Sept. 17, 2022

How Do You Define Identity | CPTSD and Trauma Coach

In this episode, I want to talk about and help you understand better how childhood trauma and abuse are the theft of identity. And these...
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In this episode, I want to talk about and help you understand better how childhood trauma and abuse are the theft of identity. And these ideas of what I believe it means to go through this trauma healing journey and to create who you are.

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Hey! What is up, my friends. Hope that you're having an amazing day wherever you are in the world. Just wanted to pop on here and spend a little bit of time with you as we normally do and say, what's up and specifically talk about the episode of the podcast that I had done with Dr. Caroline Leaf.

So, yesterday on social media, I posted the me as a guest on Dr. Leaf's show, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, and I had hundreds of people reaching out. And so, I just want to first and foremost say thank you to everyone who reached out and thank you for everyone who listened to me as a guest on her show. Dr. Leaf has been one of the most transformative people in my life in terms of education and knowledge and information. And it was an honor to have her on Think Unbroken podcast earlier this year, that episode is on the website. If you go to And she posted this clip where I was talking about how childhood trauma and abuse is the theft of identity. And I had a lot of people messaging me and asking me to go into that a little bit more and to dive into it and help you understand it a bit better. And so, I wanted to take a few minutes to do that with you today.

Now of course, one of the things I think is fascinating is that the more that I do this work, the more I study, the more that I research, actually, the more questions that start to come up. And so, even sometimes when I'm in conversation with someone as incredible as Dr. Leaf, I will say, what do you think about that? This is just my opinion. And it was actually incredibly reaffirming and powerful for her to say, yeah, I totally agree. And I think for me, part of me, one of the things I really enjoy about getting to have these conversations is I get a mirror for these thoughts, these concepts, these ideas of what I believe it means to go through this trauma healing journey. What I believe that it means to overcome and to create who you are.

So, in the show, and I've said this before, but I wanted to go into it a little bit again, just to create clarity, it seems like a lot of people were confused and I do talk pretty fast so, I wanted to dive into it.

Childhood trauma and abuse is the theft of our identity because when we are in our adolescence, when we are growing up in our developmental years, we are taking and making meaning of all the stimulus that is happening around us. We're always measuring our environment; we're always looking for creating a meaning around the circumstances and situations that are happening in our lives. And what happens is as we go through if we are unfortunate enough to experience childhood trauma and abuse, whether that's mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, or sexual, we come to this place in which we start to, because we have to develop by nature and biology, a sense of awareness for survival, we start to measure all the things that happen and occur in our life through the scope of two ways. One survival, are we going to be safe or not? And two is to make meaning of it.

Now, I would say difficult aspects that I didn't I'll use me as an example. One of the very difficult things that I did not fully and entirely understand until I was deep into my thirties and it didn't actually really sit in until deep in my twenties, early in my thirties is that when we go through trauma and abuse, the very thing that happens is we actually retreat from self in order to bend chameleon and placate for survival. Now, what happens is because that becomes a survival mechanism, we stop being who we are, because one of the most dangerous things that you can do is be you that's the assessment that your brain is making. And so, as your brain is making that assessment and looking at it and going every time I show up as myself, every time I move towards my wants, my needs, my interests, my belief that I get hurt. There's punishment, there's pain, there's something that happens, there's a ramification, well, because the brain's first service is survival. It looks at that and says, okay, I don't want to do these things anymore. But what happens when you are doing things that are in alignment with who you are, you are trying to be you. And so, your brain says, wait a second if I show up as myself, this is dangerous. I'm going to get in trouble. I'm going to get hurt. I better not do that. And in fact, what I should do is the opposite and what I should do is exactly what other people need me to do so that in order to have survival in my life and have longevity, I will not be me.

And so, what happens now, you're going through this in survival mechanism, it's some biological response to the stressors and the stimulus of abuse and what happens on the other side of that is we make meaning of that experience and that gets tied into our worth, into our identity and into yourself. A lot of the experiences that I had growing up, having a hyper abusive childhood was that I felt no worth, I felt no value, no validation in the world, except through the external, possession’s, cars, money, hookups, drugs, alcohol, food, whatever it was that is how I felt validation. It was all external. What I didn't understand in my youth was that the external things were never going to fill me up. And in fact, it is the internal parts of us in dealing with all of the messiness, all the ugliness, all of the pain, all the suffering, all the guilt, all the shame by looking at it and recognizing that those thoughts and those beliefs are not who we are and that we do not have to be those thoughts or beliefs leads us down this path in which we can start to take ownership.

Now, one of the difficult parts about taking ownership over these things is people conflate this idea of ownership with culpability and the bad things that happen to us in childhood are not our fault. And they're not our responsibility. I wanna be very, very clear about that. If you had abusive parents, that is not on you, however, the choices and the decisions that you make today whether you like to admit it or not are informed by the experiences that you had in childhood, meaning that everything that we do causation and correlation while life is linear in terms of a start to finish all the choices and the decisions that we make, they kind of bounce up and down over time ‘cuz you've probably have had some like really, really good onpoint days where you're crushing it, you've probably had some really, really bad days where it's shitty and you can't seem to do anything that you wanna do. Well, you have to understand that so much of that is tied into the narrative of the belief that we have about who we are and the value that we have in the world.

So, the deeper that you go into learning about the impact of trauma, the more that you start to understand the causation and correlation, how some of those experiences and some of those events that we had in our childhood now bend in, shape us. Now they don't define us, so let's be very clear – define us. So, let's be very clear about that. We are not the things that happened to us. We are not even our emotions that's one of the things that you have to start to wrap your head around when you are building your identity, because if you were your emotions, then you would be joy and laughter, but you'd also be shame and guilt. Instead, what you are is just this being moving through life, having a human experience. And if you're anything like me, then you probably have come to realize that you don't really know what you're doing like I have no idea what I'm doing every single day neither does anyone else and anyone who tells you that they do is a liar, because I don't know about you, but I did not get a rule book when I came into this life. I'm simply figuring it out as I go and that held true of figuring out and deciphering my identity.

So, at 25 years old, having a rock bottom moment, I started to move forward and towards this idea of the person that I thought I could be. Now, it took a couple of years for it to even start to really solidify because at 27, I realized I have no confidence, I don't believe in myself at all and the thing that I needed to do was start to do things that move me towards the person I thought I was going to be by building confidence around an identity that I created. I said to myself, who do I want to be? What does this version of myself look like? How do they show up in the world? What are their values? What are their wants, their needs, their interest, their boundaries? What are all the things that they need, what and desire in the world? And so, when you start to wrap your head around that you can reverse engineer the actions and the steps that you take on a daily basis to move towards being that person while simultaneously recognizing, and again, understanding that you've been impacted by your past, and it is informing the choices and the decisions that you make, then you must be able to not only heal, but overcome those things in order to fully close the gap of where you are to where you want to be.

And so, this is a very complicated idea, but it's a very simple process in terms of execution. And the most simplified way that I can phrase this is what you do is you sit down with a pen and a piece of paper, you write down who it is that you want to become and then you reverse engineer that all the way back down to step one, and you start doing the things that you believe that you need to do that move you towards being the person that you believe that you're capable of being. And in that, leveraging a shit ton of grace, companionship for yourself, with others, compassion as well as other things. Like one of the things people don't understand that I don't think they've really sat in about this journey as you have to be patient with yourself. There's nothing I've learned more in this process than being able to sit in patience, because as much as I would love to have sat down in my therapist's office one time and been like, here's all my shit, hope my life is better. It took years and years and years, unbelievable amounts of time, effort, energy, and money, to be able to really get to the place where I've been able to become today. And my hope is that you will find that same truth and leverage patients, not in this way that it's like, oh, no, I don't know if my life will ever be different, but leverage patients and knowing that on a long enough timeline, you can actually have the life that you want to have and create the identity that you want to create as long as you continue to go forward every day and never give up. And so that's why we're doing Unbroken Conferences this November, a huge part of this is so we can help people wrap their minds and hearts and spirits and bodies and souls around this idea of creating the life that you want to have, turning and transforming your trauma into triumph and ultimately becoming the hero of your own story.

And so, my friends, I hope that I will see you there go and sign up. It's absolutely FREE to attend and watch live. You can buy the recordings and all that stuff, that'll be set up later. But all you need to do is go to, you'll be able to join me and over a dozen absolutely incredible, amazing speakers, many many surprises and a bunch of things that I can't tell you just yet.

So, my friends check it out, sign up there.

And Until Next Time.

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.