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.

Timing Is Everything – A Book Review

Nonviolent Communication, by Marshall Rosenberg is one of those books you see on the shelves of people who are serious about effective communication.  Everywhere.  I kept seeing it.  But when I picked it up it didn’t speak to me.  Now I know why.  What broke the ice, I think, was reading the NVC Workbook, by Lucy Leu, which was incomplete by itself but was enough to motivate me to try Marshall’s book again.

I was already mid-epiphany in my personal life – regarding noticing that when I got analytical, critical, judgmental or when I started comparing myself to others I was actually feeling vulnerable underneath – when I came across this passage:

“Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others are needing and not getting.  Thus if my partner wants more affection than I’m giving her, she is ‘needy and dependent.’  But if I want more affection than she is giving me, then she is ‘aloof and insensitive.’  If my colleague is more concerned about details than I am, he is ‘picky and compulsive.’  On the other hand, if I am more concerned about details than he is, he is ‘sloppy and disorganized.’”

That helped me solidify my epiphany and make it a regular part of my mental health maintenance.  Now, when I notice myself judging, comparing, criticizing, or analyzing, I can stop and gently ask myself: What might I be feeling vulnerable about?  Underneath all this chatter, might there be a story that wants to be told?  What, from my past, is this reminding me of?

Marshall Rosenberg is quite a revolutionary, and as it turns out, he’s an excellent writer too.  His book explains how people can communicate with one another more effectively by using a lens of compassion – turning feelings into desires and needs.  Looking back, the reason I could not access his message from the very first time I picked up the book was that I was still very confused about what my needs actually were, I was not clear enough on who I was to be in touch with what I desired, and I was completely cut off from my vulnerable emotions – that is until they built up so much that they overwhelmed me, and I lost control.

When you are at the right developmental stage, this book is a virtual jewel.  I’ve been digesting it since I finished it in March, when I was on the beach with my daughter in Cuba.  Here is another snippet:

“It is my belief that all such analyses of other human beings are tragic expressions of our own values and needs.  They are tragic because, when we express our values and needs in this form, we increase defensiveness and resistance to them among the very people whose behaviors are of concern to us.  Or, if they do agree to act in harmony with our values because they concur with our analysis of their wrongness, they will likely do so out of fear, guilt, or shame.”

When we are alienated from our needs, like many who experienced early relational trauma, we were not encouraged to have a strong sense of self, or we were shamed when we overtly expressed our desires or unpleasant feelings.  What’s tragic about this is that when we are alienated from our needs, we are deprived of what we most need to grow socially and emotionally: sustained human connection.  As Rosenberg points out, “…the more we are able to connect our feelings to our own needs, the easier it is for others to respond compassionately.”

In modern, Western society, women are particularly vulnerable to being socialized to put others first.  As Rosenberg says, “Because women are socialized to view the caretaking of others as their highest duty, they have often learned to ignore their own needs.”

Safe human relationships have been shown to be the most powerful tool for helping people overcome early relational trauma.  These relationships can be built in a therapy setting, but are just as powerful between people who have an adequate level of recovery, adequate attunement with their own feelings and needs, and the language to talk about it.

I’d like to create contexts where people can practice with others this skill of connecting feelings with needs, and communicating in ways that others are likely to have compassion for them, instead of feeling assaulted by their neediness or negativity.  This often happens to people who have unresolved early relational trauma, and when others respond to their judging, complaining, or neediness by defending, retaliating or distancing.  This sadly validates their early programming that people cannot accept them with their vulnerable emotions and backlog of unmet needs.  Validation might feel good, but as they say in Al-Anon, “Would you rather be right or happy?” Nonviolent Communication is a book that offers a framework for blasting through the early programming, and forging authentic connections between people, organizations, and nations.

“All criticism, attack, insults and judgments vanish when we focus attention on hearing the feelings and needs behind a message….behind all those messages we’ve allowed ourselves to be intimidated by are just individuals with unmet needs appealing to us to contribute to their well-being.”  Rosenberg believes this applies to everyone.  And his ideas are now being taught in mediation trainings all over the world.

(Former United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold) “The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you, the better you will hear what is happening outside.”  Rosenberg says that “If we become skilled in giving ourselves empathy, we often experience in just a few seconds a natural release of energy which then enables us to be present with the other person.”

Rosenberg’s Four Steps to Expressing Anger

  1. Stop and do nothing except breathe.
  2. Identify the thoughts that are making us angry.
  3. Connect to the needs behind those thoughts.
  4. Express our feelings and unmet needs.

I highly recommend this book.

 

Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD  Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion. Encinitas: Puddledancer Press, 2000.

Self Abuse and the Inner Drama Triangle: Learning to Parent Yourself Well

What is the Drama Triangle, and how does it tie in with early relational trauma and embodiment?

When children witness the Drama Triangle being played by their family members in childhood, and it becomes their model for relating, they miss out on opportunities to develop healthy relational skills, and real problem solving skills and this chaotic dynamic becomes the Inner Blueprint for dealing with stress.  The Weinholds say that the Drama Triangle is the primary cause of childhood trauma, and I’m with them.  “For children who experience or watch this dynamic, their brains file situation-specific pictures, words, thoughts and feelings related to Drama Triangle experiences.  This is the core definition of Trauma.”  Plenty of research is also showing that early childhood stress and unmet relational needs are the foundation for trauma in general, but I’ll talk more about that in a later post.

When an individual of any age lives in an environment that the Drama Triangle creates, the nervous system responds by flooding the system with stress hormones which effectively put the body on the ready for fight or flight.  Disconnecting from one’s feelings is commonly a part of this response. And since there is no “end to the crisis” in sight (in the absence of the skills needed to exit the Drama Triangle) the body does not return to its relaxed, post-crisis state, and natural resolution to the crisis does not occur.

It takes willingness, awareness, and commitment to acquire the skills necessary to help the body return to its natural state of equilibrium. And removing the violence and chaos that the Drama Triangle creates are the important first steps.

I am so pleased to announce:

 

This Online Course is based on the Drama Triangle and how it can play out inside us (with the different parts of the triangle represented by different parts of us in our minds: The Victim, The Rescuer & The Persecutor).  This 6-week course will break the Drama Triangle down into simple terms so that it can be more easily understood.  The skills you take away are designed to help stop inner abuse and self sabotage in its tracks.

During the course, participants will learn how to replace the Drama Triangle with its magical counterpart, the Empowerment Dynamic, to help overcome early relational trauma.  They will also gain a framework for better knowing when and how to trust themselves, which naturally impacts knowing when and how to safely trust other people.

Depending on your level of enrollment, you can take the course alone, receive two one-hour Skype sessions to support your work, or purchase the Deluxe Bundle which includes two one-hour personal coaching sessions and e-mail support between sessions.

The class includes a series of lessons, visual diagrams, quizzes, assignments, a sharing forum, and other materials to supplement learning, facilitate growth, heal early relational trauma and remove barriers to the forging of safe and lasting connections.

Now available!

Fill out this brief survey if you’d like to know more.

 

Closer Than You Think – Book Review

Closer Than You Think, by Trina Brunk is a practical guide to knowing one’s self and dealing with a whole host of existential questions that come with living as humans in these times.  She writes with clarity, wisdom and flow, telling the truth about intimacy and our relationship with the beloved.

But besides being practical, and serving as a guide, this lovely piece is a song – the soundtrack to the soul’s coming back into the body, after a lifetime of exile – and finally learning to stay there.   Enjoy this quote:

The skills to cultivate are not self-denial and heroism, but depth of presence, patience, and staying connected in the face of suffering, in the face of accepting that we can’t always make it better for those who suffer.

The magic and directness of this book told my story, and I suspect it will tell pieces of yours as well, in a way you have not heard it before.  It connected me more firmly with the comfort that is available to all of us, in the form of higher and often less apparent forms of guidance, assistance, and unconditional love.

Chapter 6 made me weep, but first it invited me to read it twice more.  Trina’s book, Closer Than You Think, is a wild, exhilarating ride.  It will have you holding on to your seat.  So. Much. Fun.

Buy her book here!

Left and Right Hemispheres of the Brain

Yesterday, while listening to an online class by Bonnie Badenoch, PhD, LMFT, where she is talking about how we need other people to regulate our emotions (our whole lives, not just as infants and small children), I gleaned a very concise description of the functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.  Being an EMDR therapist, my ears perked up.  But she took it further than that.  In her description, the emphasis she placed was on the relationship between the two hemispheres (EMDR is a therapy that successfully integrates left and right hemispheres in order to resolve trauma that has remained frozen, often for decades).  Early in her talk (which is free and available online, she points out that effective therapy follows the client, allowing the healing to happen on its own (which is what both EMDR and CranioSacral therapy do.  Here is a simplified version of what she said.

Right Hemisphere

Left Hemisphere

Sensitivity to suffering

Attending to what is going on

in the relational realm

In the present moment

(what’s happening between us?)

Staying with the unfolding process

EMERGENCE

DEEP CONNECTION

(with nature and/or with another)

DEEP WARMTH

BOTH – AND

Can handle PARADOX

Values Individuality, Uniqueness, Connection

WE

Meaning > Happiness

Offers distance from emotions

Provides Stability/Steadiness

Takes what we receive from the other hemisphere and disassembles it so that it can be used to create systems that we can rely on.

It has to freeze things in order to take them apart and use them.

TASK > RELATIONSHIPS

Can provide WISDOM

(Why does this make complete sense?)

EITHER – OR

Values JUDGMENT

Creates Protocols and Frameworks

I

Thinks everything will turn out okay

(but there is an underlying paranoia)

There is no meaning

(except for what I WANT)

I want to take this a step further and suggest that adequate self parenting, which is necessary to overcome early relational trauma, could be thought of in terms of the relationship between the left and right hemispheres of the brain.  And if you wanted to get really crazy, between the Inner Feminine and the Inner Masculine (which has been referred to – I suspect – as the Divine Marriage).

Which brings me to this point at which I want to share a recent experience with you.  In a moment of inspiration several months ago, I drew (with the help of a collection of slumped postures online) a profile of myself that I had projected onto another person, who I then felt slightly judgmental toward.  It occurred to me that I might put the image out on Facebook, tagging a few friends who I thought might have knowledge or resources to “read” that posture to see what it had to say (I said it was a client I needed help with).  I had been doing tai chi and listening to Trina’s song, This Simplicity, when I heard the lyrics, “What the soul is longing for, and what this body needs.”  Everything stopped while I wrote down these words, which I used, along with a very practical, physical question, What happened to this body from a physiological perspective, and why does she hold herself this way?  The questions I asked came from two different places, and from the responses I got on Facebook, two different answers emerged.  To what can we attribute these two different approaches?  Before Bonnie Badenoch, I would have, hands down, said Inner Masculine and Inner Feminine.  Now, if I need to, I can say Left Hemisphere and Right Hemisphere.  If you’d like to see what emerged, use the links to read more (you can enter through the portal that feels most comfortable to you)!

I’d love to hear which portal you used, and what you think of the material you find there!  If you are curious about what your soul is longing for and what your body needs, we could try continuing the Facebook conversation.  As always, I’d love to hear from you!

Today I Walk

Thoughts in July

On the last leg of my walk this morning, my upper realms connected with my lower ones and I came to a glorious epiphany.  Let me explain.  In my spine lies a story that repeats itself at countless levels, the most visible and obvious of which is my living situation.

I realized today that my downstairs represents the places in my mind I don’t want to go.  The dark unconscious places that cause discomfort and pain.  Things like fear of being alone; fear of not being able to make it on my own; fear of not being enough; not having enough; not fitting in; not being able to connect, or have a whole, full, conscious, happy life if I don’t make particular sacrifices or tend particular safety nets.  Today, on my walk I let myself venture into those dark places.  What, I asked myself, does my grumpy roommate  represent to me?  She  spends her time in the lower realms.  She represents negativity, emotional immaturity, an unconscious need to protect one’s self from the unpleasant, the unsafe, the uncomfortable.  But this was the path of blaming, and projection, and I knew it was more complicated than that.

Her grumpiness had been on my mind of late.  But this morning I realized that what was at issue with me were my fears, not hers.  What I realized this morning is that my basement had begun to represent my fears to me, and that’s why I didn’t want to go down there.  Didn’t want to feel the ways I felt when I visited there.  Perhaps, because I am an empath, picking up on my roommate’s fears (that tend to resemble mine) was making the situation even worse.

A growing conscious aversion to the lower realms is what had guided me to discreetly move my bedroom upstairs in the past month.  This along with other conscious shifts in my behavior based on my relationship with my body, my higher power, my guides, my inner knowing have resulted in a subtle but noticeable improvement in my connectedness with myself.

This morning’s walk allowed me, for the first time, to go certain places in my mind to entertain the most frightening of thoughts, to explore how true they were, and to notice my feelings about them.  What if the natural consequence of my behavior is that my roommate can’t tolerate living with me if I don’t share the lower spaces of the house with her, or for some other reason she decides not to be a partner in the household?  What then?  Would it be a crisis?  For either of us?  Going through all the places in my mind: separation, splitting assets, furniture, all that we have built in the past three years, buying her out, determining real equity, etc.  What would it be like – a future without the stability she has represented for me?  In a way she has served as an emotional anchor.  Without that anchor, who and where would I be?  A rudderless ship afloat at sea?  I think about my traveling sister, Tracy, living out her dream but seeming at times so alone.

And somehow my thoughts, on the last third of my walk, came back around to what I know.  Being tethered to a particular person in a particular place is not the grounding I seek.  What grounds and centers is intimacy with the self.  And that, for me, today, is knowing at my core that regardless of the players at the physical level, there is enough, and I am enough, I have enough.  Connection, creative opportunity, guidance, love, purpose, affection, worth, credibility, strength, etc.  Whether I have the responsibilities of caring for small children or not, whether I have an incredible client base or not, whether I have a wonderful home or not, whether I have a partner or friends or savings or not, I am okay.  When I am connected to myself, I am not alone.  Those I know, those I have yet to know, and those I will never know; we are all connected.

Without a doubt, feeling some efficacy around money, probably for the first time, has helped me achieve this place.  Not having to worry about whether I’m going to bring in enough money to make the mortgage payment or meet the next financial obligation that comes with being a parent can consume so much psychic energy that it’s almost a luxury to tune in to the deeper inner realms.  Reaching this stage in my life has been a long time coming, but now that I’m here I can breathe a little more freely.  I can afford to entertain ideas one has a harder time entertaining when the biggest numbers are red.

So the great epiphany.  Maybe two-thirds of the way around my circuit, maybe a little more, I straightened a little taller, allowing my head to be suspended by the light nimble energy from the heavens.  I pushed my shoulders down, brought my jaw back and sent my shoulder blades down my back once more, and I felt it, if just for a moment, the connection with my core, my upper leg muscles, my psoas, my abdominal wall.  This was the feeling I had been wanting to avoid — and still do, if you want the honest truth — as these core muscles are so weak as if they are only now waking up from a very long slumber.  I’m not sure of the extent of the power that lives here; it’s so far been easier to let it sleep.  But now, as I watch my father (who is wrestling with the question of life and death) playing with the idea of waking up, and as the Universe pushes me to wake up, connecting upper with lower, I realize I’ve been slumping and restricting my movement and avoiding life experiences because I have been afraid.

Bringing consciousness to these dark fearful places, using the guidance I have learned to trust, feeling the resulting feelings, and building intimacy with myself is a sustainable path.  And it is a path of joy and deep fulfillment.  And to this path I say a heartfelt yes.  For you I am so grateful.