Have you ever been in a situation that caused you to get EXTREMELY anxious, trying to do everything possible under your power to try to fix it? You can’t even think about anything other than this issue and it’s getting in the way of you thinking clearly, sleeping or enjoying life.
Or maybe you’ve been in a situation where you just shut down. You don’t even know what to do and feel complete apathy. It feels so far out of your control, you give up. You may even find yourself disassociating and not even knowing who you are and why you’re here.
These are two different states of the nervous system – sympathetic and dorsal.
In this episode, I sit down with Polyvagal trained Somatic Practitioner Sarah Baldwin to really dive into the states of our nervous systems and recognizing where our imbalances occur and why. This is a powerful episode to truly understand your body’s response in a deeper way, which brings about a great deal of compassion for WHY you feel the way that you do.
I truly believe somatics + nervous system healing are the missing links of our mental health system and this episode is a must-listen to anyone who is ready to step into deeper levels of healing – both for themselves and for the planet.
Connect with Sarah at http://www.sarahbaldwincoaching.com
Connect with your body’s wisdom with my free Goddess Embodiment Practice free at http://www.rosegoldgoddesses.com/embodiment
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Intro + Outro Music: Silent Ganges by Maneesh de Moor
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Episode 447: How To Heal Your Nervous System – Your Guide to Somatic Healing with Sarah Baldwin
By Sahara Rose
Namaste, it’s Sahara Rose and welcome back to The Highest Self Podcast, a place where we discuss what makes You, Your Soul’s Highest Evolvement.
If it’s your first time listening, welcome! This Podcast is all about making spirituality fun, grounded, relatable and above all, embodied.
I believe the path to our highest selves is through the body. And much of the spiritual education that we’ve gotten in the past several decades has been very masculine, very disembodied, all about enlightenment and ascension. And while that can be great to desire, that’s not also why we’re here. We’re not here to be aliens, we’re here to be humans, and we’re here to protect earth. And truthfully, the powers that we are seeking, really already are within us. We carry the wisdom, we carry the codes in our cellular memory, and this is why diving into our body, Somatics. Somatics literally means to be in the body, embodiment, and nervous system healing are so integral.
So, this conversation that you’ll hear today, on the Podcast, is really just emblematic of everything that I created this Podcast for.
And for me, especially in the past 5+ years now, having this Podcast, I keep coming back to, time and time again, that the state of our nervous system is really what creates our perception of the world.
So, I’m sure you’ve noticed in yourself that you were in a situation that made you anxious and then you started to find more things to be anxious about, and you started to view the world through this lens of “Oh my God, did I do this, did I do that? Did I respond to that person? Oh shit, what if this thing goes wrong”, and you’re just spiraling out, because you are in an anxious nervous system state that, no matter what you say, your affirmations “I am peaceful, I am well”, your body is not believing it, and that’s because you are in a sympathetic nervous system response.
Or maybe you’ve been in a situation where you just shut down, you don’t even know what to do and you just feel complete apathy. It feels so far out of your control that you just give up, and maybe you even find yourself disassociating sometimes and not even really knowing who you are and why you’re here.
And I think sometimes we make memes and stuff about it, like “Haha, just disassociated for 10 minutes”, but that’s a real nervous system response called the dorsal, which we also dive into in this conversation.
And we also talk about fawning, which is really where people-pleasing, even imposter syndrome, comes from, and then fight, which is where this energy of anger and rage comes from.
So, instead of blaming or questioning our emotions, we realize that they are so intelligent because our nervous systems have adapted to the way they are because they believe, our body believes, this is what will make us the most safe.
So, in this conversation, you will hear Polyvagal trained Somatic Practitioner, Sarah Baldwin, really diving into why our bodies may have gone into a state of freeze, or why our bodies may have gotten to a state of flight or fight or fawn. And it gives you so much compassion, not just for yourself, but for others, because sometimes you see people and you’re like “Why are they freezing? Why aren’t they going after their dreams?” or “Why aren’t they making a change? They keep falling back into the same addictive patterns” or “Why am I procrastinating on my dreams?”, and it gives you so much compassion to understand why you and others feel the way that you do, based on your nervous system.
I truly believe this Episode is a must listen to for any human being on earth! It is a master class with the level of depth. I cried at a point in this conversation because it was so powerful, and it really is everything that this Podcast stands for. And I’m also so happy because I got to meet Sarah Baldwin in person this past week and she’s just as lovely in person as she is on the Podcast, and really, just has such a Quan Yin compassion energy to her through everything that she shares.
She’s someone who has gone through some of the most tumultuous traumas that one can experience throughout her childhood, being severely sexually abused and is someone that has been able to find so much, not just light, but meaning and understanding, and really can connect with anyone, no matter what it is that you’ve gone through, and help you understand how to heal and that there’s nothing too big that you cannot heal from. No matter what has happened to you in the past, no matter how broken you may think you are, you can heal, you can become whole, it is never too late.
And if this Podcast is maybe the first you’ve ever heard on this, someone sent it to you, welcome! Welcome back home to yourself! I’m so excited to hear the drops of wisdom that come through from this conversation.
So, without ado, let’s welcome Sarah Baldwin to The Highest Self Podcast.
And before we get started, I have an announcement for you.
The greatest way that we can help balance and heal our nervous systems is through embodiment work. You see, we spend most of our times in our heads, we are constantly analyzing, trying to make sense of the world and predict the future, but what we really need to create the future that we want is to drop into our body’s wisdom and understand what it’s telling us, and that way we can bring about more healing and co-create the circumstances that we desire, and that really comes first from knowing our body’s language.
So, I have created my Free Goddess Embodiment Practice which will allow you to drop into your body’s wisdom in under 10 minutes. This is a perfect practice that you can do if you have no prior experience to embodiment or if you’re already practicing yoga, meditation, maybe you’re working out, but you want something a little bit more feminine and flowy to add to the end or beginning of it, this practice is for you!
I play incredible music and I guide you through dancing and just really feeling the messages that your body has for you, and your body is going to feel so different on the other side. People seriously say “I can’t believe how amazing I feel in less that 10 minutes”, and I’m so excited to see how it turns out for you.
So, if you’re interested, head over to iamsahararose.com/embodiment and you can find that link in the show notes and download the practice.
Without further ado, let’s get into this week’s Episode!
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Welcome Sarah, to The Highest Self Podcast, it’s so great to have you here.
Thank you so much for having me, and it’s so nice to be here with your listeners.
And the first question I’d love to ask you is, what makes you your highest self?
So, whenever people ask me, really most questions, I find that it’s so important to turn in and not just have a reflexive response.
So, what makes me my highest self? My answer to that would be experiencing regulation in my body, or generally what we’re going to be talking about today. Because when we’re regulated in our nervous systems, we are communing with our highest self, rather than communing with our protective parts.
And so, the coming home to myself in my own healing journey that has allowed me to be in more and more regulation and presence, is really what allows me to commune with my highest self, if that makes sense?
I love that! And we were chatting right before about how science and spirituality are really merging and it’s really expressing the same thing, the language of being your highest self, the language of having a regulated nervous system, or whatever you want to put on it, it’s really the same thing, it’s feeling your best. And we can all feel that that is our most natural state, it’s just all of the blocks, the obstacles, the traumas, the experiences that we have that prevent us and keep us stuck and keep us in bloops from getting there. So, I’m excited to dive in, especially, I feel like the nervous system is not just trending, because it’s obviously not new, it’s the most ancient part of our bodies, but it’s in the zeitgeist more, people are talking about it, people are noticing.
And I think a lot of us, we may have had experiences with solely talk therapy, and you do get a little bit deeper and you understand things, but then you’re going back and you have the same problems, you have the same problems.
So, can you explain to us, first of all, what does the word Somatics mean and what is Somatic-based healing?
I’m so glad you’re asking that because it’s a question I get all the time, but not a lot of people have an understanding around.
So, talk therapy, which is really the most common model of therapeutic work that’s done, is cognitively gaining understanding and rationalization around what has happened. And so, we can literally talk about the event and talk about what that was like, and can even talk about how rationally gaining understanding of “Oh, my parents were traumatized” or “They were immigrants and that’s why this happened”, so on and so forth, we can get into all the details, and all that makes a lot of sense, “It wasn’t really about me, it was their own trauma”, which, kind of, have helpful components to it.
But what we know about all trauma is that it’s sub-cortical. And sub-cortical simply means is that it lives in our bodies and it’s also experienced in our bodies. And what we know is, that the location of our thinking brain, our pre-frontal cortex, is not in our bodies, it’s actually in this big front part of our brain.
So, the issue is, that the language of our bodies is not a cognitive language, and we know this, right? Everybody listening, think about the last time you felt anxious, nervous about something, and if you told yourself “We, sit down, alright, Sarah, just calm down, there’s nothing to be nervous about, the world doesn’t end if this flops, you’re going to be fine”, or you’re going on that date and you’re worried and you’re telling yourself it’s okay, and it doesn’t work, meaning, you actually usually get more anxious when you tell yourself to just calm down. The reason that’s happening is because I’m trying to use a verbal language to speak to what’s called part of your autonomic nervous system that lives in your body, and the language doesn’t compute, it can’t hear you.
So, somatic work is learning to speak the language of our bodies and learning to speak the language of what is called our autonomic nervous system, I call that our self-protective system. It understands embodied language, which really looks like showing our systems that we are safe rather than telling them that we’re safe. And it means using touch, it means using vibration, it means using movement, all of the senses we have access to, to support our systems to heal and come into regulation.
I hope that makes a little more sense than maybe people had before in thinking about what Somatics is.
Totally, because, yes, we can rationalize and make sense of things, but our bodies are still feeling agitated, they’re feeling something is off. And I know for myself, I went to a Somatic experiencing session before and something that I struggle with is a feeling of “I am not supported”, because as a child, I was the one who spoke English, so I had to fill out all the forms and did all the things and didn’t have anyone to help me with my homework, so I learned “I am the responsible one”.
So, throughout my life I keep, and now, it’s a spiritual job, I keep manifesting experiences that will kind of relay back this idea of “I am not supported”. So, in the experience she had me lie down and she placed her hand on my chest and she was like “Feel into yourself being supported in your body”, and it felt almost foreign to me, I couldn’t even imagine it because, and I could keep telling myself the affirmation “I am supported, I am supported”, and that can help, but it wasn’t until I – so, now, I’m in the practice of, even when I’m just sitting down to do a breathwork or lie down before sleep, to feel into “I am supported by this bed. I am supported by this earth. I am supported”, to just anchor that feeling within my body in a way that justifications in my mind never will.
Yeah, exactly! And I think that, and I mean, I’m so grateful for the work you’re doing in spirituality because there’s so much of it that is, unfortunately, unhelpful for people because it’s missing the mark of where spirituality, and for thousands of years, really was anchored in, a lot of humans misinterpreted it. And what it really is about is, experientially, having the embodied experience of what it feels like to be supported.
When we think of, this goes back to childhood of course, and for most of us, a lot of these things go back to childhood of, support is not thought, support is embodied and felt. Attunement, even, it’s not about what someone says, it’s about them feeling into what is happening in our system and meeting us there, and saying “I can support us to come out and to come into regulation”, all of that is felt.
So, when we’re saying mantras, what’s so important is, “I have to feel into that”, otherwise it gets stuck up here in cognition and it can never permeate our embodied experience, which means it can’t really help be resonant.
I remember using so many mantras and I was like “Why isn’t this working? I don’t really feel this, I belong in the world”, that was some, I didn’t belong in the world for so long and I was like “That’s a nice idea that I can’t embody”, and so, somatic work helps us embody it.
And the other thing that I just want to mention about it too is that, good things don’t feel good at first, and that’s an important thing for folks listening to understand, there can be so much confusion about that. Because things like being truly seen and vulnerable or supported are, although they are our deepest desires and deepest human needs, when our system has gone a lifetime without them, they can be actually overwhelming at first, feel like too much for my system. So, when we’re doing somatic work, we want to acknowledge that that’s the experience for everybody and we step towards it in tolerable amounts, “Can I feel into a tolerable amount in being supported?”, and then know I can turn back to myself, like “I got this, that’s comfortable and safe to me”, and then I’ll lean a little more, because our self-protective system is saying – so brilliant we all have these extraordinarily exquisite self-protecting systems, but for example, yours was saying “I love you so much that I am not going to let you feel the perpetual pain of needing others when they can’t meet that need”. So, instead, what we’re going to learn to do is fortify and go it alone because that pain of not being able to just be a child was so much, that we don’t want you to have to perpetually feel that, if that makes sense?
And I just think like, what an exquisite system that we have, that it can do that for us, it’s so extraordinarily loving.
And then, as you dive deeper into that, it brings up this deep feeling of sadness, of “Wow, the reason why I feel this way is because the pain of feeling otherwise would’ve just been too much”. So, how can we, if someone is, kind of, starting to dive into this deep healing work and they feel a lot of resistance and they’re like “I don’t want to be crying all the time, I’d rather just not do the work?”, how do we continue to lean in without also making healing our whole identity?
That’s a really great question. So, one of the principles, I’m a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and certainly anyone who’s healed in any trauma modality, which, by the way, not all therapists are healed in trauma modalities, it’s very different, is the concept of titration, but really it comes from Peter Living’s work. And thing about, if I had a gallon of water, or inside the gallon is all of my traumatic experiences, and overwhelm and pain, and terror, and all the things, it’s all in that gallon. So, what we do with healing, the only way to heal, is by taking a dropper and taking a few drops out of the gallon, at a time, and then I take them out and I squeeze the dropper and those drops come out, and with, or learn to build my capacity to be with those couple of drops of activation, that is how we build our capacity. And what I see happen so much in a lot of self-help and certainly in a lot of spiritual work and retreats, is people go well-intended (hopefully), but the people leading them will have people do things like “Okay, write to your young part”, so, let your young, inner child write to you. And essentially, what happens, if we haven’t built capacity in our nervous system, it’s like dumping the whole gallon out.
And certainly, before I, I have a complex trauma history, and before I came into this work, I was on a long healing journey, and I had things like that happen all the time to me, where I would start writing, I would feel so engulfed and overwhelmed, and I was like “What’s happening?”, and what was happening was, I was just being retraumatized, being engulfed again. Meaning, what that really means is, I was having the same overwhelming experience I had back then, right now. There was no adult me present, going back to higher self, there was no higher self present, it was just a repetitious experience of my traumatic experiences.
So, my first response to what you’re saying is, we want to dip our toe into the experience, and then I want to dip my toe into something positive.
So, if I’m working with someone, this is the concept of pendulation, is the therapeutic term, which means, we want to build our system’s capacity to be able to feel into something that’s not pleasant, but I don’t lose the driver’s, the steering wheel, rather, of my experience. I can dip in that’s unpleasant, adult me or the highest self is still here though, I don’t like this but I’m still here, and the more I can be with it, it processes through, the dropper empties and then I want to lean into something positive. This builds our system’s capacity to experience not so great feelings and also to discharge trauma.
So, what I would say is, let’s say someone is not in therapy right now, or not doing somatic work at the moment, what I’d invite you to do is, have a specific time that you’re going to decide “I’m going to just be curious about some of that experience, whatever it was, the grief that’s coming up, or loneliness, or whatever it might be. And the first thing that we want to do is get a tether to ventral, which is just our state of regulation. So, simply “Can I lean into something that’s positive in my space, maybe I’m looking at my dogs right now, maybe I’m going to hug my dogs for a second”, so, I’m leaning into the positive, that’s like a life raft for me and then “Can I lean into or get curious about some of that loneliness, let’s say? And maybe I just lean into it for a few seconds”, notice what it’s like to be present to that. And at any point the road seems rocky, like “Oh, that feels like it could be a lot”, I’m going to go back to petting my dog. So, that helps us come out of it instead of getting engulfed by it. And maybe I do that for 10 minutes, and then I’m going to go about my day, the rest of my day.
So, that’s a safe container and a tie-treated way, instead of the engulfed experience which I see happen a lot in self-help.
That’s such great advice and building our own resilience to be able to step into these really deep, dark and sometimes shadow-filled corners that, if you don’t pendulate yourself, you can completely spiral into one direction.
And yes, I remember, years I ago I went to this girl, and she was well-intentioned, and her workshop was, go into the most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to you in your whole entire life, right here in the space, and then we’re going to scream and shake and release it. And, I mean, to my knowledge, luckily, everyone was okay at the end of that experience, but who actually knows, but now, looking back on it, that was a little bit irresponsible, I don’t think she completely grasped that. That could be very retraumatizing for certain people because they just aren’t ready for that.
I have a question for you. What is your thought on Ayahuasca and this plant medicine work that can take someone very deep into their darkest trauma?
Personally, I’ve not done it, I’ve heard people saying it completely healed their trauma, I’ve heard people say it retraumatized them. So, I’m curious, from your clinician perspective.
So, I’ve worked with a lot of people who have done Ayahuasca and have spent years, after the experience, helping them to heal.
So, when someone doesn’t have a serious of a trauma history, I think that it can be beneficial for people. I do feel like, again, hopefully well-meaning folks, say, they have a good experience of Ayahuasca and then they say “I want to go to Costa Rica and start (and I know there’s a lot in there) and start a retreat center”, and to me that’s kind of like saying “I had a good brain surgery that went well and helped me. I am going to go start doing brain surgery”, and you just wouldn’t do that, you wouldn’t be able to do that. But when we’re talking about emotional healing and trauma healing, it is like brain surgery. It is so specific, you have to be so careful, you have to know exactly what’s happening in each person’s system and it takes a lot of training. So, the problem that I see with a lot of these centers is, there aren’t trauma therapists present, trauma practitioners present, and so, because of that, they’re not able to help people integrate the experience, but also if someone is having re-traumatization, they’re not really able to help them, which, to me, can be a real danger.
Now, again, if someone doesn’t have a significant trauma history, those are the people that usually say, you know, “That was really helpful for me” or “That was really supportive”.
When we experience trauma, our self-protective systems are so, as I mentioned, just so perfectly working. No one listening to this Podcast is broken, if the mental health system has made you feel that way, or that you are dysfunctional, I want you to know that neuroscience research says, specifically, that is not true. Everything about your system is perfect, it is not confused, it is not overwhelmed, it is certainly not broken.
And so, what happens when we experience trauma, is, it’s an overwhelm in our embodied experience. And for many of us, if we experience continual traumas, whether those were continual micro aggressions, depending on our race and how we identify as a human, simply being in the world every day might be a dangerous place. If we experience neglect as a child, or we’re parentified, which is what you described; or abuse, etc., what our systems do is, they say “Wow, this is so much, I need to put all of this in boxes”. And think of it like real boxes, like a cardboard box, because “If I was to be with all of this right now, I wouldn’t be able to continue on, it would be too much”. So, our systems are so smart, so they can put it in boxes, put box on box all over the place. And our systems are so intelligent, that they know if we’ve built capacity to open up the boxes. This is why, when I’m doing somatic work with anyone, or anyone does somatic work, you may notice, as you continue on your journey “Wow, I just remembered that. Wow, that was intense, I forgot about that”, you didn’t forget about it, it was in a box, because your system said “You are not ready to know that or to be with that”. So, what Ayahuasca can do is, it opens up all the boxes up at once.
And so, if I have a lot of boxes, I certainly had a lot of boxes, although I would not have done plant medicine, but if I have a lot of boxes, the opening up of all those boxes can be like me experiencing all of the traumas again. And as a result of that, not always, but sometimes people can have really difficult, extremely dysregulating experiences where they become de-realized and depersonalized and really struggle, and that can change again. I just want listeners to know I worked with people who’ve had that experience of all the boxes opening up and able to put the boxes back together again. And that’s the whole concept of titration.
And I just want to also mention, I have had, as somewhat complex trauma, lots of boxes. And so, for me, even when I think about my early 20s and late teens, every single time that I would, even something like using marijuana, I would have a totally de-realized traumatizing experience. And the reason is because, and I didn’t understand at the time and people would say “Oh, try a different strand”, or whatever. And what would happen is, I would get totally in terror, I would feel paranoid, I would feel totally dissociated and I didn’t understand, and what was happening was, I was having a trauma response because my system was saying “Wow, this feels too out of control”, and it was opening up boxes.
So, I just like to name that too, because there’s probably some listeners who maybe have had that experience and I want you know, listening to your body is the right thing to do. And if it’s saying “That’s too much”, then it is too much, if that makes sense?
Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. And I feel the same way with marijuana, I don’t smoke it, every time I have, it has felt out of control for me and my nervous system tends to go the sympathetic route, which is the one that’s more like “Okay, we need to do something, we need to be more in control”.
So, can you share a little bit about the sympathetic and the dorsal nervous system?
Yes. So, under the umbrella of Polyvagal theory, which is someone named Stephen Porges, in 1994, cane up with this theory, that really is so important in understanding trauma, I mean, he’s done such great work in the field of neuroscience.
So, under the umbrella under our Polyvagal theory is, our autonomic nervous system, I call it our self-protective nervous system, or sometimes I call it ‘our special ops team’. The reason I call it that is, a special ops team has many members, they are the best of the best and they have one primary mission. Your autonomic nervous system has many members and they are the best of the best, they have 500 million years, the oldest part, of evolution behind them, and they have one primary mission, which is to keep you safe and alive, that’s it. Which is so extraordinarily cool that we all have this system.
So, the first line of defense in our autonomic nervous system is out threat detector, it’s in our brain stem, it’s called neuroception. Every millisecond of every person’s life, and mammal’s, because this is all happens in mammals, there is this threat detector saying, looking out into your world, and looking interoceptively into your body, but out in the world and saying “Is that safety, dangerous or life-threatening? Is that safety, dangerous or life-threatening?” Which, I think, I mean, ta talk about this all day long, and every time I do, I just become in such awe of humans because, how amazing is that that we have been created to have this brilliant system that can work for us all the time? And it looks to this database of past information, you could think of it like a computer system, to decide if what in front of us is safety, dangerous or life-threatening, every millisecond. Like, I’m looking outside at a tree, my system says, in a millisecond, “Trees are safe”, I grew up in the woods and that was a refuge for me.
Now, if I was to look at a particular man of a particular age, because I was sexually abused in my home, someone who reminded me of that person, my system would not say “Oh, that’s safe”, in a millisecond it would have a different response.
Now, if our systems say “That’s dangerous”, not life-threatening, “It’s dangerous”, we go into what is called our sympathetic nervous system. So, I think of that like that part of the special ops team shows up and says “I’m here for you”, and the whole job of our sympathetic nervous system is, it’s saying “This is dangerous, but I think we can do something about it. I think we might be able to fight this thing, I think we might be able to flee this thing, I think that there’s a possibility that if we can do something, we might be safe”.
And so, a quick analogy I use, it’s not even really an analogy, we haven’t really evolved much past hunting and gathering. So, imagine when we were hunting and gathering, and we’re together, we’re feeling regulated and safe, and then we hear a sound. And our systems say, because of our ancestors and our past experience “Oh, that sounds like a lion”, and we look, and the lion is an 1/8 of a mile away, maybe we hear it because we could animal track then, and our systems would probably say “It’s 1/8 of a mile away, we might be able to do something about this”. So, in that moment, without us asking, our protective system comes online, our sympathetic nervous system, it talks to every cell in our body, it talks to our organs, and essentially what it says is “Okay, everybody, what kind of energy can you give up, but still function, so that all of this extra energy can go towards fighting or fleeing”. So, guess what happens? Our thinking brain shuts off, why? Because we don’t need to learn a new language or play chess, or philosophize about the Earth and the Universe, we don’t need that, we need to survive. So, our whole thinking brain shuts off because that takes a lot of energy.
Our immune system shuts off, why? Who cares if I get a cold, I’m trying to fight a lion (or flee a lion). Our digestive tract shuts down, “I don’t need to digest those berries that I was eating, I need to get away from this lion”, and I’m sharing those things because when we spend long stays in our sympathetic nervous systems, we tend to have immune issues, we tend to have gut issues – why? Because our system is saying “I’m trying to protect you and the energy can’t go towards (our homeostasis) survival.
So, when we’re in our sympathetic nervous system, we experience a variety of things, this is like a whole country in and of its self, it’s not just one thing. We experience things like “I feel a little worried”, this is a light sympathetic, “I feel a little worried or unsettled, or maybe, it’s just kind of annoyed, I just feel sort of annoyed and agitated”, and then I start to feel pretty concerned and then I start to feel frustrated, so, one or the other, then I might start to feel kind of anxious, and then I might start to feel kind of ticked off or angry, and then I start to feel panicked, and then I start to feel angry or terror, and I feel like I’m having a panic attack or rage. So, that’s just a continuum of what it’s like to be here when our overarching experiences “I must do something now. I must do something now”, and all of our thoughts are going to be about how there’s a ticking time bomb in the corner of the room and if I don’t do it now, things aren’t going to be okay, and I have to get it done now, if I don’t have control, it’s not going to work out okay, and I have to do it right away, and I can’t think of anything else until it’s done”, so, our thoughts will be racing, our heart rate increases, our vision will actually be tunneled, where we can’t focus on anything else but laser-focused on this problem or this thing. Our senses will be more acute.
So, if you’re in a relationship and if you’ve ever noticed you’re having, maybe just a heated argument, or not even that heated an argument, and you might say to the person “Why are you yelling?”, and they say “I’m not yelling”, well, they could be yelling, but they might not be yelling, you might be hearing them more acutely, because when we’re in sympathetic, we actually hear things louder. We have tension in our bodies, lots of tension in our bodies; we can feel butterflies in our stomach; we can’t sit still; we can’t relax; our sleep will be disrupted. And I think of it like, the porridge is too hot, it’s not too cold, it’s not just right, it’s too hot. I know that was a long-winded answer, but I thought it might be…
Girl, you’re telling me my life!
I thought it could be helpful for everyone to understand why in the world we go this state in the first place.
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People tend to have this sympathetic state, which is called ‘the sympathetic nervous system state’, correct?
You tend to have the sympathetic nervous state if you had some sort of danger in your childhood, but you felt like if there was something you could do, you could control.
That’s exactly right! And your systems learned, because, here’s the thing – it got you here! Everyone listening, this protective system, I like to think of it as our most loyal companion. When humans have let us down, it has never let you down, ever, ever, ever! It can work for decades at a time, it will never stop, that’s how much it loves us.
And so, if it learned, you know what, our sympathetic nervous system, that worked for me, that got me out of those experiences, it got me through, then our system says “I think we need to hang out here in order to support you in your life, in order for you to be able to get through”.
And here’s the thing, we don’t experience this self-protection as enjoyable, and for most people, we battle against our self-protective parts, which actually just keeps us stuck more. We have to change our orientation to have we look at our self-protective parts, and the more that I can see, what neuroscience says is, it’s just trying to love you and it doesn’t know you’re safe. If I can change orientations and say “Wow, it’s never given up on me, it loves me so much. It doesn’t think I’m safe right now, but I am. So, I need to show it, that I’m safe”, which is part of regulating our nervous systems”.
And what are the specific practices and tools you suggest for this type of state?
So, when we’re in our sympathetic nervous system, this is so important, if this is familiar to you, what I just described, everybody, this is important to listen to.
I see a lot of people, when they talk about anxiety without understanding Polyvagal Theory and this kind of work, is that they’ll say things like “Just meditate”, meditating is wonderful, but here’s what I want everybody to understand, let’s go back to the analogy of a lion, I think this will make a lot of sense for folks listening. Imagine the lion is 1/8 of a mile away, and we’re together, we’re hunting and gathering, and we hear it, and I say to you “Okay, let’s just take a few deep breaths together, okay?”, and you’d say “Okay, okay, okay”, “I know, but we need to do this so that we can stay focused and not fall on the path in front of us as we’re running away”, so, we might pause for a second and do that.
So, if I am noticing, like, the lion being an 1/8 of a mile away means I’m not as extremely dysregulated, I’m just regulated, my system’s protecting me, but on a number system, if 1 is the least extreme, 10 is the most, let’s say I’m between 1 and 5. If I am there, the lion’s far away, doing something like meditating will be helpful, doing something like gentle swaying, safe self-touch holding my heart, doing some controlled breathing, orienting, looking around my space to support me, those things will be helpful.
Now, think about this, if a lion is 20ft away from us and I said to you “Hey, let’s sit down and meditate because meditating is good for everything”, you would say “Sarah, please do that, you’ll get eaten alive! I’m going to get away though, thank goodness, thank you for sacrificing yourself for me”, right? I’m having anxiety in my system, there’s so much energy, I feel like I can’t sit still. It is not going to work to sit down and meditate, it is not going to work for you to look around your space and tell yourself you’re safe, it’s not going to work to put your hand on your heart, in fact, it’ll actually probably do the opposite. What your nervous system is going to say is “Sarah, you must be very confused! There is a lion 10ft away, I’m not sure why you think sitting down and closing your eyes is a good idea right now?”
So, instead, it’ll say “I’m going to rev up even more!” So, you’re going to notice activation will actually increase when you do that because your system is saying “I’ve got to get you out of here!”
So, If I’m at a – I think everybody can think about that, what’s a 1 in intensity, least in intensity? That would be like “I just feel unsettled” or “I don’t know, it just annoyed me that the person didn’t use their planker, I feel annoyed by it”, that would be a 1.
A 5 might be “I’m feeling, you know, pretty fidgety, I’m feeling really, pretty worried and I need to control stuff”. So, in that range, if I sit down and do those more grounding regulating tools, they’re going to be great. If I’m at 5-10, what I want you to know is, your body needs to move. That might be through shaking, dancing, making sounds that come from your viscera, from your gut, going on a brisk walk, it might be doing something like unloading the dishwasher or going for a run or lifting something heavy, or snapping a twig in half and putting all your energy into it, but your system needs to move and mobilize to get the energy out. And if I could say anything about sympathetic or regulated nervous system, that’s the most important thing, and a thing I see that people get wrong a lot of the times, and wonder “Why am I feeling more anxious?”, it’s because we didn’t let our system move, if that makes sense?
I love that advice so much! And I share a lot on the Podcast my own journey of seated meditation, not working with me at all because I would sit and I would just get more anxious and then I would be mad at myself of “Why can’t I meditate?”, and it would just send me into this loop and that’s why dance has been the most powerful healing. For me, ecstatic dance, especially, just free-flowing, dynamic movement, because it allowed me to process through so much that if I was just sitting and thinking about that, I would’ve gotten so agitated, but because I was dancing and moving, and in the experience, I was able to just release so many layers. And even if I’m very tense because of work and things going wrong in a launch or something like that, I’ll just take a walk, and just, that movement, so deeply helps me. And I think that so many of us – yeah, back in the day, in ancient times, they didn’t have all these things necessarily to be stressed about on a daily basis.
And I think meditation – and I love breathwork, I’m curious your take on breathwork, I do it every single morning because it almost sets my nervous system up to be in a more regulated state, but if I’m already at 9/10 anxiety, probably the last thing I want to do is sit down and do breathwork.
Exactly, yeah! I love what you’re naming, and you’re naming this ancient system that, in an evolutionarily-speaking way, thinks there’s a lion, and by doing something like ecstatic dance, what, essentially, you’re saying to your system is “Yes, let’s get away from the lion”. It certainly is not how we experience ecstatic dance, but from an autonomic neuroscience level, that’s what’s actually happening and why it works, if that makes sense? So, that mobility is very important to let our systems mobilize and move when we’re on our sympathetic nervous system. And the more intense our activation, the more we need to move, which is really different than when we’re in our state of shut down.
So, now, can you explain to us, the dorsal nervous system and what signs of that look like?
So, our dorsal vagal complex is our most ancient and extreme form of self-protection. It does not look extreme, sympathetic looks more extreme, but it’s not, it’s less extreme.
So, dorsal is where we go – and now you just think this is such a beautiful, loving system, and remember, every mammal has this. So, if we weren’t able to fight the lion and we weren’t able to get away from the lion, in a millisecond, our threat detector says “Hmm, this doesn’t look so good for us, I don’t think we can get away from this”, and it calls upon our dorsal vagal complex, which comes in. And it comes in because it’s saying “Well, my dear, we can’t get away from this danger, we can’t fight this danger, but what I can do is numb you so you don’t have to feel the perpetual pain of what we can’t stop.
And I just think when I think about that, and I’ve probably said that a thousand times when I think about that, it’s the most loving presence, in my entire life, truly saved my life, I think “Wow, what an amazing system, that the antelope, right now, that is being eaten by the lion, its system loves it so much that it can say “My dear, I can numb you so you don’t have to feel the pain of this”.
And so, we find this state when we’re in extreme danger, where our system says “I can’t make this stop. This might go on and on and on and on”. So, we can literally become numb, we can leave our bodies entirely and the other reason why we go here is because, remember, we’re mammals and all mammals have the capacity to – if the antelope can play dead, because it essentially looks like we’re playing dead when we’re here, that “Maybe I’ll be bypassed. Maybe I’ll be bypassed. Maybe they won’t see me, or maybe I’ll be able to then quickly get away”.
So, when I said it doesn’t look like the most extreme, that’s because this is energy conservation, or it’s shutting down, it’s the exact opposite of our sympathetic nervous system. Think of it like the light switch is going off or like a bear going into hibernation, everything is beginning to slow. So, it’s the exact opposite experience, instead of a lot of energy, we have no energy, instead of tension in our bodies, we have no tension, it’s like we’re jello. When we’re here, there’s a vast range of experience, just like our sympathetic nervous system, and it begins with apathy “Meh, I don’t really care”. When someone says “What do you want to do today, we love ecstatic dance”, you say “Ah, no, I don’t want to. No, I don’t think so”, or someone says “You love this breath genre”, “No, it doesn’t, I don’t want to do that, I don’t care”.
And remember I said our senses are laser-focused and sympathetic, the exact opposite is here. Our vision will actually become fuzzy; sounds become muted, feels like muffled. We’ll notice that we’ll continue in activation where we’re losing less energy, and now I’m going from apathy to maybe feeling kind of in a funk, I’m feeling disconnected from myself and other people, I feel like I don’t belong anywhere, I don’t feel capable or able, it’s never going to change, I’m all alone, this is hopeless, now I can’t even fake it if I tried, I can’t smile, it’s not possible, I’m having difficulty even thinking. If someone said “Tell me what’s happening”, I might not be able to get a lot of words out. Now I’m starting to feel depressed; now I’m starting to feel dissociated, which simply means not in my body, leaving my body.
So, a light dissociation is “I don’t really know what happened today”, all the way to “I can’t tell the difference between me and the chair I’m sitting in”, or “I don’t recognize myself in the mirror”, or “I’m not sure if I’m real or the world is real”. So, see, there’s like a wide ranging of experience, but what’s important to know, it’s a shutting down. The overarching experience is “I can’t. I can’t make it different, it’s never going to change, this is where shame lives, there’s something wrong with me, I’m bad, I’m different, it’s too late for me, it’s never going to happen”, and a real, real slowing down.
So, you can see, now I’ll come back eventually, that’s a really different state than all this energy. So, this is, dorsal is “The porridge to cold, it’s too cold”. I like it to being in outer space.
Now, think about if I was an astronaut in outer space and someone clipped my cord to the spaceship, that’s kind of what it’s like, you kind of disappear into the abyss. That’s what it’s like when we’re going into dorsal, it’s like a disappearing into the abyss.
And so, what’s so important to know about regulating our nervous system out of that shut down state, is that, in order to come out of here, there’s a hierarchy with our nervous system, so we have to go through sympathetic in order to get to regulation.
And so, what the mistake I see a lot of people make, is, they bring in – so, sympathetic is just energy with mobilization, but they bring in too much energy. And so, that’s like going from outer space to Times Square, New York City or Tokyo.
Imagine that, that would be really overwhelming, I’d be in outer space, floating away, and there’s so much happening, it’s too much and it’s overwhelming, and guess what our nervous system does, it goes “Wow, that’s dangerous and overwhelming, let’s go back to outer space. And people can find themselves ping-ponging from that dorsal shutdown outer space to too much energy and sympathetic and so they go back into shutdown and they oscillate between those two places.
So, instead, when we’re in dorsal, we don’t want to bring in too much energy, small amounts of mobilization, and all you have to think about is, a bear coming out of hibernation, how do they do it? They do it slow, they don’t sprint out, they’re slowly stretching and moving their bodies. When we’re in dorsal, it’s a disembodied experience, meaning we’re leaving our bodies. So, we want, what I invite folks to do is, use all of the senses you have access to, to help you feel into your embodied experience. That might be doing something as simple as holding an ice cube, because that’s an intense feeling, can you feel that in your body? Smell something pungent, it could be a nice essential oil, but it could also be one that you don’t really like. So, a strong smell that you don’t really like, smell that when you are there, that’s going to help you come back into your body. Touching grass, feeling the sun on your face, hearing a sound, jet humming, particular vibration sound, even the sound ‘ohm’ can bring a vibration a that releases what’s called our Vegas nerve, which is a part of our dorsal vagal complex, but small amounts of mobility, not too much mobility. And I just want to name one other thing that, when I mentioned that we have to go through sympathetic to get to dorsal, and so on and so forth, that’s the hierarchy, Stephen Porges and Deb Dana came up with that concept of a ladder that you’d step on and stand on. And think of, if I’m on a ladder, I’m at the bottom of the ladder, the only way to get to the top is to climb through the middle, and the only way to get to the bottom is to climb through the middle. So, that’s the hierarchy where the dorsal is at the bottom, it’s the most extreme, we only go there when sympathetic didn’t work, to protect us, and then we have to go through sympathetic to get to ventral. And a simple example that I know, and probably lots of people can relate to, think about when you were in an argument with your partner or partners, or a loved one, and you start off in the argument and you might be in sympathetic like “I need you to understand what I’m saying, and I’m feeling activated, and I need you to hear me, and then they go into sympathetic, or you’re both like “I need you to hear me”, but neither of us can hear each other because our thinking brain is not working, so we’re going at each other like that “I need you to understand me, I need you to hear me”, and then someone’s nervous system says “Listen, I don’t think sympathetic is going to work for us, let’s go into dorsal”. And all of a sudden you go from tearing so much to not caring, you go to apathy, you’re like “Whatever, it doesn’t matter, you win, I don’t care, I don’t even care, I don’t care. If we don’t talk again, we don’t care. I don’t care about this argument, it doesn’t matter!”
Or, another example is a customer service call. You know, you’ve been on the call for 45 minutes with your credit card company and you’re like “Don’t transfer me again”, you’re so sympathetic, and then they hang up on you, and a lot of times people go into dorsal, they’re just like “Whatever, I’m going to throw my phone in the river and I don’t even care if this credit card bill never gets paid because I’m so dysregulated now!” So, that’s important to understand, the concept of going down our ladder.
Yeah, and it really is such a protection mechanism because if you were so angry about waiting on the phone for 45 minutes, it could’ve made you more angry, so it’s almost better for you to just not care. Or, if both partners are super, like, fiery and wanting to fight, one of them going into dorsal almost, like, diffuses it, so I can see the beautiful. And then, that also makes me even grateful for my sympathetic nervous system because at least it means it’s up the ladder, going closer towards regulation.
That’s exactly right! When I work with people, they will go from hanging out in dorsal all the time, to hanging out in sympathetic, and that’s a huge deal, that’s reshaping your nervous system. If you can come out in dorsal and go to sympathetic, you have successfully done so much work to – a part of healing is reshaping our nervous systems, meaning, I’m spending most of my life regulated, which is the only way to a happy life, there’s no other way, that is the answer.
And so, what the work I do is, I help the people get better. How do we do that? It’s the reshaping process. So, when people say to me “I’m not in dorsal anymore, I’m in sympathetic all the time, argh, this place sucks!”, and I’ll say to them “No, this is amazing! Look what just happened, you’re no longer shut down, now you’re here, you’re making your way to regulation”. So, I like to name that too because that’s a part of the process, regulating our nervous systems.
So, then, what does the ladder from sympathetic to regulated look like?
Yeah. So, when we are in sympathetic, remember that our state of mobilization – something I didn’t mention. There’s two other important states, and I don’t know if we have time for them, I’ll just mention them. There’s one called ‘freeze’, it’s a blended state, it’s equal part sympathetic and dorsal, so they both come together at the same time, they’re two equal and opposite forces, a very common state people experience.
And so, think of half your system saying “I have to, I have to, I have to”, other half is saying “I can’t”, “I have to”, but “I can’t, “I have to”, but “I can’t”.
So, for anybody who, on the weekends, if you find yourself, if I was watching you and I said “It looks like you had a relaxing weekend, you went to dinner, you went to a park, you did these things”, and it looked relaxing, and I asked you and you said “I wasn’t relaxed at all, I felt like I was working”, well, that tells me that you were probably in freeze, because your system was saying “I have to do all these things, but I can’t”, “But I need to, but I can’t”, or we sit down to start the next project that we want to do in your business, for entrepreneurs, and you sit down and there’s so many ideas “Oh my gosh, where do I even begin, I don’t know, this person said to do this and in my mastermind they said this, but I don’t know, I was looking at the analytics”, and then you’re like “Oh my gosh, there’s so much to do, I need to do this now. No, I can’t, I need to take a nap, it’s too much, I can’t do it, I can’t! But I need to, but I can’t, but I need to, but I can’t”, that is freeze. It’s an exhausting state to be in and on the outside, it might not look like much is happening because we’re not actually mobilizing towards it, but so much is happening inside. So, I just want to side note mention, there’s another state of freeze.
Our state of regulation is called…
And then also, if you could mention about fawn.
Oh! So, fawn is actually, I’m glad you asked about that too, because there’s a lot of misunderstanding about too things. One more thing, I just wanted to mention, I see a lot of people on Instagram posting about therapists that don’t understand Polyvagal Theory (or other people helping professionals), posting about dorsal and calling it freeze. They are not the same thing, they’re different. Dorsal is shutdown, no energy and no tension in my body, I am like jello and I’m shutting down.
Freeze is so much tension but I can’t move, it’s like a deer in headlights, “Oh my gosh, I have to do this but I can’t! I need to talk to them about this thing, no, they’ll leave if I do so I can’t talk to them about it. But I need to, but I can’t. I need to talk to my employee about what wasn’t working, what they did, but I can’t do it, this conversation is scary, but I have to, but I can’t, but I have to!” So, see how different freeze is, than dorsal, totally, totally different.
Fawn is a behavior that actually can happen in every single one of our protective states. So, what’s important to know is that our whole experience is a result of our autonomic state. The thoughts we have are a result of the state we are in; the behaviors that happen are a result of the state we are in. When I’m in dorsal, all my behaviors are going to be about how I can’t do anything, the thoughts and behaviors about how I can’t do anything, it’s not possible. Sympathetic, “I have to, I have to, I have to”, and ventral, “I can’t”. So, fawn can happen in all of those states.
Fawn, essentially, when we talk about what that is, it’s a self-protective response of appeasing whomever or whatever is in front of me in order for me to maintain safety.
So, appeasing essentially means “I will do what they want or what they need me to do because my self-protective system decided that’s the best way to keep us safe, best way in this experience”. So, that could happen regardless of the state we’re in. If I’m in the sympathetic, where there’s lots of energy, my fawn response might be that “I feel like on egg shells and I’m looking around to see “Wait, are they mad at me, I don’t know if they’re mad at me and I have a lot of panic inside but I smile and say “Oh yeah, sure, sure, whatever you want”, even though, inside, I feel like it’s a no for me, I just say a yes or me but I have a panic around it or involved in it”.
Now, a fawn response in dorsal, I’m shut down, might be someone is abrading me instead of fighting back or saying something or leaving, I just look away and become small and collapse and take it because that’s the best thing to do. But see how they’re really different, what’s happening inside my body.
And then, a freeze response, in terms of a fawn response, is something people describe a lot, when they say something like, let’s say you saw, in a public place, someone assaulting someone, it’s very common that people go into a freeze fawn response where they later will say, they’ll beat themselves up and say “Why didn’t I do something?! I don’t understand!” and they feel like “I’m a terrible person because I didn’t do anything”, no, your system was protecting you and it was saying “If you do something besides this self-protecting response, something more dangerous is going to happen”, so we feel that panic inside, but we can’t actually even say anything or move.
And I get question around fawn a lot, so important to have that understanding that it’s a behavior, and it can happen at any of those states.
Yeah, it’s so powerful to witness those examples, because I think we’ve all seen that in different people, even in movies, and in ourselves. Yeah, the dorsal-fawn, are people who tend to have the dorsal, is it often related to abuse?
So, people who tend to find the dorsal, or it be what one of my mentors Deb Dana calls our home away from home, meaning where you hang out the most, are people who experience, usually, perpetual or continued traumatic experience. And it doesn’t just have – of course, if I experienced sexual abuse, that happened over a period of time, if I was consistently bullied at school, if I was physically abused in my home, but also if I was neglected.
So, if I had caregivers who were never there, they didn’t give me any of my needs, my physical needs, my emotional needs, our systems know that one of our most primary needs as a child is human contact and connection. And if the people weren’t there, our systems say “Wow, this is so dangerous, this is the most dangerous”, so we’ll resource our dorsal vagal complex.
So, when our systems think, so, that would be a life-threatening experience for our nervous system, if especially in our youth we were (in our adolescence) we were neglected. But again, of course, with abuse, as well, that’s extraordinarily common, and emotional abuse as well, and specifically things that usually happened over a period of time.
Yeah, it’s just so heartbreaking to know that often times in society, we think “Oh, that person needs to speak up for themselves” or “That person needs to just, you know”, and we shame people for having this response from having this, just such a heartbreaking place.
It’s so true. And maybe I’ll just share this with listeners, for anyone that might be finding themselves there, or really in any of your self-protective states, I spent maybe 10 years trying to find the right support for myself. I did so much talk therapy, it didn’t really help what was happening, I was so dissociated that I would not know how I got to places, I would look in the mirror and not recognize who I was, I was chronically ill, really debilitating and I was suicidal and I was so deeply in that dorsal state, and sometimes it would go into terror or freeze.
And what I really want folks to know is that it is so very possible to reshape our nervous systems. If our nervous systems can protect us, sometimes for decades, like mine did, they most certainly can rest, because when we’re dysregulated, they’re working really hard.
And essentially, regulation is our self-protective part that’s resting. And so, think about that, if they can work really hard for decades at a time, they most certainly can rest, they just need to be shown the way, and that’s what Somatic Regulatory work does for us, and trauma work is all about, that’s what nervous system regulation work is all about. And there’s certainly nothing special about my nervous system, it’s the most ordinary. There is, just like everyone else’s, and if it’s possible, for mine or for the – I’ve worked with thousands of people, doing this work, it’s most certainly possible for whomever is listening, for your nervous system, to learn that you are safe. And when it learns that, you come into regulation.
One last thing I just want to say is, I remember years ago, well, mainly who the person is, but somebody a lot of people probably know, in the self-help world. I remember attending one of his, this was early in my healing journey, I think it was like a teaching event or something online, and I was so in dorsal, and I knew that I wanted to help the world and help people in my own specific way, it felt like such a soul calling to me, which I know a lot of listeners here have that – and I remember this person who doesn’t have a significant trauma experience, so it’s really easy to say this. I remember this person saying to everyone on the call, “If you are actually stepping towards the thing that you want, and you don’t want it bad enough, then you should get off the call right now!”, and that, that might never leave me because, not because of my own experience, but because I know that there are so many people receiving messages like that, that are not only misinformed, they’re dangerous. It’s a message from someone who doesn’t have any understanding of your autonomic nervous system and that, in fact, the reason you’re not stepping towards the things that you want, that you most deeply desire, is not because you don’t desire them enough or that you aren’t trying hard enough, it’s happening because, more often than not, the things that we desire most in life, our life calling, our purposes, being seen, known, heard, taking up space, belonging, whatever it is that you’re wanting, whomever is listening right now, those things, more often than not, are things that were either inhibited in the past, they weren’t available, or they were dangerous. And so, our self-protective person I just described, if they have to choose between you stepping into your purpose or the relationships you want or the things that you desire, and keeping you alive, they will always choose keeping you alive.
And what they’re, essentially, doing is they’re just saying “Oh my darling, you don’t know it’s not safe to have those things”. And so, you can spend, like I did, decades fighting that and trying to will your way towards the thing, but it won’t work because the system has hundreds of millions of years of evolution, but what is most certainly possible is working with our protective parts and taking tolerable steps towards the things that we want, not the steps we think we should be taking or that misinformed person I mentioned who’s telling us we should be able to take no and not show, not tell the protective person “Hey, see, this is safe, it is safe for me to use my voice right now”, our protective part is saying “Oh, maybe that is safe”, and it gets stored in that database of past information I mentioned, “Wow, we were safe to connect with somebody”, “We were safe to receive”, “We were safe to use our voice”, and the more that we have those disconfirming experiences, the more the protective part say “Maybe the past is over. Maybe the things that used to not be safe now are safe”, and when that happens, you step into the life that is for you, when that happens, you get unstuck, when that happens, you heal, and that’s what healing is all about.
So, I just wanted to name that in case anyone’s been feeling that way.
So powerful! And thank you so much for sharing that! And I think that so many of us, we grew up in the self-help, personal development, time. I can imagine the type of speaker that you watched, and you know, it does make us feel very empowered and “Take back your life and reclaim your power”, and that’s really the energy of it, and in a way it’s so hyper-masculine, it’s negating the feminine, and it’s all about the pushing, and “If you want it bad enough, you would’ve done it yesterday”, and it uses shaming and it feels almost militaristic in the ways that it is.
And again, for some people, they need that more warrior energy, and for other people, if a warrior was abusing you your entire life, something like that can cause you to shut down and then think “What’s wrong with me?” So, I think that trauma informed, self-help, is really so needed right now in every single way. And I hope that everyone listening to this can take that.
So, what does, now, the path of healing look like? What do practices? What type of healers do you suggest for people? What books? Where we’re in.
Yeah. Well, there, unfortunately, aren’t yet enough books that are translating Polyvagal Theory for late people, meaning for all of us. I’m writing a book on right now, so hopefully, you’ll have that soon, because most of the books on Somatics and trauma are written for clinicians and practitioners, unfortunately.
One of my dear friends and mentors, his name is Bessel van der Kolk, and he wrote a really great book called “The Body Keeps the Score”, to help people understand Somatics.
There are other books on things like attachment (Somatic attachment) written by Diane Poole Heller, which, she has a great book on that. And one of my other mentors Deb Dana, has written a book called ‘Anchored”, which will give people an entrance into understanding some of Polyvagal Theory. So, that’s a little on books.
I’m going to write one for you, hopefully that feels supportive, to get this work out into the world. I have no idea why everyone knows about the Kardashians, but nobody knows about our own bodies. Why on earth did I learn about state flowers, and nobody taught me about my autonomic nervous system, and the counties in New Hampshire, where I grew up, but nobody taught me how to regulate myself. It was this systemic issue and my goal, and my lifetime, this certainly can be as popular as things like the Kardashians. This can become the mainstream work for our world so that we can heal and come home to ourselves.
There are practitioners that people can look up if you’re looking for individual work, on traumahealing.org, for a Somatic Experiencing practitioner.
If you look at the Polyvagal Institute, I teach clinicians there, you can also find clinicians who are trained practitioners in Polyvagal Interventions. And then, if you’re wanting to do any work with me, I have programs as well, that are holistic approaches into Somatic Healing.
Well, thank you again, we’ll share those links in the show notes. Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom, and is really so needed. I feel so grateful to be living in a time that there is dialogue around the nervous system and that this is such a missing link on healing.
I actually heard that in the Baby Boomer generation, I don’t know if you’ve heard this before, but this person claimed that the reason why there’s a lot of narcissism in that generation, actually has to do with a led poisoning situation that was going on in that time, so I’m like “Wow, there’s so many deeper layers to things that we don’t totally understand. Maybe it’s the led, maybe it’s also just living in a time of Cold War, World War II, and no conversation about regulating the nervous systems, and we’re raised with people, when we’re crying, they’re like “Be quiet, stop crying”.
You know, my dad always used to tell me “Be rational, not emotional”, and that was the mantra in my house, and that’s how you get taken seriously as a woman. :Women who are emotional are not taken seriously” and he was saying it out of love, he wanted me to be successful and climb the ladder, but it’s negating the feminine, it’s negating emotion, and of course, completely unaware of the nervous system. So, I’m so grateful to be living in this time where people like yourself are sharing this kind of work and allowing the ripple effect for, now, everyone who’s listening to this Podcast, to just be a little bit more informed, to just dive deeper into this work for themselves, and then share it with others.
Thank you so much for that and for having me here with you today, I’m really honored to be here! And thank you for the work that you do with the world, and the light that you shine ripples out from you to every person that you touch, and ripples beyond them.
So, thank you for having me and for everyone listening, I so appreciate spending this time with you, and just want to remind you how unbroken you are, how not alone you are and how much you make sense.
Well, thank you again for being here today.
[1:08:17] End of Interview
Wow! How powerful was that conversation! I am blown away by just the wisdom that our nervous systems and bodies have, and it just allows us to have such deeper compassion and understanding for ourselves and everyone in the world. We are all really moving through trauma on a daily basis with everything that we hear on the news and the way that capitalism and our society is setup, that it makes us just have a little bit more heart for everyone, no matter how they’re showing up in the world, and helping them see it’s just their nervous system responding in the way that it believes is best. And that is possible to heal and shift that as well.
So, since this Episode, I started reading the book “Your Body Keeps Score” which is a really interesting and quite heavy book on this topic. And I have begun, actually, doing a certification in Clinical Approaches to Polyvagal Theory for Trauma Healing, so I’m diving into also becoming a Trauma Informant Practitioner which I really believe is what the world needs, and I’m sharing all of these codes with my students in Dharma Coaching Institute, so we can be more aware of the nervous system and the different traumas that different people have gone through, so we can create trauma informed coaching.
So, doors are opening up for Dharma Coaching Institute next week. So, if you’d love to join us in this class, head over to dharmacoachinginstitute.com that link is in the show notes and you will be able to join our wait-list for our Fall class.
Now, this is my school to become a Certified Soul Purpose and Spiritual Life Coach, it contains 6 months of transformational ad experiential content, practice pods, practice coaching, Q&As, embodies practices, so you actually hit the ground running and know how to, in a real way, become, a coach, not from the mind, but from the body and through experience.
So, if you’re interested in learning more and joining us, head over to dharmacoachinginstitute.com and you find that link in the show notes.
Thank you so much for tuning in and I’ll see you in the next one. Namaste!
Episode 447: How To Heal Your Nervous System – Your Guide to Somatic Healing with
By Sahara Rose