To understand how craniosacral therapy can help with anxiety and/or panic attacks we need to understand how unreleased trauma affects us.
In an article by Dr. Peter Levine called, “Trauma – vortex of violence,” he describes a scene from the Serengeti plains where a cheetah is stalking an impala.
(I’ll save you having to look it up, like I had to, an Impala is one of these cute little deers.)
He describes the seventy mile an hour chase with the cheetah closing in. Just before the cheetah is about to bring the Impala down, the Impala does a strange thing, it drops to the ground as if it is already dead. It has tried the fight or flight response. Its flight was unsuccessful. So it then goes into the ‘freezing response’.
Even though the impala’s body is still being flooded with adrenaline it plays dead. All the blood leaves the impala’s extremities, this happens so that if the cheetah decides to drag it behind a bush for later consumption with its cubs, who are usually hidden at a safe distance, the Impala won’t suffer from too much loss of blood and can make its escape.
The other thing that happens is the impala’s brain releases huge amounts of endorphins into its system. Endorphins are nature’s little happy drugs, many times more powerful than heroin. So should the cheetah not have any cubs and get on with dinner for one, the Impala will be in a euphoric trance and so distanced from being gobbled up.
Let’s say that doesn’t happen and the cheetah does in fact go off to find her cubs. Once the impala knows it is safe you would think it would run away immediately but it doesn’t.
Instead, the Impala gets to its feet and starts to shake violently. This has the effect of shaking off the endorphins and discharging the built-up energy from the chase.
Then after a good shake, it does an even stranger thing. It sort of runs on the spot, vigorously.
What it is doing is acting out its escape from the cheetah. It’s called enactment and it’s very important. The Impala is completing the chase but this time with a happy ending.
All the above actually happens quite quickly and once it’s done, the impala trots off to rejoin the heard as if nothing had happened.
From the impalas perspective, it’s not a big deal because it happens to them every day, just like it used to happen to us every day. They haven’t got time to dwell on it and they are experts at discharging the built-up energy as a result of it.
The only difference between them and us is we have become ‘sophisticated’ and because of that sophistication we have moved away from our instinctive response to trauma and this can lead to a number of symptoms.
For example, it is very common for people who have experienced trauma to have continually cold hands and feet and be in a sort of dreamy other-world all the time. And this can be years after the trauma happened.
The cold hands are because the blood never fully returned to the extremities and the dreamy state is because the brain has continued to release an elevated level of endorphins.
One of the main reasons the trauma remains stuck in their body is because, unlike the impalas, we have no culture of enacting or completing traumatic events.
Let’s face it, intense shaking and acting out of happy endings to traumatic events are not something we generally encourage or support. If someone started to do it beside you at the local coffee shop, chances are it would freak you out.
So trauma often remains locked in our bodies with no avenue of release. This can leave a person’s system in a constant state of fight or flight with a continual excess of adrenaline coursing through their veins.
Craniosacral therapy helps to release blocked trauma by feeling where the trauma is lodged in the body and then helping the release process where it is getting stuck. It assists the body to gently enact what it needs to as the trauma is released.