Resources for Trauma Part II-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Healing Emotions

Resources for Trauma Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Healing trauma involves reclaiming a sense of choice about how, when, and where you feel your emotions. For example, you do not want to process traumatic memories in the grocery store or when you are parenting your children. You want to have safe and predictable places and ways to feel and process through difficult life events.

This post is Part II in a series of blogs offering resources for trauma recovery aimed to strengthen your resilience. Part I focuses on your ability to reclaim a sense of safety. This post guides you through the resource of containment, a key skill for managing emotional overwhelm.

“Reclaiming a healthy relationship to our emotions entails reflecting upon the earliest education we’ve had about feelings; the messages we received in childhood. When a parent soothes our anxieties or helps us grieve losses we literally surrender into the feeling of being contained. The messages we received as children shape our experiences and become our inner voices into adulthood. You can learn how to hold your emotions in a loving way, to repair the wounds of the past.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Resources for Trauma Recovery-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Cultivating Peace in the Wake of Trauma

Resources for Trauma Recovery Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Traumatic events disrupt life, leaving you feeling ungrounded, frightened, and often overwhelmed. Terrifying events strip you of your sense of safety. The experience of distressing or traumatic events is, to some degree, inevitable. However, with sufficient support, it is possible to avoid the development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As a psychologist focused on the healing of trauma, I can assure you that it is possible to recover after exposure to a traumatic event. The first step involves reclaiming a sense of safety and developing resources. “Resources” are the internal and external tools that allow you to feel grounded in the present moment and capable of turning toward the pain without becoming overwhelmed.

“Creating a peaceful environment in your home and cultivating imagery that helps you feel relaxed are important steps on the path to healing PTSD. The beautiful thing about visualizations is that once you have practiced them you can call upon the feeling of safety at any time. You can bring your resources for trauma recovery with you so that you can feel grounded anywhere.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Equanimity amidst Change-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Finding Balance

Equanimity Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The only constant in life is change. This wisdom can be found across traditions. Ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, illuminated the world with his scientific and philosophical understanding that “life is flux.” Within Buddhism we are reminded of the impermanence of all things. Taoist philosopher, Lao Tzu suggests that we take things as they come because “all things pass”.

However, our human nature is to seek safety and stability, especially when faced with transition. Often, we brace against change. We may feel out of control, groundless, and vulnerable. How can we stand in the middle of change? How can we learn to find balance, equanimity, in the midst of the flux of life?

“Equanimity is sometimes inaccurately thought of as an attitude cultivated only by distance and detachment. However, we will never learn to surf the waves of change by watching them from the shore. To live fully requires that we get wet, stand in our uncomfortable edges, fall, maybe even fail, be willing to try again…and sometimes catch a wave.” -Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Art and Soul-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Grief and the Arts

Art and Soul Dr. Arielle Schwartz

No one is immune to grief. Loss comes in many forms. We face personal losses in the endings of relationships, the deaths of loved ones, life changing illnesses or injuries. We face collective losses of war, terrorism, fires, and floods. Hardship can fundamentally change us. We can be changed for the better.

We have a collective cultural blind spot when it comes to death. Often, we are asked to minimize our pain; to pretend we are fine when we aren’t. We have been taught how to gloss over terror, rage, and anguish becoming plastic versions of reality. In order to live fully we must be willing to release our conditioned hiding; to recognize our common longing for authentic presence.

While the human spirit is transformed by loss such change typically starts as unbearable, excruciating, pain. Pain that crumbles the world as you know it, brings you to your knees, and reduces your sense of self to disjointed fragments. In these moments we need containers for the unknown and portals to places beyond words or conceptual ideas. We need people who are unafraid of deep emotional process. We need art to heal the broken heart.

“A poem, a song, a painting, or a dance can awaken the tender places in the heart. The corners of the soul can become heavy with sadness or numbed by an unidentified depression. Art has a way of extracting the stuck and pulling us out of despair. This is why I am a musician, a dancer, a lover of the creative–so that I may walk and work in flow with life. So that I may live fully: art and soul.”
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Resilient Parenting-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Growing Pains

Resilient Parenting Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Life is beautiful…and difficult; a paradox that is almost always exacerbated when raising children. Parenting is a challenging career. Most jobs offer training and experience. However, when it comes to the job of parenting no proper job description has ever been written. No interview is conducted to determine whether you are qualified. Sometimes we step into parenting with expectations vastly different than what occurs.

As a clinical psychologist, I work with “difficult children” and their parents. My first line of intervention is to stop identifying the child as a problem. However, raising any child, “easy” or “challenging,” requires flexibility, adaptability, courage, and tenacity; all core components of resilience.

“Resilient parenting recognizes that challenging moments with children can offer growth opportunities. We raise resilient children by discerning when and how to provide support, building a strong sense of community, and embracing your child’s differences. It is easy to get seduced by the ideal of perfection. There is no perfect parent. Moreover, our inevitable imperfections truly make us who we are.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Letting Go-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Going Back Home

Letting Go Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Going home is complicated. Preparing for my trip home I felt familiar emotions, a mix of gladness and worry. Will I be seduced by my memories of who I once was? My young heart once ached for a reconciliation of perceived wrongdoings, where my experience was acknowledged. In my case, loss and hardships of the past result in a belief that I am “not enough.” Yet my adult understanding is my family did the best they could with what they had. How to overcome a conviction that compromised my confidence and stole precious time?

Dealing with these feelings requires much internal work. In preparation for my trip home I started setting specific intentions of letting go, acceptance, and living in the present moment. However, letting go is often easier said than done and the process has required careful listening to my body, mind, and emotions. Learning to live in the present necessitates a tolerance of “limbo,” the acceptance of transitional spaces.

“Wishing that my childhood had been different does not help. Instead while I grieve the costs of hardships, I must recognize that my unique set of life experiences, both good and bad, all contribute to who I am. Here’s an inside peak at my process of shifting from anger and resentment towards gratitude and acceptance.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Spirituality and Psychotherapy-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

An Intimate Conversation with Linda Baird, LPC

Spirituality and Psychotherapy Dr. Arielle Schwartz

This interview was conducted as part of a series of dialogues with experts about psychotherapy and spirituality by Linda Baird, LPC psychotherapist specializing in Hakomi, Internal Family Systems, and EMDR Therapy and The Four Desires (ParaYoga). Read on for excerpts of the interview and a link to listen to our full conversation.

Speaking about the relationship between spirituality and resilience:

  • What is resiliency?
  • How do these principles inform psychotherapy and spirituality?
  • How can these three principles allow us to stay out of judgment and in present-moment awareness?
  • How you can cultivate resiliency and what this means for your long-term health and happiness.

“Three key elements of resiliency include reducing isolation by connecting to others, recognition that we have the capacity to grow even through challenging life events, and the belief that we can act in ways that influence the course of our lives. Spirituality has many parallel elements to resilience—the need for a spiritual community, practices that help us learn and grow, and an emphasis on an active, engaged approach to life.”
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Natural Vagus Nerve Stimulation-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Trauma, Health, and the Vagus Nerve

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

When working with clients with chronic trauma I commonly hear stories of seizures, migraines, gastrointestinal problems, and autoimmune disorders. The connection between trauma and health is complex, not surprising because there is still so much to learn about our bodies. One component that has been in the news recently is the vagus nerve, an extensive nerve that is taking center stage as a potential “off switch” for disease.

I find this of interest because one’s mental health can have a significant influence on the vagus nerve. So it is no surprise that vagus nerve regulation can be important for responding effectively to the emotional and physiological symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

“Do you have a sensitive nervous system that adversely impacts your health? By developing an understanding of the workings of your vagus nerve you may find it possible to work with your nervous system rather than feel trapped when it works against you. Fine tune your self-care with vagus nerve regulation strategies that can be practiced in the comfort of your home.“
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Mind-Body Medicine-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Mind and Body in Psychotherapy

*Diane is not an actual person, but a composite of several clients Dr. Schwartz has seen over the past several years. Identifying details have been changed to protect their privacy. The treatments and outcomes are real.

Mind-Body Therapy Dr. Arielle Schwartz

By the time Diane came into my office her suffering had become unbearable. Migraines, chronic pain, and insomnia were interfering with her ability to simply live her life. Knowing that psychotherapy can improve health outcomes, her doctor referred her for treatment. Together we began to discuss her symptoms and unpack her history. Diane revealed her ongoing struggles with depression, fatigue, weight gain, and risk for diabetes. I learned of her frightening childhood exposure to domestic violence. She spoke of her father’s alcoholism and that her mother was never involved in her life. With tears streaming down her cheeks she said, “They never should have had children; I should have never been born.”

Unresolved trauma takes a significant toll on the mind and body. Unresolved childhood trauma is particularly insidious and is now considered to be a leading cause of heart disease, lung disease, and a contributor to the development of auto-immune illnesses. If you see yourself in Diane’s story there is good news…

Mind-body medicine reminds us that health promoting behaviors such as exercise, healthy diet, and positive social connections strengthen your resilience mentally, emotionally, and physically. New research reveals that psychotherapy has the potential to heal the body and the mind; reversing the physiological impact of trauma and improving your mental outlook on life.

“Trauma leaves wounds on the body, imprints in the psyche, and markers on our DNA. You feel broken. You can heal. You believe you are damaged. Believe you can be repaired. Relationships hurt you. Healthy relationships help you heal. Attending to the wounds of trauma is not easy. It is worthwhile.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

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Reclaiming Pleasure-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Savor the Moment

Reclaiming pleasure Dr. Arielle Schwartz

I feel the warm air on my skin and taste the ripe watermelon as the juice drips off my chin, luxuriating in my senses. Author Leo Lionni’s mouse Frederick collects colors during the summer and fall to call upon during the long, dark winter months. Savoring pleasurable moments is an investment into your personal resilience account; withdraw as needed.

Having just returned from Mexico I am reminded of the importance of stepping away from our routines into spontaneity. When we let go of inhibitions we open ourselves to the magic of the unexpected like the moment I walked onto the sand under a full moon to discover a sea turtle laying her eggs. I sat on the beach for the next several hours in a state of awe, open to the gift the moment had to offer.

Praise for laughter, sunshine, and endless summer days.

“It is a human need to laugh, to feel awe, and to delight in our senses. This may require that we become selfish and cultivate opportunities in your life to experience pleasure. Say yes to that which truly nourishes and excites you. Your body and mind will thank you.”
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