Hello, I’m Tamara Bess. Welcome to my podcast: Listen to Your Body Heal Your Life. Today is July 4th, 2018 and this is episode 4. Today I’ll be answering your questions. Once a month, I do a listener question-response and today I’m going to be doing that. First, I want to wish you a very happy Fourth of July.
I’m also going to start with my check in on my 30-Day Supplement Challenge. Today is day 21, I’m 3 weeks in. By this time in a 30-Day Challenge you should have a clear idea of the issues that are surrounding and underlying the focus of your challenge. You should be able to understand what really plays into that thing that you’ve been looking at in your 30 day challenge. You should know also the direction of your next 30 day challenge, because each 30 day challenge really does inform your next stage or level of growth. So, by 3 weeks in, you should know how to fine-tune if the next 30 days includes a deeper dive into the same issues or whether you want to change and shift directions. So what have I learned I’ve learned during my 30-day supplement challenge: that supplements really help me. The magnesium and the other minerals that I’ve been using really do help me and they can control my symptoms.
My asthma has improved. I’m consistently sleeping well and I know that I need to continue with this protocol. I’m still on asthma medication and I still have muscle twitches in my legs and feet especially in the morning, but I’m sleeping through the night without any leg cramps. I’m also sleeping really well on a consistent basis and I’m not finding myself with any anxiety symptoms or depressive symptoms. So that’s really going well. The other thing that I’ve learned on the 30-Day Supplement challenge for me, is that it’s really easy to get laxidasical about my supplement protocol. One of the things that happens when you have a chronic illness like asthma is that you just get tired of taking medicine, and the truth is I get tired of taking supplements too. So, every morning I add my Himalayan pink sea salt to my water and then I add my minerals to that and then I have to make sure that I drink all of it throughout the day and I just get tired of it sometimes. And so, I know that that’s one of my patterns and I have to watch out for that. There was a few days that I didn’t get all of my supplements in and one of the days I thought: “Well, it doesn’t even matter, I can skip a day of my supplements.” And that day, I didn’t feel well. I think it’s really important for me, in my body, if I’m trying to get myself to a saturation point where I’m completely mineralized, where I fully have the stores of magnesium in my body to be able to do all the things I need to do to be completely well and healthy, I have to stay vigilant, like it or not.
But, on the upside, I think I talked about this in the last episode, is that I actually did stop taking my thyroid medication and I’m feeling much better since I’ve done that. And I also . . . on the personal level, like the mental health level, the personal habits level, which is what the 30-Day Challenges are really all about is that I’ve discovered that I have this underlying belief. It’s an underlying belief that I’ve had my whole life. Which is: if you’re careful and do something good for your health, then that gives you enough leeway that you can also do things that are not healthy for you.
So, my underlying belief was that if I can’t have the foods that are bad for me, foods that I know are bad for my body, that I’m somehow being punished. So, I vacillated back and forth for a few days with being upset that my body should dictate what I can and I can’t eat! Because I wanted to eat what I wanted to eat! And I wanted to say I could eat whatever I wanted because I’m taking my supplements. And, actually, it wasn’t true. So, I’ve noticed more and more that I have a not positive effect in my body when when I eat wheat or also when I eat sugar. And I know for sure, when I eat dairy, because when I eat dairy I break out (milk products, I break out). I break out on the surface of my skin, and a doctor told me once: gosh, if that’s happening on your skin, what’s happening at a deeper level? I totally agree with that.
So that’s kind of what I’ve learned about myself. And so, four days ago, which was day 17, I became aware that essentially I’ve let my emotional attachments to food rule my life. So, I’m going to just share with you what I wrote on day 17 in my journal. This, remember, is me eating things that I know kind of are discretionary foods or maybe indiscretion food and feeling like I can because I’m taking the minerals in. It’s like saying you can drink a little poison because you have a healthy diet, it doesn’t really make sense. But here’s what my journal entry was for June 30th 2018:
Yesterday at noon I ate movie theater popcorn. It made me feel ill and this morning my left knee hurts. Last night with clients [when I’m working at the office sometimes my mind wanders and I said…] I started thinking about going out and finding dairy-free desserts those sugar-filled flour-based desserts I often have those thoughts and I often indulge, but last night it made me mad. I don’t want to be one of those people who, in spite of health issues, doesn’t take care of her body. My body gives me clear signals when I eat things that cause me to be unwell. I’ve had enough! (I said with exclamation points). Last night I came home and ate food I had previously prepared. I’m done being that person.
So, it’s really interesting when you write every day in a journal and really inspect closely what you’re doing in a 30-Day Challenge. By the time I got to 3 weeks, it was really clear that I had a consistent pattern of ignoring my body signals of what’s good for me in favor of emotional eating. And so once it made me mad (it really made me mad) that I was back in that pattern, and I was still in that pattern, and had never really looked at it closely enough to break it. It made me mad. So, it clicked in my head after I watched these patterns in myself for almost 3 weeks that I’m tired of the struggle. I’m aware of the details because I’m daily journaling, and I know what happens. Like, eating movie theater popcorn made me sick and then my knee was hurting. I think I said in episode one that I have a high rheumatoid arthritis factor, but I don’t have symptoms, But that’s not true. I do have symptoms when I eat things that disagree with my body. So, I got mad and I just stopped.
So, I’ve been four days without sugar, without dairy, and without wheat or grains, because I know that that’s what works for me. So, today is day 21 of my supplement Challenge and that challenge is leading me to my next 30 day challenge. I’ll give a wrap-up of this 30 day challenge next week and tell you what the next one is going to look like.
So, onto the topic for today’s podcast. I already said that I would be answering the questions once a month, and so today I’m going to address a question that’s come up to me and several different forms. I put a lot of thought into this topic, in terms of helping people understand how to navigate with today’s media. So, the first part of the review of Dr. Kelly Brogan’s book happened last Wednesday and I promised that part 2 would happen today, but because this is going to be a monthly feature on the first or second Wednesday of the month, I want to introduce my monthly feature today and complete that review next week. So, if you’re looking for part two of The Kelly Brogan review for her book A Mind of Your Own, I would encourage you to look for Episode 5 because part two of that review will be there. I also invite you to e-mail at email@example.com with questions because once a month I’ll construct a show around your questions and concerns like today.
Today’s topic is around being triggered by the news.In recent years there’s been a lot of stories that have been covered in the mainstream news media that have really become the source of concern for people that I talk to. People have been triggered by the “Me, too” movement, hearing details of things that happened with Hollywood’s elite and sexual abuse. People have been traumatized when they have participated in things like activism in the women’s marches. People, of course, feel traumatized from election night 2016. People are currently feeling traumatized by this immigration issue that’s happening where families are being separated who are coming into our country. And then, another issue that’s coming up that I’m seeing more recently in the media or at the same time in the media is this idea that we may be gearing up for another civil war in America.
When I think about these issues and when I think about the media and I think about how we interact with it as individuals, I realize that in our private experience there’s two things: there’s public discourse and then there’s private experience. They aren’t necessarily the same things. There really are three categories of response to things like this that are happening in the media.
The first category is what I would describe as feeling triggered and withdrawing from the news media, from interactions, from conversations in what would be seen as a flight response. Where reviewing stories or hearing details of stories remind you of your own trauma and it creates an impulse to hide or an overcoming sense that what you’re seeing in the news is happening to you now, causing you to relive your own traumas. That’s one category of responses.
The second one that I want to talk about today is feeling triggered in a way that makes you feel like you need to lash out or fight. In this case, it would be where personal history that you have causes resonance inside of you with a news story that you’re hearing or seeing. Where you have strong feelings of helplessness that drive you to do something. That’s when people marched or make signs or scream in the streets. It can decrease your feelings of being alone while you’re doing something active, but at the end of the day, you still may be feeling triggered. It still may be increasing what I would say is your “body history trauma load.” So I think it’s important to understand if that’s the category you fit in.
Finally, the third one is feeling triggered in response to social pressure or media messages when people get worked up. We don’t know which category someone is in. When people get worked up and they start projecting their own unresolved issues into the public forum, sometimes that can cause you to feel triggered in response to the pressure. Almost like feeling triggered by an angry parent or feeling triggered by an out-of-control partner. It can take on that kind of a feel. And so, your private experiences might have entered into the public arena and make you feel a feeling of judgement or being judged based on your strong emotions. You might, when you’re in that experience, feel like you’re immobilized: like you can’t do anything, like you can’t move forward based on the emotional experience of being in this whirlwind of strong emotions that are being put out into the public forum. You might feel overwhelmed if you don’t respond to the pressure to stand up and fight.
What’s worse, in today’s climate, if you don’t stand up and fight and you’re standing next to someone who has unresolved issues and they feel that their sense of helplessness will be resolved by getting everyone around them to stand up and fight, your inner wounds, your sense of safety, your feelings of being able to protect yourself against the threat maybe put in jeopardy. You may feel like it’s in jeopardy.
It’s important to know which one of those categories you fit in when you’re dealing with the news media or when you’re interacting with other people who are responding in their own emotional way to the news media. All of these things wake up what I call our “body history.” So, what is your body history? Your body history (that idea is based on the work of Dr. Bessel van der Kolk who wrote The Body Keeps The Score) is the idea that we have this reserved energy in our body when we go through experiences that remain emotionally charged and unresolved. So, how do I know when my body history wakes up? Well, it’s at those moments when I feel like my emotions are overwhelming or out of proportion to the situation I’m finding myself in. Everyone can look back at situations, in a family situation or with a friend or at work where your response was out of proportion, it was larger than was needed for the situation at hand. Usually when that happens, that’s when you know you’re being triggered and your body history is waking up and telling you that was happening right now in this moment is the same thing that’s happened to you before that carried lots of emotional energy and ended up being stored energy in your body that makes you feel unsafe.
So what I want to say with the media and whichever category you find yourself in based on these news stories is that: it’s really important, at the end of the day, that you have to take care of yourself. No matter if you decide that you want to heal in private and never take the issue to the streets, or if you decide that you’re going to make a sign and join protesters, or you decide that you aren’t going to even join in conversations about news or politics. Whichever choice you make, it’s really important for you to be able to move forward with a sense of balance and well-being inside your body. What do I mean when I say that? What I mean is, that there’s this really thin line between feeling activated to do something because you feel compulsion driven by those unresolved emotions that are in your body history and there’s a difference between that and making a healthy non-compulsive choice that makes a difference. Before you can know the difference between that healthy non-compulsive choice that makes a difference and just feeling triggered and activated to do something, you have to sit with yourself. You have to understand where your emotions are coming from and what’s actually realistic for you personally given your own experience. You have to know the likely outcome of your choices and what you want for yourself. Many times, when we’re acting, propelled by what’s in our body history that’s unresolved, we don’t have that awareness. We’re not paying attention to what the likely outcome is for us personally. So, I’m even talking . . . if you go to a protest march, if you go to something like that and you’re going because it feels right, but you’re not going with an awareness of where you are in your body, about how healed this issue is or not you’re likely to be re-traumatized, at worst, and exhausted emotionally, at the least. The best possible outcome is that maybe you find that you’re not alone, but really to be focused and clear about what happening for you in your body is essential if you’re going to be effective in activism and able to do that without increasing your own wounds.
Let me share an example with you to help you understand this and bring it home. On September 11th, 2001, I lost my very favorite aunt in the Pentagon. I had lived with her and her husband and their family (four children) for five months in Germany while I was 18. I was their nanny, so I cared for the children and I really developed a close relationship with my aunt. And then, fast forward, on 9/11 . . . my aunt and her husband were at the Pentagon that day but, they had planned to play hooky so that they so that they could stay home and pack because they were being re-stationed to Northern California. But, because they had a good work ethic, they decided that they were going to go ahead and go into work instead of skipping the day and then pack later. And so, they’re both at the Pentagon and I’m upstairs making the bed in California and I get a phone call saying that I should turn on the TV. And, you know, the moment I saw that the Pentagon was burning, I knew that my aunt was gone. So I called family members who had been in communication with my uncle, her husband, and sure enough she couldn’t be found. And as the days and weeks passed, it became clear that she wasn’t going to be found and we needed to grieve her loss. But, I’m telling you, at the moment I saw the Pentagon burning, I started a grieving process that took me ten years to resolve. I have to say that part of the reason that my grief took 10 years to resolve is that when private grief becomes public, it becomes really difficult to complete because there’s parts of that work that have to be done privately. That’s why I’m drawing the parallel here.
When the public forum, when the media when social and political movements trigger something in you that has yet to be healed, your involvement in that social movement has the capacity, if you’re not careful and mindful and watching and paying attention and doing your own work, to complicate your healing process. What did I need? After my aunt died, I needed the ability to have a grief process privately. But instead, within a few days I got a phone call from a high official in the Army who was saying that he was going to fly me and all of our family members out to Washington DC for a memorial service. But, the way I was supposed to grieve, based on that phone call and what everyone else was doing, didn’t fit for me. I needed a private space to do that. And, that my privacy was intruded on by this public process, it made my grief process much more difficult. So, you do need . . . . if there’s a public tragedy or a public outcry for activism that comes really close to home for you, if it’s too soon after the event for you (and sometimes this can be years – I talked about in episode 2 The Numb Epidemic that sometimes we put our trauma away and we think we can put it away forever) so when something happens on the social front or in the political front that wakes that up in us, it can hit too close to home or it can be too soon, even if we’ve put something away for years, because we haven’t done our own healing work.
So, for me, I was (related to September 11th) the only person on the West coast outside of my family who knew someone that had died on September 11th. It’s a very peculiar thing, then there’s a public tragedy, within a few months people were already making jokes about September 11th. I won’t say what my reaction to those jokes were, but I will say that they kept me triggered and they impeded my healing process because all too often someone would come up with a joke at work or other places. It just happened to me September 11th this year, 2017. I was at a doctor’s office and, you know, I think I’ve done my work. I think I’ve healed. And so, this didn’t trigger me, but public tragedies become so casual for people who aren’t directly touched by them. I was leaving the doctor’s office I think I had some lab work done and I got in the elevator it’s on September 11th of 2018. Nope, not 2018 cuz that’s not here yet, but 2017. And a stranger looks at me and goes: “Where were YOU on September 11th, 2001?” I didn’t do it with anger, I didn’t feel frustrated or upset. I recognized that that’s kind of how people talk about things, but I looked at him straight in the eyes and I said: “I’m sorry, my aunt was killed in the Pentagon on that day.” And, of course, he backed up and apologized and was, maybe, had some thoughts about his cheerful way of trying to address a stranger about what they were doing on a historic day. My point is that I wasn’t triggered by it, although I was honest in my response. But it took me 10 years to get there.
So, I would say that if you’re triggered by the news, by public outcry or by public conversations or by media coverage, that might be too much, too soon for your healing, it’s okay to acknowledge that. It’s not . . . . you know, we don’t talk about grieving enough in our society. We don’t talk about the healing process enough in our society. What I will say is that if it’s happening on the public forum and it also happened to you participating in that public forum and in those public activist invitations may be too much and that’s okay. It’s okay for you to say that. It’s okay for you to not participate. I would say that initially right after September 11th, I was privately dealing with my own fears that if I hijacked plane could kill someone that I loved, that any random plane that was flying over me while I was driving and small town USA in my car could actually fall down and kill me because they killed her. I was feeling fearful that people that I didn’t recognize could harm me. I had really intense feelings of being out of control. I had intense feelings of helplessness. And I had an intense desire to do something.
See, the thing is that after a trauma all of these feelings are normal. It’s normal. It’s also normal and perfectly okay for me to decide that if I didn’t want to be flown first class to Washington DC for a public memorial, I didn’t have to. But, how does that relate to current news coverage and social activism today, for you? I’m not sure, but what I will say is it’s hard to say how many people are actually responding to the media coverage and social pressure to do something with feelings of their own helplessness and who join crowds of protesting people, but who, silently, are being re-traumatized, instead of empowered.
I want to say that to make a truly empowered change you have to begin on the inside and you have to start by healing yourself. Compulsive action that’s driven by fear and a sense of helplessness and a sense of rage is not the same as clear, intentional, effective activism. It’s really easy to get swept up in the tides of emotion sparked by media coverage about the stories that are happening in the world. But I want you to stop and think for a second. It’s the job of the media to get you worked up and upset. That’s what gets stories shared on FaceBook. That’s what gets tweets. That’s what gets ratings. So, knowing that they’re in a ratings game and if your involvement with the media is causing you so much emotional upheaval that you are not well in your daily life, you can’t function, it’s affecting your relationships, it’s causing you to want to withdraw . . . . If those things are happening, then I have some suggestions for how to decide what to do when you feel triggered by the news.
The first thing I would say is pay attention to what resonates for you about the story that you’re watching. Pay attention to what’s happening inside of your body and then if something is happening and it feels like it’s bigger in proportion then what maybe you would have in your normal daily life to a new story, I would say the second thing to do is to take time away from the story. Get away from the media to help you get clear on why the story is impacting you the way it is. So, turn it off. Get away from it. Listen to your body history and allow the intensity of the response in your body to signal whether it’s your best choice to take time for healing something that still unresolved or to take corrective social action. And again, as I’ve already said, if your feelings are super strong and super angry and feeling like a rage experience, think about whether or not it would be helpful for you to take that same energy to try to figure out what you may need in relationship. If the energy is too strong and too intense it may be that you have some things to work on before you can be effective in your activism. Then, when you’ve been in your body and paid attention to whether you need to heal something that’s deeper, or that you want to take corrective social action, I would say sit with ever decision you’re making so that you can find your truth and being aware that if you move forward to quickly from trigger to action, you can harm yourself. So, when I say “harm yourself by taking activism too soon,” it can lead to further traumatization cuz you might not have a sure enough footing to deal with the responses to your choice of activism that might come in your direction, or to deal with the exhaustion that comes with taking up a cause and carrying it through the ups and downs that are required for making a difference. So, either way, if you’re not ready, if you’re moving forward with activism because you’re triggered, understand that that road is going to cause more triggers. And, if you decide, if you choose to, you say: “No, I’ve healed enough I’m going to move forward with this and I really feel like this is a passion I need to carry forward,” understand that sustaining that energy for clear, effective, thoughtful activism is going to require endurance. Endurance that comes from being able to make a clear choice that that’s the direction you want to take in your life.
Ultimately, I think that activism can be a very healing step if it’s done at the right time. For example, it wouldn’t have been right for me to allow my sense of rage and helplessness to cause me to join others in hateful actions following September 11th. Doing so would have been a clear signal that I hadn’t healed enough to be purposeful and active about something that I felt triggered by. In fact, when people told jokes at work, I could silence and entire room to a drop of a pin because I was so triggered and so angry. That wasn’t a good place to move into active activism from because my activism didn’t help me heal and it didn’t help anyone else. Instead, I did the work privately. So now, my private, or maybe not-so-private activism after my experience of September 11th takes these forms: I teach people who’ve been harmed unjustly and beyond comprehension how to walk through and heal from tremendous grief. I’m able to sit with that because I’ve healed my own. I broadcast my voice through this podcast to offer hope that you can heal your life and even take it back from traumatic experiences by listening to your body even when your body says things that you don’t want to hear. I believe after my healing from losing my aunt on September 11th that my pain and grief have transformed me into a person who can be a vehicle of healing for others. That’s activism.
So, what I want to leave you with from this episode is two ideas. The first one is: if you had trauma that causes you to feel triggered by the news, your trauma history can be intensified by continuous exposure. So, know this: it’s likely that your trauma was outside of your control. And, an essential part of your healing process means taking control back and that would include limiting your exposure to what you can handle. That would include limiting your exposure to things like media stories and things that make you feel triggered and out of control. You want to limit your exposure to what you can handle comfortably and if that means not listening to stories that are related to things that are similar to your own traumas, then don’t listen. You have to take care of yourself first. The second idea I want to leave you with is that a signal that your body, that your trauma, has healed enough for you to be able to move into effective activism is that your need for action becomes less of a drive to combat or get over overwhelming feelings of helplessness and rage to a more measured decision. You would move from a place of helplessness and rage to more of a feeling that your experience, whatever you’ve been through, empowers you to be an instrument for good. That’s how you know that trauma has healed. Once you’ve truly healed, then you can truly have impactful action. If you decide to step out in activism related to the thing you’ve healed from, but you’ve got to give yourself permission first to say “no” to the media and to say “no” to people who are giving you pressure to be activist before you’re ready or when it’s causing you triggers or when you can’t do it with a solid foundation and come back feeling like you’ve done something good and done something that’s contributed to healing. Remember that everyone has their own reasons for social engagement and activism. And, just because they have their reason, doesn’t mean you have to agree. I’m just over here in my corner saying take care of yourself first. it’s the best way to ensure that you are being the best you that you can be, no matter what your activism choices might be.
I hope that you’re enjoying my podcast. I know that I’m surely enjoying answering questions like this: “How do I deal with being triggered by the media?” If you enjoy my podcast, please help share it. Like it and share it on social media. I also have a patreon account so if you’d like to become a patron and support the show so I can keep it going, a pledge of as little as $2 a month makes a difference. You can find my patreon page at www.patron.com/listentoyourbodyhealyourlife. I would encourage you to email me for next month’s topic for listener-inspired conversation to help you listen to your body and heal your life. Send your email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, so much, for listening. I’m Tamara Bess.