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Corners. Remember those? Life has corners you can’t see around. Think of one of the times in your life when something good, very good, happened and you didn’t even see it coming. It was around the corner and you didn’t even suspect it. In fact you didn’t even know there was a corner ahead. There are more ahead. You may not see the corners and you certainly don’t see the good things around the other side. But that didn’t stop that good thing from coming into your life before. I guarantee you there is a corner up ahead. Don’t be so overconfident that there is no good thing around the next corner. Remember your limitations in telling the future. And remember how caught off guard you were before by not expecting something good. Be ready this time.

For more thoughts like this check out my book on Amazon.

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A short video of David Grand’s work with an athlete.

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The dorsomedial prefrontal cortex (DMPFC) and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC) are two areas of the brain that allow for different types of self-awareness. The DMPFC is involved in conceptual self-awareness, thoughts and judgements about yourself. The VMPFC is activated during subjective embodied emotional self-awareness, the present moment felt-sense of your immediate experience. Although these two areas cannot be both online at once, when we allow ourselves to switch back and forth between them we make better decisions that are in our own best interest for a healthy existence. BrainSpotting encourages this switching back and forth and in this way allows our best interests to be integrated into our choices and judgements about ourselves and the world around us.

http://midwestbrainspottinginstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Corrigan-and-Grand-2013-Med-Hyp-80-759-766.pdf

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I’m pleased to be able to now offer to my clients the powerful body-oriented tool of BrainSpotting. I’ve found this somatic approach to be a very efficient alternative or adjunct to traditional “talk-therapy” and helpful for a wide range of psychological and emotional issues.

“Brainspotting is based on the profound attunement of the therapist with the patient, finding a somatic cue and extinguishing it by down-regulating the amygdala. It isn’t just PNS (Parasympathetic Nervous System) activation that is facilitated, it is homeostasis.” — Robert Scaer, MD, “The Trauma Spectrum”

more on BrainSpotting…

Besides the well known responses of fight or flight, during trauma, there is also the “Submit” response. This is a dissociative response that shuts down the body’s defenses. Blood pressure and heart rate are lowered and, interestingly, the brain produces a natural substance similar to opium, that reduced our perception of pain. It also alters our sense of time, place, and reality. Even our perception of interpersonal or social pain and danger can be blunted, leaving us vulnerable to manipulation or exploitation by others.

When people deal with trauma in conventional psychotherapy, they usually focus primarily on telling what has happened in the past. Discussions typically are concerned with how being reminded of old terror can trigger fear, rage, or paralysis in the present. Many people experience relief being able to discuss how seeing certain images, hearing particular sounds, or smelling a specific odor causes them to feel as if the trauma were happening right now. However, reliving trauma-related sensations does not occur only in response to input from our surroundings; it is also triggered by sensations deep within our own bodies: the sensory experiences that are evoked by feeling angry, sexually aroused, or having your period; by feeling tender toward somebody; or by the sensations that accompany feeling rejected and under appreciated.

– Bessel van der Kolk

The most profound legacy of trauma may be this timeless feeling of being battered by unbearable physical sensations: crushing feelings in your chest, agonizing tension in your shoulders, and burning pain in your abdomen, accompanied by the conviction that you are utterly helpless to do anything about it. The body, instead of being an ally in one’s road to recovery, becomes the enemy. Many traumatized people learn to tell a story of what happened, so that friends and relatives can understand why they are so frightened, angry, or out of control, but the real problem is that they do not feel safe inside – their own bodies have become booby-trapped. As a result it is not OK to feel what you feel or know what you know, because your body has become a container of dread and horror. The enemy who started on the outside is transformed into an inner torment.

– Bessel van der Kolk

The answer to this has been written about more completely than I can write here but I will try to identify some important parts of the answer.

Realize that for far too long we, members of the professional mental health community, have underplayed the role of the body in holding trauma and in healing trauma. Find a therapist who is comfortable helping you reconnect to your body and become more aware of its sensations.

Make friends again with your body. Many of us, even without significant trauma history, have a great deal of ambivalence or at least something less than a great “working relationship” with our body.

Breathe. If you pay close attention throughout the day to your movements, you will find there are times when you hold your breath, and other times when you over breathe, not allowing yourself to fully digest the air before expressing it. There are time when it is helpful to be able to hold our breath. Think about it. There are only two bodily functions that are automatic and yet can also be brought under our conscious control: blinking and breathing. Breathing is by far the most interesting one for the purpose of this discussion. As a general rule try to breathe as smoothly and continuously as possible no matter what activity you are involved in. You may also note that there is a natural pause before each inhale and before each exhale. Feel your breathing. Notice the sensations it brings to your body. Allow your self to naturally exhale as you compress your body and then to naturally inhale as you open your body structure, such as when you bend over and then stand back up again. Don’t hold your breath and don’t force either the inhales or exhales – as a general rule.

Move. Let your body twist and reach and stretch and tense and relax. Notice what feels “good” and what movements your body may be wanting to make but for some reason is holding back. Try to find whole body movements that express different emotions. Trauma often involves our bodies being unable to move in the way they needed to move during the trauma, whether that is to retreat, defend, or attack. One way to think about emotions is that they are states of readiness for our body to take certain actions. That is the “motion” apart of emotion.

Read. If you want a more complete understanding of “body memories” I would recommend one of the following authors: Peter Lavine, Pat Ogden, or Bessel van der Kolk for starters. If you want some more challenging and historically significant reading from the early 1900’s you can also read Pierre Janet.

I believe it is very helpful to conceptualize forgiveness as the releasing of our right to make things even, no more than that. It is a very important part of healing relationships, but only one part. It does not remove the damage done. It does not remove the very realistic fear of being hurt again. It does not make us want to spend time with the person who hurt us. But it is what we can do as the injured party.

The party who has done the harm has work to do also. Theirs is the task of becoming a safe person. That is the task of the one who has harmed us. They may not succeed, in which case forgiveness has not become any less valuable. Forgiveness is the right thing to do even if we need to never allow the person who harmed us to be close to us again. But if the person who has done the harm has made an honest attempt to minimize the hurt and make amends (not to make it even but to demonstrate a desire to become a safe person) then reconciliation can move forward and there begins to be a chance or hope that a person can again become part of our life. Forgiveness alone does not do that.

Forgiveness does not make a way for people to intertwine their lives again. In fact it allows us the ability to have the sort of independence that is needed without an attachment based on retribution. Forgiveness allows us to go on in separate lives, free of compulsive acts of retaliation. Forgiveness does many things that are good for us emotionally and spiritually but it does not bring lives back together. It allows us to release our compulsion for payback. We realize in forgiveness that making things even is not a job for us but an aspect of justice that only God can truly accomplish.

When two of people have a goal of restoring the ability to be in each other’s life, it demands a task beyond forgiveness, but a task that cannot precede forgiveness. It is the task of restoring trust, becoming safe with each other, making a way for me to allow myself to be near you while also taking the proper responsibility to my own safety. It makes a way for you to do the same. We are moving beyond forgiveness to a mode of interacting where we demonstrate what we each need to reassure ourselves that we will are unlikely to hurt each other as we have in the past.

This is the path toward restoring a relationship. Yes, it starts with forgiveness, but does not stop there. Of course this path beyond forgiveness requires communication and interaction, something forgiveness does not require. It is riskier than forgiveness and is not the path that can always be followed. Some relationships end with forgiveness. There is no further path. But some go beyond forgiveness to restoration, a path that takes mutual desire and ability, a task that is not for the faint of heart.

What do you want? Forgiveness or more?

“The realization that insight and understanding are not enough to keep traumatized people from regularly feeling and acting as if they were traumatized all over again forced clinicians to explore techniques that offer the possibility of reprogramming these automatic physical responses. It was only natural that such techniques would have to involve methods that address people’s awareness of their internal sensations and their physical action patterns. Of course, many different cultures have healing traditions that activate and utilize physical movement and breath, such as yoga, chi qong, tai chi, and other Asian and African traditions. However, in the West, approaches that involve working with sensation and movement have been fragmented and have remained outside the mainstream of medical and psychological teaching”

Excerpt From: Kekuni Minton, Pat Ogden & Clare Pain. “Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology).” W.W & Norton, 2006. iBooks.
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“Traumatized patients are continuing the action, or rather the attempt at action, which began when the thing happened and they exhaust themselves in these everlasting recommencements”

– Janet, P. (1919)

Chronic exposure to childhood abuse or neglect can reshape our personalities around the pathology of trauma.

We may be angry, suicidal, and either obsequious or engaging in risky or self-destructive behaviors. We can be dissociative, with amnesia for traumatic events. And we can feel ineffective, damaged for life, over-responsible for our problems, and consequently full of shame.

Relationally, we may find it hard to trust anyone, hard to believe that anyone can understand us, and be prone to revictimization (if you can’t trust anyone, you don’t know what trustworthy looks like). We can be untrustworthy, from being unable to keep commitments to being outright violent.

We may feel that either we are hopeless or the world is. We may have little tolerance for or ability to feel happiness.

– Robin Shapiro

“I am drawn to trauma therapy because it offers me an opportunity to do something about the brokenness all around us. Doing this work is an experience of confronting that brokenness head-on and in its place restoring wholeness”

– Deborah Woolley

“Within an interpersonal neurobiology view, as we “sift” the mind, we attempt to integrate the sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts that comprise the flow of energy and information that defines our mental lives. Sensations include the non-verbal textures created by the body that involve the state of the muscles in our limbs and face, our internal organs, impulses to act, and actual movements. Sifting the mind with curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love—the “coal” that warms the heart of change—enables us to integrate these many elements of our mind in new ways that permit healing to emerge.”

Excerpt From: Kekuni Minton, Pat Ogden & Clare Pain. “Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology).” W.W & Norton, 2006. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Check out this book on the iBookstore: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/trauma-body-sensorimotor-approach/id390712410?mt=11

For My Lovely Sister: Kelsey..

a lament and a struggle by a brother for his sister, who, in my mind’s eye is still the 4 year old little friend of my daughter when she was the same age.

Human beings are tender creatures. We are born with our hearts open. And sometimes our open hearts encounter experiences that shatter us. Sometimes we encounter experiences that so violate our sense of safety, order, predictability, and right, that we feel utterly overwhelmed - unable to integrate and simply unable to go on as before. Unable to bear reality. We have come to call these shattering experiences trauma. None of us is immune to them.

-Stephen Cope

Because the content of my book overlaps significantly with the experience of those suffering from Moral Injury, I have collected some excepts below that help explain the topic.

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Have I  been put in some dark corner where you’ve forgotten about me, Lord? How long until you stumble across me and remember me again? When will you even look me in the eye so I can remember what your face looks like?

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That last post was based on the first 11 verses of the letter written to the Philippians by St. Paul. I believe he was killed without seeing them ever again. This was his long goodbye.

Read the letter side by side with what I have written and tell me what you think.

I find him to be a man of surprisingly strong emotions with an unusually transparent attachment to these people he considered his sons and daughters. I admit that I am not a scholar of original biblical languages but can our English translations be so far off as to portray him as such a man of feeling if it were not so?

Am I the only one who can’t recall sermons doing justice to this man’s ferocious love for these people?

(A familiar letter to some but with the Secret to the author’s strength and commitment obscured)

I am writing to you as the person you have always known, holding on to that same vision of the future that we talked so much about. I know that what we held onto is powerful enough to flood your mind with a feeling of peace and a sense of belonging that I don’t want you to live without. That’s my hope for you as I start to write this, that your days are filled with that calm happiness and a security about what really matters. That’s what I want.

Even from so far away, even after so much time, even in what I am going through, I think about you often. Memories hit me as I go through my day. When they do, it makes me so glad you have been in my life and that you let me be in yours. We both know it’s not just a coincidence that our lives have been interwoven. I am so thankful they have been.

When I picture you now, your life, and future, and what I want for you, it always gives me the same good feeling, the feeling of energy to do great things, the confidence that good things are in our lives. It’s a type of feeling that makes it hard to stand still. That’s what happens every time I stop to really think about what your life can be like and the person you are becoming, when I think of my dreams for you.

Part of the reason I feel this way is because we have been working together side by side, helping each other what we know is worthwhile. We have been partners in a fight so important that I know you will continue on, no matter what, until the very end.
Some may not understand my emotions about all this, but this is the right way for me to feel about you. It makes so much sense because there is a permanent place in my heart for you. That will never change.

It doesn’t matter if outwardly I am being subjected to horrible conditions and circumstances, mistreated, retaliated against for what I say, or if I have complete freedom to speak the truth. Either way, we are sharing this journey. Our lives and hearts are bound together and I have a longing for you that few may understand or believe. I think it’s misunderstood because it’s a type of affection not often seen in this world. It doesn’t come from the usual interactions and relationships we see around us everyday. It holds a special purpose and a unique power. We understand it and where it comes from, even if others don’t.

So here is what my heart is longing for right now. I long for you to be able to love. I dream of you becoming better and better at the hard work that I now know love to be. I want you to know how to make the right choices in love and to be guided by insight and wisdom when you love. I want you to very good at loving, unusually good, knowing what’s best in each situation and doing what’s right. I want you to love in a way that allows no place for guilt or blame, a type of love that can keep on going until the end, a type of love that leads people to be amazed, the type of love that people can’t stop talking about once they have seen it or felt it.

My desire for you, my hope and dream, is that you are able to love, better and better, almost perfectly.

How here, in the deep emerald work of his hand,
eternally dreamed and eternally planned,
a sometime paradise fashioned for man
and woman to bear the first image and spark
in a world born from chaos, formless and dark?

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In my profession, I work with people making their way through the circumstances of life. They are mostly, in my experience, good people, even honorable people, and very often people I come to respect greatly for the persistent work they have done in the making of their way in life. But, they also, without exception, are hurt people.

Hurts come

  • from others,
  • from the self,
  • from pervasive, systematic evil, and
  • from sources we will never be able to name.

The hurts come

  • by accident,
  • through ignorance,
  • in carelessness,
  • out of malice,
  • as an artifact of growth,
  • from profoundly inaccurate mental images of basic things such as the self, the world, God and how He works

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“things I used to know” is Now on Amazon

Lord, don’t make the waves smaller. Make me a better swimmer!

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Here, broken.

Waiting for the Good Samaritan


Sound. Was that a sound or… me thinking of sound? A voice. Yes, that’s it… the sound of… not words… the sounds of someone in pain. I think it was my voice. Waking to my own voice? What’s happening? Am I dead? Gone mad? No. I because I feel, yes now I feel… pain. Oh… I feel so much pain. How could I not have felt it before? Now it rushes through my whole body, a wave from my head and then to all of me. All I know is the pain that throbs in a pattern the most opposite of any rhythm possible.

Am I even here or is the pain all that is? Am I here? I live in this wave of pain for some duration of time that I have no way of measuring. I wonder if time is even passing. I don’t know.

Now… finally now. The wave of pain is slowly leaving… no… not leaving… only making room for me to be here too. Now I wish it were only the pain and not any of me that was here in this moment. There it is. The sound. My groaning in pain. But it sounds much more like the voice of a child than the voice of one almost 14. Too much like a whimper, too much like a cry, not the deep voice of a man suffering. So that was my voice that woke me – is my voice, my groan of pain.

Why is it so hard to think? It’s dark and my arm is cold and my head keeps sending waves of pain that come from the inside and vibrate out to all of me. Is it dark or are my eyes closed? Or am I blind? Fear comes now, outshouting the pain that I thought nothing could outshout…. I am blind and dying. Why is it so hard to breath? What is happening to me?

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“Be thankful for the strong beauty of waves, even waves of emotion. Be thankful your head is above water.

Be thankful you have known things of such value that their absence feels like death.”

Excerpt From: David W Hamilton Psy.D. “things I used to know.” Lulu.com, 2013-06-28. iBooks.
This material may be protected by copyright.

Finally available!

When there are injuries we need to recover from, wounds we need to see healed in our souls, we need those things we once knew. We need them to be close at hand. 

We may have people present in our lives but we can lose access to the truths we know. It is like losing a part of ourselves, a vital part that we need to keep close.

We lose the comfort of our own presence.

The paperback “things I used to know” is now available to buy online.

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