When I met Doug Smith more than 15 years ago, he had recently suffered as profound a trauma as one could imagine. With the blink of an eye he had gone from ice hockey star to a broken neck ex-NHLer. Most of his muscle mass had gone and he was addicted to various and sundry pain medications. More than this he was Doug Smith, injured and broken. The spirit of the man was as damaged as the body of the man.
“So Doug, as stupid as this may sound, what do you want?”“I want to get better…I want to get out of this cage…”
“Have you any idea what this will take?”
“No idea BUT I’m willing to do what it takes.”
”Fine Doug, you’re ready. On the table and let’s begin”
This is what I needed to hear- both the commitment AS WELL AS THE belief. These are the two fundamentals when someone begins the journey that is healing. Make no mistake it is a journey- a hard one- that takes no prisoners. With a deep trauma such as Doug’s from the very outset the outcome is by no means certain but without belief and commitment there is simply no way. This becomes even more evident when, having begun this journey, there are always setbacks.
The Healing of Doug Smith.
“So Doug you have to be clear that anything is possible in this process? Also let’s be clear that my role here is to facilitate this- there’s no getting out of this without you doing the work . If you think that being on the table IS the work and that you are the passive bystander who is going to get healed, then this is not the place. Understood? Whatever happens now you have to understand that you have to trust in me, you have to trust in the process and, finally, you have to trust that your body, your mind and your spirit all have an innate template as to how this is going to happen. Your body is your mind is your spirit- there is no exception to this…Good?”
So, with that begun a process which involved many modalities such as Osteopathy (including Dr. John Upledger’s Cranio-Sacral Therapy), Paul St. John’s Neuro-Muscular Therapy, Naturopathy as well as a number of Soma-centric therapies (Stanley Keleman, Alexander Lowen). All of these modalities are vital in bringing about the kind of change that is required. Also such various kinds of therapy provide a vital structure as to enable whoever has suffered “trauma” something to “hang their hat on”, so to speak. A structured environment provides for confidence, both for the patient, as well as in the practitioner.
Yet Doug, being committed, realised that failure and setback required a perspective that allowed him to both understand and integrate as to what was really going on. He also understood that what is and is not possible are based on preconceptions. Our history and experience defines for us in every way as to our capabilities. It is only when we push against our perceived boundaries and our perceived limits that we find out as to the illusion. This is perhaps the hardest lesson especially when it comes to trauma. It truly is a case of “believing is seeing” rather than the other way around.
Did Doug get better? Well, yes. Today he actively involves himself in all kinds of activities. To know Doug is to know a truly driven individual whose commitment to life is as large as is the size of his heart and the word “quit” seems to have been purposefully excluded from his dictionary.
What did Doug Learn?
Other than what we have seen above we gave Doug an inventory of anatomical laws and dictates. We always do this so that people who are going through trauma have some kind of explanation as to what is happening. Now the scope of this paper does not really allow for this but I will mention a few by way of example.
Hering’s law: A cure is the result of one manifesting symptoms from the present to the past, and from the inside to the outside.. This we have seen time and time again. People experience in reverse order what has occurred to them always beginning with the deepest trauma- From the sole to the skin, so to speak. I once dealt with a carpenter who had fallen two stories onto pavement and survived with some tremendous injuries. The first question I asked him, however, was “how are your nightmares?” His reply? “How did you know I was having nightmares?”
Wolff’s law: Biological systems deform in relation to the lines of forces imposed upon them.
Hooke’s law: Deformation (resulting from strain) imposed on an elastic body is in proportion to the stress (force/load) placed on it . However ther is a limit to which the “body” will absorb/adapt beyond which it will break down.
Davis’ law: If muscle ends are brought together, then the pull of the tonus is increased, thereby shortening the muscle, which may cause hypertrophy. If the muscle ends are separated beyond normal, then tonus is lessened or lost, thereby weakening the muscle.
These are a sampling as to the kinds of explanations as to why things are as they are. As with Doug these provided a valuable tool.
Anatomy of Trauma
About the Authors:
Tom Tomlinson is a Naturopathic practitioner with wide professional education ranging from Osteopathy, Neuro-muscular therapy and Physical
Abigail Szathmary is an R.N. as well as having extensive education in both Osteopathy and Neuro-Muscular Therapy.
They can both be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org