Dec. 28, 2022

Healing Trauma: A Journey towards Resilience and Mental Healing

In this episode, we go through the powerful connection between our bodies and our soul, and how trauma can impact both. Our amazing guests Susan Landers, Virginia Dixon, Melanie Weller, and Stephanie Carinia shares...
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In this episode, we go through the powerful connection between our bodies and our soul, and how trauma can impact both. Our amazing guests Susan Landers, Virginia Dixon, Melanie Weller, and Stephanie Carinia shares their personal story of mental healing and offers practical tips on how to start your own journey towards healing. Join us as we discuss the importance of self-care and self-compassion in the process of healing from trauma. This is a must-listen for anyone looking to find peace and healing in their own life.

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Susan Landers – Truths About Trauma and Parenting as a Working Mother

Michael: I would love for you to talk about how you navigate the really trauma of what that is because one of the things I think is really fascinating I've been sitting on recently is this idea that that trauma isn't necessarily just the stuff from twenty-five years ago, right? It's the stuff that happens today because it carries with it and it has weight and I know right now that there are people listening who they've gone through this experience and with your expertise what I'd love to know is like, how do parents navigate the trauma of these experiences and raising children and the whole thing?

Susan: Well, it's not easy. We are all struggling to be good parents and most working parents want to do a good job. I think where we fail most often is taking care of ourselves, I think that we've all been raised to work to produce, to perform. And parenting is not like that, parenting is more being present listening, asking questions. I had to learn to settle down when I was around my kids. I had to learn to turn off that high stress, intensive care mind and enjoy bath time and reading books before time. I had to quit thinking about the research paper that I was behind on and enjoy dinner time and talking about their day at school. So, I think the simplest answer to your question is we try to do more work than as possible and we don't allow ourselves free time to be parents. Now having said that every now then our kids are gonna act up and we're gonna respond to that and whether we're tired or whether we're hungry or whether we're alone, whether we're stressed and fatigued, we're going to react in ways that we regret. And we are as parents are going to have to say, oh, wow that is not what I wanted to do. I had to learn to do that, when I yelled at my kids, I always yelled when I was post call after a long night on call, I would come home my husband is usually headed out the door to go work a Saturday or Sunday and I was so tired and I had a short temper. When I yelled at my kids, I instantly felt bad, I instantly knew that it was the wrong thing to do even though that's how I was raised and I would get myself together and I would tell my children that I was upset and I'm sorry, I'm not gonna do it again and please forgive me and depending on the age of the child, I would explain why that had happened. I also learned to help my children identify their emotions, I was really good at saying, you look angry, can you tell me you're feeling angry, you're mad about some can you tell me that. My little granddaughter the other day was pounding and I said, Catherine you look like your pounding, does that mean me aren't getting your way and shook her head yes and I said what does it mean when you're pounding? And she said, I know, I get in trouble at school for pounding, I know it means, I'm supposed to take churn. So, that kind of thing where you talk with your child about their feelings where you say, you look frustrated, you look disappointed, let's talk about it, that requires parents to be present not on their phones, not on their computers they really have to be on the level with their kids face to face and talking about feelings, asking questions and listening. And I think it took me a long time to learn that I think it probably took me ten years to figure that out. My husband was a much better listener than I was, he didn't always wanna jump in and do something and fix it that was my way of doing things. He would say okay what's going on, okay I think about it, what do you think and what are we gonna do and he would talk about it and the kids would open up. And so, I learned by watching him be more laid back, more flexible that really what they needed was to be attended to, listen to, stood by. You know, attending really means being there and so attending physicians are there at the bedside for their patients and parents attend to their children in the same way.

Michael: One of the things I'm curious about Susan is and I apologize sorry if I interrupt you. But I wanted to come back to this before we lost it because I think it's really, really important. One of the things that you mentioned was yelling and talking about like that is how you were raised and I know that right now there is such a beautiful movement to end generational trauma by breaking that cycle. And I know that there are people listening right now who they will still tend to move towards the behaviors that they grew up with and they're trying to figure out, they're trying to navigate it, they're trying to end that. Do you have any thoughts about how you reconcile that moment with yourself, to give yourself compassion or grace or forgiveness but also to end the continuation of it? I think this is a really important topic that is happening right now and we're seeing it all the time.

Susan: Yes, it is important and I'm glad you brought it up. Yelling is bad enough and I grew up in a household with a radioholic father and I got hit a lot and I swore that I was not gonna hit my children. When my son was eighteen months old, I came home from a difficult call shift and I think we had lost a baby and I was exhausted and my husband had leave to go to work and I just got home and my little toddler was playing and I was waiting for him to take a nap and he wouldn't go to sleep and I was just so exhausted, I was forcing him to take an nap and he wasn't ready and I pushed him down in the bed and I started spanking his little thighs and I kinda went outside my body I went outside myself and I stopped and I went oh, my god, I am hitting my son, I love this kid, I love his little boy what am I doing? I burst into tears, I grabbed him and held him and said, I am not gonna let this happen to my family, I cannot let this happen, this is what happened to me I'm not doing this. The next day, well, I think it was Monday that was a Saturday I called and got an appointment with a child psychologist, I told her the story and I began therapy and we talked about my childhood of physical and emotional abuse and I learned how to not listen to those tapes, I learned how to not hit. I would put myself in time out if I had to. I would go to another room and settle down if I had to. I had a hard time with yelling, I did not perfect not yelling at my children but I did not hit my children. And I remember talking to a psychiatrist later on in my adult life about my efforts to get rid of child abuse from my family and he said, well, you got rid of the physical abuse and maybe the next generation will get rid of the yelling. I said really does, it that hard, he said sometimes it takes more than one generation to get rid of the habits of child abuse. But I felt over the years like, I had grown to forgive myself because I had an abnormal childhood to allow myself a little bit of grace okay, you got beat up when you were a kid, it's a lot to not wanna hit your kids and every now then if you snap and yell at them, you're not a bad mother, you just snapped and yelled at your kids. So, I learned to forgive myself, I had psychotherapy to help me I think this is a very difficult thing to do, I'm not sure that the average person who has been abused, who's raising kids can do it all on their own. I highly recommend psychotherapy for people who have been abused as children and then they become parents they will inevitably have a trigger from some childhood developmental moment in their children that will remind them of things that were done to them when they were kids, we know that happens. So, having a therapist help you walk through these experiences is very important and help me a lot and I learned to forgive myself, I learned to tell them you know mommy has a problem with yelling, I'm sorry, I lost my temper and please forgive me and they all kind of got it over the years they knew that I was temperamental and impulsive and if I was tired, they needed to leave me alone until I had a nap. So, the whole family can help break the cycle of child abuse whether it's yelling or hitting or emotional neglect or emotional abuse, the whole family can help. Now, I had to involve my husband too, he had to know what had happened to me and why I was struggling so much to make a change he needed to understand that, he could give me a look and that look man, go in another room and settle down. And so, I learned that he was my ally, he helped me recognize when I was overdone, when I was too stressed or too tired or needed to hand off the problem to him. So, what I'm saying is that it's a difficult process to do most of us can't do it alone, most of us need some sort of therapy and for sure our spouses and partners need to understand what we've been through and what we're trying to accomplish. I think parents need to expect that their children are going to trigger them in ways that take them back to childhood experiences.


Virginia Dixon – The Triumph of the Human Spirit

Michael: One of the things I think is important and not necessarily just whether or not, it's in therapy or prescription drugs or anything but life in general is like trying to understand your core values when it comes to healing because I think killing is all these three elements that you talked about. How does one understand, what it is that they know and what they're trying to understand who they are and their core values?

Virginia: It's a great question. There are three stories that I believe we're always trying to negotiate and this is what I've observed from working with patients specifically cancer patients. There are three stories, were always trying to negotiate and that's a story that of design, right? Laws of nature, things that are self-evident and speak to our natural affections, there's this story that says something inside of me wants to live, right? And we have an anatomy that bear was witness of that and then there's a story that we tell ourselves from our experiences in our soul, our mind, our heart, our will, our conscience, our feelings there's that narrative, we're always trying to negotiate and then there's a story that we carry in our DNA.

Our stories, don't begin at home, they begin in the home of the home, of our parents, parents, parents. So three, for generations deep there is a work of recall healing and Dr. Hammer from German new medicine expounded upon by. Dr. Gilbert Renauld recalls healing, which really speaks in powerful ways to that. So there's a story of our very constitution, substantiated, and well, explained by laws of nature, things that are self-evident again and speak to our natural affection.

There's a story, we tell ourselves from our experiences and the ideas and the thoughts that we got from our families of origin in our experiences, by the way, starting from conception, right? And in the womb, and our first formative years of life and throughout and then the stories of our anatomies and I think reconciling those three stories is where we find incredible freedom.

For example, with you, Michael something in you knew intuitively that I don't know, this isn't right. So you used all kinds of means and methods, right? And resources to silence that, to mitigate that, to reconcile that and they weren't productive. So, at some point, you decided you know what? This is not for me, so I'm going to just bring it into it all and somehow as providence would have it. You know, you weren't successful in that attempt, call it whatever you want, divine intervention, chance, accident, I think it because looks what you're doing now. I think it was divine intervention personally, but then you have the reality of the heritage that you bring to bear, and that legitimate experiences that are in your issues; the issues are always in the tissue, right? And that is very real and the disparity between this hunger of your soul, this thing of what's happening in my life, right? That you're negotiating through these experiences, you have and the trauma that you're bringing in from these generational patterns, right?

The disparity between those things is where we find the anatomy of disease and addictions and all these things. So, what happened, at some point, you reached the bottom and I love how you address that and you talk about reaching rock bottom, that rock bottom is really a beautiful and wonderful and great place to be and we were talking about this a little bit ago because there's nowhere else to go but up if you can just accept that hey, this is rock bottom for me whatever that is for you individual or if listening audience if you can recognize, hey, there's only one other place I can go from here and that's up, right? Because I can't get any lower than this, we all have different margins, right? But then you begin to decide, you begin to choose, you begin to dig, you begin to learn, you begin to turn every stone, you begin to reach out, like you were talking about earlier, looking for mentors, looking for information. We have the web now, we have the internet, we have YouTube, we have amazing resources at our disposal, we have amazing counseling, amazing podcast to listen to, so there is no excuse, why we have to give in to the disparity of whatever situation we find ourselves in. Nobody takes our life from us, we give it away.

Michael: Yeah. I have this thought just this question just popped into mind. What do you think is the biggest misnomer or misconception that people have about their own Mental Health?

Virginia: That it's inherited, that there's no way out without medication, that they're the victims of circumstances. I think the most tragic bit of information that people believe is the lies of why they find themselves in the situations they find themselves in. I think people don't realize how powerful they are. I think people do not understand that thoughts have power and words, have authority. It's one thing to have thoughts that are limited, but it's another thing to begin to speak them into being. Words have power, thoughts have power, words have authority. We have to be very careful about the things we speak, we're better off asking questions, seeking information to get us out of situations that we find ourselves in. Then we are to get together with a friend over a beer or glass of wine and continue to complain or we have very sophisticated ways of complaining, right? Fancy and sophisticated ways of complaining but it's tragic because those would seem like nominal conversations or relatively insignificant, just shooting the breeze with somebody, they have devastating consequences in your entire constitution and in your life.


Melanie Weller – Unlock Your Unleashed Self

 Michael: I would love to know what those are because like knowing that this is primarily something that is a conversation geared towards mental health. How do you know? Because I think there are red flags that you may notice within yourself, that could be the causation of going, okay? There might be something here about me, that I actually really need to like chase out. What would you consider to be a red flag?

Melanie: Ohm! From a patient standpoint, I would say, maybe multiple joint pain, like it may not seem like a big deal but just like some overall stiffness, so people with anxiety and often in depression to will really be limited at their necks and so they'll be some limited neck range of motion, but it's not, but that in itself is not, necessarily a red flag, it's really about the combination of things. So if your neck is tight and you're feeling like it, it can be hard to get a breath or like you have times where you're short of breath and you are otherwise healthy. You're not somebody that has asthma or, you know, you're too young for and healthy for heart disease.

You know, this is a difficult way, I haven't really framed it this way, I take people, I know we're on video, I could take people, I could, I can demonstrate some of the tests, you know, like the self-assessment that I have people go through, but it's really, it's really about how you rotate, so it can be as simple as turning your head side to side and seeing how far you can go. If you turn your head, if you can turn your head comfortably to one side and then bring your ear towards your chest, in that position, you should go be able to flex forward 45 or 50 degrees. If you hit a brick wall, right at the top, and you can barely bring your ear towards your chest, that would be one, small red flag or maybe one yellow flag. And then if you're looking at shoulder motion, like I, you can put your, if you put your arms up, like, goal posts and rotate them down, you should be able to go about 70 degrees on each side, you know, and without bringing your shoulder blades up over the tops of your shoulders and if or if you're not able to, you know, if you're only rotating 20 or 30 degrees down and you don't have any shoulder pathology going on, I would consider that another red flag. If you give yourself a hug and with your weight really even on your sit bones and turn your rotate, your body side to side, you should be able to go at least 45 degrees, 60 degrees is considered normal, but I don't fuss too hard over 45 degrees but if you are really having a hard time rotating in those directions, that is one way the perhaps the easiest way to really self assess this though is through breath and so, even if you just put one hand, I'll have you do this and you can tell me how you feel with it, but if you put one hand on your over your heart, and take the other hand and try to put it up, on the backside of your ribs, if you can get it to the backside of your heart. That's great. So just like the backside of your hand and take a deep breath, take a couple of deep breaths in that position. And tell me, so do you feel how your ribs? Yeah, move your hand on the front of your chest when you breathe. What happens to your ribs on the back with your backhand?

Michael: They're also moving.

Melanie:  Okay, good. So a lot of people don't expand their ribs on the backside of their chest at all. I'll come backside of the ribs.

Michael: Shallow breathing, right?

Melanie: And so it is shallow breathing, its upper chest breathing, and it's, and it no back breathing at all.

Michael: So, the way that I discovered that for lack of a better term, my vagus nerve was out of whack, was because I actually could not take a diaphragmatic breath. Meaning the biggest breath that I could tuck was let could take excuse me, was less than 2 seconds as an inhale. And in that time, it freaked me out really bad, because I knew that I was under this immense amount of stress, and I knew that my life was kind of chaotic at the time, and I just uprooted myself and I travel across the world, and I was in this place where I was new and unfamiliar and stepping into a new trajectory and understanding and working through a navigating trauma, and I recognize one day I was like, I can't breathe, and it was one of the most terrifying experiences that I had on the backside of that lasted for seven months. So, someone listening right now, I know without question, cannot take that breath. And all of the signs just based on self-assessment, probably point to the idea that something is arrive. How do you step into this place where you start to rectify and get back to what we would call normality or baseline and consideration of our human body?

Melanie:  At the very basic level, I believe it's, you know, I think one you there are very simple exercise, breathing exercises, you can do to give your vagus nerve more space and really just paying attention to your breath, practicing breathing, can be a huge thing. I just tie going back quickly to what you were saying about your limitation. I guess for me that shows up more, I know more limitations exhaling, I survived time people, I find people's exhalations because they're like, they're out their lungs are overinflated. I think it's at some level but in terms of just getting the first step is really just to have a conversation with your body and to learn how your body says yes and how your body says no, because by the time you're in, any kind of physical pain, or anxiety or trauma response, your body is screaming, no, and we do not have a language for communicating with our bodies. And I think, really just tapping in and knowing that you're, you know, and not dismissing your body, as your mind is a very slippery liar, your body really holds your truth.


Stephanie Carinia – Learn How to Speak Your Truth

Michael: There is a moment in which you have to understand that it's actually not your fault and remove the blame you give yourself because you carry that burden with you? And I think that is often the boundary between step being into something that can be powerful in a healing journey and being stuck in that place where you feel like the world is against you, and that's such a battle. How do you begin to transform your own understanding of fault and blame and responsibility when you have been hurt in Childhood?

Stephanie: Hmm, I think so, we hear this often, what you're saying, we need to not carry it with us anymore and what you often hear is you know, this society is social media, which is very concerning is telling us to heal because everyone wants to heal the whole trend and also a healthy trend, of course, so a degree, you need to forgive as well. And that will with that we bypassed healing. That is very concerning because when we forgive to sue without the acknowledgment of what was done to us. First of all, you cannot really forgive, because to forgive, we need to have self-passion, self-compassion we can only have when we acknowledge, it's not necessarily our parents who have to acknowledge it as long as we or I don't know with the therapist acknowledges what happened to you. Only then we can have self-compassion, and then we can forgive, but we need to go to those situations that the childhood and that is complicated that's why I also created a heel, you're in a child online course, for people to understand and give specific examples of what can go wrong.  And you're mentioning now a couple of things if you were sexually abused or you were beaten etc. So these, at least I'm not saying that it makes it easier but at least were visible things that happened as a child at least but I have a lot of clients high functioning with amazing parents who are still together, and they haven't had a connection in their whole life. They're living in prison because they were manipulated by narcissistic dynamics etc., for instance, and that is much more complex. So, people, it would be amazing if it's social media, we could go more specifically to childhood situations, and people could start identifying situations.

For instance, I have a client, I used to have a client, and he said, my childhood was great, everything was great. And then we go deeper, turns out that the parent was very selfish. And so now he doesn't trust people. We need to acknowledge all these things. Because often a, for instance, another example, Mike, I'm not sure if you've heard it, heard this one, I hear this often with people around me. My mother is just difficult. She means, well, she's just anxious being anxious, okay? She was just overprotective. Well, I disagree with that. She might have been anxious, but apparently, she's selfish not to take her problems to a psychologist and to burden you with worrying about her, and you should be a child, you should be worrying about yourself, you should not be wearing it about your parents, and that is traumatic. If you need to comfort your parents, that is not okay. It's robbing your childhood, etc. It has a lot of implications for people who are not aware of that. This is just an example.

Michael: Yeah, yeah. So true and a lot of that can be covert. You just don't see it, but it doesn't mean it's not there. As people are starting to recognize this and more so in more, so because now we're having conversations with words like narcissism words we hadn't used before and looked at that in stepping into it now understanding, we and order to continue to step into this path of healing, need to create boundaries and understanding around our once needs interest in value so on and so forthWhat I'm curious about from your perspective, as what role does having boundaries in your life play in the Healing Journey?

Stephanie: So yeah, I came up with this, this healing steps. So you have step one of acknowledging. I'm wounded in the first place because a lot of people are in denial. I'm wounded. I'm surviving than thriving, and the other one is connecting to your emotions. The other one is creating your emotional home, your safe haven. The fourth one is the healing, the wound acknowledging what was done to us to be able to get the self-compassion and create self-worth. The fifth one is the relationships you need to repair.

So the emotional home is about what we need; you suppose that you're living in a house with a roof over your head, assuming most people do, there is a reason you want protection. You want someone to be to retreat to be able to restore your energy, to reflect, you know, to be safe literally. So a lot of people with trauma don't have any motion or home. We forget that that that we need one and "emotional home is your own Safe Haven, that's the space you the place you go to an emotional place in this case where you feel safe." But with especially with trauma, when you have this inner critic because you're yet not have acknowledged what was done to you so all the blame goes towards ourselves we beating ourselves up as inner critic and the shame that can be killing a lot of people out there with who experience shame. No, know how hectic that emotion is, and we need to hear I think it was a beautiful sentence in Pete Walker's book, as well, from surviving to thriving, we need to take our own side, and that's so we need to protect our, we need to have our home, and your question was about boundaries, well, the door in a home is a boundary, right? If there are bad people, I assume you close the door. You're not opening the doors, is that correct?

Michael: Yeah, of course.

Stephanie: But a lot of people, if they have a home, they don't have doors, and everything comes in, and it's unsafe, and that is boundaries, we need to have a home and have doors and close them.

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Michael Unbroken


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