[00:00:00] Jennifer: Shame is the debilitating emotional response. It’s immobilizing. We are so familiar with it here on Trauma Rewired. And from what I’ve experienced, it’s not only comes with other responses like Freeze and Dissociation, it’s a barrier to my self compassion and to the relationship to self. It has an intricate relationship with trauma. I believe this for all of us. Shame is something we talk about here a lot. In our show notes, we’ll directly link the Toxic Shame conversation we had in Season 2.

[00:00:33] And as much as we love to explore Shame, we also recognize that it’s a lot because, big picture, Shame is harmful. It’s disorganizing because it threatens our survival, not our physical survival, but our social survival. As it weaves with other components of complex trauma, it furthers self abandonment and impacts our development, our relationships, our health and it drives behaviors.

[00:00:59] Welcome to Trauma Rewired, the podcast that teaches you about your nervous system, how trauma lives in the body and what you can do to heal. I’m your co host, Jennifer Wallace. I am a Neuro Somatic Psychedelic Integration and Preparation Guide. I’m also a Junior Educator for Neuro Somatic Intelligence, and I love bridging the incredible modalities of sacred spaces and nervous system health.

[00:01:24] Elisabeth: And I’m Elisabeth Kristof, founder of Brain Based Wellness, a virtual platform that teaches your nervous system how to heal deficits, relieve stress, and move out of old behaviors. 

[00:01:35] Jennifer: Today we’ll continue this conversation on Shame and what we see in ourselves, what we’ve learned, what we see in our clients and what we understand and know to be true as the best ways to work with the energy of Shame. You have access to all of these tools by going to rewiretrial.com for w free weeks on the Brain-Based Wellness membership site where we teach live neuro on these tools four times a week. And we love working in community. rewiretrial.com. We’ll see you there. Please enjoy this deeper exploration of Shame.

[00:02:08] Elisabeth:  Yeah, this is one of those topics that it’s like a thread under so many of our other conversations that I feel like is this very deep core wound that I know it at the heart of my own personal healing journey is always there. I’m always coming back to that place of looking at Shame. And it’s also one of those topics that the more I dive into it, the more questions I have about it and the ways that it, why it’s here, how it drives behavior, how to work with it, how to transform it so that I can come back from that place of self abandonment that I think is really key. What you were talking about, that it’s the ultimate form of self abandonment. And so I’m really excited to explore this pretty deeply today, looking at the neurology of Shame, how it impacts our health, how it drives our behavior and our relationships. It’s big stuff.

[00:03:01] Jennifer: It is big stuff. And it’s very heavy. Shame is totally immobilizing. And it’s protection is so interesting, right? Because the protection actually is in the heaviness of its weight. It continues to propel other responses, like Shame is of response to a response. 

[00:03:25] Elisabeth: Yeah. I think looking a little bit like, why do we have shame? Why does it exist? I think it’s really important, the part that you were talking about that it is protective to keep our social bonds intact. And I was looking at a meta analysis on a bunch of different Functional neuroimaging studies that looked at the brain under Shame. And the key takeaway was that these emotions like shame, embarrassment and guilt are self conscious emotions that help us navigate the complexity of fitting into groups and really to satisfy our human need to belong for survival to social groups. And there was one study in particular that said shame was an algorithm that the brain uses to inhibit socially and morally unwanted behaviors. When I think about like, why, again, it comes down to that need that we have to either maintain attachment to the collective for our big social safety needs, because we evolved in a way to be a tribal species that needs other people around for security, for reproduction, for all of those things. And also to maintain that familial connection to our primaries, to our siblings, within our little pack to stay connected, because we need all of that physically, emotionally, to stay safe, really.

[00:04:55] Jennifer: Belonging is a really natural need. It’s a really natural need, and Shame really isolates us. It represses that need in that one. 

[00:05:06] Elisabeth: Yeah, so that’s another really interesting thing that came up for me, because Shame is there to keep us almost like in line with these certain standards that we either that really would separate us from society, like it’s, you know, behaviors that are going to lead us to be a little bit more isolated. Or just that we perceive, right, that we have this idea, maybe that we thought of as a little kid. If I do this, if I express myself, if I show this emotion, if I act out in this way, I’m going to lose the attachment to the caregivers that I really need. If at its root, it’s there to protect us and keep us connected, it’s interesting because all of the physiological presentations of Shame, disconnect us and keep us isolated. We look down with our eyes, we can’t maintain that eye contact connection, we brace and we curl into ourselves, protecting ourselves and putting up a barrier to another person. We lose our voice, like the literal way that we communicate and maintain attachment to people, so even though it’s there to protect us and keep us attached, it’s a little bit tricky to think about it that way because it’s also disconnecting us, and I think that it’s Trying to inhibit a certain level of expression, right? And using our voice in standing tall and having an open posture and being vulnerable. So it’s like this built in mechanism that kind of keeps us from full self expression. 

[00:06:40] Jennifer: But that constriction, it’s not just in muscle tension- it’s constricting energy, it’s constricting blood flow, it’s constricting vitality. And it’s almost ensuring that you will not express emotionally. It’s an emotionally repressive emotion. 

[00:06:58] Elisabeth: Which is kind of crazy to think about, right? Like an emotion that represses other emotions. And that then does definitely disconnect us from other people. If we can’t express our emotions, we can’t co-regulate, emotionally regulate, with other people because that expression is being blocked. We use tears to signify to others that we need help. We use our voice to communicate verbally and non-verbally the emotions that we’re experiencing and if we’re doing okay. When that ability gets locked, it’s very limiting. And then I think also too, for those of us with complex trauma, it gets really disproportionate, that protection. We perceive so much threat or we have it coupled with so many experiences that we can go into the realm of Toxic Shame. That, again, really keeps us from authenticity through emotional connection to other people and also is damaging to our internal state. Like you said, that energy doesn’t move through and there’s also physiological consequences of experiencing the emotion of Shame all the time.

[00:08:10] Jennifer: And that constriction, back to that really quick, I just want to say to that constriction that pulling in that reflexive pulling in into the body. That is language that says: Don’t look at me. Don’t talk to me. Do not connect with me. It’s really even if that is, you know, it really furthers the Dissociation internally when we can’t connect to ourselves in real time. And then when we cannot attach to other people, because like I said, that belonging, we really want that. Deep down that is something that we need in our survival. We need a tribe. We need our herd. 

And when we’re talking about complex trauma and, in the case of sexual trauma and early childhood sexual abuse, I really do think this has another layer attached to it in the realms of Shame, different from the other, say ACE scores, if you will. Because that protection of shame comes in when our sexuality, our sexual organs, our sexual experience, our bodies have been violated, and the body then, like you were talking a minute ago about over coupling, the arousal. The pleasure, it gets over coupled with shame and woven in together so intrinsically, and so then how do we learn to live pleasurable lives when it is over coupled with Shame and our bodies?

[00:09:32] Elisabeth Yeah. Exactly, our bodies, the experience of it is somatic. So cognitively we might know there’s nothing to be ashamed about, I want to experience pleasure, I wanted this. And then internally and at a somatic level, our body reacts in this way and that can be very confusing and very difficult. 

[00:09:50] Jennifer: And our brain is developing differently. This inhibits, this level of trauma, inhibits a healthy brain development. Especially like we’re talking about like it’s Freeze, it’s Shame, it’s Dissociation, it’s immobilizing, it’s Flop. And in that, not only is the brain being shaped in a certain way, but all the physiological responses of the body are really not being turned on and working efficiently.

[00:10:15] Elisabeth: Yeah. I want to talk a little bit about the neurology of Shame and how it’s linked to Freeze and Dissociation, but I want to backtrack for just a second about the early childhood sexual abuse that you were speaking about and how that has a maybe different effect of Shame in the body. And I was also looking at some of the studies about the immunological effects of shame and guilt. And there was one study in particular that said that these emotions, Shame specifically, can cause changes in inflammatory products and that Shame may have specific immunological correlates, especially around the production of pro-inflammatory cytokine activity. So basically saying that like when certain people are experiencing high levels of self induced Shame, they have a big inflammatory response in their body.

[00:11:05] And I started thinking, why? Because that’s a little bit different than the bracing and the retreating back. An inflammatory response for me is a definite threat response. It’s the body thinking I’m about to be hurt or injured, right? Then our body starts producing inflammation because that’s how our body defends against inflammation an injury. It’s part of our, like, real threat response. And so, it really made me wonder about that over-coupling of the experience of Shame and body boundary violations that might happen as a young child. And we know from a somatic understanding that when we can’t set boundaries ourselves, our body often does it for us.

[00:11:53] And that inflammation is the body protecting us, first and foremost, though we know if it goes on for too long it leads to disease. But if this happened a lot in development, in those same experiences where we experienced Shame because maybe we were taking on the Shame of our abuser, or maybe we were taking on Shame because we knew that what was happening wasn’t socially acceptable.

[00:12:17] We had these big experience of Shame, and at the same time, we were experiencing body boundary violations, and that inflammatory threat response of the body trying to produce its own boundary. And then it gets over-coupled. When I experience the emotion of Shame, I also am expecting the body boundary violation, and my body starts reacting to that.

[00:12:38] Jennifer: There’s a couple different things here because when we do develop in this stressed environment in this over-coupling, the body almost needs the over-coupling to experience the pleasure. And so, you know, when we’re very young and we’re experiencing something that we have no control over, no agency. That is very stressful. And when it’s chronic, when we don’t have the voices for it, these responses like Freeze and Flop are so necessary to the survival in that moment, because we can’t Fight or Flight. Often we can’t do that, that really goes against our survival. Because if I fight my predator, who’s someone in my family, I might not be able to survive that.

[00:13:25] I might actually die. And if I can’t also run away from this person, because once again, this person is unavoidable in my life. That is going to prepare my nervous system, develop my nervous system in many maladaptive ways. And that energy, it never gets metabolized. So it moves into these chronic maladaptive ways that the nervous system gets shaped. And then as we grow up and we move into society and we get older and then we have no agency, no stability, we’re dysregulated, we’re disorganized in the brain function and integration and the brain function. And in the body, massive disconnection from the brain body, and it really severs attachment to self as major consequences.

[00:14:21] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think there’s two big things that are going on there. One is that in those particular early adverse childhood experiences, the most adaptive thing for our body to do is to Freeze or Flop because there’s no other way to protect ourselves. So that becomes very linked to the protective mechanism that our brain goes to to keep us safe when we feel those same signals of threat, even if we’re older.

[00:14:50] And at the same time, Shame in general is an emotion that’s meant to inhibit us from a behavior or a thought, an opinion, an emotional expression that we perceive, for whatever reason, to be disconnecting us. So it’s, it’s like inhibiting us and immobilizing us and shutting us down that way. And we have the lived experience of the Freeze/Flop trauma response, and usually then in these situations later in life, it’s like you’re experiencing both of those at the same time. 

[00:15:28] Jennifer: I think this is where like, I think Shame could be the foundation of what is really referred to as personality disorders. Like borderline personality disorder, which would totally Take issue with, but like having those type of say like personality disorders, what, what they are referred to. I mean, that is like really when I think someone becomes identified with how they feel, what they feel, what they feel is terror, what they feel is Shame, what they feel is anger, and they don’t have much sense of themselves beyond those feeling states. And their brain has no control over these states, these constant feelings, and that leads to all kinds of cognitions that really aren’t possible for people.

[00:16:09] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think that it’s deepest level, Shame becomes very toxic, or any of these other emotional expressions that you were talking about, when they become identified with who we are. Like you were saying, it’s not like, I made a mistake. I think a normal, healthy relationship to Shame would be to like, you know, I made a mistake. Life goes on. I apologize. I’m not bad, right? 

But with this deep Shame wound, it becomes at the core of us who we think we are. And then that drives so much of our behavior, needing external validation, having to be perfect, not wanting to express our opinions, not wanting to say anything that might sever an attachment bond with somebody. Not wanting to really be seen or vulnerable because at this deep down place, like I’m bad. It’s a giant shadow. 

[00:17:07] Jennifer: It’s the ‘I am’. I am stupid. I am bad. I am not worthy of love, of time, of money, of belonging. I am gross. And that language with the body is going to perpetuate Dissociation and Freeze. The internal system and processes are swimming in stress states and stress chemicals. And back to that constriction of blood flow and vitality, the organs don’t just bounce back, right? We have to work with them to let them know that the threat is gone cognitively, we’re okay, systems can go like they just don’t say, okay, let’s flip the switch and we’re back on.

[00:17:50] These systems really get turned off. We’re the ones that have to be responsible for completing the stress response, or releasing the stored trauma. Whether that’s emotional, because emotional repression definitely has consequences. I’ve kind of just remembered what I lost a few minutes ago. And that was when that Shame, this toxic level of Shame, begins to move into how we want to show up in partnerships, how we show up in our relationships, how we attach to other people, it leads us back to hiding like full self expression. 

This Shame can also get really coupled with Fawn trauma response because back to belonging is natural, we all want that and need secure attachment and Fawning is a way to ensure that attachment. And then when there’s that repressed Shame around self expression, you’re hiding, you’re manipulating. These are all really primitive survival strategies. And so when the Shame is coming in and immobilizing you, and here you are meant to have conversations with someone you want to be in a safe attachment, but you often don’t end up in a secure attachment when you are moving with this deep undercurrent of Shame.

[00:19:04] Elisabeth: Yes. I mean, in our conversation with Luis Mojica, he referred to Fawn as the body wanting to belong to other bodies, to belong with other bodies. And if that underlying deep belief is like, I am unworthy of belonging and love and connection. Absolutely, it will drive us into that behavior, constantly trying to secure that belonging that we will never feel worthy of. So we can never really get it. And so we just get pushed further and further into codependent behaviors, into changing ourselves to be a reflection of what we think somebody else wants. And at that reflexive level moving into Fawn, because we’re always trying to get that belonging. And it’s always beyond our reach.

[00:19:57] Jennifer: It’s such a loop. I mean, it is such a dangerous loop. And like, just having a hard conversation with somebody or showing up and having this conversation over and over with your therapist, it’s not going to resolve the Shame in your body. Validation is a powerful experience when we can share that with another person, but validation is cognitive resolve. It’s not the resolve that we really need to look for in our bodies. 

[00:20:20] Elisabeth Yeah. And so much of what’s going on with Shame is pretty below the level of our consciousness, right? It’s very difficult to cognitively override those reflexive behaviors of not being able to make eye contact, of losing our vocals. You know, it’s like, I don’t want to lose my voice in this situation, and it’s happening somatically, as well as the dissociation that occurs with that. And I think it’s really important to look at when we are with Shame, there is often a link to dissociating from the body. Maybe because it feels very overwhelming and threatening to experience that emotion, or because there is so much Shame just connected to our body, that by dissociating from our body and its sensations and the felt sense of our body that helps us for a moment, experience some relief from that Shame, and it is underneath so many things. Like you said, these “personality disorders”, you know, Dr. Gabor Mate always talks about how Shame is at the very root of addiction, and he describes shame as a loss of contact with the self at its core.

[00:21:35] Jennifer: And I think we’ve experienced a lot of things. People listening, you’ve experienced things that would want you to not be in your body. There are so many things that you could have experienced, whether that was in your childhood or all through your lives up to this point, that would really make you want to turn away from your body. But the turning away from the body, and this is what makes dissociation so traumatizing, because when we start to get into our bodies. When we begin the journey of presence, of embodiment and of safety it’s really threatening. It’s very, very scary to come into your body for the first times. And I always say it’s kind of like this, it starts in infancy, you’re sort of in your body, you’re out of your body, you’re in your body, you’re out of your body. And then… Eventually, when you stay with your tools and your practices, and you continue to develop and cultivate a relationship with your nervous system that’s so intimate, you can eventually start to chip away at some of this in the body, what it’s been holding onto for so long. 

[00:22:35] Elisabeth: I think one of the first, most important things, in working with Shame is like you were saying, cultivating the capability of being embodied, at least for little periods of time so that you can stay in your body for the experience of Shame in order to work with it. It’s a real hard one to feel into. And of course we want to detach from that feeling. It’s heavy. It’s socially painful. It feels very bad, and it’s often coupled and linked to and neuro tagged with other big emotions and experiences, terror and abandonment. And if I don’t have the capacity to be with my body when it’s experiencing Shame, it’s very hard to mobilize out of it. It’s just part of the work is being able to have capacity in your nervous system to start to do that. It’s a journey. 

[00:23:36] Jennifer: And I think too, just asking yourself, like, is it possible? What else is possible? Is it possible I could feel my body? Is it possible I could feel safe having conversations, facing emotions? Is it possible that I could secure attachment in another way? Is it possible that I could heal these patterns? But the truth is that Shame isn’t going anywhere, right? Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn, Flop. None of this is going anywhere. You have, we all, we, we have these protective mechanisms that are survival based.

[00:24:07] That is the number one job of our brains. And so we need to go back to cultivating that intimate relationship with our bodies because we want to know how is the body speaking to me right now. It’s always telling us the truth. Your mind is going to lie to you, is going to lie to you all day long to protect you, but your body’s not. And so where are you trying to be in resonance, right? We want these two to be together, but we want to be able to come into our bodies and listen to them safely. 

[00:24:38] Elisabeth: Yeah. Like acknowledge the body where it’s at and allow. Because I think sometimes too, there can be a lot of Shame coupled with just experiencing a trauma reaction in your body. And one of the first places to go with that is trying to cultivate a little bit of curiosity or compassion or just an understanding of like this is a physiological reaction happening inside of my body. Because like you said, it’s not going anywhere. It’s a matter of being able to understand what’s happening and to begin to have some acceptance for that, and again, not tying it to necessarily meaning anything about you inherently. It’s just something that’s happening in your body, in your nervous system, in your brain, from past experiences. It’s patterned responses. 

[00:25:33] Jennifer: That’s right. It’s not the definition of me. This isn’t who I am. This is a protective response that’s gotten so well worn and so, just like, so efficient. I mean, it’s just, it’s there. It’s ready. It is the emotion that I feel like is just back there. Like, I’m here, Jennifer. I got you. Just like employ me anytime, you know, it’s like ready. And, you know, I used to experience so much Shame around my body. Shame in the way that it looked, the way it moved, the way it performed or didn’t perform. It was never doing enough. And then it got sick. And then I had to live in a body that was ill, that had disease, that had cancer. And there was a lot of Xhame in that. Not just Xhame for myself, but Shame in how I was in my family or seen by my friends or in my community.

[00:26:23] And I had Shame in not being able to maintain the status quo of life, of societal norms and pressures. I had Shame in my sexual over-couplings, and I had Shame in my own disappointment to the, like, how I viewed myself for a long time as a real disappointment, particularly through the lens of my parents eyes. I really thought I was just this massive disappointment. And that has all mostly been resolved. Like I said, like Shame is here, right? I can experience it, but it doesn’t lead me down that toxic thread that has mostly been resolved. I’ve said this before, we, we posted a reel where I was in a bathing suit and it’s like, that is a new me.

[00:27:09] Like, this is my body. This is my body. And the way that my body is, the way that it’s shaped, is because of the way that I have, well it’s really down to my ACE score to be quite honest with you. My body is shaped in a way to survive. My body is shaped in the way that I needed to move through the world feeling safe and at the same time never felt safe in my body.

[00:27:34] Elisabeth:  I’m gonna let that one sit for a second with folks. Yeah, my body’s shaped the way that it needed to be shaped to produce safety in the world, because of its past experiences. And there’s so much Shame that comes onto our bodies. Shame for illness, like you were talking about, when we can’t “stay strong” and vital and all these things, despite what we’ve gone through. There’s Shame for our physical appearance. And again, that need to belong to the herd, to society. And there’s so much that society puts on us about the way that our bodies should look and perform. And when you have a hypervigilant Shame producer inside of your brain and nervous system, that can be really amplified.

[00:28:28] I’ve done a lot of work on Shame and I still have to be really mindful of. Because it’s tricky how it slips in and starts to drive my behavior and/or shut me down. I’ll be in something and realize, like, am I doing this because I want to do this? Or am I doing this because I’m actually driven by Shame and the need to prove some kind of worth? That I’m worthy of love, belonging, acceptance, like what is underneath there? What’s driving this behavior? And sometimes it’s still Shame. 

[00:29:06] Jennifer: It’s interesting in our conversation with Dr. Jennifer of Decolonizing Therapy, she talks about the relationship to the land. And it made me start kind of thinking about the relationship to the land that I’m from. I’m from a coastal town in Virginia. I grew up, people went to the beach. That’s what we did. I mean, you were in a bathing suit for a lot of your life. And that kept me very isolated. I didn’t want to be in front of bathing suits in front of people. And then as I grew up and started kind of drinking and being more social, what I always viewed around me, or had reflected back to me, where girls were very in shape. They were at the beach. I feel like I live in a community where everyone was at the beach, but like me and maybe some other bodies, but like that was the culture. And I never felt connected to that. I never could get connected to that. I just never felt safe going out. Like I always looked so different. The hyper vigilance around my body was just always so big. 

And I realized after that conversation that I have such a deep connection to the land here, to the land that my house lives on, to the land that we hike and swim in. And so much of that comes from the regulation of my nervous system to be able to receive the co-regulation from nature. Like I am attuned to this land and I know that it feels really safe and I feel connected to it. But at home all those years, that was also part of  my attachment wound was to the land I didn’t feel safe in.

[00:30:38] Elisabeth: It’s really incredible to think about all the ways that we can become disconnected from ourselves, from other human beings, partners, and the land and nature. And then, like we talked about with Melanie Weller, also spiritual connection. If we have all of this disconnect, it shows up in so many different ways that keep us from getting the level of connection that we really need to thrive, to have healthy nervous system, to have good brain function, to have an enjoyable life.

[00:31:15] Jennifer: Dysregulation definitely disrupts connection to source, God, divine, to the something greater that is us, connects us. And I’m so thankful to have a regulated nervous system so that I can experience the greater world. I mean that as far as like the land, the people, the cultures, food. I can go out and experience food and not feel shameful about it. You know, I can eat a cookie in front of somebody or order dessert and not be like, Oh my God, this person thinks I’m already fat. Why am I ordering dessert? And having all these crazy loops come up around just the way that I’m kind of living and trying to be. And so finding these new securities in myself around just in my nervous system, because that leads to, like we’re saying, better functions of every system and the way I show up. 

[00:32:13] Elisabeth: Yeah, I think that it’s opened up so many possibilities for me to really be seen and to be connected to other people. I think where I’m still working a lot in my life around Shame is around the capacity of my nervous system. There’s still some places for me to work on acceptance of the way that my body and my nervous system respond to certain situations, and to be able to honor the capacity that I have in the moment, and I’m going to give an example of this.

[00:32:48] It seems maybe small and also it’s pretty personal, but maybe this will illustrate this for some folks. A while back, last April, I went on a dive trip. Diving is something that I really like to do with my partner. I’m also pretty afraid of the deep, dark ocean and getting lost in the ocean and never being received again, never being found again. And so there’s like a level of panic that comes every time when I do it. And I’ve done a lot to work through it because I also really enjoy it. I really want, like, I have this idea of like, I want to be able to do this once I’m down it’s beautiful. I’m connecting to nature. It’s very powerful experience, and I want to be capable of doing it.

[00:33:31] I also want to share that experience with my partner. And the last time some stuff happened, I was having ear pain, there were strong currents, and I really went into a strong panic state, which would be fine, but I’m also someone with CPTSD, and that launched me into a very big, scary, emotional flashback as well. It was really disruptive to our vacation, to myself, to my health, to my thoughts, to my whole lens of the world changed. And it was difficult for our relationship. And now I’m struggling. We’re going to go on another vacation and I want to go diving. And I’m like, do I have this capacity in my nervous system? Because the costs are higher for me if I get pushed into that big panic state, I don’t know if it’s going to pull up the whole neuro tag of terror that then creates that huge response for me. And how long it’s going to take for my body to work past it. Part of me is in a place where I’m like, do I really need to sit and accept where my body and my nervous system is at right now and maybe not risk that?

[00:34:39] Or do I need to find ways to change it to make it more palatable for my nervous system? Or do I just keep trying? And so it’s like, there’s Shame, though, linked underneath, like, not just being able to do the thing. And to be like, yeah, I am a little different. I developed a little differently. These responses live in a big way inside of me. And I’m also in a different place in my healing where I can see that I can see how much pressure I’m putting on myself, and I can spend some time with myself being like, it’s okay. It’s okay. 

[00:35:12] Jennifer: And it’s all attached to your attachment.The security of your attachment, because your partner dives and that’s what he really loves to do. And if you can’t do that…

Elisabeth: What does that mean about me?

Jennifer:  where does that leave y’all? What does that leave you in the relationship? Because the truth is, if he didn’t dive or you weren’t in that partnership, diving wouldn’t even matter. 

[00:35:30] Elisabeth: Exactly. If I can stay in awareness and listen to my body and in some ways it’s about having the ability to set boundaries, right? My own boundaries for what my nervous system and my body are capable of. So if I can listen to that, then I can allow the experience to be what it is. Maybe I go out on the boat and I give myself full permission if it doesn’t feel good, if I feel panicked, I don’t do it and so it’s fine. And maybe I don’t do it at all. Or whatever. As long as I can stay in that place of being connected to myself and not dissociating and then I don’t have to move into those other behaviors, like the sexual fawning or just the codependent behaviors then of like the rest of the time trying to like make up for the fact that I couldn’t do this thing, all kinds of Fawning and and codependent stuff.

[00:36:23] One of the days we did book I’m going to go do something else that is fun for me, you know? And so there’s just ways to work with it if I can stay aware and connected to myself. And that is what nervous system regulation allows me to do- to be able to keep enough awareness as I’m going through the experience to know when I’m moving into the pattern and then to be able to take another choice. Because otherwise, absolutely, I would 100% go into Fawning, codependence, self abandonment, all the things. 

[00:36:59] Jennifer: It’s a really scary potential loop that you find yourself in. And the interesting thing is- it’s already starting. You know, I mean, how long has that Shame even been in there since the last time you went diving? Now here it is again. And it’s just continuously, because once again, it’s really showing up like it’s in your attachment. 

[00:37:22] Elisabeth: It’s in attachment and it’s in this deep feeling of feeling like damaged. I am damaged. I am not capable. And because of that I am unworthy of love or attachment and it takes the security out of the attachment, because underneath, too damaged. 

[00:37:44] Jennifer: And then once that Shame hits, and then it becomes toxic, everything you will experience will look shameful. It’s not just that you couldn’t dive. It’s your body. It’s your hair. It’s the room. It’s the vacation. It’s him. It’s everything. now becomes shameful, and that’s why it’s toxic.

[00:38:01] Elisabeth: 100%. It’s my work. It’s this podcast episode. Like, all of it, you know, becomes colored through this lens of Shame, bleeds out into everything. What are some of the ways that you work with Shame in minimum effective dose? 

[00:38:18] Jennifer: Um, like you said, first, it’s really all about understanding how my shame shows up. And really, my awareness starts with the safety of my nervous system. And it really is about, first of all, opening up conversation with my body. It involves grief practice that we’ve talked about so many times. Um, it involves a real physical motion, movement, of bouncing, of shaking, of stomping, of pounding on my bones, and really getting the bones involved. I also have a vibration plate, so I use that every day. It really helps me, it’s just another tool. to use. 

And then like we’ve talked about so much, the emotional work is so huge. Which is usually the scariest part for the nervous system. Like you can drill your way all day, but if you are not working with the emotional processing and the repressed emotions, you’re really doing a disservice to yourself because that is the literal weighing of ourselves down, like that shameflammation that we were talking about earlier. I think there are really safe ways to work with emotions to begin to explore them, like the one minute grief practice that we did, minimum effective dose. And all of these practices they really create embodiment and trust. They’re like shedding practices, you know, and I think when we can communicate better, more nicely to ourselves, like I’m really kind to myself now.

[00:39:43] I have a really kind inner voice. I hug myself every day. I look directly in the mirror. I tell myself that I’m awesome or beautiful or great or that I’m doing a good job. I tell myself that I love myself and I’m really kind to my doubts. I’m kind to my fears. I’m kind to having hard conversations with people that I really love. And like you said earlier, I am learning a pace that really feels good to my nervous system. And sometimes it doesn’t match other nervous systems. It mostly doesn’t. 

[00:40:15] Elisabeth: Yeah. I think initially for me, the mobilization was really important. Like I couldn’t think my way out of the Shame or cognitively discuss it with someone to have it resolved. I have to start with just working directly with my nervous system in my body. Like you said, stomping, maybe doing some visual exercises that help move my visual system out of that patterned response, interrupting that neuro tag with just little pieces of different new stimulus that give my nervous system a different reaction.

[00:40:51] And then through that also doing the minimum effective doses of all kinds of emotional processing so that I’m having this built capacity to experience emotions in my body and not dissociate. Having that relationship with the body. And then in this particular situation, that I was talking about, I am really going into it with some cognitive awareness, and I’m really committed to spending time feeling into my body and continuing to build that relationship of trust, regulating around that, but not using my neuro tools to regulate just so that I’ll be able to handle a dive, but so that I’ll be able to handle if I don’t want to do it. Saying I don’t want to do it and then processing the Shame of that through. And allowing myself to honor that request from my body and nervous system. That’s why I’m trying to increase the capacity of my nervous system now, not so that I’ll necessarily be able to do the hard things, but so that I can still be Present and loving with all parts of myself and my body that might not want to.

[00:42:04] Jennifer: That’s really beautiful. Great example also to move through today. And I’m sure people are hearing themselves in this conversation. I mean, it’s pretty unavoidable. We get your emails. We see you in the Facebook group asking questions about some of these things and, um, and it just helps to be online. It helps to be in a community that is doing the same practices, right? We want to be in a community that believes in nervous system health and regulation and the beliefs in trauma resolution in that very deep level. And it’s all about, you know, we say this all the time, but learning and understanding your nervous system is very different from intentionally training it. Now we are going to intentionally train it. And when you train it for safety, You’re going to get more, more of anything that you want, and you’re going to get less of these protective mechanisms. They’re still going to fire, but the pathway isn’t going to be as efficient. 

[00:43:01] Elisabeth: Quick update for the inquiring minds that want to know, I did end up going on the dive and let me tell you, it was a process. Because first we canceled it and I had to process all of my Shame and disappointment and big emotions that came up through that. Then I completely released that out of my body, made peace with it, ended up booking an excursion for myself to do that day where I went and kayaked in some mangroves and did a long hike through this beautiful beach and was really taking time to spend time with myself and play and have fun and kind of honor my inner child that was disappointed that I didn’t get to have this experience and that was wonderful.

[00:43:44] And then on that excursion I was with a guide and we talked a lot about the dive. And my partner went and did the dive that day while I was on the excursion and thought it was a really safe easy dive and my nervous system was feeling really good. And I ended up two days later booking the dive. And so I went, I did a lot of vestibular training, I used all of my neuro tools, and I got to have a wonderful experience of being Present for that and diving with some sea lions and it was really cool.

[00:44:14] But I feel like it was so important for me to get to that place of honoring myself first and being in acceptance and moving those big emotions through. And then I could come to another place where I could evaluate the state of my nervous system as it really was in that moment. And make a decision that was great for me and my health and was absolutely prepared to not do it. So that’s how it went. I got to hang out with the sea lions and it was a lot of fun. 

If you want to get started with the very tools that we’re talking about that helped us move out of these responses and also create capacity to be with these responses, then join us at rewiretrial.com for two free weeks of live nervous system training with me, with Jennifer, with our wonderful growth oriented community that Jennifer was just talking about. We would love to work with you on this. It’s something that we are real passionate about. So rewiretrial.com is the best way to start, start moving this through. 

[00:45:18] Jennifer: See y’all there. See on the site.

S3 E19

Listen to more Trauma Rewire episodes HERE

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