About the Nervous System and Massage

I’m often amazed how little is understood about the nervous system in our hospitals, schools, families and workplaces and the huge role it plays in how we live our lives.
Your nervous system is in charge of many of your automatic responses, your quick intake of breath when you get a shock, the relaxation you feel in your muscles when you know you’re safe after an ordeal, even dilation of pupils, heart rate, your ability to digest, interact socially and sleep. All these things we don’t necessarily *think* about. We either do them unconsciously or we don’t do them and then we think about them a lot! “Why can’t I breathe properly?”, “Why can’t I sleep?”, “Why am I anxious around people?”, “why do I need to pee when I’m scared?”, “Why are my muscles so tight?”. These are all related to your nervous system, to your early nervous system programming and to your later life experiences.

We all have a unique nervous system structure which is developed early in life from conception to 7 years old, but which is also affected by more recent events in life, either traumatic or wonderful. The more our early developmental needs were met in early life, the more likely we are to be “flexible” and able to respond to life appropriately and stretch back again to relative balance. Like shouting at someone who encroaches on your physical space, having a giggle about it, and then going back to whatever you were doing before, even a bit enlivened by the interaction.
For those of us who had a more stressful or unstable early start, we might find we are less flexible to shocks or changes and that we need more rigid structures to keep ourselves feeling balanced. We may shout at someone encroaching on our physical space but then be exhausted or highly anxious for a period of time. This is a brief and Simple overview of nervous system responses.

The job of your nervous system is to take in your experiences (from the very beginning it is one of the first systems to begin developing while you’re in the womb), and create immediate, non intellectual responses, so you are prepared with an appropriate survival response in less than a blink of the eye.
For example..

There is a story of a family on Safari, driving slowly through the wilderness with the windows rolled down, a small child in a car seat in the back. The story goes that the mother suddenly leant over and slammed the window closed. Less than a second later a large deadly snake’s head came up over the car window. 

The mother couldn’t have seen the snake, but something in her “knew” to close the window fast. This is your instincts. This is your non-intellectual knowing.. because these survival instincts don’t have time to go via the mind to be analysed, questioned, sifted through and Then acted on.

Have you ever responded from your body first and then thought later? (And no, I wasn’t referring to lust!:) This is why our early programming is so unconscious and immediate (because it Has to be to ensure our survival), and why trying to figure it out with the mind is looking in the wrong part of the brain. It is also why when the nervous system is activated it is very hard to over-ride your activation with your thoughts. 

As in, telling yourself not to be anxious when there seems to be no “logical” reason why you are, or telling yourself you have no reason to be hare-trigger angry but not being able to stop.

So what does this have to do with massage and touch? The language of the instinctual brain is found in sensation and the felt sense. Touch, and an appropriate intention, can communicate to an “activated” (or “on”) nervous system, in a beautiful and elegantly non-mental way. So when you come to your session feeling stressed, frozen, numb or agitated, we address these as signals from your nervous system and using Somatic Experiencing tools we help your nervous system to calm down at its source. This means your brain/nervous system no longer produces signals for you to stay activated.

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