Order Now!

To Order

To Order

Healing Developmental Trauma presents a comprehensive exploration . . . . Seasoned clinicians Larry Heller and Aline LaPierre weave a rich and coherent synthesis of childhood development in the pioneering tradition of Wilhelm Reich, Erik Erikson, and Alexander Lowen. This well-organized, valuable book offers easy-to-understand tools for all of us who are seeking a better understanding of our fundamental conflicts.

Healing Developmental Trauma provides clear guidance to help us hold, with knowledge and self-compassion, a vital and accessible map supporting emotional maturity and psycho-spiritual growth.

Peter A Levine, PhD, author of In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness and Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma

Available Now!

A Self-healing Guide
To Auto Accident Trauma & Recovery


How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship

Laurence Heller Ph.D.
Aline LaPierre Psy.D.

About This Book

Although it may seem that humans suffer from an endless number of emotional problems and challenges, authors Laurence Heller and Aline LaPierre contend that most of these can be traced back to developmental trauma and to the compromised development of one or more of five core capacities associated with biologically based core needs that are essential to our physical and emotional well-being: the needs for connection, attunement, trust, autonomy, and love-sexuality. Recognizing these needs as well as five Adaptive Survival Styles, set in motion when the core needs are not met early in life, Heller and LaPierre cut through the seeming complexity of life's problems. Explaining that an impaired capacity for connection to self and to others and the ensuing diminished aliveness are the hidden dimensions that underlie most psychological and many physiological problems, Heller and LaPierre present the NeuroAffective Relational Model™ (NARM), a resource-oriented, psychodynamically informed approach that, while not ignoring a person's past, emphasizes working in the present moment. NARM uses somatic mindfulness to re-regulate the nervous system and to resolve identity distortions—such as low self-esteem, shame, and chronic self-judgment—caused by developmental and relational trauma. Heller and LaPierre demonstrate how this therapy helps clients establish connection to the parts of self that are organized, coherent and functional, integrating the role of connection on all levels of experience as it affects a person's physiology, psychology, and capacity for relationship

The spontaneous movement in all of us is toward connection. No matter how withdrawn and isolating we have become or how serious the trauma we have experienced, on the deepest level, just as a plant spontaneously moves towards the sun, there is in each of us an impulse moving toward connection. This impulse for connection fuels the NARM approach.

How Early Trauma Affects Self-Regulation, Self-Image, and the Capacity for Relationship
Authors: Laurence Heller Ph.D. and Aline LaPierre Psy.D.
ISBN-10: 1583944893, ISBN-13: 978-1583944899
Binding: Paperback
Publishing Date (1st ed.): 2012/09/25
Publisher: North Atlantic Books
Number of Pages: 344
Language: English


Excerpt from the book Healing Developmental Trauma...

The Beginning of Our Identity: Understanding the Connection Survival Style

Checklist for seemingly unrelated symptoms that may indicate difficulty with the Connection life theme.

Do you prefer to recharge your batteries by being alone rather than being with other people? Yes No
Did you need glasses at an early age? Yes No
Do you suffer from environmental sensitivities or multiple allergies? Yes No
Do you have migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, or fibromyalgia? Yes No
Are you aware of prenatal trauma such as intrauterine surgeries, prematurity with incubation, or traumatic events during gestation? Yes No
Were there complications at your birth? Yes No
Have you had problems maintaining relationships? Yes No
Were you adopted? Yes No
Do you have difficulty knowing what you are feeling? Yes No
Would others describe you as more mental than emotional? Yes No
Do you have disdain for people who are emotional? Yes No
Are you sensitive to cold? Yes No
Do you often have the feeling that life is overwhelming and you don’t have the energy to deal with it? Yes No
Do you prefer working in situations that require theoretical or mechanical skills rather than people skills? Yes No
Are you troubled by the persistent feeling that you are on the outside looking in? Yes No
Are you always looking for the why of things? Yes No
Are you uncomfortable in groups or social situations? Yes No
Does the world often seem dangerous to you? Yes No

A person who experiences early trauma, regardless of its source, does not feel welcomed into the world. When, at the beginning of life, for whatever reason, we do not feel welcomed, we find it difficult to develop a sense of our right to exist, of our sense of self, and of our entitlement to fully live.

The life theme of this earliest survival style develops in relation to the issue of connection. Our earliest experiences of life in utero, at birth, and with early attachment shape our relationship to feeling secure in our capacity for contact. When this capacity for connection is in place, it supports our right to be and is the foundation upon which the healthy self is built. Early trauma compromises our sense of safety and existence in the world and our capacity for connection: we do not learn how to connect to ourselves, to our body, or to others.

Our earliest trauma and attachment experiences form a template for our lifelong psychological, physiological and relational patterns. The identity of individuals with early trauma is shaped by the distress they experienced in early life. Difficulties at this initial Connection stage of development undermine healthy progression through all later stages, impacting self image, self esteem, and the capacity for healthy relationships. Trauma in this Connection phase is the basis for many seemingly unrelated cognitive, emotional, and physiological problems.

Early Events That May Cause Long-Term Traumatic Reactions

Caregiver Related
A family where one or both parents struggle with Connection issues themselves
A mother who is chronically depressed, dissociated, or angry
Being the result of an unwanted pregnancy
Attempted abortion
Mother abusing alcohol or drugs during the pregnancy
A psychotic mother
Attachment failures
Being made to feel like a burden

Environmental Failures
Premature birth
Long, painful delivery
Extended incubation without caring physical touch
Early surgery
Significant traumatic events in the family during pregnancy or early life
Death in the family
Global events such as being born into wartime
Intergenerational trauma such as the being born to Holocaust survivors
Natural disasters

Even with loving parents, trauma can find its way into an infant’s life. For example, a premature infant may require incubation. Until relatively recently, it was not known that premature infants needed physical contact and that touch had a powerful impact on their nascent organism. They were untouched in the incubator, sometimes out of fear of infection or out of the belief that it would be overwhelming to them. Having loving parents can mitigate early trauma but the effect of inadequate connection at the beginning of life remains in the physiology and psychology of the developing child and later adult.

Biological Dysregulation
The fetus/developing infant is completely dependent on its caregivers and on a benevolent environment. As a result of this total vulnerability, the infant’s reaction to rejection, failure of connection, and early trauma is one of terror. This terror is overwhelming to the nascent organism and its nervous system. It leaves its mark on every level of experience as a core withdrawal, contraction and frozenness. This frozenness and contraction is the only way an infant can manage the high arousal of terrifying early trauma. This profound state of contraction, high arousal, and freeze creates systemic dysregulation that affects all of the body’s biological systems. This underlying biological dysregulation is the shaky foundation upon which the psychological self is built.

When a fetus or an infant experiences early trauma and/or attachment wounding, the source of the threat is the environment in which they live, the only home they have. Whether the threat is intrauterine or takes place in the early months of life, there is no possible safety independent of what is provided by their caregivers. They are completely dependent. From the infants’ point of view, the danger never goes away and there is no possible resolution. They can’t run from the threat, they can’t fight it; the fallback position is to go into freeze. When there is chronic threat without possible resolution, the nervous system goes into a high state of arousal and the entire organism is trapped in a defensive-orienting response. Being locked in perpetual high arousal is a painful state which the infant manages by numbing itself and going into freeze.

A fetus/infant cannot know itself to be a good person in a bad situation. The roots of lifelong feelings of shame and deficiency are found in the distress states caused by early environmental deficiencies. Infants experience early environmental failure as if there were something wrong with them: later cognitions of “I am bad” are built upon the somatic sensation: “I feel bad.” Understanding this concept alone has helped many people who suffer from patterns of low self-esteem, shame, and a sense of deficiency begin to see themselves in a new compassionate way.

Chapter 3

There are two subtypes to the Connection Survival Style. Though utilizing two different coping strategies, both subtypes experience a great deal of emotional, psychological, and often physical pain. Physically, both subtypes appear disembodied and absent: They have an overall frozen appearance that can be reflected in bodies which may look fragmented, disjointed and under energized.

1) The Thinking Subtype manages their high levels of arousal by disconnecting from their body and living a life of the mind. This subtype relates in an intellectual rather than a feeling manner and is drawn to professions that emphasize thinking over feeling. They can be the stereotypical scientists and engineers who are contemptuous of emotions and oriented to what they consider the objective “facts”: “The Universe is empty and cold. There is no such thing as God.

Having developed their thinking component from a very early age, they can be clear and powerful thinkers, often quite brilliant. Being disconnected from their bodies, and comfortable being by themselves, they are drawn to professions where those capacities are assets.

2) The Spiritualizing Subtype manages their high levels of arousal by completely disconnecting from the body and living in the energetic field. They tend to be otherworldly and ethereal. Because they have never embodied, they are drawn to spiritual movements and often have access to very real spiritual and psychic states that “normal” people are not aware of. They can use this access to spiritual and psychic states to “spiritualize” their pain. Supporting their disconnection, a common underlying spiritualizing belief might be: “This planet is a cold and painful place, but God loves me.

Though meditation is a means to become increasingly present, many in this spiritualizing subtype are drawn to it because, having never been welcomed on this planet, it is more comfortable for them to live on non-physical, otherworldly planes. In this way, they turn to meditation to reinforce their dissociation.

Both subtypes experience a great deal of fear and even terror of intimate contact: They avoid people, especially crowds, being more comfortable one-on-one if at all. They either have difficulty making eye contact or lock on to eye contact in an unfocused way. Individuals with this survival style are uncomfortable being touched and may even experience physical touch as painful.

Chapter 10

Moving to Resolution: Connecting with Self and Others

Regardless of the symptoms and surface issues, holding in mind the overarching organizing principle of reconnection to our bodily self and to others makes the therapeutic process richer and more efficient.

For those who struggle with the Connection survival style, there are two parallel and complementary aspects to the core organizing principles for growth and therapy: reconnecting with our own body and emotions and the parallel process of learning to experience contact with other people as an enriching reciprocal experience, rather than as a source of threat. Reconnection with self and others enables us to heal the dysregulation caused by the systemic chronic high arousal and frozenness. In the process, we learn how to support healthy self-regulation as well as reciprocal regulation through relationship.

The NeuroAffective Relational Model™ orients toward supporting the process of reconnection in present time. To do this effectively, NARM utilizes a process-oriented approach that works with exploring coming in and out of contact. Tracking the process of connection and disconnection in the body and in the therapeutic relationship itself is an essential addition to traditional psychodynamic therapies.

Changing The Paradigm
In the NARM approach, we work simultaneously with the physiology and the psychology of individuals who have experienced developmental trauma, and focus on the interplay between issues of identity and the capacity for connection and regulation.

NARM uses four primary organizing principles:

    • Supporting connection and organization
    • Exploring identity
    • Working in present time
    • Regulating the nervous system

Although listed sequentially (Table 10.1), in reality the primary principles, tools and techniques listed below weave together. In NARM, we track several themes at the same time in a figure-ground process: For example, at any given point, we might primarily focus on the theme of identity, while the issues of connection/disconnection, safety, and tolerating aliveness are in the background. At other times, the process of connection/disconnection might be in the foreground, while other themes remain in the background.

Chart Primary NARM Principles



Back to top

Website Contact: Victor Osaka