Summary: Learn what CPTSD is and experience a motion adapted from HeartMath Institute’s HEART LOCK-IN to help resolve it.
- The Body Keeps the Score
- The 3 Natural Human Needs
- HEART LOCK-IN can feed those needs
- CPTSD, ACES, and Adult Health
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Hello, my friends. Pamela here. Thanks for joining me. Today is our fourth episode of the PTSD Awareness Month Series, and in this episode I’d like to talk about complex PTSD or CPTSD. It’s a little different because it doesn’t necessarily speak to one particular event. I think most people think of trauma as an event that happened—an accident, a surgery for example. Complex PTSD is something that occurs over time, where there is a chronic stressor. Oftentimes this is something that begins as early as in utero, and it can also continue throughout the lifetime of a person. The symptoms are the same as PTSD, but the problem is there’s really no one event to fix or to resolve, so instead people with this syndrome or this set of symptoms can feel kind of lost in not knowing what to do. But I’m here to tell you, again, all of this is in the body. It’s stored there, and what put it there was a reflex, nothing we did; nothing we decided to do. This reflex caused these different things to happen in our body, and in order to resolve this we gotta go back to the body, bring in some good; bring in some oxytocin, some good feeling brain chemicals; calm the body; know we’re safe in the body, and then things can unfold from there.
[02:22] The Body Keeps the Score
A great book has been written by Bessel van der Kolk called The Body Keeps the Score, and I’ve mentioned him before. I went to a trauma seminar that he was giving in San Francisco. I asked him could I please talk with him through email or something and tell him about my program, Mindful Motion, and he said, “Oh, I don’t do email, but let’s have lunch.” So I said, “OK great, let’s have lunch.” So the next day we had lunch together and I described my program. I showed him my manual and all of that. And he was a bit distracted because right before our meeting he got a phone call that his trauma conference that he puts on every year, his keynote speaker wasn’t going to be able to make it. So he was in a bit of a trauma reflex at the moment so he was a bit distracted. But, in any case, he did see that these motions are helpful for resolving the trauma reflex, the trauma response, so I felt pretty fortunate to have that moment, those moments with him to enjoy lunch together. What I’m getting at is that there are ways that we can resolve this. His frustration in his life is he’s done all of this scientific research. He’s got lots of documentation showing how the brain is different from one person to another who’s experienced these chronic traumas over their lifetime, oftentimes preverbal (before they could even that they were even aware that they were happening). And by having the science there, he assumed that the editors of the DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, (this is what helps psychotherapist and psychologists diagnose), he assumed that by based on all of his science that they would be interested in having in the next version of the DSM which was coming out just after this lunch that I had with him. He assumed that they would want to know this science and that they would want to include the information about CPTSD, complex PTSD. And the editors said to him, actually, he said, “That would be opening up a can of worms.” So he just brushed him off. And to me, that’s very frustrating because OK we’re opening a can of worms, but this is a can of worms that needs to be opened because, if we’re not able to diagnose it, we can’t treat it; we can’t put it under the heading of a particular diagnosis. And then the insurance doesn’t pay for it, and it just turns into a problem , continues the problem. But I think what this editor was saying was, basically, a lot of people are going to have this diagnosis, if we open this up. Well, that’s true. What they did instead was they added a little bit about childhood trauma, preverbal trauma, and if there was extreme trauma like violence and sexual abuse and things like that. But another form of trauma, this chronic trauma, lifetime trauma, can be simple, like poverty—growing up in poverty; growing up in a neighborhood where it’s unsafe. These kinds of things can lead to this symptomology of CPTSD. Maybe eventually this will happen and things will get changed in the DSM, but for right now this is what we have.
[06:26] The 3 Natural Human Needs
So what I like to do today is I would like to teach you a way that you can help that child know that they’re safe, and they’re well, and they’re loved, and there’s a connection. There are three things that we need to have optimal wellbeing: the first is safety; the second is satisfaction or feeling our emotions in positive ways; and the third is connection. Now if we don’t have safety, we can’t really get to the other levels. If we have safety and satisfaction, we can get to connection. But if we’re missing them, it doesn’t really happen, which is why someone with PTSD has difficulty connecting with others. It doesn’t feel safe; they’re not feeling safe. So coming back to that child in us and locking in with that person (you) with love, with positive regard, unconditional regard, can be very supportive and very helpful to the nervous system and allow the trauma to resolve.
[07:57] HEART LOCK-IN
So let’s go ahead and try this. This comes from HeartMath Institute, and this is a process called Lock-in, HEART LOCK-IN. But I’m changing it a little bit and making it so that instead of locking in with someone out there, we’re locking in with the child self, so this can be very powerful. I invite you to please join in. We’ll begin by allowing the breath to slow down, comfortably slow and a little deeper then you usually do. And if you place your hand over your heart, in the center of your chest, and feel the warmth of your hand as you’re doing this slow breathing, this begins what we call Heart Coherence. And then it’s helpful to bring up something that helped you feel good—maybe a moment in time when someone gave you praise and it felt good to hear that, or maybe a pet’s face. I like to think of my cat’s face. And just feeling into the appreciation for that moment in time or your animal friend or a place that you’ve been. Something pleasant and sending appreciation, feeling appreciation, for that. Just letting yourself keep breathing slowly and deeply, hands on the heart, feeling that connection and feeling the appreciation. And we’ll stay here for a few breaths. And now I’d like you to imagine the younger you, the child you, or even the baby you, and imagine that person (you). And you can look into their eyes, and you can let them know you’re here, you’re with them ,and you appreciate them and you’re not going away, always. You will always be there. And keep with the slow breathing, the feeling of appreciation, and this younger you. And then, as you breathe in, send some of that appreciation to yourself—the you now. And as you breathe out, send that to the child you. And as you breathe in, bring it into yourself—the you now. And as you breathe out, send it to that younger self. And again, breathing in, bringing it into yourself: appreciation connection. And exhale, and send it to the younger you. And just keep doing this for a few more breaths—connecting with the you now on the inhale, and sending it out to the younger you on the exhale [repeat for 2-3 more rounds] Great. And then go ahead and let your hand rest and come into regular breathing.
[12:53] LOCK-IN Feeds Our Natural Human Needs
It’s a really pleasant action/motion to take and to practice with. That little person that you were needs to know that they’re safe, needs to know that someone’s caring for them. These are basic needs in our life. We need to know that we’re safe; we need to know that we are connected and someone cares. So if there isn’t anyone around to do that, we can at least do it for ourselves, and it works quite well. And you may notice there’s an ease, there’s a soothing; there’s comfort here. And you did that. You did that for yourself. So give yourself a little pat on the back; send yourself some appreciation. It’s important.
[13:55] CPTSD, ACES, and adult health
I also wanted to mention a previous episode where I talked about Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACES, and these are things that happened when we were young that affects us as we grow older. And it not only affects us emotionally but also physically. And the relationship between the young experiences and the adult health is something that has been clearly documented through this survey, this ACE survey back in the 90s. So I invite you to enjoy that episode and learn a little bit more about that.
So this is what I have for you today. We learned about complex PTSD, which is something that doesn’t necessarily have a particular event but there are many, many events over a period of time—a lifetime perhaps. And they don’t even need to be big ones. They can just be simply there’s not enough food; there’s not enough money to have the basic things met, like clothing, shelter, things like that. These can lead to the symptoms of PTSD as an adult and without really understanding gosh, you know, I didn’t really have any traumas. But that is traumatic for a child to experience that, for any person. We need to know that we’re safe. We also learned about the three levels of the basic human needs: safety, satisfaction, and connection. These are basic natural needs; we all need them; no one is immune to it. It’s important. It’s how we’re designed; it’s how we function optimally. But if we’re stuck in PTSD, it’s really hard to get out of that first level, safety. And one of the ways that we can do that, we did today with this HEART LOCK-IN, by reaching back to our younger self and letting them know I’m here for you; you’re safe right now; you got this; I’m in it with you, and I’m not going away. Appreciating that little person that you were, because you made it; you made it. Here you are. Proof that you did just the right thing to get you here. Again, send yourself some appreciation. It’s really good.
[16:27] Big Gratitude for You
Well, I think that’s all I have for you today. I thank you for joining me and always doing these things with me. And I just want to express a big gratitude for all the listeners and viewers of my episodes. I really appreciate that you’re here with me, and that I hope you’re enjoying these episodes. I would love to hear from you. You can send me an email through my website moveintoresilience.com. And if you’re interested in resolving your trauma, if you’re interested in getting done with that PTSD stuff, please reach out, because there are many techniques that I have that I share, that we can do together and get this stuff resolved. You don’t have to live with this anymore. Thank you. I am so grateful. This has been Move Into Resilience. I’m Pamela Stokes. Take it easy.