Welcome everyone to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
As a family physician of 38 years, you come to realize that emotional trauma, especially in childhood, impacts your overall physical health. The Body Keeps The Score, written by Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk (one of my recommended reads), talks about how trauma held in the body reshapes both the body and brain. That is why I felt it was important for my wife Jenny to come on the podcast and share her experience at Onsite. Her journey through the Healing Trauma Workshop was brave and bold. I encourage you to listen to the podcast, and pay attention to the process and practice of keeping your emotional system healthy.
What is Onsite?
- Onsite is an internationally known wellness center where you can disconnect and reset your emotional system. Through workshops and group sessions, you learn a new way of connecting to yourself and the world. “Outer change through inner healing”.
- There are two Onsite locations. One on a 250-acre campus outside of Nashville, Tennessee, and the other on a 240-acre west coast campus near San Diego. Programs to choose from include: Living Centered, Healing Trauma, Healthy Love Relationships, and Onsite Adventures.
- Onsite chairman and owner is Miles Adcox. Miles is an entrepreneur with a passion for emotional wellness. As a speaker and leader, Miles encourages others to take a step outside themselves, both physically and mentally, in order to be vulnerable and become in-tune with their emotions and intentions.
- Dr. Neil Bomar serves as Medical Director of Onsite. Dr. Bomar has a varied medical and psychiatric background. His early career was in primary and urgent care medicine. From there, he went to Memphis and completed another residency in psychiatry. His passion lies in the field of trauma and codependency.
- Jenny chose to attend the Healing Trauma Workshop.
What is Trauma?
- Trauma is not so much what happened in the past, as it is what is happening now.
- Symptoms of trauma include (but not limited to): hypervigilance, mistrust, shame and worthlessness, eating disorders, substance abuse, generalized anxiety, panic attacks, chronic pain, headaches, insomnia, nightmares, shame and worthlessness, few memories, decreased concentration, numbing, loss of interest, irritability, emotionally overwhelmed, and depression.
- The three types of Trauma are: SHOCK (single event such as a medical emergency, car accident, tragedy, etc); DEVELOPMENTAL (childhood wounding impacting a person’s ability to securely attach to others); and COMPLEX (prolonged, repeated interpersonal trauma where there is little or no ability or opportunity to stop or escape from the ongoing trauma).
- Trust the process was a phrase used on campus to remind people to: (a) pay attention to what’s going on inside, (b) deal with it / acknowledge, and (c) reclaim what is true about you.
- Experiential therapy was used in the small group sessions. Experiential therapy is an umbrella term for different modalities that holistically engage our bodies and minds so we can evaluate the places where we might be stuck.
- The three principles of healing trauma are: 1. Worth and value are not up for debate. 2. Everyone has the capacity for resilience and healing, and 3. You are your own agent of change.
What is Polyvagal Theory?
- The polyvagal theory is a system that describes how our autonomic nervous system evolved to keep us safe and alive. It was developed in 1994 by psychiatrist and neuroscientist Stephen Porges. The polyvagal theory gives us a helpful framework for understanding our survival strategies and the ways we seek connection.
- The polyvagal theory is based on the study of the vagus nerve (longest nerve in the body) and its role in emotion regulation, social connection, and fear response. Much like a thermostat, it regulates the emotional temperature of our body. When it is working properly, we are comfortable. When it is not working properly, we get emotionally “stuck” which makes us feel uncomfortable.
- The Polyvagal ladder has three sections (bottom to top): DORSAL(depression and isolation); SYMPATHETIC (fight or flight); and the VENTRAL VAGAL (fully connected with the body/able to self-regulate, acknowledge stress, and explore the options).
What is the Karpman Triangle?
- The Karpman drama triangle is a social model of human interaction proposed by Stephen B. Karpman. The triangle maps some of the roles we may take when we are in conflict, such as VICTIM, PERSECUTOR, and RESCUER.
- The Victim role is defined in moments that you feel overwhelmed by your own vulnerability. You don’t see a way out, therefore you don’t take responsibility.
- The Rescuer role is where you work hard (unasked) to “save” the vulnerable.
- The Persecutor role is where you beat yourself up (feel shame and guilt) for not being able to fix things. You may even use your power to be destructive to yourself or others (i.e., name calling, blaming, etc).
- Once the drama cycle is unpacked, the healing can begin. Remember that healing is a practice. Your emotional responses can be changed as you learn how to reconnect to your body.
- “I” statements help you to reclaim power over your emotions. When you feel attacked or feel shame, say to yourself “I have the power to change the narrative”. When you feel the urge to save people from whatever painful situation they are in, say to yourself, “I am only responsible for taking care of me.” When you feel like the victim, say to yourself, “I own this situation. I acknowledge what is happening. I have options.
- The takeaways from Healing Trauma were: (1) Significant change happens in two degree shifts. (2) Healing is a practice, and (3) Trust the process.
Think about these takeaways as you move into 2024. Be self aware and self compassionate, giving yourself permission to feel. Suffering is part of life, but so is healing.
Stay educated. Stay healthy.
Till next year.