Brainspotting involves working to modify the mammalian ‘midbrain,’ (home to the the flight-fright response triggered by trauma). The process involves bypassing the ‘thinking brain’ (the left prefrontal) and using the intuitive right brain to access both the mid- and the hindbrain.
Here’s an example. A young woman is asked to focus on some trauma from her childhood. She locates the spot associated with being five as being to the right and upwards. She focuses on that spot and experiences a sense of weight within her chest.
By intensely honing in on these ‘trauma cells’ where painful feelings or memories are lodged, the conscious brain “observes’ the unconscious brain and begins “traveling down the neural pathways that are unpredictable and kind of mysterious to our conscious selves. But by doing it, we’re actually watching the brain process the experience and watching the brain healing itself.”
Leaping into Darkness
I find myself brainspotting Thursday night at an Ivengar Yoga class. The instructor has us place chairs at the top of our mats and we move through a progression of postures in preparation for the evening’s final asana. A shoulder stand.
I’ve done shoulder stands from the floor before. But this time, our end posture involves not just the inversion but also moving the buttocks away from any contact with the chair, without the support of your hands on your back. After launching your legs over your head, you move your body forward so that it is only you on your shoulders. You hover in space, seeking balance in darkness. Unsupported.
As I mull over whether to venture this far tonight, my conscious mind travels at unprecedented speed and connects with deep feelings of my inability to trust. Of not trusting others, but perhaps, more importantly, not trusting in myself.
And as if a magnificent light shines intensely and transformatively on that feeling, I awake to the knowledge that it is no longer serving me. That I have moved beyond this. And, simultaneously, something shifts just enough and I am able to risk.
I move my body a few inches away from the chair.
In the very first moment, I feel blessed and utterly exhilarated. Courageous. Triumphant. Amazed.
But then, as my legs struggle for stasis, my consciousness rapidly cycles between moments of absolute terror and bliss. I can only compare it to the utter intimacy, one experiences when making love with someone for the first time. That co-mingling delicious tension between total vulnerability and fear, anticipation and moving forward into the moment. Being there. Fluttering, ironically, while in absolute balance.
I listen recently to a lecture about applying the concept of loving kindness to oneself. The teacher encourages you to imagine your interactions with a person you love and respect. To think about how you would fight for them, advocate for them. Reserve a sacred space that is theirs only, a space and a time in which you would nurture and cherish them.
And then, he says, trade places and imagine that person is you.
It is not until you learn to do the same for yourself that you can truly heal.