartum anxiety or depression, or other mental illness in the family
Death in the immediate family
Moderate to high pain, from accident, injury or illness including
Circumcision or any other surgery, heel sticks, spinal taps etc.
Hospitalization of baby or Mother
Unresolved traumatic history in parents or ancestors that is unresolved
Possible Signs a Baby Has a Adverse Imprint
Glossed over eyes, or avoids eye contact
Crossed or divergent eyes
Total or partial inability to orient in new situations
Hypo or hypertonicity in body
Startle responses without the presence of loud sounds or fast movements
Involuntary shaking or tremors, hands splayed or very tightly clenched
High pitched, weak or hollow crying sounds, excessive crying that is inconsolable
Doesn’t cuddle in when held, arching away or being rigid regularly
Very extended periods sleeping
Latching difficulties, excessive hiccups, frequent gagging, extreme spitting up or
Possible Signs in Older Children of Adverse Imprints
Inappropriate (for age) aggression or timidity, tantrums
Problems with balance, coordination, muscle tone, gait
Reactions out of proportion to stimulus (for age)
Difficulty with eye contact, touch
Difficulty sleeping, frequent night terrors
Hypersensitivity to light, sound, certain materials, textures
Health challenges such as asthma, eczema, food allergies
Rage towards parents or siblings (out of proportion to event, or for age)
Inability to ask for help (appropriate for age)
Parent’s Responses to these Imprints in their Children
Helplessness, overwhelm, numbness
Anxiety, depression, feeling stressed all the time
Conflict and mutual blaming between parents
Difficulty asking for help and support
Difficulty setting healthy limits and boundaries with the children, saying ‘no’ when appropriate
By Cherionna Menzam, Ph.D., OTR/L, LMT, BCST, RCST ®
People often ask me if I do energy work. This may seem like a simple question but, to me, the answer is complex and informative. First, I would say that all bodywork is energy work in that everything involves energy. We are made up of energy. Every tissue in our bodies emanates a bio-electric field. We respond to each other energetically, whether we are aware of it or not. I do not, however, consider Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy to be “energy work.” This beautiful bodywork involves attention to the physical body and is based on physical sensations, although it includes attention to the non-physical and energetic dimensions of our being.
We cannot practice Biodynamics without an awareness of anatomy and physiology, which guides our perception and enhances our ability to meet what our clients present. We also offer an informed appreciation for the subtle expressions of anatomy and physiology. When we slow ourselves down, as we do in this work, we begin to perceive more subtle layers of what we call physical reality. One of the things I love about Biodynamics is how it bridges what we perceive as physical and what we call energetic or even spiritual.
William Sutherland, the father of Cranial Osteopathy (also known as Osteopathy in the Cranial Field), perceived a process of transmutation, or stepping down, of what he termed The Breath of Life. He saw this Breath as a mysterious, larger source beyond the physical body. He sensed through his “thinkingfeeling-seeing-knowing fingers”1 the subtle rhythmical fluctuations of fluid within the body. He understood that the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles of the brain picked up the potency, or life energy, of the Breath of Life force that forms us. The CSF then carries this potency to every tissue, every cell in our bodies, bringing life and health.
A. T. Still, the father of Osteopathy, stated:
“A thought strikes him that the cerebro-spinal fluid is one of the highest known elements that are contained in the body, and unless the brain furnishes the fluid in abundance, a disabled condition of the body will remain. He who is able to reason will see that this great river of life must be tapped and the withering field irrigated at once, or the harvest of health be forever lost).”
This is the work of Biodynamics, along with other cranial therapies. Biodynamics in particular has grown from the later work of William Sutherland. Towards the end of his 40 years of studying and facilitating the subtle movements of the bones, tissues, and fluids of the body, Sutherland moved to California. Living near the ocean, he was influenced by its tides to recognize their similarity to what he was palpating in the body. He began to speak of “the Tide.” He advised his students to “Rely upon the Tide.” He wrote:
“Visualize a potency, an intelligent potency, that is more intelligent than your own human mentality You will have observed its potency and also its Intelligence, spelled with a capital I. It is something you can depend upon to do the work for you. In other words, don’t try to drive the mechanism through any external force. Rely upon the Tide”
The meaning of this advice has taken some time for cranial practitioners to integrate. As it is interpreted by some of us in the field of Biodynamics today, relying upon the Tide is a highly foreign approach for modern, western people. It involves a major paradigm shift.
Up until this point in his career, Sutherland had practiced various forms of subtle manipulation of the cranial bones, membranes, ligaments, and fluids. Most cranial practitioners today continue to practice such manipulations. We consider these practices to be “biomechanical.” They involve the common cultural perception of the body as a living machine. When something goes wrong with a machine, the mechanic evaluates what is wrong, which informs him as to how to fix it. If I break a bone, for example, it can be extremely helpful to have an X-ray taken so as to establish which bones are affected and if they are truly broken. Then a skilled practitioner can set the bone and immobilize it with a cast. This is a useful, biomechanical approach. It involves the external source, the X-ray technician, the doctor, etc.,evaluating the situation and applying an external force, X-rays and a cast, to fix the problem.
Biodynamics is a different approach. It involves the appreciation and facilitation of internal forces. These resemble, and perhaps are, the embryological forces that form us in the womb. Biodynamics involves attention to the energetic and physical midlines of the body, which rhythmically re-enact the miraculous expression of the life force through embryological development.
The potency driving this expression is essential to health. We recognize that Potency is always present in the system, although it may be tied up in areas of holding or compression in the bodymind. These areas of holding are actually expressions of the ever-present Health. The system has done its best to manage unresolved traumatic forces by containing them in various patterns in the bodymind. Our job is to perceive and resonate with the Potency and Health in the client, which supports it in resolving the issue and expressing itself more fully. The client’s Intelligence knows what it needs to do. It has its own “Inherent Treatment Plan.” As Biodynamic practitioners, we have profound respect for this expression of Intelligence. We patiently wait for it to unfold, rather than imposing our own ideas of what should or shouldn’t happen or be treated next.
In order for the Inherent Treatment Plan to present, there is usually a need for the client’s system to slow down. Where there is trauma or holding in the system, there is the tendency to focus in on that issue. This limits access to the resources of the entire system. As practitioners, we settle ourselves so we can be present as a neutral mirror for the client’s system. Our intention is to reflect back to the client the whole, including the issues and the forces available to resolve them. We gently develop our relationship and physical contact with our clients, with an intention to enhance their sense of safety and trust. We support them in being present with their breath and bodily sensations, to balance the tendency to slip into old trauma-related patterns of dissociation or acceleration. We help them to orient to the resources available to them, such as things that are working well in their lives, people or pets they love, activities they enjoy, etc. We track as their nervous system settles and balances.
At some point, we experience a “Holistic Shift” or “Neutral” state. The system has shifted from an accelerated, often chaotic state to a more settled coherence. This is much like how the water in a bottle settles after it has been shaken. Consider that our bodies are made up of about 70% fluid. At our rapid speed of modern, western life, these fluids can be in a state of perpetual shaking. Our nervous systems are constantly in fight-flight, which interferes with our innate ability to rest and rejuvenate. In Biodynamics, we wait for the system to settle before bringing attention to specific issues in the body. Once this settling has occurred, the Potency naturally begins to orient itself to where it is needed. The Inherent Treatment Plan can emerge when the system no longer needs to constantly respond to external input. As practitioners, we listen for what the client’s system chooses to express and follow its lead.
Listening in this way can be compared to going to the woods with the intention to observe the wild animals there. If we go thrashing through the forest, looking for a fox or deer, we are less likely to be rewarded than if we sit quietly and wait. When we are quiet, the animals feel safe to peek out and see who we are. If we continue to be quiet, they come right up to us and start sniffing. If we remain quiet and respectful of their presence, they may then go about their business and allow us to learn from them.
The fluids behave the same way. They show their true nature to us when we quietly witness. If we try to intervene, they react to our actions. Even such a subtle intervention as looking directly at an animal can alter its behavior. Cranial Osteopath James Jealous5 points out that our natural way of seeing is diffuse, rather than focused. In Biomechanical approaches, such focused viewing is helpful in making a diagnosis. In Biodynamics, we need to re-learn how to see in a more diffuse way, taking in the whole, rather than focusing intently on the issue. When we perceive the issue as part of, even floating in and supported by the whole, it can more easily access the resources available to it in the whole.
While the subtle manipulations of biomechanical work can produce immediate results, they are often followed by efforts of the client’s system to integrate the changes that have been externally initiated. Allowing the changes to emerge from internally generated forces enables the whole system to shift as it needs to. The changes are integrated as they happen, when the system is ready for them.
In some ways, this approach is much easier on the practitioner. We don’t need to strive, claim, or pretend to know what is needed. We also don’t get to claim responsibility. The work is done by the Breath of Life as it operates through both client and practitioner. There is a resonance between us, which is a key to how Biodynamics works. As my system settles and becomes calmer, it reminds the client’s system of what it is capable of. As the client’s system settles and becomes more fluid, mine does, too. We say, “Give a session, receive a session.” I have never had any inkling of feeling burned out doing this work. Even if I have been wearing myself out in my life, I always feel better after facilitating a Biodynamic session.
For our egos, this approach may be challenging. The little ego self wants to be in control, to be appreciated, to be important. Every time I facilitate a session, I sense my little ego self having to let go. I consider this work to be a form of spiritual practice. Biodynamic Craniosacral therapist and teacher, Anna Chitty, notes that we are meditating in relationship6. As we sit in the presence of another human being, we practice calming our minds and observing our breath and bodily sensations. Often, we enter into a profoundly peaceful state of presence, together with the person on the table. While the little ego self may struggle to be in charge, it also has the opportunity to rest and experience how it is held within the larger field from which we emerge. The mysterious source that forms us, the Breath of Life, rocks us gently in her cradle. As we sit with our clients, it becomes more and more difficult to deny the power and support of this Breath.
Over time, we settle more and more deeply into the rhythms of the Breath, slowing down until we know ourselves as something deeper, slower, smoother, softer, wider than our everyday personalities. We find ourselves becoming one with the Stillness that is us, that is beyond us. We sense ourselves returning, together with our client, to the beginning, prior to the hurts and traumas of our personal histories. Like the early embryo, we float within the full potential of what life has to offer. This is the heart of Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy.
1. Sutherland, W. G. (Sutherland, A. D. and Wales, A. L., Editors). 1971,1998.Contributions of Thought: The Collected Writings of William Garner Sutherland, D.O. Fort Worth, TX: Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation.
2. Still, A. T. 1892, 1986. Philosophy and Mechanical Principles of Osteopathy. Kirksville, MO: Osteopathic Enterprises, p. 44-45.
3. Sutherland, W. G. (Wales, A. L., Editor). 1990. Teachings in the Science of Osteopathy. Fort Worth, TX: Sutherland Cranial Teaching Foundation p. 14
4. Sills, F. 2004. Craniosacral Biodynamics: Volume 2. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, p. 6.
5. Jealous, J. .S., 2005. The Biodynamics of Osteopathy: An Interview with James S. Jealous, D.O., CD produced by Robert M. Trafeli.
6. Personal communication, December, 2003, Boulder, CO.
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