Somatic therapy involves releasing the build-up of stress in the body and mind. It is the process of connection with a felt sense or body sensations that store and carry emotional energy. As sensations of contraction, tension or residue stress are felt and experienced they tend to unwind and release pent-up emotional stress. This results in regulating the nervous system and an expanded state of openness, energy, vitality and healing. Somatic therapy is a foundational tool we use during Brainspotting or as a stand-alone approach.
Coregulation and Mindful Attunement – The power of compassionate support
Mindful Attunement is a primary tenant of Brainspotting in that the compassionate presence of the brainspotting therapist activates brain pathways associated with safety, support, and connection. Brainspotting focuses on the attunement of the therapist to the reflexive, somatic and subtle responses from the mind and body. In this way, healing comes from the combination of being compassionately supported and seen at a deep mind body level. This fosters a sense of trust that allows the nervous system to feel safe and open to process stored, unconscious trauma energy. Research shows that the safe, caring support of another person moves us into the part of our brain-body connection for healing.
Mindful Attunement & Polyvagal Theory
According to Matthew Lieberman author of the book, Social, our need for connection is said to be even more important than our need for food and shelter. This notion echoes early studies in psychology showing that social isolation and neglect cause significant mental and physical decompensation and mortality risk.
Polyvagal Theory, based on the work of neuroscientist Steven Porges, demonstrates that as evolved mammals our ability to engage socially shifts our physiology and allows for processing of traumatic energy and memories. Social connection activates the healing power of our vagus nerve to repair from the residue of trauma especially as related to the fight, flight, freeze, collapse, or appease nervous system responses.
The understanding that trauma happens inside of a relationship causing a break in attachment and trust, means healing involves reviving the attachment pathway. The power of attunement and compassionate presence are at the heart of Polyvagal Theory and interpersonal neurobiology. Brainspotting’s success hinges upon an individual experiencing the safe, mindful attention of the practitioner.
According to Robert Scaer, author of The Trauma Spectrum, “Brainspotting is based on the profound attunement of the therapist with the patient, finding a somatic cue and extinguishing it by downregulating the amygdala [a brain structure responsible for noticing threat and holding memories of threats].”