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S3 E8 TRNSCPT Overcoming Dissociation and Emotional Repression to Create Presence

TR S3 E8 Presence 

[00:00:00] Elisabeth: Hey everyone, could we just take one moment to take a collective breath together? If you’re somewhere where you can stop, stop. If you’re driving, just bring your attention to your breath and let’s just take a gentle inhale through the nose, and then a nice long relaxed exhale. Maybe give me one or two more of those.

[00:00:21] Just a gentle inhale through the nose, feeling the sensations of the air moving into the body and the air moving out of the body. Then if it’s possible, just notice any sensations that you can feel like your body making contact with the floor or with your chair. Can you feel your feet or maybe how you’re being supported by your chair? Can you feel the sensation of your clothes against your skin? The temperature of the air around you? Is it moving or still? Are there any sounds that you hear? Maybe bring your attention to the energy of your hands. Can you feel the space that your hands take up? Can you feel the energy of your hands? If it feels uncomfortable to be here, you don’t have to stay, but if you can stay for another breath or two and just see if you can spend a few more moments being Present in this moment, in this space with me, with Jennifer, and with your own body and breath. 

Welcome to Trauma Rewired, the podcast that teaches you about how trauma lives in the body and what you can do to heal. I’m Elisabeth Kristof, founder of Brain-Based Wellness and the Neuro Somatic Intelligence Coaching Certification.

[00:01:45] Jennifer: And I’m Jennifer Wallace, a Neuro Somatic Women’s Embodiment Guide. The next round of NSI is enrolling for this fall right now. So please go to neurosomaticintelligence.com if you are a coach, a therapist, or a practitioner and you’re looking to find a new way to bring the body and nervous system into your work, but you’re not looking to spend years learning a somatic process that really isn’t your passion. If you’re looking for a practical, actionable framework to bring into your coaching model that brings a Neuro Somatic component to everything that you’re already doing, the Neuro Somatic Intelligence certification is for you. We’re enrolling now and the link is in the show notes. Please enjoy our exploration of Presence from an NSI perspective.

[00:02:28] Elisabeth I am thrilled to dive into the topic of Presence today because it’s something that I think about a lot in terms of my own neuro practice as to why I am doing all of this work in the first place. What it really boils down to for me, why I make time in the mornings to train my nervous system and keep plugging away at Neuro Somatic Intelligence tools and training, is because I really do want to live a Present life.

[00:02:59] I want to show up and be connected to people when I’m speaking with them. I wanna stay connected to my partner. I wanna be able to explore intimacy. I want to be Present in my own body and be able to feel the experience of emotions in my body and the felt senses of the sun on my face and the wind and the grass and the whole big picture of being a human being.

[00:03:26] For me, that’s what Presence is really all about. That’s a lot of what trauma and dissociation- and all of the things that come with complex PTSD- rob us of is our ability to be present in the world. I really wanna pick this apart and look at what is the impact of Presence on our health, on our relationships, how we need safety in order to be present and all the nuances of this really interesting topic.

[00:04:00] Jennifer: I am really excited as well today to explore all of this because it has made such a big difference in my life and in the way that I am with myself. The way that I am even in my environment. It’s Presence and embodiment- which we’re speaking to next week- has really been a significant game changer in my nervous system.

[00:04:24] One of the things that we’re gonna get to today is how the cultivation of Presence can also be so threatening as we’re starting to move through it. So it’s been a huge learning experience. And I can really say that Presence, for me, is about really creating a new reality for myself and gives me that opportunity. I’ve been thinking about, how do I- and I’m interested to hear how you- define Presence?

[00:04:54] I’ve been thinking about this. For me, I feel like Presence is a state where one experiences a continuity of consciousness. It’s when the body’s place of feeling and sensing is from a state of regulation so that I can feel into the nuances of the energies in the room, the nervous systems of another person in a landscape.

[00:05:20] It’s the attunement around me and it’s the attunement of being immersed entirely into the virtual environment that I’m in and knowing that that environment is gonna have a strong impact on my emotions, my attitude.  It’s a really multidimensional sensation. The NSI tools make all of it possible because I know that the stimulus I’m bringing in from all the training is being delivered accurately to my brain. That the information is integrating properly or maybe better than it had been doing in the past, and that the processes are all happening from a state of regulation and interpreted in a way that my brain responds with the performance outputs, even if the performance is for my safety. So it’s like being really grounded and centered and being able to take it all in and knowing that I have the tools when I need them to recreate the safety- if something  is threatening or perceived as threatening.

[00:06:34] Elisabeth: Yes. So much of that is what I was thinking about when defining Presence from a Neuro Somatic Intelligence perspective. We know that Presence is an essential component of mindfulness, but what you really said that stuck out to me was the attunement piece. Presence is a necessary part of being able to attune to the people around us.

[00:06:56] And by attunement I mean being able to read and interpret accurately the signals that are coming from them- their facial expressions, their social cues, their posture, their vocal tone. Like am I able to really read that and to hear actually what they’re saying to me. Freedom from a lens of threat that distorts and interrupts that continuity of consciousness, that you were talking about, thrust me back into some other consciousness, some other felt sense experience of my past- and really being able to accurately hear and sense what other people around me are really saying and expressing so that I can really hear them.

[00:07:53] Then also to be able to internally attune and regulate myself to the environment as well. When I think about that there’s different ways that we have processing. One of the ways that we talk about here sometimes is we have a top-down processing which is the perceptual, emotional and cognitive mechanisms that are learned from our past that filter our experience. All those filters that live in our brain that shape our reality. Then we have bottom up or coming from the body which is taking in the stimulus in the present, both the internal world and the external world. And sensing them as directly as possible without as many filters from the top that are shaping that from our past experience so that we can actually perceive what is happening as it is happening.

[00:08:45] So if I have Presence that limits my inappropriate or misaligned emotional response that might come from the past. It allows me to accurately hear what others are saying. It prevents misinterpretation of signals from the environment or emotional signals because of that ongoing narrative that can distort the ability to see things clearly.

[00:09:07] So I can be in any environment and interact with people as they are, just like you said, and experience all of that from a place of safety. Because in past episodes we’ve defined complex trauma as when a series of events affects the nervous system in a way that we are left with an inability to integrate and regulate into our Present moment. So when we redevelop those skills of being able to integrate and regulate into our present moment, that’s Presence. That’s also a form of healing from complex trauma.

[00:09:53] Jennifer: It is a form of healing from complex trauma. When you have a real awareness of what’s happening in real time and you’re able to manage it in a safe body. You hear this all the time- everything happens in the Present moment. Because when you do have that awareness of what’s happening in real time, you can make moves in the current time that will help to reshape your reality, reshape your beliefs- when you can take that action in real time and be Present it’s really conscious. You become the creator of what you are seeing and feeling in the world around you. It’s really about being in those higher order systems of thinking. And for someone who’s been living in their survival brain for a long time and now all of a sudden you’ve found yourself, cuz one day you just do right?

[00:10:54] You just realize it like, wow. I’m here for this! You realize that maybe you’ve put yourself in an accidental triggering situation or maybe you’re with your family or who knows what’s happening- could be intimacy in a relationship- then you realize you have this real conscious moment of like, I’m here. This is happening to me right now. When you realize that, there’s this huge sense of empowerment and you are rewiring in real time. You get the experience of- I can see all that’s happening right now and I’m gonna make this conscious move and let’s see what happens. It’s a time expander.

[00:11:44] Elisabeth: It is really a time expander. I wanna dive into that a little bit because we’ve talked in here before. We’ve talked about how the survival brain only lives in the present, and it’s always asking: safe or unsafe. For that moment it’s trying to keep you alive. And we’ve also talked about neuro tags.

[00:12:02] Neurons that fire together wire together and when enough stimulus from our environment activates a certain sequence of neurons that all fire together we can be thrust into an emotional flashback or a very protective filter in the brain that is shaping our reality. But those survival tags we have described as timeless, they exist kind of outside of time and space- they just happen when we are activated.

[00:12:35] It’s important to me to draw a distinction here because that makes it sound like then if you’re in your survival mind, you’re in the Present automatically, and that’s not exactly the case, right? The brain is a prediction machine. It’s an anticipation machine and it’s always readying itself for the next moment.

[00:12:56] And if we have past experience that’s primed us to be more vigilant based on what’s happened to us before then our filters are shaped by the past, even though that past is molding how we see the present. Right? This is different from planning for the future or being consciously aware of it; or prefrontal cortex thinking about something. This is reflexive. This is a reflexive survival response, but it is shaped by our past experience. So the ability to be Present is gently reigning in that natural tendency of the brain and the nervous system to prepare for the next thing, especially when that is through a lens of threat in order to simply be with what is actually happening. 

So this requires an effort from us to sense our own priming, our own prediction, our own projections and to let those go so that we can be in the Present moment. And a trigger is something that happens in the moment. It’s not the past, but it is shaped by the past. So when we experience a trigger it’s a subconscious, reflexive, physiological thing that happens in our body and our physiology. Does this person or this relationship or this environment activate a stress response in my body, change the way my HPA axis is functioning, my heartbeat, my breath? Then all of the feelings and the response, does it push me into an emotional flashback or limbic escape?

[00:14:36] So the trigger is a Present moment resurrection of the past that resurfaces as maybe an emotional memory or maybe a memory in your body, a somatic memory, but it’s creating the response of the original threat in that moment. So it’s created by the past, even though it happens in the Present. Then it shapes our ability to exist, or whether or not we can exist, in the here and the now.

[00:15:06] Jennifer: It’s really fascinating to hear you lay it all out like that. Everything is protective, right? So the dissociation we know is a well worn response- especially for chronic, everyone dissociates, that’s just part of the human experience. Chronic dissociation, we’ve recorded about and we know  that is a well worn pathway.

[00:15:29] So, it’s interesting to think about- we have this well worn pathway of dissociation- maybe it’s coming with some Freeze, little bit of shame. Then we do all this work to train the brain, to regulate the nervous system so that when we go into those real time triggers the body actually has a different experience and gets to send a different message up to the brain. What I find so incredible about NSI is that the areas of the brain that get activated for fear, for the F trauma responses, the amygdala, the limbic escape, all of that- it’s all trainable.

[00:16:15] It is all trainable that we can totally bypass the subconscious mind. I mean, in a way, right? We’re never bypassing really any part of the brain when we’re working with it, but we can really change the way we experience presence because we have changed our brain. As someone with complex trauma, that is very exciting for me! It has been very exciting for me to reinitiate myself into presence- to be that creator, to know that ‘Oh okay, something’s coming up and I can cognitively override it because I am in my height or order systems of thinking. I am in the place that’s like, you know what? This isn’t yours. That’s not your story. Regulate yourself and make another move. Just make a tiny little ripple in this experience right now to re-pattern this and to stay, to stay here in a place that it really means something.

[00:17:17] Elisabeth: It’s really true. I know you and I talk to people on here and say like, ‘yeah, come join us on the site and you can train your nervous system at rewiretrial.com and all of that, but I think it’s really important- I really wanna stress to people- that is real for us. That is my real experience. That without the intentional training of my nervous system, none of this is possible. And that is the way that I have found to create safety around something like Presence. 

I really do believe that everything is a skill and every skill is trainable. And as people with complex trauma, we deserve to get to feel the Present moment. All of us out there with complex trauma deserve to get to feel a real human experience. The way that both of us have done that, and many of our clients, is through the really intentional training of that skill. I’m talking about sitting down, and in a minimum effective dose, dropping into the body for 10 seconds, 20 seconds, because like we’ve said, just feeling in the body can be really scary for somebody who has lived their life in a dissociated state. Then using Neuro Somatic tools to regulate and create safety inside of the body at the level of our nervous system and our physiology around those few seconds of Presence.

[00:18:42] Then gradually expanding that time, gradually adding into the number of sensations that we can feel and continuing to regulate and use our specific and unique neuro tools to make that safe until we can go out into the world and have increased capacity to be Present. One of the times I really felt- man, I’m changing- is when I was at Barton Springs. You and I were at Barton Springs, which is a big, beautiful swimming pool here in Austin. I remember laying there and really feeling the grass underneath me, the sun on my face. I felt in my body, I felt safe and at home in my body, even though I was in a swimsuit, even though there were lots of other people around there wasn’t that narrative running through my head about my body, about what was going on. I just was and that was huge! That was huge to have that experience of feeling like I was really there with you laughing, talking, being a friend and a present person. 

It came from that intentional training, and not only of the regulation of feeling what’s going on inside of my body, but we also do intentional training for our frontal lobe to inhibit our back brain, to inhibit those reflexive responses. And so we’re giving intentional stimulus to the brain and the areas that need to be trained and upregulated for Presence. And we’re also using Neuro Somatic tools to continue to make the practice of being Present and being in our body safe over time.

[00:20:20] Jennifer: We talk about all the elements of complex trauma and one of them is self abandonment. Presence, and rewiring for Presence, is the exact opposite of self abandonment. It’s you choosing yourself. It is you saying, ‘I don’t have to “survive” this, I can make new choices. I can be here for this. I can have a new feeling in my body and I don’t have to endure the way that things have always been for me.’ Which is also a deep pattern that we develop in childhood. It’s things that have worked before, become part of that neuro tag and when it’s activated and you have these well-worn paths, but with the new tools, you have a new way of being.

[00:21:06] And just like dissociation is a traumatizer, so is Presence. And it takes a minute. It takes time to cultivate full Presence in your body and to understand that the same well-worn pathways for however long you have your “trauma responses” are going to be elicited the same way as you are Present too.

[00:21:31] When you have that first emotional flashback in a Present body- that is major. My first emotional flashback when I was in a Present body was really jarring. I dare say, I had suicidal ideation, I’ll be honest with you. When I really felt I was Present and I had the first emotional flashback I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can handle this in my body, but I have the tools. I have all of the tools- the belief work, the tapping, the frontal lobe activation.’ It’s like I found myself through the activation of Presence being the traumatizer.

[00:22:26] Elisabeth: I am so glad you brought this up because I think it’s really important to discuss and really important for people to understand. Because there can be a lot of shame and self criticism for not being able to be Present in your body. I think it’s really important for people to remember- and you can go back and listen to our other episodes on dissociation or complex trauma in the developmental brain-but dissociation is a protective response. The sensations in our body at whatever we experienced, probably in a place where we had no escape, were too much, too dysregulating, too strong, too overpowering at a survival level disruptive to our nervous system. 

So our brain and our nervous system make the most adaptive decision to disconnect us from that sensory information coming in. Then all of those memories don’t get stored cognitively, they get stored somatically in the sensations of our body and perhaps emotionally, and emotional sensations in our limbic system, but not in our cognitive mind. So coming out of dissociation and starting to re-feel the sensations in your body can be incredibly scary on many levels because one, it’s a well worn path and a protective response that we’ve developed since childhood, but also starting to refuel sensations in the body is where all those memories live.

[00:24:11] Those sensations are the only memories we have of those events. We only have somatic memories a lot of the time. When we start to reconnect to the sensations, we are reconnecting to the memories of that too, in a way that we have not been as we’ve been moving through the world dissociated. And so that’s why it can feel so huge and overpowering when you start to feel even the little sensations and the first time we experience our emotions in a way where we’re actually connected to our body to have that experience. My God. I mean, yeah. There’s been many times where I’ve been on the floor in the fetal position, just like, holy shit. What? It’s taken time. And I could have never got there without working with my nervous system to establish a baseline level of safety that would allow me to come out of dissociation and process those emotions.

[00:25:11] And I wanna say that while it is a lot, and like you were talking about we do have the tools- I do believe it’s also an important part of healing because if I can’t move that stuff through my body and keeping it continuously repressed then I’m gonna stay in the behaviors that I’m using to repress it. And I’m going to also be keeping all of that emotional energy in my body dysregulating me. It’s always dysregulating me like that. I’m just not aware of it before I’m in my body, right? I’m having that experience in my physiology when something triggers me. But if I’m really dissociated, I’m just not feeling it. But it’s still happening.

[00:25:54] Jennifer: And the protective behavior for self-regulation that I’d always engaged in was binge eating. But we healed our binge eating. I remember one time going into the grocery store, I just needed to binge after I had been at a wedding. I was as Present as I could be. I took time regulating and stepping away. Then afterwards it really played a toll on my system and I went into the grocery store. I had all intentions of binging and I ended up crying in the chip aisle, because I couldn’t pull the trigger on the binge. 

It was a very strange experience because even like with your story with Barton Springs, everything you do now when you are Present and embodied is a new experience. You’re like a child in an adult body re-experiencing your life in new ways to be fully here for all the emotional responsibility of what’s happening and maybe not being so hypervigilant. That immersion into the virtual environment where everything is being impacted then to know- I’ve changed, I’ve actually changed.

[00:27:19] We talk a lot about measurable experiences. And you have a lot of measurable experiences once you cultivate the Presence. It’s on a spectrum, I think. Presence is on a spectrum like everything else, and we are moving to the full tilt, but going into it, it’s like a little bit of threat inoculation to see- okay, how much can I handle here?

[00:27:46] Okay, gotta draw it back. And you’ve got to have this cultivated- a really intimate relationship with your nervous system, which is why we are onsite teaching and telling people to go to rewiretrial.com- so you can be with us. You know, one of the things that really saved me was I had you. I had a neuro coach, I had someone to work with me intimately to know-I do need extra help right now. And that’s really important when you are coming back into your body.

[00:28:24] Elisabeth: I completely agree. I think Presence is fostered by a sense of safety. And that it is challenging, if not impossible, to create true presence if we don’t create that sense of safety first. Just like you were saying, that has to be titrated in our window of tolerance. I can’t expect myself to go and be Present through everything that I do all of the time now because I have this.

[00:28:54] It’s learning how to assess and reassess how your nervous system is responding and work within that minimum effective dose. That’s really important and there are times when I absolutely need help with that. I think that working on the site to train the nervous system is really important.

[00:29:18] I also have my own neuro coach and I work with you a lot. We do our own neuro practices together so that we stay accountable to the work and I think that is critical. I wanna keep growing my life, I wanna keep expanding my life. So in order to stay Present in these new experiences, I have to keep cultivating those skills in those experiences.

[00:29:45] One of the things that, recently- and by recently I mean within the past couple of years- I entered into a new relationship that has a lot more intimacy, has a safer foundation and I’m exploring it. I’m exploring that kind of partnership connection in a different way and that’s honestly been very, very challenging for me.

[00:30:05] There was a while where I was really dysregulated- even though cognitively I understood this person was safe and I wanted to take these next steps of  moving in together and having a shared life. My nervous system was not doing great with it and it got really tough for a bit. So I had to really double down on my nervous system training because I knew, ‘well, I want this’.

[00:30:30] There were times of like weekends of really intense flashbacks, really strong panic that scared me. And I have the tools and the practices, so I got the support that I needed and I’m really committed and I do more nervous system training now because also, we’re growing the business and this podcast has more visibility.

[00:30:55] It’s just a big time of growth and change and I wanna show up for it. I wanna be Present, and I wanna not move into those periods of panic that are coming from too much dysregulation inside my body for too long, but that does require some commitment to my practices, to my nervous system, 

[00:31:17] Elisabeth: Trauma resolution is more than talking about the past and deeper than cognitively deciding to move forward. Trauma lives in the now, in the body and the nervous system, and affects the present moment until we find a way to rehabilitate the system. If you wanna learn more about how to do that, get some practical, actionable tools and a framework, we are now enrolling in the next cohort of Neuro Somatic Intelligence Certification. You can go to neurosomaticintelligence.com to learn more. The link is in the show notes.

[00:31:45] Jennifer: It’s the most cherished commitment to recommit, every day to make a commitment to my nervous system regulation is putting me forward on the spectrum that we’re talking about, into Presence. You’re right, boom, I’m just gonna bust through the door. Oh, now I’m here and I’m just gonna bust through the door and everything is gonna be all presence and joy and all of that. Like, no, I have a nervous system that has complex trauma and it can be really scary to show up differently, to witness yourself differently. Especially in partnership, where you feel safe,  with your primaries and visiting your family or your caregivers. And here you’ve done all of this work only to be propelled into those same patterns, those old patterns where oftentimes, who knows who else is doing the work in your family, right?

[00:32:42] Sometimes we’re the only people doing the work to show up differently. And it can be really hard when the people in your relationships are not showing up differently. But it’s not just the people that we’re close to, it’s the world around us. It’s our society, it’s our culture. It’s everywhere that our nervous systems are plugged into. And when we start to reshape who we are, the waters that we swim in, we are having a very new lived experience in the world and it is so worth it to continue to go through it. To continue on the journey of regulation is so invaluable.

[00:33:26] Elisabeth: I agree. It really is about getting to live the full human experience. I think to some people that probably sounds really scary. I remember. Like you’re talking about, your familial relationships might not change. Society definitely isn’t changing as fast as you are probably changing inside if you’re committing to your neuro practice. 

We live in a dysregulating world and being Present, you get to feel that. You get to feel how dysregulating this world is- as well as being able to feel the joy and the connection and the intimacy. You also get to feel when things are out of alignment, that things are dysregulating, the big emotions, anger and grief and fear. 

I remember I posted a video on TikTok of myself doing the practice I described of feeling the sensations in my body, dialoguing with my body, asking my body: What do you need from me right now? Why isn’t it safe? How do you want me to be with you? Then regulating around feeling those sensations to come back and be safe in the body. One of the comments was, ‘why in God’s name would you want to come back into your body? There’s nothing there for me, but fear, terror, and pain. I want to just live in my head.’

[00:34:49] And I get that. I hear that and I do understand that. And I also believe, like we were talking about before, everything is happening in our body anyway- whether or not we are aware of it. So that dysregulation, when we’re not aware of it, it’s driving us toward disease. It’s driving our behavior in ways that we don’t want. It’s making us sick and leading us into behaviors and relational patterns that are really harmful. 

Until we can feel it and move those emotions through and also hear the signals that our body is sending us and be with our body then it’s really hard to change. It’s hard to create a life that is in alignment with what your nervous system needs, create relationships that are in alignment, process emotions if you have to stay in your head and try to intellectually, cognitively bypass everything that’s going on in your body. Even though I know that it’s hard and scary I do think it’s important that we talk some about why you would even want to be Present.

[00:35:58] Jennifer: To touch on really quick with that person’s comment, I found myself answering the call to stage three breast cancer. That was all from stress, from complex trauma and a little couple of PTSD stacks on top of it.
This is not the call that you want to answer, trust me. It is worth it. You can stay in your mind, but your body is still feeling all of those things, it’s feeling everything around you. And if you continue to neglect it, to repress your emotions, to suppress them in real time- we’ve done all episodes on all of this- you could potentially be answering a call that you don’t want to receive.

[00:36:40] There are many reasons that you would want to be Present in your life. This is an incredible experience to be embodied, to be Present, to understand like we were saying a little bit ago about time, ‘oh, here I am in the Present moment and I know I can just throw this tiny little pebble in that pond, the pond of my life, and I’m gonna shift my reality.’

[00:37:06] I don’t even know what to say. It’s so huge. It is the human experience. We are not the status quo every day. We don’t have to be the same. I just dream of a different life and that for me is regulation, to be in a healthy body.

[00:37:30] Elisabeth: That different life, it does require Presence. It does. It just does. There’s so many ways that stress and dysregulation create a disease state, just like you were talking about. There’s so much evidence that being Present actually combats some of that stress and leads to different health outcomes.

[00:37:52] One of the reasons you would wanna start being Present is for that. For example, there’s lots of studies that look at telomeres, telomere length, as it relates to our health. Telomeres are little parts of our chromosomes that protect our chromosomal integrity. Kind of like the plastic at the end of a shoelace. It protects the chromosome from deteriorating. 

There are many, many studies- Elizabeth Blackburn has done a bunch of them- that finds that telomeres bear the marks of the circumstances of our lives. Our stress shows up in our telomeres and stress is detrimental. The length of our telomeres corresponds to our biological age, not our chronological age. It corresponds, internally, to how resilient we are, how prone we are to disease. It’s a marker of our biological age and stress shortens telomeres. However, on the flip side of that, you also find that experiences that build stress resilience can lengthen your telomeres.

[00:39:19] There’s lots of studies that look at different practices that can do that. One of the studies that I found the most interesting was something that I was listening to in a course on the neurobiology of trauma. They were talking about what was most impactful in these studies on the telomeres was that it wasn’t just the activities that people were doing that determined whether their telomeres would get longer. It was their level of Presence. So that you could do all the things, like you could do the sauna or meditation. Or get exercise or whatever it was. But if when doing that activity you weren’t actually Present in the parts of your brain that are supposed to be lit up with Presence weren’t, it was not having the same impact on telomere length.

[00:40:09] That just really leads me to believe that no matter what we’re doing for our healing, if we’re staying stuck in that state of chronic stress and dysregulation, and I’m in the sauna, but my mind is going a mile a minute about all these other things about work and my body and this and that and my relationship, and I’m not Present for that. Or I’m doing the meditation, but I’m really in a high stress, anxious state.

[00:40:40] Maybe even just sitting still puts me in a high stress, anxious state. That’s not having the positive effect on our health the same way that actually being able to be Present in the moment, in the environment, in our body. That’s what really creates the positive health outcomes and the stress resilience.

[00:40:59] Jennifer: We know if we have an ACE score of six or more, that we already have a potentially truncated life of 20 years. So we’re really talking about your actual health, your lifespan. Those telomeres are being degraded when we are living in high stress, high inflammatory responses you’re ending the life of your telomere faster. And we have complex trauma. It’s like the telomere is running this race of how fast are you gonna heal your complex trauma so that this degradation can stop? So that you can pause this and enjoy the rest of your life from wherever you are starting from right now. Because when you have Presence and you get to connect in your relationships, in your friendships with your family, with your animals and nature.

[00:41:58] And you get to de-stress, have some happiness, find some joy, you are gonna decrease the natural aging process of your whole body, of all of your organs, your immune system- all of it. The whole human system is going to start performing for you on different levels.

[00:42:19] Elisabeth: That’s right. I think it affects all of our internal systems- our inflammation. There’s an enzyme called telomerase, which is responsible for replenishing those telomeres. So we want that at the right level and that is most correlated with level of Presence. It impacts how much stress hormones are pumping through our body- cortisol, adrenaline- all of these things. 

So I think that, in order to combat the effects of complex trauma, we do wanna start to train this skill of Presence. I was listening and reading those studies about the telomeres and presence, I thought, ‘Yeah, it makes sense.’ It’s just another piece of evidence to why people with high ACE scores have a truncated lifespan, because we’re so dissociated most of the time Or we’re in a panic state even as we’re trying to do all the things to heal. Like I have said many times on here, I taught mindful movement for 15 years, but I was not in my body. I was stressed out. I was over training. I was never, never, never in my body. So I wasn’t really reaping the benefits of it because I wasn’t Present for it.

[00:43:51] Jennifer: There’s many ways that we cultivate Presence in our body. One of them is through our interoceptive system. That internal system that the brain is getting accurate cues from the internal sensations of its body- from the organs, from the muscles, from everything, from your blood, from your thoughts even. So developing interoception as a skill is going beyond intellectually understanding anything, it’s about somatically feeling it. 

When I think about the breast cancer piece of this story now, this is just kind of coming to me, if I was Present and in my body and had a clear interoceptive system and a clear body mapping system, would I have caught that tumor earlier? Would I have felt it in my body? So it’s just that detachment from feelings and emotions and from your body that’s really so detrimental.

[00:44:57] Elisabeth: This is never to be too hard on ourselves or on other people. You did the best that you could and look at you. You’re surviving and thriving now. There are so many reasons to work with our interoceptive system and so many studies that link interoceptive deficits to eating disorders and severe panic and PTSD. 

And it’s another one of those things that you just have to practice minimum effective dose with. I work with a lot of clients that just a very small interoceptive drill, some tongue stimulus or a little bit of vibratory stimulus for the vagus nerve or something like that will send them into a full-blown protective response. Because, again, their body has been protecting them from those signals and from that input for a long time. Even just asking people to think about the sensations inside of their body and see what they can feel- all of that can be very threatening at first. It is really important to speak the language of your own nervous system and to know how to calibrate everything for you and to work within the right dosage.

[00:46:15] Jennifer: Which I think is so beautiful about being an NSI practitioner because when I’m working across from someone through Zoom and I’m watching their nervous systems respond to drills, to belief work, to subconscious programming- wherever it is that we’re at- emotional release, I know what is happening for them and I don’t have to leave them in that state.

[00:46:38] I know how to dose it back, dose appropriately and finish the calls not in a place where somebody’s gonna get diminishing returns and maybe spin out into one of their protective responses, or any unwanted behavior, that they’re trying to heal themselves of.

[00:46:57] Elisabeth: Absolutely. That comes because you understand the language of the nervous system, you know how to read it and other people, and then how to actually give them practical, actionable tools to do something when they’re moving into that dysregulated state. But it also comes because you’re Present with them, you can attune to them. You can read the signals that they’re sending. I think that that’s another reason that we wanna actually spend some time cultivating presence is because Presence in our interpersonal relationships and our relationships between one another is really key to having healthy, supportive in alignment relationships.

When I can be with someone else and allow the experience to move through me- to be with it, to let it move through my body, rather than observing it from over here, from this detached emotional clinical perspective, or just being checked out entirely, then that’s a very different experience and it allows me to be present in both my mind and my body. It really makes a difference in how I hear what they say to me, how I interpret what they say to me. I can be a safe container for the people in my life to come talk to me about things too, because my reaction is going to be appropriate, calibrated.

[00:48:23] My partner can feel safe discussing things with me without thinking I’m gonna be super emotionally volatile, or that it’s gonna trigger me into some other place. I don’t dissociate and detach from people quickly in the same way I used to. I can stay in a difficult conversation and be Present with someone and stay connected. And if we have Presence, we also can feel when relationships are out of alignment for us and when we need to put up boundaries and when we need to maybe not have certain relationships in our lives that aren’t serving our health or our nervous system. We can’t feel that if we aren’t Present, we can end up repeating relational patterns that reflect our past, our youth, our development that are quite dangerous for our health and our nervous system.

[00:49:18] Jennifer: So true. Back to being the creator- you get to decide ‘I don’t like engaging in this anymore, in this relationship, in this activity, in this experience.’ Or it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m really here for this more’. And you can invest more time in that person, more time in that relationship, but without the Presence to know, and without that understanding of how your nervous system speaks to you, you could really say on some bad tracks. That’s the word I can think of right now. You could really just continue in a survival state and unhealthy relationships.

[00:50:14] Elisabeth: Yeah, and I think it really allows, when we can cultivate that, not only for our own self-expression, but also for other people to get to be self-expressed with us. I hope you know that you can come to me and say something that’s on your mind and know that I have the capacity to receive it. I’m not gonna check out, I’m not gonna dissociate on you. I’m gonna be here- listen, respond appropriately. We can have open communication where you can be fully authentic and expressed. So I can set boundaries, but I can also receive them. I can express myself, but I can also have the space to hear what somebody else is saying and to respond appropriately. I think that’s really important for relational growth.

[00:51:02] Jennifer: Definitely when you allow other people their experiences without you trying to manipulate, control- when you’re just present. When you’re in relationship and friendship and with people, and you have a regulated nervous system, it’s like, ‘I can handle this. I’m here for it, and I don’t have to take it on. It doesn’t have to spin me out, and I don’t have to go into a trauma bond to save the relationship.’

[00:51:40] Elisabeth: Yep. As I was doing some research for this, I found some really interesting studies. Of course, it makes so much sense. They were looking at the ability to stay Present and the health benefits of that, but they also found that people who had secure attachment styles- which we’ve talked quite a bit in here in the past few episodes on different attachment styles- People who had secure attachment styles were characterized by internal regulatory mechanisms that allowed them to be flexible and constructive in their interpersonal relationships and stay Present. So, people who do not have safe attachment have a very difficult time staying Present and not being driven by those filtering lenses of threat when they’re in relationship with other people.

[00:52:33] That then makes relationships more harmful to us, for our physiology, because we’re going into those inappropriate responses. It creates those relational patterns that are harmful and, in general, leads us more into the responses that are, again, the opposite of Presence like self abandonment or people pleasing or Fawning. Or all these things that we can move into in relationship when we’re operating from that insecure place.

[00:53:00] So part of training for Presence and the ability to be Present, especially the ability to be Present in our relationships, is that re-patterning of attachment style. When we train for Presence, we are re-patterning our attachment style and we’re creating safety around being present with other people.

[00:53:20] If you’re a coach, a therapist, or a practitioner, and you know that you need a framework and tools to help your clients be able to be embodied and present in the work that you are doing, just like all the things that Jennifer and I are talking about today, then consider joining us this fall for the next cohort of Neuro Somatic Intelligence training. It is a certification that is ICF accredited and will give you a practical, actionable framework to bring the body and the brain into your practice. Join us neurosomaticintelligence.com. The the link is in the show notes.

S3 E8

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