#081 Can inclusion heal trauma? with Mary Vicario

#081 Can inclusion heal trauma? with Mary Vicario

You can listen to this podcast episode on iTunes or Spotify.

Mary Vicario wasn’t supposed to be born. Doctors thought she was a tumour in her mother’s abdomen and then at 6 months gestation, they realized the tumour had a heartbeat. By then, they had given her mother so many medications that they were sure Mary would be born with serious disabilities,so they wanted to terminate the pregnancy.

This is just the start of Mary’s fascinating story. A story that has led her to a career adapting neuroscience into practical interventions for people who have experienced trauma, including people with developmental disabilities.

I am beyond thrilled to be speaking with Mary this week, and I can’t wait for you to hear this amazing episode. Mary illustrates how our brains – and bodies – experience trauma and how real inclusion for people with disabilities can build resilience and begin to heal trauma.

Mary and I dive deep into some really interesting topics, and I find myself relating as a parent to a lot of her descriptions of what happens to our brains when we lose control!

When we see people with disabilities excluded, it actually makes us feel unsafe too. Inclusion means connection with safe people, and it means that everyone feels safe together. And when we feel safe, we can learn.

Here’s a great quote from Mary:

“I never like to talk about trauma without talking about the resilience that the person used to survive the trauma, because hidden in that resilience, in those survival skills – which may not work in the current environment, but kept them alive somewhere else – is resilience. And if we can harness the resilience, we can help them take that resilience and create the life they want.”

The good things in life are found in a world where people with disabilities can heal from trauma. Mary Vicario is helping make that world reality. Join us as we discuss some vitally important ideas and my brain just explodes with all sorts of thoughts about what it all means!

About Mary

Mary Vicario is a Certified Trauma Specialist with over 30 years of experience working with and training children, adults and people with developmental disabilities who have experienced trauma. Mary brings neurobiology to life using common language and interventions for people who have experienced trauma, and those who work with or support them.

Transcript

Genia:
Welcome to the Good Things in Life podcast. I’m your host, Genia Stephen. And today I’m really honored to be speaking with Mary Vicario. Mary is a certified trauma specialist who holds a certificate in traumatic studies from the child trauma center at the justice resource Institute. She has over 30 years experience working with survivors, turning the latest research into interventions for all ages and abilities. Mary’s honored to provide trauma-responsive care certifications through the trust aid trauma network for, well, wait a second tri-state trauma network for anyone working with trauma survivors and I have not included so, so much of Mary’s expertise and her contributions to this field. And I would love it if you would check out her full bio in the show notes of this episode, Mary, thank you so much for being on the podcast. Thank you so much for taking your time to talk to all of us about trauma and you know, and about hope. I wonder if you could start by just introducing yourself and you’re like, how did you come to what’s your relationship with people with disabilities and their families?

Mary:
Okay. So my name is Mary Vicario and gosh, I think I come to this work from a variety of directions. My, probably my earliest experience with it was going up myself. The doctors did not realize my mother was pregnant cause they told her she’d never have children. And she did not for 16 years. And by the time they found the tumor that she had been growing had a heartbeat. I was already six months gestation. And so they’d been treating her with all kinds of meds thinking, goodness. And so they told her in 1961 that I would be born with severe mental and physical disabilities and that they were going to go in and pretend it was still a tumor and remove me.

Mary:
And her best friend was a doctor and she went to her best friend and said, here’s what’s happening. And she said, you know, no matter what challenges this child is born with, if you allow me to deliver your baby, cause I’m a doctor, I’ll help you raise her. So I got to be born. Thank you very much. And throughout my mother’s life, she believed that I had developmental disabilities cause the doctors told her I would, right? So she interacted with me in that manner and it was so fascinating and I think it may be very cultural, but also I realized when I learned about disabilities and started becoming a teacher and learning about special education and the way different minds work differently, that my mother probably was on the autistic spectrum. My dad and I used to play a game with her when pocket calculators first came out.

Mary:
That’s how old I am. We would give my mom three-digit multiplication to do in her head and she would get it done quicker than the calculator, but she never learned to read words like an I and a J she never could distinguish those two letters, her whole life. But so I’ve learned how to interact with her and help things make sense to her. And she in turn learned how to interact differently with me through her friends and people trying to help her. And it was amazing. It was an amazing gift to be raised by my, my dad was a very verbal man. So people who were opposites to one another, but they both helped me find a way to identify a middle ground and how traumatizing it is to be othered and watching my mother try to hide the fact that she couldn’t read and trying to not understanding why she could be so good at math.

Mary:
And she just couldn’t make sense of these letters that looked too similar. You know? So my, I really started to have a passion as I was a teacher. I was introduced to some young people who had been found in crack houses. So I was teaching right when crack was hitting and they had challenges. I didn’t know what to do with, but some of my other second grade students knew how to help them feel safe in my classroom. And I started learning from my students and that’s when I went back to get a degree in counseling to find out, I said, I want to learn what the second graders seem to know intuitively many of them did. And so we I started that journey and as I learned more about trauma, how it affects the brain, I realized something that I had brought to my classroom was a framed sign that said, this is a safe place.

Mary:
And I headed on a frame and whenever something would go wrong in the classroom, I’d stop. And I go, Hey John, this is a safe place. No, one’s going to throw your stuff on the ground. So I can’t let you throw Sally’s. This is our safe place. How about we help Sally pick it up? And we would, and when I would frame things that way that the volume would come down immediately, everyone would calm down. And then kids started coming to me with challenges saying, is this as a safe place? Can I tell you about this? This is a safe place. Can you help me figure this out? And it just started growing from there. So shall I dive into the trauma and the brain?

Genia:
Sure. I have. I think, I feel like I’ve got like four pathways that I would love for you to pursue simultaneously. Let’s start with what is trauma do to our brain.

Mary:
Okay. So my organization is called finding hope by the way. And I would like to say, I came up with that name, but I did not. It was actually someone I was consulting with and I was leaving my full time job and to do this work. And she said, do you have a name for your agency? And I said, no, Melissa, I don’t. She said, you should name it, finding hope, because that’s what you do for us when you come to these meetings. Cause I never liked to talk about trauma without talking about the resilience that the person used to survive the trauma, because hidden in that resilience, in those survival skills, which may not work in the current environment, but kept them alive somewhere else is resilience. And if we can harness the resilience, we can help them take that resilience and create the life they want, which is what I love about your work.

Mary:
By the way, it’s all about helping people create the life they want. So it was really excited when you asked me to be a part of it. So I like to start with Dan Siegel’s hand brain. So little difficult on a podcast, but see if you can follow along, if your hand was a brain between your wrist and your elbow would be something called the Vegas nerve, really fancy name, the name is unimportant. What’s important is that this nerve sends your feelings to every organ in your body. This is why, when someone calls you a name, you feel it in every organ in your body, think about the last time someone hurt your feelings. Where did you feel it? But when someone says, Hey, you want to come. You want to come play with us. You want to come be a part of our party.

Mary:
Do you want to come sit at our table? When you’re the new kid in the lunchroom or the new person at work, you can also feel that in every organ in your body. So that’s the power of our Vegas nerve and Stephen Porges and other people studying that are discovering that the vagus nerve is really what drives our actions, not our thoughts. And I’ll get to why in a minute, but what we can, how our thoughts can help us. So the next part is going to be the Palm of your hand, the Palm of your hands, going to represent your brainstem, your brain stems in charge of all that stuff. We don’t want to have to think about like breathing right now. I’m so nervous. Cause I’m talking out of podcasts fighter, remember to pray that would have passed out, right? So all those things like breathing, digestion, all those things, we don’t have to think about our blood pressure. Even then the next part is going to be our thumb. And we’re going to rest our thumb across the Palm of our hand because that’s where this part of the brain rests in the brain, right on top of the brainstem rests, something that we call the amygdala fancy name. That’s unimportant. What’s important for me is that it’s in charge of three really important things have spelled the word far. And the first one is felt safety. So it’s not just being safe. It’s actually free.

Genia:
So such an important distinction. Yeah.

Mary:
Yes. Crucial. And thank you Stephen for, just for highlighting that for the world. After the film safety part of this part of your brain grows, if you get felt safety, then it grows to the attachment part, which we hear a lot about when they talk about attachment problems. But what people don’t talk about is that attachment is also the ability to work cooperatively with others. So when we are too afraid, we don’t want to work cooperatively with others and want to say no, even if it’s in our best interest to say yes, and we’re living through some of that right now. So I’d like to broaden that IX exploration of attachment to not just the attachment that allows us to love people, but the attachment that allows us to work together. And then finally the R is regulation, which is the ability literally to calm your vagus nerve, to calm yourself. So that’s that limbic system felt safety, attachment regulation. This is the part most impacted by trauma. Yeah,

Genia:
It’s interesting. I teach. So I’m a midwife. And I, when I talk to parents about babies that don’t want to be put down or sleep or any of those things, I don’t talk about it like you do. But I say the very first thing that you need to realize is that they don’t know that they’re not going to be eaten by a lion unless they are in your arms and nothing else can happen until they know for sure that they are okay. And if they’re not sure they’re going to wake up and call for help and you got to make sure that you always answer because nothing else good can happen until they know they’re not going to get eaten by a lion.

Mary:
Yes. Yes. Because that builds the regulation part of the brain.

Genia:
That’s right. And the answering of the parent who shows up every time, every time a baby calls for help builds the attachment. And then eventually they stopped calling for help because they can regulate themselves a little bit more.

Mary:
Yes. And they’ll get to that sooner.

Genia:
We’ll get to that sooner, if you always answered their call for help.

Mary:
Yeah. And Amy Banks who are relational, cultural theorists and researchers talk about how babies know their parents through their scent. Yeah. Yeah. So literally sometimes just having something that smells like mom, a blanket that has been against mom or dad or someone is really soothing. And I know if someone’s going into an incubator, now they try to plan ahead and have the something with the parents sent later with the child. True. It’s true. And some of the things that I know I’ve interrupted your brand description, but just in thinking about what happens. I, so as a midwife, one of the things that I’ve always said in my professional advocacy and then that, of course, when I’m dealing with clients and supporting clients, is that the more complicated a situation is like a health situation is the more crucial it is that you protect the normal because the, you know, the babies who are super sick and in the ICU, they don’t need to be held less than, you know, babies who are just going home, you know, and they’re just fine.

Genia:
They need to be held more, you know, babies that are all this stuff that we know babies need. They still need this, but we, we throw that out the window. If they have a diagnosis or a health complication, you know, I’ve supported families that have either a prenatal diagnosis or an immediate at birth diagnosis and nine times out of 10, the first thing that the staff do, regardless of the initial stability of the baby, is to move the baby away to a nursery or, you know, for, for testing, for observation, for all of those things. And we keep doing this to kids with disabilities and medical complexities over and over and over and gas. And so it’s small wonder. It’s no wonder that in the memory, in the Vegas nerve. So now for life, you’ve got this memory that you can only feel in your body because the rest of your brain’s not even online.

Mary:
And then when someone says I’m going to the grocery store and you’re not, you don’t get to go with them. People are like, then she has a behavior, right? It’s not a behavior. It’s a communication. Yeah. That I have a memory of losing that sense of the person who can keep me from getting eaten by a tiger. Plus when they take them away, they’re hoping and they’re doing yeah. But so it’s connected with visceral physical, physical pain and the belief that I’m going to die, which is not a belief that lives up here where we have conscious control, which is the next part of our hand brain. Yeah. That was four fingers wrapped around our limbic system. That’s our cortex. The only part we have conscious control over, but guess what? When you get afraid, those go offline, they lift right up. Yeah. And so every time that someone wants to leave that young person, if we haven’t helped them get a new visceral memory for someone coming and going their brain, won’t do it on its own. So sorry, my computer just decided to take you away and put up my email.

Mary:
So let’s do that again. I’m trying to get rid of the email, close it down there. So trauma lives in those lower regions of the brain that we don’t have conscious control over our limbic system. And it disrupts our felt safety, our ability to attach in our ability to regulate the brainstem. Literally that’s why when you get a startle, you can feel your heart beating faster to brainstem and then your vagus nerve, which then tells your body, should I flock go towards safe others? Should I flee? Should I run? Should I fight? And if those three aren’t going to work, you shift out of your limbic system into your brainstem and you freeze when you freeze, right? And then you submit which we call the faint response. So when we see children do it, they curl into a fetal position. Or literally, as someone is passing, is their organs just center.

Mary:
Yes. What is, it can also look like completely submitting to whoever is appearing to be the aggressor. And sadly, I see it so often in people with disabilities or differences because when we look at behavior as something to be controlled, instead of a communication, if you frightened or punished someone into doing what you want them to do, it looks like a win, but it’s not a win. It’s a submit. And that’s, what’s one level up from submit freeze, submit, fight. So they get stuck in this submit fight cycle and what needs to happen for them to feel a sense of belonging. So they can flock to get the actions you want. And it’s not about actions. How do you get cooperation, which comes from the attachment center as opposed to submission, which comes from the brain.

Genia:
So Mary, can you explain what you mean by flock?

Mary:
Yes. So flock is the work of female researchers. So we often don’t hear about it when we talk about what I lovingly call the fear cascade. So Moberg has a wonderful book on the oxytocin factor. She talks about it. Shelly Taylor talks about it and Sue Carter, who is the wife of Stephen Porges also does research on it. And flock is actually to go towards safe others. So when the baby’s crying and reaching, the baby is trying to flock. So we’re trying to connect with safe others. It’s that sense of belonging. And that’s what makes the work you do so important because that sense of belonging is the very first defense that we have. It’s not fight, fight or flight, which by the way, we have backwards it’s or fight. Yeah. And even before that, we want to flock. And if we can’t flock towards safe people, our brain will literally reverse belt safety and unfelt safety to help us flock toward unsafe people. Because humans, especially infants can’t hold the calories we eat on our body unless we have physical touch. So if we have to accept abuse side, touch, our brainstem will drive us to do it. And so when I hear that someone she’s just doing it for attention as my friend, Donna rigs likes to say a drive a drive for attention is a need for connection.

Genia:
Yeah. I’ve always hated that expression, which is just doing it for attention. Yes.

Mary:
Yes.

Genia:
That’s true. That’s not a problem. Right? Human interaction is that like seeing me be with me, it tend to me that Like, attention is not wrong. We’re not praying in what is she trying to draw your attention to? There’s a pain driving that. Cause you’re having to get attention in a way that’s irritating to others. Your brain’s telling you when you’re not irritating, you don’t matter enough. Yeah. We attended to so you must irritate them and I’m pretending like those are thoughts. Those are not thoughts. Those are drives that are coming from the limbic system on DAS. Yeah. So Mary, what is the, what is the difference between the person who experiences trauma in their life and Seems to just move through it And the person who experiences trauma in their life and is just profoundly debilitated by the experience.

Mary:
So this is my humble understanding. It’s way more complex than I could ever understand. Sure. Of course. I’m Vincent Filetti and dr. Anda poor man, I can never remember his first name. Who did the adverse childhood experiences study ACEs and then garner. And some other people looked at some other compounding, adverse, toxic stressors. I call them cats. They found, yes, there’s a correlation, but there’s also not a correlation. And what was the difference? The difference was resilience based interventions where you getting resilience. So if you’re like, yeah, sometimes people in trainings, which by the way, I never recommend you do this. Without thinking, pass out the adverse childhood experiences scale and ask the audience to take it. Okay. That’s cruel because you’re asking them to look at every trauma in their life right now in the middle of the professional training. People don’t think of that.

Mary:
So people, then they go on and say, if you have this many ACEs, this can happen at Buddha. But what they never tell you is there’s a ton of people sitting in that audience who have that many ACEs and the horrible things haven’t happened. And what I want them to look at is what did you do to survive? And what you did to survive had resilience or who came in and helped. My life was permanently changed. When my mom’s best friend said, I will help you raise her. And she did, which was hugely important because my mom had a certain level of skill. My dad had a certain level of skill. She came in Ray with another level of skill. And when the three of them didn’t have enough, they got together and find out who had what I needed. That was resilience. And so I’m, you know, may have had 10 of 10 ACEs, but my God, I had all this resilience, which then taught my brain to look for that resilience.

Mary:
So when you are working so hard to help us have everyone be integrated into the community together, into education together, what you’re teaching us and showing us is that diversity is a resource. Yep. Yes. How do we honor diversity as a resource, which is the work of someone named Claude Steele. So I want to get to where you’re going, but I w I, I feel like I really want to ask you to pause the word resilience gets used a lot lately, but what does it actually mean? Because it, I feel like it often gets talked about like, it’s I can’t think of the term I’m looking for, but like, if you don’t have it, it’s like a character flaw. Right. You know what I mean? Like it’s. Yes. Oh my. So what is, what is, what do you mean when you’re talking about being resilient or having resiliency?

Genia:
What do you, what does that mean? I’m going to tell you what I mean, definitely. I use personally because there are so many out there it’s important to identify. What does it mean to you? So to me, it can be, so I’m going to give you a piece of neurobiology just for a second. So what I’m saying, this humans are the only creatures on earth. We’re 50% of our brain is developed after we, after we are born by and for the environment, which we find ourselves. So you may get 50% of your resilience from your genetic code or from being born, but guess what? You can get another 50%, at least from your environment. So just because someone doesn’t have resilience, doesn’t mean they’re less than it means they may have not been born with that genetic propensity. And they may not have been in an environment, or they may have been born with it, but they didn’t get the environment or they, you know, or they got the environment, but didn’t, weren’t born with it. And so that’s when I wanted to figure out, so how do we create environments of resilience? How do we create resilience in everyday interactions? So that in case you lose the resilience, lottery on birth or in the environment in which you were raised, there’s still a whole world out there because our brain keeps growing and changing until the day we die, by the way, research discovered by three women. And so it didn’t come out until the late nineties.

Genia:
Is that true? Is that true for people, even if they have a significant intellectual disability, can you talk about that a little bit? Like, how does our intellectual capacity impact? I feel like I’m like tempting to jump into unpacking something. That’s like a series of podcast episodes, not, but like the kind of people that still today, it is extremely common. In fact, I would say it’s almost 100% pervasive that people will more often than not run up against a fixed mindset, kind of belief about people with disabilities. So you look at them and they can’t talk, or they can’t walk, or they move differently or they behave in ways that are not socially typical. And you assume that they can, that they’re, that is just who they are and what their capacity is. And there’s an intellectual disability cognition learning piece about that, which you know, I’ve talked about a lot on the podcast, but I want to almost like put, say, okay, so there’s that low expectation aside around learning and competencies and skills development. But I kind of hear from what you’re saying, that resiliency exists and the potential for increasing resiliency, This separate from everyone.

Mary:
Yes. So one of the things I like to look at is the different ways the brain learns. So that way it’s not on a hierarchy. So my mother could have been labeled with a disability, but her brain learned differently. So when she wanted to read me stories, because I loved my dad who was reading me, the, he was showing me the Zapruder film in a picture book when I was four, because he was fascinated by it. And he was reading me about the Roman office as donations and stuff. We found dr. Seuss for her because dr. Seuss rhymes and has rhythm. And so he memorized dr. Seuss, we found an adaptation. So it wasn’t what was wrong with her brain. It’s like, what did we need to do to reach your brain? And so some of my fondest memories is of my mother reading dr.

Mary:
Seuss. It’s the closest thing to prosody. I think I ever heard in her voice. And when she turned 60, we took her to see Seussical the musical. And she knew the words to every song, you know, and it was so beautiful. So as we work to adapt so that everyone’s gifts can contribute and everyone can feel apart that not only enriches the environment, it actually thank you, Claude Steele. And some other researchers calms the brains of everyone in that environment. Because when we see inclusion, our fear center coms, and it’s like, Oh, I don’t have to be so afraid of making a mistake either. Once again, I’m giving our fear center language. It doesn’t think in sentences like that. But what it does is it releases calming chemicals into our brain. But when we see someone excluded, even if we’re the person excluding them, our thinking brain goes offline. And our fear center bombards us with cortisol and other things that block our ability to learn something new and our ability to feel safe. You have to feel safe to learn. Okay.

Genia:
So let me ask some questions here. I’m like people won’t be able to see this, but I’m like folding my, crossing my arms here to dig into this a little bit. So, so the experience of, I want to make sure I understand. So the experience of being included and including other people creates a brain state that facilitates resiliency and growth around resilience,

Mary:
Let’s see. Yes. For every feeling that environment.

Genia:
Yeah. Not just yes, for everybody there. So then the implications around healing from trauma would be to both be in spaces and communities where other people are being inclusive and to practice inclusion, oneself, like those two things. Right. Cause you benefit from being around it, even if you’re not directly involved and you benefit from

Mary:
Experiencing it,

Genia:
Doing it yourself.

Mary:
Yes.

Genia:
Right.

Mary:
So our brain has these really cool things so that we have this cool system in our brain discovered by some great Italian guys called the mirror neuron system. What it does is it’s because we’re so social, because flock is so important to humans that we don’t have to guess at other people’s feelings. The mirror neuron system in our brain takes over our brains. So we actually feel other people’s feelings. We don’t guess at them, we feel so when

Mary:
Watching a movie and we cry, we’re feeling those feelings. So we’re watching someone be excluded, even if we’re not showing it on our face, because our cortex has us in check, our brain is feeling it. And those stress chemicals are getting released. So our biggest nerve to every organ in our body. Yes. So you explain that. I mean, I’ve certainly had that experience of in fact, I don’t read or watch movies anymore that are too emotional because like, I can’t, I have very little filter for, for that. So I understand exactly what you mean, but, but I don’t understand how our brains actually feel what other people are feeling. And I don’t, I feel like I’ve been in lots of social situations where something bad is happening and the person who’s, the perpetrator is not feeling bad. They might be feeling anger. They might be feeling power.

Genia:
They might be feeling like a whole lot of ego or macho or, or they may honestly not appear to have any feeling whatsoever. So I’m having a hard time. Yes. Thank you for that. Very clarifying question because my friend, Amy Banks, her head is probably spinning right now cause she calls my neuroscience reductionistic and she’s right on the money. So I’m reducing it down. So my very good, fair enough and understand it. So let’s try to unpack that a little bit. So this cortex, when it’s in charge can have a lot of power and can squelch a lot of things. And by cortex you mean our thinking conscious breathing, conscious brain, the cortical regions of our brain. And when you get in that position of, and Dan Siegel explains this way better than me and he’s giving free pep talks every Friday, we’ll have to make sure that the links in the show notes.

Mary:
And he’s actually talking about this specific topic right now because we’re having so much conflict with it internationally. When, when you get that holier than now, I’m better than you. That hierarchy turns those systems down on your brain and turns up the, I have to be the strongest person in the room to survive part of your fear center. And so that is not helpful for anyone in that environment, because then the other fear centers can shape around the fact that, Oh, to be safe, the safest person in the room is the most violent person in the room. They’re the only one not getting hurt right now. That’s not helpful when our brains get shaped that way. So to unshaped that we have to make a conscious effort of this is a safe and which

Mary:
Is why unknowingly my framed picture of this as a safe place was so helpless teacher. Cause I was saying in this place that we call safe, we do it this way. And so we use that safety script. So so we’re the one that has to survive. Yes. Go ahead. Say it back to me. So, so on the one hand,

Genia:
If you, it’s sort of a, like if, if you come in this, I feel like I might be mixing some brain science in some metaphors here. So yes, yes. That’s what I do. You’re my, your friend, your friend who doesn’t like reductionism neurology, our mind right now, I’m sure is not going to love me. But if you’re in the, if you’re in some version of fight web like power dominance, fight version of that, you become less competent and capable of relating to other people. Your empathy center goes offline. Right. And so all of the benefits of, of that, that we were just talking about around healing trauma and building resiliency, that growth gets stunted. If one is in that power dominance fight. So if you are, and just so now I’m now I’m sort of thinking about when are the times when I am in that fight power dominance kind of thing as a parent.

Genia:
And it comes up when I’m fighting with the school, which actually, I just, I always feel like I need to give a little shout out to my son’s school because honestly it’s great, but it hasn’t always been great. So fighting with the school and protecting him in the hospital or protecting him from my perceived threat in the hospital. Those are two, those are two of those places where, and spaces where I know I, I have many, many times not shown up as what I call my, my best self. And, and sort of, I guess kind of feeding back into, I’m just trying to figure out where in this loop of you know, trauma and brain function does this fall, but they are all, they are also the, the, the times in my life that have been most deeply wounding. So, and I’m not sure where I would take myself offline or out of that cycle. Do you know what I mean? Like if I was in that situation right now, how I would take myself out of that cycle. So,

Mary:
So looking at our hand brain again, as you are going offline, your brain does that in a specific order as well. And the first thing we lose is spontaneous speech, which is what we need to have a rational conversation. The last, the last thing we lose. So that’s, Broca’s area is keys area, which is scripted speech, which is saying the thing that your parents said that you swore, you’d never say, you know, because I said so, or cussing, cussing a scripted speech. Yeah. So when you are in that environment and you’re like, this is not my best self, this is your thinking brain offline. So on another day, if you would like, I have something, I call the anger volcano where we look at what’s, what’s it feel like in your body? So we’re paying attention to our Vegas nerve. Cause that feeling in your body, that’s just driving you to fight.

Mary:
That’s driving all this. When it first starts, what does that feel like? And noticing that and what are some things that helped me regulate that helped me calm that I can use to literally cross to the other side of the volcano. Cause our goal is to not get into the top of the volcano, because once you explode, you get all these painkillers, all these wonderful endorphins, and then you’re like, you can relax. Well, what if we cut across that volcano instead of getting shot out of it and fly down into our relaxing pool. So we literally break it down by each one of the fingers as they’re coming offline. So I missed the first step step. What’s my, what I’m, what do I look like and feel like in my body for my second step and literally drawing and I can put some connections to something I call the anger volcano in your check. Yes.

Genia:
Great future events. That’s awesome.

Mary:
Yes. I would love to walk you through that step by step. But our goal is how do we regulate ourselves so that we can relate and then we can create, so Bruce Perry called it regulate, relate, and educate, I change, educate to create. So when we want to create something, which by the way is a safe flock, we have to show up-regulated and to, and if you’re the person in the position of authority, it’s really, really your job to show up-regulated because the power differential will cause dysregulation and the other people, whether they want it to or not, that’s just how our brains work.

Genia:
That’s really fascinating because that, that is the difference between a powerful Justifiably angry protest and a riot. Yes. Right? Like the, yes. Yeah. Like there’s some, I there’s something in that around, you know, the, the, it’s not that people shouldn’t be angry, don’t have a right to be angry. Don’t have all of the logical reasons to be angry and to be demanding, to demand attention and change to injustice. Yes. But you see the difference between a regulated expression of that. And when those same humans on a different day, perhaps like it’s not about one good group of people and one bad group of people, but just humans when that dysregulation happens and how quickly it spreads and quickly becomes unmanageable on for, for everybody involved.

Mary:
Yeah. Because everyone are now equating safety with violence being the most violent person, not thinking you’re not thinking lower regions of the brain subcortical regions. Yeah. So it’s so crucial to show up-regulated so that you don’t lose your empathy center and help you relate that’ll help. The others relate. And that mirror neuron system is in that empathy center. Yeah.

Genia:
Yeah. And that volcano thing. Right. So when you feel yourself upleveling, what are the ways in which you can bypass total disintegration of your capacity? I was thinking about I mean, I’ve had those moments for sure, for sure. We all. And you know, I think I’ve mentioned this on the podcast before every once in a while I’ll be in a meeting or at an appointment or something, and I will, I’ll be see like increasingly see thing. And Brandon, my husband will lean in and very quietly say, which is what he calls me Jeanie. And it’s just that, like, he’s managed over the decades now to find that point at which I’m no longer regulated and making a lot of sense and like powerfully advocating, but I’m just moving towards verbal homicide. You know what I mean? Like where I’m just like looking to cause harm and Terra strip off. Yeah. I can totally relate. And I was thinking about a dear friend of mine and mentor Dawn Roper. She’s, she’s passed away now, but I remember her telling me about the moment she snapped to and realized that she was standing on the chair in front of the principal’s desk, screaming like heavy, ugly, snot crying, and just was like, how did I get here?

Genia:
Yeah. So anyway, I’m giving all these examples mostly cause I really advocate for people figuring out how to not be miserable in their advocacy, but I just want to knowledge and, you know, say like the best of us are not gonna not going to be there.

Mary:
So may I offer one suggestion? And this was not my brilliant idea. Some researcher whose name is escaping me right now. My apologies, because that truly is one of my Suboxone skills. I can remember the names of researchers. But since the brainstem controls breathing, when you notice your breath, you’re cutting to that subcortical region of your brain, you’re getting right to the thing that comes the Vegas nerve. So just Stephen Porges, thank you just by noticing your breath, it calms your breath. So you don’t have to actively try to change it. You just have to notice it. And the Vegas nerve and the brainstem take over. So sometimes I carry a little card with me that just says breathe.

Genia:
Yeah. So this is like the science behind the woundedness that we sometimes hear about around people doing breath, work and stuff. Right. It’s not just woo.

Mary:
Yeah. Yes, it is. Awesome. Thank you, Stephen Porges.

Genia:
I feel like I’ve kind of derailed the conversation towards thinking about parents and parents’ experience of wounding and, you know, losing their shit. But really I want really, I want to talk about healing trauma and, and why, so you know why we need to really be focused on community and on valued social roles as a means to, to heal people’s trauma.

Mary:
Yes. So I thank you because actually it’s like, you’re a plant that was a beautiful lead into honoring what we did to survive who uncover the hidden resilience. So I’m a model that I use in a variety of settings with people with developmental disabilities, with people who have been trafficked just with students as they’re going through the stress of educational, whatever I call it, the resilience model. And one of the things we look at is how important it is to see those standing on the chair, ugly, cry, screaming situations as a survival skill, where might want her to learn, how did it help in that environment and wow, how much courage it takes to get up on a chair in a principal’s office. What else would we like to do with that courage to help us accomplish our goal? So what is the hidden resilience in the forcefulness that may be a little more forceful than you would like, you know, more regulated than you’d like, yes, exactly.

Mary:
A little more dysregulated. So guess what, there’s a passion there. How do we want to connect that passion with an ability to remain regulated, to get us to where we want to go? So literally looking at what I call what actually not me. I use Heather Forbes, his words, biologically based fear responses. So things that we now know come from those lower regions of the brain, like stealing is a biologically based fear response. That’s not an excuse for stealing. It’s a context. And if we can put it in the context of how did stealing help this person survive or get a feeling of power or control over when they didn’t have it in other areas, then we can figure out how do we give them a valued social role where they can have a sense of power and connection and they don’t literally have to steal it.

Mary:
How do we, that’s the power of that social role, valorization and connection. How do we take these resilience factors that exist in all people are or can be learned? So I’m a strong component that resilience can be learned. And there’s tons of research behind that, starting with Valentine and find hours early study, where they talk about five resilience factors. They found in people who grew up in a horribly abusive environment and they only studied the ones who, when they got out, did not recreate it. And they’re like, what did they have? And where did they get it? And they learned it. They learned it. So how do we identify those? So can I just name off the five that they use? And then we can play around with those a little bit because I find other people’s research fits nicely under these five.

Mary:
So they help my brain. And I’d like to do them because I’m old. And I Ms. David Letterman like David Letterman’s top 10 list. So here are the David Letterman drum roll in the backgrounds number five. So going from least effective to most effective they called it autonomy. I call it agency because what they described as power with instead of power over. And that’s one of the things you worked so hard for. And I was just listening to your last talk about match us. And that’s all about power with here’s my need. Here’s some strengths. How do we come together instead of fighting over, well, I’m sorry you got that knee, but we’re not going to meet it. Right. That’s power over. How do we get power with instead? So Sarah calls it voice and choice. She actually, she goes at voice choice and control.

Mary:
I’ve never met control. That’s not power over, but when you interview Sarah, she may be able to give you examples of that. So I stop at voice and choice. How do we give people voice and choice, which is part of the work you’re doing and how can they do it without having to stand on a chair and scream and cry. The next one is self-esteem, which I, we use the Rosenbergs definition and cause they have three distinct parts to it. One sense of self, your personal preferences. Did you ever notice how people with developmental disabilities often don’t have a favorite color or a favorite food or they’re afraid to tell you, cause guess what? When people found out what they liked, they used them as a submit, okay, then to earn Mac and cheese, you must do this, this and this. They had to earn what they loved.

Mary:
So they stopped loving things. So they wouldn’t have to earn it. That breaks my heart. That’s the difference between a submit and a flock. Sometimes you just need a hug cause you need a hug. Sometimes you just need Mac and cheese. Cause you need Mac and cheese. Let’s not have to earn what we love. Let’s find other ways to work together. So that sense of self having personal preferences, sense of self-worth. When do I feel loved and valued? Your, your whole belonging piece is about that. What is my value in this environment? What can I offer? And literally everyone has something to offer. And then what is self-efficacy how do I affect change? How do I make things happen? Very similar to agency. Those two overlap a lot. The next one of the resilience factors, external supports what outside of me is helpful, but also foggy.

Mary:
This is [inaudible] what mentalizations, that’s his fancy technical term. What part of our imagination do we use? So I get to work with people who have dealt well, mental disabilities who make sense of the world by telling stories and how beautiful is that they live in metaphor. And so when we want to help them understand a new concept, we go into their story and say, how can princess Aurora or Prince so-and-so accomplish this thing that we’re trying to accomplish? And that’s a flock instead of a submit, right? So how do we use the brain connect with the brain they have so external supports and then affiliation. When do I belong to a group larger than myself, that’s contributing to the greater good. That is the definition of the affiliation. There’s your valued social role. And finally connection with safe, other safe, positive relationships with others, especially people in positions of authority, really helpful healing. I would love to when we speak those, can you just say the list again? Yes. And I will give them to you to put on your website.

Mary:
The first one being agency voice choice, the most important component of agency is power with instead of power over, it comes to relational, cultural theory then self-esteem, which are three parts, a sense of self, your personal preferences, your likes and dislikes be sense of self-worth. When do I feel loved and valued and see self-efficacy? How do I affect change? How do I make things happen? I love my oppositional defined kids. They make things happen by saying no. So I’m like, Ooh, they’ve got a strong drive for self-efficacy. So let’s connect with self-efficacy and teach them other ways to accomplish things. I always go down these rabbit holes, then the next one, number three external supports what outside of me, but also what can I create with my own mind? You know, no parent is perfect. So how do I create a perfect parent in my mind that I can have with me all the time?

Mary:
So that’s one of the things that Ray taught me to do when your mom says things that hurt you, she still loves you. She just doesn’t know how to say it without hurting you. Why don’t you say it for yourself in a way that doesn’t hurt. So and then affiliation being part of a group that’s contributing to the greater good. So not just any group, a group that’s contributing to the greater good. How do we that’s really healing. And then finally connection with safe, positive adults or safe others, safe relationships, especially with people in positions of authority. That’s like a cherry on top. I mean, that’s a lot, but it’s also actionable

Genia:
If you’re thinking about, you know, if you’re thinking about a particular person you can, you can actually break that down a little bit and think about how you’re going to

Mary:
Support. We do resilience, planning, each aspect of that. Yeah. That’s very, and we trade in sticker charts for resilience charge and they ask questions like what did I do today to help in my community? What did I do today to help at home who helped me with something today? So we break down those into activities that you can start paying attention to and contributing. Instead of saying, if you take the garbage out you in a gold star, right? I help the family today by taking the garbage out. Yeah. I mean, you don’t have chores, but whenever I can get away from coercion, which is a submit to a, how do my actions contribute to a greater good, which is affiliation in a safe flock. That’s where I want to go. That’s resilience as opposed to submission

Genia:
[Inaudible]. And there’s when I think about that list of five that you just reviewed, it seems to me that it would be essentially impossible to experience those opportunities for building resilience, to have them embedded in your life in order to support continued healing and resilience. If you lived in isolation, if you lived only with people who were paid to be with you in your life, but with no freely given voluntary relationships, if you didn’t have opportunities to like, if, if every one of your days was regimented in exactly the same way. So there was no opportunity for newness and exploration. And how do you even trial and error?

Mary:
You can’t discover your personal preferences. You can’t connect with safe, others, you can’t contribute to a greater good. You can’t recognize what are my external supports. And then when am I an external support for someone [inaudible] yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s the heart of resilience. I think. I mean safe integration, which what I like about your podcast is that you look into the complexity of it. We’re not just throwing people into a space. That’s good luck. That’s not inclusion. Yeah. Right. How do we prepare everyone? Cod steals, a wonderful book called whistling Vivaldi. And he talks about 10 different ways to prepare your environment so that it feels safe for everyone, no matter how they arrive, no matter what they look like, their ability level, their gender, their religion, their anything. How do we do this kind of training on that too? I love classy.

Genia:
Maybe my mind is blown. I’m like just my wheels are turning. I’m thinking an awful lot about everything that you have said deeply grateful for what you’ve contributed and shared today. And I’m wondering how people can follow up and learn more.

Mary:
Sure. we, I have a website finding hope consulting.com. So where my marketing woman is spinning in circles right now. I have some videos on there as well through the tri-state trauma network. We’re finally getting to open it up nationally and internationally. We do a trauma-responsive care certification where we take all of this and I love it because we apply it to anyone. So I’ve had parents in their foster parents, therapists, police officers community organizers. So we’re, we have series that you can take online and it does training, but then we also have consultation so that you can talk about what you’re doing. And we look at how can we help you apply these principles in what you’re doing. So and I have a foster parent survival guide on the website as well, and working on other materials to put up there as well, and you can reach out and we’re happy to provide training consultation. I, and I love my team because they work with so and so needs this. And they can only afford this. What can we give them? So it’s, I love my team cause they’re about how do we contribute to the greater good and make enough money to live.

Mary:
I’m not going to be the next bill Gates and that’s okay, because I’d love to know we’ve contributed in a way that’s helpful. So yeah, I could send you some, like some of the people I named off, if you want some bibliographies on how to, if anyone wants to look at their books or whatever would be awesome, that would be great. And I’ll make sure that all of those links are in the show notes for people. So Mary, with everything that we’ve talked about around trauma and healing and resilience, if you had just sort of one core message for a parent of a child with a disability who quite likely because people with disabilities experience rejection and isolation and wounds related to that discrimination and rejection, what would your key message to them be? Or maybe just a starting point? I think I have two, and then when we’re ready to end, I’ll share Claude Steele’s one all the time, Sigmund Freud and Oh my God.

Mary:
BF Skinner agreed is that all behavior is purposeful and all behaviors learned. So when my child’s not making sense, my child’s trying to communicate, how do I connect with their communication? It doesn’t doesn’t mean I’m saying everything you’re doing. I want you to continue doing well. What are you trying to tell me? Okay. And when we look at that, then we can start to connect with what strengths allowed her to use communication. So vehemently so strongly. How can I connect with that? What, what is the hidden resilience? Because diversity is a resource. So how do I look at my child? Different way of interacting and experiencing the world as a diversity, that is a resource for the rest of the world. So like we have learned so much about trauma treatment from the world of autism, all of the interventions around sensory integration that they use for autism. Guess what? Yes. The same part of the brain that’s damaged from trauma and people’s brains. Diversity is a resource. How is my child a resource in this world? And honor that in your child honor what they’ve done to survive because then their brain can let go of that and learn a new way in for a new environment. Does that make sense? It does. It does make sense. Yeah. I think it’s, I think that’s wonderful and really helpful. Yes. Your child is a gift to the world.

Mary:
Yes, I agree. Yes. I agree. Every single last one. So may I, you may Claude Steele, please do. Okay. This comes from his book whistling, Vivaldi pages 218 and 219. I’m pulling things together. Identities are fluid and that their influence on us identities are fluid in that their influence on us is activated by their situational relevance. From this perspective, identity becomes a source of wisdom about the challenges of a complex and diverse society. Yes, your child is a source of wisdom about the challenges and the solutions we need for a diverse society. And so is your beautiful,

Genia:
Thank you so much, Mary, thank you so much. I look forward to you. You talked about a couple of additional resources and opportunities. I really look forward to exploring that with you and I’m deeply grateful. I think that, you know, I’ve spent a lot of years thinking about the wounding experiences of people with disabilities and you know, what can be done to support people to heal. And our conversation today has definitely contributed new and nuanced information and, and a deeper understanding. And so I’m personally very, very grateful. Thank you so much. And I, I know others listening will also be positively impacted. So thank you so much.

Mary:
Welcome. Thank you. And thank you for the work you do. And for all the work, your listeners are doing a better place because you all are in it and working late, working to regulate, relate and create.

Genia:
Thanks so much.

Mary:
Thank you.

Thanks for Listening!

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Special thanks to MARY VICARIO for joining me this week. Until next time!

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