Aug. 13, 2021

E98 The Body Keeps The Score discovering agency and self-worth | Mental Health Podcast

In this episode, I talk about The Body Keeps The Score, discovering agency and self-worth. It's such a profound book, and not only in the healing journey but also in trauma survivors.
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In this episode, I talk about The Body Keeps The Score, discovering agency and self-worth. It's such a profound book, and not only in the healing journey but also in trauma survivors.

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Hey! What's up, my friend! Hope that you are having an amazing day wherever you are in the world.

Today, I'm going to talk to you about one of my personal favorite books.

“The Body Keeps The Score” and I don't think I've really dove in and talked about this book at any length or capacity in the past. And this isn't a book review Per Se but just some thoughts that I have on it. You see, I've been lucky enough over the course of my career as a coach and the leader in the trauma space to be able to learn under Bessel van der Kolk, and to be able to get certifications from his program and to be able to read this book, ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ and it's such a profound book and not only in my journey, but I think for trauma survivors in general when you have research that supports the idea that trauma impacts us in such a profound way that it can shape our entire being our lives, the way we think about ourselves, the way we act, the way we show up, the way we handle things like therapy, the way that we handle conflict, the way that we do or do not believe in ourselves, then you start to understand like the power that our past can carry. But what about our future? I say this all the time. If we can understand how we got to where we are, we can create a framework and a pathway to get to where we want to go,I fully and entirely believe that.

And this book hit home for me, the first time that I read it, I listened as an audiobook and I sat with that was like, you know, I need to actually dissect this thing. So I've read it a couple of times and I'm about to start reading it again because you first off, it's a ginormous book, I don't know if you read it, it's like, well over 350 pages, and as you're reading it, you're like, ‘Oh my gosh! This is so much science, so much research, my analytical nerd brain, kind of freaks out on it.’ and I get into the space where I'm like, can I create correlation? Can I create causation? Can I create all these things as I go through it? And you know, I think with any literature with any tax, program and I say this all the time. I don't think you'll ever do one thing, one time and get the full benefit out of it.

So I grabbed the book again, and I wanted to sit down and read it and highlight it and go through and I came across in chapter 18, something I want to share with you because it's profound and obviously because of copyright issues and I don't know, Bessel enough to be able to read his whole book to you or I assure you that I will, I have to keep it concise. And so I'm going to keep it concise and read you one paragraph. I'm going to tell you about why this paragraph is so incredibly profound and important in the trauma healing journey, and I think I'm gonna dissect this book a little bit more over the coming months. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend that you do, I'm not affiliate, I don't make money or anything like that by telling people books to read, but you should read ‘The Body Keeps The Score’, because I think that when you can understand what understood that the research carries a tremendous amount of weight plus, you can look at the victories that people have had, also understanding some of the defeats I think you have to look at both sides, then you can start to kind of create a framework, and an understanding of possibility, a huge part of my journey, and I've shared this before was discovering the ACE score and Doctor Felicity and Kaiser Permanente in the California Center for Disease Control for the first time having correlation between the things that I said, suffered as a child, and the person I had become in my mid-20s and being like, Oh my god, of course, that makes sense.

And I never felt like, I like justified what I had done or the things I was doing or whatever. It was just like, okay cool. There's a rhyme and a reason it's not just some nonchalantly moving about the world, there was a catalyst for lack of a better term that would lead me to this darkness.

So anyway, chapter 18, I'm going to read this to you, from ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ because It really just, man, even to this day, this paragraph rocks me and it did the first time I read it and it hit me again in a slightly different capacity this time, but enough that I thought, you know, I'm going to share this with Unbroken Nation, this is a huge value, and I want you guys to be able to read this or hear it since I'm reading it.

“It is one thing to process memories of trauma, but it is an entirely different matter to confront the inner void. The holes in the soul that result from not having been wanted not having been seen and not having been allowed to speak your truth. If your parents faces never lit up when they looked at you, it's hard to know what it feels like to be loved and cherished. If you come from an incomprehensible world, filled with secrecy and fear. It's almost impossible to find the words to express, what you have endured. If you grew up unwanted and ignored, it is a major challenge to develop a visceral sense of agency and self-worth.”

I think a lot of us can relate to that and I know I certainly do, trying to create agency the ability to make meaning or choices or actions because you choose to as opposed to other people and I've mentioned this before was the most difficult thing that I've ever done, being able to determine and discover and create who Michael is not to talk to myself in the third person, nonchalantly like I really had no idea. I've said this before the Michael here, today, right now is a caricature realized of the idea of the person I thought I could be, because I didn't understand what it was like to have a choice, to have to say in how I ate, how I dressed, how I thought, how I felt any time in every time that I tried to be me, there was pain, there was torment, there was punishment, there were all the things that come along with an abusive childhood. And so, when I was in my late 20s, and I was just thinking about like, who am I? That was the hardest question for me to answer because I had no idea. I had only ever spent my time being what other people wanted me to be so that I could create a safety parameter in my life.

Every time I tried to move toward this idea of like this is who I might be there was pain or suffering and that serves you to an extent when you create this, I want to call it an autonomic response, but I think that would be unfair because I really believe that it is a learned behavior that then becomes autonomic, it's not like breathing. We don't natively turn ourselves off until it's been negatively reinforced within has enough that it becomes our normative function.

If I turn myself off, I'm safe. If I don't speak up, I'm safe. If I hide in the shadows, I'm safe. And then what happens is that actually stops serving you because your environment becomes more supportive, you're in this position when you're able to make choices and decisions for yourself, and then you hit a stalemate.

This was my experience where I didn't understand that I was actually able, I could not comprehend the idea that I was able to choose for me, and that's so much about what agency is in this idea of building self-worth, like, how do you create self-worth when you've had no measurement for it? That was singularly.

One of the most difficult things that I had to overcome was understanding that I was allowed to believe in myself, then I was allowed to love myself, that I was allowed to value myself. My friends, Unbroken Nation, let me tell you this;

 You are allowed to create an agency, you are allowed to love yourself, to value yourself, to build worth in yourself,but how do you do it, right? That's one thing to think about it, but another thing is the practical side of, how do you actually do it? How do you build yourself up?

I say it all the time, what you think becomes what you speak, what you speak becomes your action, your actions become your reality.And I think people here, you have to act to create change in your life without fully understanding that, action requires a tremendous amount of forethought.And processing around what it is that you want to create. What is the marker for the life you want to have? Do you want to be an author? Do you want to be a great Dad? Do you want to be a great partner? Do you want to build the next Disney, if that's your thing? Do you want to just be able to put your feet on the ground in the morning and do the things you said you were going to do?

I believe fully and entirely that we are all capable of being the hero of our own story, but the only way you actually get there is that you have to act and it is the granular incremental and very small changes that we make over a long enough period of time that create change and not believing in yourself, is something I understand, I wish I could tell you guys, like, I don't even have the words to convey. What it was like the first time I actually felt like I was living life on my terms. It wasn't only just this sense of peace or power prosperity, but it was freedom, like, I felt free from all the pain, and the suffering, and the torment, and the hurt that I had to go through as a child. I felt free removed from it because I was being me because I wanted to, I was saying yes, to the things I wanted to say yes to and say no to the things I wanted to say no to and that carried a tremendous amount of weight and power and hope.

And hope was like, I used to lay in bed at night when I was a little kid, and the only thing I dreamt about was being an adult, and then I became an adult, and I didn't know what to do with it because I didn't know, I was allowed to create a life.

I didn't know I was allowed to not be a victim of my circumstances, I didn't know that I was allowed to be okay with the reflection in the mirror and you have to build that into yourself, you have to honor that in the journey, you have to do the work. There's no easy way to put it like ultimately, it is the action that can create massive change in your life, that leads from thought to action to self-actualization and to reality you can think and hope and dream and wish all day long, but until you move towards what it is that you think, you want and look you may be totally confused on it because I was, when I was like, starting to get serious about what shaped my life, I was so confused and lost and what it actually meant to create a life because I thought it was money, I thought it was drugs, I thought it was cars and women and all of those things and I've shared that with you before.

What I discovered was it was about these moments these very small moments in which I felt free that to me is what creating life is about the sense of freedom that comes along with understanding that you are in control, and it's difficult. I'll never argue that with anyone that it is difficult to get to this place where you can even name that. And so what I want you to think about is what would it mean if you showed up, for you first? What would it mean, if you did the things that you want to do because you wanted to do them? What would it mean if your voice was heard because you demanded that it be? What would it mean for you to put boundaries in place that help you take control back from people who gaslight you or who might be narcissistic or abusive? What would it mean to you to be the hero of your own story?

Right there, so much about this journey that shows up with clarity with really fully understanding and making meaning of what it is that you want that catapult you in to what's next in your life.

If you're moving about life with no certainty, with no direction, then you're a rudderless ship, but if you get clear and even if you don't know for certain, about all the little pieces of the puzzle that you have to put in place to see the big picture,but if you can get clear on the idea of the things that you want to move towards possibly by trying a lot of different things before one hits you and strikes you and you light up about it thinking about what brings you joy, what brings you happiness, what brings you satiation. And you may not have had that, you know, I recall being ‘Gosh! I guess I am 27 years old, 28, maybe and I was looking at my life and I was thinking about, what is it that makes me happy?

And I thought like in the moments it was okay, video games make me happy but then I discovered they were a distraction, what made me happy was learning, nothing brings me more joy in life than educating myself, which is a very interesting juxtaposition because as a child, nothing brought me more pain than learning. Right? Well learning things, I don't want to learn. Let's be clear about that. But that's the thing about being an adult and looking at the agency and the ability and the power and the choices that you have to make the life that you want.

Agency is about you. So, fourth is about you. Healing is about you and yes, we come through pain. Yes, we come through stuff that, like, people will never understand, I have stories that will never be shared with you, I just don't think they need to be, and because of that, we have to do this tremendous amount of work. We have to go through hell and back, even though we've been through hell, we have to step deeper into the darkness to find our light.

And I believe my friend that you are capable of finding that light that you are capable of becoming the hero of your own story, but it starts with this; try some things, see what happens when you do what you want, because it's healthy because it feels right, because your gut says that's the thing that I'm curious about and then do that again and again and again and again and eventually and I don't know when because it's going to be different for everyone. You're going to get closer to understanding who you are because you're going to have more clarity about the things that you do like, the things that you don't like, and the things that you are indifferent about.

My friend. I'm here to support you as usual.

Please reach out to me. I'm @MichaelUnbroken on all the social media platforms.

I always do my best to reply.

Please do me a favor, like, subscribe, comment, share, tell a friend.

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.