Practical Bodywork Blog

The Biochemistry of Rage

CW: sexual assault

When I was in my early twenties, a friend of mine started having neurological problems. Intermittent, acute idiopathic pain, fatigue, and intermittent paralysis. Doctors could not find a cause. Some accused them of making it up to get attention.

At the same time, this friend started having flashbacks. Memories, long buried, of repeated sexual abuse by a relative, at a very young age.

They spoke up about the abuse. After some battles, they were even believed. The abuser was prevented from abusing others.

Over time, the neurological problems got worse. Many diagnoses were proffered and rescinded. They spent more and more time in a wheelchair.

The experiences of this friend, and of many others, inspired me to study alternative healing, particularly the relief of chronic pain. Over the years I heard countless variations on this story. Childhood abuse, adult disease and disability.

So when, in 2012, the results of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study were made public, it validated a suspicion of mine. As the study indicated, childhood trauma can disrupt the structural development of the neural network, and the biochemistry of endocrine systems. This can have far-ranging health consequences in adulthood, correlating with everything from heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and emphysema, to behavioral and mental health issues like alcoholism and depression.

Trauma disrupts the nervous system. 

If you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you might have been able to avoid the avalanche of people telling their sexual assault stories, in the wake of allegations against Harvey Weinstein. After a few days of it, I got off social media.

Because the guys complaining about people expressing their feelings were a little much.

As if feelings aren’t reality.

Feelings, as I understand from decades of professional experience, are data. Feelings are biochemistry. Feelings are a language more truthful, rational and compelling than any amount of intellectual rationalization.

And when I hear the feelings of millions of traumatized people dismissed as so much whining, I get kind of enraged.

It’s that kind of language that keeps abusers comfortable. It’s that kind of talk which keeps victims quiet. And it’s an ontological lie, told in order to maintain a status quo which is monstrously destructive.

Because every human being will experience trauma. It’s built into the system. What causes unnecessary trauma is trying to ignore and suppress the body’s natural response to it. Emotions are tunnels, which we have to traverse in order to build resilience.

I spend my days coaxing people’s bodies to release unprocessed trauma.

And I don’t have much patience with those who try to shut them up.

 

 

 

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