Causing Hopefulness: Part 2 of What I’m Learning from Pat Ogden

for Part 1 of What I’m Learning from Pat Ogden, go here.

Implicit Self

The point it to figure out how to work with implicit self, because the implicit self is “really the story teller, everything comes from there,” said Pat Ogden (and then she mentioned the work of Allan Schore (more of his work on implicit self).

She spoke of the “implicit self: which is right brain mediated, not described in language, it’s powerfully effective, it’s dominant in behavior over first two years of life” (the time pre-language).

People show symptoms rather than tell a story, not only with trauma but for all of us when it comes to our early attachment imprints and pre-verbal life, she said.

What was happening to your body, in your body during your first two years of your life? What were your caregiver experiences and what was communicated to and through you as a newborn, baby and toddler before words? For some, this is a time of being cherished, nurtured, responded to and adored. Others are in orphanages or with teenage parents overwhelmed, poor and who didn’t have such positive implicit experiences themselves. This is not insignificant and is what I keep thinking about since listening to Ogden.

What might your body have captured and recorded and learned, pre-language, in those years that are still alive and not past in the way you move in the world and with others?photo 4

She gave “heartbreaking” example of a man in his 50’s who had never had a relationship or been sexually intimate and he didn’t know why -not really. She spoke of his “incredible armoring” and how it must “stem from early trauma” though the trauma he remembered was at age 14.

She said that what came up in session with him, while doing a gesture with hand and arm, of going from his heart and to world, very soft and loving, that just making the gesture terrified him.

She said, for the man, she said, just to reach out to someone else, “which of course we do in relationships, it’s tender,” and because of his trouble doing it – “we can speculate the last time he had that kind of openness he must have been deeply frightened.”

Doesn’t it make you just want to hold that man and let him know people can be good and love can be warm and kind? Not to save or rescue him but just to let him know and to show him? It makes me want to do that. And with myself as well to remind myself over and over and over again, like Maggie, the yoga teacher reminding us students that all is o.k. in our world.

Procedural Memory

Procedural memory,  Ogden said, is “how we do, more than what we do.”

She spoke of Body-Mind Centering and the work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen who talks about basic movements such as these:

  • yield/letting go
  • pushing
  • pulling
  • reaching
  • grasping

Photo by Margaret Bellafiore from

These movements are wonderful indicators, she said, of procedural learning. What is important is not the action itself but the way in which a person does the action. And again, slow-learning me realizes it’s not about getting anything right or being cured it’s about being curious and learning and open and adaptive.

Again, this version of healing is actually wonderful and connecting.

Ogden spoke of how many people can’t yield, relax, let go.

Or how some collapse rather than yield.

She talked about learning from this process because “the procedural memory we all have is not conscious but influences life so profoundly.”

So, in her work, she said, working through issues to push, reach out, pull, hold on, grasp, relax, let go, IS a big part of our work.

I’m guessing for those of us who can’t afford therapy or want to explore on our own – yoga is a great place to start. I’ve written about trauma sensitive yoga and practitioners here, here and here.

Back to the man in his 50’s, Ogden described how grasping and pulling close were motions so completely unfamiliar to/for him. At first he laughed and said he would never do those motions.

What had made him most uncomfortable with that pushing movement, she said, was that he was afraid when he pushed he’d hurt the other person. She notes how just from that, his comment about his fear, “we can imagine what can happen” she said and surmised that perhaps setting boundaries is difficult for him for fear of hurting someone even though “If you can’t set your boundary, you can’t be safe reaching out and drawing people in,” she said (which I might have to tape to my bathroom window as a reminder).

Imlicit learning is procedural learning. “When we track it in the body and try something new in the body,” she said, “We disrupt it.”

Disruption as positive and new is kind of radical too. I think of as getting unstuck and going through life with gears that can shift rather than trying to make life something that can work for a car that can only drive in reverse. 

With every trauma, Ogden said, people did tons of things to help themselves that are often unacknowledged.

Photo Credit: Margaret Bellafiore

Photo Credit: Margaret Bellafiore

  • watch from ceiling
  • collapse
  • turn to art
  • dissociate
  • turn to animals
  • put covers over bed
  • turn to nature

Ogden talks about how these are survival resources and creative resources and that some positive things might have existed alongside or in reaction to trauma and those things may have been forgotten or not appreciated.

Movement Instilled Hope

Movement is critical in so many different ways.  There are so many different permeations we can work with.

Photo Credit: Margaret Bellafiore

Photo Credit: Margaret Bellafiore

“You know,” Ogden said, “when I think a person has experience of new possibilities somatically based, not just an idea in the head, it makes / causes hopefulness.”

 Who doesn’t love the phrase CAUSES HOPEFULNESS???

Hope is not a top down possibility, she said.

“We’re prisoners of our procedural learning until someone helps us whether reaching out, opening up, relax without being frightened.”

The Talk-Talk-Talk Thing

You can’t take the engine apart while it’s running, Ogden’s friend said and “if we’re talking, can’t see internal components” as people can be on “autopilot anyway.

They are talking but not present.” People who talk talk talk talk talk (I am one of these people). She said there are many ways to work with that.

She gave one example of saying to a client, “Let’s just not talk, stay with me, let’s see what happen when you just don’t talk” and within a few minutes there was just weeping.

But the the talk talk talk talk talk began again because the client couldn’t quiet herself, needed contact/direction and the talk talk talk talk was just a “a defense against what happening internally. She had to stop talking to sense it.”

Ogden referenced the work of Stephen Porges and what he calls the social engagement system and how you can start going to these really frightening places in a relationship context.

Embedded Mindfulness

In our work, mindfulness is the way to discover and change the implicit learning. “We call it embedded mindfulness,” she said.slide3

It is different than sitting or solitary practices, way we use it is it is embedded in relationship together, mindful of experience together.

She said the therapist is interested in internal experience, wanting to know how body sensations are changing, what images and thoughts exist and helps  a client turn their awareness into themselves. They are not doing it alone. They are taking you into that inner world.

While I’ve never tried any formal body work as therapy I find yoga repeatedly and in ways that continually deepen to be healing.

Doing yoga, in a classroom setting (as long as it is safe) is so warm and inviting and educating as I can see and hear how others experiences poses, postures, their own bodies and shifting states of discomfort and well-being.

For me, these webinars and the advice from experts is interesting and serves as a reminder to make time to:

  • laugh
  • hug my daughter
  • play with the puppy
  • give and get massages
  • practice giving and receiving love whether that happens with the man in bed or while helping each other with chores
  • breathe
  • write
  • do yoga with friends
  • see my brother and sister more (and appreciate the relationships I have with individual family members even as some relations are strained)
  • keep the music playing in my life

The things on this list are the healing and the healed life.

I may always crave information about trauma which I find fascinating beyond how it helps me personally. But at midlife I finally know, believe and trust that the lived experiences I am having, the learning even awkward and in process is where it all IS happening. This is the healing RIGHT NOW and for me WRITING NOW is how I start to integrate it all.

You Matter Mantras

  • Trauma sucks. You don't.
  • Write to express not to impress.
  • It's not trauma informed if it's not informed by trauma survivors.
  • Breathing isn't optional.

You Are Invited Too & To:


  1. I love this blog-
    \but what if yu are still sick?
    with post traumatic stress on to of it?

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