NYT recently ran an article on psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk's struggle to convince his colleagues that root of trauma lies in the body. His opposing colleagues believe that while trauma manifests in our bodies physical symptoms such as tension, pain, digestive discomfort, palpitations or breathing difficulty, the root lies with the mind and that's where treatment should be focused. Trauma survivors on the other hand, know that years of mental healing work does not always always translate to freedom in the body.
I love working with the framework of Chinese medicine because it has always been built around the idea of non-duality of mind and body. In fact, the word of "mind" and for "heart" in our medicine are one and the same. We can also see the interconnectedness of mind and body in how each of the five essential organs in Chinese medicine are associated with an emotion. The organs are:
Heart - joy
Lung - grief
Liver - anger
Kidney - fear
Spleen - worry
How our organs and associated body tissues talk to each other and influence each other makes up each person's unique presentation of trauma. Two people who go through similar traumas may experience the trauma completely differently and present with completely different symptoms. Our job as acupuncturists is to figure out the inner energetic landscape of a person's body - how the original trauma impacted the energy, or qi, of their organs and body tissues, and how these different organs and tissues continue to impact each other.
Healing from trauma is a slow process. I've found from both my own healing journey and from working with others that a multi-faceted approach works best. Other healing modalities that treat trauma through the physical body include somatic therapy, bodywork, yoga, qi-gong, acupressure self-massage or tapping, EMDR, pelvic floor physical therapy and more. We are working on a local resource list and we would love your recommendations.