Meet Mariana

Mariana is my Spanish teacher, my friend, my translator and now my publisher.  Here she describes her publishing house, Ban Pang – Casa de Harina Editorial.

Thanks to Mariana, my book is going to be available to speakers of Spanish anywhere in the world.  Being In My Body (Estar en mi Cuerpo) is now available in Spanish as a PDF.  Read more about the book here.  You can get your copy here.  By August 18 it will also be available in paperback!

Life in the Fast Lane

The past several weeks, since I left Mexico in June, have been rather intense but 100% blessed and good.  Maybe I should just say that change is in the air, and I am going full steam in that direction.  I have been in Kalispell Montana, re-taking EMDR 1&2.  I stayed 6 days with a family who put me up in their pop-up camper, out back, took me in as family, shuttled me to and from class, and made sure I got a chance to visit Glacier National Forest and connect with their community in Kalispell.  Prior to completing this course, post re-training was a big blank, because I knew not what training would be like, or how these people would feel to me, or what the next steps would be.  I have a better idea of that now, and all lights seem to be green for me as I move forward.  As I have time to attend to it, I plan to complete my consultant status, which will involve building more of a professional relationship with the trainer, Roy Kiessling, and then communicating with him that I am interested in becoming a trainer (which I already have, but he’s a very busy guy and the time has to be right, and there are still things I need to do before I’m ready).  I absolutely love his approach, his style, and the content and organization of his training.  It is as different as night and day when compared to Francine Shapiro’s approach, and I heard so many stories from the other trainers about how it had also been difficult for them to feel supported and/or taken in by the larger, overarching EMDR organization given the relative rigidity and sterile feel of Shapiro’s style.

Sooooo, I will finish out my visit in Missouri, which will include my daughter’s and granddaughter’s birthday, watching my daughter and her partner as they turn their school bus into a tiny home that they will live in this winter, and as they move equipment and raw materials into some kind of a studio space in downtown Columbia; walk through my other daughter’s house since she has already left for Cyprus, and is gallivanting around in Portugal and will soon be in Morocco and Rome before finding a place to live in Cyprus!  I might squeeze some sessions in there, and some quality visits with family and people I consider friends.  And then back to Mexico, where I am committed to doing at least a month of intensive Spanish lessons.

Although the printing of my book seems to be delayed, I’m not at all worried about it.  There has just been so much movement in my life, all of which has been grace-filled and obviously in flow, that I know this timing is in divine order.

I envision my new life in which I am involved as a trainer in regular (maybe quarterly) trainings where I show up and teach and get paid by a well-run organization that takes care of the other myriad details.  I envision myself having consultees on a regular basis, and becoming a better and even more effective EMDR therapist.  I see myself feeling more and more comfortable in front of groups, knowing that I will have exactly the right words and experience, and that my clients and students will be enriched by this amazing modality, and grateful and empowered.

Whew.  I gotta be honest, I will not be bored if I just have a day to sleep in, to read, and not have a single appointment.  There are tons of details packed into this next three weeks, and I pledge to take it one day at a time.  Grateful for the richness of life.

I received some really great EMDR therapy during training, from a young man who was attending as a student in our 5-day training.  It was the most profound therapy I’ve ever had, and I’m still processing.

So at the moment I’m heading back to Columbia MO, where I will be for the next three weeks or so.  My sister Tami Brunk, who was bit in the ear by a brown recluse spider is okay, but it’s been a difficult journey.  She has had to postpone her travels to the Yucatan, where she is getting ready to launch a new phase of her life.  My other sister, Tracy Barnett, will be headed back to Mexico about the same time I am.  She’s babysitting my granddaughter while my daughter is packing all her stuff and getting out of her apartment before her lease is up in the next couple days.  My daughter and granddaughter will be spending 10 days in Portland with my other sister, Trina Brunk.

Tracy, my mom and I went to visit my brother, and we stayed at his home from Thursday through Sunday morning right before I left for Montana.  It was a priceless though intense several days, and we’re all glad, of course, to have had that opportunity to connect with him and his family.  He’s great, as he tells it.  His family is struggling.  And there is a lot of grace and love in that home as he navigates these last days/weeks/months/years? of his life, living it all to the fullest with a Stage 4 Cancer Diagnosis (as of 3 years ago).  We played some pinochle, we told some stories.  Mom asked him for his advice on some things she needs to handle on the farm that my dad would have helped her with if he were still around.  My step-nephew forged a blade out of a huge nail, and my brother was working on a vest of chain mail he was crafting with his step-son.  Our being there, obviously, kept their family from having their normal intimate moments, and taxed my sister-in-law, and a big part of this visit was her coming to us for support in telling the rest of the family that overnights were not going to be possible anymore.  Since we have such an enormous family, and lots of little ones, they have decided to protect their remaining days together “as if they were running a hospital,” as their pastor advised.  The rest of the family will have to observe visiting hours and restrict their visits to day trips, and/or find accommodations nearby.  The time they have left is truly precious, and should not be stressed by the work involved in hosting guests.  We are all so grateful for her willingness to approach this in her own way, and to give us this opportunity to see Scott as he faces this stage of his life.

So it has been truly intense, with the son of my youngest sister having a coming of age ceremony and my youngest daughter having a going-away camping Kaboodle at my mother’s farm, a niece adjusting to life with a newly adopted infant and navigating all those legal processes, etc, etc, etc.

I am still a bit dizzy from all that.  But absolutely grateful.  This is what having a close-knit big family looks like. ?  It can be exhausting at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I am wishing you a fun and fulfilling rest of your summer.

Te amo mucho,

Toni

Photo Shoot – Being In My Body (Estar En Mi Cuerpo)

This is what emotional work can look like!

This past couple days has been so interesting, as I wrestle with my body’s terror about being the center of attention and knee-jerk reactions to staying present in situations where resources are coming from others to me, specifically.  It’s really stretching my mind and my understanding and challenges the wiring of my brain.  Not always fun, and not always comfortable, but always held in love and gentleness and so much kindness and creativity.

Hope you like my photo collection!  Watch for more photos from the shoot which will be appearing on Facebook and other forms of social media over the next couple months.  They will make up the launch for Estar En Mi Cuerpo, but they will be professional photographs by Kitzia, who I am sure you are going to love.  For those of you who don’t know, Estar En Mi Cuerpo is the Spanish title for Being In My Body, What You Might Not Have Known About Trauma, Dissociation, & The Brain.  The other women in the photos are so dear to my heart – my translator, Mariana and her sister, Margarita.

Margarita, setting the tone for Day 1

Mariana, Shoot Director, Translator and Publisher

Kitzia, Photographer

Kitzia, Mariana, Margarita, at Bicycle Snack Station

Bicycle wheel table and reading the coffee grounds

Juice and coffee stop

Kitzia loves this pup

Photograph the photographer – What a love

It just doesn’t get any sweeter than this.

Aren’t I photogenic?

The Crew – Day 2

Breaking Free

I was at Unity Center in Portland on New Year’s Eve – The last day of 2017.  These two weeks I have been visiting my sister Trina and her family has been such a blessing, and stepping into the Unity Center here I immediately felt the warmth, beauty, inspiration, and safety that I’ve always felt at the Unity Center back in Columbia Missouri.  I jotted down some notes that the speaker was sharing, and I’ll record them here, for you to see if you’re interested…and for my own future reference.

Moving into this new year, I am being asked to expand.  Do I believe that real change is possible?  This year is about breaking free of the prison of my old programming, my beliefs, my limitations.  I am being supported in living as if the chains that have held me are breaking and falling away.
I am so much larger than my doubts and fears.
There is so much more for me to do.
I am at the very brink of finding a larger picture of myself and my world.
What would I like to feel in 2018?
Here I am.  Move through me, Spirit.

Since that service on Sunday, I have been writing short paragraphs in my journal that begin like this:  I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..

And each paragraph gives a sweet, detailed snapshot into an aspect of my new life.  Spend some time doing this.  Take time to savor and review and revise your writings for the next week or so, noticing how it feels when you imagine your new, desired life.

Give it a try!  Take a chance; get clear on what you want more of and ask for it!

I am thinking about how it will feel when/to…..

 

Pop-Up Wrap-Up 2017

Hello Pop-Up Clinic Healers and Care Seekers,

This e-mail will serve as a newsletter to wrap up the 2017 Pop-Up Clinic Year and to share my deep gratitude for your friendship and participation.  I also have four big requests for you, so if you want the quick version, just skip down to my “asks” at the very end!  Here is the long version:

The Pop-Up Clinic Movement began as a seed of an idea, and has grown beyond what I could have possibly imagined.  Thank you for the part you played.  The momentum that began in my head and heart in the spring continued in Ajijic Mexico, where we had clinics in July, August, September and October, and then in Missouri, where we had 3 events: 2 Pop-Up Clinics and 1 Alternative Healing Fair.  The Pop-Up Community in Mexico kept the flame burning while I was in Missouri by having a clinic in October, and continues to strengthen the lakeside healing network by benefitting from the connections and enjoying the friendships that were established through our movement.

Each fabulous clinic in Missouri had a flavor of its own.  The first one in Centralia was very connected to nature with some of our practitioners taking advantage of out-of-doors spaces to do their therapies.  What came out of this clinic was nothing short of magic.  People met each other who had been destined to meet for years.  They have since collaborated through other healing endeavors and have struck up friendships and begun talking about other possible cooperative connections.

The Marshall event was intimate but powerful.  Since there were only four care seekers and four organizers and healers/providers, the clinic divided itself into stages in which individual “readings” were offered during the first stage, followed by three groups: Guided Sentient Movement, Vipassina Meditaion and Basic Nonviolent Communication.  Again, pure magic.

The last Columbia event was hosted and facilitated by Judi Fullerton and Paula Curry at Parkade Center.  The ample space and organizational efforts of our hosts allowed us to offer individual sessions, casual consults and lectures.  I have a feeling this is just the beginning of something that wants to keep growing and evolving.  Our community is so rich in healers and truly gifted therapists.

I couldn’t be more pleased.  I see signs of growth, abundance and prosperity everywhere I look.  I am resting and regrouping in December.  In January I will be back in Missouri and in the following months I’ll be scoping out the possibility of bringing the Pop-Up idea to some completely new places.   I have learned so much in this process.  My takeaway this year is that we all benefit when we are willing to care for ourselves and when we allow ourselves to connect with and take advantage of the gifts of our fellow healers.

I will be in Mexico for the rest of December, but in Columbia and Jefferson County MO in January 2018.  Pop-Up Care Providers, I’d love to hear from any of you to better know how you are doing or to arrange a trade of services or have lunch, dessert or a yummy beverage somewhere.  As we move into the winter season I encourage you to continue the seed idea that began with the very first clinic: In order to balance giving and receiving we really do have to be willing to receive.  Reach out to a healer whose work you admire or yearn for.  Gift yourself with a session or a series of sessions to fill your well.  As you heal and grow, the quality of what you have to offer will unavoidably improve, and your world will be transformed in yet unimagined ways.  Reach for what you want more of.

On my Christmas wish list are more connections!  Do you have healer friends or family or know of amazing, gifted healers in any of the following places?  If so, could you tell me a little about them and put us in touch?

  • Portland
  • Seattle
  • Tucson
  • Chicago
  • Guadalajara
  • Other

Enjoy your winter holidays.  Let me know if you’d like to get together in January or just message me so we can stay in touch that way.  I appreciate you so much and am so proud of the network we are building.

My Christmas Requests:

ASK #1  Keep talking about Pop-Up Clinics and keep a list of people you will inform next time we schedule a clinic, whether you plan to attend or not.

ASK #2  Let me know if you have healer friends who are interested in building networks in their communities, and put me in touch with them.

ASK #3  Pass my name along if you come into contact with people who might benefit from my work or products.

ASK #4  (Pop-Up Healers and Prospective Healers) If you want me to give you a copy of our master Pop-Up Plan or any of our contact lists, please let me know.

Enjoy your winter holidays.  

Let me know if you’d like to get together 

or just message me so we can stay in touch.  

I appreciate you so much and am so proud of the network we are building.

Namaste!

Giving & Receiving – Pop-Up Clinic Style

Thanks go to our lovely hosts, Gretchen & Emmet at Laughing Frog Gardens, and all the healers, therapists and care seekers who came out.  In all, we had a circle of 13, not including the other sentient beings of the gardens and the homestead.  Formal offerings included:

  • Shamanic Astrology
  • CranioSacral Therapy
  • Reiki
  • Sentient Movement
  • Chair Massage
  • Active Dream Sessions
  • Safe Attunement & Connection
  • Techniques to calm the Central Nervous System

We have more events coming up:

Marshall MO on October 21, 2017

North Village on November 11, 2017

Questions?  Call me at (573) 999-6011 or send me an e-mail at [email protected]

What If The Body Came With A User’s Manual?

What I’ve been noticing lately is a shift in what I feel and think about consuming sweet things (and other “yummy” things) and maybe about rules and rigidity in general.  The word restriction has been popping up for me.  Re STRICT ion, and also the association between eating disorders and “rules” about food.

We want to avoid being overly strict or rigid in our lives.  So it’s good to be on the lookout for arbitrary restrictions that we place on ourselves, and then get curious about them.  I mean, yeah, if I had concerns (evidence) that I might be growing a tumor, I would maybe want to cut out sugar for a while.  I might want to go on a sugar fast or something.  But the sugars actually do have a place on the pyramid.  The refined ones are up there on the very top, but fresh fruits and root vegetables are a source of important nutrients – at least for me….today.  Grains seem to be less important, but not something I need to cut out completely.  Highly processed foods are at the little bitty point up there on the top of the triangle, where the space they take up is very, very small in comparison to the balance of what I eat.

I know, there are so many rules out there about food and what is actually good for us, but what’s important is for us to take personal responsibility and adopt some kind of structure to help us respond to our unique and changing nutritional needs.  Guidelines help us navigate our lives and make choices from the myriad options we face every day.  But just make sure you don’t let your guidelines become too strict or rigid.

One of the guidelines I’ve been using lately (and not strictly) is based on the pH of the body.  Some foods, when we consume them, make our bodies more acidic, others more alkaline.  Remembering that if I eat four times as many alkaline foods as acidic foods – an excess of acidic foods creates acidity in the body which supports the proliferation of parasites and yeast which I understand to be precursors of many chronic illnesses – my body will function better.  If I fill my diet with mostly acidic foods, my body is going to get out of balance.  So while I don’t need to be constantly measuring or restricting myself, I can keep that idea in the back of my mind, and if I notice that my health is slipping, or my energy levels aren’t what I’d like them to be, or I’m feeling that something is off, I can make some adjustments in the types of foods I’m eating.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that starting a couple weeks ago I was having really strong cravings for something.  It wasn’t sugar, though I did veer toward fried things.  But when I sat with it, and asked my body what it really wanted, it seemed more like it was asking for more high quality proteins.  Also entering my awareness from various articles and conversations I was having was the idea that I was needing to increase my consumption of high quality proteins and fats.  So that is the direction I moved in.

In this phase of temporarily self-imposed monkhood, I realized I had begun to associate high-quality proteins and fats with unwanted expense.  So I picked up a small container of cheap, highly processed peanut butter, and quickly concluded that this wasn’t what my body was asking for.  It just didn’t taste like food.  A couple cans of tuna, some cashews and some queso fresco later, the cravings went away.  I will need to make a trip to the gringo getting-place and pick up some tahini and almond butter, which will set me back some $15 or so.  Not a whole lot in the scheme of things.  I’m on it.

Note to Self: If I notice myself skimping, I may need to re-assess whether I’m associating not having what I need with my worthiness or ability to have what I need.  If I can put some attention there, I can see pretty easily that I am worthy of adequate nutrition (what my body needs to stay healthy).  For me, it is sensible and correct to include healthy proteins and fats along with the wide variety of fresh produce that I can get for next to nothing here in Mexico.  I can also assess whether I have adequate margin in my budget to cover nuts, nut butters, avocados, high quality oils, and high quality meats, and usually I do.  I don’t need to go overboard, but I do have enough.  (These things are up there in the top of the pyramid, just under treats and sweets.)  And yes, they cost a bit, but they are also my medicine, one of my best ways of building and maintaining health.

There is no doubt about it, sweetness is something we all need, and if for some reason you have been prohibiting or limiting sweetness in your life, that’s something I recommend you pay some compassionate attention to.

In summary,
  • There are different kinds of edible sweets available to us in markets and selling establishments everywhere. And there is also sweetness available to us from every direction in the form of connections with nature and other beings.
  • If I build sweetness into my lifestyle, I won’t feel like I need to “steal” it (impulse purchases at the check-out lane, etc.).  Sweetness then becomes a normal, built-in feature of my life.  If I include having a cup of tea with a cookie, or even a few little cookies, every day, I have chosen to make sweetness a regular part of my life.  (I tried this and I noticed that I didn’t put any sugar in my tea in order to make it feel like a special treat.  This way, my treat is one that I’m allowed – whole-heartedly – not one I’m “getting away with,” or sneaking off to consume, hoping nobody notices.)
  • Craving sugars, in the past, has pointed to a lack of the sweetness that I can only get through warm and authentic human connections and communion with nature. Now that I have lots of interesting and satisfying interpersonal connections in my life, I don’t notice as many cravings for sweets anymore.  This shift has required me to really pay attention and make adjustments as I go, based on what tastes good to me, and what feels good in my body after I eat it.  It’s an ongoing process, but a super-important one.
  • We are being bombarded by campaigns crafted by the processed food industry to increase our consumption of their “yummy” products (laden with high quantities of salt, sugar and fat), and what seems “normal” can get skewed pretty quickly if we’re not aware and purposeful about what we purchase and consume.

Add to Body-Owner’s Manual:

Having Cravings?
  • Check to see if you’ve been skimping on the relatively expensive high-quality foods that make you feel grounded and well-cared-for and probably build health and a strong immune system. If you are getting enough of those kinds of food, you’ll be less likely to crave those “kiddy” foods – the foods that the immature self wants – which help us know that at some level we are crying out in response to feeling unmet or unseen or uncared for.
  • Make sure to reach out to others and invest time in mutually nurturing friendships.
  • Connect with nature in some way that feels satisfying or nurturing to you.
Noticing Strictness or Rigidity?
  • Being strict is no substitute for staying as attuned and available as possible to the feedback that your body provides. There are a lot of guidelines out there, and if you find one that resonates for you, great!  Experiment with it and notice how your body reacts.  Notice cravings, energy levels, mood and immune system functioning.
  • Realize that your needs change over time, and the guidelines you use will need to be used with flexibility and openness to adjustment as your needs change.

For more on becoming an ally with your body, check out Toni’s Mid-MO Tour, happening in October 2017.

 

Toni Rahman Embodied – Mid-MO Tour 2017

After being south of the border for 4 years, Toni will be coming to Mid-MO in October to share two things:

1) Being In My Body: What You Might Not Have Known About Trauma, Dissociation & The Brain

  • Coffee & Conversation at Heart Body & Soul, followed by Book Signing on October 7, 10:30 am
  • Daniel Boone Regional Library – Local Author Fair on October 28, 10:00 am-2:00 pm

2) Pop-Up Clinics – a new way of networking and connecting with yourself and the abundance around you.  Read an article about Pop-Up Clinics in Ajijic Mexico here.

You can hear an interview with Toni on the Trauma Therapist Podcast here.

The Body Keeps The Score – Book Review

One of my favorite things to do is reading good books.  I finished reading Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score some months ago, but it has taken me a while to report on it.  Besides having gleaned 25 pages of quotes, I’m feeling the need to go back and re-read the whole thing.  This was a book of serious ahas.  Van der Kolk is himself a survivor of early relational trauma – a fact of which he was unaware until well into his professional career.  Currently the Medical Director of the Trauma Center in Boston, he is also a Professor of Psychiatry at Boston University Medical School and serves as the Co-Director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Complex Trauma Network.  You can read more about him here.

“Trauma,” says van der Kolk, “drives us to the edge of comprehension, cutting us off from language based on common experience or an imaginable past.”  Its effects are profound and lasting when it occurs before we have language to describe it or even hope to get the help we need.  But, “like a splinter that causes an infection, it is the body’s response to the foreign object that becomes the problem more than the object itself.”

I love this book because Van der Kolk gives me words for things I had no idea how to talk about before.  And he validates suspicions that have nagged at me for decades.  For instance, when I was 24 and had already ditched my first husband and abandoned my three-year-old son, I was puzzled by the lack of pain I felt.  What was wrong with me, anyway?  I had many explanations, some of which had to do with depression, being clueless about what I was going to do with my life, and feeling incapable of caring well for a small child while trying to do all those things that I had been taught that a husband was supposed to do.  Van der Kolk calls this “Numbing.”  In describing what one survivor of developmental trauma experienced, he says, “He desperately wanted to love his family, but he just couldn’t evoke any deep feelings for them.”

Numbing may keep us from suffering in the short-term, but long-term is another matter.  “…though the mind may learn to ignore the messages from the emotional brain, the alarm signals don’t stop.  The emotional brain keeps working, and stress hormones keep sending signals to the muscles to tense for action or immobilize in collapse.  The physical effects on the organs go on unabated until they demand notice when they are expressed as illness.  Medications, drugs, and alcohol can also temporarily dull or obliterate unbearable sensations and feelings.  But the body continues to keep the score.”

“After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system.  The survivor’s energy now becomes focused on suppressing inner chaos, at the expense of spontaneous involvement in their life.”

The seemingly endless path of breadcrumbs leading me back to my own trauma included my status as “stimulus seeker.”  Though I am most likely on the mild end of this spectrum, survivors of trauma don’t feel quite alive if they aren’t in the middle of some kind of chaos.  Says van der Kolk, “Somehow the very event that caused them so much pain had also become their sole source of meaning.  They felt fully alive only when they were revisiting their traumatic past.”

“That is why so many abused and traumatized people feel fully alive in the face of actual danger, while they go numb in situations that are more complex but objectively safe, like birthday parties or family dinners.”

All of this is determined at a very physical level.  “If an organism is stuck in survival mode, its energies are focused on fighting off unseen enemies, which leaves no room for nurture, care, and love.  For us humans, it means that as long as the mind is defending itself against invisible assaults, our closest bonds are threatened, along with our ability to imagine, plan, play, learn, and pay attention to other people’s needs.”

Among van der Kolk’s research-based conclusions (and things to think about as you consider this idea he’s calling developmental trauma):

  • Exposure to stress relieves anxiety.
  • Addiction to trauma may be characterized by the pain of pleasure and the pleasure of pain.
  • Immobilization is at the root of most traumas (your heart slows down, your breathing becomes shallow, and, zombielike, you lose touch with yourself and your surroundings).
  • It is especially challenging for traumatized people to discern when they are actually safe and to be able to activate their defenses when they are in danger.
  • All too often, drugs such as Abilify, Zyprexa, and Seroquel, are prescribed instead of teaching people the skills to deal with distressing physical reactions associated with repressed emotion.

Real healing, he says, has to do with experiential knowledge: “You can be fully in charge of your life only if you can acknowledge the reality of your body, in all its visceral dimensions.”  Here, EXPERIENCE, not UNDERSTANDING is what we need.

“…neuroscience research shows that very few psychological problems are the result of defects in understanding; most originate in pressures from deeper regions in the brain that drive our perception and attention.  When the alarm bell of the emotional brain keeps signaling that you are in danger, no amount of insight will silence it.”

Treatment

“Treatment needs to reactivate the capacity to safely mirror, and be mirrored, by others, but also to resist being hijacked by others’ negative emotions.”

“…the great challenge is finding ways to reset their physiology, so that their survival mechanisms stop working against them.  This means helping them to respond appropriately to danger but, even more, to recover the capacity to experience safety, relaxation, and true reciprocity.”

Mindfulness, or the ability to hover calmly and objectively over our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, is one of the primary tools van der Kolk teaches his patients.  This ability allows us to then take our time to respond,” he says, which “allows the executive brain to inhibit, organize, and modulate the hardwired automatic reactions preprogrammed into the emotional brain.  This capacity is crucial for preserving our relationships with our fellow human beings.”

Increasing “interoception,” or self-awareness, is another important feature of recovery, van der Kolk says.  “Because traumatized people often have trouble sensing what is going on in their bodies, they lack a nuanced response to frustration.  They either react to stress by becoming ‘spaced out’ or with excessive anger.  Whatever their response, they often can’t tell what is upsetting them.  This failure to be in touch with their bodies contributes to their well-documented lack of self-protection and high rates of revictimization.  And also to their remarkable difficulties feeling pleasure, sensuality, and having a sense of meaning.”

Noticing and then describing what they are feeling is a process van der Kolk helps his patients learn.  He begins the process by helping them talk about what is happening in their bodies, “not emotions such as anger or anxiety or fear but the physical sensations beneath the emotions: pressure, heat, muscular tension, tingling, caving in, feeling hollow, and so on.”  He also works on “identifying the sensations associated with relaxation or pleasure…their breath, their gestures and movements.”  He asks them to “pay attention to subtle shifts in their bodies, such as tightness in their chests or gnawing in their bellies, when they talk about negative events that they claim did not bother them.”

“…many programs (that try to help traumatized people) continue to ignore the need to engage the safety system of the brain before trying to promote new ways of thinking,” van der Kolk says.  He provides some ways to engage this part of the brain in his book.  Among them are:

  • Yoga
  • Theater Programs
  • Breath Exercises (Pranayama)
  • Chanting
  • Martial Arts
  • Qigong
  • Drumming
  • Group Singing
  • Dancing

“Our culture teaches us to focus on personal uniqueness, but at a deeper level we barely exist as individual organisms.  Our brains are built to help us function as members of a tribe….Most of our energy is devoted to connecting with others.”

 

A few more nuggets I thought you might appreciate:

  • While you need to be able to stand up for yourself, you also need to recognize that other people have their own agendas. Trauma can make all that hazy and gray.
  • (As infants) our most intimate sense of self is created in our minute-to-minute exchanges with our caregivers.
  • Children’s disturbed behavior is a response to actual life experiences – to neglect, brutality, and separation – rather than the product of infantile sexual fantasies.
  • Our lives consist of finding our place within the community of human beings.
  • Babies can’t regulate their own emotional states, much less the changes in heart rate, hormone levels, and nervous-system activity that accompany emotions.
  • Learning how to manage arousal is a key life skill, and parents must do it for babies before babies can do it for themselves.
  • Securely attached kids learn the difference between situations they can control and situations where they need help.
  • Kids will go to almost any length to feel seen and connected.
  • Traumatized parents, in particular, need help to be attuned to their children’s needs.
  • Dissociation means simultaneously knowing and not knowing.
  • Early attachment patterns create the inner maps that chart our relationships throughout life, not only in terms of what we expect from others, but also in terms of how much comfort and pleasure we can experience in their presence.
  • It’s not important for me to know every detail of a patient’s trauma. What is critical is that the patients themselves learn to tolerate feeling what they feel and knowing what they know.
  • Rage that has nowhere to go is redirected against the self, in the form of depression, self-hatred, and self-destructive actions.
  • Eradicating child abuse in America would reduce the overall rate of depression by more than half, alcoholism by two-thirds, and suicide, IV drug use, and domestic violence by three-quarters.
  • Social support is a biological necessity, not an option, and this reality should be the backbone of all prevention and treatment.
  • As long as people are either hyperaroused or shut down, they cannot learn from experience. Even if they manage to stay in control, they become so uptight that they are inflexible, stubborn, and depressed.  Recovery from trauma involves the restoration of executive functioning and, with it, self-confidence and the capacity for playfulness and creativity.
  • In order to recover, mind, body, and brain need to be convinced that it is safe to let go. That happens only when you feel safe at a visceral level and allow yourself to connect that sense of safety with memories of past helplessness.
  • Being traumatized is not just an issue of being stuck in the past; it is just as much a problem of not being fully alive in the present.
  • Antipsychotic medications such as Risperdal, Abilify, or Seroquel can significantly dampen the emotional brain and this makes patients less skittish or enraged, but they also may interfere with being able to appreciate subtle signals of pleasure, danger, or satisfaction.
  • As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself. Hiding your core feelings takes an enormous amount of energy, it saps your motivation to pursue worthwhile goals, and it leaves you feeling bored and shut down.

I highly recommend this book.

Van der Kolk, Bessel. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body In the Healing of Trauma. New York: Penguin Books, 2014.

Trauma Therapist Podcast – Interview

I was recently interviewed by Harvard-trained Guy McPherson of the Trauma Therapist Podcast.  I highly recommend his creative endeavor, which you can check out here. He is truly inspired, seeing that people first starting out on the road to being effective therapists can and should draw on the wisdom of others who were once beginners too.

Listen to my interview here.