Self-Preservation and Traumatic Events

fightFlightBanner When someone experiences trauma it can impact them physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually.

Trauma that comes from a life threatening incident often causes PTSD. If you read my book “Empowered Health and Wellness: Awaken Your Inner Physician,  you know that I had a few life threatening illnesses.  I have worked extensively on the issues and behaviors that were caused by these traumas and yet I continued to have physical body responses that were not congruent with my level of consciousness.  I could feel the response kick in, in my body and it would send me into high alert, even though there was no threat that I could see.

In this article I want to talk about how trauma gets trapped at a cellular level and continues to influence your life. In Pathwork theory when self-preservation is distorted any rejection, withholding of love, admiration and approval is not only unsafe but is perceived as actual death.  So threat=rejection and rejection is perceived as death by someone who has experience trauma.  Tightness is the word they use for it.  Inner reactions are called soul movements and this particular distortion of soul movement  is a “tight holding down of a force that should be fluid.”

Whenever we perceive any change in our external environment, a part of our brain asks one question: “Am I in danger?   Is there a threat?”   If the answer is “YES,” the brain initiates a response called “The Fight-or-Flight or Stress Response” and the body begins a series of reactions called “Defense Physiology.”

In my case one of my life threatening traumas was when I was 4 years old and what is left of the memory is at the cellular level.  It was compounded by another life threatening trauma when I was thirty-four which crystalized the distortion.   I could feel the physical process that happens in the body at the first sign of threat which includes elevated cortisol, followed by adrenaline.  As soon as I felt the physical sensation I would feel threatened, even after releasing this trauma on the emotional, spiritual and intellectual levels.  This is because it was still alive in cellular memory.

“Many researchers have studied how trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) impact cortisol, a primary stress hormone.  Although cortisol dysregulation is common in the general population, PTSD appears to hasten cortisol imbalance and its extensive consequences, making it an important area of study…Cortisol, released by the adrenal gland plays a key role in directing physiological and metabolic processes way from long-term management to immediate survival.”  Read more of this Navy article cortisol-text

Even though I was a psychologist for 26 years and worked with a lot of clients who had PTSD I never connected PTSD, cortisol dysregulation and weight gain.  I only discovered it in my deep retracing process when I started working with a chiropractor who uses Network Spinal Analysis because of lower back issues.

What is Network Spinal Analysis (NSA)?

“Network Spinal Analysis™ care is an evidence based approach to wellness and body awareness. Gentle precise touch to the spine cues the brain to create new wellness promoting strategies. Two unique healing waves develop that are associated with spontaneous release of spinal and life tensions, and the use of existing tension as fuel for spinal re-organization and enhanced wellness. Practitioners combine their clinical assessments of spinal refinements with patient’s self assessments of wellness and life changes. Greater self-awareness and conscious awakening of the relationships within the body, mind, emotion, and expression of the human spirit are realized through this popular healing work.” It also helps clients release at the cellular level, which is a level of healing that you can’t reach on your own.

When I first started the work my chiropractor told me that some people experience what is called ‘retracing’. As you recover, your body may retrace some of the memory patterns of stresses to the spine and nervous system that you’ve experienced. This means that your body may be aware of old injuries, symptoms or ailments, as it corrects subluxations patterns. Common recovery includes changes in breathing patterns, elimination, digestion, or sensory perceptions such as tingling, warmth, and itchiness. You may notice blood pressure and hormonal changes, or symptoms such as fever associated with your body-“cleaning house.” The presence or severity of these symptoms, or any other symptom in and of itself does not necessarily mean that you are better or worse. Symptoms can have many meanings. The reducing of subluxations patterns, and the accompanying increased ease and improved spinal function is an indication of the positive changes that you are achieving.


The releases in NSA all happens at the cellular level and it is what happened to me.  I had a particularly productive session where my chiropractor told me that we had “broken through a wall.”

The following day my body went into a retracing of one of my life threatening traumas. The incident was a strangulated bowel that was miss-diagnosed.  I was sent home from the hospital in severe pain and did labor breathing for 3 days,  day and night, to relieve the pain.  By the time the problem was discovered they had to remove 2 feet of dead intestine from my body.  I am told that the pain is like having a gun shot wound to the stomach.  This is the shortened version of the story, just to give and understanding what happened.

The day after the breakthrough with my chiropractor my body began to retrace this incident.  I was in severe pain and could barely walk.  It was a milder version of the original experience but included a lot of the same components.  I gained 10 pounds in a week to mimic what happened 30 years ago and lost it as soon as the retracing was over.  I couldn’t eat and my abdomen hurt so bad that I couldn’t touch it.  I was in so much pain that I wondered how I had even survived the first time because the level of pain was 50 times worse.   This went on for 5 days as my body released the cellular trauma.

When I asked my inner guidance about what was happening I was told ” There is no reason you should have survived except out of extreme self-preservation.  They also told me that at the cellular level my body was always hypervigilant about trauma happening again and so my cortisol level was always higher than normal.   This is why my body had a hard time releasing excess weight, especially around my waist.

Some people would say that the only reason someone is over weight is because they eat too much of the wrong foods.  That isn’t always the case because there can be a systematic cause to weight gain that is not the fault of poor eating.  In fact I eat fairly clean and I still have a tendency to gain weight and have more difficulty losing it.

I had no idea that I had a distortion in self-preservation until my guidance pointed it out.  A lot of things started to make sense after that.

My story illustrates how traumatic experiences can continue to affect you long after they are over.   If you have experienced life threatening trauma of any kind it is worth doing research to see if anything that you are experiencing might be related, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual or intellectual.

I would love your comments about this issue and your experiences.


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Balancing Hormones


Ten Rules for balancing Cortisol


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Two Faces of Cortisol


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