I want to share one coping strategy a month. These are strategies I use (or have used) in my own life as I travel the healing journey. I hope they bring you tranquility, as well!
WRITE LETTERS OF FORGIVENESS
Write letters of forgiveness to those who have hurt you. Then burn them. Set them free. Not for their sake, but for your own. Write a letter to God. To the universe. To fate. Whatever you feel has burdened you with something unbearable. Be honest in your letter. Release the emotions and, just like with the journaling, do not edit yourself. Let it flow. Free it! Free yourself!
I am so very grateful to have had the opportunity to sit down with this compassionate soul whom I personally consider to be a trauma-informed guru in the trauma movement. Thank you, Jim Sporleder (I now know how to properly pronounce your name! Ha!) for all you have done and continue to do to spread awareness about the critical need of becoming trauma-informed individuals so as to meet the growing need in our schools and society.
Bio (per his website):
“Jim Sporleder retired in 2014 as Principal of Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA. Under Jim’s leadership, Lincoln High School became a “Trauma Informed” school, gaining national attention due to a dramatic drop in out of school suspensions, increased graduation rates and the number of students going on to post-secondary education. These dramatic changes at Lincoln caught the attention of Jamie Redford, who spent a year filming the documentary, Paper Tigers, which tells the Lincoln story. The documentary was released at the May 2015 Seattle International Film Festival and received positive reviews.
Jim is currently working as a trauma-informed coach / consultant as well as a trainer with the Children’s Resilience Initiative, based in Walla Walla. His travels as a consultant, keynote speaker, presenter and trainer have taken him all over the United States.
Jim is married, has three daughters and six granddaughters. In his spare time, Jim enjoys fishing, hunting, but most of all spending time with family.”
* The following article is a guest piece written and shared per my request by recent podcast guest, Suzie Gruber. Thank you, Suzie, for sharing your insights, wisdom, and beautiful light with us!
ACEs as Life & Death by Suzie Gruber, M.A., SEP
We tend to think about life as the basic functioning of our body. Am I breathing? Is my heart beating? Can I see and hear? But there’s another measure to life. Am I fully alive? Am I living my dream? Am I following my heart? Not my physical heart. My emotional heart. Do I let myself do something for at least a little while everyday that I truly love, that makes my heart sing with joy. Something that’s all mine. For me more and more the answer to this last question is yes. I intend to do something everyday that makes my heart sing. My life certainly wasn’t always this way. Until I was in my forties, I had no idea what an intention even was. I lived by the seat of my pants, living the opposite of being fully alive, living in daily crisis and anxiety and feeling very dead on the inside.
What’s the opposite of being fully alive? Being among the countless numbers of living dead. Those of us who learned through Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) to shut down our hearts, stuff our feelings, stop following that brilliant orange butterfly, and instead swallow our words and desires. ACEs lead us to grow up as a shell of our true selves. Why? Because in order to stay alive back then, in order to survive, we had to mold ourselves to our caregivers’ desires in order to minimize rejection. We developed a variety of survival strategies, ways we have of playing small and invisible in order to minimize harm and maximize connection with our caregivers.
Fast forward and we carry these survival strategies into adulthood. Many of us procrastinate, self-sabotage, and relentlessly criticize ourselves. Ask me how long I put off writing this blog post and how much I shamed myself for it. Some of us overcommit, work until we drop, and overachieve. It cuts both ways: we shut down and/or overdo it. Many of us very much prefer to take care of other people before we even acknowledge, never mind attend to our own needs. Sound familiar.
Isn’t that ironic? The strategies that we developed to keep us alive in those difficult environments are killing us now. We need to be visible and to speak up confidently in order to live authentically.
ACEs create what I call death by the double bind. There’s how to be and how not to be rather than who we truly are. We become living dead when survival strategies dominate and when as adults we continue to live as if we are still in those old environments. This creates an internal conflict, a pull between how we learned to be to survive and who we truly are. Here are some examples of these double binds. This first one I struggle with constantly: a) I learned not to speak up for myself back then and b) I love to write and I want to share my work with the world. Or how about a) I learned to help other people first and b) I really need help in order to grow my business. Or a) I learned to tolerate what other people did to me as a child and b) I need to speak up and have healthy boundaries in order to have healthy relationships.
These strategies are extremely persistent. Why? Because inside us they are tied to our biological survival. They literally kept us alive. Think lizard brain. Consequently, they don’t shift easily. This is why it’s very unusual for those of us with ACEs to be able to just shift our mindset or use a behavioral strategy to truly overcome these double binds. We might feel better briefly and I am all for that. I have my own very full toolbox of cognitive and somatic tools that I can pull out even in the grocery store line.
However, what if I told you there’s a way to really work with these old strategies, a way to get at the root of what’s driving them so that you can turn down their volume substantially? I want to introduce you to the NeuroAffective Relational ModelTM (NARMTM), a top-down, cognitive and bottom-up, somatic approach to helping people recover from ACEs. What I love about NARM is that it truly gets to the heart of the matter by helping us uncover what’s keeping us stuck right now in our lives, usually a type of double bind like I mentioned above. We focus on the specifics of the internal conflict going on inside us rather than telling our ACEs stories yet again. We can’t change the past but we can change our relationship to the past, see what’s unfinished and why on some level we are still caught in survival mode.
I am here to tell you that whatever it was that happened to you, you already survived that. I know because you are reading this blog post. You are no longer trapped in that house, in that family and in that situation. What do you notice right now as you consider what I just said? Differentiating the past from the present is a significant part of healing from ACEs.
Dr. Laurence Heller, the creator of NARM frequently reminds us that what we fear most has already happened. What many of us fear most is being rejected. Consider for a moment that those of us with ACEs were rejected over and over in big and small ways by our family of origin, often on a daily basis. We already survived that. Can you let that reality in? There might be some emotion that comes along with this experience. See if you can let it be here.
You can do the work necessary to live fully alive in spite of ACEs. It takes persistence, a constant connection to the part of you that knows without a doubt that you can heal, that you no longer want to just survive among the living dead. Sometimes it’s messy and even painful to resolve but from my perspective it’s totally worth it. Feel that primal urge inside you to come alive and live authentically whatever that means to you. Back then you had to compromise to survive. Now it’s time to fully live.
Suzie Gruber, M.A., SEP., holds advanced degrees in chemistry & psychology She spent 15 years in biotechnology before returning to her first love inspiring people to transform their lives. A personal development coach living in Ashland, OR, Suzie also offers workshops and webinars designed to provide a trauma-informed lens through which service providers and leaders can better serve their clients and staff. Additionally, Suzie is a training assistant and the Research Director for the NARM Training Institute.
Welcome to The Healing Place Podcast! I am your host, Teri Wellbrock. You can listen in on iTunes, Blubrry or directly on my website at www.teriwellbrock.com/podcasts/. You can also watch our insightful interview on YouTube. And I am excited to announce that you can now listen in to my hope-filled conversations with amazing guests on Spotify!
Thank you for listening in on this thought-provoking conversation with Karen Zilberstein, discussing her philosophies and work in the parenting arena. Thank you, Karen, for helping shine the light of hope into the lives of those who might be struggling in their parenting roles due to additional pressures and lack of resources.
Bio: “Karen Zilberstein, LICSW, is a practicing psychotherapist and Clinical Director of the Northampton, MA chapter of A Home Within, a national nonprofit that provides pro bono psychotherapy for individuals who have experienced foster care. She has co-authored a children’s book entitled Calming Stormy Feelings: A Child’s Introduction to Psychotherapy and published numerous journal articles on child therapy, parenting interventions, the treatment of foster and adopted children, and the clinical implications of attachment and complex trauma in children. In her latest book, Parents Under Pressure: Struggling to Raise Children in an Unequal America (Levellers Press, March 2019), she provides a candid look at how parents contending with poverty, trauma, disability, or other constraints are expected to do so much with so little—and the price they and society pay.” Find out more about Karen’s inspirational work at https://karenzilberstein.info/.
What a deeply engaging yet fun-filled conversation I enjoyed with Jason Lee, discussing his personal triumphs and passion to help others, particularly men, along their healing journey from anger to tranquility. Thank you, Jason, for sharing your inspirational mission and shining the light of hope.
“Jason Lee is an author based out of Coquitlam BC. He’s also a mental health advocate and speaker at events across Canada. His book Living with the Dragon, Healing 15000 Days of Abuse and Shame has received praise from counselors and comes highly recommended as a resource particularly for men in recovery from depression, anxiety and anger stemmed from childhood abuse trauma and trauma. He’s also the host of the Mangry Podcast which aims to redefine how men manage their anger. The Mangry Podcast is on iTunes and Spotify.
Jason believes that everyone has a story to share and it’s a matter of finding that delicate space of trust and compassion to do that in. He found his voice through speaking, writing, podcasting and blogging, connecting people through inspirational words and ideas.
Jason enjoys basketball, exercising, camping, board games and spending time with his son.
I very much enjoyed the opportunity to engage in a hope-filled conversation with Dr. Leslie Cole to discuss her work and philosophies in regards to opiate addiction and her hope-inspired book, Quit Pain Pills: Without the Withdrawal. Thank you, Dr. Leslie, for sharing your personal story regarding your food addiction and your work helping others along their healing journey from addiction to triumph.
“Leslie Cole and her husband, Tim, are from Nashville, Tennessee. She is a physician specializing in addiction medicine and is the author of the new book “Quit Pain Pills without the Withdrawal. How to Break Free from Your Dependence and Finally Wake Up Feeling Normal.” She is very interested in the role that attention, hope, kindness, and safe community can play in the healing of people, having experienced healing herself. You can learn more about her book at www.quitpainpills.com where you can find her contact information.”
Grab that journal or note pad and let’s get our positivity on! This month we will address the following two Positivies of Persistence areas together:
What does persistence really mean?
How do we define positivities?
So, what does persistence really mean?
By definition: “Persistence, as used in psychology, refers to a personality trait that causes a person to persevere in a task despite obstacles or frustrations rather than simply giving up. This trait, often associated with stubbornness and perfectionism, is a prime ingredient in success in many pursuits such as athletics, academics, business, etc. One common example of this is seen in sports where a player continues to play the game despite injuries, rather than abandon the game and their teammates” Persistence. (n.d.). In Alleydog.com’s online glossary. Retrieved from: https://www.alleydog.com/glossary/definition-cit.php?term=Persistence
My sister once told me I am the most persistent person she’s ever met. I consider that one of my most treasured compliments to date. Considering my trauma history it’s miraculous I found the gift of persistence. Or was it?
While some scholars may attribute persistence to a need for control, I like to take the stance with those who look at persistence as a will to not give up. More and more research is emerging on resilience and its positive impact in off-setting ACEs (adverse childhood experiences) even learned resilience skills in adulthood. My opinion is that persistence is fueled by resilience. Thankfully, my persistence trait was forged from the resilience instilled in me by supportive relationships in my childhood (my grandmother, my best friend’s parents, and a kind-hearted teacher).
Think about your own life. Would you consider persistence as a trait you hold? If not, do you believe you can develop it?
Exercise: Write down THREE ways you have demonstrated persistence in your life. Then choose ONE of those and write yourself a one-page (or more) thank you letter.
Next, let’s look at positivity . . . what is it?
“The state or character of being positive: a positivity that accepts the world as it is.” Positivity. (noun). Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/positivity\
Considering my nickname is “glitter-shitter” . . . I can probably talk this one up! However, it really is a work in progress and took some self-esteem work to reach this status of looking at life from a rainbows-and-sunshine perspective (most days).
Practicing positive affirmations (see my website for a scrolling list of heart-shaped affirmations I created for myself), mindfulness exercises and focusing on being present in the NOW, along with concerted efforts to look for the gift within difficult moments, all contributed to this positive state of being.
Do you consider yourself a positive person? If not, are you willing to take steps in order to create a more positive outlook?
Exercise: Make a list of ways you have demonstrated positvity in your life. Your list can have 1, 10, 100, 1000 examples. Whatever you feel compelled to write. Then examine ONE of those more closely, writing down as much detail as possible about that particular positivity event.
Coming up next month: A checklist of positive outcomes and Habits and hurdles.
What a hope-infused conversation with Jim Ellis and Dr. Sara Gilman regarding the soon-to-be-released educational film, Keeping the Peace.
“A 30-minute educational film – titled Keeping the Peace – will be gifted to police agencies across San Diego and then the nation for in-house training of officers. The purpose? To bring awareness to the stresses and traumas experienced by officers and law enforcement personnel while on duty in order to empower them to normalize their emotional and mental responses to on-the-job experiences and to take action in alleviating, diffusing and treating the symptoms of trauma (PTSD), so that they can retain wellness in all areas of their lives.”
James Anthony Ellis is an award-winning playwright and reporter who owns Legacy Production, a San Diego production company that in 2012 produced the acclaimed “Indoctrinated: The Grooming of our Children into Prostitution.” An author of eight books and producer of 100 video presentations, Ellis is now working on a new educational film “Keeping The Peace” supporting law enforcement officers in their mental and emotional wellness.
Dr. Gilman, is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, and has a doctorate degree in Psychology, with a certification in Sports Psychology. In 2017, her doctoral dissertation focused on the effects of cumulative traumatic stress exposure in first responders and the use of EMDR as an early intervention. For the past 32 years, she has specialized in the areas of Traumatic Stress, Addictions, and Peak Performance. She is the co-founder and President of Coherence Associates, Inc., an individual & family counseling corporation, with offices in Encinitas & Rancho Bernardo. The CAI team of counselors is dedicated to expanding human potential through the coherence of mind, body & spirit through clinical excellence, integrity, and compassion. Additionally, Dr. Gilman holds certifications in EMDR Therapy, CISM, NLP, Hypnosis, Coaching, and HeartMath.
She is a former Firefighter/EMT and served on the San Diego Critical Incident Stress Management Team for over 10 years. She was awarded Fellowship status with the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress for her extensive work in utilizing EMDR with first responders following critical incidents. She was elected to serve on the EMDR International Association Board of Directors, is a former EMDRIA Past-President, and contributing author in 2 books addressing treating trauma in 911-Telecommunicators with EMDR Therapy. Sara is an invited speaker nationally and appears on radio and TV discussing the topics of stress, trauma, addiction, and mental toughness. Counseling for Individuals, Families, Couples, Children Peak Performance & Mental Toughness Training; First Responders, Athletes, Performers
Sara G.Gilman, Psy.D., L.M.F.T., President/Owner www.CoherenceAssociates.com
I am grateful to have had the chance to sit down with Joyelle Brandt to discuss her mission of helping those who are parenting with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Thank you, Joyelle, for sharing your personal story and the beautiful work you are doing helping others along their parenting and healing journey. What a gift for those families and the children who will benefit from the steps their parents are taking to heal.
“Joyelle Brandt is a self care coach for moms. She specializes in working with mothers who are survivors of abuse, to help them develop a personalized self soothing toolkit for stress management. As aspeaker, mothering coach, and multi-media creator, Joyelle works to dismantle the stigma that keeps childhood abuse survivors stuck in shame and self-hatred. She is the author/illustrator of Princess Monsters from A to Z and co-editor of Parenting with PTSD, the groundbreaking anthology that breaks the silence about the long-term impact of childhood trauma so that parents can break the cycle of abuse.
When she is not busy raising two rambunctious boys, she is most often found playing her guitar or covered in paint at her art desk. You can keep up with Joyelle at www.joyellebrandt.com“
I thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful conversation with Suzie Gruber regarding the utilization of NARM (Neuroaffective Relational Model) and Somatic Experiencing, both non-intrusive approaches to healing traumatic events and ACEs (adverse childhood experiences), her personal history with these approaches on both personal and professional levels, along with some joyous laughter throughout.
Bio: Suzie Gruber, M.A., SEP., holds advanced degrees in chemistry & psychology. She spent 15 years in biotechnology before returning to her first love: inspiring people to transform their lives. A Somatic Experiencing and a Neuroaffective Relational Model (NARM) Practitioner in private practice in Ashland, OR Suzie also leads seminars that teach people about complex trauma and the imprints it leaves behind. Additionally, Suzie is the Research Director for the NARM Training Institute and assists NARM practitioner trainings.
From Suzie’s website:
“My deepest passion lies in helping you improve your life today. You have an innate drive towards connection, aliveness, and success, a primal urge that gives you the strength and courage to change, regardless of what you face along the way. I’m here to help you do that.
I came to this place in a kind of circuitous way. After earning undergraduate and graduate degree in Chemistry (Harvey Mudd College and then Princeton University), I spent 15 years in the biotechnology industry working in Operations for start-up companies. Although I was quite successful in my career and I enjoyed the never ending, high energy challenges of start-ups, my first career never quite fit the deeper me. I had to honor my own primal urge to do what I love, help you come alive.
When I learned about peak oil, environmental issues, and the instabilities in our economic system, I knew I had to listen to my own deeper voice. I decided to completely rebuild my professional life from the ground up, first getting a Master’s Degree in Psychology and then becoming a Somatic Experiencing® (SE) practitioner and most recently training in the Neuroaffective Relational ModelTM. I offer a combination of these two modalities because they changed my life. I moved away from feeling crisis-driven on a daily basis, to instead experiencing each day with greater aliveness and success and enjoying more satisfying relationships.”