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Trauma Shake

Rebecca Kinkead's painting Shake Yellow And Blue

Shake (Yellow and Blue), Rebecca Kinkead,

Mind-body medicine pioneer Dr. James S. Gordon shares a technique to shake loose trauma from the body.

On a cold, damp morning in March 1999, while US bombers roar overhead and UN trucks groan through the endless rows of tents in Macedonia’s Stancovic refugee camp, I lead a workshop for two hundred Kosovo Albanians who have fled Serbian ethnic cleansing. I begin, as I usually do, with Soft Belly breathing. Afterward, I ask for a show of hands: “How many of you,” my interpreter queries, translating my English into Albanian, “notice any change?” Here, as elsewhere after war is over or even in the middle of fighting, about 70 or 80 percent of the hands go up. “What happened?” I say, and answers are shouted out. “Calmer,” “relaxed,” “my body’s less tense,” “fewer bad thoughts,” “a little less cold”—there are laughs at this. I explain the fight-or-flight response, asking my audience to tell me if they’ve experienced it and what it’s like. There’s no problem getting the answers. Their hearts have been racing. Just about everybody is having trouble sleeping. Older peoples’ blood pressure is off the charts. The close quarters of cold, small tents are filled with irritation. Ordinarily patient mot …

About the Author

James S. Gordon, MD, is a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, former researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health and...

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