I'm excited to have a psychotherapist, author, and speaker Tara Miller with us this week to talk about the effects of trauma, stress management, and the benefits of self-regulation therapy (SRT).
Wells has a master’s degree in counseling and is trained in advanced SRT. She runs a private practice in Kelowna, British Columbia and sees individuals for general and trauma-specific counseling in person and throughout North America.
She also works with professionals, entrepreneurs, athletes and women's groups on her science-based, whole-grain, nervous system hacking approach to wellness and stress management; as defined in her book, The Resilient Mind.
11:11-19:54 How Self-Regulation Therapy Works
19:55-22:25 Dealing With Guilt and Shame From Trauma
22:26-29:30 Anxiety, Distrust and Disconnection
29:31-37:30 Where to Seek Self-Regulation Therapy
Fact: There’s No Standard For Big Trauma Or Small Trauma
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Hello everyone, Dr. Anna Cabeca here with an episode of Couch Talk Tara Miller. Today, we are going to dig deep into stress, how we handle stress and trauma response.
Tara, it's great to have you here with us today.
Hi, Thank you. I'm so happy to be here.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Many of us know of the natural disasters we face from Hurricane Matthew, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Maria, just those the fires in the Northwest and Southwest. As well as life traumas and daily traumas from losing someone we love, abusive situations, and stressful financial and occupational situation.
Let's go ahead and talk about what trauma is, what some of the most common therapeutic approaches are now, and how self-regulation therapy is different.
In my practice, I deal with a lot of misconceptions about what trauma is or how we're supposed to respond to it. So a lot of what I do is really providing an education on how the nervous system responds to trauma, based on the fact we have the same nervous system as other animals in our survival response.
Anything that causes significant overwhelms to the nervous system can be classified as trauma. Not just the usual ones we would expect, such as the Hurricanes and the fires and the car accidents. There's no standard for a big trauma versus a small trauma. The classification of trauma and what's common is really individually perceived and responded to, to varying degrees. It all initiates a response from our survival brains.
And that's probably the biggest misconception that I work with — when people start feeling symptomatic in ways that don't go away after what they conceived to be (or perceived to be) a small trauma, like a minor fender-bender.
The biggest takeaway about trauma is — it's never the size of the trauma that's going to determine how you're going to heal from it or respond to it. It really is what's already in your nervous system at the time. And so our resilience determines our response to trauma, and that resilience is dependent on how regulated we are as individuals, and what's happened in our past, up to this point.
So if not a lot has happened in somebody's life, they can experience going through a big flood or losing their house or a loved one, and feel like they respond relatively quickly and come back into their lives again. While others can have some minor dental procedure or surgery and it's the straw that broke the camel's back, as far as their ability to come back and function in life.
And then we have vicarious trauma, which is everything going in the world today that we're watching from behind the screen on repeat in our feeds, that we are not able to respond to and be horrified by at the same time.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Absolutely. I always say that stress will be reduced substantially if we stop watching the 10 o'clock news!
The Importance of Healthy Resilience For Trauma and Stress Management
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
I like that you mentioned resilience. We talk about self-care a lot in my practice and in my programs; filling our tank so that we can maintain this peace and ‘be the ocean, not the waves’ so to speak. And that we can be really grounded, centered, and able to have the full range of human emotions in a healthy way.
I always say that in grief, we cannot compare ours to anyone else’s, as it’s very individual. So it hurts my heart when someone says, “Well, I lost so-and-so but I know that doesn't compare to your loss.” There's no comparing; absolutely no comparing. Our feelings, our emotions, and our response are truly our own. And like you said — so much in our past relates to how we respond to them.
So I would like to talk about some ways we can build healthy resilience. Can you also give us an example of a client who has PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and how you work with them in getting to the root of their issue and the releasing of that traumatic hold on them?
The way that I practice is different than others. I don't launch into people's worst experiences of their lives, because if they're coming to me, they already have a full container. (People) don't have symptoms anxiety, depression, insomnia, and chronic pain unless they already have a full container.
That means if we run straight into the fire, and they don't have enough resiliency in their nervous system to really heal those traumas and work through those issues in the first place — it's just going to cause more overwhelm. And what we know about the brain is it can't heal if it's outside of what they call the healing vortex; it goes into the trauma cortex instead, and you're just recapitulating the trauma.
So when people come in, we're really starting with where they are now and looking at establishing that the trauma is over. Because as humans we have these frontal lobes in memory that can keep the trauma memory alive so that it feels like a neverending memory or impact. And so we create an end moment in the session so that there is a marker that says, “This trauma is over.”
We then look at different parts and call it resourcing, where we look for different places in their lives where they do have health, where they have had resilience in the past, and where they have experienced joy or the absence of symptoms. And because it's working neuro-biologically — as they're talking about times that they've felt stronger in their life — the brain releases chemicals related to strength and the state that we want them to be in more of.
This increases their resilience but decreases what's in their container. By building on this strength-based approach that we're going to start strong, we're using the practices of self-regulation therapy (SRT), which helps regulate the nervous system by decreasing excess activation that's stuck there from trauma and building resilience at the same time. So we create an endpoint, we start in the here and now, and then we work back as their resilience and their capacity for handling some of their trauma become available to us.
But we also don't work with trauma in a linear fashion. If we talk about our trauma in the same way that it happened linearly every time we remember it, it wires together the neural pathways around that event even stronger. What fires together wires together. If we talk about it in traditional talk therapy modality, all that person is doing is reliving that event.
So with SRT, we work with it in a different way that's nonlinear, that allows for us to pause the story, help the nervous system settle through mind-body connection, and then go back into the story. We use a process called “renegotiating the trauma”, so that the trauma lays down in memory different then as it happened. Even that process alone decreases a lot of flashbacks, nightmares, and those kinds of disturbing symptoms of PTSD.
But it's a slow process because we know the brain is very fast to injury yet has the capacity to heal and change to the entire course of our life, although it is slower to heal than it is to injure.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
That makes sense, especially when — like you said — the pathway has been trained, has been so ingrained, it's like train tracks that are so embedded right at this point. So you're taking them off the track, variating from it and then coming around a different way to solve the problem, versus reliving that situation again and again.
That's right. By the time (people) get to me, they've tried so many other different approaches and are just so frustrated with how they're feeling that they feel so out of control of their own mind and body.
But there's an urgency that says, “If I just get to the end of the story, if I can just get to the end one more time with the right person, this will be over.” It really is this desperation for the nervous system to have it be done. We just do it in a different way so that it can be done and be realized in the right parts of the brain.
How Self-Regulation Therapy Works For Anxiety
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Let's talk about that some more — your mind-body approach.
Self-regulation therapy is based in what we know from neuroscience about how the brain and the nervous system are impacted from trauma and also how they heal from it. It's based on the fact that our fight, flight or freeze response is initiated from our survival brain but that a lot of how we try and heal from trauma comes from our frontal lobes.
Our thinking brain is trying to make meaning and understanding of things and always trying to overpower and understand what's happened to us. But actually, our response and what's happened to us has been initiated from the unconscious, irrational, and survival-focused part of our brain that we call the reptilian brain, which is really just brain stem; it's the only job is to keep us alive.
So it's not emotional and it's not logical but we're trying to understand what's happened with those parts of the brain, versus trying to heal it by hacking into the primal brain, in a sense.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Could you give us an example of how does that work? How do you apply this and to practice again?
I often use the analogy of an animal in the forest — a deer that's grazing in the field. It senses the threat from a predator or a hunter. All of the blood flow in its body changes, its respiration and its heart rate change, its eyes and ears open up, it has a wider field the vision, and it prepares for a response. Typically, the deer is going to flee. It hasn't thought about it, it just does it. When it senses that the threat is over, it's going to go back to the field and it's going to release a bunch of energy. They do these big movements called pronking that gets extra energy out, shakes the muscles out; they will tremble, they'll sweat, and they'll get rid of physical energy that they no longer need to fight or flight, and they come back down to baseline. And when their system comes back down to baseline, they'll go back to grazing and never think about what happened again.
As humans, we have this ability with our memory to think about what happened with the same response. But often what happens is, we're not able to run away or we're conditioned not to. So if we're in conflict or we're in a disaster, our instinct is going to be to run, and sometimes to fight. But we can't; we can't run — we're trapped.
So all of the energy that we would release from fleeing the scene, and all that excess energy that we could kick out, sweat out, and then come back down to baseline; we don't get to have the experience of. A lot of post-trauma symptoms come from what we call thwarted fight-or-flight; that means you have the initiation of a response to do something, and you might not be able to do it. So you hold the energy in your nervous system, which really fills up your cup so that you get those overwhelming symptoms.
When we work with SRT, we're looking at connecting the mind and the body — the nervous system is the mind and body combined, so we can't separate them. Because if somebody's telling me the story of what happened to them, even just digging into it, even just thinking about it, they are initiating a complete physiological response. Their body is responding as they're telling me about what they want to work on.
In that moment before they get overwhelmed, I'm going to pause and I'm going to ask them to notice what they notice. And that could be a thought, that could be an emotion — but it's usually a physical sensation. We're really connecting the mind with the process of fight-or-flight in the body. They usually tell me that they feel that their heart rate or their breath has changed, or that they're tense or uncomfortable. And we pause the story to go into the body and work some of that activation out.
So if they tell me that they're short of breath, instead of asking them to force a deep breath, I'm going to ask them to notice where they can notice that they can breathe easily. It's going to take the brain to notice even one inch of space where the breath is just easy. And as they focus on that one spot, their breath naturally deepens. They come back to that baseline in that moment just by working with different parts of the body. If it's uncomfortable, I want to find a place that's comfortable and bring the focus there.
They’re feeling sensations because the language of the nervous system is the felt sense. So we always bring it back to the body so that they’re able to come back down to a relaxed baseline. Sometimes they do the shake and tremble in sweat in the session, which is great. Then when they're back to a regulated state, we go back into the story.
So it’s like teaching their nervous system how to breathe again. It's stuck in this one mode of high activation, and we’re working with their body to teach how to come back down to baseline, where the trauma is complete, it's over.
As we do this work, it expands the resiliency, because they're able to tolerate more of their story and come back down to baseline so that it becomes a pattern that they teach the brain — “you can have your story, you can come back from it.”
And (eventually) they get a little calmer, a little closer to baseline, and report decreased symptoms — often within just a few sessions.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
I like where you said, “teaching the nervous system how to breathe again.” That's really powerful. I've practiced EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to bring the awareness of “Where are you feeling this now? Where in your body or you're feeling this?” and allowing that to release. It's an interesting phenomenon. Does it matter where you're feeling it?
It doesn't because everybody's going to feel it differently. What I noticed with women is that it’s often in the chest area, it’s often in the breath where there's constriction. That's a commonplace that's going to show up. But that's also a common fight-or-flight physiological response, which makes sense. If somebody's dealing with chronic pain, often they're going to notice tension where they have chronic pain already. So it's variable but the breath is a really common one for sure.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
How many sessions typically are needed? How do they then carry on? What's their homework for this?
Homework is a lot of self-care or self-nourishment. I work with a lot of alternative medicine and functional medicine type providers here where I refer people to an acupuncturist, a homeopath, a nutritionist, or a massage or fitness (center).
So we're looking at lifestyle practices — what's going to support your whole health and your long-term recovery. What you do outside of the session is really going to support what we do in the session. Typically people start to feel improvements after three or four sessions.
If somebody has a lifetime of trauma and they come to me for the last car accident that they had, other things are probably going to come up, and we're going to have to work a little bit longer. Nobody is ever down to zero or to nothing left in their container. But we want a good 50% so that when the next thing in life comes, there's resilience and there's room to deal with it in a really healthy way, and come back down to that baseline a lot faster.
But typically, one car accident might take six sessions to work through. It's a really specific, strategic way of working through the different traumas as we go and it is a slower process. Their homework is going to be things like, “Let's talk about your nutrition. Let's talk about your sleep. Let's talk about your supplementation, your exercise levels, and how those are nourishing you, regulating your nervous system, keeping your inflammation low, keeping your blood sugar regulated, and all of those things.”
So it's really a holistic approach — in my practice anyway. It’s really important to me to include that knowledge and have people supported by collaborative care.
Dealing With Guilt and Shame From Trauma
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
It's a multi-systems approach, right? But what I really like is that it's not the person's fault that they have these constant thoughts, the memories, the grief, and the inability to function; it’s that it's really ingrained deeply. So I would like you to talk about that some more because that is hugely powerful.
People take on a lot of guilt and shame with how they recover from trauma or how their symptoms have come up, and they're frustrated by it. Some people completely hide the fact that they haven't slept in years since their event, and other people just feel very victimized by it.
So part of the education of how your nervous system works is a depersonalization of what's happening. “This isn't you. This is activation. This is your nervous system. This is your animal brain that was just trying to keep you alive.” To depersonalize it to where people remove the ownership of, “Well, you know, I can't fix my anxiety and now my insomnia is so bad” to just calling it activation; it's just all activation.
And when it's not yours, when it's just activation that is the scientific phenomenon in your brain and your body, and this is how we're going to work through it — it really helps people outside of session to put their experiences and their symptoms in context. “It's not you. There's nothing that you could have done differently. There's nothing for you to feel guilty about. This is your nervous system. This is how it responded and it's just activation and this is how we're going to work through it.”
So it depersonalizes it but also gives a person a sense that there's not just light on the other end of this tunnel but also a sense of control. That there are lots that they can do in and out of session to really help themselves through this but even just knowing it's just activation diffuses a ton of anxiety symptoms.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
I can see that. So giving it its own identity — “This is it. This is the survival mechanism that we've been designed with and this is how it's working. It’s no longer serving us so let's handle it.” I think that's so powerful.
Anxiety, Distrust, and Disconnection
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
What do you see typically? If someone hasn't been dealing with it — what are the symptoms, the relational problems that they're coming into you with?
The most common symptoms are anxiety where they never had it before. Anxiety when they don't understand it — “When I go to lie down to go to sleep, I should be relaxed but instead I start to feel a panic attack” or, “I don't know why I can't sleep”.
As far as physical symptoms, in relationships, it comes out, and personality and temperament have a lot to do with this too. Some people just feel really flat. They've kind of gone into a dissociative stage or an inability to experience joy where they just feel flat and can't connect.
And other people feel hyper-vigilant, where they're on guard for everything, they can't relax around anybody, and stimulus from other people feel like too much, that they really close in.
I think the most common thing that we see with trauma is when people haven't worked on it but feel like they're managing it. Often what is happening is they've shrunk their lives so much so that it feels manageable but they're not really living the fullness of their life.
The goal of self-healing therapy not to have lifelong clients, but to really help people get to a place where they’re expansive, they're managing the fullness of their life, and that they have the confidence and ability to bounce back (as opposed to making their lives so tight and small) so that they feel in control again.
That's the biggest relational thing that we see, and the goal is to really bring that to resolve the trauma and help them maximize their life.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
That's so beautifully said... to open the doors again because we tend to close them. My journey too is a significant trauma and it has been a decade of PTSD, learning the ins and outs of it, and watching the evolution in my therapeutic process.
But knowing this cortisol-oxytocin connection, the overdrive of a nervous system pushing our fight and flight mechanism, driving up our adrenaline, driving up cortisol that fries our nervous system until our paraventricular nucleus (our brain) says, “Okay, enough! You're frying me out!” — that puts the brake on it.
It also puts the brakes on oxytocin — our love bonding, connection hormone. As you said, people can't connect; they're disconnected. They (feel) no more joy because they’re losing that oxytocin. So I always love the discovery of practices and processes that help to reset that wiring because it's not about taking or supplementing with oxytocin — we have to put ourselves back out there with oxytocin nourishing activities.
But let me ask you — do you also note oxytocin-seeking behaviors as part of their post-trauma pathway? It can shopping, drug abuse, alcohol abuse; excessive anything…
Certainly. There is a lot of addictive type behaviors that come out of this as people try to soothe. So it is the oxytocin but you'll also see people looking for the dopamine charge.
For a lot of people, it’s, “I just want to feel something, and I feel nothing.” Especially if they're medicated or over medicated depending through their psychiatrist or their doctor, that increases their “flatness” and their inability to feel joy. Maybe they don't feel as much of the negative but they don't feel the joy and the fullness.
They’re also really inhibited about how they can connect. A lot of what goes offline with trauma too is the inability to trust yourself to connect with someone else — certainly if there's been a relational trauma. So that's a really long road of reestablishing that you can trust your own instincts.
But there is that sense that “If I don't, the world doesn't feel safe anymore. So not only do I not trust the dog that bit me, the car that hit me, I don't trust the person that hit me, I don't trust anybody or anything or even myself.”
It’s that pulling in and pulling away from life. And we know trauma really interacts with the entire endocrine system; women especially are seeing a ton of hormonal disruption patterns because of previous trauma that they've never worked on, and they're just in this chronic burnt-out state from all of these chemicals flooding for way too long.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
And that is a huge issue because we've seen researching women who have been victims of child abuse or (female) veterans of war who have PTSD — when they hit menopause, they have a harder time, they get the harder symptoms of menopause. More hot flashes, more anxiety, more depression, more loneliness. Everything is dysregulated that hormonal disconnect.
There's a part of that that I believe is connected to our drop or decline of progesterone because it's so neuroprotective. Do you use progesterone and clients during this time?
I recommend it and have people that I would refer to that. I'm always checking for, “When did you have your last set of labs done?” It's not a common practice in a lot of the professionals I work with here; to look beyond just what the story is. But I need to know the context. I need to know everything that's coming to the table because if someone's iron-deficient and they're telling me about panic attacks, we’ll work on iron deficiency too because that could just be where your heart rate is coming from, or, say — the thyroid and the hormonal panels.
And it's harder up here in Canada to find access to labs that are affordable and people that can help in this specialized way. But that is really important, and it's something they do refer.
Because if there's a hormonal imbalance and we're trying to work in this way, we're still going to make progress. We’re still creating new neural pathways around health. So why not get the most support for all of your systems at the same time that you can to make this easier?
Where to Seek Self-Regulation Therapy To Deal With Stress and Trauma
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
One of the things I want to talk to is how does one go about finding a therapist that does self-regulation therapy,?
Self-regulation therapy was developed out of the Canadian Foundation for Trauma Research and Education. They have a page on their site that has all of their advanced level practitioners. Many of us do Skype calls if there isn’t one in your area. But the spread of SRT training for professionals is a little slower. It hasn't reached universities. They train internationally but they train in small groups because they work right brain to right brain.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Explain “right brain to right brain”. What do you mean?
So the left brain is the talking brain — the logical brain, where we to talk about your story to try and make meaning of it. Most people have already done that.
The right brain is really the grounded part of your nervous system, that connects and attunes in an unconscious way to another person. Somehow the mom can read the baby's cues when there's no language. It's also how we feel another person state; if we're around somebody that's low or depressed, we leave feeling lower, more depressed or different.
Our nervous systems are tuning all the time to people around us, picking up their state. There are mirror neurons that do that as well but this really is the right brain; the right frontal orbital cortex. And we use that in SRT to connect with the client. So a lot of it is the nonverbal and using the felt sense of the body.
That is how SRT is different. Because of that, SRT trainers believe in the importance of everybody doing this work themselves, with supervision involved. So the trainings are a lot smaller, and I assist them with a lot of their teacher trainings to support that, because we need so much more of this out there, especially with the levels of trauma that are increasing.
So you can find us through the website for sure. And for anybody that's interested in our training; we do them all around the country multiple times a year. But it is a specific, selective, hand-guided approach.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
That's awesome. How does SRT differ from EMDR* (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) in context?
*EMDR or Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a form of psychotherapy in which the person being treated is asked to recall distressing images while generating one type of bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping. (Wikipedia)
I haven't experienced EMDR myself so I can't speak on that front. I've done SRT from my own car accident work and what I really liked about it is that it wasn't overwhelming. We avoid dissociation because dissociation is the highest level of activation. So SRT works in a different range than EMDR, although they have very similar principles.
I have had some clients that found EMDR way too activating for their particular case or nervous system. They found the light or the moving finger to be really agitating and it wasn't something that they tolerated well. SRT had them feeling a lot more in control of their own session and of their own experience. It stays within a range that really is contained and attuned, and a lot of people preferred that if they didn't do well with EMDR.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
I can see that with EMDR. I think there are ways to do it gentler than others for sure.
I would say that sometimes we have to look at multiple modalities but, you know, who wants to be in therapy for the rest of their life, right?
We want to get through it quickly and rewire the nervous system so that it's not continually traumatizing us. After self-regulation therapy, as with EMDR and working with PTSD, there's still that occasional flashback or reaction. How do you instruct your client to then handle the situation when it's in front of them outside of therapy?
A lot of this work is self-regulating so that people can do this outside of session. So guidance is part of it because those flashbacks for any of us will be triggered by the anniversary of the event, a smell, or nothing at all; there's no rhyme or reason to it.
Again, it's about depersonalizing it and taking the shame away from statements such as, “I thought this is over.” It is over but as your system gets healthier, you're able to tolerate those moments.
When they come up in session, the nervous system starts to look forward to it and starts to respond faster, because it's building these new neural pathways that the brain is using a little more often.
When you're out of session, you're able to use the same principles, which is, “I have a flashback and I go into the brace, I know to look for a place in my body that feels relatively more comfortable or more grounded or where I'm feeling better.”
For a lot of people, they just go into their senses, “I can feel my butt in the chair getting ready for this interview. I was getting a little nervous, and I felt my butt in the chair.” Noticing the sensation of the chair will help the breathing slow down all by itself; there's no work to it.
So it's about learning how to guide your own consciousness into places of your body that are doing well, that reminds that primal brain, “We have all in the air that we need. Oh, we're very relaxed! This is a place of comfort.” Because where you direct the focus of the mind is where it will then light up and release chemicals to support that state in your body.
So we do that in session, and then over time, people are able to do that out of session.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Learning to guide your own consciousness to a better place... I really like that.
I also like how you said early on — “What are the moments when you're strong?” I think that's a great visual for our listeners even right now; to look at your highest self, your highest moment when you felt so happy, strong, and joyful; and to feel those feelings come back in. What did it smell like? What made you smile? What did that feel like?
Bring yourself back to that strength point at times when a flashback threatens you or when you're facing a crisis — “Where am I in my healthiest, happiest, highest self?” So that you get that oxytocin, serotonin, GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) and all those good neurotransmitters up.
Support & Wellbeing Outside SRT Sessions
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Do you find certain supplements help better than others or is there anything that you want your clients to be on?
There's one that I do recommend — for kids with test anxiety all the way up to adults with the acute sense of activation or anxiety, called Mental Calmness® by Natural Factors. It’s chewable l-theanine and it’s one of my favorites.
I'm recently looking into ones that have GABA in addition to it because l-theanine does increase GABA, which are relaxing and calming neurotransmitters.
I also recommend turmeric, omegas, magnesium, optimized vitamin D levels, probiotics; I feel comfortable with the research on those supplements. But anything beyond then I’ll send people to a professional for sure.
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
Even basic methylated B vitamins — B6, B12 is huge, and we want them in a methylated form.
For our listeners dealing with anxiety, this is really important because our body is leeching off our nutrients in order to maintain our stress levels, so we have to fill up our building blocks.
So I agree with your recommendations. I love a product called NeuroMag™, that has magnesium l-theanine in it. So yes — magnesium glycinate, omegas, methylated b-vitamins; those are huge. I'm glad you recommended vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression. You also mention probiotics; I couldn't agree more on how important our microbiome is in producing the serotonin that we need for our body.
And of course definitely — nutrition, movement, and even forcing ourselves into community sometimes, because our world does get small. We do a good job in isolating ourselves in certain ways, but the experience of community is a good way to bring up our oxytocin.
We also use imagination a lot in the sessions. If they don't remember when they were feeling at their best, joyful or resilient; we're going to create an imagination and go back to a memory where they were at their best.
And their breath changes, their posture changes, and their blood flow to their face increases. We’d even pause the session at those moments so that they can really get a sense of, “What do you notice right now when you feel good?”
That’s just how we create a pathway — by connecting it to “let's savor this sensation and the goodness,” because the brain is always going to want to go back to the badness. So we take more time in the goodness, and really learn how to sit with it, savor it, and allow it to grow.
We then imagine what they want so that they’re not in this moment forever and ask, “What's your optimal future? What would be optimal?”
If there were missing resources, if they didn't have a person they needed to support them during a traumatic time, we’d ask, “What would have been optimal? Bring that person in your imagination and play out a movie. Your nervous system will respond as if it actually happened because it doesn't care if it's real or imaginary.”
We also do the same with establishing future growth in health, which is, “How are you going to know when you don't need to come here anymore? How are you going to know when you're really healthy and moving forward in your life?”
Because often people forget that it's so important to be present. Often they forget what to look for and what to tell their brain to look for as to when they’ll actually come out of it to heal and get better.
That's the best part of the job — being able to sense or see the best in people, help them feel it, and establish it in their nervous systems at the moment so that they actually become what they imagined. It’s a huge part of the of the work we do. It's the yumminess in the session — I love it!
Dr. Anna Cabeca:
I think that's a great way to close, it's just empowering; using our imagination for our strength and empowerment. And also, the message here is to never give up hope.
I know that I have gleaned so many good pearls from Tara, and it's really been great to have you here.
To our listeners, just never give up hope, for there's always, “Okay, what's the one next right step that I need to do? How can I look at the situation differently? Where do I point my flashlight into the direction of feeling good, positive, powerful?” Those are really three big places to take ourselves on a regular basis. So we should train that into our discipline and use our imagination to get there. I love that!
Thank you so much. How can our listeners get a hold of you and your ebook?.
You can go to taradawnmiller.com and there is a link to download my book, The Resilient Mind, where I talk about what you can do to help nourish yourself, give you some regulated sense in your own body and your own nervous system, and give you some access to other resources; wherever you are in your life right now. You can also connect with me through the website anytime.