Touch for Health, Mindfulness and Brain Plasticity
Soothing the Amygdala, harmonizing the Hippocampus and growing the Corpus Callosum
by Earl Cook
Our objectives in Touch for Health are very simple:
John Thie, DC (1), founder and author of Touch for Health, often stated how he and many others in our field recognize stress as a primary cause of multiple types of illness and distress. Today, the short and long-term detrimental effects of prolonged stress and trauma are being recognized and being studied in many disciplines. Of special interest to those of us in Touch for Health is that an increasing amount of attention is being placed upon the Mind-Body aspects of the stress process and its effects.
Ruth Buczynski, PhD, (2) President and Co-Founder of The National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM) has recently been hosting a series of online Mind-Body webinars. The webinars have included some of the leading researchers in the U.S. working in the areas of brain science and psychotherapy. This article presents some of the viewpoints of participants of the NICABM web events along with statements made by Dr. John Thie during his lifetime.
The focus of the NICABM online series has been the stress response system, memory and learning, and the effects upon the body that prolonged stress and traumatic events cause. This series is focusing on the Mind-Body connection and how techniques that focus on this psychosomatic connection are working as powerful interventions. Dr. John Thie, author and founder of Touch for Health stated on many occasions, “Up to 90% of our everyday, common and non-serious health issues do not require the skills, resources and attention of our highly-trained professional healthcare workers.” And,Dr. Rick Hanson (3), author of Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom offers a similar viewpoint as Dr. Thie and stated in the NICABM series, “Most suffering is not physical or emotional agony but everyday stuff like stress, worrying, feeling left out and anxiety.”
“Most suffering is not physical or emotional agony but everyday stuff like stress,
This article presents my opinion about how the ideas presented in the webinars relate to Touch for Health and, generally, to the energy kinesiology and energy psychology fields. While the primary focus of these professionals in the webinars is serious trauma and mental and emotional illness, their insight into the stress response system and their belief that Mindfulness and Brain Plasticity are powerful interventions and preventive measures should be of particular interest to us as we work with the common daily stress issues.
Note: This article is about the everyday life issues we face on a routine basis. For all serious and life-threatening issues, seek professional advice.
The stress response system of the body is complex involving neuroendocrine, cellular and molecular infrastructures. It receives and integrates a variety of neurosensory (visual, auditory, somatosensory, noiceptive, visceral) signals arriving through distinct pathways. The limbic (emotional), cerebral, and memory processing functions are all involved and their degree of involvement is determined by the intensity of a stress or threat and the individual's ability to process and manage stress. The way that the stress response system responds in either creating distinct life experience memories, or subconscious capsules of fear and trauma that have no conscious connection is decisive in causing positive or negative health results.
One of the speakers, Robert C. Scaer, MD (4), neurologist, renowned specialist in trauma and author of Your Body Bears the Burden Trauma, Dissociation and Disease states, “If we start to follow the effects of the hypothalamus - pituitary gland - adrenal axis (HPA Axis) we see that trauma is the root of all illness. Our negative life experiences directly affect our immune system.”
“If we start to follow the effects of the hypothalamus - pituitary gland - adrenal axis (HPA Axis),
Much of the discussion in the webinars has been about how the stress response is triggered in the cores of our central nervous system in the survival reflexes and memories and then passed through our emotional and cerebral centers for review and evaluation before being committed to memory. In Scaer's theories, this is where the process can take several paths and intensity of response depending upon the perceived severity and duration of the threat or stress and our ability to process stress.
Dr. Rick Hanson, further states, “Our brain is Velcro for negative memories and Teflon for positive memories. We are wired with a negative bias. It's part of the survival instinct so negative memories easily stick and positive memories slip away.” Scaer states that the brain is extremely efficient at taking a snapshot of all the stimuli from the different systems during a stressful or traumatic situation and storing this information into capsules of stimuli that reside in sub-conscious implicit memory.
“Our brain is Velcro for negative memories and Teflon for positive memories.
These dissociative memories will run with their highly charged capsules of experiences (fear, pain, stress, anxiety, etc.) running in background memory below the level of consciousness without a link for the person and the body doesn't know the threat has ended. This also causes people to overreact to situations because the underlying memory is triggered by something in the ‘capsule’ of experiences. However, it can also have the opposite effect and cause people to turn off and disassociate from present reality. So, once again there is balance to be achieved.
Our brain’s limbic (emotional) system normally reviews our experiences in the Hippocampus with input from the Amygdala. If they fit our personal narrative or if they are accepted as a new learning experience, they are efficiently submitted into long-term memory by the Hippocampus. This is an orderly process and these explicit memories are filed with attachments to consciousness that can be used to spur the memory in the future. But, this orderly process takes time.
Babette Rothschild, MSW, LCSW (5) in her NICABM presentation entitled, The Body Remembers: Harnessing Somatic Memory in the Treatment of Trauma states, “Motor development is linked with psychological development. In the early 90’s it was recognized that there were body and psychological aspects to trauma, both body and mind. The body keeps the score book of traumatic events and that is what makes the link. The alternative people realized that there is a link and this fact has caused a major leap in psychology.”
“The body keeps the score book of traumatic events and that is what makes the link. The alternative people realized that there is a link and this fact has caused a major leap in psychology.”
Pat Ogden, PhD (6), author of Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy, says that traumatic memories are implicit and separated from the conscious brain's cognitive areas of speech and expression so the person finds it difficult to find words and language to describe the event. Therefore, she thinks that a traditional therapy narrative ‘top down’ approach is not as effective as finding the trauma's location in the body and working ‘bottom up’ from the body to the mind. Ogden says that approaching it from a perspective of the body stimulating the memory in the brain is important so that an attachment for awareness and remembering can be made to the memory so that it can be understood in a cognitive sense and then dealt with.
A central part of mindfulness is being aware of one's own state of being and finding ways to enhance life without unnecessarily triggering the hypothalamic - pituitary - adrenal axis during our daily lives.
Important factors in fostering mindfulness and processing stress that were presented were:
Part of brain plasticity is getting people moving and into a new environment which gets old and new circuits firing in the brain. This action provides new stimuli from the senses... new sights, new sounds, new smells, new people, new circumstances. Firing circuits can cause neurogenis and new connections in the brain and is a good state of preparation for learning. It is also a foundation for creating healthier, more efficient and positive internal brain connections. In the theories of brain plasticity, the opposite states of disassociation and hopelessness can cause the opposite effect... neuro-apathy.
Plasticity through Goal Setting
In dealing with trauma and stress, Rothschild also made the statement, “If people get adequate support in the immediate aftermath of a trauma then they are less likely to develop PTSD and dissociative memories.” Dr. Rick Hanson, states, “Give your clients tools that they can help themselves from the inside out.” I heard Dr. Hanson's statement and thought, “What about the awareness and mindfulness of the mind-body link that we provide through our TFH muscle-testing energy balancing and the stress reduction techniques that we include with ESR and meaningful goal-setting?”
“If people get adequate support in the immediate aftermath of a trauma then they are
In TFH we can demonstrate the immediate effects of stress through a simple muscle test of the PMC. We can monitor the response of the muscle when contrasting the pondering of a thought of a safe place as opposed to the result of the muscle test with the introduction of a mental/emotional/biochemical/light/sound/vibrational stressor.
What do we use in TFH for this to help people minimize and reduce the effects of stress? The TFH Emotional Stress Relief (ESR) technique is a tool that can be used at many times by people to help themselves manage the HPA Axis and stop or moderate it's negative effects by using it before, during and after stressful and traumatic situations. This technique is taught the first day of TFH training and repeated in each level.
We use the Emotional Stress Relief (ESR) techniques to move the consciousness and blood flow from the centers of the Fight-Flight-Freeze-Feign Response located in the reptilian survival brain to the forebrain, where our reasoning and cognitive abilities take over and we realize that we have options. This is Mindfulness. Just realizing that you have this ability as a human is comforting and reassuring to most people and can reduce stress just in this realization. Moving this consciousness from the rear brain to the forebrain has the effect of disarming the HPA-Axis with many beneficial results.
“You can actually grow your brain. They grow larger with learning and movement.”
Bill O'Hanlan also stated, “You can actually grow your brain. They grow larger with learning and movement. A simple intervention for depression... do a walking session with them to get the brain working again. Find old brain circuits that were well developed in the person and where they were more productive and get those active again. Change the brain”.
Movement and Firing Circuits with Cross Crawl
“Mindfulness can change the wiring and growth of the brain.
Daniel Siegel, MD (9) author of Mindsight, the new science of personal transformation stated, “Mindfulness can change the wiring and growth of the brain. Highly skilled Buddhist meditators are able to change their EEG by changing their breathing. Oxytoxin is a nurturing hormone. Buddhists cultivate compassion. So, does meditation increase the production of oxytoxin?”
TFH in our Daily Lives
Effects upon our wellness and overall health:
Chi and the Subtle Energies
The subtle energy system of Chi and the acupunture meridians which we work with has not been mentioned in these discussions. The speakers are promoting the mind-body psychosomatic interrelationships. Touch for Health is an excellent protocol that can be used by lay people and professionals for everyday issues that we routinely face in our lives. Exercise is routinely offered as a great way to change the overall health of a person on many levels. But, people often develop aches and pains that aren't serious enough to see a doctor but they are serious enough to prevent the person from getting exercise. With our TFH balancing techniques, many of these common aches and pains disappear as a result of a TFH muscle & energetic balance.
Touch for Health presents a systematic protocol to work with individual energetic circuits
Touch for Health presents a systematic protocol to work with individual energetic circuits for restoring their continuity and function. According to these researchers, the effects of this actions have the ability to increase brain plasticity through causing old circuits to refire and through goal-setting, we are helping people to rewire their internal circuits of the brain and anchor these to meaningful goals for the person. This process involves Mindfulness as the person being balanced experiences aspects of their body and mind and their relationship they never knew existed. Unlocking blockages in the energetic system can restore function and understanding through reestablishing attachments between aches and pains in the body with specific implicit memory events and thereby providing a link for resolving issues.
“As the evidence is showing, any time we can help the body maintain its balance and homeostatis without engaging the Hypothalamic-Pitutary-Adrenal Axis and without creating dissociative memories associated with stress and trauma, we are assisting the body and mind and the whole person.”
For more serious cases and once a person is under professional care, TFH also offers many benefits as complimentary model to assist a person prepare for or recover from both physical events such as surgery and injury while also offering techniques useful for addressing the emotional trauma often associated with these events. “As the evidence is showing, any time we can help the body maintain its balance and homeostatic without engaging the Hypothalamic-Pitutary-Adrenal Axis and without creating dissociative memories associated with stress and trauma, we are assisting the body and mind and the whole person.”
Earl Cook - co-developer of the eTouch for Health, TFH eCharts, John Thie Memorial Online Research Database and the eInstructor software systems. Earl and his wife, Gail, have worked with Touch for Health since 1976 when a seven-year old injury of Earl's was fixed in only seconds using TFH and acupressure. They worked closely with TFH founder John Thie and Matthew Thie is developing the eTouch software. Earl is a Professional Touch for Health Instructor and Chair of the Research Committee for the Touch for Health Kinesiology Association in the U.S.. He is a microcomputer pioneer and has worked in the computer industry since 1980. As a consultant and software application developer, Earl has solved complex problems for some of the world's largest organizations.