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EP 4 - The Path of Self-Regulation with Annie Brook

How do we come back from the dark places? What if we can't even consciously remember it? Trauma can be described as a strong and lasting experience of dysregulation in a person's nervous system.

For some of us, before we could think or speak, there may have been an intense interruption to our natural developmental process. The Path of Self-Regulation is a journey to an experience of a whole, complete and contained self. A self that is free to engage in the world and respond to life as it occurs with balance and sophistication. It's a lifelong practice that Somatic Therapist Annie Brook has been cultivating and sharing for over 40 years. Join as we explore pre-cognitive trauma, birth trauma, the impact of adoption and the powerful ways to transform your life by meeting the darkness with guides, tools and experiential knowledge that healing is truly possible. Annie has a 4 month deep-dive beginning Jan. 25th! Get Annie's support to actualize something really important. Write that book! Launch that course! Do that deep inner work for better relationship!

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AI: Every day there is a forgetting and every moment there is the possibility of remembering. Remembering who you truly are, awakening to your body, to the inner world and experience of being alive. Here is where you find the beauty, the joy. Today here is where you free your Soma.

Hello and welcome everybody to Free Your Soma podcast. I'm Aimee Takaya. I have a very special guest with me today, a somatic therapist named Annie Brooke. She is so experienced and offers so much fascinating, really practical and useful information. I'm so grateful to have her with us today to talk about some really, really transformative, really powerful things. So welcome Annie.

AN: Thank you so much Amy. It's a real pleasure to be here. I love sharing practical tools that help people.

AI: Yeah, absolutely. So many times we might hear some really beautiful information, but then we don't know how to apply it. We hear something that sounds really great, but then what do you actually do to make changes? That's what I really love to share is the how tos.

AN: My master's degree was in applied behavioral science. So I have both the practical and the geeky exploratory thing going on.

AI: That's perfect. I love that. That's wonderful. So maybe you can tell us a little bit about your background because you've been doing this somatic work with people for a really long time.

AN: Since I was in my 20s, yeah. You know, and I really never thought I'd be a therapist. It was just my own healing. I had some pretty severe trauma in my early 20s. I had a hand-built house burned down, a partner who became alcoholic. My animals were killed. Everything I knew was destroyed in a fire. And I had to figure out, wow, I had no idea what shock was, but I certainly was in shock. And I had no idea about any of these body healing tools.

But fortunately, I got a job on a fishing boat to earn some money because everything had burned up. And during that fishing boat, it sort of helped me regulate in a way because I was on the ocean. I was in all this fresh air. I would fry onions. I was hired as the cook. So I'd have frying onions four days a week we were out. And then I would throw up over the side of the boat. Now that doesn't sound fun, but I can tell you what it did is it took what was frozen in me and got it moving. And there's a key to all of this regulation stuff, which has to do with not being frozen. Right, now you're in shock. Yeah. So basically that, and then I had a wake-up call. I fell off the top of the wharf. That was like a 17-foot fall. I was hauling my lobsters up over the cap rail. And then this was a stress response.

I blanked out and let go of the ladder. Here I am, you know, 17 feet up. And I have a blank out moment. I don't know if any of your listeners have ever had that happen under extreme stress, but it's weird. It's like your brain stops firing. And all of a sudden I was out of my body floating in the air watching my body gracefully move a little bit sideways. So I didn't fall straight down on this water tank that had rebar welded onto it. I mean, I would have been impaled. Wow. And so, yeah, that was, it was pretty dangerous. But I hit an old tire and bounced. That was up against this water tank. And while I was in this state of consciousness of, wow, I'm not in my body, I felt love. I felt nothing but love. I was not panicked. I didn't, you know, I remember like, oh, if my body survives, I'll go back. If it doesn't, I won't. So what that taught me, and then I made a vow to myself, I want to feel that much love inside my body. Right? I don't want to have to be out of my body. And I wanted to understand what is this spiritual, I mean, I don't know if we call it spiritual, but this infusion of love and source and how do I live that kind of life? And so within a month, I was over in Berkeley, California, you know, from being on a fishing boat over to Berkeley, California. And I was studying Sufi based meditation, hands on healing.

And that just immersed me in contact improvisation, Ruth's apporas, you know, find an impulse, follow it. So so much about the body, mind, plus a four year training in healing ourselves. And that's why I love to give the tools away or have my courses because we can heal ourselves. We need the guidance, we need the tools. And I was a mess. You know, I thought I would be a bag lady because I couldn't regulate. I could feel my brain not functioning.

And having the tools to find my midline, to organize how I processed emotions, to move them through my body. We did neo-Rikean breath work and, you know, breathing sessions and bioenergetics and dancing. And we looked at our finances. And, you know, this was a full like, hey, take, take charge of your life here. And then I got to volunteer at Children's Hospital and work with the traumatized kids. And that just kind of broke my heart open. It's like, whoa, there's stories to be told. There are hidden stories all the way in these little beings here.

And I'm so grateful for that opportunity. And then I was teaching, you know, I was doing clairvoyant readings because of the meditation school and I was, people started to come to me for sessions.

And I just really got to apply what I was studying. I created a bachelor's in somatic psychology through Antioch because I thought this stuff is so valuable. And I had dropped out of college after my first year and a half because I couldn't stand the pressure of the, blah, blah, blah, blah. But, you know, then I got educated. I got educated in a living experiential way. And what a difference. And so I'm a big one about getting educated, you know, having a path to help you integrate who you are.

AI: Right. Create a little focus because sometimes we can get really pulled around by life and to have that, like, you know, focus of having that North Star of a direction that we're going. Yeah.

AN: And I'm so fortunate because I linked up with the university where I got my doctorate. And now people can use my material and I can help them shape it into their own masters or PhD program. Right.

AI: Oh, and somatic psychology.

AN: It could be somatic psychology. It could be a little twist of that, but it's uniquely personalized. That's so beautiful. Isn't it beautiful? And that's when people get the foundation of their own voice.

AI: Awesome. You know, you have beautifully painted kind of the message that I really hope all of our listeners who are new to these kind of things, you know, there's bound to be listeners who are already, you know, connected to somatic worlds. Right. But for those of you who are listening to this kind of stuff and it's new to you, Annie just illustrated so perfectly how the realm of somatics and somatic studies really is this beautiful intersection of the biological and the spiritual and the emotional and the philosophical.

It's this place where there's this meeting up of all these energies that are actually in us as human beings, you know, all the time, but starting to actually integrate and move those energies through our bodies is what I really think that in my experience, somatics is really all about. And allowing for those different, sometimes they feel opposing energies, you know, like some people pit science against, you know, spirituality, but they're not. They're actually just like right and left hemisphere. They're part of the whole picture of what a human being does and how we think and operate.

AN: I love how you framed that, Amy. That is so true. And it's so, you know, it is generic to human nature, you know, and then how you uniquely work with it based on your own traumas, your own life experience, you know, you will have your own personal work to do this lifetime to be embodied, to heal the experiences you've had, to get the clarity in the tools. And somatics is like a lifelong, beautiful way of being. It's like a practice, but you have the tools you can, you know, I always say to people, tune your dial as quickly as you can. If you've gone off, you know, in emotional, blah, blah, blah, blah, get the potency from it, but then readjust to the clarity of present time. Yes.

AI: And being in our bodies is so, it's so the way to get into that moment. It's, it's, it's here for us at every moment. There's a possibility to get in touch with our breath or the sensation of the clothing on our skin or the colors in our environment, like all these different ways that we're perceiving and sensing. And that brings us very clearly back into the present moment at any time that, like you said, we get drawn away by our feelings or our memories or things like this.

AN: Yeah. Yeah. So my, my background is I had to follow my own healing path and get educated because I believe in the, the, you know, the container to help integrate. And so I feel very fortunate. I didn't end up a bag lady. I didn't end up an alcoholic. You know, I didn't end up a traumatized, numbed out person in my life. Right.

AI: Well, more than that, you have created a legacy and you've helped so many people and you're continuing to help people. And that's really kind of, you know, when we think of the, how do we look at our traumas as gifts, you know, or possibilities? It's hard when you're in it, but then as, as you become more developed, as you're describing, and you begin to be, I kind of describe it as at the sharing point in your journey, where you're like, you've learned some things and you've really changed maybe some of the ways that you operate. You're ready to share. You're ready to be a voice of some kind of authority, of some kind of guidance for other people that that ends up showing you, literally showing you what the gift of all that suffering was at the end of the day.

AN: And that is where you're integrating your life, not wishing you had somebody else's life, not wishing what, you know, not holding onto resentment, not holding onto depression or anxiety. And the really, you know, if there's anything I can just encourage your listeners about is, don't give up hope. There is such a way through and out and the, the, the life force is still in you. And sometimes for people, I've been in very hard times.

I remember I had to work for a dollar an hour, you know, and up in the sawmill in Maine, because I didn't have any other resources. So I don't mean to minimize anybody's struggle. But what I want to say is there's a path through and learning the tools, learning to not be numb, not run away from conflict, not exaggerate conflict, heal your earliest attachment, which is how you decided if the world was safe or not. You know, and through infant, like one of my specialties is I can help people get back to infant memory.

And that's precognitive. Yeah. And so what that means is your whole Soma, your body has taken on experience and already made protective response habits. So if an infant is left to cry in the crib and the mother thinks, oh, I have to keep it on a feeding schedule, then what happens is that that body of the baby gets aroused. First it cries out, hey, I'm here. I'm hungry.

Come get me or I'm lonely. Come get me. And then ideally the mother comes or the father comes, right? And then there's, oh, my needs get met and I'm a relational. Being that's ideal. When an infant doesn't get that and maybe there's infant trauma or they're in the Nick unit or they're in under the jaundice lights, they don't get the arousal back to good enough balance. And that's what we're going to be talking about today.

I love your questions. And, you know, we talked earlier about, oh, what should we chat about? And Amy had great questions. And what we want you to know is all this happened before you could think. And so there's a primitive brain habit of stress response.

AI: Wow. And what you're talking about here is, you know, when we're talking about regulation, getting back to baseline and where is that baseline? So what you're describing is that when you have some kind of preverbal trauma like this, the, well, you know, just preverbal, precognitive you were saying, which is another level of it, not even thinking, you know, which is a prerequisite to speaking, right? There's a baseline that is set for your nervous system that might be high. Meaning that your normal, like calm level, where your digestive system's functioning, where you're able to sleep, where you're able to be calm and settle and let your body rest, that that might be higher than someone else who had that regulation baseline set differently.

AN: You're saying it right. It's what I call an end code. And there's a language for it. I used to, you know, I'm a colleague with, oh gosh, I'm forgetting his name. He's had, he used to be head of the infant research lab for the University of Salt Lake. And we would chat and he had a term I loved. He said, all of this experience is implicit memory. It's before thought. It's almost like cellular experience and decision making, right? At the baseline of your biology.

And what I've learned in terms of healing trauma, healing life experience, integrating it, is that the implicit memory is the hidden story. So I talk a lot about what's the hidden story behind difficult behavior. So if a kiddo is behaving difficultly for a family, for themselves, I like to look at, you know, how do you help with the behavior, but what's the hidden story? Because when you get down to that level in the nervous system of arousal, excitation, dissociation.

Now what dissociation means is there's too much happening stimulus wise. So the body freezes. It can't, there's something called the sensory motor loop. And that's a very important thing to understand if you're helping anyone to heal from trauma, is that our senses and perceptions, our sight, sound, smell, weight and pressure, skin, all of these perceptions help us process our work. world and respond to it. But if it's too much at once, what happens is the body shuts down.

AI: Yeah, you say there's just like no more input and that's that makes so much sense. That is, I've had, you know, early in my life I had trauma and I was dissociating at different times, you know, very much just like that blank kind of blankness of nothingness. And the way that you just described it was very insightful for me to kind of understand that it was in so many ways sensory overload. Like my body was just like, I'm not going to process anything more right now. There's already too much for me to handle.

AN: Right. And then what happens is that there is sensory overload and freeze response. And then people will operate on top of that. And there's I at this point identified about four types of dissociation. And they have to do think of it the simple way to understand this for people is there's a movement side, a motoring action side, and there's a rest and digest side. And these are just two types of our neurology. It's called the autonomic nervous system.

You know, one of them regulates our breathing, our heart rate. It's people can access this stuff and work with it. That's what the yogis did who, you know, could do these amazing things, feats of seemingly impossible, but they were down in the autonomic as well as what's called the somatic. I mean, sympathetic. So think of two sides in a way. There's also the social, which blends them together, which is our relational field. But we want to be able to run and play and have excitement.

Now, if we go to there's too much, we're going to fight, or we're going to run away. So that's what I would say. Okay, now you're in the trauma side of it. It's not just play recreational excitement. It's like, Whoa, it's got two life or death all of a sudden. That's the word life or death. And from an infant perspective, they can't get their needs met without the help of an adult. Right.

The infant child is more vulnerable than the infant animals. And that's because, you know, we have to get out before our brain gets so big, our head gets so big. So we're not really ready to run around like baby horses, you know, they run around in a day. But we're like, Whoa, carry me around. I can maybe I'll learn how to roll over. So and we have to learn all these things. So we're dependent. And that's important to know.

AI: Well, and what you were saying before about these two sides of our nervous system and being able to have the excitement, have the, you know, high energy physical movement part of our lives, and then also be able to down regulate and come back to calm, rest and relax in order for our digestive processes to take place. And for our, the healing that our body does and the regenerating that our body does, right? This is this concept of regulation of our nervous system. And there's plenty of people listening who know what this is, but maybe we can define a couple of terms for people who are still new to these kinds of concepts.

AN: Absolutely. Regulation means you can bring yourself into balance. You can meet the situation like if it's a dangerous situation and you need to run away. That's healthy. Yeah. Or if you need to fight and say, Hey, stop right there. That's healthy. So you need the potency you're regulating to what's happening in your environment. And then if you've had a big arousal, whoa, you need to recover. Rest and digest.

Now the, you know, the sympathetic side, and these are just language, you know, use whatever helps you remember, but there's the movement side and the digesting side. And that, you know, the digesting side has internal movement. It has peristalsis. It has breath. So it's not frozen.

But what happens in the extremes, the movement side sympathetic will be fight or flight or freeze. Too much. I'm going to stop. Then when it's frozen, you can go down the rabbit hole into depression. Mm hmm. That's the parasympathetic side, which normally would be going inward a bit, digesting, resting, not maybe, you know, being so active socially, but enjoying the recovery.

If that doesn't know if you're hiding in a cave to escape danger, you couldn't run away, you froze. Now you're hiding in a cave internally or you're zone, you're out of your body in the zone. There's depression and depression is a horrible feeling. It's actually more dangerous signal to the brain than fight or flight. Right. Yeah. Cause the brain thinks, uh-oh, you're dying. You know, you're not able to mobilize in the face of danger. Right.

AI: Oh man. Right. I feel like I've experienced both of the things you're describing and not actually, for me, a little light went off because I have used to be someone who was very addicted to go, go, go, who was very, very, very addicted to exercise, who was very addicted to like having constant invention, adventures and stimulation. And I think it's because I was fearful of that rabbit hole of depression and that if I stopped moving, that might come on because I had certainly experienced that. And it did feel more dangerous to like stop and, and prepare for, you know, that darkness that might show up. Then it felt to just keep myself going constantly, even if it was exhausting to my body and it really wasn't a sustainable way. This was me trying to, in my own way, like regulate and, and keep myself alive.

AN: Exactly. And we call that a compensation. You know, it's you're doing the best you can, given the circumstances, because like for an infant, if they don't get protection, you know, and a mama can't protect, you know, if there needs to be a C-section, it's going to happen. That's a good choice for the mom to make. Right. I don't, you know, ideally there's everything else that's tried first, but a baby's experience of a C-section is terrifying.

You know, high arousal, disorienting. If the mom, if the baby's not put right on the mama's chest afterwards, or if the mom is busy getting sewn up, where's this little baby? Hopefully they're with the daddy, but sometimes they're not. Or sometimes the dad is all excited too. And so ideally this, this interruption of the external regulator, the dyad regulation, is what we want to learn how to give ourselves so we don't mess up our adult relationships.

AI: And this is known as self-regulation.

AN: Yeah. This is self-regulation. And I call it secure adult self-attachment. That you are not desperate for, you know, the missing parent, or your part, your spouse to fix you, or your friends to save you, but you're willing and able, you have the tools. It is a choice. It is a choice to change a habit of protection that you developed as a child. It's really important to remember that you developed it for a reason, and if you keep using it, it will exhaust you.

It is non-sustainable. So I'm going to review just so people don't get confused. We have the movement side, playful interaction. We have the rest and digest side. And then we have also a healthy social. Those are kind of our parameters of how we get our needs met. And under stress, under overwhelm stimuli, we'll go into fight or flight or freeze. We can't run away.

We can't get, we can't, you know, fight this thing. We're going to get frozen. When someone is frozen, they often don't know it. They stop feeling and think about this. If you're a highly creative mental body person, you might be using your mental energy as movement. This includes self-attack thinking, perfectionism, blaming others. You know, all of this stuff is movement up here. It's not integrative movement through the body. Right.

And so if there's a freeze response, you want to thaw it out. Now, what happens when you were talking about go, go, go? That's what I think is what I would might call a fragmentation dissociation, because it's still on the movement side. So think about a frozen like a mirror, you know, it's there or ice. And if you throw a rocket ice, it's going to fragment. If you throw a rocket a mirror, you know, that's not moving, it's going to break into fragments.

Now, why that's beautiful in terms of survival is if you think predator prey, because fight flight is about predator prey, you're all of a sudden the prey, because you got to fight or run. If you break into pieces, maybe one piece will survive. Right. Wow. Brilliant. I was so happy when I figured that out.

AI: And you know, when you're talking about this, it reminds me of this concept. And I don't know actually too much about this. Maybe you know more than I do. This fragmentation of Soma or of self that you're talking about is also termed, you know, they do this method, it's called soul retrieval, where it's kind of more spiritual concept of something happens. And in order to survive, we have to break ourselves into these different pieces so that we're not. Yeah, so that we're not destroyed.

AN: Right. Yeah. And it gets a little addictive. Because it's like, it's so sparkly and shiny, all these little pieces of the mirror. And if you've dissociated and you're closer to the spirit realm, it's almost like the soul could be afraid to come into the body. However you want to language that inhabiting your body is this dimension. We're on the world of earth and gravity. And we bring our spirit through us.

But if you leave your body and go out there for a spirit, it's okay to re get resource, but eventually you're going to have to come back in here. And I learned that so much when I taught at the clairvoyant school, so many people did not want to be in their bodies. And I was like, whoa, you have got to come in. And I had to learn how I didn't want to be in there. You know, I was very good at, wow, the creativity, but I needed to heal. Right. And so in this fragmentation, what you do, if any of you are listening who get creatively fragmented, and then you get exhausted, because you, you know, burn yourself out, what I like to do if I'm with someone is I will imagine going out to the edge of the universe.

Because what I'll say to people is, you know, I don't want any fragment of you to get lost. And sometimes people will start crying. You know, or I'll say, I think I need to go out 1000 feet to go beyond your shock field. And they'll say, no, you need to go out 2000 feet. So people know. And I've learned if I go all the way out to the edge of the universe, that helps even more. And then slowly, slowly gather the pieces together. It's like a puzzle. You know, the puzzle of self wants to be put together. And people literally start to relax. So if you're someone who blah, blah, blah, blah, right, get a hula hoop. That's my metaphor for how to contain enough to feel safe enough to get into the body. Beautiful.

AI: And that term containment, that came up for me so much several years ago when I was in my somatic studies at the Nevada Institute, being the idea of creating that, I guess, containment within our actual bodies, like being able to create and build that proprioceptive awareness that may have gotten, you know, disrupted or never been created in a sense and a way that we can sense and feel and interact with has been a really powerful way for me to kind of conceptualize what you're talking about of this gathering of the fragments of the pieces.

AN: Yeah, what you're describing is so key. There's a, I wrote a book called Help for Sensory Challenges to give people little games to feel those skills you're talking about, because some people don't know what proprioception is. Right. And it's the foundation of feeling weight and pressure. A baby gets their biggest moment of proprioception getting out of the birth canal. Yes.

They've got the pressure and proprioception, enough pressure, not pressure loaded with drama, can help you realize do you exist? Oh, it's, you know, it helps you feel time and space. It helps you feel your joints. It helps you feel your skeletal structure. It helps you land on the earth. And in academic readiness, we don't want our academic readiness without the body as foundation. There's literally a foundational pyramid that starts with proprioception. This is the work of Gene Ayers, the out-of-sync child, that we have proprioception, then we have tactile, your skin, because the skin is like the outer covering of the brain.

It's very sensitive. It's made of ectoderm. And so kids who have, and adults who are hypersensitive, or what I call hypersensitive radar, you want to be able to turn that down. You don't want to be wigged out on the subway or walk into a grocery store and get overwhelmed by all the choices in there, you know, or the energy of other people. You want to be able to feel and integrate, but you want to live in the world. And if you're too hypersensitive, you'll have to go live in a cave somewhere, right, right, or in an ashram and be dependent on, you know, the leadership of someone else, where you want to be a co-leader in your world. Perfect.

AI: That gets right into that concept. The next concept that was on our little list here, we went through regulation, self-regulation, and then co-regulation, which is that relationship to others and probably to our first caregivers, created that, again, that proprioceptive awareness of being touched and held, of knowing we exist. But then more than that started building the foundations for how we're going to regulate or not, right?

AN: Exactly. And I want to really put in a word for mamas not to blame themselves. Yes. Because sometimes when we start talking about attachment, mothers can go into guilt and think they did something wrong. And I can tell you with my mom and myself, because I was born premature, I was whisked away from my mom, and then I didn't see her for 17 days. You know, that was the protocol at that time. They wouldn't even let her in the room with me.

Now they know with premies to put them in the same room with their mom or right next door. And, you know, they have these little things you can put in there and touch the baby, your hands can go in. They do all kinds of good things now for the premies. But what in that process, it's not, it wasn't my mom's fault. You know, there was things that led up to it, but she did her best to try to connect with me. She pumped her breast milk, they threw it away. You know, she said, I need to touch my baby. I need to be with my baby.

No, you sit out here. And so mamas, you know, whatever happened just happened, please don't carry guilt. Don't get resistant to like, well, I didn't, I did the best I could. Because then you and your child won't heal the attachment dynamic. Sometimes it's the birth itself. And the infant isn't able to regulate to you. Because they've got a torque in their brain, or they've got a twist in their shoulder, or, you know, a twist in their organs through the birth process.

So if you can get hands on help for those little babies, and you can help them, I have a book called the, what's it called, The Developing Infants. You can help babies in their crawling rebuild their brains away from a trauma loop. because they might set up already, you know, defended and they won't bond with you. And I see this all the time with adoption. So I want to go back to one piece so I don't lose it, which is about, we talked about the fragmentation and creativity and the hula hoop gathering the pieces. I love that. Yeah. The other side is the parasympathetic depression.

Now here, I learned this with a little adopted kid who had a huge meltdown, and then he was so exhausted, he couldn't get off the floor. And this was a regular occurrence for him. His mother was like, what do I do? The kid's 11. You know, and I thought, wow, he is going so far from high arousal sympathetic to low tone parasympathetic. He literally can't get up. And so I started talking to him and I asked him, you know, do you fly away from your body? Do you go to a cave inside? Where do you go? And he said, I go to a cave. And I, and I said, are you lonely in there? And he said, well, you know, I don't want to come out.

And because of the need for contact, what I thought about is I said, okay, I'm going to slip my hand in the back of the cave. Is that all right? I'm going to just put my hand back there. And all of a sudden he got warmer. Just by having the sense, this was, you know, my, my hand imagined in the back of his cave, his body warmed up. And he said, oh, I feel warmer. And then we played a little game where he explored walking to the edge of the cave and looking out. Now what I'm doing underneath the metaphor of all this is I'm tracking the nervous system in the body. If he's gone into a cold freeze, I want to give him some blood warmth to help with the parasympathetic so he can have enough potency to come back into motoring.

And so for him, he could walk suddenly to the mouth of the cave. Then he could stand right there because of his fear of if he went out, he'd get overwhelmed. So then he could stay in there and he said, oh, I feel the sun on my face. So this is kid language, right? All of this. You want to have the right language and age appropriate language. And even for yourself, maybe the metaphor of a cave is much better than thinking about co-regulation or depression or, you know, but if you go inward and withdraw, I want to encourage you to find a way to come to the mouth of the cave. Because you cannot live life inside there.

AI: Oh, yeah. I know this is really hitting home for me, especially that idea of warming up with the help of another person. I had this moment actually last year was really quite funny. I had a moment where I realized my husband had been trying to hug me. He'd been trying to hug me for months and I was always like a little, just a little too busy. Give him a hug. I give him like a kind of half hug.

And I had this wake up moment where I was like, oh my goodness, my husband has been trying to hug me. And I've been too busy to give him a real hug. Like there was some part of my brain that was like, it's not hug time. Hug time is after our child goes to bed and like I'm calm and relaxed. But then I realized I was like, no, why couldn't hug time just be when he's asking for a hug? I love that. And that warming up.

And so I've been practicing now, like being letting my aura, letting my system just be open to that. Because what I see is, and these are again, the technical terms, he's looking to co-regulate for a moment. He's feeling something internally and he wants to connect with me during our day.

And he wants to like have that moment, that 15 seconds, that 20 seconds of physical contact and how beautiful and how precious that is. I mean, it sounds funny, but at the time when I realized this, that I'd been too busy to hug my husband, like I teared up, I felt like heart hurt, you know, because I realized that I had been probably in that same pattern of go, go, go. That was, you know, my previous strategy of my nervous life.

AN: And I'm so glad you figured this out for the sake of your relationship. Because eventually he'll give up trying to hug you. We don't want that. And that little bits of nourishment, I know parents are busy, but you get those little bits of nourishment, it shifts the whole paradigm. Then you're connected as a parenting team. Now, you had to do something important. You had to let go of your agenda, you know, and often when we've had shock or overwhelm, we'll get a little controlling.

We'll figure out what works for us and not even know we're trying to control our environment. And that's why, what I really want to talk about in terms of co-regulation. So, well, I'll get there in just a second. But the last piece about this cave and warming up, another thing that can happen is there can be this big void. People don't even know they're in a cave. There's a huge black field of depression or black hole or it's so vast. And so what I do then is I imagine I have a little belay line rope, you know, I live in a place where rock climbing is really, you know, done. People understand a belay line is just like a safety rope.

And you put it on the person who's going over the edge of the, you know, rock there. They're going to go down. And so what I do literally in my office, I'll use a rope. I'll have someone hold on to it. And then I say, okay, now I want you to go into that feeling of this black place or this vast space and think about, you know, how that could have happened for a baby. I learned that I developed infant depression being in the incubator. There was nothing to touch. Whereas for nine, you know, not nine months because I was born early, but a baby is in regulation with the mother's body, movement, touch, rest, voice.

And in the incubator was nothing but other crying babies. And on a funny level, I made a vow to get us out of there. I had no idea I made an infant vow to do my healing work. But after I wrote my book from conception to crawling, which is just practices you can do to become more sensory aware, to understand movement and repattern your own brain, I realized I wrote that book for the other babies in the incubators. Oh my gosh. So I share that because I want to say each of you has a path, something in your life, you know, inspired you. And it's in there.

And you may not know it if you're busy raising kids or trying to all together. But I believe there's a depth of being. And sometimes when you learn these skills, you have more access to that.

AI: I agree 100%. Yes, that that's really, you know, we hear people in kind of the, I guess, new age talk about embodiment all the time. And like, what does that mean? You know, how do we do that? And what you're describing these practical, like methods for getting back in touch with our body is actually drawing all those fragmented pieces together and creating that self again, that maybe has not existed before. And then we have access to all of those gifts that all of that experience brought, which is, I mean, you're a living example of that.

AN: So yeah, it's been a journey for sure. Yeah, you're welcome. I'm grateful to my soul path for sure. Oh, sorry, go ahead. No, no, that's good. About this belay line, you have to get to the bottom of the depression and sit on the bottom. Oh, that's scary. That sounds totally scary. It's terrifying.

Really scary. Yeah. Uh huh. But the thing is, there's something people can get a free download on my website, the satisfaction cycle, yield, and then pushing against the earth allows you to reach for contact, for resources to reorient. But if you don't feel the bottom, you have nothing to push against. So rather than mask depression with drugs, sometimes it's important because you're not functional and you've got to get enough vitality in your system to be functional. But you don't want to remain on there. You want to get down to the bottom with your little belay rope and teach your therapist to do this. If they don't know how to do this, and you kind of have to wean off the drugs to get the sensate ability. Because sometimes the drugs will flat line your ability to feel. Yeah. The flat line anxiety, but they won't let you get down to depression. So you get someone to hold that rope or you tie a rope onto your arm of the chair and you hold onto it and you go down there and you look around. Because the key here is the incident when this first started maybe was precognitive. You have a lot more cells and your body is bigger. You can process the discomfort. I call that staying on the surfboard. So you allow this implicit memory to come to the surface. Now it's explicit. You feel, whoa, this is scary. You feel, whoa, this is heavy. And then you breathe. You add breath. And that breath allows your brain to realize you're not dead. You're not dying. You can move. And then you add awareness. You don't run away from this heaviness and you don't become it. That's the key of secure adult self-attachment. You stay on the surfboard of the discomfort because it's just sensation now. It's sensation and associative memory. Right. And it's clearing.

If you can let a wave pass, you realize you're alive. Wow. I survived whatever that thing was. I don't even have to know. But I survived that feeling. I've been avoiding all my life. I survived it and it passed. Now this is a biochemical thing. Candice, Pert, molecules of emotion. You know, unprocessed emotions store in the synapses. And they sit there and they make us dull or hyperactive because we're not internally communicating in the design of the body.

So my hope is if you're a fragmented and you run away and you get all fast, you get your hula hoop out. And if you're a depressor, you actually, you know, get a warm hand in the back of the cave and start motoring to the light and to social interaction. Or you go down to the bottom of that big black space and rest and feel you exist. Because one of these things, it's nice to co-regulate, but it's hard to do if you don't know you exist. And literally, I want to talk about existential shock because that's the infant time of encoding. Infants need context and their brain doesn't have it yet.

Like for me, I didn't know the incubator was going to be only 17 days in my life. Right. The baby itself, it was all there is. Or, you know, if the mom's postpartum depression, the baby doesn't know she's going to recover. So they think they learned, oh, I better, you know, I reach out and nobody's there. So maybe I won't reach anymore. I'll be self-sufficient. That's too sad, isn't it?

AI: It is. And, you know, that gets right into kind of the big picture thing we were going to talk about today about the work that you do with people, I guess you could say recovering from trauma around adoption. And the impact of adoption on the nervous system. Because as we were mentioning before, co-regulation is this communion with another body that we experience from the time that we are conceived, really. It's our mother's body that we are co-regulating with our heart, our breathing as those things develop, are developing in concert with our mother's body.

And really, our mother's body is our whole world until we come out of her body. And then that moment of separation, you know, even like you were describing something goes wrong with the birth, there can be some kind of trauma. But then there may be an additional kind of trauma when the biological mother is not with the baby, when something happens or the child is adopted. And there's not that same world that the child experienced from the time that they were conceived.

AN: This is so, so important. And I'm just passionate about people, anyone who has been adopted to know it's not a forever trauma. That it is a very big imprint and it has a unique signature. So I created a 10-session online course that guides people through the understanding and meeting of the big void. Because one of the key elements of the neurology for an infant who was given up for adoption is confusion. They literally don't know where to orient.

And orienting is the beginning of co-regulating. Like a baby in trauma won't orient to the mother. It'll have a crying loop and it will orient to its distress. So we want to help, you know, with the adoption. We look at arousal states and loyalty to the mythological birth mother who you don't know from experience except for those nine months. You know, and sometimes we don't want to paint a romantic picture because in utero, if a mother is totally anxious, you can pick up anxiety that's not yours and wonder why as an adult you're anxious.

So you have to differentiate you, your soma self, from the mother's field. Now, fortunately embryologically, we have a little buffer in the tissue. But emotionally and sensationally, we don't always know that. So we want to be able to receive the good resources and not have to take it all as a burden. And with adoption, really and truly, there is a way to meet the huge amount of grief. It's like the broken heart of the infant and the confusion. And people don't often talk about the adopted dad, the birth dad, but that's a very important part of the puzzle as well in order to have an integrative self narrative.

Because when people are always thinking there's something wrong with them, they don't even know what it is, but there had to be if they were given away. That's one of the identity beliefs made in an existential shock time. And so it's a unique story, meaning was the person, the little baby in a loving foster home, were they in an orphanage with just so much chaos that they couldn't ever relax. And I've worked with so many adopted children, they've really taught me a lot, and I'm so grateful for their willingness to play and explore.

Because one, some of the girls from China, one little girl, we figured out she was in those baby car seats, they would have 30 of those baby car seats lined up with a stick between them, so somebody could rock all of them at once. and you don't get interactive stimulation. You know, you're locked in facing forward in this little bucket, and this one little girl would just hit the kids next to her to get stimulation, you know? And she was a little- That's something to tell her that she's here, you know? Yeah, yeah.

And she was a little tyrant and we had to work with that. But the idea of whatever happened, you adapted to that and you made a view of the world. And sometimes, you know, you made the idea that, oh, I'm actually not worthwhile or the compensation. I have to prove myself and I'm going to. Or the, you know, and where it can show up, you might have figured out a good adaptation and have a very functional life, and then you get into a relationship and that early story starts bubbling to the surface and you become anxious and you're tracking your partner. Now, anxious attachment stops the house from breathing, whether with adoption or not adoption. Anyone who has anxious attachment, I want you to hear this.

The desperation will push your partner away. The needing to know what they're doing all the time, the needing to track them, the needing to monitor them, means you're not paying attention to yourself. All of your attention is out.

AI: Yeah, what a drain. I feel like I've been there at early times in my life before some of the work that I've done to fortify and come back to myself where I was anxiously attached. In my early years, I had a relationship with a man who I didn't know at the time, but was an alcoholic. And I got totally into that cycle with him, tracking him all the time to feel safe, to feel secure, to know where he was and what he was doing so that I would be able to relax. And I would only be able to relax if I knew everywhere that he was, which was not relaxing at all, really.

AN: No, and you were in an unsafe environment. So that's the thing to remember is as an adult, you actually can make the choices to have a good enough life. And it's hard to make those choices sometimes. If you're in relationship with someone who is in relationship with a substance, because that's gonna be a triad, it's not you and that person, it's them and their substance, and you're trying to get in there.

It doesn't work. And you can't be codependent and try to fix them or help them. That could be what we call controlling caregiving, that if you just care enough, the chaos will go away and you'll be able to save the person and then you'll have what you need. So all of this relates, this is so big what we're talking about.

AI: Oh yeah, I love it, I love this.

AN: Yeah, and I just wanna say to people listening, if you're new here, take a big breath. Whoa, just allow any little tidbit that interests you, you can follow it. There's lots of resources I've written books to help parents and sensory motor and birth trauma and sensory challenges. And there's lots of resources now in the world coming out about somatic work.

AI: People are becoming more aware of it.

AN: Yeah, yeah, it's a big wave now. And thank goodness, because it's where the healing potential of healed I self really lives. We do need other, but we need to attach here and kind of work with our own habits and relieve our internalized fear or depression or let go of anxiety that wasn't ours that we still carry around. And you do that through the body, through the ability to tolerate sensation, to contain it, to play with arousal relaxation and to find the rhythm, the internal rhythm, where throughout the day, you're not wigged out.

And then zoning out in the TV afterwards or getting drinking your wine or whatever, that you're finding the bio rhythm of wellbeing. And so I just wanna encourage you, if you are alive, you're on the right path. That you actually can learn this, no matter how intense, I mean, I don't say this lightly. I have worked with sexually abused foster children. I have worked with Schizophrenics. I have worked with a lot of populations where the challenge bar is high. So sometimes you will need outside resources. In the Brook Institute, we offer sessions. We have trained therapists. If you're lucky, you get in to see me, but I'm pretty busy.

But the idea is sometimes you do need external help, but the help is now becoming available. I mean, I've been a therapist for 40 years and when I started my training, fortunately, I was in the realm of the embodiment and it was brand new. So a lot of therapists have no idea how to do this. And I say, come and get trained. Because you will have a waiting list around the block. If you know how to help people help themselves and literally change the brain to change the pain and integrate their life story, they are fierce with reality.

And they can take charge of their life. They don't have to lean on you forever. You know, I believe people should graduate from therapy because it's expensive. You know, use that money for fun. While you're helping your children, right? All that. But there is help available and you are gonna be smart enough to figure this out.

There is a natural intelligence in every living being and there can be lots of trauma and lots of reasons to stay out of the body. But at some point, I have sometimes had to say to people, it's time to demand that your soul gets in here. Or you could say your higher power or your self that is bigger than all of your trauma. Right.

AI: The kind of overseer of everything, of all this part of us that can see the larger picture of everything from the things that have happened to the present moment to how it's playing out in all of our relationships and all of our interactions that we're having. Yeah.

AN: And that's the soul self. I mean, I don't like to get, you know, people caught up in language here because faith is a very personal thing and you know, the higher power or the source or whatever you think of. But there's something about then you're not alone. You're in relationship with the universe or nature or however you find it. And then you find that midline of support and you can tolerate stress.

It's when our trauma is still bigger and we're still small that it's bigger than us and we feel like nothing we can do. So if there's any... Yeah. So if there's any message or I just wanna say it's possible. You're alive, the tools are out there, come play with us. You know, there's lots of people now wanting to help on this wonderful somatic journey. Beautiful.

AI: Yes, there is absolutely hope. I agree with that 110%. I went through so much myself, so many years of pain and tension that I didn't even realize I was creating through the way that I was living, through the patterns that I was playing out that came from these early relationships in my life.

And I'm at the sharing point in my journey. So, you know, you're at this point where you've created, like I said, a legacy and you've shared with us today just some really powerful knowledge and tools and really like a hope, as you said before, that you can come out of these traumas that feel overwhelming, that dark pit of despair and all those things.

And yeah, I just, I'm so appreciating you right now for bringing us to this point in our talk today where we're inviting people to go forward, to keep breathing, to keep moving through it, you know? Even if they're not at that point in their journey where they feel that they're at the sharing point, right? That's a place, that's a landmark on this journey to be in that space where you're even ready to talk about it and confront it. Something you said a moment ago that was so beautiful, I absolutely loved it, fierce with reality.

That just, I love that. Because when we face what's real in our bodies, in our lives, in our nervous system, when we face that reality of the pain that we've been carrying or the situation externally, our environment that is not working for us, and we can actually be with it in a real way, that's where we actually have control and power over what goes on, right? Is in that facing of reality. So that phrase you said, fierce with reality, just love it, it's gonna stay in my mind.

AN: That's a quote that really helped me when I was in the depths of my differentiation in my family of origin work. I love my family and there was a way I was loyal. I thought if I let go of this loyalty, my mom will die. It didn't make any sense at all. But I had a really good therapist and that was on the wall. That's little quote and it said, if you can claim the events of your life, all that you've been and done, which may take some time, that's what you're talking about, facing it, right?

Then you are fierce with reality and that was Florida's Scott Maxwell. So I really took it to, wow, can we claim the events all the way precognitively? Can we claim, what we don't even know that could have shaped us? Or as a child, we got so chronically used to abuse or numbness or a dysregulated mama or dad, a narcissistic parent or a borderline personality parent, that we just got used to that as the way the world is. But it's not, there's a coherence.

And when things are coherent, when you return to your own coherence, then you can be resonant in the world. And you'll find people to relate to that aren't enmeshed or dominating or encapsulated. So I love sharing resources and I love you all, just the fact that you're here, you're interested, you're listening for the possibility of your own healing or your child's healing or maybe your partner. You know, there's a reason you're here with Amy's podcasts and all of this work that she's sharing. And so I just feel my gratitude and invitation.

AI: Yeah, and speaking of invitations, do you have any events or projects that are coming up right now that you could tell our listeners about if they wanna learn more from you, if they wanna engage more with the really powerful restructuring that you're talking about, restructuring of our bodies and consciousness?

AN: Yeah, thank you for that. The real right away coming up is I'm leading a four month mastermind course. And that is where all stops are pulled out and you will be in the hot seat sometimes, you will be up against your own, confronting yourself, but I'm with you two, we're four hours a week together, plus lots of resource.

And that's a very focused mastermind. It's called best choice, best action. And it's for people ready either to do a deep personal piece of work or they actually want to share their voice in the world and they don't know how. And we start with looking in the mirror, then we look at, oh, what is the neuroscience of trauma? And then we look at what fears come up when you do start to show up in the world. And it's just a really challenging, fun, heartfelt.

We do process, it's not just head information, it's really meeting up. So that's called best choice, best action. It starts January 23rd. In addition, in February, I have my relationship course. I run courses all year long. Some of them you can take at your own timing and pace. So be sure to go to and you'll see all the courses throughout the year. If you are a therapist and you want the guidance from me, and maybe you want to get an MA or a PhD, you have to have a BA to do this already, check out state of the art therapy training because I've learned that therapists can get burned out and they can take on the problems and then they've spent all this money in their career and they don't want to do it anymore.

So state of the art therapy is really about, you go through all my courses, they're included, and I mentor you after every course. Why did I make those choices? What are the interventions? What was I seeing with that person? What were you seeing? So it's really a dialogue of learning so that every therapy session is an art form. It's a living, you're not sitting there listening to someone, getting fatigued, wondering when it'll be over or falling asleep.

I've been with Therapasoup, fell asleep on me. Oh my gosh, right? I would like you to have state of the art therapy. So those are my big things and then I have these regular courses throughout the year, relationship, complex trauma healing, adoption, how to play. Some parents don't know how to play and that's a short little course of awakening the creative mind. Very important for meeting change. And I think that's most of them.

Oh, healing birth trauma. That's my big signature course and I run that one twice a year. So I've got lots of resources and a free PDF library and my Instagram account and my Facebook lives, which I'm gonna go to in just a moment.

AI: Yeah, well, just like a fountain of such amazing, powerful resources. It's like I've said a couple of times now that you really have created a legacy from your own healing and from the journey that you've been on for 40 years, some years. And I mean, that's when I came across your Instagram page and I watched some of your lives.

I read some of your little carousel posts. You share such potent and powerful information that communicates, I feel, with a wide range of people and maybe some of your listeners here experienced that today. Some of you may already be versed in some of these things and got a little bit out of this on an academic or intellectual level. And then maybe there are people who are listening where this is all news to them, but that description of the cave, the belay rope, the sensory experiences that you were describing, maybe even some of the more spiritual terms that you were using were able, people were able to connect with that.

So that's something that I just, I'm really grateful for this talk today, really amazed with just the breadth of your experience, your knowledge that you offer. Thank you so much for coming on the show and talking about all of these really big, really powerful things.

AN: We've had a fun chat, haven't we? And as always, I just want to say gratitude to my life and my teachers and all of you will have your ways of learning. And so don't give up, stay in the game and it'll help your children, it'll help your families. And Amy, thank you for hosting people and hosting me today. It's really been a great pleasure.

AI: Yeah, absolutely. I'd love to have you back on the show again at a later time and we can tackle an enormous, powerful thing in an hour and a half.

AN: Yeah, thank you so much. Yeah, beautiful.

AI: To hear more stories of somatic awakening and gain knowledge and tools for somatic living. If you'd like to learn more about me, Amy Takaya, Hanosomatic Education or the Radiance Program, please visit


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