Brainspotting can be an adjunct therapy to Rolfing® Structural Integration. It is an eye focusing technique. By locating ‘spots to look’, the client and therapist gain access to the client’s brain where patterns are stored from old events, injuries, and traumas. These stored patterns keep our body ready to fight, flee, freeze, or faun. Part of the ‘fight or flight’ response is a readying of the muscles in preparation to act. We need this feature of our nervous system; it protects us from harm and even death. We are hardwired with this response for survival.
In Modern times, this reflex has become hair-triggered. We often have a response which is larger and more intense than it needs to be. We are not going to die from the event, but the body responds as if this was so.
How Does Brainspotting Relate to Body Work?
We are all aware of the process of body work. The releases obtained from the deep tissue fascial work, feel great. After a period of time, the muscles begin to tighten again and pain returns. My guess is that this happens because of the nervous system. Some people have had injuries and experiences in life (trauma) which get ‘stuck’ in the nervous system, specifically the brain stem. The brain stem is the part of our brain which is not affected by thoughts or verbal exchange. It only takes a split second for a pathway to be created from a traumatic event or injury.
This pathway becomes a feed back loop, and with more added events becomes a network of feedback loops. The nervous system reacts without conscious thought to anything which resembles the older events or traumas. We are then back in those patterns and feedback loops, and we often do not know how we got there. This creates anxiety, tight muscles, pain, physiological disruptions in the gut, heart, breathing, and other bodily systems.
Most of the disruption happens in the areas of the body regulated by the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve controls the parasympathetic nervous system response and is designed to balance the sympathetic (fight or flight) response. When the sympathetic nervous system is overactive, it is hard for the parasympathetic nervous system to turn on and regulate the system.
Brainspotting is designed to help re-regulate the nervous system responses.
David Grand PhD developed Brainspotting. As a clinical psychologist, he works with people who have a desire to change their nervous system responses. He works with anxiety, depression, musicians, athletes, PTSD, and any situation where the client feels held back by their unconscious responses to life.
David explains Brainspotting:
“Where you look affects how you feel. In other words, when you look left or right or up or down, you experience things differently. The difference may be slight or very noticeable. And when you focus on something that you have strong feeling about, this look left-right or up-down difference will be pronounced.
So why do you react differently when you look in different directions? Well, shifting your eye position somehow changes what’s happening in your brain, although we are not sure yet how that works. You may think that you are aware of everything that goes on inside of you, but your brain is a vast universe. When you look at this universe, you may think you see all of it. Don’t be fooled-you are only seeing a small part of it. It is like when you look at the surface of the ocean-you can think you see it all, but down below the surface, where you can’t see, is where most of the vast ocean exists. Brainspotting will help you find more about your vast, complicated brain. But you need to learn that rules that are different than you are used to apply down there.
As you look at this spot, I want you to observe wherever your mind goes. This observation is a form of mindfulness. You don’t direct where your mind goes-it just happens. Where it goes may make sense to you or not, but it does not matter. Your deeper brain knows what to do. It’s like breathing. Thoughts, memories, feelings, or body sensations may come or go. Do not judge this: just simply follow along. Trust your instincts.”
Brainspotting sessions can be long (1-1.5 hrs.) or short (several minutes). The duration does not correlate with the effectiveness of the session. Some people’s systems are very sensitive and need small doses of Brainspotting to avoid a surge of sympathetic response. The therapist's job is to tune into the client’s process watching for reflexes (yawns, blinks, burps, twitches, movements, sounds) which indicate release and regulation.
- The therapist keeps time, which allows the client to tune into the inner workings of their process.
- Client and therapist sit face to face.
- The client uses headphones to listen to special bilateral sounds recordings at a very low volume. This keeps the cognitive brain engaged so as to allow access to the unconscious brain.
- The therapist helps the client find the spot in one of several ways, with the aide of a pointer.
- Once the spot is found, the therapist holds the pointer and client holds their attention on the tip of the pointer. The client allows their process to unfold without judgement, with deep mindfulness.
The results can be a decrease in the pain and discomfort, a sense of calm, and more focus. There are as many types of benefits as there are clients. Each person’s response is unique.