Vorkongress 3: The Body Keeps the Score

The majority of people who seek psychiatric care have histories of trauma, chaos, or neglect. PTSD is only one possible adaptation to trauma- it rarely exists by itself, and it does not take account of the differential effects of trauma at different stages of mental and brain development. There has been not only an explosion of knowledge about how experience shapes the central nervous system and the formation of the self, but also about what constitutes effective intervention. Advances in the neurosciences, attachment research and in information processing show how brain function is shaped by experience and that life itself can continually transform perception and biology. Overwhelming experiences alter the capacity for self-regulation, attention and memory processing due to changes in subcortical, i.e., “unconscious”, levels of the brain. The memory imprints of the trauma(s) are held as bodily states and physical action patterns. This causes the entire human organism to automatically react to current experiences as a recurrence of the past. While language, insight and understanding are useful to deal with confusion and secrecy, it rarely is enough to deal with the unspeakable, intolerable and unacceptable nature of traumatic experience. Effective treatment of post-traumatic problems needs to include addressing the imprint of trauma on the physical experience of the self as being helpless and in danger. Recovery needs to incorporate dealing with defensive efforts that helped ensure survival, and incorporate physical experiences that contradict feelings and sensations associated with helplessness and disconnection. This course will present current research findings about how people’s brains, minds and bodies are affected by traumatic experiences. We will explore specific techniques that address affect regulation, the integration of dissociated aspects of experience, overcoming helplessness, attentional deficits and the re-integration of human connections.


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