On top of a tree built for climbing

I did my best 3 am rhyming.

I would shout out each word

But my poor neighbors heard.

The judge locked me up for poor timing.


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

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.

Click to access Corrigan-and-Grand-2013-Med-Hyp-80-759-766.pdf


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.
This material may be protected by copyright.

“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

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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The Tragic Tale of Christmas and Summer

as many years as they have been
as close as any dearest kin
as like in ways as twin to twin
They still loved from a distance.

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


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.

I want you to stop what you’re doing. Sit down and really listen to me. Turn off the music. Shut the door. Go in another room. Get away from people. Whatever you have to do.

Okay? I have your attention?

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You have people who believe in you. True, some have misunderstood you, even hurt you. But you have people who believe in you. What do they see?

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Everything that goes wrong, every irritation, gets a hotline right to your emotions. They all feel like great candidates to be the “last straw.”

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Do you believe you are loved?

You know, don’t you, that it is possible for a human to be deeply loved and not feel it?

Just like it is possible to hold a glass of water in your hands and not drink it. To have the answer staring you in the face and not see it. Just because you don’t see it does not mean it isn’t there. Just because you are thirsty does not mean there is no water. Just because you do not feel loved does not mean you are unloved.

Let me start a sentence for you to finish.

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Please speak these words to yourself:

So, you are ready to make the journey out of this? You are desperate to make the journey out of this? You have felt this before, the “I must beat this” feeling. What will be different this time? I will tell you. This time I will not leave you to do it alone. I will not forget you. I will not give up on you. I will remind you a hundred or a thousand times of things you would say you know, but have not been able to keep in your hands. I will keep picking them up when they clatter to the floor. I will pry open your fingers if I need to and give them to you again, and again, and again, until the clattering sound reminds you, not of something being lost, but of something being given and held.

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A thoracic surgeon performs a mitral valve rep...
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Hardship may come upon us for many reasons.

Job 5:6-8 (New International Version)

For hardship does not spring from the soil,
nor does trouble sprout from the ground.

Yet man is born to trouble
as surely as sparks fly upward.

We may bring hardship on ourselves through our mistakes or our own sin. Hardship may be brought to us by others or through the impersonal presence of evil in the world. God may use the megaphone of pain to get our attention.

There is one thing all hardship has in common.

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It’s possible that being alone is not just our greatest fear but our only fear.

It could be the active ingredient in our fear of death. It could be the element we empathically resonate with when we fear something happening to our children. Even our fear of rejection seems not so much about the rejection as it is about the imagined result of the rejection – being alone.

Our fear of harm, pain, suffering, damage… these may all be connected to the imagined end product – being alone.

I understand that aloneness is the active ingredient in Hell. Hell is the only place where our fear of being alone can finally come true, making it terrifying beyond anything we have ever felt.

I’ve often told people, “First relax. First don’t be afraid.” But that may not go far enough up stream. Must we deal first with the fear of being alone before we can deal with any fear or anxiety in the general sense?

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We don’t get very far down the road of life without hitting disappointments. Some are like a bug on the windshield, some like potholes, some like a bridge out, and some like being blind-sided.

As children we may first suspect our disappointment is our parents’ fault when we can’t have that sleepover at Jimmy’s. Or, it’s our sister’s fault that we felt such disappointment when “she ate all the Captain Crunch. ” Maybe there was a time when we felt like Santa was the source of our biggest disappointment. To many children, of course, for these to be their only disappointments would be a dream come true.

As we move out of childhood, we are faced with proms, interviews, tryouts, auditions. We have little, everyday hopes about green traffic lights, details working out in our favor, work and school assignments, weather. We have secret hopes about relationships, acceptance, recognition. We have private hopes about marriage, pregnancy, finances, job changes. We have public hopes about recovery, healing, success in ministry or business, college admission. We even have some hopes that are so large and close to the heart that we have never had the courage to say them to ourselves.

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