Tea, Trauma Recovery and The Triune Brain
In the Triune Brain theory, the brain is divided into three parts – the Reptilian Brain (brain stem, hypothalamus – kinesthetic/sensory spectrum), the Mammalian Brain (limbic, hippocampus, amygdala – perception/affect spectrum), and the Primate Brain (neo-cortex, cerebellum – cognitive/symbolic spectrum). When a person experiences trauma at certain points in the brain’s development, growth of that part of brain can be damaged, resulting in subsequent underdevelopment of the parts of the brain that develop later in life. For example, if a child experiences trauma at the age of 3, in the development stage of the Reptilian Brain, this trauma will impact on the development not only of the brain stem and hypothalamus, but also to the development of the Mammalian and Primate Brain (as they develop later in life). Alternatively, if a person experiences trauma in their teen or adult years, the part of the brain that will be most affected is the Primate Brain – the area in which we develop realization and insight, identity and self-awareness, meaning making and planning the future.
Specific art modalities have been found to help in repairing and re-developing the neuroplasticity of the brain specific to these three parts of the brain (Reptilian, Mammalian, Primate), and can be used for the effective recovery of trauma.
Tea ceremony involves the use of movement (kinesthetic), repetition, taste (sensory), and self-awareness (cognition), thus stimulating the Reptilian and Primate Brain. Watching the movements of the person serving tea, the steam as water is poured from the kettle to the pot, and the pouring of tea into the bowls or cups can stimulate the appreciation of beauty invoking the Mammalian brain and possibly creating an emotional response.
The repetition of bowls or cups being poured, distributed, and returned to the server also creates a sense of predictability in which safety can be experienced. The tea leaves, method they are brewed, and the ceremony itself is a form of symbolism, allowing for meaning making to occur as well.
In conclusion, Tea Ceremony can be found beneficial for young people and adults who’ve experienced trauma at various points in their live, particularly with people living with a mental illness, refugees, and people experiencing grief and loss.