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Episode 28: The Levels of Human Development and Decoding Generational Trauma

Human Development and Decoding Generational Trauma

Have you ever wondered why it seems like the same issues get passed down from generation to generation? Turns out, it’s not a family curse but instead a hard-wiring of trauma that researchers can now see on our DNA.   

Through the study of epigenetics, scientists are learning that our ancestor’s traumas can have profound health implications for those of us living today.   

On this show, Andrea talks to Dr. Keesha Ewers, a board certified functional medicine and Ayurvedic medicine expert. In 2013, she conducted the HURT study (Healing Unresolved Trauma) and developed the HURT model for understanding how past childhood trauma impacts adult health.   

You may remember Dr. Keesha from a previous episode on sex, libido and autoimmunity, but we felt we had so much more to talk with her about so we're bringing her back for round 2.  

Along with listing out the different levels of human development she alluded to on the last show, Dr. Keesha breaks down the concept of ancestral trauma and explains whether it’s possible to heal the hurt of the past in the present day.   

To learn more about Dr. Keesha, head to or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.  

On this show, you’ll learn: 

  • The 10 levels of human development (1:20)
  • Are there generational divides? (12:18)
  • The concept of ancestral trauma (19:31)  
  • Is healing from this trauma possible? (24:56)
  • How to uncover this historical trauma (25:49)
  • What about repressed memories? (30:45)
  • Questions for potential therapists (35:23)

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Andrea Wien: Welcome to The Microbiome Report powered by BIOHM Health, a leader in the probiotic and gut health space. I'm Andrea Wien, and today, I'm talking again to Dr. Keesha Ewers, a board certified Functional Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine expert. In 2013, she also conducted the HURT, that stands for Healing Un-Resolved Trauma Study, and developed the HURT model for understanding how past childhood trauma impacts adult health. You may remember Dr. Keesha from a previous episode that we did on sex, libido and autoimmunity, but we felt after that episode, that we had so much more to talk to her about, so we're bringing her on for round two. On this episode, we break down the different levels of human development and healing, and dive into the concept of ancestral healing.

Essentially, this is trauma that's passed down from generation to generation. This is a very interesting episode, so without further ado, let's get right to it. Dr. Keesha, welcome back to the show.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you so much.

Andrea Wien: In our last episode, you briefly mentioned the 10 levels of human development, and I know a lot of our listeners were really interested in that, and I'm very interested in that. Can you walk us through what those are?

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Sure. There are several different theorists who've come up with these, and what I love about it is, first of all, people are theorizing about adult development, instead of just childhood development, and so based on Loevinger's work back in the 1960's, Susanne Cook-Greuter actually spent seven years at Harvard, creating another developmental model that she calls Ego Development Theory that takes ... We'll just do eight. I think it's some of a meld, and they get really, it's like splitting hairs, and so we'll just talk about these sort of eight. Four of them are, we could say pre, they're conventional, so they're before people get into more abstract thinking, so they start off with being very self-centric, and so after we come out of our childhood and into adolescence and our early 20's, we're actually supposed to be self-centric.

We're actually trying to figure out how to be humans in a world dominated by big humans, and we have to figure out our place, so we're pretty self-centric. Then, we move into more of a group-centric space. That's the second one. In that space, what we're doing is we're starting to discover patterns, and rules, and laws, so not only are we able to look ahead and back in time, but now, we can also notice some patterns. Then, we move into the next one, which you could say is more skill-centric, so we're starting to get more knowledge. We know more, we're doing more, and then we move into the self-determining stage.

At this point, we're noticing that there are more pieces to the puzzle as we're putting our knowledge together and looking ahead and back in time, and discovering patterns, and rules, and laws, and most humans stay in that kind of quadrant, those four levels, right? 75 actually to 80% stay in what we call conventional linear reasoning. It's very black and white. It's very judgment-oriented, like this is good, this is bad, you know? It's rules, laws, and we move into this like achievement orientation based on those rules and laws, and there's, again, not a lot of abstract thought in that.

Then, if you can move into…This is kind of vertical growth, but there's also horizontal growth. Inside of each of those spaces that I was just talking about, you can widen your consciousness inside of it, so there's like this also very horizontal growth where the state that you're in of that stage can become more expansive. Moving along on the vertical, then we can get into post-conventional reasoning, and now we're more into, instead of linear reasoning, we're more into more of a systems view, and now we start questioning ourselves, "Are we actually right about this?" The thing that we hold is Capital-T truth, like this is the truth.

We start to inquire a little bit more, so self-inquiry leads actually to more development, okay, so when we're willing to question our own belief systems, then we can move into that systems view. When you can start doing that, you move closer to self-actualization. That next level would be, after self-questioning and self inquiry, the next level would be self-actualization. In that space, we're starting to strip away the illusions and delusions that we've held to kind of keep us safe. Like when we're little, we'll go through some kind of trauma, rejection, betrayal, some of the stuff we talked about the first time I was on the podcast with you, and we'll create beliefs around those moments like, "Oh, I have to care give if I'm going to be worthy, so if I'm not nurturing and caring for other people, then I don't have any self-esteem and I'm not worthy of love, and I don't deserve love."

In this level, we start to question that, okay, and say, "Oh, actually I'm worthy and deserving of love just by being, and I'm part of this dynamic, interdependent and connective web of life on this whole planet, and actually, me being in charge of everybody's happiness is very narcissistic. Oh, my caregiving is narcissistic." Right? You start to go there and go, "Oh, my caregiving is a strategy that I'm using in order to feel good about myself. Oh." That takes a lot of courage.

You're stripping away what you created from childhood spaces, of trauma into this adult space of now, "Well, if I'm not that, who am I?," and a lot of people won't go there. That's self-inquiry and stripping away illusions, seeing what's inside around and underneath it all. This is what we call root cause healing when we started talking about functional medicine, but usually, we're only dealing with the physical, right? Now, we're talking about emotional, mental, and spiritual. Those first two levels of systems view is going to be the self-inquiry, then the self-actualization, because now we're starting to see that we're actually a dynamic contribution to the system when we're authentic and when we're vulnerable, and when we show that we hurt and we bleed when ... Like we're just, we're now like showing up as our whole selves without our armor.

Then, the next level, the seventh is becoming construct-aware. Now, we're recognizing not only that our strategies that we created in childhood are just that, just strategies, but now we're also starting to recognize our assumptions about life, the world, God, each other, whether or not there is a God, universes, one universe. Now, we're starting to recognize that we have been carrying our whole lives, a whole lot of assumptions, and that those can be very limiting and actually affect us and our relationships and our relationship with money, our bodies, each other, the world, our spirituality, in some ways that can have possibly genetic upregulations that we don't like, you know? We start understanding like, "Oh, these assumptions I carry actually might be affecting my health, my finances, my love life, my job." Then, so after you move from construct-aware, you move into unitive consciousness, and now, really, it transcends everything.

Unitive means you know that you are co-creator and everything that's happening around you, and it's not just intellectual exercise, it's actually a felt embodied sense. Less than 1% of the population lives in that space, and when polled, a lot of people say they live there, so it's a very interesting way of understanding how our ego is developed in the first place, in childhood, which is based on that early trauma that we can revisit again. Then, how it protects us in so many ways, the way that this sort of shell or armor we put around ourselves. I love the Enneagram because the Enneagram talks about the name of that strategy. It identifies it, so you can actually see it and go, "Oh, that's happening. Oh my gosh."

As long as you can see that, then you can move into that post-conventional systems view, because now that you can see it, then you can feel what it feels like to come out of your shell a little bit and be out in the big, bad, wide world without your assumptions, your structures, and see, "Is it safe?," and then you can scuttle back in. This is like a little dance with your ego now. Now, I'm seeing that I created this ego when I was little and it's not bad. It's actually been quite useful, but now in my adult life, it can get in my way. It's actually quite limiting, the shell that I go back into.

It's decorated beautifully with everything I love, and I really like being in here, and so then you can kind of practice pulling yourself out of it, going back in, and as you move vertically into this ego development model, you start feeling freer and freer to stay outside of it and understand that actually the world, like all that is, you are the microcosm of the macrocosm, and that actually, everything that feels hurtful and challenging and awful is being done for you, not to you, and so it's better to kind of stay out in the storm, so to speak, and learn how to dance with it, you know? That's the model. It's not linear. We don't climb up it in this sort of linear fireman pole fashion. Instead, like if something really dramatic happens, like I just went through a big stress last week, and then actually, you could regress a little bit like, "Oh, where's my shell?"

"I need all my comfort [place 00:10:53], things…" I want to go back in there for a little while and kind of hunker down and feel what it feels like again, to feel that comfort, but then knowing, "Okay. I can't stay in here. I need to get back out there," and so you're going to regress with big challenges. You're going to, as soon as you have your eye on the prize of, "I want to move into unitive consciousness, I have this goal of being enlightened," actually, that right there can curtail that movement, right?

That's ego, and so it's a really beautiful way of showing that we do have a path that we can be on to evolve our consciousness, and there are some mileposts markers and there are some descriptors so that we can recognize where we are, and then just live our lives and do the best we can.

Andrea Wien: Do you think…You brought up an interesting point with a tool like the Enneagram, or people like Brené Brown, for example, who are out there and talking about shame and vulnerability. It seems like we are living at a time where generationally, it's more acceptable to be on this path, or more mainstream, I would say. It's getting there. Do you see that there's generational divides? That's not to say that previous generations also didn't have people that grew in their path in this structure, but are we seeing more younger people now becoming interested in this journey?

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Absolutely. It's an interesting question though, because it's not a yes or a no question really, because what I'm noticing, I just had an hour-long conversation with my 28-year old son this morning about this, and it was a fascinating conversation. My kids are just, they're all in their 20's and they're fascinating people. They're very, very interesting people, and so, yes. The answer is they're very interested in this, but what I'm noticing is that there's kind of like…

I'm starting to notice some elements of the '70s, where there's like this rejection and counterculture happening. I'm calling it silos, like different alternative ways of being in the economic model, or in the healthcare model, or in a spiritual model. They're popping up these alternate ways of being, that are a rejection of this very materialistic time period that we're in when the economy collapsed. It wasn't sustainable. It was like this bubble of weirdness of like everything you touch turns to gold, and so now, they're blockchain, different kinds of ways of being in the digital world.

All these silos are popping up, of different ways of living, but they're not connected. They're just silos. I said to Collin today, I said, "You know, honey, it's interesting because that happened in the '70s too, where we're seeing more use of psychedelics and plant medicine. You know, I, myself actually facilitate journeys with that offsite of United States soil a lot. I'm helping people get past their linear thought processes into allowing their right brains to also function and getting inside into where they're stuck, and it's a beautiful way of doing it," but if people start working with those kinds of plant medicines, working on alternative ways of being to the culture that we have today, I'm noticing there's a sort of lack of integration.

Like this map right here is not being taught, so it's like we reject, but then it sort of infantilizes people, as what I'm seeing. It's like we have these perpetual children who are not launching and don't have a structure that they're building to actually contribute to society. They're just saying, "I had a new patient yesterday who's in her 20's," and I said she has this real existential anxiety, and of course, she's been diagnosed with anxiety and shuffled from one provider to another, and she found me and I said, "You do have anxiety, but what I'm noticing is it's more on an existential level. Like you're out of alignment with you have this, the sales job that you hate. You don't want to be in a cubicle."

"When I ask you what you want to do with your life, you say, 'I don't want to work. I want to paint. I want to be outdoors. I want to…' It's like, 'I don't want to work,'" and so I said, "You also have this driving force of perfectionism and achievement, and all of them are out of alignment, so of course you have anxiety, but it's like this existential.

"Where's the structure that I can use to propel myself forward? It's missing, because you're rejecting the one that's in place right now in our culture," and she said, "Oh my God, that's exactly what's going on." She said, "I never realized it," and I said, "I'm seeing this a lot in this generation," where-

Andrea Wien: Why do you think that is?

Dr. Keesha Ewers: I think the structure we have in place of go to college, get a good job, buy a house, get married, have two children, they don't want that, but then there's not anything in place, a different path, and they're not really building it, so yeah, it's… Then, it's leaving them at home in their parents' houses, who followed that prior economy, unhappy and upset with the world that they've been left, but they're actually, they don't have like, it seems any kind of the tools.

Andrea Wien: Yup. And the tools, yeah, yeah. The tools are not there, right? The resilience isn't there.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Exactly.

Andrea Wien: The grit, yeah.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: To create a new path, and so what I've started feeling, and I'm putting together a study and applying to go back to be a visiting scholar at Harvard to do this. I don't know if I'll get accepted, but what I'm doing is I'm looking at, "Where are the rites of passage in our culture?" Like that's what I see is missing, so the answer to your question of this generation, they're very interested in this, yes, but they don't have a group of elders to show them through the next stage because they've rejected them, and so we need rites of passage back in our culture. As people have been leaving churches and identifying with being more spiritual than religious, there go whatever rites of passage our culture had was inside of churches, and so I'm kind of looking at this, and can we connect these silos with ritual and rites of passage? Can we create something that's never been there before by implementing this and looking at this, these stages of development and creating something that will allow for an actual rite of passage as you move through, and that there are elders that are waiting to pull you through.

Not necessarily 70, 80, 90-year olds, but maybe the one in the developmental stage that's just ahead of you, that's been there, done that, and can now see you through and show you. That's kind of what I'm thinking is a good solution.

Andrea Wien: Yeah. I mean, it's a huge task at hand, but I think it doesn't materialize in those ways that you're talking about. If you don't have those rites of passage, you don't have at least some respect for the people who have done this journey before you, then it seems unlikely that this generation will find what they're looking for.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: I mean, you can't reject, throw the baby out with the bathwater, right? You can reject what's been leftover in the world, but I think rejecting the elders that are here, probably not a great idea, because what I'm seeing is a lot of arrested development right now, with some really great minds that are excited, and they need to be creating something new. Clearly, the model we have is not functional, but co-creating intergenerationally, I believe is what needs to happen.

Andrea Wien: The Microbiome Report is brought to you by BIOHM Probiotics, the first probiotic designed to balance both the bacteria and fungi in your gut. To check out BIOHM Probiotics, go to and use the code BIOHM10. That's B-I-O-H-M10 to get 10% off. Okay, so let's switch gears a little bit because I know we could talk about this for a long time, but you're talking intergenerationally. Let's talk about ancestral trauma.

This is a concept that I think is new to most people. I, myself just found out about it within, I would say the last year. What is it?

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Intergenerational ancestral trauma, we have empirical evidence to show that it matters. When we look at…There are studies that show that people that have ancestors that were survivors of the Holocaust actually have genetic upregulation that can last for seven generations. This is really important, so it will actually create an expression of genetics that is different prior to the big trauma. Intergenerational trauma actually means your microbiome gets disrupted, your genetics are expressed wildly differently, and that then creates a different health of mitochondria and biochemical response system in your body while you're in utero, at conception. Like this starts you off on your path.

The good news is, is it can be healed, and you can rewire every single bit of it, and you can actually downregulate and express those genetics differently, you can heal your microbiome, but there has to be the willingness and the intention to do so.

Andrea Wien: I think people…I mean, we've done the research on Holocaust survivors, for example, people whose grandparents were in the Holocaust, and then now, they're dealing with some of these traumas, but it can be, like we were talking about last time on the show, big T, little T trauma. It could be little T trauma that your great-grandmother lost one of her parents at a young age, or some of these things that were catastrophic for that person, but really have not as much impact as it comes down the family line, except it's coded in our genes.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Exactly. We talked about big T, little T trauma, and just as a little recap for people that didn't catch that show, big T trauma is going to be, I call it Capital-T trauma. It's the trauma that starts with a capital T that is the stuff most people think of, sexual abuse, domestic violence, emotional, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse, any kind of neglect, incarceration of a caregiver when you're young, having a caregiver addicted to drugs or mentally ill or dead, like all of these things, abandonment, neglect and forms of violence. These are what we call trauma with a capital T, but think of it as, as we look at fMRI scans, PET scans of brains, we see that those not only change the way that you express your genetic code, they not only change your microbiome, they not only change your biochemistry, but they also cause brain damage. Literal brain damage, the shrinkage in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is in charge of adult executive function.

In other words, what you choose to eat, what you choose to drink, how you choose to spend your money, who you choose to marry and hang out with, what you think in terms of your worth and desirability, all of those things are part of what that executive function does. It decreases that mass of brain, and then it increases particularly the right side of your amygdala, the part of your brain that responds and is hypervigilantly searching for danger. It puts you into more of a hypervigilant, looking for danger mode, and that's the brain changes that will occur with what we know is post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. What I found when I was doing my research in 2013, and I was looking at these brain scans, is that actually, the same exact brain changes occur with lowercase T trauma, trauma that starts with a small T. This is what we could think of as perceived stress.

This is any form of betrayal, or rejection, or hurt, or pain that we feel in our lives, and everybody has this. If we have that perception of being chronically overwhelmed, overscheduled, not balanced and stressed out all the time, overwhelmed, then it changes the brain in the same exact ways that PTSD does. Now, I find that fascinating. It doesn't have to be this big T, early trauma that changes everything in your body and your genetic code, and it's so much about in adulthood. All of my patients come in saying that they're overwhelmed and overscheduled. It is the trauma that we live in in our culture.

I think about it like we're being steeped in it like teabags, you know? Like this is actually what we live in, is a society that rewards overachieving, over productivity, overperformance, and really, really negates any kind of time that you can spend in mindfulness and just thinking, contemplating, creating. That's what I think that this next generation is rejecting. They don't want that. They don't want to jump on the rat race, the hamster wheel we created for them.

That's what they're rejecting outright. As usual, when pendulum swing, the pendulum is swinging clear back in the other direction, and what we have to do is find that happy medium.

Andrea Wien: When we start to see healing from this, do those areas of the brain change again, so does the pre-

Dr. Keesha Ewers: They do.

Andrea Wien: They do. Okay.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Yes, you can look and you can see that there's actual regrowth of brain. We have neuroplasticity in our brain, and that's really wonderful. Like we can do fMRI scans of people that learn how to meditate or learn how to master autogenic training programs, and then the amygdala has shrunk in volume, that part that's the fight-or-flight, and biochemical responses have downregulated. They're not so hypervigilant. We can measure all of this, and I never talk about anything that you can't change, so this is the beauty of it, is you absolutely can heal it.

Andrea Wien: When we're talking about these ancestral traumas that people might not even be aware of, if it can go back seven generations, I don't even know who my relatives were then, so how do we start to uncover what these might be when our family members aren't available to us?

Dr. Keesha Ewers: I know. It's a really great question, and you don't really have to know. What you can do is you can look at, "Okay, what's going on with you today?" Right? I see a lot of people with autoimmune disease, is oftentimes they come to see me and they don't even know they have autoimmune disease.

I'm the one diagnosing them because they're just exhausted, and they have brain fog, and their hair's falling out, and they can't control their weight or whatever it is that's going on. We do this work, what I call four corners of the puzzle. We address all four corners at the same time. One of them is genetics. One of them is past trauma, and I actually work on going back into family history, but I'll tell you how in a second.

Another corner of the puzzle, the third one is toxic exposure, and then the fourth one is digestive health. You have to actually work on all four of those corner pieces at the same time. You cannot take them one at a time because it's not linear, and so when we look at trauma, that corner piece of the puzzle that I call the missing piece that a lot of people talk about, but don't really address, when I do deep immersion trauma healing retreats, actually I'm starting my next one tonight, like people are flying in from Europe and all over the place to do this work, and when I have somebody in the circle and I'm working with them with a methodology that I use, in their language, the stuff will start to come out. They'll talk about like, "When you think about your mom, what do you believe about yourself?" "That I'm loved."

"Okay, great. When you think about your dad, what do you believe about yourself?" "That I need to actually do really well in school or he's not going to notice me." Right? Then, I'll start asking questions like, "What is your ... How'd your mom and dad meet?," or, "What did your dad do for a living?"

"What about your mom?," and then a story will start to come out. A lot of people don't really realize that they have the stories. They've been told in their lives maybe it's an adoption and they don't know anything. That in and of itself is telling, right? That's an ancestral trauma.

My mom has this most amazing story, and so this is part of my ancestral trauma. In 1945, at the end of World War II, she was engaged to one man, and then…Not my mother, my mother's mother was engaged to somebody, and then some sailor came in, and everybody was celebrating, and she had sex with him and got pregnant with my mother. She's engaged to someone else, so my mother's mother, my biological grandmother actually whisked her away for nine months. She had the baby in secret, which is what was done back then, and no one ever knew about my mom, and her two aunts actually kind of vied for…They both didn't have children and wanted a little girl, and so my mom was given to one of her grandmother's sisters.

That's a really interesting ancestral story, secrets, not knowing who your father is as you're growing up. As I grew up and I would get little snippets of these stories, there was a lot of mystery. I don't really need to know a lot of it, except to know that it's present there and there's a heaviness and a darkness with it. When I did my healing, when I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I got this wake up call of, "I've got to do some work here," and I'd had sexual abuse when I was 10, and so I worked on that first. Then, I started having to think about like, "Well, why did my mother not listen to me when she sent me off to school, when I was saying that, when I was afraid of the Vice Principal and who was doing the sexual abuse, or had headaches and stomach aches and didn't want to go to school and would cry," and my mom…

My dad was out to see, because he was in the Navy, so she's married someone that went into the Navy, right? Her father had been in the Navy, so I started putting this stuff together, and my dad was out to sea when this was happening to me, and my mom was like in the sort of fugue state. It was like she wasn't really present, because every time my dad went out to sea, she shut down. She was being abandoned in her head, right? I started putting that together in my 30's, like this pattern, "Oh."

"Oh, that's why she was the way she was. Oh," and so I started realizing that it kind of mattered and that I needed to heal that, and so that's, it'll come up when it needs to come up. Does that make sense? You don't have to go digging for it.

Andrea Wien: Yeah, absolutely. How does this work for someone that may have repressed memories? I can't remember much about my childhood at all, so a lot of times when I've been doing some of this work, it's like I can't even answer the question because it's somehow been totally blocked out.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Well, it was for me too, and it came up when it needed to. Your mind is really beautiful because what it will do is, like you have a new baby at home, right? Like your mind knows what it can handle and what it can't handle. You've been telling me about some of the things…You're going through a lot of transitioning in your life. Your mind right now is saying, "You know what? Let's just handle that."

Right? "Let's just deal with that," and that's…One of the things that I love about plant medicine is it actually gets that sort of linear, that linear space to let go a little bit and lets the right brain come up, but even then, if somebody's not really ready, it won't come up. Your mind is very protective of itself, and things will start to unfold. I think about it, like my clinic used to be called Fern Life Center, and the reason that I called it that was because I live in the Pacific Northwest, and baby ferns when they're really young in the spring time, they are curled up on themselves like beautiful little spirals.

Then, as the sunlight hits them and as they grow, they start to unfurl very slowly towards the sun until they're fern fronds. They're beautiful and luscious, but everything that was contained that became that frond was contained in the spiral, and it just had to unfold. Nothing can force it. If you force it, you break it. That's actually the way that I think about our consciousness, that things will unfold at the pace they're supposed to and we don't have to go in and start digging.

If we notice something's wrong, like there's an autoimmune disease or there's some pain, or we're having repetitive relationship issues, you get yourself into therapy with a good therapist, that knows how to do trauma healing. Like in my trauma retreats, there's somebody that's coming today that this is her sixth one in a row, and she has gone through these stages of development that we started talking about in the show in this most beautiful way, like just unfurled into them one at a time, in a way that most people can't advance that quickly. She's in her 60's, but it was all inside of her. She just didn't know how to…She needed a therapist to actually guide her and bring her mind into a place where she felt safe enough to do this work.

She had all kinds of repressed memories too. It doesn't have to be traumatic. It doesn't have to be agonizing. It's been the most beautiful thing to witness as I watch her unfold, so people get really anxious about this kind of work, really scared. "Do I have to revisit things?"

"Is there a repressed memory of sexual abuse? Is there trauma that I don't really want to know about?" The answer is yes, or you would remember it. You don't want to remember it. Your mind actually does exactly what you want it to do, and that's why I always call this mystic medicine, you know?

It's the mystery is not being kept from you. You're actually keeping it from yourself, right? As you get into a safe environment with the right person who is a few developmental levels ahead, has been there, done that, is an elder in this work, they can actually guide you in that space, and it's not this big, horrible, agonizing trauma. That's a long-winded answer, but I want people to understand that because I know I was very anxious when I knew I had to go in and start dealing with trauma because I had that repressed. Then, one day, when I learned how to meditate and I was practicing yoga, and I was really ready, I was asking myself, "Why am I killing myself?"

"Why do I have this autoimmune disease? I'm committing suicide, and I have these four little kids in a life I love. I don't don't want to die. Why is it that I'm killing myself right now?" I started thinking, "There must be a time in my life, like when's the first time I wanted to die?," and so I started following this little golden breadcrumb trail backwards, and I landed on that 10-year old little girl, and I saw clearly what had happened.

It was like this flash of a video frame. I went, "Oh my gosh, that's right." It wasn't this big, agonizing trauma, it was an answer to a question I had asked really wanting to know and ready to know, and so I went and I found myself a therapist, and I started doing some really deep work.

Andrea Wien: I think that's a good place to take this further for our last question, is if someone's listening to this and they're really interested in starting this journey for themselves, what are some tools that they can use to really start to level up their human development? You mentioned some of the plant medicine work, finding a good therapist. How do people do that? Like what kind of questions should people be asking potential therapists?

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Oh my God, I'm so glad you asked that question. Oftentimes, when I speak from stages, I'll talk about like shopping for a therapist, and I'll say, and I might've said this in the last podcast, it's like shoe shopping. We go in, we're looking for purple boots, and we find some, but they don't fit really well because they're not comfortable, and we don't walk out of the shoe store with no shoes on and say, "Shoes don't work for me." Right? Oftentimes, when people are looking for a therapist and they do some therapy, they say, "This doesn't work for me," so you really have to shop for a therapist, even as well as you shopped for a mate.

Like it's that important. You have to make sure that this person that you're going to be working with, well, first of all, feel safe to you. Secondly, you don't become buddies with them. That's really important. Like you can't get anywhere with somebody that doesn't hold your feet to the fire.

There's this dance I do with my patients where I let them know, like I confront. I'll say, "Okay, so I'm going to invite you to look at this pattern," and then I'll talk to them about it, and then I give them a tool for integrating it. That's what you want. You want somebody that's actually going to be a mirror, show you where you're being hung up, give you a tool for moving through it, and not just let you talk about all the bad things that have happened to you in your life, help you feel better, pat you and have you go out the door after you pay them. That just doesn't do any good.

Talk therapy does not rewire your brain. It does no good, so you really want to do these, and just somatic therapy doesn't do it either. You can't just feel it in your body and do body work and have it go away. You actually have to confront your own belief systems. That's if you're going to go in this developmental model that I was just talking about, because remember, stripping away illusions is the first level of moving into that post-conventional mode.

You have to be able to confront yourself, so in the HURT model that I developed with my research, the place where you can actually expand your consciousness requires, first, a willingness to self-confront, and second, a willingness to integrate, and to really put to work the tools that you learn. The book that I wrote, Solving the Autoimmune Puzzle actually has some worksheets in it. I wrote it so that people could understand the kinds of things you need to be working on, so your therapist needs to be doing that with you, those kinds of things that are really helping you strip away your illusions.

Andrea Wien: Dr. Keesha, you're always such a pleasure to talk to and I learned so much, and I think our listeners would agree, so thank you so much again for coming on and talking to us about all of this. Again, if people want to find you, where can they do that?

Dr. Keesha Ewers:,

Andrea Wien: Great, and we will link to that in the show notes as well. Thank you so much.

Dr. Keesha Ewers: Thank you.

Andrea Wien: Thanks as always for listening to The Microbiome Report. This episode has been powered by BIOHM Health. If you're not already subscribed to the BIOHM newsletter, you can sign up at That's B-I-O-H-M. You'll find more information on gut health and you'll get alerts for new podcast episodes. Until next time, I'm Andrea Wien.


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