As a Neuro-Somatic Intelligence Practitioner, I encountered a client, Sarah, who presented a story that is all too familiar in my line of work. Sarah, a veteran, had recently completed her service in the Air Force and was embarking on a new chapter in life with her husband and their young child. However, this transition was marred by the emergence of anxiety and panic attacks, a stark contrast to the confidence and composure she was used to before her military service.
Sarah's struggle with mental health began to manifest in various ways. She faced flashbacks, sleep disturbances, difficulty in setting boundaries, and an overwhelming need to be in control, especially in social settings. This was coupled with chronic back pain, which only added to her distress. Her situation was further complicated by the responses from mainstream medicine and the mental health support provided by the military and the VA. After six months of talk therapy, which offered some relief and insight but fell short in providing a long-term solution, Sarah was presented with a choice: either end the support or switch to pharmaceutical medications.
The prospect of relying on multiple medications, a common scenario for many veterans, was not appealing to Sarah. Such an approach often leads to a cycle of managing side effects without addressing the underlying causes of trauma. It was at this juncture that I introduced her to the concept of Neuro-Somatic Intelligence. This perspective views her symptoms as the natural responses of an overwhelmed nervous system, and understands that her brain has formed trauma neurotags, linking various stimuli such as smell, sound and body language to her traumatic experiences.
We explored the idea that Sarah's brain, in an effort to be efficient and keep her safe, had wired together pathways activated during her traumatic experiences that included every-day stimuli along with military trauma stimuli creating shortcuts for survival responses. This meant that everyday situations, such as setting boundaries, could inadvertently trigger trauma-related neurotags. Understanding this, we focused not on stopping the symptoms but on addressing why Sarah's brain perceived danger in safe situations.
The good news, and a central tenet of our approach, was the brain's capacity for neuroplasticity – its ability to change and adapt. Utilizing neuro-somatic training, Sarah began to untangle the neurotags that were no longer serving her. The transformation was unmistakable. Within a few sessions, a greater sense of calm entered her life.
Regularly using the neuro-somatic tools I provided she was able to bring a level of self-regulation to her daily life that not only allowed her to show up for her family differently and pursue her interests as an entrepreneur, but also made room for her to connect her PTSD symptoms from the Air Force to childhood experiences. Our early development helps to set the stage for what is and is not stressful and threatening to the survival-oriented parts of our brain. In PTSD that results from a single big trauma, often there are prerequisite experiences from childhood that create a vulnerability to that particular experience and give shape to the symptoms that will arise as the overwhelmed nervous system attempts to deal with the experience afterwards.
In my online practice I blend Neuro-Somatic Intelligence techniques with more traditional methods of intellectually and emotionally exploring the healing process to get the mind and body back on the same page. In this way I create an environment in which my clients can progress steadily towards stability, resilience and growth without risking the side effects and pitfalls of relying solely on somatic body releases or talk therapy.
Neuro-somatic tools are not just for people experiencing PTSD or other severe diagnoses, they are valuable for anyone seeking to grow, to achieve higher goals, to move out of stagnation and to experience greater ease in their lives.