LSC Ecoregulation research

Design Science Studio : Living Systems Collaboratory : 

Ecosystemic Empathy via Embodied ECOregulation Edutainment

Somatic Magic  : Embodied ECOregulation Explorations

Planetary Play Prompts 

Cathartic Cards 


Soma School, training somatic sensitivity 

Belonging to biosphere 

Designed for delight 

Experiments to discover your embodiment map

Creator Background : 

My academic background is in transpersonal somatic psychology, with an additional 15+ years in extreme psychedelic spaceholding / risk reduction. When I inquired as to what keeps us from ‘living as a Living System’, which I call a state of oneness, 2 primary causes emerged. 

  1. Underdevelopment of holistic sense awareness, especially of the body as a unified whole, which I call SomaSenZ {pronounced ‘soma sense’} . 
  2. Layers of trauma blocking, numbing, or dampening access to this expanded sense state.

Embodied ECOregulation Explorations democratize the tools of therapy via distilling heady psychological research and theory into accessible ‘in body’ instigations into inventive investigation. These prompts provide physical ‘Somatic Spells’ – human-hardwired techniques to directly communicate to your nervous system that ‘you are safe’, which is the foundation for creative flow and collaboration. EEE does this through encouraging a parasympathetic nervous system state – which we call the ‘relate state’ and is also associated with ‘rest and digest’, body repair, and peace in presence. 

Embodied ECOregulation Explorations catalyze embodied edutainment experiences of ecosystemic empathy through corporeal curiosity.

These physical planetary play prompts utilize the guidance, metaphors, and rhythms of the natural world which viscerally 

, can be used as a way to open a window into embodied empathy between our internal and external ecosystem. 

both in moments of crisis for emergency grounding and support, but also s. Planetary play prompts can be placed anywhere you or a loved one could benefit from a nudge towards oneness. PPP can also be used as a physical pause during a crunchy moment with a beloved to create space for catharsis and reconnection. Choose a card each day to create a corporeal container to caretake your inner child or humAnimal,not only in the moment but also to practice techniques that  increase integration of these  regenerative resilience skills so these aids can be somatically salient in challenge or crisis.

Awareness development tool, corporeal capacity expander, visceral 

There are several flavors / types of cards that interact.

Call to action : Seeking submissions for prompts, techniques that you use to find flow and oneness, research to draw  upon, and publicity, marketing and distribution support. 

Weeding therapy  Getting vitamin b from soil, swimming in cold ocean, walking in forest, olfaction experiences, standing meditation, imagining different scents when breathing, seeing trees from above them, tree tops, 

Whisper you wishes  to water / wind, {use your body as a wand to write your wishes on the wind}, weave water, drawn up by top of head, follow your nose – body part leading  score, shook? Shake! – shimmy, tremble, get shaking 

Chaos – order

Turn dial up on one then the other, then both at once, wild card – make your own card

Submit your own  card

Surrender into gravity – gravity is the earths love in physical form , the earth drawing you close

Responsibility – play responsibility 

Partnered – mirror energy up / down un-wind, de/escalate

Clear the cosmic clutter

Parent your inner child. Be an owner for your inner animal 

Tide of change, phoenix, what is your north star, draw your stargazing chart for when you get lost to yourself in the dark night of your soul

Catalyze your combustion compass 

Be a black hole 

Celestial bodies 

Baby eyes soft gaze

Be a wormhole 

Breathe in your surroundings 

Wind wind 

Safe to be seen

Breath caress

Say your name and those who created you, where you come from, who summoned you


Water water

Rest nest

Reign rain rhythm 

See with your whole body 

Map your mouth with your tongue


Relax face raspberries

Walk like an animal : waddle like a duck

Feel it to free it

Card types : How do you want to feel ?

 {different colors : Red – connection to self

Yellow connection to biosphere

 Blue connection to others 

  1. Grounded : activate parasympathetic nervous system state, co/regulate, speak directly to the nervous system 
    1. tree meditation – be as a tree, soles bared to ground, pull energy up
    2. Co-sighing – Shared audible relaxed breathing. This shared respiration activates a vagal response, which allows us to communicate directly with our nervous system, encouraging the engagement of the parasympathetic rest and digest and mate and relate state that is the essential base form from which the creative collaborate flow states are born. {demonstrate} Notice how you feel now. I teach this technique internationally as the ‘if you remember one thing’ essential take away from my psychedelic risk reduction teaching.I originally developed the co-sighing technique accidentally in a moment of of caring for a client in crisis who was in an extreme state of distress and activated trauma. I began to tone with them, recalling the research about improving vagal tone, which then naturally evolved into co-sighing. Through this co-regulation I took the client from an activated  distress state – lashing out physically at their friends in a loop to a state of calm restful sleep.  
    3. Write on ground with  stick
    4. Nature art – start with a a circle on the earth
      1. Walk barefoot on ground – sole-speak, 
      2. plant-speak
    5. Creative :
    6. Sensation – expand sensory focus 
    7. Collaborative : self-other unity, without ego power games, hierarchy 
      1. Group dynamics personal valence archetype, what if you did the opposite
      2. Sense charades 
      3. Pictionary 
      4. Guess caress – draw out a letter, word, sentence, picture, favorite memory, sensation.
      5. Improv games
      6. Narrating assumptions, narrating inner dialogue of other as they do a task
      7. Fall in love first
    8. Introspective : self-unity prompts : parts work, family systems, characters 
      1. amplify a part of yourself that is causing the block
      2. amplify a part that you want to develop more / that you want to take the wheel
      3. Nesting : How can you make yourself more comfortable : both physically, or what needs to be established in the social container to make you more comfortable 
      4. Trauma drama : create a character  that says what you have always wanted to say but  was afraid to
      5. What would make you feel safe
      6. Move the mood
      7. What is the taste of your tongue
    9. Eco-embodied  : you are nature : eco-sense
      1. Breathing, animal body, primal, 
      2. Breath caress
    10. Curious : 
      1. examining the paradox : 
        1. Antipode Reload : embodied dichotomy : 

    Inspirations / Research Threads : Polyvagal Theory, Human Development Theory, ‘Free Play’, Coherent Body by Sue Choi, 

    Living systems threads : chaos period in the cycle as essential to create higher level of order {cleaning your room, everything gets messy before it finds a higher order, brainstorming vs. editing part of the novel writing, you don’t try to clean while you are having the party}

    Emotional connection to the planet : mothering earth, earth as lover


    Not define the problem, but focus on visioning what you want the world to be 

    Building capacity

    Self as collective notion, humanity as a body

    Numbing is dumbing us down

    Aware – care

    Care aware

    “Either solve the problem or leave the problem, don’t  live the problem”

    Identify what you want to work on, let it work you

    Embody the solution

    Higher ordered synthesis co-pacity = collective capacity

    Dare to be naive BF

    Dymaxion – dynamic maximal tension



    Tension and compression create  waves

    action , reaction, resultant

    “Islands of compression in an ocean of tension”


    Survival of the fitness – fit into your environment

    holistic , integrated, synthesis, return to resonance, 

    Interbeing – gainan systems – i am because we are

    Cooperation, partnerships, synergy

    Life lifes

    “Don’t fight forces, use them”

    “We are called to be architects of the future not its victims”

    If not now, when, if not you, then who?

    “The only rule is it has to work for everyone”

    The planet as a one town world

    How you look at it affects what you see

    Perception triangulation

    All nouns are verbs – human happening


    Invitation to celebration 

    Sometime you have to let something get bad to know and see the change needed 


    Embodied sensemaking

    Freedom of speech =/= freedom of reach


    Othering – mothering

    Relationships as artistic exhibitions – relational art


    Artist as state rather then identity


    Open mindfulness

    Collective soul moving around

    How to let go – purge

    Observation increases sensation

    How to walk with someone, how to accompany someone 

    Altered State Angel Accompaniment 

    Move and be moved – may this movement move you

    Witnessing circle – authentic movement

    Loving your body takes practice : bodylove meditations – showing up for yourself  with presence 

    Metaphysica rules of behavior 

    Reflection predilection

    Consciousness cartography 

    Guide for guides

    Spacehokding skillbuilding

    Peer 2 peer

    Preparing the space – clear  vessel

    Altar direct  energy


    Council, mentors

    Prepare for everything, expect nothing

    Expect nothing, prepare for everything

    Integration in community

    Hold to your capacity {how to evaluate  your capacity}

    Group trips

    New perspective – integration

    Root causes


    Embodied safety – set up safety  in setting

    What medicine for what situation – alchemist, apothecary

    Take the medicine you need ‘ the medicine only works if you take it’

    Don’t judge how much medicine you need

    Channel your own prayer 

    Define container 

    How the space  holds me, how the space wants to be held – land acknowledgement

    One step back – meta structure – do you want advice or feedback or  just  listening?

    Sacred witness : participant observer

    Reference : kid spaceholding tantrum dad, how to hold space on social media – not fix, interrupt ;i wonder’ not definition

    Somatic sigils

    Body mind coherency 

    Meeting people where  they are at

    Permission to change position . position and permission to change  . 

    Experience the world unmediated 

    Who teaches you about love

    Develop natural senses

    Videos  to fim

    Things  sketchy shamans say

    Audible sigh : asmr, guided, explanation, direct nervous system communication techniques

    Getting grounded – deep roots most high

    Spiritual hygiene 


    Princess Prefrontal Cortex subdued the R-complex reptilian dragon

    REsearch notes

    In MacLean’s triune brain model, the basal ganglia are referred to as the reptilian or primal brain, as this structure is in control of our innate and automatic self-preserving behavior patterns, which ensure our survival and that of our species. The primal brain is also in charge of, what are often referred to as, the four Fs: Feeding, Fighting, Fleeing, and… Reproduction (well, we won’t use that other f-word here!). Notable behavior patterns include defense of self, family, and personal property, physical communication, and socially approved actions, such as handshakes, head nods, and bowing.


    ‘species-typical’ behaviors, which are present in aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays.

    “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

    — William Bernbach (1911–1982), American advertising creative director

    “It took millions of years for man’s instincts to develop. It will take millions more for them to even vary. It is fashionable to talk about changing man. A communicator must be concerned with unchanging man, with his obsessive drive to survive, to be admired, to succeed, to love, to take care of his own.”

    — William Bernbach (1911–1982), American advertising creative director

    We might not be living in the same world as primitive man, but we are still met with threatening and potentially dangerous situations. The brainstem is responsible for keeping us safe now, as it was for early man. The health and functioning of this brain region largely determines our ability to detect and respond to threats. At the most basic level, the brainstem helps us identify familiar and unfamiliar things. Familiar things are usually seen as safe and preferable, while unfamiliar things are treated with suspicion until we have assessed them and the context in which they appear. For this reason, designers, advertisers, and anyone else involved in selling products tend to use familiarity as a means of evoking positive emotions.

    Or perhaps, as is the case in real-life experience of trauma, strong emotions aroused by powerful images impaired their memory directly.

    Despite reduced channel activity and consequent reduced electrical activity during anoxia, turtles appear to remain vigilant and responsive to visual stimuli during hibernation (but less so to tactile stimuli). This maintenance of visual responses in the absence of tactile responses during hibernation suggests a differential down-regulation of sensory modalities. Because changes in daily illumination contribute to signaling the end of hibernation, it may be a selective advantage for energy-conserving mechanisms to be applied less to the visual system than to other brain areas.

    Peter A. Levine uses the triune brain concept in his book Waking the Tiger to explain his somatic experiencing approach to healing trauma

    Perry y says we need “patterned, repetitive, rhythmic somatosensory activity,” literally,  bodily sensing exercises. Developmental trauma happens in the body, where pre-conscious “implicit memory” was laid down in the primitive brain stem (survival brain) and viscera. Long before we had a thinking frontal cortex or “explicit memory” function. [FN1]

    The list of repetitive, rhythmic regulations used for trauma by Dr. Perry, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Pat Ogden and others is remarkable. It includes singing, dancing, drumming, and most musical activities.  It also relies on meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong, along with theater groups, walking, running, swinging, trampoline work, massage, equine grooming and other animal-assisted therapy…. even skateboarding. Click here for Perry’s web page on interventions.

    he brain organizes from bottom to top, with the lower parts of the brain (brain stem/diencephalon aka “survival brain”) developing earliest, the cortical areas (thinking brain) much later,” Perry says. “The majority of brain organization takes place in the first four years.

    “Because this is the time when the brain makes the majority of its “primary” associations… early developmental trauma and neglect have disproportionate influence on brain organization and later brain functioning… When a child has experienced chronic threats, the brain exists in a persisting state of fear… and the lower parts of the brain house maladaptive, influential, and terrifying pre-conscious memories… ”  [FN3]

    “People with developmental trauma can start to feel so threatened that they get into a fight-flight alarm state, and the higher parts of the brain shut down,” says Perry. “First the stress chemicals shut down their frontal cortex (thinking brain).  Now they physically can not think. Ask them to think and you only make them more anxious.

    “Next the emotional brain (limbic brain) shuts down. They have attachment trauma, so people per se seem threatening; they don’t get reward from emotional or relational interaction.

    “The only part of the brain left functioning is the most primitive: the brain stem and diencephalon cerebellum. If you want a person to use relational reward, or cortical thought – first those lowest parts of the brain have got to be regulated,” Perry concludes.

    We must regulate people, before we can possibly persuade them with a cognitive argument or compel them with an emotional affect.

    “The only way to move from these super-high anxiety states, to calmer more cognitive states, is rhythm,” he says. “Patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity: walking, running, dancing, singing, repetitive meditative breathing – you use brain stem-related somatosensory networks which make your brain accessible to relational (limbic brain) reward and cortical thinking.

    Trauma healing, says Perry, requires 6 R’s; it must be:

    Relational (safe)

    Relevant (developmentally-matched to the individual)

    Repetitive (patterned)

    Rewarding (pleasurable)

    Rhythmic (resonant with neural patterns)

    Respectful (of the child, family, and culture)

    To change any neural network in the brain, we need to provide patterned, repetitive input to reach poorly organized neural networks involved in the stress response. Any neural network that is activated in a repetitive way will change,” Perry explains.

    “The rhythm of these experiences matter. The brain stem and diencephalon contain powerful associations to rhythmic somatosensory activity created in utero and reinforced in early in life. The brain makes associations between patterns of neural activity that co-occur.

    “One of the most powerful sets of associations created in utero is the association between patterned repetitive rhythmic activity from maternal heart rate, and all the neural patterns of activity associated with not being hungry, not been thirsty, and feeling ‘safe’ (in the womb).

    “Patterned, repetitive, rhythmic somatosensory activity… elicits a sensation of safety.  Rhythm is regulating.  All cultures have some form of patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity as part of their healing and mourning rituals — dancing, drumming, and swaying.

    “EMDR and bilateral tapping are variations of this patterned, repetitive rhythmic, somatosensory activity… We believe that they are regulating in part because they are tapping into the deeply ingrained, powerful permeating associations created in utero.”

    An example of a repetitive intervention is positive, nurturing interactions with trustworthy peers, teachers, and caregiver… using patterned, repetitive somatosensory activities such as dance, music, movement, yoga,  drumming or therapeutic massage…  This is true especially for children whose persisting fear state is so overwhelming that they cannot improve via increased positive relationships, or even therapeutic relationships, until their brain stem is regulated by safe, predictable, repetitive sensory input.” [FN6]

    Science has only recently demonstrated that unless kids (and other mammals) are given deep emotional connection (“attachment”) from birth by parents or others, infant neurological systems just don’t develop well.  The infant brain literally requires programming by an adult’s eyes and facial expressions to begin to program its own neurons.

    When a mother doesn’t respond to her baby with strong positive emotions (she’s being battered, has stress at work, is unable to attune to others), the infant’s instincts read that as a survival threat.  This floods its bloodstream with fight/flight stress chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol.  But a baby is helpless to use these to act in self defense.  If some adult doesn’t make the baby feel safe, stress chemicals overwhelm its brain and within 45 minutes the baby goes into clinical shock (dissociation). [FN3]

    The bad news is way bad: this is really gonna hurt.  Healing is impossible without feeling the boatload of emotional pain hiding frozen inside us.

    Attachment Disorder often involves “developmental” injury to the brain stem in the womb or before age 5, which no one involved ever knew happened. We just walk around all our lives feeling hyper-sensitive to feelings. I couldn’t believe how bad it hurt when I first got in touch with this “baby pain.” When I say pain in my chest or gut, we’re talking knife-stabbing level pain. Some days it felt like crawling across Mordor, except on my belly, butt naked.  Frodo at least had clothes.

    The emotional pain is so bad, that the brain stem actually knocked us out into oblivion whenever it was first experienced, to protect us from feeling it as a helpless kid in the first place. It’s the same biological mechanism that takes charge when we see a mouse pass out as the cat picks it up, often called “freeze,” or technically, “dissociation.”

    Trick is, we’ve got to un-freeze the frozen pain from those early months and years, and feel it – to release or “discharge” the stored-up stress energy deep in our muscles and viscera. And feeling our feelings, I learned, bad as they felt, can never kill us. It doesn’t even harm us in the slightest. In fact, afterward we feel better, though it might take a while.

    It’s when we refuse to feel this stuff that it silently eats at us from the inside, first emotionally, then by generating enough stress chemicals to physically destroy body parts. That’s what actually kills many of us.

    Attachment Disorder stems from any disruption to an infant’s attachment to the mother, and unfortunately, babies are very easy to damage. It can start as soon as the sperm hits the egg, or at any time in the next 45 months, since a baby requires solid, calm attachment from conception to 36 months, for the brain to develop in a healthy way. Any stress to a mother carrying a baby is a warning sign. Recent studies show it is prevalent in underprivileged areas, orphanages, alcoholic homes, or any home where mom is under existential stress. Neuroscientists in a recent book call it the “hidden epidemic.” [FN3]

    But Attachment Disorder also occurs “in the nicest families” due to factors as simple as a mom smoking while pregnant as did moms of many baby boomers. Unwanted pregnancies (however wealthy the home) are at high risk. Neonatal incubation and adoption deeply damage attachment; only recently have remedial treatments been introduced. Infant or childhood surgeries or any medical trauma are a red flag. Mothers who as kids had little air time with their own mom and thus are tone deaf to others’ emotional state, unwittingly pass the damage on to their infants.

    Many health professionals today did not adequately study attachment during training, if at all. It goes unnoticed in schools, medical systems, and houses of worship, all the places where hurting people go for help.

    This makes a chunk of our population an emotional health time bomb. It may account for much of our 50% divorce rate and the work productivity crisis draining our economy. The top trauma specialist for the Pentagon says it’s one reason Congress can’t seem to function. [FN4]

    You will never trade how you lived before for how you’re going to be able to live now, the fullness of feeling everything wonderful you haven’t been able to feel all your life, freedom from all that raging anxiety deep inside, which kept you as frozen up as that conked-out mouse or fish.

    Trauma specialists compare recovery from AD to a religious experience of God or a metaphysical awakening to enlightenment, the relief is that profound. [FN5]

    Whatever the words, it’s a transformation which can make us feel so loved and full of life and relief that weeping for joy can become a bad habit. The feelings of sheer gratitude have put me on a first name basis with God, and He’s a really nice Man.

    hat is play? What are the key elements that distinguish play from other activities? For the purposes of this chapter, we use the three elements used by Burghardt (2005) to define play in animals. First, play mimics or approximates a common or important purposeful behavior; second, play is voluntary, is pleasurable, and has no immediate survival role or obvious “purpose”; and, finally, play takes place in a nonthreatening, low-duress context. These key elements are often at odds with many well-intended (and typically ineffective) therapeutic experiences. It is no surprise that the core elements of play echo some of the essential ingredients of successful therapeutic interactions with maltreated and traumatized children—perceived control, reward, and manageable stress (see Perry & Szalavitz, 2006). Bringing play into therapeutic work, therefore, not only makes sense; it is often an essential element for therapeutic progress. Yet it is important to appreciate that “play” for the toddler looks different from “play” for the adolescent. Play is an effective therapeutic agent when it provides a developmentally appropriate means to regulate, communicate, practice, and master. As with other therapeutic approaches, however, we often select the manner of “play” that we bring into therapy according to a child’s chronological age and to our specific training as therapists; there are thus times when the expectations we bring into the therapeutic relationship

    The somatosensory experiences in some play activities have been viewed as the neurological foundations for later advanced mental skills, such as creativity, abstract thought, prosocial behavior, and expressive language. Furthermore, Zigler, Singer, and Bishop-Josef (2004) have cited a growing body of research finding that “Vygotskian-type” play promotes development of self-regulation, a cornerstone of early childhood development across all domains of behavior (social, emotional, cognitive, and physical). Play has been considered so critical to healthy development that the United Nations recognizes it as a specific right for all children (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 1989). Since the period from birth to age 6 establishes the foundation for learning, behavior, and health throughout the lifespan, the United Nations has accorded play equal importance with nutrition, housing, health care, and education. Landreth (2002) has suggested that talk and cognitively oriented therapies are inappropriate for children through much of their development, due to the relative underdevelopment of complex cognitive capacities in childhood. 

    Children learn through play, and this often requires a patient, supportive, and caring adult to scaffold that process (Vygotsky, 1967).

    Neurons and neural networks change in response to activity. In the case of the stress response networks, predictable, moderate activity leads to flexible and capable stress response capacity (with a potential for demonstrating resilience), whereas extreme, unpredictable, or uncontrollable activation leads to a sensitized, overly reactive set of stress response networks (see Perry, 2008, 2009; Ungar & Perry, 2012). Any developmental insult—such as prenatal alcohol or drug exposure, or extreme, prolonged activation of the stress response (such as that seen in maltreatment or other traumatic experience)—will alter the development of these crucial neural networks, and thereby disrupt functioning in all of the areas these regulatory networks innervate.

    The resulting alterations in the regulation and functioning of both central and peripheral autonomic neural networks (as well as the neuroendocrine and the neuroimmune systems) will result in increased risk of significant and lasting emotional, behavioral, social, cognitive, sensory–motor, and physical health problems (Anda et al., 2006; Felitti et al., 1998; Perry, 2006, 2008, 2009; Perry & Dobson, 2013; Perry & Pollard, 1998; Perry, Pollard, Blakley, Baker, & Vigilante, 1995). Manifestations of the resulting sensitized stress response systems have been well documented. They include intrusive recollections; persistent avoidance of associated stimuli or numbing of general responsiveness; and arousal symptoms of hyperarousal, hypervigilance, increased startle response, sleep difficulties, irritability, anxiety, and physiological hyperactivity. Maltreated and traumatized children may exhibit behavioral impulsivity, increased muscle tone, anxiety, a fixation on threat-related cues, affect regulation, language disorders, fine and gross motor delays, disorganized attachment, dysphoria, attention difficulties, memory problems, and hyperactivity (Perry et al., 1995). Furthermore, these physical, emotional, psychological, and intellectual effects may persist across the lifespan (Anda et al., 2006; Spinazzola, Blaustein, & van der Kolk, 2005). 

    The crucial regulatory neural networks involved in the stress response (and multiple other functions) are themselves modulated through patterned, repetitive, and rhythmic input from both bottom-up (i.e., somatosensory) and top-down (i.e., cerebromodulatory) systems. The brain processes (and acts) on incoming input at multiple levels; although the brain is essentially an open and interactive system, this multilevel process of sensing, processing, and acting on the environment basically begins at the site of initial input of sensory, somatic, or cerebral input to the lower areas of the brain. The primary regulatory systems that originate in the lower areas of the brain begin to sort, integrate, interpret, store, and respond to incoming stimuli long before conscious portions of the brain receive the information, if they receive it at all (Marteau, Hollands, & Fletcher, 2012; Perry, 2006). Primary somatosensory processing takes place below the level of consciousness, and only novel, significant, or potentially threatening stimuli are passed on to higher cortical centers for further processing (Perry, 2008; Sara & Bouret, 2012). When the input to these regulatory networks is unfamiliar (novel), disorganized (chaotic), or associated with potential threat (i.e., reexposure to a cue from a previous traumatic experience), there will be alterations in the activity of these systems. 

     In the crucial norepinephrine-containing networks originating in the locus coeruleus, for example, a complex and graded response that is proportional (in typically functioning individuals) to the level of threat (Sara & Bouret, 2012) will begin. A key part of that response is a shift of “control” from higher, cortical systems to limbic, then diencephalic systems. Neuroimaging during highly emotional states demonstrates increased activation of subcortical regions and significant reduction of blood flow to the frontal lobe during intense arousal (van der Kolk, 2006). This shift in activation alters cognitive, social, emotional, and motor functioning. In other words, novelty, chaos and threat change the “state” of the individual. This shift in state involves shutting down the cortical modulatory networks that could typically be recruited and involved in conscious, intentional modulation of the feelings of anxiety, hunger, thirst, anger, and other “primitive” feelings and perceptions. The result is that less mature, more poorly regulated, more impulsive behaviors will result under perceived threat. And if child’s developmental experiences have been such that they have fewer cortical-network-building experiences (e.g., neglect- or chaos-related poverty of touch, words, relationships), their cortical modulation networks will be relatively underdeveloped as well.

     The combination of a sensitized set of regulatory neural networks (i.e., the stress response systems are “locked into” a persisting state of fear) with a “shut-down” and underdeveloped cortex will result in a very impulsive, globally dysregulated child. This is worth remembering when one is interpreting trauma-related and attachment-related behavioral problems with maltreated children; exhausted and frustrated caregivers, teachers, and therapists are quick to The Neurobiological Power of Play 185 personalize and infer deliberate intention to automatic, elicited behaviors. 

    The capacity for self-reflection, planning, and intentional behavior requires a relatively organized, regulated, and accessible cortex. Another crucial aspect of this shift is its impact on the capacity to feel pleasure. Release of dopamine in the two regions of the brain—the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area—can provide a sensation of pleasure. These “reward” areas can be stimulated in many ways, ranging from cortically mediated, intentional behaviors that are consistent with an individual’s beliefs or values (e.g., sharing candy with someone) to primarily limbic mediated relational interactions (e.g., a laugh with a friend) to diencephalon-mediated appetitive experiences (e.g., eating sweet, salty, or fatty foods) to brainstem-mediated regulatory behaviors that decrease physiological distress (e.g., drinking cold water when dehydrated). As the individual moves down the arousal continuum, the reward “options” shrink. In a state of high arousal or fear, delayed gratification is impossible. Future consequences or rewards of behavior become almost inconceivable to the threatened child. Reflection on behavior is impossible for the child in an 

    alarm state, and cognitive strategies to modify behavior (even if previously internalized and mastered) cannot be recruited in an efficient way because the cortex is relatively inaccessible under threat. Cut adrift from the internal regulating capabilities of the cortex, the individual acts impulsively to any perceived threat. The key to helping the child begin to move back to a more regulated state, making the child feel safe and thereby more available for cognitive engagement and therapeutic change, is to utilize the direct somatosensory routes and provide patterned, repetitive, rhythmic input. Therapeutic change starts from a sense of safety; in turn, the sense of safety emerges from these regulating somatosensory activities.

    Know the stage and watch the state

    Accordingly, the play therapists will often need to use bottom-up modulatory networks (somatosensory) to establish some moderate self-regulation prior to the implementation of insightful reflection, trauma experience integration, narrative development, social development, or affect enhancement. Doing so will require therapeutic methods to access and provide reorganizing input to the regulatory networks of the lower brain areas (Kleim & Jones, 2008; Perry, 2008, 2009). The key to treatment is to be sure that the child is regulated and that relational and cognitive expectations are appropriate for the child’s developmental age. Furthermore, this requires rethinking traditional “dosing” and context of therapy. Complex, deeply troubled children need more than the traditional once-a-week play therapy model. They will require therapeutic environments that immerse them in positive, repetitive rehearsals of healthy interactions and activities. These interactions and activities often need to be regressive in nature, requiring low adult-to-child ratios (often 1:1) and activities frequently associated with much younger children, as many foundational experiences (neural networks) have been missed or are incomplete (Perry, 2006, 2009, in press; Perry & Dobson, 2013).

    The numbers of interactions required to change ingrained low-brain patterns call for extensive commitment from parents, teachers, therapists, and extended family, as the time required exceeds the capabilities of a single individual (Perry, 2009). Fortunately, many playful activities that provide the activation necessary to modulate and reorganize these regulatory neural networks can be integrated into play therapies and playful therapeutic experiences (most therapeutic change happens outside of therapy). Play therapists should never forget that if something is not fun, it is not play, and that it is impossible for a child to have pleasure in a relational interaction if the child’s brain is in an alarm state. The key, therefore, to being true to the “play” in play therapy is helping the child become regulated and thereby safe. Once basic state regulation has been established, more traditional play therapies will be effective. Bottom-up interventions for children with state-regulatory difficulties will consist of some variety of somatosensory activity (e.g., music, dance, walking, drawing). Although language will undoubtedly be necessary in the process of working with these children, play therapists must realize that in dysregulated children it will not be likely that words, reasoning, or ideas will change the primary regulatory networks in the lower 

    areas of the brain. Rather, regulatory organization and creation of normal homeostatic states depend more on the “primal language” of gentle tones of voice; comforting, repetitive sensory experience; and soothing repetitive and patterned movements by patient, safe adults. Providing this “primal language” may take the form of child-directed free play; repetitive, patterned sensory integration activities carried out at home, school, and clinic; or fine and large motor activities. All such activities will require an atmosphere of enjoyment, safety, and attunement between adults and children. As noted above, this work must often be done in very low adult-to-child ratios that match a child’s functional age, often 1:1 (see Gaskill & Perry, 2012). For a child with severe dysregulation, the play therapist may need to restrict the environment as well, to control environmental stimuli to match the child’s developmental age; otherwise, overstimulation of the child is likely to produce frustration, irritability, tantrums, aggression, and withdrawal (including dissociation).

    Finally, the unique aspects of each child’s history, genetic endowment, and epigenetic influences preclude a “one-size-fits-all” treatment model (Ungar & Perry, 2012). Such multifaceted symptomatology requires play therapists to incorporate neurobiological principles, comparing play therapy techniques, delivery methods, treatment frequencies, optimal numbers of treatment sessions, and outcome measures (Bratton et al., 2005; Perry & Dobson, 2013; Ray et al., 2001). A crucial element in any therapeutic approach with these children is patience. Neural plasticity is a primary neurophysiological process underlying therapeutic change; expressed plasticity (i.e., changing a neural network) requires adequate (sometimes thousands of) repetitions (Kleim & Jones, 2008). Play therapists, family members, teachers, and other caregivers who are not aware of this can often become frustrated/confused and give up (Perry, 2009).

    Brain functions are localized to the brain region mediating the specific function (e.g., cardiovascular regulation is a brainstem function; sleep is a diencephalon function; attachment is a limbic function; and abstract cognition is a cortex function)

    Educational enrichment 

    Therapeutic experiences

    He was extremely dysregulated, and it was estimated that his baseline level of arousal was high alarm. This meant that he would have minimal access to any cortically mediated functions and would have minimal cerebromodulatory capability. In short, words were not going to change Tom’s behavior. 

     A shift in therapeutic strategy was recommended. The foster parents, Tom’s teachers and the play therapist were willing to shift their expectations and interactions with Tom away from cognitive-predominant to an enriched somatosensory schedule. Therapy took place while Tom and his therapist walked, in parallel, in a park. The school allowed Tom to avoid small-group activities (for which he was not yet developmentally ready), and to pursue a schedule of primarily somatosensory activity with a 1:1 aide (walking, playing with clay, finger painting, rocking in a chair, swinging, kicking a soccer ball, etc.). In the home, time with caregivers was spent walking, running, helping groom the pets, giving and receiving hand massages, and sitting side by side in a rocking bench (while his foster mother read to another of the children). The number of “intentional” (i.e., scheduled) somatosensory regulatory and therapeutic hours in the week was increased from 3 (which had been somewhat random) to 18 in the first 3 months of placement, and then to 30 (set up in a more scheduled, predictable pattern).

    Children who have experienced trauma, chaos, and neglect exhibit complex functional compromise in multiple domains, including physiological, motor, emotional, social, and cognitive. The specific nature and presentation of this multidomain functional compromise will vary, depending upon such factors as genetics and epigenetics, as well as the timing, nature, and pattern of both stressors and relational “buffers” in a child’s life. A central finding in these children is a sensitized set of regulatory neural networks that originate in lower areas of the brain and have a wide distribution in the brain and body. By integrating a neurobiology-informed clinical approach, play therapists can select and sequence developmentally appropriate play activities that will help regulate these children and facilitate therapeutic efforts to enhance their relational and cognitive capabilities. The NMT is an evidence-based practice that can provide a practical and useful clinical framework to help play therapists identify the strengths and vulnerabilities of maltreated children, and implement developmentally appropriate therapeutic, educational, and enrichment services.

    Dr. Perry: They tend to be stereotypical institutional settings with cinderblock walls and tile floors and colors that are just drab, almost depressing in their nature. A lot of echoing sounds and reverberation. These are sensory experiences that are atypical. The natural world has a certain ebb and flow, it has a rhythm to it, a smoothness to the sounds that we hear. You go into institutional settings and the architecture creates a sensory environment that is unfamiliar and unsettling. Some places don’t have natural light. Some keep the lights on all the time, so your biorhythms get all messed up. Some places will be eerily silent, particularly if you’re in isolation, and some places will be persistently noisy, so any effort to sleep or regulate yourself is interfered with. The environment is physiologically disrespectful.

    CIR: How does it affect a kid’s sense of self-worth to be locked away from everyone else?

    Dr. Perry: Most of these kids feel marginalized to start with. They feel like they’re bad, they did something wrong, they don’t fit in. And isolation is essentially the ultimate marginalization. You’re so marginalized you don’t even fit in with the misfits, and we are going to exclude you from the group in an extreme way. In some ways it’s the ultimate message that we don’t care for you. We are neurobiologically interdependent creatures. All of our sensory apparatus is bias toward forming and maintaining relationships with human beings. When you are not part of the group, it’s a fundamental biological rejection.

    CIR: A common argument from corrections professionals is that they have no choice but to isolate kids who are unruly or violent. How should we be designing our juvenile justice facilities so that they not only promote healthy development, but also provide safety without using solitary?

    Dr. Perry: There’s an approach called collaborative problem-solving, which has shown tremendous effectiveness with dysregulated, explosive individuals. It’s not like we’re going to ignore the issue, but we’re going to acknowledge it and talk about a solution that we come up with together. And when you do that, it literally defuses things in a very powerful way. It’s ironic that in many of these models of intervention — mental health, education, juvenile justice — rather than taking advantage of the major biological unit of leverage we have for healthy development, which is the relationship, we actually make it more relationally impoverished.

    The sympathetic nervous system is “wired” within your torso as part of your body that helps you feel more alert, while the parasympathetic nervous system is in your neck, spine, and pelvis and helps you feel more calm.

    The advantage of being in your parasympathetic system is that it allows you to:

    Spending too much time in your sympathetic nervous system – or “alert mode” – can flood your body with stress hormones and have drawbacks for long-term health.

    The Ability to Pause

    Humans tend to make poorer choices when agitated.

    When something undesirable occurs, it creates anxiety.

    The temptation is to try to dispel that anxious discomfort from your body by externalizing it – by getting angry and blaming someone. In those situations:

    • How do you create a gap between stimulus and response?
    • How can you be responsive and not reactive?

    “For me, the ability to live with integrity and pride is found in being able to choose the actions I take,” says producer and writer Whitney Cummings.

    “I used to be reactive and make decisions while my head was flooded with adrenaline. Now… [I’m better able to] wait on making decisions until I’m less adrenalized and less activated.”

    Walk Your Way to Calm

    Seeing things pass by the eyes is a way that animals – including humans – calm their nervous system. When the body is moving and there are images flowing by on the retinas, it has a direct calming effect on the fear center of the brain.

    The eye movement that is created by self-generated, forward ambulation is quieting to the mind. In this sense, walking outdoors (or running) can be one of the best remedies for stress.

    Anytime your eyes are focused in a small compartment of space – whether it’s a phone or tablet, or a small room as opposed to a vista – you are increasing the level of alertness [stress] in your brain stem.”

    – Andrew Huberman

    Find a vista or look at images of a vista 

    What has been proven effective is to take two consecutive inhales through your nose, followed by a longer exhale through your mouth.

    This type of breathing will help balance the ratio of carbon dioxide and oxygen in your bloodstream and lungs.

    It makes you go from too-anxious, to calm. And it can be achieved in as little as 3 breaths:

    • relax your diaphragm and inhale (nose) into the base of your lungs (half way);
    • take a brief pause;
    • then inhale the second half (nose) into the top of your lungs expanding your upper bronchials;
    • then exhale (mouth) slowly.

    More resources 

    Sources and Additional Reading:

    The Science of Fear and Relaxation – Andrew Huberman, neuroscientist –

    Good For You Podcast (and video) with Whitney Cummings – (highly recommended)

    Three Additional Breathing Exercises –

    Chronic Low-Level Stress is Bad for Health – Mayo Clinic –,Depression

    ome examples of ‘brainstem calmer’ activities are:

    • Walking/ marching
    • Dancing
    • Running
    • Skipping rope
    • Drumming
    • Tapping
    • Breathing
    • Rocking
    • Listening to rhythmic music
    • Bouncing a ball
    • Swimming
    • Chewing
    • Linear swinging
    • Animal grooming
    • Singing
    • Poi spinning (older children)
    • Therapeutic massage
    • Chanting

    This information has been adapted from Check out their website for tons of great information and resources.

    A 2016 study

     accidentally stumbled upon the neural circuit in the brainstem that seems to play the key role in the breathing-brain control connection.  The circuit is part of what’s been called the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” because it can be adjusted by altering breathing rhythm (slow, controlled breathing decreases activity in the circuit; fast, erratic breathing increases activity), which in turn influences emotional states. Exactly how this happens is still being researched, but knowing the pathway exists is a big step forward. Simple controlled breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 method may work by regulating the circuit.

    , research

     suggests that slowing your breathing increases “baroreflex sensitivity,” the mechanism that regulates blood pressure via heart rate. Over time, using controlled breathing to lower blood pressure and heart rate may lower risk of stroke and cerebral aneurysm, and generally decreases stress on blood vessels (a big plus for cardiovascular health).

    Counting breaths taps into the brain’s emotional control regions.

    A recent study

     showed that controlling breathing by counting breaths influences “neuronal oscillations throughout the brain,” particularly in brain regions related to emotion.  Participants were asked to count how many breaths they took over a two-minute period, which caused them to pay especially focused attention to their breathing.

    Researchers think that nasal inhalation triggers greater electrical activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional epicenter, which enhances recall of fearful stimuli. Inhaling also seems linked to greater activity in the hippocampus, the seat of memory.

    While this is the most speculative of the study findings on this list, it’s also one of the most exciting.  The study

     was evaluating the “Relaxation Response” (a term popularized in the 1970s book of the same name by Dr. Herbert Benson, also a co-author of this study), which refers to a method of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system to counteract the nervous system’s “fight or flight” response to stress. Controlled breathing triggers a parasympathetic response, according to the theory, and may also improve immune system resiliency as a “downstream health benefit.” The study also found improvements in energy metabolism and more efficient insulin secretion, which results in better blood sugar management. If accurate, the results support the conclusion that controlled breathing isn’t only a counterbalance to stress, but also valuable for improving overall health.

    Traumatized brains look different from non-traumatized brains in three predictable ways:

    1. The Thinking Center is underactivated,
    2. The Emotion Regulation Center is underactivated
    3. The Fear Center is overactivated.

    What these activations indicate is that, often, a traumatized brain is “bottom-heavy,” meaning that activations of lower, more primitive areas, including the fear center, are high, while higher areas of the brain (also known as cortical areas) are underactivated. In other words, if you are traumatized, you may experience chronic stress, vigilance, fear, and irritation. You may also have a hard time feeling safe, calming down, or sleeping. These symptoms are all the result of a hyperactive amygdala.

    Self hypnosis 

    Autogenic training

    The technique consists of six standard exercises according to Schultz:[5][9]

    1. Muscular relaxation by repetition of a verbal formula, “My right arm is heavy”, emphasizing heaviness. During the initial stages of the training, the feeling of heaviness in the trained arm is more expressed and occurs more rapidly. The same feeling can be experienced in the other extremities at the same time in the other arm. Within a week, a short concentration can trigger the sensation of heaviness in a trainee’s arms and legs.[4]
    2. Passive concentration focuses on feeling warm, initiated by the instruction “My right arm is warm”.
    3. Initiation of cardiac activity using the formula “My heartbeat is calm and regular”.
    4. Passive concentration on the respiratory mechanism with the formula “It breathes me”.
    5. Concentration on the warmth in the abdominal region with “My solar plexus is warm” formula.
    6. Passive concentration on coolness in the cranial region with the formula “My forehead is cool”.

    Emotions are intimately linked to heart health, which is linked to physical and mental health. In general, good mental[125][126] and physical[127] health are correlated with positive emotions and high heart rate variability (HRV) modulated by mostly high frequencies. High HRV has been correlated with increased executive functioning skills such as memory and reaction time.[125] Biofeedback that increased HRV and shifted power toward HF (high-frequencies) has been shown to lower blood pressure.[49]

    On the other hand, LF (low-frequency) power in the heart is associated with sympathetic vagal activity, which is known to increase the risk of heart attack.[128] LF-dominated HRV power spectra are also directly associated with higher mortality rates in healthy individuals,[129][130] and among individuals with mood disorders.[131] Anger and frustration increase the LF range of HRV.[132] Other studies have shown anger to increase the risk of heart attack,[133] so researchers at the Heartmath Institute have made the connection between emotions and physical health via HRV.

    Because emotions have such an impact on cardiac function, which cascades to numerous other biological processes, emotional regulation techniques are able to effect practical, psychophysiological change.[49] McCraty et al. discovered that feelings of gratitude increased HRV and moved its power spectrum toward the MF (mid-frequency) and HF (high-frequency) ranges, while decreasing LF (low-frequency) power.[132] The Heartmath Institute’s patented techniques involve engendering feelings of gratitude and happiness, focusing on the physical location of the heart, and breathing in 10-second cycles.[134] Other techniques have been shown to improve HRV, such as strenuous aerobic exercise,[135] and meditation.[136]

    It is estimated that of 100 people who have experienced trauma, 25%, or 1 in 4, will experience PTSD, 

    When a person experiences a traumatic event, adrenaline rushes through the body and the memory is imprinted into the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system. The amygdala holds the emotional significance of the event, including the intensity and impulse of emotion. 

    For example, if you’re on a roller coaster, your sensory information is “fear, speed, stress, excitement, not life threatening.” The amygdala can read the emotional significance of the event as it’s a fun ride which you’ll be off in three minutes.  The amygdala stores the visual images of trauma as sensory fragments, which means the trauma memory is not stored like a story, rather by how our five senses were experiencing the trauma at the time it was occurring. The memories are stored through fragments of visual images, smells, sounds, tastes, or touch.

    Consequently, after trauma, the brain can easily be triggered by sensory input, reading normal circumstances as dangerous. For example, a red light is no longer a red light, now it’s a possible spark. A barbecue had been just a barbecue, but now it sounds like an explosion. The sensory fragments are misinterpreted and the brain loses its ability to discriminate between what is threatening and what is normal.

     The front part of our brain, known as the prefrontal cortex, is the rational part where consciousness lives, processing and reasoning occurs, and we make meaning of language. When a trauma occurs, people enter into a fight, flight, or freeze state, which can result in the prefrontal cortex shutting down. The brain becomes somewhat disorganized and overwhelmed because of the trauma, while the body goes into a survival mode and shuts down the higher reasoning and language structures of the brain. The result of the metabolic shutdown is a profound imprinted stress response.

    Traditional trauma therapies have been based on the belief that the best way to address and heal PTSD symptoms is to deal with it in the “thinking” part of the brain through talk therapy. Talking through the event  was thought to help a person understand the trauma and slowly desensitize themselves to the emotional intensity of it. The goal was to try to deal with the story in the rational part of the brain. Although these therapies were helpful to a point, they did not address the sensory responses in the body.

    In the last 18 years, brain scan technology has allowed us to  gain insight into the difference between what happens when people talk about past trauma and what happens when their body is re-experiencing it. We have learned that talk therapy attempts to engage parts of the brain that are “off-line” and therefore is not able to resolve the trauma when people are in hyper-distressed states.

    Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD, a leading psychiatrist in the trauma field,,says, “Traditionally we’ve tried to heal PTSD through talking and making meaning of the event, but treatment methods that help calm arousal systems in the deeper regions of the brain have been helpful in calming PTSD more than those that try to do so through talking and reasoning. We call this ‘bottom-up processing.’

    Today we recognize that the frontal part of the brain has limited ability to change the deeper parts of the brain, especially when the body is in a trauma response or distress. Talk therapy works when the brain is on-line and functioning, but when the rational part of the brain is hijacked by the trauma memory, people may not hear words or reasoning or make meaning of events and experiences. When the deeper regions of the brain are in this state of distress, survivors  are back in the trauma and their brain and body seem to be in a time warp.

    Van Der Kolk addresses this issue stating, “Taking action is the core issue. It’s in action that people take back their power and create healing, and words cannot substitute for action.

    There are a number of ways to bring action to the body and brain. One treatment option today that utilizes action to immobilize the body and brain is eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to alternately engage both sides of the brain in action. Originally this was done by having a person follow a therapist’s finger back and forth, in front of his or her vision field.

    This bilateral movement causes the traumatic memory that is looping in the emotional side of the brain to integrate with the cognitive part of the brain. The eye and brain movement increases the ability of the prefrontal cortex to “get online” or find the rationality in the traumatic event. 

    Sensorimotor techniques are also useful in limbic calming. In sensorimotor therapy, the therapist helps a person to notice sensory body responses and be in-tune with their body’s messages as a means to address healing. It is a means of engaging the body and the mind in the recovery process. 

    Through his neuro-imaging studies, Daniel Amen has documented that people experience calming in their limbic structures following EMDR treatment. Other venues for limbic calming include soothing music, prayer and meditation, mindful breathing, yoga, and exercise. 

    The following simple activities can encourage limbic calming:

    • Take 5 minutes in the morning and evening to rock back and forth, or side to side, just noticing and relaxing the body.
    • Find music or tones of music, with or without words, that bring you into a state of calmness.
    • Practice deep breathing in sequences of three. For example, breathe, breathe, breathe. Rest. Breathe, breathe, breathe. Rest.…
    • Participate in some form of exercise for 12-15 minutes per day to increase serotonin and dopamine.
    • Participate in 5-10 minutes per day of prayer or meditation, as the spiritual center of the brain is an area that is able to influence and calm the deeper regions of the brain.

    Calming the Brain

    By Kelly Dorfman, MS, DDR Co-Founder

    The brain needs a balance between excitatory and calming chemicals to control the body‘s activity level. A wide variety of chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, modulate the brain‘s tendencies toward arousal or calming.

    Adrenaline (or epinephrine) is an excitatory chemical that helps the body respond to danger by dilating the eyes, speeding up the heart and initiating other functions that prepare the body for fight or flight. If an acute response is not necessary, the body can convert adrenaline to dopamine, another excitatory molecule that improves focus and concentration.

    Both dopamine and epinephrine are important under the appropriate circumstances. However, if adrenaline is dominant in a preschooler during circle time, he will be unable to settle down. Similarly, if excessive dopamine is present, the result is obsessive, rather than focusing, behavior.

    At bedtime, when the body tries to cycle into sleep, the brain may have trouble breaking down the high levels of excitatory neurotransmitters. Thus, children who take Ritalin and related stimulants can have trouble sleeping or can develop obsessive behaviors such as tics.


    Understanding the chemistry of excitement versus sedation is important if your child is overactive. In children who exhibit overactivity, regulation between the two states is impaired. Often, the problem is an excessive amount of substances being consumed that increase excitatory messengers. The six most common dietary excitement inducers are:

    • Aspartame (NutraSweet), because it is made from two amino acids that are the building blocks for stimulating neurotransmitters.
    • MSG (monosodium glutamate), which directly agitates, because several types of glutamate receptors, all of which arouse, are in the brain. (For a detailed explanation of how MSG and NutraSweet affect the nervous system, see Excitotoxins: The Taste That KillsExcitotoxins: The Taste that Kills, by Russell Blaylock, M.D.)
    • Artificial Colors that can strain liver detoxification systems, leaving half broken-down substances in the blood that cause irritation in susceptible individuals.
    • Unidentified allergens, presumably due to their ability to cause inflammation and other chemical reactions. The nervous system and immune system exchange information. When the immune system is under siege, it can send instructions to the nervous system to rev up or shut down. (To understand the relationship between hidden allergic reactions and behavior, see Doris Rapp‘s Is This Your ChildIs This Your Child?)
    • Excess sugar, because children can convert it immediately into available energy. An adult‘s metabolism more often turns that extra energy into fat tissue. Excess sugar can also aggravate a yeast problem. (See New Developments, Vol. 3, No.4.)
    • Caffeine – as it is used precisely for the purpose of inducing excitement!
    • Magnesium, which enhances muscle relaxation and inhibits the release of the excitatory neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Many youngsters are deficient in magnesium, due to picky diets and its decreasing levels in the soil. When magnesium is very deficient, muscle twitching can occur. Therapeutic doses for children over the age of two range from 100 to 300 mg. Toxicity is almost impossible, because, if more magnesium is taken than the body can absorb, the body excretes it as diarrhea.
    • Essential fats, the basis of brain structure. Research indicates that deficiency in essential fatty acid may cause hyperactivity. Flaxseed oil contains a 1:1 ratio of omega 3 and 6, the two major families of important fats. For children who cannot swallow pills, the addition of organic flax oil, Udo‘s Choice, or Total EFA brands of essential fats can be useful. Supplemental essential fats should be added to foods before serving (not cooked into them) and taste-tested weekly. A sour or bitter after-taste signals rancidity and means the oil should be discarded.
    • GABA (short for gamma-amino butyric acid), the most plentiful calming messenger. Calming neurotransmitters are so important that in the brain there is 200 -1,000 times the amount of GABA as the dopamine it controls! GABA also decreases muscle tension, but in large doses, can cause drowsiness. Generally, 300 to 600 mg are used; 1,000 mg can be used for children over 13. Vitamin B-6 is necessary to utilize GABA and magnesium, which is the reason that it reportedly can help in hyperactivity.

    The vestibular (balance-related) stimulation that rocking creates is certainly a part of that.

    Equally important is the rhythm that comes with rocking. That’s because rhythm, when steady and comfortably paced, has a calming effect on the human nervous system, and a regulating effect on the human brain.

    What this rhythmic movement actually regulates is the lower, more primitive region of the brain: the brainstem.

    Harald Blomberg’s book The Rhythmic Movement Method

    “The rhythm of these experiences matter. The brain stem and diencephalon contain powerful associations to rhythmic somatosensory activity created in utero and reinforced in early in life. The brain makes associations between patterns of neural activity that co-occur.

    “One of the most powerful sets of associations created in utero is the association between patterned repetitive rhythmic activity from maternal heart rate, and all the neural patterns of activity associated with not being hungry, not been thirsty, and feeling ‘safe’ (in the womb).

    “Patterned, repetitive, rhythmic somatosensory activity… elicits a sensation of safety.  Rhythm is regulating.  All cultures have some form of patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity as part of their healing and mourning rituals — dancing, drumming, and swaying.

    “EMDR and bilateral tapping are variations of this patterned, repetitive rhythmic, somatosensory activity… We believe that they are regulating in part because they are tapping into the deeply ingrained, powerful permeating associations created in utero.”  [FN5]

    Developmental trauma occurs when needs Not consistently met physical or emotional needs or had experience of separation or loss from the family

    Early adverse childhood experiences

    Brainstem motor sensory input

    Limbic attachment emotions behavior

    Cortical thinking inhibiting and learning

    Bottom up

    Safe and regulated


    Safe place

    Patterned and repetitive


    Brain age not birth age

    Developmental age not chronological

    Relationships heal relationship trauma

    Etienne Wenger, a leading social learning theorist, defines communities of practice as groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. T

    “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.” –William James.

    Learn panic signals respond to them with relaxation response

    2. Learn how to breathe properly

    One of the most effective ways to train this response is to learn how to breathe properly. Shallow breathing means that the diaphragm muscles are not being used. Thee secret is to inhale deeply so that the chest and stomach are filled with air. If you are lying down, you can easily feel your stomach rising by placing your hands over your belly button area. Then exhale slowly. As you do so, concentrate on the movement you feel and also repeat a mantra such as ‘breathe in’ and ‘breathe out’. Simply put, you are now channelling the autonomic nervous system into much more productive activity which will be extremely useful in fighting the panic response.

    Improve vagal tone

    • practice meditation or mindfulness
    • generate positive thoughts
    • do exercise or some physical activity
    • increase omega 3 consumption by eating more fish and nuts

    4. Learn how to get things into perspective

    Learning how to prioritize and re-evaluate our talents, skills and experience is a great way of building self-esteem. This can also help us to put things into perspective when we are facing a critical challenge. Dr. Andy Martens of the University of Arizona has done some interesting research in this area.

    5. Learn how to avoid negative people

    You are in control but not when you are surrounded by anxious, negative and cynical people. Learning how to avoid these people is crucial especially when preparing for an extra stressful event.

    One great way to reduce cortisol is to regularly practise gratitude. Researchers at the University of California Davis, led by Robert Emmons, found that this practice was very effective in reducing cortisol by as much as 23%. There were added benefits in that people were in a better mood and felt better physically and mentally.

    7. Learn how to re-label emotions

    Esther Sternberg, a researcher at The NIMH has done a lot of research on mind-body interaction. One of her recommendations is that when, under pressure, you are successfully able to re-label the ‘fear or flight’ emotions. For example, fear can become anticipation while dread can become caution. Being under pressure can be simply re-labelled as being courted! If you are successful with this technique you become watchful and aware rather than being frightened and ready to flee.

    Just tell yourself that your sweaty palms or beating heart are not signs that you are going to fail! They are just the side effects of somebody who is ready to give the best performance in his or her life. Tell yourself that this test/match/interview/presentation is no big deal. Sian Bellock’s book,‘Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.’ is a fascinating insight on this process.

    10. Learn to look after yourself

    So, you are under pressure. But what steps are you taking to make sure that your body is going to perform well on the day? That means looking after all the essential maintenance such as diet, sleep, exercise, and relaxation. Did you know that if you have too many carbs in the morning, your blood sugar may fall? That can lead to bad temper, whereas if you get enough protein, this can keep you going for much longer without that annoying sugar crash.

    “Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.” –Dalai Lama

    Notes from bonds of freedom

    You might think that studying this topic would be a somber experience, but it wasn’t. Those who listened to the personal stories responded with laughter. They laughed joyously rather than derisively, not at those who told their stories, but with them. For they recognized themselves in each other’s stories: every story was, except for details, their own story too. 

    harbinger, which means herald, forerunner, or precursor—someone who goes ahead and announces or paves the way for what’s coming. 

    A “gas law” of emotional disturbance operates here, which might be formulated as follows: “Any inner space, no matter how large, will be filled by any agitation, no matter how small.”