Somatics vs. Brain Retraining – Q&A with CFS School co-founder Karden Rabin

While I typically share recovery stories, I mixed it up this time with an expert Q&A! Nervous system healing expert and CFS School co-founder Karden Rabin came on my channel to answer key questions about Somatics, how this modality is different from traditional top-down brain retraining, how it fits in, and other important Q’s for those healing from chronic illness.

Guest bio: Over the last 15 years, Karden Rabin has combined principles of bodywork, brain retraining, and somatic trauma therapies to help thousands of people all over the world heal from chronic pain and illness. He is a regular contributor to Bessel Van Der Kolk’s Trauma Research Foundation blog and YouTube channel and has led programming for The Wounded Warrior Project, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, and Starbucks.

YouTube Interview

Written Transcript

Liz: Karden Rabin is one of my favorite voices in the healing community. He’s an expert in both somatic body work and brain retraining who’s helped thousands of people heal from chronic pain and illness. And I admire him for the real talk way he shares his knowledge. So I’ve invited him on to my channel today so he can talk about the differences between somatics and brain retraining and answer some burning questions.

So thanks for coming on today, Karden. How’s it going?

Karden: It’s going great, Liz. I’m really excited to be here. I was actually telling you that before the show. I loved the questions that you wanted to explore today and share with your listeners, and so I’m stoked.

Liz: Awesome. So let’s just get into it. 

Click on the toggles to read the rest of our conversation. Nothing is medical advice nor meant to contradict what you yourself have discovered to be true.

Liz: Can you describe what is the definition of somatics? It’s a big thing everyone’s talking about right now. Can you explain what that is and is that even the right term – somatics?

Karden: Yeah. Language is a really funny thing and it’s constantly evolving. You know, before I actually answer “somatics,” one of my favorite examples of why language can be so interesting in this space, is that in our space we do mind-body stuff all the time, right?

Mind-body medicine, mind-body practices, mind-body healing. Mind-body is completely legit. People love it. They’re on board. But if I tell someone that they have a psychosomatic issue, they’ll be like, “How dare you.”

“What are you talking about? You think it’s in my head now?” Psycho means mind and somatic means body. Mind-body, same word, completely different meaning, at least in terms of how we own it in our culture today.

So psychosomatic, mind-body, right? One’s out, one’s in, but they both relate to the idea that the mind and the body are unified and connected.

And that they influence one another and that a lot of these symptoms and issues we’re dealing with are totally interlinked between the brain and the body. And so when we come to somatics, somatic simply means of the body. Somatic soma, it means body. 

Liz note: There are different definitions of psychosomatic. Some use it as a euphemism to imply imagined, attention-seeking, or hypochondria, which is bad and not what we’re talking about. We know chronic pain, CFS, and related conditions are very real and debilitating, having been there. We also are not implying CFS is caused by the mind. Karden explains his theory for what causes chronic illness in toggle 4.

And for really the best part of 50 years, really since the sixties and the seventies, Thomas Hanna, other people pioneered this field called somatics.

And people have now taken that language to be a fancier version of body-based therapies. And so you can have somatic breath work, you can have somatic psychotherapy, you can have somatic yoga, right?

So in one sense it means a lot of things, but in the specific sense that I work with it and that CFS School and a lot of these mind body programs work with it…

What I want to really share with folks is that somatic, as it comes from somatic experiencing, Peter Levine’s trauma healing method, the idea is that we’re actually accessing other parts of our brain and other parts of our consciousness that are experienced via the body and not through thoughts and words.

And my favorite, way to try to have this make sense for folks is that most people would agree that their dog or their cat is a sentient creature, a conscious creature, a creature with opinions, preferences, folks that it likes, folks that it doesn’t like food that it likes. 

My cat Cheshire definitely had a personality, and we loved him and he was unique and special, and he was conscious, but Cheshire’s experience of himself, his consciousness was almost exclusively somatic. ‘Cause he didn’t have words like Karden or Liz or “I like you” and “I don’t like you.”

He had experiences like, Mmm, right? Warm, affectionate, we have words for it, but Cheshire didn’t. Horses don’t. Your pet doesn’t. So the animals which we evolved from for the majority of our evolutionary existence, had a somatic, a body based in experiential consciousness.

One could even say an experiential mind of self that lived in the body.

And when we’re doing mind body medicine, when we’re trying to heal trauma, when we’re trying to retrain this creature that we are, we have to take – even if we don’t know we’re doing it – a somatic approach in some capacity because that’s the way we access the majority of our lived experience and our brains lived experience of ourself, without words, without language.

I’m gonna stop talking. That was a lot. Did that make sense, Liz?

[5:01] Liz: Yes. So it’s interesting that it’s just now starting to take off, I would say in the past two years. You had mentioned some pioneers in this field, though our bodies have been around for hundreds of thousands of years, so I’m sure there was probably even different terms before that, maybe in ancient culture.

Karden: Yeah. We know that Descartes, for example, was the one who popularized the idea that these were separate experiences. So I think that the experience of being in a body and having sensations and impulses and emotions have been something that people have been looking at in every single culture since the beginning of time.

And some cultures have been much more integrative of that experience and others have been much more in denial of that experience.

Liz: And those cultures, the ones in denial, have a higher rate of depression probably.

Karden: That would be right.

Friendly Liz note:  We’re not implying here CFS or any chronic illness is depression though they can overlap. I have never experienced depression myself. 

Relevant research highlight: Here is an interesting study showing those who identified their sense of self throughout multiple regions of their body had a greater sense of wellbeing than those who identified their sense of self in their head or fewer areas of their body.

Liz: Yeah. Descartes was the guy who said, “I think therefore I am.” But I think it’s more “I feel there therefore I am.”

[6:03] Karden: Yeah. Yeah. I would say so. And I think when poets share about and when people share about the beauty of being the most alive, they never say, “Oh my God, it was such an intense thought experience.”

They’re like, “Oh, it was such an intense felt experience.”

Liz: Yeah. So you had mentioned a few things as examples. You had said there’s somatic experiencing. You had said there’s breath work. 

Can you describe some of these somatic nervous system regulation practices? And the ones you teach in CFS School? Just give some examples to help make it more tangible for people listening.

[6:43] Karden: Yeah. Okay. Let’s try that one. So if we take something maybe a bit more simplistic, yoga is a somatic practice, or at least the Asana component of it.  

When we are feeling our body, moving mindfully, we are diverting our attention from our experience of thought into our experience of body.

We are becoming embodied. So yoga is definitely a somatic practice, even if it’s not being labeled somatic, although there are people now doing “somatic yoga.” So just keep in mind that somatic is often being used as a trendy branding term to simply rename the hundreds of classic body-based practices or therapies that we all know.

Massage therapy is a somatic practice, right? Feldenkrais, dance. These are all somatic practices. Anything that’s body centered. but if we go into yoga again, often the way somatic practices are being effective and therapeutic is because of their interaction and activation of your Vagus Nerve.

Which a lot of people are [now] on board, right? 

10 years ago everyone was talking about their psoas (lower back muscles). It was so psoas this, psoas that. Before that was vitamin D. There’s always something that’s a big deal. The Vagus nerve is the big deal right now. 

But one of the reasons why it’s so wonderful is the Vagus Nerve provides a physiological and anatomical explanation for why so many of these somatic or body centric practices work. 

So when you’re doing yoga, you’re doing a lot of things that naturally stimulate the vagus nerve. And when you stimulate the vagus nerve, especially, it’s a ventral branch, the forward branch (we’re not gonna get into that right now) you activate the parasympathetic branch of your nervous system, which is your rest, restore and digest branch of your nervous system. 

And, you don’t have to be a Jungian psychoanalyst to know that most people are too stimulated, too activated, too sympathetic, too doing, too performing too much on their phone, too much working.

There’s way too much of everything stimulating, and you are mammalian body was not meant to be at that level of activation all the time. 

And so all of the somatic practices have at their core, They’re providing benefit by interacting with your vagus nerve to bring your body back into the rest, digestion, restore frequency, which by the way, for most mammals and most animals in nature, they spend 80 to 90% of their time in a parasympathetic state.

Not I’m not talking about asleep guys. I’m just talking like not under threat. Not ruminating, not being anxious, not being like, “What am I gonna do now?” Or “what is that other deer thinking of me?” They’re not doing that.

Liz: “Should I have emailed that deer that?” No, they’re not thinking about what they emailed the other deer.

[9:46] Karden: “Why didn’t that other orangutan get back to my DM?”

Or “when they just wrote, thank you without a smiley face, does that mean they’re mad at me?” They’re not doing that. Um, yeah. Ok. They’re in a sympathetic state when a tiger or a hunter comes by and then it’s off. Yeah. So that’s how I’d define somatic practices.

All of them, any body-based practice that makes you feel better is doing so because it’s interacting usually with that Vegas system. 

Somatic experiencing in particular, I would say is a very rarefied and phenomenal and powerful, much more comprehensive training and therapeutic practice. People who have trauma, people who have nervous system dysregulation will go to a certified somatic experiencing practitioner who’ve gone through the Somatic Experiencing International Trauma Healing Institute.

And we are using the Vagus Nerve is involved in what we’re doing. But we are skillfully supporting people in one, simply reconnecting to the felt experience.

A lot of folks in our space have trouble feeling their bodies, or the only thing they feel in their bodies is paying or tension. They don’t know how to feel pleasure. You’ll say, relax. And they’ll be like, what do you mean? So somatic experiencing helps people first access their body, period. 

Two, to then start to access states that feel safe, easeful, parasympathetic, ventral, vagal states. And then furthermore, folks, is that what happens to a lot of people who have been a chronic straight of dysregulation, is that the nervous system?

Is meant to angulate. It’s meant to oscillate. It’s meant to be able to go up and activate when need to, and then soften and relax. And really, although we use this word dysregulation, most dysregulated folks are actually stuck. they’ve lost the rhythm of going up and down in their nervous system.

They see the text from their employer. That’s a little, maybe like, Hey, have you gotten that thing yet? And instead of reading it as like a level four kind of act out of 10, it’s a level four, like, oh, this is something I have to deal with. They’re immediately at an 11. They’re like off, right.

No matter what comes into the space, the dysregulation is that they hockey stick. To this really high place, and then maybe every once in a while they collapse to a really low place. Vice versa, there can be people who are really stuck in this, “I’m just so tired. I’m just so fatigued.” They’re at the bottom.

And so somatic experiencing helps restore the natural rhythmic nature and kind of the scale of it. It’s a spectrum of activation rather than black, white, on, off.

[12:37] Liz: All right. Thanks for providing a really good explanation of somatics and the Vagus nerve.

So a lot of people watching this, their initial trigger might have been covid, another virus, a viral reactivation, maybe even a car accident, an illness or an injury. In my case it was mold, a virus.

How does then that relate to the trauma aspect? Is it the trigger that knocks people down or? How does that relate in terms of the state of someone’s nervous system and then getting chronically ill?

[13:19] Karden: Yeah. All right. So I’m gonna provide a framework for that, that a lot of folks are gonna fit into, and some aren’t. And if you don’t fit into it, don’t send me hate mail. 

All right. I was just talking about that rhythm, that pliability the capacity of the nervous system to go up and down, and that is what it’s supposed to do.

It’s supposed to go up and down. It’s supposed to rhythm. Most folks who end up getting chronically ill, I’m just gonna say they usually have adverse childhood experiences, ACEs, whether they’re severe or not, doesn’t matter, but they have them that predispose their nervous system for then maybe their teens, their twenties, their thirties, until they get sick and they tend to react.

For long periods of time with a sympathetic response, kind of a hypervigilant type a crush it, highly active, right, ruminating, anxiety, all that stuff. They tend to be in a rigid, vigilant place, or they tend to be in kind of a rigid, frozen place, shielding, fear, shut down, not a lot of movement.

Most folks tend to be in that sympathetic activation for a long period of time. 

So imagine that a system that’s supposed to flex throughout its lifetime basically says, stuck on the sympathetic highly energetic, demanding state for three decades.

And it works. And it works for a long time. It’s fucking remarkable how long people can maintain a cracked out state. All right? And then it’s functional and they achieve and they get things done, and people admire that, right? Whatever it is. Okay. 

And. When we usually start looking back to like the previous couple months, year or 2, 3, 4, before they got ill, there’s usually a couple telltale signs of micro crashes or maybe getting a little more ill.

But there’s clear signs the nervous isn’t having trouble maintaining this offensive posture to maintain safety. And then just eventually, it truly is a straw that breaks the camel’s back. Whether it be a high exposure to mold, a lime infection, Covid, or a divorce, it snaps.

The system collapses. 

The nervous system says, I cannot maintain this sympathetic method of survival any longer. 

And what actually happens is the parasympathetic takes over, and although I said the parasympathetic is the rest, digest, restore, the ancient aspect of the parasympathetic response is freeze.

Torpor, hibernation, fawning, death faking. 

Liz: Ohh I didn’t know about that.

[16:27] Karden: Okay, so it, we inherited it from lizards. Okay. And so the last choice in this polyvagal ladder, in the survival ladder that a mammal wants to make is death. But when a mouse can no longer fight or escape the cat, it goes into tonic immobility.

It pretends to be dead, and it hopes beyond hope that the animal will ignore it. And if the animal ignores it, it will naturally come back online. The sympathetic response will come back online and it will escape and go away. But in this instance, the parasympathetic, that final survival response of basically energy conservation mode shut down of “I’m in the jaws of the cat” takes over permanently or seemingly, so that’s why we call them “chronic” illnesses.

That’s why conventional medicine says they are unrecoverable from, and then as almost everyone with chronic illness knows that when you try to be active again, whether it’s taking a walk or vacuuming or even getting up out of bed, any movement towards the sympathetic now causes nervous system to say, “No, we can’t do that. If we start to deploy that kind of energy again, not only do we associate that with danger because that’s how we protected ourselves our whole lives, but that’s what got us sick.”

We need to collapse again. I’m gonna drag this person back down into the parasympathetic. 

Liz: Ooh.

Karden: I’m gonna pause there. I know that got kind of intense folks, but that’s what we theorize and observe is happening. 

By the way, there’s an associative science having to do with the Cell Danger Response and mitochondria that allies really well with this.

The only thing that I will say is that it’s our opinion that this life cycle of early childhood trauma, and the nervous system being on hyperactivity for that myriad of time is what causes the CDR and the mitochondrial dysfunction. 

Not that the CDR and the mitochondrial dysfunction causes the shutdown.

[18:31] Liz: Yes. Interesting. And there is a lot of research about these ACEs adverse childhood experiences putting you at greater risk for chronic illness and then other illnesses as well like Alzheimer’s and things like that.

So it kinda now feel, oh my gosh, “I had these adverse childhood experiences, is there anything I can do?”

But of course there is because you’ve been helping hundred maybe thousands of people heal by regulating their nervous system.

[19:04] Karden: Yeah, you know, I think Peter Levine, Bessel Vander Cook, you know, they love to talk about how trauma is what happened to you. And it’s not a life sentence. It’s not a life sentence. 

And we’re living in a wonderful age, Liz. We’re in the last 20 to 30 years, we really have been able to develop and deploy therapeutic and clinical tools that fricking work. So although we just painted a really kind of heavy and scary picture, cause it is heavy and scary with you.

You’ve been sick, Liz. It’s, it’s horrible. Right? But you also know that you’ve healed. 

Liz: Yeah.

[19:36] Liz: I do have a question. So, for me, I didn’t have some horrible childhood of lots of abuse or I didn’t have like the big T traumas, but I did have… there was lots of rage and lots of yelling like every day in my family.

But like from a Christmas card photo, we were like the perfect family. My parents get me wonderful gifts. They did all the right things from an outsider looking in, but there was that yelling every single day. So, yeah, I hear some people tell me, well, “My childhood was good.” Are they just lying?

And then they got CFS.

[20:23] Karden: I’ve never met a chronically ill person who, when they actually learn our work and look back into their childhood like you did, they will often acknowledge something similar. It’s true. I wasn’t abused, I wasn’t sexually assaulted, I wasn’t in a low…I wasn’t in an adverse neighborhood where I was exposed to violence.

But they will say things like, “Yeah, my father had a terrifying temper and we really very much in many situations had to walk around on eggshells. Cause we were concerned about what would happen. He never hurt us, but we were afraid of it.” Or, you know, “My mother provided me with everything I needed. But the truth is, is that, she really wasn’t attune to my niece. She always told me everything was gonna be Okay.”

It’s so much more about the safety and the quality of one’s emotional experience than their physical experience.

And by the way, when you look at the literature and the research neglect and its various forms has a much higher correlation with chronic illness than abuse.

[21:25] Liz: Yes. Yeah. And, in most cases, I mean, I would say in all cases they had that growing up themselves, too, and the cycle just has never been broken.

Karden: Yeah.  

Liz: So one thing that is very common in the chronic illness community that I personally don’t relate to is a lot of people are emotional suppressors. 

So I would actually, eventually after being yelled at I would then yell back (to defend myself) and it would never make it better. I’m glad I didn’t hold it in, but I would then just stew in anger. 

So what advice do you have for people who aren’t repressors?

Because I know a lot of the somatic work is feeling your anger in a safe way. But what if you’re like me and you then get stuck in the anger because it’s like, “Why does it have to be like this?!” And then, you go and you react with anger and stewing.

[22:29] Karden: I hear you. I hear you. It’s a really good question.

So Liz, we’re gonna play a game here, okay? You and I.

Liz: Okay.

Karden: Every emotion happens for a reason, and in addition to its reason, every emotion has a goal, like literally a practical outcome it’s trying to achieve. Every emotion has a practical outcome it’s trying to achieve, and usually that’s in relation to another person.

So good on you for expressing your rage. Your rage was attempting to advocate for something. Yes. But did it do it successfully?

[23:13] Liz: No, it just made the cycle continue even worse. And then would…I would have to apologize. And never get an apology.

Karden: So as we teach in CFS School, and, this might also be my free resources.

I call it the proper expression of aggression of the cycle of rage. I’m just gonna hypothet…like in your home. Let’s say you were being, someone was yelling at you, and they were being unkind to you and wrongly accusing you of something. Just say that’s what was happening. And then you. “Roar. How dare you. F you!” It all, it all came out. 

Yeah. Te desperate hope, especially of that child or teenage anger, what was it trying to do? 

I wanna get them to see me, I want to get them to hear me. And I want to get them to validate me in what I’m feeling. And in this dream world, I’d also maybe like them to f-ing apologize.

Liz: [Laugh cries.]

Karden: You’re like, this is way too close to home, Karden! You brought it up, Liz.

Liz: I know. Well, my parents actually visited this past week and it was going so good and then when there was no one else there. Yeah. And then it did blow up, and it was just like I was a kid again.

[24:35] Karden: And boom. And we’ll talk about this, but like when we do parts work and good trauma work, it’s about bringing all the time.

What happens, by the way, when we’re not trained and when we haven’t had our breakthroughs yet? When the old patterns get activated, they’re like quicksand, and they pull you and your adult self and all your work that you’ve done and your best of intentions, they teleport you right back two or three decades.

And you’re f-ed because you’ve been pulled back into the trauma timeline or the dysfunctional relational timeline instead of pulling your inner child and your past self into the present timeline.

We’ll talk about that later, but to answer your question: if you express emotion without allowing your mind, body, and especially the experience of your body to feel the experience of the resolution it was trying to achieve. If it doesn’t get to feel that, even if you’re freaking faking it, Liz, if it doesn’t get that feeling that your expression of anger, resulted in you feeling seen, feeling understood, and feeling validated, it will just continue to fester and rot your soul.

Now. I wanna say for everyone out there in our work, there are times where this – but I’m gonna say the minority of the time, does this actually need to be played out in real life with your living family? Most of the time, as we would in somatic experiencing parts work in CFS School, we actually really need to perform this completion for the child in the past.

And if the child in the past gets to have an experience through therapy or through self-healing work of being able to have their voice heard, but more importantly, Liz, to in this imaginary setting, having the experience of being seen by your parents. Of  having your feelings validated of having your true self or whatever super-parts you have – these are again CFS School words – validates you and make you feel seen once your body feels the ugh of, “Oh my God, I’m getting the deep need that I’ve been advocating for met.” Then the anger starts to truly dissolve.

*Parts work originates from Internal Family Systems therapy. 

Liz: Yeah.

Karden: Expression of emotion without resolution of core need doesn’t work. And that’s why the anger expression therapies of the sixties and seventies and the eighties never f-ing worked because people beat the sh*t out of things with bats, but they never actually got to their core need being met.

Liz: Yeah, that’s so powerful. And I know people who are like, “Yeah, I’ve felt, my feelings of sadness, and they’re still in a puddle on the floor every day crying, crying and sad. Of course, chronic illness ducks. Your entire body is an excruciating discomfort. But it’s about meeting your core needs. And then on a somatic level, and I know you guide people in CFS School on how to do that, and I think that’s really beautiful.

Liz: So I do wanna transition now because we’ve been talking a lot about somatics, but most of us, before we heard about somatics people listening to my channel, we heard about the top-down brain retraining.

[27:55] Karden: Holla.

Liz: I know you guys do both at CFS school and you combine the two to help people heal the chronic illness and nervous system dysregulation.

So can you talk about how brain retraining the top down approach can fit with somatics?

[28:17] Karden: I sure can. I sure can. So let’s actually go back to my model of the parasympathetic, overtaking the sympathetic, like the collapse of a nervous system that leads to chronic illness. Brain retraining works because it’s all about state shifting. Right. we’re trying to watch thoughts and patterns in mind. that cultivate negative, unhelpful state. And then for better or worse, it’s not how we do it in the CFS school. It depends on which method to forcibly direct them elsewhere to a positive state or experience or visualization.

So the nervous system has it that when you try to do activity, it’s associated that in the past with danger. If I try to do stuff. I’m anxious and fearful, and then I’m gonna force a parasympathetic collapse. What brain returning does, it’s very sneaky. It says, oh wait, I’m gonna really put myself in a positive state and then try to do the activity, or while I’m doing the activity, and now the nervous system isn’t gonna activate its collapse response because I’m doing the activity with a different vibe.

To put it really basically the fear, anxiety, danger, vibe has been displaced and the yay unicorns and butterflies vibe has been in place and without subtle mental trickery. And it’s not trickery, it’s also retraining. Now the nervous system doesn’t activate the shutdown response and you can go do the thing.


So covering that…brain retraining helps associate a different state with activity which then inhibits or remodels that parasympathetic response from taking over. And you can do stuff again. That’s the gist.

[30:04] Liz: Yeah. So a lot of people here know that brain retraining works, but some don’t.

Because some people might say, “Oh yeah, I thought positive thoughts and I tried to do the thing and then I crashed. I’m not trying anything brain retraining again.” And that was me, too. I mean, I would be like, “It’s all gonna be okay. I’m gonna go to the local Tiki bar and dance to the karaoke,” and then I crash.

So what do you tell people who are like, “Oh yeah, I tried to think positive” when they hear ‘brain retraining’?

[30:38] Karden: Well, actually, before we get that, cause we were covering like, you know, the brain retraining and somatics, now they play together. But I’m gonna put it back on you. What was the shift for you in brain retraining that allowed you to go dance?

[30:49] Liz: I think it was really connecting on the felt sense, as well, because I was making the feelings… I wasn’t just hoping and saying it’s gonna go well. I was literally rehearsing it and feeling that in my body. And also just the time that I put into it, yeah, and the quality of the visualizations over time.

[31:15] Karden: So Liz, what, what you literally just said is that your brain retraining finally worked when you made it somatic.

[31:21] Liz: Yeah, it was. I didn’t even consider what I was doing before brain retraining. I was just considering it, “positive thinking,” and I kind of linked the two before.

Note: Before I did brain retraining I had thought it was just positive thinking and ignoring symptoms. I was mistaken. Here is an Instagram post I made about brain retraining / neuroplasticity.

Karden: Yeah. So there’s the thing, guys.

If your brain retraining is only in your head, and you’re not getting a felt response from your body, it doesn’t work. 

Okay. Period at all. If I was watching a horror movie and it wasn’t scaring me, is that an effective horror movie? No. It blows. It’s not working. Right.  

Let’s say you’ve got chamomile tea on the shelf. You’re like, I wanna choose the state of calm. So you get chamomile tea off the shelf, you put it in your brain, right? Maybe you’re even like seeing a beach. But until you start to allow that teabag to steep into the water of your body and you get a felt shift, you haven’t done jack sh*t.

We like to say in CFS school that the mind moves at the speed of light, but the body moves at the speed of water. And if you’re not getting the water to move or change, you’re not gonna change your nervous system in any significant or sustained way. So when we say that our brain retraining is trauma and somatically informed right from the get-go in CFS school, you are learning to associate and integrate your body and felt experience into your brain retraining.

Then as we progress, because we’re working on your association with your body and elevating your capacity to feel and therefore empower your shifts and empower your noticing of when it’s not good, we can enter into levels of state shifting that aren’t really even thought driven. They are felt driven.

And then of course we have something called the Self-Directed Trauma Resolution Model, where we bring in aspects of somatic experiencing. We bring in aspects of parts work and in your child work, all within the environment of the body. Like we said in the beginning, where most of your experience of yourself is in your body, not in your head.

And so that’s the big thing. I mean, I loved how you said it there Liz, well it’s my language, when you made your brain training somatic, it started to work.

[33:41] Liz: Yeah. Interesting!

Liz: So I do wanna talk about, so some other brain retraining programs, that are top down (brain to body) focused.

Some of them recommend not dealing with negative emotions, particularly for the first six months. What do you guys have to say about that?

That approach of not going into negativity and avoiding negativity.

[34:07] Karden: All right. Um, I’m not known for being diplomatic, so hold on a moment here.

[34:14] Liz: Well, that’s why I appreciate your Instagrams. You have the best, most real talk little reels you do. And I’m just like, yeah. I appreciate it. I think people do, you know, I always appreciate different viewpoints and authenticity.

[34:29] Karden: Thank you. Thank you. So, let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the positive state people for the first six months. What’s the benefit of the doubt? The benefit of the doubt is that you’ve spent so much time in negative state that we have to literally build up the neuro pathways and the muscle to be in a positive state, right? 

And that’s what we’re gonna get you out with. But back to your rage, Liz, if what you’re trying to do, like, “Oh, I’m angry, let me go for the unicorns and butterflies.” It doesn’t work, or if it works, it works for seconds, minutes, half a day. And the reason why it doesn’t work is that if you are bypassing, connecting to the, we not even gonna call this a negative state.

What you’re bypassing is the human feeling of hurt, the human feeling of they don’t care about me, the human feeling of maybe abandonment. And we posit in our work that actually quite soon with the right support you can connect with it. 

It’s not like get outta the depression. It’s find that core wound, that soft, sweet thing that needs attention because then when you’re like, oh, this is the thing that’s actually at the root of most of these negative states, I’m trying to shift out of.

Now I can learn from that wound and my shift, the state that I go into, instead of being like, “I’m gonna go from angry to happy.” If what I’m actually deep down feeling is unseen, I’m gonna go from unseen – to being held. I’m gonna shift into the state of being held, holding. I’m gonna be in the state of being embraced.

Holy c-p. I feel so good because this was the foundational state shift that I was actually seeking. 

So if you are just going from negative to positive, you are putting ketchup on top of a burnt steak over and over and over and over again, and as soon as the ketchup washes off, you’re like, “Wow, this take tastes like sh*t again.”

Yeah. So that’s why we don’t favor that. We do create a safe container for you to go into stuff that’s hurt, right? And, the last thing we’ll say is, it’s inhuman, it’s robotic, and I don’t like it.

[37:04] Liz: I love your authenticity and I really relate to what you said about going into the wound and then, and then being held. And there was a time, I didn’t have c f s school. I this was after I kind of healed, but I was triggered by something it had to do with my family. And I remember writing a note to myself like, My inner child and it was just, that’s what I needed.

And saying like, you’re a good person. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. and also just reading it out in that feeling, that feeling of being held versus just saying, oh, I’m gonna go on my beach vacation in my mind.

[37:43] Karden: Yeah. So let’s actually weave it together and now I’ll be less, less of a jerk is. 

Using brain retraining to shift from negative to positive state is really important because the brain has formed poor habits.

And those habits need to be shifted. And so in CFS School, that’s what we do. We really are in the first three to four weeks supporting most people in just achieving positive state. But there is some mindfulness, there is inquiry, there is self knowing and learning going on. But we exercise that muscle for about three to four weeks, maybe five.

And then what I’m talking about here is now that you’ve been able to do that, these habits are just the crust, they’re the surface. I’m glad we’re shifting them. But what we’re talking about here is the habits were built on top of the wound we’ve been discussing, and we do have to get below the habit and shifting negative habits positive.

We have to get below it to the wounds that generated the habit and the coping mechanisms in the first place. And that’s where the somatic work, that’s where the deep state shifting, that’s where the trauma work comes in. 

And as many of your listeners know, or at least some of them, they’ve been avid brain retrainers, and it’s worked really well. For months or a year or two, and then it implodes and the brain retraining is not working anymore and it’s because the primary wounds, which were never addressed have found another way out, and they’re not responding to the brain retraining anymore.

[39:10] Yeah Liz: and I’m sure a lot of people on my channel have watched my interview with Jennifer Mann and she’s your co-founder, and partner in CFS School

Karden: She’s much nicer than me. Much, much nicer than me.

[39:22] Liz: Yeah, well, I love it. She’s got this ethereal vibe and you have this like real talk vibe and it just really works and it compliments one another so beautifully. People have said, but yeah, she was saying she had done one of the traditional brain retraining programs had a lot of success with it. 

But then had some deep feelings and triggers come up and you were her practitioner who helped her bring the somatic element to it and now she is fully healed (from severe CFS). And you’ve done this wonderful program together, CFS School and you’re helping over a thousand people, I think have graduated.

So, yeah. Did you have anything more to say about it?

[40:09] Karden: Just we have the self-study program and we have the live program. And the really, the distinction is the level of support and I like to say the way people like to learn.

I learn much better in a live dynamic and with a group. I’m a very poor self-motivator when it comes to self-study. Other people are really good at that. So that’s kind of the distinction between the two programs. You’re getting a lot of the same, but more support and more inclusivity. And what I’d say is that, where we really help is since we integrate the top down and the bottom up.

We cover a lot of bases, and if you’ve been at this work in the brain retraining space like Jen was and you’ve plateaued, or there’s some things you haven’t gotten through, then what I can say is that the middle and second half of our program is what’s missing. It is that somatic aspect. It is the trauma resolution work and that we offer it to people in a way that isn’t traumatizing.

It’s safe, it’s incremental, it’s done in a way that’s supposed to make it possible for change, not for change to be overwhelming. So if you’re afraid of that, I invite you to not be, and to trust us and to trust yourself. On the other end, there are a lot of people who have been in the world of somatics and psychotherapy and deep in emotions and stuff like that.

And as you pointed out, they’ll cry a lot, but they won’t get completion. And that’s another place where our program is gonna help completion. And if you’ve been in the emotional space for a long time, but you haven’t done brain retraining, you’re missing something. The top down component’s really important.

What I often see in my trauma space and even in the somatic experiencing space, is that they poo poo the brain retraining. They don’t like CBT, they don’t like NLP. They’re just like nah nah nah. They, unfortunately in their commitment to their path, dismiss the top down steps…um, and what Jen and I just know is that you really need it all.

In the end, we call our method the total consciousness rewire. It’s the whole shabang.

[42:02] Liz: Ooh, I love that. Yeah. And I have some friends who have taken CFS School and yeah, they’ve seen some really amazing progress on a health level, but also just on a transformational life level as well.

Liz: Why don’t we close out and you share with us a final message you have to people listening. My audience, as you know, is mainly people with chronic fatigue syndrome and also those healing from Long Covid. So yeah. Any final message you have today?

[42:35] Karden: think I’ll give you two.

One, and we say this so often is we are self healers, but we are not alone.

And what that means is we, ourselves, our true self, we are the primary agents in our healing. We are the ones responsible for it. But that doesn’t mean we do it alone. Right. We need guides, we need allies, we need to be contributed to. And so if you’ve been at this in your silo, really expanding your community of other self healers, trying different teachers, being in group components, taking that limb to be like, you know what?

I would like to be supported. I invite your listeners to do that if they haven’t yet, because it makes all the difference in the world. And even someone like, like me, you know, we’re supposed to be really good at this stuff and we’re got all, like, when I, when my symptoms flare up, even though I’ve been doing my stuff, the thing that I have to remember is like, wow, I went into lone wolf mode again.

And when I allow myself to reach out to my community, and I use this expression, When I allow myself to be contributed to, when I allow myself to be nourished, things improve very quickly. Um, and that relates to my second thing, which is don’t stay stuck. Don’t stay stuck.

It’s usually not because you’re not trying hard enough people, it’s because there’s probably a subtlety of technique or a blind spot. That you will probably not find quickly on your own. Cuz that’s why it’s a blind spot. And don’t try the same thing over and over and over and over and over again expecting a different result.

Like if you’re being diligent about something for two or three months, but it’s like not budging, don’t stay stuck. Try a different course, try a different program. Reach out to someone for one-on-one. Be willing to be a little vulnerable and try things differently. Cause it’s amazing what a small tweak, what a different insight, what a slightly different version of the same technique can do to catapult you forward.

[44:43] Liz: Ooh, I love that. So I just wanna say, yeah, it’s not just the same, just try jump from program to program, but just maybe the tweak and approach getting a new perspective because it’s often these small shifts. That can end up having some powerful results.

[45:00] Karden: Yeah. Ooh. And I am just called to do it cuz it was a big theme in our thing.

If you’re a brain retrainer, your state shift should not be arbitrary. What do I mean? I want you to ask more wise about why you’re feeling state. So if you’re feeling anxiety, like, oh, I’m doing anxiety, I’m gonna shift to, uh joy, that’s dumb. And it’s dumb because it has no reasoning behind it. If you say, oh, I’m doing anxiety.

Hmm, why am I doing anxiety? Oh, it’s because again, you know, let’s deal with this text message. I think this person might be upset with me. Oh, I’m doing anxiety because the more authentic, negative state is I’m feeling potentially rejected or that I’m in trouble. Wow. What would be a suitable, positive state shift that would actually address that need?

Oh, well, maybe I can shift into a state where I’m with my partner or a friend and they’re assuring me, or I’m assuring myself, or maybe what I need to feel is a state where I’m protected and not in danger. So try to make your state shifts. Actually have meaning to them and address the underlying issue, rather than just being from A to Z without logic.

Liz: I love that. That makes so much sense. And I think it’d be really helpful for when people are really triggered. Yeah, that’s amazing Karden.

Karden: See how that’s just a tweak of a technique. Yeah. A tweak of a technique.

[46:36] Liz: I love it. This was so helpful and thank you for basically giving me free somatic therapy.

[46:42] Karden: You got it girl.

I love what we got with your anger issue. That’s so juicy.

[46:51] Liz: Well, yeah, it only comes out with like, it doesn’t with like my husband or kids, but like when I’m with …. yeah. Anyway, this was so great. Thank you so much, and I’ll include the links and stuff below I’m just so honored that we could chat today.

Karden: Me, too. I was delightful to be with you. Thanks for the opportunity. It’s what I’m here for.

Liz: All right. Have a good rest of your evening over there. Where are you located, Colorado? 

Karden: I’m in Massachusetts. 

Liz: Oh, Massachusetts, okay. East Coast. Have a good rest of your afternoon. This was good. 

Karden: I’m gonna go home to my girls and an early dinner and uh, yeah, so really it was fun today. The questions are great and I’m glad I got to hang out with you, yeah!

[00:47:32] Liz: Alright, take care Karden! Bye.

Karden: Bye.

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