Home Articles Trauma

How our responses to

proximity and touch are mediated

by natural neural mechanisms.


Professors Dr Sue Carter Phd, Dr Stephen Porges Phd with Amber Gray
Love or Trauma Workshop.

porges_carol_stuart stephen_porges_rod_amber_gray

Professor Stephen Porges and Amber Gray with Counsellors Carol Stuart and Rod McClure.


Professor Porges presented his Polyvagal Theory to understand and treat features of stress, depression, trauma, autism and other psychiatric disorders,.

Dr. Porges is a leading international neuroscientist with particular interests in understanding the neurobiology of social behavior.

His research crosses disciplines and he has published in anesthesiology, critical care medicine, ergonomics, exercise physiology, gerontology, neurology, obstetrics, pediatrics, psychiatry, psychology, space medicine, and substance abuse.

In 1994 he proposed the Polyvagal Theory,
A theory that links the evolution of the autonomic nervous system to the emergence of social behavior.

  •    The theory provides insights into the mechanisms mediating symptoms observed in several behavioral, psychiatric, and physical disorders.
  •    The theory has stimulated research and treatments that emphasize the importance of physiological state and behavioral regulation in the expression of several psychiatric disorders including autism and provides a theoretical perspective to study and to treat stress and trauma.



Numerous studies have already demonstrated that the thinking processes are significantly changed when individuals are exposed to prolonged or repeated experiences of trauma.

During war, the thought patterns of the brain are dramatically rerouted to engage a more primitive survival thought process used only for emergencies.

The longer an individual is in a trauma inducing environment or the more intense the traumatic experiences, the more deeply engrained these defensive thought processes become.

When the individual leaves the trauma environment, this more deeply engrained thought process now becomes the preferred pathway of even minor stressors.

As a result of this temporary neural readjustment, the individual suffers from what is known as a loss of neuromodulation.

They are unable to regulate their neural responses to an appropriate level.

Their responses to minor stressors are still regulated to the same intensity of someone in a life/death situation of war.


During war and violence, the body protects itself by producing large quantities of adrenaline.

This produces a hyperarousal response in the individual which is necessary to protect the person during war time. Additionally, the body reduces its production of serotonin which is a drug that inhibits impulsive behaviors.

Decreased serotonin in humans has repeatedly been correlated with impulsivity and aggression.

And, on animals a decrease in serotonin produced an exaggerated emotional arousal and/or aggressive display.
The combination of increased adrenaline and decreased serotonin is precisely what causes an otherwise normal person to act out of aggressive emotions. If the levels of adrenaline and serotonin were properly balanced, they would be able to refrain from acting from a defensive, hyperarousal response.

The difficulty arises when we withdraw the individual from the danger environment and immediately return them to normal environments. Their biochemical responses are still highly activated so that minor, everyday stressors create an exaggerated reaction. Thus, normal family issues that would otherwise not disturb the individual now become extreme problems with a life/death intensity associated to them.

Symptoms to look for which may indicate chemical imbalances are:

  • mood swings
  • hyperaroused reactions
  • exaggerated startle responses
  • social withdraw or depression

Because the body is a living organism it has certain protective mechanisms built into it that react instinctually during times of danger.

These mechanisms contract the body pulling the muscles tightly together for protection.

However, if an individual must live with tightly contracted muscles, after a while the body learns to live in the contracted state even though the danger has subsided.

General exercises usually do not rid the individual of these deep chronic tension patterns. However, a unique series of exercises called Trauma releasing exercises have been developed to relieve the individual of very deep chronic tension patterns created during the time of severe stress or trauma.

If individuals do not attend to their bodies after living through traumatic events, they will usually carry with them deeply embedded patterns of tension that will eventually take a toll on the body's structure and function.

Symptoms to look for which may indicate a chronic contraction in the body are:

  • Lower back pains.
  • Neck and shoulder tension and aches.
  • Gastrointestinal problems.
  • Chronic headaches.

A very dear friend wrote asking my advice about a relation who had returned from military service in Iraq and who was now spending endless hours playing computer games and withdrawing from the family.

So I replied thus:

Now without doubt I would say that your man in question is using his mental concentration to avoid contact with the very frightening unsafe, dangerous reality of events experienced in combat and during training.

Commonly spoke of as trauma, then reverting to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The transcript of a wonderful program is here on ABC Australian Story on 29.03.08.

Unfortunately the pod cast for that program is not up yet so you will simply need to get the story from the transcript, of course so much is missing without the visuals of the foot LESS children in the orphanage and the image of this chain smoking, chain wearing Grand Father HD biker with 35 silver earrings in his left ear, a ring on every finger and a beer barrel gut like mine, its not mine ‘cause mine's still with me unfortunately.

This man and now his mate came back from Vietnam after their first jaunts as 19 year old soldiers (boys) who went away as trained killers and became boozing, drugging womanizing, lost men for the next 30 years after risking their lives daily in an un-winnable war.

They eventually returned home to witness ANTI war marches.

What a hideous way to come home from such real, genuine life threatening danger , what a gut turning experience this was for those young brave men.


Counselling, Psychotherapy,


& Trauma Releasing Exercises


Most recent research in the field of traumatology is helping to dispel this limited view of trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The cross-fertilization of fields of study such as psycho-biology, neuro-physiology and physiological psychology are revealing new levels of understanding of the effects of trauma on the human organism.

This is helping multiple scientific fields to acknowledge the critical interaction and mutual interdependency of autonomic body responses and neurological processes.

Whether the trauma occurs in a cognitive, physiological, emotional, or interpersonal form it is inevitably carried by the physical body.

Rothschild (1994) puts it very succinctly:

One only has to read the most basic of the literature on the function of the brain, the nervous system and the physiology of stress to understand that the mind and the body are undeniably linked.


Body sensitive psychotherapy.

This shift in awareness is increasing the recognition that trauma is primarily an autonomic, physiological, anatomical and neurological response and this response creates a secondary psychological adaptive behavioral response.

Acknowledging that the human organism has a systematic set of autonomic responses that become engaged during the time of trauma allows us to study these unconscious responses in therapy thereby reversing their effects on the individual.

If these autonomic responses can be reversed, then the secondary psychological disruptions can be identified and limited and the psyche of the individual can be restored to health much more readily.


Massage Therapy Exercises, Counselling & Psychotherapy for the treatment for accumulated stress and

Post traumatic stress therapy (PTSD)

Our natural human organism with our higher nature is far smarter and eons ahead of any fundamental learning accumulated by studying the living breathing organism we refer to as homo sapiens otherwise spoken of as modern man. However we are fortunate in that medical science, organic biology and body centered therapy are beginning to join together with some very interesting and rather obvious conclusions.

Firstly the sciences are beginning to agree that there is an immediate link between the emotional and physical being which the learned or cognitive part of the mind attempts to control and over rule by disreguarding and suppressing emotional impulses which the living being transmits to the brain to maintain safety.

heart_to_brainLiving in a an ever abusive society there is little real safety, hence stress levels rise and are reflected in social behaviour such as world media reported war, shooting bombing, horn blowing, road rage, accidents, street violence, disobedience, graffiti, regular occurrences and observations to which we are constantly exposed.

We are all exposed to these and other dangers daily so stress is truly on the march and we have little option than to live with it in this congested unsustainable manner of human neglect.

Denying the stressors:

Because we think we are so clever we have unwittingly taught ourselves to ignore & to a larger degree tolerate these life preserving, disturbing sensations.
Through time and the evolutionary process our Ego simply desensitize the brain from responding to these life preserving impulses with massive consequences to our physical health individually and as a society.

The greater part of society has become desensitized through generational ignorance, transference, pitiful neglect and a patriarchal, commercially driven unsustainable world process of earthly abuse with deliberate neglect due to consequential spiritual denial.

Domestic violence regularly leads to death of partners and siblings due to the perpetrators inability to deal with emotional stress so they lash out in dysfunctional,  EGO empowered ANGER.
All war is violence and abuse On the greater scale.

In too many instances this is the unfortunate consequence of the environment in which individuals were raised, environments where anger, domination and rage were modelled to be considered "normal" behaviour.

So the wisdom within the ancient adage of "An eye for an eye umtimately leading to two blind people".

History records that "When a society or species becomes divided from within itself ultimate collapse is emminent".


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