Moving Beyond the Story of What Happened to You

Moving Beyond the Story of What Happened to You post thumbnail image

At this point in my life, after plenty of traditional and non-traditional therapeutic work and exploration, I have a pretty good sense of “why I am the way I am.” For a time, that was extremely helpful, even liberating. But eventually my story began to feel like a dead end, like a box I was stuck in, sometimes even like a life sentence of continuing to struggle with the same challenges and roadblocks. In short, talking about “why I am the way I am” no longer felt helpful. I knew there had to be more. 

Enter NARM training. NARM stands for NeuroAffective Relational Model, and the NARM Institute provides training in this cutting edge model for addressing attachment, relational, and developmental trauma by working with the attachment patterns that cause life-long psychobiological symptoms and interpersonal difficulties.

Among other things, NARM helped me put into words what I already knew to be true through my experiences with Reiki, bodywork, and yoga, among other things: What if the stuckness and the struggle and the frustrating patterns – and the story – aren’t the way you really are? What if you could become aware of the subtle ways in which you shut down your authentic self? And what if you could do that from a place of curiosity rather than self-judgment?

NARM incorporates both top-down and a bottom-up processing in its approach to addressing the effects of complex trauma. Top-down processing is cognitively focused, (i.e. understanding your thoughts and emotions) while bottom-up processing is body focused (i.e. incorporating your felt sense and moment-to-moment embodied experience, which is mediated by your own unique nervous system patterns).

In our culture and, I might argue, because of the effects of trauma itself, we often find it easier (although not necessarily “easy”) to understand the “why,” to cobble together bits and pieces of our history into what eventually becomes a narrative: “I am this way because of what happened to me.”

There is great value in understanding what happened to you, how you responded, and how that shows up in your life. It helps you begin to understand that there’s a reason why you behave in ways and make choices that may not have made sense to you before. It helps you see yourself and your patterns more clearly, to raise your level of self-awareness.

And yet, oftentimes you may be perfectly aware of why you tend to react in a certain way to certain types of situations but find it next to impossible to shift the underlying pattern(s) that you would like to change. Your psychobiological patterns, which are the product of all of your life experiences (for better or worse), tell you, on a subconscious level, that this is how you must be in order to survive. Even if that isn’t true anymore, you may simply not know how to be any different.

And this is where your story becomes less helpful, while your body can become your ally.

Because after all, that is where your present moment internal experience is always happening, right? Whether it’s a habitual emotional response, a clenching of the jaw, a subtle hanging of the head, or an inadvertent exit out the side door (i.e., shutting down awareness of your embodied experience altogether), your patterned responses to the world around you occur first within your body. If you can begin to track your moment-to-moment experience, you can begin to not only see but also experience the subtle ways in which you shut down your authentic self in favor of adaptive strategies that once kept you safe but may no longer be needed.

The approach of NARM is not either-or, not mind or body, but rather both. As an adult, it is important to be aware of and understand, through moment-to-moment closely observed experience, how the past is affecting your present psychobiological experience. But again, the story is not central and often doesn’t even come up. I have found this refreshing and enlivening, as it keeps me focused on what I actually want for myself rather than a sense of stuckness.

Sarah and I are so excited to bring this work to you, and we look forward to sharing more about how we will be doing that. In the meantime, if you are curious to know more, please feel free to reach out.

Related Post