Monthly Archives: October 2014

How to Use My Website

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor new readers signing up, bless you for your patience. I’m new to Attachment Disorder Healing, too — and it’s my website.  A note on “How to Use” AttachmentDisorder is overdue.

I fell into all this entirely by accident, when attachment disorder hit me upside the head.  Just as the latest brain science on how it works and how to heal was flooding in.  So I’ve been going a bit ape (above), multiplying content here like rabbits — faster than I’ve been able to index it so you can find what you need. (Click on pics for clear shots; my software’s glitched.)

My webmaster finally spanked me (metaphorically speaking, of course) and said “There’s too much good info on here, with no way to find it!  Re-index the place so that people can find your book, your Featured Topics, and your News Blogs of the Week.”  So here’s a new page to help you find stuff:

Book:  The first 30%  of my psychiatric autobio “Don’t Try This at Home” is posted on the New Book page here.  I’ve got 60% of it written, but all this trauma and brain science news has kept me tied up blogging, instead of “book-ing.”  I feel so much better now than I did during the events in the book, events which got me where I am.

Dr. Peter A. Levine talks about how prey like an impala, running in full fight-flight, will suddenly go into freeze, pass out and keel over — an instant before a predator such as a cheetah gets a claw in. Any mammal’s vagus nerve will deck us like that when the nerve “neurocepts” overwhelming danger in the environment  — no thinking involved.

Kathy w. Cheetah SignI used to feel like that impala; the world was a dangerous place and I’d go into freeze…  Not anymore!  So who wants to write about 2011 when all this great news is happening in 2014?  OK, ok, I’ll crack down and get the book onto Amazon soon.

Featured Topics (find info by topic):
Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Interview (AAI)
Attachment-based Psychotherapists Directory and Referrals
Brain Science
Developmental Trauma, Infant Development
Grief Recovery Handbook (GRH) and Method

Healing with Body Work, Rhythmic Regulation
Mammalian Attachment, Limbic Brain, “Fur”

Meditation, Being Present, Radical Acceptance
Music and Attachment, MP3 audios, Sheet Music

News Blogs: Click here for News Blogs; there are too many to list on this “How To” page, but here are the main themes:
Latest on the Brain
How We Develop
Did I Attach?
50% Suffer from Trauma
On Healing: Body Work
Being Present, Now
Watch Out for More Trauma

What is Addiction?

Resources: For Seminars, check now for the latest Brain Science of Trauma Webinar series live on line October 15 – November 19, at Now Live: Oct-Nov 2014 Trauma Webinars
Other resource tabs include:
Books & Reviews
Find a Support Group
Find a Therapist
Key Articles
Videos & Audios

If you find the site useful, do remember:  I’m not a PhD studying “those people” with attachment disorder. I’m just a paramecium writing about how it feels to be a paramecium.


Kathy’s blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

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Dr. Ruth’s Ultimate Trauma Solution

Ruth Bz blog pic… Dr. Ruth Buczynski, that is (so, relax…that’s her at left).  A peek inside the minds of cutting-edge psychotherapists on how to really heal trauma is in her latest blog; click here: “Rethinking Trauma: The Third Wave.”

She says the latest “Aha” is that “talk therapy” can’t always cut it — we need body work and other alternative “somatic” therapies such as Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Peter Levine, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Stephen Porges, and Dr. Bruce Perry are delivering, as I’ve written for months.

Ruth is starting a new series October 15 by interviewing Steve Porges live, and yes there is a fee to subscribe if you’d like transcripts and recordings to keep.  And yes there’s also a free version of the series (detailed links at bottom).

And no, I’m not getting a cent for posting this. No one asked me to; I just wanted to “pay it forward.”

Why? Hey, that story I always tell of how I clicked the wrong link in a friend’s email, and ended up on a brain science website that saved my life?  That was Dr. Buczynski’s March 2011 webinar, “The New Brain Science Series – Barrier-Breaking Interviews with the Experts.” [FN1]

And she, and they, did save my life, and I do hope you check this out.

Here’s a clip of Dr. Porges’ interview airing October 15:

Dr. Porges even brings in Bach, Beethoven and music in general as the most powerful healing there is — after live in-person human support, of course.

Ruth adds:  “What trauma therapy owes to Beethoven and Bach…  According to Stephen Porges, PhD, classical composers knew something hundreds of years ago that could be so helpful in trauma therapy . . .  in today’s webinar, he outlines how playing and listening to music, and even the design of the rooms where we deliver services, can shift the physiology of our patients. Stephen also goes into how to work with neuroception, the “personal risk detector” in the nervous system, as well as powerful, concrete suggestions for incorporating Polyvagal Theory into clinical work.”

We can watch or listen free in real time (schedule below). These free broadcasts reach many more than can afford subscription (to me, an insanely reasonable fee, considering what I got out of it).  Transcripts, video, mp3s of  all speakers, and more extras come with subscription.

 Schedule: Wednesdays at 5pm EST & 6:30pm EST

Wed Oct 15th: Stephen Porges, PhD:  Beyond the Brain: Using Polyvagal Theory to Help Patients “Reset” the Nervous System After Trauma

Wed, Oct 22nd:  Sebern Fisher, MA: Neurofeedback: Soothe the Fear of a Traumatized Brain: How a New Intervention Is Changing Trauma Treatment

Wed, Oct 29th: Bessel van der Kolk, MD: How to Help Patients Rewire a Traumatized Brain – Applying the Latest Strategies to Speed Healing and Reduce Symptoms for Even the Most Traumatized Clients

Wed, Nov 5th: Pat Ogden, PhD: Why A Body-Oriented Approach Is Key for Treating Traumatized Patients (and What It Looks Like in Practice)

Wed, Nov 12th: Daniel Siegel, MD: The Neurobiology of Trauma Treatment: How Brain Science Can Lead to More Targeted Interventions for Patients Healing from Trauma

Wed, Nov 19th: Peter Levine, PhD: Getting to the Root of Trauma: Why It’s Critical to Understand the Role of Memory in Trauma Therapy

Here’s the link to see Ruth’s full promo with important details on each of the speakers and what they’ll cover:

Register here to watch or listen free at time of broadcast:

Register here for a subscription Gold Membership ($197) with all items noted above:


Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.


FN1  This 2011 series is over, but a subscription to it for transcripts and recordings is still at

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Dreaming of a Safe America – Laura Kerr

Safe America Dream Laura KerrThis guest blog by Dr. Laura Kerr, PhD, Stanford University, really struck me.  For Americans as people, and our government, she notes, “unconscious dreams and unresolved traumas influence our defensive reactions to threat, much like the child that suffers chronic traumatization is altered by conditions of abuse and neglect.”  Dr. Kerr is a  mental health scholar who writes about trauma, grief and loss — and the social cost of our often not knowing they exist, or how to heal them.

“Dreaming of a Safe America,” by Dr. Laura Kerr

The airstrikes against the Islamic State, a decidedly violent and oppressive group, are deeply unsettling, bringing forth memories of 9/ll and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, along with fears that America will never extract itself from this region of the world, or be safe from revengeful terrorist groups. At such times, it’s natural to become defensive, fearful, and even hopeless.

One of the things that makes America a wonderful place to live is that we feel entitled to freedom and safety and feel others are entitled to freedom and safety too. Yet rarely do airstrikes like the ones on Syria feel like a simple exercise in the protection of human rights. America has too many unresolved traumas, too many unspoken desires, for the public to trust a motive as simple as the preservation of freedom and safety.

In this blog post, I try to understand how unconscious dreams and unresolved traumas influence our defensive reactions to threat, much like the child that suffers chronic traumatization is altered by conditions of abuse and neglect. I believe we are at a time in our nation’s history when we must examine the disparity between what we have dreamed of becoming and deal with the reality of what we are: stressed, even traumatized, increasingly fragmented, yet also passionate, resourceful, and capable of honest evaluation. But first we have to let go of our defenses. Even during times of war.

American Dreams

The United States, perhaps like all nations and all people, is caught in unconscious, conflicting drives and denied vulnerabilities. In Dreaming Up America, historical novelist Russell Banks identified three dreams at the heart of America’s unconscious conflicts, dreams that originally drew people to America:

There was El Dorado, the City of Gold that Cortez and Pizarro dreamed of finding. And then there was Ponce de Leon’s dream of the Fountain of Youth, where you could start life over again, and the New England Puritan dream of God’s Protestant utopian City on a Hill, the New Jerusalem…. We can think of there being three braided strands, or perhaps three mutually reinforcing dreams: one is of a place where a sinner can become virtuous, free from the decadence of the secular cosmopolitanism of Old Europe; another is of a place where a poor man can become wealthy; and a third is of a place where a person can be born again.” (2008, pp. 6-7)

The three conflicting impulses of these dreams — renewal, materialism, and spirituality — shape the nation, its institutions, social life, and the American psyche. They determine the myths Americans attempt to live, the fantasies that grab our imaginations, the ideals we hold, and our expectations for the future. These dreams also have a shadow side. They contain the unresolved traumas of past generations, and thus also perpetuate fear, shame, addictions, and disavowed needs. Without healing the shadow side of these dreams, the United States has no other option than to play out its conflicting state of impulses in unhealthy and destructive ways.

These disparate dreams of wealth, rebirth, and redemption have been with the American people since the country’s inception, although according to Banks, they became a source of internal tension after the Civil War. The United States emerged from this conflict as a nation state, which implied, at least in principle, the resolution of internal conflicts for the purpose of creating an integrated and interdependent nation. However, as we know all too well, this was not the case.

Following the Civil War, the United States was incapable of true integration. For one thing, the Civil War was particularly gruesome. Over 620,000 people died — far more Americans than in any other US-involved conflict. (About 1,264,000 soldiers have died in the nation’s wars.) And although the Civil War ended slavery, it did not end racism or inequality, and thus failed to uphold the ideal of universal, inalienable rights laid out in the Constitution, the doctrine intended to unite us all as equals.

Thus, after the Civil War, there was a false sense of integration. To use psychological parlance, we could say the US created a false self. The creation of a false self is common to trauma survivors. It hides the split off aspects of experience and identity that either the survivor is unaware of, or fears retribution for, if others were to know the traumatized parts and the memories they hold. And Americans have suffered many traumas — including the numerous wars, slavery, oppression, racism, sexism, as well as family violence — and all reveal the failure of democracy to create a country of safe and equal citizens.

When caught in a habitual cycle of denying or dissociating parts of ourselves, event the faintest reminders are susceptible to unconscious projection onto others. When traumatic memories are particularly offensive, and contain overwhelming feelings of shame or helplessness, the need to rid oneself of the offending and unacceptable traits and emotions can lead to a search for a scapegoat, someone or something to contain the overwhelming feelings that otherwise might shatter the fragile persona that keeps them at bay.

And indeed, the United States often functions much like the trauma survivor who projects the wounded parts of itself onto scapegoats rather than risk the uncertainty of facing a traumatized past. Scapegoating happens in relation to other countries and peoples when we demonize them, and in our own country when people are devalued or brutalized due to their ethnic origins, their gender or their sexual orientation, the region of the country they live in, or their lack of resources. And often those who have been victimized later become the ones seeking scapegoats.

For the rest of this post and its invaluable footnotes, CLICK HERE:


Kathy’s news blogs expand on the ideas in her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.”  Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as Kathy and her guest bloggers write about attachment disorder in adults, trauma, grief and loss, adult attachment theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.

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Stephen Porges: Social Engagement Heals

Neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges explained in my Sept.19 blog that when a survival threat pushes humans back into the ancient reptilian mechanism of freeze, that’s how trauma happens.  The autonomic nervous system (ANS in diagram below) just does this automatically; we don’t have a say;  it’s not cognitive.  Porges says that for humans to be out of trauma, mammalian attachment must happen.

Polyvagal Autonomic Nervous System
For that, Dr. Porges says, we need what he calls “the social engagement system… in which we listen to intonation in voice and use facial engagement.  When a person has vocal intonation, an expressive face and eyes open when we talk to them, this expressive individual is also contracting middle ear muscles that facilitate the extraction of human voice from background sounds,” he says. [FN]

“When people are smiling and looking at us, they are better able to pull out human voice from back ground sounds.

“We also use ingestive behaviors; the baby nurses. Adults use the same systems. We go to lunch or we go for a drink, as a way of socializing. Ingestive behaviors use the same neural mechanisms we use for social behavior.  We use ingestive behaviors to calm and to develop social engagement. And when that is done, the physical distance between people can be modulated and we can come close…

“Safety modulates our ability to develop secure attachments. Whether an individual feels safe with people during early development might modulate individual differences in vulnerability to trauma.”

Dr. Porges’ 1994 “Polyvagal Theory” says the autonomic nervous system is not a balance of two circuits, but instead “a hierarchical system” of three circuits, “in which newer circuits inhibit older circuits. And when we get challenged, those systems  degrade to older and older circuits, in an attempt to survive.”  We mammals start out trying to use our “social engagement system” to look at each other and resolve things warmly; that’s our first, myelinated vagus parasympathtic circuit.

If that fails, we devolve into more primitive fight/flight animals, where our sympathetic circuits take over and juice up our adrenalin.

And if that fails, our ancient reptilian unmyelinated vagus circuit takes over and knocks us out into immobilization, called dissociation in humans.

Play and Mammalian Attachment

Mammal Play dogs2One way to get people back out of dissociation, aka freeze — aka trauma — says Porges, is to surround them with friendly mammals, and stimulate their mammalian social engagement systems to come back on line.  He gives the fascinating example of play.

“Real play, is not playing with a ‘Game Boy’ or computer; it is not solitary,” Porges says. “Play requires social interaction  using face-to-face. ”  Notice how the two dogs above are looking each other in the eye.

“Play requires an ability to mobilize with the sympathetic nervous system and then to down-regulate the sympathetic excitation, using face-to-face social interaction and the social engagement system.  I have two little dogs; they chase each other, and nip. Then one will turn around to look at the other, a face-to-face interaction to ensure that biting was play and not aggression.”

In play, he says, we practice using our fight/flight systems properly – but we also practice to “diffuse them with social engagement.  So play requires face-to-face interactions. We see this in virtually all mammals.”

“I use video clips of Dr. J. and Larry Bird, a clip in which they are friends.doing an advertisement for sneakers,” Porges notes. “Then I show them playing basketball, bumping and hitting each other. Dr. J. hits Larry Bird in the face, knocks him to the ground and walks away. By walking away, he didn’t diffuse the mobilization behaviors from fight/flight.  So Bird goes after him and they have a fight.

“When we play, we mobilize physiological state changes that support fight/flight behaviors, but then we down-regulate defensive reactions by looking at each other – so that we learn to repair  If we hit each other by mistake, we say ‘I’m sorry.’

“Other forms of adult play have similar features – such as dancing. Most forms of team sports involve face-to-face interactions that include communication via eye contact.

“Play is actually a neural exercise of using the social engagement system, a uniquely mammalian system, to regulate our fight/flight behaviors, to be able to down-regulate this older defensive system.  Note that individuals with a variety of clinical pathologies often have difficulty playing.”

Heal Trauma by Acceptance – Not Stigma

Radical Acceptance Tara BrachSo when we don’t receive attachment — which allows us to use our mammalian myelinated vagus parasympathetic — then, we feel endangered. Then our bodies are triggered to devolve into our second, more primitive fight/flight response (mobilizing our sympathetic system).

Further, if we are overwhelmed and fight/flight doesn’t get us to safety, our neurological system hijacks us and forces us back into our third, most primitive response: freeze, aka immobilization or dissociation (using the reptilian unmyelinated vagal system).

Almost all trauma occurs when we are overpowered just like that, by dangerous environments or people.

Polyvagal Theory also shows that our nervous system just does these things – trauma is simply not a voluntary decision.  “Outside the realm of our conscious awareness, our nervous system is continuously evaluating risk in the environment,” and shoving us into bodily actions that are just not subject to thought, Porges shows.

So Dr. Porges is asking doctors and therapists to realize that tramatized people can best be healed if everyone accepts and respects what their bodies have done – instead of stigmatizing them for it.

“Try something different with clients,” Porges tells clinicians. “Tell clients who were traumatized that they should celebrate their body’s responses, even if the profound physiological and behavioral states they experienced in past, are now limiting their ability to function in current social situations. Those bodily responses enable them to survive under the trauma, often as children. It reduced some of the injury. If they were oppositional during an aggressive traumatic event such as rape, they could have been killed.

“So tell them to celebrate how their body responded — instead of making them feel guilty that their body is failing them when they want to be social –and see what happens.

“Therapies often convey to the client that their body is not behaving adequately. The clients are told they need to be different. They need to change.  That kind of therapy in itself is too judging of these individuals. And once we are evaluated, we are in defensive states. We are not in safe states.

“Mindfulness requires feeling safe because if we don’t feel safe, we are, in a sense, neuro-physiologically evaluative of our setting which means we can’t be safe, and we can’t engage.  We can’t recruit the wonderful neural circuits that enable us to express the wonderful aspects of being human.  So if we are able to create safe environments,” starting with clinicians who make us feel respected and safe, “we have access to neural circuits that enable us to be social, to learn, and to feel good.”

Once the professionals accept reality, next traumatees can start to respect themselves, and stop judging and evaluating themselves negatively – usually for the first time since the trauma hit them.

That creates a “mammal to mammal” social engagement state inside the traumatized person, where their internal voices are kind and compassionate to them, rather than self-condemning as is the norm in traumatees.

“There is no such thing as a ‘bad’ response; there are only adaptive responses,” says Porges. “The primary point is that our nervous system is trying to do the right thing — and we need to respect what it has done. And when we respect its responses, then we move out of this evaluative state and we become more respectful to ourselves — and we functionally do a lot of self-healing.”


Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.


FN Porges, Stephen, PhD, “The Polyvagal Theory for Treating Trauma,” 2011,
—“Body, Brain, Behavior: How Polyvagal Theory Expands Our Healing Paradigm,” 2013,
“Beyond the Brain: Vagal System Holds the Secret to Treating Trauma,” 2013,
—”Polyvagal theory: phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system,” International Journal of Psycho-physiology 42, 2001,  Dept. of Psychiatry, Univ. Illinois Chicago,

Comments are encouraged with the usual exceptions; rants, political speeches, off-color language, etc. are unlikely to post.  Starting 8-22-16, software will limit comments to 1030 characters (2 long paragraphs) a while, until we get new software to take longer comments again.

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