Last week my private client who I’ll call “Meg” had an unbelievable breakthrough.
Meg, like so many of the women I am blessed to serve, is a powerhouse.
She excelled at two of the most prestigious undergrad colleges & biz schools on the planet and then went on to become the founder & CEO of a thriving company.
There is no professional accomplishment she hasn’t knocked out of the park.
And yet Meg, also like many of the driven women I serve, has struggled in creating lasting secure intimacy with a partner.
Last week, Meg came into our session in one of the darkest states I’ve seen her in. She had shared in an email the breakdowns she was experiencing at work and in her private life saying “I don’t see the point in continuing.” “Everything is hopeless.” “People are disappointing and will let me down.”
When I saw her on Zoom she sat silently with hunched shoulders, her hair an atypical mess. The usually alive and energetic Meg was nowhere to be found.
When I asked her how she was doing she said “not good.”
Seeing her body language on top of the messages she’d sent confirmed my suspicion – Meg was drowning in a dorsal response – aka an immobilization of her nervous system.
And I knew that talking would not get us anywhere.
“I’m curious, Is there a part of you that wants to feel better?” I asked, not assuming she wanted to shift.
“Yes” she said.
“Ok, why don’t we stand up and start slowly walking around the room together?” I said. “And you can tell me what sensations you notice in your body as we do so?”
Meg stood up, and started copying me, slowly moving around her room.
“Let’s let our body show us exactly how it wants to move” I said, and started stretching.
I kept my eyes on Meg and watched as she raised her arms into a long backbend.
“Beautiful!” I said – “and how’s that feeling?”
“Good” Meg replied.
She kept moving and exploring other possibilities her body was yearning for.
And then all of a sudden, she turned and started to speak in a fast passionate voice.
“You know that therapist I tried talking to last week was such an idiot” she said.
“Yeah? Tell me about it…”
We both continued moving, stretching, shaking.
And then Meg launched into one energized frenzy of storytelling…
“The woman kept saying ‘You should call your family.’ And I said ‘No I don’t wanna call my family.’ But she continued ‘No really you should call your family.’ So I repeated ‘I just told you I don’t want to call my family, that isn’t gonna help.” But she kept going! ‘I think maybe visiting your family could help make you feel better.’ And then I lost it. ‘Look I don’t know if you’re choosing not to hear me or what but my family makes me feel worse not better and I have NO interest in speaking with them now!”
I watched as before my eyes, Meg left her intense freeze response and through the gentle movement entered a sympathetic or fight/flight response as her senses came back.
I nodded along and offered an occasional “yeah?” or “wow” as I witnessed the beauty of what was happening – knowing that this was the only pathway for Meg to return to ventral – aka rest & digest – the state she would need to enter to be available to do any real inner work.
After about 3 minutes of furiously describing the woman’s misattunement, there was a pause.
And I asked “how are you feeling?”
“Good” Meg said. “Better. I feel more energy than before.”
“Definitely” I agreed.
“So now what?” she asked.
“I get that this whole movement business got me out of some kind of gnarly freeze response. But what now? How do I engage the feelings that are here without avoiding what’s going on?”
As always, Meg gets straight to the point with the best questions.
I shared that what matters most in this work is that we do not even attempt to dialogue with our wounded parts until we are back in ventral.
If we try to do so without regulation it’s like trying to bring an empowered perspective to a suffering part of us when we have no capacity to offer such a perspective, because we ourselves are drowning.
She nodded that makes sense.
I shared my latest understanding that the way through is once we’re in ventral we get to use pendulation to move ourselves between states of regulation and the aroused parts of us triggered by any events. And that this is what lets us open to big feelings safely without retraumatizing our systems.
“Yeah, that makes sense” she said.
“So tell me how are you’re feeling?”
“I really good. Present. Is it possible that I could have landed in ventral already?” she asked.
I used my whole body to feel into her question – letting her question, tone, and body language land.
Her shoulders were back – and she stood in front of me tall, open, available, with a genuine presence that was unmistakable.
“Yes, my sense is in this moment you have. Wanna do some work?”
And then we proceeded to have the most sublime dialogue process with her inner child – little Meg that we’ve had. She stayed standing the whole time as we found just sitting put her back into dorsal energy.
We dialogued with the stabbing sensation she felt in her heart. And we made contact with a 3 year old wounded part of Meg that believes “People will always leave us.” And when we asked why, it said “because we are too much and fundamentally lacking.”
We kept returning to regulation in between interactions with her inner child, to keep a sense of presence online. And we explored where this part came from.
Meg, like myself, and so many women I support, grew up in a family with parents who couldn’t see her – who dismissed or shamed any authentic feelings she had and exclusively praised Meg for her academic achievements.
She then internalized a sense that “my lovability comes from what I achieve” & “I must work very hard to earn the love of others” as well as “it’s never safe to rest.”
This showed up in Meg herself valuing herself only for her achievements & essentially hating herself when challenges showed up in her business. Her sense of self-worth was as highly dependent on her external achievements as her father’s “love” had been.
And if anyone tried to love Meg while she was in what she perceived to be a downward spiral, she’d reject them outright, always finding something wrong with them for loving her at such a precarious time when she found herself unlovable.
As a result she found herself 40 and single despite deeply wanting nothing more than a husband and a family of her own.
We stayed with her anger towards her father, who admitted he never really wanted to have children and backed that with his neglect of her entire childhood.
And eventually, when I felt she was open, I asked “Meg, could you ask your inner child, “What do I do to you today that causes a similar feeling of rejection & abandonment to what dad made us feel?”
Meg was silent for a while and closed her eyes, putting a hand on her aching heart.
I started to worry she might be going back into dorsal, but eventually she opened her eyes and said “I go away.”
“What do you mean by that honey?”
“Little Meg says that when shit hits the fan, as it is currently, I numb out & freeze – and I stop feeling anything at all. And that leaves her feeling totally abandoned, rejected & terrified.”
The truth of her discovery hit me in my core.
“That’s amazing insight Meg. I wonder if we can open to what Guidance would have you do when you start to notice your signs of dorsal activation – your hunched shoulders, your heaviness, your numbness, to keep you online & available to little Meg?”
She opened to answers and basically heard that she gets to introduce movement and then open to hear what little Meg needs from her in real time every time she feels the symptoms of her dorsal shutdown emerging.
The clarity of her download and what she committed to do about it was breathtaking.
“Thank you” she said at the end. “That was really amazing.”
I checked in with her a few days later to see how she was doing after such deep work, and she texted me to say “I’ve been meaning to write to you the last 2 days – I’m doing so good!”
And she went on to share how she was keeping herself in ventral with movement and how various friends were showing up in her life to offer support as she reached out for it. And how she even felt good enough to continue building her bench of potential suitors.
The present, empowered, dynamic Meg was back in the house.
I celebrated her amazing work and we set a game plan around her work and the men she was meeting.
Meg is currently in the process of mastering creating safety within herself so she can trust she will stay present in her experience no matter what triggers are happening.
From here she will get to practice using this work to create safety when around the men she is dating & staying present instead of her pattern of shutting down.
I share this story with you for a couple reasons.
Firstly, to me Meg’s work illustrates what is so very possible for all of us to experience when we combine the deep work of somatic healing & regulation with the specific insights offered by deep inner child work.
The blend of these two modalities is causing faster transformation for the women I support than anything I’ve seen over the last 12 years of supporting driven women in their journey to love.
And if Meg can do the work to bring herself out of the dorsal shut down that has caused her a lifetime of avoidant attachment dynamics, so can you.
If Meg’s story resonates, I want to let you know I’m currently opening my calendar to support two more women in doing the deep excavation work of somatic regulation & growing a powerfully present loving adult to navigate the triggers inherent in a journey to healthy love.
If you are interested in doing this work in the most hands-on & intimate container I offer, hit reply & tell me “I’m interested” and I’ll send you a link to connect this week or next.
We can discuss what you’re looking to create, what you’re struggling with & what options might make sense to get you there fastest.
I’m sending so much love & courage to face whatever your activation style is & the triggers that are there for you to heal as you step powerfully towards the secure, healthy love that is so very possible & waiting for you now.
PS – Want to end your pattern of avoidant attachment & finally enjoy lasting secure love?
Hit reply and let me know you’re interested & I’ll send you a link to connect with me this week or next. ❤️