Dr. Michele DeMarco is an award-winning writer and a specialist in the fields of psychology, trauma, health, and spirituality. She is also a professionally trained therapist, clinical ethicist, and researcher who’s spent the last two decades studying trauma generally, moral injury and lost innocence specifically, and resilience. She is one of Medium’s Top Writer’s for Mental Health and Health, respectively, and the author of the Psychology Today blog “Soul Console: Healing from Moral Injury.”
Michele’s writing has appeared in national and international publications, including the New York Times, POLITICO, The Boston Globe, The Daily News, Psychology Today, The War Horse, Medium, Forge, Elemental, and One Zero. She has been featured as a psychology and spirituality expert for MindBodyGreen, The Daily News, Integrative Practitioner, Lifehacker, Bloomberg/WNBP Radio, Partners HealthCare, and the American Heart Association. Her upcoming novel, About Others, won the national Mystery Writers of America’s Helen McCloy Award for Mystery Writing. She teaches Creative Nonfiction and Conflict Transformation at California Institute of Integral Studies.
Michele’s research spans the fields of moral injury, psychology, trauma, neuroscience, and somatic and creative art therapies, respectively, and world wisdom and spirituality, Out of this research, she has developed a science-backed Writing Therapy (WT), specifically for moral injury and moral distress called Embodied Disclosure Therapy.
Michele lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner, Andrew, and their 33-pound Main Coon cat, Sebastian.
You can find Michele at:
[Jon Dabach] 00:00
Today on the relationship Revival Show, I’m joined by guests Michele DeMarco. Dr. Michele DeMarco is an award winning writer and a specialist in the fields of psychology, trauma, health and spirituality. She’s also a professionally trained therapists, clinical ethicist and researcher who spent the last two decades studying trauma generally moral injury and lost innocence specifically, as well as resilience.
[Jon Dabach] 00:25
She’s one of mediums top writers for mental health and health respectively, and the author of psychology today’s blog, sole counsel, healing from moral injury. Michele’s writing has appeared in national and international publications, including the New York Times politico, the Boston Globe, The Daily News and many, many more. Her upcoming novel about others won the national Mystery Writers of Americans Helen McCloy award for mystery writing and she teaches creative nonfiction and conflict transformation.
[Jon Dabach] 00:54
At California Institute of integral studies. Out of a vast research, Michele has developed a science backed writing therapy, also called W t, specifically for moral injury and moral distress called embodied disclosure therapy. You’re listening to the relationship revival podcast with Jon Dabach, also known as Mr. Spirituality.
[Jon Dabach] 01:17
That’s me. I’m your host giving you insights and guidance from over 10 years in the field of this amazing journey we call romance on this show, I go over everything you need to know about how to get into a relationship, how to get the most out of a relationship, and sometimes even how to gracefully end a relationship without pulling your hair out and going crazy. And occasionally, I’m even joined by new and old friends who are also relationship experts to bring you guidance and wisdom with new perspectives. T
[Jon Dabach] 01:47
Hanks for stopping by one Oh, my wife’s Michele two. So I noticed that I’m like, and she’s getting her doctorate. She’s writing her dissertation with a Psy D. So oh, she’s, what’s her area of research. She specializes in perinatal. So she’s, she’s doing her dissertation on perinatal and the use of CBT. For anxiety and different things related to that.
[Michele DeMarco] 02:16
Oh, interesting. Yeah. Yeah.
[Jon Dabach] 02:20
Michele DeMarco, Dr. Michele, Michele DeMarco, with the amount of schooling needed to get the doctor, I better not leave that off, right. Yeah, yeah. Well, welcome to the program. I’m really glad to have you here. You have an interesting, it’s so nice to talk to different psychologists and therapists, because everyone has a slightly different path of what they do with the degree.
[Jon Dabach] 02:44
I mean, there’s always the practice, but you do a lot of writing. So I guess we should start there. Because people might have already heard of you from Psychology Today, or some of the other publications you’ve had? Have you always been a writer?
[Michele DeMarco] 02:59
Yeah, one of my earliest memories is actually going to my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania. I’m originally from the East Coast in Boston. And there was this great old stone house. And I remember from a really young age, because it was right by the train station where we’d get off. And I always looked at this house and was like, envisioning all kinds of stories going on.
[Michele DeMarco] 03:23
And I think from the earliest time, really, that I can remember, it was somehow life was about stories for me whether that was fantastical stories, or, you know, stories that I was writing. Yeah, I just, it’s how I express myself. That’s how I think so yeah, it’s a big part of my life.
[Jon Dabach] 03:45
Yeah. Do you do journaling as well? Or is it always like with much more of a focus?
[Michele DeMarco] 03:50
You know, that’s funny, I’ve gone through periods of my life where I’ve had more where I do more journaling than not. It’s an it’s an incredibly good practice for people generally, but certainly in my but, but I think I think these days, I’ve been doing a little less of it just because I’ve been doing all this other writing. So but periods of my life yes. Yeah.
[Jon Dabach] 04:16
I’m just curious. I have so many other questions for you. But just curious. Do you write longhand ever or is it computer?
[Michele DeMarco] 04:24
That is a great question. I make notes with longhand. I’ve got you know, I’m one of these people that sprawl I’ve got you know, cards up things all over the table different colors. But when I actually do the writing, I really write better on the computer.
[Jon Dabach] 04:44
Yeah, I was a screenwriter in my first one of my first careers and I you know, it might just be that the timing and the age are your professors but like, I cannot write for the life of me with a pen or a pencil. Yeah, Yeah, I mean, this little action of the fingers going, and especially when you type so quickly, it’s like, there’s a frustration when you have a pen in your hand because of the speed, you know, but it’s that it’s just, there’s something about the rhythm of typing that just gets me going.
[Michele DeMarco] 05:18
It’s same, same here. And it’s funny because you know, you think, although I will say let me back up, I will say that if I journal I write, I don’t journal. I don’t turn on the computer. But I, I think in and and narrate on, you know, on the computer, but, but you’re right, there is something it’s an embodied thing. There’s something in the movement. In the process, there’s something between the differently processed.
[Jon Dabach] 05:50
Yeah, and I think there’s something there’s auditory, there’s a tactile sense. There’s the way you sit, I do. I don’t I haven’t journaled on paper. Like, I think since I was a kid, and I’m not a big journal. I’m starting to get back into it now. But they’re now when I do find myself with a notebook, something about writing with a, you know, freehand on paper, there’s something that almost feels romantic about it to me, I don’t know if you have that, like maybe that’s why journaling is slower. It’s a little more
[Michele DeMarco] 06:23
It’s a little more sensual. Yeah,
[Jon Dabach] 06:25
There’s, it’s more personal. I mean, your handwriting takes a tone as opposed to the, you know, cold, hard keyboard.
[Michele DeMarco] 06:33
Yeah, it becomes I think that’s interesting about the handwriting because it almost becomes a character in the story at some level that you’re crafting, whereas the keyboard doesn’t per se, in the same way. But yes, I have to journal by hand. It’s very specific, you know.
[Jon Dabach] 06:53
So interesting. Okay, well, let’s talk about one of your specialties. Moral injury. Now, this is something that I find a lot of therapists don’t talk about much at all, or even like, learn, and for the general population, it’s going to be a brand new phrase. So let’s back up a little talk about what it is why it is such a focus for you, you know, what drew you to it?
[Michele DeMarco] 07:21
Sure. Question, before I answer your question, have you heard the phrase before? We talked about me?
[Jon Dabach] 07:29
So I had, but I think, and I did not hear it from the clinical world. So I have my hands tied to a lot of religious leaders in my communities from different practices. And it came up in a sermon once that a rabbi said, so I was like, Oh, that’s interesting. And so that’s the first and only time I’ve ever heard it before. Meeting you.
[Michele DeMarco] 07:56
Well, interest. Okay. That’s, that’s great. I asked that question all the time. Because I like to see how the general you know, how the general public, let alone the certain, you know, people in the field of spirituality and psychology are, like, you know, what the trends are.
[Michele DeMarco] 08:14
And the good news is, is that more and more people are hearing about it? Because, really, until was the COVID COVID? is what really kind of brought it more mainstream and it had been it would it be helpful to talk about what it is, or do you want me to just talk What do you want me to start?
[Jon Dabach] 08:33
Well, I think we should define what it is first? Absolutely. Well,
[Michele DeMarco] 08:37
There’s no conceivable start with the fact that there’s no consensus definition for it. We’ll start there. The phrase was developed by a Jonathan Shay in the 1990s. And he’s an author and psychiatrist. And he, his, he had worked with this specific, mostly Vietnam vets.
[Michele DeMarco] 09:01
But he noticed that there was this you know, there, there was PTSD, and they knew what that kind of response was. But there was this other kind of trauma that they weren’t that wasn’t like was not being treated. And it wasn’t it wasn’t responding to the frontline therapies for PTSD.
[Michele DeMarco] 09:24
It was this other thing and his definition he referred to it as moral injuries because it was it was much about things actions that veterans took that violated their personal beliefs, morals principles. Things that that other people did. Betrayals, bye by specially leadership. One of the first his definition was a betrayal of what’s right. In a high stakes situation by someone in leadership in the leadership position.
[Michele DeMarco] 10:02
And, and so essentially it was, it was much about betrayal. But over the years, it we’ve expanded the definition to include not only betrayal, by leadership, but more just something general about what folks have done themselves actions they took themselves were forced to do against the actions they took, they were forced to do against their better judgment.
[Michele DeMarco] 10:31
For the last, I don’t know, 1020 years, people have been trying to figure out a consensus definition and we still don’t have one yet. The definition I use just kind of generally is that moral injury is a transgression of conscience. It’s what happens when a person’s core moral foundations are violated in high stakes situations. And that violation recast the way that they think about themselves and see themselves and others and the world generally.
[Jon Dabach] 11:09
I want to be specific, so isn’t exclusive to your own transgression of your moral code, or can it be something that’s inflicted onto you by another? Yes.
[Michele DeMarco] 11:19
So yes, absolutely. It’s both. So there’s self self transgression, other someone else transgression, or both, in some cases, self and other. But there’s essentially these four categories, things that we’ve done ourselves, things we’ve witnessed, being done, things we couldn’t prevent, from being done, or things we couldn’t prevent, and things we were forced to do against our will or better judgment. So for essentially, four categories. So there’s
[Jon Dabach] 11:57
a broad spectrum of different ways that can manifest you can you know, even if you so it sounds like even if you hear like in a congregation, if a position of leadership had a sexual transgression, that could be that could be triggering and kind of caused that moral injury, if it happened to you, if you witnessed it. What’s the fourth one? You do? You witness it?
[Michele DeMarco] 12:20
Against your better judgment or against your will? Right or against? Me? Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
[Jon Dabach] 12:28
That one’s Yeah, that one’s even trickier. Because then there’s that anger, probably, that comes with it as well.
[Michele DeMarco] 12:33
Yes. And, and one of the things that we’re finding is that between the different types of credit transgressions, different emotions, come up more so, you know, if you have a self-transgression, you’ve done something that you know, maybe that’s,
[Jon Dabach] 12:52
Yeah, there’s some
[Michele DeMarco] 12:54
Guilt. But for betrayals, and things you couldn’t prevent, there’s a there’s often anger, contempt, disgust, actually is an interesting one that comes into play some of my, my research has been around disgust and the relation to moral injury, because it’s often thought that it’s a, it’s a, another related emotion, but you can have self-disgust.
[Michele DeMarco] 13:24
And that comes with things that you’ve did in a sense, your, your, your swallowing, the contaminant of the, you know, what you’ve done, and you’re trying to hold that inside. And, and so, so it’s a, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a very difficult emotion to deal with.
[Jon Dabach] 13:42
I find, I’m glad you brought it up, I find disgust to be one of the most dangerous emotions, I you know, because the way I kind of use the analogy is, or the example I use for people is, if you if you think of a rat, or an insect, and there’s a disgust there, there’s less of a restriction on most people to kill it. Right?
[Jon Dabach] 14:05
So it can lead to violence, it could lead to very dangerous behavior. And in fact, when you look at the way that the Nazis spoke about the Jews and other people they were targeting, they didn’t say they were evil, it was always compared to vermin. It was always compared to this disgusting creature, which justified the annihilation of that entire people.
[Jon Dabach] 14:27
So I you know, as someone with Holocaust survivor, grandparents, I like that that always stood out as a very sharp dangerous way to look at yourself or others or the world.
[Michele DeMarco] 14:39
Oh, it’s it. You nailed it. I mean, this it, it’s other Icing it creates other rising because you’re literally separating yourself from in that case, an entire group of people, but it’s one of the things that’s interesting about Disgust is it’s the primary emotion that Mmm that shame and guilt come out and shame and guilt are two of the primary emotions associated with moral injury. So,
[Jon Dabach] 15:07
Yeah, yeah, it’s interesting. Have you done any? Have you done any research about suicidal ideation and disgust and self-disgust?
[Michele DeMarco] 15:19
Ah, not explicitly. But, but it’s a it’s, it’s come up, because suicidality and suicide is really closely linked with moral injury. It’s, it’s a, it’s a, it’s super, it’s super important. The, the discussed aspect is not something that has been super explored with research.
[Michele DeMarco] 15:50
So, yeah, I just, I found it fascinating because one of the, one of the things that, well, it came, it kind of came out of some of my research. So when I’m talking to people, when they talk about their experience of moral injury, they, they use discuss kind of language, it made me sick. I couldn’t I, you know, I couldn’t even swallow, like, and they and they make these kinds of, you know, movements, often and so it’s it was it was a shocking pattern.
[Michele DeMarco] 16:27
Shocking, it was a curious pattern to me, when people were using that kind of language. And, and so it seems to be that there is a that disgust probably factors in at some level that you’ve been quite aware of. So that’s something
[Jon Dabach] 16:47
I’m going to have to look into more like you said, there hasn’t been a lot of research, it’s but it’s, it’s, it could be a cool emerging kind of emotion people explore. Was there something that drew you personally to moral injury?
[Michele DeMarco] 17:01
I think I, again, going back to when I was really young, I think I was always kind of really interested in the big questions and big existential questions and challenges that that people have and go through and which is one of the reasons why I, you know, went into my study, my earlier, academic work was in World Religion and ethics, comparative culture, and conflict.
[Michele DeMarco] 17:32
And psychology, I was really interested in the ways in which people use their beliefs and principles, rituals, and practices and identity and community for good or ill. And I spent a lot of time actually looking at extremism and other arising in various, you know, traditions around the world. And from that kind of came, the flip side of it, and how people were using them really positively for healing.
[Michele DeMarco] 18:08
I think I was always so I also worked as a therapist, and I was always really the populations that I kind of gravitated to are the populations that have lost innocence, and in a lot of ways, and had whether that was a health challenge, or, you know, serious grief. You know, just these, these really meaningful losses or changes or challenges, and then that’s kind of how I got there.
[Michele DeMarco] 18:41
And in retrospect, looking, you know, I can see that, that a lot of the folks I was I was working with, before I even had heard the phrase moral injury. That was that was the population that I was I was drawn to. I, I have. So I have had my own experience of moral injury. That that I had happened after I knew I had learned about the phrase I was, I had worked as a clinical ethicist for a while and saw a lot of moral injury there. And that’s kind of when I started really getting into it. And then I had some health issues. And from that, had a there was a moral injury and it just kind of all came together. So
[Jon Dabach] 19:39
Well. Do you mind going into your health issues because it’s a heck of a story?
[Michele DeMarco] 19:44
Hold on to your hat. Yeah, when I was I was 33 years old. I woke up one morning feeling like there was an elephant standing on my chest. And I thought if I just got up and walk around if I could, I could walk it away or then I tried water and drink it away.
[Michele DeMarco] 20:05
That didn’t work. So it took me about an hour or so before I said, Okay, I’ll go to the emergency room. Well, I got as far as the parking lot. And I convinced myself that I was just It must be a bad reaction to, to migraine medication because I, for years, gotten migraines. And I said, Okay, that’s all it is. So I turned around and went back home.
[Michele DeMarco] 20:29
Two days later, I woke up feeling like a herd of elephants was standing on my chest and that somebody like an assailant had attacked me in the back with a pipe. And so it was like, chest back, and I was struggling to breathe and so rushed to the emergency room. And, lo and behold, found out that I was they knew I was having a heart attack. They didn’t know why. They were convinced it was because I was a cocaine addict, actually. And they did like six top screens for to find out I was doing cocaine because
[Jon Dabach] 21:07
You’re young, what was the logic? So
[Michele DeMarco] 21:10
There typically three kinds of heart attacks one are clogged, you know, clogged arteries, plaque, second would be like a blood clot. And the third is a spasm. Cocaine and cocaine can cause spasm related heart attacks. So they were convinced because my I didn’t have the other two, I was not at risk for the other two, low cholesterol, low blood pressure, all these kinds of things, that I’m This must be what it was. And quite literally, they have social workers coming in trying to say it’s okay, dear, you can tell us its okay.
[Michele DeMarco] 21:44
And I’m like, you know, have a glass of wine, but really I not doing cocaine. So they found out that it was this, this other kind of heart attack something called a spontaneous coronary arterial dissection, aka SCAD. And it turns out, as we know, now that it’s the leading cause of heart attacks, and women under 50 today, and so, at the time, this this was going, you know, this was 2008.
[Michele DeMarco] 22:15
At the time, they didn’t know much about it. And so they, they treated me as if I was a, you know, 400 pound man, who had, you know, had eaten poorly all of his life. So they put me on all this medication, and it was just too much because they truly didn’t know what to do. So I, they treated me and said, Okay, well, good luck, we’ll, you know, keep checking on you.
[Michele DeMarco] 22:48
Here’s a slew of medicine. And I left the hospital five days later in a in a fog of lost innocence going, how could this happen to me when I was otherwise healthy? And, you know, without never thinking that this would be the case. So, three days later, it happens again, and this time, it’s worse. So I’m home after a
[Jon Dabach] 23:13
Heart attack three days later. Yeah. Okay. Just heard that.
[Michele DeMarco] 23:21
Yeah, the time the timeline was in the hospital for five days, sent home three days later, it happens again. And this time, it was worse. So I go back to the back to the hospital. I was living in Boston at the time. So thank goodness, I had access to some really great health care in the Boston area.
[Michele DeMarco] 23:44
So thanks, shout out to the folks at Mass General Hospital. And, and this one was worse, it was worse dissection in a worse area, it was larger and had gone if you if you think of a coronary artery, as if you think of an artery like a garden hose, it has three layers. And so a dissection essentially rips is a tear in that and blood for pours in causes a clot and that’s what causes the heart.
[Michele DeMarco] 24:21
So in this case, it will rip through two of the two of the layers as opposed to just one and so it was it was pretty bad to the point where they came in and told my family that it wasn’t things weren’t looking good. And I heard them actually say like, losing her at one point. And so in there’s like nothing you can do so forth.
[Michele DeMarco] 24:46
They put in three stents and you know, my life was in a minute, you know, my changed in a sense that I who I am and this was kind of Going back to the last innocence thing where it’s like, when that happens, you’re everything still looks the way it does the hospital room look the way it did when I left it, you know, the house looks the way it does when you left that you still drive a car, you still have to shower and eat.
[Michele DeMarco] 25:16
But the way in which you orient is completely different. So I stayed in another five days for the second one. And then they released me and with kind of, you know, good luck stay. You know, if it happens again, we’ll come back and we’ll fix Yep. So it was the doctors were wonderful, I will say and they
[Jon Dabach] 25:39
Is it possible that that first time where you were just in the parking lot, and you didn’t go in was yet another heart attack?
[Michele DeMarco] 25:47
No, I was essentially having a heart attack for three days.
[Jon Dabach] 25:51
Oh, wow. Yeah, it was
[Michele DeMarco] 25:53
Very stupid. So to any guests listening, if you have those experiences, please get yourself in to go through the doors. Because it was it was really dumb. And I, you know, I should have I should have gone in. But essentially, I was I that first morning that I woke up, you know, that they told me that’s when it was it was happening and that I on But three days later, when I finally went back that I had been having a heart attack for three days. Wow. Yeah, that was an unwise on my part.
[Jon Dabach] 26:29
So after the second heart attack, what happened?
[Michele DeMarco] 26:33
Well, the doctors were could not have been any better. They were all over me making sure you know, I was taking but they had me on so much medication, like three levels of blood thinners. And, you know, I kind of looked like a walking bruise for a long time.
[Michele DeMarco] 26:51
Because if I just brushed, you know, my arm against something that would be a big, a big to do. But I they suggested after a period of time that I go to cardiac rehab, and which I did, which was a wonderfully odd experience because it was me and a lot of 7585 I think there was even 190 year old man, you know, there, we’re all on the treadmill next to each other, getting really excited that you know, we’ve gotten it up to three miles an hour and hooked up to all this stuff.
[Michele DeMarco] 27:24
I mean, it was it was kind of surreal, but in a sense, I had I had more in common with or at that time, I felt more connected and more supported and around people that understood with than I did with my own peers, because most of the people at that time in their third, you know, in their early 30s and 30s Generally, you know, they’re settling down with family and getting their careers going.
[Michele DeMarco] 27:50
And, you know, I was, you know, hooked up to monitors with stents, and, you know, all this stuff. So, it was a it was a it was a reorientation, that’s, that’s for sure. And then over I was, you know, took it easy for fortunately, like I said, I had I had I had doctors to support me, and the good news was is that I over time that those, you know, healed the stents took place.
[Michele DeMarco] 28:24
And I went back to much of which is was my old life I could exercise I you know, I think the things that they told me I shouldn’t do was climb Mount Everest, which was probably not, you know, on my schedule anyway. So love to hike but don’t need to do that kind of thing and competitive weightlifting, which was definitely not on the agenda.
[Michele DeMarco] 28:24
And I literally had to make a od calculus which was either pull over in a less than great area where they would probably take me to a hospital that doesn’t know what a scat is where I could continue driving to my destination to a better hospital knowing or suspecting that I was having this heart attack.
[Michele DeMarco] 28:24
And so I made this odd calculation that was well I guess I went 72 hours the late the first time and it didn’t kill me so I might as I’m breathing and can still get there so I continued to the continued to the hospital, which was about 20 minutes away and got to the ER and the through my keys at the Ford attendance saying, I’m having a heart attack guy called out for wheelchair. So another few days in the hospital this time, fortunately, no stents. And I’m here to tell the tale.
[Michele DeMarco] 28:45
So. So it was so I, you know, I could get that I ran again, exercise, you know, did all the things that I, I did and then 1010 years, as I mentioned, almost to the day later, the it happened again. And I was I was driving a car when it happened and I knew that it happened like flying by a Kia in the Bay Area.
[Michele DeMarco] 29:17
Are you susceptible to having more?
[Michele DeMarco] 29:25
Well, that’s that is the big question. You know, and we honestly, it’s, we’ve learned a lot more about scabs. And we know that we know that they, they could be hormone related. And potentially stress related. So one of the things that they told me in the hospital the first time was that I should never get pregnant.
[Michele DeMarco] 30:56
Because often when they see this type of condition, it’s in women who are postpartum or late in there, in their pregnancy. And since I was not, I the chance of it happening again, would be that much that much more so. So that was a double whammy, or triple whammy at that at that time, because that was something that I had thought would be in my future.
[Michele DeMarco] 31:22
So in any event, you know, strangely, I they’re so rare anyway, you know, the scabs are so rare. Anyways, the time that I had the third one, I was going through an especially stressful time in my life. So I I, who knows, I suspect it might have been related to that. So stress management is a good thing. But again, today, I you know, I’m fine. And I can do any activity without, without, it’s good to hear.
[Michele DeMarco] 31:59
But it’s but you know, that you have these, you know, you do wonder, you know, so it’s how you how you live with those kinds of that uncertainty, I think is that was for me, the big thing and I, I mean, as as it’s, it’s what probably drew you to the work. Yeah, very much. So.
[Jon Dabach] 32:17
What did you what did you find in your own psyche and your own emotional journey? When this happened, you know, how did how did things look so different?
[Michele DeMarco] 32:30
Everything looked different. I mean, everything looked different. And in some ways, it was scarier. Everything was it was kind of Technicolor fears, in some ways, were heightened, but beauty and on wonder was heightened. You know, all the things that you hear about when people come into having, you know, a close touch with death. You know, those things really do make you think differently about yourself, other people, and the world.
[Michele DeMarco] 33:10
You know, it’s an it’s a crazy time. I mean, sometimes it’s hard to be in your own head, you know, it’s because your mind spins out of control. But, but I had, I had a good support, I have a very small but close family and good friends that were very helpful and remain so and so you know, it’s, uh, it changed I think, how I think how I know let me say differently the things that mattered to me before I came into stark relief, and I really kind of put boundaries now around those things that are that are super, you know, that really matter to me.
[Michele DeMarco] 34:06
The things that the things that don’t they annoy me, and then I left but it’s easier to let them go. So
[Jon Dabach] 34:16
Has that been a permanent change?
[Michele DeMarco] 34:19
Yes, actually, it’s, I mean, some days are harder than others admittedly. But you know, it has it has been it’s, it’s stuck around maybe because it happened again, and I had to kind of go, you know, go through it. One I recently, I have a book coming out. That’s called holding on to air.
[Michele DeMarco] 34:44
And it’s, it’s about it, it’s about building resilience. And use it not only is it kind of personal development and how to how to do that, but it very but it uses some of the experiences that I’m telling you about right now. And I, you know, going through and it talks about lost innocence because it’s looking at adversity through the lens of lost innocence and how, you know, meaningful loss is actually a dual loss.
[Michele DeMarco] 35:20
It’s not just that you lose the thing itself, like your keys or you’re your wall. Yeah, exactly. It’s that you actually lose the second thing, and it’s a part of yourself. And so how do you how do you reorient and I have and that that book not only came grew out of my research and practice, but also my life because it was, you know, I was I was walking down that road too. So I think the process of writing that book has been incredibly helpful in reminding me of, or helping to sustain that that pattern we were just talking about.
[Jon Dabach] 36:04
Well, on that note, you also are planning on having a course right having a to kind of show the writing process for other people. Tell me about that.
[Michele DeMarco] 36:16
Yeah, well, thanks. Um, so for my, in my district, my dissertation was on moral injury. And one of the things that we’ve noticed that, because there isn’t a consensus definition, because we don’t know, there’s still a lot to know about it. There, there aren’t a lot of therapies for it.
[Michele DeMarco] 36:42
And so, my, my research was looking, I created a therapy called embodied disclosure therapy, and it uses writing, and, you know, not as a nonverbal therapy, which is great for moral injury, because a lot oftentimes, it’s very difficult for people to literally talk about their experiences.
[Michele DeMarco] 37:07
And it but it uses it uses somatic psychology and therapy to help people stay regulated through the writing process. One of the things about expressive writing and other writing therapies is that they it’s an exposure therapy, writing, writing is exposure, if you’re, you know, reflecting on your own experiences, we know that we know, there’s a lot of research that says that, you know, shows the benefit of health of writing for both physical and mental health.
[Michele DeMarco] 37:38
However, in clinical populations, it’s not as effective, because it can be re traumatizing for people. So one of the things we also know is that somatic therapy can be very helpful for people keeping people helping people through trauma and keeping people regulated autonomically and physically.
[Michele DeMarco] 38:00
And so I created from my, my dissertation, my research a, this therapy that leverages slow paced writing for people, so that they can work through some of the stressful situation, you know, the, the initial getting to actually putting words to this really, really awful experience that you’ve you know, persons have doing the doing so in a way that is keeping you regulated, so that you can actually get to the meaning making part of things so because you need to be one of the things we know about moral injuries that meaning making is incredibly important to it. So
[Jon Dabach] 38:46
Purpose, trying to discovering the lesson underneath at all.
[Michele DeMarco] 38:51
I would not even say lesson, but it’s, I call them kernels of truth. Like there’s something truthful in this doesn’t it’s not making lemonade out of lemons, it’s not putting a positive spin on it, it could be a very difficult truth, something as simple as some things are just sad. Like that’s a kernel of truth and some things are just sad.
[Michele DeMarco] 39:15
And that’s not you know, the moral of the story, but it but it gives you a different way of entering and working through a process if you have you know, a healing process if you can find those little meaning moments or kernels of truth but we know that if the if a person is unregulated that you know that they’re really stress, you know, really stressed out and feeling anxiety or feeling depressed on the opposite side that their rational mind is not working in the way it otherwise might.
[Michele DeMarco] 39:55
So staying right helping people stay regulated allows and to continue with that mean that important work of meaning making and you know, retooling how you’re thinking, feeling acting in certain situations without, you know, and so it allows you
[Jon Dabach] 40:15
To stay without reliving the trauma. The sense yeah. Right. That sounds fascinating. Well, if you want to get a copy of holding on to air from Dr. Michele DeMarco, it’s available as a preorder right now. And if you’re listening to this podcast in the future, it’ll be available for without the preorder.
[Jon Dabach] 40:37
And they can learn more about righting the wrongs, which is your science back writing program. Right. That’s the course at your website. Michele DeMarco, it’s Michele with one L. Michele demarco.com. Is that right?
[Michele DeMarco] 40:51
That is right. Thank you. And that was actually your original question. Yes. What I what I did was I turned my writing my writing therapy and body disclosure into a 30 day writing course for folks. So to help
[Jon Dabach] 41:08
fantastic I mean, I find, as a writer, that was when I went to therapy for the first time, that was the tool that got me to be able to make pretty amazing strides. So for the right person, you know, like, really quickly, you know, it’s, it’s, it depends on how, how much you connect with it, obviously. And but it’s, it’s it is, it’s an incredible tool.
[Michele DeMarco] 41:32
Well, and one thing I you know, a lot, I hear a lot that it’s like, do I have to be a good writer for this or like, I’m not I’m not, I don’t I don’t know, bad speller or something like that. And it’s, this is not about creating art, you know, this is this is very much a prop a healing process.
[Michele DeMarco] 41:52
So for people who, you know, you can be an awful writer, you can be, you know, a terrible speller. You know, this is not about that this is this is really about connecting at an embodied level with that process of writing, and through that process. Good things happen, essentially.
[Jon Dabach] 42:15
Yeah. Thank you so much for being on the show.
[Michele DeMarco] 42:19
Oh, thanks so much for having me. It’s been so much fun.
[Jon Dabach] 42:21
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