July 16, 2022

E363: Understanding the Trauma Response | CPTSD and Trauma Healing Coach

In this episode, I talk about the core elements of what happens when we are impacted by trauma and what trauma means. There are so many different aspects of what we should be paying attention to as individuals that I think sometimes we can get lost in it.
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e363-understanding-the-trauma-response-cptsd-and-trauma-healing-coach/#show-notes

In this episode, I talk about the core elements of what happens when we are impacted by trauma and what trauma means.

There are so many different aspects of what we should be paying attention to as individuals that I think sometimes we can get lost in it.

Take some time to listen and take the value from today's episode.

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One of the biggest things that changed my life forever was actually understanding the research behind the trauma responses that we have.

Now, there are a vast array of responses that we have to traumatic experiences, but predominantly what I want to talk about is kind of the foundational aspects and understandings of some of the things that happen from trauma.

You know, there are different levels of this and the way that we process and the way that each of us as individuals cope and move through this life, especially after traumatic experiences. But there's all kinds of different causation, different symptoms, different things that we can recognize and understand because CPTSD, childhood trauma and abuse, like the complex CPTSD, the way that it impacts you is not just mentally, right? It's also physically, it's emotionally, it's spiritually.

And there's so many different aspects of what we should be paying attention to as individuals that I think sometimes we can get lost in it. And so, I wanted to kind of dive in and just look at some of the core elements of what it is that happens when we are impacted by trauma and first kind of just describing it, like, what does trauma mean?

People ask me this all the time, they're like, well, what does trauma mean? Is it big “T” trauma, little “t” trauma. And so, to me, I personally do not like that big T versus little t, because I think it, you know, we're humans and we all can have very different experiences and one little thing to us could be one huge thing to another person. And so, little things can be coercive action, can be gaslighting can be verbal humiliation, things like that. Big T trauma can be obviously physical abuse, sexual abuse, religious abuse, it can be starvation or beatings or things like that we may experience in childhood. And so, there's a lot of things that can come from those either side of it. And the foundational study that was done by Dr. Felitti and the Kaiser Permanente in California Center for Disease Control called the ACE study is one that I often reference. And I reference it because it's a really strong, starting point in baseline to understanding trauma, there's a series of 10 questions and I've gotten deep on this before. And so, I won't go super deep today, but instead, what I will say is I want you to think about in your childhood, as you were growing up, were you experiencing abuse, were you experiencing belittlement, were you experiencing parents who maybe got a divorce or were combative with each other who didn't take you to the doctor when you needed to go, who were physically, mentally, or emotionally violent towards you, who didn't give you the support emotionally and mentally that you needed. Maybe there was someone in the family who was suicidal or did commit suicide, maybe there was someone in the family who was imprisoned. You know, those are kind of the core things one should think about when assessing whether or not they had Adverse Childhood Experiences. And the reason why it's important to assess those things is because they become a really interesting marker for a lot of long-term detrimental health ramifications. So, I'm gonna read actually, this is from the Complex PTS Workbook. I'm gonna read this cuz I've said this before, but I love being able to cite things. So, this research concluded that adults who had been exposed to four ACE factors as children. So, if you maybe answered four, feel like there were four of those things that I mentioned that impacted you, that you are four times more likely to be depress, seven times more likely to use substances and 12 times more likely to attempt suicide versus someone who did not answer yes to any of those. And there are also these higher risk factors in all-cause mortality around social and mental and emotional and cognitive impairments. You're also at a greater risk for physical illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and liver disease. And that comes from growing up in a cortisol state.

Now, of course, there's also the other aspects of it, where you're looking at cognitive distortions and emotional distress, disorientation hypervigilance, which was a big, big part of mine, which is this massive sensitivity to everything happening in the world. Sometimes over evaluate stimuli to regulate safety in your life. There's of course being avoidant, there's being hyper independent and then there's things like interpersonal problems and communication problems and all these things.

One of the big things that I think people have to understand, and the reason why I wanted to make this episode today, cuz I've talked about these things before. You know, you go look at any of the episodes on Think Unbroken Podcast or if you go look at our YouTube channel, I've discussed these things, and the reason why is cuz they're foundational. But I think one of the things that people need to really truly understand about trauma is that when you are impacted by this, that the only true way to be able to move through it is by acknowledging it, by addressing it and by doing the work around it, to be able to put yourself in a position, to create a foundational understanding and knowledge base around causation and correlation. Now, look, I've created very in-depth programs on this. There's a six-week coaching program, 20-week coaching program, hundreds of hours of podcast, blogs, everything I've created around this. And the reason I always will come and circle back to this periodically is because when you have a foundational understanding of the impact of childhood trauma and abuse, when you have a foundational understanding of CPTSD, then you're able to start to create a framework and a game plan around your healing journey.

And one of the things that's really important to note is that, and I said this a moment ago, but everybody's healing journey is different. And what works for one person may not work for another person. I go and look at the way that I coach many people. When you step into coaching with me, I'm always looking at where you're at and that's always foundation like where are you today? And where is it that you're trying to go? Because if we can get a lot of clarity about where you want to go, well, then we can kind of figure out what modalities we need to start to access and execute against in a way that can be practical for you that isn't about going and doing a hundred million things at once or going a hundred miles an hour or doing all the things at once, so, you can be avoidant. And that's one of the really interesting things and especially the longer that I've been coaching and the more that I have been coached and the deeper I do this work, I've come to realize like you can go over a kill on some of this stuff and suddenly you're doing all the things all the time. And one of the really important things that I do for my clients is I'll be like, it's time to take a break, it's time to not be coached today and instead, it's time to live. And you have to understand your response to that. You have to understand why you behave the way you do.

And a lot of this can begin for you as just grabbing a piece of paper and, and writing it down and I know we've talked about that before, but if you're disassociated, for instance, or you have anger issues like I did, one of the best things that you can do is journal and write because then you can make meaning of the experiences that you're having and that becomes profound because when you're able to make meaning of it, what you then can do is create a framework of a system around the experiences that you've had that give you the ability to not only assess them and understand them when they're happening, but also mitigate them because there are some behavioral patterns and I obviously have been victim of this myself.

There are some behavioral patterns that are just ingrained in us from our childhood. Right? Think about connections that you have with other human beings like, do you get avoidant when people get close to you or on the other side, do you get hyper codependent when people get close to you or you get close to other people. When you have an argument at work, do you shrivel up and hide and you feel guilty and shame about the thing that has happened or do you overreact and suddenly you're yelling and screaming, and now you've been fired from another job, right?

When you run into somebody and you're in conflict with them and not necessarily even physical conflict, cuz I hope that's not happening, but just conversationally, there's a disagreement. Like what happens? What is your physical response? Are you paying attention to your body and more so are you the one in control when the stimulus comes to pass? Because ultimately here's one of the really innate truths, you are gonna get triggered, like whether you like it or not, whether you want it or not, something's gonna happen in your life and you are going to be exposed to a stimulus that is gonna put you in a state that you have been in at least one other time in your life as a possible survival or defensive mechanism to the stimulus that you're involved in based on your experiences of childhood, and that's going to happen.

If you don't understand why that happens, you cannot close the gap between it happening and then you reflecting on it and going, ah, I can't believe I did that again. Right? And that's where I was.

So, when I go look at 22, 24, 26 years old was having all these experiences where I was like, oh my God, I cannot believe I did this again. But the deeper that I got into doing the work and looking at, and being able to assess and understand my behavior patterns through the scope of a trauma informed lens, I was then able to start to close that gap that was happening. And that's one of the big things that I help people with in coaching as we go, what is the gap here?

When you're in this position or you're in this scenario, whatever it may be, cuz it's gonna be different for everybody. But when that thing is happening, that you're like, I wish this wasn't happening. What I'm always looking for is can we close the gap and closing the gap is about causation and correlation, understanding the trauma responses going like, are you being hypervigilant? Are you dissociative? Are you aggressive? Are you hiding? Are you in that fight, flight freeze fawn state? Is cortisol taking over? Are you chasing dopamine? Like, there's so many different reasons why someone may be doing something and it all starts with really getting clear on what is it that has happened and what is it that you want to happen ongoing when faced with the same situation cuz as much as I know, the sun will rise tomorrow, I know that you're gonna get trigger, I'm gonna get triggered too, and we're gonna have these emotional responses. And whereas maybe at one point, these emotional responses take over entirely, but I'm always thinking about how do we get you to a place where it's just this minuscule amount of time in which you're impacted and that's through regulation and through that regulation, now that might be yoga or journaling, meditation, it might be your diet, which plays a huge role in this, your physical movement, which plays a huge role in this, it might be the people that you're around, your community, your support system, you know, are you putting the right information in your brain? There are so many aspects to this about understanding the foundation around the responses that you have, that when you understand them, you really start to take control over your life. And that's a big reason why I wrote my first book, Think Unbroken to give people more of a foundational understanding of what those responses are, why they happen, how they happen, what is actually happening in your physical body, when your hippocampus is not regulated, your amygdala is all over the place and you can't really get clear on things because when you prefrontal cortex is flooded, you're kind of like, I don't know what's happening right now, and I've been there, trust me I have. And the only way that I've been able to get through it and to really step into a mind body approach, to taking control over my emotions and having this feeling of what I will call Unbrokenness of like living in the present all came in, understanding the foundation.

Look, I'll tell you, the foundation of the first book, Think Unbroken is called Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma. The massive baseline of that whole book was just an understanding. And in a podcast, I can't teach you everything that I wrote in a 250-page book, but I can give you one piece of massive advice that if you take this will change your life forever.

The number one thing that you can do when you are faced with a response that you feel like may be a trauma response, because you're triggered due to the stimulus of the situation or the environment that you're in. The number one thing that you can do is ask yourself what has happened previously in my life that causes me to react like this because when you get that kind of meaning making happening in your life, and you start to apply that to other areas on a daily basis, probably a minute by minute basis, especially in the beginning and that's what I went through then you start to take control, you're able to step into emotional regulation, you're able to manage being triggered and instead of being upset or pissed off or sad or angry or whatever the emotion may be for long durations of time, you're able to just sit in it for a second and go, yep, I'm pissed off. Okay. Hmm, did I allow the emotion to exist? Yes or no? Am I moving forward? Yes or no? Am I looping? Meaning getting stuck and trapped in that emotion? Yes or no. And you're able to just continue to rinse and repeat that again and again, and again, creating a better and stronger foundational understanding of who you are, where you're at and why you do the things that you do.

So, I know that was a lot in 15 minutes, so I'm gonna cut it here, because I don't want to overburden you with this information today. If you're kind of like, I still don't get it, please message me at MichaelUnbroken on social or michael@thinkunbroken.com of course. Check out the YouTube channel where there's hundreds and hundreds of videos around this subject.

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And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

I'll see you.

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Michael Unbroken


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