Trauma and How to Response to it

Today is our first day in Florida of cooler weather. So my name is Lee and I am a divorce coach. And this channel is talking about all the different things that I have found that have been very helpful for me when it comes to working through healing and reclaiming my sense of myself and my own power and voice and healing my nervous system from even the upheaval of divorce. But then it turns out, as I dug deeper, there was a lot more of trauma from over the years, what they call little tea. Traumas of small things that add up to where I just had a very dysregulated nervous system. And I’ve tried many different modalities with different professionals to help me learn how to calm my nervous system and stay in a regulated space. And today I am interviewing Mike Thomas and I actually met him on a Facebook group where there is an attachment community where people talk about attachment styles. And he mentioned in one of his posts that he does tre, which is called Trauma Release Exercise. And it sounded interesting to me. So I reached out and we did a few sessions together. And so today we’re going to talk a little bit about what he does with healing trauma and building a healthy nervous system and a healthy body. And at some point down the road we will do another video where he walks me through the tre or Trauma Release exercise. But I’m going to turn it over to Mike and just have him tell us a little bit about how he got into this work and why he loves it. Thank you so much Lee. I’m grateful for being on here with you and I’m looking forward to expanding on this topic to support your community. So again, my name is Mike Thomas and I do traumainformed mindful movement as a way of supporting nervous system regulation. One of the modalities, as Lee has just mentioned that I use is called Tre. It is sometimes referred to as tension and trauma releasing exercises because although trauma is a part that you can release from the body in terms of tension patterns that are stored from a traumatic experience, also the general tension we experience that builds up over time. Like you were saying, the little p traumas that happen, you might look at those as chronic stress. That builds our stress load higher and higher. And so learning to become aware of our bodies helps us to lower that stress load. Whatever is being held in the body, it’s a way of creating a maintenance of releasing stress from your nervous system so that it doesn’t build up into those symptoms that we all experience and are really common in our society. With all of the adversity that we might experience in one way or another divorce being a big one, the experience of grief and loss and reconnecting to your identity all of these things build up stress in the nervous system, and it shows up in ways that a lot of us in our culture have not been educated to understand. That that’s what it is, that it’s. Stress, anxiety being one example, chronic tension and pain in the body, digestive issues, dysregulated emotions, challenges with staying grounded and connected with people and instead getting argumented, defensive or aggressive. And really what these are, are survival states. And so, ultimately, my job is to help you reconnect with your body, to lower your stress load in various ways, tre being one of them and helping you to reconnect to your authentic self your ability to be your best self with all of your cognitive faculties, your ability to be empathetic, creative, joyful, and connect to your purpose in life, ultimately. 

 I really feel like all of this what you’ve just said has been basically my journey of recognizing that there was so much tension built up in my body because I even dealt with some chronic pain for a few years in my late twenty s. I was traveling for work every week and I was not living a very healthy lifestyle. I was working all the time and not eating healthy and didn’t have work life balance. And my body just literally reached a point where I was like, I’m not doing this anymore. Like, you are not taking care of me and so I will not function. And it took many, many years for trying acupunctupuncture and learning yoga. That was the beginning of learning that my body needed some respect. But then, you know, life still happens and there’s so many things that can throw you off and you have to refund your sensor and try new things to see what works for different phases of your life. Absolutely. Yeah. What a beautiful process. It is. It really is. If you look at it as a beautiful process of reconnecting to yourself and learning about your emotions, I think with the stress we all get a little bit disconnected from our emotions. And maybe you could tell us a little bit about how the vagal nerve is such an important part of being connected in our body as well as, I think, a lot of people I used to think all emotions stem from your brain. And what I’ve learned with all of this stuff is that emotions show up in your body as well. Absolutely. So there’s this really important concept that I learned from the work of Dr. Daniel Siegel. He created this interdisciplinary framework called interpersonal neurobiology. And essentially it’s the biology of the neurobiology of relationships. Not only our relationships with one another, but our relationship with ourselves. And within this interdisciplinary framework, what he did is he gathered experts from every branch of science, whether it be sociology, mathematics, psychology, biology, neurobiology, anthropology, every avenue that you can imagine. And he brought them all together to undertake the task of defining the mind, which, believe it or not, psychology has not even defined the mind. And so, looking at all of these different perspectives, they finally were able to agree upon the mind being a process that regulates the flow of energy and information. See, so often we look at the mind as if it’s the same thing as the skull encased brain, right, when in fact, we have these neuron clusters.

art level of experience. And your neuron cluster in here has everything to do with that processing power and your gut feelings that give you a sense of survival, of safety in any given situation. And so the vagal nerve is the main nerve that connects from the brain stem called the 10th cranial nerve, the vagus nerve. And it means the wandering nerve. That’s what vegas nerve means. And it travels to all of the different internal organs and helps control their function in a very particular way. So when we’re in safety, that is, our stress load is as low as it can be so that we have our optimal capacity to function as human beings. We end up having improved cognition, empathy, creativity, all the things I mentioned before, essentially where the best versions of ourselves were in that lower stress state. And that’s controlled by what’s called the ventral vagal parasympathetic branch. Right? Okay. Many of us have heard of the parasympathetic and the sympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest versus the fight flight response. Yes. And poly vagal theory, meaning the many branches of the vagus nerve, refers to not just the and I’m going to refer to this as a chart. If you imagine a chart with a bell curve, the lowest part of the chart is where the stress is lowest. That’s where the ventral vagal parasympathetic branch operates. And that’s the rest digest area. And it’s supported through healthy social engagement, otherwise known as coregulation my gestures, postures, facial expressions that you read with a person or even on some videos I’ve seen, you can co regulate with animals, like with your pet looking in the eyes while you’re petting them, their nervous system, it calms yours. But that coregulation is amazing. It’s a beautiful thing. And that’s why service animals are often used to help people who are healing from trauma issues, because that animal is not only capable of helping them to regulate their nervous system, but the animal is not going to trigger them in the negative ways that can happen with human beings. So it’s a safe step toward healthy connection.

Again, when ultimately trauma I’ll take a step back here. Trauma is not necessarily accurate to be described as what happens to us. It’s how our bodies responded as a result of what happened to us. And trauma only happens absent the connection that creates safety so we can process it. Right. So if we don’t have a relational connection in that experience, we hold the trauma in our bodies because we need one another. We need that connection. How something could happen to one person and it’s extremely traumatic, and something could happen to another. Like I was in a car accident where the car turned around 180 and then flipped over. But for whatever reason, I was extremely calm. I had just left a yoga class and I just crawled out of the window after the only way I hurt myself was unlocking the seatbelt and landing on my head. But it wasn’t traumatic for me for whatever reason. I just walked down and was like, whoa, that was crazy. And it just for whatever reason, that didn’t throw me. But something very small. Interacting with someone or my parents could be traumatic for me that someone else might have been like, that affected you. So we can’t even judge what another person experiences as traumatic or not. It’s our nervous systems and our nervous systems reaction to a specific experience. Absolutely. And it’s very well said, by the way. It’s what happens inside us and it’s personal. It’s individual in terms of what’s the level of resilience do we have? And that’s one factor. And another is what are the specific triggers for me or for you or for another person? They’re not going to be the same for most people. Yeah, absolutely. Briefly, to finish the Vegas Nerve conversation yes. I’m sorry. It’s okay. The second branch is when we start to get elevated into that fight flight response. It’s the sympathetic branch, but it turns out that there is a third branch. It’s a second branch of the parasympathetic called the dorsal vegal branch. And it’s more in line as far as evolutionary development with reptile ancestors. So if you go into a pet shop and you go into the area with the cats and the dogs, oh, aren’t they so cute? They respond to your tone of voice and they interact with you. You go into the reptile section. Yes. And they’re either still or they’re frozen. They go into that freeze response because immediately they see you as a potential threat. And when we go beyond that fight flight response, which can happen in ways that we experience every day, like feeling hyperactive, racing thoughts, anxiety, anger, even feeling like you need to keep moving. When we get beyond that overwhelm line, we go into that reptilian branch and we shut down. We go into an immobilized response that’s also a branch of the vagus nerve. The difference being that the lowest level of stress is a myelinated branch. What that means is that there is a fatty sheath on that branch of the vagus nerve, and so the signal happens quickly. And so the body language exchange that we have that helps create safety is very efficient, whereas the trauma response does not have that fatty sheath. The myelin sheath over the nerve. And so it takes us into this very slow immobilized shutdown that’s very difficult to come out of, which really is what a trauma response is being stuck in that dorsal vegal shutdown to wrap up that. Is that what they say? Is that disassociation? Yes. Okay, so there’s a whole spectrum of disassociation. Dissociation, sometimes it’s referred to as it could be just simply spacing out, or it could be as extreme as fainting or even going into a catatonic state. So it’s a huge spectrum, and it depends on the severity of the trauma and your predisposition to a particular event and whether you have support from another person or not. Absolutely. Yeah. And your body’s coping mechanism with that type of situation. It’s interesting. When we told our kids that we were getting divorced, we did it together, and we took them to a park, and it was a nice, gentle environment. We were amicable. But my son doesn’t remember the first part of the conversation, and my daughter does. And when we were telling them, he kind of fell into my lap, and I just rubbed his shoulder while we were talking, and my daughter cried a little bit, and then they both, like, you know, eventually were back to themselves. But in the years since, I’ve talked to my kids about that day periodically, and my son, whose memory is like a trap, does not remember certain parts of that conversation. And that just reiterated to me, like, what that freeze response looks like. 1 second, I’m going to hit pause because my dog is barking. I’m going to try.

Yeah. So tell me a little bit about how you work with a client who comes to you and is just feeling like they are either in that fight or flight or even higher in that graph. Yeah. In some ways it’s individual, and in some ways it’s a universal human experience. Right. So, of course, I would want to know what their story is, what they’re struggling with, what they’re experiencing. That will fall into one of those three categories that I’ve described based on what they’re experiencing. I have specific tools of breathing, of movement, of navigating sensation that will help them to address those states and shift them to a lower stress state. So that’s the first part. The more important, bigger picture is establishing daily habits that gradually improve your ability to regulate your stress response over time. Right. So those are the two very important pieces, and I use what are called unconscious movement techniques. Just like Tre, the body goes into this tremoring response, this shaking that you can choose as you know, you can choose to engage it, but it happens by itself. You don’t control how the shaking happens, you allow it. So that’s an unconscious process of movement. Whereas the conscious process of movement for example, going through a gentle mindful movement fitness routine where you choose to move in a way where you keep your alignment in place you notice your breath flow and perhaps shift that consciously in a way that helps you to either stimulate and become aware or calm and relax if there’s too much stimulation. And do that in a way where gradually, over time, it becomes automatic and then you can add the next layer of habit to become more and more resilient automatically it becomes ingrained into your daily life. Right, yeah. I have noticed as I’ve gone through this journey, my awareness of my body and awareness of when I’m feeling just the tiniest bit triggered or thrown. Whereas I think before I just had no concept. It was there was just a disconnect in some respects. And the thing that he I’m going to ask you a little bit more about that, because that was really transformative for me, because well, for one, whenever I’ve told people about Tre, the video where they talk about how animals. If an animal is out in the woods and it sees a predator, it’ll freeze, almost stationary. And its body is obviously under extreme stress. And then once the predator leaves, before it runs away, it’ll shake. And that shaking is getting rid of all that stored stress. And on our day to day basis, like if we’re sitting in a business meeting, like just a basic business meeting that you’re stressed and if we maybe shook right afterwards, we could get rid of some of that stress, but we don’t. And so it piles up on each other. And maybe you can tell us a little bit more about how that shaking with the uncontrolled shaking, what that does in your body and why it works. Yes, absolutely. So before I go into the process too deeply, I love that example of being in a business meeting and the idea of afterward shaking. What’s also going on in that process that we may not realize is sometimes we’ll unconsciously bounce our knee or tap our foot or move our pencil or just shake just a little bit in a tiny way. And our bodies are so wise, they know exactly what to do in order to release that tension if we allow them to do so. And so ultimately, Tre is teaching you to allow that vulnerable state where we can rebalance ourselves and come back into a lower stress state where we’re more in touch with our bodies and our brains and minds and bodies and emotions and relationships all work better. Right. So that is so interesting. Because if I see someone, like shaking their leg while we’re talking and interacting I have in the past thought, oh, wow, they must be really stressed or they must have lots of anxious energy. But actually it’s obviously a healthy mechanism that their body has found to keep them, like get rid of that excess energy while they’re engaging without storing it and holding it in. Because I believe from the research and my experiences now that the chronic pain that I dealt with and then just other physical health struggles, I think I had not found ways to release that stored energy. I think I had just been tense for so long that even when I was doing yoga I was so flexible because I don’t really think that I was connecting with some of the muscles. It was more like the ligaments and tendons stretching. And this is just my theory. Maybe you know why that is. But once I started doing things like tre and other modalities, all of a sudden I started to find that I wasn’t as flexible but in a good way. Like, I could feel the stretches and my quadriceps have always stayed really sore and tight. And the tre for me, that shaking seemed to loosen up things that even a massage was not able to get to. So I don’t know if you can kind of speak to some of that. Absolutely. So the experience we have of holding tension in our bodies as a result of the stress load going up is an expression of that dorsal vehicle shutdown response that freeze it’s both the accelerator of our nervous system and the brake at the same time. And so there’s all of this tension going on and it’s beyond the point of movement where you’re able to have enough flexibility and mobility, I should say, to move around. Instead, it’s so tense, it’s frozen in place.

When you start to move with something like tre or even gentle exercise like yoga there’s a way that we melt away layers of that unconscious tension. I call it melting away the layers of the iceberg of the unconscious. So if you imagine each layer of tension being, let’s say, an event or a level of stress that we never released as you release that through movement what you’re doing is if you imagine those three branches again, the lowest being relaxation, the middle being movement oriented like the fight flight response and the top being immobilization. We want to get from here first to here. We can’t skip to the relaxed part. And this is what makes a practice traumainformed is to know when you’re shut down in some form how to mobilize it, but to do it gently and mindfully enough that you keep going down into the full release and integration. And so if you use the metaphor of exercise where when you’re challenging your muscles to get stronger if you know the science behind that, you know that when you’re actually challenging the muscles, you’re not making them stronger, you’re breaking them down. Right. It’s the healing process afterward, getting proper rest and nutrition, particularly protein as well as water and different minerals that allow the muscles to repair and get stronger. So in this process we want to be very mindful including in tre, especially in tre, cause it’s so deep in how you get to the core of the body, literally the so as muscle where the neurogenic tremors start, it’s deep in the body. You can’t get that through massage and you need to allow yourself to mobilize that as move, allow the shaking to happen. Kind of like when you break down muscle fibers and workouts. It’s not going to be complete just from shaking, it’s the rest after you shake that allows you to integrate that into your body and then your body gets it to another level. So I want to be really accurate about that example of someone who’s constantly nervously tapping. They don’t necessarily complete the cycle unless they mindfully relax after that shaking. Okay, that makes sense. So there is some awareness that they need, that there is stored tension, they’re shaking their leg and if afterwards they come and decompress, they’ve gotten rid of some of that excess stored tension or energy but they still need to bring their nervous system back to homeostasis. Yes. And the key piece there that helps us to understand what’s going on is that learning can only happen, I would say, efficiently, but perhaps not at all, unless we’re in that lowest level of stress and that ventral vagal. Safety social engagement circuit where we’re able to calm each other through body language exchange so we can be heard and seen and understood in that experience, even if it’s just nonverbal and connected to that space where we feel like, OK, there’s no pressure. I can just play in this experience, and learning can happen. So on a deeper level, in something like tre and healing, our body learns on a subconscious body level to take that released attention pattern and make that your new normal. Yes. And so what I’m thinking about is, as I’m working with clients now who are post divorce, some of them talk about, I’m rebuilding my life, I have to make new friends. And some of them find it very stressful going out and doing some social things, meeting new people, because they just haven’t done it in a long time. And I think it’s that challenge of learning to push yourself out of your comfort zone and engage with new people or put yourself in an environment like a class of some sort that maybe you’re not super comfortable because you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. But then knowing that you can do that and it might feel a little stressful, but then you can come back and you have techniques to calm the nervous system back down after. So learning to find comfort in the discomfort and knowing you also need to give your body and mind a chance to recover from that experience. Absolutely. Yeah. That’s a challenging thing no matter who you are, no matter what the reason. Because when our nervous system perceives that we’re in a survival state or the need to be in one, it’s not going to change by fighting it. It’s not going to change by trying to force ourselves into something new if it’s not done in a way where it’s just enough discomfort so that we can be on our learning edge. I believe it’s referred to as the proximal zone of development. And if you look into that teaching theory, I believe it’s Bloom’s Taxonomy, if I’m not mistaken. The proximal zone of development where we’re a little bit uncomfortable, we can’t do it ourselves. That’s a key piece to understand because we do it with a teacher, with a mentor, with a loved one, someone who’s able to guide us into learning to process that discomfort. So on the one hand, making sure that we do it in a way where we feel safe, which most of the time requires another person in a social context. The other part is that our nervous system needs to learn that that higher level of stress in this particular context, like meeting someone new after you’re out of a relationship, is something that is not a dangerous version of stress. Right. So this new context of that high level of stress that is making it playful or making it creative, some sort of fun or light hearted element, curious wonderment. These states can help to shift how our emotional brain, our limbic system, perceives that experience so that we can go, oh, actually, this is kind of fun. I’m on my edge, but I’m actually able to tolerate that just enough so I can make that my new normal and I’m therefore more resilient. Exactly, yes. It’s pushing that threshold of what seemed uncomfortable for a while is now become comfortable, but doing it in a very slow, gradual way with small increments so that you don’t get to that overwhelm point. Absolutely, yes. And another thing that I see with my clients is they have to co parent even during the divorce, which is when you tend to get so amped up, the healing after the divorce is when you can really, for the most part, try and regulate. But the divorce, it’s very hard during that process to constantly regulate if there are things that are happening that are stressful, but you can consciously give yourself time to re regulate. But talking what I’ve read, if you get instigated by your ex or you’re trying to coparent and it’s something that’s coming difficult, or you’re repeating a pattern that didn’t work well even when you were married. That mammalian brain or the reptilian brain that comes online first when you’re stressed and it takes maybe 30 to 90 seconds for your executive brain to come online. That’s what I’ve read about. But maybe you can talk a little bit more about that, of how people can make themselves pause so that they aren’t reacting with that reptilian brain. That’s such an important topic and a challenging one, because whenever we’re triggered, we’re no longer operating with, as you described, the human part of our brain that allows us to use executive function. So density of loves to use this hand model of the brain, where this represents the cortex. This represents your mammalian limit brain, the emotional part, and this represents your brain stem. And this is your spinal column. Okay. And so when you’re in a stressful situation, this experience of flipping your lid represents your cortex going offline.

Nice. And so in that space, what we’re trying to do is find an emotionally safe way to stay safe. So staying safe is a survival response. It’s deep in the brain stem that controls that along with the vagus nerve, as well as the sympathetic branch to make sure that our bodies are doing what they need to either fight or flee, if that’s necessary, or whatever that expression looks like. So it’s probably going to look like defensiveness or aggressiveness in an argument with your ex right in this context. And so figuring out how to calm that part, for example, with a breathing technique or with focusing your attention on your emotions and the situation in a specific way allows that stress level to lower so that you can bring that cortex back online and be more you be more controlled, grounded, and compassionate. Which, of course, is difficult when we’re in that triggered state. Absolutely. With someone who knows how to push our buttons or have triggers with that’s even the hardest, because there’s just those normal reactions because that’s how you’ve reacted every time with them to this one thing or disagreement about how to parent. But what I talk about with my clients is if you can change your reaction, then automatically, even if they’re not going to change their position, you changing your reaction will be a big difference from the past. So it can change dynamic so that that reaction and escalation doesn’t happen. Absolutely. Yeah. There’s an internal process that we can practice so that we can become more grounded and not repeat that same spin cycle pattern of how we reacted to our X before because they so easily trigger us, where we can first become aware of what the emotion is that we’re feeling before we actually react. That’s very difficult to do, but an important first step. And so, again, referencing Dan Siegel, he talks about this simple and beautiful exercise called name it detainment. And what it is is recognizing what you’re feeling in the moment, starting with your sensations and just noticing perhaps a hand on the belly, hand on the chest. Okay, where is my breathing happening? Just notice the sensations and okay, now as I’m. Connecting to my body. What is the emotion I’m feeling? Maybe it’s anger. Where do I feel the anger? I feel it in my chest area. I feel a constriction. I feel the heat in my solar plexus. And you might even rate it. Oh, it’s a constriction in my chest of six out of ten, tending the most constriction and then heat of a six out of ten in my solar plexus. By naming it, I’m now becoming aware of and giving space between that automatic primal reaction and I’m choosing to put my cortex back online is sort of a first word, empathy for the self.

So as we feel into what those sensations are after connecting to our breathing, maybe that constriction. On a scale of one to ten being an eight out of ten, or heat in the solar plexus being six out of ten as we feel into those sensations, and you can actually do it out loud if you probably need to go by yourself for a moment, I need a moment. And then you do this, right? Doing it in front of somebody, they might think, what in the world is he or she doing? So find the space first and name the sensations and what’s the emotion that’s there? And by saying it out loud, what you’re doing is you’re taking that primal brain reaction and you’re putting your cortex online by naming very specifically what you’re feeling in a sensory way and in an emotional way. So those specific areas of constriction and heat, for example, just as for an example, and let’s say it’s anger, and connecting to it is using that cortex to what’s called downregulate, lowering the stress load in that primal brain. And it takes practice. This part is nowhere near as powerful as our primal brain, which is why it’s so hard to control our triggers. I see. So getting space away from the trigger, that is the X that’s triggering us big time. We need to go, okay, before I react, I just need to take a moment. And if you can get that space and you can name your sensations, notice your breathing, for example, and the emotions that you’re feeling connected with that sensation, what you’re doing is you’re allowing that primal brain outside the trigger. So you’re not in the triggering space anymore. The environment has now changed and you’re able to go, okay, if I stayed there, I probably would have stayed offline, probably would have been too difficult to manage. But getting a little space and trying to regulate myself for a moment and, okay, I’m going to name it. And as you said before, the 90 seconds is how long it takes to process an emotion if we don’t reignite the process. So every time we think about my ex is such an A hole, that’s going to start the 90 seconds over again, right back to that mammalian or reptilian part of the brain and then get ReAmped up. So that’s interesting. You can resend yourself just by thinking about it back in state. Yes. It’s pretty amazing how much we want to, when we’re in a survival state, focus blame outside of ourselves.

It’s adaptive as a survival response to focus on our environment because ultimately our environment triggers us more than what’s inside. It triggers what’s inside. So if we can get ourselves into a different environment and get ourselves out of the context where we’re tempted to blame the other person even if they did something inappropriate right. Getting yourself regulated. Okay, so we want to get out of that context the environment where we’re going to be very tempted to blame the other person even if they did something that is justifiably inappropriate. We still need to get control of our own nervous system and help it regulate and process those emotions. And so the easiest way to do that in this context is to get out of the situation in the environment where that person is there triggering us. So we can practice regulating by naming it, to tame it, name the sensations and the emotions and just breathe with it. Just allow them to be there rather than fight them. I shouldn’t be feeling anger. I don’t want to be feeling this. That’s going to keep it there. Right. It’s like if the anger was a rock and you’re trying to get rid of it. Saying I don’t want to be angry is like picking up the rock. You still have it by letting it go and perhaps shifting your attention, you’re leaving the anger in a place where it can be processed. That is, go through the 90 seconds of the experience of the emotion itself with acceptance. Not that anger is something you want to stay in. Right? So you’re basically you’re acknowledging the emotion and you’re acknowledging the sensations in your body that are associated with that emotion and you’re acknowledging them and then you’re giving yourself time to let them pass. And then you can go back and reengage with your ex or move on to your next activity. And I think sometimes to take that 90 seconds for yourself, to bring that executive function back online, you can find ways in their presence where you’re like hold on 1 second. I just need to look at my phone. Or whatever and give your buy time until you can know that you have regained that composure and done whatever process internally that you need to so you can come back to them in a fashion that will be productive and move you forward in a healthier way. But it’s easier said than done, that’s for sure. Agreed. I might add a side note that if you’re feeling anger, that means a boundary is not being honored. And so in that context, we want to recognize what the emotion is trying to communicate. That’s another part of processing it is making sure that the source of it, which is in the case of anger, there is a boundary of yours, a need that’s not being met, that needs to be addressed, whether it’s your ex breaching that boundary. Or maybe you need to reorient yourself with them. That allows them to see that that’s not okay to cross that line. We will talk about this but this is off limits for me, for example, is a great way to approach a boundary so you can meet your need for order, for sovereignty, for safety, for predictability, whatever the need is. And then what you’ll find is that the emotion of anger processes more easily because the source of it is no longer in place. Right? I love that boundaries are a topic that I only I didn’t even know there was a term called boundaries until like a few years ago. And because what was modeled in my house growing up was no boundaries for anyone and the only form was attacking each other. If a boundary reacting and attacking each other, it went in every direction in the household I grew up in. And so that was then some of the behavior that I brought into my marriage that was not effective. But that was all I knew because that’s what had been modeled for me. And learning about boundaries in this recovery time for me and growth time and self development has been like life altering because I started to create healthier boundaries with my parents and the way we engaged and understanding that I am allowed to set boundaries in relationships or even trying to figure out what boundaries I have. You know, it is a process. But then once you understand the ones that are important for you, the next step is learning how to, in a healthy way communicate. Like that’s a line for me or this has made me uncomfortable. And then the other thing that has been very mind blowing for me was this idea that our reactions stem from feeling a lack of safety, like seeking safety. I never thought of relationship issues or anything stemming from a need for safety or people’s fear of intimacy or abandonment fears all stem from some form of seeking safety. And when you think about it like that, it makes it so much more compassionate of understanding what the other person must be going through or what you’re going through and how you can then engage in that relationship in a more gentle or accepting or peaceful way with the other person.

This is such a rich topic. This in particular because the way that we develop early on with our caregivers as infants sets the blueprint of our nervous system in most of the foundational ways that have us react to people in the way that we do. But most important, they have us feel familiar in the presence of someone that we end up being attracted to and they become our new attachment figure just like our parent was for us. And in that context, what we end up doing is repeating patterns in a way that we’re unconsciously trying to have a corrective experience. Whatever didn’t go well early on, we’re trying to make it better. That’s why we try and get in relationships with people and try and fix them, for example, or try and dismiss behavior that’s not okay. Oh, they’re trying the best they can, rather than going, yeah, this is not okay. We need to address this right. Exactly. Or stay in a relationship that they’re never going to change. That’s them. And so you need to decide, is that a boundary that I don’t want to stay in a relationship with someone who behaves like that? Or am I willing to accept them as they are, knowing that there’s probably a very high likelihood they’re not going to change, and you have to make for yourself. Absolutely. I’m wanting to elaborate on that concept of safety that we don’t necessarily see is behind a lot of our survivalbased behavior. Dr. Gebormate talks about this in such a brilliant way. He talks about our need for attachment to our caregiver is not just a nice thing that makes us feel good. It literally signals to our nervous system that we will survive. We develop our ability to regulate. And when I say regulate, it’s not just emotions. I’m talking about the ability to stay in a mode where we can digest properly, where our immune system functions properly. Literally, our ability to stay alive is dependent on this need for attachment. And so when we have less than secure attachment patterns with our caregivers, what shows up in our development is our other very important need, the need for autonomy, for sovereignty, for being authentic. Authenticity is a great way of saying it being authentically, who we are. We will sacrifice authenticity if our need for attachment is threatened by being authentic. And this shows up in our adult relationships. So if we expressed something about a creative idea that we wanted to engage in, I really want to be a painter. When I grew up and our parents said, that’s not practical. You really shouldn’t do that. You’re not going to make any money being a painter. Well, I appreciate you might enjoy that. You’re just sort of dismissing that idea, right? Yeah. As a result, the authentic self that they want to connect to is being threatened by the attachment with the caregiver because children have a very simple way of interpreting it. What ends up happening is we don’t know what a boundary is. Because having boundaries with a parent who is unable to, even with a well intentioned parent who runs you deeply, if they don’t honor that individual authenticity, we’re going to put that aside and go, oh, well, having boundaries keeps me from being connected and therefore staying alive, regulating my nervous system. And so this is really deep work. The idea of creating safety is actually the foundation for us to be the most authentic selves that we can be and connect to who we truly are and thriving relationships. Of course, if we’re not being authentic, we’re not going to be able to connect with someone because they’re not actually connecting with us. They’re connecting with our adaptation. We’re presenting that we think we want. Like people. Pleasing has been something that I have worked on a lot because I think one of my adaptive behaviors was to try and placate or present in a way that would not create as much friction or reactivity, but that creates some hyper vigilance and stress in the body. And then you’re not letting people see the real you because you’re trying to figure out what you would work best for them. It’s like peeling back an onion and recovering from divorce. You are now pulling out of a duo where you had an identity there, and you’re peeling back the onion to find you and then peeling back more and more to find your new boundaries and your new safety. And looking at the patterns that you had in the past that you brought that weren’t beneficial. And how can you create new patterns for your future? But it all comes back to safety.

Really? Yes. And when you start dating again after the divorce, when it’s going really well, the ability to perceive our own boundaries in how our lives stay balanced, when there’s all that wonderful excitement and all the love hormones are flowing through our bodies, it’s easy to go, I don’t need that much sleep. No, I’m enjoying this time with them too much. Oh, I can drink a little extra. Oh, I can have a cheat meal here. All of these different behaviors that you’re just in the throes of passion, that’s another form of connecting to your authenticity to maintain your individuality or authenticity as you connect with another attachment figure. It’s not an easy process, but it’s a wonderful way to create a foundation so you don’t repeat the same patterns like you did with your ex with a new relationship. Exactly, yes. It takes a lot of awareness and patience with yourself, like grace when you do repeat dive into a relationship that’s really exciting and fun, and then when it doesn’t work out, you’re like, why did I do that again? And it’s like, okay, this is a learning process and it’s okay. And that was a fun experience in some ways. And what can you take away from it so that you don’t do that again? Or you are drawn to that familiar type of person who might not be that healthy for you and might not make you feel safe and understand why you’re drawn to them. Like, are they similar to one of your parents? And now how can you consciously date so that you are dating people who you do feel safe and have a nervous system regulation that is healthy for you? Yeah, it’s a lot of awareness. Yes. Like you said, having grace and compassion for yourself in the process, we will not do it perfectly. And that’s such an important part of the journey is to honor that and go, yes, I’m learning. I’m perfectly imperfect as I am, not to justify the behavior, but to learn from it without beating ourselves up. Yes, exactly. So, Mike, we’re at an hour. I would like to have people be able to find you online. So can you tell us a few places that they can look? Absolutely. So I have a course on a platform online called Relation. And then flix. Just like Netflix. So it’s and my course is called relational regulation. It teaches you the regulation. It teaches you the skills to regulate your nervous system to be more effective in your relationships. Okay, so that’s one offering I have I also have a Facebook group. It’s free. It’s a community where we support one another in developing healthy habits in our fitness regimens. Not just for the physical fitness, but emotional, mental, spiritual, connecting to our values, our relationships. It’s the whole experience of life in small, sustainable steps that we can continue to improve with rather than biting off more than we can chew. Okay. It’s called the HFL 30 Day Fitness habit reboot. 30 day fitness habit reboot. Okay. And it’s a free community to join, and I’ll be offering various tools there to support you in the process of.

So the 30 Day Fitness Habit Reboot is a supportive community where we support one another in developing healthy habits for all levels of the human experience. Whether it be physical fitness, emotional fitness, ability to regulate mental fitness, the ability to direct our attention, mindfully, spiritual fitness, connecting to your values and being authentically who you are and relationship fitness. The ability to be more fit in supporting a healthy, thriving, growing relationship. And so all provide tools there. And we all help rally to support one another there. So you’re welcome to come join me there. You can also reach me. Awesome. I’d love that. You can also reach out to me on It’s my email. Okay, wonderful. Yes. So I welcome anyone who would like to join the community or work with me one on one. And thank you so much for having me on this interview, Lee. It’s been a pleasure. I really enjoyed the conversation. And we will do another one where we do an example of tre just so people can see what it looks like and decide if it’s something that they want to explore for themselves. Excellent. I love that. Yeah. All right, well, have a great afternoon, and I will. Thank you soon. Namaste.