Aug. 20, 2022

How to CONNECT to your emotions after childhood trauma and abuse | CPTSD and Trauma Healing Podcast

Join our FREE COMMUNITY as a member of the Unbroken Nation:   Reconnecting with our emotional capacity as human beings is arguably one of the most difficult things that we do, healing trauma. In this episode, I want to talk to you about how...
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Reconnecting with our emotional capacity as human beings is arguably one of the most difficult things that we do, healing trauma.

In this episode, I want to talk to you about how I've been able to reconnect emotionally as a human being to myself.

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Transcript

Reconnecting with our emotional capacity as human beings is arguably one of the most difficult things that we do, healing trauma.

And in today's episode, I want to talk to you about just the ways that I've been able to reconnect emotionally as a human being to myself.

One of the biggest reasons that we become emotionally, unregulated and dysregulated because of trauma is because effectively it's a survival mechanism. The way that we remove our brain from our body is the very thing that keeps us safe and keeps us protected and because that mechanism serves us to the capacity and the function of survival. Well, it just makes sense that we don't want to feel the emotions of all the bad things that happen to us. Now, this goes across a span of not necessarily only just childhood trauma and abuse, but I mean, really think about anytime something majorly drastic happens in your life natively.

The brain and the body just kind of want to remove themselves from each other so that you don't have to feel pain because like, obviously at the end of the day, think about it, like who wants to feel pain? Nobody. And in my journey, if I go recall thinking about these pivotal cornerstones of my life, a couple things really particular come to mind.

One - is I remember in my early twenties, feeling like I was probably a sociopath and I've mentioned this on this show before, but the reason that I felt that way was simply because I did not have the capacity to feel the emotions that came along with the abuse that I had suffered. It was such an amazing defense mechanism for keeping me from feeling emotion, but simultaneously it was also devastating in terms of keeping me disconnected from other people.

And if you're in this place in your life right now, where you feel entirely disconnected from other people, you might find some benefit in what I'm about to share with you. And this is simply information and what I understand to be fitting for me.

Now, as you may know, I have spent a tremendous of amount of time, deep into trauma research. I have over 30 trauma informed certifications and certificates, I've studied under some of the greatest minds on planet earth, but the one thing that I have gained the most experience in education from in this journey has been through my own sample studies of my life experiences. And so, as we go through this, and I think about these aspects of life that have become the cornerstone for my own personal journey, I think it all starts with looking at things by step-by-step measure, if currently today and where you are, you feel disassociated, you feel disconnected, you feel like an emotional recluse, you feel like you cannot step into the emotional capacity. You have to be a human being, you feel like everything that happens triggers you, you feel absolutely stuck in your emotions and more so you feel like you cannot overcome. Let me tell you this, those mindsets that you have about everything that I just laid out must be shifted if you want to create change in your life. Now I am not what I would call an optimist. I'm just not, that's not my nature. I am a realist and I simply look and measure the world through the scope of has this thing that I want to do been done before because if the answer is yes, that means that I can do it. And so, let's look at some of the points of measure that I've been able to do that I've changed and transformed my life.

Number one, and this is probably arguably the most difficult aspect of this is the acceptance.

ACCEPTANCE

The bad things have happened to you and acceptance is not culpability, so let's be very clear about that. Acceptance is not about you taking responsibility for parents who didn't take care of you, communities who didn't love you and having the lack of support in nurturing that one needs in their developmental years to become a normal functioning, sustainable human being, that's not what we're saying. What I am saying is that you have to accept that those things actually happen to you.

The biggest mistake that I made was constantly trying to push those things down, pretending that those things didn't happen, trying to hide from the truth and the reality that I was hurt, that I did suffer, that I had massive amounts of trauma and abuse that I was, you know, hurt in ways that most people can never fathom nor understand. And the more that I stuff, those things down, the more that they came out in these really negative coping mechanisms, and I stuffed it down because I was scared. Like truth be told I was absolutely terrified, people would see it and they would think I was weak. I would feel shame and guilt. I would feel like if other people around me knew the things that I would have been through that I wasn't a man and more so if I could cope with those emotions that I felt by making them go away, it meant that I was strong and that's a dangerous place to play. And this doesn't just apply to men, this applies to anyone who has had traumatic experiences. When you do that, the thing that comes from it is that you actually shut down the capacity to connect with other people in a human way.

You know, if you want to impress somebody, you show them that you're perfect. If you want to connect with somebody, you share your truth. And I was always pushing towards being perfect because if I was perfect, that means nothing could hurt. If I was perfect, that means nobody could touch me if I was perfect that means that every single day that I walked down the street that I lived my life, then that meant that the trauma didn't matter.

And so, the more I stuffed it down, the more it came out and it came out on a lot of ways, a lot of really detrimental ways that I'm still paying for decades later, drugs, alcohol, sex, addictions, to things like porn and video games and television and spending money at the mall and close in shoes and, you know, expensive restaurants and all of those things. I was addicted to the external and that addiction to the external I felt at the time would help fill me up would make me feel like a person, but I'll tell you this, I've never owned a pair of shoes that made me love myself. And because of that, that is where this really starts as looking at the acknowledgement in saying, I accept that these bad things happen to me. I'm not responsible for these bad things, but I'm not going to hide from it. Because when we hide from them, they inevitably they will show up whether you like it or not. Now that's probably the easier of these steps.

YOU HAVE TO FEEL IT

The next step is that you have to actually feel it like emotionally, you have to feel the impact of the experiences of your life. And that is never fun., just to be straight up with you. It's not fun. And it sucks. And it's probably the least enjoyable thing about emotionally reconnecting with yourself because when you feel it, you can heal it. And that only comes in your ability and your capacity to let your walls down with yourself first and foremost, and to step into the emotional response that is sitting there and lying and awake.

If you ever feel like you're constantly fighting back your emotions, that's a really telltale sign that you need to actually step deeper into them. And I think about filling into those emotions, anger, sadness, fear, love, compassion, joy, grace. If you can't feel one emotion, you can't feel any of them, it's a whole spectrum and you have to be willing to step into them all.

So, as you go deeper into feeling it, it's really about, can you let the truth exist? Can you not run from it? We run from the truth. We hide from the truth. We pretend that the truth is simply a make believe. No, that didn't happen. That's not real. I'm not gonna feel that because it sucks. It hurts. It's painful, but in reaction, in reality, the thing that you need to do is to sit in it. Now to sit in it proctored with therapists and groups and coaches and support systems, certainly ideal. And I would say if I could give you one massive piece of advice that I wish I would've had really starting this journey, it would've been. Don't do this by yourself. Go and find emotional support because when you have emotional support, you'll be able to navigate this better. In emotional support, it can be coaching, it can be groups, it can be support, it can be therapy, there's a lot of different ways. But when those emotions start to come up, sometimes if you're not careful, and if you're not in a safe, structured environment, you can open Pandora's box. A lot of people have blank spots in their memories. They have these brown out areas where they don't recall experiences. And when you start to open up the mind through doing the work through going into therapy, through the whole process of self-education, through even listening to podcasts like this and learning.

One of the things that can happen is like these black spots, these brown spots will start to appear and you'll have memories of things that happened to you 15 or 20 years ago that you had forgotten and that happened to me where I was in group therapy, I was having conversation and then over time it's like more things would show up and more things would show up and more things. And the more that those things showed up, the more that they emotionally impacted me, luckily having had a support system when it got deep I wasn't as impacted as I had been previously when I was kind of navigating alone through journaling, meditation and yoga. So, feeling the emotions is absolutely paramount, but it makes a lot of sense to have support in feeling those emotions.

SELF-CARE

And then you have to look at this from the third aspect of what we would call self-care and taking care of yourself because it's not enough to go to therapy. I'm gonna tell you right now, it's not. You have to have lifestyle changes. You have to have lifestyle changes in order to find long term health and this is a thing that struck me that really changed my life, that I try to teach people when I coach them, that I talk about in the books just nonstop is we are often treating ourselves as adults the same way that our parents and caregivers treated us as children. But we're doing it subconsciously because it has become normative for us to feel it necessary to suffer because often the combination of suffering and pain equals love.

In our mind, we go, if I'm suffering and I'm in pain, then that means I am loved. My parents beat me because they love me. They starve me because they love me. They don't take care of me when I'm sick, because they love me, that as an association that the brain makes in the developmental years, right? Then think about this, this will really blow your mind. How often do you push back or pull away from people who actually do show up, who do care, who do love you, who are compassionate, who give you empathy and love, sympathy and grace, joy and fulfillment? How often do you put the block up immediately when they come? Well, think about that. If you're doing that to them, what are you doing to yourself? How are you showing up in your own life? Are you drinking too often? Are you smoking cigarettes? Are you getting high from the moment you wake up till you go to bed? Are you massively overweight and consuming sugar and processed food? Are you not sleeping? Because you're up all-night watching TV and video games and playing and watching porn? Is your sex life a total nightmare because you can't get intimate with someone because you're scared? Are you seeking validation externally through, maybe it's the opposite, you're working out 40 hours a week, right? You're eating such a strict diet. You can't extend any kind of joy into the way that you nourish yourself. Are you so tied into personal development and learning that you don't have fun?

I have been in every one of those categories that I just laid out. And I think the most important thing is you have to ask yourself the question, what do I actually need? Because if you ask yourself that question, what you will come to find is that the things that you actually need may be the opposite of what you're giving yourself. And if you can actually create a framework of understanding, the thing that you're giving yourself very likely could be the things that your parents gave you in terms of pain and suffering then you can kind of start to switch the narrative around the way that you think about those experiences. And that'll lead you to want to eat better, to want to reduce your stress, to want to live a healthier lifestyle, to want to quit smoking, quit drinking.

People ask me all the time, like how did I quit smoking?

And I smoked for almost a decade and a period of time there, it was like two packs a day like I was really crushing these things like chimney. And I had effectively come to the realization when I was about 28 years old that I was torturing myself because the pain was the only emotion that I had the ability to feel and I decided that through what I assumed at the time would mean taking care of myself by quitting smoking that means that I would actually love myself.

And so, that was a trial within itself. It took a very long time to get to the end of that road and I didn't cold Turkey at that's for sure. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of fuckups in that process, but ultimately what I got to was a realization that I need to do the opposite; the opposite of what was expected for me to do for myself. And so, it's really about, can you get in there? Can you manage your expectations? Can you get enough sleep? Can you eat well?

SEEKING SUPPORT 

We so often, even in the year that we live in and even with all the social media around trauma and abuse, and even with all the podcasts and the coaching’s and blah, blah, blah, there is still this space where many of us feel like we are alone. We feel like nobody gets it. We feel like nobody understands. We feel like we are battling this demon without any support or armor, and it's just not true. I look at my own journey and this is not comparative, so please don't take it that way. But you know, growing up, having an ACE score of 10 suffering, some of the most traumatic abuse and experiences, I think anyone probably ever has, again, not a comparison. I thought that I was alone and that was until I started meeting people and I realized the truth that the aloneness was my own doing and that I needed to seek support and love and guidance and hope and joy and compassion, and mainly team from other people. And that led to things like, yoga and therapy and group therapy and men's groups and support groups and now effectively what I've done is built Think Unbroken Academy, which is around those same concepts and ideas that I needed to move through the aloneness.

And so, if you're in that place in your life where you do feel just completely alone and stuck and deep in the quagmire of what it is to be healing. Finding other people who are in this journey with you is a foundational cornerstone to growth. It's a foundational cornerstone to healing. It's the foundational cornerstone to being able to learn, to heal and love yourself. You don't have to go through this alone, but nobody's gonna come knock on your door and say, Hey, do you need support? Nobody's going to send you a message in skywriting and say, hey, I know Tom, Sally, Mary, Carolyn, Bill, Steve. I know you need it. We're here for you. You've got to be willing to go and seek that for yourself. And that is difficult and uncomfortable, and it can be ugly sometimes because you're going to have to let down your walls. You're going to have to be willing to be vulnerable. And a lot of times in that space of vulnerability, the very thing that happens is we say, well, I need help, but I don't want to put myself in a position to get hurt so, I'm not going to go and seek help. And the reason why that's dangerous is because when you do that and when you put yourself in that position, what inevitably will happen is that you will have walls up that are so high, that when it's time to actually step in, you have disallowed yourself from the ability to feel because you've already predetermined.

And so, letting down your guard, having the willingness to step into and through vulnerability is ultimately going to be the most powerful thing that you can do for yourself.

I created Think Unbroken Academy, that's at thinkunbrokenacademy.com. We created the Think Unbroken Podcast. We've done all of this in the hopes that we can give you the support that you need.

And, you know, these are the four things that I did. You know, when I walked into group therapy, when I walked into AA, when I walked into adult survivors’ groups, it was like, somebody here has got to understand what the hell's going on in my life. It can't just be me out here by myself constantly being destroyed like there's gotta be something to this. And the very thing that I discovered in that was true.

And so, my hope is my friend that you will take these four ways and you will step into them in a deeper capacity so that you can start to connect with yourself at a new beautiful and transformative way.

Also please join us at thinkunbrokenacademy.com so that you can find communities, so you can find support.

And Until Next Time.

My friends, Be Unbroken.

I'll see you.

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Michael Unbroken

Coach

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