Nagel to her clients.
Introducing Michelle Nagel, long-term Ashland resident, best-selling author, teacher, and expert in Childhood Trauma, Betrayal Trauma, and The Resilience Advantage. Michelle has spent the last 30 years working to help her clients live actualized and free lives, without the shackles of childhood programming and limiting beliefs. In today’s interview, I speak with Michelle about her work, life, and more.
Hi Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. To begin with, will you please continue to introduce yourself to our readers?
Thank you for this opportunity, Shields. I have been studying psychology for most of my life, initially because I was simply trying to understand myself and why it hurt so much to be me. My childhood was filled with trauma, and the coping skills I learned as a child set me up for making some poor choices as an adult. Those poor choices continued the cycle of trauma. I tried talk therapy and pharmaceuticals. The talk therapy was helpful, but had its limits, and the pharmaceuticals caused terrifying side-effects. I began to explore alternative healing therapies. I learned what worked and what didn’t, and chose to become a practitioner of those alternative therapies. I had spent so many years trying to heal myself, finally creating a program that worked, when I realized what a gift it would be if I shared what I had learned with others so they could heal their traumas and change their lives in a much shorter time than it took me.
Please tell us about your international best-selling book and how it continues to touch lives around the world.
My book is titled, “Suffering is Optional: Step Out of Darkness Into the Light.” It came about in an interesting way – I always had a book in my head, but just never got around to writing it. In 2015, I was diagnosed with cancer, and opted for surgery. I was so grateful and felt so much joy when I awoke from the surgery, that I knew there was a reason I was spared, and that it was time to write my book. As I spent time on the couch recovering from the surgery, I wrote the book, and published it 3 months later. It was republished by Union Square Publishing in 2017. The book provides tools that actually work, and shows how suffering is optional – you don’t have to spend a lifetime suffering. That doesn’t mean you’ll never have pain or challenges – it just reminds you that you have a choice as to how long you will allow the trauma to control you.
Michelle, what is trauma and how does one know if we have experienced a trauma or not?
If you’re breathing, you’ve experienced trauma. I used to ask people if they could remember the first time a friend betrayed their trust. Their eyes always went up to the right, and I knew that they were recalling vividly when it had happened to them, regardless of how long ago it was. A good definition of trauma is “anything that makes you feel unsafe and alters your world view.” That could be your parents divorcing, an illness that takes away a beloved family member, a betrayal by an intimate partner, a colleague that steals your idea and presents it as their own, a sibling who seemed to be the preferred child, or any number of things we experience throughout life. There is a test called the Adverse Childhood Experiences study (ACEs) that is a good place to start to discover the traumas you may have experienced in your life. The higher your ACEs number, the more likely you are to have negative health outcomes later on in life, if you don’t release the trauma from your cells.
Michelle, will you please introduce us to your work? Please talk about its significance and briefly describe its deeply transformative nature.
Dr. Bessel Van der Kolk wrote a book called, “The Body Keeps the Score.” In it, he talks about how trauma gets stored in the cells of the body, and if the trauma is not addressed and released, it causes health issues. Even if you’ve stuffed the memory of a traumatic event deep down, the body keeps track of the trauma, and begins to break down because of the toxic nature of trauma. The trauma doesn’t just happen to one part of us, it happens to our entire personal ecosystem. For example, if I were to just walk up and punch someone on the arm, it would hurt. The body would recoil, but so would the mind. The trauma of emotions, which are actually chemical molecules in the body, often affect us more severely than a broken bone, and certainly have a more long-reaching effect. The physical body heals much quicker than the psyche.
When we’re emotionally and physically healthy, and have dealt with our traumas, the energy that flows through our body does so smoothly and without obstruction. But when we have unprocessed emotional traumas, the energy gets tangled up, often in the weakest area of our bodies. You may find yourself prone to a shoulder injury, or perhaps you have weak lungs. Maybe you find yourself feeling stuck, unable to move forward in the ways you might want to, because of an unhealed betrayal or negative programming you received while a child. We like to think we grow up and our childhood doesn’t affect us anymore, but that’s not true. Unhealed trauma hijacks our lives all the time, and we can feel out of control, unhappy, and overwhelmed.
Michelle, please tell us more about your professional background accreditations.
I am certified in several different alternative healing therapies. I am a Master Herbalist, teaching people about the historical and traditional uses of medicinal herbs. I am certified in Reiki/SHEN, I’m a HeartMathTM Certified Trainer, a VibroAcoustic Therapist, a Success Principles Certified Trainer in the Canfield Methodology, a Certified Post Betrayal Transformation Coach, an EFT Practitioner, I’m trained in the Body Code and the Emotion Code, in Somatic Release Therapy, and my own innate intuitive gifts.
Michelle, what are protective patterns of the past and how do we break them?
The primary goal of an infant is to survive. It is one of the most basic and instinctive reflexes we have. An infant learns really quickly that its survival is dependent on their caregivers, so they learn ways to please their caregivers by adapting behavior, mimicking them, and patterning themselves after their caregivers. This is great if you are lucky enough to have healthy caregivers, but if you are born into a dysfunctional family system, you learn pretty quickly what your role is to please or appease the people you are dependent on so that you can get your needs met, or as close as possible. You learn unhealthy patterns in order to protect yourself and make life as tolerable as possible. And the thing is, if you were raised in dysfunction, it seems normal to you, so you try to recreate those patterns when you reach adulthood. That’s why so many people continue to live life the same way they grew up, even though it is not an ideal situation. They are using internal programming that goes back to their very earliest years.
To break them, you first need to become aware that you want to make a change, and then choose what that change would look like. I am a guide and coach for this kind of transformation.
Are there times that we may not even be aware of our protective patterns? What may be some signs or symptoms that we are living out our protective patterns?
Oh, certainly, most of the time we aren’t aware of our protective patterns. A narcissist, for example, may or may not know that they’re a narcissist, but they learned how to manipulate in their childhood in order to get their needs met in a toxic setting. On the one hand you can feel sympathy for them, and on the other, you probably want to avoid them like the plague. However, if you were also raised by a narcissist, it would feel perfectly normal to you to be treated badly by an intimate partner, for example. You know it doesn’t feel good, but you can’t figure out how to get away from them.
Each of us has a core belief. That belief is something that we told ourselves based on the way we were treated as we were growing up. If you were bullied, your core belief might be that you don’t deserve love, and you would seek out relationships to prove that to yourself. If you were seriously abused, your core belief might be that you don’t matter, and you look for relationships that prove you don’t matter.
We all vibrate at a certain level, and unless you change the level at which you vibrate, you will continue to attract the same kind of people. Does it ever seem that you’re repeating the same old mistakes over and over again? When you do the work on yourself to get rid of your limiting beliefs, you will vibrate at a higher level, and you will begin to attract people who are vibrating at a higher level, as well.
Michelle, the pandemic has forced many to sit with themselves alone and for long hours. What does that do when we have unresolved issues, and how can we work with these issues?
The saddest story I have heard is of a man who was unable to be alone with himself during the pandemic, so he returned to his addictions, something he had worked years to overcome, but because he couldn’t stand to be alone with himself, he started using again.
On the other hand, people have used this pandemic as an opportunity to do the work they always wanted to do, and I have watched people transform in the most beautiful ways to create a completely different life for themselves.
Will you please walk us through an overview of your work and services that you offer?
My specialty is something called cocooning. This combines VibroAcoustic Therapy, music, Reiki/SHEN and lights to immerse the body in a totally relaxing and safe environment. It involves the entire body and mind, allowing stuck energy to gently straighten itself out, and retrain the brain to healthier pathways rather than the old ruts it usually uses. When the stuck energy releases, the body relaxes, the memory of the traumatic event fades, and the body systems begin to function properly.
I do coaching, as well as strictly VibroAcoustic Therapy for providing relief from symptoms of chronic health issues, such as Parkinson’s, dementia, cancer, heart disease, COPD, and many others. I also have the most amazing cushion that allows for deeper and more successful meditation. Long-term meditators are astonished at what they achieve using this cushion.
VAT is fascinating. How exactly does this work?
As you probably know, the body is made up mostly of water. The brain, especially, is mostly water. VibroAcoustic Therapy (VAT) is exactly what it sounds like – vibration and sound. Just as ripples are created when you drop a stone into a pond, ripples are created in your body when vibration and sound are added. Each organ of the body vibrates at a specific frequency. Our bodies are supposed to vibrate at the same frequency as Mother Earth, but most of us don’t because we’re so terribly stressed all the time. VibroAcoustic Therapy uses specific frequencies that make your body vibrate in harmony with the frequency. It’s like every cell in your body has little weights and they’re all exercising at the same time. This causes relaxation deep in the muscle tissue, recalibration of organs, and amazing peace in the body.
Michelle, what are some of the transformations that you are witnessing with your clients as they work with you?
I am seeing people transform into strong, vibrant individuals who are living lives of joy and peace. I am seeing people take their power back for the first time in their lives.
I’ve seen people with serious health issues have those issues resolve because they were rooted in emotional trauma. I am seeing people who can’t put their finger on what is wrong with their lives – they just know they feel stuck, or unhappy, or adrift – find purpose, direction, and joy.
“…it was more than the physical impact of the accident that had me emotionally bound up, it was years of childhood trauma, of adult coping mechanisms and denial that there was anything wrong in my world. I had spent so many years, decades even, putting armor over my own soul and the wounds that were there that I didn’t even realize it. Once I was able to face this, through Michelle’s guidance and coaching, I have been living more authentically, less apologetically and more present.” DO, Ashland
“I would like to say that working with Michelle has been a pleasure. During the initial half hour, she was so perceptive to my specific needs that I signed up for extra time with her. During this time she gently, but firmly, worked through some very difficult issues that I was not even aware of the impact they were having on my healing. She was able to guide me through trauma by asking questions that needed to be answered. Sometimes those are very hard to see through to the end, she made sure that I got there. Her ability to assess the emotion and feelings week to week was very impressive. I knew that I was working with someone that would be there for me, and understood the support I needed. Thanks again Michelle, we worked very hard together and I feel we came out the other side in a much better place.” Cat, Colorado
Can you share one or two example case studies?
One man came to me because he had an addiction he was unable to overcome. He had tried everything, but nothing had worked and his wife was about to take the kids and leave him. We agreed on a package of 6 sessions, which seem to be the magic number for transformation, and we began work. On his 3rd session, he abruptly said, “I know what it is. I don’t have the slightest idea why this is the trigger for me, but this is it!” He then told me about a trauma that had happened when he was three years old. We did the energetic work to release the stuck energy, and he felt like a new person, with no desire to continue with his addiction. This was 10 years ago. He has not had a relapse, he is still happily married, and he has become an addiction recovery counselor.
Another client came to see me, saying that she had lost all hope and wanted to take her own life. I worked with her for 6 weeks, and at the end of that time, she felt like a new person, and she continues to live a much happier life.
Michelle, how exactly are clients finding you?
My clients come from many places – I coach and teach classes at the Post Betrayal Transformation Institute in New York, doctors and psychologists in the valley refer their patients to me, my happy former clients refer their friends, some come through Facebook, and others from advertising.
Michelle, you are really using this interview as a way to introduce and make yourself available to other practitioners in our community. What would you like to say?
One of the doctors that refers his patients to me says, “I can take care of your body, Michelle can help take care of your mind.” If you have a patient that seems to be stuck in their healing process, it might be because there is an underlying emotional component. I can help with that, so the work you’re doing to help them heal is more effective.
Michelle, why do clients choose you to work with?
Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books, said that people love me because I am safe and grounded, and they feel comfortable with me. I think it’s love that does it – I just love people without judgement.
I really appreciate you sharing these. Can you please say more about the immense respect and regard you hold for your clients?
I feel that my clients share their sacred inner lives with me. They share things they may have never told anyone else, and I hold sacred space for them to do that. I would never consider betraying their trust, and I never share anything without their express permission.
There are really so many different types of trauma that one can experience. Please talk more about this injury and the long-term effects and consequences of such an experience.
There are many different types of trauma, and many different kinds of people that cause the trauma. One that we tend to accept as a fact of life is Betrayal Trauma, but it can have the worst long-lasting effects. Unfortunately, Betrayal is becoming more and more common.
Betrayal is different from any other kind of loss because it was so personal and intentional. If we lose a loved one, we grieve, but accept it as part of the cycle of life. Betrayal, on the other hand, is deliberate and deeply personal. Someone you trusted deliberately broke that trust.
You may ask what constitutes a betrayal. It’s when one person breaks a spoken or unspoken agreement they had with another person. Everyone has relationship rules. You can be betrayed by your family, by a parent, sibling, co-worker, boss, your partner or spouse, religious leaders, or government leaders. The scope of the betrayal and how long it takes to heal from it depends on how long you were in the relationship and how dependent you were on the person, or how vulnerable you allowed yourself to be. Intimate relationships tend to be the most devastating and leave the most wreckage behind.
No one can predict how long it will take to heal from a betrayal, but it will take longer if you don’t get any help. Time heals all wounds is not true. The work you do during that time is what heals the wounds. If you do not get any help, you may find yourself never trusting anyone again. You may be reluctant to take any relationship risks, never letting anyone into your inner world. Instead of living life in an open and trusting way, you close down smaller and smaller, and your world becomes that way, too. Bitterness often moves in, happiness moves out.
Your work is available both online and in-person for your clients. Where does one start in learning more about your services?
Give me a call and we can have a conversation to see if we would be a good fit for working together.
Michelle, what words of advice would you like to offer our readers today in helping to share and understand more about what you are doing?
If you feel that your life is not what you had hoped, but you feel stuck, or perhaps you carry a burden of shame or just deep unhappiness, I can help. I also have a lot of experience with helping people heal from Betrayal Trauma. I help you go from who you are to who you want to be.
What is your favorite principle you reflect on in moving forward in living a positive and fully actualized life?
The most important thing anyone can do is to accept 100% responsibility for their own life. That means they have to stop blaming, complaining, and whining. The only things in life we have control over are the way we think, the things we believe, and the way we behave. When you take responsibility for those things, everything changes in your life.
Michelle, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Thank you, Shields. I appreciate the work you do.
Soul Shift, Inc.
325 A Street, Ashland
(in the Holistic Health Clinic)