- The use of self-administered subtle healing energy medicine
- The use of language as a healing vehicle
- Holistic integration—owning the changes in the nervous system during the resolution of shock
- The neurobiology of love—the fluid release of neurotransmitters that stimulate and enhance creativity, self-confidence, contentment and focus
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About the Author
Dr. Stephanie Mines is a psychologist whose unique understanding comes from her academic research as well as her extensive work in the field. Her blend of Western and Eastern modalities offers the best of both paradigms. Dr. Mines is the Program Director of the DOM Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing alternative health options for a broad spectrum of populations. Her books represent an overview of her mission to create a bottom up, empowerment based sustainable healthcare revolution. These include: We Are All in Shock; New Frontiers in Sensory Integration, and most recently They Were Families: How War Comes Home.
Read an Excerpt
A Shock Primer
The movement is so violent that it arouses terror. It is symbolized by thunder, which bursts forth and by its shock causes fear and trembling.
— I Ching, Hexagram 51, Shock
The need to develop a comprehensive approach to the treatment of shock evolved out of my years of trying to unravel the effects of shocking experiences on my own body and life, and that translating everything I was learning for those I served. In this regard, completing graduate school was hardly the end of my quest to understand the nature of overwhelming experience and its resolution. It felt more like the beginning.
I went in search of more information and a mentor. I heard about Peter Levine's program, Somatic Experiencing. This was before the publication of Peter's groundbreaking book, Waking the Tiger, which Peter was writing as I studied with him. Peter's information on how the body responds to trauma was like the parting of the Red Sea for me. Everything stood still as I saw a pathway people could cross to get to the other side of trauma. Peter's research became a source of encouragement to me about the health that was possible, especially for those of us who could identify the relationship between nervous system damage and trauma.
Peter's theories about titration (the careful pacing of interventions), the body as healer (using sensorimotor sequencing to create recovery), and the role of fevers and anesthesia in trauma launched a wave of new understanding. My life, my practice, and my writing changed dramatically, not only because of what I learned from Peter, but, much more importantly, because of what I experienced as I applied his insight to my own unfolding and in my practice. As I owned a new dimension of healing within myself, I saw how significant it was to broadly redefine trauma treatment.
What this meant in terms of application was that everything slowed down as I inquired into titration, or "right rate." What was the right rate at which one emerged from traumatic repetition? It was, of course, highly variable, depending on the individual and their particular history. But one thing was certain: the use of subtle energy medicine, and in particular Jin Shin, always assured that this right rate would be honored. This was because the energy medicine I taught and practiced was based, in large part, on energy pulse or energy rhythms that were felt in the fingertips of the practitioner (this is discussed more in Chapter 4). This pulse always reflects an individual's true response to change. It is like using biofeedback, only your hands are the instruments that "read" the bio-information. It was a great boon to be able to teach trauma survivors how to treat themselves and thus become self-regulating and self-pacing. Peter's paradigm emphasized the cultivation of both internal and external resources almost above all else. One of the best resources available for recovery is Jin Shin Tara.
At the same time, my curiosity about resolving the consequences of overwhelming experience was even further stimulated as I realized there was much more to discover now that the physical body was such a thoroughly acknowledged participant in the conversation. Gloria's experience was a watershed case in pushing me in the direction of further exploration and not stopping with just an understanding of trauma.
Gloria had survived a horrendous accident as a teenager. She fell from a subway platform and was run over by a train. She lost the lower part of her foot, and one side of her body was maimed. Months in a hospital and numerous painful skin grafts followed. Of course, she had received an enormous amount of anesthesia and had lived for a long time on painkillers, which she still reverted to from time to time. Despite all this, she felt very lucky to be alive.
Gloria was extremely soft-spoken and withdrawn. After her recovery, she married and had two children whom she cherished. Her husband, however, could not handle his wife's special needs and abandoned the family. Though she still had intermittent pain, wore a prosthesis, and suffered from ongoing exhaustion, she never complained. Gloria was thrilled with Jin Shin. Once she began to use self-care regularly, her pain diminished substantially. She had frequently been threatened with infections where her prosthesis met her flesh, and advanced energy medicine applications that I taught her succeeded in warding off these infections each time.
Somatic Experiencing helped Gloria on numerous occasions to step out of the trauma vortex (cycle of reenactment) into the healing vortex (a resourced lifestyle that builds slowly upon the release of held traumatic memory in the body). Nevertheless, Gloria's previous struggles with depression resurfaced and were increasing as her daughter neared adolescence. A question that had occurred to me before now reared its head again. Perhaps this was something more severe than trauma that played out in different neurological and physiological ways.
It wasn't until I met William Emerson, however, that I first heard the word shock used precisely and definitively. "Shock recapitulates globally," he said. "The shocks we have experienced remain after therapy has been concluded, and frequently reveal themselves in recurring discomforts for which it is very difficult to find a solution."
William Emerson is a pioneer, having carved out new territory by clearly differentiating shock from trauma and identifying prenatal and birth experience as the most likely settings for completely overwhelming experience. William spoke emphatically about the role of the adrenals in shock and about the differences between sympathetic and parasympathetic shock. It was because of what I learned from William that I began to pay attention to how the word "shock" had been misused (using it interchangeably with trauma, for instance) and how important it was to carefully point out the unique considerations of treating shock.
It was unquestionably true that Gloria's adrenals had been utterly drained by the shock of her accident, followed by her husband's abandonment of his family, and then her struggle to support her children. But Gloria had also talked about the stressful nature of her early family life. Her father had been extremely punitive, though that had changed drastically after the accident. I wondered if the more recent stress actually was an additional weight on a foundation already compromised by earlier shock. Perhaps there were additional precursors. I spoke with Gloria about this and we shifted her use of energy medicine to focus more strenuously on adrenal regeneration. (See the chart on page 44 for more information on adrenal treatment.) I encouraged her to receive an intensive five-day series of treatments designed specifically for this purpose, and I asked her to rest deeply and to avoid work for the duration of this series. I also suggested that she do everything she could for the health of her kidney-adrenal system, such as not ingesting caffeine. The change was remarkable!
Gloria had always been extremely pale with dark circles under her eyes despite the fact that she went to bed each night right after her children, and sometimes before! Now her skin took on a rosy glow, her eyes sparkled, and she shifted from being reserved to being much more expressive. She gained a resiliency she had not previously had. She gathered strength and began to focus more on her own life and growth. I took the cue and became a student of William Emerson's.
As I read, researched, and undertook nearly seven years of experiential learning about shock, I saw that there was, in fact, a substantial difference between shock and trauma, though shock could be referred to as extremely severe trauma. The language is less important than identifying the distinguishing characteristics, such as the actual levels and magnitude of adrenal activation and debilitation. The study of shock also inspired me to become more of a detective in my inquiries into the sources of suffering. Believing so completely in the "healer, heal thyself" wisdom, I pursued this detective work heartily in my own life. The results were astounding. By discovering, through my own internal investigations and then later in validating conversations with my family, some of the almost insurmountable difficulties of my mother's pregnancy with me and the threats to my survival during that time, I was able to have a much clearer understanding of myself. The long-term effects of these discoveries were extremely calming, despite the fact that I was learning about my own profoundly shocking experiences. Knowing that my life had been so severely endangered made me realize that I must have truly wanted to be here because the obstacles to my birth were enormous. This realization continues to nourish my commitment to life. Indeed, it has shaped my clear perception that shock is the defining experience of our time and that few are left untouched by it.
As I listened to more extensive histories, sometimes going as far back as conception, prenatal life, and birth, I saw how shock that happens at the most vulnerable times of our lives persists and is reactivated unless it is resolved. I noticed that domestic violence was common during pregnancy and had a devastating impact on the children born under these circumstances. When I worked with people with AIDS, I heard story after story of childhood sexual abuse compounded by experiences of ridicule and exclusion for many years prior to infection. These were not single event woundings; these were lives of shattering, compounded, and overwhelming shock. In Mexico and Hawaii, I became aware of long lineages of repeated and horrendous violations to entire groups of people and factored this into my understanding of shock. Gradually, a picture came into focus for me, with a message of stunning urgency. We are all in shock. We are living in the whirlwind of an ongoing, albeit unseen epidemic. Countless babies born under anesthesia, separated from their mothers at birth, delivered with forceps, and with memories of stress, begin life conditioned by shock. This was true for me and for most of my generation. Without an awareness of this epidemic, we perpetuate it, becoming depressed and dysfunctional, and unable to protect ourselves, much less the children of the future.
I knew, in my heart, that it was shock that had to be addressed at this point in history. Current events in the world that I could never have anticipated have corroborated this over and over again.
The purpose of this chapter is to further clarify the use of the word "shock" in this book. A refined and current definition of shock is necessary, along with an understanding of previous designations. I also want to make it known that the use of subtle energy medicine (which in this book is restricted to Jin Shin Tara but has many forms), is exceedingly beneficial, specifically for the treatment of shock. My work with others, as well as my own experience, has demonstrated this to me without question, as has recent scientific research.
Shock: An Historical Perspective
Shock is part of human experience and always has been. We carry, within our larger though sometimes unconscious memory, the history of shock as it has happened in our lives, our families, and our culture. Shock is cumulative, and this accumulation is its danger. It becomes less threatening to our health and well-being when it is exposed, addressed, understood, relieved, and released. This is true on a collective as well as on a personal level.
The oldest reference to shock is in the I Ching (or Book of Changes), which has been called the most ancient book of wisdom on Earth. Its origins are in China, at least 5,000 years ago. Carl Jung is responsible for bringing awareness of this text to the West a century ago. Jung wrote the foreword to the first classic translation of the I Ching.
The I Ching can be read in two ways: as a book of oracles, or as a book of philosophical and spiritual wisdom. These two uses are, of course, not mutually exclusive. To serve both these functions, The I Ching provides poetically concise and thorough descriptions of all the patterns of life. These are put into the form of hexagrams, which are consulted for guidance. Number 51 is named "Shock."
Ron Masa is an expert on the I Ching, so I asked him to tell me something about this hexagram. "Shock is one of the archetypal principles of the Cosmos and hence one of the 64 basic hexagrams. It is part of the natural cycle of existence. It is that aspect of experience in which the magnitude of things overwhelm our normal function," he replied. The ancients, Ron told me, identify shock as "one of the harder paths of human evolution."
The I Ching offers thunder as a symbol for shock. Stop for a moment and, using a combination of your memory, visualization, and time travel, slowly replay your response to hearing the sudden clap of thunder overhead. The sensations you experience exemplify the physiology of shock. Shock comes unexpectedly, out of nowhere. It moves quickly and violently. It stuns and shatters.
For me, and for most of the people I have seen in my years of practice and teaching, shock has occurred not just once, but time and time again. Unless older shocks are resolved, when the new ones happen, the resources that should meet them are not available or are in such a state of depletion that they cannot function well. If, however, shock is understood and addressed, it is possible to be fresh and ready when and if another shock should occur. It is to this preparedness that the I Ching speaks.
Because the I Ching is a book of wisdom, it provides shock's remedy and spiritual function. "There is a path of development in shock," says Thomas Cleary, the translator of The Buddhist I Ching. This development links threat with transformation. Shock, by virtue of its unavoidable and dramatic force, demands that we become wise beings or be undermined by it completely. That is why, as Ron pointed out, shock is such a difficult teacher. "Only by virtue of a lifetime of development can you go forth into emergencies that 'startle those afar and terrify those nearby,' from which all other people flee, and stand up to them with a steady mind," says Cleary.
The I Ching thus suggests that the experience of shock can catapult us into going within to understand the purpose of the very experiences that undermine us. The end result of this, according to the ancients, is the maturity and wisdom that allows us to heal ourselves and to serve others. This is the wisdom about shock that the I Ching offers. It is also the path recommended in this book and in the use of the TARA Approach.
The actual etymology of the word shock is from the French "choc" or "choquer," which means violent attack or striking against. The Dutch word "schokken" (to jolt) sometimes is referred to as the source of the French word. A subsequent definition, "to offend," emerged in 1694. In 1706, we find the first association of shock with electrical current. During WorldWar I certain responses were described as "shell shock" because of their association with explosions. This was the first diagnostic use of the word shock, and "shell shock" later became what we now know of as PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder.
The use of shock to treat shock, as in the electroshock therapy that was used to treat shell shock in World War I and is still in use in some places today, is the polar opposite of what is suggested in this book, which is gradual and self-empowering care. Even catharsis could be seen as being based on a "like treats like" concept. Exposing the nervous system to something as overwhelming as the original disorganizing experience is not really effective, according to my observations. The recipients of this radical intervention, who are not often consulted, report a variety of responses to this intervention.
A subtle energy medicine approach reminds the nervous system of the capacity it has to respond in a balanced way. The recommendations that I make for self-care treatment in this book allow you to be at home or wherever you are most comfortable, and to follow the guidance of your own inner direction in knowing which areas of your body to hold or touch. This utter and complete safety stimulates the organic arousal of crucial neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, that free us of the distress associated with both shock and trauma. It also invites the kidney-adrenal system to be totally at ease. Subtle energy medicine takes your adrenals to the spa, where they can relax, refresh, and renew!
While I have been talking about the physiology of shock and the adrenal glands in particular, when I speak of "systems" affected by shock, I am also referring to emotional, psychological, spiritual and, of course, energy systems. Whether you think of these as energy bodies, chakras, states of being, or an aspect of self is unimportant. What is important is the acknowledgement that when shock occurs, it demands a thorough engagement of all these systems.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "We Are All in Shock"
Copyright © 2003 Stephanie Mines, PhD.
Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Introduction: We Are All in Shock,
Section 1: Understanding Shock,
Chapter 1: A Shock Primer,
Chapter 2: The Physiology of Shock,
Chapter 3: Picking up the Pieces: Stories of the Successful Resolution of Shock,
Section 2: How to Heal,
Chapter 4: How to Use Energy Medicine to Resolve Shock,
Chapter 5: Language and the Voice of Healing,
Section 3: The Bigger Picture,
Chapter 6: Birth, Prenatal Experience, and Shock,
Chapter 7: Mother Nature, You, and Me — the Seamless Matrix of Life,
Chapter 8: Envisioning a World Without Shock,
About the Author,