Healing Developmental Trauma
By Laurence Heller, PhD and Aline LaPierre, PsyD
Reviewed by Amanda Fisher, New York University
Childhood trauma can generate emotional distress and unsuccessful relationships later in life. Laurence Heller, PhD and Aline LaPierre, PsyD, explain the Neuroaffective Relational Model as an effective solution for restoring connection and healing trauma. Humans have inherent emotional needs, mainly based around connections and attachment; these very connections represent what it means to be human and what it means to be alive. Trauma is any significant disruption in these connections, a detrimental glitch in the need-satisfaction cycle. Normally, when a need emerges, it is satisfied. Early on in development, if this cycle is disrupted, psychological and physiological disease is triggered, leaving the child with an instinctive compulsion to mend this broken sequence and adapt to altered circumstances. Since children’s schemas and self-concepts are more fluid and changing, they will not recognize a problem as being either with the environment or with their caretaker but will instead believe the problem to be themselves resulting in adaptation, trauma, and disproportionate psychological and physiological distress.
LaPierre and Heller propose the Neuroaffective Relational Model (NARM) as a compelling solution. NARM implements self-regulation techniques, and questions, “What is the implicit intention of the emotion?” Instead of analyzing problems in one’s life, NARM focuses on connection and aliveness in the present moment. The NARM healing process is an interaction between somatic mindfulness and mindful awareness. Somatic mindfulness is achieved through procedures such as somatic experiencing, resolving the physiological effects of trauma, i.e. the aroused survival responses. Awareness develops later, as we gain greater distance from trauma and greater emotional regulation. Essentially, this dynamic solution focuses on the individual’s core needs, recognition of those that are unmet, and, successively, a connection to the life force with a remedy for both the physical and the mental wounds.
NARM allows individuals to both experience the self and improve relationships with the self. It promotes experiencing arousal and emotion, while simultaneously being mindful and separate from emotion, by taking an observational stance; it is a form of self-reflection and self-appreciation. It is to say, “I am often nervous and anxious, but how is this interesting? How can I explore this characteristic with curiosity? How can I see this characteristic from a different perspective?” Self-awareness is significant in its ability to alter patterns of self-rejection, and move one closer to a strengthened connection with one’s personal life force.
2012, Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books. ISBN: 978-1-58394-489-9. 303 pages