What are the 10 Key Concepts of Resonant Healing?
There is plenty of advice out there about how to heal from trauma and bring more self-compassion into our lives however we don’t often learn WHY we get blocked and how we can use that information to inform our healing.
The 10 key concepts of Resonant Healing are the foundational neuroscience concepts for healing. Understanding these 10 concepts gives us a scaffolding of understanding to stand on as we observe our challenges, and gives us a clear path to heal.
Concept #1: Resonance | Concept #2: Self-Warmth | Concept #3: Neuroplasticity | Concept #4: Default Mode Network | Concept #5: Left and Right Hemispheres | Concept #6: Body-Centered Awareness | Concept #7: Vagus Nerve | Concept #8: Traumatic Experiences Are About Loss of Accompaniment | Concept #9: Time-Travel Empathy | Concept #10: Circuits of Emotion + Motivation
Dive into the 10 Concepts of Resonant Healing
Concept #1: Understanding Resonance
Did you know that our bodies actually vibrate with emotion? And that each emotion has a different vibration? This insight comes to us through the work of Jaak Panksepp and his research into the mammalian circuits of emotion and motivation.
To truly understand resonance, we must understand that our bodies ACTUALLY vibrate with emotion. Anger moves us in a different way than sorrow. We are taken into emotional states that have qualities that are recognizable to other humans… as long as those humans are not stopping their vibrations in response to others.
There’s a diagnostic tool we can use to see where our own resonance is blocked: begin to notice when and why we step out of relationship (with ourselves, and others) and when we cannot be in the fullness of a particular emotion. For example, if we start to grieve and immediately become angry, this means we are unable to resonate with grief, and we have learned that it’s easier for us to respond with anger, rather than feel grief.
One major way humans stop their own resonance is shifting into the left-hemisphere. We do this when there is not enough capacity for self-regulation to be with the particular emotion that you, or another person is feeling or expressing. When we have emotions that we cannot resonate with, when our bodies can’t hold it in resonance, we shift out of relationship in order to care for our systems, to not get “flooded” with an emotion that we don’t want to feel.
Concept #2: The Healing Power of Self-Warmth
Have you ever noticed little humans (or even non-human mammals) who carry tiny stuffed animals or blankets with them everywhere they go? This is often a strategy for little ones to get an additional level of warmth that they aren’t receiving from their primary care-givers. If humans have failed us completely, it is often small non-human animals (including stuffed animals or inanimate soothing-objects) that can support us in having some sense of togetherness, warmth, and affection.
Certainly, we can receive warmth in other ways–whether from animals, plants, experiences of the divine–yet the experience of receiving warmth from humans is hugely important in order for our skull-brains to develop the unshakable self-warmth of secure attachment, through building fibers of attachment in the brain.
In the western world there are many religious traditions and that tell us that self-warmth is selfish or sinful. We are often encouraged to project warmth outward, as compassion for others or for the world, but warned that we shouldn’t turn “too much” of this warmth toward the self.
In my humble opinion, there is an absence of understanding in western culture about how deeply harmful loneliness is for humans, and how important it is that we learn to cultivate warmth for ourselves. I call this nervous system state of not receiving enough warmth, and not having internalized a loving resonating self-witness, “alarmed aloneness.”
Understanding how and why human brains need warmth is a key reason why resonant healing works to repattern our nervous systems toward kindness and resilience.
Self-warmth is about the integration and internalization of experiences of affection, presence, understanding, and kindness that come to us from others. If we haven’t received this as young ones, we can build it ourselves through cultivating our resonating self-witness.
Concept #3: Neuroplasticity is Real
Why is understanding how the brain works important to healing? Because neuroplasticity is the foundation for hope. And for faith in neural change and healing. Neuroplasticity has a number of elements – it is the science that shows us that neurons can find brand new connections between their branches, new receptors for neurotransmitters, and there can be strengthened connections through practice.
Our brains can actually change; we can grow our capacity for self-warmth and resonance, no matter how old we are, no matter what our genetic predisposition, and no matter how broken we feel. Neuroplasticity is real.
Concept #4: The Default Mode Network
Scientists are still discovering the secrets of the default mode network, but we know for sure that the DMN is responsible for integrating new experiences. It’s a bit like a tailor that stitches together our sense of self: who we are and how we are related to each other socially, it tells us the story of who we are. The DMN is our “inner voice” — the voice of the DMN is essentially our sense of self being reflected back to us as a voice that tells us about ourselves, what we’ve forgotten, how we have erred, etc.
The DMN is hugely affected by trauma. The more a person has experienced trauma, the more shaming and self-critical our default mode network becomes. Psychologists sometimes refer to this kind of self-criticism as “negative self-cognition” and we now know through fMRI brain scans, that this voice becomes critical through experiences of trauma. We are not born that way, our experiences of trauma can make our brains more critical and difficult to be with.
Surprisingly, the DMN is actually trying to help us. It tries to sew us together so we know how we experience ourselves in the world, based on what we’ve learned about who we are and what we deserve. It tries to keep us safe, to never be surprised again, to never make mistakes again.
Learning how to heal a cruel and fragmented DMN through resonance is a key concept to building a more cozy brain. But first, we need to understand that we make sense. Our DMN attacks us because it’s trying to help, but it needs to learn new stories.
Concept #5: The Left and Right Hemispheres
For the left hemisphere, other living beings are tools instruments. For the right hemisphere, people are souls, each holding knowledge and wisdom, and what is important is how the collective moves and holds each of our unique voices.
The left-hemisphere cares most about what we are getting done. Checking off our to-do list.
The right hemisphere cares most about how we are received and connected to others. How many other people in this room are connected to me? How can I contribute and belong in this complex ecosystem?
A key piece of understanding the differences between the hemispheres is in body-centered awareness – we find enormous treasures and meaning when we witness emotion through the body. Another reason we pay attention to the body, is that that’s how we know we are in the right hemisphere. The integrated body map lives here in the right-hemisphere, it has the capacity to decode the messages that are coming, to give them emotion words, and to understand a little bit of the deep-longings that are at the seat of deep emotion.
The left hemisphere has little ability to connect action and consequence on its own. Emotions are just inconveniences, they get in the way, they give us stomach aches, they are immaterial and just need to stop. Until it is introduced to the right hemisphere, the left hemisphere doesn’t know or understand the great gifts our emotions and bodies can offer us in accomplishing our dreams.
We have choice in how we live and perceive the world to whatever extent we have received resonance.
Concept #6: Body-centered Awareness
There are several reasons why we might have our bodies closed. We can learn this habit from our parents. And/or from really difficult things that have happened to us and have contributed to our default mode networks becoming lacerating, which then can prevent us from accessing our body’s sensations.
(As an aside, this is why constellations are so beautiful, we get to be somebody else, but in our own body, allowing our bodies to safely experience intense emotions that are not ours. Like doing body-centered awareness push-ups!)
Concept #7: Understanding the vagus nerve
Perhaps you’ve heard of polyvagal theory, the work of Stephen Porges, fight-flight-freeze—etc? The vagus nerve is a huge bundle of nerve fibers that runs from our pelvie to our head and controls much of our lived experience and our perceived sense of safety and belonging, especially in terms of how we relate to other humans.
The term “ventral vagal” refers to the state of our nervous system that we are in when we have a sense that we are safe and we matter. Especially in western cultures, we tend to believe that the brain in the skull is all-knowing and in charge, controlling everything, including knowing when we are safe or not. But actually, only 10% of the vagal nerve fibers run downward; 90% of the fibers run UP to the skull brain from the body, giving us critical information about the world and what is safe (and what isn’t.)
What this means is that we can’t actually tell ourselves what to feel. We can be present, decode, hold and resonate with what to feel, but we can’t tell ourselves to be happy, when we are sad. If we’re neutral, in social engagement, relaxed and self-regulated, we can actually invite ourselves into a different state of consciousness. But not when we’re activated.
When we have a neuroception of safety in our vagal nerve, our body shifts – we see more clearly, we hear more clearly, we decode, understand and we have a sense of both physical and emotional safety. Emotional safety is required for full functioning of humans. Understanding how the vagal nerve works is key to having compassion and understanding for experiences of fear, fight and flee, and freeze that occur without the thinking brain.
Concept #8: Trauma is about loss of accompaniment
Trauma isn’t not necessarily a house fire, an earthquake, a car accident, it’s not necessarily abuse or neglect. What determines if something is trauma is to what extent we are accompanied by warm-understanding during or after a traumatic experience.
Trauma leaves traces in the brain because memories that are difficult—-those that create alarm and are not resolved, where we move through social engagement into immobilization—remain as trauma-knots in human memories. The amygdala has the power of super-glue with memory, and when it grabs a trauma memory, it keeps it forever in present time! It keeps it here in the present in order to preserve our lives and make us safe. It wants us to learn from our experiences so it keeps them fresh, creating bubbles of trauma, the hell of the mean default mode network.
Understanding trauma means understanding that it’s not the event itself that creates trauma. It is how alone we were in it.
Concept #9: Time-traveling with Resonance
When we have traumatic experiences where we are not accompanied, the amygdala super-glues everything about the experience together and stores those memories in present time. It does this so that those experiences of terror/fear will help us to NEVER experience that thing again. Trauma is our brain’s way of trying to keep us safe by remembering all the times we didn’t feel safe so that we can avoid them again in the future.
While this is a hellish thing, to be always present with our feats from the past, this means that the DMN is eternally available for resonance. This is very hopeful! When we are resonating with experiences from the past, time-traveling with empathy to our younger selves, we are bringing resonance and self-warmth, leveraging neuroplasticity to change and organize the right hemisphere, create more body-centered awareness,and moving our vagus nerve into social engagement, so that we become the full people we are.
We can’t really know ourselves until we experience ourselves in a neuroception of safety. Moving knots of memory from implicit, amygdala-held memories, to explicit, hippocampus-held experiences, we’re able to time-stamp and contextualize the things that we have lived through.
Concept #10: Circuits of Emotion and Motivation
Understanding emotional circuitry is a huge piece of beginning to untangle the webs of trauma that keep us stuck.