The therapist using the myofascial unwinding process acts as a facilitator, following the body’s inherent motions. When a significant position is attained, the energetic rhythm will shut down into a still point. During this still point, a reversible amnesia surfaces, replaying all the physiologic responses, memories and emotions that occurred during a past traumatic event. This dissociation or reversible amnesia is a “double-conscious state.” In other words, what is learned or remembered at the time of trauma is dependent on the psychophysiologic state of the individual at the time of the experience.
This dissociation, or block, between the conscious and subconscious minds is the source of many poor or temporary therapy results. Myofascial release and myofascial unwinding bring the tissue or body part into a position to allow the individual to be fully aware of this divided consciousness. Reactivating the conditions and the resultant physiologic responses during which they were acquired by this flashback phenomenon allows for conscious awareness and then the choice to change.
New neurobiological research and Hans Selye’s classic work are concerned with the phenomenon of state-dependent memory, learning and behavior. State-dependent memory, learning and behavior is the general class of learning that takes place in all complex organisms that have a cerebral cortex and a limbic-hypothalamic system—and Pavlovian and Skinnerian conditioning are specific varieties of it.
Memory and learning of all higher organisms fall into two classes of internal responses:
1. There is a memory trace on the molecular-cellular-synaptic level.
2. An involvement of the amygdala and hippocampus of the limbic-hypothalamic system in processing and encoding, and recall of the specific memory trace may be located elsewhere in the brain.
The limbic-hypothalamic system is the central core to Selye’s general adaptation syndrome, the three stages of which the alarm reaction, the stage of resistance and the stage of exhaustion take on a profound significance.
The hormones that are responsible for the retention of memory, epinephrine and norepinephrine, are released during the alarm stage by the activation of the sympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system. The state or position the person is in at the moment of trauma is encoded into the system as the person progresses into the stage of resistance. The system adapts and develops strategies to protect itself from further trauma, fear or memories by avoiding those three-dimensional positions. The emotions communicate this mind-body information through its network by way of the neuropeptides. This creates a vicious cycle of interplay among the endocrine, immune and autonomic neuromyofascial systems, and the neuropeptides.
If this cycle continues too long, the person enters the exhaustion stage, in which the body’s defense mechanisms expend enormous amounts of energy, thereby depleting one’s reserve and perpetuating or enlarging the symptom complex.
Selye frequently described this type of resistance as being “stuck in a groove,” something we have all experienced. When something familiar happens, we react subconsciously in a habitual pattern before we can consciously be aware of it to control it. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, every time you see a car coming too fast you tighten and brace against the possible impact. People replay these incidents and the automatic, habitual bracing patterns associated with them subconsciously, until these hidden memories and learned behaviors are brought to the surface. Myofascial unwinding brings this information to a conscious level, allowing patients to experience it and let go so healing can begin.
John F. Barnes, P.T., L.M.T., N.C.T.M.B., is an international lecturer, author and acknowledged expert in the area of myofascial release. He has instructed more than 75,000 therapists worldwide in his myofascial release approach, and he is the author of Myofascial Release: The Search for Excellence (Rehabilitation Services Inc., 1990) and Healing Ancient Wounds: The Renegade’s Wisdom (Myofascial Release Treatment Centers & Seminars, 2000). He is on the counsel of Advisors of the American Back Society; he is also on MASSAGE Magazine’s Editorial Advisory Board; and is a member of the American Physical Therapy Association. For more information, visit www.myofascialrelease.com.
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