Organic Intelligence

Multiple Trauma Vortex

“What is it?”

The client asked me this as she felt her head, all on its own, turn gently to the right— as if about to look at something over there. Her question meant, “What past trauma is this experience related to?”

So, here’s the fundamental problem. Even in somatic psychotherapy circles we still don’t appreciate enough just how fully physical behavior is. The implicit, or body memory, is not at all linear— not one event per behavior. There could be, and likely are, numerous events that might rise to threshold for recollection, and which are associated with any state, any emotion, any behavior. Memory functions by association— related groupings. In my class, “Multiple Trauma Vortex”, I spend time showing somatic therapists how that grouping happens.

Today, however, we will achieve a lot if we can come to a better understanding of how such explicit ‘memories’ arise.

In my previous blogs here and at, I’ve talked about the importance of recognizing— from complexity science— how our complex systems operate, and how they make recognizable shifts in a 3-Phase pattern. Understanding these 3-Phases will give us a better idea of what arises in each phase. These three phases are ubiquitous, and show up in numerous models and, of course, in myth— think of the Christian trinitarian doctrine, or Gurdjieff’s “Law of Three”. The Hindu tradition speaks of the trimurti, or three forms. The three forms (and functions) are: Shiva (destroyer/transformer), Vishnu (preserver) and Brahma (creator). Likewise, the three major Phases I articulate for clinical work are: Chaos, Complexity and Coherence; understanding all three is essential. Each of these “phases” is like a system within a system. Each must be recognized clearly because they are so different from each other that to treat Phase I like Phase III will not support a client’s development. If you have read my blogs, or trained in Organic Intelligence, you know that much of the work is to facilitate the tendency toward Self-organization, which is Phase III, “Coherence”. In this blog I want to talk about Phase I, “Chaos” as an exemplary model.

Phase I is called “Chaos” because the system’s constitution is inscrutable. Rather than being primarily self-organizing, it has a limited range of intense experience that’s assimilable. In fact, as with each Phase, it is self-reinforcing. This means that the system develops an unconscious attraction toward an intensity of experience that serves to repeatedly disorganize the system, knocking it back toward its impoverished threshold of tolerance.

This does not mean that a person whose system in this phase feels chaotic— some have learned to manipulate the environment so well that they successfully limit their exposure to unwanted intensity. Capable and intelligent leaders, managers, psychopaths, CEOs and presidential candidates are possible examples. For such a person in Phase I (Chaos), action is constant, trying to make sure the environment (social, physical, emotional, etc.) does not impinge too forcefully. The ability to control things outside oneself is of prime importance (think “control freak”). At the same time, however, the risk is not imaginary. Overexposure to toxic intensity can further ding the nervous system so that it becomes even less efficient, and less resilient. We see this consequence in persons who suffer systemic breakdowns, including some syndromal conditions such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, migraine, etc.

If we think systemically we realize how profoundly metabolic are these processes and that top down interventions will have a limited effect. Asking a client whose system is in chaos to “resource” with any number of positive interventions may be necessary in the moment, but it will likely make no change in the overall way that system is organized. The system can dance to the tune being laid down, but will go back and hold the wall once that music stops. I’ve described above those who can keep the music going, those who can keep the top-down interventions going by controlling their focus of attention and managing the people around them.

But what about others? What about those who do not have the energetic, emotional or intellectual wherewithal to do prescribed meditations, affirmations, positive thinking, belly breathing, and sober living? They become further burdened with their failure to do the things their practitioners tell them will alleviate their sufferings. Sadly, this is where the infamous cycle of blaming the victim could be stimulated— clients who are doing their best cannot always do enough. The ensuing guilt disempowers.

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Categories: Somatic Psychology

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