The Body Keeps the Score: Neurofeedback in Healing Trauma

The Body Keeps the Score: Neurofeedback in Healing Trauma

Bessel Van Der Kolk, renowned trauma expert and author of the book, The Body Keeps the Score, dedicates a chapter to the power of neurofeedback in healing trauma.

He explains how trauma can change brain communication and patterns.  These changes have lasting impacts on the brain, increasing hypervigilance and overwhelm, while decreasing a person’ ability to learn, pay attention, make decisions, and engage fully in their environment.

Van Der Kolk found in research with is own patients, that there was a significant decrease in trauma symptoms after a course of neurofeedback, as well as increased mental clarity and ability to regulate emotions. He found there was a 40% decrease of PTSD symptoms, and a 60% increase in executive functioning with traumatized children and adults after training. 

He explained that neurofeedback had “…a marked effect…on executive functioning, the capacity to plan activities, to anticipate the consequences of one’s actions, to move easily between one task and another, and to feel in control over one’s emotions…To my knowledge no other treatment has achieved such marked improvement in executive functioning, which predicts how well a person will function in relationships, in school performance, and at work.”

When I use neurofeedback in my own practice, I commonly see dramatic changes in a client’s ability to reduce anxiety. Client’s often tell me that they have more ability to name, think about, and have distance from intense emotions, rather than automatically reacting to them. People frequently tell me that they have more clarity, experience positive changes in their relationships, have insight into long standing problems, and have less “noise” that makes it difficult to be fully present.

5 Steps to Tune Out Your Critical Inner Voice

5 Steps to Tune Out Your Critical Inner Voice

One central idea in the book Conquer your Critical Inner Voice by Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D, Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., and Joyce Catlett, M.A., is that we have both a critical inner voice and a voice that represents the “real you.” They have very different ways of communicating to us and only the real you will lead to constructive action.

The real you is nurturing and has your best interest at heart. It is made from your unique qualities such as temperament, physical abilities, and attributes you connect with in your care-givers and environment around you. The real you grows and develops through nurturing, love, and care.

On the other hand, your critical inner voice tends to talk in “shoulds” and has a degrading and punishing tone. It results in feelings badly about yourself. Whether you are working towards your wants or needs, or when you have pulled back from striving, your critical inner voice is there to tell you you are wrong. You end up with self-hatred and fail to take constructive steps to help you attain your wants and needs.

By identifying your critical inner voice you can start to learn if the real you or the critical inner voice is guiding your actions. It can be helpful to think in terms of the second person to realize that the critical inner voice was something you learned or heard from others and is separate from the real you. So example, rather than “I’m incompetent” frame it as “You are incompetent.”

With practice, you can recognize your critical inner voice and talk back to it from the perspective of the real you. So, instead of “You are incompetent” the real you may sound like, “This has been really challenging. You’ve been able to do difficult things before, and you’ll be able to figure this out. What will help you to learn how to do this?”

Rather than being beaten down by critical inner voices that take away hope, energy, and motivation, you can tune in to the real you. The real you supports and encourages you to believe in yourself and take action to live more freely and in accordance with your values.

Below are some steps taken from the book Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice to help you change self-limiting behaviors.

Step One: Recognize the hostility that is coming from your critical inner voice

Tune into your critical voice when you are feeling critical of yourself and write down what those criticisms are. Reframe the voice to describe them in the second person, as “you” statements. For example, instead of saying “I am incompetent,” you would say “You are incompetent.” Think about what it would feel like if someone told you this directly, or you told it to your child, or someone else you cared about and wanted to succeed.

Step Two: Develop compassion for yourself and the ways you have been treated

Look at some of the items you wrote down from step one. Notice if any of them sound familiar Think who might have given you that message. More than likely, the messages you tell yourself were directed at you when you were a child. Realize that when you were a child you were very vulnerable. You had no way to defend yourself, and developmentally were not capable of realizing that adults in your life could be wrong.

Step Three: Use the real you to talk back to what the critical inner voice is telling you

Find the “real you” by writing down the things that make you unique – temperament, physical attributes, abilities, and other positive qualities. What goals are you working on? What kind of person are you striving to become? Talk back to your critical inner voice from the perspective of the real you.

For example, when your critical inner voice tells you “you are incompetent,” the real you may say something like, “Hold on. Yes, this is challenging, but it doesn’t make me incompetent. I’ve accomplished many things in the past. With some patience, I know that I can learn this too.”

Step Four: Use what you learn about your critical inner voice to make positive changes

Write down instances where you critical inner voice prevented you from reaching a goal. Reflect how it could be trying to limit you now and in the future.

Step Five: Take actions that are consistent with the real you

Identify what self-defeating behaviors your critical inner voice wants you to do.Make an effort to avoid engaging in self-defeating behaviors that your critical inner voice tell you to do. Identify what actions the real you wants you to take. Increase actions that come from the real you.

For example, someone who in the past has struggled with feelings of competency could step outside of their comfort zone, and use self talk that is nurturing, supportive, and hopeful.

The One-Two Punch of Guilt

The One-Two Punch of Guilt

It is only too easy to compel a sensitive human being to feel guilty about anything.
Morton Irving Seiden

Almost everyone is familiar with the feeling of guilt. It’s that unpleasant feeling that you’ve done something wrong, or aren’t living up to others’ or your own ideals.



Guilt is often accompanied by a harsh inner voice, aggressively telling you the countless ways that you are failing. It’s no wonder that frequent guilt wears down your self-confidence and feelings of worth.

In the book Conquer your Critical Inner Voice by Robert W. Firestone, Ph.D, Lisa Firestone, Ph.D., and Joyce Catlett, M.A., the authors discuss how guilt can occur when you are making progress towards your goals and when you aren’t.

The first type of guilt, neurotic guilt, occurs when you feel you are being “selfish” for working towards things you want or need. At some level, this type of guilt stems from feelings of not being deserving of happiness or success. You’re critical voice may influence you to act in self-defeating and self-sabotaging ways that significantly lower any chances of success.


Your critical voice may sound something like this:

“Who do you think you’re kidding? You’re not smart enough to get that job. You never follow through with things. Other people deserve it more than you anyway.”

Whew! That’s pretty harsh! You may be surprised if you really try to listen in on how critical your inner voice can be.

The second type of guilt, existential guilt, kicks in when you’ve sabotaged your chances of succeeding. You feel that you should be using your skills and talents, but you missed an opportunity, and that you are letting yourself and others’ down (again!).

We can get trapped in an emotional catch-22. First guilt and your critical inner voice influence you to act in self-defeating ways, and then when things fall apart, your inner voice jumps in to tell you how you messed up and aren’t living up to your potential. No matter what approach you take, guilt sets you up in a no-win situation!

The good news is that there are ways to defend yourself from the one-two punch of guilt and the corresponding critical inner voice. The more that you understand guilt and act against your critical inner voice, the weaker their influence will be on your life.

Rather than being beaten down by critical voices that take away hope, energy, and motivation, you can focus your energy on living more freely and in accordance with your values.

You can read more about this topic in this article by Lisa Firestone, Ph.D. at Psychology Today called Steps to Overcoming Your Critical Inner Voice.

The Benefits of Saying Thank You

The Benefits of Saying Thank You

Cover art from the series of comics titled Baopuby by Yao Xiao

The next time you’re tempted to say “Sorry”, stop and think if you really mean “Thank you!”

Through her series of comics titled “Baopu,” Artist Yao Xiao illustrates how communicating our appreciation rather than apologizing for being vulnerable or existing creates a more connected and positive experience for both parties.

To not say sorry is to feel confident, loved, and appreciated…it is me telling myself “It’s OK’, and telling someone else I appreciate them back.
Yao Xiao

Many people worry that they are bothering or inconveniencing other people simply by for being present, vulnerable, or requesting a need. At times, saying “I’m sorry” is called for when you have genuinely wronged someone.  However, many of us use “I’m sorry” when we we really mean “Thank you.”

Apologizing for being present/being vulnerable and open was something I used to do…acknowledging that you appreciate someone who cared for you is a very nice thing to do and makes both parties feel great.
Yao Xiao

Consider the difference for your listener.  If you apologize, they may be placed in a position where they want to reassure you that everything is OK. It becomes about you.  If you thank them, they can feel appreciated, understand how you feel, and feel more connected to you.

The next time you’re tempted to say “Sorry”, stop and think if you really mean “Thank you!”

You can find the artwork of Yao Xiao on Etsy.

Her website is

Kintsugi:  The Art of Imperfection

Kintsugi: The Art of Imperfection

Cover photo by Martin J. Howard 

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places.

Ernest Hemingway

Evan Puschak is known on YouTube as “The Nerdwriter“.



In his video below, he describes Kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold. The pottery is made both stronger and more beautiful.

He explains how this art form is related to the traditional Japanese concept of beauty known as Wabi-sabi, based on the acceptance of transience, imperfection and incompleteness.

By acknowledging and understanding our wounds, we can grow to become both stronger and more beautiful.