Paper for International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
"Issues in Creative and Body-Oriented Approaches to Trauma Treatment"
Creative Resonance / DeepStory
Using the Embodied Voice in the Treatment of Trauma
By Molly Scott, Ed.D.LMHC
The temple bell stops
but the Sound
keeps coming out of the flowers
Bassho- 17th c. Japanese
Resonance: The setting up of vibrations in a body at its natural vibrational frequency by a vibrating force or wave having the same (or sub multiple) frequencies.
Hewitt, "Conceptual Physics"
[Entrainment] is a physical phenomenon, but it is also more than that because it informs us about the tendency of everything that vibrates - in other words, everything- to swing together, to lock in. It informs us about the tendency of the universe to share rhythms, that is, to vibrate in harmony."
Berendt, "The World is Sound"
Creative Resonance therapy is premised on the use of the voice as a powerful change agent and modulator of our body's energetic systems. In a vibrational model, healthy systems are those in which components vibrate in frequencies appropriate to their function in the system. Just as the healing forces in the body flow to the site of a physical wound, our bodies signal what they need in vibrational frequency – a non-verbal symptoms language of feeling, sensation, and the sigh- moan-cry of embodied vocalization. We can translate and work with these energetic clues through the medium of our own voices, aligning the frequencies of voice with the frequencies of body feeling, and jump-starting pattern change and realignment through the mind/ body system.
Speech and Trauma
In the voice you can hear the psyche.
Newham , "The Singing Cure"
In cases of severe trauma, the impeded body/mind system cannot process the frequencies of experience through normal neurological pathways into language and, as a consequence, ordinary speech may not resonate with the experience of the client rendered speechless in the presence of the remembered event. This condition of speechlessness is one of the symptoms of severe traumatic distress (Shay, 1996; van der Kolk, McFarlane & Weisaeth, 1996). In the state of trauma, it appears that the normal pathways to the frontal cortex are interrupted by a flood of chemicals which inhibit the movement of the experience into narrative and on to speech by blocking access to those meaning-making centers of the mid-brain which selectively mold the sensory fragments of the experience into coherent story (Wigren, 1994). Without access to language, the trauma is locked away in raw fragments of sensory data and may be triggered into helpless re-experience of the shock and violence of the traumatic event. The client is isolated both from self-understanding and from the possibility of being understood by others (Herman,1992; McCann & Pearlman, 1990; van der Kolk, 1996).
While not all traumatic experiences result in speechlessness, trauma, by definition, rips the fabric of the victim’s story of the event, leaving significant holes which the therapist and client then seek to mend (Herman, 1992; Wigren, 1994). Underlying Creative Resonance work is the notion that one of operant – and largely clinically neglected – aspects of conventional "talk therapy" is the effect which the sound frequencies of the voice itself might play in the emergence of healing narrative within the resonance of a therapeutic relationship.
This paper proposes that a key to the construction of narratives from the speechless fragmentation of traumatic experience to coherent story may be through the capacity of the voice to instrument the bio-acoustical phenomenon of entrainment in which one particle is called to vibrate at the same frequency in sympathetic resonance with another (Fröhlich, 1988; Oschman, 1997). Using the construct that the body and all its functions, including psychoneurological processes, is a constellation of vibrational frequencies – including thought and feeling – which we experience as form, the voice is used as an oscillating medium to entrain the dysfunctional fragments of the somaticized trauma into coherent pattern, narrative and then language. Allowing the body to naturally align with the felt frequencies of the somaticized story through entrained vocalization, may call the sensate fragments of the trauma as like calls to like, catalyzing them into contextually coherent narrative, and the healing flow of shared, witnessed, and spoken story (Scott, 1997). With the completed narrative brought into language, the trauma can be expressed and integrated into the client's on-going life experience.
The challenge of the therapist is to create an environment in which the story can move from fragment to pattern and to the narrative pathways which open to community (Wigrem. 1994). One of the components of Creative Resonance work is a treatment protocol called Deep Story, an interactive small group reflecting process which uses language, pre-verbal sounding, and movement, to entrain the story beneath the story– those encoded fragments of traumatic experience which exist as frequencies of vibration but which have no direct pathway to language.
The Working Theory Behind Deep Story
Before we make music, music makes us.
George Leonard, "The Silent Pulse"
The conceptual base for Creative Resonance work, including Deep Story, has developed from attending to the voice, whether speaking, singing, or sounding, as music – an acoustical phenomenon that both effects and is effected by the energetic bio-electrical systems from which it emerges (Newham, 1994). To frame vocal sound, including speech, as music opens rich sources of reference to the investigation of the interactions of sound and self (Campbell, 1990, 1997; Newham, 1994). The synthesis of psychology with acoustical, physical, and biological sciences which underlies the theory of Creative Resonance work and the Deep Story process has as its deeper root, the ancient wisdom systems of the world's religions, in which sound is almost uniformly a first principle for the creation of matter (Andrews, 1992; Capra, 1976; Dyczowski, 1987; Wilczek & Devine, 1987; Zukav, 1979).
In the early part of this century, explorer and spiritual seeker, Alexandra David-Neel met a Buddhist Lama in the mountains of Tibet who described the nature of things from the perspective of ancient Buddhist teaching in a manner that is quite consistent with modern vibrational theory.
All things...are aggregations of atoms that dance and by their movements produce sounds. When the rhythm of the dance changes, the sound it produces also changes...Each atom perpetually sing its song, and the sound, at every moment, creates dense and subtle form (David-Neel, 1936).
That the "dense and subtle forms" in the Buddhist teaching, were creations of the song of the atoms, the vibratory medium of life, offers a key to the psychobiological changes that seem to occur in the presence of focused sound (Fröhlich, 1988; Jenny, 1974; Oschman, 1994). Further information and theory which grid Creative Resonance and Deep Story work come from systems models and non-linear dynamics (Bertanlanffy, 1968; Laszlo, 1972; Gleick, 1987), vibrational medicine ( Gerber, 1988; Oschman, 1996,1997; Rossi, 1993; Rubik,1995) and alternative and complimentary therapies ( Dossey,1991; Keleman, 1985; Oschman, 1997; Russek & Schwartz, 1993).
Ten Premises for the Deep Story Process
The wave nature of consciousness and being refers to the fact that every aspect of our consciousness and psychobiology that can be measured is periodic."
Rossi, "The Psychobiology of Mind-Body Healing
The Deep Story protocol, used as a treatment for trauma is based upon ten working premises:
1. Everything vibrates.
2. Objects vibrating in resonant fields affect each other through entrainment.
3. The mind-body is a constellation of different vibration frequencies organized in dynamic patterns of resonant relationship between entrained pulsations.
4. Voice is an organization of sonic frequencies and can be entrained.
5. Memories are somatically encoded bioenergetic frequencies, which can be entrained.
6. Humans organize their encoded experience narratively, through the telling of story, and stories, too, are frequencies, which can be entrained.
7. The vibration frequencies of the voice can entrain with frequencies of memory and story and bring them into coherent alignment.
8. Vocal entrainment of memory as story can facilitate change in the mindbody system.
9. Entrained use of the embodied voice can affect the story teller's outer as well as inner relationships.
10. The entrained, embodied voice in a resonant system can be used as treatment for trauma.
The proposition that the phenomenon of entrainment is key to the health and healing of biological systems (McPartland & Mein, 1997) may offer another perspective on the condition of speechless terror which is symptomatic of severe trauma – that state of uncontrollable flashback in which, lacking words to voice and contain the story of their trauma, victims must suffer the sensations of the experience again and again (Herman, 1992; Shay, 1996; Terr, 1994). Neuro- imagery research indicates that in persons with PTSD, access to the language organizing areas of the pre-frontal cortex (Brocca's area et.al.) is inhibited, while the mid-brain sensory cortical areas are hyperstimulated ( van der Kolk, 1997). This suggests that in severe trauma the experience is locked away from the organizing coherence of language, remaining encoded as sensory data fragments in the mid-brain. According to van der Kolk (1996) traumatized people organize their experiences not primarily through narrative somatic memory, but through perceptions, sensations, and bodily states --a different memory system from that utilized in ordinary experience. By using the expressive capacity of the voice as an intervention outside of language, the pre-language sounding used in Deep Story may meet the trauma story on its own ground, resonating in the bioacoustic frequencies of the body's perceptual language – this other memory network in which the "story" of the trauma is held in sensory memory. Entrainment with the core story may open neural pathways for the experience to move into the narrative creating areas of the forebrain and the normalizing context of ordinary speech.
The Deep Story Protocol
We don't know who we are until we hear ourselves speaking the drama of our lives to someone we trust to listen with an open mind and heart.
Keen & Valley-Fox
Deep Story is one aspect of the practice of Resonance Therapy – a model for practice which focuses on expanded use of the voice in mind-body therapy. The Deep Story process is a method for working with traumatic memory using both languaged narrative and prelanguage sounding (PLS), in a protocol involving three participants: the Story Teller whose traumatic story is the basis for the work, the Reflector – a focused listener who reflects the story as it is told at successive levels of speaking and sounding, and an Observer who holds the experience of both story and reflection in a wide lens and brings it back into language. The protocol is designed to provide a safe, interactive environment in which the story beneath the story can emerge and come into coherent alignment with the rest of the story teller's life experience. It was developed by the author over more than twenty years of working with clients and training groups in the United States and Europe. In 1996, the Deep Story protocol was used as the basis for a research project using qualitative case study methodology to investigate the experience of German and American participants in a Resonance Therapy training who were working with memories of traumatic events (Scott, 1997).
Initially designed as a group intervention, the Deep Story protocol has been subsequently modified for use in a number of therapeutic settings. The primary components which distinguishes Deep Story work from other expressive interventions are the intentional and structured use of pre-language sounding and the protocol as a container which provides the participants safety to move from language into unstructured sounding and back again.
The Deep Story Process
Deep Story work is like soft dynamite. It brings the underground up
and so it is helpful to put in order the particles and reintegrate or transform them for daily life.
Joy, a German participant in the Deep Story study
In Deep Story work the designated Story Teller chooses her working partners – the Reflector, who attends her like a tuning fork and closely reflects the story in sound and movement – and the Observer, who witnesses the interaction and holds the energetic transfer in silence. The StoryTeller first creates a safe place for herself by adjusting the working environment to suit her needs: what the light is like, the temperature of the room, where objects and people are placed in relationship to her. She then decides where to begin – which moment in the core story of the trauma is her doorway into what can be felt but not spoken. This is often a difficult moment for she is choosing to change and yet the weight of her old patterns tugs her back. It generally happens that no matter which experience the story teller begins with, when she cuts the tie to language and begins to sound her body-voice will sense the site of her brokeness and be drawn there, making sounds that entrain the vibrational frequencies of her trauma.
Having chosen where to begin, the StoryTeller tells the story of the core trauma as an unstructured narrative of the experience, which is then reflected by her partner. She then repeats it in present tense, remembering as many sensory details as she can. After these first tellings, she moves from language into pre-language sounding and
"tells" it again. This moment often signals a dramatic shift in the feeling of the group. Sound and gesture, when cut lose from language, create a heightened resonance – a kind of alchemical alembic in which the phenomenon of entrainment begins to draw the inchoate story out of the realm of sensory fragments, towards a coherent context – the pictures of the story moving into words. The use of the word "coherent" is particularly appropriate here because we are dealing not with intellectual understanding – often there are no words or concepts to cognitively understand – but with the movement of mis-aligned wave forms into a shared field which is vibrationally coherent – an acoustical event that may serve as template for the alignment and healing of the sounding self (Oschman, 1997).
After successive rounds of story and reflection, with the Story Teller going deeper and deeper into the realm of sound as feeling, comes a moment in the process – generally, all participants feel it because they are in resonance – when it is time to turn back to language again and share whatever story now emerges. This acknowledgment of shared experience, at levels deeper than the mind's understanding, becomes a new context for the old story, which now the StoryTeller no longer holds alone. Returning to language, listening to the layers of energetic experience, which her partners share with her, she often finds that the original trauma story has become smaller and more containable in the heightened context of the group's experience. In a sense, having expanded the story beyond the bounds of her own cognitive patterns, she owns the story rather than having it own her.
The process comes to completion when the Teller is ready to make a new story, which she tells and retells in the same manner, speaking, moving, sounding, embedding the transformed story at both sensory and cognitive layers of memory. The process may be complete in one session or over several sessions. Once completed, the gift of the process is that now, when a trigger presents itself in the Story Teller's life and the old trauma circuitry is activated, the memory of the reworked story is activated as well – the story of what should have/ might have happened, the accident deferred, the tragedy averted. It is important to note that the StoryTeller does not pretend that the new story is "true ", in a logical sense. Rather, that her sensory body experiences the memory as a true experience, making it possible for the new story of survival and empowerment to entrain her as strongly as the old story of wounding and loss once did.
Whereas predictability is possible in dealing with isolated particles, a population of particles is driven by resonance...a population, or 'cloud of points', may behave differently than individual members.
Ilya Prigogine, Nobel Laureate, Chemistry
Also involved in the process, outside the immediate circle of three, are other members of the group, as well the therapist, who may intervene at key moments as needed, to tune or move the process along. In practice, the StoryTeller may involve outer layers of the resonant circle in sounding, or sharing their experiences of her work. The experience of being both witness to and witnessed in moments of such sonic intimacy creates an unusually powerful bond for those involved. In the Deep Story study, all participants reported that the experience of heightened group resonance in the sometimes agonizing unfolding of the trauma story, was a powerful and unique element of the process (Scott, 1997). Although in practice, each group of participants flexes the protocol to its needs, the ever-present possibilities of transference and projection by participants seem to be amalgamated by the energetic alignment and focused structure of the protocol itself. While the soundings of the Story Teller sometimes ring other people's trauma like bells, it would appear that the movement towards aligned coherency which is the homing instinct of the sound, can move the listeners as well as the sounder to an entrained place of connection and balance.
Clinical Applications of Creative Resonance Work and Deep Story
Creative Resonance techniques including Deep Story can be adapted for different settings to make them available to practitioners in different therapeutic settings. The use of bodyvoice sounding techniques in simple dialogue can be easily taught and offers an effective method of treatment in a variety of clinical situations. Although the Deep Story protocol was developed for group work and has been used both in extended workshop and training formats, it has also been successfully used in the context of on-going therapy groups and can be adapted for therapist and client, with the therapist being both reflector and witness.
Prelanguage sounding techniques and the heightened attending skills they offer may open up more proprioceptive ways of knowing involving expanded neural pathways and more systemic modes of perception (Oschman, 1997). In addition, the deepened listening which these techniques engender appears to stimulate a constellation of dynamic mind-body effects not ordinarily present in the simple act of hearing (Campbell, 1990, 1997; Madaule, 1993; Newham, 1994; Tomatis, 1991). Deep Story work suggests that the capacity to voice the "emotional intelligence" (Goleman, 1995) that lies beyond cognitive constructs may not only increases emotional flexibility and a tolerance for ambiguity – significant hallmarks of healthy personality development – but may also engender a deeper reciprocity in relationship with self and others. It is hoped that this foundational work with the use of the embodied voice in the healing of trauma will serve as the basis for further clinical exploration and studies on using the voice as a vibration instrument to stimulate psychophysiological environments in which the energetic flow and balance which we call healing may occur.
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Molly Scott, Ed.D. LMHC is a psychotherapist, educator, singer and poet with a doctorate in counseling and an early background in the performing arts. A graduate of Smith College and the University of Massachusetts, Dr. Scott is a pioneer in the field of sound and therapy and has led workshops and training for over twenty years in Europe and the United States. As an artist and singer, she has had an extensive career in radio, television and concerts. As a clinician and educator, she is trained in both psychological counseling and body/ mind therapies and directs the Creative Resonance Institute, which offers professional workshops and training. She is on staff of the Family Counseling Center in Greenfield, MA, teaches at Antioch New England Graduate School, and maintains a private therapy practice in Western Massachusetts. Her recordings include “Honor the Earth” and “We Are All One Planet”. She is currently at work on another recording and a book on the use of voice in therapy.