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Swan dive from above

Hypnosis in a bathing suit

The California retreat, Harbin Hot Springs, invented a powerful form of deep trance work variously called watsu and water dance

BY PAUL KAIHLA — I first heard of watsu when I went to Harbin Hot Springs with an ex because of its rep for having the best mineral baths north of San Francisco. We were surprised to discover that the place was actually a New Age hangout.

When my significant-other saw people in a pool doing what we later learned was watsu, she almost sounded like a socialite encountering lepers — “Ewww, who are those people?”

At first glance, it did look somewhat sideways: What seemed like a bunch of aging hippies in the nude, paired up and cradling each other as if they were attempting some kind of re-birthing exercise.

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DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 5

DEALING WITH LOSS: Step 5

Loss, Trauma and Somatic Therapy

On the opening page of Love in the Time of Cholera, Nobel-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez set down one of literary fiction’s most arresting images of death: He writes that a character who commits suicide “had escaped the torments of memory.”

The flip-side is that when the person who dies is one of our own, their death — however it happens — logs a new memory of torment for we who remain living. Peter Levine, a biophysicist who became a renowned psychologist and author, goes further. Any death, divorce, or loss is not just a physiological trauma but a physiological trauma to your nervous system.

“Because traumatic events often involve encounters with death, they evoke extraordinary responses,” writes Levine. “The very structure of trauma, including hyper-arousal, dissociation. and freezing, is based on the evolution of predator/prey survival behaviors. The symptoms of trauma are the result of a highly-activated, incomplete biological response to threat, frozen in time. By enabling this frozen response to thaw, then complete, trauma can be healed.”

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Addiction: 9 Causes and Cures

Addiction: 9 Causes and Cures

TRAUMA, the FIGHT/FLIGHT RESPONSE and ALCOHOL

A couple of things occur when people get hit by a trauma like a car accident, natural disaster, major surgery, job loss, bankruptcy, divorce, the death of a parent, rape or other violent crime. The object constancy that D. W. Winnicott suggests is installed in our psyches around the age of three can be wiped out like a deleted computer file. The other thing that happens is that our nervous systems, spiked with adrenaline and other stress hormones, go into hyper-drive. “It is as if the nervous system is wired for 110 volts and is hit with 220,” write psychologists Diane and Larry Heller.

We climb a roller-coaster to a state of high activiation, the term of art popularized by the pioneering biophysicist, Peter A. Levine. Most mammals instinctually come down the roller coaster by discharging the intense energy of activation, also known as the fight or flight state, by literally shaking it off and sounding off — kind of like the way King Kong goes bat-shit after beating off attackers by roaring and chest-thumping.

But evolution gave humans a manual over-ride in the brain’s center of thought and language. Instead of spontaneously discharging our nervous systems, many of us unwittingly turn to alcohol or drugs to cycle out of high activation after a trauma. Legendary billionaire Howard Hughes is a case study.

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Addiction: 9 Causes and Cures

Addiction: 9 Causes and Cures

A NEW TREATMENT CALLED SOMATIC EXPERIENCING

After a trauma jolts you into a state of high activation, one of the simplest ways to discharge the intense energy trapped in your nervous system is by doing vigorous workouts like biking, kickboxing, or heck, chopping wood. But if Howard Hughes were alive today, we would advise him to try a more powerful and targetted approach to recover from his 1946 plane crash: a cutting-edge therapy called somatic experiencing.

One of the problems with traditional psycho-therapy is that you can develop a new understanding of yourself and have amazing breakthroughs in self-awareness but they often fail to translate into real change. The realizations you get from talk-therapy are still only thoughts in your head. Somatic therapists seek to anchor those realizations to felt-shifts in your body. They do this by inducing mild states of hypnosis, using sound, touch and other sensations.

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9 Ways to Deal With Loss

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