On A Cellular Level

On a cellular level was inspired by learning about the neurological and physiological effects of trauma. After reading ‘The Body Keeps the Score’ by Bessel van Der Kolk, I understood myself and my conditions so much better, finally learning why my particular recovery journey took the shape that it did and why I experience certain symptoms in the way that I do. The book really put into perspective what had always seemed abstract and unlikely symptoms and experiences and really helped me to understand that trauma is processed and re-experienced on a cellular level and only with an understanding of this can treatments even dream of reversing any of the longstanding psychological after effects. Because working with the physiology as well as the mind is essential to full recovery and one of the most meaningful things I’ve ever been told about symptoms like dissociation and alexithymia (inability to recognise, name and describe one’s own emotional states) is that they may feel like absence of feeling, but in fact, they arise from a mind-body disconnect. The mind has, at some point, found what the body is experiencing so distressing and unbearable, that it has switched off its ability to process that particular sensation. And future flashbacks, dissociative states, etc., are a result of the same sensations being triggered in the body, and the mind associating these with extreme distress and danger and immediately switching off as a defence mechanism. The problem is that such responses become hard wired and are difficult to control, triggers can often be at a sub-conscious level, so deeper emotional work, with an awareness of physiology is necessary for improvement. Unbearable as it is, my therapy often involves tuning in to and focusing on the physical sensations in my body and allowing the emotional state that they evoke to happen, whilst being guided through first, reminders of the events that caused the mis-wire to happen, and then, patient and calm reminders that circumstances are different, that the thing my body remembers happened a long time ago and is no longer happening and that I now have control and I can safely manage my own emotional states (which appear to me as children).

Art Journal Sketch Series. Watercolour Pencil on Paper. ©Katy Matilda Neo, 2017.

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