What's the science behind how Rosen works?
Scientists have discovered that the brain and nervous system are “plastic”--they change
with new experiences. Rosen Method practitioners create the conditions that allow the
client's nervous system to “rewire” itself. To nourish the growth of new neural pathways,
humans need to sense safety and support from another. This is achieved by what scientists
call “limbic resonance,” or what Rosen practitioners call “somatic resonance:” a sense of
being known by an attuned other person.
Rosen Method's integrated way of using touch
and talk together is unique among body/mind approaches in creating this attunement.
We use a kind of gentle, receptive touch that helps us resonate with the client's
internal state. We use reflective and evocative words that help the client become
aware of their own felt experience. As a result, many neurobiological responses return
the body to homeostasis—the state of balanced health.
The pace of modern life puts us under a constant state of stress. In addition, many people experience some form of threat or trauma, some for long periods. These conditions activate our sympathetic nervous systems, putting us in a constant “fight or flight” state. The health consequences are profound. Scientists have found that after periods of severe stress, people suffer from depression, anxiety, addictions, infections, decreased tissue repair, inflammation, autoimmune disorders, tumors, obesity and cardiovascular disease .
Our brains are actually damaged by prolonged stress. Connections between the fear center (amygdala) and the mood center (anterior cingulate cortex) increase; the amygdala is always “on”, easily triggering a sense of threat. Our ability to receive sensory messages, to think creatively toward a goal, to actually notice the present moment, and to regulate our own physical and emotional states all atrophy. We become creatures of habit who feel down and make the same mistakes over and over, in a world that looks constantly dangerous, because that's how our nervous systems have been wired. Without embodied self-awareness (the ability to sense ourselves and respond accordingly), we can't be healthy.
Our brains are wired for interpersonal connection. Developing children need to “attach” properly to a caregiver, and adults trying to heal similarly need this “limbic resonance.” The limbic system, often called the “emotional” brain, is involved in all brain functions such as sensory and motor control, digestions and respiration, and memory storage. Stress, trauma and isolation impair its proper functioning. The right kinds of experiences can reverse the damage.
Here's what happens physiologically under the conditions created in Rosen sessions:
- Under stress, the hypothalamus, which regulates homeostasis, initiates the secretion of cortisol, too much of which causes the diseases listed above. With relaxation and safety, it instead releases oxytocin, the hormone and neurotransmitter which stimulates feelings of connection, nourishment, and well-being. Oxytocin lowers blood pressure and heart rate and ushers in the body's ability to restore itself.
- The number of receptors in the brain for oxytocin increases.
- The overdeveloped connections between the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex (the brain parts that sense fear and threat) are calmed down so the world doesn't always look scary. ~ Mirror neurons in the parietal lobe of the brain (which fire when we watch others do movements we can do) are activated, helping the client get a sense their body's experience and their own feelings.
- More genes that regulate stress hormones are “expressed” or turned on.
- New neural pathways to the hippocampus (which encodes memories in space and time) and the insula (which binds embodied experience in emotional “packages”) allow for traumatic memories to become normal, autobiographical memories. The hippocampus is one of the parts of the brain that can grow new neurons. For those who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress, no more flashbacks, body pains, or feelings of panic or anger that seem to come from nowhere.
- dendrites and synapses retract and reform to form new neural pathways, so that atrophied brain parts can regrow. Even when this kind of damage happened developmentally because care was lacking, it can be reversed.
Talking about what you feel (both physically and emotionally) as your
tension releases is the most effective way to reduce pain and restore health.
And if you think you'll never get over your traumatic childhood or
overcome current-day stresses, you don't know about experience-dependent neural development.
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