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Hey, guys, it is a human urge to return to normalcy after a cataclysmic event, but if we rush back to normal without taking a beat, without metabolizing what we've been through, that can create profound psychological issues. Dr. Pat Ogden is an expert in trauma and a pioneer in what's called somatic psychology. I'll let her explain what that means in this interview. We talk about whether we've all been traumatized by what we've been through in recent months. We talk about the impact of trauma on the brain and the body and how to handle and heal from our trauma.
We also branch out into her fascinating views on productivity. So there's a lot here. So here we go, Dr. Pat Ogden. Nice to see you again. I just want to point out to our listeners that you very graciously agreed to do this interview twice because the first time we recorded it was right before the Black Lives Matter. Protests really, really pierced the national consciousness. And we wanted to make sure that we did an episode that included the awareness of what's been happening.
So thanks for agreeing to come back on, even though it will be the first time my listeners have heard from you.
Pleasure to be here.
Let's start with hopefully useful definition, because trauma is a word that gets used quite a bit, but I'm not sure that I could actually define it.
So how do you define trauma? I define trauma. In terms of the response in the body and the physiology. Often trauma is defined by the event and granted, some events will be traumatizing for everybody, like a rape, racialized violence, these are traumatizing police brutality, et cetera, et cetera. However, we all have our own ways of responding to these traumas when we're threatened. Trauma is perceived threat to one's safety of one's life, and that will stimulate our nervous system arousal.
So our arousal might shoot up very high. Arousal or muscles get tense, our heart starts beating faster, and that's to mobilize instinctive responses like fight or flight or cry for help. Like babies will scream and cry for somebody to help them. If that doesn't work, our high arousal will plummet to a very low arousal level will shut down. And people are familiar with this because it's talked about in the animal kingdom as pain, death, like possums feign death.
But that's an instinctive response that we often have. So. In light of the events that are happening currently with both the pandemic and the racialize trauma that were either directly involved with or we're seeing this on the news, we're hearing about it constantly. We have different responses to these traumas in our bodies.
Those of us who have a history of trauma that's unresolved are much more likely to experience these events in a much stronger way because our past traumas unresolved, that extreme high arousal or extreme low arousal doesn't get a chance to recalibrate and kind of settle into an optimal arousal zone. It's often called the window of tolerance, where we can tolerate all the stimuli that we're bombarded with without extremes of arousal.
So it's hard sometimes for people to understand, and I had to learn this myself, that everybody responds to trauma differently and some of us are traumatized by what's happening. Others of us feel it intensely, but we're able to bring our arousal within that window of tolerance.
OK, so I think now actually this is this is really helping me understand it, so trauma is something that's it's an event that activates our the sort of reptilian folds of the brain, the amygdala, the fight or flight response.
And you can experience trauma without being traumatized. That is correct.
When you are traumatized, you're never fully recovering from the traumatic event and it's living on in your body.
Yeah, subconsciously. Often.
That's correct. Yeah. And some of the things that are really challenging about this in terms of the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent killings of George Floyd or my Aubrey Taylor and all the others, is that for being possie? Black indigenous people of color? The trauma continues. It's ongoing. You know, as a white person, it doesn't continue for me. I don't have to worry about walking down the street and being stopped or brutalized by the police, for example.
That's a really obvious example. I don't have to fear for my white children. So for Beppo, see. It's never ending, and I think that's something that is really challenging to work with when we have an ongoing situation of systemic oppression where people are continually traumatized.
I want to dive pretty deeply into the impact of trauma on marginalized communities, because I know you're working intensively on this and writing a lot about it.
But let's just stay on. A sort of general level for a second, can you talk about how trauma operates in the brain? In the brain? Yes. And in the body.
OK, yeah, because, I mean, the way I think of it is that, you know, we have this cortex, that's our thinking brain. And we can think things through. We can decide how to act. But when trauma happens, that thinking brain shuts down and it's in the service of survival, it shuts down so that our instincts can take over and react immediately to save our lives, to protect our safety.
So. In terms of the brain, that's a really adaptive function, right, and how that affects the body is that. When the trauma is unresolved, our bodies are still prepared to respond to the trauma, so it might be harder to think clearly, especially when we're faced with repeated triggers because our brains and bodies were still prepared. Know there's that old saying it's better to mistake a stick for a snake than a snake for a stick. So we're wired for survival and to interpret things immediately as threatening if we've had past experience with those threats and that our brains and bodies are primed to react in that way.
So. So when they make the love fires, you know, when the fear centers fire, when we're threatened, our instincts take over and our executive brain shuts down, and it's only after that even that we feel afraid. Even the emotion, it doesn't prime the instincts, the instincts, the fear. And so, again, just to get back to this useful distinction between trauma, which can be an objective event and being traumatized, which is, you know, not.
Metabolizing the event in a way that lets you get back to, quote unquote normal, what's happening for us when we're living with trauma and it's continuously dogging us?
Well, again, it depends. So sorry, one second, my son is bombing this room. Yes. Oh. You just want to see if you can come in here and talk to me. No Katzir in here. No. Yeah, you should put some pants on, by the way.
I'm trying to do OK.
OK, can you can you close the door for me. That door. That door. That one of you put some pants on. OK.
Oh well in construction I like how he's five and he only comes in. I'm telling you he only comes into this room.
My office when I'm doing a podcast, he has like a sixth sense.
He went through undivided attention and he's wearing a great ensemble of sweatshirt and nothing else.
So. So. It's pretty cute. Yes. It's pretty cute. So.
So when we are traumatized, we have been unable. Our brain has been unable to and metabolize the trauma.
And so then we're kind of it sounds to me, if I'm hearing you correctly, kind of living out of whack dysregulated all the time or only when re triggered more when we're re triggered.
I mean, some people. Or in a kind of chronic state of dysregulation, people with severe, severe histories of abuse, for example, from early childhood on, but most of us have triggers that will send our arousal to the extreme levels. And even when those triggers, they remind us of this threat, but they might not even have a relationship to current threat.
Like, you know, you might tense when you see a police car or depending on your history, you might tense up and get frightened. If you see a big dog, if you have a history of being hurt by dogs, even when that dog is safe or when that policeman is kind and not acting on racial bias.
Actually, since we're now in this area, I think it might be worth it. Saying more about how trauma shows up.
And we talked about this recently in a podcast I did with Resmini Manickam, who's written a lot about trauma for communities of color and for white people.
But you've been looking, I know, at how trauma shows up in marginalized communities.
What more is worth saying on that, given what we've already discussed?
Well, something that I've been thinking about more and more is about how trauma not only has to do with the oppressed, but also with the oppressors. So it's not just about the marginalized communities. It's also about the white people in our country who have all the advantages in a joint degree. Talks about this quite a bit. She wrote a book called Post-Traumatic Slaves, and she talks about the cognitive dissonance that oppressor's form in order to justify treatment of people, in order to maintain their own privilege or to exploit them.
I mean, the worst case is that, of course, slavery and our history of slavery. We had 13 presidents who were slave owners and justified it by demeaning black people like Thomas Jefferson. I would say, well, black people don't need as much sleep. So that would justify working as slaves from dawn to dusk, as they said. And that's cognitive dissonance because that does not fit with. Human values in those days in our country was founded by Christians and Christian values, but the exploitation and the Holocaust of the American Indians, so we could have the land and then, of course, our history of slavery.
That lives not only in those marginalized communities, but the trauma of those decisions made by our ancestors in the perpetration by them lives in us as well as white people. And I've been thinking of this phrase, you know. We either face it or we embrace it, and we've raised our history. I didn't learn anything about the way women or African-Americans or the Native Americans were treated in my school. You know, I learned about this great country that was founded on freedom and justice for all and the pursuit of happiness, never realizing as a child that that was only meant for white wealthy men.
So I think we carry that dissonance in ourselves. And I think there's guilt and shame associated with that transgenerational transmission of trauma to us as white people as well as to other groups. And I think that we're we're at a real turning point as a country to find out if we can actually face this history and really live what our Constitution says. No, I think it's very easy to assume that it's marginalized people only who are traumatized or marginalized people only who carry the trauma.
But I don't believe that's true. There's a lot of research with veterans now that's coming up around moral injury, where veterans had to perform acts that went against their moral code. And I think as a country and as a white member of society, we collectively perform acts that go against our moral code as well. I mean, right now we I see it and see thousands of children torn from their parents at the border and held in horrible, horrible conditions.
So as citizens and healing trauma. I think we have to face that as a nation. It's just not at all a matter of something that affects marginalized communities.
I want to talk a lot about the healing part of this. But just to reflect back what you just said about the impact on white people in this culture, you talked about how there was this systematized dehumanization of black people to justify slavery. And you can see that showing up today in the disproportionate amount of violence directed at black people by the police, even through the studies of the lowered likelihood of black people getting pain meds from doctors, including black doctors.
Exactly. So it's still with us today.
But this, while obviously wretched and worse for black people, is not leaving the whites unscathed because as I've heard, it argued, white people in order to survive in this system, have had to cut themselves off from their emotions and in key ways, because if we didn't, it would be intolerable. Yes, I think that's true.
And in some ways, I think it's even more than cutting ourselves off from our emotions. We find ways to justify it. You know, you hear these comments will just they can pull themselves up by the bootstraps. That's impossible. It's like running a race where you're miles behind the people who have the advantage. We hear these comments in the way we've weaponized threats like. I mean, it's starting to change now because I think it's coming to consciousness that a white person can't just call the cops anymore, hopefully, and say this black person is threatening me and have the police automatically believe the white person.
I think with the awareness that's coming now, it's starting to shift. But I mean, in the trauma field, it's well known with any kind of crisis or disaster, the attention is usually short lived. And I think our job now is to keep the attention focused on the truth of our history and remedying this, really dealing with.
We're going to talk about trauma on a more general level as it pertains to the pandemic. But since we're on the subject of race, which I think is a really fruitful and important subject, let's stay here for a second.
So what can be done from your perspective as a trauma specialist?
Do I believe you used the word face it and deal with it both for white people and for communities of color, given the situation? What are the modalities for dealing with this effectively?
Well, I think in some ways we have to come up with new ways of dealing with this, with the Awdry lord who is a black. And she's not living anywhere. She was a black activist and writer. She said you can't dismantle the master's house with the master's tools. So I think that's very relevant. We need to come up with novel and innovative ways of dealing with this. And I think for white people, the first thing is to educate ourselves, to look at our history squarely looking for the truth and not to ask questions like am I racist, but to start to ask questions like in what ways are my racist?
Because we are steeped in this white supremacy ideology, our country steeped in it. Actually, most of the world is steeped in it. So it's got to affect us implicitly, even really good progressive people. Robin D'Angela, who wrote White Fragility, which is a great book to read along with joint degrees, post-traumatic stress syndrome, goes to the not new books, but the super relevant. She says that the first step is acknowledging that we are racist and challenge it like challenge it like.
So to notice the ways in which you are starting to notice and ways the ways that you just accept your privilege without thinking that others don't have it, you know. So I think that's a really big element, is the education. I mean, I feel like I can speak much better for white people because I'm a white person and the things that I feel that I need to do, I feel like as a white person, I need to contribute.
I need to contribute to the Black Lives Matter movement. I need to contribute to reparation, even though that's not really something our country supports yet, because many ways to contribute. We gave the Japanese people that we interned in World War Two. They got financial reparations for that. That was four years of internment. What about the hundreds of years of slavery and the legacy of that? How can we bring VIPR Ossy up to the economic will that we share as white people, for example?
These are questions that I ask myself.
I think it's important to engage in conversations, to join groups on white privilege, to start interacting with mixed groups and start asking questions and listening and really hearing the responses and to start to notice the the racialized depiction in the news. I was struck by this is still a while ago, but it goes on like pictures from Hurricane Katrina, where there was a white person that had groceries and they were depicted as having gotten them at a store. There was a picture of a black person with groceries and they were depicted as looting.
These stereotypes are so pervasive.
Yeah. My colleague at ABC News, Steverson, is one of the correspondents. He did a piece for Nightline along with my friend Jasmine, who produced it, I think it was last year. And the story was about the fact that when young white women go missing, it becomes national news. When young black women go missing, nobody talks about it. That's right. They talked about case after case after case. That's why it's quite compelling.
I want to make a comment and then just and then ask a question.
Comment is just about for some people, the invocation that you just did of Robin Tangelos work might be slightly triggering. I have not read the book, but there is quite a bit of controversy around that book right now. So I don't have a point of view. I just want to point out that there is, I think, thoughtful controversy around that book.
And so I just want to say that the question is all those things you listed in terms of white people dealing with the history of racism in this country, is that anything to do with your work as a trauma specialist or is that just sort of basic sort of mental hygiene, good citizenship for white people right now?
Well, I think it's both. I think as a therapist, it's definitely part of my job to understand racialized trauma. No matter what my clientele population is, no matter if I want to be a spokesperson for social justice and for remedying the systemic oppression in our society, I feel like I need to live it, not just apply it. If I have a black client or a Native American client or an object to Q Klan, it has to be a part of the fabric of my life.
So it's very much an element of my practice. And I think to confront racism wherever we see it is, even with our clients, is really important, like a colleague of mine. It was talk to me recently, this is in my new book, actually, this example about a white Iraq veteran who had committed some crimes and was imprisoned and he was with many black inmates and he was talking about the black inmates and very, very, very derogatory terms.
And we talked about how she could challenge that in a way that would not shame him for it because he's got this systemic. White supremacy attitude that is so much a part of our culture, but to help him to address it and I think the thing that I have found most helpful is just to talk about my own experience, to talk about how I learned about race, how I learned about Native Americans, how I didn't see color. And it's very interesting because I was immersed in the civil rights movements in the 60s and 70s.
And at that time we were at a different stage of development. And I worked in all black communities and I taught at the first integrated school with white and black kids. And the message that we got was don't see color, treat everybody equally, don't see color, because at that stage of development, all those years ago, we didn't realize we were going from, you know, Jim Crow and segregation and all of that to don't see color. Everybody's equal.
And now we have made some progress and that now we are acknowledging that the IPCC people have a different experience and we do see color and it's really important to see those differences.
You brought up shame, which I think is useful, not shame is not useful. Bringing up the subject is useful. Shame, at least for me as I experience shame, feels like trauma.
And that seems like a not so helpful cul de sac when it comes toward examining whiteness, white supremacy, racism, et cetera, et cetera, when you're a white person.
So it's delicate work to get people who look like us to take a look at their own biases, et cetera, et cetera, without throwing people into an amygdala hijack.
I think that's right. And I think talking about race is going to be triggering and people are going to go into these hijack. But also the shame is why we've stayed away from it. Like, you know, I was taught to be so proud of my country growing up. post-World War Two, like our country was the best and the richest, not realizing that we have the rich because we had slaves. We have all as well because we stole land.
And I think facing the shame, the implicit shame will keep us from facing that. I think once we face it together and don't try to blame one another for it because we're all learning together.
And I think if we can have pride in our country's history, it's how we deal with this now and how we can face the truth of the history and remedy it. But I agree with you that shaming and blaming and race conversations.
Does more harm than good? No, but see, then once we accept that we grew up in a racialized country with systemic oppression, once we accept that that's the truth, that that's normal course. We have racial biases. Of course we do. I mean, just think of when you were little and you learned about race. Just think of the examples on TV. Think of how race was portrayed in the news media. Of course, we have biases.
We can't help it. And, you know, our brains are wired to categorize and we learn these categorizations very, very, very young. And once we accept that it's inevitable, I think it makes it a lot easier to talk about. You know, it's not just race. It's also anti female, too, right?
Yes. I think this is a refrain we keep coming back to on the show. The experts who've come on the show keep coming back to this notion. And I think it is unbelievably useful to point out that you have racist thoughts not because you are a racist, but because you're a human. And it was wired into us from an evolutionary standpoint to have these biases. And we have been swimming in this water where messages have been sent to us. And of course, those thoughts will come up as a consequence.
Once you depersonalised it in that way, it becomes a workable attractable.
I agree. I agree. Although I would. I probably would challenge that and I do feel like we live in a racist country, so I would say, yes, we are racists and we have to address that, but it doesn't mean that we're bad. We couldn't help it because that's that's that saying that fish are the last to discover water. You know, the waters we swim in, like you said, they have a racist context. And I think right now we're in the process of discovering the water as a country, I hope.
Yeah, I agree. So you said you would challenge that. What were you. I would. Was there a disagreement between me and you? Because I didn't hear one.
I would just challenge I think you said maybe I misunderstood that it's not that we're racists, that we just have bias. I think we are racists because of our conditioning. Oh, I don't think that's what I said.
But if it is what I said, then I. Well, no, it's possible that I misspoke. What I meant. I'll tell you what I meant was that you're not a bad person because you have racist thoughts. You're just a human person.
That is I think that's absolutely accurate. And I think once we can acknowledge that the conversations are easier and we can't I mean, this is one of the things that I found useful about the book on white fragility was how as white people, we immediately go to shame and guilt and we get defensive or we get angry or we collapse in tears and and how we can't stay with the truth of it because we take it so personally, we take it as a personal insult.
So I think what you're saying, because we're human and we were steeped in this, we can't help it, but we can challenge it, right?
Yes. It doesn't mean pointing out to a white person that you're not a bad person because you have racist thoughts does not let you off the hook. Doesn't mean you should just succumb to it and act them out. It means that you can then do the work. So.
Amen. Yeah. We've zoomed in on trauma as it pertains to race. I'm tempted to zoom out to trauma writ large unless you feel like there are more things you want to say on race.
Well, I think I would want to just say, but this is for trauma at large, too, so maybe it's a good Segway like I know you practice mindfulness and mindfulness is very important in my work as well. And I think reminding all of this starts with mindfulness. It starts with mindful awareness of when we're triggered, when we have racist thoughts, when our arousal starts to go out of that window of tolerance, if we can be aware of.
But then we're not identifying with it and we can examine it. So for me, that mindful awareness is essential for the healing of everything. Much more of my conversation with Dr. Pat Ogden right after this. If you like getting the story behind the story, check out start here, the Daily News podcast from ABC News every morning. Start here will get you ready for your day with insightful, straightforward reporting on a few of the day's biggest headlines. From groundbreaking investigative reports to urgent revelations shaping your world, recently honored with the prestigious Edward R.
Murrow Award. Start here. Takes you inside the stories that matter and where they're heading next. So start smart. We start here, check it out on Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast app. You mentioned the window of tolerance earlier in the episode, but it might be worth you saying a little bit more about what the window of tolerance is and then us re invoking mindfulness in terms of how we can use mindfulness to tell whether we're out of the window.
Yeah, well, I think Dan Siegel coined that term window tolerance in nineteen ninety nine in his book, The Developing Mind I had before that and working with trauma, I had drawn a graph with two parallel lines like this. And I called the area of your arousal between those lines kind of an optimal arousal zone. And if you're within that window, you can think clearly, you can respond thoughtfully rather than reactively. You can respond adaptively rather than impulsively.
But when we're triggered, whether we're being challenged by that, we're racist or whether we're we're. Being threatened by police or whomever or whether we're threatened by the pandemic are also starts to exceed that window and we either go up into hyperarousal and heart beating fast and anxiety and panic, or it'll drop down to collapse and mobility and feeling like we just can't do anything. And those two extremes of arousal we can't think of respond thoughtfully because our brains aren't thinking, you know, not thinking that clearly.
So if we're not aware, like. You know, Rousell starts to go up and we can be mindful and be aware of those signals, we can do something to regulate it more quickly for me, because trauma's so body doesn't really affect your body first and foremost. Right. That, for me, is a body psychotherapist's physical action. Like if I feel my arousal going up, I can place my hands on my chest and that often calms me. Or if I feel myself collapsing, I can lengthen my spine.
I can do the things with my body. I can contain myself with a self hug. I can feel my feet on the ground to be grounded for my arousals. Not all extreme, but the mindfulness comes in. If you don't notice that your arousal is going up, you can't regulate it. And then when it gets to a certain point. It's much harder to regulate, you know, and then then because your arousal is up, you're perceiving things as threatening or unsafe because you're Russel's going up.
So this sounds like the application of mindfulness, self-awareness to when you've gone in and out of the window of tolerance. That just sounds to me thus far, at least to the untrained ear, me. Like the basic application of mindfulness to powerful emotions that we've talked about on the show many times, but I want you to correct me where I've inevitably gone wrong here and also to help me clarify. So if I'm in a traumatic situation, I'm being assaulted in a car crash, I'm covering a war and somebody shooting at me.
I just got a note saying I have covid, whatever.
Can we regulate in those emergencies?
Is regulation even on the menu?
I would say that it's even more important in those emergencies, and the reason is this, there are powerful emotions of like anger and grief and, you know, sadness, etc., really powerful emotions that show we can be mindful of. And but the emotions connected with trauma are designed to mobilize these instinctive defenses. Think of the rage that a person might feel, say a black person might feel rage being stopped by the police for no reason. And it is essential to regulate them because not subcortical brain will take over.
And you could be in danger. You could be in danger.
You could lose your life. As we've seen those are called in my field book called Vehement Emotions that really are based in the body. And they need to be grounded and contained is not going to get any mileage out of expressing them because it will just escalate your feeling of threat. So in those emergency situations, if you want to think clearly, it's critical that you regulate yourself. I tell this to my my nephews and nieces. We talk about this all the time.
We were black to learn these skills. So you don't react. It sounds simple in some way. I'm not saying it's easy, but simple in some way to it's not complex to put your hand on your heart.
I noticed you didn't mention taking a deep breath because breathing is I mean, taking a deep breath.
There's a lot of evidence that it can calm one down. But of course, the breath is implicated in both covid and George Floyd. So the breath is a loaded proposition at this moment.
But these simple. And again, I'm not using that in a pejorative but simple techniques of putting your hand on your heart, taking a deep breath, giving yourself a hug, grounding yourself in the sensations of your body, as opposed to the stories of your mind.
These really can work. They really can work. But you're right, they're simple. But they're not they're not easy. They're not easy for different reasons. Every person has to find what works for them. It's not a one size fits all. And, you know, when you mentioned the breath, for example, if you're a traumatized person with the super tight diaphragm trying to take a deep breath, it's just frustrating. Or if you're a traumatized person who's in your past trauma, you went to that collapsed.
No energy state trying to take a deep breath or taking deep breaths can stimulate that pain death response rather than be nourishing and calming. So it's you got to find the action that suits your body. The reason it works is because trauma first and foremost affects the body and thinking your way out of it is just not as efficient. But in terms of the thoughts, this is also where mindfulness comes in to work. You've got to let the thoughts go and you've got to refocus all your mindful attention on whatever your body is, somatic resource with its hands on the heart, tugging yourself, lengthening your spine, taking a breath, feeling your legs, pressing your feet into the for whatever works for you.
You've got to focus your attention on that because see if if I place my hands on my heart. But I'm still thinking I'm not safe, I'm not safe. This guy's after me. You know, it's not going to say I have to let that thought go. Focus on my hands, on my heart, feel the touch. And let that sematic resource affect my nervous system. I taught at Naropa, a Buddhist college, for 25, maybe more years, and we talk about disciplining the mind.
I'm sure you've probably heard that expression that we want to discipline our minds to focus on what is going to help us at that time.
So we're now living in, to put it mildly.
Tumultuous times. We've got several. Mutually reinforcing dumpster fires going on with a pandemic economic deep freeze.
Racial justice protests over manifestly awful racial injustice. We've got an election coming up on top of all that here in the United States. So it's a stressful time. Is there such a thing as a collective trauma and are we in one right now?
And then follow on question to that? If that's true, if this is a collective trauma, will some percentage of us be traumatized?
I would say the answer to both of those questions are, yes, we are in a collective trauma that goes beyond the United States because of the pandemic and some of us will be traumatized.
These traumas, all that you mentioned, are not isolated. I don't think of them as isolated because of the pandemic. As we know, it's affecting low socioeconomic groups, people of color, Latin acts much more strongly. I think three times more likely to get covered and twice as more likely to die, I think is I'm terrible at numbers, but I think those are the statistics. So they're not isolated from each other. And as always, whenever there's a pandemic or a crisis like this, it's the marginalized communities who are more much more strongly impacted always.
And the other element of this, I think that we're faced with is that we. To deal with this demands that we work together and we have so much divisiveness right now in our country and to some degree in the world, but especially in our country, there's so much divisiveness that it feels like we're not working together. I mean, some people are saying, oh, it's up to you. You want to wear a mask or not. Others are saying wear a mask.
It's not for yourself or, you know, everybody else. So with that kind of lack of strong leadership, we don't feel that it's handled and it's not here in our country. And this is with any trauma. Like if a child has a trauma, if they're raped by the neighbor or whatever, they need their caregivers to hold them, keep them safe, get them the treatment, reassure them. And that will really mitigate the PTSD and we need that right now from the powers that be and we're not getting it, we're getting the opposite and that's profoundly affecting us as a country.
I feel most of us have very little power, if any, to impact what the powers that be are doing right now. What can we do to protect ourselves and our loved ones from being traumatized?
Obviously, this is a trauma that seems non-negotiable. Everybody's impacted, some of us more than others, but nobody gets out of it with no impact. I don't think, given that I think we both seem to agree that it is a trauma.
What can we do to protect ourselves from being traumatized? There's a lot of different answers to that when we're traumatized. It's when our arousal stays outside of the window at those extremes for long periods of time and doesn't come back in. So I would say for our kids and each other, we can support each other in regulation. I mean, even with children, to make sure you've got a bouncy ball, it's something they can bounce on, that they can have activity because that can be really regulating, you know, just to be sensitive to that arousal shouldn't say outside of that window for too long, do something.
And for me, it has a lot to do with the body, but it also has to do with reaching out, making connection, talking with others, so long as the talk doesn't escalate. I mean, many of us are so worried. We talk to our friends who are also worried and we just get more activated.
If we can focus on, OK, we've talked about it, what can we do for ourselves? Let's have some chamomile tea of wisdom and and pay attention to our friendship or whatever, music, art, all the things that are usually regulating. And then the other thing you said, you there's not much impact. Most of us feel we don't have much impact, but any action we can take mitigates the effect of trauma. Any action this is. Kind of standard in the trauma field that if you can take any action in your behalf, it can be simple, like I have Black Lives Matter sign in my yard.
That's a simple action that. Does something giving to underserved communities, volunteering, you know, taking some action? I think the young people responsibly well, not just young people, but the people who are protesting responsibly, that's action. So action will mitigate the effects of the threat. So I think. Take action. Yeah. Yeah.
So, I mean, I hear a lot of really actionable advice in there from the empowering stance of generosity to the incredibly healing power of social connection to emotion. Given that emotion shows up in our body and trauma in particular, which is the fight or flight system which is subcortical. In other words, it's often out of our awareness and therefore showing up in our body and in all sorts of stressful ways. So there's a lot right there. I worry that one thing that may be happening for some people right now is and I'm going to use a phrase now from my friend, Dr.
Mark Epstein, who's a psychiatrist in New York City, although I don't think he's in the city anymore, but he's a psychiatrist and author in New York who writes about the overlap between Buddhism and psychology. And he uses this phrase, the rush to normal.
And I wonder, as we struggle to reopen now in the United States, whether there's some sort of psychological corollary for us as individuals where we just want to get back to some semblance of normalcy so quickly that we're not tending the wounds.
Right, exactly. There is is a whole theory in the trauma field that's called the theory of structural dissociation, where an individual trauma, after we've had trauma, like we get back from combat or we've suffered abuse or whatever, there's a part of us that just wants to get on with normal life and actually get on with normal life. But then does the other part that's still holding the trauma even when it's over. And in this case, in both the major traumas that we're experiencing, the pandemic and the the racialized trauma, it's not even over.
So there is an impulse to get back to normal. My hope is, is that we will. Look at all of this as an opportunity for a new normal, where we really do take care to support all of us, getting back to normal for many is going to parties and then infecting other people, for example. So, I mean, I think we're called upon right now to develop much more of a social conscience, both with race and with the pandemic.
It's not just about us as individuals, but we are so steeped in an individualistic culture, you see, as opposed to a collectivist culture where in a collectivist culture, the needs of the group are paramount, which is one of the reasons that Vietnam didn't have the huge crisis with this pandemic. Pandemic is a much more of a collectivist culture, our individualist culture, cultures to advance our own status and our own self rather than the collective. And we're steeped in that, too.
And that individualist orientation right now is causing a lot of destruction on both trauma's. Johann Hari, who's an author who's been was on the show a year or so ago. He's written a lot about depression and he acknowledges that depression can be hereditary and situational.
But a lot of it, he thinks, is chalked up to he chalks it up to what he calls junk values. So we have junk food.
There's also junk values, which he says is this myth of individualism, which is leaving us cut off from people around us. And that's what makes us depressed. I think I'm reproducing his thesis faithfully. Go on. If I failed, I apologize. But it also seems to me like it's tied up a lot in sort of a warped sense of masculinity, which venerates individualism and freedom.
And, you know, the cowboy, I'm the marble man.
I'm going to smoke myself to death, whatever you tell me to do.
And I'm not going to wear a mask. Yeah. And so that's where I go with everything you just said. I don't know if does any of that make sense to you?
Well, I think it does, especially in terms of our country. There's an expression about that. We're a country of strong individuals, you know, and that individual, we can do what we want here. And there is. That is a value of our country, isn't it? Rugged individualism, rugged individualism. That's what I was trying to think of American individualism, right? Yeah, I mean, that part of that is at the root of the.
The American Holocaust with the Native Americans and also of slavery. Were just going for what would. Benefit us, not what would benefit all, and I think we're seeing that in the anti and the people who don't think that race is a problem, the corrective or a corrective in my mind is just to go back to your, I think, very useful argument about the utility of shame.
I think a better way to handle this, rather than wagging our fingers, is to point out that the individual being a rugged individual is actually a less happy life often because when you're tuned in to the people around you and having a harmonious, positive relationships, that is there is a ton of evidence to suggest a happier, more peaceful way to exist.
And so to me, that seems like trauma reduction, par excellence.
Absolutely. And then can we extend that even further beyond the people around us to people of different socioeconomic status, people, different colors, cetera? Yes.
Can we take responsibility for each other? You know, it makes me think of it, in the 70s, I worked as a counselor at the women's prison in Nashville, Tennessee, and there was a. They're in criminology who thought that criminals should be the responsibility of their community. They should not be shut away because they were created in context in the community. And the community needs to take responsibility for the themselves. Some interesting 20 something. And I really saw the value of that.
And I think that's happening now. We need to take responsibility for those around us who are at risk or suffering, not experiencing the benefits that we have.
Last question I want to ask you before I let you go is. In my. Briefing packet that Samuel Jones is the producer of this show provided me before we did this interview. There was a bunch of stuff on here that made a total sense to me in terms of a discussion around trauma. And then there was one thing that stuck out to me because I couldn't connect it to trauma. But it's very interesting, which is productivity.
Oh, why do you talk about productivity? What does it have to do with anything else we've discussed today?
Well, two ways. You know, there was all this stuff circulating about the pandemic that if you are not productive now, you don't have an excuse anymore because you have all the time in the world. You're at home. So you should learn that language. You should write that book. And I thought what a capitalistic notion that is, that we always have to be productive. What about just being and being with this with our loved ones and not worrying about having to produce the next thing?
That's one part. And then the others. I mean, look at what? Productivity. I mean, it gave us all this wealth on the backs of slaves, on the backs of these people that we abused and tortured and killed and stolen from. And so is that where productivity is? Going to get us I mean, I think there's more to life than productivity, right?
I can tell you that I don't know if it rises to the level of trauma, but my inner obsession with productivity certainly makes my life tumultuous.
Mm hmm. Well, it has mine, too, but I mean, I also think we're steeped in that, I mean, I was taught you got to be the best you want to be at the top of your class. You want to get straight A's. I came home with straight A's. My mom said, why didn't you get a Plus's? You know? So as always, you can always do better. You can always do better. You can always do better.
But what about being I think it's that when we just get consumed with doing, we lose that sense of being and we lose the depth of feeling that goes with being us, you know, and I think that we do need to take action. But we also need to be able to feel what's happening and not push it away and deal with the cognitive dissonance to deal with the history of this nation.
So when we're fixated on productivity, we decrease the odds that we can handle our own trauma effectively and increase the odds that cutting ourselves off in this way will lead to the traumatization of others.
Well, basically, I would say yes. No. I think when we're focused on productivity, you know, other people just get to be in the way of our productivity. It's like, you know, somebody once having a hard time, they really need our attention. But I got to finish this book, you know, maybe maybe tomorrow. So other people become more objects than people. And when we extend that to people who aren't like us, people who are of different backgrounds and so forth, I think that's part of why we've gotten to where we are now.
Or we can shoe our panelists, five year old, out of the room, as I did earlier, with without without a second thought, because I'm trying to be productive on my podcast.
Yeah, that's OK. You like tenderness and care? Well, I feel tenderness toward you for being willing to do this podcast twice. I really, really appreciate it.
And the final thing, just to give you an opportunity to we semi facetiously refer to this part of the show as the plug zone.
Could you just plug any and all things you've written where we can find you on the interweb, et cetera, et cetera?
OK, well, my school has a website sensorimotor that org my work is called sensorimotor psychotherapy. So you can Google that and find lots of articles and things. I've written three books, one Trauma and the body, another one called Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Interventions for Trauma and Attachment. That one might be helpful for some listeners because that book has a whole series of worksheets in it. And it's a really big book. Don't be daunted by the book because the worksheets can be really helpful for trauma and for the listeners.
You can write to the school and get a PDF of the worksheets because they're impossible to Xerox from the book. So you can write to the school, they'll give you a PDF. The third book that's coming out is about sensorimotor psychotherapy in context, but we're really looking at the really white supremacist history of psychology and how to address that as therapists and with her clients. Dr. Pat Ogden, thank you very much.
Really appreciate it. Thank you.
And enjoy the. Big thanks to Pat, we want to thank and support as well all the teachers who are making a monumental effort to educate our children during this pandemic, many of whom are coping with massive uncertainty as the school year begins. So for free access to the app and hundreds of meditations and resources, you can visit 10 percent Dotcom's care. If you're a teacher, if you work in education, that's 10 percent. One word all spelled out Dotcom's care.
Finally, I want to thank everybody who worked so hard to put the show together. Samuel Johns is our senior producer. Marisa Shneiderman is our producer, our sound designers, Matt Boynton. And on Nashik of Ultraviolet Audio, Maria Wartell is our production coordinator. We get a lot of insight and guidance from colleagues such as Jen Point, a Toby Ben Rubin, Liz Levin. And finally, as always, big thank you to my guys at ABC News, Ryan Kessler and Josh Cohen.
We'll see you all on Wednesday with a freshie.