Healing ourselves from past trauma can be done through different avenues and modalities. As we continue the theme of healing, author and neuroscience educator, Sarah Peyton, joins me for a conversation about epigenetics, disorganized attachment styles, and self-expression.
Sarah uses resonant language to heal trauma with exquisite and warm gentleness. In this episode, she helps us understand the effects of generational trauma and offers insight on how we can heal ourselves. And, y’all, her voice is so soothing and comforting. I know you are going to enjoy this episode.
- Sarah’s time-travel empathy process and how it may help with the healing of generational trauma. (7:13)
- Epigenetics, including what it is, and how it reveals itself in our lives. (11:59)
- Attachment styles: disorganized, avoidant, etc. (25:50)
- What stops us from easy self-expression. (29:52)
- The unconscious contracts we make with ourselves. (33:19)
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Sarah’s First Aid for Trauma
Weekly Affirmations Lab
Retreat with me! The Daring Way Retreat 2022 is happening. For details and to sign up to be notified when registration opens, click here.
Sarah Peyton, author, constellations facilitator, Certified Nonviolent Communication Trainer and neuroscience educator, integrates constellations, brain science and the use of resonant language to heal trauma with exquisite and warm gentleness. She teaches and lectures internationally, and is the author of the Your Resonant Self books, on the relational neuroscience of making your brain a good place to live. Her third book, Affirmations for Turbulent Times is now available.
What's amazing about trauma is that it remains available to be healed. And we can tell that it's available to be healed because we can still feel it in our bodies.
You're listening to Make Some Nosie Podcast episode number 426 with guest Sarah Payton.
Welcome to Make Some Noise Podcast, your guide for strategies, tools and insights to empower yourself. I'm your host, Andrea Owen, global speaker, entrepreneur, life coach since 2007, and author of three books that have been translated into 18 languages and are available in 22 countries. Each week, I'll bring you a guest or a lesson that will help you maximize unshakable confidence, master resilience and make some noise in your life. You ready? Let's go.
Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of the podcast, I am so glad that you're here. And I am still excited about this change that I've made to the podcast, where we are doing themes and talking about specific topics for a period of time. This first one is all about healing. I'm asking the majority of my guests, full disclosure, there was a couple of guests that I recorded their interviews, like late in 2021 and I didn't know yet that I was gonna ask them all a question, so please forgive. But I'm asking most of the experts that I'm having on this question, how do we heal, there are so many different modalities, so many different paths that we can go down, which I'm so glad because one thing might work for you but it might not work for the next person. I have a lot of different experts on talking about these different modalities and that's no exception with who we have today, Sarah Payton's on and I can't wait for you to listen to her voice. She's so soothing and so comforting and I want her to read me Bedtime Stories forever for the rest of my life.
But before we jump into that, I wanted to remind you about the retreat that is going to be happening. As I'm recording this intro, which is a little bit early, because we are most likely going to lose power. In the next few days. It legitimately is supposed to be like snowpocalypse. We're getting eight inches in a day, which is a lot for us. We're not prepared for that. But as of now, I don't have a date yet but I'm for sure going to host a Daring Way retreat this year, it is going to be in Asheville, North Carolina and the information page that tells you most of the logistics as well as the price range that it's going to be is at AndreaOwen.com/retreat. So if you think you might be interested, go ahead and sign up there because these are the people I'm going to email first. When we open up registration. The last couple times I've done this, the first time I did it there, it's sold out in an hour and then it's sold out every time after that. So if you think you want to go over and read about it. If it sounds great, sign up, you'll be the first to know. I'm also considering doing a special one just for people in recovery. So you'll just check the box. You'll see that on the little signup thingamadoodle. And I can't wait.
All right. Let me tell you about Sarah. I can't wait for you guys to hear oh, I wish I could just dump all the podcast episodes at the same time because they're all so good. They're all so good. All right. Sarah Payton, author, constellations facilitator, certified nonviolent communication trainer and neuroscience educator integrates constellations, brain science, and the use of resonant language to heal trauma with exquisite and warm gentleness. She teaches and lectures internationally and is the author of the Your Resonant Self books on the relational neuroscience of making your brain a good place to live. Her third book Affirmations For Turbulent Times is now available. So without further ado, here is Sarah.
Sarah, thank you so much for being here today.
Andrea what a pleasure.
I am so excited to talk to you. I'm lucky enough to be kind of batching these interviews and so I've been spending the entire day talking. I'm probably going to need a nap or go to bed very early. These big conversations about just deeper, deeper work. And I would love to start by asking you like I always just kind of dive into the deep end. I'm always curious about how people came to this work like. Did you always know you wanted to do this like from a young age or did you kind of stumble upon it? How did you get here? I
Really it was really it's a there's a bit of a sadness to this story, but there's also some beauty to the story. I had an adopted son and he had had a ton of trauma when he was a little guy that had happened before he came to us and we were trying to figure out how the heck to basically save him from the trauma. We did not actually end up saving him he actually died of alcoholism when he was in his 30s.
Oh, gosh, yeah.
But his experience of, I said the other day, and it just feels so true to me, that trauma can take people away from us, but trauma can't take the relationship away from us. Like, we can lose people to death, we can lose people to trauma, but it doesn't stop us from loving them. So that's really where this all came from for me, was this was this longing to be able to interrupt and change the trajectory of trauma, which now often happens for people who are working with the material that I teach. But, but some people of course, we don't get to, we don't get to keep them with us, even though we want to.
Oh, wow. Okay, so it sounds like it's such a paradox, like both things can be true, you know? The pain of trauma can exist, and we can still love the person whether or not they're still here whether or not we have a relationship with them anymore.
Yeah. Yeah. And certainly, it's a very interesting thing to have a deep and loving relationship with somebody as their, you know, and being able to see clearly, like really being able to see clearly that's trauma. You know, this person is not trying to hurt me, this person is not, you know, they're not they're not trying to injure me. They're just acting out of their trauma. And I get to love the heck out of them. It's really radical. Yeah, yeah
I had a therapist recently and we were doing trauma work together, and she sort of offhandedly said it but it was one of those things that struck me and I wrote it down. And I'm misquoting her, but it was something to the extent of, we're all just human beings acting from our subconscious. I was like, isn't that true? For me, it helps me have compassion for other people. Not that, you know, boundaries still need to take place. It’s a different perspective that's for sure.
Yeah, it is. It's very different.
One of the things poking around in your website, and you have an online course about this, and it made me so curious and it's, it sounds like it's a technique that you use in your work and you call it a time travel process to make empathy guesses for your younger self. So can you talk to us like about like, what is that approach? Like, and how can it be used to help someone work through kind of generational trauma?
Yeah, the Oh, such beautiful questions. Well, what's amazing about trauma is that it remains available to be healed. And we can tell that it's available to be healed because we can still feel it in our bodies.
Sure likes to stick around doesn't it?
That's right. That's right. But that that aliveness in our bodies, lets us know that the amygdala is right there. And the amygdala, which is this funny little organ deep inside the brain that holds on to trauma memory, it doesn't have any sense of time. So for example, if we lived through something in our childhood, we had a difficult time with somebody who had a particular aftershave and we're, you know, in our 40s 50s, walking down the street, and somebody walks by with that aftershave and our heart starts beating fast and, and, and we want to hide, we're like, wow, that was intense. That's, you know, basically PTSD. That's the experience of trauma letting us know that there were moments in our childhood that or in our young adulthood that were difficult, where we weren't accompanied, and that we need accompaniment.
So we get to actually time travel once we realize this. And Ruth Lanius, who is an amazing neuroscientist who studies trauma and the treatment of trauma and how to heal trauma, she did a series of case studies with a number of people who did time travel. And what she discovered was that before the time travel, she could visually you can see trauma in the brain. We can see when people have post-traumatic stress. So Ruth Lanius, took people who had post-traumatic stress disorder, and had symptoms and when she looked at their brains, and what's called the default mode network, she could tell that in a way that they were attacking themselves and that's one of the one of the after effects of traumas that were really quite cruel to ourselves. And, and so she took a picture of their brains before they did time travel and then she took a picture of their brains after they did time travel, which is the experience of really taking it seriously. Separate stepping through time and space, catching our younger selves, making sure we really understand what kinds of feelings our younger self had. That's where we'll get kind of traffic jams is if we don't even realize there was disgust, but then we get to name it we go, yeah, that was discussed in our body and the memory starts to relax, the amygdala starts to relax, and, and then we can say, do you want to come home with me? You know, you've been alone in this memory for too long and I wonder if you want to come home with me. And then we kind of gather our past selves up, and bring them through time and space to present time. And when we do this, what Ruth Lanius saw was that the PTSD marks disappear in the brain. So this is quite an extraordinary thing we can do.
Okay, so when you say time travel, do you mean is that done through hypnosis or hypnotherapy? What is what does that actually look like?
It doesn't need anything in particular, it can be a journaling moment.
Oh, can even be like talk therapy? Okay.
All that needs to happen is that we have some more curiosity about the physical experience of the past self, and what emotions our past self might have had. That's all we need. And it works great with I mean, people do it in hypnotherapy all the time and its wonderful people do it with EMDR and it's wonderful. People do it with imagining enormous and beautiful animals like huge black panthers, that time travel to come and rescue us from past events. People do all kinds of time travel, and they're all effective. But the most important thing is what's happening with the body of the past self in the memory, and as we name emotions, does that body begin to relax and when it relaxes, do we get to bring it home. So we're no longer stuck in the past, and people reclaim all kinds of life energy from doing this work.
That's so, I'm so intrigued. I'm like, taking a note to look at that afterwards, when we're done talking, I'm sure there's people listening who are gonna look into it as well. It's so fa… And I love looking when experts talk about the more, you know, it's kind of called woowoo, in this industry, the more kind of abstract modalities to heal, as well as science based evidence, like brain scans, and things like that. So I love talking about that. But it makes me want to ask you about epigenetics. And for people who aren't sure what that term is, can you briefly talk about what that is and how, how does epigenetics reveal itself in in our lives and I think we're gonna leave it at that, because that could go in any direction.
That's a great question. Um…
We don't mess around here, Sarah.
No, we don't we are right on it. I want to say that on the website, there's a first aid for trauma… You can, it's like a little class that walks you through the whole time travel process.
Well, we'll link to that in the show notes so it's easy for people to check out.
But, but epigenetics is the study of how past generations experience affects present generations experience, and it includes all kinds of things it includes, like the effects of famine, and how people have more or less tendency to be diabetic based on what happened to their great grandparents in times of feast or famine. So we are much more a part of our family, mind, then we ever get any information that we are in modern day life. But I have an epigeneticist that I just love who works in Montreal, whose name is Moshe Szyf S-Z-Y-F and what he did is he said, I wonder if we had a big event, a big stressful event that happened to whole bunch of people, I wonder if that event would show up on the protein sheath around the DNA. And the protein sheath around human DNA is a little like tree rings. You know, when you cut down a tree and you say, oh, here was a really a really rich summer with lots of water, here was a really dry summer. Well, we can do that with the ways that the markings are on our protein sheath around our DNA.
So he took a particular weather event in Quebec, which was the Quebec ice storm, where for three months the people of Quebec were just completely in isolation. The buses were frozen to the ground with foot and a half sheets, thick sheet of ice, the ice formed on electrical conduits and all the electricity in the town went out. There were no buses, there were no taxis, there were no, you know, it was hard to get grocery stores open, people were just banding together as best they could anywhere where they could survive anywhere that had a fireplace. And just trying to keep each other alive, and many people died. But it was quite a big stressful event in that city. And so he said, I wonder if I can see the Quebec ice storm in people's epigenetic sheet. And it turned out he could. And as a result of that, he said, I think that in the next 40 years, we're going to be able to read the impact of human historical trauma on families. Like, you know, we would be able to take your DNA and the protein sheath around it and Moshe Szyf would be able to look at and he'd be able to say, oh, look at this, your family suffered during the Inquisition in Spain in the 1500s. And you will be going, what? Yeah, it's quite intensely beautiful, that we are such a part of our, our history. We haven't think of ourselves as being independent and, and that we create our own lives. There's so much that comes from our family experience and has such a strong impact on our health and well-being. So then the next question might very well be, how do we heal that?
Yeah. Yeah, the big task I hadn't heard about that particular study by No, there's been a handful of them. The one I read about very briefly, and please forgive my, my layman's terms of explaining this, but it was, someone had studied the offspring of men who had served in the Civil War here in the United States. And I believe that they tested them. They looked at the offsprings’ DNA before these men fought in the war, and then after, and noticed a marked difference that made me sit up and pay attention to epigenetics.
Yes,no kidding. And they've done this with, with survivors of Auschwitz, they've done this with, with people who are Native American, indigenous peoples of North America, they've done this with folks who have served in the military. And one of the major ways that we get affected by past stress is our tendency to be hyper responsive to stress. So the more that our ancestors had to live in really stressful times, the more our little bodies get alarmed by stress, and our hyperactive type of reaction to it. And we, one of the ways we get to move towards healing, it's such a beautiful thing is with is with meditations and, and self-connection that touches into the needs and the longings that are most important to us. When we touch into this as the work of Herbert Benson at Harvard, of the offshoot of Harvard, what he discovered is that when we allow ourselves time every day, I think it's eight minutes a day to just sink into what our beautiful needs and longings are, what our deep values are, what makes us who we are, that it actually specifically relaxes us and transforms that hyperactive stress response. So we we're not powerless here in our relationship with the historic past.
You're not powerless.I love that last part, too, that there's, you know, hope forhealing in that. And I believe so much in in the science of epigenetics and I think about… For some reason, I'm very fascinated with my maternal line, it fascinates me to no end that for how many 1000s of years, these women have, who knows what they survived, have survived long enough through childbirth, to bear a daughter for so many generations. And then, what's also very interesting is when I learned many years ago that the egg that made me was I was existing in my maternal grandmother, who is a woman who I never got a chance to meet. She passed away about 12 years before I was born. And, and I've just heard stories, you know, she had 11 children, one of which was hit by a drunk driver. He was seven years old, and she had to grieve that loss. Dhe also had a child passed away of SIDS. And, and I think about that, you know that. I mean, you can't tell me that doesn't in at least some way carry through in our DNA. And you know, my mom had a an awful is two or so years before I was born, there was a, if anyone's probably my age, you might have heard about the Dalkin Shield lawsuit, it was an IUD that was like the newest and best birth control and it failed miserably, many women, and my mom was part of that and had a horrible, horrible miscarriage. And I feel that. Like, I can't tell the story or hear about it without feeling a somatic response. And so, I know without a doubt that we're all walking around with the passed down traumas of our ancestors, many of which had never even gotten any support for it.
Right right. Right. There was no support it was there?
No, no, no. And and I'm it's one of the reasons I think I'm drawn to this work and talking about people who can help and are experts in in so many different modalities.
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I want to switch gears for a minute here because the topic around attachment styles is sort of like the topic du jour, which I love. It's all over social media, if you didn't know, but I think it's great, you know, people kind of seeing themselves in different attachment styles. So can you talk to us about what is a disorganized attachment style?
Oh, this is wonderful stuff. So it turns out that the way that our parents were raised and the way that they treat themselves, and the way that they talk to themselves, and the way that they talk about their childhood shows up, both in their language and in the way that they treat us. For example, if somebody had a traumatic childhood, then when they talk about their childhood, their grammar is disrupted. They might say, oh, my father hit the car there drove over broken legs. You know, I mean, it's just like, the very capacity to create grammar is changed by trauma. And the way that a person can be with their children is changed by trauma. So the disorganized attachment is the transmission over time of experiences of trauma in the very closest relationships that we have. Our attachment relationships, and the ways that trauma makes people unpredictable and then how we internalize that, and then expect that.
So if my dad had disorganized attachment, then there were ways that he was unpredictable in relationship with me, that I then carry through into my relationship with my child where I'm unpredictable in the same way. Some ranges or dissociation or a sudden like complete, like almost dissociation like a complete disappearance of stopping answering questions. You know, all of these things that parents do habitually leave a mark on us. And the most profound one I often have people do this in classes for disorganized attachment, is if a child is distressed, and the mother smiles at the child or looks puzzled that the child is distressed, this is a key precursor to later disorganized attachment. It's like there's some way that as mammals we need to be understood. And when we're not understood or our distress is not understood, then what happens is we get disrupted in very foundational ways that are profoundly and profound and strangely huge for such a little thing as a mom looking at us in in disbelief, or incomprehension when we're crying. Isn't that a strange thing that they've discovered?
I am having so many aha moments when you're saying that. I don't I don't have a response because I was listening. But my short answer is yes. Yes. It's so fascinating. And the one thing that that kind of popped up for me is I had a thought that and I don't know how right or wrong or whatever this is, but it sounds like human mammals, we want to be seen in our humanity, even as very young children.
Yes, we need to make sense to each other. Yes. And the beautiful research about disorganized attachment and traumatic attachment, the same thing is that grandparents can be very strong remedies for disorganized attachment. So if we know for example, that there's a lot of trauma happening in our grand child's life and relationship with their parent, the more stable, present, responsive, warm we are. We don't have to, we don't have to save the child. We don't have to get the child out of the difficult situation. All we have to do is just be our loving selves. And it actually will change the child's propensity to transmit disorganized attachment to the next generation. It's quite a thing. Relationship is the most beautiful thing we have.
Yes. Oh my gosh. Okay. Okay, switching gears again, because there's so many different topics I want to ask you about. In your opinion, what do you think stops us from easy self-expression?
Well, often I think we're stopped from self-expression by both past experiences of trauma where we were ridiculed or humiliated, or by promises we made ourselves not to express often, in order to keep from being humiliated or ridiculed. expression and shame, are hugely linked for humans. It's like, a question of whether we can both be ourselves and belong is always the question at every moment, I think for every human being.
Yes, I'm seeing parts of myself and what you just said, and how, I had another woman I was interviewing, and I was telling her about a recent therapist of mine, who was complimenting my personality, and that I'm so enthusiastic and cheerful. And she said, You're quite the entertainer, because I'm funny, and it was sort of like, you know, my child, it's always been my role, quote, unquote. And I've been praised for it. And she asked me, you know, we were doing some deep work, and she asked me, like, what would happen if you if you didn't have that. You know, in sort of asking me, am I using it? Yes, it's part of my personality, and do I use it many times as a mask to protect myself from pain, from dealing with the shame and trauma that I've had. And let me tell you what, Sarah, when she asked me that I wasn't, it even makes my stomach hurt to tell the story. So she definitely hit a nerve.
And I think the thing that I, what I'm what I like to just kind of say what's there and just say out loud, what is hard for me as in doing this career as someone who has a podcast with hundreds of episodes, and people really know me, or they think they know me, I write books, and I'm on social media. I think the thing that I struggle with is in forms of self-expression is showing people, all the sides of me. You know, it's almost like a peacock, where there's so many different facets of some of humans, of all humans. And I worry, there's, I still have this worry, like this voice that says, do not show people, the most broken parts of you, because they will go away.
Yeah. And that's actually what happens in attachment that takes us right back to attachment. There are all kinds of sort of little workarounds for our children having emotions, that are part of attachment styles and attachment patterns. And one of the things that avoidant attached parents tend to do is they tend to turn away when they remember how with disorganized attachment, the mother was surprised when the child was crying. In avoidant attachment, the mother just turns away when the child is crying. And also, when the child is joyful, the parent turns away. It's like, that's not the important stuff. You know, important stuff is getting things done. That's the avoidant, that's the avoidant attachment motto is getting things done.
Feelings don't solve problems. That's a family motto.
I love that as a model for judgment. If we have an idea, like you have, that we should not reveal, either the depths of our sorrow or shame, or the heights of our ecstasy or joy. We're probably doing this on very good historical evidence that our mothers actually did turn away from those kinds of emotions. Our bodies know it, it's a truth. Then we get to kind of that's one of the things we get to do with the unconscious contract process, which is book to the your resonant self-workbook. It's all about these unconscious contracts we make with ourselves, because attachment is all well and good, but what the heck do we do with it now? Yeah, we don't want to necessarily hide our sorrow if we're doing podcasts because sorrow is of huge importance, and everybody shares sorrow. And there are ways to talk about it that invite people into mourning and let the world heal sorts of huge important so maybe this is a contract we want to let go of, you know, some extent or partly let go off.
I love that. Thank you. And I think now that I think about it, I have. My father passed away in 2016. I brought people with me, I turned on the microphone and I talked about my grief. You know, he was the first person I lost through death that I was that close to I had lost. I hadn't lost anyone before him and so I don't even remember those podcast episodes. It was several years ago, but I was crying.
But um, I'm sure it was immensely healing for your for your people.
The listeners. Yeah, I did, I did get some feedback that people were grateful who had either recently lost a parent or even years before lost a parent who were, who were saying that that they felt truly seen. I just love the sound of your voice. So I'm sure I'm not the first person that's told you that. I just want to acknowledge, like, how soothing and comforting and I mean, you could be reading your grocery list to us and I would feel nurtured and held. So thank you for that. And we are for sure gonna put the links in the show notes to your programs and your book, I know that you have Your Resonant Self. Is there. Is there more than one book? Or is…
There are three there's Your Resonant Self, and there's the Your Resonant Self Workbook workbook for those who are interested in those contracts. And there are there's also a book of affirmations.
Yes. Affirmations For Turbulent Times correct? Yes. Well, we'll link to that. I'm asking all of the guests as we're on this theme around healing, and in your opinion, can you tell us, for some it's a whopper of a question, but I'm very curious about your answer around the question. How do we heal ourselves?
With warmth. With warmth and warm curiosity, and by turning toward ourselves, which is sounds like it might be simple, but it's not at all simple because it's never really modeled. We don't, you know, we don't see some public figure who suddenly makes a mistake and goes, oh, dang, dan, are you sad?
Could you imagine the uproar.
So it's not modeled, but we need to learn it because it heals us. Yeah, the turning towards the self.
Oh, my gosh, thank you so much for your time today. And I know that people have gotten so much out of this. Do you have, I want people to know, because I know that they're gonna want to know, do you have any programs that are starting soon? It should everyone just go to your website? Do you have anything that you want to promote?
We have two things that started last week that are just very, very easy to join. One is a Daily Affirmations Lab, it's not daily, but it's weekly, a little moment that we're doing affirmations before the beginning of the day, once or twice a week. And then we're also doing a wonderful class on The Shadow and what happens when we look at pettiness or contempt with these eyes of resonance. How do we begin to change ourselves and change the world. So those two things are happening. And then in March, the free Resonance Summit is coming up. So sign up for the mailing list, and then you'll be able to hear people like Daniel Siegel and, and the woman who developed Emotionally Focused Therapy, Sue Johnston, and be able to hear many people who practice the time travel. It's all very, very cool and fun and healing.
Oh, that sounds amazing. Okay, we'll have we'll have those links in the show notes. Thank you, again, for being here and giving us your time. And listeners, thank you so much for your time, you know, how valuable I think it is. And I just am honored that you choose to spend it here with me and my guests. And remember, it's our life's journey to make ourselves better humans and our life's responsibility to make the world a better place. Bye for now, everyone.
Hi there, swinging back by to say one more thing. You know, I'm always giving advice over here on the show and on social media. And a couple of those things is that I'm always telling you to ask for what you want, be clear about it, and also ask for help. So I am taking a dose of my own medicine and I'm going to do that right now. It would be the absolute best and mean the world to me if you reviewed and subscribed to this show Make Some Noise Podcast on whatever podcast platform of your choice. And even more importantly, it would matter so much if you shared this show. Sharing the show is one of the few ways the podcast can grow and that also gives more women an opportunity to make some noise in their lives. You can do that by taking a screenshot when you're listening on your phone and sharing it in your Instagram or Facebook stories. If you're on Instagram you can tag me @HeyAndreaOwen and I try my best to always re share those and give you a quick thank you DM and also you can tell your friends and family about it. Tell them what you learned. Tell them a really awesome guest that you found on the show that you started following whatever it is I appreciate so much you sharing about this show.