Dec. 17, 2020

E44 Ten Mindset Shifts I've Learned About Healing Trauma

In this episode I break down the 10 mindset shifts that have most greatly impacted my life!

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In this episode I break down the 10 mindset shifts that have most greatly impacted my life!

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As the year ends and the inevitable finish line of what I could call chaos is upon us, I decided to compile my thoughts on the changes and shifts of the state of my mental health. This is a top ten list about my most significant mental health and trauma recovery lessons. In no particular order:

1: No one is out to get me. - I swear this is the part about recovering from trauma and abuse that no one mentions. The world, as it turns out, is, in fact, not against me. I had been all but wrong for years. I thought and felt that because of what I came from and the people around me that I must have done something wrong in a former life. Why else would so many awful acts of violence and anger happen to me? Well, as I would discover in my late 20’s, the universe, despite my misgivings, is, in fact, always working in your favor. What I didn’t know is that the favor is all dependent on my actions. My choices and decisions led to an out that, more often than not, was negative. So, what did I do? I shifted the way that I am in the world, and because of that, I realized that my decisions yielded specific ramifications. No one is out to get me except me. Taking ownership of my choices in life wholly erased the narrative that some unsightly underworldly people were after me. 

2: Fitness is a factor in healing trauma.

I didn’t get to 350 lbs overnight. That took some real herculean effort. And almost ten years after getting serious about my physical health, I still go hard at the gym, Crossfit, Muay Thai, and other various activities. Countless studies have correlated mental health to physical health. Walking for just 20 minutes a couple of times a day can change your life. Don’t believe me? Google it. It’s was difficult to be motivated to take care of my physical health because my mental health was so weak, but it was in doing so that I began to see real changes start to occur in my life. Through a series of tiny baby steps, I went from doing DDPYoga in my townhouse living room to fighting with some of the best martial artists in Thailand. Those steps took years. 

Putting fitness first as a cornerstone to creating a healthy life is without question, the best choice I have made in my journey of healing my body. The brain and body connection is severed when recovering from childhood trauma and abuse, and thus I had to get them reconnected. Pushing my physical limits not only helped to change my body, but it led me to be able to understand the depths of my mental capacity in a way I had not until lying on the ground gasping for air, knowing that I gave a workout my all. 

3: Asking for help will set you up for success. - It was embarrassing to admit that I was hurt as a child. I stuffed that shit down so deep that even James Cameron couldn’t find it in one of those fun little submarines. I hide my hurt, anger, and pain from myself and the world; until I couldn’t anymore. It rose from the depths, and when I did, I realized that I could no longer carry the burden of my past alone. I had to seek help. 

Help came in many forms. I had to open up to my then partner, my siblings, and ultimately the dozens of therapists that I worked my way through. Help to me meant saying that I couldn’t coop on my own anymore and that I needed a support system. Help meant that when I felt my lowest that I reached out to the people around me. Asking for help as a trauma survivor is like asking an astronaut to take off their helmet in outer space, it’s probably not going to happen. However, as I would discover, the only way I was going to heal from trauma was to be willing to do what felt impossible and ask for support.

4: Saying sorry is not a weakness. - Sorry was not a word that I heard very often growing up, and when I did, it felt halfhearted. When I would apologize, I never meant it. I thought for a long time that I was a sociopath because of my actions, regardless of how unjust or unkind, never made me feel any particular way. I had to learn how to feel sorrow and sadness for my actions and the impact of the people around me. Learning to let go of the idea that feeling sorry and genuinely meaning it was weak was an uphill battle for me. I had to let go of whatever ego held onto my manic desire to always be in the right, and in doing so, I have been able to form deeper connections with the people around me. I had a lot of apologizing to do for everything that happened from twelve to twenty-nine years old. I discovered that in being able to use the word and feel sorry for my actions that I became closer to me and further from the trauma that was imbued in my childhood. 

5: Not all of my friends are “friends.” - As I changed and stepped further into my healing journey, I noticed that many of the people that I had invested time stayed the same. I felt a disconnect between the person I was becoming and the people they were. I am not saying this is a good or bad thing; I am just saying that this is my reality. No rule says people will change along with you, and more often than not, they don’t. That’s why most relationships fail when one person seeks growth, and the other is set in their way. A growth mindset is critical in overcoming childhood trauma, but so are friends that want to grow with you. As I moved closer to becoming the person I am today, I simultaneously moved further from the people that wanted me to be the same. 

Friends should want to support you, raise you up, and help you grow, but the sad truth is that they don’t have to, and it isn’t their job. It’s your job to do that for yourself. It’s your job to build a community of support around you. And it’s your job to step away from those that do not have your best interest in mind. 

6: Self-care means doing the hard shit.

- I am so incredibly lazy. I wish I had the words to convey that in a way that would make sense. I hate doing stuff. I dislike going to the gym, reading, writing, journaling, meditating, eating healthy, and staying in routine. I loathe the idea that I have to take care of myself, and I can’t stand the fact that every day I have to show up for myself. Life would be so much easier if I could stay in bed all day and not do anything; it would also be a disaster. The ability to force myself into a constant flow of doing things that I don’t want to do has been the most significant catalyst in understanding myself after childhood trauma. In a word, it is AGENCY that has led me down a path of success. It is in the knowledge that doing hard things and making difficult choices is why I am where I am today. 

Self-care is about being uncomfortable in owning who I am. I often wonder what my life would look like if I stayed on the path I was heading. I would surely be dead. I can’t imagine a possible positive outcome of drinking and smoking and fucking myself to death. It would have been Leaving Los Vegas without the Oscars. 

7: When the going gets tough...Cry. - This one is a real doozy. If there were an order for this list, crying would be somewhere near the top. Without a doubt being able to step into fully owning my full range of emotions has set me up for a very bright outlook on the future that is ahead. Being able to tap into my feelings has not come easy and certainly not without spiral after spiral of getting trapped in some. When I first began to “feel,” I was terrified because most of my emotion capacities had been in the “off” more since I was around nine years old. I used to tell people that I was always even and level-headed, but the truth is that I was a wreck inside. 

Being able to step into my emotions fully took years of intensive therapy, writing, sharing, and getting uncomfortable. It is not only crying that falls into this lesson learned, but experiencing everything from dread and sorrow to love and lust has made me feel more human. In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman says, “And though I can hide my cold gaze, and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours, and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable, I simply am not there.” The opening monologue of the film seemed more like my life’s mantra until I figured out that accepting emotions is the very thing that makes me human. 

8: Reading is fundamental. - I didn’t go to college. Hell, I didn’t even graduate high school on time. Yet, I have a vigor for learning that is only superseded by my want and desire to teach. I have been an avid reader for the majority of my life, but typically only when it comes to topics that hold my interests. If you give me a book about the Industrial Revolution, it would likely sit on my bookshelf for the remainder of my life, but if you give me a book like The Body Keeps The Score, now you have my interest. From being an entrepreneur to a public speaker and now an author, I have had to educate myself the old-fashioned way through the written word. 

The amount of education that you can receive from a few bucks in late fees at the library or awesomely-random Goodwill finds will blow your minds. Currently and for the last couple of years, I have read about a book a week but typically no less than three a month. It is the words scribed on these countless pages that have helped me understand myself, the world, how to heal childhood trauma, and how to show up for myself. 

These are my 10 favorite books of the last 10 years that have helped me heal trauma

(In no particular order and not based on year released but when I read them): 

  1. Life of Pi - Yann Martel - I don’t ever read fiction. This is one of two I’ve read as an adult. Life of Pi is so beautiful and inspiring.

  2. Jay-Z Decoded - Jay-Z -My first real hero. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

  3. Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook. - Gary Vaynerchuk - A real entrepreneur bible of sorts. 

  4. Mindset - Carol Dweck - Everything you need to know about the capacity for change is in these pages

  5. Radical Acceptance - Tara Brach - The way we talk to ourselves will either make us better or worse. One of my favorite books ever.

  6. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog - Bruce Perry - The stories in this book will haunt you and make you want to change the world.

  7. Can’t Hurt Me - David Goggins - READ THIS BOOK

  8. Bossy Pants - Tina Fey - There is no such thing as an overnight success

  9. On Writing - Stephen King - If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader.

  10. Think and Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill - Just read it!

9: If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything. - I had to figure out what the hell my values were and not just in a figurative sense. I had lived so much life without meaning or purpose and without acknowledgment of the person that I wanted to be. I had no idea of the person that I was because I hadn’t dived deep enough into myself to make a declaration about what it meant to be me. MOST people have no idea of what their values are, and for the majority of my life, I was right beside them. Values are the baseline for the way I now live my life. It may have taken me thirty years to figure them out, but without doing so, I would not be where I am now.

Take time and think about what values hold true to the person that you are and the person that you want to be. It is in understanding myself in an authentic way that I was able to make healthy choices and create agency where needed amid difficult choices. 

These are my core values (in this particular order):

  1. Honesty

  2. Kindness

  3. Leadership

  4. Self-Actualization

  5. Momentum

10: The road is long. - I used to think there would be an end to this whole “trauma thing.” I would come home from a therapy session or massage or finish another world-changing book and think, “this is the last piece of the puzzle.” I don’t think this way anymore. I understand the scope of healing in such a way that I have acknowledged that this process simply will not end. I don’t know that it will always be so arduous, but there is no day in my future that I get to hang up the child abuse hat and get to wear the “I’m a normal guy now” hat. I have rationalized that in every way that I can and it has left me with the idea that there is no other choice than to put my boots on, step onto the road, and to continue the journey until there is no more. This is why I wrote Think Unbroken and giving it away for free, and why I believe that no matter what we must stay the path!

Until next time my friend…

Be Unbroken,


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Michael Unbroken


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