what my bones know…1-5-24

I’m a big reader, always midst at least one book, often juggling a few.  What My Bones Know by Stephanie Foo fell in my lap recently and pushed all the others aside, shouted READ ME.  I couldn’t put it down.  Even though the first part was hard.  In all too vivid detail, Foo recounts the abusive horror of her childhood. To be sure, her story is extreme, but raise your hand if you had a perfect childhood.  Having been a child and having parented children, I’m not sure perfection is possible.  Or even desirable.  All relationships include suffering.

Foo’s educational agenda for this book was to inform the general public about the difference between post traumatic stress disorder and complex post traumatic stress disorder.  Her short metaphor: PTSD happens when we’re hit by a truck.  CPTSD is being hit by that truck day after day after day.  And when that truck is driven by the folks who are supposed to be caring and trustworthy and because of its repetitive nature, CPTSD can have at its core relational trauma.  Repetitive trauma caused by long-term hurtful relationships.

I’m a continuum thinker.  If we place Foo’s CPTSD at one end of a line and we place that (nearly) perfect life experience at the other end, we create kind of a trauma continuum.  We all fall somewhere on that line.  My childhood was no picnic, peppered as it was with truck crashes big and small, imagined and threatened, relentlessly unpredictable.  I’m not on the Foo-far end of the line, but I’m squarely on the line.  I believe we all are.

Even if you believe your life is 100% rosy, trauma dwells in our long suffering human DNA.  Epigenetics researches the evolution of DNA markers.  In one study, mice were exposed to a cherry blossom smell simultaneous to receiving an electric shock.  Those poor conditioned mice quivered any time they smelled cherry blossoms, long after the shocks were discontinued.  And here’s the real shocker: mice children and grandchildren, never exposed to the electric shock, inherited the cherry blossom smell fear.  There is no escape.  We are all on the trauma continuum.

What to do?  Basic information abounds!  Consider learning nervous system basics.  This podcast, an interview with Deb Dana, author of Anchored, goes by in a quick hour.  I know it will inspire you.  And What My Bones Know is a great read. Following Foo on her healing journey was incredible.  You are by her side as she learns to regulate her nervous system.  And then right with her as she sees that self-regulation is only a first step, a very in-the-corner, insular, survival technique.  Since the wounding happened in relationship, the obvious next step was healing in relationship.  She had to learn to connect to another, sense those momentary ruptures in communication.  When confused, she learned to ask for clarification instead of assuming she was being criticized.  When she fell into “where am I?”, she began to look back at what exactly was happening when the dissociation occurred.  She found the language of rupture, repair, reconnect.  How forgiveness can be an act of love where you say “you’re an imperfect being and I still love you.”

On so many levels, at this ripe age, nervous system repair continues to be my work.  When I show up for myself or with you or out in the world collapsed in despair or disconnection or agitated in frustration or defensive or resentful or—fill in your own blank—I am not making the positive contribution to the health of our world that I long for.  And when I am content, when I know I am OK, when I am softly open to the beauty of all that is right before me, I am the force for healing I know myself to be.  And when we are all in this type of awareness together, buzzing with co-regulation, we are a mighty force indeed.

So much opportunity coming up for us to co-regulate.  See below for classes starting up again.  And you are so welcome at my studio Open House this Saturday. This is where so much healing happens. Where I treat patients. Where I rock and roll. Where I take precious care of you and me. Come just for fun, questions, concerns, conversation. Treatment table ready for mini-consultations; always amazing to receive and witness.

Let’s be a mighty force together.