Healing Adverse Childhood Experiences with Patti Elledge

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In this episode of The Dr. Hedberg Show I interview therapist Patti Elledge in a deep discussion about healing adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s), trauma, epigenetics, attachment theory, somatic experiencing, evolutionary biology, and much more.

Patti Elledge has specialized in therapeutic application of neuroscience for more than 40 years. She has a broad clinical background in developmental and attachment based traumas and worked directly with babies, children and families for more than 25 years prior to her SE training in the late 90s. She specializes in interpersonal neurobiology and how that affects social/emotional, language/cognition and sensory processing development. Her blending of somatic and body-mind techniques helps resolve over-coupled elements of the fight-flight-freeze that seemingly becomes intractable with the essence of loving/bonding and “belonging.” By accessing these parts of the nervous system we can return to healthy regulation and functioning, greater flow and creativity. Patti studied directly with Drs. Peter Levine, Raja Selvam and Diane Poole Heller and holds Trauma Informed Touch Certification from Kathy Kain.  She serves as Faculty for Diane’s seminal trainings for healing adult attachment wounds, called DARe.  Patti has an active private practice in Asheville, NC where she provides therapy as well as mentoring to other somatic practitioners learning SE and DARe.

Healing Adverse Childhood Experiences with Patti Elledge

To contact Patti call (828) 273-0323 or email at patelledge@hotmail.com

Here is a transcript of the interview:

Dr. Hedberg: Well, welcome, everyone to “The Dr. Hedberg Show.” This is Dr. Hedberg and I’m excited today to have Pattie Elledge on the show. We’re gonna be talking a lot about adverse childhood experiences and trauma and we’re gonna get into the things that she does in her practice. And as you know, I’ve been talking a lot, writing a lot recently about ACEs and what those mean. We’re gonna get into that in some detail here. So, Pattie, welcome to the show.

Pattie: Oh, thank you so much, Dr. Hedberg. I’m really glad to be visiting with you today on this topic.

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah, thanks for joining us. So why don’t we start by you just telling us a little bit about what you specialize in and your background and the types of people you’ve worked with over your career?

Pattie: Well, thank you. I’ve been a therapist for 40 years. Ad I started out, I always like to say, I started out really working with babies and children, moms and dads many, many years ago in a whole different field. But I learned so much working with those kids, you know, day after day, hour after hour, I worked with a lot of indigenous kids and indigent families, families that needed social services and I got to see a wide spectrum, that was when I was working in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but I got to work with a wide spectrum of population. And then I worked a lot with families later on that were, you know, had a lot of affluence and a lot of wealth. And so I got to see kind of what happens in the good, the bad, and the ugly early on in families and the perspective of really helping families understand the child that they had.

And then later in my career, I was introduced to Peter Levine’s work and I just really turned in that direction. Peter’s known, has been a very influential individual in the field of trauma healing. And Peter introduced the concept that trauma is stored in the nervous system and not in the story. So that in other words, talk therapy really wasn’t touching it for healing for many people. And so Peter began publishing and writing and created a format called “Somatic Experiencing.” That’s a therapy strategy which I’m certified in and have assisted, oh, probably 40 or 50 trainings nationally and internationally for these wonderful three-year-long trainings.

And so I really consider myself a trauma healing specialist really in the field of neuroscience and neurobiology. And so when we study it and begin working with individuals, we’re really looking at what we can do to help them turn the corner from being really caught in a straitjacket of incomplete responses in trauma. And then today, you and I are gonna be talking, kind of opening the door about early trauma and early adverse childhood experiences that we might call child abuse, child neglect. And that falls into more of the more recent work that I’ve been doing, which is on developmental attachment theory. And so I’m also not only an SE therapist, but now I’m certified and teach Diane Poole Heller’s beautiful work, which is very similar to SE, but the focus is more on healing early attachment wounds. So that’s my background.

Dr. Hedberg: That’s excellent. So you have 40 years of experience. That’s quite a career. We’re very fortunate to have you on and be able to talk to you. So I recently read the book “Childhood Disrupted” by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. And I’ve been reading a lot of the literature about adverse childhood experiences for years, probably not getting into it as much as I should have, always talking to patients about it. But this book really opened my eyes to how much I really need to emphasize that. So can you just give us kind of an overview of what adverse childhood experiences are?

Pattie: Sure. Well, I’m very touched just, you know, truthfully, Dr Hedberg, that you care so deeply for your patients that you realize that once you started scratching the surface of what’s called the ACE Study that you realized, being a functional medicine individual, that this really could be a lot of what you’ve got in your office. You know, the way that you look at things in functional medicine is really different than, I think, traditional allopathic. Is that correct? I mean, it’s taking it further.

Dr. Hedberg: Right. Right. Definitely looking at the whole picture, spending a lot of time with people, and just really digging to figure out the triggers and the causes of illness.

Pattie: It’s beautiful. I love it. And I’d love to today be able to talk about it. The adverse childhood experiences is called the ACE. it’s easy to find online for your listeners. All you have to do is type in “ACE,” A-C-E, and you’ll find references. Many, many, many studies now have spun off from it. But it was originally done, I think it was 1995, ’96, ’97 in California. A guy named Dr. Vincent Felitti created a very simple form that was a 10-item self-scoring form. And they were simple questions, yes or no. And he collected this data. He worked with…or he, actually, I think he gave the form to those insured patients through Kaiser Permanente in California for these two years and collected the data, of course, all anonymously, but he also was able to cross-reference it with medical files and medical conditions, if you can believe it, so that this was an incredible in-depth look at adults and what they self-reported about their childhood and relating it to present day medical conditions, “medical conditions.”

And we’re talking about heart, you know, cardiac incidents, obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, and drug addiction. And then all of the mystery diseases included also chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, which is on the rise, you know. So what he found in this study called the ACE Study is this direct correlation between, in a 10-point questionnaire, how many points, yes, if you answered, “Yes, this happened to me,” he found this incredible trend for adverse childhood experiences to then display later as very chronic medical conditions and also like the national studies, then in terms of the cost of early adverse experiences on our medical system, because that’s where it gets hard is so that a score of three really has a certain propensity. You know, children with a score of three or more are going to experience academic failure. They’re going to experience difficulty with social-emotional development.

And when you get up to an ACE score of four or more, you really have gotten into that realm and they’ve got a pyramid where they’ve broken it down like there’s seven pyramids that you can look at, Dr. Hedberg, that you could put perhaps on your webpage for people to look at. But if you’ve got a higher number of these scores on the ACE, then you have a higher propensity, you know, just exponentially, really. And the questions are very simple. I mean, I’ll just say, you know, number one was, you know, “Did your parent or other adults in your household ever swear at you or insult you or put you down?” Or, “Were you afraid that you might be physically hurt?” That’s just is score number one. You know, number two was, “Were you ever pushed or slapped or hit or was anyone else in the family hit or struck?” So these are the questions, you know. Even the question of “Were your parents separated or divorced?” is on there.

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. I have a question about that actually because when we also include death of a parent in that, and do you know why they don’t include death but they do include separation or divorce?

Pattie: I think that, I don’t know. I don’t know why. You know, the last question is, “Did a household member go to prison?” And I think that there are just some weighted questions maybe in his mind. There’s also a question, you know, “Did you live with a person, a parent who was alcoholic or a problem drinker or used street drugs?” You know. So it’s really looking at, and I’m not sure why, you know, how they weighted them, but clearly, those simple 10 questions, yes or no, held so much significance. We finally had this data and for your listeners also, there’s some beautiful podcasts or YouTubes where you just put in Dr. Felitti’s name and the ACE score in which he does some beautiful presentation and slideshow about the very fine details. I’m not an expert in the ACE, so I can talk a lot about a neurophysiology and trauma, but, you know, in terms of the ACE, there’s some people that actually specialize only in that, you know.

Dr. Hedberg: Right. Right. So when a lot of people think about trauma, they think of a single event like a rape or really traumatic car accident, physical accident, something like that. But trauma can also be something ongoing on a daily or regular basis like having a, let’s say, it’s a young girl and she has an overly critical mother who humiliates her really over a long period of time. Wouldn’t we also consider that trauma and how do you see trauma in a neurophysiological way?

Pattie: Yeah. There’s a couple of lovely ways to go with what you just said and I’ll just stay first with this idea of early adverse experiences and then I’ll talk a little bit about the impact on the neurophysiology of the body. But if a child is living in a home, and here’s just a very kind of interesting metaphor. If a child is living in a home in which a bear was in one room and that bear was always there, we know that that child’s system is going to respond as if it’s in threat and really and truly, social connection and early protection by a parent is considered so important that we now know that actually attachment, what we call, you know, that’s another piece we could look at today.

But attachment and safety in childhood is crucial for the developing mind because the developing mind is an experience-based brain. And if there’s a bear in one room, if there’s always, if the child is scanning for threat, that means their cortisol levels are higher. That means their adrenaline is coursing through their body. And if that happens, then their tummies are hurting, right? Their tummies are anxious some of the time. So if that’s happening, then we can just, you and I, you know, you’re the medical expert, but we can assume that there’s gonna be an impact on the GI system, the digestion system, right? There’s gonna be an impact on the hormonal balance, right? You’re gonna have more sympathetic nervous system hormones and neurochemistry being generated to the point where if that’s happening every day, the neurochemistry of the body can become toxic and that’s called toxic stress. And that impacts that little developing mind, that impacts their hippocampus. That’s the area of the brain that is used for memory consolidation. This is explicit memory, but learning and memory. So that’s why these kids with higher ACE scores have a harder time in school. Their grades suffer. Their reading suffers.

So, you know, and I hate to… You know, and we’re kind of digging in there and in a very, very strong way, Dr. Hedberg, you know, in a topic of trauma healing, you know, what I like to do is also balance it with a breath, a big breath of, like, the hope and the resiliency factor that I wanna kind of bring in right now, that the brain never stops learning and changing, and that even though we’re talking about these high ACE scores or this devastation of just a chronically difficult home life, right? We can also look at it on the other way and know that children that go to school and have also somebody that cares for them at school or an aunt or an uncle that cares for them deeply that that implies also and embeds a form of resiliency that that child does know safety. Does that make sense?

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah, that makes perfect sense. I think it’s one of the reasons why we’re seeing so many gut issues in our society and why I see so much of that. Because now we know that adrenaline and cortisol, they directly affect the genetics and the behavior of the gut microflora and then we know that the gut-brain axis is just so intimately connected. So what I really see as the foundation of a lot of the chronically ill patients I see is in the realm of psychoneuroimmunology. And people just need to remember that the immunology aspect of psychoneuroimmunology, 70% of the immune system is in the gut and that’s why it’s such a big, big, big player in so many people and it has direct effects on the brain and then everything you’ve just talked about.

Pattie: Yeah. Where is serotonin produced?

Dr. Hedberg: Right, 95% is in the gut.

Pattie: Surprisingly. I love to say that over and over again. You know, this idea of gut health, yeah, it’s so important. And I mean, I know we can’t even scratch the surface today, but I really love the idea of, you know, this idea that, yes, antibiotics certainly play havoc with the gut health. However, what about brain, you know, neurochemistry and toxic stress in early childhood, what did that do to your belly? And then, I mean, we’ll get to other topics as we go, but right now, I’d like to focus on, if it’s true that an adult comes to see you and really has, is suffering in the belly and the gut, then what life choices can you invite them to do that will absolutely make a difference in the neurochemistry such as mindfulness, meditation, a process like Somatic Experiencing, or yoga, or Tai-Chi that all of these life choices, every single one of them can turn that around, that can help turn the neurochemistry around as well as, of course, making healthy choices in what we take in with our body or what we drink or who we hang out with. You know?

Because there is a tendency for children who have been exposed to really dangerous situations, domestic violence, there is a tendency, of course, for that to replicate in their adult life in many ways, in a good way because they’re trying to figure it out, but in an unhealthy way, then they are in a situation, again, you know, that’s dangerous to them. But I’d like to really encourage folks to do all the self-care and really get on board with healing trauma and recovery because I’ve seen people turn their lives around, people that were hugely obese, on numerous psychotropics and who were consuming alcohol and drugs in large parts, but somehow, they have taken it and they’ve taken with enough safety, I think it takes a lot of safety in their adult life. But with enough safety, they can take the bull by the horns and change their life direction. I mean I’ve been so inspired by some of my people, my people that I’ve worked with.

Dr. Hedberg: So going back to the ACEs, can you add a little bit in regards to epigenetics and what you’ve learned in that arena?

Pattie: Yeah, I wanted to talk with you about it because I know that you’re probably a specialist far beyond me, but when I’m teaching the DARe work, one of our, the DARe 3 that I teach, which is for professionals, but it’s “The Neurobiology of Loving Relationships.” And so we really get in with how we work with it, but one of the afternoons, we do talk about the ACE Study and epigenetics, because from what the studies show that there is a tendency, even in rat studies, when baby rats are really nursed well and licked well by the mommy rats, that’s called high… That’s really a high-end early childhood experience for rats, baby rats is when they’re pups, is the mommies licking them constantly, licking them, stimulating their little bodies as they’re nursing. And those little rats go on to have resilient lives and they have longer lives and they digest better, etc. Versus rats who are not linked or nursed well and then they live in fearful environments like what we were talking about, that analogy of a bear in a room when a child’s growing up. Those rats have a lot more medical conditions and don’t live as long. And, of course, those studies can be replicated easily.

And the epigenetic part of it is that when the stress hormones, and you can pitch in because you know so much more about it, but with stress hormones, that is turning on certain genes that we all have. I mean, I’m sure in my background, I have genes for heart problems and I know I have genes for rheumatoid arthritis, right? An autoimmune disease. I certainly have a gene for Alzheimer’s in my family and osteoporosis. But with good life choices, those genes are not going to be turned on as quickly even if you have a high ACE score, which I have a score, you know, I’ve looked at the ACE many times and I have a score of either three or four. So I’m in a very high-risk pool myself. You know, that’s one reason, of course, I’m a trauma therapist. Terry Real, this really great teacher. He says that the reason that trauma therapists are trauma therapists is that they need to be in therapy 40 hours a week. So, you know, but also, there are a lot of really wonderful people in my world at the SE trainings and the DARe trainings. They’re just phenomenal people. But I like to talk really upfront about it because, you know, I don’t have rheumatoid arthritis and boy howdy, I could have had. Does that make sense in whatever you want to pitch in? Because there’s some kind of cellular death or something. I don’t really know all of that, the epigenetic part of it. But medically, could you pitch in a little bit about what happens with toxic stress chemistry?

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. I mean, I have studied the epigenetics a lot and toxic stress and what it does. I mean, the first thing is, of course, the changes in the brain. You mentioned earlier the hippocampus, also the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. The magnitude of the stress response as an adult is going to be amplified and also the recovery from stress is going to be extended so, you know, a healthy person with a low ACE score, they get under stress, adrenaline, cortisol elevates, and then when the stress is gone, it just comes down quite nicely. Whereas if you have, you know, a high ACE score, those levels are gonna stay elevated for a very long period of time and they’re just not going to come down for a while. It’s, like I said, it’s going to be amplified. And not only is it going to last much longer, but the levels are going to be much higher and then that breaks down everything downstream and like I mentioned earlier, the gut microflora and it’s going to affect methylation in the cells.

Pattie: The methylation is huge. Yeah.

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. And then when that gets out of balance, then you have what are called immune system repair deficits, where the immune system can’t keep up with the daily wear and tear, methylation is disrupted, and then the gene for the particular autoimmune disease which is expressed on the X chromosome, not the Y, which is one of the many reasons why women have much higher rates of autoimmunity than men. But that’s when it happens and then once it’s activated, that’s when the autoimmunity develops.

So I’m really, really interested in attachment theory. You know, I’ve read a little bit about it and then what you’ve said and it’s just really got me really interested here. So could you give us a little bit more information on that and how it relates to ACEs?

Pattie: I can. Yeah. If I could step in and talk a little bit about how we’re built as mammals before I talk about attachment, because I’d love to weave that in right now if that’s okay.

Dr. Hedberg: Perfect.

Pattie: The way that we understand and in trauma healing, the way that we understand it is that we have a nervous system that has a much greater propensity to scan for threat and for survival, and that that system is pretty much on all the time. It never goes off. However, however, and that system is hardwired. Okay? We are hardwired to scan for threat even at the cell body level, I understand. But we are scanning for threat through the sensory system as well as through the enteric nervous system or the belly, the gut, and that’s called the neuroception. A man that we love to read and study and talk about, Dr. Stephen Porges, has created a new way, a fresh way, and kind of a bigger way of looking at the stress response, which will include the attachment system after I talk for a while, but his name is Stephen Porges and he created this system called the polyvagal system. Now, he didn’t create it, but he began to study it and look at it more intently.

And the polyvagal system implies that there are ways that our body functions automatically without us consciously being aware of it, but there’s an old 10th cranial nerve system called the dorsal vagal, that’s the primitive early vagus nerve system and it houses something called the dorsal vagal, which is the threat response, or not the threat response, but the primitive, very shut down, freeze-immobility response. And I think that when we’re talking about medical conditions, I think it’s really important for us to understand that we’re hardwired, that that dorsal vagal threat response that shuts us down into freeze-immobility absolutely was important for survival. And there is much wisdom to it. And it’s only when that dorsal response is so heavy-handed, it’s called a brake, the dorsal brake. But when it gets to be on so often, that’s when we start looking at these conditions like chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia because there is such an impact. There’s apparently been such an impact of cumulative, kind of what you had been talking about, the, not a single incident of a car accident or a single incident of a rape, but an enduring threat response in a household in which you become smaller, more closed in, more tight, and eventually that dorsal vagal brake is going to go way on, so that’s when digestion ends. That’s when heart rate gets slower and the dorsal vagal is very primitive. It doesn’t have a lot of social engagement in it. In fact, it doesn’t have any of it.

It hardwires down through the belly. If you can imagine, put your hand on your belly right now, your vagus nerve, the dorsal, old vagus nerve, the gut-brain goes all the way down in your belly, but it also, now if you kind of lift your hand up and go up through your diaphragm and the bottom of your ribs, that dorsal vagus also wraps around the heart and lungs. But there’s another branch to it that’s very important in terms of stress, recovery, healing and attachment, and we call that the newer mammalian part of the vagus nerve, the 10th cranial nerve, which is called the ventral.

That ventral nerve is only wired above the diaphragm, around the heart, lungs. Then it goes up through your voice, into your eyes, your ears, your face, and this is all what we know about social engagement, right? You hear the inflection of my voice, my voice has a lot of range of inflection. That ventral vagus nerve is so important in health and wellbeing, and that is what is hardwired for attaching, bonding, and belonging.

Now, what is a very complex issue that I love talking about, you can tell that I really like talking about this, but clinically, therapeutically, we have two systems hardwired in us, Dr. Hedberg. We’ve got both an old reptilian brain that’s this old, primitive dorsal vagus nerve. Just think of when a possum is frightened, if you’ve ever seen a possum frightened, you know, it lays down and it appears dead for all extents and purposes. You look at that thing and it looks like it’s not breathing and that’s called the death feigning state. We’ve got that. We’ve got it hardwired inside of us. But if you think about the difference between the dorsal vagal and the ventral vagal and then this, you know, the social engagement system, we are hardwired for both and also throw in the sympathetic nervous system and parasympathetic. But those are also important aspects.

But the sympathetic which gets us going for fight and flight, so our heart beats faster if somebody cuts us off. You know, if we’re on our bicycle and somebody cuts us off in a car, wow, you know, in a lickety split, our heart is beating, you know, we’re scanning the whole area for threat. So this whole complex of the sympathetic fight-flight nervous system, the dorsal vagal shutdown, and the ventral social engagement is a beautiful, kind of like a…Dr. Porges says it’s like a street light where it’s like green, yellow, red and red is when everything’s off, the dorsal, and green is when everything’s balanced and the social engagement’s working. And so we go kind of between this gradation all day long every day. Although some of your patients, and I love that you invited me to talk about this, but some of your patients have these long, enduring, unresolved traumas that have left them in a state of dorsal shutdown that they need help to get out of, right? Because the dorsal shutdown is gonna be impacting their health and wellbeing.

Dr. Hedberg: Right. So let’s just talk a little bit about… Let’s give people a little bit of hope. Yeah. Because when you read “Childhood Disrupted” and you read some of the ACE material… Like, I have an ACE score of five and when I read that I have 100% chance of having a mid-life chronic illness, it’s a little bit daunting. So for the people out there who do have high scores, I mean, is it really a death sentence or what can people do to resolve it?

Pattie: No, thank you so much for that. Back when we didn’t really know that much, but when Bessel van der Kolk was beginning to study trauma with Vietnam veterans, and trauma had been studied many, many, many years and centuries, combat trauma, combat stress, but they didn’t fund him completely. And he, of course, is one of our great gifts. Bessel van der Kolk, Allan Schore, Peter Levine, Diane Poole Heller. These people in the field, who else? Stan Tatkin, Lou Cozolino, all of these individuals have produced so much information and Dan Siegel, Dr. Daniel Siegel, that there is absolutely evidence that, no, it’s not a death sentence and that the best bet is to honestly develop secure, safe, secure attachment relationships with friends, colleagues, pets, neighbors, and if you can, if you’re so lucky as to be able to have a partner, a life partner, try that and get involved in a long-term healthy, secure attachment. Because I’ll tell you, the attachment system, because we’re so weighted, we’re weighted for survival, but we are balanced in terms of that social, that drive to have love, that drive to share love and to give love.

And for a minute, I’d love to just bring your listeners, if it’s okay, let you feel… I’m gonna show you guys something in your bodies. Okay? Just take a moment and feel your bodies because we’ve talked about very heavy, strong things today, but just tune into your body and feel where your body is at right now. You might be buzzy, you might be a little bit sad, you might feel jittery, but just take time to notice what is happening in your bodies. And now, I’d like to invite you on a little journey with me to scan through your life, present, past, but just scan through your life for a moment with me and think about someone, a friend, a neighbor, an old family member who may even be deceased now, but scan through and imagine finding a person who actually held you in regard and was so happy to see you when you came to their door, someone that showed safety and protection or warmth and affection and who called your name out just in that right way. “Oh, Nicholas, I’m so glad to see you. Come in.”

Just taking that time for the listeners as well to really access someone that, what we would call a secure attachment with kind eyes, receptive kind eyes. The impact that has on our bodies right now, even as I’m talking about it, my body is feeling smoother, I’m feeling flow in my legs, and just see, all of you listeners, just see if that made a difference. Because what in trauma healing, what we have to do is really bring in this kind of strong imagery and evidence in our current lives of the impact that we can have, positive relationships can have on neurochemistry, on our bodies.

So just sitting with that a little bit. And if some of your listeners are even finding that they may be having a little tears or emotions of some sort, allowing that to happen, that is part of the topic today, is trauma healing. And so I always say tears are like laughter, only wetter. You know, it’s energy moving. It’s something that is for people moving out of a frozen state. Tears are very helpful because they also carry with them oxytocin, so that we’re kind of mixing this soup of what earlier, we could have been in kind of a soup of cortisol or stress hormones. Now we’re mixing the soup with oxytocin with some of the endogenous opiates of love and care for one another. Now we know that this helps and we know that this really makes a difference in the body.

And our bodies are not ever static, is the other thing, that our bodies are constantly in flow, even if they’re in a freeze-immobility dorsal state, there is still flow. We can still help our bodies move out of that state. We’re not hardwired to stay in dorsal state. We’re actually hardwired to move out of it and become more affiliative, more connecting, more collaboration. So the question is really how to move more toward that.

And what we’re doing is we’re kind of creating new neural pathways right now and firing these and these can become dominant over the impact of early ACE studies and early ACE scores. We can continue to pace and dose this kind of thing throughout our day in lived experiences as well as imagery, as well as sometimes needing to work on the trauma directly itself, you know, with more high energy.

Dr. Hedberg: That was really excellent. Thank you. So I do refer out quite a bit for somatic experiencing, so why don’t you tell the listeners just a little bit more about what you do in somatic experiencing and also the D-A-R-E that you mentioned earlier.

Pattie: Thank you. Somatic experiencing is done either, you know, pretty much seated across from one another. The client may share pieces of the story, but they’re invited to go slower and to also take moments in where they’d take stock of their presence or body, so they may want to actually describe a sensation in their belly or in their chest, tightness in their neck, all of that gives me information about how they’re doing on the topic. And then the somatic experiencing really is designed to help people move through trauma that was too much, too soon, too high impact. That’s the nature of trauma itself. We stretch things out over time and help metabolize the elements of it, take in that they made it through and are safe as well as access those high energy, incredible forces of survival called fight and flight. These are tremendous, huge forces of energy. And when they’re stuck, they sometimes get stuck in the joints, literally.

You know, as the body begins to unthaw and move out of a freeze, energy begins to move again in the body and sometimes people will shake, tremble, sweat. This morning I had a woman who was accessing something in our session and she had both chill bumps and sweat as she moved out of the freeze on her body. And she said, “This is wild, this is crazy.” And I said it is. And I said, “If you can just relax and let your body move through some of that, you’ll feel so much better,” because that phase and my job as an SE therapist is really to help them modulate that, help them do it within the parameters of safety first. You know, safety with me, comfort and the trust and the environment. And we take little bits of a packed-in experience and unpack it. We call it unpacking it.

So that’s somatic experiencing, you know, kind of a overview and the DARe work that I do is very similar. It’s the same. Except that the topic is usually about relational healing and relational wounds. So it’s often about early attachment wounds and I teach the work now professionally, and then provide therapy for individuals with it, and also train other professionals how to do it. But it’s similar. It’s in the body, but we weave around what’s called the ventral, you know, that ventral, newer mammalian vagus part of the body. We’re really high…amplifying that aspect and where I will see a person who looks very shut down, their face looks very flat. Their eyes are flat, their voice is monotone. As we work, I’m tracking the shining brightness in their eyes, the warmth in their voice. And that way, we’re still tracking the nervous system, but we’re really amplifying more ventral and that can really take hold because we’re so hardwired. You know, mammals, if you think about a Golden Retriever, you know, you’re going out to take the trash and come in again, and that little Golden Retriever, you know, he’s gonna be all, bouncing all over you, right, as if you’ve been gone for five hours, you know. But basically that’s the attachment system at work and your attachment system never stops. It never stops growing even though we think about attachment in childhood, you know, you and I have a working attachment system right now together. You will when you walk out your door and greet the neighbor. So that’s a little bit of the work I do and I appreciate you asking.

Dr. Hedberg: Well, this has been really, really excellent. Quite possibly, my favorite podcast that I’ve ever done, so I really appreciate you coming on.

Pattie: That’s lovely.

Dr. Hedberg: Yeah. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about today or anything else you wanted to add?

Pattie: No, I just wanna say I’m so glad you’re here in Asheville, North Carolina. I really am and I’m just so thrilled that with the work that you do in uncovering the ACEs in your office, you know, and looking at the impact on the belly, the gut, the hormonal system, all of that, I’m just thrilled. I was thrilled they invited me to come talk about ACEs with you.

Dr. Hedberg: Well, this has been great. So I appreciate you coming on, Pattie. And to all the listeners, go to drhedberg.com and under the Articles section, you’ll see the podcast and there’s going to be a transcript of this posted there with all the information that we talked about today. And if you’re not in Asheville, you can go to a website. It’s traumahealing.org to find a Somatic Experiencing practitioner. And Pattie, is there a search engine for the DARe, as well?

Pattie: Yeah, you can go to www.dianepoole, P-O-O-L-E, heller, H-E-L-L-E-R, .com. And Diane has got a lot, a wealth of information. You can actually get information. She’s got continual free podcasts. In fact, one’s starting up soon about healthy adult relationships and I think it’s starting next week and people can sign on for it. So go to her website.

Dr. Hedberg: Okay, great. Yeah, I’ll post that website on drhedberg.com, as well. All right, everyone. Well, thanks for tuning in. I hope this was helpful and we’ll talk at the next show. Take care.

Pattie: Goodbye. Bye-bye.

Dr. Hedberg: Bye-bye.

"Dr. Hedberg's passion and concern to help me heal made all the difference in the world.”

by - RLG


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