So, I am taking a walk and I ask my walking partner to switch sides with me because my hearing is better on the other side. He says,”Well, I should be walking on that side anyway (the side closest to the road) in order to protect you….” He immediately shares his discomfort for sharing what could be absorbed as a sexist comment and I can’t help but smile. For those who know this person, they wouldn’t think twice by this comment BUT, what rose in me I found startling and captivating and what I share with you today regarding immunity.
So, what rose in me? As soon as I heard my dear friend share his comment, my response was akin to a mighty F, YOU – I don’t NEED you to protect me followed by a, “Now wait a minute, is this really true?”
When I think about immunity, I think of it in the same terms as wellness – it consists of so many parts to make it a whole and functioning unit. What happens to our immunity when it doesn’t have what it needs? And what gets in the way of us receiving all we need?
From the angle of trauma, I wish to speak on ‘False Pride’ as is described in the book, “Healing Developmental Trauma.” In this book, it describes our 5 Core needs to be:
In this theory, if these needs can not be or are not met and developed, in their place we develop survival strategies in order to function. And while this can be life saving, over the course of time, false pride may rise which comes to help us feel “OK” without having what we need and even be proud of surviving without these needs. The danger, of course, is that we DO need for all of these vital resources and maladies, dis-ease and imbalance can follow without them.
According to Deb Dana and Stephen Porges, “Trauma survivors often suffer from unpredictable, rapid, intense, and prolonged states of dysregulation. This autonomic imbalance and lack of flexibility leads to health problems. Physical problems include impaired immune function, digestive problems, respiratory problems, diabetes, increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and chronic fatigue.(Anderson & Tracey, 2012; Dorrence & Fink 2015; Mazur, Furgala, Jablonski, Mach & Thor, 2012; Merz, Elboudwarej, & Mehta 2015; Thayer & Sternberg, 2006; Vaillancourt et al., 2017; van cauwenbergh et al., 2014)
In addition to physiology, psychology is impacted. Social isolation and loneliness, a vigilance for angry faces, distraction from tasks, an inability to discern meaningful cues from trivial ones, and increased depression and anxiety are some of the consequences of an out of balance autonomic nervous system. (Grippo, Lamb, Carter & Porges, 2007; Hawkley & Cacioppo, 2010).
The hopeful news for you and your clients is that since the autonomic nervous system learns from experience, ongoing experiences can reshape in the system. Habitual response patterns can be interrupted and new patterns can be created. Autonomic flexibility is a hard-won outcome of therapy as you help clients discover their autonomic vulnerabilities and together look towards resourcing autonomic resilience.”
To come back to my ah-ha moment – my moment of conflict was facing my false pride. It is still trying to protect me from the pain of not having had access to outside protection while my present self (gratefully) knows better – that yes, in fact, I do need protection and can ask for it when needed.
That I could acknowledge my false pride, hug it even, thank it for doing what it is designed to do AND gently relieve it of its duties, was literally healing in action (autonomic resilience) AND allowed me to enjoy a friend to meet a need, reveling in the safety that was offered, shifting me from false pride, to real pride. My heart, in that moment, literally felt stronger and I could take a deeper breath.
Is false pride present in you and impeding your immunity from being as strong as it can be?
For more information on trauma healing and nervous system regulation, please enjoy the following websites:
Massage and Trauma Touch Therapist