Monday, January 14, 2019

Four definitions of trauma

How do we define trauma? Is it how you experience an event or the event itself? I think it’s how we experience the event. Traumatic events do not necessarily lead to trauma. For trauma to occur we have to persistently dissociate from something we find too painful to feel.
  1. Unexperienced experience ~ Ivor Browne
  2. Dysregulated and disorganised qi (life energy) ~ Alaine Duncan
  3. Disconnection from the self and the present moment ~ Gabor Maté
  4. PTSD Criterion A: stressor (one required). The person was exposed to: death, threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence, in the following way(s): Direct exposure; Witnessing the trauma; Learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma; Indirect exposure to aversive details of the trauma, usually in the course of professional duties (e.g., first responders, medics) ~ Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Even though a PTSD diagnosis has become synonymous with trauma, trauma manifests itself in many different ways, it will be unique to you and your life experiences. You do not have to have experienced an event from Criterion A to be traumatised. Trauma can be insidious, repeated experiences that accumulate in your nervous systems over years, causing what is called a dysregulated nervous system. This is why I never use the terms big T or little t trauma. Trauma is trauma. Symptoms of unresolved trauma include: anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune issues, chronic unexplained medical symptoms, heart disease, addiction, bipolar disorder, insomnia and so on.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

What does your heart long for?

Tara Brach asks this question in her brilliant book, True Refuge. The answer my heart gave me was that it wants to feel connected to myself and others.

Sometimes it’s hard to fully feel our longings and yearnings because we can descend into self blame and shame for why we don’t have something, or don’t have enough of it, in our lives. The tendrils of shame can entangle almost anything.

I don’t think many fully realise the absolutely devastating effects of early and developmental trauma, particularly when it is perpetrated by caregivers, what is termed betrayal trauma. If you’re a little girl who is sexually abused by your father and your mother is complicit, what does your heart long for?

How can that little girl have a relationship with her parents when she is finally able to get away? Do people realise what it’s like having no family in this world and how people are judged and shamed for that? I think the stigma of being abused and neglected is much greater when it is perpetrated by a family member rather than by a stranger. To say that I find that perplexing is an understatement. Rather than having our compassion, abused and neglected children are judged and stigmatised for not coming from what many of us call a so-called “good” family.

Tuning into our heart’s longing makes us vulnerable. It opens our heart which can feel sometimes like our heart is breaking and that scares us. I also think longing is often paired with grief. We don’t long for what we have but for what we don’t or didn’t have.

Mahon Falls, Comeragh Mountains, Waterford, Ireland
Asking this question isn’t easy because of all the pain it can bring up, but it’s an important question, one that will tug at us all our life until we answer it. As with anything that’s difficult and painful, we need to find the sweet spot of leaning in just enough, not too much all at once and not too little, because then nothing changes.

Asking what our heart longs for connects us to ourself on a profoundly intimate level. What feels like a dark night of the soul or a breakdown can become a break through, there is nothing pathological about it. If anything, being open to asking this question invites a deep inquiry which can throw us off kilter for a while, even a long while. Jeff Foster describes the pain of a breakdown beautifully in his lovely book, The Way of Rest: The raw pleasure and the pain of it, unfiltered, at last! No longer numb, you will be as softly vulnerable as you were in the beginning.

Vulnerability opens us up to hurt but, as Gabor Maté says, there’s no other way to grow if we don’t risk being vulnerable, we need to shed the shell that has become too small and constricting and grow a bigger one to house our bigger, truer self.

At the same time, if you feel unable to answer this question for whatever reason, trust yourself. As Rainer Maria Rilke says: I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.

Monday, December 31, 2018

You belong here

Read full poem here
You belong here. Even if you don’t believe you do. Even if you don’t feel worthy or deserving of belonging, you do belong. Even if you think you are a mistake or were told you are. It is not true. You belong here simply because you are here. Life wanted you here. The truth that you belong might take a while to sink into your cells. It’s your birthright as Andy Harkin says in the video below.

Tap on whatever point(s) feel right and say whatever you feel in response to belonging. Some suggestions below are:

I belong here
This is my home (your body, the earth, whatever feels right)
I stand upon the earth, which is my home
I feel my feet on the ground
Connecting me to my home
I feel my body standing firmly on the earth
I am coming home to my body too
Life wants me here
I belong
My body belongs to me
I belong to my body
Which is my home in this life
My home standing upon a bigger home
Which houses all of us
We all belong here

"Here I stand, on this earth, I belong here".

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Tapping on the cell danger response

Immediately facing, or perceiving danger/threat, puts our body into defence mode. This isn’t supposed to happen on a constant basis, we’re meant to return to homeostasis after, hopefully, a short period of threat, but many of us in the modern world are living with constant threat and danger.

Dr Robert Naviaux states that we are facing new stressors our ancestors never encountered which is leading to a wave of new diseases and an increase in diseases that used to be rare. He describes the cell danger response (CDR) as the underlying unity that links various dis-eases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, PTSD, autism, depression, primary mitochondrial disease and many more. I discovered his research through Dr Veronique Mead who wrote this blog post on the CDR.

Try tapping on the following phrases customising/changing them to suit you, download the EFT short cut or basic recipe diagram and procedure here.

Even though my cells are in danger (or feel as if they are), I love and accept my cells

Even though my cells are reacting to an unsafe environment (this can be real or perceived, it doesn’t matter), I’m grateful that my cells are trying to defend and protect me as best they can

Even though my cells are exhausted from being constantly on guard and in survival mode, maybe I can find ways for them to relax and feel safer

Top of head: This danger/threat
Eyebrow: It feels …
Side of eye: Jarring (fill in however you feel)
Under eye: Like my cells can’t relax
Under the nose: Because it’s not safe to relax
Under the chin: I have to be on guard
Collar bone: All the time
Under arm: Because …

Top of head: I wonder if I can help calm this sense of danger
Eyebrow: Even a little bit
Side of eye: And give my cells a break
Under eye: So they don’t have to word so hard
Under the nose: To defend and protect me
Under the chin: They can do other things
Collar bone: That can help me
Under arm: Like repair and rejuvenate

Top of head: If I’m facing immediate danger
Eyebrow: My cells respond immediately
Side of eye: But they also do that
Under eye: If I perceive or imagine threat
Under the nose: That’s something I have some control over
Under the chin: And that feels …
Collar bone: Imagining the worst case scenario
Under arm: Isn’t doing me any favours

Top of head: It seems I can’t help it
Eyebrow: At least sometimes
Side of eye: How can I interrupt old ways of reacting
Under eye: I can notice them
Under the nose: And not judge them
Under the chin: Noticing and being aware is a big step
Collar bone: It can help me be kinder to myself
Under arm: I don’t have to do it perfectly

Top of head: Ever
Eyebrow: I just need to find some comfort and calm, however small
Side of eye: To interrupt this sense of danger
Under eye: Especially when I’m not facing immediate danger
Under the nose: I need to let my cells know, this is an old pattern/imprint
Under the chin: That we can transform
Collar bone: So we can be
Under arm: The best we can be

Top of head: Being in survival mode
Eyebrow: Feels …
Side of eye: My cells and I want to thrive
Under eye: My cells are spending all their energy on defence and protection
Under the nose: Instead of repair and rejuvenation
Under the chin: My cells are helping me the best they can
Collar bone: And I want to help my cells that best I can
Under arm: I’m starting now

Saturday, December 08, 2018

It's all in your nervous systemS

I was going to write a post about what can we tolerate after hearing what Dr Datis Kharrazian said about it on the Interconnected series by Dr Pedram Shojai, but I had already posted about it in 2013.

But it has lead to this post which is also about tolerance, stress, diversity, inclusivity and integration on a micro and macro level.

When they say that stress is the biggest killer, they’re not joking, even though this has become somewhat of a cliché that we don’t pay much attention to anymore.

Mirroring the mind body split, we have the split between the central nervous system and the enteric nervous system, or to put it in everyday terms: the brain and the gut. This is most definitely changing in many circles, but very very slowly in the mainstream.

As a reaction to the dominance of the brain and the emphasis on reason, logic, reductionism etc. over the last few hundred years, we have more and more emphasis on the body which is great. But focusing only on the body or the brain is not an integrative approach. Humans are systems living within systems and I think any approach to health, mental and physical, needs a systems approach. We cannot afford to leave anything out of the health equation if we want good health and vitality.

Something that Dr Kharrazian said about tolerance made me think about my own tolerance levels over the last 10 years or so; and they haven’t been great. My tolerance for unhealthy chemicals is really low, I smell things I never used to smell. In fact I react to them because I have developed such a low tolerance, which is actually a good thing as it is pointing me to something that I need to work on for my mental and physical health which is the health of my gut.

It also mirrors my tolerance for other things in life which has also been low and has led to me having a ‘short fuse’ for things I would have normally taken in my stride. Or did I ever take them in my stride? Did I just push them down, not wanting to deal with them? And like so many, one day the straw broke the camel’s back and I was forced to deal with the mountain of stuff I had avoided.

We don’t realise that stress affects everything, especially our microbiome. Research is showing just how important it is to have good diversity of bacteria in our gut for our overall health, but it is especially exciting to realise just how much it affects our mental health. Everything we ingest is important to our health; food, experiences, other people, the stuff we read, watch and focus on. Which is why we need to be as selective as we can with the things we ingest and food is probably the easiest place to start for most people. It’s certainly easier to control than other people!

The gut lining completely regenerates itself in just 5 days. Try eating things you’ve never eaten before. This ensures good diversity in your gut. Increase your intake of vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. Drink lots of clean water. Chew your food slowly and sit down and relax when you eat. These simple things will help you enormously. Slow down in general, don’t even try to multi task, it overwhelms us and causes unnecessary stress.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Setbacks are inevitable; they don’t mean there’s something wrong with you or that things will never get better. By being prepared for setbacks, we know that we’re still ok when they happen and that our journey doesn’t always take a straight path.

Psychiatrist, Bessel van der Kolk says our biggest fear is that our pain will never end. However, fearing something doesn’t make it true, though it can certainly feel true. If you are afraid that things will never change, it is a really important issue to tap on.

It’s vital to be honest about how you really feel. The bigger the emotional charge you have on something, the more you realise you’ve hit gold in terms of being able to resolve what’s really bothering you. It can be scary to admit our fears around certain things, it can make them seem more real, but they are already real to you and tapping on them can help you to soothe them.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Be yourself

If I've learned anything in life, it's that I may as well be myself. It's too exhausting to live any other way. We like it (mostly) when people are themselves and we can sense it when they're not being themselves. We exhaust ourselves by playing along with any falseness, whether it comes from us or others.

It's not always easy to be ourself and growing up, we might not have had the chance and safety to be ourself and discover who we truly are. But I think we've always had a sense of it, deep down. It's up to us to live into who we really are. I think life calls us to do that.

It takes courage to be yourself. Remember, you're being yourself to be true to yourself, not to piss others off. And you will piss some people off when you know yourself; what you want, don't want, what you will tolerate and what you won't.

The good thing is that people will trust your Yeses when you say No on the odd occasion or maybe even every time you want to say No :-)

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Making sense of your life

Making sense of your life is not about what you’ve been through but how you make sense of it, which I think is a really hopeful message. Even if you had a horrific upbringing, you can still make sense of it and be who you truly are, not what your conditioning taught you to be.

Dr Daniel Siegel calls making sense of your life a ‘coherent narrative’ and uses the Adult Attachment Interview to help his clients figure this out.
You can’t make sense of your life if you haven’t looked at how you’ve lived, what has influenced you, why you do, think and feel the way you do. You can’t make sense of your life if you live in denial and avoidance. You can’t make sense of your life by disowning and dissociating from what’s painful even though it’s totally understandable that you do that.

Life calls you to make sense of your life; to digest, metabolise and experience all of your experiences so they can fall into their right place and you can be the person you are meant to be.