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Blog: Unwinding the Unknown

Updated: Apr 21

As part of my preparation (and later reflection) to teach "Deep Blue Sea, Unwinding the Unknown" at Tanzfabrik Berlin after Easter, I write these thoughts.


Unwinding is a mysterious and yet organic process, we experience when there is time, space and support for us to heal the wounds that need healing. Unwinding is release of tension, a reorganization of tissue, bones, organs, which in turn affects the alignment of body, soul and spirit. It is a highly complex and magical process, which our BodyMind intuitively understands and recognizes, if we let it. Unwinding is at the core of any transformation process.


Trauma can be defined by an impact to the body, psyche, spirit (and often to all aspects at the same time), that the person is not able to fully process at the time of the occurrence. Due to incredibly complex safety features in our nervous system, we split off sensations in times of stress and danger, in order to survive certain circumstances. These sensations are in turn being stored in our body memory and for a full recovery will need to be attended to later. Often this revisitation does not happen, assuming that "it will take care of itself". Lack of understanding, lack of support, time and or resources are often the causes for this negligence. These "stuck remembrances" are stored in our system and can have long-term, multi-dimensional effects on body, psyche and spirit.

Unwinding is actually a very natural response, when impact occurs: we see it in animals clearly. The dog, who got scared by something will jump up, bark, freeze or attack. When the threat is over, it will shake “it off”, run around for a while readjusting musculature through movement. Unwinding (shaking, running, breathing,...) released the stress of the impact and averted a potential deeper impact through an immediate movement reaction.

As humans we are often not so direct in processing. By way of cultural conditioning, internal judgements or simply lack of adequate support, we hold onto the experience much longer and end up storing and often compounding the stress. Unresolved trauma often becomes a predetermined breaking point (in German Sollbruchstelle) or what is called "archaic wound".

Hugh Milne says in his book "The Heart of Listening":

"Archaic wounds tend to get locked away in the body, stored in a kind of time capsule. When you reach them, the body tends to lock - to freeze up , as when startled. But if there is enough trust present, the memories begin to unwind and the time capsule releases its content. The client will be back in the event, all of its smells, sounds, sights, and distress."

The good news is: with a competent trainer/ teacher/ bodyworker, a trusting atmosphere can be established (and our BodyMind will recognize this intuitively), we can then open up these time capsules carefully, access these stuck areas and find our natural unwinding response.


In many ways, unwinding is the movement that didn’t happen at the time. From my perspective the release of tension in unwinding can show itself it many ways: quick little jerks of movements or full body shaking, yawning, contraction and expansion, spinal undulations, movements of the jaw such as biting, showing teeth or shivering and in some extend any expressive movements that are not premeditated. Sometimes these movements are quite subtle and come with internal images or sounds. Sometimes the movements can be quite strong and spacious.

In settings, where we establish enough space (a balanced pacing between structured and improvisational movement), time (sensing the natural waves of landing, diving deeper and bouncing back up to integrate) and safety (offering a non-judgemental atmosphere, witnessing rather than analysing…) we can perceive, become aware and release some of the stress that previous impacts have left on our BodyMind.


What is really important to note: we cannot force the speed of somebody’s healing process, and we cannot force somebody to unwind. On the contrary, the client/ participant will sense the “performance pressure” and most likely go into resistance. If we push somebody in any direction, it becomes less about them and more about our “success” as a facilitator. Be aware of this feeling: "look how much trauma can be released in my class!”. Also some admiration from the outside can come along the way, out of being able to evoke and hold unwinding traumatic release. It is a very sensitive place that you are guiding your client/ participant and you need to be aware of your own motives behind it.

Can I wait? Can I leave it up to the person to decide when release will show up and in what form? Can I not know when or if there will be a release? Can I leave it up to the greater spirit, rather then willing it for our my egos success story?


“You can never go to deep, only too fast.” Hugh Milne


Healing is a mystery and we have to honor that. Some participants will show direct reconnective movements and emotional release, they will be able to verbalize this process during the same class. But for many, the process will take longer and the invitation to release, might show up outside of the actual workshop/ setting. Sometimes there will be a release overnight during sleep or while walking in nature, maybe some changes occur during a sauna visit, sometimes something changes many days or even months later.


In so many ways, it is about getting out of the way. Finding a way for the participants/ clients holding patterns to release, means creating freedom for the natural line of energy. It also means getting out of the way for the teacher’s ego, not to “claim it” as something we were doing “for them”. It’s a humbling and life affirming process, which we simply set a frame for, can witness it and be of service to.

(c) Olga Berdikyan

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