• Flowly

Health Talk 01: Trauma in our mind and body: How we can learn to acknowledge and then manage it

About Health Talk


Living with a chronic condition can feel isolating. Health Talk by Flowly was born from wanting to bring often isolated voices into the fold, and connecting different ideas, experiences, and tools to your own health journey. 

We talk to health practitioners and chronic health patients to deconstruct the chronic condition journey— from how many have managed the challenging diagnosis experience, to new tools and tips that might help you. We cover conditions including chronic pain, anxiety, autoimmune diseases, and more.

Hosted by Celine, the founder of Flowly, this weekly podcast will dive into conversations with world class researchers, practitioners, and even more importantly, chronic condition warriors themselves.


Search “Flowly” on Apple Podcast or Spotify to find our Health Talk!



This week Celine sits down with a world class mind-body practitioner, Pierre-Etienne Vannier. In this wide ranging conversation, they touch on different manifestations of trauma, methods we can employ to begin to acknowledge and manage trauma, and the challenges we still face in recovery. 

Pierre is a program development specialist for trauma recovery and resilience building through nervous system regulation. Pierre has done this work at Huntington Memorial Hospital, UCLA Center for East-West Medicine, USC oncology, etc. Pierre has worked with cancer patients, pain patients, and is currently a co-investigator in clinical research focused on fostering post-traumatic growth among cancer survivors. 

You can also find Pierre at Healing Studio Online (www.healingstudioonline.com) for live classes for self-healing, using a wide range of approaches and modalities.



*This transcript is auto-generated


Hey y'all, my name is Celine and I'm the

founder of Flowly, your host today

for Health Talk.

As some of you might know Flowly is a

mobile platform for chronic pain and

anxiety

and mental health management. We use

biofeedback for relaxation training and

even virtual reality to teach you how to

manage your nervous system

so in our Health Talk we invite everyone

from chronic pain patients

chronic illness patients, people with

mental health, challenges and

advocates to talk about what tools help

them with their daily living

but we also invite industry

professionals practitioner

health experts to really share with us

what are tools and techniques and their

experiences that could help with this

community

I'm really looking forward today with

our guest

because he is a world-class mind body

practitioner Pierre-Etienne Vannier

Our team has

actually worked with Pierre

in designing some of the intro sessions

you guys have experienced

and we really respect his work in this

field.

Besides being a mind body practitioner

Pierre is a program development

specialist for trauma recovery

and resilience building through

nervous system regulation.

We're going to get into all of like what

that actually means later.

Pierre has done this work at

Huntington Memorial Hospital,

UCLA Center for East-West Medicine,

USC Oncology, etc. And Pierre has

worked with cancer patients,

pain patients and is currently a

co-investigator

in clinical research focused on

fostering

post-traumatic growth among cancer

survivors

Welcome to Flowly's Health Talk, Pierre.

Thank you, Celine. It's good to be here.

So my first question is a little bit

about your background because

I think one thing that really fascinated

me when working with you is how you

came to be working in the trauma space.

Because I remember when we first

spoke, you came from a background

of working with

low-income populations who have been

affected by HIV and AIDS

and then even worked in Cairo in

somewhat of an adjacent field.

So could you share a little bit about

your background and how you came to be

your background and how you came

to be working on this?

A little bit of the background,

long story short,

You mentioned I used to work in

Cairo, Egypt

I lived there for about 10 years

and I used to work for the

United Nations working with people

living with HIV supporting people

living with HIV, through with

Socioeconomic Empowerment

Program with leadership skills, etc etc

About seven eight years into it

I could see that the most profound

transformation that we were seeing

was when people had an opportunity to

really connect

at the emotional level. It was not so

much about the technical information

that was being shared with them rather

than the opportunity

to really feel right, what they were

feeling in a safe space

and so I started to try to understand

how to promote this

and I was hearing a lot people telling

me you know what

this great challenge

in my life is actually one of the best

thing that happened to me which was

very confusing

because that's not what i was expecting

to hear and so I started to look into it

I started to

learn about post traumatic growth the

learning that may occur

when we're dealing with challenging

experiences in life and try to

understand how can I help

people grow from their experiences

from the pain, from the suffering

This is when I started to study

hypnotherapy, this is

when I started to study different type

of somatic practices

which as you mentioned earlier was

really about

bringing our nervous system back into

balance

so 11 years later I finally went into

private practice because I found it

absolutely fascinating, started to work

with different organizations that were

focusing on

helping people to build resilience

and like you said today I'm working

primarily

I'm working with people who are

dealing with trauma which is let's face it

100% of the world population. We're all

dealing with it, right

we may let's not think about trauma as

that big thing that can happen but that

can also be an accumulation of small

things what we call small traumas

so all of us are experiencing

difficulties and all of us have an

experience to learn skills and tools

to learn from it to overcome and

to bounce back

and even to bounce forward, right?

That kind of leads to

one question that we've been grappling

with which is

I think also to do with your work in

managing the nervous system which is

exactly what we want to do under

Flowly as well right

and in the context of what's happening

in the world now

a lot of experiences with trauma are not

necessarily

physical but how can or do we

experience trauma in the body even if

the trauma wasn't

physical to begin with and then how can

it manifest?

To answer this question, I think we need

to understand that the the separation

between

the mind and the body I think is a very

simplistic way to view things because

Yes, the trauma may not

be physical yet there

are physical consequences

and implications to a traumatic

experience

right so if I experience something that

is fearful to me

and we can't even you know at some

point, look into what's going on

right now with

with covid with

uprising with social unrest with

whatever's going on in Washington,

here the question is that may not be

something that bumped or scraped

or hurt my body but the stress the

anxiety

that my nervous system is going in the

stress response

my nervous system is going to trauma

response saying

what do I need to do to keep myself safe

and so I want to say your body

our bodies are always impacted

by what's going on

and there are a lot of literature out

there what i'm saying is not even

closely, you know, close to be

controversial I think right now we

understand

very clearly that when we're going

through

emotional adversity we there are

physical consequences to that

when I will go in a stress response a

fight or flight freeze response there

different types of stress responses

there will be physical implications

I may find myself

having difficulty sleeping having

difficulties to digest, I may find myself

experiencing increased pain increased

anxiety etc etc etc

right

So all of this eventually translates

and manifests

in the body and so it's important for us

to acknowledge that

and to allow ourselves to

and create a container.

Safe container for us to say, okay,

What's going on with me? Let me

connect

to my body because your body is really

just

your body's talking to you. Our bodies

are talking to us and they're saying hey

let's, can we do something about that?

I'm personally dealing with

back pain I've been dealing with back

pain for many years

when I start to get a little tidal

stressed out

I know this back pain will start to

you know

say, hey, should we slow down here?

and the pain maybe

may not be that great but it's there.

If I ignore it

my body will start to talk to me louder

and say hey

okay I told you two days ago we're

getting tired

and I manifested just a little

pain you're not hearing me

you're not doing what needs to be done

right now to come back

to give me an opportunity to heal and

rest so let me

speak to you a little louder and this is

why sometimes I'm like oh this is

becoming you know

so amazingly painful and that's when I

have to listen to my body

so what I'm saying is that here it's

important for us to listen to our bodies

to listen to the cues

of our body so that we can take the

necessary steps and measures

to bring ourselves back to a place where

we can heal we can rest

we can recover and you know

and we can deal with life.

Does that makes sense?

That makes a lot of sense

and I think what I'm

hearing is that

the first step to learning how to manage

the trauma in your body the nervous

system activation is to a

acknowledge it and then to spend the

time and give it the space to listen to

your body.

Am I interpreting that right?

Yes

and having said that there are times

when it's okay for us to connect to the

body and there are times when it's

totally appropriate for us to maybe

just kind of disconnect because we may

not feel safe to process

it may not be the time for us to process

right and i'm saying that as a

as a call for self-compassion to the

people viewing or listening to us

because a lot of people are like how

come you know how come i'm not

able to

relax more and not able to feel better

and sometimes recognizing that well

right now it's just

the situation may be overwhelming and

i'm in a state of overwhelm

and that seems like at times to be a

space that is appropriate

that's normal for us to go there what we

want is not get stuck there for too long

because again otherwise there will be

physical

implications physical mental emotional

you know implications and consequences

so i'm saying let's not judge our

own response when we get stressed out

this is a protective this is a defensive

mechanism to use the words of a

of a mentor of mine that

response is well intentioned

it's just that sometimes the timing may

be a little off

so we want to adjust the timing, right?

Yea that resonates so strongly with me

becasue even remember when we were

first talking to you about designing the

intro sessions for Flowly

like we knew that we had to approach

it in recognizing that not everybody was

ready to confront their bodies or ready

to acknowledge what was happening in

their bodies and

there needs to be a way of

gently kind of coaxing people into like

hey

let's start to listen to it but we don't

definitely don't want to force you into

it

and i think that even leads into my

um and i think that even leads into my

next

quite a few questions because I had

the opportunity to actually ask

people in our Flowly community on

the app in the community but also on

social media

what are some questions they might

have for you and

our community is pretty widespread as

you know like we have people with

severe chronic pain to people that are

just kind of stressed out

and one of the questions that came

kept coming up and up which is

what are some tips techniques

methods we could self-employ

to manage symptoms around trauma

and a specific question came up is

how to manage an

oncoming anxiety flare-up or panic

attack?

That's a big question and I wish

I wish you know I had a magic

wand for you

So let's break it down here.

Because as a reminder what I've

mentioned earlier which is sometimes

it is okay for us

we feel safe enough to check in with

ourselves to notice what's going on

so we're working on improving that

body awareness

to be connected to ourselves

and so oftentimes i want to say that the

first step

to deal with these challenges the stress

the anxiety

the pain often starts with

and the word that you use earlier is

very important gently

gently come back home gently we connect

to the body we disconnected to the body

from the body for a reason

there is there is a wisdom there right

and so

we have to acknowledge that wisdom to

respect that wisdom and ask ourselves

okay

is it okay for me right now to go back

and check it with myself and reconnect

with my body

gently and here

when i say gently i mean the place at

which you're gonna reconnect to the body

is even more important than how you're

going to reconnect to their body

meaning the tools they have many tools

out there there there are many

practices there are many models

some people will meditate some people

will do some more somatic practices

there are a lot of things out there but

it's really important to understand that

regardless of what you do

you have to be gentle in this process

because when you come back to your body

and let's take the

the example of

people will

a lot of people took on meditation

recently

and they would sit with their

discomfort

for whatever amount of time being told

to just be okay with it and

and here I, it can be actually

counterproductive

because what may happen is that i will

not

i'm disregarding you know what my body

is telling me

and so when i talk about feeling

safe feeling gentle

this is crucial here maybe i need to

sit with it for just a few moments for

just a few minutes

and when it becomes too uncomfortable

maybe i need to listen to my body and

start to move around readjust my

position

do something so working with your body

not against your body

and this is crucial what when

it comes to healing

it is about integration it is about as i

mentioned earlier like coming home

how can i be with myself