Healing from the Inside Out: Brain Science, Building Trust, and  Growing Community Wellness with Eastern NC Neighbors

Healing from the Inside Out: Brain Science, Building Trust, and Growing Community Wellness with Eastern NC Neighbors

Resources for Resilience™ (RFR) doesn’t just offer a one-time train-the-trainer experience and then expect new partners to be fully prepared to lead our two-day Reconnect for Resilience™ (Reconnect) trainings; instead, we offer a six-month Resilience Educator Apprenticeship Program (REAP) that allows emerging trainers to observe, practice, reflect, and build comfort and capacity as a leader in this work over time. Brain science and resiliency-focused learning point us in this direction. Community is built and stress minimized during the process of becoming skilled at teaching Reconnect tools in this way.

In November 2019, Mary Lynn Barrett and I co-led the four-day initial learning experience for 18 REAP participants in eastern NC. These individuals live and work in Wilson, Nash, and Edgecombe counties and were selected to become Reconnect trainers through an intentional applicant selection process through the Rural Opportunity Institute, an partner organization that is doing incredible work around resilience education and community healing in eastern NC.

Practicing Reconnect tools together, these emerging trainers went deep and wide, learning lots, taking risks, and forming bonds as neighbors and trusted colleagues. Among them were pastors, parents, nonprofit leaders and behavioral health providers, public educators and administrators, an early intervention supervisor, community organizers and board members, small business owners, an elected official, and a Muslim leader and mentor.

Between us, we carry experiences of incarceration, of chronic pain, and of times of scarcity. Some of us carry stories of our own recovery or the weight of loved ones who aren’t yet in recovery. Among us, there are many ACEs, and all of us carry the burdens—visible and invisible– of various losses, of structural racism, and of historical trauma—absorbed and held, literally, in our bodies. Being able to name these things without feeling judged created incredible common ground and safe space. We talked openly about race, gender, class, faith and the many wounds experienced and related to them. Learning (and we were learning tons about the brain, attachment, the automatic nervous system, trauma, neuroplasticity, and shame resilience) can only happen when people feel safe.

As we used Reconnect tools with one another, we began to hear about each other’s vast strengths, courage, and resilience. Naming and detailing resources buoyed and bonded us. This is a biological model, so we could see and feel our bodies – bodies made for wellness – releasing long-carried trapped energy and our nervous systems resetting toward balance. We were individually accessing our own medicine and we were collectively experiencing the power of connection. We heard about one another’s greatest joys, comforts, values, and successes. We danced, sang, laughed, and cried. There were fidget spinners, colored pencils, fresh sunflowers, cutting-edge books, sock feet, fresh grapes, and plenty of home-made, local peanut butter brittle. The space was infused with music (songs anyone and everyone selected), and we sang Happy Birthday by phone to one person’s dad.

The Area L AHEC training room and library became the container for some of the most potent public health education happening in NC right now. And amidst what may sound like a lot of fun and play, the 20 of us worked incredibly hard – stretching intellectually, cognitively, physically, socially, interpersonally, and spiritually. Inch-thick REAP binders got thicker as folks took notes, created reminders to themselves, and broke down complex concepts into language that’ll be clear and comfortable to future learners (kids and adults alike) regardless of their reading level or background.  And the vast majority of our work was experiential – practicing seven tools, teaching them to one another, presenting in small group, experiencing “ah ha” moments, and connecting our own dots.

Comments shared among us included:

“This is a generational teaching to heal a generational burden.”

“I’m not crazy; my body just does what all bodies do that have experienced trauma. And now I can get rebalanced when I need to, especially if my people know these tools, too, so I don’t have to do it alone.”

“Scaring and shaming each other isn’t working and we see it all around us – no wonder kids struggle to pay attention, to make ‘good choices’ and to learn, no wonder adults do, too. Changes in parenting and education will be part of the solution.”

And, finally, one emerging Reconnect trainer summed it up like this: “This is liberation work – from the inside out. To change systems and prevent trauma, first we gotta heal parts of ourselves.”

A Most Beautiful Resource

A Most Beautiful Resource

Resources for Resilience, Blog 2

Recently, I was invited to participate in a Reconnect for Resilience™ (Reconnect) training at one of my favorite places on the planet – Hope Reins. Hope Reins serves children in crisis using horses, a beautiful 33-acre ranch, human connection, and words of hope and faith. It is a healing place.

This space and these people mean a great deal to my family. I am mom to two daughters who arrived into our family through adoption. Early relational trauma affected their lives and that of our family. As my husband and I scurried to become more educated and to shift our parenting practice to meet their needs, we reached out for support in many different places. Hope Reins was one.

One daughter in particular became deeply connected and experienced much love and healing at Hope Reins. She bonded with the rescue horses that had their own stories of pain. She felt strong and courageous as she interacted and communicated with these large and compassionate animals. She always knew that she would be loved and accepted when she stepped onto this holy ground.

As she grew, she was given opportunities to lead and to tell her story to large groups of supporters. She was encouraged, and, as her parents, we felt gratitude and pride in the young woman blossoming before our eyes.

As I sat in our recent Reconnect training, I learned all types of skills and tools to help me calm my nervous system. Parents are the front line when there are challenges with our children. The most authentic and real story of our family is that I, as a parent, first needed to change and adapt and grow in order to meet the particular needs of our daughters. I had to find a way forward.

As I heard about the resiliency tool called “Resource”, I began to ponder and consider the many resources in my life. Because I was physically located at the beautiful ranch called Hope Reins, my mind and heart settled on the many particulars of that place as my resource: the peace that I felt as I settled into an Adirondack chair and gave myself permission to breathe; the majestic horses in the fields right before my eyes; the kind listeners who gave me space when all I needed and wanted was a quiet respite in the midst of chaotic times; the other parents that I met along the way as we gave voice to our stories, our pain, and our joy. There were so many different ways to call up this resiliency tool.

And the good news is that this resource is with me today. Even as I wrote this blog, I realized that I was in an amped up place. I paused. I breathed. I recalled so many of the details of this special resource. I sat and noticed my calmer state. My resources – they are right with me no matter where I go.

About the Author
Tricia Wilson is an author and Circle of Security© Parenting facilitator. She lives in Raleigh, NC, and works to spread the message of resilience and Circle of Security© Parenting to various places and spaces. The work of Resources for Resilience™ is close to her heart. She can be found online at tricia-wilson.com.

Restoring Self-Compassion

Restoring Self-Compassion

In a training at a county jail, we were asking participants to imagine how different trauma scenarios might affect someone. We described the following hypothetical situation:

Rob’s Grandma, who raised him, had a stroke. She was on life support and died. Rob was in jail at the time and couldn’t go to the funeral.

We asked our participants to imagine how this might affect the Rob’s thinking, emotions, or physical condition.

What did he do more of?
What did he do less of?
How did this affect him spiritually?

Then a participant, we’ll call him Jimmy, spoke up. “That did happen to me. It was my momma. She was on life support. They came up here and told me I had to decide whether to take her off life support. They said she’d be a vegetable if she wasn’t taken off. I told ‘em to do it. Two months later, I got out of jail. My brother told me I killed her – all I had done for the last several years had devastated her. I felt like the scum of the earth. Pure bad. Hopeless. Couldn’t stand how bad I felt. I never told anyone about it ‘til now right here. Got back into drugs. I’m sure it’s how I landed back up in here.”

We told Jimmy that it sounded like he was experiencing a lot of shame about what had happened. He agreed. We asked him if he would be interested in learning about the Restore self-compassion tool. He was.

Has there ever been anyone in your life who got you, who was kind, and who wasn’t judgmental towards you? Who? When?

“It was my momma. She used to tell me all the time. When I got into fights, she said, “I know who you are down deep Jimmy – your heart is gold.”

We asked him if he would be willing to bring those words to the shame he felt about contributing to her illness and death. He was. We repeated that back with the exact words and tone:  “I know who you are down deep Jimmy – your heart is gold.”

Then we asked him to notice what he was sensing physically right then as he listened to those words. A steady stream of tears followed and, then, some easing up of the tightness in his chest, This was followed by some trembling in his hands, some lightness, and then some physical settling.

Later, he said, “If I had known this, I probably wouldn’t be back in here.”

We are all trapped in a cycle in some way and can feel hopeless about ever finding a way out. As we teach the impact of adverse childhood experiences and the effects of trauma, people like Jimmy are learning that it is not, ultimately, about what’s wrong with them; instead, it’s about what happened to them. It doesn’t take away the responsibility Jimmy has for his actions, but it begins to pave a new neural pathway, a new roadway into healing.

And this isn’t just about Jimmy, this is about all of us. All of us are in this, walking through life and seeking to find an internal balance as we face incredibly hard challenges, sometimes not knowing how to forgive ourselves when we feel like a failure and are at a loss for how to reconnect with others. All of us have a body that has the capacity to sink us deeper, and that can also support us in resiliency. Resiliency tools can offer one path towards hope.

 

About the Author
Stephanie Citron, PhD
Executive Director, Resources for Resilience