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… sethlyon.com/this-is-when-its-ok-to-annihilate-somebody/

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….sethlyon.com/healthy-aggression-the-way-to-un-frustrate-frustration/

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 seth@sethlyon.com if you have questions.

“your mind makes it real”

Morpheus, The Matrix

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of The Trauma Vortex

There are some films that, no matter how many times I’ve seen them, I still seem to desire watching again once in a while, and I still really enjoy them. One such film is the third installment in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Alfonso Cuaron’s gritty treatment of the script is a refreshing change from the bubblegum feel of the first two movies and it perfectly reflects the growing angst in the main character as he turns into a teenager. Also, it is the first time we encounter the Dementors, those supremely spooky, ethereal, floating and tattered spooks of the Harry Potter universe.

Recently, when I watched this film again it came to me that Dementors are the perfect analog of what we, in the Somatic Experiencing world, call the trauma vortex. If you haven’t read or seen the Harry Potter books let me just briefly explain what these creatures do. For those of you are familiar, please bear with me for a moment.

Dementors are set to guard the wizarding world’s most dangerous criminals in the fortress prison of Azkaban. But the jail that they tend in the prisoner’s minds is even more imposing than the stone walls of Azkaban. Dementors feed off of every good memory, leaching away happiness until the prisoner is left with only their Dementor-harryabsolute worst memories and feelings. This sucks away their life and vitality, until even the thought of escape is unreal and they are condemned to live their life endlessly replaying the worst things that have happened to them.

This is EXACTLY what the trauma vortex does.

When we’re living with unresolved trauma and/or under the strain of chronic stress, our nervous system gets highjacked by the survival responses (Fight/Flight/Freeze) that have been mobilized to protect us from whatever the threat was or is. When trauma is unresolved, that means that this powerful survival energy is unresolved – in fact, from a nervous system perspective that is what our definition of trauma is – the presence of unresolved survival energy still trying to complete itself, still trying to find the source of threat, even though the threat may be long gone.

This whirling, swirling mass of frustrated energy trying to go somewhere, but finding no way out, is what we call the trauma vortex.

When this is the case we don’t have nearly as much access to our higher brain centers that enable learning, creativity and play. The survival energies, and the associated memories of the events that mobilized them, take center stage in the conscious, subconscious, and unconscious mind.

And survival energies are not meant to be ignored. They are meant to be irresistible forces that turn on for a little while to protect us from threat and then to turn off when the threat is over. Unfortunately, societal niceties, repressive parents, teachers or friends, lack of education, and our own big smart neocortex often keep us from allowing these processes to complete.

Fortunately, there is a way out. That’s what I do, help people to find their way out of the swirling, sickening mess of trauma, and we can look to this film for a useful tool in that process as well.

In The Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry learns how to use a spell that repels the Dementors, called the Patronus charm. The incantation is “Expecto Patronus!”, but saying the words on their own will do nothing. The way to make the spell work, the thing that gives it its juice is memory; and not just any memory – it has to be a memory that is both positive and powerful.

The first time Harry tries the Patronus charm he uses the memory of the first time he rode a broom and it doesn’t work at all. That’s because this memory, while positive, isn’t very powerful, merely pleasant.

Then he digs deeper, finds a memory that he feels will work, gives it another go and POW! A brilliant cone of light erupts from his wand and drives the Dementor away. When his instructor asks him which memory he chose, Harry tells him that he picked the only memory he has of his parents, of a moment when they were both looking down at him and smiling, shortly before they were both murdered by Lord Voldemort, the story’s arch villain. He says he doesn’t even know if the memory was real, but it was all he had left of them.

Harry-potter4-movie-screencaps.com-8411

This gives us insight into a powerful tool that we can use when battling our own internal Dementors – memory, and more importantly… feeling.  It was the feeling that was important, not the memory itself so much. In the story the instructor explains that when the wizard conjures a Patronus charm. the Dementor will then feed of the charm rather than the person. And it’s even possible to conjure a Patronus so powerful that it will essentially overload the Dementor’s circuits and drive it away entirely.

We can do this too.

It’s not magic, it’s the power of own minds and emotions. Again, it’s about the feeling.

So try this now… see if you can find a memory like this. It doesn’t even have to be “real”, what matters is that you recall the feeling. Some moment from your life that was extremely powerful and rich, a memory that is strong enough to make your throat thicken a bit with emotion, or that even brings some gentle, poignant tears. Find the feeling of that, really notice where it is in your body, how it fills you up. Make a kind of mental bookmark of that moment, that feeling.

Then, the next time you are feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or sunk low in depression, or just feeling blah, go back to that bookmark. It’s still there, even if it’s hard to find. Notice how you can summon that memory and that feeling – notice it in your body. It’s not about having that memory or emotion cover up the hardship you are currently feeling, it’s about letting it inform your current state. Go back and forth between feeling whatever form of yuck you are experiencing and the feeling of that powerful memory, let them talk to each other, notice each other.

Life isn’t fiction and this ain’t magic, the feeling of that memory will probably not drive away the blah completely, but it will take away some of the charge from that trauma vortex. It will diffuse it a bit, take away some of the energy so that the trauma vortex has a little less power.

Obviously this won’t work for everybody. Some people simply have no good memories or feelings available, and if this is the case, there are many, many other tools a good Somatic Experiencing Practitioner has in their belt that can be used .

This is just one thing to try and, over time, it can work quite well to take away some of the power from our own internal Dementors.

Now… wands at the ready!

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?

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 Poison Seed

Poison SeedI have a seed.

A little poison seed.

I keep it curled up in my innermost cells.

 

It was formed at the same time that I was –

As sperm met egg and they merged into one potential

One little zygote, lodged firmly against the womb wall of my Mother.

 

In that beginning the seed was planted

A poisonous seed of threat, of un-safety, of need.

 

It was watered by the stress chemicals in my Mother’s neurochemistry

So even as I grew around it, as I unfolded out from myself in all directions

Developing lungs, liver, heart and spleen, gallbladder, intestines

And all the other wondrous webs of interconnection

That toxic uncertainty, that feeling of cellular doubt remained.

 

Holographic, permeating my developing being with it’s message that all is not well.

 

It remained, this little poison seed

And it grew into a little poison tree

A nameless matrix of constriction and anxiety

That grew dark and uncertain in the forest of my body

A threat that I could not find for it was part of my very cells

And yet it’s message was clear…escape.

 

So… escape then, flee!

 

Six weeks early out of the womb and into an incubator

There, separated from consistent and sure attachment

The little poison tree grew stronger.

 

“See?”, it said, “even here, away from that poisoned well, you are still unsafe”.

 

Then from the incubator into the furnace

of silent, suburban misery where all looked well

while serpents swam under the surface, unspoken and unseen.

 

But my little guts felt all that was unsaid.

Felt the violence and rage lurking behind the uncertain eyes of my Father

Felt the depression and anxiety swimming in the cells of my Mother

Felt the hatred of their own unresolved misery as it poisoned our home.

 

The poison tree was validated when they split apart so soon after my arrival

Was vindicated the first time my Father’s hand met my flesh with violence

Was sure of it’s ground when the rage erupted on one side

When the depression simmered on the other

Was fertilized and began to flower when my brother sickened and died

When my sister left the house that Christmas Eve night

Amid shouted allegations and hatred, never to return.

 

The world is not safe.

The world is not safe.

The world is not safe.

 

As I grew big so did my poison tree.

 

It was in the depression and anxiety that now filled my body and mind

It was in the clumsiness and false bravado that led to all those stupid falls and injuries

It was in the compression and constriction of my muscles and bones

In the irregularity and misery of my bowels

In the need for that next smoke, that next hit

That next sweet and fleeting relief.

 

And so it would have stayed.

 

That poisonous seed grown to poisonous tree

Would surely have created within me

The same poisonous cancer flowers

That took my brother

If not for one thing,

 

My will to heal.

 

It was my will to heal that took me far away from my home.

 

My will to heal that led me into the wilderness

With only my backpack and my banjo on my knee

That led me to the jungle spirits of Hawaii

To the healing waters of the Oregon forests.

 

It was my will to heal that led the expedition

To explore my own untamed inner wilderness

Where I began to hack away the dead vines and rotten flowers

Where I began to uncover that hidden, suffering tree.

 

It was my will to heal that brought me the gift of my wife

Who led me by the hand out from my 15 years in the woods and into the world

Where I began to consider that maybe, just maybe the world could, possibly, be a safe place.

 

It was my will to heal that led me to discover

The everyday miracle of psychobiological healing

And to undertake that training myself

So that I could help others navigate their own uncertain depths.

 

And it was my will to heal that brought me

Yesterday afternoon, to my mentor’s office

That wise, old man who is counselor and advocate, catalyst and friend.

 

It was my will to heal

And the culmination of 20 years of self-effort

Learning, willingness to sense myself and be with what was found

That, combined with the skilled guidance of my old wizard ally

Led to me encountering, yesterday afternoon, my inner-most nemesis

That old, poison seed from whence grew that old, poison tree.

 

I lay there in the wizard’s office

On his table, in the present moment

And at the same time I was there

Within my cells, curled up behind my belly-button

Where I at last truly unearthed that old, poison seed.

 

Come

I said to those poor uncertain cells

Which still vibrated with the fear of their beginnings.

 

Come out and see.

Come and feel.

 

Feel these loving hands holding my head.

See this room where I am safe.

 

And the seed heard.

And the seed felt.

 

Spontaneously, suddenly

My body flexed and then constricted

Turning onto my side, curled up in the same manner

As that developing fetus was, so long ago.

 

The wizard moved to my side and leaned his body there

All along my back, warm and inviting – a living, present-day womb

Where I, now a little cluster of vibrating cells

Now a grown man of 42

was firmly attached.

 

And into the silence of that moment he spoke the perfect words

That the little, poison seed never got to hear, so long ago…

 

“It’s ok. We are here. It’s safe now. You are wanted. We’ve been waiting for you.”

 

The seed heard.

The seed felt.

 

The seed

Changed.

 

—————————

 

I used to have a seed.

I used to have a little, poison seed that

Grew into a big old blackened tree.

 

But now that seed is gone,

The tree is green,

And I am free.

 

You are the Healer

headache_500The energy surges in a jolt, from my heart into the front of my brain.

A massive constriction squeezes me from my hip joint up through my torso and neck into a spasm of cataclysmic grief etched across my face.

I cry out 3 high-pitched sobs of absolute despair as the final release of energy shoots out the top of my head and my feet dig into the ground and my breath returns in shudders, then deepens… and is still.

A five-second processing of deeply embedded grief and shock that leaves the top of my head glowing and my body tingling with the pleasant vibration of integration.

That’s good stuff in my book.

That kind of transformation of stuck energy becomes possible once we make one simple switch – a simple switch that can take years of work to fully embody – and that is the switch from resisting and bracing against our uncomfortable sensations, to embracing them and learning how to let them express through us.

We are so trained in our culture to freeze or panic in the presence of uncomfortableness.

We get itchy and we are taught to see the doctor, instead of learning that heat and itchiness are an expression of the suppressed rage that is within us.

We feel depressed and stuck and we are taught to examine our thoughts and behaviors and rehash our trauma through endless examination, instead of knowing that our depression is a reflection of a process that stems, fundamentally, in our nervous system – and that it can be accessed and transformed through a willingness to feel and express and ultimately renegotiate the helplessness.

In short we learn, in many ways, that we are powerless and must put our healing into the hands of others, when the truth is that we are potentially powerful beyond measure and that we have the ability to not only heal ourselves, but to help others as well.

It’s time to wake up to that.

It’s happening already.

In you, in the world.

Even as these days are full of chaos and suffering, misplaced aggression, greed, hunger and misery, and even though it may feel like our situation as a species is hopeless, there is a truth that sleeps underneath all that; and that is that we can only heal what is broken by first bringing our attention to it and having a good hard look, and that’s what I see happening everywhere I look – in my friends and family, my clients, in the world.

That which has been hidden and buried is coming to the surface and frankly, it’s about damn time.

The fundamental wound of the Universe is showing up to be healed.

You are the healer.

It starts with learning to listen to the body and trust in it’s wisdom when it speaks through the only language it knows; sensation.

It’s true that sometimes western allopathic medicine is a smart way to go – like If your leg has a compound fracture or you’re having a heart attack or some other traumatic injury.

AND it’s also true that if we are having “strange tingling” in our leg and constriction in our chest, we might need to consider learning how to just be with those sensations and allow them to transform. It’s a process that our body knows how to do and it is the root of true healing, but our culture – i.e, our schools, religions, parents, peers, movies and media – none of these have taught us how to tap into this instinctual wisdom that our animal friends have without even trying; in fact, our society actively encourages the suppression of this natural process with it’s fixation on fear and pharmaceuticals.

Luckily, back in the 1960’s a guy named Peter Levine downloaded some ancient knowledge and combined it with nervous system science and called it Somatic Experiencing! Check it out. Also Pat Ogden, Stephen Porges, Bessel Van de Kolk, Gabor Mate and a whole lot of other folks are working in the same vein.

My lovely wife Irene has created a 21-day online course that will teach you all about this ancient wisdom and modern science and give you practical tools that will help you learn how to befriend your stuck, painful sensations.

Learning to understand and speak the language of sensation is just like learning any other language; eventually, with knowledge and curiosity and the willingness to put in the time, everyone can experience the kind of full-body emotional/mental healing that comes with being fluent in the body’s language.

Wishing you many a joyous transformation.

Here’s that link to Irene’s course again, highly recommended as way to get started on this incredibly important path.  irenelyon.com/tuneup/

Happiness Vs. Joy

Why I took the red pill

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The other day I was going through a bunch of old photos and found myself surprised by what I saw in some of them – specifically, the old photos of me.

I lived for many, many years very differently that I do now. I lived deep in the forest or jungle, or on the beach, in little rainforest shacks or tents; by myself as much as possible, but sometimes with a few others.

I avoided civilization and stayed immersed in mama nature.

Coming out into “the World” and having to meet all the challenges it has brought, not to mention being married to and living with my wife, Irene, has catalyzed a HUGE process of transformation and healing. I’ve managed to change old, deeply held patterns of depression and social anxiety that I didn’t even know I had, back when I was in my cozy bubble removed from the world.

Now I’m physically, mentally and emotionally healthier than I ever have been, so it was a huge surprise to look at these old photos and see just how genuinely happy and at peace I looked back then!

What the heck?!

Here’s the thing, looking at those photos I realized that I actually was happier in general back then, but I was way less joyful.

My happiness was like the surface of a still pond that, under the deceptively peaceful surface, was filled with translucent, poisonous fish.

I didn’t know that I was containing so much suffering because I had cleverly made such a nice bubble for myself. So yes, I was happy, but that happiness was only a few inches deep. Underneath the surface I was sick, but it was well contained and invisible.

This is what those of us who are carrying around unresolved trauma have to do; we find creative ways, both internal and external, to manage and contain our suffering. And this can work really well… for a while. We can create lives that are actually ok, even pleasant, but eventually the body will break down.

I am certain that if I had not met Irene and moved into the world to be with her so that I could face my poisonous fishes and transform myself into who I came to this planet to be that I would have, in five or ten years, gotten really sick.

Cancer probably, since there’s a predisposition to that in my genetic makeup, but it could have been anything.. fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, chronic pain, or any of the many other ailments that can take root when our nervous system, and therefore everything else, is compromised – which is what happens when we are carrying around unresolved trauma; our nervous system gets whacked and, even more than our brain, our nervous system runs the show, so then everything gets whacked.

Back then I was happier, it’s true.

But I was also unfulfilled, stuck, addicted and, if I left my bubble for a more than a few hours, I would become depressed or incredibly anxious.

Now I’m less “happy” in general but I am living a life that deeply fulfills me and is full of connection and intimacy. I’m WAY more healthy and I feel aligned and in step with my purpose on this Earth.

To me this all adds up to something even more gratifying than mere happiness…. it adds up to Joy.

It’s a tough path though.

Honestly, sometimes I feel like Cypher from the Matrix… “why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill!”. But, deep down, I think we all want to be Neo – to take the red pill and live the hero’s journey, even though it may cost us everything we thought we knew about ourselves and our world.

To be triumphant.

To be Joyful.


TAKE THE FIRST STEP:

Learn about what causes Lifeforce to get STUCK! and what you can do about it.

Download my free guide by clicking on the image below:,

Free report graphic12

The More You Know, The More You See…

AlexGrey-Kissing-1983it’s what’s on the inside that really matters 

 

“and clenching your fist for the ones like us

who are oppressed by the figures of beauty,

you fixed yourself, you said, ‘well never mind,

we are ugly but we have the music.”

– Leonard Cohen, Chelsea Hotel

      

I was having brunch with my wife, Irene, the other day and noticed this young woman sitting over at the bar. Her back was to me and she had this gorgeous long, dark hair spilling down her back. As she got up a little curve of brown cheek winked at me from under her very short skirt.

    You might be thinking at this point… “Jeeze, what a creep! What’s he doing checking out some other girl while he’s sitting there with his wife?!”

    But Irene and I have always had an, “it’s ok to look, but not touch” policy (actually that’s not entirely true – hugging is totally great whenever), and neither of us have any problem with the other admiring other attractive humans.

     To me this feels very healthy and in line with honoring our mammalian nature. It’s just animal nature to notice other attractive animals – a pretty face, some nice cleavage, a perky butt… for my wife it’s all about the muscular forearms.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s particularly right or useful to STARE or lust after strangers… that’s getting into the territory of objectification and I try not to go there, or I try to catch myself very quickly if I do – it’s a matter of redirecting the energy to connect through the heart center, and not putting out unthinking tendrils from the second chakra – which we are trained to do habitually by our culture, but that’s a matter for another article.

    So anyway, yeah, I noticed this woman. No big deal.

    But then when she walked past me and I saw her face, any sense of attraction was snuffed out like a candle in a sudden wind.

    It’s not that she wasn’t “pretty”. I mean, the curves and lines of her face would be considered by most in this culture to be attractive. It was everything else that I saw in her expression and in the way she carried herself, that banished any sense of desire.

    You see, having spent hundreds of hours with clients, being attuned and in a place of resonance with them, and having honed the skill of seeing what are called “micro-expressions” (tiny momentary facial cues), I’ve gotten to the point where I can often see, in about a tenth of a second, the unresolved suffering that someone is carrying around within.

    I may not know exactly what happened to them (although I may get a general sense of car crash, early abuse, poor attachment, etc…) but I see, and feel, what their body is carrying.

    Instead of seeing the image she wanted to present to the world – that of an attractive, fit young woman, I saw…

  • Shame and lack of self-worth
  • Unresolved rage
  • Shock and terror
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

     Then, even though any sense of attraction was gone, my heart went out to her in a completely different way.

     Instead of any sort of lusty notion, I was now filled with empathy, compassion and deep sadness for the amount of suffering so many people carry around with them – often without even knowing it.

    That’s part of the richness, complexity and heaviness that comes with seeing below the surface of things; seeing not just what people want me to see, but what they don’t want anybody to see. It’s gut-wrenching sometimes.

    The upside is the incredible beauty and authenticity that I get to witness emerging in my clients when they transform the suffering that they have lived with for so long.

  • Rage turns into power and and a sense of agency.
  • Depression turns into courage and empathy.
  • Shock and terror and anxiety lift and are replaced with greater ease than was ever before possible.

      It is miraculous!

    So here’s to all of you brave souls!  All of you who dare to venture within to transform yourself; no matter your size, shape, weight, color, or proportions, you are the truly beautiful ones in my book.

    I thank you.

 

The Miracle Of Healthy Sleep

a.k.a. – having access to the low-tone dorsal vagal state
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Note: I’ll be mentioning the word “Vagal” a lot here, which refers to the Vagus Nerve. “Ventral Vagal” means the part of this nerve that comes out the front of the brain stem, “Dorsal Vagal” means the part that comes out the back. For more info on this nerve’s functions you might want to check out this past article.

Today I kinda missed my ‘ol pal, Depression. But not really.

Back in the day, when my nervous system was way more messed up, I used to be able to go to bed at 10 and wake up at 9. Or I could stay up super late till 2 or 3 and sleep till noon. Gone are those days and the reason is that I’m just too damn healthy now!

But back when I was still struggling with depression and anxiety, this is what was going on in my nervous system…

Depression: There was a large shutdown, or FREEZE response, in my system.

This was due to all the overwhelm and trauma that I had not been able to process through the course of my infant-hood and young life. When we get overwhelmed and there is no possibility of escape or fighting back – such as in the case of a massive injury that happened before you knew what hit you, or that you that you chose to suppress so you could look cool, or when there is abuse or neglect by parents or older siblings – the system has only one option left… shutdown.

The manifestation of an unresolved shutdown response can look like many things: low energy, lack of ability to focus, lack of drive and motivation, poor digestion, fibromyalgia and  a whole bunch of other autoimmune disorders, and what we’ve come to call depression. The part of the nervous system that governs this response is the high tone dorsal vagal complex (I’ll explain more about what “high-tone” means in a minute).

Anxiety: The reason the FREEZE response came online to protect me in the first place is because there was a massive FIGHT/FLIGHT response that had nowhere to go. The manifestation of unresolved FIGHT/FLIGHT responses can look like many things: uncontrollable, eruptive rage (FIGHT) and anxiety (FLIGHT) as well as tight muscles, muscle spasms, heart disease, lack of ability to focus, poor digestion, and even cancer. The part of the nervous system that governs this response is the sympathetic nervous system.

These powerful survival energies were all sitting in my system leaving very little room for healthy regulation. Instead of being predominantly in a ventral-vagal state, which is where we are meant to primarily exist when awake (this is the part of the nervous system that supports social engagement, critical thinking and creativity) I was flip-flopping between go-go-go-go! (sympathetic) and crash! (high-tone dorsal).

Does this sound familiar to any of you?

These were the primary “go-to” options that I had available and I learned to live with them, but my body was exhausted almost all the time because these survival energies use massive amounts of lifeforce and they are meant to be time limited!

Meaning they are supposed to last seconds or minutes, not decades.

So of course I could stay up super late and sleep for 10 or 12 hours! My body was pumping adrenaline and, simultaneously, exhausted and wrung out. Instead of falling gently into healthy sleep I was basically collapsing into my freeze state when I couldn’t maintain my adrenaline-fueled fight/flight state anymore.

So, back to today…..

I’ve been doing some very deep processing the last couple days and my body was a bit “sick” (meaning I was releasing an old layer of stored-up toxic energy). So last night I decided to go to sleep at 10 pm so I could really get a “good night’s sleep”.

In my mind I still expect this to mean 10 hours or so.

I woke up completely rested at 5 am.

This is thanks to Healthy Low-Tone Dorsal!!!

Remember when I said that the FREEZE response is governed by a high-tone dorsal vagal state? First let’s talk about what “high-tone” means. This simply means that there is a lot of energy going into this portion of the nervous system – it’s turned on all the way.

When you turn down the intensity you get the low-tone dorsal state. This is what is supposed to be predominantly active when we are resting or sleeping. The low tone dorsal state supports healthy digestion, barrier-keeping of the gut, tissue repair, cell regeneration and immune function – all of which are not available in the high-tone dorsal state.

When we have lived through trauma and our nervous system is running lots of old, unresolved survival energy through it we don’t have much access to the very state we need in order to repair the body. 

So now when I sleep, I really sleep. Yes, I do miss those long, lazy slumbers and lay-ins, but my body is functioning way more efficiently and therefore I need much less sleep, which means I can do things like get up at 5 am and write this article!

So I’m not going to complain…. much.

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