The Truth About Trauma (and How to Fix It) with Dr. Elena Villanueva

Content By: Ari Whitten & Dr. Elena Villanueva

In this episode, I am speaking with Dr. Villaneuva about evidence-based approaches for finding and treating the underlying causes of chronic illness and brain-related conditions, using the most advanced evidence-based approaches available today.

Table of Contents

In this podcast, Dr. Villaneuva and I discuss:

  • How our brains get re-wired to be super-sensitive to stress (and what to do to reverse this!)
  • Why traumatic events predispose you to chronic illness (and how your TV might be perpetuating it!) 
  • How the last 2 years of media spin have increased our fearfulness and reduced our ability to think logically.
  • Why many need more than just talk therapy to recover (and why re-visiting the trauma in our minds may not be a good idea).
  • How MDMA and ketamine treatments work in very different ways (and why you might hesitate to try the latter)
  • Dr Elena thoughts on breathing therapies, EMDR, EFT tapping, somatic body work, hypnotherapy and other healing modalities (and how they can be combined for most effective results.)

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Ari: Hello, friends. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. With me now is my friend Dr. Elena Villaneuva. She is an international speaker, health influencer, and co-author of The Longevity Code. She’s been featured on multiple occasions on Fox news, MSN, Healthline, Houston Chronicle, and many other media outlets as well as several documentaries. She also teaches practitioners and her events have included IMMH, Great Plains Labs, Vibrant Labs, Paleo FX, and many other stages.

She teaches evidence-based approaches for finding and treating the underlying causes of chronic illness and brain-related conditions using the most advanced evidence-based approaches available today. Her unique approach incorporates the merging of science and spirituality and the integration of mind-body, spirit in her evidence-based approaches for healing and optimization of the human body and mind. Welcome to the show, my friend. Such a pleasure to have you on.

Dr. Villanueva: Oh, it’s so good. It’s always so good to see you, Ari.

The truth about trauma

Ari: We’re going to be talking about trauma. Just as we were talking prior to starting this podcast, you were telling me all kinds of good stuff about what’s going on in the world right now. I interrupted you and I said “Hey, Hey, Hey, wait, I want you to say all this stuff while we’re actually recording for the podcast,” so tell me again what you were just telling me. I think that’s a great place to start.

Dr. Villanueva: That probably is a really great place to start. That’ll really help drive the conversation. I was telling you before we got started that one of my good friends, a couple, Dev and Brandon Yager. They are very well-known around the country. They are master NLP practitioners and trainers of NLP. Their biggest passion behind this is helping people to move through their own self-sabotaging habits that prevent them from having the life they want or even the business that they want to have.

They teach a lot of tools for helping people to be able to move through trauma and learn to express their emotions, develop that emotional intelligence and learn how to navigate all of the craziness that is life. In the last, you know what? 20 months now they have seen something that they’ve never seen before. That is that every they offer a class, and they usually have pretty large classes, 60 to 80 people per class every time they offer one, they’re seeing more and more people as they’re going through their own breakthroughs during their coursework.

The energy levels are much more intense because people’s stuff, their stuff is coming out more than they’ve ever seen before. There’s so much trauma that’s happening and the trauma over the last 20 months has triggered so many people that it’s like the pressure cookers like the lid is popping off the pressure cooker. There’s no amount of medication that’s holding, that’s suppressing those emotions or those traumas anymore. There’s no amount of mental or physical will that’s able to hold it down. This planet is evolving very very quickly, and people are needing to learn how to navigate their emotions and gain emotional intelligence and be able to move through their traumas more than ever.

They are actually in class right now, tomorrow is their last day. This is what I was telling you right before we got on, we even have physicians in there. Excuse my French. They’ve lost their shit in class. Like literally having massive breakdowns and breakthroughs, talking about even how they were suicidal because of all the trauma that they’ve been dealing with their entire life because everybody on this planet has trauma. Everybody does, 100% of people have had it.

When we added on all of the new trauma of the last 20 months, people are breaking. We need to bring awareness to the tools and modalities that are out there so that people can he heal, because if we don’t, we’re going to continue seeing these stark increases in suicide ideation, leading to suicide and people overdosing and dying from medications. That’s what we’re seeing right now is because people don’t know that there are tools out there that are available for them so that they can heal from their trauma and gain an emotional intelligence. We need that more than ever right now?

What does it mean to have trauma?

Ari: Yes, 100%. As you were talking there, you were reminding me of an article I saw. It was in August of 2020, so a little more than a year ago at this point. It was after the first round of lockdowns, as we’re in the middle of the COVID situation, and things are ramping up and things were at a very high intensity. There was a survey that was done showing that one in four young adults was contemplating suicide. One in four in the US. It’s hard to imagine a more intense sign of collective trauma than one in four people wanting to take their own life.

That’s pretty severe, but I want to talk about what is trauma with you. Some people conceptualize trauma is like, “Oh, if you have PTSD, if you witnessed one of your friends step on a landmine in front of you and get blown up,” that’s pretty severe trauma. A lot of people because they have that conception of trauma, they might not perceive more subtle kinds of trauma in their own life, and in their own background as being trauma. How would you define it and how do you help people understand what it means to be traumatized or to have trauma?

Dr. Villanueva: This is such an important question, what is trauma? There are actually a couple of different definitions. If you’re looking at the old medical model, they will define trauma as the event itself. It was the event. It was the assault that happened to you. It was the parent’s neglect that happened to you. What we’ve come to understand, those who are the most successful in working with people with trauma around the world understand that it’s not the event that is the trauma, it’s our perception of the event and the story that we create around the event that creates the trauma inside of our body.

A perfect example would be when you have the five soldiers and they’re all inside of the military vehicle, and they run over a landmine and they all end up having massive injuries. Two out of the five end up having massive PTSD trauma afterwards, but the other three are able to move on. Why is that? They all experienced and saw the exact same thing. Why is it that three of them are okay and the other two are not? It’s because of the perception. How they perceived what happens to them, and the story that they created around it, it literally rewires your entire neurology.

How you see yourself, how you see the world around you, it rewires your belief systems. When that happens, that can either hinder you or that can help you create more wisdom for future learnings.

How trauma changes the brain

Ari: I heard a couple of years ago, I think it might have been Jason Silva, who explain things this way. He was talking about the expression, “Neurons that fire together wire together,” which is classic expression in neuroscience. What that means is essentially pathways of the brain, I’m explaining to listeners, I obviously assume you know Dr. Villanueva.

It means that pathways in the brain that are repetitively stimulated essentially get stronger. In the same way that if you go to the gym and you do lots of bicep curls, your bicep’s going to get stronger as a result of that, over time you’re stimulating those pathways and strengthening them.

That happens in our brain to some extent too. It’s in the form of neurons that if they’re stimulated, that then they get stimulated more easily, essentially. We typically conceptualize that expression, “Neurons that fire together wire together,” as something akin to weight lifting or exercise training, that it’s repetitive stimuli over time train the brain to be better at something and that’s true. The way that he was talking about trauma is essentially that with a sufficient enough intensity of the experience, you can almost get that neurons wiring together effect essentially instantaneously.

I’m wondering what your take on that is. How do you conceptualize what’s going on in the context of trauma? For example, in the case of the example you just gave, what’s going on neurologically that’s different between the people who either were or were not traumatized?

Dr. Villanueva: That’s what I like to call the “amygdala hijack.” I’ve spoken on many stages about this, and I love it when I get an opportunity to actually show slides and show pictures of how this neural rewiring happens. Even without pictures, it’s fairly easy to explain. The amygdala hijack is basically explaining how the nervous system and the brain, in particular, rewires itself when the person is confronted with a heightened emotional experience, where they perceive something that’s dangerous or scary or just something that is really, really negative that could hurt them.

Let me explain it like this, in our brain, I’m going to keep this super, super simple. In our brain, when we are perceiving things around us, we have a couple of parts of our brain that often gets stimulated, one being more than the other in a healthy brain. That would be what I will call the frontal cortex, so right here over the forehead area, there’s a large area of the brain. I’ll call that the frontal cortex. In general, what that does is that helps us to think logically so that we can MacGyver our way out of a crazy situation if we need to, we can think of all possibilities.

It helps us to control our impulses. Let’s say that some guy cuts us off in the road and we may have the impulse to go sock him in the face, poke him in the eyes because you just ran me off the road and almost killed me. What do we do? Our frontal lobe thinks about the consequences of that. Well, you know what? I’m just going to let that guy go. That guy was a jerk and I’m just going to keep ongoing. It helps us with inhibition so that we can control and really figure out like, “If I do this, this could happen, this is the consequence.”

It does many other things, but you know, the main thing here is that it helps us to think rationally to come up with rational decisions, to think logically. Then you’ve got another part of your brain called the amygdala. The amygdala is a small primitive area of the brain that’s more deeply rooted in the center of the brain. It really only gets triggered or activated whenever we have a heightened emotional experience that we perceive as dangerous. Something that’s dangerous or scary or a threat.

In a healthy brain, when you see, hear, feel, smell a threat, you get wiring from what you’re seeing, what you’re hearing, what you’re smelling, what you’re touching or feeling that’s threatening. The message? You start getting these alarms that will go into the amygdala to turn on that fight-or-flight center. Then you’ll also have some messages that’ll go to the frontal lobe so that it can start reasoning through it. Is this really a danger? What do I need to do? Do I need to go around? What do I need to do?

Then you’ll have some neurological pathways that go in between the frontal lobe and the amygdala so that the amygdala is going, “Danger, danger, danger,” and the frontal lobe and go, “Yes, I see that it’s danger but we can avoid it by going around or we can do this,” or “No, it’s not really a danger anymore.” That’s the healthy brain. When an individual gets re-exposed, like perfect example is what’s happened over the last 20 months. People who are digging for information all the time, watching the news all the time, where there it’s all this fear-based. There is very specific language and I teach about this in my recent trauma masterclass that I did, I teach about how language can be used.

Right under our noses, language can be used to put people into a state of amygdala hijack, where it rewires their brain literally brainwashing them because it’s happening. The messages that we’re watching on television are very threatening, they’re very scary. Everything that we hear over and over and over and over and over. When we keep getting these repeated messages of danger going to the amygdala, firing up the amygdala all the time, when it should be like sleeping most of the time, our brain pathways, our neurological pathways suddenly rewire.

Instead of having most of the pathways going to the frontal lobe so that you can logically think through a situation, you lose those pathways. Most of the pathways are now going to the fight-or-flight center of the amygdala. There’s hardly any pathways going from the amygdala to the frontal lobe so that the frontal lobe can help reason through it and let us know when the danger is over. We, in essence, rewire our brain to get stuck in the state of fight-or-flight, is stuck in this state of literal terror and our bodies go into that fight-or-flight state and we can’t come out of it.

Now we’ve got raging anxiety, we think the world’s coming to an end. Even when we try to think logically like, “Everything’s okay, everything’s okay,” our brain has already been rewired. Now our body is still in fight-or-flight, our body thinks that something bad is going to happen, something bad is going to happen all the time even when your brain is trying to say, “Calm everything down.” This is what happens, this is a perfect example of what’s happened in the last 20 months. Our brains have been rewired to stay in a perpetual state of fight-or-flight, a perpetual state of terror.

What do we do about that? This is why we’re seeing an increase in suicide. This is why we’re seeing an increase in deaths from overdoses. People have been brainwashed, they can’t think logically. Now even when they try to access their frontal lobe, the amygdala has literally grown, like the muscle when you’re working out all the time, that amygdala has grown, the frontal lobe literally shrinks down. Now the fight-or-flight center is in charge and you can’t think logically. What do we do about that? This is a huge, huge problem.

Ari: That was really well explained. There’s two directions, I think, that are worth commenting on. One is obviously on the individual level for us all to understand ourselves. The other one is on a collective level because there is, as you said, this worldwide constant media attention that is constantly bombarding us with fear-based news about what’s going on. I’ve had many conversations with people, many of my doctor friends, many of my researcher, scientist friends, with you, with many of our mutual friends, talking about how, because of what you just explained.

There’s one thing that keeps coming up, people can’t think. It’s like people’s ability to think logically and scientifically has been turned off. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of the fear is simply massively exaggerated, based on the actual magnitude of the risk. There seems to be a great resistance to being even open intellectually to any discussion around risk stratification based on age, based on pre-existing conditions, and health status. It’s like, “No, everyone’s at risk, we’re all going to die. Everybody needs to stay at home.”

The reality is, we can talk facts and talk about children, for example, and say, children have less risks from COVID than they do have common viruses that are circulating all the time that we all don’t even pay any attention to or even know about. For example, the flu is more deadly to children than COVID is. This is a scientific fact, I know many people listening to this will be resistant to it. It’s true, look it up. RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, which most people haven’t even ever heard of, has been circulating for decades among our children.

It kills way more kids every year than COVID does. Nobody has any awareness of RSV, nobody has any fear of it. We don’t have a vaccine for it. Nobody pays any attention to it. Just as one more data point, there was a survey done and it is stratified politically. They asked people, “What percentage of the population do you think is being, or what percentage of people who get COVID are hospitalized from it?” Among Democrats, it was 41%, among Republicans it was 28%, said that they thought the percentage of people who get COVID who end up in the hospital is over 50%.

The actual number is around 1%. Another chunk, I think it was close to 30% among Democrats and I don’t know, maybe 20% among Republicans or something said that they thought the risk was greater than 25% or more. About 70% of Democrats and maybe 55% of Republicans, believed that the risk of hospitalization from COVID of getting severe symptoms from COVID is about 2,500 to 5000% higher than what the data actually shows. If you talk about it an amygdala hijack, well if you’re overestimating your risk of severe disease by 2500 to 5000%, that’s going to greatly influence the degree to which that amygdala is being hijacked and the ability for logical and scientific thought and rational thought is being suppressed.

Dr. Villanueva: No, that’s absolutely true.

Ari: We know the CDC’s report showed that 95% of hospitalizations are among those with preexisting conditions. One of the biggest most common conditions was anxiety disorders. To that point of if– There’s a weird paradox here because many people’s intuitive way of thinking about something that is a threat to them, is the more fear, the more caution that they have the more protected that they’ll be. If you have so much fear that it’s creating anxiety, especially if that level of anxiety is disproportionate to the actual magnitude of the risk, the anxiety itself creates a state of physiology that predisposes to more severe symptoms upon infection.

There is absolutely a degree of self-fulfilling prophecy that’s going on there. We all have to recognize that counter-intuitiveness of, “Being more afraid doesn’t translate it to better outcomes.”

Dr. Villanueva: Absolutely.

Ari: Let’s talk about, let’s get back to trauma. We’re about in a sense how many people have been collectively traumatized. I remember maybe as an equivalent sort of thing, around 9/11, I was in college back then. It was in my first week of college. We saw this on the TV. The planes crashing into the twin towers and twin towers falling. There was a lot of people at that time, not just who were on the ground in New York city but people just watching it on TV over and over and over again who were traumatized by those images of thousands of people dying from that.

What are some of the other sorts of non-obvious types of experiences that people can have, that they wouldn’t necessarily think, “Oh yes, that was traumatizing to me,” but experiences that many people may have had that are some degree of trauma?

Dr. Villanueva: Experiences that can rewire your neurology so that you can’t function optimally later on in life, would be even things like if you lose your mom in the grocery store. She’s just like right down the aisle, she’s in the same aisle a little further down, but you look up from, you’re looking at all of the really colorful cans of whatever as a kid. This happens I think to most kids, it happened to me. I’m looking around, I go reach up and I look and it’s not my mother, it’s somebody else. That could be construed as trauma. That can be depending on how the child perceived that. Did they feel they were abandoned?

Did they create a story around that that mommy left me, or did they realize, “Oh, I wasn’t paying attention, and mommy’s 5-feet away and I grabbed some stranger’s hand.” That could be trauma. A little kid pushing you in the hallway or in kindergarten or in school, that could be construed as trauma. A lot of different things like that. Hearing other people yelling could be traumatic. Anything where you create perception or a story around it, where you feel unsafe in any way, shape, or form, that any type of event where the story that you create around it creates emotions that are dense.

People might call them negative emotions, but as we go through the work, I used to call them negative emotions too. Negative emotions, anger, fear, shame, guilt, all of those, rage, hurt, loneliness, sadness. I used to call them negative. Now I understand that they’re all beautiful emotions. I’ve learned how to express those and how to allow myself to ride those waves and navigate those, but a lot of us, we become very afraid of those. Any type of event that creates an emotion that ultimately leads us to feeling unsafe or disconnected in any way, that can be traumatic.

It doesn’t have to be a sexual assault. It doesn’t have to be someone held a gun to your head. It doesn’t have to be that you watched the twin towers falling during 9/11. It can be something that would be unseemingly very unobvious to people, like some of the examples that I gave you..

How trauma increases the risk of chronic disease

Ari: Very interesting. How do those kinds of experiences, even if they’re not even necessarily conscious or someone doesn’t perceive them as trauma necessarily, how do they translate into increased risk of chronic disease?

Dr. Villanueva: When you have an experience that you perceive as dangerous or threatening or any type of experience that leaves you with a “negative emotion,” your body re rewires itself so that it can deal with that better next time. It’s a survival mechanism so that it can do better next time so that you don’t have to feel that way or experience the discomfort or the pain or whatever the “negative emotion” was. When you rewire yourself this way, which it’s really amazing how we do it, because it’s a part of how humans evolve and how we’re able to stay alive. It’s a protective mechanism, but later on, it can end up creating a lot of dysfunction in our life.

For example, the best way to explain is to find some sort of example. Let’s say the little kid in the grocery store looks up, grabs somebody else’s hand, doesn’t see mom right away, because she’s panicking. She doesn’t see mom, mom’s only 10-feet away, a little bit further down the aisle. She creates a story. She cries, she gets upset because there’s a stranger there. Maybe she perceives it as that stranger was going to take me and mommy wasn’t there for me.

Now on a subconscious level, maybe on the conscious level mom comes and holds her and tells her, “Just stay. Let’s put you back in the cart, honey. Everything’s okay. I’m just going to keep you right here. We’re going to buckle in so that you don’t end up– Mommy’s right here. Mommy’s always here.” On a conscious level, the little kid’s like, “Oh yes, mommy’s here.” On an unconscious level, this child already processed that mommy left her, that some stranger danger. Some stranger was there, was going to take her away. She literally rewired very quickly.

Then moving forward, she ends up having these issues where separation anxiety from her parents, which then as she gets older, she ends up having separation anxiety from her boyfriend, which then leads to problems when she gets older trying to have a really deep intimate relationship with her friends or having a deep real intimate relationship with her partner. These problems that she now starts to have. She doesn’t even realize on a conscious level, “Why does this keep happening to me that I can’t have these deep friendships, these deep relationships.”

Every time she has a broken relationship, what does it do? It hurts in your heart. It causes pain. It gives you all those sad emotions that you’re trying so hard to avoid in the first place. Every time you have those sad emotions, not only are you making those neurological connections stronger, you’re changing all your hormones inside your body. You’re rewiring yourself to run on hormones that you shouldn’t have running through your body all the time. The hormones that are only designed for certain circumstances, for fight-or-flight or for survival or whatever, now they’re coursing through your veins all the time. It’s like battery acid.

Now you can’t metabolize your blood sugars properly. Now you don’t make melatonin at night so you can sleep. Now, your hormones are all out of whack. Now your brain chemistry isn’t working right. You’ve created ulcers in your stomach from all of these emotional events that keep happening and you don’t know why. Now you have leaky gut. Then you end up with leaky brain. Then you end up with autoimmune issues and you end up with all these problems because when you rewire your neurology from these states of fight-or-flight or sadness or all these things that you’re trying to suppress, because you don’t know how to navigate them, not only are you rewiring your neurology, that’s causing an entire change in all of your biochemistry in your body.

That ultimately ends up leading to all of these different types of chronic diseases and hormone imbalances and brain chemistry imbalances and everything else.

Ari: There is another reason to want to deal with our own traumas. That is, we know that there’s research showing that children of parents who dealt with trauma also suffer health effects. For example, the classic thing that’s researched is children of Holocaust survivors. There’s quite a bit of research done in that context, but also other contexts, children born to mothers with PTSD and things like that. How does that work? What’s going on there that’s being transmitted to the next generation?

Dr. Villanueva: Well, this is another example of evolution, and how we adapt to our environment so that we can survive. When you have the parents who survived the Holocaust and all of the horrors of the Holocaust, one of the many things that happened to them, in addition to their whole neurology being rewired, their physiology got rewired, but it happened on an even deeper level. Their genetics got rewired. Their genetics altered themselves so that they could survive, so that it could ensure the survival of their future generations.

One of the genetic alterations that we’ve seen happen, not just from Holocaust, but also from the great depression, was changes in metabolic function that happens on a genetic level. When these parents were starving, either because they were in the Holocaust, they were going through that kind of stuff, and they were having these issues, or if they lived through a depression, a great depression, or lived through some sort of famine, their genes changed. Lots of genetic changes happen, but we’re just talking about one of them, how they metabolized their calories, how they metabolized their food changes, so they could survive.

Then when they had children, even though their children were not living through famine, their genetics, they ended up inheriting the genetics of their parents that changed during the trauma as a survival mechanism. Now, these people they’re eating normal amounts of food, but they’re gaining weight. Their metabolism changed because of the trauma of their parents. Then these genetic changes can get thrown down six generations, seven generations, is what science shows us so far.

I’m sure in another 20 years, we’ll be able to prove that until it’s changed, which it can be changed, until those traumatic chains are broken, because the genetics can be changed again, how they express can be changed, but until that’s done, I’ll bet you, it’ll go on for more than six or seven generations. That’s just all we’ve studied so far. It’s a survival mechanism. The good news is that we can change the expression of our genes. I truly believe that we literally can– just like we can alter our genes for survival from traumatic events, I truly believe that we can alter our genes, change our genetic code in the other direction. It’s just something that we’re still learning. How do we do that?

Ari: That’s my next question. How do we do that?


Dr. Villanueva: I think, in the last 20 months, it’s given us more opportunity than ever to really sit back and reevaluate our belief systems. Have they really been serving us to evaluate what really is science? Science changes. As we get new information, science changes. There’s been a huge bifurcation in belief systems, a huge bifurcation in timelines in the last 20 months. Those of us, you and I, we are still of the model that, “Yes, this is what the science shows today, and yes, it’s very possible that tomorrow we’re going to learn something new that outdates that science.” Science is not permanent. It’s not concrete. Science changes. As we gain knowledge, science changes.

Ari: Can I give a couple quick examples to illustrate that point?

Dr. Villanueva: Yes.

Ari: Okay. One is a quick personal story and then I’ll follow up with some bigger picture data. When I was in college in early 2000s, I thought I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. When I was an undergrad, I spent some time shadowing an orthopedic surgeon, just following him around, watching him what he does, watching some surgeries, things like that. Within the first few days of doing that, I saw him write a few prescriptions for a drug called Vioxx, and I hadn’t heard of that drug at the time, and I was pretty familiar with most drugs that were out there, so I asked him what it was. He said, “Well, it’s the new generation of NSAIDs nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and it’s safer and more effective than all the previous generations. Things like aspirin and ibuprofen and so on. I didn’t think much of it and just assumed that he was saying something that was correct, and then about a year later Vioxx was widely publicized in the news and it turned out that it had caused 88,000 heart attacks or cardiovascular events among people in the United States and killed close to 50,000 people, and then it was removed from the market.

What he had told me a year or two prior was that what his conception of “the science” was that drug was more effective and much safer than all the previous generations of drugs, which turned out to be totally false with just a little bit more time. It turned out that Vioxx actually increased risk of cardiovascular events by 400%. This is a bit of an extra point, but it also is the case that that data was actually known to the drug maker prior to even pushing it, and they suppressed the data. They hid it, and the drug was approved by the FDA, even after that drug maker already knew that it was linked with 400% increase risk of cardiovascular events.

To your point that the science changes. I’ll add just one more piece of bigger picture data. In the first 10 years of the 2000s, 2000 to 2010, there were 221 drugs that were approved during that timeframe. The average time that it takes for them to complete Phase III trials and show long-term safety data before those drugs got approved was three and a half to five years. The drugs got approved after we already had three and a half to five years of long-term safety data.

Of those 221 drugs that were approved, 71 of them, about 1 in 3, was later found to have such significant side effects beyond what they had originally known, that it either got a black box warning or was removed entirely from the market. Here’s the kicker. It took an average of 4.2 years before they even discovered those extra risks. If you asked the question, “How long does it take to know the safety profile of a medical intervention?” Based on that data, the answer is somewhere minimal, probably about 7 years more likely closer to 9 or 10 years to really actually have “the science” to know the actual safety of a medical intervention.

This is important data that I feel there is just widespread ignorance about. Some of it is intentional that people are misrepresenting that, and a lot of it is just a general public that is not scientifically literate enough to know those kinds of statistics, of how long it actually takes to really know if something is safe or not.

Dr. Villanueva: Yes. Oh my God. There’s so much that I could say on that but we could have a whole entire another discussion on that. This is what I’ve heard directly from an individual who used to develop pharmaceuticals for the pharmaceutical companies. He said that a pharmaceutical is not put to market unless it causes four or more other conditions. They have created some really amazing pharmaceuticals that cause no major side effects. They won’t put those to market. They shelve them or they change them.

The whole, this whole pharmaceutical industry is a whole farce. I’m happy to be alive during all of these changes when all of these truths are now finally coming to the surface. For you and I to get to be alive to watch a broken model crumble, and we can help bring people along to create a new model, these are amazing times for us.

Ari: Totally. Totally. I apologize for interrupting your flow as far as the bifurcation of society, but I wanted to interject those data points on the topic of safety profile of different medical interventions.

Dr. Villanueva: Yes. That’s so important. I’m trying to remember exactly where we were going with that, but I was talking about how science changes. Oh, I think you were asking, “So where do we go now?” You were asking something like that. I think this is a good time for us to sit back and reflect on what’s really happening on the planet. What do we really see happening? Looking through all the smoke screens because there everywhere. My husband and I stopped watching television probably in May of 2020. We just turned it off for good. I watched it for a couple of months just in shock at what I was seeing because I was able to see what they were doing with language to brainwash and manipulate people.

I knew from my own scientific and medical background, I knew that what they were saying just wasn’t true. Plus, a lot of it just didn’t resonate and I was watching and seeing how they were creating their words to manipulate people. We stopped watching. I think moving forward, I encourage everybody, stop looking. Stop. Instead, get present. Get back in your body, get present. Look around you. What’s going on around you. How does your body feel? Step outside. What’s going on? Do you feel a breeze? Do you see a bird flying overhead?

Get present with yourself and find people who can teach you how to move through your emotions. There’s so many people suffering right now with anxiety, with depression. They’re scared to death because of everything that they’ve heard. The thing is is that this is compounded. Most of you already had stuff that you were not wanting to deal with before 2020 happened. We’ve all been there. I was there. I almost died from living a lifetime of trauma. I’m lucky that I’m here. I thank God every day that I’m here.

I have these beautiful grandbabies. I’m helping people around the world. I thank God that I was able to move through my trauma, but I grew up in trauma. I didn’t know any different. I grew up never really being fully in my body, and if you haven’t done the trauma work then you don’t even really know what that means living in my head. Our mind it is a beautiful servant, but what’s happened is that for most of the population our mind has become the master. Our mind should not be the master. We should not be leading with our mind. Our mind only can conceive what it has experienced during our lifetime. A lot of what we experience is smoke and mirrors anyway.

How about connecting to your higher self? Your God self, your spirit, because that’s really who we are. We’re just zipped up in this vehicle. This is the vehicle that God gave us. This is the vehicle we’re in, but this is not who we are. We need to stop thinking with our brain because a lot of us our brains are not working right now anyway. We need to start thinking with our heart, and we need to stay present. It is happening right now. We’re having a really big evolution of humanity where people are, for the first time in their lives, letting out emotions that they’ve kept in since they were babies, emotions that they spent a lifetime repressing with medications, alcohol, overworking.

That was mine. My medicine was working. I was a single mom and I had three sports medicine practices and took care of the house. I was a team sports doctor for my son’s high school. I worked myself almost until I killed myself because I had so much trauma inside, so many emotions that I was just didn’t know what to do with. I’d pray about it, “God please take him away.” Nothing worked, so I just shoved it down with work. I shoved it down with work, I shoved it down with work until that didn’t work anymore. Then I had to add some Lexapro on top of that, so I’m shoving it down with work and Lexapro, work, and Lexapro.

Then I had another trigger which was the suicide of my father who was a physician, and so that was another trauma, a trigger that induced more trauma. Then I had working all the time, Lexapro, and then alcohol on top of all of that. It’s just like, “We can’t do that anymore.” We need to face the demons. We need to face the dark side which really is not so dark. It’s not as scary as we’ve been taught to believe. It’s a construct and it’s a lie. It’s okay to feel emotions whatever they are. Find a community of people, find people who can support you, and teach you how to navigate those emotions so that you don’t have to drive it like you’re white-knuckling the race car.

“Oh, I’m so scared, I don’t wanna feel the rage. I don’t want to feel depression. It’s scary as heck to feel that.” When you can work with professionals who can teach you how to navigate those emotions, you can find the power and the beauty behind every emotion that you once thought was negative and bad. Once you can learn how to express those and fully step in and feel those emotions which you’ve been so scared to feel your entire life, on the other side of that, you’re finally for the first time going to experience intense joy, intense peace, intense gratitude, intense love, happiness, giddiness. All the things that you’ve been wanting to feel your whole life, but you’re so numbed out that you can’t feel it. Until you learn how to feel what you think is scary and negative, you’re never going to feel those good ones.

Find people who understand emotional intelligence. Find people who are trained in trauma work. Lean into those people and let them show you how to pull yourself out of that hole, because when you heal yourself, you heal your entire lineage, your downline, and your upline, and you heal the rest of the planet. Work on yourself, put yourself first, find people who can support you and love you, and show you the way out of your hole. By focusing on you first, that’s how your family will heal and that’s how this whole planet is going to end up healing.

The best modalities to fix trauma

Ari: Beautiful. I love that. Let’s talk about trauma and the formal modalities that are used to treat it. Obviously, there’s talk therapy, which is, there’s many different forms of talk therapy. There’s several other different methodologies, including some that emerged more in recent years. EMDR has been popularized and MDMA or Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy or Psilocybin Assisted Psychotherapy, but for trauma, specifically, MDMA is the most well-researched one. What is your take on the landscape of modalities? Which ones do you find mostly ineffective and which do you feel are the most effective?

Dr. Villanueva: I love this part. When you’re building your toolbox in your garage, why do you have four different screwdrivers? Why do you have an entire socket wrench set with all the sizes? Why? Because not one tool is going to work for everything. Having a bag full of tools works very well because, even for an individual, one tool may work really well initially, but then later on as they progress, moving through their trauma and learning how to express emotions, there may be other tools that they can pull out of their bag that are actually going to work better for future recurrences.

Tools and modalities, there are so many out there that are really good. I personally am not a huge fan of talk therapy. Let me tell you why. Besides my own personal experiences as a child, where I did do talk therapy, and eventually, I’ll never forget the day that I was kicking and screaming as my mom was taking me, and I ended up getting in there. I ended up telling the therapist and my mother, “Every time that I have to talk about how I feel and go back into my stories, I feel like I’m going through it again, and I feel sick for five days afterwards. This does not make me feel better. I never want to come back here again.”

Fast forward, as a trauma expert, we know now that talk therapy oftentimes puts people right back into their trauma. Your body and your mind literally think that you’re back inside the trauma. This is why when people talk about it, and you start seeing them go into their story, they start crying and their body starts shaking and they start looking down like this. They’re literally going right back into their trauma again. You’re rewiring them and you’re cementing that neurology in and making it stronger or worse instead of better. Talk therapy, it’s got its place. I think more times than not, it can cause more damage than healing.

There are some amazing modalities out there, from plant medicines to MDMA. All of these medicine-assisted therapies that are great, it’s really important to realize that these medicines, “these medicines, whether it’s psilocybin or MDMA, or ayahuasca, whatever”, it’s not necessarily– Especially when we’re talking about something like MDMA or ketamine, or psilocybin, which is the magic mushroom, it’s not the medicine itself that’s doing the healing. It’s the facilitation that’s done with the medicine that helps do the healing.

It’s what tools are you using while that individual is taking their MDMA while they’re under the influence of MDMA, what tools are being used to help that person have the breakthroughs so that they can get the learnings and release the heightened emotional trauma that they’ve been attached to and get the learnings from it? With something like MDMA– MDMA and ketamine, they both work very, very differently. MDMA is, they are known as heart openers. They basically help put the conscious mind and the amygdala at rest so that they’re not on high alert. They relax.

Once they relax, you can come from a place of spirit from your heart. It’s a lot easier to then go in and talk about– Using the right tools to actually be able to go in from a more disassociated state where you don’t feel like you’re going back into the trauma, into the story yourself, but you’re able to– like if you’re looking at it on a TV screen. It’s not necessarily exactly you and you can go in there and you can dissect what happened, and you can then create new possibilities, and then you can literally rewrite a new story around that incident, and you can literally rewire yourself right then and there.

When you take MDMA, you’re not feeling all that fear. You’re not feeling all those scary emotions. You’re feeling more feelings of love. You can come at the incident from a place of love, from that God place of love. With the right facilitators and/or coaches who can teach you how to use these different tools to go in there and dissect it and rewrite the story and get the learnings from it and what’s the higher purpose of it, then you can come out of it and the trauma’s literally gone. Out of your mind, out of your heart, out of your body, out of your spirit, it’s gone.

Something like ketamine, the ketamine, it’s very much a disassociative. You literally disassociate. You don’t feel anything, wherewith MDMA, you’re coming from a place of love. It’s a heart opener. It’s flooding your body with those hormones of love and connection so that you can heal where ketamine is just totally numbing you out. One of the concerns that I have is all these ketamine clinics are opening up around the country. They’re in a very sterile environment, people go in there, they get hooked up to ketamine, and they’re left alone in the room [chuckles] or they’ve got something watching on TV, which isn’t going to help. They’ve got the news on sitting in the background so they’re getting traumatized while they’re under ketamine. They’re rewiring themselves in the wrong way.

It’s not the drugs themselves that are fixing the problem. They’re just allowing you to get into a place where you can pull yourself out of fight or flight, calm those fight or flight centers of the brain down so that then you can come in from the side door and you can get a new perspective on what happened, something that’s going to help heal you. The medicine therapies are amazing. Oh my gosh, I would love to talk with you more about that in another discussion.

There are also other tools that can be used. You don’t have to use those types of medicines to get healing. They’re amazing and I like to say, if you add the tools and the modalities with the modalities of the medicines, you can have healing at Ferrari speed. You can have healing that other people will go through 20 years to try to heal something. If you use the new tools and modalities, I’m getting ready to name some of them here in a minute, you can cut that 20 years down to a couple of years really having massive breakthroughs within a week.

You can add those– MDMA, for example, you can add it to the tools and modalities and you can have some massive, huge breakthroughs literally within a weekend. The thing is, is that you have to then continue to cement the new neurology in. There’s a lot of integration and coaching. It’s not just, you go for a breakthrough for one weekend, and your whole life changes. You get the realizations and the breakthrough over the weekend, and then you need to follow it for a good six months minimum with having coaching people to teach you how to reintegrate all the fragmented parts that you’ve left all over the planet with every trauma that you’ve had in your life. You need to defrag. You need to bring yourself back together, mind, body, and spirit.

Some of the different tools and modalities that are out there, EMDR works great. EFT tapping can be used not necessarily to heal from trauma but to help bring you out of fight or flight. Breath therapy is an amazing tool that creates a lot of physiological improvements in the body because it helps activate your vagus nerve and your parasympathetic nervous system to pull you out of fight or flight. Then you have actual trauma and emotional healing modalities that can be used. From EMDR to quantum timeline therapy, combined with hypnosis. That can really be amazing. You have resonance re-patterning modalities that can be integrated with a lot of the other different tools. You have perceptual positions.

There are so many different tools and modalities that can be used in conjunction together. When they’re used together, that’s where we see powerful transformation happen with our clients. We have coaches on our team who specialize in resonance re-patterning, combined with different types of EMDR therapy, light, color, and sound therapy, where are we also– First we’ll start by teaching them tools and modalities to pull them out of fight or flight. We’ll take them through yoga breath therapy, connecting their body with their breath, bringing them back in their body, and activating their vagus nerve to pull them out, fight or flight.

We can combine that with tapping. Those two things together, amazing. Then on top of that can layer in some hypno breath where you combine the breathwork with hypnosis to further pull them out of fight or flight and start to reach that subconscious level. 95% of all of our function is on a subconscious level. We don’t even know that. Only 5% is up here. Then, on top of that, then once we pull them out of your flight, we can go in and start doing things like quantum time therapy, perceptual positions, where we can take them back to the root trauma that once resolved and they get the learnings from it, changes every other thing that’s happened in their life, moving forward back to the present moment. Then it changes everything in the future.

That’s where the quantum science stuff starts to really come in. We’ve been trying all the Newtonian science stuff. It doesn’t work, guys. Why do we want to keep doing stuff that doesn’t work? Let’s bring in a different science model. Quantum is already being used for imaging, for example, medical imaging. MRIs, all that stuff, that’s all based on quantum physics. Let’s try other models. When this stuff doesn’t work, let’s try something else.

All this other stuff that we’re doing, even the somatic bodywork, you start combining and layering all these different tools together, people are having massive breakthroughs and they’re realizing that what they were so afraid to step into. Everybody wants to avoid the trauma. They don’t want to see it. They don’t want to feel it. It’s too painful. I know that. I’ve been there. With the right coaching, we can teach you how, like, “It’s not so scary to walk through that door. Let me hold your hand and let me show you. I’m going to walk through there with you. I’m going to show you how to do this.”

You can step back into it, recreate your entire story, and it literally changes your body. Your physiology changes, the outside of you changes, the weight starts dropping off, the diabetes goes away, the autoimmune issues go away. You start pooping. Every time you have a breakthrough, you go and you follow it with the biggest, best poop you’ve ever had in your life. Now all of a sudden, five years of gut-work that you were doing and you were wondering why the gut repair wasn’t working, all of a sudden it’s working because you’ve been going through six months of breakthroughs. It’s amazing. It’s life-changing.

Ari: Beautiful, a lot of exciting stuff you talked about there. I suspect we could probably talk for several hours just on digging into all of the different aspects of those different modalities you mentioned. I think we both have to get onto our next appointments here in a few minutes. Let me ask you, are there any final words you want to leave people with and then and then follow by just telling people where they can learn more about your work or get in touch with you.

Dr. Villanueva: Yes, absolutely. Final words. You are not broken. There are answers. There are solutions. You’re perfect the way you are, and you’re here for a reason. Don’t lose hope. Ari’s here for you. Every one of the people, people that he’s ever had on his show, they’re here for you. I’m here for you. All you need to do is take action and reach out to someone who resonates with you. Doesn’t matter who it is. Reach out. Those of us that do this work, Ari and myself, and everyone else that he’s ever interviewed. We live to help you. We live to show you way, to pull you out of your hole. You don’t have to be there alone suffering, and you don’t have to suffer to have a breakthrough.

I leave you with hope. You are perfect. The way you are, let us show you how you can take those blinders off and have a different reality for yourself so that your body, mind, and spirit can heal once and for all. If you’re interested in anything that we have to say, if you want to learn more about us, go to our website and check us out. We just updated some more stuff, added some more trauma information on there. We’re we are known for our evidence-based approaches.

When you’re working with something that’s intangible, like trauma and emotions, there’s nothing really evidence-based about that. You can’t test for it, but we can test for all the other stuff. If you have toxins or you have other things in your body that are making you sick, just go check out our website,, Just go check us out and reach out if you ever want to. My team and me, we are here to help you.

Ari: Beautiful. Thank you so much, my friend. This was a pleasure as always. I have to say on a personal note, this was a lot of fun and I love the energy that you brought to it. Thank you so much.

Dr. Villanueva: Thank you so much, Ari.

Show Notes

The truth about trauma (01:11)
What does it mean to have trauma? (05:00)
How trauma increases the risk of chronic disease (25:21)
The best modalities to fix trauma (46:23)


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