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I want to emphasize the long distance sessions I offer. Somatic Experiencing is a powerful modality! It allows the practitioner (me) to track the client’s nervous system (autonomic, polyvagal system) and then to apply techniques which build resilience and keep the client close to their regulated functional range (or window of presence). I call it Somatic Processing because I also include Zapchen Somatic exercises, Biodynamic Craniosacral wisdom, Birth Process work (Pre- and Perinatal Psychology) when appropriate. Let me know if you are interested in having extra support!
This post is a continuation from the previous post about Chiron and the Polyvagal System. If you have not read that yet, I would encourage you to go back and read that first as it provides context for this post.
Astrological Chiron was identified in late 1977. It was the first of many new solar system bodies which would come to be known as the centaurs – asteroids or comet fragments orbiting between the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt. As mythological Chiron was one of the most powerful (and immortalized) of the centaurs, this first object got his name. It has a very eccentric orbit – in how it occasionally (when in Aries and Taurus) drifts out near Uranus’ orbit, but also spends time close to Saturn’s orbit (in Libra and Scorpio). Meaning it spends close to 7 years in two signs, and only 3 years in the two opposite signs.
In a similar manner, the Vagus nerve (getting back to the Polyvagal System) has its two main branches – the ventral branch (underside / front of body) and the dorsal branch (back / upper side of body). Remember, the Vagus nerve is one of the primary regulators of our autonomic nervous system. What state is my system in right now? Am I alert and vigilant having just heard a novel sound? Am I feeling safe and comfortable after eating a big meal, and now I am digesting it with ease? Am I comfortable interacting with friends and loved ones, smiling when appropriate, expressing objection if needed? These questions show are we in a sympathetic state (sympathetic to threat)? Are we in parasympathetic rest and digest? And if we are really regulated, are we (also) able to be in a healthy, resilient social engagement state as well? This is over simplified, but these examples start to get the picture across.
Speaking about how Chiron has a slow phase (in Aries and Taurus) and a quicker phase (in Libra and Scorpio), a fascinating fact about the Vagus nerve is that the ventral branch is myelinated and the dorsal branch is not myelinated. Why is this important? Myelin is a lipid (connective tissue) coating of nerves which greatly speed up their transmission time. So the ventral branch of the Vagus nerve can send and receive nerve impulses at least 5x as fast as the dorsal branch. As the ventral Vagus nerve innervates the heart and the lungs, this is very important – if we are extremely amped up, adrenaline pumping, in a strong fight response, we want the ventral Vagus nerve to “hit” the Vagal brake and slow the heart (quickly if need be). However, the dorsal branch, transmitting nerve impulses slower, is responsible for rest, digest and deeper states of freeze – and if things are really bad, the dorsal branch can even put us in a state of deep shock that looks like feigning death. All of these dorsal branch needs do not require split second transmission times, and hence are slower.
As we can see, there is a curious correlation between Chiron’s faster (closer to the Sun) years and its distant slower years, with the Vagus nerve’s different branches. Myelination of neurons is very important for timing impulses. And the ventral Vagus branch is much faster in action potential (nerve impulses) transmission than the dorsal Vagus branch. The myelinated ventral branch is closer to the heart and head (it has the connections to the ears and our ability to hear sounds with ease), just as when Chiron is closer to the Sun and moving faster. At this time Chiron is also closer to Saturn, which has to do with boundaries, structure and limitation (among other traits) – and the ventral Vagus branch has more to do with the sympathetic system (of fight-flight-or-freeze – this would be a lighter version of freeze, like the rabbit which has “frozen” as it waits to see what the eagle flying overhead will do).
When Chiron is moving slower (further from the Sun), it is more similar to the dorsal branch of the Vagus nerve. At this point, Chiron is closer to Uranus, Neptune and Pluto’s orbits. Likewise, a deep dorsal freeze state (or shock) can also have strong elements of dissociation, which can lead to substance abuse and addiction. When the nervous system is stuck in certain phases of the threat response, we can have erratic, challenging behaviors (Uranus) as the adrenal glands are running in dysregulation. It takes working with a skillful practitioner to start the healing process, and usually at least 3 sessions (if more acute issue) and sometimes more like 10 – 20 sessions (if it is a chronic issue or a developmental trauma / attachment issue).
Also, certain types of trauma (see below for some links to the Adverse Childhood Experience studies, A.C.E. for short) lead to inflammation. In fact, much of the ACE research shows that individuals who had very challenging childhoods (if their ACE score is a 4 or higher) are much more likely to develop an inflammatory disease – and these diseases take many forms, from diabetes, to auto-immune problems, to digestive inflammation, the obvious arthritis and even nervous system issues. And this last piece, inflammation in the nervous system usually has to do with inflammation and disruption of the myelinated neurons – which has serious and often times painful results.
The good news is that if we are willing to put in the work, whether we work with a body-psychotherapist, a Somatic Experiencing practitioner, a Birth Process work practitioner, Hakomi, a well-trained Craniosacral Therapist, etc, there are ways to get at these deeply held emotions / patterns. We can identify where a person is stuck in their threat response and apply appropriate techniques and tools (like mythological Chiron) to get them to allow flow and openness to move through old hardened tissue and constricted patterns.
A high ACE score is not a guaranteed sentence for inflammation and suffering, if we are willing to put in the work. We can start with meditation, work with a skillful practitioner (or support group) and begin to ply apart any tangled parts of ourselves. It is possible. I have done it. It takes time and dedication. See below for links to the ACE studies.
I will continue this discussion of Chiron and the Polyvagal System in the next post.
And by the way, if you or someone you know is in the publishing industry, maybe pass along these posts as a potential topic that could easily be expanded into a book!
Nonetheless, thank you for visiting and reading!
Adverse Childhood Experience study links: