Kresta, LMFT - Overcoming Misophonia with Brain-spotting

S6 E32 - 5/3/2023
In this episode, Adeel speaks with Kresta, a licensed therapist from Southern California who shares her personal victory over misophonia. Kresta discusses her therapeutic journey, emphasizing the effectiveness of brain spotting, a method that helped her navigate through trauma, achieve sobriety, and ultimately free herself from misophonia. The conversation delves into how brain spotting facilitates deep emotional and physical connections within therapy, allowing individuals to confront and process their triggers and traumas in a safe, controlled environment. Kresta provides examples from her professional practice to illustrate the transformative power of brain spotting in addressing various emotional challenges and enhancing personal growth. The episode aims to shed light on unconventional therapeutic approaches to dealing with misophonia and fostering a deeper understanding of oneself.


Adeel [0:00]: Welcome to the Misophonia Podcast. This is Season 6, Episode 32. My name's Adeel Ahmad, and I have Misophonia. This week I have Part 1 of a conversation I had with Cresta, a licensed therapist based in Southern California. Cresta is also a Misophone, or was a Misophone. She says she's now free from misophonia, and this extensive conversation describes her journey and many topics like trauma, internal family systems, going sober, a modality she uses called brain spotting, which was key to her journey, and many other fascinating topics. In this first part, we'll get a bit into her background. We'll talk all about the nervous system, internal family systems, and learn a little bit about brain spotting. And in the next episode, we'll get deeper into her personal journey and the process that got her to not feel fight or flight anymore in the presence of triggers. After the show, as always, let me know what you think. You can reach out by email at hello at or join the conversation on Instagram or Facebook at Misophonia Podcast. I want to highlight a couple of projects I've been working on recently. One is MisoGPT, which is basically an AI chatbot that is trained on every episode of the Misophonia podcast and lets you ask questions about anything that's come up on the show. No data gets stored permanently anywhere else, and nothing you ask gets used to train AIs. But I plan to develop this more and more over time to get better at not only answering questions from all the experiences that have been on the show, but also coming up with new insights on its own to help you. I also want to point out a new mobile app I developed for iOS and Android called Bazel. This is a journaling app for writing your thoughts and experiences. And the difference with this one is that AI is used to summarize your thoughts from the perspective of a therapist and also help prompt you based on your recent experiences. It doesn't try to provide any therapy, but it's just meant to really help guide your journaling and give new insights into what you're going through. Okay, enough talk about AI. I really want to thank also our incredible Patreon supporters. If you feel like contributing, you can read all about the various levels at slash misophonia podcast. All right, let's get to this conversation. Part one with Cresta. Okay, well, Cresta, welcome to the podcast. Good to have you here.

Kresta [2:40]: Thank you. I'm excited to be here.

Adeel [2:42]: Yes, I've been looking forward to this, too. So, yeah, why don't we start with the standard questions, kind of like, where are you from? What do you do?

Kresta [2:52]: So I am in Southern California, a little suburb of Los Angeles. I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I specialize in trauma. I'm actually a certified complex trauma practitioner level two officially. And my main modalities are internal family systems and brain spotting. And then also I think the audience should know I suffered with misophonia for 35 years. And it's kind of been a mission of mine starting in graduate school to find a solution. And here I am sharing not only what I've learned as a trauma therapist, but also how those two modalities of internal family systems and brain spotting helped me find freedom from misophonia because I consider myself free from it now.

Adeel [3:48]: Yeah, that's great. That's great. Great summary. And for the audience, when Cresta reached out, we did have a conversation. But I'm going to try to pretend like I didn't. I'm trying to come in kind of fresh because, yeah, it's all fascinating stuff. And I think it's very important for people to hear. I guess, yeah, do you want to talk a little bit about, oh, gosh, I should have thought of where we start. Maybe let's talk about a little, just briefly, like, your background when you, you know, when you had more, when you had triggers with Misophonia, kind of, like, just briefly what was going on and then how you landed with kind of your first aha moment.

Kresta [4:28]: Yeah, so, um... It's interesting. A little bit more of my background. So I also, I'm 23 years sober in AA. And I also worked with eating disorders as part of my journey. And I see a lot of, there's some similarities, I think, between addiction, eating disorders, and this experience, this phenomenon of misophonia. um but just as in a we would say to qualify um so i first remember um noticing triggers at about 12. um it seemed like it happened kind of overnight like one moment i'm fine eating dinner with the family and the next i just my parents Both had chewing noises that really triggered me and I didn't really understand what was going on. But I remember trying to devour my food as quickly as I could so I could get out of the dinner table. And sometimes it didn't work. I had to... There were times where it was so painful where I had to take my plate to the kitchen to get away from the noises and I would just cry because it was so horrible. And at that point, I didn't know about lusophonia. I just thought I was crazy. Why am I responding this way? Why am I feeling this way? And it wasn't until 2006, I think, when I heard a radio interview with Marsha Johnson on a great TV show actually about food called Good Food. It's on KCRW. And Marshall was being interviewed about misophonia or 4S syndrome, right? Select sound sensitivity syndrome. And it's really, I was like, oh, that's me. That's what I have. And I joined at that time a Yahoo group, right? Where... People were trying to figure this out and find commonalities to try to find a solution. And I was really heartened by this community that was showing up around it. So 3,000, I think at the end, there was like 6,000 or more worldwide. So I know I wasn't alone. But it seems like, at least until recently, there's just not really been a good answer. It's been mostly... therapies that have been, oh, you got to cope with it. You got to live with it. But that was really painful. I mean, my misophonia definitely got worse over time. Eventually I developed the mesokinesia and it affected my work life. I actually worked in the film industry for 20 years. And depending on the setup, I could either get away from triggers or I was forced to be around them. And it was torture. A lot of people in the film industry don't take lunch breaks. They'll eat their lunch at their desk. And so I, one job in particular, we had five people in a tiny little office and everyone would eat their food at their desk. And it made it impossible for me to concentrate. Um, when I met my husband, I was very upfront about misophonia, what that meant and what that could mean for us as a couple. Um, and he was great as far as like going into a restaurant, which usually sound wise is very safe, right? Cause there's a lot of noise. It blocks out the sound triggers, but visually, um, made it really hard and he, he learned very quickly to just let me pick the table and which, you know, where to sit so that I could see the fewest people eating as possible. And every once in a while I'd have to like prop up a menu to block out something. You know, it just made, you know, going to movies was just not possible. It was just too painful because inevitably someone would plop down next to me eating popcorn. Um, usually right before the movie started. Um, and so it was just, my world started to get very small. Um, it was not fun.

Adeel [8:36]: Right. Right. Okay. Okay. And, uh, yeah, I mean, a lot, a lot of, um, common experiences and thing, and many of us can, uh, many of us can share. So you, you, but you were determined to, uh, um, obviously, like you said earlier, solve this, uh, um, yeah, maybe let's, let's kind of cut to closer to kind of like, um, what led you to IFS and, and brain spot, brain spotting is something I'd never even heard of, uh, before I first talked to Cresta. Yeah. So I'd love to hear kind of like how you got to the, that moment or it's probably a period of time.

Kresta [9:11]: Yeah. It's been a long journey for sure. Um, So additionally, I just add, so my sister, this is kind of a funny story. My sister, who's three years younger than me, younger than me, I can talk English, also has misophonia. And her daughter, my niece, also has misophonia. But I didn't know that my sister had misophonia until about five years ago. So I had no idea we had this shared experience. But I just find that as an interesting little little side note. But what got me into IFS was I went to so being a therapist is a second career for me. I went back to school and. Decided I would be a therapist. I wanted to help people and took the opportunity to do all the research I could on misophonia. I did an independent study. So I had access to all the research, which at that time, I think there was maybe 30 articles that the Kumar study with MRI scans had come out at that time. um i was taking classes in you know neuroscience and and all this stuff and trying to figure out my way in this world of therapy and you know you go to graduate school and you learn a lot of different modalities cbt dbt psychodynamic all that stuff there's literally over 400 different kinds of modalities so right um and there's a lot of crossover right there's a lot of similarities But what really stuck out to me was it was a family systems class. And there was one chapter on internal family systems that I read. And something about it just really resonated with me. There was a spiritual component to it that I recognized and immediately felt connected to that I had come to appreciate from being sober. And something about it, it was so compassionate and so non-pathologizing. There was so much hope in this modality. I just was completely intrigued. So I took a deep dive, got a bunch of books. There's some online trainings. started using it when i started seeing clients and had amazing results it was really it was working so i followed that path um part of my schooling was i was required to have my own therapy which i think yeah that's important i think yeah yes i really think every therapist should have their own therapy it's our you know it's so important for our clients and for our own self-care But this therapist kind of stumbled across her, but she also did parts work. So internal family systems is also referred to as parts work. And she used brain spotting, which is not a modality I'd heard of in school. In school, I learned about EMDR, some other sort of trauma modalities. But brain spotting was completely new. When she described it to me, I thought it was completely nuts. But then she gave me a demonstration and I experienced it and I was like, oh, okay, this is, something's here, something's going on here. And knowing what I had learned about misophonia, about, you know, it's in our, a part of our brain, our midbrain, which is responsible for our survival instincts. And brain spotting allows us to kind of bypass our thinking brain and get into those deeper parts of the brain. So once I learned kind of what it was doing, I had a lot of hope for it for helping misophonia.

Adeel [13:12]: yeah okay okay yeah do you want to uh yeah i guess do you want to describe more well maybe um either of those ifs or um brain spotting let's start with one of them do you want to maybe just maybe describe brain spotting because that might be the most uh new to people um What does that therapy look like? And we should probably talk about, I'm sure it'll come up, the difference between that thinking cognitive brain and that more limbic system and kind of how these relate to that.

Kresta [13:48]: Yes, this is so important. So it's kind of like how, where to begin. I think we actually need to start with trauma. Would that be okay?

Adeel [14:00]: Yeah, let's do that. Yeah, yeah. Because that's kind of the root of what these things are trying to heal.

Kresta [14:06]: Yeah, exactly. So if we can lay the foundation for trauma, understanding what trauma is, what it isn't, and the mechanisms in the body and in the brain, I think that could help. And then we can see how IFS and brain spotting can address these issues and how they help. um so talk about trauma and if i can maybe uh just a little warning for your listeners like in talking about trauma um we're not going to be going into any radical detail but it could be triggering um so if you do find yourself getting activated please pause the recording take care of yourself and if it's okay i'd actually like to offer a resource um for people who you know um mental health care is really hard to find um especially quality mental health care so there's a resource there's a open path collective it's a low-cost therapy they have therapists registered and they across the united states And you can go online, you can search by modality, search by state, and their sliding scale starts at 20 and I think goes up to like $70 a session. So it's really affordable. So I wanted to share that resource with folks. But so trauma. Most of the time when we think about trauma, we're thinking about sort of really horrific events, whether, you know, sort of one-time things like a car crash or, you know, natural disaster. Those can be trauma. Also think about, you know, abuse, physical or emotional or sexual, you know, And, but we think of it as, you know, a lot of definitions go by, well, trauma is when you experience something where your life is in danger and your ability to cope is overwhelmed. And I would like to kind of flip that and use what Gabor Mate, how Gabor Mate defines trauma, which I love, which is, you know, he'll say that trauma is not the events. We often think about trauma as the event that we experienced. But the event itself is not the trauma. It can be traumatic. So being in a car crash can be traumatic. Being abused can be traumatic. But the trauma is what happens on the inside. It's what happens to us on the inside. I work primarily with sexual abuse survivors and complex trauma. And over again, I hear, you know, when we go to their parts, which we'll talk about what that looks like, the parts that are needing help and what they need is not often, they're not looking to relive the experience. They're holding burdens around, this happened to me, but the trauma was I was all alone. Um, I lost a parent and that was sad, but what was traumatic was that no one talked to me about it. No one explained what was going on. I didn't understand. I had no safe place to process what was coming up for me. That's the trauma. Um, and so our parts take on this belief of, um, various beliefs. A common one is, um, I have to figure this out on my own. You know, I'm all alone. or I'm misunderstood or no one cares for me. So that's how I like to look trauma. I think it's really important. It's not the event, it's what happens inside us. So some people can experience a traumatic event, but if they have someone to talk to about it, if they have a way to process that, if they have someone that can listen to them, usually the trauma isn't gonna stay inside of them, right? They can recover. But if that doesn't happen, then it's almost like that trauma stays inside of us. And the clients I see have usually had multiple, multiple instances of having to keep that trauma, what I call trauma energy, inside their bodies. And over time, it builds up, it accumulates, and it can become toxic.

Adeel [18:35]: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that's a great explanation. And yeah, it's not just the sensationalist idea or the TV idea of, you know, the classic, like, it's going to be this intense thing. It's actually more about your reaction to it. And so it could be different for different people. And yeah, some people are, you know, happen to have, are able to process it in the moment and then the energy is released. But for others, it kind of like gnaws and stays in the body. So at least that's my layman interpretation or summary, but reflection of what you just said. Yeah.

Kresta [19:13]: And Bessel van der Kolk, you know, his book, Body Keeps the Score, is all about that. Right. That book has been a bestseller for I don't know how long, but people really resonate with it still. It's a really important book. Yeah. So to that effect, you know, and we can maybe talk about a little bit later because I know this was one of my struggles when I was. trying to find a solution for misophonia is that you know we have this body response of fight or flight which i can talk about in just a minute what that is exactly um which i've come to know know as a trauma therapist is that as a trauma response um but a lot of people aren't connecting to any sort of trauma history so what's going on there you know it doesn't quite make sense um But we can maybe open that up a little bit later. So the nervous system activation, I think, is a really key component, especially when it comes to misophonia, because if we're not getting triggered, a lot of time our nervous system is activated just trying to protect ourself, hypervigilance from hearing or feeling a trigger sound. So what's going on with the nervous system? A lot of people are familiar with the survival responses, fight, flight, freeze, flop, fawn. So if you think of the nervous system activation, ideally we would be inside what we call the window of tolerance. So in my work with eating disorders, with my work with addiction, we're always looking to expand someone's window of tolerance. Usually the reason why they've turned to a substance or to an eating disorder is because their window of tolerance is really small. So if you think of it as a scale of zero to 10, zero being on the bottom and 10 being at the top, ideally we'd want to be right around five, right? Four, five, six would be a... good window of tolerance and as we go through our day of course we're going to be going kind of up and down and in and around but you know we'll get we might wake up kind of tired and so we're more at a four and then we have our coffee and it goes up to a six and yeah um you know maybe we're driving through traffic and we feel a little more elevated up to a six again and back down when we're in a safe place again So when we start getting on either end of the spectrum, whether it's closer to 10 or closer to zero, that is, those are both dysregulated states. So at the top, you know, if we go up the scale, there'll be frustration, then anxiety, then anger, and then 10 is like rage, right? So people even say I went into a blackout rage. That's a 10. But on the other end of the spectrum, we have feeling low, depression, sad, numb. And then a zero would be dissociated. It's almost like a blackout state, but it's the other end of the spectrum. So... And a lot of people don't think about being depressed or dissociating as being dysregulated, but that's exactly what it is. It's dysregulated. So the fight, flight, freeze, flop, fawn responses are not trauma responses. they are survival instincts to get us out of dangerous situations so if we're feeling fight flight freeze flop fawn any of those strategies to get us out of a dangerous situation that's a good thing right that's where our thinking brain goes off in life-threatening situations um and those those responses happen automatically we do not have control over them So what we call, when it turns into a trauma response is when we are having those responses of a fight, flight, freeze, flop, or fawn when our life isn't actually in danger, right? So it's not serving the purpose of saving our life. you know, someone eating carrots across the way from me, it's not life-threatening. So, but I have this urge to punch them in the face or run away. That's trouble, right? That's not functional. So that's why I categorize this specific misophonia phenomenon of fight or flight as a trauma response because it just doesn't match up to... real life experience. Our life is not in danger because they're eating an apple in front of us.

Adeel [23:56]: Right, right. Could you describe the Fight, Flight, and Fawn? Some people might not know Fawn. I actually had not heard of Flop. Because I think it's the Fight, Flight, or Fawn are in the Body Keeps Score. Maybe Flop is too, maybe I didn't get to that yet. Could you just describe those four a little bit? Because people might relate to that as part of their Misfunny responses.

Kresta [24:30]: Yeah. So, I mean, fight is, you know, we're going to fight either with our fists or with our words. Flight is I need to run away.

Adeel [24:38]: That's what most people want to do.

Kresta [24:40]: Yeah. And flight can also happen. with like an out-of-body experience. So if I can't physically get away, my brain will go away. So that's dissociation. I work with a lot of people who have learned to do that to survive what they've experienced. Freeze is when... You kind of don't know what to do. And if you think about sort of animals that freeze, the sort of logic behind freeze is that if I don't move, then maybe you won't notice me. You won't harm me. So there's freeze response. Flop is when it's almost like playing dead. If I just play dead, then you won't... you won't hurt me or you'll take it easier on me.

Adeel [25:31]: Gotcha. Okay.

Kresta [25:33]: Yeah. And flop actually. Yeah. When you flop, the body actually fills you with, I forget the name of the chemical, but it's a numbing chemical that actually prepares you to take pain, but numbs you to it. So you don't feel it as much.

Adeel [25:51]: Could that be part of like when if you're like part of a sensory overload, you know, or like an almost like an anxiety or panic attack when you can't, you know, sometimes people just can't get up in the morning, like they're completely frozen. Could that be related to that, that flop phenomena?

Kresta [26:09]: I have seen, so really like maybe a good example of flop is I did hear a story of a guy who was talking about how he used to hold up convenience stores by gunpoint. And he told a story of holding a gun at one of the cash register person's face and they just passed out. They dropped to the floor. That's the flop response.

Adeel [26:39]: Gotcha. They would think, you know, in a movie or whatever, you would call that just fainting. Is fainting synonymous with that or is that slightly different?

Kresta [26:49]: Uh, it's, it's a similar, it's when, um, everything just becomes overwhelming and our body just shuts down and it shuts down because again, we're, are, you know, the chemicals that numb us to pain. Um, and if you think about it, we're actually experiencing a blackout. So we won't remember what might be, you know, could happen or might happen. Um, also if you think about just in the animal kingdom, that the animals that as a defense mechanism, they play dead.

Adeel [27:17]: Yeah, yeah. Gotcha. Okay. Yeah, no, thanks for those distinctions. And yeah, the dissociation during flight, I think, especially kind of resonated with me. I think with a lot of people, we learn to, you know, we can't leave the situation we want to, but we try to mentally check out during misophonia triggers. Yeah, so yeah, please continue this, you know, talking about these phenomenon and misophonia.

Kresta [27:47]: Yeah, so the other, I think, piece about trauma that we don't talk a lot about, and Gabor Amate is, again, really good about this, is this idea that we have some very basic survival needs. One is the need to attach, and the other is for authenticity. So when we're young, we have to attach to our caregivers because they're the people who are going to keep us safe. or take care of us. We can't take care of ourselves. We have to attach. And so we'll do whatever it takes to elicit that caretaking response. The problem is that we also have a need for authenticity, right? And when I say authenticity, it's not only a sense of who we are as a person, what feels right to us, what feels like us, but it also gives us access to trusting the messages we're picking up in our environment. So intuition, right? It helped us survive When we were cavemen and cavewomen, our intuition that there might be a tiger hiding around the corner helped us keep aware of our environment so we could stay safe. So the problem becomes when our caretakers don't validate our authenticity. And the thing is, is because attach always comes first, that survival will often sacrifice our authenticity so that we can attach to survive. And that pattern, unless it's created, that will follow us into adulthood. And I see this, this is a topic that I'm exploring with almost each and every client I see. And this idea of recovery that Gabor Mate talks about, especially when it comes to addiction, you know, his definition of recovery is finding what was lost. And what he's talking about is the connection to our own authenticity and our own intuition. which I love. So I think a lot of trauma treatment needs to include, you know, I work with so many clients where they've just learned to not trust themselves. They just can't trust themselves. And so learning to trust themselves, learning to trust that intuition, that gut instinct, that's definitely, that's always part of the therapy.

Adeel [30:19]: so yeah so i i guess uh well we'll get over this obviously spent a lot of time at iss and brain spotting but when you said that the um how do you distinguish how do you help people distinguish between like in a trigger the gut instinct of leaving versus you know that authentic gut instinct you mean the instinct to flee yeah yeah

Kresta [30:44]: Yeah, so that's a survival instinct, right? that kicks in when we think our life is in danger, whether it's real or imagined, right? Our nervous system doesn't care. And that's the thing. That's the thing is that trauma is stored in, trauma is not in the thinking part of our brain. It's in the deeper survival instincts of our brain. So we can, and this happens with usophonia all the time, right? I'm having this body response and this urge. I need to either, I really want to punch you or I need to leave. And I know I'm being ridiculous. I know this is inappropriate, but yet I'm feeling and it's really this rage emotion that can come out. Whoa, like where where's this coming from? This isn't me. But yet I'm having this feeling and then I have to do everything I can to control it, which often brings in shame, which we'll talk about in a little bit, too. So. And as far as that versus gut instinct, I think the biggest thing is when we're in a survival instinct, like fight, flight, freeze, our nervous system is activated. It's on, you know, we'll feel that energy in our body, right? There's an energy in our body. There's an urgency that adrenaline is rushing into our body at that point. That's another chemical. when we're in when we're in and with ifs we call it self-energy but gut instinct in my experience shows up when our nervous system is calm that's that's when we have access to that that gut instinct or our intuition so that's i hope that answers yeah we have those obscures uh it sounds like maybe it's the it's between that that uh survival limbic gut um flight instinct versus a more cognitive gut instinct that's more uh in tied to your authentic self um it's interesting so my experience with intuition and gut response is is a felt sense in the body right it's like i don't really i you know i could try to think logically why this might be a good idea or why that person might be dangerous or why clicking on that email is not a good idea But if we're quiet, if our body is calm and relaxed, we will have a sense. I often hear people say, I just got this sense that something wasn't right. And that is a felt sense, again, in the body. So we can't feel that when we're in a survival reaction.

Adeel [33:27]: Right, yeah. That totally resonates with me. Because that survival instinct takes over everything.

Kresta [33:33]: yeah well yeah maybe is this a good time maybe to to roll into ifs uh that that modality yeah yeah so ifs um internal family systems was developed by richard schwartz it's actually been around for about 40 years although a lot of people are like what i never heard of that it's been around for 40 years it is evidence-based there's lots of research around it And if anyone's looking to watch a video, it's a really good introduction. There's a video on YouTube that I send to all my new clients. It's called The Power of Self to Heal Our Parts. And Richard Schwartz does a really great job of introducing the model. Basically, the idea behind internal family systems is it's really normalizing this idea of being multiple. So a lot of therapy is kind of an approach. Therapy is like you're of one mind. And if you're having these strong emotional reactions, there's something wrong with your mind. And Richard Schwartz, in working with clients, was totally client-derived. He just listened to his clients and used their own language. He started to notice his clients describing this sort of internal experience of multiple voices, and not in a sense of multiple personality disorder. That's an old term. It's now dissociative identity disorder. And I actually work with that population and this is not what IFS is. But we use parts language all the time in our life. So how many times have you caught yourself saying, you know, I don't know, I'm torn. Part of me feels one way and part of me feels another way.

Adeel [35:27]: Right.

Kresta [35:28]: When you're trying to make a decision, I don't know, I'm torn, or I'm confused. Whenever I hear a client say, I'm confused, I'm like, okay, that means there's more than two parts showing up. Let's try to tease that apart. Who's confused? Why are they confused? So it normalizes this idea of the multiplicity of the mind is a natural state of being. It's not a bad thing. It's a good thing. And it also, what I love about it is, and I can go into the three different categories of parts. um is that it allows us to hold two or more seemingly opposite ideas at the same time um so a lot of times in uh in my journey in aa over and over again when people were doing their inventories and their their step work they would come across this like well you know i love my parents but I hate my parents. They couldn't quite, it was like, how can I say I love them and I hate them at the same time? And DBT has this idea of, you know, holding two seemingly opposite ideas at the same time. But if we look at it from a parts perspective, right, we all have parts of us that genuinely love our parents. And then there'll be parts of us that are really frustrated with them. And they're holding memories of things that were not nice or that were hurtful. And then we have parts, usually they're younger parts who usually they're the attached parts that have to believe and love parents because that's what I'm supposed to do. And I need them for survival.

Adeel [37:07]: those will be the exiles in kind of IFS speak. Yeah.

Kresta [37:12]: So I don't know, Adeel, I know you've looked into IFS. Do you want to take a shot at the three different categories? Sure. Yeah. Yeah.

Adeel [37:17]: It's a good little quiz for me. Um, and so the, the three, yeah, basically the, well, there's two general parts. There's the, the exiles, uh, which are kind of, um, you, like you said, usually, um, uh, a younger, uh, they were, um, Something happened to them. There was some kind of traumatic event or something forced them into this kind of an exiled state. And so they are, yeah, they're usually stuck in the past. And interestingly enough, maybe we'll talk about later, they don't even necessarily know that you've matured and life has moved on and you're older. Um, but then there are, uh, what are called the protectors. Uh, there are two types of protectors and their, their job once an exile has, um, once, once a part has become an exile is to protect that exile. That's their whole job. And there are two types of protectors. There are the managers and the firefighters. And in my mind, basically the difference is, um, managers are a little bit more proactive. They're trying to make sure that nothing, um, bad happens to the exile so that could be um that could show up as maybe just you just being very people pleasing and just kind of like bottling things up and just acting normal um and then there are uh and i think maybe a addiction maybe comes into that is just trying to uh trying to numb the pain by taking drugs uh but then they're also the those are the managers and the other type of protectors are firefighters which are basically literally like okay the house is burning like if something's bad is happening right now what do we do and that's usually when it's uh when anger comes out and rage um and maybe some other symptoms but do i have that kind of generally somewhat right

Kresta [39:09]: That's really good. You did a good job. Yes. Exiles are parts carrying burdens. Right. So. Right. Oh, yes.

Adeel [39:17]: Burdens. I forgot that language. Yeah. Yeah.

Kresta [39:20]: Yeah. So what IFS calls burdens, I call trauma energy. So if you think about, you know, a car accident, for example, you are literally hit with your body absorbs this energy from this sheer impact of of the car crash. And the same sort of phenomenon happens when our boundaries are crossed or when we are when our own experience is being invalidated. So that sort of negative energy coming from the You know, I'm saying that word wrong. It's a perpetrator, for lack of a better word right now. And it can be as simple as, you know, one of the most common burdens I hear in my clients is this burden of I'm stupid. You know, so a little kid hears maybe from the parent, oh, you did that wrong. You're stupid. um and and then they go to school and they maybe get a really bad grade or they do something wrong and the teacher says you're stupid and so the child is left with belief i'm stupid and unless that is corrected unless there's a chance for that part to learn otherwise they carry this belief that i am stupid And so that's one example of a burden. So yes, our exiles are carrying burdens. So it can be burden of experience, of actual abuse or invalidation, or it can be a belief such as I'm stupid or I can't say anything or I'm not important. I don't deserve to take up space. Those are all examples of burdens that our exiles can carry. And we all have them. The problem is, is when the more burdens our exiles have, the more sort of activated we can become. So in, yeah, the managers, right, the managers. The managers are the proactive protectors and the firefighters are the reactive protectors. So managers will keep us busy so we stay away from the burdens of the exiles, right? So you who hold the burden of your stupid, you can't come up right now because when you come up, we all cry. The body cries and you can't do that in front of your boss because that's going to look weird. You're going to lose your job, you know, whatever that is. um so the managers will keep us busy keep us distracted kind of keep everything kind of all the all the exiles down in the basement you can't come up it's not safe when you come up so you have to stay down there but then things happen where those burdens get triggered so strongly that the managers lose control they can't what what they were doing before isn't working and so that's when firefighters come in and very far to behavior are things like you know drug and alcohol use um Any really any sort of addiction. It can also be overeating, self-harm and even suicide thoughts. Those are all firefighter behaviors. And the difference between the firefighter and manager is that firefighter behavior is designed to put the fire out. No matter what the cost is. So if you think of a firefighter, you know, they're good, good parts, right? There's a big fire, but I'm going to put it out. But I'm also breaking down the door. The windows are going up. All the all the furniture is getting soaked. So they put the fire out, but there's a lot of damage afterwards. So firefighter behavior works in the short term, but has long term consequences. So, yeah. And then there's the other piece to IFS. So we have those three categories of parts. And then we have this piece called Self. So, Adeel, I don't know if you want to take a crack at Self.

Adeel [43:19]: Oh, yeah, sure. So Self is... Yeah, I think Self is kind of like your true inner person who... And I guess it's a little bit more vague to me, but it's... It's... yeah i guess how do i how do i describe it it's able to it's it's the uh i think it's the voice that you're supposed to use to to talk to your protectors so when you're beginning therapy to kind of like try to get them to like stand like stand back and explain to them that they don't need to um take on their roles and that um And then, oh, yes, I think the self is supposed to tell the protectors first, and then you're supposed to get to the exiles last, but tell the protectors that you care about them, that they're not bad, that their needs are going to be heard. Because I think that's the key to IFS. It's non-pathologizing. It's not blaming anything. It's under the assumption that you had unmet needs and your parts feel like they weren't listened to. And so I think the self is kind of what's... Once you've unburdened your parts, you're more in touch with yourself or yourself is able to kind of like... uh conduct yourself okay you know become the conductor of your orchestra a little bit more uh prominently as opposed to these kind of rogue um if i take the orchestra analogy these rogue um musicians who are your your your protector is just kind of making that making a fuss when they don't necessarily need to well, they're doing it in good faith, but they don't need to. And you're kind of more the, the self is more that, that, you know, conductor. Yeah. I was going to vague about how to, how to, I guess, explain the stuff. It seemed a little bit more, a little bit more spiritual, but, but very much ring true.

Kresta [45:08]: Yeah. Yeah. It's hard to describe, isn't it? The self is not a part. And IFS would say the self is an intrinsic core. that um cannot be harmed it's actually our parts that take on the burdens of our experience to protect the self um and so and there's qualities of self so one of the things we ask when working um in ifs we always if we're going to go to an exile to unburden right that's part of the work we do in ifs we always want to check for self energy So the qualities of self, there's a bunch of C words. So calm, compassionate, curious, collaborative, courageous, creative. So these are all qualities of the self. And so what I do with clients is we'll identify a problem. So for example, a lot of my clients, they'll have somatic symptoms. My favorite actually to work with is panic attacks. So when our exiles are really burdened and we're not paying attention to them, they haven't had their needs met, they will come up in the body. Again, that body keeps the score. And the most common sort of communication I see from parts usually manifests in the form of anxiety. And if that doesn't work, then panic attacks. Well, I'll have a client do, if they come in with panic attacks, I'll frame it as, okay, so there's a part of you trying to communicate with you through these panic attacks. Can we go to it and see what it's saying? Like, okay, yes. So I'll have them take a minute and go in their body. Okay, where does this panic attack come up for you in your body? Can you find it in your body? They'll usually, they'll go and say, oh yeah, it's right in the center of my chest. There's this tightness in my chest. Okay. So bring your attention to that tightness in your chest and just see, notice how you're feeling towards it as you're noticing it. And sometimes a client will say, well, I don't like it. I don't want to look at it. And I'll say, okay, so there's a part of you that doesn't want to look at this. can it tell me why and a lot of times that part will say through the client well it's just it's too messy it's too much and you know if when we've tried to just before we've just broken down things will fall apart we can't look at it and so I will usually talk to that part and say well that's actually why we're trying to look at it because there's an exile there that needs our attention so if you're willing to step aside we can help this part And sometimes they'll trust that and they'll step aside. Other times we kind of have to work with them. And then again, going back, okay, so you're noticing this tension in your chest. How are you feeling towards it? Well, I'm a little scared of it. Okay, so there's part of you that's scared of it. Why are they scared of it? Oh, it's just, you know, we don't... just too scary well we're going to fall apart and and there's there's a secret there there's a lot of secrets in our exiles you're carrying you know it's a secret if it gets out oh my gosh it's it'll it'll you know it'll be awful so if we can get past those protectors and we get to the part that is actually manifesting this panic attack we'll often find an exile who will say um and actually I'm thinking of a particular client who's having a couple of panic attacks a day. We did finally get to that exile part. That part said to them, you need to be more authentic. You need to speak up more. And the client heard that from this part and was like, you know what? This part is right. I'm not speaking up for myself. I'm not standing up for, you know, my authenticity. And so she started, my client started practicing being more authentic, speaking up for what she needed for herself. And when she would feel a panic attack come up, she would check back in with that part. And the part would tell her like, you know, hey, you know, you just let someone roll over you. Why did you do that? You need to stand up for yourself. Okay, I'll do that. And within two weeks of this client checking in with that, she would feel it come up and she would check in and address the issue. Within two weeks, she wasn't having panic attacks anymore.

Adeel [49:46]: Wow. Yeah. And was there getting maybe, is there similar, maybe a story or maybe your own arc with misophonia and how this may have, you know, this may be a path to kind of healing that.

Kresta [50:04]: Yeah. So, yeah. So maybe I can briefly go into brain spotting. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Adeel [50:13]: Please, please.

Kresta [50:13]: Yeah, because brain spotting works really well with parts work. So brain spotting is a modality. It's similar to EMDR, if people are familiar with that. If you've never heard of it before, it's going to sound really wacky. But basically, EMDR found, there's a lot of research about this, processing a trauma memory, such as someone's in a flashback, processing the memory and using what they call bilateral stimulation there's a couple of different ways to achieve that but EMDR does this pendulating eye movements and something happens in the brain that helps the brain process the trauma memory make sense of it and then once it's made sense of that activation of going into a flashback disappears or gets greatly reduced. So brain spotting works in a similar way with eye position. So it's really wacky, but as brain spotting will say, where we look affects how we feel. And I didn't think there was anything to it until my own therapist was like, okay, think about an issue that bothers you. Okay. All right. Now look to your right. Okay. Look in the center. Okay. And then look to your left. And she said, where is it harder for you to look? I said, well, it's a little, I don't like, I don't want to look to my right. I want to avoid it. Okay. Can you look to your right and just stay there for a minute and see what comes up? And I did that. And I felt this sudden sort of rush of sadness. And I was like, what is going on here? There was no memory attached to it, but there's just this emotion. And It was there, it came over me, and it worked its way out, and then it was gone. And there was a sense of lightness again. I was like, okay, I don't understand that, but there's something here. So brain spotting works in a similar way to IFS, which is we identify an issue, and we go to the body. Where in the body are you finding that activation? Because usually when you're thinking about something that's bothering you, you'll feel it in your body somewhere.

Adeel [52:31]: Could you say maybe a little bit more of an example of like starting with an issue? Is that a feeling? Is that a memory?

Kresta [52:39]: Yeah, so it can be any number of things. Sometimes it can be, you know, I'll have clients that come to me and they'll say, well, I had this interaction with someone that just really threw me off. I didn't handle it very well. I kind of had a melt. I, you know, had to go somewhere and cry afterwards. OK, well, what was coming up for you? And well, you know, they said something to me that was really triggering. And depending on, you know, ask, OK, well, what was that thing that they said? And they'll tell me. And I said, OK, as you're recalling this, how old are you feeling right now? And a lot of times someone will say, well, I feel like I'm six again and standing in front of my dad. You know, that's exactly how I felt when I was six and my dad would yell at me. Like, okay. And so that would be one example of a part, right? We just found an exile there. There's a six-year-old part holding this memory of being yelled at by her father. So with brain spotting, I would say, okay, see where you can find that in your body, the activation of her being yelled at and being six years old. Where is that in your body? oh I feel it right in my in my gut right it's right in my in my stomach I'm actually feeling really nauseous right now okay and then we'll do a scaling question one to ten how strong is that we generally want people to be around a seven or eight and then we'll find an eye position for it where there's a the strongest connection to it And there's a way to do that. We use pointers or we can do what's called gaze spotting. And some people are natural gaze spotters. And this is actually part of my misophonia story because I'm a natural gaze spotter. But I can feel into something in my body and then immediately I can find the spot where I feel most connected to it. But I've had people identify with brain spotting, identify an issue and find a gaze spot. And it's almost like a direct connection to a part. Oh yeah, this part of me is saying this, this, and this. And they're just staying at one eye position. And there's a lot of different things you can do with brain spotting. You can actually work with two or more spots. There's expansion spotting. There's body spotting. There's wave spotting. There's so many things that we can do with brain spotting. But the sort of miracle around it is that, you know, in part of my training we learn The brain knows what it needs, you know, so we'll find a spot for that activation and a client will stay on that spot. They don't know why they're on that. It's like, why this particular spot? We have no idea, but they'll stay on that spot. And then there'll be this experience and it varies from person to person. A lot of times there can be a somatic feeling of heat or somatic feeling of cold. Sometimes body like. I just need to move my shoulder right now. And they're just kind of moving their shoulder around. Or I need to shake my hands out. I just need to shake my hands out. Sometimes there'll be a lot of emotional release, crying. Right. There can be memories that come up, and usually there's sort of a peak of experience, and then it kind of rolls back down. And if you stay on the spot long enough, it will peak again, and you just kind of go deeper and deeper. And the brain just makes the most amazing connections. And I, as a therapist, just sit across from this, and I just check in. If it gets too activated, we can switch to a different spot that's less activated. So the client is always in control, and we always follow... what we call the tail of the comments. Wherever the client's going, we always follow. It's very client-led, which is another reason why I love brain spotting.

Adeel [56:21]: But there is movement and momentum. It's not like the client doesn't have to do much going in. I would feel like, what if I don't find the right thing to work on or issue? Does it just kind of naturally progress? You start with something and then you eventually go on a path and find whatever you need to find, I guess.

Kresta [56:46]: yeah and that's kind of the beauty of it like you know a client might come to me and they'll have three or four different issues that are a problem and we just i just meet them where they're at you know um sometimes it's easier to do maybe the quote unquote simpler or easier things first um it can build trust in the system um can kind of clear the way we kind of learn to trust our body we you know especially with brain spotting it's a very odd sensation until you experience it and then when you've had some experience with it it's like okay i know i know what to expect and i can handle whatever comes up even if it's a really strong emotion or strong somatic experience in my body and i can stay with it um but it's just if i can share one example it's my favorite example of how amazing brain spotting is so um there's a form of brain spotting called expansion brain spotting and it's really just expanding on instead of processing like trauma it's expanding on what you want more of so you're having a hard time um what you might need is to expand on a sense of peace or a sense of being held or a sense of a connection to a higher being or something bigger than you right so it can really whatever concept that is for you for some people it's a higher power uh or deity um but i had a client who's just oh she her case was so heartbreaking and um was seeing her for a session and she just As a therapist, it's one of those moments where you're just like, I don't even know what to do. I was feeling a little helpless. And so, but in those instances, I have brain spotting go to and I say, okay, you know what? You're really going through a lot right now. What is it that you need to get you through this time? And despite some really horrific religious abuse, she was still a very spiritual person. And she said, I just think I need to know that I'm going to be okay. And I said, okay, when have you felt that before? And she thought back. She didn't even tell me the memory. I said, can you think of a time where you felt like you were going to be okay and that you were being watched over? And she said, yeah, I can remember feeling that. Okay, find that in your body. And she did. And then we found a spot for it. So she found a spot for that feeling of being held, being okay. And she stayed on that expansion spot for about 10 minutes. And she didn't say anything. Some people will talk through their brain spotting sessions. They're like, oh, I'm noticing this now. I'm noticing this now. Oh, this is shifting. She did not. Some people do that. They just, they'll stay on a spot in the process. So she stayed on for about 10 minutes. She came back. I had no idea what was going on. And I said, okay, what did you notice? And she said, I just heard every single good thing about me that I needed to hear. And I knew it was true. I mean, how, it doesn't get much better than that. Like I could have told her all the good things about her.

Adeel [59:58]: I thought this was where you're going to go, but yeah, right, right, right.

Kresta [60:03]: It wouldn't mean anything coming from me. She heard that from her, from something deep inside her or bigger than her. And so it was just much more profound. And that's really why I love brain spotting because you just, you never know, but it's always amazing.

Adeel [60:20]: Thank you, Cresta. Fascinating conversation and I'm looking forward to bringing part two in the next few days. If you liked this episode, don't forget to leave a quick review or just hit the five stars wherever you listen to this podcast. You can hit me up by email at or go to the website, It's even easier to send a message on Instagram, at Missafonia Podcast. Follow there, or Facebook, at Missafonia Podcast. On Twitter, we're Missafonia Show. Support the show by visiting Patreon, at slash Missafonia Podcast. The music, as always, is by Moby. And until next week, wish you peace and quiet.

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