Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mind/ body illness diagnosed in individuals who have experienced a life-altering event. It is seen worldwide in populations who have experienced sexual, physiological and emotional trauma pertaining to near-death experiences (military combat, refugees, physical and sexual assault and natural disasters).
PTSD and depression can be structured into the following symptoms:
- Recurrent distressing memories of the event, including nightmares and flashbacks
- Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including physical environments
- Exaggerated negative belief systems
There is an important treatment protocol developed by scientists like Stephen Porges, which seeks to help increase symptom reduction of PTSD and depression through psychophysiological processes. When we think about a stressful event or have a distressing memory concerning a traumatic event, the memory creates underlining negative schemas, cognitions and thought processes that explain how we show up in the world.
Our thoughts, our belief system, and our bodies seem to send neural messages to one another acting as a non-dualistic system. So, in more terms, our physical structure (bodily autonomy, thoughts, actions and behaviors) gain expression in our emotions and memory processes. Therefore, looking at the nervous system as a place for treatment rehabilitation for individuals who have experienced life-threatening trauma is important to establish a protocol for beginning integrative treatment methods. When we work with the body through nutrition or exercise, we’re invariably healing the mind because of our parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system.
When we’ve experienced something like sexual violence, post-trauma our belief structure may be completely altered.
Women may begin to believe men are dangerous predators or they might unconsciously seek out dangerous men to reaffirm their belief system that they’re worthy of abuse.
Approaching an unknown man walking the opposite direction up the street, this exact belief might be triggered and produce the thought for the female which emphasizes “that all men want to hurt me” or “all men want is sex.” This thought will then produce a fear response with expressions that articulate in both the body and the mind.
The fear will likely drive the avoidant behavior and then it will reinforce the belief system. Or it may manifest in other ways like acting out or self-sabotaging romantic relationships.
What is conscious movement?
Conscious Movement is an enigma. It pulls from germanic movements in psychoanalysis incorporating modern classical dance and eastern contemplative movement studies like yoga, meditation and recent literature in dance movement therapy. Conscious movement is a psychosocial intervention that incorporates the stress-reduction benefits of group processing and dance movement. The purpose of the conscious movement is to increase self-guided movements to further cognitive functioning and emotional expression. As a mind/body integrated form of wellness, conscious movement combines the benefits of dance, catharsis, social support and creative activity in a single intervention approach.
The facilitative group dynamics of conscious movement allows individuals to conceptualize their experiences through deep psychosomatic connection to their bodies, re-building self-confidence and coping with feelings related to stress.
Allowing individuals to express the trauma they’ve experienced through movement and integrated forms of psychotherapy will help with the integration of the autonomic nervous system and will increase an individual’s ability to tolerate intense stimuli they associate with the event.