Oct. 15, 2021

E123 The Reconciliation of the Man in the Mirror | CPTSD and Trauma Healing Coach

In this episode, I read a chapter of my book Think Unbroken Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma and share the Reconciliation of the Man in the Mirror with you. How could the boy from a broken home, beloved, find happiness or seek greatness?
See show notes: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e123-the-reconciliation-of-the-man-in-the-mirror-cptsd-and-trauma-healing-coach/#show-notes

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In this episode, I read a chapter of my book Think Unbroken Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma and share the Reconciliation of the Man in the Mirror with you. How could the boy from a broken home, beloved, find happiness or seek greatness?

It's incredible for having the willingness to do something. Every challenge is a challenge that most people will not take because our reflection is a truth of who we are and an understanding of the place that we are in our life at this very moment.
Facing yourself and genuinely looking into yourself can forever change your life, and I want you to know that you're not alone at this moment.
Unbroken Nation, come and listen as I share with you my story! 

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The Reconciliation of the Man in the Mirror.

I’ve come to appreciate that great beauty lies in destruction. – Rich Roll.

The words from this moment everything changes, screamed in my head, over and over again as I stood in front of the mirror, looking at the wreckage of my life. Everything was in tatters. My relationship was a lie, my health was failing, my friends couldn't stand me, or at least would admit it. My businesses were strong, but nothing else was, I couldn't stop getting fucked up to numb myself and it was costing me everything. Tears drip down my cheeks, pulling on the countertop of the sink in my brand new apartment, washing away my girlfriend's mascara that set next to my toothbrush. We had just moved into this new place and our intention was to make it our home, yet I had already solely to with the perfume of another woman.

The cult of that November day had somehow seeped into the house and the chill carried with it the scent of failure, though failure felt familiar. I decided that I had enough. I could no longer stand to look back at the face of the person in the mirror because I was ashamed of my reflection, that reflection, that obese, addict piece of shit, asshole cheater, was not me, at least, not on the inside.

I knew that somewhere there was more to me than who I was.

I knew that somewhere in that blackness there was the real me.

We are the stories that we tell ourselves.

And I was telling myself the story of a little boy who had been hurt over and over again, by the people that were supposed to protect him. I lost the vision of what I wanted in life somewhere between escaping that hell and creating a new one.

My story was one of self-loathing, being scared of my potential, and not honoring my truth by moving towards what I needed. I was crippled by the fear of being happy. How could the boy from a broken home, beloved find happiness or seek greatness? I couldn't reach towards being the person that I knew, I could be because I was telling myself that I didn't deserve to be strong happy, and loved.

I made the story of not being capable my reality and thus, it became true as I looked into my eyes, reflected in the mirror something happened that to this day I will never understand. I killed the old me. I felt like the person who I was in that mirror was an imposter of the person that I am and they had to go. It wasn't my physical body that I was trying to get rid of it was that fractured and shattered version of myself. My psyche and mental state that was guiding my decisions and leading me down the path of destruction. I told myself time and again that I would change but I never did.

After finally, hitting rock bottom, I was awakened and I knew this time I really meant it, I was done, that reflection would no longer represent who I was. I dragged myself out behind the woodshed and I killed that motherfucker! Metaphorically, of course, I dug the deepest hole with the biggest shovel and tossed evil Michael in. Evil Michael was the manifestation of everyone else's shit ideas and the torment and I had enough.

I knew saying I was done being a terrible person wasn't going to be enough but I was willing to take on any challenges that lay ahead of me. I was ready to take on all comers. What the fuck else could I possibly do to sabotage my life? I was out of ideas. I did every awful thing that a person could do not only to themselves but to the people around them. I was the worst person that I knew and I was done being that person. The only thing left was change.

It was the middle of summer and I was nine years old. Our water had been turned off due to unpaid bills and it was scorching hot, sitting on the front porch. I remember hearing my mother begging the man from the utility company, not to turn off the water. She pleads, please don't do this. I have four little boys and my husband at work right now, all of the bill money was tied up in the pill bottle stuffed under her mattress. The marijuana safely perched on top of the armoire and bottles of vodka, that line the top of the fridge.

The man from the utility company, didn't heed her call for leniency, and the next thing I knew it was a hundred and two degrees and we were without water. I watch the utility truck turned the corner, as a man headed off to continue his workday, as a truck disappeared, my mother told me to go in inside the house and get a wrench. I returned with the only wrench, I could find. She pointed to the small manhole cover in the front yard, the same one that was just closed by the man, and told me to see if I could get it open. I walk the edge of the wrench to the bolt and turned as hard as I could. Sure enough. I was able to get it off.

I was proud that I was as strong as the man who had just left and I picked myself up from the ground with a smile. My mother then instructed me to reach down and turn the water control lever just enough that the spigot on the side of the house would drip. She told me not to turn it on too much or the water company would know, and we'd be in trouble.

For most of that blisteringly hot summer, we would bathe, drink and cook from the water from the spigot on the outside of the house, bucket by bucket, we survived from that supply.

My brothers and I would take turns watching the bucket and waiting for it to fill. Sometimes, I would sneak into our neighbor’s yards and use their spigots to fill our bucket like a bandit in the night. I hated being the most impoverished family and the neighborhood of some of the most impoverished families in the city. It was that summer when I crept from house to house during the night that I swore to myself, this reality, this chaos would not be my future.

Even at nine years old, I realized how fucked my life was. I remembered the promise I made to myself to be better than what the world expected of me while standing in the bathroom that day.

The shame I felt like I, but in the size for XL-shirt seem to trigger my memory of the moments feeling that bucket. It wasn't just that summer that made me want something more from life. It was every second of my existence in those neighborhoods, around those people, and in that poverty.

I remember the promise that I made myself to honor this idea that always encompassed my thoughts, that I was destined for greatness.Even as a child, I knew I was destined for something more and I believe that this is true for all of us.

We are made of the experiences and circumstances of every single moment of our lives and those moments are the baseline for everything we do moving forward.

Killing evil, Michael was a decision that I had to make. I was going to die if I stayed on the course I was headed and it was more than likely going to be alone when it happened. I didn't know what my greatness was or would be but I knew in that exact moment that whoever was on the other side of that mirror was not allowed to be in my life anymore.

The simplest way for me to put this moment into words is this;

“I performed a complete 180-degree shift in mindset, then I became an amazing person, and everything was great the end.”

Now, that's obviously bullshit. I can't imagine a reality where a single moment, changes everything forever. Those singular moments are usually just the beginning and that was beyond true for me.

My mirror moment was only the very, and most absolute beginning of the incredibly intense and hard road that I was about to step foot on.

The path that was right in front of me, was barren. There was not a paved lane or tree insight and it would be years before the direction and the profound effects of doing the work would begin to take shape. The truth of that moment is that I was finally willing to take ownership.

I also forgave myself and this might be more important, but I guess it doesn't matter in which order change happens as long as change happens. I don't know what called me to do it. Maybe it was Robin Williams character in Good Will Hunting as he confronted Will in his office, telling him; It's not your fault. That's not a joke.

I watched that movie over and over, imagining, what it would be like to be embraced by another human being that could see that I was just a hurt little boy, who needed compassion, and someone to let him cry. That little boy, that was, Will in the film, and me in real life, but I did not have a Robin Williams. I had a mirror, I began to shake as I repeated the words and wrapped my arms around myself.

I will talk about acceptance and ownership until the end of time. But we have to understand is that there are things that are not your fault, knowing and understanding that the shit that happened to you as a child, wasn't your fault, doesn't mean that you get to use those things as a scapegoat for the shit you have done or will do.

What comes with this acceptance is freedom.

Freedom, from the weight of it all, and you are the only one strong enough to lift that boulder. There were so many things that I blame myself and took responsibility for, but I couldn't possibly be culpable for things out of my control.

A seven-year-old cannot be responsible for his brother's going to bed hungry because he was told to cook dinner as his mother passed out, drunk on the couch, and accidentally put too much salt in the spaghetti.

As an adult, I can rationalize the fact that it's utter bullshit to take, even a grain of blame for that moment or many others like it. But as a child, my mother held that instance over my head for years. How could I not feel responsible? It is only logical that our adolescent brain would feel responsible for the endless shit, that in reality was the responsibility of our caregivers.

As children, we have not yet gained the capacity to make rational meaning around the experiences of trauma, when the people who are supposed to be responsible for us, pass the blame onto us, then we become their scapegoats and by proxy, we carry their mistakes as our responsibility.

Have you ever blamed yourself for something that you knew was not your fault? Did it happen to you before you were old enough to understand that it wasn't your fault? If you answered, yes, to either of those questions, then you know how it feels to live with the guilt of other people's mistakes.

I know you have lived with that guilt and I have to and as adults, it is our responsibility to accept the truth that most, if not all of the shit that happened to us in our childhood were not our fault.

It has been through giving myself the space, to forgive myself, and not hold myself accountable for the indiscretions of the people that were supposed to support me and care for me, that have automatically been able to support and take care of myself.

 Here is a list of things that are not your fault:

  • Being the child of drug addicts, alcoholics, and racists.
  • Being evicted.
  • The phone, power water, and electricity bills are not being paid.
  • Not having money for school field trips.
  • Being beaten.
  • Being molested.
  • Being bullied for being poor.
  • Wetting the bed.
  • Having a learning disability.
  • Being diagnosed with multiple mental health disorders.
  • Suffering covert incest.
  • Not being able to defend yourself.
  • Not being able to save your siblings.
  • Not knowing how much salt to use.

I could go on but you get the point. This is straightforward.

Some things have happened in our lives, that is just not our fault.

And yet we blame ourselves when other people should have been protecting us. If you want to heal, you have to stop accepting other people's mistakes as yours.I'm going to say that again. If you want to heal, you have to stop accepting other people's mistakes as yours.

I had to decide to reconcile my past faults and the way that I viewed myself and spoke to myself.

I chose to mend the relationship with myself, by changing my beliefs of self-hatred and disgust to compassion and forgiveness.

That moment in the mirror was so profound because for the first time I was able to give myself care by freeing myself a fault.

It was also my first step in the decision to heal and move forward on the path without excuses.

If you take anything away from this section. I want you to understand that the past cannot be what holds you back from your future.

There is nothing that you can do about yesterday. It's gone and that's just the way it is. You cannot move forward if you are stuck in the past. I'm not saying you pretend it didn't happen. That's how I ended up in the vortex.

Hell, I'm not even saying let go of it. There are still times that I am pissed off about the shit that has happened to me, but I don't want my past to interrupt my future instead I leverage it.

Ultimately, you cannot allow your history to keep you from becoming who you want to be. The past should be a place you look to for inspiration and power even if it is dark.

Look how far you have come. There is no question that you are an incredible human being. You should be so proud of yourself for every hurdle that you have jumped and every mountain you have scaled to be where you are.

Look at where you are. Take a hard look. Is this the place that you want to be? Think about how far you have come while in the shackles of the past?

Now, imagine, how far you will go when you free yourself from them?


Becoming Unbroken, Mirror Moment.

Facing yourself and truly looking into yourself can forever change your life.This prompt may be the most difficult in this book, but also the most important. Find a mirror and look at yourself in the eyes for five minutes and then write down what comes up. You'll be tempted to look away and you may have feelings ranging from guilt to shame to pride, allow them to exist without judgment. Do not go forward until you complete this mirror moment challenge.

Now, would be a good time to hit pause, to go in the bathroom or the living room or wherever you have a mirror, and spend the next five minutes with yourself stepping into this challenge.

Welcome back! If you didn't hit pause and go and do the challenge. I want you to hit pause and go and do it right now. It's so important for what's next, but I don't want you to miss this.

This challenges hard. I mean there's no other word for it.

It's hard, looking at yourself and if it was an experience for you like it was for me and this was one of the first times you like truly looked at yourself can be a really intense moment.

And I want you to know that you're not alone at that moment.

It's often the first time that we really see who we are and when we come from a place of being invisible for so long, seeing ourselves for the first time can be a little bit unnerving, but it's also incredibly powerful and you should be incredibly proud of yourself for having the willingness to do something so, incredibly hard.

This challenge is a challenge that most people will not take because our reflection is a truth of who we are and it is an honest understanding of the place that we are in our life at this very moment. And because you were willing to step into this challenge, I congratulate you! I mean, there's no other way to put it. I congratulate you because it's beautiful and it can be a moment that you can use as a catalyst for as you move forward, further into your life.

One of the best things that you will do in this journey is to solidify the relationship that you have with yourself because once that relationship is ironclad, nothing can stop you, my friend.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.