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Exploring the intersection of Neuro Somatic Intelligence and self-compassion, this insightful conversation with applied neuro practitioner Amanda Smith sheds light on the profound impact of language and embodiment in reshaping our nervous system to promote true, transformative healing.
In this episode, we delve into the critical role our internal language plays in the healing process and embodiment as the key to unlocking self-compassion, offering a refuge from the harsh voices of our inner critic and shame. Amanda discusses the power of the peripheral nervous system for trauma healing, and the use of NSI work to support self-expression and build resilience.
Amanda’s work, both as a movement coach and with brain injury patients, illustrates the practical applications of these concepts in trauma healing. Her approach incorporates Neuro Somatic techniques to enhance neural function and ultimately lead to more self-compassion and healthier relationships.
Tune in to learn more about how integrating body awareness and mindful language can significantly influence your trauma recovery and personal growth!
Topics discussed in this episode:
- Amanda’s work in applied neurology
- How NSI has impacted her work with clients
- The role of language in self-compassion
- Embodiment to overcoming shame and increase compassion
- Building your nervous system’s capacity and resilience
- Working with the peripheral nervous system to heal
- The impact of brain injuries on personality and relationships
Contact Amanda Smith
TRANSCRIPT[00:00:00] Jennifer Wallace: Hi and welcome. I’m your co-host Jennifer Wallace, a Neuro Somatic practitioner that supports women in leading their truest lives by bridging the worlds of nervous system health and plant medicine spaces. I’m also an NSI educator and I’m so excited for this next cohort that’s enrolling in the spring. Having Neuro Somatic Intelligence means that we understand that everything we do impacts our nervous systems, including our relationships. If you want to experience deeper, more meaningful connections to ourselves and to others, including emotionally, we have to learn to work with our nervous systems. Learn more at neurosematicintelligence.com [00:00:39] Elisabeth Kristof: Welcome everyone. I’m so excited today. We’re joined by Amanda Smith, who is a high level applied neuro practitioner who also works in traumatic brain injury and is an educator for the Neuro Somatic Intelligence Coaching Certification program and someone that I really love and I’m really happy to bring into this community and give you guys a chance to learn a little bit from Amanda. We’re going to talk about all kinds of cool topics today, like self compassion and her reflections on NSI and I think you’re going to get a lot out of this episode today. Welcome, Amanda. [00:01:19] Amanda Smith: Oh, thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here. [00:01:24] Jennifer Wallace: I’m so excited for you to be here too, Amanda. Especially with your rich knowledge in applied neurology and traumatic brain injury. And now you’re coming into this new arena of applying this into trauma and coming into our NSI realm. I would love if you would give us a little bit of your backstory and then kind of weave us into you being in NSI and what that’s been like. [00:01:52] Amanda Smith: Yeah, for sure. Similar to Elisabeth, I came to this field through movement and I’m a very big movement person. I have, a background in gymnastics and dance as a young person. And I realized now how much movement was really regulating my nervous system at a very young age and ended up graduating, moving to the Bay and rather than going to grad school, which was my plan, I decided to become, a trainer, a personal trainer. [00:02:27] Amanda Smith: And it was just a really intuitive decision. It was the easiest decision I think I’ve ever made was just to um, help people with movement. It had always been a passion of mine. And also I just loved kind of being around people and connecting with them. So that led me to work for a physical therapy clinic in Oakland. And I met my mentor there and her name is Beth Harris and she is like the OG. She not only introduced me to pilates but she also introduced me to something called personal energetics management, which was, now I understand a lot of nervous system regulations. [00:03:04] Amanda Smith: So at a very young age, coming out of a really tough sort of life, um, she could kind of see that I needed something a little bit further than just movement to help me rebalance myself and it actually helped a lot. I think for the first two years that I studied it I didn’t no idea what I was doing I just didn’t I had no idea, I just sat there and did the work but that ended up leading me to you know a yoga certification process in San Francisco and then Beth also introduced me to applied neuro and so in 2012 after much sort of wrangling she was like, I really think you’re gonna love this and It was just, uh, since then it’s just been a lot of applied neuro and a lot of movement and a lot of sort of personal growth um, and, uh, yeah, and I just kept diving deeper, and then when the pandemic came, I started working primarily online. I shifted my business and I met Elisabeth through Instagram, which is just such a joy that you can meet like minded, wonderful people through the internet. Um, and I loved what she was doing and what she was saying. [00:04:16] Amanda Smith: And so we just kind of connected and stay connected over the years. And it morphed into joining NSI. So I’m pretty stoked about how that all transpired [00:04:28] Elisabeth Kristof: Me too. I’m also pretty stoked about how that transpired because I think you’re such a wonderful teacher and a practitioner, and I feel really lucky to have you in the NSI community sharing your knowledge and your skills with this community as you went through the NSI course, because you joined us this last cohort as a facilitator. What were some of the big takeaways for you going through the course and, and starting to take this applied neurology framework into trauma resolution, into behavior change, into these personal development spaces? What came up for you as a teacher there? [00:05:13] Amanda Smith: A lot. It’s a really transformative experience. I think what it does is it kind of consolidates and creates a container for what you’ve maybe been going through your whole life or what you’ve learned in disparate places, things that you do intuitively as a coach. I really enjoyed the sort of permission and the focus and the ability to have intelligent conversations about trauma and what that looks like for the person, you know, for yourself. There was an interesting moment this past Fall where I had a trauma response and I could just name it and I was like, oh, wow, I’m doing that and I knew that it was because of this course. And I also think I had such a better time regulating quickly. And sort of having conversations with the person that it was with that was intelligent and informed and I was able to be compassionate towards them and towards myself. So on a personal level, I think it’s made me really a lot more aware and facile on a professional level. It was like, it was a little bit of relief cause I was also starting this work in brain injury. And the thing about brain injury is that you have a lot of people who are suffering sort of post traumatic stress. [00:06:33] Amanda Smith: They are suffering from chronic pain. They’re suffering from deep grief, loss of self, right? The self that they had prior. And so, there’s so many ways that this course allowed me to have better language with them and also educate them on what they were going through and it also reframed the way that I would start sessions and would kind of work through sessions. And then as far as, like, with my one on one clients. I felt when I said the word permission earlier, I feel like it’s given me a little bit more breathing room around informing my clients about what’s going on for them, you know, and I think in the past as a movement coach, you’re regulating, you’re really helping them kind of find a better sort of equilibrium so that you can move the work forward but now I feel like I have more language tools to really have these healthy conversations with my clients. And it’s just been wonderful. I just feel really, I think the biggest thing is I feel a little bit freer and a little bit more available as a whole, as a coach. [00:07:41] Jennifer Wallace: NSI does give us a whole new language and I’ve also found it to be so transformative, just that aspect alone, because now I can communicate with people that I care about that care about me, and I can communicate to myself. And for me, that’s a huge part of how I navigate a threat or trauma response. And. for me, even language helps me navigate a repressed emotion or like it helps me know if I’m suppressing in real time. [00:08:17] Jennifer Wallace: And it’s really beautiful to hear how you’re using NSI in your professional life. Do you have a client story that you could share with us? Maybe someone that was with you in your pre NSI journey and one that you’ve incorporated the tools with. [00:08:37] Amanda Smith: Absolutely. I can think of one. She’s an older person that I love deeply and has a sort of a peripheral neuropathy and over the course of COVID, a lot of people were really suffering with anxiety, depression, sort of feelings of isolation, frustration, not living their regular life. And because this person is a little bit compromised in her immune system, took extra precautions and an older individual, right? Recently was going to be giving a reading, a really esteemed poet, wonderful artistic being, and had an interaction that was really difficult for her and was going to make the reading really hard. And it was shortly after, I think, a couple of the modules that we were doing at NSI, and normally we would do movement, and I was like, the priority here is for this person to be able to show up tonight at this reading in San Francisco and deliver her sort of best self and her most confident and safe self, so how are we going to do that? How am I going to help her do that? And so we went through a range of exercises, mostly reset and breathing exercises and some vagus nerve regulation, and tried it out in the session, and then figured out what were the top three. And then, what were the top three that she could do in the car before she got out of the car to go do her reading? And we wrote them down. We got her little bag ready. She got in the car. She knew what she needed to do. She was working on it throughout the day. She got to the city, did, asked her husband to step outside, did her work, and then went to the reading. [00:10:30] Amanda Smith: And when I checked in on her the next day, I said, How did it go? And she was like, Oh man, it wasn’t perfect, but it was good. You know, and I think that’s such a reflection of her personality, wanting something to be perfect but in the end, I think it was so helpful for her to have a sort of step by step process to walk herself through And she was able to do what she loves. That’s really the goal, right? It’s not always about movement. It’s about helping people Express themselves and live their fullest life [00:11:03] Elisabeth Kristof: I love that so much. When we get to see our clients in full self expression, right? Like when we have the ability to equip them with the tools to reach that place of full self expression, despite whatever the patterns are that have impeded that and it’s such a really like a practical example of how do we use these tools to make that possible? [00:11:35] Elisabeth Kristof: And as you were talking about her in that like perfectionist part of like, it, it wasn’t perfect, but it was good. It kind of leads me to think about something I wanted to make sure that we talk about today, which is like self compassion. That’s something that I know that you are really interested in exploring. The neuro of self compassion and something that we’re weaving in to this next cohort of NSI is going to be really working with the nervous system to cultivate greater capacity for self compassion, because it’s so important for repatterning and for behavior change and like, again, full self expression, big life experience. [00:12:14] Elisabeth Kristof: So I’d love to hear some of the stuff that you’re working on some of the things you’re playing around with to bring into this next cohort. [00:12:21] Amanda Smith: Awesome. Yes. I am very excited to bring this work into NSI. I think it’s really important. I think it actually blends really well with that inner critic module and perfectionism module. I really resonated with that module, which is probably why I’ve been doing my own work with the self compassion. So I think the biggest thing that I want to kind of give people awareness about is that language has a large impact on where neurons fire in the brain. Okay. It’s almost like language can become our guide for where we’re going to be going. So if I have a a problem that I want to solve, maybe my words are gonna create like, you know, wow, that, you know, we need a solution for, and then my brain fires a bunch of patterns to try to find the solution for something. [00:13:13] Amanda Smith: And in the work that I’ve been kind of diving into with Dr. Kristen Neff out of the University of Austin, you guys are over there,on self compassion, something really stood ou. She gives an example of a study that they’re doing where they’re monitoring people’s brains with fMRIs and she tells people or the study is basically looking at criticism and you pretend that you receive three letters, they’re all rejection letters, and how do you respond to yourself in that moment? And looking at the people who responded with more self critical talk and the areas of the brain that light up, okay? And so those areas are going to be the lateral prefrontal cortex and the dorsal anterior cingulate. [00:14:03] Amanda Smith: And these areas are active when problem solving and error processing. So some of what is happening is you’re using language, and these problem solving regions turn on, and you think to yourself in a way, I am the problem, I must fix it. I got these rejection letters. What did I do wrong? Something must be wrong with me. [00:14:22] Amanda Smith: Right? Versus talk that is kind and that will activate a different area of the brain. Specifically the left temporal lobe and the insula. So this is what got my attention. The insula is something we talk a lot about in NSI and applied neurology because the insula is responsible for interoception, which is the body’s ability to understand and feel what’s going on inside. Am I hungry? Am I tired? Am I itchy? Am I angry? How do I feel? So sometimes when we have deficits in the insula, or it’s not integrating information well, we can have really big mismatch in our system. We can have sort of, um, Difficulties registering food and when we’re satiated or when we’re really hungry, we can have difficulties with obsessive compulsiveness, like the need to constantly do something and make something perfect. Um, we can have difficulties feeling connected to ourselves. It’s just safe and embodied. [00:15:25] Amanda Smith: And so what is so amazing about this idea of self compassion is that your language can actually be a tool you use to help re regulate your brain and your nervous system and it can actually help with the deficits that some of us are suffering from a lifetime of perfectionism and a lifetime of critical talk. [00:15:46] Amanda Smith: Right. Thinking that those things are going to help us get to where we want to go. When in reality, a well regulated nervous system and a really good interoceptive system. How do you feel? Oh, I need to go to bed now. Great. Go to bed. When we have a really good regulated nervous system, we are actually gonna be more productive and we’re going to be more confident and we’re going to feel more able to show up for people and be visible. So I think that’s what I’m excited to bring a little bit more information on that and some new insights and connections that people can make between all the modules and self compassion. [00:16:26] Elisabeth Kristof: I love diving into this topic. And I think having these new ideas that are, you know, I’ve got lots of thoughts going on about all the research that you just shared and having these new tools to work with self compassion, because we do, we talk a lot about the inner critic and the shame loop and all of these things that are layered into complex trauma, having these tools, and then also, you know, weaving that into the entire NSI framework of using practical exercises to regulate the nervous system and create that safety is going to be really powerful because I also think there’s a component of to be able to change that self talk and move out of the inner critic voice, which is protective at its very root, it’s protecting us, keeping our social connections um, you know, making sure that we stay safe at a social, emotional, physical level in order to get out of that and be able to start to create that new language that does require a certain amount of regulation and safety inside. [00:17:33] Elisabeth Kristof: Like I know most of my life when I was going through really dysregulated and people would tell me to like be easy on yourself be gentle with yourself, it literally made me nauseous. It was not something that I had the capacity for because I was so used to being braced and protecting myself and it just didn’t feel safe to relax into an easy relationship with myself. [00:18:02] Elisabeth Kristof: And there were like real strong physical outputs of trying to speak differently to myself or not move into those protective obsessive behaviors. And I think there’s so much healing that is made possible when we can start to change that relationship with ourself, but also freedom that gives us like the, the bandwidth, the capacity in the nervous system to start to find that freedom. And I think tying all these things together is, is so important for people’s ability to really create change. [00:18:42] Amanda Smith: I want to just say one thing when I was preparing for this and I’m writing about this, I agree with you. I feel like when you learn about neurology in the brain, one of the first things that happens is you feel compassion for others. You feel compassion for the experience that you’re witnessing because you may not understand all the layers behind what you’re seeing. [00:19:07] Amanda Smith: But the compassion for the self comes last. It comes, like, it is the furthest thing, I think, away from us and so what struck me when I was writing was I was thinking about all the tools and how you might not be ready to have kind words for yourself but you might be ready to try something new. You might be ready to try a new NSI tool or a new exercise to help you just come into a different state, and that, to me, is an expression of self compassion. It is the action of self compassion, which is so beautiful because language is so hard. It’s so in us. It’s deep but like we’ve talked so much in NSI, you know, the nervous system works like that. It works at such a fast pace. Like Yeah. just the choice to pick up, you know, a vision tool or to pick up a vagus nerve stimulator, you know, z vibe for your ear or take a one breath or do sensory stim. To me, it’s all kind of really deeply interwoven. So I agree with you that, that it’s not intuitive that I’m 40, what I’m 41 and the language part is coming now. Right? I’ve been working on this for, I don’t know, since 2012, so it’s like, what, 11 years? And it’s like, this is what the next layer is for me. You know, in the beginning, I’m just trying to feel safe. [00:20:34] Jennifer Wallace: That’s what it is in the beginning. We’re just trying to feel safe and like that takes time. I’m 46 and I’m just starting to have language of self compassion, but I’m also, if we could talk about some of the more deeper emotional components of this, I’m also really at a time in these past couple of years, releasing so much shame, so much self doubt, so much of the repatterning that we’re talking about around language and compassion and safety and like being in the body, it’s all interwoven together because with more embodiment, you start kind of feeling things a little bit more. [00:21:11] Jennifer Wallace: And then that is a new way to start navigating things. And then like, even with the interoception, when we can feel more, that’s a new experience for people who have complex trauma. And it was the same for me where self compassion was. It was more on the last part because it was like, as I started regulating my nervous system, I was working for embodiment and I really couldn’t get myself into self compassion until I was more embodied. [00:21:41] Jennifer Wallace: I could have the compassion outwardly, but not inwardly. And then as I was working through the grief, I’m not the grief. Well, yeah, the grief, the anger, the shame. Shame was such a huge block to my self compassion. And so it was embodiment. For me was a really key element for self compassion to then be reflected internally. [00:22:06] Amanda Smith: And I would say that maybe embodiment is your increased awareness. You know, like it sometimes the disassociation, I’m not saying that’s what it is for you, but I mean, like sometimes that can be so for example, like if we, if we disassociate and we lose like time or we lose ourselves, like what we’re trying to first do is just like, do I feel safe to come back into this vessel? Is it okay to be in here, you know, and for how long, right? For how long do I mean, maybe over time you build more duration, like I can be in myself more often than not. [00:22:42] Amanda Smith: One of the things that I was reading is that you’re not able to actually have self compassion if you don’t have awareness. Okay, so you can’t actually be self compassionate if you don’t go, oh, that was really hard for me, right? So like, if, if you’re not embodied. How do you know that something is hard for you? Most of the time you’re just someplace else, right? You’re dissociating from the party or the people you’re with or the conversation you’re having, the emotional relationship you’re having with a romantic partner. It’s like the first step is always going to be what is difficult about this day? Like what is difficult about this experience? [00:23:27] Amanda Smith: And then when you have that awareness, then you can maybe offer yourself some sort of tool to help regulate your nervous system, or maybe a phrase that acknowledges your difficulty. I don’t know, Jennifer, I don’t know you that well, but I’m going to guess that when you watch people and you listen to them, you have an enormous compassionate side that really emphasizes what, what they’re going through. You can see them clearly. And is that true? I think it’s true. [00:23:57] Jennifer Wallace: Yeah, it’s true. It’s true. And thank you for that reflection. I think that’s what makes me a successful facilitator ,and I’m in my work, I share very intimate spaces with women and it’s not only, I think, my ability to connect and to empathize and it’s thankful to this podcast too, because. My life experience has put me here, this deep work that we do. And it’s really set me up the regulation. Is a gift into the spaces it’s felt by my clients. Hopefully it’s felt by our listeners and that creates safety. [00:24:41] Jennifer Wallace: And so for myself, my journey of self compassion. How that goes into my containers and into my clients is kind of like as within, so without. I have it and I can give it. I can hold the space for it. And it took quite a bit of time, as we were saying earlier, like it comes to ourselves last, and my language is so different to myself, man. I celebrate myself often. Like I am here, I’m in my body and I really love it. I celebrate with my dog all the time. You know, I’m just repatterning that joy for myself. And, um, because. [00:25:26] Jennifer Wallace: I think celebrating ourselves supports compassion because of those big emotional blocks. I carried a lot of shame. A lot of shame, like. Most people listening are going to resonate with, but it was a huge barrier for me into my self-compassion. And so, it’s almost like the more embodied I became, the more self-compassion. I had for myself and the less shame I started to carry, I started to process more shame. And learning how to process it, express it, even identifying it is huge. But it back to that awareness and that you spoke of earlier and like choosing myself, knowing my capacity, because what I found, especially in the beginning of the certainty was that I didn’t have much capacity at all and understanding your capacity is compassionate to the self to understand where you are in meeting yourself in that place is self-compassion. [00:26:37] Amanda Smith: I also will say that with my sort of, like I said, brief relationship to this work, it’s like a seed that gets planted and you’re kind of like watching it grow. Um, and I’ve been watching it grow, but one of the things is that when I really kind of dive into to learning about it, I get very emotional. I get very, like, verklempt. [00:26:59] Amanda Smith: I want to cry for myself. I want to cry for other people. I feel an enormous amount of heart opening as I do that and that’s not always, like, I think in doses, that’s okay. But it’s, but like, but maybe there’s a, there’s an old thing from my childhood where there was way too much of that. And so for me, it’s really like, just a little bit over time, you know, so that I can, because I do think it demands a certain amount of availability and you are going to feel, I feel a lot of grief when I, when I have like self compassion because it’s really seeing yourself. And just going, wow, that’s, that’s been tough and I’m here and you’re doing great and keep, keep going. I’m not going anywhere, you know? So I do think like as it relates to Neuro Somatic Intelligence, I’ll say this, one of the biggest things that I do believe in that I think is the best foundation for self compassion is having a neuro practice so that you can develop resilience and that you can develop facility with Um, you know, let’s say I’m doing compassion work and I feel really emotional and thinking about something that was really hard. Well, you know, I have an entire day ahead of me. how am I going to transition from that space into the next space? and, and, so I use a lot of tools to just help me calm back down and get grounded and, you know, stay available but not like an open wound. Right? You don’t want to be that open, bleeding heart. [00:28:46] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, I think that is, there were a couple of things as you guys were talking that I was thinking about, but I think it does really come down to that daily practice for capacity. And also, I think just the understanding of beginning to understand your nervous system, your operating system, how this is all working so that you can have that altitude and awareness that you were both talking about that makes self compassion more possible, like when we understand the system inside of ourselves a little bit better and I have the tools to, to stay regulated, keep my higher order thinking systems online and to process the grief and the emotions that come through, um, with that self compassion and not move into like repression or avoidance behaviors of that. [00:29:34] Elisabeth Kristof: Then it’s really interesting, the self talk is the last thing that starts to change. And it’s almost like I wasn’t even intentionally focusing on that, but as I’ve become more regulated and learned more about myself, it is really different. Now, like just the other day, I was bumping up against something where I, I saw I was living in a different filter, you know, my, my view of the world was a little bit skewed. I was maybe in a little bit of an emotional flashback and I could see my capacity was challenged and I, I, my capacity wasn’t really where I wanted it to be at and the first thing that I said to myself, which is very abnormal was like, It’s okay, babe, you’re doing a great job. [00:30:21] Elisabeth Kristof: And it was like, I was talking to like a younger version of myself and I was like, hey, hey, it’s okay, you’re safe, it’s all good, and that is not how the internal script used to go when I would come up against a behavior that I didn’t think was right, or when I didn’t have the capacity to perform the way I wanted to. And that’s like self compassion, but it really comes directly from having a nervous system that can stay regulated enough to not be automatically propelled into that well worn path of inner critic and, and trauma response. [00:31:08] Elisabeth: We believe that the world needs coaches, therapists, and healers who can attune and co-regulate. And NSI is not just for behavior change and trauma resolution, but really to equip the nervous system for creativity, productivity, connection, and growth and expansion in all areas of life. If you’re interested in learning more about the program, visit our website, neurosomaticintelligence.com [00:31:36] Amanda Smith: One thing I’ll say is that as I learned more about my own nervous system, one of the things that was really running at a bit of a deficit was the vestibular system, my vestibular system, and then also the, interoceptive system. And so I did a lot of breathing, vestibular work, z vibe activation of my abdomen to help re regulate and I think what you’re saying is like, we’re a big loop, right? And so if we’re creating better inputs. to our insular cortex, right? If we’re creating better inputs, it’s functioning a little bit better. and maybe it’s going to give us better signaling, in general, when we’re kind of about to go off the rails and it’s like, hey, let’s come back, let’s come back and let’s stay a little bit more in our equilibrium where we actually are used to being. I think it’s a great, it’s kind of a nice thought to be like that. We’re kind of trying to guide ourselves now when you can feel like you’re on your edge. And that’s really the goal is like, Oh, I like I gave an example. I had a party this weekend. I was invited to another party and I was using some prediction, right? [00:32:55] Amanda Smith: I was like, what’s my capacity at right now? Do I think that these two parties are going to be able to happen this weekend? And how would I feel after? And I was like, I could do one, not two. And that’s just, that’s just, that’s like, you know, one is a lot, but it’s a predictive mechanism inside myself to go like, I know enough to be like, when am I feeling my best? How much do I have to give? And when do I need to kind of just taper back and say, you know, not this weekend, I’m really sorry. I think that’s a win. That’s a really big win for me because then it allowed me to show up here and do something that I really wanted to do. Um, instead of maybe in the past, pushing through those responses and those signals are just so much clearer now. And I can be respectful of those signals and make better choices. [00:33:48] Elisabeth Kristof: If you’re a long time listener, you might know I’ve been drinking AG1 for about three years. When I started drinking AG1 daily, it was really just to cover all my bases, make sure my body was getting all the vitamins and minerals that it needed. But over time, I really did start to notice a difference in sustained energy throughout the day. And I felt like it was really providing immune support. I got sick a lot less and that’s because AG1 is a foundational nutritional supplement that supports your body’s universal needs like gut optimization, stress management, and immune support. Since 2010, AG1 has led the future of. foundational nutrition, continuously refining their formula to create a smarter and better way to elevate your baseline health. Even my partner has started drinking AG1 and tells me all the time that now he feels like he’s getting the nutrients that his body really needs, even if he’s not able to eat all of the nutrients that his body needs in a day. AG1 is a sponsor of Trauma Rewired, and when you’re supporting AG1, you’re supporting this podcast, and we really appreciate that. If you want to take ownership of your health, it starts with AG1. Try AG1 and get a free one year supply of vitamin D3K2 and five free AG1 travel packs with your first purchase. Go to drinkag1.com/rewired. Check it out. [00:35:15] Oh, it’s a huge win. It’s a huge win. To show up for yourself. Like that’s the opposite of self-abandonment and when self-abandonment is a cornerstone of complex trauma, I don’t think there’s a win too small that you can’t celebrate. Um, it’s really something to repattern those protective outputs of complex trauma. Amanda. Would you please lead us into the peripheral nervous system? What is it? How do we work with it? And I think this’ll give folks a little bit of a teaser of what they can expect to learn from you. And this next round of NSI. [00:35:58] Amanda Smith: Absolutely. I love the peripheral nervous system. I love the feeling of working with it. I love the way that when I teach it to people, they feel like sort of a clarity inside themselves. So part of the work that I do is a lot about education. [00:36:20] Amanda Smith: How do you work with the peripheral nerves and understanding, this is where that interoception comes in, understanding like, what do you need? Do you need maybe, um, more or less of something? And so especially we need that, that insight when we’re working with the nerves, the peripheral nerves. [00:36:35] Amanda Smith: You’re basically one big nerve, which is really great with a bunch of branches. You have a branch with an arm, you have a branch with another arm, you got a branch with a leg and another leg. And one of the things that the nerves in our body do or two is provide sensory input and also motor input. And so if we are in a fight or flight state normally that peripheral system contracts and it’ll kind of shut down. it’ll create a lot of flexion Which is, essentially, basically compressing your nerves, right? So, your nerves run through your joints, and they innervate at different sections of your spinal cord, and they are always relaying information up to the brain. [00:37:21] Amanda Smith: And so, The brain is taking in multiple types of input, right? Lots of sensory input, vision, vestibular, and your proprioceptive systems and so when the brain has good input, it feels really safe. It feels great. Um, but if we have poor inputs. Let’s say, you know, your eyes were dilated and you’re wearing these funny glasses and you’re stumbling around, um, you might feel a little bit more cautious and, and, um, need to kind of restrict your movements or restrict what you’re doing that day. Um, so when I think about the peripheral nervous system, we are looking at creating optimal health. Um, we are looking at creating, uh, great inputs to our brain from our sensory system and from our motor system. Um, sometimes I can think about it as like, if you can look at it as a bottoms up approach. I want to create as much clarity in the bottom of my body moving up to my brain as possible. Um, if our vision system and our vestibular system are not able to be worked with right away for whatever reason, maybe the person just has a lot of trauma there, or they have a highly sensitive nervous system, we can work from sort of the outside in. Um, there is some research coming out about, in the last like,Um, let’s see. That good peripheral nerve, um, health is correlated to good bone health and tendon health and bone is a living organism inside of you and, um, relaying information back up to the brain as well. So I would say that. For my the sort of basic understanding and what I want people under to think about is if you’ve never worked with your peripheral nerves It is a plethora of information that your brain will benefit from okay and normally what we’re going to be doing is working through different sequences to help open up pathways So that the nerves move well, they slide well, and if they need a little bit less tension we’re going to slack them and hold them. We do slacking in NSI, specifically with the accessory nerve which innervates the trapezius and that is generally really helpful for people. [00:39:49] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, I think this is great and I love that we’re going in this direction with the workshop that you’re going to do and with some work that we’re bringing into NSI, because as you’re talking, I was thinking about for people with trauma and that can be all kinds of different trauma, right? It could be traumatic brain injury. It could be complex trauma, but a lot of times it can be just like you were saying, really threatening to start with the visual system or the vestibular system where these big deficits and even with the interceptive system, right? Like in the world of trauma healing, we hear so much about the vagus nerve and interception, but getting louder signals from inside the body can be really hard for people who’ve been dissociated for a long time that can push people into a trauma response. [00:40:40] Elisabeth Kristof: And so the peripheral nervous system is this other way that’s further away from the head that is maybe not requiring so much dropping into the body and feeling all of those signals all at once to begin to, yeah, create a bunch of nervous system health in a minimum effective dose way that’s honoring people’s capacity and still making a big change. [00:41:05] Elisabeth Kristof: And so I think one, it’s really important in the world of trauma healing to remember that there is a whole big nervous system to work with and that it’s not isolated to just these few specific nerves, like the vagus nerve that you hear about all of the time, and that there are lots of ways to impact change at the nervous system, and that there may be some other ways, like with the peripheral nervous system, that could be safer, and then give people more capacity to then start to work into these other areas. [00:41:39] Amanda Smith: Yeah, some of the things that I was reading and just want to mention are like benefits, including enhanced pain inhibition. Okay, so like if you have great health in the peripheral nervous system, you’ll be able to inhibit pain, which is really, really important for the nervous system in general. [00:41:57] Amanda Smith: Cause if you have pain it equals that you’re pretty much in a little bit of survival mode. So what we can do is we can generate more health and help inhibit that pain reaction so that you can work on improving your, your sort of overall health, it can improve dexterity and motor coordination and all of these things when your system is operating well and you feel like you have, like, let’s say it’s sensory, right? Let’s say we’re talking about you, you sprained your ankle six times and that ankle is not getting really good input. So maybe you didn’t rehab it that well. And so every time you go for a hike, you end up feeling kind of worse. So if you were to do some peripheral nerve work, maybe say on the sural nerve, which innervates that lateral ankle, and you do it before your hike, you go for this hike, you feel better, you come back and you don’t feel so depleted, right? [00:42:58] Amanda Smith: And so over time, or like, let’s say you have a chronic injury in your wrist, carpal tunnel or something like that you work with some of the nerves that run through the hands and you improve motor output and dexterity. Essentially what you’re doing is decreasing threat to the brain and improving that input system and it can just help people feel less tax at the end of the day, their threat bucket isn’t as filled because they are running at a higher optimal level, right? And maybe they have more capacity for their work or for their family or for, you know, a project that they want to work on. It’s essentially just about having ownership over your body and feeling like your body is there for you, right? You’re not there to manage your body. That’s really what I think about is like your body is there to help serve your will in the world and obviously respect the body and love it and everything, but it’s there to help us. [00:44:02] Elisabeth Kristof: Do we want to connect any dots here between nervous system health coming from the peripheral nervous system, all this stuff and like relationships since this is season of relationship? [00:44:20] Amanda Smith: I will say one thing about the peripheral nerve system that I think I’ve seen evidence of with my clients is that If I’ll ask somebody how do they feel? Like if I asked them to stand on two feet, close their eyes and get a sense of their body. I’m always looking for what is their equilibrium feel like, but I’m also looking at what is their sense of themselves? Do they feel all the way down to their feet? One thing that I think is hard for people is like, you can give them a meditation cue to like, feel their feet, but if they can’t actually feel their body, it’s really hard to take those cues and make sense of it. And so one thing that I’ve seen and heard is that someone will say, I don’t really feel my left leg, I’m on both feet, but I don’t really feel this side of my body. And so, we’ll do some nerve glides or some mobility exercises that will help create traction through those nerves and then we’ll, I’ll have them reassess and I’ll say, how do you feel now? And most of the time, after peripheral nerve work, they have a sense that they can inhabit their body. That they can inhabit this, I call it like ghosting, like it’s there, but it’s not. Suddenly they’ll kind of fill in the blank and their brain will have a new sense of self. Like they have two legs instead of just one. And they’re physically more grounded now. So I think if there was anything that I wanted to just mention is that feeling grounded, you can say to somebody or you can try to help them get grounded, but if they don’t physiologically feel grounded in their nervous system, it’s really hard for them to go, yeah, I’m grounded. They’re going to say it to make you happy as your coach. But I think one thing that I really, and we do sensory tests all the time, and you can actually do sensory tests with people and say, does this feel the same as this? And if you have like tattoos or surgeries, there’s no question that you’re, the nerve endings on your skin that are measuring lik pressure or light touch or all that, all those nerve endings are going to be responding differently from right to left sides or front to back. And so the peripheral nervous system is really there to help you stop kind of ghosting. And to really have a more complete sense of yourself. It’s like coloring in the lines. I think when we do that for ourselves, it makes it so much easier to just be present for somebody else, right? If you don’t feel fully embodied, it’s really hard to show up and be a good coach and to be a good speaker or to be a good parent, whatever that might be. [00:47:06] Amanda Smith: And peripheral nerve work doesn’t have to take very long at all. I swear I do two or three a day. I try to get it done in a couple of minutes. It’s not like a big project. You just got to learn the little flow and then, and then implement. And now you’re ready to go hit the ground running. [00:47:26] Elisabeth Kristof: Yeah, I think right there is like, that’s embodiment, right? If we, if we can’t neurologically do embodiment, then yeah, there’s all these things talking about, like how to live an embodied life or embody your leadership or embody this or that. And it’s really important to understand that that is, it comes down to nervous system function. [00:47:48] Elisabeth Kristof: How, how grounded we really can be, how embodied we really can be. And that all of these. visualizations and mental practices are important and can have their place, but there also has to be a component of addressing neural function to make it possible for people to do that. So I think it’s a really important thing for people to remember and, and to also understand why they might get frustrated with those kinds of exercises if they don’t have that capability. [00:48:26] Amanda Smith: When I graduated college, I moved out to the Bay, and I didn’t know if I was going to go to grad school, I think I mentioned that earlier, I was looking at becoming an urban designer. I got on my bike one day, now, my dad had died when I was in college, I was like 19 and it was a rough finishing two years of college, but I was riding my bike and any people on this podcast who know Berkeley, California, I was riding on Milvia. I was going to the Berkeley YMCA to teach. And I was riding and I was like, some voice came out from, I don’t know where, and it was like, you just need to heal. I think I was like 21 years old, right? Because I was trying to decide, am I going to go to school? And I was like, you just need to heal. And I had no idea what that meant. Like I just, I had no idea. But I could tell. That I had to just succumb to that truth and to that wisdom. [00:49:26] Amanda Smith: I was like, if you keep going that way, it’s just going to get worse. So I really feel like I wish I had learned so much of this younger. I wish I had learned more about what I was suffering, like what, where my suffering was coming from and you have these childhoods that are so tough, like alcoholism, sexual abuse, divorce, verbal, you know, verbal abuse, and it was just so hard and you. You know, it’s like for people are out there listening and they’re on this path and they’re like you just need to heal and you know that you need to heal like, you know that something inside of you is is hurting and suffering. I really feel like Listening and learning about the nervous system creates so much, um, relief for what you’re experiencing. [00:50:26] Amanda Smith: It’s like, oh my gosh, I had no idea that this is complex trauma, or I had no idea that this is, this is shame. Like, infiltrating every ounce of my being and keeping me from doing all, all kinds of things, you know. Um, shame is a really crazy gatekeeper. It holds you captive, but so for me, I would say that this has been a long journey, but the nervous system, if you can provide yourself with tools and also just like a daily practice, I really am a proponent of a daily practice. It’s so important to help yourself get grounded, even if just for a few minutes every day, because you’re always going to come back to that. I used to think that like movement, like yoga or like pilates or all these things like was, you know, the answer or something but what I’ve really learned is what are those modalities providing my nervous system? What are they giving me that I want and that I need? And how do I give those things to myself? So that it’s not like I need to go and I need to pull out a big mat and I need to do my yoga practice for an hour and a half. It’s like, maybe I can’t do that every day. So looking at providing me with vestibular input and proprioception and breathing. [00:52:01] Amanda Smith: And those are things you can just do, you know, here and there. I guess I would just say that this work has been profound for me on a personal level. And on a professional level, it’s given me a lot more capacity to work with something like a brain injury group I don’t think I could have done that, because I’ll be honest, when you have people who have brain injuries, their personalities are affected. And if you are someone who’s triggered by that, which in the past I was, you can’t do the work because you’re triggered. And so now I feel like I have enough resilience and awareness where I can go and I can be of service to people who really need this. Where in the past, I was questioning whether or not I would keep doing the work. Um, can I handle it? Can my nervous system handle it? Can I keep showing up this way? You know, these are populations who don’t have access to one-on-one coaching. [00:53:03] Amanda Smith: They don’t have access. Their brain injuries have caused them to lose their jobs or rely on family and friends. They’re hoping that workers comp is going to come through or these are populations who need this, you know, they need to understand what’s going on with their nervous system. And without this work, I wouldn’t be able to be there. So it’s really been a journey and I don’t know what the future will hold, but I’m excited to see. [00:53:32] Jennifer Wallace: I’m seriously so excited to learn from you. We say on here often that we don’t believe in personality traits, we believe in outputs of a nervous system that’s trying to keep us alive. And so we’ve recorded independently on here before narcissism and empathy. And as Matt always likes to remind us these outputs, these pathways, they don’t always get well-worn because of a developmental trauma. Sometimes they happen because of a traumatic brain injury. And I’d love to spend a moment if we have it exploring traumatic brain injury and those changing personalities that we often see. [00:54:20] Amanda Smith: Oh my goodness. I can definitely talk about that. Every individual who comes into that facility has a different type of brain injury, obviously and sometimes it’s like blunt force trauma, a fall. Sometimes it’s actually COVID. People who have sort of neurological deficits post COVID. What I tend to see, here’s what I see, and this is why NSI was so great to have this module this past fall. Cause it really helped me understand more about what was going on for their nervous systems is that. You know, there’s a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of sort of underlying concern and fear and depression. And a really big one is an inability to have patience. People are just quick to anger and they come in and they are aware of that. And so one of the things that they’re writing about and what they want to change is more tolerance for people in their life. But they also feel very isolated. You know, and so they’re suffering from all these different things that are super challenging, but they’re, but what they’re, what their body and their brain is really doing is they’re prioritizing, hey, we are running at a huge deficit, like since this brain injury and this vestibular trauma that you suffered, or someone got hit in the eye and their ocular motor nerve was, you know, damaged, um, they are running at such a big deficits and it’s creating such a consistent amount of sensory mismatch in their nervous system that their, their buckets are filled at like 9 AM, you know, their threat buckets are, they’re just constantly filled. [00:56:20] Amanda Smith: And so part of what we’re doing, what I’m doing at least is teaching them a little bit about how to reduce threat and how to fill up their like through reset exercises that we cover a little bit in NSI, through respiratory work and improving fuel supplies. And what you find is over time, both as they get education and as they learn to regulate themselves more often, they have more tolerance for their families and for themselves and more compassion. And so, it was really interesting. A man brought his partner in and she thanked us. She came in the door and she’s like, I just I have to thank you. Like he’s changed. He’s so different now. And he’s able to talk about what he’s going through and tell me what he needs, you know, everything from like, don’t interrupt, you know, can you turn the lights down or whatever it is. And his function has improved. Like the partners are coming in, you know, and so when you hear that, you know that like the work is leaving the facility and it’s going to their home life. And now that threat bucket of their relationship and the conflict of their relationship is going down as well. And so it’s like this big loop where as he lowers his threat bucket and can communicate what he’s learning, she feels well informed and knows how to act and then they can connect and his support system goes up. So it’s really profound and I think what I feel the most for is that these are involuntary responses. These people don’t want to feel this way. They don’t want to feel like they don’t have the capacity to visit with their family on the holidays. They want to be around their family, they just don’t know how to do it. There’s no question that the sort of emotional component, the trauma component, There’s a really strong link between trauma, regulation, movement, and healing that I think all happen together in this brain injury group that I’m working on. And I don’t think it would be as well informed without NSI at all. I think I needed it and it just showed up at the right time. Um, I’m really grateful for it. And I highly recommend it for people who work with populations of this kind. [00:59:09] Elisabeth Kristof: It’s incredible to hear about the work that you’re doing. And I feel thankful that neuro training does give you the capacity to do it because it is really, really needed in the world. As I was listening to you talk, as I was listening to Jen talk, I just had a moment of being really, really grateful that you guys are going to be educators in this program and how lucky the whole community is to get to learn from you both. And I feel like this next cohort is going to be fire. So I just, I’m super, super excited about everything that both of you bring and to have this be a big collective vision. It’s just really exciting. [01:00:11] Amanda Smith: Well, I’m very excited too. I am like, these are my people. You guys are my people. Yeah, and it’s work. I think it’s work that needs to be out in the world as much as possible. I’m a believer and I am here to support. [01:00:30] Jennifer Wallace: Thank you very much. I really appreciate it. [01:00:34] Elisabeth: If you’re a coach, therapist, healer, practitioner, and you know you want to take your work to a deeper level, to the level of the nervous system, then Neuro Somatic Intelligence Coaching Certification is for you. NSI will equip you with a framework and practical, actionable tools to improve brain function and nervous system health. This will create lasting, meaningful, and measurable change for your clients. That will distinguish you as an expert in your field, in the field of brain based coaching. And it will also improve client retention, and help you to avoid burnout yourself. NSI is taught by leaders in the field of applied neurology, somatics, and vagus nerve health. If you’re interested in learning more about the program, visit our website, neurosomaticintelligence.com