There’s No Place Like Home: The Connection Between Biofeedback and Dorothy’s Ruby Red Slippers
Dec 31, 2011 01:33PM
By Jill Broderick MS, OTR, BCB
At the end of The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy realizes that throughout her trials and tribulations, she had always possessed the power to return home. All she had to do was click the heels of her ruby red slippers and use the ability she already had to make her heart’s desire come true. She was unaware that she had this capacity until Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, brought it to her attention. Once she realized her capability, she could take control of her situation, whether it was coping with tornados, trying to escape a wicked witch, or deal with lions, tigers and bears. The ruby red slippers represent her awakening awareness of her own competence: No longer dodging her fears, she learns she has the power to create change and a better outcome. The once-helpless Dorothy who was swept up in the tornado has been transformed by the movie’s end. So, what exactly is the relationship between the ruby red slippers and the practice of biofeedback?
Essentially a teaching tool, using lights, sounds, graphs and interactive games, biofeedback helps us see the connection between our thoughts and physical responses. Sensors are placed on the body to give us data about how activated the nervous system is at a given moment—in other words, whether we are keyed up or relaxed. We all have experienced fear and anxiety—our hearts beat faster, our muscles tense, our breathing may become shallow and rapid, and our hands turn moist and cold. In our often-stressed lives, lived in our heads, we worry about deadlines, finances, and a million other things, which activate a fear response. Preoccupied by such worries and unaware of the effects they have on our bodies, we keep pushing through our day until a physical symptom from living with chronic stress finally causes an unpleasant symptom.
Muscle tension, headaches, chronic pain, sleep difficulties, irritability, and anxiety interfere with our quality of life. With the information gained from biofeedback sensors, we get feedback about how we are doing from moment to moment, enhancing our awareness. That feedback allows us to make conscious choices about our response: We can stop bracing and tightening muscles, improve our breathing patterns, and shift our attention to create a more relaxed state, resulting in a decreased perception of pain and the capacity to enhance our ability to attend to tasks more effectively. These choices, when coupled with the knowledge of new ways to calm the nervous system, enable us to see that we possess the ability to make changes and regulate our own bodies.
Biofeedback offers us a unique view of the mind and body dynamic. Both simple and profound, biofeedback offers us today the same thing that Dorothy’s ruby red slippers gave her: the chance to improve our awareness and actively change our response to stress, anxiety and pain. We too can find our hearts’ desire—a calm and healthy life!
Jill Broderick has twenty-five years of professional experience as an occupational therapist, specializing in treatment of adult patients with chronic pain conditions, neurological disorders and stress-related illness. Board-certified in biofeedback, she has developed her expertise in applied psychophysiology and techniques to help patients develop self-regulatory skills to quiet the central nervous system. Her treatment philosophy enables patients to understand how to change their response to stress and pain without medication. Visit JillBroderick.com to learn more about the benefits of biofeedback or to make an appointment to activate your ruby red slippers.