Tag Archives: Brain stem

Neurofeedback works: Van der Kolk

Bessel website pix vanderKolkportrait1Psychiatrist and trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, MD posted a neurofeedback webinar August 9 that changes the map on trauma healing: http://neurofeedback2015.kajabi.com/fe/79711-rewiring-the-brain-free-ce-seminar . [Or try this link to a 5 min intro. His  72-min seminar is below at “Click Here to Begin Your Free One Hour:” http://neurofeedback2015.kajabi.com/fe/80095-support-neurofeedback-research-2015]

Please forward this to your lists of therapists, colleagues, anyone interested in healing. Dr. van der Kolk has promoted EMDR, yoga, and body work for decades.  Now folks with early trauma can check out neurofeedback.

I’ve so far done 10 months of neurofeedback and the healing is enormous. But it’s not known enough or funded. Getting word out could stop suffering.

At minute 20, van der Kolk shows graphics on how Sebern Fisher introduced him to neurofeedback. “She showed me drawings that traumatized kids did of their families (stick figures), then how they developed after 20 weeks of neurofeedback (real people), after 40 weeks (an attached group), and I was blown away by their development,” he said.

“There’s nothing I know that can do that,” he said. “When you see something like that, you pay attention. Can my psychoanalysis do that?  Can my acceptance and commitment therapy do that?  Can my friends who do EMDR or Somatic Experiencing do that?  No.  Nothing I know of can do THAT.  Time to learn new things.”

Don’t hire just any provider. A neurofeedback practitioner with 1. Five-ten years’ neurofeedback; 2. A certificate from EEGSpectrum.com or EEGInfo.com; and 3. Familiarity with attachment issues, is a good place to start.  A good neurofeedback therapist won’t do “one size fits all.”  Ask to be sure that they carefully adjust it to each individual and keep re-adjusting.

My blog on neurofeedback with links to Sebern Fisher interviews is here: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/neurofeedback/

Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner Online Directories are here:
1. EEG Spectrum International: http://www.esiaffiliatesforum.com/providers  2. EEG Institute Directory: http://directory.eeginfo.com/
Sebern Fisher says both are fine. Only #2 had a provider near me; he’s great. He’s got all 3 features above.  My insurance covers it for a $35 copay.

Am I In Tune — Or Not?

Neurofeedback Before & After mirasol.netAs for me, I feel calmer, more centered, less frightened, and less easily triggered every day. It works on long-term issues.

Still, I felt shocked as van der Kolk described “ways of being” which I have in spades, but never knew are symptoms of brain disorganization. This knocked me for a loop:

“Our brain is shaped by human interactions, by the way that people respond to us, to rhythms, voices, touch, sounds, how we make music together,” he said. “We are rhythmic machines; I talk to you and move my hands, my face, and I image you responding in kind.

“But if you talk to your partner and they freeze their face, your mind goes blank — because we need feedback… If the world does not respond to you, if people do not smile at you, if as a little kid  when you come home people say, “Oh, you again”?  You miss the experience of being in tune with people. It goes to the very core of our central nervous system.”

At this point (6 minutes in) I had to lay down and sob for 10 minutes. Feeling what he said totaled me.  I had no attunement experiences until I was 4  1/2 and my sister was born. No responses, no rhythm.

“If you have many attunement experiences,” he said, ” when you get scared, someone’s there so the feeling gets repaired; someone gets mad but soon they repair it, then you get a sense of flow with other people. You know we can do things together, we can work things out. You know I can have a voice because my voice has an impact on you. You can have a voice because your voice has an impact on me.”

Again I was sobbing.  What is he talking about?  Have a voice, what’s that?  I never had an impact. Work things out?  Unheard of.  I’m terrified at mis-attunement.  I have no experience that what I feel matters.

In abuse or neglect, he said, “these neural rhythms get broken. The most important parts of the brain to grow in first years of life get you in tune with people, tell you what to be scared of, when to feel safe, how to connect, how to be in synch.”  I was never in synch.

At minute 15:30 he shows astonishing brain scans (click on graphic above). When normal people hear a strange sound (“eeek”), he says, they need to figure out what it means, “so all the different parts of the brain synchronize to focus on that. They’ve developed an N-200 filtering wave that says ‘ignore your phone, your hunger… just pay attention to this sound.’

“But traumatized people have enormous problems filtering out irrelevant information. They are hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation, have a terrible time filtering them out. As you see here, traumatized people have very different wave forms. Different parts of the brain are not in synch… which explains why they have such a hard time learning from new experiences… taking new information into the brain, paying attention, taking in life as it comes, learning from it.”

That’s me. I’m hyper-stimulated by sounds, sights, images, body sensation. Half the time I can’t filter them out.  This last point really concerns me.  I had no idea that most people can filter out these things.

I just called my neurofeedback therapist and told him that I need a lot more help. “I’m afraid both of us under-estimate how disorganized my brain is,” I said. “You may want to try other areas of my brain for your sensors and/or other procedures” during neurofeedback.

Thank Heaven for neurofeedback and fighters like Dr. van der Kolk.


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.

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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Orange County CA First Child Trauma Meeting a Big Success

On April 27, “HIMAG3259 Cherokee El, 5-2-14, James,KB, Dana w. bikeealing Orange County from Childhood Trauma” held its first meeting in Mission Viejo, CA at a local restaurant from 6 to 8 pm. We posted it on Meetup.com as the founding meeting of Orange County (CA) ACEs Connection.  I was honored to co-create the meeting with my dear friend Dana Brown, Southern California director for ACEsConnection.com.

We felt awe as three education activists, six professional trauma therapy providers, individuals suffering child trauma and a total of 12 people already acting as leaders in Trauma-Informed Care and resilience building, filled our table to overflowing.  An additional 15 folks who couldn’t attend due to schedule conflict signed up. That’s a total of 27 compassionate people, all glad to hear that finally there’s action to get ACEs child trauma out of the closet in the upscale, but down in-denial, OC.  My earlier blog on Trauma-Informed Care is here: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/trauma-informed-care/

We were all so excited we forgot to take a group photo — in lieu of which above are LA education leader James Encinas, myself, and Dana Brown in May 2014 at San Diego’s model Trauma-Informed Care school Cherokee Point Elementary: https://acestoohigh.com/2013/07/22/at-cherokee-point-elementary-kids-dont-conform-to-school-school-conforms-to-kids/

Everyone requested and donned name tags as we began by asking each to self-introduce.  Folks got so involved that they began asking each other questions around the table and networking on the spot. Soon we were really getting to know each other for more than an hour.

Next, Dana gave an overview of ACEsConnection and the ACE Study. Nearly two-thirds of Americans experience childhood trauma, according to the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, she said, and suffer chronic disease, depression and other illnesses because of it. Here’s the short video we posted on the invite (full text of invite is below): http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/ace-study-co-founders-tell-story-on-dvd-here-s-an-intro/

Dana then announced that we’re forming Orange County (CA) ACEs Connection, and asked everyone to please join ACEsConnection.com and then the Orange County group. You are welcome to go to ACEsConnection and join us here: http://www.acesconnection.com/g/orange-county-ca-aces-connection

I stressed that ACEsConnection will be the organizing platform for communication and future meetings; we’re just advertising on Meetup.com like posting an ad in the local paper.

Finally I introduced myself as author of a book and website on the incredible prevalence of attachment disorder and developmental trauma in the US:  http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/the-silent-epidemic-of-attachment-disorder/

I have the ACE Pyramid linking to ACEsConnection on every page of my website, I said, because ACEsConnection is action-central on the facts about and the healing methods for trauma.

Then all the participants began sharing their eagerness to expand our reach and include many more Orange County residents into the process of bringing hope and healing to our neighborhoods.  One educator proposed a screening of the key documentary on trauma healing “Paper Tigers” at Dana Point’s high school; a professor wants to organize a screening at her university in Irvine; a therapist wants to show it at her trauma clinic; another practitioner wants to screen it at her church.

The group asked unanimously for a second meeting, hopefully on the third or fourth Wednesday of the month, or perhaps in odd-numbered months as the founding group did in San Diego. Three activists volunteered locations for the next meeting; others proposed that ads be put in the local Penny-saver leaflet and/or county paper Orange County Register to build the next meeting.

One leader said publishing a schedule of speeches on specific trauma topics and healing modes is a great way to build meetings. The group was so positive that we may try to create a speakers steering committee at our next meeting to draw up such a list of topics and speakers from among us.

Everyone  was invigorated and looking forward to our next gathering.  Dana and I  will be in touch with everyone for more information on next steps.


Here’s the text of our Meetup.com advertisement that’s drawn 27 interested participants to date (and growing). Feel free to use it!

Nearly two-thirds of Americans experience childhood trauma, according to the CDC-Kaiser Permanente Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, and suffer chronic disease, depression and other illnesses because of it. Here’s a short video about it: http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/ace-study-co-founders-tell-story-on-dvd-here-s-an-intro/

Is that you, your child, your friend or family member, your student, patient, or client?  It’s likely.

Come meet us to learn how childhood adversity can last a lifetime — but it doesn’t have to.

It’s our first meeting of ACEsConnection in Orange County, CA, part of a growing movement now 8,000+ strong nationally and internationally on the social network http://www.acesconnection.com/

We’d love to see you and hear your story, whether you’re an individual suffering trauma, a service provider, educator, community organizer, concerned parent, or any compassionate human being. By listening, we can see how we might help one another in building resilient communities in Orange County.


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.

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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Psychotherapy and Love

Thich nhat hanh PlumVillage.OrgI went through three bad therapists before I found my current one, and for the first two years, I kept asking him the same question:  “You’re just a hired gun, right?  ‘What’s love got to do with it?’  What good can this really do me, since it’s just business?”

Then one day I was reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching” (photo above by PlumVillage.org).  On page 5, Nhat Hanh writes this of his youth in Vietnam: “I grew up in a time of war. There was destruction all around – children, adults, values, a whole country. As a young person, I suffered a lot. Once the door of awareness has been opened, you cannot close it.  The wounds of war in me are still not healed. There are nights I lie awake and embrace my people, my country, and the whole planet with mindful breathing…”

I dissolved in tears, that such a leader of men could live with this terrible pain.

Then he says: “Please don’t run away from your suffering. Embrace it, and cherish it. Go to the Buddha, sit with him, and show him your pain.  He will look at you with eyes of loving kindness, compassion, and mindfulness, and show you ways to embrace your suffering and look deeply into it. With this understanding and compassion, you will be able to heal the wounds in your heart…”

Just as suddenly I flashed on a picture of my therapist, grey beard and all. Whoa, he’s a Christian therapist, and I’m (or was) a nice Jewish girl from Long Island — so “trust me,” as we say in New York, Dr. R. was the furthest thing from my mind when I picked up Nhat Hahn’s book.

But now it hits me like a ton of bricks:

“Oh: Buddha!,” I said, speaking mentally to Dr. R.  “This is how you look at me, this is how you create deep changes in my soul…” And then I was really bawling and calling Dr. R’s tape to leave a message reading him Nhat Hanh’s passage — saying, more or less, “OK, now I get it!  This is real attachment, it’s the real deal!  Hey, Buddha…”

[ Find a good therapist: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/resources/attachment-therapists-directory/  ]

Emotional Investment

Sir Walter Raleigh_by_'H'_monogrammistIn the years since, we’ve discussed it, and lived it, and he says it — but now I knew: Dr. R. is 100% invested in me.

Not the way he’s invested in 40lks or in paying his mortgage; he could make a living an easier way. Instead, he chooses to invest his emotions and attachment into his clients as a dear friend would. He chooses to lay his soul out under me like a warm limbic carpet of deep emotional support, as Sir Walter Raleigh did his cloak for Queen Elizabeth.

That takes courage and ginormous simply plain human compassion and sheer humanity.

Recently I read these words by Sir Richard Bowlby, son of the founder of attachment theory, addressing therapy for adopted children — but it goes for anyone who needs deep therapy, and it made my whole body sob:

“The… intervention …involves clinicians taping into their own empathic capacities to help children feel supported to such a degree that direct connections can be forged between the reality of children’s traumatic experiences and the parents and/or clinicians being able to tolerate their pain and so regulate the child’s distress down to a manageable level. The recognition that another person can truly understand and tolerate their pain can be a major contribution to the client’s therapeutic outcome. ” http://www.beyondconsequences.com/bowlby.html

If you consider the level of pain that I get into with developmental trauma since the sperm hit the egg, Dr. R. is tolerating hell on wheels – and that is because he did not shrink (ooooops, bad pun) from the only way to gain that skill: he has looked deeply within himself in years past, and he has done his own trauma healing as deeply as he’s asking me to do.

[This post originated when I saw a comment on an article by therapist Dr. Laura K. Kerr, in which the commentator felt that therapy can’t be more than a business transaction; original at: http://www.socialjusticesolutions.org/2015/04/01/trauma-informed-psychotherapy-puts-body-love-back-mental-healthcare/#comment-125547]

 “General Theory” on Therapy and Love:

Limbic Resonance - Boise State UnivThe psychiatric text “General Theory of Love” shows that human beings depends for survival on our mammalian “limbic brain,” and that as we grow, our minds and souls are healthy and feel well, or don’t, depending literally upon love.  [FN1]  (Click on graphic to open; from Boise State University News.)

It also documents that good therapy is nothing but love.  The problem, they point out, is that too many therapists can’t manage that kind of good therapy.

Our caregivers create our infant brain via “limbic resonance,” they report, the resonating of an adult’s limbic brain with an infant’s limbic brain — via attuned deep eye contact.  “By looking into his eyes and becoming attuned to his inner state, a mother can intuit her baby’s feelings and needs,” they write. “The regular application of that knowledge changes a child’s emotional makeup.”

When the mother attunes to the infant with deep love, the infant learns that love is safe, forms a secure attachment, feels a sense of belonging and a sense of peace.  “Attachment penetrates to the neural core of what it means to be a human being” they write, and thus the book’s title. It’s all about love and nothing but love. More details: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/love-theory-2/

The book’s second half demonstrates that psychotherapy works when it does, only due to love — love precisely of the above deep nature.  And therapy doesn’t work when limbic resonance and love don’t flower.  It’s got nothing to do with a charity date or even such foolishness as “re-parenting.”

It’s just plain and simple deep human compassion, eye to eye.  For that reason, “psychotherapy is physiology,” they state.

“When a person starts therapy… he is stepping into a somatic state of relatedness, ” they report. “Evolution has sculpted mammals… (to) become attuned to on another’s evocative signals and alter the structure of one another’s nervous systems.  Psychotherapy’s transformative power comes from engaging and directing these ancient mechanisms.  Therapy is a living embodiment of limbic processes as corporeal as digestion or respiration.

“Speech is a fancy neocortical skill, but therapy belongs to the older realm of the emotional mind, the limbic brain.

“Love is not only an end for therapy; it is also the means whereby every end is reached. (p.168-9)  The first part of emotional healing is being limbically known – having someone with a keen ear [a good therapist-kb] catch your melodic essence.” (p.170)

Unfortunately there are a lot of incompetent therapists hiding behind their desks and diplomas, refusing to really relate. “Some therapists recoil from the pivotal power of relatedness. They have been told to deliver insight — a job description evocative of estate planning or financial consulting, the calm dispensation of tidy data packets from the other side of an imposing desk,” writes “General Theory.”

“A therapist who fears dependence will tell his patient, sometimes openly, that the urge to rely is pathologic. In doing so he denigrates a cardinal tool. A parent who rejects a child’s desire to depend raises a fragile person. Those children, grown to adulthood, are frequently among those who come for help.

“If patient and therapist are to proceed together down a curative path, they must allow limbic regulation and its companion moon, dependence, to make the revolutionary magic.

“Many therapists believe that reliance fosters a detrimental dependency. Instead, they say, patients should be directed to “do it for themselves” – as if they possess everything but the wit to throw that switch and get on with their lives.

Limbic Revision

Limbic Revision tumblr_nbam9cX0hI1tbev4jo1_500“But people do not learn emotional modulation as they do geometry or the names of state capitals. They absorb the skill from living in the presence of an adept external modulator, and they learn it implicitly,” the book states.  ” Knowledge leaps the gap from one mind to the other, but the learner does not experience the transferred information as an explicit strategy. Instead, a spontaneous capacity germinates and becomes a natural part of the self, like knowing how to ride a bike or tie one’s shoes.”  (p.171) (graphic by N.Bam on Tumblr)

“People who need regulation often leave therapy sessions feeling calmer, stronger, safer, more able to handle the world. … The longer a patient depends, the more his stability swells, expanding infinitesimally with ever session as length is added to a woven cloth with each pass of the shuttle, each contraction of the loom. And after he weaves enough of it, the day comes when the patient will unfurl his independence like a pair of spread wings. Free at last, he catches a wind and rides into other lands.” (p.172)

“Knowing someone is the first goal of therapy…  Therapy’s last and most ambitious aim is revising the neural code that directs an emotional life. (176)  Psychotherapy changes people because one mammal can restructure the limbic brain of another… (p.177)

“Describing good relatedness to someone, no matter how precisely or how often, does not inscribe it into the neural networks that inspire love. Self-help books are like car repair manuals: you can read them all day, but doing so doesn’t fix a thing.

“Working on a car means rolling up your sleeves and getting under the hood, and you have to be willing to get dirt on your hands and grease beneath your fingernails. Overhauling emotional knowledge is no spectator sport; it demands the messy experience of yanking and tinkering that comes from a limbic bond. If someone’s relationship today bear a troubled imprint, they do so because an influential relationship left its mark on a child’s mind.

“When a limbic connection has established a neural pattern, it takes a limbic connection to revise it. (p.177)”

“The person of the therapist is the converting catalyst, not his credo, not his  location in the room, not his exquisitely chosen words or silences… The dispensable trappings of dogma may determine what a therapist thinks he is doing, what he talks about when he talks about therapy, but the agent of change is who he is. (187)

“The brevity of mini (psycho)therapies is another efficient forestaller of healing. The neocortex rapidly masters didactic information, but the limbic brain takes mountains of repetition.  No one expects to play the flute in six lessons or to become fluent in Italian in ten. ”  (p.189)   “The skill of becoming and remaining attuned to another’s emotional rhythms requires a solid investment of years.”  (p.205)

“The limbic connectedness of a working psychotherapy requires uncommon courage. A patient asks to surrender the life he knows and to enter and emotional world he has never seen; he offers himself up to be changed in ways he can’t possibly envision. As his assurance of successful transmutation he has only the gossamer of faith…

“Only human love keeps this from being the act of two madmen. (p.190)”


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  Lewis, Thomas, MD; Amini, Fari, MD; Lannon, Richard, MD; “A General Theory of Love”,  Random House, New York, 2000.
Dr. Lannon interviews at: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/
Preface excerpts at:  www.nytimes.com/books/first/l/lewis-love.html
Dr. Lewis specifically on therapy:  www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1503539.Thomas_Lewis

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April-May 2015 “New Brain” Webinars

James ReeseDr. Daniel J. Siegel gave a webinar April 8 to kick off the 2015 “New Brain Series” of weekly webinars by the National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM).  The series is airing Wednesdays April 8 – May 13, 2015, at 5 pm Eastern Time, repeated at 6:30 pm Eastern.

NICABM head Dr. Ruth Buczynski ran a terrific “Rethinking Trauma” series last year, pointing out that “talk therapy” can’t always cut it — we need body work and other alternative “somatic” therapies, as I’d written for months.  It’s still available; click here: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/Ruth-trauma2014/

Ruth’s April-May 2015 “New Brain Series” weekly schedule is below, and what a great lineup.

Pat_Ogden AmazonI want to especially recommend two speakers I haven’t covered yet:  Dr. Pat Odgen (right) on “Why the Body Matters When Working with Brain Science,” and  Dr. Rick Hanson on “Why Ancestral Survival Skills Trip Us Up Today,” (otherwise known as the negativity bias of the brain, and how we can overcome it.)

RickHanson AmazonTheir past webinars have helped me enormously. (Rick Hanson, left)

I’ve done a series of blogs on Dr. Stephen Porges  and another series on Dr. Dan Siegel, who both were pivotal to my healing.

You can sign up to watch Ruth’s April-May 2015 “New Brain Series” free at the time of broadcast, or support the series by purchasing it and be able to watch, get audio mp3s, and transcripts any time. Here’s the link to watch live: http://www.nicabm.com/brain2015/freeconfirmed/?wemail=
Here’s the link to buy and download anytime: http://www.nicabm.com/brain2015/lay/info/

Webinar Schedule

The Brain In Two Places: Inside Your Head,  Embedded in the World  –  Dan Siegel, MD     Wednesday, April 8th    5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

Transforming the Brain through Good Experiences –  Rick Hanson, PhD  Wednesday, April 15th     5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

The Neuroscience of Willpower – Kelly McGonigal, PhD  Wednesday, April 22nd  5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

Unlocking The Enormous Potential of Neuroplasticity –  Norman Doidge, MD   Wednesday, April 29th    5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

How Neurobiology Changed the Way We View Trauma Treatment   –  Pat Ogden, PhD   Wednesday, May 6th    5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT

Body, Brain, Behavior: How Polyvagal Theory Expands Our Healing Paradigm  –   Stephen Porges, PhD    Wednesday, May 13th   5:00 PM EDT & 6:30 PM EDT


NICABM 2011-2014 Series Library on Trauma and the Brain: http://www.nicabm.com/programs/trauma/

Rethinking Trauma 2014 Webinar Series http://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/post-info/
Peter Levine, PhD
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Daniel Siegel, MD
Sebern Fisher, MA
Ruth Lanius MD, PhD
Laurel Parnell, PhD
Richard Schwartz, PhD
David Grand, PhD

New Treatments for Trauma 2013 Therapy Program http://www.nicabm.com/trauma2013/trauma2013-post/
Peter Levine, PhD
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Francine Shapiro, PhD
Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD

New Treatments for Trauma 2012 Training Program http://www.nicabm.com/trauma-2012-new/
Bessel van der Kolk, MD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Belleruth Naparstek, LISW
Ruth Lanius, MD, PhD
Sue Johnson, EdD

New Treatments for Trauma 2011 teleseminar series http://www.nicabm.com/treating-trauma/?del=programspage
Peter Levine, PhD
Pat Ogden, PhD
Stephen Porges, PhD
Matthew Friedman, MD, PhD
Mary Jo Barrett, MSW
Allan Schore, PhD
Christine A. Courtois, PhD
Carol Look, LCSW


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.

Tags: Adult Attachment Disorder, Adult Attachment Theory, Neuroplasticity, Polyvagal Theory, Sensorimotor Therapy, Brain Science, Brain Stem, Limbic Brain, Fight-flight, Pat Ogden, Dan Siegel, Stephen Porges, Rick Hanson

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A Pastor’s Battle with Childhood Trauma

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Neurofeedback: Healing the Fear-Driven Brain

Sebern FisherPsychotherapist Sebern Fisher gave a great webcast on October 22, 2014 in the NICABM series, about neurofeedback (biofeedback to the brain), which gives us access to our brain function frequencies.

Neurofeedback, she said, is a computer program therapists use in their office, training clients on it to get them in touch with their own brain waves, learn what’s good for the brain, and calm their thoughts.

The brain is organized from the womb in oscillatory patterns, Ms. Fisher says, so we with developmental trauma, early neglect and abuse, have disorganized and dysregulated brains.  Our fear circuits dominate.  Neurofeedback can calm these erupting circuits and even grow neural connectivity, which helps us create a more coherent sense of self, so we feel safer and more centered. [FN1]

Folks with difficult parents often grow up with a “fear-driven brain” as I did — and it’s a huge relief to find out we’re not freaks — we’re a chunk of the mainstream.  In fact, maybe 50% of Americans have some degree of this “attachment disorder” due to parents who were too scary to attach to. Of course it’s not their fault either; odds are, our grandparents were too scary for our parents to attach to, and so on back, inter-generationally.

I was particularly struck watching Ms. Fisher’s NICABM video as she repeated again and again how many people are walking around with a “fear-driven brain.”  Her 2010 radio interview “Attachment Disorder, Developmental Trauma and Neurofeedback” says she spent decades trying to heal kids with early attachment wounds, but found we can’t talk to the parts of the brain formed from conception to 36 months; those parts have no speech. So she made no progress until she tried neurofeedback in 1996. It can talk to those parts: http://www.futurehealth.org/Podcast/Sebern-Fisher-Attachment-by-Rob-Kall-100516-497.html

I’d bet maybe 20% of us have “developmental trauma” like that, as I do, which means that life was one continuous trauma “since the sperm hit the egg.” For what it looks like when Mom is too scary for her child to attach, check http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/developmental-trauma-2/

I was moved to tears by Ms. Fisher’s more recent interview “Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Developmental Trauma,” as she described how deeply necessary love and attachment are to the creation of a human brain. It’s because we crave the regulation of our nervous system which love can bring, that our brains respond to neurofeedback signals which feel calmer and even loved: http://shrinkrapradio.com/452-neurofeedback-in-the-treatment-of-developmental-trauma-with-sebern-fisher-m-a/

And: here’s an amazing blog by Dr. Tina Hahn MD, “My Neurofeedback Journey,” on the BrainPaint® home neurofeedback system she’s using.

Find a Neurofeedback Practitioner: Online Directories:
1. EEG Spectrum International [Ms. Fisher’s husband John Fisher was president of this co.] Directory: http://www.esiaffiliatesforum.com/providers
2. EEG Institute Provider Directory: http://directory.eeginfo.com/

Trauma, Up Front and Personal

Ms. Fisher got into therapy and attachment work in the first place because she herself had developmental trauma.  She also had a lot of head injury and traumatic brain injury.  One of the first things to be healed when Ms Fisher began neurofeedback herself were her terrible migraines, which have never returned.  She still uses neurofeedback because, she says, “I have had a lot of head injuries so I am at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s than other people, but all of the signs of head injury and traumatic brain injury that I had are all gone.”

Here are some salient quotes from Ms. Fisher’s  NICABM interview:

“Neurofeedback is biofeedback to the neuronal activity of the brain. It is a computer interface where you pick up the firing of the brain in the EEG (electro-encephalogram) in real-time, scrolling for a therapist and client to look at together. By challenging their brain through feedback, we can see that the EEG is changing,” she starts.

“And obviously the change that I am most concerned about is change in levels of fear. Mostly what I am concerned about is quieting fear, so let’s take that situation. We know that the fear circuits are in the temporal lobe and that survival’s fear circuit, the survival amygdala, is in the right hemisphere. We’re trying to say to the brain – not to the person– “Stop practicing that fear-driven over-arousal. Chill. Get quiet!”

“Now, if people could do this on their own, they wouldn’t need the game or the neurofeedback. [So she’s never harsh on the person; she just re-trains their brain.] We have to find the frequency that works for that particular individual – it’s going to be different for everyone. They tell me two or three days later that, on the whole, they have been calm, they have been sleeping, they are less reactive, and/or they are making easier eye contact. That is what I mean by works….

“I had a young woman, who had been adopted from a third-world country. She had been in an orphanage after having been delivered in a shoebox from a police station. They fed her with an eyedropper, not ever expecting that she was going to live. She had every possible level of disorganization: she couldn’t read; she bumped into doorjambs; she had a very difficult time negotiating through life.

“I was now meeting her out of a mental hospital, and she was in her twenties. [After neurofeedback training] she comes in and tells me this story. She was always the last one chosen for any sports team, as you can imagine, when she was a kid, and now she’s stabilized enough to be dating. She is out with a guy, they are waiting to go to a movie, and they go to a batting cage – she hits 90% of the balls. Therapy could never get somebody from bumping into walls to being able to hit 90% of the balls! Her boyfriend was very impressed…

“Neurofeedback is deeply organizing to the nervous system. This goes deep into the nervous system; neurofeedback is healing deep into the CNS, the central nervous system, and through the brain.

“I had one patient who was given the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and had been hospitalized multiple times. She very much wanted to do neurofeedback training because she felt like she had gone as far as she could with psychotherapy, and she still wanted to drive off a bridge every day!  We used two different protocols: the eyes-open protocol – it doesn’t matter what the specifics were for her – but she got stabilized in 20 sessions, and then we did the alpha-theta protocol. She did 30 or 40 sessions. All together, she had about 60 sessions, then it was over. She did not meet any criteria for Borderline Personality and she no longer wanted to jump off a bridge.

“She actually got married and had a baby, and went on to advance her career. I saw her once after that ending, and it was when a pet that had been her primary object of attachment, was killed in a freak accident. She came back in and she was very distressed. An additional trauma can also throw the brain back into its known pattern of firing. So we trained about four times, to address the state she was in, and she very quickly reorganized and was off again.

Repair of Attachment with Neurofeedback

(Interviewer Dr. Buczynski): “How do you think of attachment and repairing of attachment in regard to neurofeedback?

Fisher: “Oh, that’s a wonderful question, and it is somewhat amazing that this happens. In my experience, what I have seen is that people always seem to want relational connection.

“Things can get in the way – if you are having something akin to a seizure and you’re constantly living in fear; it is very difficult to imagine relationship as a primary part of your life. But we are social creatures; we are meant to relate to one another. That is our safety; that is our harbor, as my patient said, and when you find a way to quiet the fear-driven brain, what emerges quite spontaneously are the attachment circuits.

“I had one patient who was self-abusing and dissociative when she came into sessions. She had not seen her mother nor talked about her mother – so this wasn’t a result of conversation – but her mother had not behaved ideally. She came in one day [after neurofeedback treatment] and said, “I think you might be interested in this: I called my mother last night.” It was spontaneous, and now we could talk about the reality of her mother’s trauma.

“Now, this had been presented to her multiple times, and it even occurred to her, but the dysregulation and high arousal of her nervous system made it pretty meaningless. I see that happening a lot. I see spontaneous family reunion that I have nothing to do with orchestrating, and often, without even talking about it, I see it happen with people who train their brains.”


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.


FN1 “Neurofeedback: Soothe the Fear of a Traumatized Brain: How a New Intervention Is Changing Trauma Treatment,” Sebern Fisher, MA, BCN, Psychotherapist and Neurofeedback practitioner, Private Practice, Northampton, MA;  10-22-14 Webinar interview by Dr. Ruth Buczynski, National Institute for the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine (NICABM), http://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/post-info/

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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California ACEs Summit

CA ACEs Summit Nov.2014At California’s first ACEs summit November 5-7, “Children Can Thrive,” over 200 health professionals, policy leaders and advocates gathered in San Francisco. They created a national model for a statewide dialogue on the biggest public health problem facing California today: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).  They focused on programs in health, education, juvenile justice and child welfare at the local and state levels, and how national policies can support those efforts.

Also exciting, Google.org announced a $3 million grant November 3 to the Center for Youth Wellness (CYW), the clinic started by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, organizer of the CA ACEs Summit.  The grant is specifically aimed to get enough scientific documentation that childhood trauma causes adult onset diseases, to actually make toxic stress a diagnosis code billable for insurance: http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Google-gives-3-million-to-Nadine-Burke-Harris-5865372.php

Dr. Harris’ clinic “focuses on what is known as adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress — issues like neglect, abuse, exposure to violence and household dysfunction that can damage a child’s developing brain and body.  Burke Harris said that 1 in 10 of the children she sees has experienced not just one of those traumas, but four or more,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported November 3. “Even though Burke Harris’ work has been lauded by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — who featured the doctor in a video for her Too Small to Fail philanthropic campaign last year — it has been a challenge raising enough money….

“/’This grant is built on science,’ said Google’s Justin Steele. “If they prove it works in Bayview, we’d love to see it scale up across the country.’  …Burke Harris said the grant will enable her team to develop a clinical protocol to address toxic stress. That will be key to making the issue into something that insurance companies can understand — and cover. Now, insurers don’t.”

Summit on Adverse Childhood Experiences
by Jane Stevens and Staff of ACEsConnection.com
ACEs are traumatic experiences, such as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction, which can result in toxic stress and have a profound effect on a child’s developing brain and body. Research shows that nearly two-thirds of Californians have reported at least one adverse childhood experience.The Center for Youth Wellness videoed the main conference sessions November 5-7, and will post those videos, including a presentation about ACEs by Burke Harris, a conversation between her and Dr. Vincent Felitti, one of the co-founders of the ACE Study, and Jamie Redford showing the trailer from  “Paper Tigers”, a documentary about Lincoln High, a trauma-informed school in Walla Walla, WA.

ACASkids-1The ACEs Connection Network team participated and reported on the breakout sessions, which weren’t videoed. On the first day, Elizabeth Prewitt covered health (CA ACEs Summit: Overall health depends on much more than healthcare, pediatricians and other public health specialists agree).

Joanna Weill covered juvenile justice (CA ACEs Summit: Juvenile Justice Panel), and the discussion that occurred during the panel that covered ACEs from a national perspective.

In that session, Sylvia Paull was inspired by Esta Soler, founder of Futures Without Violence, and, in the education panel, by the pioneers transforming cultures of public schools from punishment to compassion. Elizabeth Prewitt covered the state panel (CA ACEs Summit: Building the ACEs movement in 3 states).

Alicia St. Andrews of ACEsConnection.com shares reports on the panel at the CA ACEs Summit on how local groups are getting organized to stop the trauma and spread compassion and healing instead, here:  CA ACEs Summit Building the Foundation to Help Children Thrive: Strategies to address the impact of ACEs
ACEs 101 FAQs – What are ACEs?
by Jane Stevens, founder, ACEsConnection.com

ACEs are adverse childhood experiences that harm children’s developing brains so profoundly that the effects show up decades later; they cause much of chronic disease, most mental illness, and are at the root of most violence.   Read more: http://www.acesconnection.com/blog/aces-101-faqs


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.

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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 Healing.com 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.” http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/rethinking-trauma-the-third-wave-of-trauma-treatment/

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: http://www.nicabm.com/nicabmblog/reframing-a-patients-response-to-trauma-so-they-can-heal/

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: http://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/freesignup/

Register here for a subscription Gold Membership ($197) with all items noted above: https://www.nicabm.com/treatingtrauma2014/register/


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 http://www.nicabm.com/thebrain2011/

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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, http://stephenporges.com/images/stephen%20porges%20interview%20nicabm.pdf
—“Body, Brain, Behavior: How Polyvagal Theory Expands Our Healing Paradigm,” 2013, http://stephenporges.com/images/NICABM%202013.pdf
“Beyond the Brain: Vagal System Holds the Secret to Treating Trauma,” 2013, http://stephenporges.com/images/nicabm2.pdf
—”Polyvagal theory: phylogenetic substrates of a social nervous system,” International Journal of Psycho-physiology 42, 2001,  Dept. of Psychiatry, Univ. Illinois Chicago, www.wisebrain.org/Polyvagal_Theory.pdf

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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