Meet Dr. Ashley
My name is Dr. Ashley Anne, and I'm a lifestyle doctor who teaches people how to turn stress into a superpower. After a lifetime of being sick and tired (with no solutions), I finally got sick and tired of being sick and tired and dove into the research to find my own damn solutions.
What I found was two fold. First, poorly managed stress is the cause of almost ALL disease and disorder. Second, the fight/flight/freeze model of stress just doesn't cut it.
There are far too many situations in life that can't be resolved by those three tools.
What do we use when we tend to our children?
What do we use when we're negotiating a deal at work?
What do we use when we seek out a hug?
What do we use when we find new solutions?
Never heard of them? Neither did I.
Because they didn't exist until I created them - and then turned them into my superpower.
My mission is to bring this new model of stress into the world so that everyone becomes their own hero.
If you're looking for a place to start, my TEDx Talk might be great for you. In it, I summarize 10+ years of research in under 18 minutes and leave you with a basic understanding of how the body and mind work together to create our reality.
I create all my content with one mission: to teach you what I wish I would have known...
...when I was in fourth grade going to school with pockets full of pills to manage my migraines.
...when I was a freshman in high school sitting in civics class battling my IBS and trying not to fart!
...when I was a senior in college, actively suicidal with no insight as to why.
...when I was a trauma therapist, crying on the floor of my 250 square foot apartment wondering why the hell I got into this business anyway.
Anne's Anatomy™ changed my life. I believe it will do the same for you.
I began my career as a counselor specializing in neurocounseling and somatic trauma interventions. Because of this unique practice, colleagues sent all their toughest trauma cases my way.
Within six months, I lost ten pounds without trying, my skin broke out, I couldn’t sleep, I was dissociative, and despite eating well, meditating, getting massages, doing 90-minutes of hot yoga 5 times a week, seeing a psychologist twice a week, taking medication prescribed by a psychiatrist, and consulting with every supervisor within my reach, I was suicidal.
Self-care and stress management did not work.
I was looking at the real possibility I’d be forced to quit my career before it even began.
Since no one could help, I had a choice to make: throw in the towel or dive into the research. Never one to back down from a battle, I dove right in.
Vicarious trauma, as it turns out, has nothing to do with being burdened by the stories of others. Instead, it’s all about sensation.
When we connect with others, the neurobiological experience goes something like this:
When someone tells you a story about a situation, their body recreates the sensations they experienced during the original situation.
Then, your mirror neurons in your brain pick up on this and send that information down your nervous system, making you experience very similar situations of the storyteller.
Your body syncs with the storyteller's body. It's as if your bodies are one; the two of you become a single social brain.
This is called simulation.
Simulation can be hurtful when we can't tell the difference between the other person's stories and sensations and our own. When we take on others' sensations, we get bogged down in stress that we can't resolve... because it wasn't ours to begin with.
This experience is what I call identification.
However, simulation can also be helpful. The sensations we experience from others can give us important information about how the other person is feeling, what they'll do next, and how to talk and act in ways that are supportive. Simulation is the birthplace of good parenting, empathic friendship, and compassionate global citizenship.
But it's only helpful when we can correctly identify the origin of the sensations as being from someone else's body.
This practice is what I call differentiation. And it's what makes good parenting, empathic friendship, and compassionate global citizenship possible.
The process of differentiation happens as we use what Stephen Porges called the sixth sense - interception - to feel internal shifts in our body. When we pay attention to our sensations, we connect the lower parts of our body to the higher parts of our brain where awareness becomes possible. Then we can have conversations that help us understand that the sensations actually originated in the OTHER person - no our own body.
Instead of saying, "I AM suddenly agitated."
We can say, "Oh, YOU are feeling sad."
As a counselor, I learned to use this superpower by saying things like:
I just felt my chest tighten up, I wonder if yours did too.
My heart just sank. I wonder if you’re feeling heartbroken.
Oh, my stomach just got butterflies. You seem scared.
When I started this practice of differentiation, I learned to not only separate my client's stress from my body, but also to help them resolve it in session. And because of simulation, when I helped them resolve it, my body resolved it to. This meant by the time they left the session, both our nervous systems were stress-free.
Vicarious trauma happens when the body simulates, but doesn’t differentiate. That's why I was burnt out.
The sensations got stuck in my body, the stress response stayed on long after my sessions, and I went home holding the sensations from every single person I talked to that day.
Simulation is automatic and unconscious. Differentiation must be learned.
As it turns out, my symptoms of burnout back then boil down to one key concept:
Compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma, and burnout have nothing to do with *managing* my stress and everything to do with resolving it.
Differentiation saved my life, and I think it can help you too.
dr. ashley's credentials
Counseling and Coaching since 2010
Counselor Educator and Group Supervisor 2012-2022
PhD in Counselor Education | Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi
MA in Counseling Psychology | Northwestern University
BA in Communication | Saint Norbert College
Sanskrit - Level One | Manorama, Sanskrit Studies