Trauma and the Body with Heather Mirous, Part Two

This week on the Allender Center Podcast, Dr. Dan Allender continues a conversation with his friend and colleague Dr. Heather Mirous about how trauma and abuse affect our physical health and embodied reality. Heather has worked with Dan to dig into health, physiology, stress, and the effects of trauma on the brain and body, collaborating on the third chapter of Healing the Wounded Heart and leading groups with The Allender Center. Heather is also featured in conversation with Dan in our video gallery and plays a pivotal role in our new Healing the Wounded Heart online course.

“We are walking in a waking nightmare with trauma that goes unchecked.”

In last week’s episode, Heather shared some of her own journey of learning that abuse, even decades later, has a profound effect on her health. This week, she and Dan address the science of how our bodies endure trauma and abuse, and the long-term effects that often go hidden and undiagnosed. Heather reflects on how trauma often leads to the loss of language and the fragmentation of sensory inputs, as well as the distortion of our sense of timing and coherence.

Heather: “We know that trauma disrupts, we know that trauma divides and fragments our experience.”

Dan: “You really are describing an internal vertigo of chaos and, to some degree, a lack of meaning.”

Fragmentation results in both a fog of confusion and a barrage of sharp, intrusive images—a combination that leaves our bodies in a ramped-up state of fear, marked by frozenness, fight, or flight. Over time, this intense dysregulation leads to the physiological deterioration of our bodies. And, says Dan, it is crucial to remember that this deterioration affects specific, particular parts of our bodies, not just ‘the body’ as a single, abstract entity.

Heather: “Almost every bodily system I was reading about has massive links to stress and disease. […] Even the feelings of shame and powerlessness begin to release that deterioration in our bodies.”

Over time, the pervasive nature of this fragmentation and deterioration begins to carry a feeling of inevitability and hopelessness. But is there reason for hope? Heather and Dan end this episode by turning to Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11: “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” Is it possible that these words include physical, bodily rest? Join us next week for the conclusion of this series, as Dan and Heather talk about the hope in the full embodiment of restoration.