In today’s episode of the Dear Gabby podcast I’m sharing something hardly anyone knows. I want to be up front with you: This is a story about unprocessed trauma. But it’s ultimately a story of hope.
In the 11th hour, when the manuscript was in its fourth iteration, I cut a story out of my book Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace.
After I’d struck through the text, one of my team members pleaded with me, “Please don’t take this story out!”
But my publishers, my husband and I agreed that the story wasn’t right for the book at that time. Still, it’s a very important story, and I knew I’d share it someday.
What Happens to Unprocessed Trauma?
Make sure you stick around until the very end of this episode. After I reveal the missing story from Happy Days, I’ll teach you:
- What EMDR is and why it’s the most powerful therapy for reprocessing trauma
- Why our body and our emotions freeze when we’re in a state of fear (and why that can be a good thing)
- What happens to our body when we’re holding on to impermissible feelings such as shame and rage
- An exercise you can use RIGHT NOW to release stagnant energy that’s keeping you frozen in fear
- How to use your body as a tool to learn more about your unprocessed trauma
We all need to give ourselves permission to turn inward, honor our physical sensations and give our body a break!
We all need to free what’s frozen.
The Felt Sense Exercise
In this episode of Dear Gabby, I guide you through the Felt Sense Exercise that I also shared in Happy Days. This practice will help you become more present with your physical sensations, and begin to release unprocessed trauma.
By feeling into your sensations, you’ll start to shift frozen, stagnant energy. As you do this exercise, try to focus on your physical sensations, rather than on your thoughts.
Before you begin, make sure you have a journal and a pen nearby—you may want to write about this experience when you come out of the meditative practice.
For now, let go, relax and follow my guidance by pressing play on today’s Dear Gabby.
Having a greater connection to the felt sense will help you tap into the feelings that might be hiding behind your physical pain. It will also let you bear gentle witness to how unprocessed trauma may be affecting you.
The Missing Story from Happy Days
I also wanted to share the missing story from Happy Days with you here. If you’re reading this blog, you’re one of the first people to ever read this story.
The following passage was originally included in chapter 8. In the same chapter, I described an experience I’d had when my husband challenged me to a race.
He’d set off running, but I’d stayed frozen on the spot. It was as if my legs had turned to lead. As it turned out, this was due to unprocessed trauma that my body was holding onto. This is what happened next …
Freeing What’s Frozen
The next day I told my therapist about the experience. Instead of analyzing the story, she suggested that we target the feeling of immobility with some EMDR. I envisioned myself standing on the driveway, unable to run up the hill. Then I allowed myself to connect to the emotions underneath the feeling of being stuck. I was scared. Feeling into that fear made me instantly go numb. Once again, I froze. Instead of trying to figure out why I was frozen, my therapist just asked me to get into a relaxing position with the EMDR buzzers in either hand. So I lay back on the sofa.
My therapist told me to feel the sense of immobilization. As the buzzers sounded left and right, I allowed myself to feel that sensation in my body. Then, just like before, my legs felt like lead. I became frozen from the waist down, focusing on the lack of sensation as the buzzers continued. Left and right. Left and right. After a few minutes of focusing on numbness, a vision flashed before my eyes.
“I’m in the closet,” I yelled. The closet was where the childhood abuse took place.
“Take your time. Go slowly,” my therapist said.
My face cringed with anticipation of the impermissible feelings that were creeping around the corner into my consciousness. As I allowed myself to honor those feelings, I felt my right leg start to slowly kick out as if I were pushing someone off me. The kicking got faster and faster. Eventually, it became violent as though a powerful energy was moving through my leg. Then my left leg started kicking too.
“It feels like I’m kicking someone off of me so that I can break free,” I said to my therapist. Then I started to visualize fighting a perpetrator off me so that I could escape and get out of the closet. Once I visualized myself escaping, my legs began to move as though I was running. Lying on my back, I watched my legs running in the air. Faster and faster. I closed my eyes and let my body move on its own. I let go and trusted that my body was completing something.
With my eyes closed, I could envision myself running out of the closet, then out of my bedroom, down the stairs, and out the front door of my childhood home. In my mind, I ran down the front lawn and across the street. After running past the neighbor’s house and around the corner, I finally slowed down as I approached the duck pond. Standing at the duck pond, I felt a fleeting moment of relief. I was out of the closet but was unsure of what to do next. Then tears rolled down my face as I said out loud, “I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere safe to go.”
This experience unearthed a memory of being unable to complete the physical movement that my body naturally wanted to do at the time, namely kick the perpetrator off me and run the hell out of there. Instead, I had been held down, therefore preventing the process of emotional and physical completion in the face of danger and sending me into a frozen state. Freezing was my brain’s way of protecting me from experiencing the terrifying enormity of the event and my inability to fight or flee.
The freeze occurs when our brain secretes chemicals that numb any physical and psychological pain from a traumatic event. My inability to complete my body’s natural response could only lead to dissociation or psychosis, which could have threatened my sanity. So the biological response of freezing helped me survive. The EMDR opened up my brain to witness this unresolved, dissociated memory. From there, my body was able to complete what it needed to do: run.
My Hope for You
I hope this story, and this episode of Dear Gabby, inspire you to bring more awareness to your body and begin to release unprocessed trauma. Great shifts can take place when we slow down enough to notice our energetic, emotional and sensory landscape.
Press play, and prepare to free what’s been frozen in you.
Get More Gabby
The following are helpful resources and books I mention in the episode:
The story I share on today’s Episode of the Dear Gabby podcast is from my latest book Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace. If you’ve read the book, you can revisit Chapter 8 to revisit the lesson about freeing what’s been frozen in your body and mind. And if you haven’t read Happy Days yet, consider this a sign! This is your openhearted invite to take the journey toward inner peace with me. I’ll guide you every step of the way, and open you up to body-based therapies and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR therapy, check out my Big Talk with my EMDR therapist, Tammy Valicenti. Tammy has a beautiful ability to demystify this life-changing technique, and she shares instructions for finding an EMDR practitioner near you.
I created the Miracle Membership to help you design a spiritual practice you can stick to—so you can feel connected, supported and inspired every day. Each week I deliver brand new workshops, guided meditations and community connection. Plus, you’ll get access to hundreds of hours of content about manifesting, abundance and more. Take your spiritual practice to the next level and sign up for the Miracle Membership!
You can find a link to the binaural-beats playlist that I reference in this episode here.
If you feel you need additional support, please consult this list of mental health resources. I’m proud of you for being here.
This podcast is intended to educate, inspire and support you on your personal journey toward inner peace. I am not a psychologist or a medical doctor and do not offer any professional health or medical advice. If you are suffering from any psychological or medical conditions, please seek help from a qualified health professional.
The following podcast is a Dear Media production. Hi there, Gabby here. This podcast is intended to educate, inspire and support you on your personal journey towards inner peace. I’m not a psychologist or a medical doctor and do no...
The following podcast is a Dear Media production. Hi there, Gabby here. This podcast is intended to educate, inspire and support you on your personal journey towards inner peace. I’m not a psychologist or a medical doctor and do not offer any professional health or medical advice. If you are suffering from a psychological or medical condition, please seek help from a qualified health professional.
Hey there. Welcome to Dear Gabby. I’m your host Gabby Bernstein. And if you landed here, it is absolutely no accident. It means that you’re ready to feel good and manifest a life beyond your wildest dreams. Let’s get started.
Welcome back to Dear Gabby. Welcome back. My friends, today’s episode is gonna really rock your world. This is something that no one knows. Except for maybe a handful of people, a handful of people know this, there is a missing story from my book, Happy Days: The Guided Path from Trauma to Profound Freedom and Inner Peace.
It’s a story I removed at the 11th hour. It was probably the fourth iteration of the manuscript. It had been written and completed and edited multiple times, sent off to the publisher. And my publisher as well as my husband and even I agreed that this story needed to come out—except for one of my team members, Alissa. She, she read this and in the comments after reading the manuscript, she wrote, please don’t remove this story. And I love it too.
And it’s a very important story to leave in. It’s a deep story. I think its depth is actually why it had to be remove at that point in the book. Because it was chapter eight, we were really turning a corner. That depth was a different direction than we wanted to go in at that stage in the book. So we removed the story.
But today, on this episode, I’m gonna share it with you. This is a big reveal. The first time anyone will hear this story live. The first time anyone will hear the missing story from the book. Make sure to stick around to the end, because I’m gonna teach you how this story applies to your own emotional and physical experience and how you can use this as a guide to start to recognize some of the frozen parts of yourself.
I’m really thrilled to be able to share this with you. Before I go into the story in the full episode, I wanna begin by just, just sending so much gratitude and just love to our listeners. As many of you know, this show started out in 2020 as a little Instagram live show where I would get on every Wednesday and I would do an hour with people on Instagram live, where I would just Dear Gabby people randomly from all over the world.
And it became a movement of people that were so deeply touched by the work and touched by the connection and so much so that it became a show. Here we are a little over a year later, we have over 7 million unique downloads to this podcast. We have so many different subscribers all throughout the world and such beautiful, beautiful reviews. And I’m gonna read one of our reviews today because this one makes me feel so good.
Here we go. This is from Allison G. This is an Apple review. I love it. “A truly life-changing podcast. I look forward to every Monday when the new episode gets released. Each episode is inspiring, profound, and infused with love and encourages and inspires me to dig deeper. Follow the path, trust the universe and take the next step. Thank you, Gabby for guiding the way and for showing up lovingly in this space, giving me the gift of being able to take a deep breath. And breathe again.”
First of all, what a beautiful way to say this I love her, thank you so much, Allison G. And if you are enjoying this podcast and it’s supporting you, I really welcome you to leave a review.
And there’s something really cool that we do. We welcome you to leave your honest review and then leave me a question because what we’ll do often is go into the podcast reviews on Apple and pick out the questions that people leave inside those reviews and do episodes with those questions. So your questions can be answered if you maybe haven’t been able to join me live in a recording, you can get your questions answered by leaving them in your honest review on Apple. So head over to Apple and leave your review and your question.
Before I share this story. I reference EMDR–eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing. And EMDR is something that I write about in Happy Days. And there’s also an entire episode of Dear Gabby based on EMDR with my therapist, Tammy Valicenti, who is shared about in this story, EMDR therapy is one of the greatest therapies for trauma recovery. This is also a story that’s related to that process. If you are someone who is stuck in fear around trauma, this is a process that I highly recommend and to learn more about EMDR, go listen to the episode with Tammy Valicenti all about EMDR.
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These can all be symptoms of burnout. I always know exactly when I’m going down the path of burnout because I feel less creative in my work. I feel my energy level is lower. I don’t really have that intuitive spark that’s usually there. And I always know this because my body’s telling me, and I really hear that.
My body’s telling me I need to slow down. Often we associate burnout with work, but that’s not the only cause any of our roles in life can lead us to feel burnt out and Better Help Online Therapy wants to help remind you to prioritize yourself. Talking with a therapist can help you figure out what’s causing stress in your life.
Therapy is such an important part of my life, and it’s been the most valuable tool in taking care of my mental health. The other day, I was talking to a girlfriend of mine who just started working with a therapist from Better Help. And she was just telling me about all of these amazing different leaps that she was making personally, professionally, and how much better she was feeling. I said to her, you are rocking at life! And that’s available to all of us. It works if you work it.
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So we know today is the day I’m sharing this powerful episode with you. That’s a story that I was supposed to share on happy. But in the final hours of editing, we removed it. And it was a really powerful story that I actually didn’t wanna let go of. But I did agree that it was time to release this story just to keep the flow going.
And it’s a story that was taken out of chapter eight. If you’re reading Happy Days, you know, this chapter. And in the beginning of that chapter, I share a different story about how my husband and I are walking home from a long four-mile walk that we had just taken. And we were about, I don’t know, 50 feet from our house. And Zach says, I’ll race you to the house. And I say, okay.
But he runs and I can’t move. My legs are like lead. And I’m having this strange physical experience of literally not being able to run. And that’s where this story that we left out of this chapter begins. The next day, I told my therapist about the experience. Instead of analyzing the story, she suggested that we target the feeling of immobility with some EMDR.
I envisioned myself standing on the driveway, unable to run up the hill. I then allowed myself to connect to the emotions underneath the feeling of being stuck. I was scared. Feeling into the fear, made me instantly go numb. Once again, I froze. Instead of trying to figure out why I was frozen, my therapist just asked me to get into a relaxing position with the EMDR buzzers in either hand.
So I laid back on the sofa. My therapist told me to feel the sensation of immobilization. As the buzzers sounded left and right. I allowed myself to feel that sensation in my body. Then, just like before, my legs felt like lead. I became frozen from the waist down. Focusing on the lack of sensation as the buzzers continued, left and right, left and right.
After a few minutes of focusing on numbness, a vision flashed before my eyes. “I’m in the closet,” I yelled. The closet was where the childhood abuse took place. “Take your time, go slowly,” my therapist said. My face cringed with anticipation of the impermissible feelings that were creeping around the corner into my consciousness.
As I allowed myself to honor those feelings, I felt my right leg start to slowly kick out as if I were pushing someone off of me. The kicking got faster and faster. Eventually, it became violent as though a powerful energy was moving through my leg. Then my left leg started kicking too. “It feels like I’m kicking someone off of me so I can break free,” I said to my therapist.
Then I started to visualize fighting a perpetrator off of me so that I could escape and get out of the closet. Once I visualized myself escaping, my legs, began to move as though I was running. Lying on my back, I watched my legs running in the air faster and faster. I closed my eyes and I let my body move on its own.
I let go and trusted that my body was completing something. With my eyes closed, I could envision myself running out of the closet. Then out of my bedroom, down the stairs and out the front door of my childhood home, I ran down the front lawn and across the street. I ran past the neighbor’s house around the corner, and finally slowed down as I approached the duck pond.
I stood at the duck pond and felt a fleeting moment of relief. I got out but was unsure of what to do next. The tears rolled down my face. As I said out loud, I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere safe to go. This experience unearthed the memory of being unable to complete the physical movement that my body naturally wanted to do at the time. Namely, kick the perpetrator off of me and run the hell out of there.
Instead I’d been held down, therefore preventing the process of emotional and physical completion in the face of danger, and sending me into a frozen state. Freezing was my brain’s way of protecting me from experiencing the terrifying enormity of the event and my inability to fight or flee. The freeze occurs when our brains secrete chemicals that numb any physical and psychological pain from a traumatic event.
My inability to complete my body’s natural response could only lead to dissociation or psychosis, which could have threatened my sanity. So the biological response of dissociation and freezing helped me survive. The EMDR opened up my brain to witness this unresolved dissociated memory.
From there, my body was able to complete what I needed to do—to run.
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My exercise secret is to move in some way every day. It gives me a lot of freedom. Exercising is just part of my routine every single day. And if I make that commitment, just move in some way everyday, I’m hooked up. I’m always hooked up and I’ve been loving our podcast sponsor EVLO fitness. You don’t have to grind yourself down to see results from your workouts.
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So you can see that this story’s pretty heavy. And that was a big reason why we took it out of this stage of the book, but it’s an important story. It’s an important story that reveals how our body responds to the frozen experience of dissociating from trauma. We literally can freeze, and as those feelings started to come up in my life as a result of facing into darker moments and facing into emotional disturbances, my body started to react. And that’s when my body stopped moving when it came time to run.
By reprocessing that memory, I can run now. I can run now, guys. It’s really amazing to witness how the body will hold and store the impermissible. And in that chapter, I talk about this exercise called the felt-sense exercise, and it’s a practice of really getting into the presence of your physical sensations.
And when we do so, we can start to slowly and subtly titrate into the emotional disturbance and out. And give ourselves permission to feel into sensations, to start to create that shift that we need in order to release stagnant, frozen energy. When practicing this method, I want you to try to focus only on the sensations rather than your thoughts.
So even just for a few seconds of connection, you’ll feel this presence that will allow you the felt-sense of that physical sensation, that emotional sensation that needs to come through in order for us to thaw out those frozen memories, those frozen energies And many of you listening might be like, wow, that’s why I can’t move my hip.
Or, oh my God. I’ve always struggled with my right shoulder. What is there behind that frozen shoulder? We say a frozen shoulder, typically it’s yes, a physical experience, but there’s also a psychosomatic condition. And when we start to address the body, rather than the storyline, we start to feel into it. And the story can be revealed naturally, or the body’s message can come.
So if you’re driving, head back to the Dear Gabby episodes and listen to the episode, on how to process unresolved memories and emotions with EMDR. That episode is what you can listen to now while you’re driving. And then when you get home, come back and press play. You can do this felt-sense. exercise with me.
It’s the kind of exercise I want you to do in a meditative position. If you’re not driving. I recommend that you find a space where you won’t be interrupted, where you can have a few minutes of stillness and privacy, where you can really let go and allow. You can sit comfortably in a chair. You can lie down on the floor, whatever feels most soothing to you physically.
I like to lie down and I also recommend that you have a notebook or a piece of paper and a pen by your side, because when you come out of the meditative practice, I’m gonna ask you to just do a little bit of writing. So let’s get started. Give yourself a moment to get settled.
Lying down or sitting up straight, noticing the sensations in your body.
Is there a particular part of your body that reveals sensations to you?
Describe the sensations.
Take your time to open up to more and more subtle sensations and describe each one in detail to yourself in your mind.
Take a moment now to notice your feelings.
Notice your feeling sensation.
Is their tension? If so, describe it.
Is it inflamed?
Tight? Frozen? Angry?
Is there pressure? Describe it.
Is it crushing? Pounding?
Is it cutting off circulation?
Is there pain?
Is there an ache?
Is there a sharpness?
Does the sensation have a color or a temperature?
Is it burning or icy or on fire?
What color is it?
Is it red?
Is there a texture?
Is it soft? Is it rough?
Is there weight?
Is there a mood attached to the sense?
Is it low? Dark? Uplifting?
Is there any kind of taste?
Something sweet, bitter?
Is there a smell?
Maybe you smell leaves or flowers or roses, perfume?
Is there an absence or an emptiness?
Notice what you notice as you sense into your body.
Take some time to just notice.
When you’re ready, you can open your eyes and pick up your notebook.
Describe any feelings that may be surfacing at this time. Any thoughts that came to mind.
This is an exercise that helps you bring awareness inside the body, slowing you down enough, so you can notice your energetic, emotional, and sensory landscape.
As you deepen the practice of connecting, you start to really get closer to what is called the felt-sense. You can begin to release chronic physical pain, have a better understanding of your true feelings and enhance the efficacy of other therapeutic practices. Our body is always revealing to us the emotional disturbances that are being buried underneath.
So when we freeze, that’s a sure sign that there’s something we can’t face. When there’s pain, that’s often a sign that we are focusing on that pain so we don’t have to face into something deeper. Give yourself permission to take the time. To focus in. Notice the body bring awareness to your physical sensations, respect your physical sensations, respect any tension.
By simply focusing inward, you start to reveal what lives underneath the physical experience.
This is one of many practices in chapter eight of Happy Days that touches into the body-based work that is required of us to start to free what’s frozen, to start to shake out what’s inside. If I were to do this exercise with you right now, I would probably describe pain in my hip and how it feels like an iron hip that just completely frozen and stuck and dull.
And I can give you such detail and it feels like it wants a drill to be drilled into it. So that there’s this explosive energy underneath it that can be poured out. That’s the level of description that I would hope you can get to as you start to define and describe what’s happening inside your body because the more aware of it you are, the more you can use your visualization and you can use practices like this to start to relax and reveal what’s underneath.
It’s possible that some of you may have felt some trembling or shaking as you started to notice the body. As soon as we start to bring focus into the physical somatic experience, we can actually feel some release and that release often comes through that tremble. And that sensation of release that comes through just by energetically moving and physically moving.
This is just the first step and starting to just pay attention to your body and what your body wants to reveal to you. Give yourself permission to do so. This is a profound exercise that I hope you come back to again and again, and give yourself full permission to really experience into the sensations.
If you’ve now listened to the episode on EMDR and you’re wanting to learn more about EMDR, there’s also a practice inside of Happy Days called Rage on the Page. And it’s a lesson where you listen to this binaural music that I’ll put in the show notes. And that binaural music starts to stimulate both sides of your brain.
And as you stimulate both sides of the brain, just like in EMDR, you are starting to open up your window of tolerance, which is your ability to process disturbed feelings or energetic disturbances of any kind. And you start to open up your ability, your window of tolerance to process things. As you stimulate both sides of the brain through this music that will be in the show notes, I suggest that you just write for 20 minutes—10 minutes or 20 minutes, whatever you can do.
Write, write, write about all the physical sensations, the feelings, whatever it is that you need to get out. And then lie in stillness for another 20 minutes listening to that music. And let everything process. This practice that’s referenced in the book is based on the work of Dr. John Sarno, who really also carried the premise that the physical somatic experiences that we’re having have an emotional connection.
So when you do this practice, this is another one that you can do right here right now. You can just lie down on your own and just pull out your notebook and start just writing, raging on the page, anxiety on the page, whatever needs to get onto the page.
Just put it out there and give yourself that permission. To truly let go, to truly allow and listen to that therapeutic music, that EMDR music. It’ll be in the show notes. It’ll be on this podcast page. Give yourself permission to listen to that music, write it all out and then meditate for 20 minutes.
Either one of these two exercises, the felt-sense exercise or the rage on the page or any of the other body-based exercises in chapter eight of Happy Days will help you begin to address what’s frozen and free what’s frozen inside of you. We all have these emotional points in our life that freeze in our jaw, freeze in our hip, freeze in our stomach, freeze in our head, our shoulders, the back pain.
And it’s about facing into the impermissible, so that this pain, the suffering can have a moment or a lifetime of relief. By no means, am I encouraging you not to consistently stay committed to your medical path, your doctor’s advice, but to also address the underlying root cause condition behind these frozen states that we find ourselves in.
I hope that this exercise is really supportive for you. I encourage you to come back to it again and again, and I hope you share this episode with anyone in your life who’s really struggling with physical symptoms that they can’t understand, people that are struggling with any kind of trauma that they need to face into subtly and safely with curiosity and compassion.
And even to yourself. We all need to give ourselves full permission to turn inward, honor our physical sensations, and give our body a break. Free what’s frozen.
Thank you so much for listening today. I love you guys. And I’m so happy I had this place to share the story that didn’t make it into the book. Thank you for listening.
If you made it to the end of this episode, that means you’re truly committed to miracles. I’m really proud of you. If you wanna get more Gabby, tune in every Monday for a new episode. Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the guidance or special bonus episodes. Your experience at this show means a lot to me.
So I really wanna welcome you to leave an honest review and you can follow me on social media @GabbyBernstein. And if you wanna get in on the action, sign up for a chance to be Dear Gabby’d live at deargabby.com. See you next week.