The Energy Anatomy of Trauma
By Christina Haverkort (12/2020)
Almost all of us have experienced some form of trauma at some point in our lives. A study of the human energy field shows that trauma causes significant impact on the nervous system and endocrine system, which in turn affects the immune system and the digestive system. “Trauma can be a life-threatening experience, a deeply distressing or disturbing experience, or an emotional response to a stressful event.” (*Dictionary)
But trauma has subliminal affects as well. Examples: news of a death, a frightening diagnosis, a fall or sports injury, a car accident; concussion, emergency surgery, hospitalization in childhood, repercussions of alcoholism, birth trauma (for both mother and newborn); abuse, stroke, heart attack, embolism, amputation, etc. Through the lens of energy awareness, trauma impacts the body like this: Through the avenue of the sensory organs, as they are receptors, making the head akin to a receiver that collects information via sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, mental interpretation, and feeling.
The 12 pairs of cranial nerves (part of the central nervous system) innervate all of your sensory organs. All the incoming data from stress or trauma, both from outer consciousness and inner consciousness are recorded, and then imprinted in the body’s multi-faceted memory bank. This occurs in a systematic, organized way. All body systems communicate with one another; glands, organs, and cells. The nervous system is the body’s electrical system, consistently signalling among and between every system in the body, enabling it to execute every task. However, when the nervous system becomes overloaded, it increasingly shunts stress into other body systems.
The moment trauma or stress jolts the body; the vagus nerve instantaneously records all incoming data. Receptors absorb the jolt, immediately affecting the pituitary gland. The pituitary is a master gland that secretes hormones into the blood. In this way, the circulatory system instantly alerts the entire body, and the energy of a traumatic event zips through it at lightening speed. That energy travels from behind the eyes, through the brain, alerts the sensory organs on the way, courses into the neck, affects the thyroid, then rushes down the spinal cord to also affect the peripheral nervous system. (This system is comprised of nerves that branch out from the spinal cord and extend to all parts of the body). The path that the energy takes is a survival response to the trauma that often triggers a fight-flight response to run to escape further injury, followed by an adrenaline rush and pounding heart. The race ends its vagal-path journey at the tailbone. Ideally, the trauma-laden energy would exit the body here; but the body is strongly inclined to store the energy instead, setting the stage for the development of chronic dysfunction and altered wellbeing.
The energy anatomy of the Vagus nerve begins as a bilateral nerve located in the cerebral cortex, at a depth not far in behind your eyes, energetically connected to the pituitary gland. The is the master gland of the endocrine system. From the cerebral cortex on each side, this bilateral nerve leads to the visual cortex at the back of the head. This is where memory is stored from the collection of incoming and outgoing data from the sensory organs in the rest of the cranial nerve system. The cranial nerves innervate the eyes, sinuses, taste buds, parts of the inner ear, and go down the neck to the clavicles. From the visual cortex it runs into the brainstem. The vagus nerve travels down both sides of the throat, taps into the thyroid Gland (part of the endocrine system), then the thymus Gland (part of the Immune and endocrine system). It continues down the dorsal spine, along the way feeding into the back of the heart. These two areas – the visual cortex and the back of the heart; I think of these as modulators. As key energetic centers in the body, they are significant points in the vagus network. Remember, they contain the totality of the body’s stored memory of all traumas, including ancestral trauma and the ancient fight/flight response that has been filtered through time to present day. The heart, one modulator, stores memory for trauma that happens in the body; the visual cortex, a second modulator, stores memory of trauma that is held in the cranial nerve system. From the heart, the vagus nerve continues down the spine with points along its path, which connect to other organs like the lungs, and diaphragm. It then continues to the stomach, connecting the spleen, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver. Continuing from there, the vagus nerve links to the kidneys, then branches into several innervated places serving multiple sections of the intestinal folds; At Lumbar 1 through 5. At lumbar 5, the vagus nerve joins the peripheral nervous system, and then ties into the lymph system and reproductive system. It then re-joins the central channel (along the spine) and feeds into the colon and finally to the coccyx, commonly called the tailbone. This area is yet one more modulator in the body. The coccyx has the prize role of storing memory for the entire body.
If you have experienced a traumatic event, you likely know that the force of the energy coursing through your body can destabilize your footing, as though a carpet has suddenly been pulled from underneath you. Your tailbone and legs are your foundation, and need to be strong. When trauma shoots through your body, its affects can weaken your ability to simply stand up and think coherently. The area at the tailbone is not only a memory bank for your body, it is also the power centre for the root chakra. This is the energy centre that rules our feelings of safety, stability, security, prosperity, belonging, and connections to family. It is also a storage locker for memories of trauma. Herein lies a hidden key; a key that is essential for healing.
Trauma, the continuous wear of chronic stress, or multiple traumatic events, all impact the body’s major operating systems, notably the immune and digestive systems. The nervous system and endocrine system are instantly affected by traumatic energy as it travels throughout the body. Along the vagus nerve route, the thyroid gland (situated in the front of the throat) is directly in the line of fire. The principal innervation of the thyroid gland stems from the autonomic nervous system. Parasympathetic fibres come from the vagus nerves and sympathetic fibres. (*reference.medscape.com) This is important to note because the thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the body’s metabolic rate, which controls the heart, muscle, and digestive function, brain development, and bone maintenance. (*Yourhormones.info) This helps us to understand how thyroid imbalances develop, sometimes resulting in suppressed immunity and autoimmune disorders. These inevitably impact the digestive system.
To further break this down, the first stage of digestion occurs the moment we put food into our mouth. A series of cranial nerves controls the rate of saliva production. Three pairs of glands secrete saliva in the first stage of digestion. If even one of these pairs of cranial nerves is impaired due to stress on the body’s nervous system, their optimal function is compromised. I hypothesize that this is part of the connection to inflammation in the gut-biome, leading to an autoimmune response. The immune system is very much entwined with the health of the gut-biome. From this we understand that where and how trauma traps energy can, and will, compromise the ability of body systems to function optimally.
Until traumatized energy is released from the body, the body stores these memories even if the trauma occurred during an unconscious state (i.e.: under sedation) or under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or even if the body is in a comatose state. In spite of such conditions, the sensory organ system continuously records disturbing events. In cases of traumatic injury resulting in memory loss, this can at times be due to an over-stressed nervous system, resulting in a memory shutdown so that the body can attempt to re-calibrate. However, even when there is memory loss at the conscious level, the subconscious body and mind retain the associated memories.
The practice of being ‘in’ your body is necessary for your own well-being. I don’t mean exercising, I mean a practice of mediation or focused intention and desire to be with your body, so you can open the line of communication. Another way of describing this is a process I teach and call ‘Grounding’. Grounding takes you into a focused relaxed state your body needs to build the foundation that which it is built upon, this area is called the Root Chakra, this is your connection to the earth our home.
There are two places in the body through which we find a sense of safety. The primary place is the energy centre known as the root chakra, located at the base of your spine. The root chakra dominates feelings of safety and stability. The more stable you are in your body – the more comfortable you are spending time ‘in’ your body – the better your self-confidence can be, along with a sense of security, connection to divinity, the earth, nature, and generally feeling comfortable in your own skin, the value of which cannot be understated. The second location in the body from which we acquire a sense of safety is located in the high heart area on the upper back; energy shows that this is the area where, oxytocin releases. It is a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, sometimes known as the “love hormone,” released between mother and infant or because it is released when hugging and bonding. Interestingly, this is the same “grab” area where many animals pick up and carry their young with their mouths, at the scruff of their neck. The act of biting and holding in this spot pinches the vagus nerve pathway, causing a parasympathetic response in the body’s nervous system. This is not only the location of a safety-and-comfort trigger; it is also where hormones release and combine with the immune system building immunity.
Now we move to the thymus gland: due to its location, the thymus (located behind the sternum with the heart) is instrumental in the production and maturation of T-lymphocytes or T-cells, before birth and throughout childhood. T-cells are a specific type of white blood cell that work to protect the body from threats like viruses and infections. *(Endocrineweb) When someone is in shock, or in need of comfort how often have you already placed your hand or arm around some ones shoulders, or on their upper back? The intended comfort combined with a source of warmth instills a sense of safety, helps calm the nervous system, and initiates a sense of restoration energetically.
The central nervous system has subdivisions: *the parasympathetic nervous system is one of three divisions in the autonomic nervous system. Sometimes called the rest and digest system, the parasympathetic system conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. *(sciencedaily.com) This gives the body a necessary break and more importantly, creates an environment wherein the body does its best healing.
The sympathetic nervous system runs the body’s rapid involuntary response to dangerous or stressful situations. A flash-flood of hormones boosts the body’s alertness and heart rate, sending extra blood supply to the muscles *(livescience.com). In our modern-day world we easily become mired in chronic stress, causing stress hormones to circulate throughout our bodies, affecting the entire muscular system. Symptoms of chronic stress include an inability to relax, and difficulties obtaining a natural, deep sleep.
Because the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system both play vital roles in trauma, the ability to heal trauma is vastly enhanced when the body and mind are in a deeply relaxed parasympathetic state. A tenet of the healing professions is that your body needs your undivided attention in order to release heavy energy and begin to heal. We call this state of mindful awareness ‘being in your body’; that is, intentionally being much more aware of your body than you would normally be; vital for maintaining balance of the nervous system. Here is where we employ the process that I, as your practitioner, refer to as ‘grounding’. At the start of each healing session, with my guidance you will gently enter this deep state of awareness. Why? Because it is imperative for the body to be in a deeply-relaxed, aware, grounded state in order to let go of stored trauma and effectively process it. The more often you practice being ‘in’ your body in this deeply relaxed state, the better your body’s energy system will function. This practice will give you a stronger connection to yourself, enhancing your self-confidence and sense of security. Your most effective healing happens from the inside, out.
During a healing session, the release of trauma generally involves the body’s unique guidance system bringing forward memories of trauma it has stored. The body’s intelligence will often bring forth these memories as though playing them like a newsreel, without engaging the emotions. In other cases such as with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), emotions may come up, needing expression and release. If this happens and your emotions are uncomfortable, you may also feel vulnerable. Keep in mind that you’re in a safe space, in capable hands, for the purpose of allowing release to occur. In this deep state, you can count on your body to manage the order of guidance; it knows what sequence is required for its own healing. The primary objective is to release stored stress and emotions that have been locked up in organs, glands, or tissues. Once this journey has begun, your body takes the time it needs to re-balance itself. Remember that your body will benefit from your frequent attention of this kind. Developing such a close connection with it strengthens its ability to prevent dis-ease. Knowing this keeps us cognizant of just how sophisticated the body’s healing actually system is.
Other features that may surface to the conscious mind during trauma release are;
What was happening in your life around the time of the trauma?
Where you were and what you were doing or feeling prior the incident?
How much stress you were already holding in your body prior to, or during that time.
Those who suffer from PTSD, the healing approach takes a much more advanced route to slowly release emotions that have been held in the nervous system and tissues. Post traumatic stress disorder is more complex and takes time because of the disconnection between the body and the mind. Feeling safe, through the nature of being securely ‘grounded’ is essential.
Trauma impacts the body on so many levels. Thinking of the nervous system as an electrical system helps us understand how our body systems can become compromised. Regardless of what amount of trauma we have experienced, our bodies find myriad ways to help us process the effects of the trauma. These ways include how we express ourselves through our creativity and expertise, including art forms like dance, song, poetry, sculpture, music, exercise, meditation, comedy, teaching, writing, and more. Regardless of its state, the body knows no bounds, endlessly searching for pathways to carry out what it needs to do in order to heal.