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Sound Therapy and Trauma

We often think of trauma as an event in our lives as in “a traumatic event”. However, it is useful to think of trauma not as an event but rather as a response. It is a way of responding to a challenging event with all its long term consequences.

Trauma is not what happens to us. It is what happens inside us” - GaborMaté.

And yes, there are “traumatic events” as such (a car crash, the death of a loved one, sexual violation, a natural disaster, etc.), but in order to better understand trauma and what it does to us, it can be helpful to focus on the response.

If a situation provides us with more stimulation or distress than our body is capable of dealing with, the overload creates a traumatic response which, in turn, impacts psycho-somatic unity. Trauma disrupts the wholeness and coherence of the mind-body system. During and after a traumatic response, our body and our mind split and create fragmentation in the individual. This happens because the normal cycle of arousal of our nervous system is interrupted by insufficient individual resources to deal with a certain situation.

This can lead to symptoms such as extreme anxiety, chronic pain, lack of vitality and depression, confusionalstates, trouble focusing or concentrating, a tendency to hold thebreath, etc.

When functioning properly, our nervous system is a wonderful regulator of all the functions in our body based on how we interpret the sensorial information that it provides us with.

As a simplified example, a healthy cycle of arousal looks somewhat like this:

 Arousal- activation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response)
 The challenge is met (by either successfully fighting or successfully escaping)
Relaxation and integration (parasympathetic nervous systems restores the basic functions of relaxation and nourishment)

A traumatic arousal cycle may look like this: 

Arousal - activation of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response)
Challenge is not met
Hyper-arousal- activation of the sympathetic nervous system which is somewhatdisproportionate to the situation
The challenge is still not met
Hypo-arousal - a drop in the sympathetic response which leads to a “freeze”response (immobilisation – no discharge of arousal – dissociation – constriction)

In real life, the traumatic response of the nervous system can show itself, for example, when someone shuts down when confronted withsomeone else's (or even their own) anger. Or when someone starts feeling very anxious in the presence of groups of people. Or when someone finds it difficult to trust friends and relatives.

The freeze response locks up an enormous amount of energy in our bodies.That can cause the kind of tiredness that just does not get better, and in many cases can be the underlying root cause of chronic pain conditions.

All these things happen at a very deep level and we have very little conscious control over them. Thinking and analysing these issues normally does not bring effective healing or change. The healing needs to happen through the body, at a somatic level.

How can Sound Therapy help?

When we hold on to the strong emotional charge that a traumatic response elicits, we create areas in the body where the charge is “stored”. That stored charge can create contraction, pain, mood swings, restless sleep, nightmares and many more seemingly unrelated symptoms.

The therapeutic application of sound vibration, as it travels through bones, muscles and fascia, can help to bring movement to these stagnating or contracted areas, therefore helping the stuck energy to circulate again.

If we think of our bodies as made of vibrating energy, we can picture how every cell has its own signature vibration, like a specific musicalnote. Many cells together will be like the many keys of a piano, each one contributing a note, therefore creating a sort of biological music. If a section of the piano is out of tune, the whole instrument will not function properly. In this metaphor, the piano is the individual and the introduction of an external, therapeutic sound vibration can have a similar effect to the tuning of an instrument.

The use of one's own voice can be particularly powerful when it comes to bringing wholeness and unity as it is one of the most effective tools we have to align and bring together the mind and the body.

A very important point is that nervous systems learn from each other. It is vital for any therapist to have a centred, relaxed nervous system when working with people. Sound Healing not only teaches you how to work with others but creates a stable foundation to bring coherence and wholeness to your own nervous system.

Copyright 2019 - Simone Vitale

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