July 8, 2022

E355: Michael Unbroken on Up Your Influence | CPTSD and Trauma Healing Coach

I'm very excited about today's episode. I always love when I get to share the content from me being a guest. As you may know, if you don't know me, I am an author, speaker, coach, podcast host, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma....
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e355-michael-unbroken-on-up-your-influence-cptsd-and-trauma-healing-coach/#show-notes

I'm very excited about today's episode. I always love when I get to share the content from me being a guest. As you may know, if you don't know me, I am an author, speaker, coach, podcast host, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma. Think Unbroken has been a love and joy of mine over the years and something that I've used as a mechanism to teach everything that I know about healing childhood trauma for free.

So, as a part of that, one of the things that happen is I'm frequently asked to show up and be a guest on other people's shows. And I Think I'm around like 300 guest appearances, and on occasion, we do a show that is so incredibly unbelievably great that I ask the host if I can have it to put on this show.

Josh Elledge, who is the host of the Up Your Influence. He's the thoughtful entrepreneur podcast, the host of Up Your Influence, the thoughtful entrepreneur. He's done like 500 shows, and he's an amazing human being; his mission and what he's been able to do in the world are beautiful.

When he asked me to come on to be a guest, I knew I had to say yes because it is an entrepreneurial-driven show. I'll kind of context that as we get into this, but I know one thing to be very, very, very, very true about everything in life. No matter where you start, it's about where you are that creates the change in your life.

Josh asked me some difficult questions. We had many bans turn back and forth, and he's a standup guy. And so, I'm honored to share my experience from his show with you here on Think Unbroken today.

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Josh: With us right now, it is Michael Unbroken. Michael, your website is thinkunbrokenpodcast.com and your podcast is also the Think Unbroken Podcast. Michael, I'm so happy to have you here because we're gonna discuss something that likely has it impacts everybody. I mean, if we're being honest, you know, and we're talking about the subject of trauma or past experiences that still affect us in ways that we may not be aware of, we may be aware of and it's frustrating. And so, what you do is that you work with folks and I'll let you explain, how you intersect with this world.

Michael: Yeah, absolutely, Josh and it's a pleasure to be here, man. So, I work with adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse. I created and started Think Unbroken because I wanted to be able to do that thing that people always talk about and that's actually changed the world and our mission is to end generational trauma in my lifetime through education and information so that another kid doesn't have a story like mine. And this is about empowering people, giving them tools, helping them understand that their past does not have to define their present and their future. And most importantly, learning to love themselves to be the hero of their own story.

Josh: Yeah. And so, what are ways that previous trauma, or it could be something seemingly harmless, right? Like I remember things like a teacher, well, meaning likely, but to my little kid brain, I was like, oh, and I remember this affecting me, it's something so small. Right? And it was like, list three things that you want in the world and I said something like world peace or something like that cuz I was modeling, maybe something I'd heard my mom say and the teacher gave me a C and I would, this was sixth grade. And then she wrote vague and that's all she did and gave it back to me. And I'm like, I remember feeling like such a dummy for, and I was like, oh, maybe you're not supposed to think that big or too aspirational. And so, I felt like I was kind of chopped down at that logically my brain knows that, you know, not a big deal teacher probably didn't mean anything by it, she just had her own biases kind of creeping in there but I remember that it really affected me like, don't get too, you know, world PC in the world cuz otherwise people don't like that. I don't know, just something small like that and then just other like criticism.

I remember one teacher, you know, when I was a new kid at the school and I moved to like five different elementary schools, growing up that alone was traumatic, you know, just to have to start over all the time. I remember one teacher. She said, do you have any cute boys? Like Jeff over, I mean, really inappropriate to begin with. And I said, I don't know me, and then she made a face like, Ugh. And I was like, whoa, that was cold. And so like, you know, again, just like weird little messages and I'm sure all of us listening to this conversation right now had like little things like that if it wasn't like a teacher, it was like a neighborhood bully, an older sibling, probably a parent; parents aren't perfect. Right? Anyway, I I've been blabbing too long. I'm gonna give you the stage here.

Michael: Yeah, man. Well, and I think you're spot on. And one of the hard things that we have to recognize, you know, especially when you think about building the life that you want to have, if you're an entrepreneur, if you're a small business owner, like you can hit this threshold of what you're capable of doing until you've stepped back and you've started to create massive clarity about how you got to where you are today. A lot of people are impacted by childhood trauma and abuse and it can be the big stuff, right? Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, sexual abuse, like those things happen, but it can also be these little small things that happen in passing that we don't even bring attention to.

You know, in the nineties, Dr. Felitti and Kaiser Permanente in the California Center for Disease Control, did this thing called the ACE study, the Adverse Childhood Experience Study, and what they found was on average 83% of adults in the United States had an Adverse Childhood Experience, where I would argue that, that number's actually inconclusive and far too low and it may actually be a hundred percent. Right? Because you start factoring in things like, abuse, like did your parents not take care of you, there any suicidal attempts in the family, was anyone a drug addict, and alcoholic, did your parents get divorced? The list goes on and on and it's like, you know, you start rattling off 8, 9, 10 of these things, everybody's starting to check one, you know what I mean? And so, to be dismissive of that, I think is incredibly dangerous. And when you look at even like the small things that in passing, for instance, like the teacher, you know, you could have been in third grade, Josh and the teacher comes up to you and you’re coloring and you have the house and you decide you're gonna make the sun purple, she puts her hands on your shoulder and she goes, Josh, the sun's not purple. And like, it's just a tiny bit condescending, a little bit chastising and all the kids in the classroom laugh at you. Well, think about what happens in that moment, the brain serves one purpose, right? The brain wants to only make sure to evaluate stimulus, to determine whether or not you're safe. And so, in that moment, because being ostracized from the community is incredibly dangerous when you look at the lineage of our DNA, right? If you got kicked out of the tribe, you're good as dead. So, what happens is the brain looks at that moment and says it is unsafe for me to be me. And so, it puts it, it categorizes this idea about self your identity of its unsafe to be me. And so, now you stop operating in that scope and what happens is the longer that you go, you find that, okay, I'm gonna bend, I'm gonna placate, I'm gonna not be me because why your brain has determined, it's dangerous. Like the most dangerous thing that I could do as a kid was be me. Right?

And I went through massive abuse. My mother cut my finger off when I was four, my stepfather put me in the hospital, we were homeless. I started doing drugs at 12 years old like the list goes on and on and on this really crazy, insane childhood. Well at 25, I'm working for a fortune 10 company, making six figures, 50 grand in debt, 350 pounds, smoking two packs a day and drinking myself to sleep. Why? Causation and correlation, everything that's ever happened to us leads us to where we are today. And what happens is you recognize the truth, that the things of your past they shape, but they also can take away your identity. And so, many times as I'm coaching, business owners, entrepreneurs, they're like ready to go to the next level. But the thing, holding them back, Josh is Ms. Smith in third grade.

Josh: Yeah, and it can be so under the radar for us. And I think that goes along with that is that we normalize, that's just normal and have that negative self-talk that really is not based in fact. There's no outside evidence for that and it could be, it shows up in ways like, you know, a lack of belief in imposter syndrome, right? I see that a lot with entrepreneurs and to a degree, maybe some of that is healthy, but then that also to the extent that the fear of being a faker keeps you from achieving, I don't think it's certainly not helpful and if we could get clarity around that and recognize that, and forgive me, you're the expert on this, my background is in family science, my wife is a marriage and family therapist we were talking about this. So, I'm just, I love this subject so much but how do you uncover what someone just knows that they sabotage themselves, right? And how do you help them make that connection?

Michael: Because I say this, the moment you use the words, self-sabotage, you have made a decision because that means you have awareness about what you're doing and there in life's choice, right? Free will, deciding to do something. Now look what happens and this is where it gets really tricky. If you've only ever let yourself down, you will continue to let yourself down. Right? I found myself at 27 years old getting into the beginning of this work a decade ago now Josh and looking at my life and going, I have no self-esteem, I don't believe in myself. I've only been told you're not good enough, you're not strong enough, you're not capable enough. And because of that, what happens? I start to act like that and because I act like that, that becomes my reality. And then I would use words, like sit in therapy and be like, I'm self-sabotaging. And you know, the truth is when you can make meaning of it, now you're in an action of choice. And what you have to recognize is the only way that you through that. And I wish there was an easier way I truly do. If I could bottle up a pill and sell it to make you love yourself, I'd be a freaking billionaire. I'd be on a yacht having this conversation with you right now, not in my studio. And so, what happens is if you want to get to that place where you're like building the life, you're building self-esteem, you're building confidence, you're building your dreams, you're actually becoming what you're capable of being. You have to keep your word to yourself. You have to stop negotiating with yourself. And when I went through the crux of this journey, one day, I looked at myself in the mirror, I'm 26 years old and I'm like, I've broken every promise I've ever made; every promise I'm successful in business. I got great car; awesome clothes miserable in every other aspect of my life. Why? Because I was breaking the promises and I didn't have clarity about what I wanted and people have to have massive clarity and then hold themselves accountable to that. You know what dawned on me one day it was like, Josh, how could you ever trust me? If I don't trust myself. And the only way that you're able to do that is you have to build confidence through doing incredibly uncomfortable things consistently and that means holding yourself accountable. And look, it is; it's about going to therapy, doing the journaling, doing the meditation. People tell you that stuff all the time, that's the easy stuff, right? The hard stuff is cleaning the kitchen, making the bed, going to the gym, showing up on time, not letting yourself down in the in and outs of the day to day whereas a lot of people will leverage you go, they'll go, ah, tomorrow, tomorrow, you know what? Tomorrow is not promised. I might not even get this next sentence out. And the people who wait for tomorrow, I promise you, I promise you what's gonna happen is you're gonna be on your deathbed and the word regret is gonna come to mind and that is a life unlived.

Josh: Yeah, man. I think every time I hear the word regret, I think of, you know, the video of Johnny Cash singing hurt by Trent Rener watching that video and. You know, if you're in any way, empathic, the video just makes you ball because he recognizes the mistakes that he made and he's got clarity today but you know, it's almost like this it's too late. One thing I wanted to ask you, is that some of these things are instituted, maybe early childhood, but a lot of times we carry relationship dynamics, we might be in a culture that may not be entirely healthy. Right? And when it starts to cross boundaries that we are not setting healthy boundaries that we should have, but we normalize unhealthy dynamics. We're in a relationship with our partner and our partner is not kind to us, for an example, or we're part of maybe a religion that we've always been a part of and maybe there's some unhealthy aspects there, like, you know, are there ways that we can cuz we don't necessarily need to throw the baby out with the bath water here, but how do we begin to identify, you know, you get a boundary. I feel like it's like Oprah, right? Oprah a boundary, and you get a boundary and you get a boundary. And I can just tell you, because this is part of my story, you know, I've had to put up boundaries, so that I can be the man that I need to be for the people that I love, for the role that I've chosen for myself professionally and my friend dynamics, I'm a better person because I've identified where I need to say, sorry, that's not going to work for me, this is a boundary, this is a healthy boundary, but anyway, I've been going on and on. I'm sorry, go ahead and take it.

Michael: Boundaries are everything right? And it's such an uncomfortable topic of conversation for people. And Josh, I'll tell you this, I've coached thousands of people around the world and men, because we're two men having this conversation right now, have the most difficult time holding boundaries, it's unbelievable to watch it because we're told you have to be all these things. And societally, and just for people in general, we're all in this country, especially you're told, take care of everybody else first, do it for them, show up for them, make sure they're good and then take care of yourself. And to me, that's so asinine because how are you ever gonna take care of someone else, if you can't take care of yourself? And people get so trapped in this idea that they have to come secondary. And boundaries are so important and people we've heard these conversations before but the reason boundaries are actually so important because they're in alignment with, and they should be in alignment with your values.

One of the very first things that I teach my clients is I say, all right, let's figure out what your values are. I'll share mine, but mine don't need to be yours. So, mine honesty, kindness, leadership, self-actualization and no excuses. So, I need to filter all of the decision making in my life through those, it's like a funnel, right? This is top of the funnel. So, someone says to me, hey, you wanna come on Josh's podcast? And I sit with my team and I go, well, what is Josh about? Well, if Josh isn't about honesty and leadership and kindness and meeting somewhere along this, well, then my boundary automatically goes to, no, I cannot do this, we are not in alignment, I have clarity about that. And so, this is where people get stuck, it's not the boundary, it's the follow through because of the thing about shame and guilt and feeling like they have to do it anyway but honestly, dude, like truth is you don't gotta do nothing. You don't have to do anything except what you want to do, and that's the truth about this that I really want people to hold onto. And we get stuck in not holding true to our boundaries because we go, oh, well, if I don't do this, Josh, isn't gonna like me, Josh probably don't like you anyway, it's fine.

Josh: There's nothing you could do if someone doesn't wanna like you. There's nothing you can do to make them like you.

Michael: Exactly. And you never will.

Josh: That is a little bit of my history wanting to be a pleaser. And I know generally where that comes from in my childhood and it's taken a lot of self-awareness to be okay with that, you gotta give people their free agency, that's where they're at right now. I see this a lot, you know, speaking of our business owner audience here, where in the early stages, it's very easy to take bad clients, customers, you know, we had one client that was clearly NPD narcissistic personality disorder. And you know, because of the work that I've been able to do, and of course, wisdom and experience just in life, cuz I've been around a little while, you identify exactly what it is and you're very quick to say, hey, look, I don't care if there's a consequence that is a boundary that I'm not going to allow you to cross here. You're not allowed to talk to my staff that way, it's just a non-starter. And if that's going to be a problem for you, then we're going to very need to quickly part ways. Do you have the guts as a business owner? And I'm speaking to our friend, that's listening right now, to do stuff like that and I would argue that you really need to get there very quickly because the cost of that impacts your ability to make a big impact in the world for the people who truly value your contribution.

Michael: A hundred percent. And I recently fired a five-figure client. I mean, we're talking about a deal with this person that for me is I'm always looking at it as like, all right, cool. I can make sure I pay my team so they can feed their family, we can run ads, we can get to events, we can host the podcast like we need money to do all of this. But you know what I need more than money, Josh, you know what I need more than money? Is to be able to look in that mirror and be okay with the choices that I've made in my life. And so, as a business owner, if you are sacrificing yourself for money, two things are gonna happen. One, you're gonna start hating your business very quickly. And two, you're gonna keep taking business from people you shouldn't be involved with because now you're tied to the money, which shouldn't, and for most people, isn't the initial driver of why they even go into business and you're gonna get lost in your mission, and so, I'm a huge proponent of letting clients go. You just have to, because it's about boundaries, but it's also about freaking sanity, man. Like, you know, if you really wanna be able to put your head on your pillow at night and one of you listening right now, you know who you are, you know last night you thought to yourself, oh, I hate working with this guy, man, for such a nightmare. I cannot believe I gotta deal with this. You need to fire them today, right now in the next five minutes, you need to pause this, go fire that client, because if you don't, it's a rotting apple in the barrel, it's gonna consume everything in your business and you have to be willing to face the fear of the conflict.

You've got to like, it's like, you've talked about having guts, Josh. Like you have to have the courage to fire this person and recognize you're gonna go have to pick up this top line revenue somewhere else. You're gonna have to go work harder, but you're gonna have to have more clarity on the front side. The reason why this person's so bad is cuz you were asking the wrong questions when you brought, so you need to go and evaluate, am I asking the right questions before I'm hiring a client? Cause here's how I've always thought about it. Josh, I'm hiring you as the business owner, you're not hiring me because I'm only gonna work with the people I wanna work with.

Josh: Yeah. I mean, there are so many messages that we could pick up, along the way, and we believe that those are true, you know, even stuff like I see, maybe business owners undervaluing their services and they do it out of fear that, oh my gosh, I don't wanna rip anyone off. You're not ripping anyone, you know, it's just like, stuff like that. So, like, you know, I'm from the Midwest and working poor kind of culture, and there were definitely a lot of unhealthy messages that I picked up in and around money. Right? That wealthy people were just abusing, you know, working class people and it could that be true in some, yes, sure, you know, but is that a belief across the board? And should I allow that belief to keep me fearful of accumulating too money or having to apologize I've done that. I do that a lot, you know, it's like the thing in the Midwest to do is like, when someone compliments you for your car or your house or something like that, you have to immediately respond with, how you got a good deal on it? You know, instead of just saying, oh, thank you so much. Like, you know, for me it was, I really worked hard so that I could enjoy that which would be probably more of a healthy response rather than, oh my gosh, I don't want them to judge me, you know, just genuine appreciation. I find works well. So, Michael, how do you work with people? Do you work individually? Do you have group programs? Do you have digital programs?

Michael: Yeah. So, we have everything. I mean, I have an app where you can take a course for a week for free. If you just search, Think Unbroken in the app store, that's iTunes and Android, every literally Josh, I'm not even joking, everything I teach is for free on my podcast. Cause my mission is to end generational trauma in my lifetime through education and information. Right? And so, everything's for free over there. Of course, I do one on one coaching, I do group coaching, my third book is about to come out, so, there's tons of information, everything is out here for people.

Josh: Yeah. What are the books?

Michael: The first book called Think Unbroken Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma. The second book is called Think Unbroken Eight Steps to Healing Your Inner Child. And the third book, which will be coming out in a couple months is called Unbroken Man: A Man's Guide To Being The Hero Of Their Own Story. 

Josh: Man. Yeah. I think that we are getting better as a culture of normalizing things like being able to talk about mental health? I hope that men continue to progress in that department and overcome the stigmas. You know, my background in the United States, military, I very sensitive to those of us who were in a culture that was pretty tough, you know, thankfully, I never saw bloodshed in my time but there's a lot of stuff you experience that it's a lot of weight to carry around. And so, again, you know, our friend it's listening on our conversation right now, please go to thinkunbrokenpodcast.com. Michael folks can read your book, certainly hit subscribe on the podcast, just look for it right now, it's called Think Unbroken. Anything else that we missed?

Michael: You know, I just think the most important thing is for people to understand the truth that where you are today, it does not have to be where you are tomorrow. You know, one of the things that I wrote that carries true in my life all these years later is that though trauma may be our foundation, it's not our future.

Josh: Yeah. Awesome. Michael Unbroken again, your website, thinkunbrokenpodcast.com. Thank you so much for joining us.

Michael: My pleasure, my friend. Thank you!

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Michael Unbroken


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