Neuro-plasticity is the reason why we are able to learn and modify our responses to life’s events. Over the past few decades many forms of therapy have been developed and practiced. Over the past decade through new technology, gene therapy, and applied nano-technology we now know in no uncertain terms that the mind and body are linked. The body is able to influence the mind and the mind is able to influence the body.
Dr. van der Kolk suggests that all effective treatments involve some way for people to learn to recognize when they change their arousal system. When a person learns how to become aware if they get upset, learns to take 60 breaths, focuses on the out breaths, they are able to calm both their brain right down. We are able to choose to engage in soothing techniques like pressing on acupressure points. A most effective methods to calm frayed nerves are walks in nature. The earlier in life children learn how to recognize that they are upset, that their heart is beating hard or irregularly, that their breath is short, the sooner they can be taught to engage in effective self soothing behavior. It is wonderful that our children learn early in life how to calm down, practice yoga, go for soothing walks in nature.
Now that we are certain about the human mind’s ability to learn at every age everyone is able to learn and to engage in healthy self-moderating behaviors with positive effect. After learning how to recognize that we are growing upset, and how to calm ourselves down when we get upset we can progress to the next step.
Learning how to avoid getting upset
The core idea of Dr. van der Kolk’s teaching is that we recognize that we are not a victim of what happens. We are able to do things to change our own thoughts. The new applied sciences in medicine overturn the mistaken belief that if we can’t stand something, we should just take a pill and make it go away. The best treatment is to realize that when something is happening to we it is our own choice how we wish to interpret the situation. We can be frightened or we can change the sensations by moving, breathing, tapping, and touching or by avoiding touch. We are in charge of how we feel and we can influence the way we feel physically. Dr. van der Kolk has devoted his life to creating tools that will provide us with the emotional management tools. Healthy body habits have positive effects on our emotional habits. With practice we become ever more in charge of our own physiological system. We now know that we can calm ourselves down by talking or through one of the many other processes. We greatly benefit from programs that provide us with empowerment. Physical impact, like model mugging (a form of self-defense training), martial arts or kickboxing, or an activity that requires a range of physical effort teaches us to actually defend ourselves, stand up for ourselves, and to literally feel the power in our bodies are very effective. We can retrain our emotions to realize that we have power and we are not victims or our fate.
Dr. van der Kolk, M.D., teaches that to realize that we are not victims of circumstance. We are capable to focus our attentions on learning how to express ourselves better. When we learn how to effectively communicate our feelings, we are impacted by other people’s behavior we engage in a positive way with others. One way to learn is to share our feelings and to seek out therapy to find the proper language for our internal experience. As we become more adept to share our inner life effectively and to learn how to communicate with others, the quality of our lives improves.
Dr. van der Kolk and communications experts teach that most of our communication takes place on the physical plan. We communicate by nodding our heads, we smile, we frown, move, shift our weight and stance. Kids and adults, who were victims of physical abuse and neglect, lose those interpersonal rhythms. As we engage in self soothing behavior and learn to express ourselves we are ready for the last and most fun step. Dancing, listening to music, play music, practice QiGong and find our own rhythm. Soon our life energy will flow and we will enjoy life.
Dr. van der Kolk, M.D. has been active as a clinician, researcher and teacher in the area of post-traumatic stress and related phenomena since the 1970s. His work integrates developmental, biological, psychodynamic and interpersonal aspects of the impact of trauma and its treatment. His book Psychological Trauma was the first integrative text on the subject, painting the far ranging impact of trauma on the entire person and the range of therapeutic issues which need to be addressed for recovery.
Dr. Bessel van der Kolk has been involved in creating tools for stress reduction. Learn more by Publications and Products