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Brainspotting helps reset the Nervous System

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

Underwater Brain Coral

What happens when we are exposed to trauma? We have all heard of fight or flight, but there is another response called freeze. Stress reactions are the response of our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which is split up into two parts, the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).

The PNS helps us rest and slows the system down, like the brake of a car. When the nervous system becomes overwhelmed, the freeze response occurs. The SNS is designed to protect the body during the threat, when a threat is detected, our heart rate increases, our blood vessels constrict, our pupils dilate. Just like the gas pedal of a car. The SNS activates our fight or flight response.

These responses are biological and are survival-oriented. What does that mean?

Our bodies are making these decisions in split seconds, to decide how to navigate the dangerous event. And it is completely outside of our control. Once the nervous system takes off the body pumps full of adrenaline to fight or run.

What happens when the body can’t fight or run? It FREEZES.

Freezing, numbing, dissociating is the brain and body’s best way of protecting itself during extreme trauma. Think car EMERGENCY brake. It paralyzes you both physically and emotionally. The freeze response is the emergency-survival response, it helps us to fell what is happening less intensely. This is the most common response in young children who are vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.

A healthy nervous system is like a pendulum gently swinging back between sympathetic and parasympathetic. A traumatized nervous system can get “stuck” on or off. Being stuck ON might feel like anxiety, panic attacks, hypervigilance, possibly sensing danger everywhere. Dissociation, depression, and numbness are often signs of being stuck OFF.

Traumatized nervous systems adapt to the swings of On and Off states, swinging erratically or locked in one system versus another. The traumatized nervous system needs a body-based, otherwise known as “Bottom-Up” approach to therapy for healing and repair. Bottom-up approaches, like Brainspotting Therapy, EMDR Therapy, and Somatic Experiencing Models, are necessary for healing.

A person with a traumatized nervous system is searching to meet basic survival needs, and sometimes this looks like turning to substances, eating disorders, or other behaviors as a way to cope, self-soothe, comfort and "survive". Read more about the Addiction as Dissociation model by Adam O'brien and Dr. Jamie Marich here.

If you are interested in learning more contact me for Brainspotting Therapy in Claremont, CA. My office conveniently neighbors La Verne, San Dimas, Upland, Ontario, Glendora, Rancho Cucamonga, and other Inland Empire, Orange County, and Los Angeles County cities.

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