The Secrets of the Human Nervous System
The nervous system is the window through which we experience the outer world.
Through a complex cascade of responses, the human nervous system essentially decodes our external environment into information for interpretation from the mind, body, and spirit.
Unlocking the wisdom of your nervous system will support you in understanding the intricate intelligence of your body as you develop compassion for how you have processed and transmuted experiences in your life.
In our 120-Hour Wise Womban Way Professional Facilitator Training, we explore the wisdom of the nervous system in a fully embodied, somatic way.
If you’re interested in learning more about the nervous system to support yourself and your loved ones, students, or clients – check out more about our Wise Womban Way Professional Facilitator Training by clicking the link below.
And now we begin our exploration…
In an overstimulated and highly traumatized world, awareness around the nervous system can support you in choosing whether to rest in a state of ease or activation by increasing your bodily awareness, developing discernment, and releasing attachment to stimulus that don’t require reaction.
The Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system represents the part of the nervous system that functions autonomously. Without the need for conscious effort or thought, the autonomic nervous system communicates and controls responses of the glands, muscles, and internal organ systems within the body.
An autonomic pathway involves interaction between two nerve cells – one of which is located in the brain stem or spinal cord. This cell is connected through fibers to the other cell which joins with a cluster of nerve fibers (autonomic ganglion) which wraps around the internal organs. The autonomic nervous system forms the bridge between the body and mind as it transforms our environmental stimuli into chemical information for the body to receive and process.
Function of the autonomic nervous system:
The autonomic nervous system controls internal body processes such as the following:
- Blood pressure
- Heart and breathing rates
- Body temperature
- Metabolism (thus affecting body weight)
- The balance of water and electrolytes (such as sodium and calcium)
- The production of body fluids (saliva, sweat, and tears)
- Sexual response
Sympathetic – Fight, Flight or Freeze
Also known as the state of ALERTNESS, the name ‘sympathetic’ was derived from an ancient idea that animal spirits would travel between each individual organ and cause them to ‘sympathize’ with one another.
Therefore, the sympathetic nervous system is named for it’s powerful action that affects the body as a WHOLE.
Evolutionarily, the sympathetic nervous system was created to help us survive immediate or prolonged experiences of life-threatening danger. When under extreme stress, the activation of the sympathetic nervous system will trigger the release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (cortisol) from certain neurons and the body’s adrenal glands.
Parasympathetic – Rest, Digest, and Reproduce
The parasympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system represents a response of CALMNESS within the body. Unlike the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic system is organ-specific – which means it inhibits or activates certain organs independently from one another.
The parasympathetic system is the body’s way of conserving vital life force energy and healing the deepest layers of the mind, body, and spirit. When governing the body’s responses, the parasympathetic system encourages a healthy flow of the hormone oxytocin. Known as the ‘love’ or ‘bonding hormone’, oxytocin is the body’s natural way of balancing the effects of cortisol and opening the heart to give and receive love.
Trauma and The Nervous System
My favorite definition for trauma is sourced from clinical psychologist, Dr. Peter A. Levine. Dr. Levine describes trauma as being anything that is “too much, too fast, or too soon” for the nervous system to process or integrate.
According to Dr. Levine, trauma occurs when the biological processes are overwhelmed and a person is unable to ‘discharge’ the energy of the event.
The modern world is laced with traumatic triggers that even our ancestors who lived two hundred years ago never had to deal with. Current scientific research tells us that the body has been developing for over 150,000 years.
Although the nervous system is absolutely intelligent in it’s design, ‘modern’ society continues to develop in such a rapid way that the nervous system hasn’t had time to catch up. In addition to surviving the day to day of highly stressed and over-stimulated societies, many of us have also been programmed since childhood to contain our emotions.
This internal oppression of our biological responses delay the release and healing of the trauma as they silence the body’s natural desire to heal.
When a traumatic event is unprocessed, it’s stored in the soft tissue structures and major muscles of the body. When a subsequent stressful event occurs that is not life-threatening, stress hormones will be released and energy will flood the sympathetic system, increasing heart rate, dilating pupils, increasing muscular strength and tension, and increasing acidity in the blood.
As the nervous system becomes increasingly stressed, it loses its ability to discern between stressors that are actually life-threatening, and stressors that are meant to be processed, released, and moved through quickly.
Remember – the body’s stress response is autonomic, which means no matter how analytical or brilliant our minds are – we’re unable to ‘think’ our way out of these challenges as the source exists beyond our rational control.
That means the way to resolve trauma is through a fully embodied, somatic experience.
Understanding trauma at a mental level supports us in developing compassion for ourselves and others as we walk down the path of healing – but it doesn’t hold the key to salvation.
To truly release the bondage of past traumas, we must do the work to develop healthy boundaries, create safe space for emotional release, and listen deeply to the messages of our bodies while learning tools to integrate and truly find freedom.
In our Wise Womban Way Transformational Facilitator Training, we speak about the importance of creating trauma-informed space to support students and clients on their journey of resolving trauma.
This 120-Hour Professional Training is truly unlike any other training out there. If you’re ready to harness your skills as a facilitator and embody your authentic expression of your voice – this training is for you.
We’re gathering in Bali, Indonesia for our next session from March 1 – 14, 2020.