One way to begin healing developmental trauma is to learn about what the founder of Polyvagal Theory Stephen Porges termed "neuroception."
Why might a hypersensitive empath lack empathy and sensitivity? Well, think about it. If you're an emotional sponge who picks up on other people's feelings without clear, solid psychic boundaries that protect your energy field from the energy field of others, an angry, grieving, terrified, disappointed,
It occurred to me as we were making our mandalas- This is how I operate my life.
What's next is the guiding principle of how I navigate uncertainty, whether we're talking about a book writing project, an activist idea, or a challenging relationship.
It sounds weird to say that trauma is hot right now, but it doesn't take much to recognize that after a year of personal and collective trauma, conversations about healing trauma are everywhere. For example, I'm delighted that Oprah Winfrey and Bruce Perry, MD have published their book about developmental trauma- What Happened To You? and Gabor Mate collaborated with the Science & Non-Duality community to release their documentary The Wisdom of Trauma.
Watch Internal Family Systems (IFS) Founder Dick Schwartz Do A Vulnerable IFS Trauma Healing Demo on Lissa
Last week, I had the great pleasure of co-teaching with IFS founder and trauma therapist Dick Schwartz, PhD in both our Healing With The Muse community and in our Rebirth 2021 class.
So what happens if people don't get the second developmental need (attunement) met? First, let's define attunement.
Thanks to Stephen Porges and his Polyvagal Theory, we now know so much more about what happens in the body, in the autonomic nervous system, in the immune system, in the presence of chronic inflammation, and in end organs affected by chronic sympathetic nervous system hyper-arousal and/or chronic dorsal vagal hypo-arousal. This nervous system dysregulation can lead not only to practically every mental health diagnosis in the DSM-V, but also to a host of medical conditions, like:
Heller and LaPierre assert that children have five core developmental needs- for connection, attunement, trust, autonomy, and a healthy connection between love and sexuality, which, when met, give us core capacities essential to our wellbeing.
In my next book Sacred Medicine, I divided up the healing tools shared in the book (which will be published by Sounds True in Spring 2022!) into two categories- energy transfusions meant to fill you with life force when you're depleted, and trauma healing tools meant to plug the leaks or unblock where life force gets stagnant because of unhealed trauma. For those who are severely depleted, trauma healing may be premature. It's better to fill your tank before you dive deep into potentially triggering territory.
Because I used to be a doctor, I have my finger on the pulse of what it's been like to be a front-line Covid doctor, even though I've been safely sheltered in place since retiring from clinical practice over a decade ago. Among my friends, colleagues, clients, and family members are physicians and nurses who have been relentlessly exposed to the traumas of the front lines, not unlike battle-weary soldiers in seemingly endless wars. They have pandemic fatigue, and it's brutal.
The CDC has announced that vaccinated folks are now free to be maskless- both indoors and outdoors, unless they're in crowded spaces. I was wondering what Rick Loftus, MD, my most trusted source of Covid advice who is a front line Covid ICU doctor, virologist, immunologist, and public health expert who used to work for the CDC, thinks. Here's Rick's answer to my question if you're curious.
Since I left my job in conventional medicine in 2007, I've contributed and participated in the wellness industry as a thought leader and also a consumer of wellness services and products. After hanging up my shingle outside the system, I had a cash-based integrative medicine practice- because I wanted a whole hour with my patients and insurance wouldn't even cover my overhead, much less give me a salary if I accepted managed care reimbursement. I was always uncomfortable with the idea that my services were a luxury good but felt helpless to practice good medicine any other way. You might say I sold out some of my social justice ethics- but I didn't see another way to make a living without the moral injury that was making me suicidal in the hospital systems.
The pandemic is not over yet, and we have so much loss to grieve- lost lives, lost jobs, lost financial security, lost belief systems, lost school days, lost friends, lost feelings of safety, and lost social contact, in addition to things we needed to lose- like losing some of our racial, gender, socioeconomic, or sexual preference privileges or losing political leaders who do not wish our countries well or losing online influencers who do not respect science or truth or losing some of the mobility that is causing the climate crisis.
While making the final edits to my Sacred Medicine book, I asked one healer if she had a point of view in response to the question, "Why do horrific things happen to seemingly innocent people?" I explained to her that the question is relevant to the book because those who chronically suffer from physical or mental illness often seek answers to the question, "Why me" or "Why not her?" I told her that every answer I had heard thus far in my research fell flat from a post-2020 lens, and because I had a lot of respect for her, I was curious about her point of view at this point in our understanding (and lack thereof) of human suffering.
According to a recent Lancet study, 1/3 of people who recover from Covid wind up with psychological and/or neurological symptoms. Another study suggests that 7 in 10 people who were hospitalized for Covid have not fully recovered five months later. One in five Covid survivors wind up with a new onset disability, which we're calling "long Covid," and which is likely the same kind of post-viral illness we've seen before as the result of other kinds of viral infections, such as post-Epstein Barr.