Podcast: Wisdom for Wellness
Episode #8: Forward Facing Trauma with Dr. Eric Gentry
I recently completed a training on trauma with Dr. Eric Gentry, creator of Forward-Facing Trauma Therapy (FFTT). Dr. Gentry is an internationally recognized leader in the study and treatment of traumatic stress and compassion fatigue. His training completely transformed my understanding of trauma and my approach to treatment as well.
How do we heal from past painful experiences?
According to Dr. Gentry, we must learn how to deactivate the threat response when there is no actual threat or danger. When we are feeling anxious or stressed, it is because we are perceiving some kind of threat based on our past learning. You can likely imagine countless examples of when we begin to associate situations, people or places, as a threat based on our experiences. We experience a motor vehicle accident in snowy weather and see driving in the snow as a threat, we were dismissed or ridiculed for speaking our truth growing up, so setting boundaries or advocating for ourselves doesn’t feel safe. Even something as small as stubbing our toe (an example Dr. Gentry gives in this conversation) can cause us to be more cautious around that coffee table we bumped into.
When we perceive a threat, our Sympathetic Nervous System (fight/flight) is activated. We experience immediate physiological changes in our bodies, our heart rate increases, as does our breathing, muscles involuntarily constrict and our vision may narrow. Survival instincts kick in and when fight/flight is activated, our rational and logical part of our mind literally goes offline. This is why we typically can’t think our way out of a threat response by telling ourselves we are safe or it’s okay, we have to feel that safety in our bodies. There are many ways of regulating and resetting our nervous system, whether it’s deep breaths or grounding exercises. If you Google and search for ways to reset and calm the nervous system, you may be surprised at what you find.
I am so grateful for Dr. Gentry’s work and the wisdom I’ve learned from him that I am able to share with those I see and now, with all of you. I hope you’ll take the time to listen to this amazing conversation.