As soon as you were conceived, your cells were able to withdraw in reaction to threat. At around five weeks post-conception, your central nervous system started reacting to external stimuli:
When there was a sudden loud noise, you would instinctively shrink to avoid potential danger.
Fear Paralysis Reflex
This instinctive reaction is the Fear Paralysis Reflex (FPR), and is the first of our inter-uterine reflexes to appear. The Moro reflex emerges in the second trimester and intertwines with the Fear Paralysis Reflex. The FPR should disappear in the third trimester, as it finishes doing its job and the Moro reflex gathers pace and takes over ready for birth.
However, teratogens, such as excessive stress in pregnancy, generational trauma and environmental factors can cause the FPR to remain active in the system. The result is that we recoil, shrink, tense up and sometimes even feel slow and sluggish when we face a stressful situation, and this, of course, has an effect on emotional development and behaviour, and how we cope with the world around us.
Anxiety is a feeling of the world rushing past you, while you want to curl into a ball – just like the Fear Paralysis Reflex.
Foetal and newborn movement patterns for anxiety
By following a programme of foetal and newborn baby movement patterns, it is possible to get the central nervous system to “reboot”. In fact, it is possible to change and calm the central nervous system with as little as five minutes of gentle movement per day.
An assessment with a neuro-developmental therapist involves a questionnaire, which goes right back to details of a person’s birth and childhood, including anything they might have struggled with as a child or over the years. The therapist observes carefully and tests a number of reflexes to see where attention needs to be focussed first, and gets the subject to do a number of gentle and very precise movements – some similar to a very gentle form of yoga and some moving so gently that you’d think it wouldn’t do anything at all.
Having assessed, and with a plan of action in place, the therapist will then give the client a menu of movements that need to be repeated every day, until the next appointment.
This is crucial!
It takes around 3-4 weeks to make those new brain connections, but only if they are done every day.
Often, people arrive for a first appointment with their shoulders almost to their ears, because anxiety is so great. I’ve seen people leave looking as if they have breathed out all their anxiety, and they report feeling like a completely different person.
I once worked with an adult who reported that his mother had gone through a very traumatic birth with him, and consequently found bonding and attachment with him very hard. Consequently, he finds bonding and attachment very hard. We did some gentle pressure work and some movement: he took a deep sigh and tears rolled down his face. He said he felt tension lift from his diaphragm and “relief” from a life of carrying stress and anxiety around.
Toning the Vagus Nerve for Anxiety
Dr Stephen Porges is a leading professor of psychiatry and the author of the Polyvagal Theory. This theory hypothesises that humans live in 3 physiological states: social engagement – parasympathetic, fight/flight (moro reflex) – sympathetic and freeze (fear paralysis reflex) – dorsal vagal.
The vagus nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and connects the brain with every other organ including the skin.
We can tone the vagus nerve in order to help them out of their fight/flight and freeze states. The most passive way to provide the right stimulation is an auditory intervention called the Safe and Sound Protocol, which is a five-day listening programme. This works beautifully with Primitive Reflex Integration, and helps fear paralysis to shift, opening the doors for social engagement.
I have recently seen the most courageous adult with post-traumatic stress, who found out about the Polyvagal Theory from studying a degree in psychology. He was interested to learn about the Safe and Sound Protocol and had researched it thoroughly before coming to me. We listened to the protocol in clinic over a number of sessions. I observed much more facial expression and more varied tone of voice, and he has been able to strike up spontaneous small-talk – something he’s been unable to do for many years.
Another client’s feedback, a couple of weeks ago, was “I feel I have my daughter back”, after completing the five days of listening.
Drug-free help for anxiety
I love my work for Move2Connect, because I like to see people discover that they have the power to transform themselves using very simple movements and the SSP over a period of a few weeks at a time.
I have a special interest in anxiety, and practice from my clinics in Horsham, Dorking and Cranleigh.