Trauma and the Body with Heather Mirous, Part Three

This week on the Allender Center Podcast, Dr. Dan Allender concludes 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.

Dan and Heather left off last week’s conversation with the belief that Jesus invites us to freedom from weariness and heavy-ladenness, including in our bodily experience. This week, as they talk about what it looks to move toward freedom and lighter burdens, they reflect on the importance of naming our experience, honoring our bodies and what they are trying to tell us. This connects to what Dan shares about in the “Discerning the Voices” video we recently shared: Begin to listen to the messages of truth and life in your body, as well as the messages that are not of God—the voices of shame, judgement, and contempt.

Heather: “That is such a powerful starting point, just to listen and invite Jesus in for some clarity and some grounding as you want to move toward hope and restoration.”

Heather shares her experience of realizing that she had given up on certain parts of her bodily experience, assuming that God doesn’t care. On the contrary, she eventually learned, “God intimately cares about my illnesses and about my health. For me that was foundational.”

Dan: “Every part of my body—not just the concept of body, but every part of my body—the parts of my body that the abuser touched, the parts of my body that were aroused in the midst of the abuse: everything bears the mark of being the temple of God. If that’s true, then how we honor that there really is meant to be a restorative beauty, a glory and honor that we bring to every portion of our body—that is almost a foreign concept, because we use the body so generically. Every portion of my body needs to be under that glorious gift of being called the temple of God.”

Every part of my body bears the mark of being the temple of God.

Over time as she listened to her body, Heather began to realize that there was a pattern in its deterioration. In particular, her femininity was under attack. “There’s no doctor that’s going to connect those dots for me,” she says, “but they are a landscape that matches my abuse. I don’t want that to be missed, not by me, and not by other people who are listening, whose doctors are not going to connect the dots, but who can begin to do this work themselves, inviting Jesus and their own data that their body is speaking.”

Heather tracked her symptoms and physiological disruptions on a spreadsheet, looking for themes and patterns. She began researching restorative practices and implemented diet changes, yoga and exercise, regular walks in the sunshine, and playing worship music in the morning.

Dan: “It feels like a sort of elevated common sense. […] They may not sound dramatic, but in some ways they are so crucial to beginning to re-own and take authority of your own body.”

Heather: “There are so many ways you can do those things that restore our power, our hope, our physiology. We are resilient beings.”

Dan: “There is still the potential for care, for honor, it doesn’t really matter what age you are. But indeed, there is the potential for redemption, and therefore more joy, more power than we’ve had before.”