As a body-mind therapist, I was intrigued by a full page article in the Sept 29, 2012 Los Angeles Times, by Lily Dayton.  Entitled “Healing Senses” the subhead read, “New approaches to psychotherapy stress that the treatment process should go beyond traditional talk sessions and consider the physical state of our bodies.”  This is the essence of body-mind healing.  How nice to see mainstream media open up to new options.

 Too Attached to Our Story?

In the article, Dr. Martin Rossman, clinical professor at UC San Francisco Medical School said, “Talk therapy is actually a little removed.  A story might relate some of our disturbing experiences, but it can distance us from real emotions and somatic [body] feelings.”

Wolf Mehling, M.D. at UCSF’s Osher  Center for Integrative Medicine said, “talking takes place in the cognitive, or thinking part of the brain, and our thoughts are often the problem.  To help combat negative or obsessive thinking, many new therapeutic approaches focus on letting go of thoughts and becoming anchored into bodily sensations.”

Four “widely accepted non-traditional approaches” were explored, including Somatic Experiencing®,  “a body-focused intervention used to discharge tension that is stored in the body following a traumatic event.  The therapist [Somatic Experiencing Practitioner or SEP] directs the patient to revisit the event in small doses while focusing on the body sensation, guiding the patient to shift focus between the traumatic memory and an image of comfort and safety.  As fears dissipate throughout the patient’s body, gentle touch or movement is used to help ground the person the in present moment.”

This helps regulate the involuntary nervous system where the trauma still lurks–even after decades–in the form of fight, flight or freeze.  When we embrace the body’s ability to soothe a wounded mind, we empower our recovery.

 Body Awareness: The Canary in the Mine

Many of my Somatic Experiencing clients are currently or once were in talk therapy.  Often they seek  body-mind work, with the encouragement of their talk therapist, after they’ve told their story numerous times and are ready to delve deeper into their innate healing, on a sub-verbal or feeling level.  Personally, I’m ever grateful to these therapists and analysts who appreciate our body’s capacity to bring all affected areas of the brain into the healing process, not just the thinking brain.

In a sense, body awareness is like the proverbial canary in the coal mine:  It tells us when something is not quite right.  Body awareness runs the gamut of gut feelings and bad vibes to actual physical signs like aches, pains, tight muscles, shortness of breath, sweaty palms, heart palpitations, dilated pupils, insomnia, digestive problems and so on.  Re-telling our trauma story or trying to figure out why we have our symptoms may not alleviate them.  In fact sometimes the re-telling can entrench the trauma deeper into the nervous system.

Our Body’s Pure Agenda

The beauty of bringing our physical sense on board is that–unlike our higher cognitive brain–its only purpose is our well-being.   It doesn’t care about political parties, our parents’ disapproval, what our siblings said about us or what others might think of us.  Yet, we often ignore our somatic signals because we’re so much in our heads, such as making that deadline at work or checking our smart phone.

But when we open to the reality that there is wisdom in the body–solely devoted to enhancing your life–we open to a vast store of healing potential that is just waiting to be discovered and put to good use in partnership with our thinking brain.  As SE founder Dr. Peter Levine says, “trauma is a fact of life, it does not, however have to be a life sentence.”

As an SEP, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, I have the good fortune to witness the body-mind partnership helping traumatized people overcome fear, hurt, guilt, rage, depression and anxiety.  That in turn helps us regain healthy boundaries, a sense of how and when to defend  themselves and build resilient, meaningful relationships with others and especially within themselves.

Three of the most common health complaints I hear are sleep apnea, teeth grinding or bruxism and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Often the same person has all three and is suffering more than they realize.

Sleep disorders are linked to low levels of seratonin, triptophan and melatonin. Now, other factors are becoming known to dental MD’s and dentists. Chances are, someone suffering from sleep apnea also has bruxism, tinnitus and snoring.  A tell-tale sign: 70-80% of sleep apnea sufferers have a scalloped tongue.
According to Joe Schames, DMD and director of the White Memorial Medical Center’s CranioFacial/TMJ Pain Clinic, “patients with bruxism should have a sleep apnea or CPAP exam.” Ask your doctor or dentist to order the test.
Once you know sleep apnea is present, an appliance or bite splint is often prescribed. If tinnitus is part of the package, the ringing in the ears often quiets as bruxism and apnea are addressed. However, underlying emotional factors may go untreated.
What causes this chain of events? For those with a high, narrow roof of the mouth, high body mass, an overbite, large neck, history of orthodontia, forward head posture, use of certain drugs or just plain old tension and stress, the airway behind the nose and soft palate narrows during sleep, causing a lack of oxygen. As the body gets less oxygen, muscles in the jaw constrict in a micro-arousal signaling danger. Teeth clench, moving the base of the tongue into the already narrow airway until insufficient oxygen wakes us up with a gasp for air.
This process repeats dozens of times during the night, causing us to get up in the morning with a sore jaw, stiff neck and shoulders, headache, ringing in the ears and exhaustion.
If untreated, adhesions and inflammation may appear in the mouth and jaw, weaken neck vertebrae and wear down the teeth and mandible. Memory, concentration and relationship problems may also arise.
What Can I Do? A great way to alleviate the apnea-bruxism-tinnitus trio is to re-train the jaw to drop down and forward, taking pressure off the TMJ–temporomandibular joint. The TMJ is laced with mechanoreceptors which alert and encourage us to breathe fully. I use CranioSacral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing® and other gentle modalities to re-educate the bodymind to find more life enhancing ways to achieve rich, deep sleep, while dissipating the impact of stress and trauma. Often when the underlying stress or trauma is treated along with its trio of symptoms, the need for an appliance or medications diminishes. Then we can return to getting a good night’s sleep, awakening pain-free and equipped to greet the day.

by bam0027Flickr.comWhether you’re recovering from trauma or pain, or extending your reach into unknown territory, one of the biggest hindrances we often face is that little, nagging, inner critic which mocks our dream and tells us that we don’t deserve what we seek.

There are several messages in this insidious voice which include:

• I’m just not good enough. • Others are far more deserving.

• I’ve been beaten so much by life’s blows that I’ll never get what I want.

• I’m too old, it’s too late.  • I’ll be attacked if I go after my dream.

• If I were meant to have it, it would already be accomplished.

• I’m too busy, too distracted, too disorganized, too stupid.

• I’ll make people jealous and lose my friends, loved ones.  • I’m just too ordinary.

We’ve all experienced some of these hurtful thoughts and suffered for it. I’ve certainly had my share, so much so that I made an informal study of the subject. I noticed that those who achieve their dream don’t fear or dwell on the voices listed above, at least not enough to stop them. They face the world with a certain joy of life, which supersedes their shortcomings.

Interestingly, many of these successful dreamers aren’t any more gifted or intelligent than the average person. Some have minimal education and experience. But one thing they share is the mindset: To have something new and different, I’m willing to do something new and different.

Even more interesting, these qualities apply to both psychological healing and material success.  Some common traits among manifesting dreamers are:

• Willingness to fail, to learn and continue.  • Willingness to ask for help.

• A sustained focus on the dream.  • A view of the world as a friendly place.

• They assume people like them, not because they’re perfect, but because they like themselves.

• A sense of humor about their flaws and mistakes.

• Willingness to extend themselves for the dream to manifest.

• Courage to be honest with trustworthy people.  • Trust their gut instinct and intuition.

• Sustain a vision of the dream, held in body and mind.

In my case, I’ve been intimidated by technology while at the same time very aware of its potential. So I’m pushing past the list of downer qualities and focussing on the positives to move my dream into fruition. Now, I’m joining forces with you fellow travelers, and inviting you to do the same.

In past few years, an innovative approach to healing trauma, called Somatic Experiencing ®, or SE, has been highly praised and promoted by medical and mental health professionals. It was developed by Dr. Peter Levine, who holds a doctorate in medical and biological physics and another Ph.D. in psychology.

As an SE Practitioner, I see trauma as an altered state of consciousness, or survival mode, a by-product of an overwhelming threat. Growing up in a dysfunctional family can be as traumatizing as war or a car accident. Children may be traumatized by seemingly innocuous events that go unnoticed, but nevertheless effect learning or behavior in some way.

Dr. Levine explains, “SE helps people access their own, instinctive ability to rebound from overwhelming experiences.” SE is a simple, yet profound way to access the traumatized areas of the brain which are difficult to reach through traditional talk therapies.
Here’s where the body joins the mind to form a powerful healing team. By tracking body sensations, imagery, simple gestures, movements and sensory feedback, the patient re-connects areas of the brain with their innate capacity to complete the normal response to threat and shed the effects of the trauma.
Thankfully, much of this is accomplished without having to relive painful memories.
People experience trauma differently but Dr. Levine explains, “… it is a loss of connection – to ourselves, our families and the world around us. This loss is often hard to recognize, because it happens slowly, over time…. Yet not only is trauma curable, the healing process can be a catalyst for profound awakening. Trauma does not have to be a life sentence.”
Some common symptoms of trauma are anxiety, pain, hyperarousal, constriction, dissociation, denial, feeling helpless, immobile or frozen, hypervigilance, flashbacks, extreme sensitivity to light or sounds, restlessness, startle reactions, lower tolerance to stress, sleep problems, mood swings, panic attacks, phobias, brain fog and the inability to bond with or nurture others.
The good news is that SE reverses trauma’s effects by allowing the steady discharge of excess fight-flight-freeze energy. This gentle process, invites the nervous system to regulate itself more efficiently. The result is greater resiliency and a larger capacity to enjoy living in the present and tolerating life’s normal stressors.
To Learn more, read: Waking the Tiger, Peter Levine, Ph.D. North Atlantic Books, 1997


Welcome to the world of Natural Holistic Healing for the Body, Mind and Spirit.  If you’re feeling the effects of trauma and pain, or know someone who is, make yourself at home as we explore ways to regain our well-being.

I have been a Somatic (refers to the body) Trauma Therapist for over twenty years, specializing in a complementary and holistic BodyMind approach for recovering from pain and trauma.  One of my most effective tools is Somatic Experiencing®, or SE, a gentle yet profound way to reach the areas of the brain where trauma and many of its symptoms leave their imprint.

Stress, pain and anxiety are common among trauma clients, as well as neglect, TMJ disorders, developmental trauma, abuse, tinnitus, sleep and learning problems, ADD, ADHD and attachment wounds.  Hands on modalities include Advanced CranioSacral Therapy, medical QiGong, Visceral Manipulation, the Trager Approach and Myofascial Release.  Many of my clients are referred by and are concurrently working with a physician, dentist or psychotherapist.

I am in private practice and easily accessible in the mid-SanFernando Valley.  Several times a year I teach advanced classes at the National Holistic Institute in Los Angeles, guest lecture at Pierce College for “Stress Management” classes and assist the faculty teaching Somatic Experiencing®.

As a Certified Life Coach, I also help people take action steps to attain tangible goals involving career, relationships, personal and spiritual growth.  Life Coaching can sometimes evolve as a next step after people become free of the baggage of old trauma.

Your interest and input are most welcome as we learn and heal together.  Check out my website at: http://www.drdianedalbey.com