The Developmental Impulse to Reach: Healing Trauma through Completing this Long-Held Survival Response

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The Developmental Impulse to Reach: Healing Trauma through Completing this Long-Held Survival Response

Trauma is often defined as an incomplete survival response – fight or flight that could not happen. The body had the impulse to protect or run away, but was overpowered. It could not do what it instinctively knew it had to do to survive. The vital energy driving the biological fight / flight impulse was truncated, impeding the survival response and causing trauma. There is another survival response discussed not nearly as often – reaching. Desiring or needing connection, a child instinctively reaches for her primary attachment figure. Biologically, we are wired to connect. And so we are naturally wired to reach for that connection, particularly in pre-verbal stages of development. We long to have our hand received with gentleness and love. Yet, when that […]

Transforming the School System Begins With Feeling its Heartbreaking Impact on Children, Past and Present

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Transforming the School System Begins With Feeling its Heartbreaking Impact on Children, Past and Present

Note to the reader: If you require a brief history of education to provide context for the first few sections, scroll further down to “A brief history of school”.    “Be confused, it’s where you begin to learn new things. Be broken, it’s where you begin to heal. Be frustrated, it’s where you start to make more authentic decisions. Be sad, because if we are brave enough we can hear our heart’s wisdom through it.” ~ S.C Lourie At the beginning of many of the talks I lead, the organizer of the event takes a moment to acknowledge the traditional and ancestral territory we stand on and the people it belongs to. It’s a brief period of time in which I pay my deepest respect and […]

When Children Believe “I Am Wrong”: The Impact Developmental Trauma Has on Belief Systems and Identity

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When Children Believe “I Am Wrong”: The Impact Developmental Trauma Has on Belief Systems and Identity

“In the past decade, mental health visits to the emergency room have jumped 66 per cent, and hospitalizations for conditions such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders are up 55 per cent. Meanwhile, the waits for psychological and psychiatric care are months and even years…. According to the new report, one in three adults have suffered from physical or sexual abuse before the age of 16. Two-thirds of them never told anyone.” ~ Andre Picard, The Globe and Mail, September 4, 2018  “Childhood trauma leaves scars that are genetic, not just emotional, study affirms… Neglect, abuse, violence and trauma endured early in life can ripple directly into a child’s molecular structure and distort their DNA, according to a new study this week from the University […]

Resting in Connection ~ Slowing Down Enough to Heal and Form Secure Attachments

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Resting in Connection ~ Slowing Down Enough to Heal and Form Secure Attachments

Healthy relationships require us to rest in connection. In resting we come home to ourselves and into the arms of another. We soften enough to open our hearts and trust and receive the love we long for. This resting state is experienced to the extent that our nervous system allows for it. Our parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for calming) must be engaged and our sympathetic system (responsible for arousal and mobility) must be disengaged enough to allow for what Peter Levine calls “homeostasis” or “relaxed alertness”. In other words, resting in connection depends on there being a “smooth back-and-forth shifting between moderate levels … of (nervous system) activity”, or a “flexible seesawing” between parasympathetic and sympathetic systems, which enables us to be balanced, centered and […]

“It’s okay.” “I’m with you.” “It’ll all be fine.” ~ Why Children Need to Hear These Words More Than You May Know

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“It’s okay.” “I’m with you.” “It’ll all be fine.” ~ Why Children Need to Hear These Words More Than You May Know

“New research at Stanford University encouraged middle school teachers to take on an ‘empathetic mindset’ when students were being disciplined. The study found that the number of pupils who were suspended across the academic year halved, from 9.6% to 4.8%.” ~ Study: Focus on Empathy, Not Punishment, Improves Discipline We all know how well children saturate themselves in the present moment. Lost in doodling, leaves, bugs and clouds, the present moment wraps itself around young ones like a warm, secure blanket. Here children enter a deep state of relaxation where they trust all is good in life. One reason children rest so well in presence is because they rest well in their heart. The heart dwells in what I call the “zero point”: The child […]

From Prince to King: To Graduate and Welcome a Queen, the Old Contract—the Need for Mother’s Love—Must End

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From Prince to King: To Graduate and Welcome a Queen, the Old Contract—the Need for Mother’s Love—Must End

“Much male fear of feminism is the fear that, in becoming whole human beings, women will cease to mother men, to provide the breast, the lullaby, the continuous attention associated by the infant with the mother. Much male fear of feminism is infantilism—the longing to remain a mother’s son, to possess a woman purely for him.” ~ Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets and Silence For the male to graduate from Prince to King he must forgo his dire need for his mother’s love. So long as the old contract stands—the insidious, unconscious and fear-based agreement between he and his mother—he cannot fully enter the heart of his waiting Queen. His mother was once a God to him, an ardent provider of love. She was love, and when that love […]

Connection Precedes Learning and Self-regulation ~ Why Relationships are Foundational in Education and Life

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Connection Precedes Learning and Self-regulation ~ Why Relationships are Foundational in Education and Life

Note to the reader: If you have already read my previous articles on connection and the right brain, you may wish to skip further down to the section on co-regulation. Connection precedes learning How often and in how many ways do we make learning far more important than connection? The school system has been designed to make learning paramount and so often at the cost of the core biological need to bond. This breaks the hearts of so many teachers I present to, leaving them in tears, angry, frustrated. They dearly want to connect with their students, but find it extremely difficult given the expectations of the institution and classroom size. They dearly want to listen to and connect to their own hearts, and do […]

The Fog We Must Endure When Traveling from Head to Viscera Allegiance

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The Fog We Must Endure When Traveling from Head to Viscera Allegiance

There is a transition when moving from head-allegiance to heart- and gut-allegiance. It can feel as though our mind is getting foggy, forgetful, unclear as the viscera comes more online and the senses alive. Clients in somatic therapy when experiencing trauma resolution will often become disoriented temporarily as the body integrates the healing. As they become more embodied and less governed by the fixated, binding thoughts that accompany unresolved trauma, there is more space in the psyche. This space experienced as temporary spaceyness creates room for their feeling capacity to strengthen and take hold. What we’re moving towards is not an abandonment of rational thinking, but an integration of mind and body such that the heart/gut has greater say and sway in our perception and […]

Meditation Alone is Not Enough ~ Trauma Resolution and the Need for Therapeutic Relationships

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Meditation Alone is Not Enough ~ Trauma Resolution and the Need for Therapeutic Relationships

Meditation is much harder when we have yet to feel the wounds and release the trauma held in our nervous system. In the past few years, through a deep commitment to working with my trauma, my mind has quieted much more than it used to. Meditation has changed because my whole life has naturally become more of a meditation, not just the time I am sitting on my couch in the morning. The healing work I have done has regulated my sympathetic nervous system (mobilization and arousal) and deactivated the fight-flight response that was always over-engaged. As a child who endured tremendous adversity, I adapted by being hyper-vigilant, mobilized, ready for action, ready for a fight. I had to protect myself, and my nervous system […]

Nurturing Goodness in Children and Ourselves ~ The Indigenous Nature of Soul

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Nurturing Goodness in Children and Ourselves ~ The Indigenous Nature of Soul

Years ago, while in the final moments with a life coaching client, I said something I’d never said to anyone: “You are goodness.” I was surprised at the spontaneous words that poured from my mouth. It was as though something in the far reaches of my soul knew exactly the unique acknowledgement my client needed to hear. For, at that moment, this erudite man of determined reserve leaned forward and began to sob. How dearly he needed to be seen. How dearly had he longed to touch his forgotten goodness. There is goodness in each one of us. Goodness is our true nature. Yet, for many, if not most, we have forgotten it. Inculcated with false ideas of what it means to be a good, […]