From surviving to thriving in traumatic times with Jennifer Summerfeldt
Trauma shapes the trajectory of life and relationships in profound and often long lasting ways. Most of the time the effects are hidden in the background of daily life and only come to surface in times of high stress. Many of us are walking wounded. One in two adults have experienced a major traumatic event. Trauma can show up in mental health challenges and complex social problems like the opioid crisis. When the survival mechanism is active it is hard to see above the clouds. Without perspective we are prone to repeating dysfunctional relationship dynamics from the past rather than being open to possibilities of greater love and connection in the present.
In this episode of Awake In Relationship I speak with Jennifer Summerfeldt, clinical counsellor and birthing doula about about mastering our neurobiology to develop the capacity to relax old survival strategies to move into a thriving state no matter what is happening in our internal or external worlds.
- To learn more about Jennifer Summerfeldt check out ASK Therapy for Moms
- To learn more about the flowing fears coaching work and course head over to flowingfears.com
If you enjoyed this episode with Jennifer on working with fear you might also enjoy episode 043 Fear as a stepping stone to fearless love with Susan Gillis Chapman
Silas Rose 0:00
Greetings, welcome to Awake In Relationship. My name is Silas Rose, one of the central tenants or ideas in this program is this notion that which heal in relationship. Even if you had the most ideal home life situation when you’re growing up, it’s pretty hard to get through this modern world without experiencing some form of trauma, or dysregulation. Most of us are, in some sense, walking wounded. One in two adults in North America has experienced some form of traumatic event. And when this happens in early childhood, it really sets the tone for relationship patterns we carry into adulthood. When our survival mechanism is triggered, it’s really hard to see above the clouds, we tend to repeat old and familiar relationship patterns. Rather than being open to greater experiences of love and connection, in the present. These fixed pattern are not just limited to the individual, but can also show up in much more complex systems, be it a family, business, or culture. If you spent any time listen to mainstream news, or in the 24 hour news cycle, and if you do, I hope it’s in moderation, you might come to the conclusion that we are living in traumatic times, filled with lots of examples of bad human behavior, really rooted in historic patterns of trauma that often go back generations. I’m sure many of the people listening to this podcast are really involved in the work of interrupting those patterns in their own family life and in the greater society. Really, it’s the most important work we can do. Which is why inviting a friend, Jennifer Summerfeldt, a trauma informed therapist, to have a conversation about how trauma shows up in relationship and in the body. We talk about the process that she uses to work with clients who are really stuck in a survival mindset. In this conversation, we’re talking about working with our neurobiology to go beyond fear and access an intrinsic, thriving state, no matter what’s happening in our external or internal worlds. I recorded this interview back in the summer of 2022, just before descending into a personal period of high stress, which really felt like a five alarm fire for my nervous system. So it’s been really helpful for me personally, to revisit this interview, and track the stages of repair, and reintegration as I come back into more my thriving state. So if you are wanting some more tools in your toolkit for working with your own personal trauma response. I hope you’ll stay tuned.
Jennifer Summerfedt. Welcome to Awake In Relationship.
Jennifer Summerfeldt 3:42
Thanks for having me.
Silas Rose 3:43
You started off in kind of in the birthing world. As a doula I’m thinking call yourself a midwife of the soul now. What’s the connection from that early part of your career to what you’re doing now?
Jennifer Summerfeldt 4:06
Yeah, thank you. That is often an entire podcast conversation, but I’ll see if I can do a Coles Notes version. And I entered the world of you could say, birth, midwifery, physiological birth during the pregnancy of my first child 23 years ago. And that just kind of opened a door that you know, is as if the the curtain had been lifted in a world that I had not tapped into. And this is very common for moms who find themselves pregnant and all of a sudden, there’s this whole other world behind the curtain of birth. So that that kind of catapulted me into that world and I have worn many hats. I ran a brick and mortar store called Earth Mother in 2001 And that was a community hub for families, everything birth parenting and beyond that was natural parenting related. And so that kind of started me on the journey of learning about childbirth education, and then becoming trained as a holistic doula and then learning from some of the radicals in the world of birth, and then training in a traditional midwifery style apprenticeship style, with a mentor for many, many years. And then, you know, to just to fast forward to where did that bring me? You know, how did that get me to where I am today? So through all of that time period, I was motivated by the same thing, which was how can we, how can we provide the best possible experience for a new mom from birth into postpartum into parenthood, and what can we do as birth professionals to mitigate harm and violence in birth. So back then it was called obstetrical violence today, we call it birth trauma. And so I was always motivated by this desire to show that there was a different way. And birth didn’t have to be painful, harmful. And or leave moms and parents feeling utterly powerless and or in the states of devastation and the postpartum. So we’ll get into it later today in our conversation, I know. But basically, that motivated me has stayed with me, and then through my own healing journey, and my own understanding of trauma, which then led me to understand the neurobiology of healing. What happened is my understanding of birth physiology, and my understanding of healing physiology merged. And they were both kind of saying the same thing. And so I merge those two together and kind of bridge that gap in the childbirth world of birth trauma, and postpartum mood disorders, and also just healing from trauma and kind of made that link. And that is what motivated me then to create the healing after birth program. And then the book that I wrote, which then launched me into, you know, specializing in postpartum care, in particular, trauma informed care. And now this more nervous system informed approach those all kind of the same threads throughout. And here I am today,
Silas Rose 7:50
As you mentioned, that you are a registered clinical counselor. When did you enter that world?
Jennifer Summerfeldt 7:58
Yeah, well, you could say a started that world back in the 90s, when I was in grad school for performance psychology, actually. So I had completed two years of graduate work in the field of sports psychology, so I’ve always been training for this role. And then I burnt out, struggled from depression, got into some conflicts with the advisory board and walked away from that completion of that program, and then was pregnant. So it’s taken me it took me, you know, almost 18 years to return. And after my journey of kind of finding myself and healing myself and bringing all those pieces back together again, I went back to grad school, and completed my Master’s in Counseling Psychology. So I did that in 2017.
Silas Rose 8:54
So we’ve already kind of touched on it. In terms of kind of early childhood trauma, it’s really a big focus of a lot of healing work these days. How does our early childhood trauma affect our neurobiology?
Jennifer Summerfeldt 9:15
is a really important question. And I’m wondering if I could maybe, like pull that back a bit and start with an introduction to our nervous system and how it gets imprinted as early as in utero. And, you know, of course, this is where intergenerational imprinting or trauma would come in. So the Coles Notes version two, you know, how does our childhood impact us and, and imprint us with trauma? And in particular, our nervous system would be that, you know, if, if we’re born into environments in which our foundational needs aren’t being met. From a neurobiological point of view, you know, we know now that we have a need to be securely attached. And we know that our biology actually seeks this out. And it generates an enormous amount of internal pain, if we can’t receive that secure attachment. And Dan Siegel really outlines this well in his work. And he talks about the foundational S’s that are, that basically inform our system that it is securely attached. And those Ss are to be seen, to be soothed to feel safe and secure. And then another person that I like to refer to is Jason Gattis. His work, He is a relationship coach, actually, as well. And he’s replaced, the need to be secure, to be supported. And all of that support secure attachment. So if you think about it, if we’re born into environments in which any of those four foundational S’s aren’t met, then it’s going to generate an enormous amount of survival stress in our system. And so when our nervous system is activated in survival stress, then we’re experiencing the emotion of fear, or anger, and or despair, we can get into that in a bit. And so as a child, if those foundational needs aren’t being met, we’re motivated to, you know, instinctively do whatever we can do to try to meet those needs. And so the challenge of it is that if we never get a rest from that survival, stress state that we might be in because we’re not receiving those cues of safety and security, then it can start to dis regulate the nervous system. And then we start to see some of the quote, you know, maybe symptoms of mood disorders that we talk about later on are the symptoms of trauma showing up or even symptoms of disease, right or distress. So that’s a high level answer to that question of how our early childhood environments shape and mold as we know is that our nervous system is informed by our in utero environment. And what we mean by that is that the nervous system of the mother, right is informing and encoding the nervous system of that growing fetus and baby. And so I’ve actually done a talk about this, because what often happens is when we hear that, you know, our nervous system was imprinted and informed by the environment in which our mother was in at that time. Typically, what happens is the mother experiences a large amount of guilt and or resistance to hearing that, right, because it sounds like it’s blaming the mother in their environment, you know, for whatever is happening. And so, I will say that there’s more to the equation than just that mother’s experience of what’s happening within her environment or their environment at that time. Right. And so we have to take into consideration that, first of all, there’s the mother’s history, right? So the mother would have been shown how to handle highly stressful experiences, basically, that would have informed her nervous system. And then we also have to take into consideration that there’s factors within that external environment at that time. Right? So her relationship, let’s say, the political climate of the time, right? Social Factors, financial factors, all these external factors that are being encoded, being experienced by that mother’s nervous system, which then what’s happening is that through a process of chemistry, really, you know, the mother is sending information to that growing fetus, and informing the nervous system, how to handle highly stressful experiences,
Silas Rose 14:31
How does that really shape our worldview, when it comes to primary relationships when we grow up?
Jennifer Summerfeldt 14:37
So again, it’s important that we frame this through the lens of one point of view, which is the point of view of neurobiology and how neurobiology and our nervous system shapes our relationships. So that’s where I’ll answer that question from, of course, depending on I’m kind of the field of reference where people might be coming from, they might have a different answer to this question. But from that point of view, if our foundational security needs for secure attachment relationally are not met, then it generates insecure attachment relationally. And what that means is, if a relationship then no longer feels safe and supportive, right, and, and it is full of what we would call ruptures. So ruptures would be any kind of stressor that comes in and ruptures the security of that relationship. Right. And that relationship could be with others, it could be with self, it could be with your environment as well. Right. So if any, if there’s a high amount of ruptures, but there’s low repair, then that’s going to just continue to the cycle of insecure attachment, which then results in protective patterns emerging. And I prefer the term protective patterns. And I can’t take credit for it, because this comes through the polyvagal approach, as well as it comes out of some of the Jason Gattis his work and also Dan Siegel’s work. But I like the idea of protective patterns versus defense mechanisms. Be because defense mechanisms immediately generates one to feel defensive about their defense mechanism. Right. Whereas the protective pattern is softer, it’s more compassionate, it’s like, oh, my system moves into a behavioral pattern that’s actually in service to the health and well being of my overall system. And even if those protective patterns result in disconnection between self and another, or self and self or self and its environment, it’s it’s actually the protective patterns actually trying to keep the system the organism, the human biology, right, our system safe and alive,
Silas Rose 17:20
.So there’s a tremendous sense of limitations that happens when those patterns are engaged. For anyone listening, that may be kind of new, to any kind of trauma informed therapy. What are some of the sort of telltale signs that our trauma response is engaged?
Jennifer Summerfeldt 17:55
Yeah, I mean, many of us are very familiar with the term being triggered. Right? So triggered, activated, irritated, frustrated. But typically, I let people know that the first signal of warning you could say, is through the felt experience. Right. So generally speaking, we have a felt experience through sensation in our biology. And it’s the felt experience that activates kind of initiates patterns of the past, and will hook into, we could call it imprints or memories of the past. And so, you know, again, I’m not the one who coined this, but Joe Dispenza, has been known to say that our past and forms are present until we become conscious of it. So a trauma trigger or a trigger is anything that would activate your system, you would feel that in your biology, if you’re tuned into that. And generally speaking, you would jump into a protective pattern. So those protective patterns I highlight for protective patterns, and I say you either implode or explode. So those are two, right? Or you either shut down or numb out, pop out, shut down or numb out. And those are kind of the same. So popping out would be dissociating, where you’re you’re not in your biology at all right? You’re not You’re you’re floating around, you don’t feel present to the world around you. You’re not grounded. And many of us have lived in that state as a protective state. Right. So again, dissociating isn’t bad. It’s just telling us that things were too much, too soon, too fast for too long. And the way in which you handled that was by dissociating from your system. Shutting down numbing out is where you’re just not feeling anything you feel flat, you feel, right. It’s like the engine, just like who turns right down. Again, that’s another protective pattern to not feel what you’re feeling. And then imploding would be more self harm behaviors, and it could show up as like the highly aroused critic who’s super loud. So it could be an internal dialogue. It could be actual harmful behaviors of self harm. Right? It could. Typically, the Imploding is what generates urges in addictive behaviors or patterns. Exploding is more of the obvious, you’re externalizing that violence, you’re externalizing that anger, you might hit something, someone you might rage out loud, you might eat, you know, need to go for a run and just like burn off that energy. Those are more explosive patterns, right? You might feel like all of a sudden, the engine is revved up so high that you lose control completely. And Dan Siegel talks about flipping your lid. So that’s when you flipped your lid? So to answer your question, you know, those are some of the signs that an old trauma or an old survival stress, right, a pattern of the past has been activated by the engagement in the present. So whether it’s with somebody or something outside of you. And you’re going to notice the felt experience first and the pattern that follows.
Silas Rose 21:42
It seems that those protected patterns keep kind of repeating themselves throughout the course of life until there’s some sort of crisis that happens. And I’d like to think that that crisis is sort of a healing or inflection point. That’s very personal for you. Because I think, from what I know about your journey, no one says kind of, I think it was around age 35, you sort of went into kind of a dark night.
Jennifer Summerfeldt 22:32
Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely part of my story, and part of why I am doing and offering what I offer now. And, you know, my initial trauma would have been in my primary years because my biological father died of cancer, just before I was two. And so I knew I carried that trauma with me, but I couldn’t feel or access that trauma. From what I had read about early early childhood trauma, I had all the telltale signs and symptoms of it, but I couldn’t touch into it just seemed like a memory or watching a movie or something along those lines. So at age 35, when I say my life imploded in on me, there were a few experiences and events that piled on top of one another. So I had you know, without going into the details of it all I had attended a birth at that time that rocked me to my core and shattered that identity of you know, being a traditional birth attendant. Everything that I had studied and learned, felt challenged. And so it was a real collapse of one’s ego and identity that I had been building for over over 10 years by then. And and so that was a profound experience. That was kind of the the top trauma that cracked everything open. And on top of that, I was just beginning the process of a separation and divorce with three still quite young children and I had lived in poverty line low income, raising my children in in that bracket for their entire lives. And so the the whole financial insecurity of being a stay at home mom, a homeschooling mom, you know, an Earth Mother, a granola kind of mama person, who you know on the side with support moms in in birth, but you know, it was never where I earned a living it was it was a passion, practice. I just had no idea how I was going to survive all of those things that were coming in crashing in, you know, there were multiple identities crashing my identity as a mother was crashing my identity as a birth worker was crashing my identity as a wife was crashing. And, you know, I had no career to fall back on for some financial security. And in all of that, I lost my community to I was kind of got a humiliated and outed from my community at that time. So that was a lot. And it resulted in what we might call the dark night of the soul. Because I didn’t recognize myself, and I write about this in my book midwifery for the soul. Because, you know, is the first time that I really started to dance with darkness, you could say. And I really went into the underworld and experienced the underworld, in its very traditional senses of like, sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll, you could say, right? And so you know, in talking about relationships, and things like that, I experienced all kinds of challenging relational dynamics as well during that time. What I want to say about it is, I knew, I knew enough to know that I was completely falling apart and being cracked, open. And I knew that because of my profound trust in physiology and biology, which has been with me my whole life, which is so curious, you know, even just studying athletics, and being a former college athlete, myself, and like, I just always trusted in the intelligence of our biological system. And I sensed that to find myself and heal from what was happening to my system, that there must be a different way than the more traditional mental health way where I’d be diagnosed and probably prescribed medications. And I really didn’t want to go down that path. But I had hit a point where I couldn’t do it alone anymore. And the traditional practices of, you know, different, maybe spiritual, alternative spiritual healing methods, they weren’t working for me. And I say that it felt like my brain was cracked. And because I could not hold a sentence, I could not formulate a thought I was uncontrollably raging. I was really out of character. And I knew that and I was scared. You know, somebody like myself that likes to talk about stuff. The fact that I couldn’t actually talk about anything that was longer than maybe a two minute attention span. And it took so much effort, and I’d be exhausted by it afterwards. Like I knew I was suffering from PTSD. And so that’s when I started to research PTSD and neurobiology at the same time. And this was before polyvagal theory came on the map. This was before Gabor Ma Tei. got famous. This was before the wisdom of trauma came out, right, this was this was still it, trauma was still something we weren’t talking about. And so I was as determined as I was in my birthing experiences, I was determined to heal, physiologically and neuro biologically, and socially and emotionally from my trauma. And so, what followed after that, what has been my journey of recalibrating, and you know, what I say going from that wounded to the wise, and integrating through that integration process. That’s really what has led me to develop the flowing fears process, for example that we might talk about today. It really has come out of my own trials and tribulations of applying trauma informed concepts of healing, to my excuse me, to my own journey, and seeing what worked and what didn’t work. And then over time, realizing, Oh, I don’t just like all of a sudden, weave all the pieces back together again, and I’m like, fine. What happens is, we still get activated and triggered. Trauma triggers can come in at any time and we He can’t predict when, where, how, and they’re so destabilizing when they do. And I’m going to talk a little bit about this because I think it’s actually important. And so when, for example, there was this, this moment this like, press precipice is that the word precipitous moment when I had, you know, I was I was back out there, I had already written my book, I was feeling like I had woven some of these pieces together and really experienced some good healing work. And I was still struggling with some deep insecurities that were still hooked in. And I knew, I knew it was like, I’m not there still something else, like I just knew, it was like, there’s still something missing. And it felt like it was on this spiritual soulful plane, you know? And it’s like, okay, I got my brain back, physiologically, you know, and I’ve got some skills in my back pocket, and I can manage life well enough. And I’m, I’m in a healthy relationship now. So it’s like, Okay, I’ve got, I’ve got things here. But something was still unsettled. And I had presented to a group of people, I think there are about 30 healthcare workers. And typically, I love presenting and you know, but I often still struggle with an insecurity or an imposter complex and all of that stuff. After this event, there was one question that somebody in the audience have asked me, it wasn’t a bad question. But that question triggered something in me. And when I got home that evening, it was as if darkness and a chateau just overwhelmed me. And my nervous system was so activated, and my husband was home at the time. And I remember so clearly being in the kitchen. And it was as if the walls were kind of coming in on me, everything was coming in on me closing in on me, right. And I went from what is that divergent to convergent? Right, where it’s like, all of a sudden, this narrow focus, and the sound started to get loud, and they were swishing around. And I had to, like, hang on to the countertop. And my husband didn’t know what was happening. I knew what was happening. And I had to close my eyes. And all I could hear were the deepest, darkest thoughts, that the only way out of what it was that I was experiencing, was to die. And I had been there before, right? I had courted that, that inner voice of, you know, the ideation of, I’d be better off not being here. And so that came back full out. And it shocked me and surprised me. And at the same time, as this dark, looming shadow, everything coming in on me, my nervous system being so activated, if you no one could say I was having a panic attack, right? Like I never, I don’t like to just label those things. Because what does that actually mean? How are you actually experiencing that panic attack? Right? Well, here I am in this state. And I guess that would meet the criteria of a panic attack. And I’m hearing on one side that the darkest of dark thoughts and really, really struggling with it, like really wanting to out myself like to just, you know, I’m done. Right. On the other side, I’m hearing, Jen, you know, what you need to do? You know it. And I felt the tug of war. And it was this moment in time where I understood that I had a decision, I had a choice. Up until that point, I don’t think I was conscious enough to know that I had a choice. And it was that choice moment in which I had to consciously redirect my energy and attention and apply the knowledge that I had been gathering. And that was like a game changing moment for me. And I understand, like working with lots of clients, I understand that that is the hardest moment is when we’re in what I would call the shitstorm. And our typical pattern is to just be swept away by that shitstorm. And it’s that we’re exhausted afterwards. And then we’re calling all of our friends and we’re just like, we’re not sure if we’re going to make it through this time. Right. And we’re just in the crisis and it’s just swirling and twirling around us, right like a tornado. I call that the trauma tornado. And it was Is this moment that even in the trauma tornado, I could do something different. And I did, I did something radically different. And I redirected my energy and attention. And in that moment, I actually tracked every step of the way of what I did to get myself out. And that became the process, the 10 step process in the flowing fears process. And then I just kept applying it, every time I applied it, I applied it, I applied it to myself. And then I started to apply it with my clients with results. And then I just kind of, you know, slowly tweaked it a little bit here, a little bit there. But it changed the trajectory.
Silas Rose 35:49
I so appreciate this conversation, because it’s, it’s, again, very personal, and there’s, it’s not a theoretical thing you’re talking about, you’re touching a very kind of subtle point, that kind of choice point, then everyone eventually encounters if they go through that dark night. Because life gets very narrow, and the thoughts can be very convincing. So it’s might be a good point to actually transition to talking about the flowing fears process.
Jennifer Summerfeldt 36:30
Yeah. Well, I guess we could say the first step is actually that choice point. But I say the first step is noticing, right, so as avid meditator yourself, I’m sure you could appreciate that. Right? It’s, it’s the act of noticing what’s happening in that moment, and naming it right. So noticing the felt sensations, noticing. Where in your biology, are you experiencing? The high amounts of felt experience of trigger dysregulation? Right, everybody feels differently the throat, heart, back, neck, guts, right? Legs, toes, fingers, like, it’s so interesting how we do seem to have certain areas that get activated and are louder than other areas. So that noticing in and of itself actually shifts the dynamic. So we shift from being in the story, which is what’s triggering us, right? We’re reliving that story, we’re reliving that exchange over and over again, like a glitched. Record. And, and then we’re just lost in it. It’s like we’ve stepped into that movie. Whereas that first point, that choice point, is stepping out of the story. And noticing the body, right, noticing the degree of activation, and then giving it all away. Without even getting into the survival and that so this is great. So we go from noticing and naming, right? So let’s say I’m noticing that my heart is pounding super loud, super fast. There’s heat in my chest, it’s radiating into my back. It’s tingling, it’s vibrating, it’s tight. It’s constricted, right? Like, the more descriptive we can get it, the more we get into the experience that we’re having right now. And, again, that distracts us from going into the story. Okay, so we noticed that we name it, then we bring our breath into that space. Okay, so it’s very embodied. So so depending on one skill level, right? I’ll invite somebody including myself, to just land there. Let’s just land there for a moment. No need to do anything about it. No need to change it. No need for it to be different. Right. I would like to like just sort of tiptoe back as a preface. So in the work that I do, I always talk about orienting towards safety. And in a lot of somatic work. This is really important too, so that the nervous system understands that in this moment in time, there are no active threats. The mind might be perceiving a threat and telling you a story of threat, but in this moment, let’s say spreads that are not in a field in which there there is an act of threat. It’s important to name that. So let’s just assume based on what we’re talking about that I already know that, right. And in the beginning, when I did this, I used to have to lock the doors, or shut the windows or put a Do Not Disturb site on. Because if my nervous system could attune a little bit and beyond edge towards, you know, could somebody come in, might I be interrupted, you know, might somebody let’s say intrude or break into my space, for example, I need to know that I’ve done everything I can to settle that part of my nervous system. So once that’s set, now I can turn my attention inwards, right? So, for example, a lot of meditators have a really hard time just tuning in, because that nervous system is still scanning its external environment for potential threats. So if that’s not dealt with, then it’s almost impossible to even stay with the felt sensation.
Silas Rose 41:10
As you are speaking what’s coming up for me right now. It’s more kind of a collective experience. I mean, people can kind of relate to, because sometimes it’s it’s really hard to know, what’s personal trauma? And what’s just, you know, we’re picking up the vibe from the herd.
Jennifer Summerfeldt 41:28
Yeah, I mean, you hit the nail on the head, we’re in a collective shitstorm. And many of us haven’t even had the opportunity to address our own personal shitstorm. And so, it’s hard sometimes to differentiate. You know, we’re not separate beings. This is true. And one of the things that I often say, is that we heal collectively. You know, so for me, the past, you know, couple years has been more about the collective healing than my personal healing. It’s been a, you know, it’s been like a ping pong of both. So, as an individualistic culture, in Western culture, this idea is a little bit different. Because so much attention is on this idea that we need to heal in isolation, well, that’s actually bullshit. And we need to heal collectively in relation with one another, through a process called co regulation. And that comes from Steven Porges. His work in polyvagal theory, my teacher used to say, and this was in the birth work world. And again, it just maps on to polyvagal. so beautifully. So my teacher used to say, the strongest current, the strongest energy, the strongest, regulated nervous system, in the space in the birthing space, for example, holds the charge. And what she meant by that was, we become an anchor for people to experience safety, security attachments, to be seen, to be soothed. And that can actually shift the collective survival stress in into the collective what I would call thriving state. And so when I say I think we can heal collectively, or that we’re being positioned, and we’re being challenged, to face this collective chaos. Consciously, right, with intention, and purpose, conviction, you know, where we focus our energy and attention we create more of right. So if, if we can do that collectively, and if we can have enough nervous systems that are anchoring in this, what I call this thriving state, right? In polyvagal, they call it the ventral vagal state. So, anchoring in that, then we can maybe change the collective trajectory. And we could use this time as a huge opportunity for healing, healing our own personal traumas, healing our collective traumas, you know, that opportunity is there, but like birth, I want to say one last thing like birth, there is no guarantee. There’s no guarantee that we’re going to do this. And I think Zack Bush talks a bit about that. If any of you know who he is, I recommend googling him. You know, think Zack Bush talks a little bit about, you know, this bird and this wing and the second wing coming up and you know, that we’re just kind of maybe You’re going to find our way. But that there’s no guarantee. And what we mean by there’s no guarantee, like, you know, the one, the one guarantee the one absolute is that we biologically die. Right, we can argue about consciousness dying or not dying people have different beliefs about but we know that biologically we will die. Other than that, there’s no guarantee that we’ll even be born. And so when we accept that there’s no guarantee that feels risky to the nervous system. So it’s a contradiction. It’s a bit of a paradox, because the nervous system in survival wants certainty, and it’s searching for certainty. And there is no certainty here. So we have to take a leap of faith. And that’s why for me, for example, I like to anchor in neurobiology, because it feels sound, it feels tangible. And so the opportunity is there
Silas Rose 46:00
To end on a high note how do you define a thriving state?
Jennifer Summerfeldt 46:06
in polyvagal theory, they say that, you know, we’re taught that the nervous system has different states that it experiences. And it’s mapped out onto a ladder. And so let’s just imagine the ladder, the bottom of the ladder, we have what’s called the dorsal vagal state, in the middle of the ladder, we have what’s called the sympathetic state. And at the top of the ladder, we have what’s called the ventral vagal state, and the ventral and the dorsal vagal states are connected to the polyvagal nerve, we don’t have to go into them to science of all of that. What we do know is that this dorsal vagal state is the state of deep collapse, immobilization, shutting down turtling. In it’s a deep, deep state of protection and preservation. It’s the oldest aspect of the nervous system of organisms. It’s been around the longest. So you can just kind of imagine, when there are threats, when there are Neurosci threats, there’s this collapse into this state of dorsal, I’m going to end on your high note. So then we’ve got sympathetic, sympathetic is newer than the dorsal vagal, state and sympathetic came online as the mammal state of fight or flight, right. So it’s like, wait a minute, I got claws and fangs, and I can run and I’m big and right. And it’s like, I’m going to fight back or I’m going to run like a cheetah. And it’s like the roaring and you know, so we know a lot about sympathetic, right? It’s like the rubbing of the engine. So sympathetic, and dorsal is what I call your survival stage your survival system together. And connected to that, you’ve got the emotional expressions of fear, anger, to sympathetic and despair, in dorsal. And then we have this, what we would consider to be newly developed social engaged states called ventral vagal, which is connected to thriving the state of possibility, the state of flourishing. And you could say, the emotional quota of joy. And so what we know is that unless that poly vagal nerve has been severed, somehow it’s damaged, that we have within our biology, access to this thriving state at all times. And that’s what led me or led me down to this path of deep questing around not only, you know, the integration of the flowing, fierce process, but wait a minute, if we’re in a collective ships, shitstorm or a personal shitstorm. And we’re waiting for something outside of ourselves to change so that we can move into or move towards thriving so we can access, dreaming, possibility, right? flourishing, joy, gratitude. So you know, only if the things outside of us change, can I access that state I knew, I know, intellectually, that that is actually not true. And it’s not going to happen. I’m going to be waiting a long time for something to change outside of myself before I can change what’s within myself. And so I started practicing in the midst of my own time. are in fear. Can I shift states? When all odds are against us?
Silas Rose 50:21
Tell us more? Sure.
Jennifer Summerfeldt 50:24
Yeah. So with all of this, what I’ve just shared with you, right, that motivated me to organize the this point of view, in a presentation so that I could provide the information, I could lay down the foundation of how it is that you know, I’ve come to this understanding and what supports it. And then hopefully, that will inspire people to become more curious about their own healing journey, and learning a different way to actively engage in their healing, and actively start to shift towards thriving, even when things aren’t changing in their immediate environment.
Silas Rose 51:14
Thank you so much for this inspiring talk. Do you have a website, people can get more information on you?
Jennifer Summerfeldt 51:25
I do. Yeah, I have a few. So to sign up for the webinar, you can go to flowingfears.com And you can just register online in that spray. And then for those who are looking for therapy, especially if they’re a parent, they can go to therapyformoms.ca.