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S2 E35 TRANSCPT Emotions and the Nervous System

[00:00:00] Welcome back to Trauma Rewired. The podcast that teaches you about your nervous system, how trauma lives in the body and what you can do to heal. Today is going to be super fun. Elisabeth Kristof from Brain-Based Wellness and Matt Bush from Next Level Neuro are here. 

[00:00:16] They are both founders of the NeuroSomatic Intelligence Coaching Certification program. And today we are joining the exploratory conversation of emotions, really the physiology of emotions and a NeuroSomatic Intelligence approach to emotions. I say exploratory because the study of emotions has a lot of exciting discoveries, but also still so many questions. We really had a fun time with this and we hope you enjoy it. 

[00:00:45] Jennifer: I was listening to Candace Pert talk recently in one of her books, and she was saying that she thinks that emotions are the link between two worlds, the spiritual and the physical realm. Have you heard her say that before?

[00:01:02] Elisabeth: I haven’t, but I certainly believe that, and that’s interesting too because the limbic system, which people think of as the emotional center of the brain is, also comes after a Latin word limbus, which means border. And it’s the border between the neocortex and the brain stem. So like our higher order thinking systems and our survival mind.

[00:01:25] And so that’s interesting to think of emotions as really bridging the gap in many different ways.

[00:01:32] Jennifer: And the limbic system, it touches every part of the brain. Is that right?

[00:01:39] Matt: Yeah, it’s essentially connected to every other part of the brain. All inputs go through the limbic system. It’s constantly filtering for survival, for safety, and also for expectations. And so like everything that we experience, is gonna be processed, like the input. It comes in, it’s processed, it’s integrated and filtered through the limbic system at some point.

[00:02:06] So yeah, it connects to everywhere else.

[00:02:10] Jennifer: And that’s because emotions are part of our survival and part of our humanness.

[00:02:17] Matt: Yeah, I think they’re part of our social connection to others. They are our social connection to other humans, because we have the ability to communicate, we have language and we have nonverbal communication.

[00:02:32] A lot of that is played through our limbic system, but our emotions create a sense of safety for us, a sense of belonging. But then when things get flipped, whether it’s from trauma or an unsafe environmental pattern, it’s our emotions that first clue us in to say, Hey, we’re not safe. Like this is not a safe survival location or safe environment.

[00:02:54] And we feel fear or dread. Or other emotions that start to come up to the surface. It kind of is our own protective mechanism. So it’s interesting how it plays out on both sides.

[00:03:08] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think emotions are hugely important to our survival. Not just human survival, but like mammalian survival. And while they’re also something that makes our life experience beautiful and enriches our lives, there’s definitely just as Matt was saying, a huge survival component to that. And I was listening to a talk by a neuroscientist, Jack Panksepp, I believe is his name, and he calls himself an effective neuroscientist. he studies emotions through the lens of neuroscience. He looks at them a lot in animals and looks at mapping out the pathways of what happens in animals, when they’re experiencing sadness and when they’re experiencing anger.

[00:03:52] He really sees that there are all these different types of emotional systems in animals that we share with animals. And they’re really necessary for life, right? Like anger is an emotion that is used when our boundaries are violated when we’re not safe, it’s a healthy response to a boundary violation.

[00:04:14] Care is an emotion there to keep us connected to our young, to keep us connected to one another for survival. Sadness is something experienced by young when they’re not having their needs met, when they’re not having their care needs met- both panic and sadness as a way to try to reconnect with their caregivers and get the attachment that they need, really for survival at that young age.

[00:04:48] Jennifer: Does emotional regulation have something to do with homeostasis? Because some of the stuff that I was listening to…like Matt just said, the emotions are what Q us in. Communication pathways that are constantly going and traveling up and down. Everything that lives in the brain also lives in the body.

[00:05:15] You’ve got all this stuff that lives in your gut brain. You hear about that a lot too. Your intestinal tract is lined with all the neurons and receptors and peptides that are found in the brain. So if we are constantly shifting consciousness because of the emotional state that we’re moving through, and emotions are touching every part of our brain, then

[00:05:45] if our body is designed for homeostasis, but emotional regulation is not really a thing for people, does that throw off their homeostasis? The fact that they’re not emotionally regulated?

[00:05:57] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think definitely. I think when you don’t have the capacity to process and move through emotional states when you suppress emotions that yes, it disrupts homeostasis and it definitely also leads to dysregulation of the nervous system, which leads to disruptions in homeostasis.

[00:06:17] And so that is part of the reason why it’s really important to be able to have the capacity to process emotions, to look at them with awareness, to be able to sit with them, and then to allow your body to express in the ways that it’s meant to express so that those cycles of energy and charge that come with grief and anger are completed through the body.

[00:06:54] Matt: I think regulation, you almost can’t differentiate the two. I think emotional regulation is a part of homeostasis. And to have homeostasis, you gonna have to have emotional regulation. How many people have you known that become emotionally dysregulated and then their sympathetic nervous system spins up,

[00:07:15] So we breathe faster, increased respiratory rate, increase blood pressure, increase heart rate. We sweat more, like our muscles get primed for action, and we’re moving closer and closer to that fight or flight moment. It may have been an emotional driver, but it’s showing up as physical changes in the human body. So there’s no divider between the two. When you are emotionally dysregulated, you’re already out of homeostasis. They are one and the same, that you really can’t pull ’em apart. Because our brain doesn’t work outside of the limbic system. Like our body doesn’t work outside of our emotional state. We don’t live in a vacuum. We don’t dissociate ourselves in a healthy way. We don’t dissociate ourselves from our emotions and our feelings. They’re always connected to all the parts of the body. So yeah, they’re absolutely related because they kind of were the same thing.

[00:08:20] Jennifer: What’s the difference between a feeling and an emotion?

[00:08:26] Elisabeth: Feelings have a lot to do with our felt sense and the sensations that we’re experiencing in our bodies. Emotions are the whole the whole process, the peptides, the chemicals, the reactions that get put into play by interaction with other people and our relationships.

[00:08:49] And then the feeling is what you experience physiologically as a result of that emotional cascade.

[00:09:03] Matt: So I’ll put a different spin on that only because the word feelings can mean a few different things. Like yeah, it can be the feelings of the sensory and the experience of the body, but there’s also languaging and phrasing like, You hurt my feelings. Like, what does that mean? Cause that’s not really about sensory inputs.

[00:09:22] So what comes to mind for me is the work of Allison Armstrong, when she talks about feelings are actually our connection to the spiritual and she actually describes like when we say hurt my feelings, it’s like there’s this extra organ that we have in the middle of our chest, right behind our sternum, lives right next to our heart.

[00:09:43] That’s where my feelings live. And you could use language like, that’s my identity or that’s my ego, my sense of self. And if you hurt my feelings, you hurt who I am because you wounded that part of me that is my connection to the spiritual or to the greater existence of who I am as a living being.

[00:10:08] You didn’t hurt my emotions. I agree with Elizabeth, the emotions are the activation of limbic and neurotransmitters that make me have a certain emotion: anger, joy, sadness;the ups and the down. But in Allison’s work, she talks about the feelings as like this more deeply seated sense of self.

[00:10:32] That how I feel about something is different than my emotion about it. I could have deep and meaningful feelings about my significant other, but in the moment I could be angry at her, right? But I feel a certain way because who I am and who she is. And that’s gonna last longer than the emotional up or down that I’m currently facing. But when those feelings are wounded, it’s like, oh, that’s like a part of me that’s been wounded or a part of her that’s been wounded because of the argument we had, or something that I said, or something that I did. And it’s really about even more than the physical felt sense. Like my sensory input is one thing.

[00:11:17] My emotions are another level. And then there’s my feelings. And so  it’s just a totally different definition and usage of the word, but where is that? And it begs the question, where is that sense of identity? Where does that ego or sense of self live? What contributes to that? What forms it? What and how do we hold it safe? What can harm it? Like it’s very interesting to go a little and go, That’s not my emotions, but it’s something that’s a deeper part of me or a deeper part of my brain that ultimately I want that to be protected and loved. I don’t want it to be wounded or disregarded or taken for granted, either in a significant other relationship or a business partnership or whatever.

[00:12:12] It’s a very deeply rooted part of who we are as humans.

[00:12:17] Elisabeth: Yeah, it’s interesting cuz I think like one of the biggest things of trauma, especially complex trauma is that fragmenting of the self and how much of your identity or ego becomes, you  dissociate from, you lose connection to, and it becomes I think it’s absolutely one of the most devastating effects of complex trauma is the fragmentation of self.

[00:12:46] Jennifer: I was gonna say something similar about the development of the emotional system for someone who’s been through some sort of early childhood trauma, something developmental versus someone who grows up in a non traumatized environment, like an environmental failure. Like what is that person’s, I have no idea actually, cuz I’m not that person. <laughter>

[00:13:12] Elisabeth: Me either <laughter>

[00:13:16] Matt: I would say they’re wildly different. We can’t undo and create this sense of self, but it’s a self that is more hyper aware, hypervigilant, predisposed to see the world through a lens of danger or a lens of threat is the word that we all use to describe that.

[00:13:41] But it’s like nowhere ever feels safe. It’s difficult to trust. The emotions are probably much more protective in nature rather than accepting and connecting in nature. I won’t call them good or bad emotions cause they also have repurpose. They’re all useful at some point, but some of them are protective, some of them are connecting. If I can use those two words. So if I grow up in an unsafe environment or a traumatic environment, or exposed to early childhood trauma, my brain learns through its limbic system and sense of self that the world is not a safe place. It’s not a safe place to be. I shouldn’t connect with others. It’s kind of like I gotta look out for my own safety and just survive rather than connecting and thriving with the other people that are in that environment and unfortunately that will lead to other behaviors down the line sometimes. They say hurt people, hurt people, or that abuse may show up later in another type of abusive relationship or situation, but I think it creates a predisposition in the way that the nervous system and the brain perceive the world around us, and they create expectations and predictions about what the world is going to be like. But what we know about the nervous system is it’s always looking for evidence to support its own predictions and we talked about that on one of our earlier podcasts. Like if you get invited to a party and you love parties, it’s gonna be great. And if you hate parties, it’s probably gonna be terrible.

[00:15:19] But either way, your brain wins because it was correct in its prediction about the reality that you’re gonna face. So our brain basically creates its own reality based on the stories that it tells and the predictions that it has. But if you take a young nervous system and put it through trauma or in an unsafe environment, it’s gonna drastically change those predictive mechanisms potentially for its entire lifespan. I mean, that’s an unfortunate and kind of a scary part of that. Like we all want to grow out and move past our trauma, but it’s not just about healing from the initial trauma that occured. It’s also about reshaping and retraining the behavioral patterns and the patterns of perceiving the world that we have adopted over the time in order to really protect yourself. And that’s a big ask. Like that’s a lot of change to go through for a human to do that consciously, safely, progressively. In my opinion, as humans, we’re kind of all seeking instant gratification and we’re like, Why am I not done with this yet? Why have I not healed from this? Why are things not better?

[00:16:40] And we want or wish that we had this fast change.

[00:16:46] Elisabeth: Yeah, in a very real way it shapes the world that we live in and then the relationships that we experience and I can even see it for myself now. I am in a very secure relationship with someone that I actually cognitively trust very much.

[00:17:08] And there’s still a part of me that is really primed to constantly be looking for ways in which I’m not gonna be protected in this relationship. And there’s even a part of me that wants to find that evidence, that wants to see it, because like Matt was saying, in some ways my brain wins when that happens.

[00:17:26] And it’s a very strange thing to watch that. And I’ve had to do so much work to get to the place where I can even in a safe, secure attachment style relationship. And yet I can still see my trauma patterns of that hyper vigilance of looking for ways in which I’m going to be abandoned, neglected, not protected, and seeking them, searching for them all the time.

[00:17:53] And that there is a part of me, a part of my mind and my emotional body that wants to experience that. And then I also think in light of what Matt was talking about as well, not only does our view of the world move into a state of hypervigilance and threat if we grow up in an unsafe environment and with trauma during our development, but also our ability to express and process emotions is very limited because it was not safe to do so.

[00:18:29] That was never modeled for us. It wasn’t safe and, and the stakes were really high of expressing that emotion. So like for example, if you are a child who comes from sexual abuse then what happens is your boundaries are violated, but the last thing you can do is be angry. And remember, anger is a healthy expression of a boundary violation because then you might get hurt more, you might experience more physical pain, more emotional pain.

[00:18:58] You might be abandoned. And so you learn that suppressing that anger is part of that survival mechanism, right? You don’t even do it consciously anymore. You do it automatically and reflexively for survival. And that continues that pattern through your whole life too of not being able to express healthy anger, to express emotions that are needed to protect you.

[00:19:23] And so not only are we living in this state of hyper vigilance that comes from the world that we grew up in, but our capacity and our ability to express and not express our emotions is really highly shaped by those dangerous environments.

[00:19:43] Jennifer: And then the emotional suppression that we then have to, cuz you, once you’ve repressed all of these emotions, you then have to learn what landscapes they create in your body, how to identify them. Cause even identifying emotions sometimes can be kind of challenging. And then you’ve got to express the emotion.

[00:20:03] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think that it takes a lot of work. I mean, I think it takes a lot of work to be able to feel, to understand what emotions feel like in our body, especially when you have dissociated for so long. You and I do so much work on being able to come back and safely express our emotions and regulation, so much regulation around emotional expression and at the same time it’s so deep- that need to suppress my anger for me that it still presents quite a lot.

[00:20:48] And I’ll give you guys a very current example of that. I just went to the doctor and was getting my annual exam as a woman, my annual woman exam and that process, Is a trigger for me. It’s something that reminds me of very deep childhood stuff. And so I noticed, and again, we’re talking about that body boundary violation where anger is like the appropriate expression of the emotion there, but it is not safe to do it.

[00:21:19] So you suppress that. And as I was laying in the doctor’s office getting ready, I was very dissociated. I was very tired. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. And then I noticed when I got home, I immediately wanted to go into the kitchen and eat everything, but I felt nothing. And so even with all of the work that we do to be able to allow ourselves to feel and move through this, you know, there’s still times in my life where I just can’t, there’s no feeling there.

[00:21:50] And it’s really, I think, you know, it’s a protective mechanism and something that my brain learned early on, like it’s just not safe. It’s just not safe to. express that. And when you do you risk, um, losing your family unit. You risk being abandoned, you risk being punished. All of those things that come with that.

[00:22:16] Matt: So what you just said a minute ago is very important, when you’re in that state of anger, but you’re suppressing I think it’s important to recognize that that’s not always a cognitive choice. That’s an emotional choice of safety. And you may, in your own head, you may be thinking like, This is not good.

[00:22:41] I need to express this. You have enough knowledge to recognize that you’re in that moment, and a lot of people do. And yet we still hold onto it. It’s not like when we’re in threat, our survival brain is no longer listening to our frontal lobe. It’s like, I don’t care what you say, that you think you should express this.

[00:23:02] It’s not safe to express and we still bury it. Right? So learning those tools of expression, how to get it out of our body is very, very important.

[00:23:16] I love where you took that, but what you just said in reminding me of the conversation actually just prompted one more thought.

[00:23:23] That is when we have that long term change, Brain perception and behavior. Like we basically, we’ve changed how our neuro pathways are processing the world around us. It’s also gonna change the production of neurotransmitters, of dopamine, of survival hormones, of sexual hormones, Like everything starts to shift at that point so that our brain is actually functioning differently.

[00:23:54] And so to circle us all the way back to emotions and homeostasis, we said this in our last interview, what homeostasis is that homeostasis now? Is that in the past? Is it when I was a kid? We have a set point that our body and our nervous system currently function.

[00:24:18] But I think what’s important to remember is that my level of homeostasis is different than yours. And yours is different than yours and any other person you’re gonna meet on the street or in your family. We all have our own set point, like our own threshold of normal. And some of us are wound up a little more.

[00:24:37] Some of us are down a little more, but it’s kind of like when we talk to people about chronic pain. Well, at some point we have to explain that pain is one of, if not the most personal sensations that we have as humans. And what we mean by personal is that no one else can feel your pain for you, like the actual physical pain.

[00:25:06] And I’m not speaking metaphorically, I’m speaking quite literally, No one can feel the exact same physical sensation that you feel of pain. We do our best to try to describe what does it feel like? How bad is the pain? Where does it hurt? Is it sharp? Is it dull? Is it burning? Electrical, tingling, dull and achy?

[00:25:29] We go, Yeah, it kind of feels like this, right? But we’re trying to express in language what really isn’t language, right? It’s physical sensation and we will never be able to actually take a signal from my brain and put it into your brain so you can feel exactly what the physical pain feels like.

[00:25:51] You have your experiences. I have mine. They’re different and we try to find common ground, but that actual experience of pain and what it feels like is unique to you as a human. So all of that is to say I think our emotional reality and our emotional experiences are also personal and unique, and because of that, they deserve a great level of respect and honor. Like as we work with one another and interact, that part of the healing process is the acknowledgement of whatever you go through and whatever emotions you have or whatever. I go through. It’s real. It’s real for me. It’s real for you. It’s legitimate because it’s what our brain is making of the reality and of the environment that it’s doing the best that it can.

[00:26:50] It’s protecting and surviving the best that it can.

[00:26:57] Jennifer: That’s why gaslighting is so dangerous for people. My gosh, someone questioning your own reality that you’re experiencing, making you question your reality. 

[00:31:05] Matt: Oh, absolutely.

[00:31:12] Elisabeth: I was thinking back to when you were talking about what homeostasis is and returning to, and I was thinking about that in terms of emotions stored in the body. And when we talk about emotions being stored in the body, like what exactly are we talking about? When we reconnect to certain areas of our body and we create relaxation, we reconnect neural pathways to those areas of the body that maybe have been disconnected or dissociated from, is it then that we’re just returning to a state of emotional experience that we had there?

[00:31:55] Maybe we’re experiencing threat and a little bit of a survival response by relaxing these areas that have been holding so much tension and strain for so long as a protective response. Or are there actually components of emotional residue stored in the body that are released that create a reaction in someone when we talk about releasing grief from the lungs or emotions from the hips. Is it more of a reactivation of a neuro tag, of a pattern that has happened that then releases those emotions and makes you experience that experience?

[00:32:39] Or is there actual chemical residue of emotions, energy of emotions held in the tissue there?

[00:32:52] Matt: Okay. This is opening a whole can of worms. So, I think I’m gonna give you my opinion in a second, but it’s just that- it’s an opinion because I think science is still searching for answers on this, and I think depending on who you read or who you listen to, you’re gonna get different answers.

[00:33:19] I think what some people don’t know, and this is not one of those things where it’s a blaming thing. It’s more like anyone you speak to, you don’t know what you don’t know because you haven’t experienced it, your eyes haven’t been open to it. But I think this is one area where there’s a lot of metaphorical language that it’s made its way into therapeutic application like therapies, different modalities of healing that have clung to the metaphor because we don’t yet have the science to really understand what’s going on.

[00:33:56] And even in groups who purport to be very scientific, when you really get down to the nitty gritty, they’re still leaning on a metaphor. So when you actually talk about what’s going on, I think you have to get down into a much deeper level of cellular function than most people are familiar with

[00:34:25] Like conversationally familiar with. So in the big picture, here’s my opinion, number one, I’m gonna step on so many toes. Oh my goodness. Okay. Number one, to say that emotions are stored in the tissue I think is a metaphor. It’s not about the tissue. I think emotions are stored in the nervous system, first of all, okay?

[00:34:51] But the nervous system in the tissue really can’t be separated. All tissue in the human body is innervated by the nervous system. If it’s not innervated, it dies. So no tissue exists except that which is intimately connected to the nervous system. So that’s one piece. Like we learn them as separate systems.

[00:35:12] Here’s your fascia system, here’s your muscular system, here’s your nervous system. No, in reality they’re stuck. And you don’t have fascia without nerves. You don’t have nerves without fascia. They can’t support themselves outside of their relationship with the other one. So when someone says, You know, this emotion is stored in your fascial layer, or it’s stored in your hips or stored in your pelvis, I think that’s like clouding over the actual mechanism.

[00:35:46] The mechanism of storage, What we’re really talking about is memory, right? And memory is stored in the nervous system essentially as proteins that can activate a certain neural pathway. So when we recall a memory, basically what we’re doing is we’re activating a protein that’s in our brain. The protein activates a neural pathway, it emerges into a neurotag

[00:36:13] where all the different components of the memory come back to the surface of our consciousness. Right. And it’s hard to choose an example that’s gonna be a good example for everyone because in any example I pick, there could be someone out there who gets triggered by my example. So  I’m trying to choose one that’s nice, but it may not be nice.

[00:36:37] But if you think about something like a certain birthday celebration. You go like, where was it held? Who was there? What music was playing, what was the lighting like? What did this, what smells do you recall? Maybe another one that’s a little more dicey might be someone’s first kiss.

[00:37:04] Like if it was a good experience, like you can bring back all of those senses, the smell, the taste, the lighting, the environment, the feelings, right? Like all the emotions, all of it can come right back to the surface. But if it was a negative experience, then all the same things can come right back to the surface.

[00:37:29] But now they’re traumatic and they’re viewed through a lens of danger rather than a lens of happy nostalgia that someone else might have. So when we talk about trauma stored in the tissues, I think what we’re actually saying is memory is stored in the nervous system and there’s certain movements, certain parts of a neurotag or certain areas of the body where the nervous system is active that are more likely to surface a neuro tag back to our conscious thought or back to our felt sense.

[00:38:07] When we actually get into the mechanism there, I think it does have to do with activation of the nervous system. But here’s a kicker, and this is really interesting. There’s a research study that came out, I wanna say it’s been in the last few months cause I just ran across it fairly recently. That they can actually perceive changes to mitochondrial function

[00:38:32] after emotional triggers. So they show someone an emotionally triggering stimulus, like a picture of a happy face or a picture of an angry face. And after a certain number of these emotional stimuli, they can actually detect a change in mitochondrial function in the tissues. So that actually goes to a little bit of a deeper level of mechanism, a different level of function where if we are exposed to a certain amount of traumatic input, it decreases mitochondrial function, which means our body functionally is not working at the level that it could be.

[00:39:21] we’re not gonna be detoxing the same amount at that point. We’re not gonna be creating the same amount of energy. We’re not taking out the byproducts and toxins and the bad guys with our immune system the way that we should be. And so like we’re more likely to have pain, fatigue, inflammation, illness, and our physical body will actually start to degrade in its function without a high level of metabolic or mitochondrial activity.

[00:39:50] Some people would even say that’s the root of a disease process that’s triggered by an emotional activation. So in as much as I can say, if I was exposed to trauma and I have this memory, it changes my perspective in how I view the world, changes my behaviors, let’s use the language, it keeps me kind of stuck in trauma.

[00:40:16] What that does to my body tissues is potentially decreases all of their function because it’s decreasing mitochondrial activity in my tissues. So if you’re a therapist or a movement coach or a healer and you helped me start to move my hips or open up my pelvis or release my chest and sternum or whatever area you happen to be working, and I now get more blood flow, more neural activity, greater mitochondrial function.

[00:40:51] It’s gonna feel like that area of my body tissues has literally come back to life because I’m now getting the metabolic activity that is supposed to be happening there. But that research has come out like within the last year. So all of the ways that we’ve kind of learned to talk about healing the body and releasing trauma and unpacking storage trauma from body tissues, if this is true, right?

[00:41:21] If this is kind of proven out with further a research, I think it makes a case that sometimes what happens is, It’s not that we’re like releasing the trauma, it’s actually that we’re kind of bringing an area of our body back. Optimal function and connectivity with other body areas, so it’s alive again.

[00:42:03] Jennifer:  I think about like when you’re talking about the memory of emotions and where is that stored in the body, I think, you know, water holds a memory. Water holds memory. And we are made up of water. The water just doesn’t exist and the fascia or the water just doesn’t exist over here. And it’s at a cellular level.

[00:42:26] It is everywhere through us. And so you also hear about, you have cell cellular turnover and your body’s always regenerating. And so your water levels are also kind of changing then, aren’t they? Like, because you’re releasing some of that water that gets stored and then  your blood is water.

[00:42:48] There’s, you are water, we are water and we are effectively memory.

[00:42:57] Matt: It’s everywhere.

[00:43:30] Elisabeth: We went full circle here.

[00:44:37] Matt: Yeah. Super interesting. I mean, I love, and, and we’re into the level of conjecture at this point a little bit about like, well, what does that mean for humans? But I agree with you, and there’s a group of researchers who are actually studying the mitochondrial effect and the energy effect of water inside of human cells, right?

[00:44:58] It’s like the world of quantum energetic and quantum biology, where they’re going, what happens? When the level of water changes or the number of electrons that are attached to a water molecule changes, and you’re gonna get into conversations about grounding and exposure to sunlight, um, like infrared sauna or infrared light, the effects of EMFs on the human body, like you’re getting into all this quantum physics, energetic biology, but the research is there.

[00:45:32] It actually shows, yes, water has a memory. It will hold a current state and water in the human body works as a kind of an electrical, I don’t know the right term for this, but like an electrical substrate where our body can send electric signals across water pathways, through tissues that contain water

[00:45:56] And those signals do not have to travel along our main peripheral or central nerves like a nerve proper. It can travel outside of normal neural pathways because it’s traveling through the tissues via conductive water. When you look at it through that lens that means all of my body could feel a certain memory.

[00:46:24] or a certain pathway. And now we’re not talking about nerves, we’re talking about the conductivity of memory through our tissue. So does that mean trauma memory lives in the tissue? I guess full circle. Yeah. But it’s like when you ask like what’s the actual mechanism? It’s like, oh, we don’t know yet. 

[00:46:48] We’re not absolutely. I think it’s a little too vague to say trauma lives in the tissue, period. End of sentence, because I think we get a little bit of misunderstanding where you go, Yeah. I store my anger in my pelvis or I store  my frustration in my hips, or I store my bitterness in my upper back.

[00:47:11] Like, I think that’s a little too elementary of a metaphor. Again, we can’t draw out the exact mechanism of how and why our body seems to respond when we heal and release some of the trauma. Like why does it feel like we feel it in those body areas? I don’t have an exact answer to point you to. I don’t think we know yet exactly how that works, but there’s lots of different theories.

[00:47:42] I mean, that’s what we’re kind of touching on, where there’s some really cool possibilities out there.

[00:49:26] Elisabeth: It’s fascinating to think about and I think about too, like I also feel for myself in working with my clients too, that a lot of times, you know, you get these big emotional releases with relaxing certain areas of the body, and maybe some of those areas are just the areas that have been very braced for protection.

[00:49:54] And so as you provide certain stimulus to the body that allows it to reconnect to those areas and relax them, maybe for the first time in a really long time, you might experience a big emotional release because either your sympathetic nervous system is now relaxing enough in that area of the body is relaxed enough to allow you to start to express some things or the reactions might be reaction of your body trying to reregulate you.

[00:50:26] Like if you move into crying, if you move into shaking, if you move into some of these processes that the body uses to self soothe, it could be because relaxing that area of the body has triggered a sympathetic response and now your body is trying to reregulate itself.

[00:50:46] Jennifer: I love that, that you’ve been bracing and creating all of that tension and then the release comes in the relaxation and it is a flood cuz you do feel a flood of emotion. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we use the word flood and we’re talking about the memory of water.

[00:51:16] Matt: Yeah, I think it’s very well said. There is a release absolutely like release of tension, release of bracing, release of protective mechanisms, whatever sort they are.  Very apt to bring that into the conversation.

[00:54:33] Elisabeth: And a lot of the places where those releases are the biggest or the places that you really associate with protective reflexes, right? Like the upper bet trapezius and startle reflex, or the hip flexors and all these, you know, flexed positions that are liken into the fetal position and bracing and protecting yourself.

[00:54:59] a lot of tension in the pelvic floor and area that you would also be braced from body boundary violations. And so it’s like this held protective, reflexive posture that then when you move out of, allows either something to be released or moves your body naturally into a mechanism that it’s using to try to soothe from maybe the response that comes from that.

[00:55:31] Jennifer: Fascinating. That is really, really fascinating. Especially like you do hear about the hips and grief a lot and that we do store grief there. And then when I think about the hips being connected- well, everything’s connected, but like with your pelvic floor body boundary violation, sexual trauma, there would be sadness maybe being stored in particular parts of the body because of the tension that you were talking about, those bracing.

[00:55:59] And there are certain traumas that people would go through. I mean, maybe domestic violence braces you in a different way, like maybe, I don’t know, whatever you grow up with, but like I’m just thinking of sexual trauma is that protective posture that would hold the fear and the emotion to it during the occurrence.

[00:56:28] Elisabeth: Yeah. And it’s interesting to me too when we talk about memory and how memory lives in the body because really most of my memories are not cognitive. I don’t remember any details. I only remember things somatically, I only remember how it felt in my body and the only flashbacks I have are somatic flashbacks.

[00:56:52] I don’t remember people’s faces or  what it looked like or what was happening or where I was, or any words, because a lot of the stuff that happened to me was pre-verbal. And same with my clients. A lot of the people that I work with have pre-verbal child abuse, and so that’s interesting to tie into also with this idea of like, what happens when we release and create different ways of being in the body and stimulate different neuro pathways by connecting to those areas of the body, why that would cause such a big reaction if that’s like the only memory that you have.

[00:59:27] Matt: Yeah to kind of bring an idea alongside that, Cause I like what you said there, it’s a little bit like when we’re revealing ourselves or kind of lowering our armor when we’re with another person and we’re choosing to share where the only experience that we’ve ever had in regards to whatever that thing is, has been a harmful, abusive, or traumatic experience.

[00:59:59] Right. It may not be anything related to physical abuse or trauma, cause you talked about the somatic side. But on the emotional side, it could be my middle name. Like there, there may be some, like the only experience I ever had. When I was in school and someone learned my middle name, that became the thing that I got bullied about and experienced some emotional trauma around that over and over and over and over, right?

[01:00:31] If I am an adult and I get into a relationship and I’m being asked what’s my middle name? And initially they might have thought that that was a cute question, a playful question, but it butts up against some type of previous trauma and like, Whoa, I’m not sure I’m ready to let that one go, you know?

[01:00:54] And so to come to step into a moment of that relationship with vulnerability and to allow that person to see my middle name, the only experience I’ve had before is a traumatic emotional experience. when I let that go, what’s that gonna feel like? Right. So yeah, like Elisabeth talking about the somatic memories of going when they’re released, like then what? like how do you rebuild, almost like how do you rebuild a sense of positive or at least kind of regular felt sense around the somatic area.

[01:01:42] like how do you break them out of that trauma from the past? And same thing occurs on the emotional side. Like how do I break through the emotional trauma that was there and expose this and be vulnerable with this to someone who I can trust with it. Who isn’t gonna throw me back into another loop. So there we started off talking about kind of emotions and homeostasis, and I think this kind of, it brings us back in to go, Yeah.

[01:02:16] It’s not just somatic things that we hold. Sometimes we hold emotions in a very similar way.

[01:02:44] Jennifer: Well some of all of the work that we do involves altering in a positive way. The internal emotional landscape of the nervous system, cause a lot of ourselves included and our clients is all about  people who have lived in heightened nervous system states of threat, and then all of a sudden you experience joy, pleasure, passion.

[01:03:09] And that is very threatening to a nervous system that isn’t used to experiencing joy in a purest way. It happens sometimes on consultations. People will experience pushback almost immediately when they get off a call with me because in that moment they experience hope and actual connection and then it’s like, Oh shit, I don’t even know what that feels like.

[01:03:55] Matt: Yeah. Typically they don’t trust it, right? They start to question second guess. Oh, I can’t, I can’t do this. I can’t work together. They don’t trust the experience and they think not on purpose, not even cognitively, but their survival brain starts to say like, Yeah, you better be careful.

[01:04:18] Like something’s gonna come out of  that one spot you weren’t looking from behind you or from out of the closet, something’s gonna get you, something’s gonna attack you. It’s not safe. You can’t let down your guard. So, yeah they have that first experience and then they go uh-oh and they back away from that cause they don’t feel like they can trust it and it’ll create all kinds of self-sabotage in their life.

[01:04:51] Oh, I got a great new job. I blew it up. Oh, I got a great new relationship. I tore it down. Oh, I got a great new friendship. I undermined it. And that goes back to what I was saying we were all talking about earlier of how it changes our ongoing perception and behavior. Like if I learned other people are not trustworthy, every one of those relationships is gonna be scary.

[01:05:22] But when they, when we can finally, I don’t know how long it takes, you know, and maybe you two have input on this how long did it take? How many… If we were talking about marketing, I would say how many touch points does it take before someone wants to work with you? But in this emotional state, it’s how many experiences do we have to have of joy before we learn that joy is real?

[01:05:49] How many experiences do we have to have of love and we burn it down or blow it up before we actually understand love is real and we start to be able to change our response to those people or those situations and the answer’s gonna be, It depends on how much work you’re doing and how much healing you’ve gone through.

[01:06:11] If there is no healing, the number of relationships I’m gonna burn down is infinite. I’m gonna destroy them all cause I don’t think any of them are trustworthy. If I can go through the retraining of my nervous system and the healing process of rebuilding my emotional state and letting that trauma be released, whatever that looks like.

[01:06:39] Hopefully I’m bringing the number down from infinity to whatever happened in the past is my number. But moving forward, I’m not gonna add any more to that list. That’s the goal, right? So we talk about using our neuro tools, we talk about regulating the nervous system, we talk about expressing emotion.

[01:07:08] But what I want to ask this question, Jennifer, I’m taking your job for a second. I wanna ask this question. How do you two think that we actually train ourselves to perceive those emotions or relationships differently? Like telling the brain in advance, this should be different or I want this.

[01:07:33] I wanna act a different way, behavior’s, different way. I wanna hear this person a different way. I wanna view the situation in a different way. Like how do I prepare my brain to go into the next thing and have a different outcome than I’ve had in the past?

[01:08:04] Elisabeth: Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s a great question and the world we live in changes that I’m in a very safe relationship now with someone I trust a lot and I’ve done a lot of healing work on being able to trust people and lean into that.

[01:08:21] and I still- on a daily basis- find my mind searching for all the ways in which I’m not gonna be protected in this relationship. And feeling very driven to look for that evidence. And it’s almost like there’s a part of me that wants to find it, right? That wants to find- the brain wants to win, right?

[01:08:40] The ways in which I’m not protected. And so even with all of the healing work that I’ve done that loop is still there. It still exists. And that deep belief of ‘I will not be protected’ and it’s very scary to trust into an intimate relationship. And the difference I would say, hopefully this will not be this way forever, is that I never react to it anymore.

[01:09:05]and I have done enough of the work of regulating myself that I can view it with a lot of altitude now. And 

[01:09:20] I don’t actually engage in the behaviors of looking for evidence. I recognize it as an old pattern. And then I have to, I have to do regulation and I have to spend time with my younger self affirming that I will protect myself now and creating that safety as I’m envisioning her, as I’m thinking about the things that she felt and allowing her to release that.

[01:09:50] And the more I am able to, in my own life, be the person who protects myself, kind of pulled my boundaries, can speak my truth, can honor my needs and take care of myself through regulation or time in nature or rest. The more I can take care of myself and protect myself, the less I’m looking all the time too, for the ways in which I’m not gonna be protected.

[01:10:21] And so using the tools to be able to make those new habits and, and new forms of self care possible, or really restores the foundation of trust with myself, and then it becomes possible to move out of those patterns of distrust with other people too.

[01:10:43] Jennifer: For me, I really notice that when I’m in a situation where I’m not feeling trusting of safety, of receiving love, that my Fight/Flight will get triggered and it’s usually Fight because I will turn that mostly inward or if say there’s a fly in the room. I’m going to kill that fly. It gets expressed, not usually on other people, but I really spend a lot of time reparenting myself because when I can feel that trigger come on my nervous system, I can actually say to myself, This person loves you.

[01:11:20] This person wants to support you. This is a loving environment. And there’s almost like this kind of detachment in the moment where sometimes I’m trying to repair it myself in that moment. But if I know that I’m going to a joyful occasion, like I’m going to a wedding or I’m going to celebrate someone, I have to dose myself accordingly.

[01:11:39] And I know when I’m starting to get too much, I might just excuse myself and do some drills. I might just kind of disappear, Irish goodbye even sometimes. Like I’ve just kind of had enough and I know when it’s enough. I just know my nervous system well enough and that inability of trust, receiving love and safety.

[01:12:02] Those are all the things that I work on every day for myself because I’m the person who has to be the trust, the trustworthy place, the the love. I have to be the receiving part of that and it takes a lot of work to trust and love myself and be the safe space for those, for all of that too.

[01:12:48] Matt: Yeah, so I agree with both of you. Like it takes a lot of preparation, like mental preparation, emotional preparation, regulation. Pause when I start to get overstimulated, right? Like, leave if you have to get back out. Reregulate step back in. Regulate in the moment. Step back out. Reregulate. I think what both of you touched on is the awareness of the recognition of when your nervous system needs that. 

[01:13:25] It’s just huge. I completely agree. Like we had company at the house last night, people that we hadn’t seen in like five years. Great friends, we went through lots of education together, but about two hours into the evening, there’s one conversation going on to the left of me, one conversation going on to the right of me.

[01:13:44] Tons of auditory overstimulation. I was like, I’m out. I have to go reregulate or else I’m gonna become a really angry person right now. So although it was the first time in five years to see these great friends, I had to tap out early. I was able to go step out of the room put on my inhibitory tools, put on my hat, put in my earplug, go to a quiet room, do some breathing, and then after I’d regulated, I could go back and reengage.

[01:14:18] Once the environment changed a little bit, basically they’re on their way out the door. But at least I could go back and reengage to tell them what a pleasure it was to visit and hang out and give hugs before they took off again cause who knows when we’re gonna get together the next time.

[01:14:37] But without the awareness of recognizing my nervous system was being overstimulated and I was losing it to stay in that situation like I might have in the past, I would either end up suppressing my own feelings of frustration and anger and trying to people please, or I would blow the top off and just lash out at people because I can’t control it anymore.

[01:15:04] Neither one of those is a healthy response to the environment, right? Awareness recognition is just so important to be able to engage in the whole process that we’re even talking about.

[01:15:43] Elisabeth: Yes. I think it’s really important too how you were talking about like in the moment, stopping and giving yourself the tools that you need, and that’s one of the things that has made the biggest impact for me. Is that like I’ve started to have the awareness and especially I can recognize my loops.

[01:16:01] I can recognize the voice, the loops, the things, the protective part of my brain when it’s going off. And I can see that as a signal, just like I would learn to read a pain signal from my body saying that maybe something is too hard and pushing me into threats. So when I start to hear those loops, I know I’m moving into that state.

[01:16:23] And then, like we talked about before, when we’re moving into that survival, High threat state, you know, the world starts to look that way. I start to look for evidence of that. So if in that moment I can step away from the situation and do some stuff, exactly what you were talking about, do some breathing drills, do some gentle stimulus, some rescue drills, and create a different felt sense inside of myself, then I can go back into that exact same situation and it looks different.

[01:16:52] Now I don’t see all the ways in which I’m not gonna be protected. I don’t have to brace myself or pull back or withdraw from the relationship. I can engage and, and be the partner that I wanna show up as. And sometimes it can be as simple as really stepping away for five minutes and doing something to reregulate.

[01:17:13] And so then my perception of reality and who I’m showing up as are, are changed when I go back. So I recognize what’s happening, I recognize the emotion, I recognize the loops. I can respond to it and then I can reset and then I can respond differently and discharge sometimes if I need to have a cry, have a shake, have a whatever, and then go back and, and be different.

[01:17:40] And the more reps I do of that the easier it gets.

[01:17:43] Jennifer: It really allows for presence and connection. It’s basic human need connection, right? So the regulation has been a real lifestyle changer for me in the way that I’m able to show up for myself, not only for other people, but how I’m allowed to show up. Not allowed, but, how I just show up in my life.

[01:18:16] Elisabeth: Okay. Cool. Thank you. Thank you, Matt, for taking the time to do this and for being willing to dive into some of these less explored topics.

[01:18:33] Matt: yeah, it’s my pleasure. I love talking to you two. This is great.

[01:18:36] Jennifer: Yeah. I love it too. Bye.

S2 E35

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