In this episode, I was the guest keynote speaker at Reduce Your Stress Summit for healthcare professionals. You're about to listen to an episode like me as a guest on someone else's podcast, and part of the reason why I do this is that I want to...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e222-how-to-reduce-your-stress-summit-keynote-mental-health-podcast/#show-notes
In this episode, I was the guest keynote speaker at Reduce Your Stress Summit for healthcare professionals. You're about to listen to an episode like me as a guest on someone else's podcast, and part of the reason why I do this is that I want to spread the message. I want to spread the mission and message, and I think that's incredibly important.
Today, I talk about the concept about how to Think Unbroken and this is about understanding the impact of trauma.
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Tim: Michael Unbroken is a best-selling author, speaker, coach, podcaster and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma. Michael, welcome to the Reduce Your Stress Summit for healthcare professionals and please, the audience wants to know, what was the last concert you went to before the pandemic?
Michael: Hey Tim. It's a pleasure to be here. Thank you to everyone for also being here, this morning or afternoon, wherever you are in the world. The last show I went to was actually the Black Keys in Chicago.
Tim: That must have been a great show.
Michael: It was a great evening; I miss it dearly. I cannot wait until if and or when we are back to whatever semblance of normality is next.
Tim: Right. I feel that. All right. So my friend, the stage is yours.
Michael: Brilliant. I'm super excited, so first off, good morning everyone. Thank you so much for spending some time with me this morning, Shelly Nora, Donna Judy, Sharon Tim. I can't see any more names, but I appreciate you guys all being here. So, this morning to talk to you about this concept, about how to Think Unbroken and this is about understanding the impact of trauma.
So, as we start into the day, I always think about this. What is my intention? Why am I here today? What is it that I want to accomplish? What do I want to learn? What is one thing that I can implement today, that I can carry into my life moving forward?
One of the biggest mistakes that we make when we go to conferences, or do virtual summits or seminars, is we learn all this stuff, we write down all these notes and we do nothing with it. And so my challenge to you, I want you to think about creating an intention today about taking one thing that you learn throughout the course of the day and applying it to your life immediately, not tomorrow, not in a week, not after you write down your notes, you put it in your spreadsheet and you come back and you look at it again, and then you put it under the desk and never see it again but today, why? Because you can create change in your life starting right now.
So a little bit about me. So, as Tim mentioned, I'm an – author, speaker, coach, entrepreneur and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma, but that wasn't always my story of course.
See, when I was four years old, my mother who was a drug addict and alcoholic, she actually cut off my right index finger, and my stepfather was hyper abusive, the kind of guy that you pray is never your stepfather and I spent the majority of my childhood homeless and in poverty. And in fact, we were so poor that the water company came and they turned our water off.
Now, that was because my parents were spending their money on drugs and alcohol and who knows what else but this was happening growing up in America. And one day, I went to the backyard and I took this little blue bucket and I walked across the street and turned on the neighbor spicket, and for the first time I stole and I promised myself when I was older, I said; Michael, when you're grown up, this won't be your life.
Well, at 12 years old, I started doing drugs and at 13 I got drunk for the first time, by 15 I was expelled from school and luckily I got put into a last chance program, but I still didn't graduate high school on time in fact, they just handed me in my diploma and they were like, you have to get out of here, we don't even know why you're here. And as I was heading into my teens, I was thinking about like well what is life supposed to really be? And I knew that if I stayed on the course, I was heading, I was going to be dead or in jail. I have family, who's in prison for life, some of my best friends had been arrested, some of my three childhood best friends had been murdered and I knew that if I kept down that path, I was going to be next and I was trying to think about like the solution for poverty for abuse, for all the dark things that happen to us, and I thought it must be money, right? It must be money. So, I made a declaration of myself by the time I'm 21, I want to make six figures legally and I did I end up working for a fortune 10 company, no high school diploma and no college degree because I got really clear about my intention what I wanted to do.
Now, of course, the old adage money doesn't always make life better certainly was not in my case and I found myself by age 26, 350 pounds’, smoking two packs of cigarettes a day and drinking myself to sleep and that's when I put a gun in my mouth. You see, I didn't understand the impact of trauma, I didn't understand the impact of abuse, I don't understand things like, what happens to you in your youth can dictate who you become as an adult. And then what happened as I started thinking about my life and I went and I looked in the mirror and I didn't recognize the reflection on the other side, but I did remember that moment of being a little kid when I made that promise to myself that Michael when you're grown up, this won't be your life. And at that moment, as I looked in the mirror, I ask myself Michael, what are you willing to do to have the life that you want to have and the words, No excuses, Just results; just started reverberating in my brain and I got super clear about something in that moment I wasn't going to hide from the trauma anymore, I wasn't going to hide from the abuse, what I was going to do is I was going to own my story instead of allowing my story to own me.
You see, because I spent so much time stuffing it down, hiding from it in five minutes, you know, more about me than people who knew me for 27 years because I was scared, I was terrified of it, it was weak, right? It felt weak to ask for help, felt weak to go to therapy and be serious about it; it felt weak to be a vulnerable human being admitting that bad things have happened to you and I discovered something in this journey as I got serious about it, I went and I got serious about therapy, I got serious about group therapy, EMDR, CBT, AA, NA, SA, all the A's. I started doing all the work and then I started educating myself about the impact of trauma because I believe that education is everything. And today I have over 35 certifications from some of the leading experts in trauma in the world and I got serious about personal development. I used to be the guy that would see the personal development guys on stage and I would laugh at them and like who do these guys think they are? And then I recognized something really important and that is when you look to people who are just simply one step ahead of where you want to be, then you can leverage their experience to create momentum in your life.
And as you look at and as you get deeper into your life, I think the most difficult thing that we do as survivors, if you've had any traumatic experience is to acknowledge it. People always ask me, what step one healing? Step one for me, has always felt like acknowledgement and let me be clear, acknowledgment does not mean culpability, we are not responsible for the terrible and dark things that have happened in our lives but the hard part about it is that it is your life. And from this moment forward, you are going to be the one who has to create change in it, you know, unfortunately, no one is coming to rescue you and there is no Disney moment, magically your life won't be different like that, unless you make a choice and you take action and you create a pathway to what's next.
You see with acknowledgement; I believe a truly truly believe this that with acknowledgement comes freedom and in that freedom is peace, it's that thing we're always seeking, right? And acknowledgements, also simultaneously the most difficult thing because in that we have to face the truth of vulnerability within ourselves and we have to understand with that there is no culpability, it is not our fault for the things that happen to us and yet we carry the shame, we carry the guilt, we feel like maybe it is.
I want to share something with you.
If you go and you dive deep into looking at the research in the surveys around childhood trauma and abuse, you understand that, and I believe the statistic is actually phenomenally low that 83 percent of adults have had an adverse childhood experience.
Now, this was a survey done, Dr. Felicity Kaiser Permanente in the California, CDC in the 90s and I would argue that it's inconclusive and this was a series of ten questions to see if possibly there was any correlation between childhood adverse experiences and long-term detrimental ramifications and what they found was staggering and so they what they determined was 83 percent of adults in America, probably answered, ‘yes’ to series of one of these questions.
Were you ever heard as a child?
Were you sexually abused as a child?
Did you have a parent who was divorced?
Did you have a parent who was a drug addict?
Did you ever not feel security or safe?
Did you not get nourish where you abused?
And the list goes on and on, I won't go into all ten questions right now, but you can Google the ACE survey to answer these questions for yourself. And I found in this research, one of the most incredible moments happened for me because for the first time in my life, I was able to make a distinct correlation between the experiences that I had as a child and how I was living my life as an adult. You see? Because I have a score of ten. I answered, ‘yes’ to every one of these questions and I know that many of you are in the medical field, so you are familiar with this and that score of ten, that carries a death sentence. You can go look at the statistics. If you have a score four or more, your two thousand percent, more likely to smoke your twenty-two hundred percent more, likely to drink, your 5,000 percent more likely to be depressed and over 5,000 percent more likely to commit suicide. If I go back and I look at being 26 years old, I was like, check, check, check, check. And in that what happened in that research and maybe this is because my brain is very analytical, I finally understood something. Wow, there's causation here, there's correlation here, there is truth in the fact that if you go through traumatic experiences as a child, you very likely will face ramifications as an adult.
So what do you do with that information? What do you do with that knowledge?
What I'm always thinking about is how do you understand the ramifications that it carries in your body? Not just in doing the things like smoking and drinking but the likelihood of having cardiovascular disease, pulmonary embolisms, to have asthma, to have migraines, to have your body literally break down on you and that's what happened to me when I was 29 years old. And I found myself for the next two years, going to 45 different Doctors around the country, trying to figure out what was going wrong and then I understood something, the impact of toxic stress and how when you grow up in a cortisol state your body is constantly in fight or flight in the sympathetic nervous system, which is meant for survival, it's fight, flight, freeze, fawn. And when you're in that, when you're growing up in your formative years, and that's the only thing, you know, it leads to places like dissociation, acting without thinking about it, it leads to these moments in which it's much easier to drink yourself to sleep than face the truth. And so understanding this, I made it declaration of myself, okay, how do I heal my mind and heal my body? And then I learned something called the parasympathetic nervous system and understanding that one of the best ways to actually get into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your rest and digest, your counterbalance to the chaos of the sympathetic is for you to understand that you can get there by decreasing your heart rate and I came up with this small little idea. Well, parasympathetic is rescue, well, then, maybe that's kind of like a parachute and I started thinking about this idea. When you are in a hyper vigilant state, when you're in the sympathetic nervous system, your hearts beating out of your chest, you have tunnel vision, you can't think straight you're in chaos, right? That place, maybe Tim had that a little bit this morning. You have to pause. You have to breathe and then parachute. You pause. Take a moment, take inventory what's going on in my life right now? Breathe. Just breathe. Like you see it all the time in movies and TV shows are like, you gotta stop, you gotta breathe, why? Because that helps you get into the parasympathetic nervous system. So, when I started understanding, that I started thinking about, okay, well if my life is chaotic and other areas, how can I take control back from isolation, from overworking, from worrying, from chaos?
Think about this, right now we are in the most work heavy period of time probably in history. Were stuck behind these screens, we're stuck behind the desk, we're not interacting with other human beings as much as we used to, were an isolation and you can pinpoint isolation to depression and suicide even heart disease and stroke and decreased memory and learning.
So, one of the things that you have to understand is when your isolate, when you're overworking, when you're worried, and when you're in chaos, you're going to be in the sympathetic nervous system far more often.
So how do you get out of that?
Pause. Breathe. Parachute.
And in that, what I want you to think about is this and this is really, really important.
Self care is not selfish.
You hear this all the time, but in a practical way, I want you to understand something. Putting yourself first, is the only way that you're going to impact your community, your family, your work environment, the people that you serve. If you are burnt down, burned-out, can't think straight, exhausted on your 37th cup of coffee, how are you going to serve the people that you're supposed to serve?
We live in this weird Society where we carry a bit of shame and guilt around the idea that I need a day off. Guys, you might need a day off, but I want you to ask yourself a very important question here, this is so important when it comes through the funnel of self-care.
Are you taking care of yourself or are you taking it easy on yourself?
And I think there's a distinction here to be made because sometimes we're scared of our potential, sometimes we're scared because of the shame and the guilt of the trauma being in our way of getting us in this position where we're afraid to move into what's next and sometimes you have to face that fear. But if you need the day off, take the day off, just get really clear with yourself and face that fear is difficult. We feel alone sometimes, we feel isolated, we fall ostracized because our childhood was bad because our teens were bad because all these things have happened to us, but let me tell you this, what you think, becomes what you speak, and what you speak, become your actions and your action, become your reality.
So, even if you might be gripped by fear, you tell yourself, I can do it anyway and you speak those words into the universe, into the life that you have created. Because I will tell you this, my friends on a long enough time line, your thoughts can become your reality.
And I'll share this with you.
I am not special, I don't know anything that you don't know, statistically, just by my ZIP code and a lot of my very stupid actions, I should be dead or in jail, I should not be here talking with you, I shouldn't be here having these conversations but I made a declaration of myself over a decade ago.
I'm going to end generational trauma in my lifetime.
So what does that mean? I have to think it, I have to speak it and I have to act on it because what you think, becomes what you speak, and what you speak, become your actions, and your actions, become your reality. No running out of time so I'm going to go into the last piece here, a little bit quickly. People are always like, well, I don't know where to begin, I don't know where to begin, I feel alone. Guys, there are eight billion people on planet Earth. You are not alone, but that doesn't mean that it's just going to show up at your door, that's not how this works. You're going to have to think about what I call the three C's…
Community, Connection and Commitment.
Community is so important in this healing journey. I will tell you right now, if I could go back in time, the first thing that I would do is I would find a community that supported me. I would stop trying to do this alone, I would stop ostracizing myself from the truth that I needed help because let me tell you this asking for help is not weak, in fact, I would argue, it's the strongest thing that we can do as a human being. Think about this for a second. Name one person who has ever done anything great by themselves. Exactly. We are a communal species but sometimes you have to either seek or you have to build that Community.
Next as Connection.
This is where people get confused sometimes just because you're in a community, doesn't mean you're in the right community and you have to understand with intention and clarity the community that you are a part of is an alignment with who you are, your values, your mission, your vision, your wants, your needs, your interest. Connection and Community is everything because if you're on the wrong Community, you might as well not even be there. Make sure that you're asking yourself first off, how are they serving me? And how can I serve them? And making sure you have synchronicity.
And finally Commitment.
Commitment is everything in this journey, everything you have to show up through the hard days, do the easy days through the middle of the road days, do the days where zoom doesn't work in the days, you don't want to go to the meeting and the days where you wake up, tired and 45 minutes late in the days that life is perfect. And you're sitting on the beach, watching the sunset, drinking a coconut in Thailand, every day you got to show up because this is your life, my friends. There's no Disney moment, nobody's coming to rescue you but you have the ability to be the hero of your own story.
And if you need help, if you need support and you're not know, you don't know where to start up this, just check me out at Michael Unbroken on all the social medias and you're welcome to reach out to me.
And Until Next Time.
Thank you all so much.
Tim: Michael, that was outstanding so many really great pieces of wisdom, knowledge and wisdom like coming from personal experience, you know, like your story of transformation is amazing what you have done despite your ten ACE’s score, holy cow. I'm so glad you brought that up, that was a transformative device for validation and we've had people speaking specifically about ACE’s at all of our conferences. So I'm so glad you brought that up because it's like, it's not you, it's your past, like, you've got some stuff that's causing things now. So, grateful to that and I love the idea of the parachute as just very like, that's really comforting, brilliance. Is there a like a question that people ask you frequently after you speak? Is there like one thing that ever comes up and throw it and this is kind of on the spot here where after you've covered the three C's and you've covered ACE’s and covered pause, breathe and parachute, you ever have people come up with, yeah, but what about that… Is there anything that ever comes up like that?
Michael: Yeah, you know Tim, it's funny the first thing people always say is like I know a lot of this stuff, but I just can't do it. I just can't seem to bring it into my life, I cannot make it happened and what's so hard about, but I guess it's really less of a question than a statement, I guess the question would be like, how do I really do something with what I have here? And that's the part where I dive deeper into this idea that like you have to do this. I think it's very difficult because there's a fine line here and you have to understand something, if you don't do this for yourself, it's not going to happen. If you don't do this for yourself, it's just not going to happen and there's fear, their shame, there's guilt, we carry all the ramifications of our past, its even genetic to an extent, right? And then you find yourself like, I can't show up for myself, I can't do the thing, I can't figure it out. Well, it starts with what you think. You think I can't then you won't. You think that you can't do something, you will never be able to do it because you've automatically disqualified yourself from the potential. And so what I always say is tell yourself “I can” and start there.
Tim: Yeah, and you sharing your story, it helps people to see he did and like, oh, I had that same issue and he did, like he did the thing and he thought he could and then he did it, oh, maybe I can too and I love how you said, I'm not special, that's such an important thing for people to hear in these journeys is like I don't have an extra chromosome that got me out of all of this.
Michael: I didn't graduate high school, man. Like what do you want from me? Like you can do this, you just have to decide, you have to make a decision, you have to do the work. That's why Step 2 and that is always action. You have to do the work like, that's the only way this works.
Tim: Yeah, hundred percent. And then the piece of community and connection like humans are pack animals and I know in my own recovery journey I tried to lone wolf my transformation for several years like I don't need anybody else, they don't understand or they're just a bunch of, you know, as if there's a distinction between us, and then I realized like in the twelve step communities, all the steps are written with the word WE and they're written in the first person plural like WE and I was like, hmm, probably something to that. And that moment, you know where I realized this transformation is as a community sport, it's like a team sport, I was like, okay, but that was a game-changer for me because what I tried to do it on my own the results were unsuccessful and then when I was willing to let others help me and willing to seek help in others game changed and that's what I hear in your story, and that's what I hear in your words and it's very validating and it's like, yes, yes, yes. And I know there are other people kind of high-fiving and clapping along the way as you were sharing that. So super, super great stuff, thank you so much for being with us. Any closing thoughts you want to share?
Michael: Yeah, Tim. It's my pleasure and thank you for the opportunity to be here. And thank you to everyone for showing up today, for being a part of this because you didn't have to, and you chose to make action and that's what a beautiful.
I'll leave you with this and I think it's something to take into consideration.
Though trauma may be our foundation it is not our future.
Tim: Bam, and that Mike is too expensive to drop. So, don't drop that mic but virtual mic drops, we need in in Zoom, there needs to be an emoji, that is a virtual mic drop because they're great idea it would be really funny to see a little mic, just going to keep in someone's little window, it would be really good because you just nailed it. I want to second what Shelly just said in the comments, which is, you are a beautiful soul, my friend.
Well done, my friend, and thank you for being here.
Michael: My pleasure.