In one of those moments when I notice that my shoulders just dropped – even though I hadn’t realized again that they were up by my ears, I imagine and feel the hands of Mother God, the Divine Mother, Yemaya, the great Goddess, on those shoulders. I hear her say to me, “Hey, you are doing ok, Beautiful! Remember that I’ve got your back and I love you.”
Hi, Beautiful One and Everyone, (originally an email newsletter)
I add “and Everyone” because this is my newsletter, and while I want your nervous system to feel that I am absolutely thinking about you and talking to you directly, I don’t want your nervous system to start out thinking that I have composed this message to you individually – and to then experience a shock when you realize it’s my newsletter that’s going to a whole bunch of people.
That has happened a few times, and I feel a shock in my body when I realize that someone experienced my email as something different than it was.
It’s interesting. A lot of what we do in nervous system healing could be interpreted as “tricking” our nervous system. But I guess I see it as tricking our nervous systems into believing what is already true, when our trauma has us stuck believing things about ourselves that are not true.
For example, today I’m sharing with you a healing process I just put together for myself. The intent of the process is to trick the nervous system into feel loved, blessed and safe. It’s not really a trick. The intent of the process is to invite the nervous system into feel loved, blessed and safe. As humans and mammals, we are pretty programmable, so is there a difference? I think the significant difference may be in our motivation and intent when we seek to re-program ourselves and others.
n practical life news, the very next morning after my last newsletter went out, my husband John went to the hospital with heart attack symptoms and came home nine days later with a quadruple bypass, four clean new arteries carrying blood to his heart. As an educational note, his chest pain was mild, that was really a minor side symptom that by itself would not have triggered alarm. The most significant symptom was tremendous pain in his left arm, as if there was a snake wrapped around the arm squeezing it tightly. The arm pain plus the milder chest pain, plus referred pain up his neck was enough for us to suspect a heart attack and call an ambulance, in which John was treated as soon as they got him settled into the vehicle. Along with an upgraded heart, John feels he has a new lease on life and he is actually feeling a lot better than he had for some time prior to the heart attack.
It was a lot. I did my best to pace myself, but through that whole sequence of events, I ended up crashing with what was presumably a resurgence of long Covid. My doctor couldn’t find any signs of any current infection. I was so tired I was in tears, even on days that I didn’t go in to the hospital. I’m still slowly crawling out of that place of aggressive fatigue.
And now, inspirations from a warm soak in the tub: It is normal and natural for you to find yourself feeling stuck and numb, either operating on automatic, or being sedentary and just not getting things done, or impulsively doing things that you know are not the things you really want to do. That is normal. When you find yourself there, you have not failed.
You are standing on the battleground – you are the battleground – between forces of protest, anger, expression, and emotion that push upwards reaching for greater aliveness and forces of quieting, suppression, numbing and disconnection that push downwards seeking relative calm and safety.
The place of the stalemate, the standoff, is where you find yourself sitting. Neither side has won because you are neither fully vital and alive nor are you at peace.
All of this is normal. Again, you have not failed. You are not a failure. And just as this place of stuckness is a familiar habitual place, the things you do to get yourself back on track are often also old familiar habits. Some of these “snap out of it” or “let’s shift gears here” activities may be really healthy and awesome, some may be rough and disrespectful to yourself, and some may be relatively neutral.
But I want to talk a bit more about this place of stuckness, rather than about ways of escaping it.
“I know that I am sitting inside the tug of war or wrestling match between the forces of intensity and pain and those of disconnection and suppression. If it is a tug of war, I am the rope. If it is a wrestling match, I am sandwiched in between the two fighters, being pulled and knocked and punched with every interaction between them.
I know that these forces are primarily inside myself even though they are affected by outside people, things and events.
Rather than continuing to distract from or endure this conflict, I would like to find a way to reduce the conflict and eventually bring it to an end.
I know that the way that the conflict can diminish is through my body and my nervous system feeling safe, which can only happen when my body and nervous system can even learn how to feel safe.”
I invite you to hold your hands out in front of you, cupped with palms up, like you are open to being gifted with something beautiful. As much as you can in a safe way, feel in your hands the invitation for someone or something to love you by giving you something that will bring you joy. Feel hopeful, open, and expectant in your hands if you can. Whatever you are feeling is ok.
I invite you to now take one of your hands and move your fingertips to the palm of your other still open hand, gently touching your palm as if you are placing some small and precious object in that open hand. You can imagine some object or just see light and love being placed into your palm. And if there is light landing in your palm, then it travels up your arm and through your shoulder joint and then the light spreads throughout your whole body. And then have the fingers of the giving hand touch the fingers of the receiving hand, gently holding or stroking, offering blessing and comfort.
“Bless you. I know that you have been hungry. With this touch I wish to tell you that you deserve all the love, safety, nourishment, protection, and joy that you have ever wanted.”
Let your receiving hand receive. Know that in doing this, you are gently, ever gently nudging the deepest unconscious layers of your nervous system to move away from alert and toward softening and safety.
“I am willing to open to receive. I am willing to move toward safety and softness at a pace that is tolerable for my body system.”
As I am doing this with myself, I am noticing my head and neck gently and spontaneously moving.
Take your time. Be curious.
“As I receive this blessing and comfort, I am here, I am alive.”
If it feels right, I invite you to try the process again, switching hands. First both hands open to receive, then the hand that was the receiving hand becomes the giving hand and offers a gift and a blessing. You can re-read and follow the prompts above or follow your intuition and your body in any way that feels right.
Take your time. Be curious.
“As I receive this blessing and comfort, I am here, I am alive.”
Allow yourself to be aware of your body and just notice whether there is any information or whether there are any messages that your body wants to give to you. There might be and there might not be. Just allow the space and listen and feel as you breathe.
As I am doing this part, my hands are exploring each other, touching, holding, stroking.
And for me, the message is, “More gentleness.” The fingers of one hand are stroking my breastbone and coming to rest on my belly.
I yawn, my arms and legs feel tingly, and my head and neck are moving again.
And my body is reminding me of something I had planned to include in this practice when I thought of it in the bathtub. So here it is:
When you are in a familiar and stuck place, you feel familiar and stuck feelings. And then you have thoughts about why those feelings are here right now, stories about your struggles and failures.
But the feelings are only a little bit from the present and are mostly from the past. And the stories about your struggles and failures may have grains of truth in them somewhere but they are not the truth in present time.
So again and again we need to learn that nearly every sentence that starts with “I feel like this because…” is simply not true.
I feel calm now, I feel good after doing this process. I know that I will find myself stuck again, and the feelings and stories will be back.
When that happens, – I will not be a failure & – the feelings will again be mostly from the past & – the stories of my failure will again be largely not true
even though they will feel – and seem – very true in those moments.
I wish you an easeful holiday season and a safe and heart-warming winter.
I want to have greater patience, forgiveness and kindness for others.
To have that, I need to have greater patience, forgiveness and kindness for myself. I forgive myself for being so far from perfect. I forgive myself for not being able to complete my To Do list tasks. I forgive myself for feeling so heavy about all of it. As an act of kindness, I sang to myself in the shower today, even though some part of me felt like I didn’t want to sing. It felt good. For what do you forgive yourself? What kindness will you offer yourself today?
I hope that you are well. I keep being struck by how amazing it is to be human. And how perplexing and confusing and challenging and disorienting.
I’ve given up pretending to myself that I’m going to send newsletters 2-4 times per month, and I’m going to see if I can find my way to sending them once or twice a month!
But I do have news. I have published a video series about Developmental Trauma. When I am working with clients, or even in conversation with unwitting civilians about trauma, there are a bunch of mini-lectures I find myself sharing repeatedly, little 3 minute overviews of things. This series might be described as a great compilation of all of those bits. It’s 6 videos and a total of about 2 hours’ of content. They offer a basic overview of how I see developmental trauma and the path of healing.