Dr. Nicole LePera (she/her), also known as The Holistic Psychologist, is the founder of the Mindful Healing Center in Philadelphia, and trained in clinical psychology at Cornell University and the New School. In this episode, Dr. LePera breaks down the various forms of trauma therapy for the body and mind, sharing the practices that have proven the most effective. She’ll cover what trauma is (hint: it’s far more extensive than just the “Big-T” experiences like assault or abuse), how trauma affects our mind/body connection, and the bodywork and therapeutic practices that can best restore that connection. She’ll explain the various forms of trauma therapy and which are most effective, shares some in-the-moment strategies we can all do to calm an over-active nervous system, and leaves us with specific terms to search for when seeking out a trauma therapist.
Connect with Dr. LePera
How Trauma Lodges in the Body (On Being, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk)
How to Detoxify the Body from Trauma (video, with Dr. Bessel van der Kolk)
EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
Find an EMDR therapist
Polyvagal Theory, from Dr. Nicole LePera (video)
The Trauma Nerve that Can Help You Heal, from Dr. Nicole LePera (video)
Future Self Journaling from Nicole LePera
The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.
MU: 00:03 Hi, my name is Melissa Urban and you are listening to Do the Thing, a podcast where we explore what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to make a change and make it stick. Today my guest is Dr. Nicole LePera, also known as The Holistic Psychologist. I’ve been following Nicole on Instagram for a very long time and last season I had her on to talk about boundaries.
MU: 00:33 Today we’re here to talk about the various forms of trauma therapy. A few months ago after talking about my own trauma on Instagram, again, I received a lot of DMs and comments asking how specifically I was able to process and move past my sexual abuse. I spent some time really thinking about it and realized I actually used a lot of different therapeutic processes to move through it. Lots of talk therapy, some body work, energy work, the work of Byron Katie, but I discovered all of these kind of on my own except for talk therapy, which my parents put me in as a teenager. I kind of stumbled into the rest of them on my own and as a result, my trauma processing and healing took a very long time, like a decade, if not longer. If I had only had some guidance into the various forms of trauma therapies available, I may have been able to move through the process more effectively.
MU: 01:33 Of course, when I was 16 many of these forms of therapy didn’t exist or weren’t commonly known. Today Dr. LePera Is going to walk us through various forms of trauma therapy both for the body and the mind. We’ll talk about what trauma is from the big T to the little T, which in and of itself may prove the missing piece to help you take the first step towards getting help. She’ll explain the importance of addressing trauma in the body, not just the mind. We’ll talk about our own experiences of mind, body disconnection after trauma and how to reestablish a strong connection through body work and specific forms of body focus, trauma therapy. She’ll also share free in the moment therapeutic practices you can use to call them an overactive nervous system and move your body into a receptive state for processing uncomfortable feelings. She’ll also share what to look for in a therapist and the various forms of trauma therapy that have proven most effective in practice.
MU: 02:37 I’ve said this often, it wasn’t easy to acknowledge my trauma, unpack it and process it, but what I was doing to avoid it wasn’t easy either. Swallowing it, keeping everyone at a distance, feeling constantly unsafe, dawning heavy armor. My hope and having Dr. LaPera back for this episode is that we give you the permission, encouragement, support, resources. You need to take a step, whether it’s the first step or another in the line of steps you are already taking to move through your trauma in a way that leaves you feeling connected, empowered, safe and free. This is a good one. Not always an easy one, but good. I am right here with you. Let’s get started with the episode. Dr Nicole LePera, welcome back to Do the Thing. I am so excited to have you back with us today.
NLP: 03:25 It is beyond an honor. Melissa, thank you so much. I love connecting with you and your audience. (MU) I say us, but it’s just me. It’s like the Royal Us. (NLP) I guess I kind of talk like that to us and we, and you know we’re all the universal collective here. (MU) That’s right. It’s very grandiose. So I’m so excited to dive into our topic today, but before we get into it, the first question I ask all of my guests, and you have answered this once before, what’s your thing? (NLP) My thing is teaching people to heal and to consciously create a new version of themselves. (MU) That’s brilliant. I love it. I want to talk to you today about trauma and the various forms of trauma therapy that are available today that can help someone move through, move past and and kind of self heal in their journey, their therapeutic journey. But before we get into that, I think one of the things that’s really important is to talk about trauma in and of itself. The old definition of trauma, the way that I used to think about it when, you know, I was sexually assaulted when I was 16 and trauma was a horrific car accident. When someone died, you went to war and you got PTSD.
MU/NLP: 04:39 I think we now have a new understanding of trauma, don’t we? Absolutely. Melissa. And to speak to your point when you led into this, you said it’s a big topic and I think the, the trauma that you’re very accurately defining and as it has been defined societaly for so long is what we now refer to as the big T of trauma, the cataclysmic event, the egregious neglect, you know, et cetera. We now come to realize, and I call it the little T and a lot of us in the field do have trauma. And I have now come to realize that once we’ve expanded the definition, as I suggest that we all do, which I’ll share with you in a minute, there’s a lot of us out there that have, that are struggling, um, from the remnants of some of us age old, very early life, traumatic experiences.
MU/NLP: 05:22 So what is trauma? Essentially, the way I define trauma is trauma is just, it’s an experience that overwhelms your capacity to cope. And when that happens, the emotional component, your emotional reaction to whatever that experience might be, it can’t be properly processed. And you become flooded with an emotional experience, not only at the time but it becomes stored. And I call it in the mind body system cause I very much believe and know both are connected. It becomes stored. And that’s why for some of us we could be struggling with the remnants of, of trauma for, for decades, for a lifetime. So in this more expanded definition, not only is it those big cataclysmic events that you and many others have suffered, it’s also unmet needs, emotionally distant, parents not being seen, heard and valued as a unique individual. It’s parental education, it’s a measurement in the child’s system.
MU/NLP: 06:14 It’s a lot of more for lack of better common experiences that many of us had growing up. But like I said earlier, it overwhelms our system. We cannot process it fully and we carry the multiple effects of us affects a bit later in life with us. So what you just said brings up two things for me. The first is, thank you. Thank you for legitimising so many people’s experiences with things that you know, no, I was not attacked in a, you know, in a dark alley in the middle of the night and held at gunpoint. But like these things happened to me over the course of my life and I’m struggling to handle them. I was, you know, I was cheated on, I was bullied. I was, whatever your thing is like. Thank you for legitimizing that for us as traumatic experiences. Yeah, absolutely. And I do. So Melissa, not, not, like I said, not only because I have come to be aware of how devastating some of these effects can be in our physical body and our relationships and our emotional systems, but it can really be confusing.
MU/NLP: 07:20 So just speaking from my own lived experience, I didn’t check any of those, the boxes of the big tease, if you will. However, I still was incredibly dissociated. I was disconnected from my body, from my emotions. That’s what this associated is. I was chronically in fight or flight. I engaged in a lot of negative relationship patterns and people pleasing and codependency and a lack of boundaries. Right? So I’m living all of these struggles. And if I were to lie, if I were to say I didn’t try to explore my background thinking desperately searching, there must be, I must find the big bad thing that happened to me. And when I did it, I was really confused. Why am I carrying such effects in my life if, if nothing, quote unquote happened per se. So that’s why I do make it such an effort to legitimize and speak of this whole underside of experiences that I think many more of us are having because it can be really confusing.
MU/NLP: 08:10 We can feel like we’re crazy or something’s wrong with us because we’re not seeing those big egregious things that we’ve societaly been conditioned to believe. Cause yeah, the experiences we’re having. Yes, I think that’s so important. I have a friend who was bullied quite a bit in school and I’ve watched them overreact to what I, what I would consider overreact in normal social situations today. And once I realized this was a traumatic experience and like this person is now reacting from this place of unhealed trauma, it made a lot more sense. It allowed me to be a lot more supportive and to encourage help. But it also allowed them to feel less volatile and crazy. Like no, this was a legitimate thing that to you that you need
MU: 08:56 to now move through like an accept. Yeah, 100% and emotional reactivity is, is a very common remnant that we carry from that trauma because what trauma does is it initiates a very evolutionary, evolutionarily based fight or flight response. And unfortunately I’m just gonna keep this really simple. We get stuck in that response and what that is, it’s like the hair trigger, you know, we’re always at that eight or nine so it takes out, you know, the cliche thing, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Right. But we are reactive maybe around the same sort of context or the same sort of issues we become hyperreactive or maybe it’s really generalized and we’re just always on edge waiting for that next shoe to drop. And that does cause that reactivity. That can be quite, it can be confusing for ourselves and we’re trying to understand, you know, what that react, where that reaction came from.
MU: 09:46 It can be incredibly confusing in our relationships, friendships, family, romantic partners who just, we don’t understand why the, I just say it this way, why the emotion is so big in that moment and it can be really damaging in your relationships. And thinking back to the way I’ve responded to some of my traumatic experiences, I have a hard, a hard time telling myself this is not that I’m reacting in this situation, in the here and now as if what happened to me before is happening to me now. And that’s not the case. And so the person I’m engaging with in this moment is very confused. Like, what are, you know, why are you reacting in this way and all that. What I’m really doing is dragging the past into my current relationships, which can be very destructive. Yes, 100% the other thing that comes up when you talk about the kind of this expanded definition of trauma is that I think I’m right in saying we should not be attempting to compare our trauma to someone else’s.
MU: 10:40 And by that I mean work, we should not be making our smaller because it quote wasn’t as bad. Yeah, absolutely. And I think that’s internal individual process that a lot of us do. I call it minimizing or invalidating. And then it bleeds out externally too. And especially in this, this climate, this incredibly social climate and that that which is all the world of Instagram. Unfortunately a lot of us do find ever available comparisons. You know, if other people’s stories of other people’s struggles and before we know it, we can invalidate all of the very real emotions that were so caring for very difficult lived experience. Yes. And I’ve noticed myself doing that in, in the past as well. So now that we’ve opened with this albeit very brief kind of expanded definition of trauma, the, the kind of crux of this discussion are all of the various methods we can use to move through and process the traumas we’ve accumulated in our lives. And part of the reason I reached out to you was because in my own experience with my sexual assault, it happened when I was 16 so we’re talking about like you know, almost 30 years ago, all I had was talk therapy. My parents, me in to
MU/NLP: 11:54 see a therapist when I was 18 years old, we did some talk therapy. I felt like I didn’t make real progress with my trauma for like the better part of a decade. I think we have a much better and broader definition of trauma therapy now and I think there are a lot of tools available. So where would you start in helping people kind of break down all of the different modalities available? 100% I couldn’t agree more in terms of the limitations of the more traditional, I’m just going to call it very simple, simply the very talk base model. And the reality of it is talk alone, put it this way, and not to say or minimize the hot one, I’m going to get to these positive effects in a minute. But the positiveeffects of a, of a healthy, supportive interpersonal relationship, that’s 100% a component in the healing from trauma, but it’s limited because of that mind body connection.
MU/NLP: 12:46 So the new healing modalities and the evolution that we’re seeing in the field, which is incredibly inspiring to me is, is one toward what I’m interested in the whole field, more globally evolving towards what’s, which is that really true holistic approach. Because like I mentioned earlier with the fact that the, that the, the trauma is sort in the mind and body. We have to treat then or heal from the mind and body. So to simplify, let’s talk from the bottom up, from the body, right? So in, in our body, you know, when we’re carrying trauma, sometimes we’re carrying actually quite literally stuck energy. You know, we are energetic. Those of the listeners out there who are aware of of quantum quantum science, quantum physics, everything in the universe is energy including our bodies, energy, you know, moves through pathways in our body high, you know, if ideally if all is going well, it has, you know, kind of just directs itself and we kind of expand energy and we take an energy and energy moves very flows very freely.
MU/NLP: 13:45 Put it this way. When we, when energy becomes stuck, which can have, which can manifest as physical symptoms as tensions in our body. Some of us needs energy work. So we have a whole field of energy work of, of Reiki, of, of different energy modalities of Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupuncture, acupressure, where we’re quite literally manually trying to stimulate and free up some of those energy components. Wow. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that acupuncture, I mean I do acupuncture, but I don’t think I ever made the association of that releasing, yes, like traumatic energy. 100% and then, I mean the deeper you want to go, right? There’s a kind of whole world of, of, of shamans and spirit and medicine and that kind of energy work. Uh, and it, it’s, it’s integral for a lot of us. Um, for me, you know, I found acupuncture wasn’t aware really.
MU/NLP: 14:38 I’d heard of, you know, the meridians. That’s the lines that energy flows in our body. But I started acupuncture when I wasn’t really aware of how important it was. Um, and it’s an incredibly important piece and right there in of body, you know, this goes hand in hand, energy work, the intention and our musculature of our body, right? So some of us are going to need to seek out. And I’ve always been a fan of this, of the massages, the yoga, the body work. Because for me, I’ll just again speak from my own personal example. I carry so much tension in my shoulders in particular from a light a life lived in fight or flight from chronically carrying tension and hunching and just tightening all the muscles in my body that I actually appear slight, slightly hunched still. Um, and I, I understand that as being just years and years and years of these tensions not being released.
MU/NLP: 15:30 Body work is an integral part of my healing. Massage. Massage is really incredible. I mean if you find the right person who’s aware of the body and emotions, I mean the field of massage bliss is just completely expanding where people are actually very much trained now in emotional and in massage and musculature and myofascial modalities that all at once. You know, you can really get an incredible release in the body. And then the simplest, most common one that also releases these body tensions is yoga. You know, whether or not you want to go to a studio popping in, going to YouTube and just stretching your muscles can go a long way to release some of these pent up stored tensions in the body. Okay, so I know all of this cause I’ve done energy work, I’ve done Reiki, I’ve had incredible releases from yoga before I even realized what was happening.
MU/NLP: 16:18 I would be in pigeon pose and all of a sudden something would come up and I would start bawling my eyes out. But I think this idea of trauma being stored in the body is going to be new for some people. How am I keeping that in my tissues or keeping that in my muscles? Um, do you, are you, do you like The Body Keeps the Score for kind of explaining that or do you have your own way of explaining how some of these traumatic experiences can be stored physically in the body? Yeah, absolutely. I love, I love the body keeps the score or that, that for me it’s very, it’s, I love that you bring that up. I’ve had two versions of a relationship with that book. One was as a clinician really opening my eye, my mind to the mind, body connection to the reality that muscle, that tensions and emotions are stored in the body.
MU/NLP: 17:01 And then I read it a second time, several years later as a human realizing that I was kind of a case study in that when I read it first, I was very disconnected from some of the truths about my past that I wasn’t identifying with it. And so yeah, that’s a really great book. I’m always giving that as a recommendation. The reality of it is, like I said, our thoughts, our emotional worlds transmit messages to our body. They transmit messages, like I said, into our energy system, into our hormones. It’s the neurotransmitters that we’re releasing. So if we’re stuck and I want to get to the fight or flight, the hyperactive fight or flight tube, because that’s a really integral area for healing trauma. But if we’re stuck in chronic fight or flight with cortisol raging through us and all of the muscle tension that happens, our aren’t going to be relaxing as they need to.
MU/NLP: 17:52 Our body is driven to maintain a balance. So like I, when I defined trauma, I defined it as a an experience that overwhelms your capacity to cope on some level. Stress is not a bad thing for our, for our human entity or organism. We need it. We go, we expend energy or organisms become stressed and then we come back to baseline and our body’s equipped to do that, to become tense to, you know, fight or flee, whatever the threat is and then to discharge all of that. An example I give because I love animals is when you actually see, you know, after a rigorous or you know, an animal working themselves up energetically you a dog in particular comes to mind because many of us have dogs. You might see them shake a little bit and that’s their nervous system expending that energy. So just thinking about it really simply, if we don’t, as humans give ourself that shape, that discharge, if the trauma and the emotions quite literally overwhelmed our system or never shaking that energy out, we’re never moving back to baseline.
MU/NLP: 18:54 Then if you compound that year upon year, however long, you know, we’re remaining stuck in this trauma, like I mentioned earlier, for some of us, it can be decades. For some of us, we can be re becoming re triggered in the relationships to speak to the perfect example you offered earlier in our patterns, right? We’re riding a wave of emotions that aren’t getting that release that aren’t coming back to baseline. So before you know it, you are carrying in your body and tight muscles. You’re carrying it in your body and physical symptoms. For some of us, you’re carrying it in your body and you know, gastro intestinal issues and in a million a multitude of ways you’re carrying it. But for those of you interested in reading it, the body keeps the score. Is, is a really ground breaking book that illustrates the kind of neurobiology and the physiology and all of that beneath all of this.
MU/NLP: 19:43 Yeah, that was my first intro into it from an educational perspective, but I had already experienced it and a number of yoga sessions and massage sessions, as you mentioned. So yoga, massage, acupuncture, acupressure. Where does somatic therapy come in? What is somatic therapy and how does that play into the physical release of tension in the aftermath of trauma? Yeah, 100% so somatic therapy is, is reconnecting essentially. He was simply the mind and the body together because another byproduct that a lot of us struggle with, that I myself do as well from the aftermath of trauma, is becoming, is this association being disconnected from our body or Soma, our emotions, all of the energies that live in there. A lot of us. I very warmly and lovingly refer to the place I used to go as my spaceship and when I was on my spaceship, right?
MU/NLP: 20:37 I was not grounded in my physical body. I was not aware of the energies and the emotions and really the way my body felt at all. So somatic therapy is really marrying the, the whole that we are as humans with yes consciously we have a mind, we have thoughts, we can gain insight, we can talk things through. But healing, especially with trauma comes when we reconnect that mind in that body when we learn how to for me, you know, get, get rid of the spaceship docket if you will come back into my body and then learn how to feel in my body. Understand that motions are mapping on to energy shifts and changes. Diving deeper down, reconnecting with an intuition and that internal guidance system. So in, in, in short somatic therapy is really working to rebuild those connections. And it’s an integral, integral, integral part of healing.
MU/NLP: 21:31 Because like I said, a lot of us suffer from that disconnect. And then just bringing back the topic you offered earlier with relationships. If we’re not connected to ourself and physically present in our own bodies, we’re not going to be able to emotionally, physically, spiritually connect with another human. And I’ve lived this because I wasn’t connected to me while I desperately wanted depth of all sorts in my relationships. I found myself coming up short. Obviously when I was much younger, I would point to all my partners who are not the right partner for me. And this is why I, you know, they can’t give me what I need. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that no, Nicole, you are disconnected. You don’t, you’re not connected to yourself, your emotions, your intuition. So how the hell are you going to bring that to someone else to connect with?
MU: 22:12 Yeah. You know, your spaceship was my movie screen. Um, I would disassociate by watching what was happening to me on a movie screen. So it wasn’t happening to me in my physical body. It was happening to like that girl who looked just like me on a movie screen. It’s real. I haven’t actually thought about that in a long time. One of the most difficult questions for me to answer a few years ago when I really started digging in to my trauma was when I would explain that I was feeling an emotion or that I couldn’t even explain the emotion. The question of where do you feel this in your body was like impossible for me to answer. Now I find it’s one of the most helpful questions because different emotions feel differently. The other day I was in a session and you know, where do you feel this in your body? And immediately I was like, it feels like someone has stuck me in like a rusted iron skeleton and I can’t, you know, I can’t move and I can’t expand and I can’t grow and I can’t breathe. And like that was such a powerful realization for me. But that’s that mind body connection that I couldn’t do a few years ago.
MU/NLP: 23:16 100% the reason we are disconnected, right? It’s not because we’re in an overwhelmed system and when we are experiencing an acute, any sort of stressor, put it this way, we are battling an evolutionary, we’re not battling, but we have to consider for this way the evolutionary part of our brain that calls the shots in that moment. There’s a part of our brain, the limbic system that’s actually responsible for fight, flight, or freeze, right? So we don’t really get choice when we’re living those acute traumas, even if they’re the more chronic ones, you know, in that childhood home with an emotionally distant parent or having way too many, you know, uh, parentification roles as a child, we just are, we exist and we cope with it to the best of our ability. And what happens is our fight or flight response takes over. And that’s incredibly disempowering as we age because as we age, we have many more options, you know, in terms of emotion.
MU/NLP: 24:13 So beyond the point of where do you feel them in your body becomes the question over time. Well, what do you do with them? Right? How do I take care of myself when I’m having an emotion? The beautiful part of evolution is we didn’t, we didn’t have to decide how to take care of ourselves when we were ill-equipped. Our brain did that for us. It took care of us in the best way that it can. But of course, as we age and as we develop emotional maturity and relationships, we want to populate a, a more expanded toolkit. So for a lot of us, it means shifting from a disempowered place of every time I’m triggered I go into my fight or flight response, which does happen to many of us even years after our trauma to okay, I know how to feel emotions, I know where they are in my body.
MU/NLP: 24:55 And furthermore, I can teach myself how to regulate my stress and how to soothe my emotions in a new way and shifting now into a more empowerment space. And that is such a powerful experience and such a wonderful feeling. Are we, so are we still talking about the various body focused therapies or are we now talking about the mind, the, the kind of trauma therapies that you can do for the mind to kind of connect those two? Yeah. So just wrapping one more body based therapy before I kind of go off in terms of the mind because the first, the foundational step to get to the mind to get to those more mature coping tools if you will, is regulating our nervous system. Because of that fight or flight response and the evolutionary basis of it, it’s regulated by our nervous system. And to really keep it short and simple, we have more or less two nervous systems.
MU/NLP: 25:50 One that’s called fight or flight. It’s quite literally re the sympathetic responsible for activating us for fleeing or keeping our organism alive. The other one is called the parasympathetic or the rest and digest nervous system. What happens as a result of trauma for most of us as we become overactive in that fight or flight response, why we feel emotionally reactive, hyper vigilant, waiting for the next shoe to drop. And furthermore so to before we can even, you know kind of talk about what to do with the different types of feelings we’re having. We have to tame that overactive fight or flight response first. So polyvagal work. So what polyvagal work is, it’s a big nerve that actually helps us to kind of successfully use both of those nervous systems. What appropriate breathwork is that number one thing I always talk about cause it’s the the easy, the manual way to build in some of this nervous system based regulation into our everyday.
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MU/NLP: 28:21 I saw a video that you did for stimulating that vagus nerve. Is that what it’s called? The vagus? Yep. The vegus. I’m singing in my clothes so much more now because of you. But you mentioned gargling, you mentioned singing, um, all things that you know, I think feel really good but also can actually stimulate that nerve and kind of put you more into that parasympathetic mode. I’m also a huge fan of breathwork. Is this where tapping could come in as well? Tapping, tapping is a little bit of a marry between this, but more of the energy moving. When you tap, you’re tapping meridians. So by manually, so whereas an acupuncture it would be a needle. Um, even just you could do it yourself. I actually have a video a while ago, uh, emotional focused EFT, um, is a great thing a term to Google because there’s a handful, maybe two handfuls even honestly of points on your up, your face leading down to kind of your chest bone area that hard to memorize. But you could just pull up a video or a little schematic. I mean, and see where to tap. But that’s moving of, of that energy. But I love that you checked out that big Vegas nerve video. So the reason why it’s the vagus nerve is it’s literally connected to the back of our throat. That’s why gargling singing anything that manually stimulates that back of your throat area is touching the tip of that vagus. Hmm.
MU: 29:42 Yeah, I thought that was, you know, I’m just, I’m all about the small, easy things you can do in the moment. You can breathe in the moment. You can tap in the moment. You can sing probably if you’re at home or in your shower and your car in the moment. Um, I like, you know that there are things that I can do right now to, to recognize, okay, I’m in this state, I want to shift my state. What are a few things I can do? And just to close my eyes and take a few belly breaths or concentrate on a particular breathing pattern. It works so well. Yes, 100% so, so the, the note of breathwork, there’s a million different types of breath work practices, but because I like you love the daily, the approachable, the, how do I fit it in my day? It can be as simple.
MU: 30:23 Everyone listening as deep belly breathing as breathing down. And I say this, it’s simple but difficult because most of us have evolved to be a very shallow chest based breather by the time we become an adult. So it takes a little bit of conscious effort putting a hand on your belly, quite literally inflating until your belly expands and then a nice slow out-breath so that can be done. I do it Melissa all day long. Everyone, no one you mess to know, you know, my partner says something to me and I need a minute to gather myself before I respond and I can just be giving myself two deep belly breaths and I don’t respond in that clipped way or that emotional way. My anxiety is creeping up. I mean speaking right? I’m getting ready to go on stage. Couple deep belly breaths. No one has to know and it goes a long way.
MU: 31:05 Tell [inaudible] it’s one of the, it’s one of the strategies that I’ve recommended in my Whole30 books where for some people being presented with like a food or drink that you know isn’t serving you and that you don’t want to eat as anxiety producing, especially if the person expects you to eat it or you don’t have a strong boundaries that so those one or two breaths can really help you remember your self care, remember the boundary and find like a nice polite way to decline if you choose to. So I think it’s a fantastic tip. That’s a great summary of body work that can be done. And I think that could be a huge missing piece for people who have just been doing sort of trauma work focusing on their brain. But there’s also a lot of different modalities that you can do in therapy that focus on, uh, whether it’s prolonged exposure or stress inoculation training.
MU: 31:54 There’s EMDR, there’s cognitive processing therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. I got a little confused when I was researching some of these. What are some of the best strategies that you’ve found? Yeah, 100% so just to speak to the EMDR piece because that in my opinion is is an impactful and impactful practice. I’m going to an EMDR trained clinician because all of our brains, but at this way store memories. So if we can look back and envision her past, you know, first holidays, things like that, we have kind of like a snapshot picture of it to keep it really simple. Trauma and big emotions in this way are sort of differently. They’re stored in an emotional center of our brain and our limbic system
MU/NLP: 32:40 and that’s why. So the, the most intense experience of this is when you hear people talking about flashbacks, when it’s as if that thing that happened however long ago is happening again, I can smell it, I can hear it, I can, I’m there viscerally. And that’s the nature of how all trauma, most trauma is stored in the brain. It’s stored in a very emotional center. So it needs to be dealt with a little bit differently. So any listener out there, especially if you’re having those kind of nightmare flashback type experiences, EMDR is definitely a path to pursue. And it stands for eye movement, desensitation desensitization and reprocessing. Yes, yes. So that’s exactly what it does. So it helps you to bring the traumatic memory back to a natural point of resolution so that you can process it like any other memory essentially. And it works with eye movement so it moves it from like being in a super emotional state to where you can just sort of observe it.
MU/NLP: 33:41 And then I love that you said that. Okay. All right, that makes sense. 100% so where you can like any other memory where you can become more of an observer. I love to use that word as opposed to an active participant as if it’s happening. And that’s happening. Like I said, not only us revisiting that very real like for you, you know, sexual trauma experience or whatever it may be that’s happening in those, in those small, those little T ways as well. When my partner says that thing and it might as well be my mom saying that thing to me. And now in a sense before you know it, I’m reacting is that probably more along the lines of how I reacted when I was that young child with not the most mature coping mechanisms I kick, I scream, I dissociated attach, as opposed to the much more mature adult who’s able to separate, observe, understand that this is not what’s happening in this moment, and then give me access to a whole other range of coping skills.
MU/NLP: 34:35 And for some of us, EMDR is a path through, it’s not a quick fix. Um, it can alleviate a lot of, I think the stuck point and especially the flashback memory. But then I think this is where we’re going to go into speaking about now. Then there’s still other probably modalities that one could pursue to really obtain the deepest level of healing around trauma. Okay, perfect. So let’s move to those then. What are some other forms of mind therapy or cognitive therapy that you recommend? Absolutely. So anything that involves developing emotional resilience when I call. So that ability back when I was overwhelmed to cope, to empower myself, to understand now that I don’t have to be overwhelmed again, I can develop new tools, new ways to regulate my stress and my emotions. So any sort of emotionally focused therapy can be really intricately, integrally important.
MU/NLP: 35:32 So where I, simple steps though, not so simple in application, in of our emotions, right? Can I connect with the body that I’m in and the, the fact that emotions map on, I can feel them in my body can sense the energy shifts. So can I connect and identify, right? Can I label and know what the feeling is? You know, can I, do I have an emotional vocabulary? Put it that way because not only that’s helpful for two reasons, my emotional vocabulary. So if I know that this event caused me anger, I might have a bit more clarity on what happens next for me or what I need to choose to happen. X language around emotions is also the currency. So if I want you to become more intimate with any relationship I’m in, right? I can share what I’m feeling in a common language with someone else.
MU/NLP: 36:21 So it’s can I almost like identify, can I touch my feelings? Can I feel them present? Can I give them language? Can I understand them and gain the understanding that they have or offering me? Cause I do believe that our emotions, our teachers, if we can identify them and understand what they’re trying to teach us. And then the third step is what do I do? Can I learn how to a tolerate? I kind of put emotional coping in two different categories. Can I just learn how to tolerate feelings? Because I assure everyone listening one truth a lot of us do not give ourself the opportunity to know this truth. Feelings have a natural end point. Emotions come into our body, affect our bodies and then they go if we allow them. So can I learn how to what I call distress tolerance? Can I learn how to ride the waves of my emotions? And then can I populate an adaptive emotional toolkit? Can I learn the new things that I can do to Sue? Then these are going to be different for each person. Um, and this whole process, right? Can I connect? Can I identify and can I soothe?
MU: 37:28 It’s a process. So back to my spaceship, it took me a whole hell of a long time, Melissa, to land my spaceship. And then when I was there, I had no idea it was going on in this earth body that I was given. You know what I mean? I was like, Whoa, what is this? Let alone name it and differentiate between feelings. I mean, I still have, it’s funny, I saved a meme a while ago of this emotional wheel and I have never seen, so, I mean, I’ve heard of all of these emotions, but can I actually identify them in my body and know that that’s what I’m feeling? Then that was, you know, then by the time I set should sail on that ship, it’s like, okay, well now what do I do about them? So yes, that’s easier said than done. You know what I mean? But definitely the process in a nutshell. I feel like for a couple of years I had two emotions which were angry or fine. I love fine. Why were okay and not okay? Yeah, right. Oh gosh.
MU: 38:20 The big game is just around the corner, which for me means a party with friends, epic commercials and most important wings. Oh, you thought I was going to say football? No, wings. We’re going to make chili, lime, garlic wings, wings, and of course Buffalo wings with whole 30 ranch. Here’s the secret to making all the wings your heart desires so you can snack like it’s game day, all year long. Sign up for butcher box now and get free wings for life every month. But your box delivers 100% grass fed and finished beef free range, organic chicken heritage breed pork and wild Alaskan salmon directly to your door in a box specifically curated to your family’s needs. The price works out to less than six bucks a meal and shipping is free in the continental us right now. You can get free wings for life plus $20 off your first box. That’s three pounds of wings in every box for the life of your subscription plus $20 off your first box. Just go to butcher box.com/Do the Thing or use promo code, Do the Thing at checkout. That’s butcher box.com/Do the Thing or promo code. Do the Thing at checkout. How would you go about finding a therapist or what kind of questions would you ask a therapist to know that developing emotional resilience was part of the work that you would do together?
MU/NLP: 39:48 A lot of therapists will talk about, you know, doing emotional focus type of therapy. So any therapists that speaks of that word you used earlier, somatic work, emotional focused work, uh, and more and more therapists are starting to talk about doing that side. Mindfulness based therapists can even be really, really helpful because mindfulness is awareness and one of the things we become aware of when we practice mindfulness is the body. So any therapist that advertises or speaks of you know mindfulness-based work, somatic work, emotional focused work is probably going to be the, the the route to go down to get the most benefit. CBT tends to be a little more focus just in the cognitive brain. The thought process which like I said can have a place, but we really need to dive down a little deeper when we’re talking and healing trauma. Something else I want to, another term that I just want listeners and it just popped up, we talked about it earlier but thankfully some therapists now are even advertising or kind of stating that some of the work they do is polyvagal informed so that I bring this up now because with a polyvagal therapist sometimes the work is actually co-regulating that nervous system in the moment.
MU/NLP: 41:04 So anyone out there, if you have your hands on or have access to someone who is polyvagal informed, that would be my number one suggestion cause that’s going to be a person who can help you to regulate your nervous system to evolve into that safe relationship that will then expand into your relationships. Outside of the therapeutic context.
MU: 41:24 Are there any other modalities or any other sort of, I don’t know, things we should be looking for in a therapist or practices?
MU/NLP: 41:34 I think most the most important piece, and this goes back to this idea of relationships and the interpersonal effects that trauma, you know, carries within us. The, one of the most important things that I always suggest everyone look for in a therapist is the nature of the connection between me and the therapist or client or patient and the therapist. Because we are interpersonal creatures, Melissa, and we need relationships to heal. And because of the nature of trauma, more often than not, our relationships are affected to the extent that we tend to misperceive the concepts of threat and safety in our relationships in particular. So whereas it starts with that therapist relationship is possibly for some of us being the first positive supportive relationship we’ve had in our life, we want to expand that out. But that first relationship of safety is in credibly incredibly important. So the suggestion I always give everyone, and I know it’s time and effort and work and and annoying, maybe even to have to go vet therapists, but really to find the person that you can, and granted relationships don’t happen overnight, but a person that you can imagine yourself evolving into a trusting relationship with. Um, I think that’s incredibly, incredibly important because there’s so much healing that can take place. Just in the context of that safe relationship or relationship that over time you come to deem as safe.
MU: 43:07 I could not agree with you more. I feel like in my own experience, finding the right therapist was like 75% of the work. Meaning I finally found the right person and I felt safe. I felt protected. I felt led and guided. He also didn’t take any of my shit, which was incredible because I was definitely running over every other therapist I had before him. But finding the right person, I feel like unlocked my potential to do this work. So I think it is really important to spend the time and make sure that that connection is really good. Yeah, it’s integral. I could not agree more. So that could be different. That’s where it gets individualized. That’s different for everyone. So whether it’s someone like you out there listening, you know, I want someone to to call me on my shit. You know, someone might want someone a little more just whoever it is for you that you can imagine that connection developing.
MU: 43:56 That’s the path that you should pursue. Exactly. There’s one more area of trauma therapy that I want to talk about and you are the perfect person to talk about it because your patented hashtag is self healer and I feel like there are things that we can do in our own lives, like reparenting, setting boundaries, exploring self care that can absolutely prop up all of this incredible work we’re doing with our mind and our body. 100% I love that you brought up reparenting Melissa, and only because I love the topic, but that touches all of these areas, right? Whether we’re talking, rebuilding
MU/NLP: 44:32 that foundational balance in our bodies. So for some of us that might mean changing our lifestyle habits. Like you said, putting boundaries on ourself, getting the sleep that we need, getting you know, to speak to your eyes, the nutrition in many ways that we need, you know, making sure that we’re setting our body up, which might mean changing the conditioned lesson or rules that we have lived upon. A lot of us are taught how to care for our physical body. Some of us directly with direct messaging, typically in our caregiving environments, some of us indirectly just what we saw people around us doing. How did they eat, how did they sleep, how did they navigate stress? So when I talk about Reparenting, some of us are becoming aware of those older conditioned patterns that aren’t serving us and changing them. And a lot of it has to do with the physical body.
MU/NLP: 45:19 Also, you know, engaging in a daily consistent practice of breathwork can go in along the lines of you know, your Reparenting journey. It was definitely part of my own. Another big part of reparenting is learning our emotion. So all that stuff we were talking about emotional competency. And resilience. Again, we’re modeled our emotions and as a very global category from our earliest relationships, we see people having emotions. Maybe some of us are given direct messages about emotions. A lot of us are given messages which are okay, which are not okay. Of course really simplifying some of these message come very indirectly. We’re just, we just don’t talk about those things. So how the hell is a child? Am I going to know what those things are or know how to navigate those things? Those things being my emotions, my natural emotions that I’m going to continue to have into adulthood.
MU/NLP: 46:08 So when I become an adult reparenting that’s what that really is, is relearning first unconditioning some of the unhelpful patterns around emotions as well and relearning some newer, more helpful patterns and you have so many resources on reparenting. I’m on your Instagram feed and on your YouTube channel. I think the idea was very new to me until I started following you and then all of a sudden it made so much sense. I think to myself when I put myself to bed early, cause I’ve had a rough day and I know I need a big night of sleep. Like this is repair and ding. Yes, it’s time for bed, Melissa. Yeah, absolutely. And I talk about it often unless it, because when I, when I introduced what I do, you know, one of the things I always say that I offer people the tools to do at least is to consciously create a version of yourself, a new version.
MU/NLP: 46:57 Because the reality of it is what we are, many of us at least as adults are living or all of these conditioned habits, patterns, beliefs, emotional loops that we’re just stuck in. That’s not this, you know, the concept, the authentic self. That’s not necessarily who we are. That’s how we’re living. That’s the patterns and the conditioning that we’re evidencing in the world, if you will, on any given day. But we do have so back, this idea of self healing and this ability of conscious creation as an adult, we really can reshape whether it’s our daily lifestyle habits or the way we navigate our emotions. We can empower ourself to create that new version that is much more in alignment with who we actually are. Our authentic self that’s been there all along. But again that just was not attuned to as we needed it to be. [inaudible] this is been so informative for myself as well.
MU/NLP: 47:51 We have, you’ve recommended so many incredible really specific strategies. My show notes are going to be very, very detailed. I want to make sure that we get all of this stuff right, but I do want to wrap it up with just a very simple, the end kind of end of podcast question, which is what’s one thing you could recommend to listeners out there right now who were ready to Do the Thing? Yes. To Do the Thing, do those deep belly breaths. I mean I cannot, I am almost in a, you know, nonstop record on talking about these belly breaths and they’re so small and they’re so simple, but they go such a long way. So for some of us, like I said, it’s retraining quite literally the way we breathe down into that deep belly area. Just try it out. Try it, laying in bed tonight.
MU/NLP: 48:37 Try it when you feel your heart rate starting to amp up with stress. Just try it and then tune in to how your body feels. So remember to hand on the belly, right in the nose and the mouth. Whatever’s most comfortable and fleeting, that belly all the way out. And then a nice slow, deep breath out and tune in to how you feel because that’s the beautiful part about breath work to Melissa and not only it’s, it’s impactful. That’s why I’m talking about, and many of us need to regulate our nervous system. It’s one of the few holistic tools that I can feel the effects of quite soon after. A lot of the things that I’m talking about, you know, I’m like, you have to do it consistently, you know, for days or weeks and then you get to feel better. This is one of the ones that you can actually feel the calmness in your body almost immediately.
MU/NLP: 49:21 So to Do the Thing, do the deep belly breath thing. I love, I’m doing it right now. I love it. Home and centered and grounded and people listening can do it right now. I love that so much. Dr Nicole LePera. Oh, where can people find you? Because they’re going to want to find you. Absolutely. Come on over. So my main hub that I’m always shouting out as the Instagram, it’s the dot holistic dot psychologist. And on there you’ll find a link tree with all of the goodies and I’m always giving out an email list with a PDF for something called future self journaling. So jump on and see what that’s about. For those of you who don’t know, and there’s also a YouTube channel for those of you who are you tubers out there and prefer the video option at the holistic dot psychologist. But really the Instagram is the place to go. I’m on there daily, I’m very active and all of the goodies are coming through. They’re fantastic. Yeah, I’m a big fan of your YouTube channel, so thank you. Thank you so much Dr. Nicole LePera, The holistic psychologist. Thank you so much for joining me again on do that thing. Of course. Thank you so much as always, Melissa for happening.
MU: 50:28 Thanks for joining me today on Do the Thing. You can continue the conversation with me at Melissa, you on Instagram. If you have a question for dear Melissa or a topic idea for the show, leave me a voicemail at (321) 209-1480. Do the Thing is part of the onward project. A family of podcast brought together by Gretchen Rubin all about how to make your life better. Check out the other onward project podcasts, happier with Gretchen Rubin side hustle school, and happier in Hollywood. If you liked this episode, please subscribe. Leave a review and tell your friends to Do the Thing. See you next week.
Thanks for listening!
Continue the conversation with me @melissau on Instagram. If you have a question for Dear Melissa or a topic idea for the show, leave me a voicemail at (321) 209-1480.
Do the Thing is part of ‘The Onward Project,’ a family of podcasts brought together by Gretchen Rubin—all about how to make your life better. Check out the other Onward Project podcasts– Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Side Hustle School, and Happier in Hollywood.
If you liked this episode, please subscribe, leave a 5-star review, and tell your friends to Do the Thing!