Pamela Church, M.A.
1732 SE Ash
Portland, OR 97214
503-239-8737



 


Humanitarian Services In Catastrophic Situations and Trauma Relief

How do we soothe the heart when there is great shock?  Arousal of fear and dread is one pattern for the brain.  Arousal of fear and dread paired with a calming response in the body is entirely another pattern.  The point is to interrupt the terror and trauma and give additional neural pathways a chance to develop.
 
I am interested in well-being, health, individual resiliency, and global coherency in the midst of extreme situations.  The intent of the gestural protocols is to regulate traumatic overload and access resource.  A relief worker anywhere in the world could go to this web page and with an initial twenty minute reading, be able to demonstrate the protocol to the people s/he was serving.
 
The outcome in most cases would be a reported change, and more often than not, a distinct physical shift in regard to arousal.  “My heart isn’t racing anymore.”  “I feel like I’m focused on what I need to do right now.”  “I feel calmer and less agitated.”  After the relief worker demonstrates the protocol, the people who experience the protocol can show it to their neighbor, to their family, or to the people they are waiting in line for food with.

Soothing Agitation In The Field

Simple heart gestures and peaceful brain gestures work to soothe the fight/flight response of the autonomic nervous system.  The gestures respond to acupressure points, as well as the function of the brain.  For example, a hand on the forehead sends increased blood flow to the prefrontal cortex, which is involved with focus and empathy, impulse control, and insight.
 
These protocols are not about talking about what is going on.  They are about somatic processing of overwhelming stress.  The aim is to give some ease in the moment.
 
The design is to read this introduction and then to go to the section with the protocols.  A relief worker demonstrates the protocol.  They introduce it by saying “Let’s try this easy protocol that calms the body; I’ll do it with you and afterwards tell me if there is any change in your experience.”

Guardian Of The Home Front

The amygdala in the limbic system is the guardian of the fear response.  It interprets experience and has a reputation for being emotionally reactive.  If we are triggered, if we have an acute charge to our feeling, the amygdala records this and stamps it as the definitive call on a situation. 
 
This is like saying whoever can shout the loudest is also the smartest by virtue of their ability to override other information.  In circumstances of intolerable stress and or loss, we need to balance the reaction of the amygdala with the attention of the cortex, that is, we need to feel and think at the same time.  The protocols calm overstimulation and enlist the reasoning abilities of the cortex.  It is amazing how the body appreciates the integration of brain functions. 

Renewable Resource

Having effective physiological tools available in a time of disaster to ease shock and distress is a way to reduce suffering, plain and simple.  This is what we are here for: to help each other in times of need, to make the way less daunting.  So often our means to help are limited by a sense of helplessness--what can we do?  Help Here Now is suggesting an implementation of somatic tools as a way to attend to people who are experiencing major loss.
 
In catastrophic events an individual’s emotional reserve can be decimated.  This emotional reserve is in fact a renewable resource.  In extreme stress, the brain lateralizes, that is, the two hemispheres stop talking to each other.  In one of the gestures, Heart Blessing, a person crosses their arms at their chest and alternatively touches their outer chest for two minutes,  This hooks up the right and left hemisphere, as well as accessing Lung One, which is the acupressure point for “letting go” for releasing distress.
 
The bottom line is that trauma reshapes the brain.  The good news is that positive change is possible as well.  By shortening the recovery time with intense emotions, it increases resiliency and resource.  Both then get wired in, new neural pathways develop, as the previously dominant pattern of distress is interrupted.  This is the point: to interrupt the terror so additional neural pathways can make their way and a pattern of resiliency emerges.

Free Benefits

The use of Body Wisdom Tools at the time of the event has many benefits:
 
-In most cases, there will be immediate, discernible relief.
 
-It requires no training on the part of the relief worker to demonstrate the physical heart/brain gestures.
 
-A person calming self with a hand on the back of their head and a hand on their heart is  just that: a surprisingly effective means of self-regulating using the gentle sensation of one’s own hands.
 
-The protocols can be used as a protocol or just an individual gesture can be used.  Or, just the Heart Blessing can be used.  Whatever is used, it is just fine.
 
-To change how one feels in one’s body in an overwhelming situation in a few minutes time is an experience of empowerment.
 
-Resiliency and resource are available if extreme distress is lessened.  Secondary trauma distress with relief workers is responded to as well.  They get to ease their own compassion fatigue as they use a heart gesture.
 
-It is free and available to all.  The model of the hundredth monkey.

Hundredth Monkey

The hundredth monkey happens because there is a change of consciousness in the field--someone dares to do something different and others follow suit because it is useful.  It was first observed in 1952 on a Japanese island where a macaque washed the sweet pototoes she was eating.  Other macaques observed her, the behavior was repeated, and somehow a saturation point was reached and the phenomenon spread to other islands.
 
Help Here Now is not about counseling.  It is about being shown something and being able to walk away with it.  After the initial demonstration, it doesn’t need another person to facilitate.  I am keenly interested in protocols that sustain themselves, that stand on their own, and that further individual empowerment.
 
The protocols aim for brevity and potency.  The brevity is so that they can be passed on like a refrain from a song.  The hundred monkey is a child who learns one gesture and teaches the one gesture to her brother.  Let this child lead the way.