Anxiety, Embodied: The Biology of “Mental” Illness

Anxiety is not a choice. It’s not a characterological weakness. It’s a kink in your biological software. Sadly, the mood-as-a-choice crowd has been growing in the last decade or two, making it worse. Now, not only do you stutter in a crowd, have difficulty making eye contact, or find your obsessive thoughts getting in the way of rational decision-making, but you understand these to be signs of failure on your part. The shame, then, of being incompetent, unfriendly and untrustworthy, stupid, and my favorite absurdity, “attention-seeking,” makes it almost impossible for you to simply work with your physical self to heal it, because even admitting your anxiety is embarrassing. Once you can get past your shame however, and simply allow yourself with guidance to gently, compassionately step into your anxious body, you have the power to bring flow to the log-jam of chronic anxiety. Continue Reading Anxiety, Embodied: The Biology of “Mental” Illness

Trauma 101: Helping Friends & Family Not To Put Their Foot In It

On the bright side, this really is a journey I’m on. I don’t know where it’s going, or how long (if ever) I’ll get to the other side, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone…but I am trying to learn things, like how to lean on others, how to notice also that which is beautiful and comforting, how to be in the moment, how to heal from whatever brought this about in the first place. This letter is meant to help you join me in this journey, in whatever way you see fit, with greater confidence…and maybe, a journey of your own.
Continue Reading Trauma 101: Helping Friends & Family Not To Put Their Foot In It

Trauma 101: Stepping Gently Into Your Body With Yoga

Trauma takes us away from our bodies, and turns us into their harshest judges. The path towards healing and away from this dissociation must therefore reunite us with our physical selves…Yoga, from the Sanskrit meaning “to join, unite, or attach,” invites us to enter our bodies gradually, allowing energy that has become stuck to begin flowing once more. It is even good preparation for entering a deeper meditative state, and the two together are profoundly therapeutic in becoming more mindful, and more present. Continue Reading Trauma 101: Stepping Gently Into Your Body With Yoga

Trauma 101: Meditation

Meditation is a discipline. Sometimes, it gets to me. In this video, in which I am upstaged by my dogs, I give a little taste both of the effort I put towards sitting, and how easy it is for me to get distracted from focusing on the present. What is important for all of us to wrap our minds around is that, if you’re expecting your brain to cooperate and stop thinking, you will not succeed. You will get frustrated, and you will give up on an intervention that is free and requires no travel, taking 15-20 minutes out of your day. Continue Reading Trauma 101: Meditation

Trauma 101: Boundaries, Part 2

Trauma deeply impacts our sense of personal territory. Do we have a right to territory? What does it take to keep myself safe within that territory? If I feel an alert, should I mention it, because I might hurt someone else’s feelings? Because for me, and in my experience, our boundaries physically mark the beginning of what constitutes “us,” they are not merely a concept, and in becoming more embodied, less dissociative, we are more able to feel physically when someone is crossing those boundaries and entering what we sense as our personal space. Continue Reading Trauma 101: Boundaries, Part 2

Trauma 101: Boundaries, Part 1

Boundaries. I love how the therapeutic community throws words like “boundaries” around, without a clear explanation. Before you read on, in fact, go ahead and test this (and for those of you who’ve had therapy, or at least read a multitude of self-help books, this should be especially fun). How would you describe boundaries? Are… Continue Reading Trauma 101: Boundaries, Part 1

Trauma 101: Resourcing…Finding the Lip of the Pool Before You Dive Deep

It was an awful day. I was young, barely employed as a door-to-door salesperson for cable (and really, who can’t sell cable! me!!!), and had just gotten my umpteenth rejection. The world reeked of malaise and despair… then I looked up, at the most wonderful evening sky. The skies in New Mexico are special, of… Continue Reading Trauma 101: Resourcing…Finding the Lip of the Pool Before You Dive Deep

Trauma 101: Redeeming Stress

So the complaint of too much stress is a familiar one. You’ve read several times in my writings that a common definition of trauma is overwhelming stress. Before you nod your head in recognition, though, let’s stop for a few minutes and challenge that notion. What constitutes “too much stress?” This is what I’ve learned: the experience of stress is greatest when our stamina is low.

Sitting on a couch does not help. Trying to run the marathon at the start does not help. Workouts that build in intensity and build our stamina do, emotionally as well as physically. Continue Reading Trauma 101: Redeeming Stress

Trauma 101 Essentials: Grounding

You can’t think grounding, you’ve got to feel it. Imagine that your body is a live wire, downed by some horrible Nor’easter. Sparks flying all over the place! Trauma has that effect, so much overwhelming and unpleasant energy coursing sharply and erratically through our bodies that we can practically smell the sizzle, or on the other hand, past the sizzle and well into burn-out. Grounding works like the third prong on a plug, or the post at the end of the wire…it absorbs some of the excess energy that would otherwise lead to shorting out. Continue Reading Trauma 101 Essentials: Grounding