Updated: Sep 23

Trigger warning: reference to suicide

I am sitting at home tonight by myself, lying in bed and trying to comprehend all of the various events taking place on a global scale as I write this. It feels like the world is on fire. In many places it literally is. As a trauma survivor, I recognize this type of chronic and constant hyper-vigilance. The not knowing when the next shoe is going to drop or what is coming down the pipeline. It is a type of chaos that my body and mind recognize, but that doesn't make it any easier. We all have a limited amount of stress that our nervous systems can handle before they begin to break down and become severely dysregulated. And it seems like that is what is occurring right now, on a large scale.

I am just beginning a month long stress leave from my place of work. I'm so grateful that I have the privilege to take some time to breathe and process through many of the things that are occurring in the world and in my community and personal life. In the last two months I have been evicted from my home and I have lost two friends to suicide. I am still uncertain about where I am going to live come October and the weight of the loss of two people who I admired and connected with on a deep emotional level is a lot to work through. We are all experiencing grief and loss right now in varying ways. Some more than others. We have all been effected by our global circumstances in ways that we can't always outright see, comprehend or understand. Time will reveal the impact that this has all had on us as we are slowly able to begin to process and come to terms with the many things that we have had to survive and the many ways we survived them.

Our brains and bodies are all so tired from living in chronic, unrelenting fear for 18 months in a way that many of us have never experienced before in our lifetimes. Our thinking brains are offline as a result of chronic nervous system activation. Being constantly chased by an invisible tiger has profound impacts on our ability to connect, think and function.

Even writing this blog post feels difficult as my system is so completely full and overwhelmed and my brain is not working in the ways that I wish it would. To be fair, my brain was already struggling as I have been working to heal from chronic illness and years of unprocessed and suppressed stress and trauma. Current circumstances continue to add layers on to that onion.

I have been feeling so, so lonely lately. And I don't think it's the physical self isolation that I have been in for the past 18 months - though, I'm sure that has something to do with it. Technology has been my main companion for the past 1.5 years and that is not always the best or most supportive tool to manage emotional wellness. I miss friends. I miss meeting people in person. I miss music. But mostly, I think I miss feeling safe to have open, diverse dialogue within community. The division, rage, and harshness of humanity has never been as evident to me as it currently is. We are polarized. It has felt very hard to know where it is safe to speak openly or when it will be dangerous to my emotional and psychological health. I miss being able to more easily access a sense of safety, both internally and externally.

The thing is, I know enough by now about how the brain and the nervous system function to understand why this feels so hard given current global events. In conversation with my therapist last week he pointed out that when humans are afraid they become more abusive. Oh. Of course they do. This recognition helps me to take our current social/political climate less personally. When mammals in the wild are under threat, they become aggressive and attacking. We are mammals - and we have been under chronic threat for the last 18 months. The ways in which we continue to be under threat are multiplying and it hasn't stopped or let up. It truly has felt like a collective dark night of the soul.

It helps me to remember that when our nervous systems are in 'fight' mode, our biological propensity is to attack. When we are in 'flight' mode, the impulse is to run. And when we are in 'freeze' mode, we collapse, shut down and disconnect. When our systems sense threat, they automatically access these states in order to preserve our lives. The executive functioning of our brains go offline, and we split. We view the world in black and white and in order to stay alive, our systems want to make sense of who is 'safe' and who is a 'threat'. I am seeing this now more than ever. And it is an extremely painful thing to witness and to personally experience.

While we are having conversations online and at work and with our friend groups as modern humans, underpinning these conversations are our very intelligent, undiscerning, biological survival mechanisms. We can't help it. It's how we are designed. We are animals that are trapped in a modern world. Technology adds mountains to our already chronically activated, hyper-alert, over stressed nervous systems. We can't turn it off. The tiger is always there. And now it is especially there. It is there in the form of an invisible illness and could strike at any moment, and it is also there in the form of our friends, family and co-workers that our brains label as other, different and dangerous based on their individual political and/or personal views and the decisions that they make or don't make. Shit is wild. And we can't escape it. There is no escape. No wonder we are all spent.

One of my dearest friends and I were having a visit recently and we began to wander into the realm of politics and world events. Without realizing it, we both moved into the defensive. We could both feel the tension in the air and the discomfort of the disconnect between us. I left that interaction feeling more lonely and in more pain than what I had gone there to ease in the first place. Normally, this friend would be a key 'go-to' in a moment of need. It took us both a couple of weeks before we chatted again. Not because we were avoiding each other, but because we have the kind of friendship that is low maintenance and doesn't require regular communication. When we did reconnect we both acknowledged that we had been reflecting on our visit and how we both had had realizations about it. Hers being that she had been traumatized by the last year and a half and was acting from that state of trauma, and mine being that I had been in a protective state of defensiveness and defiance because I was having a hard time finding safety. Acknowledging our own pain to ourselves and to each other opened a door between us and allowed us to see that despite our pain and the ways that we had unconsciously responded to it - underneath that was the same, longstanding, meaningful connection and friendship that we had always had. In this recognition we both felt a weight lift. The moral of the story - love wins. And we said that to each other. 'Love wins'. Period.

I don't know what the answers are. I don't even want to begin to pretend like I do. I am simply surviving one day at a time. Sometimes one moment at a time. I don't know what the future is going to look like. What I do know is that I have realized that my own body can only handle so much stress. I have had to realize that it is not healthy for me to be on the defensive 24 hours a day. It sends my system into a state of chronic activation and inflammation. It suppresses my immune system and makes me more vulnerable and susceptible to all illnesses - mental, physical and spiritual.

What has helped me, has been a recognition that what is happening within the collective right now - the chaos, the division, the rage, the attack, the polarization, the overwhelming lack of safety and connection - is understandably a result of human fear and suffering. When we are afraid, we shut down and we are not able to perceive things dialectically. This understanding helps me to have a little more compassion for myself when I become defensive or attacking or when I view others doing the same.

When I judge, when I 'other', when I place people into camps and groups and label them as being on my 'side' or not - this, I know, is the result of my fearful and hyper-vigilant, splitting brain, which is looking to find some semblance of safety in a world that feels grossly and entirely unsafe. Acknowledging my lack of control feels deeply painful, and I want to do anything I can to cling to a notion of control and predictability because it allows me to feel like I have control over my pain.

I feel like I have a lot to be angry about right now. We all do. There is a lot happening right now to be angry about. I do not want to deny or suppress that anger. I want to acknowledge it. AND, I want to recognize that I have a choice. I can choose to reside in my anger and my defensiveness, or I can choose love. To choose love means to sit with my own pain, acceptance and lack of control about much of what is happening in the world. That does not feel good. It feels better and easier to be angry. But my body can't handle being in an angry state for so long. I can’t afford it. My practice is to sit with the discomfort of the pain that comes from recognizing that the majority of what is happening is out of my control and that it is, in essence, extremely painful.

I am trying to choose love. I am trying to learn how to sit in shades of grey. I am trying to remember that when I feel the need to 'other' that I am sitting in a space of biological protectiveness. That understanding helps me sometimes. And then I falter and pick myself back up and try again. I am only human. There is no shortage of trying. Our current circumstances are not going away over night. And even when they do, there will be other fields and areas of practice. Of that I am sure.

I guess I should try to go to sleep now. My fear is telling me that under no circumstances should I publish this blog post. I am terrified of what the response will be. But, I also deeply long for authentic expression and to put something out into the world that even a few people might resonate with. If you are one of those people (or even if you're not) please feel free to contact me to share your thoughts and feelings. I will try my best to be a safe, non-judgemental space for you to speak. We need those spaces now, more than ever.


Reilly Scott is a singer/songwriter, blogger, yoga teacher and facilitator residing in Kenora, Ontario. She is passionate about combining trauma informed practice and body based healing modalities with the arts to support psycho-education, health and wellbeing.

Listen to Reilly’s music on Spotify, Google Play or Bandcamp.


Listen to the podcast: Unraveling - conversations around emotional wellness, trauma and healing.


Follow Reilly on Facebook and Instagram. facebook.com/reillyscottmusic



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  • Reilly Scott

Updated: Sep 23

'There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen' ~ Rumi

At some point in my life, I began to disconnect from my own inner guidance. I don't know exactly when this happened. My sense is that it was some time very early on in my childhood. So early, in fact that I don't even remember it happening. I don't think that it was a sudden or stark moment that this disconnect occurred. I believe it happened very slowly and subtly, with a large number of repeated, seemingly 'small' experiences that continued to tell me that what I was feeling inside was wrong, inaccurate and simply not ok. These experiences occurred within my family of origin, the culture I was living in, the people around me, systems, institutions and basically anyone and anything in my life that caused me to question my reality, my connection with myself and what my inner voice was telling me. Like a frog dying in a pot of slowly boiling water, it happened so slowly and so subtly that I didn't even know it was occurring. Eventually, I just believed without question that this was the way I was meant to be living. Self betrayal, looking outside of myself and asking others for validation became second nature to me. It also began to slowly kill me.

With time, I came to realize how so much of the chronic pain I was experiencing (physical, emotional and spiritual) came from being deeply disconnected from myself - having no sense of what is going on inside, constantly having to ask others for advice and validation and needing to repeatedly be told 'what to do' and how to live. The degree of stress placed on my body from existing this way began to slowly erode my health and vitality. It created a build up of anger and resentment inside of me that continued to grow, contributing, I'm sure, to the onset of my autoimmune thyroiditis, as well as my chronic depression and anxiety. It manifested as a profound feeling of emptiness and directionless-ness that I attempted to fill through success, achievement, workaholism, food, using substances and relationship addiction. Suppressing and ignoring my own inner voice became a lifestyle that, while perhaps giving me a sense of outer belonging, surface level connection and a false sense of control, erased any relationship and connection that I had with my authentic self. I lost myself. And it was such a subtle process that I didn't even know that I had. Until I did - and then it became starkly apparent to me.

The process of returning home to myself and beginning to speak my truth has felt deeply foreign to me. Most of the time, it feels like stumbling blocks - extremely ungraceful, awkward and agonizing explorations of a foreign and strange new terrain. In order to mend my relationship with myself I have had to begin to explore how the disconnect even happened in the first place and that has come with it's own massive grieving process - truly seeing and understanding how ingrained toxic belief patterns of self neglect and self sacrifice are programmed into each one of us from a young age. It has taken me many years (and counting) to begin to reclaim my voice and to say a firm (literal or metaphoric) 'no' when faced with pressure to ignore or deny my truth. It means having difficult conversations and risking the fear of potentially losing important relationships, or even being viewed as different or 'other than'. This is not an easy road and in many instances I've felt like it would just be much easier to stick my head in the sand and 'back off', go back to the way I was living, in self neglect, self denial, people pleasing and appeasing.

For the most part, I don't think the world makes it easy and/or safe for us to be authentic. We are pack animals. We desperately want to 'fit in' and to have connection, which of course, makes perfect sense. For myself, it has been important for me to understand how much of my self abandonment has come from a place of survival and from a deep, instinctual urge to preserve attachment and connection to others. Out of a desperate effort to have control or to create some semblance of safety in my life, people pleasing or 'fawning' (a trauma response where you adapt to the sense of what you believe others want you to do) became second nature to me. I became very brilliant at becoming what I believed the person in front of me wanted me to be. The fear of rejection, abandonment and loss of connection was so great, that I became a brilliant chamelian, adapting beautifully to every environment that I found myself in. This stategy would be quite successful if it didn't come with the deadly outcome of completely losing myself in the process.

Then there has been the chronic disconnect from my body. So much of how we experience our 'gut instinct' as human beings is through the connection that we have with our bodies but, as a society, we are chronically and pathologically disconnected from them. This disembodiment is trained into us. Don't cry. Don't slow down. Don't feel. Emotions are inconvenient in our society and we are given ample methods to numb, disconnect and ignore our emotional worlds and many reasons to feel ashamed of them. Since emotions exist within the body, it makes sense that we would then choose to disconnect. How can we not, given our fast paced lifestyles and cultural demands that we 'keep up' lest we fall behind, fail to be producers and consumers, and become 'unproductive' members of society.

For me, my internal guidance system is intricately linked to my body and to my felt sense - all of which I disconnected from at an early age out of survival. The light bulb went on very recently and I realized that it is impossible to expect myself to know what I want, need, how I feel or what is right for me if I do not take the time to pause, breathe and connect with myself and my body. In a way, it's as though I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off - only in this case, my 'head' refers to my second brain, my gut feeling, my enteric nervous system, my felt sense, my body. Beginning to connect with myself in this way has started to make my life so much easier because I finally have an anchor from which to exist from. A baseline. A grounded navigation system. Though, it has taken time and experimentation to begin to trust my body, that it speaks my truth and that it will never give me more than I can handle.

Another massive ‘aha’ moment for me has been waking up to the ways that I had been outsourcing my power, my autonomy and my decision making over to systems. I do not blame myself for this either. Once again, it was how I was programmed to exist. The notion that ‘experts’, systems and institutions know best and are able to make the best decisions for me was societally ingrained in me from an early age. It was to the point that I would completely deny and self-gaslight my own reality, knowledge and inner knowing simply because my experiences weren't recognized and/or fit into the boxes utilized within these systems. Like everything else, this occurred over a long period of time, without my conscious awareness or questioning. I assumed that because what I was experiencing wasn't recognized within conventional frameworks that it must not be real, or that there must be something deeply wrong with me.

Of course, there is value in accessing supports from individuals trained in specific fields. Guidance is important, and utilizing professionals who have information and resources that we don't have on our own can be very supportive. The problem is that we are trained to completely deny our own truth in support of the structure of these systems. We are socialized in our culture to ignore our own intuition in favour of what we are told by people in positions of power, despite what we know and how we feel inside. We are taught that we don't have the answers and that we need to look outside of ourselves to obtain them. We give away our power and our own inner knowing. We trust systems to have our best interest in mind, all the while disconnecting from our intrinsic internal knowing. And when we ‘challenge’ these systems by simply asking questions or communicating their limitations, we are often met with disbelief, denial and rejection.

Beginning to connect to my inner self, my authentic self, has meant learning to truly trust myself again, learning how to set boundaries and use my voice, even despite the deep discomfort of invalidation and potential alienation that come along with it.

As a trauma survivor, a woman and a highly sensitive, intuitive being, being silenced, in one way or another, has been a large part of my life story. I am learning every single day how to speak up for myself, stand my ground and know that I do in fact know what I'm talking about.

To firmly stand in our authentic truth, our intuition, our knowing can feel threatening for existing power structures. Speaking up is not an easy task - especially when socially accepted ways of being are typically not questioned. It means saying 'no, I'm not going to live that way' even when others around you are. This is scary. We need to honour how scary this is.

What I want to say to myself and to anyone else who has felt disconnected, silenced, belittled or shamed into ignoring their inner knowing is this:

I'm sorry that that has been your experience. I'm sorry that your truth was denied. I'm sorry that you were made to feel as though how you felt, what you sensed and what you believed was not sufficient to make decisions for yourself. I'm sorry that you had to disconnect from yourself in order to survive. I’m sorry that you were raised in a culture that taught you how to ignore numb and abandon yourself.

But I'm glad you're here. I'm glad you're still going. I'm glad that you've found the resources within yourself to continue despite what you have been told and the ways you’ve been dismissed. If you can do that, despite it all, you can do anything.

And we really can - we can do anything. But first we have to recognize how we are allowing structures and belief systems to keep us from doing it.

Thanks for reading and for existing.



Reilly Scott is a singer/songwriter, blogger, yoga teacher and facilitator residing in Kenora, Ontario. She is passionate about combining trauma informed practice and body based healing modalities with the arts to support psycho-education, health and wellbeing.

Listen to Reilly’s music on Spotify, Google Play or Bandcamp.


Listen to the podcast: Unraveling - conversations around emotional wellness, trauma and healing.


Follow Reilly on Facebook and Instagram. facebook.com/reillyscottmusic



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I really want an ice-cream cone this afternoon. Well, that's partially true. One part of me wants the ice-cream, another part of me doesn't. I have a dairy sensitivity. I know that if I eat the ice-cream it will give me a belly ache, but still, there is a part of me that wants it. Which part of me will I listen to? Which part will 'win'? I might begin to wonder if the part of me that wants the ice-cream is 'bad' or 'wrong', especially if I know that eating ice-cream is something that is not inherently great for my body in the long run. But what if I am able to look a bit deeper and begin to engage with and ask questions of the ice-cream eating part of me? What if, instead of condemning it and making it wrong, I befriend it and ask it what its motives are, what it's looking for and what needs it is attempting to meet? This, my friends, is the basics of 'Internal Family Systems' otherwise known as 'parts work'.

Our psyches are so incredibly amazing. I used to feel like I had an entire community existing inside of my head - it turns out, I do! We all do. It's just that few of us actually realize it. Have you ever had an experience of saying something to someone impulsively or doing something that you were surprised by only to say afterwards 'I don't know why I did/said that?' It almost feels as though you are 'taken over' by something other than your self out of habit or reaction or impulse. Perhaps you found yourself feeling extraordinarily sad about something and being entirely unable to rationalize your emotion, despite knowing on a more logical level that nothing was currently happening that warrants you being so sad. One part of you feels the sadness, another part of you berates you for feeling it. The berating part might do something in order to push the sadness down or try to exterminate it in some way, but the sadness remains, feeling abandoned and neglected. (Hint: it won't go away until it's seen, heard and soothed).

Dr. Richard Schwartz, the creator of Internal Family Systems, developed the model while working with clients with severe eating disorders. He found that the more he pushed his clients to stop their self harming behaviours, the more these behaviours continued to take over and dominate their lives. After much learning, he began to realize that the individuals he was supporting would say things to him like 'a part of me wants to eat, another part doesn't'. He began exploring his clients' parts, asking them questions about their feelings and their motives. The dialogue told him a lot about their development and experiences and he began to learn that their thoughts, behaviours and impulses always came from one place - protection from feelings, thoughts and experiences that were stored inside his clients' systems. He learned that his clients had 'sad' parts, 'lonely' parts, 'angry' parts, 'aggressive' parts, 'self -harming' parts, 'bulimic/anorexic' parts, violent parts and the list goes on and on. At first, he wondered if this meant that his clients had more severe pathology than he initially realized. But with time and self reflection, he began to notice that he, himself, also had different parts inside of him that would compete for attention and that these various parts existed inside of everybody.

When you think about it, how often does this happen to us in our every day lives? We perceive someone is berating us, enter an aggressive part. We perceive someone is abandoning us, enter an anxious part. We are having difficulty figuring out how to move forward in a relationship - enter various parts telling us different things about what we should do and how we should proceed. Our parts are constantly being activated by reminders of experiences and events that have occurred at various times in our lives. Often, these parts take on the roles that they initially were created for, as 'protectors' that developed when we had no other defences, were powerless, in danger, or threatened in some way.

Looking back, my experience of this has been quite evident over the past two decades of my life. Without realizing it, internal parts would become triggered and would show up as extreme anxiety, depression, acting out, self medicating, isolation and pretty much any self soothing behaviour that was available to me at the time. Often these parts would arise from a perception of threat that I wasn't even conscious that I was experiencing.

The body remembers, you see, even when the mind does not.

Of course, without this understanding, these 'symptoms' of mine were very pathologized. I tried to suppress them, stuff them down and numb them with pharmaceuticals. My parts bypassed that - the strength of my inner protective system far surpassing any strategy that was offered to me to deny it. It never, ever gave up until I heard what it was trying to tell me.

Learning about parts work has completely transformed my life. The reason that I feel so passionate about sharing this knowledge is because, well, when you have multiple internal parts competing against one another at any given time and don't understand why, it can feel (forgive the expression) quite crazy. I would long for closeness with a partner, move towards it and then pull back when an extremely anxious part would emerge. The more I tried to suppress and ignore the anxiety and push forward anyways, the more extreme it would become and the more confused and trapped I would feel. Ignoring the battle cries of my system did nothing for me aside from putting me into a state of deeper dysregulation and distress. It wasn't until I learned how to recognize and interact with my internal parts that I started to be able to manage what was happening inside of me. I had to learn that that anxious part was trying to tell me something. It was a sacred clue. Almost always, it was trying to remind me of something that had happened to me in the past - something awful or unpleasant that I had suppressed in some way. Entering into a dialogue with these parts is what has enabled me to understand better what I've experienced, and has allowed me to process it and move forward. In essence, my triggers are a gift - information that I can use on my healing path to better understand my body, my mind and my experience.

Here's how it works: my psyche contains three different 'types' of parts. Managers, firefighters and exiles. My managers' job is to manage my distress and internal feelings on a day to day basis. This includes strategies like perfectionistic behaviours, people-pleasing, controlling etc. Then there are my firefighters. These parts come to the rescue when I experience a trigger that reminds me of a threatening past event or circumstance. They are called firefighters because they are activated in ‘emergencies’ and function more impulsively, through behaviours like aggression, self harm, critical internal dialogue, substance use etc. These parts are on-call around the clock. Their main goal is to act swiftly when there is a threat of pain arising to the surface. Lastly, my psyche contains my exiled parts. These are the very young, wounded, inner child parts of me that are carrying the pain and distress of what I have experienced in the past. My exiles have been deeply ignored, silenced and neglected and simply want to be seen, heard and soothed. The problem is that they are often suppressed by my protector parts, who fear that the pain of recognizing what happened and the intensity of emotion carried by the exiles would be more than my being could handle. My protectors are so well intentioned - thanks protectors!

Acknowledging and soothing my exiled parts contains the key to my healing. It is through connecting with them and processing the pain that they are carrying that I am able to free myself from my past experiences. When I go deep and ask them questions I will often be able to find out how old they are and what happened to them. This is not as easy task as my protective parts have created such a strong, intelligent and brilliant shield around my exiles. It's hard work to access them - but it can be done. I have the capacity to actually allow and invite my protectors to step aside, once I've engaged with them and asked them what they need. I have to ask for their permission. They are there for a reason, after all. They have to know that it is safe and that I've got them. They have to know that 36 year old Reilly (otherwise known as my higher or larger SELF) can hold the pain of the exiles and will not abandon them the way they were abandoned in the past.

The power of recognizing the strength, resilience and intelligence of my protective parts has been transformative for me. How often are we taught to 'fight', numb or ignore symptoms?

For twenty years in therapy I was taught to 'reframe', 'change' and make wrong the thoughts that were going on in my head, not recognizing that the thoughts existed for a very important purpose. I have learned that there are no mistakes in our systems - everything happens for good reason and needs to be honoured and respected.

An example of this would be my inner critic. To the untrained eye, this part might be viewed as something to silence, be angry with and try to make go away, because it’s wrong, right? Not necessarily. With time and awareness I have come to recognize that part as a highly intelligent protective system, originally designed to try to make me 'better' when I was not getting me needs met in my early development. Of course now, it doesn't realize that it is not needed to the same extent as when it initially was created. The way through this is to recognize what it's trying to do, listen to it, and redirect my attention. I can compassionately say to it 'I know how hard you're working right now. I see you. Thank you for trying so hard to keep me safe'.

Understanding my parts has allowed me to come more to peace with them vs. fighting a losing battle that only increased my sense of shame and 'out of control-ness'. The simple, yet profound paradigm shift from 'something is very wrong with me' to 'everything is completely right with me' is what has made all the difference. What we resist persists. I can now see symptoms as meaningful messengers, rather than painful inconveniences to get rid of, which makes them so much easier to tolerate and work with.

I know now that my body and my being haven't betrayed me after all - all this time, they have completely been on my side. They have never left me. I am not broken as I was lead to believe.

I now understand that while my exiles carry the pain of being harmed and neglected, I have the capacity to care for them in the ways that they once needed. I have the power to be my own loving parent, caretaker, guardian, saviour and healer. I have the power right inside of myself to do this work. How amazing. Of course, help is always welcome and wonderful, too. The right help. And safe connection with others is paramount. It is what has allowed me to gradually and effectively show those exiled parts that they are not in danger anymore and they will be held. They are loved. They no longer have to hide. They are not alone. Relationships are safe now. They are not where they once were.

I will continue to live with my internal family of parts because they're not going anywhere. They are parts of me, after all. And I do believe that with time and attention, they will become more harmonious, integrated and agreeable with one another with the support and compassion of my loving higher self - the parent they have always needed, the one running the show and holding space for their disagreements, conflicts and contrasts. Isn't psychology and neuroscience just SO fascinating??

From my brilliant internal family to yours,






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