How To Come Out Of Freeze & Into Flow

In order to talk about how to come out of freeze, we need to first understand what it is, and why it comes on in the first place.

Freeze is one of our biological survival strategies. In the wild, the freeze response will only kick on once an organism has already tried, and failed, to defend itself with one of the other survival responses – fight and/or flight, which are governed by the Sympathetic Nervous System. 

First an animal may attempt to run, then if it is caught it may attempt to fight, and if it cannot fight off it’s attacker, only then will the freeze response (governed by the Dorsal vagal Complex portion of the Parasympathetic Nervous System) kick in, in order to prepare the animal for death.

It does this by pausing all functions not immediately essential for survival, bringing the blood more into the core or the body to protect vital organs, lowering the heart rate, slowing the breath and making it more shallow, and numbing the entire system…all to keep the animal from feeling the pain of being eaten. 

However, those big, high-energy fight/flight states are still humming away and available under the surface. If an antelope goes into this state, and then the lion gets distracted from it’s prey, say by a competing predator who wants its lunch, the antelope will sense that it has a window to escape and that flight response will immediately kick back in, enabling it to flee. 

That’s how it works in the wild, but in human animals, who have the same nervous system physiology as the antelope and lion, but very different stressors, threats, and environmental conditions, it’s not so simple.

The bulk of our threats and trauma in western, industrialized society is not the obvious kind. Yes, there is plenty of outright abuse and violence that happens, but the vast majority of trauma in our culture is early/developmental trauma that results from situations that are chronically stressful, but not necessarily explosive or violent; situations that have become normalized and are not generally understood to be traumatic.

For example, in order to develop properly an infant needs present, attuned, well-regulated caregivers who are not themselves chronically stressed, and they need those caregivers, or at least one of them, to be present most of the time for around three years. This is not because of some idealistic notion, this is biological fact.

When an infant is born their nervous system and brain are far from complete in development. The infant needs care, attunement, close attention and minimal stress in order to properly develop the parts of it’s nervous system and brain responsible for healthy social engagement, empathy, and higher cognitive function.

The main system I’m talking about here is the Ventral Vagal Complex (VVC) — this portion of our autonomic nervous system comes in only minimally formed and is developed and myelinated after birth based off of the caregiver’s VVC, and it is this part of our nervous system that enables us to deal with and come down from stress in a healthy way, engage socially, and empathize with others. We cannot maximize our access to the Prefrontal Cortex — the part of our brain that lets us do things like meditate, create art, problem solve creatively, and think complex thoughts — without a healthy Ventral Vagal Complex.

Without at least one attuned, present, well-informed, and relatively unstressed caregiver that is around consistently for at least the first three years of life our VVC cannot form properly and so our entire system cannot develop to its maximum potential. And how many of us had parents like that? Our society is currently structured in a way that makes that almost impossible.

When an organism such as a human infant experiences this lack of proper care necessary for its development, when they are surrounded by parents and siblings that may be loving, but who are stressed and in survival mode, that baby’s nervous system will interpret this as a threat big enough to engage it’s more primitive survival mechanisms — which do come into the world active and fully functional.

This may mean the Sympathetic (fight/flight) system activates and you have a babe who is crying a lot, easily startled, colicky, rashy and generally upset.

And then, if the stress in the environment (meaning in the parents) is not resolved, if this threat to the infant’s development seems to be pervasive with no end in sight, eventually the little one’s system will learn to bypass fight/flight and go directly to that freeze, or shut-down response. 

I know this may be hard to accept, but the research is very clear at this point. Even a loving home, if it is a chronically stressful environment (meaning the majority of home environments in industrialized society), will over time become perceived by a developing nervous system as a mortal threat. If the mother is overly stressed during pregnancy, this maladaptive wiring can even be established in the womb.

There are many other kinds of experiences that can also lead to this kind of early/developmental trauma, experiences that are not recognized by most as trauma; things like circumcision or even life-saving surgeries as an infant or child, a parent being incarcerated or addicted, pressure to conform to societal or familial norms, witnessing conflict between caregivers with no resolution, and even inherited genetic predispositions from ancestors who were traumatized — all of these things can lead to early/developmental trauma.

When an infant is in this kind of situation its developing system will learn over time to skip right over the fight/flight responses and default to the freeze response, and when this happens, when the freeze response becomes the go-to option for the nervous system when dealing with stress, we end up living in what is called “functional freeze”.

And this is most of us. Most of us in industrialized society are living with some degree of early/developmental trauma and an embedded freeze response. 

This can show up in many ways – a lack of purpose, inability to speak our truth or even know what that is, tendency to put others’ needs before our own or feeling that we are responsible for other’s emotions, lethargy, collapse in the posture, a tendency to isolate, depression and more.

It can also show up in ways that look very different – the ability to perform at a very high level in business or sports or other very demanding fields like music or dance, or a tendency to seek out high-risk behaviours that flood the system with adrenaline. These show up when the person’s system has learned to not feel the effect of the demands placed on it necessary to perform at such a level, or because performing at a high level, or engaging in high-risk activities is the only way for them to feel anything at all. These folks can do very well in life for a time, but eventually there is always a crash, usually involving heart attack, stroke, cancer, or some form of autoimmune condition.

We cannot sustainably live with these high-energy survival states humming away in our system, the cost is too high, and eventually we will end up paying it. So, it is crucially important to understand how to come out of freeze, and part of doing that means understanding what is waiting on the other side – which are those big fight/flight energies. 

Remember the order in which survival energies activate – first is fight/flight, then if that is not successful, freeze. This means that underneath an embedded freeze response there is always a big charge waiting to get out, and that’s the charge that holds our life energy, once we let it out of its box.

A lot of somatic work involves developing the capacity to simply be with the sensations and emotions of the survival responses, and this works very well with the fight/flight responses – there are many ways to channel those energies, and it’s also totally possible to get to the point where one can simply let them move through the system in the form of pure sensation. But it’s more complex with the freeze response.

We can’t just sit with the sensations of freeze and hope to get very far because remember, the freeze response is meant to prepare us for death; it is not an active state, but one of numbing, dissociating, and withdrawal. If we just sit with that we will tend to just spiral further down into more of the same. We need to get at the active, mobilizing force of fight/flight underneath.

Here’s the thing though, the emotional experience of those fight/flight states, which often stem from a very young age when we didn’t have any ability to understand or verbalize our experience, are generally ones of terror and rage. Terror is the emotional ‘fuel’ meant to power our ability to run away. Rage is the fuel meant to power our ability to fight.

These emotions can be quite overwhelming, in fact they were overwhelming – that’s why the freeze came on in the first place, to protect us from that intensity, so it’s very important to understand why these feelings are there, what they are, and how we can work with them.

I think the first thing to really take in is that, fundamentally, the terror and/or rage are not actually terror and/or rage. Let me explain.

These strong emotions are the frozen faces that the fight/flight activation is wearing, because these were the emotional experiences that were happening at the time of the overwhelming experience(s).

But at the root – these emotions are just masks that the energy itself is wearing, and that energy is your life energy. It’s good stuff. It wants to come home to you, but it has been wrapped in these boxes of strong emotions that have felt historically overwhelming. This is why we need to work at the Sympathetic level to change these things – that’s where the juice is.

But first we need to help those big energies find their way out from under the big lid of freeze.

So it starts with not avoiding the freeze and the feelings of hopelessness, despair, dissociation, and numbness that may be there, but also not just simply sitting in those experiences either. We need the middle ground of feeling it, and being curious about the felt experience of it (not the thoughts!) – what does it feel like in your body? If you can maintain a strong internal witness that is able to observe and understand this state, this can create enough internal safety for something else to happen. 

Remember that antelope – it only came out of freeze and into the fight/flight underneath once it sensed the safety caused by the lion’s distraction. Our system is the same, only our threats were not usually a lion, but usually things far more subtle. 

Most often, our  threats were threats of absence, the threat of something that we needed to develop properly – our caregivers attuned, empathic, unstressed attention and presence – not being there. So in order to work with these states, we need to learn how to be that for ourselves. We have to learn how to be that attuned, empathic, caring witness to our own experience.

*NOTE – I will explain HOW to learn to do that, as well as other practices I’m about to mention, at the end of this article.

Once we have learned how to be our own internal witness, we can then start exploring and see if we can start to notice something else in the body. 

Peter Levine, the inventor of one of the modalities I practice called Somatic Experiencing, calls the practice of moving one’s attention between two different things, ‘Pendulation’. So we need to learn how to do this, and then Pendulate between the sensations of the freeze state, and something else. This something else could be an area of the body that feels less freezy, or more alive, or it could be the external environment granted it is safe, or it could even be an image that represents aliveness or mobility in some way.

Pendulation gets energy moving, it starts opening up the box of freeze so that we can get at those boxes of rage and/or terror underneath, which in turn hold the life energy that we need to integrate back into our system.

In terms of how moving our attention gets the energy in the body moving, as far as I know we do not currently have the scientific instruments capable of explaining this precisely in Western terms.

However, in Eastern terms, where they recognize that the highest form of science and technology is consciousness itself, it is easily explained by the fact that we are forms of Embodied Consciousness.

There is no separation between body and mind, so where there is stagnation in the body there is stagnation in consciousness, which is why we often won’t remember certain traumatic events until the frozen areas of the body that are holding them are opened up and moving a bit.

Likewise, we may awaken, and get flow going in the body, by moving the consciousness, and when we get the energy moving those boxes of rage or terror that are holding our life energy become more accessible. Then, once that Sympathetic (fight/flight) energy starts to surface we need to follow our impulse as to how that strong experience wants to express.

As I said earlier, an experienced practitioner of this work can often just allow these sensations to just move through the system without doing much of anything, and this can feel like vibrating, trembling, shaking, pulsing, electricity, or some other similar kind of experience. But learning to just allow that takes practice, and sometimes, because that energy has been stuck for so long, we need to ACT in some way to get it moving.

There are a lot of cathartic practices out there that focus solely on this aspect of trauma healing without understanding the complexities of freeze and the necessity of education and safety. Modalities like Bioenergetics, TRE, Primal Scream therapy, and others – that try to force mobilization of this Sympathetic energy without understanding the level of refinement necessary to allow these big energies to move safely, and in a way that the experience can be integrated. For more on this, see this past article.

It’s true that the Sympathetic energy will often want to be expressed and play out through the body in some way, often is some way associated with fighting or fleeing, and there’s nothing wrong with the motions of hitting or running, or with working with the  sounds of screaming, shouting, or other strong expression. The thing that makes cathartic practices ineffective and potentially re-traumatizing is there is generally NO emphasis on creating internal safety first, or on staying connected to the felt sense of the body, or of titrating the experience (meaning doing little bits at a time).

Like I said, eventually it is possible to just let the Sympathetic energy do it’s thing, to act at a subtle level without necessarily making sounds, expressions, or moving, but very often, especially early on in the work, that energy does want to DO the things it wasn’t able to do, and SAY the things it wasn’t able to say. 

But, our energy has often been frozen in these boxes for so long that we have to help it out by going slowly, and staying connected to the felt sense in the body. We wouldn’t ask someone who has been laying in bed for a year to suddenly get up and run a marathon, and that’s what cathartic practices ask of the system in many ways.

So see what happens if you follow your impulses, but do so slowly, subtly. 

Yes, scream, shout, yell, hit, run, smash, destroy! Whatever. But do it slowly. Mindfully. Stay in touch with your inner witness. Use your imagination. Don’t get consumed in the expression such that you lose touch with the felt sense in the body. 

And remember that fundamentally this work is not so much about ‘releasing’ the energy, it is about reclaiming the energy, by releasing it from its somatic boxes of frozen emotion and sensation, and that’s a process that cannot happen all at once. The nervous system that these energies run through is incredibly complex and it can only integrate so much change at once.

For more tools to help you do this, I recommend reading this past article, and this one.

* * *

Everything I have just described is meant as an overview to help you understand how to come out of freeze and into flow, but this article on it’s own will not be enough for most people to actually do the work. For that, you need a comprehensive education, the practical tools necessary to help you learn to develop your own inner witness and work with the sensations and emotions of survival energy, and it can be very helpful to have good support as well.

The best way to get these things is to start with Irene Lyon’s 21-Day Nervous system Tuneup. Yes, she’s my wife, but I can truly say with no bias, that her 21 day program is the best way to get started. I can confidently say this because I have trained extensively in these modalities and while I have many gifted colleagues, I also know how relatively few truly qualified practitioners are out there. In comparison to the numbers of people who need to do this work, qualified practitioners are like a drop in the ocean, and there are a couple reasons for this.

For one, the somatic modalities I practice, namely Somatic Experiencing (developed by Peter Levine), and Somatic Practice (developed by Kathy Kain) are relatively new, and so there just aren’t that many practitioners yet in total. Out of those who have trained there are many good ones to be sure, but unfortunately I have encountered a lot more who really don’t understand this work, view it only as some kind of somatic ‘add-on’ to their existing mind-based toolset, and/or who are either unwilling or unable to give their clients the kind of comprehensive education necessary to really do this work successfully. If you can find a good private practitioner of these modalities then that’s awesome, but without first really understanding the work it can be hard to even know what to look for.

So please, if you want to do this work, give yourself the gift of a solid foundation by starting with the 21-Day Nervous System Tuneup. For the price of about two private sessions you will get the thorough education, practical tools, and community support necessary to get you well on your way, and this will also make you much more informed about what to look for in a private practitioner should you then decide to go that route.

Happy thawing! 

If You Had A Shitty Christmas…

Written on Christmas Day, 2016.

This is for all of us who have ever sat through Christmas with our family feeling sick inside.

For those who forced down forkfuls of Christmas Dinner along with unspoken undercurrents of rage, resentment, sorrow, or simply silence.

For everyone who gets depressed this time of year when they are “supposed” to feel cherry and nostalgic. This is for the trauma survivors.

If Christmas is something you genuinely enjoy then this will probably just be upsetting, but it could also be informative.

I never enjoy Christmas nowadays and I stopped celebrating it a few years ago, but this year, today, I felt especially terrible. I felt sad and sick inside all day and didn’t know exactly why.

At first I thought I was simply feeling the resonance of all the suppressed feelings that so many people all across the world are stuffing down in favour of the holiday spirit, right now.

Because our dysfunction and trauma doesn’t go away simply because it’s December 25th.

How many children are, right now, sitting across the Christmas table from that uncle who molested them?

How many adults are returning home to be with the father or mother they fear, or resent, or secretly despise, who beat them and berated them as children, or neglected and repressed them, none of which has never been acknowledged?

How many will go to bed with upset tummies from too much food piled on top of unexpressed emotion?

This, plus the commercialization, the celebration of consumerism, the debt that people will go into in order to manufacture that special experience….

Not to mention screaming, terrified children on Santa’s lap….

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I’m not into Christmas for all these reasons and more, so I figured that was why I was feeling so sad and unwell, but I just discovered that it was a lot more personal than that.

I decided to take a very hot bath which is often where I will go when I can tell that there is something that needs to be felt into, processed and expressed… but I don’t know exactly what that something is. The weightlessness and warmth seem to lend the subconscious buoyancy and what has been hidden can float up to the surface and be seen. And what did I see?

I saw myself as a child, but not the outward self.

As a kid I thought that I loved Christmas – as far as I knew I truly did. Like any other kid I loved to receive presents and I also enjoyed giving things to others. I remember that magical Christmas feeling of expectation and abundance. That was the outward self and it was the only one that I was aware of as a child.

And there was genuine goodness and love there, for sure. But there was also everything else, which is makes trauma so tricky. It’s often interwoven with good stuff.

Today in the bath I saw, and re-experienced in my body, those unspoken energies. I remembered bits that I had, as a kid, pushed under the unconscious rug.

I remembered the feelings of let-down after it was over. Kind of an empty feeling that I would fill with eggnog and cookies.

And more, I felt the anxiety, depression, explosive rage, and terror that had been present in the undercurrents of that environment.

It was always present, but extra forcefully, and unconsciously, repressed on Christmas in favour of that ‘ol holiday spirit, and that repression and internalization made it even more viscous.

Like a caged beast.

It was like I was seeing a wild animal inside my childhood self – the mammalian self, the body that feels all, especially that which is unacknowledged, and that wants to destroy that entire scene.

So I let it rip.

In my imagination, with all my senses and emotions participating, I killed my family, and destroyed Christmas.

Horribly… this next bit though imaginary is graphic.

Heads flew from bodies, and I strung the Christmas tree with intestinal tinsel ripped from their guts. Blood spattered the walls and I howled with glee as I rampaged through the holiday halls. I felt that primal, victorious satisfaction of the caged, abused beast that has, at last, been let loose to have it’s vengeance.

And boy do I feel better now! For real. In fact I just had a lovely Christmas dinner with my son, my wife, and her parents.

I know this may seem shocking, but perhaps, if you are still reading this, you have a caged beast within you as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love my family and I stay in contact with them, but it doesn’t change the fact that I emerged from my nice, suburban childhood with complex PTSD because of what I experienced. And those internalized traumatic energies stay locked in the brain and body until we find them and allow them to do what they want to do.

Not literally!

Remember, I was just taking a bath. From the outside I was pretty still. This all happened very quietly, and extremely intensely, in the imagination, emotions, and in the felt sense – the sensations of the survival energy being released to finally act.

It’s important to know that this kind of internal annihilation work takes time and practice to do safely without overstimulating the system, which can be re-traumatizing. This practice is also in conflict with many spiritual traditions that say that we must always be kind and compassionate, even in our thoughts – but those traditions do not understand the physiological reality of suppressed trauma and what needs to happen to let it OUT – so we can genuinely be kind and compassionate with others, and more importantly, ourselves.

To read about how to develop this way of transforming the stored-up internalized energies that cause us pain and suffering, check out this article I wrote a while back…

So that was my Christmas. Just another day and a great opportunity to do some healing work and lighten the global load of bullshit just a little.

Here’s to authenticity, and the courage to do what’s right for YOU, even if it flies in the face of what’s expected. I’m pretty sure Jesus knew a thing or two about that.

This Is When It’s Ok To Annihilate Somebody…

I’ve completely destroyed my abusers a few times.abf5b49a30efb1d9a80ac783452466d3

Stabbed, pummeled and stomped them into the ground. Blew them up in fiery explosions.

I’ve stood in victorious glee over their corpses, even though those bodies were sometimes members of my own family.

And, believe it or not, this was an act of the greatest compassion. Let me explain…

Of course I didn’t actually kill anybody! I’ve never even been in a physical fight of any kind in my life.

The most important thing to understand first is, that when it comes to trauma (and sometimes even when there’s no trauma involved at all), most of us have more of a relationship with an internalized version of people than we do with the actual people themselves.

Unless a person is a total stranger, we will usually have preconceived notions and memories about them – and even if they are a stranger we may have preconceived notions about their “type”, be it their skin color, religion, political party or other.

There is a great story about the Buddha that goes something like this….

A king and queen heard tale of this spiritual leader that had emerged, and about the work he was doing helping people learn to meditate. They decided to see for themselves what the fuss was all about and so travelled to where the Buddha was teaching, that they might learn from the great master.

They followed his instruction and passed through the many days of self-examination that he led them on and, at the end of those days, the Buddha called them together and asked them what they had learned.

The king looked at his wife and the queen looked at her husband and they both told each other that what they had realized, upon deep examination, is that they didn’t actually love each other. They only loved the versions of the other that they had created within themselves.

So often this is the case.

It makes sense, even though it isn’t particularly useful or truthful, to create a version of someone within us that we can “depend” on. Then we expect the other to behave in certain ways that support these preconceptions. Then, when the actual person’s behavior doesn’t support the avatar we’ve built in ourselves all hell breaks loose and we feel we’ve been betrayed. But the only thing that has been betrayed is our own expectations.

When a child is growing up in an atmosphere of abuse, where the caretakers are mis-attuned, or absent, or violent, or chronically stressed, it is almost impossible to avoid creating this internalized version, because as children we actually DO need our caretakers to be dependable, reliable and sure.

Unfortunately, when these self-created idols are planted and watered in such ground they end up being monsters.

They are behind the negative self-talk and persistent voices of self-hatred, or violent thought loops and fantasies about hurting others that we can’t seem to stop.

They are in the somatic feelings of shame and unworthiness, the feeling that we are somehow “not enough”, that we don’t belong, or don’t deserve to be seen.

They show up as the inner-directed violence that becomes depression, and the constant unseen threat that is anxiety.

They also have nothing whatsoever to do with the actual person.

Even though our abusers actually did DO those things, they are also fundamentally wounded, suffering people who didn’t know how to NOT re-enact the abuse or neglect that they themselves were subjected to. They are not monsters, simply humans who have not gotten the support and resources they need to work their own stuff out.

A lot of trauma work stops with this viewpoint. When a trauma survivor can get to the point where they recognize that their abusers were only passing on what they had received, that they were simply flawed humans struggling to find their way, when they can actually feel compassion and understanding for the ones that did them harm, this is considered a great victory and it’s often where the work stops.

And this is an important step, but unfortunately it does nothing to address the internalized version of that person that we’ve created in ourselves. This is where this very tricky and powerful work of annihilation comes in.

Before we go any further into this, realize this…. When it comes to responding to threat, your nervous system does not have compassion.

The wiring responsible for self-protection does not have mercy. Think of a mama bear defending her cubs from a cougar. She is not going to consider whether or not the cougar had a good childhood. She will kill. That is what her nervous system is wired to do and she doesn’t have a highly developed neocortex to get in the way.

Our nervous system is the same, but we do have a big ‘ol brain that gets in the way.

We do feel compassion and mercy and so we should! We need to have understanding and empathy for our fellow humans, often (but not always) even those that caused us harm – as I said, this is an important step. AND, we also need to let the full force of our pent-up rage and violence descend upon our internalized abusers with devastating and ruthless force.

We need to destroy our internal monsters so that they can’t hurt us anymore and, especially if our abusers are people that we still need to see and interact with, so that we can have actual relationships with those actual people in a way that doesn’t trigger us into total rage or collapse.

The first step in doing this is differentiating between the real person and our internalized version of that person.

One caveat – the following is especially important if the person concerned is someone that we still are in relationship with in some way, or that we still have to see on occasion, like a family member, spouse, or co-worker. If the person who hurt you was a stranger that you’ll never see again, then this step isn’t so important, but it still might be worth a try if it makes you feel safer about what comes after.

Please note that this may not be possible to do at all if there is still tremendous charge around whatever happened!

The following is pretty advanced work and I actually hesitate in sharing this at all. Yet, there are so many people walking around with internalized monsters that are slowly sucking the life out of them that my intuition is that sharing this exercise will do more good than harm. But please be aware that this is hard work.

If you feel overwhelmed already, if your pulse is already elevated or if you feel panicky in some way, if your breath is rapid or shallow or you just feel uncomfortable in some way, then please stop now and just sit with what you have already read for a while. Maybe read the rest of the article tomorrow.

Ok, if you feel ready to give it shot, try this….

See if you can imagine whoever it was that hurt you in a way that I’m going to call, “outside of time”.

You know what they look like, but see if you can imagine what they may have looked like, or been like, as a kid. What would they have been like if they had gotten all that they needed as a kid? What were they like in their best moments? See if you can get a sense of their fundamental essence that exists, eternally, outside of this particular slice of space-time – what is their color, their texture, their nature?

See if it’s possible for you to imagine their best possible self, because that is most likely closer to who they really are, outside of all the wounding they’ve experienced.

Once you get a sense of this more amorphous kind of soul bubble, see if you can imagine that bubble floating somewhere outside of yourself. See if you can imagine it simply floating in space somewhere, at peace.

From here on, if you feel your sense of unconditional love, compassion, understanding, or mercy starting to rise up, THIS is where you can direct that energy. Send it to that eternal, floating soul bubble and know that it’s going to where it needs to go.

Now, let yourself remember the hurt. Remember some of the really painful experiences that the person put you through and notice the image of the person that arises in your consciousness. Notice the feelings in your body – the constriction, sickness, numbness, disgust, or rage. Let all those feelings connect with the image of the person that arises from these memories.

Now see if you can notice these two different versions of the person. Go back and forth. Sense and feel that floating soul bubble outside of yourself, then sense and feel the dark, scarier version inside yourself. Back and forth, back and forth. Really notice the difference.

Ok, now let yourself understand that the scary hurtful version inside you IS NOT THEM. That is the avatar of them you have made in yourself, that is the monster sucking your energy, and making you feel afraid. It is NOT them.

If you can make this distinction and identify in your body and mind the different felt sense of these two experiences then bravo! You have a made a huge step in freeing yourself and that is probably plenty of work for now.

Feel free to stop here. If you feel lightheaded or disconcerted or uncomfortable in some way, then maybe come back to this exercise again tomorrow or the next day, keep noticing how you can notice the distinction between the internalized monstrous version and the eternal, best-self soul bubble version, and know that the actual human concerned, the one that has been your focus – in day-to-day reality they are probably somewhere in between these two versions.

When you feel ready to take this work further, first refer back to this older article on Healthy Aggression. Here is the link…

Remember to pay attention to the slow unfolding of energy as detailed in the instructions in the Healthy Aggression article.

Do not force it.

Please read through the following completely before actually trying any of it. Then give it a go.

Read through the Healthy Aggression article again and when you get to the part with practical exercises, do them with the yucky, scary, internal version of your abuser in mind.

Let the snarl be directed at them. If sound emerges let it be directed at them – imagine that sound as fire that you can breath on them.

When you use the towel, imagine that it their neck you are twisting and breaking. Feel the strength in your hands, hear the bones breaking.

These specific exercises are just to give you a starting place, now consider what else you might like to do to those bastards. Blow em up? Stab them over and over again? Melt them with laser beams from your eyeballs. Your body knows.

When you feel compassion and mercy start to rise up to stop this process remember to direct it to their eternal self that is outside of you, then resume annihilating the internalized version with murderous glee.

Eventually, what we are going towards is for you to have the felt experience of standing victoriously over the beaten, bruised and bloody body of your internalized abuser. To really see their expressions of horror, helplessness and defeat, and feel the animal sense of triumph that the mama bear has when she successfully defends her little ones.

With this work you are actually defending and liberating your own internalized little one, the one who couldn’t defend him or herself at the time, when whatever it was that happened, happened. That younger you (the one who, incidentally holds your magic, your life energy, your purpose) has been waiting for the opportunity to let out all the self-protective aggression that has been sitting inside you; stifled and misdirected and making you sick.

This is hard work.

It goes against a lot of what we have absorbed from spiritual teachings about being compassionate and forgiving. But remember, even though the actual person who hurt you is a human being too, and even though they do deserve all those higher qualities, this isn’t actually about them. It is about the facsimile of them that exists in your own psyche and physiology. And that son of a bitch deserves no mercy whatsoever.

Be merciful and compassionate towards yourself by allowing yourself to annihilate these internal demons. Believe me, the real, actual people will not be harmed. In fact, when we destroy a monstrous version of someone else that we have built up inside ourself, it actually frees up the real person a bit because we are no longer holding the projections on them that they are that monster.

It creates healing for all parties involved, and the only thing that is destroyed is something that was never actually real to begin with.

Please feel free to contact me at if you have questions.

“your mind makes it real”

Morpheus, The Matrix

Healthy Aggression: The Way To Un-frustrate Frustration

shutterstock_136921490Jaws tighten, teeth gnash and guts churn. The mind races, marshaling its arguments, its justifications, we lash out with harsh words or we stifle it down and seethe silently which makes us sick.

Frustration, anger, rage.

There are many ways that we, as a culture, “deal” with these powerful emotions, ways that usually result in us either hurting others or ourselves, and so the energy of these emotions is never actually processed and transformed effectively into what it really is – energy. Lifeforce.


Why is it so hard for us to really understand and harness this energy?

For 300,00 years or more we evolved as a species under conditions that could not be more different that the ones we live in today. We hunted and gathered and roamed the world. The threats we faced were real and aggression, when it was needed to protect ourselves or others, could be channeled into smashing that saber-toothed tiger, or the invading human, over the head with our club. Simple.

Now we live much “safer” lives. We have technology, we have civilization. But are we really safer?

The steady rise in the different ways that our bodies have found to make us sick seems to suggest otherwise.

The rules and norms of polite society has made it unacceptable to bash people over the head, yet we still occasionally feel threatened just as we did 100,000 years ago. Only now, instead of actual threats that are in front of our face we usually have more persistent and subtle forms of aggravation to deal with.

Pollution and environmental degradation. Stressful deadlines and non-stop schedules. Hard, unyielding surfaces surround us and disconnection from all that is green, nourishing and soft in the world has become the norm. Not only these, but also the stresses and frustrations and power-trips of the people around us that also are marinating in this toxic stew we call society.

As a culture we value persistence and hard-headedness, practicality and no-nonsense achievement, the ability to push through and shove down “emotional weakness”. But at what cost?

When we live in a world that is by its very nature hard and unyielding, when we are disconnected from the subtle and soft, our insides also become hard and unyielding and we become disconnected from what is soft and subtle within ourselves. We ignore the messages of our body until it makes us sick and then we take a pill to try and “make it better”.

There’s got to be a better way.

Today I want to talk about how to actually transform, and not just “deal with”, the emotions and energy of frustration, anger and rage, which sometimes are a response to actual threat, but more often are the result of the body being ignored while marinating in a toxic stress-stew.

The pickle that we’ve gotten into is that, in order to function as a society, we really can’t go around bashing everything that annoys us over the head. Yet holding it in, taking a deep breath, “sending love and light” to the frustration – all of this will simply repress that energy and make us sick in some way.

So what’s the answer?

Healthy Aggression.

This is tricky work and when I work one-on-one with my clients I need to use all my tools to carefully guide them through understanding and transforming their rage… but it’s tricky because it’s so powerful. We’ve been told so often and in so many ways (especially if we are survivors of trauma) that it’s either not okay, or not safe, to express these emotions. So a lot of the time, at the moment this energy is cresting to its peak, there comes an equally strong, habitual shut-down response in order to stifle it.

It takes time and patience and skill to process this stuff in a powerful and effective way, to uncouple the rage from the shame and grief that so often are layered together with it like an emotional onion, and so I can only offer so much in the way of advice to the masses, but something is better than nothing.

It is possible for you to start practicing a couple things on your own that can start to change and redirect the habitual pathways of unhealthy externalization (lashing out, temper tantrums, road rage) and internalization (suppression, depression, sickness) that have become the norm.

Here are two tools for you to try out on your own.

* * *

1. Be the animal you are: Like it or not we are mammals. Human animals. Yes we have a big ‘ol neocortex that lets us do all sorts of wonderful things that set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom, but that big ‘ol neocortex is also what totally screws us up as it enables the stifling of our instinctive responses. One way to tap into the real power of aggression is to learn from our simpler, and much wiser, animal friends. Try this the next time you are feeling frustrated or angry….

Notice your upper lip and encourage it to lift up a little bit. Don’t force it, just help it along. If you are an angry mammal your lip WILL want to raise in a snarl, guaranteed, but if you force it to happen all at once (in contradiction to a lifetime of being polite and unconsciously stifling this response) you will be missing the organic urge that is most important. Just play with it.

Lift one part of you upper lip a little bit and see if a snarl wants to naturally emerge, notice how when that happens your eyes will also get involved – they will narrow and tighten (an evolutionary response to enable clear focus on the threat). Really allow and feel that fundamental expression of anger that wants to happen in your face.

Let out a little sound. Don’t plan it, just see what sound wants to emerge from your throat when you have your facial muscles mobilized in this way. Feel your face and hear the sound. Feel the energy that is rising in you.

2. Snap frustration’s little neck: Fundamentally, anger is a self-protective response. It’s the emotional part of the lifeforce mobilization that surges through the whole organism so that it can defend itself. It wants to hurt and kill. No way around it, the energy of self-protection wants to annihilate that which is threatening it or its young ones (think of a mama bear protecting its cubs from a predator).

Now, that unreasonable deadline that your short-tempered boss just hurled at you can’t be killed, and you really shouldn’t kill your boss either – not helpful. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t channel the energy that wants to attack in a useful way.

Try this – find a towel or a jacket or something that you can roll up into a thickness about the same as your wrist or forearm – thin enough that you can get a really good grip, but thick enough that your hands have to work a bit to grasp it. Grab that roll with your palms facing down so that you are holding onto it like you would the handlebars of a bike. Now, let all that frustration, all that anger, all that ENERGY into your hands. SQUEEZE! TWIST! MORE! Squeeze and twist that towel as if it were a neck you were trying to snap. It’s ok – it’s just a towel, your not going to hurt it’s feelings.

Do this in conjunction with snarl and letting out some sound. REALLY do it. Commit all that frustration to to the task as if your life depended on it. Cause it kinda does.

* * *

These two simple exercise are simple and powerfully effective ways to transform frustration and anger. They also can potentially break a dam that’s been holding back helplessness and grief so make sure that you are in a place that is safe when you do them. If you’re at work go to the bathroom or close your office door. If you have no safe place at the moment then tell your frustration to wait till you get to the car or home – trust me, it will still be there!

The KEY to these practices working for you is that you feel the ENERGY!!

The emotions that have had you fuming are simply the surface presentation of a huge biological urge, and the energy that is in that urge, once it’s given a healthy channel to flow through so that it can be expressed, becomes something wonderful. It becomes vitality, creativity, focus and drive.

When it’s left unexpressed and stifled it becomes depression, rage, hatred, anxiety and illness.

Look at the world around you. We are surrounded by the results of stifled anger.

It is in the fundamental frustration that fuels our obsessive need to consume, our addiction to violence in sports and media. It’s what fuels war and all the misery it brings. It’s in the hand that strikes the child and in the finger that pulls the trigger.

Those that are “in power” and urging these destructive ways to continue actually have no real power within themselves. They are in chaos inside, with no direction or control, and so they need to direct and control others in order to feel safe.

Take the power back for yourself. Real power. Take responsibility for the anger within you, take ownership of your own frustrated life energy and allow it to transform through expression and action and you will heal a little bit of the rage and hatred that has been ruling this world for so long.

Your body knows how to do this, you just need to be willing.

The Mother’s Rage

Something a little different today…mother's rage

I recently had an interaction over Facebook that left me boiling.

There is a page that I’ve been a member of for a while that is devoted to all things “woo-woo”.

Now, a lot of so called “woo-woo” knowledge is simply ancient wisdom that our industrialized society has forgotten, and it can be quite valuable. Our connection to Mama Earth as her children and caretakers is one such viewpoint that is especially important for folks to wake up to right now.

Unfortunately, many of the folks who are in the New Age movement are often ungrounded space cadets who embrace all things floaty, mystical and angelic because they are subconsciously trying to avoid the incredible amounts of pain and suffering that is still within them. They want to ascend into their light body because their flesh and blood body is simply too painful a place to be. Also unfortunately, many ancient mystical traditions follow this path of denial of the body in order to “purify the self” – viewing the body as only an inconvenient container wherein our soul must be imprisoned while here on Earth.

Poor Body… so very misunderstood!

Anyway, one of these folks was asking for advice in regards to dealing with her young daughter who, she complained, was so grumpy, difficult and uncooperative all the time!

She asked the woo folks for any recommendations for books or tarot cards that might help her daughter “be more positive”. The community took up the call – pouring in advice about angel cards, crystals, positive thinking manuals for kids, meditation techniques and the like…. basically a whole bunch of stuff that may be good in some situations, but that will do NOTHING to help this poor child, because the problem is in her nervous system, not in her thinking.

I was pissed.

I chimed in with my viewpoint and, while I wasn’t attacking or mean, I was very blunt and straightforward when I told her that if she really wanted to help her daughter, she needed to address the unresolved rage and grief within herself that her daughter was reflecting back to her.

Instead of trying to “fix” her daughter, she needed to look at herself and her family dynamics, and try to get to the root of the unresolved fight/flight survival energies that were clearly at play.

Well… she didn’t like that one bit.

I was called abusive and asked to never comment on anything she posted again, so I respected this and remained silent.

But I did write a little poem.

This poem is all about what fueled my need to chime in with somewhat brutal honesty. It’s about the fact that we are deeply intertwined with the Earth. It’s about the fact that the more we accept and express the rage, terror, grief, shame and helplessness that is within ourselves, the less our poor mama Earth will have to “vent”, as she is literally doing around the pacific rim right now.

There are many volcanoes in Japan steaming, there is one of the coast of Oregon erupting underwater, plus… anybody noticed a pattern of extreme weather and increasingly frequent earthquakes lately?

We are the consciousness of the Earth.

Our body is her body.

Let’s help take the load off please.

The Mother’s Rage

I am the voice of Rage 

That cries out from the wilderness, “ENOUGH!”

I am the suffering that sings a song of sickness in your cells

I am the nervousness in your nerves 

the anxiety in your amygdala 

and the knot in your guts.

Look around you, seekers of Truth!

Put down your prayer beads.

The ancient holy lands are crumbling 

for they were built on the denial of Body

And now Body will have its day.

Now the bones of the Earth will rise up 

now her teeth will devour 

now her tears will drown 

the seekers of Heaven.

Now is the time of Body and she will have her terrible Justice.


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