Before I say anything, I want to credit Bessel Van Der Kolk, Kimberly Johnson, and Peter Levine for their work in the field of trauma and somatic therapy which has taught me so much about healing personal and trans-generational trauma. I also credit Alice Miller whose breakthrough work in child abuse brought to light what was formerly unacknowledged and is now the gold standard for child psychology. Additionally, I feel called to give credit to the patience and compassion of my mentors, recovery sponsors, and therapists. Their wisdom is the bedrock for all of my work.
A client recently asked me to explain what I meant by a "social nervous system" which prompted me to write this post. Please note that it's a HUGE topic, and I'm still very deep in the learning process. I have yet to fully dive into the work of Stephen Porges whose polyvagal theory is the basis for what is known as the social engagement system.
I use the phrase social nervous system as a metaphor for the way attachments and social awareness can influence our perceptions of (and reactions to) life. We are mammals, after all, and we rely on our instincts to keeps us alive in a precarious world .
During any kind of stimulating or threatening activation, the nervous system ideally responds instinctively to move us towards safety. Afterwards, a built in repair system discharges the energy, and we bounce back to normal functioning. If, however, we override our natural response because it goes against social cues and beliefs around what's appropriate or acceptable then we might experience a glitch in our system, otherwise known as trauma.
It's important to remember that the first assurance of safety always comes from our environment. Not just our physical environment but the people who coinhabit our environment. In a social sense, this begins with family and the attachments we formed with primary caregivers. Later it extends to religious communities, peer groups, professional networks, and society at large. Our survival brain recognizes that we need others to stay alive, and the extent to which we will go to earn and keep approval and acceptance varies case by case. Additionally, with the addition of the social media, our social nervous system has grown wider than ever before in history.
For anyone who was raised around dysfunctional family dynamics that include alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, sex addiction, codependence, mental illness, sexual abuse, narcissistic abuse, religious abuse, and any form of neglect or chronic invalidation, the social cues you relied on to feel safe were most likely distorted.
When children feel traumatized they depend on co-regulation with parents, siblings, and other adults to gain a sense of safety and security (regulation is any adjustment we make consciously or unconsciously to function normally). Kids need a mirror- first to validate their experience, then to help name feelings around the event, and finally encouragement to shake it off and self-soothe. If the people they depend on aren't regulated themselves, this poses a problem. If someone tries to normalize a child's traumatic experience by pretending that nothing is wrong (or any attempt to interrupt / shut down the natural process of discharge and repair) this adds trauma on top of trauma.
When cues from our social nervous system clash with personal instincts, our brain responds as though it's facing a life or death dilemma because it has to choose which system to trust. An invalidated sense of reality interrupts the natural process of repair, and in time becomes what is known as complex trauma.
To make things even more "complex", this trauma will repeat itself until it's repaired. We are constantly looking to others to mirror and affirm us, which is natural, but if we habitually choose unregulated people for this task we stay stuck in old trauma indefinitely.
Right now there are multiple generations of grown, invalidated children acting out of old trauma.
Many are caught between the instinct to repair (which can require stepping outside of family and social networks) and wanting to stay "safe" by not disrupting the status quo.
Looking at it from this vantage point, it doesn't seem unusual to see Greta Thunberg holding up a proverbial mirror and saying, "This is not okay. This is not fair. Please, adults, fix it." In other words, do the work of your own repair so that I don't inherit your trauma. Even though she is talking about the climate crisis, she is an archetype for uncovering the shadow and getting to the root of the problem.
And to be sure, it isn't fair. It's not fair to inherit the ignorance of past generations and be robbed of the pursuit of happiness. Paradoxically it's exactly what our elders and parents were forced to do when they were children, and it's what many of us in recovery do. Maybe the tipping point we are witnessing now will lead to some major evolutionary and spiritual breakthroughs.
Our country, as a collective body, holds deep ruptures that began with the genocide of First Americans, the enslavement of Africans, and every other crime against humanity ingrained in its history. It also holds the trauma of war and scarcity which led to present-day laws and practices that are unsustainable and have put the entire planet in crisis.
Our social nervous system is in need of deep repair. And it's happening! Just look at all the social movements that define this chapter in history.
"Creatives, healers, and empaths are in a time of power" -Kimberly Johnson
Pluto stations direct on Wednesday, making it the most influential planet along with Venus who rules the sun in Libra. Pluto is all about deep, transformational change, and Venus rules relationships and contracts- to ourselves, others, and the world. The bottom line is that by doing the work of recovery and repair NOW, we can become the co-regulators for our ruptured society. The world is in dire need of practical, compassionate approaches for healing systemic trauma, and as always it begins with us.
Life is a series of ruptures and repair according to Peter Levine, a biophysicist and psychologist, whose life's work was devoted to studying trauma, its effects on the nervous system, and the way a "thinking" society has dulled our innate physical wisdom.
This year I've invested a good deal of time and money towards learning about the nervous system because it is solely responsible for shaping our perception of reality. Everything we pick up through our senses and in our environment lays the groundwork for how we interact with the world. We are also hugely influenced by the genetic memory in our DNA which leads to an entirely separate discussion.
In a nutshell, "trauma represents animal instincts gone awry," writes Levine in his book Waking the Tiger. To stay healthy "our nervous systems and psyches need to face challenges and to succeed in meeting those challenges." This is such a refreshing approach to those of us who have been taught to repress, deny, or avoid conflict or intensity. The way out is IN. But we first have to build a strong sense of physical presence and learn to trust our intuition. .
The Sun moved into Libra on the Autumn Equinox and this week's astrology presents us with opportunities to step up to the challenges in our relationships- with each other, our selves, and our money- all the Venus ruled areas of life. If trauma means being stuck, immobilized or frozen then repair is movement, fluidity and thawing out. May the warmth of the Libra sun be in your favor.
Feeling stretched in different directions, unable to focus or get adequate rest, weighed down by a system intent on self destruction by forcing a never ending grind. These are all symptoms of adrenal fatigue, one of the main causes of hormonal imbalance in women, and at the root of so many health issues.
As a healer, I recognize a collective need for restorative re-balancing. A lot of us are suffering from heart heaviness right now, as the planet undergoes a massive healing crisis. Inundated with information, our nervous systems are overwhelmed. This is a wake up call... it's where Virgo's message comes in to create paths to security and health. To practice the physical embodiment of compassion, beginning with self.
This week's astrology provides the perfect opportunity to set new routines in motion that promote sustainable wellbeing. Self care isn't just about getting basic needs met, although that's were some of us have to start. It's about making decisions from a place of self parenting and emotional sobriety. So if you need permission to take better care of yourself then here it is. The world needs you whole and integrated.
Virgo Season Self-care
practice setting & respecting boundaries
release suppressed emotions
affirm positive beliefs about self
embrace social support / ask for help
daily spiritual connection
Like building a fire, we have to be present with our magic. We have to stoke it and stay patient until coals form and it's strong enough to withstand a little wind and turbulence.
Some of us fall into old habits of self-sabotage by sharing our magic with overly critical people, many of whom are magically wounded themselves. We wait for approval, compare ourselves unfairly... the search for legitimacy is endless.
This unconscious masochism is an attempt to keep ourselves small because at some point we were told that our magic wasn’t good enough… that it was too big, too loud, too colorful, too gay, too emotional, too angry, too sexual, too sensitive, or just too TOO as a friend used to say.
The world needs you and your magic; not a watered down version but a blaze. Stoke the flame by surrounding yourself with allies and champions of your magical self worth. Avoid naysayers and crazy makers. Keep your magic close until it’s ready.
LUNAR ECLIPSE 24° Capricorn
For a long time, I used my smallness to feel like I was making a difference in a world obsessed with ego gratification. I wanted no part of that, and so I carved an identity out of what I thought was humility and rebellion.
Today I know humility isn't staying small but using bigness as a change agent. Nothing wrong with wanting better for yourself, especially if it frees you up to do better things in the world, to show up more generously, and share without fear of lack. I write a lot about scarcity because it's been a driving factor in my life, and I see it driving every dysfunctional system around me. .
It's almost impossible to change a system as old and ingrained as scarcity with mere thinking. Most likely we inherited our beliefs early on and keep them around to feel safe. When we do little things to stay small we assure our survival brain that we're okay. Breaking the pattern of scarcity can bring on discomfort, depression, panic because it's a huge disruption. .
To change a pattern we have to change our actions, one step at a time. Those of us in recovery know this. We didn't get sober by thinking our addictions away. We had to implement an entirely new way of doing life and adopt a new language for it. We had to create a sub-culture where new behavior could thrive and feel accepted. And over time, we experienced a psychic change as the result and then shared our success with others, with no fear of losing what we had because we realized there was enough. We found abundance.
In awakening to our Godselves- the true nature of who we are- we heal the world. Not through egoism, but in acts of self charity and beyond. Sharing resources, support, stories, and recovery... this is how we make a difference.
SOLAR ECLIPSE 10° CANCER
Cancer evokes primitive memory, touching on our truest origin, our most essential nature, our oldest wisdom, our greatest yearning. This eclipse opens the deep well of remembrance around HOME & BELONGING- the feelings, smells, tastes, and sounds of our earliest attachments and those of our ancestors.
We project the ways we learned to love and be loved. Our familial codes, and our experience of security (or lack thereof) seep into our relationships, social contracts and laws. This eclipse can bring profound enlightenment around matters of belonging. It can also magnify where we have yet to accept those rejected or orphaned parts of ourselves and where our boundaries have been violated.
Love is the grand intelligence here, holding the power to heal and restore any wounding from the womb out. But it isn't without challenge. The archetype of the refugee is in the collective forefront right now for a reason. Honor what is dear to you on this darkest night, and consider how both boundaries and inclusivity have a place in the order of things.
Three summers ago I was on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, walking into a gold mirrored building while the sales clerk eyed me with a combination of suspicion and contempt. One look at my shoes, and the jig was up- we both knew I wasn't there to shop. And even if I had pulled out a card and purchased something, it would have been small- a trinket at best- as a girl like me is too practical to spend my rent on a handbag.
Over the course of the week, there were a lot of moments when my lack of status and wealth seemed to stand out, and I had to talk myself off some steep egoic ledges. By the end of the trip I was SO ready to be back home, in the other LA. On that trip I remember feeling most happy sitting on the beach eating fish tacos with a friend. Those tacos were $3 a piece, and there was no special sauce or fancy artisan anything. Just an honest taco. The ocean was in front of me, and in that moment I knew I was winning at life.
If I can love a taco for what it is then I can be loved as my most honest, realest self. And so can you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't have aspirations or dreams, it just means you're already a raging success because you're YOU.
I've tried it all- trading in one identity for another, going from one job to the next, falling in and out of love, geographic solutions, and the quick fixes that don't actually fix- drugs, denial, distraction.
There is a phrase in the Mardi Gras Indian culture that has always called to me. The big chief sings it before going into mock battle with other tribes on the streets of New Orleans. Made cu defio...
It means into the wilderness.
For me it signaled going in, facing my fears and and the things I'd been denying (because those things have a way of catching up anyway). It meant accepting my past and all the disowned parts of myself. Seeing how my trials gave me the spiritual path I now walk and the wisdom I now share.
Knowing that our depth of character and maturity comes from the integration of our experiences is part of this year's Pluto, Saturn, and South Node conjunction.
The health and prosperity of every organism is based on the functioning communication and homeostasis of cells. At at a macro level, our society operates like any other organism and we are the cells of this planetary body.
Imagine you've been given a diagnosis and informed of how critical it is to make changes. That's basically what's happening with Uranus' transit through Taurus in the next 7 years. Taurus rules our physical body, our environment, and our agriculture. It also rules currency and what we place value on (Venus rules Taurus). The shadow of Taurus is greed, scarcity, and an inflexible attitude towards change. Uranus is a change agent. Wherever it travels, expect disruption of the status quo.
By changing our thoughts and behaviors around environmental stewardship, physical mindfulness, and how we value life on this planet, we are part of the healing process. A harmonious human "flora" can withstand the turbulence of deep sea change. The irreversible, necessary and cleansing change that is cresting now.
Today begins the year of Jî Hài, the yin earth pig. If you were born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, or 2007 then this is your year. Whatever the focus was in 2007 is where you can expect growth and maturity. It's also worth mentioning that this cycle coincides perfectly with Jupiter's transit through Sagittarius.
Yin pigs are nurturing and resourceful with a knack for helping people grow into their fullest potential. They intuitively understand the value of a thorough process and are known for their slow, steady patience. Jupiter is the planet of expansion and opportunity. This can either create success or excess depending on how consciously we work with the energy.
Codependency is the shadow of the Helper. When we exalt others before ourselves, we create an inner imbalance and disharmony. If you're a yin pig this might be the year you allow others to help nurture your growth, as yin pigs tend to take a back seat in situations that trigger an unconscious fear of success.
This year, the challenge for pig year folks is to become more assertive and embodied. Also, making sustainable investments in personal growth is key to any success. We can't expect to handle power and money responsibly without first establishing an underlying sense of self value and worth. So do you, lil pig. Just. do. you. 🐖
This blog is unpaid and ad free. Your readership means the world, but if you would like to support my work in a more substantial way you can donate anytime with Paypal.