In this episode, our amazing guests TL Durand, Sondra Shannon, Gloria Zhang, and Stephanie M. Hutchins,...
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In this episode, our amazing guests TL Durand, Sondra Shannon, Gloria Zhang, and Stephanie M. Hutchins, Ph.D., will talk about how to start your healing journey from abuse and trauma.
You must watch this episode if you or a loved one has suffered trauma or is in a codependent relationship or if your family is struggling because of trauma and unhealthy patterns in your relationships.
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TL Durand - How to Overcome Emotional Abuse
Michael: And you talked about that leap of faith, what advice or thoughts do you have around people who are listening and they need to have that leap of faith that they've contemplated, they've been in pre contemplation, they're a decision away from action because one of the things that I fear the most is that, you know, another person in a relationship or another child comes and exists in a childhood like I had where it's hyper volatile and incredibly dangerous and you get hospitalized in all those. And I think to myself, like if I were to give someone a piece of advice here, what would it be? What is something that you believe can help somebody take that leap?
TL: My best advice for that would be to realize that you have people that will help you. We feel isolated usually I felt so isolated like I couldn't trust anybody and you have to trust that somebody is gonna be there for you. And especially when you're not in a physically abusive relationship, like nobody knew what I was going through and I had to reach out to people and tell them what was going on. We try to keep it a secret, you know, we feel ashamed, we feel guilt and narcissists, especially are really good at making you feel that way. Like you have to trust in the people that you used to trust in. So, family and friends, I would say that would be my best advice is you have to be vulnerable and you have to, which is so hard to do because the narcissist takes your vulnerability and they just brutalize you with like just use it against you in every way. And you have to maybe remember back before you were in that relationship, like who were your go-to people back then? Because now you're not the same person you were back then, but you want to, you know, those are the people who are gonna be there for you now. So that would be my best advice is, think about, you know, who were my go-to people before this happened. And can I go to them now? I have to put myself out there to get out of this situation that I'm in right now, because otherwise it's never gonna change.
Michael: And I'll have to say this, that the people around you will help you. And I think that a lot of people fear that they won't get into your point about being in isolation is people think, well, nobody's gonna be able to help me, they don't get it, they don't understand. And I'm like people get it. Like the one truth, I know probably more so about the human experience than anything is that the people around you want to help you, they want to see you succeed, they want to get you out of these kinds of experiences. And a lot of times they'll give you a couch or money or a car, whatever it is to help you get out of that because innately I do and inherently, I do believe that people are good just unfortunately, sometimes there's an extreme circumstance that we get in. So, you're in this moment, you're in the U-Haul you call your friend what's next? Cause I think this is kind of the pendulum swing, right?
TL: It really was. I would say that I wouldn't say that was the hardest day of my life though honestly, there was a moment, probably nine months before that, where I suddenly realized that he's never gonna change and that was my lowest point. And it was like three months after we got married, I realized he was never gonna change. But in that moment, the moving out moment, honestly, I can't remember much from that day, I was in such, just shock, disbelief, you know, it's almost like an external body experience, right? Like I'm just going through the motions. I get the U-Haul to the house, he knows I'm moving out, he keeps every room that we're in, he keeps coming into that room and just standing in the doorway, just standing there watching me. And I had to go, I had to take boxes and just start in one corner of each room and just go around and start throwing stuff in boxes. And I was so detached from all of that, just there was no emotion, there were no emotions that day, I just, I was very task oriented, I have to get these things done. And by the end of the day, you know, my body was exhausted and my mind was numb and I just collapsed into my new house, I just collapsed and just cried for probably six hours, honestly. And my phone was blowing up. Right. Because the whole time I'm moving out, he’s texting and calling everybody I know, my family, my friends, he's calling everybody. I know to tell them that I'm leaving him and he doesn't know why. So, not only am I trying to get through the day and get my stuff done and moved my daughter's there with her boyfriend, trying to get their stuff done, my phone is blowing up with family and friends. He's hovering over me like this whole day is just it is so exhausting and the next day was so exhausting, I couldn't even start unpacking, I just laid in bed most of the day.
Michael: You know, what came to mind is I feel like, and I don't know, I wasn't there so this is why I'm asking you the question. This must have been to some extent, a sense of relief and if it was, where does the healing journey start in this?
TL: The day after was a bit of a relief and then, so I moved out on a Friday. Saturday was a bit of a relief, you know, I kind of relaxed and just, like I said, stayed in bed and thought about what I was gonna do next. I was starting a new job on Monday ‘cuz when I moved out, I didn't have a job, we owned a business together and he was keeping the business and I had to go get a job. And then Sunday rolls around and I started unpacking things and feeling really good and all excited for my job the next day and it was probably four or five days after I actually moved out that I thought, holy shit, what did I just do? How am I ever gonna survive without him? And how am I gonna do this? I was trying to think of, you know, the reality of it and I wasn't making very much money, I didn't know how I was gonna afford rent, you know, like I was good for one month, but what happens when bills come due next month? And so, I started to miss him, I started to question my decision and now, you know, he's contacting me, he wants to know if what he did wrong, what he can do to make it right, he's doing the whole love bombing thing, trying to get me to come back to him. And this cycle just goes on for months honestly, I would go talk to him and try to work things out. We're married, you know, maybe if we live in separate houses, but we still see each other, everything's gonna be okay, we can work it out and it took two and a half or three years actually, before all of that stopped. And I finally started my healing journey and realized who he really was.
So, the healing by any means, didn't start when I moved out that you can't just get out of a toxic relationship, you know, there was so many ups and downs and so many things that happened in the two years after I moved out. And yeah, it was probably, three years after I moved out before my healing actually started.
Sondra Shannon - Use your trauma to TRIUMPH
Michael: What do you think, is there something that you can point to that is, I don't wanna necessarily use the word practical, but the word practical comes to mind, was there something practical in this journey that helped you step into the ability of trusting yourself? Or was it just like, fuck it, what do I have to lose? Cause for me, I learned how to trust myself from being like, fuck it. What do I have to lose?
Sondra: I think there was definitely an element of what do I have to lose? Cuz like, you know, it was surreal sometimes being in this position where you know, I didn't really know what to do a lot of the time, but I was learning on the job. So, there was a little bit of that, but then there was also that part of me that, you know, I really loved myself. I learned to love myself, you know, because of that, going back to that self-esteem piece, I had decided I was going to have high self-esteem. And when I realized that that meant self-love, you know, that even that's a difficult journey because I'll tell you, I had a lot of people tell me, you're conceded or whatever that looks like. And it's like, no, I've never looked at what another person had and been jealous or upset with them. I'm like, awesome, how do I get that? I was like, how do I do that? Like, I just need to learn, you know, I'm very happy for that person.
Michael: I wanna rewind real quick. Cause I think this would be really empowering for people listening. When you were navigating self-love self-esteem what made you realize like one equals the other and what was the process of, you said you chose to learn how to love yourself and to love yourself? What did that process look like? Cuz I think like people are so fucking stuck in not doing that.
Sondra: I think you're right. I think a lot of people are stuck in not doing that, but I mean, I think it was a little bit of an evolution. When I think back at like how I was in those special ed classes and when I would see somebody struggling, I would try to help them. And I started realizing that I felt really good about myself doing that because now they're feeling better about themselves. And so, it was a little bit of in the early stages, and I heard, I don't know if there's like a quote or a study. I read something one time that said something that, you know, the happiest people are not the people who have the most, they're the people that give the most. I didn't know that back then, but, you know, looking back, I can see how that did benefit me. I found a lot of happiness and love for myself in just being giving of myself and I still today. I mean, I think if you hang around with me, you'll know that, I'll do anything for the people around me so long as there're not like taken me down because that was a boundary I had to learn later in life. Right. There are some people you can't help, and that's a whole other thing.
Michael: Let's talk about that because I think that matters because, you know, I have this thought, you know, and this might have come from Grant Cardone and implanted it in my brain, but he said one time, like Mother Theresa flew around on private jets and I was like, that's such a fascinating point because you're able to still give and have this amazing, powerful, beautiful life giving does not equal taking away from yourself. And I think so many people feel like, well, if I want to give, if I want to help the world, if I wanna make a betterment of my environment, that means I have to sacrifice. I have to be poor. I have to like be all these things, but I've come to discover that's not true at all. Like you can be successful in life and give and not have to sacrifice and be poor in all those things. But in that process, something that you just pointed to that I think is incredibly profound and important is recognizing that sometimes people are gonna try to take you down with them. What does that look like and how do you navigate that?
Sondra: I think for me, it's always showed up as some sort of like, negative being put towards me. Right. So, somebody saying, oh, well that self-love looks like it's conceded, so, they always try to spin it in that way or, you know, I'm trying to think of the best way to answer this, that you wanna know what helping somebody who doesn't wanna be helped look like. And I think for me, a lot of times it just shows up as somebody who's not changing. You know, I give a lot of business advice to people today I mean, a lot of people come to me. Just to give some perspective to your audience, you know, I've worked with over 800 businesses in 16 countries grow scale, their businesses create alignments with their team because one of the things that I realized at gate master early on was if I don't help these people with their businesses, this product's not gonna be successful because it was such a new product or idea. I mean, point of sale wasn't even really a thing, people were still using Casios we were going and replacing these old Casio cash registers with software. And a lot of these people didn't know how to use software, but then in addition to that, they didn't know how to run their businesses.
So, now today, a lot of people because of that experience, I mean, I went to 800 locations in 16 countries, when I say that I've worked with many more businesses than that I've lost count at this point. But when a lot of people come to me looking for business advice, you know, there comes a point where it's like either they gotta do it or they're not gonna do it and I can't waste my time anymore. Right. Because it's their goal, I try to help people find clarity on their goal because it's an important, I think another important step that maybe, I didn't talk about here, but you know, for me, and part of the reason I go by big goal is because having these big goals out there in the future really did help me stay the course, even when I doubted myself, I just kind of knew where I wanted to, I knew I wanted. I bought my first house, I knew I wanted a second house someday, and next time it was gonna be bigger. Right. And actually, when I married Jake, he bought our first house. I bought our second house. You know what I mean? And it was just this fun game that we've always kind of done together is what can we do together and build together. But having these big goals out there really kept me on the course. And so, I try to help people figure out what their goals are, but there comes a point with a lot of people where they give up on themselves, they give up on their goals, you know, and I have to be like, this is your goal, not mine. I gotta kind of back off of putting in my time, energy and resources into helping you achieve your goals. And to me, that's what that looks like now, right? I mean, I don't really surround myself with people who aren't driven. I just can't because there's only so much time, you know, when we look at our lives and what we wanna accomplish, I'm not trying to cut anybody out for any, because I don't love people, I love everybody. I mean, I can't even think of a person I don't like really, you know, and I mean that sincerely, but I know that I only have so much time. I mean, I've been with gate master for 20 years, that's a long time to do something. I became CEO in 2010 and when I arrived there, I thought this is awesome. You know what I mean? Like I'm a CEO now. I became a CEO, you know, there's some interesting statistics in tech, you know, only about 26%, I think actually it's 24% are women in tech, maybe 15% of females get to be tech CEOs, but the amount of women exiting tech is 45 times higher than men, that's a lot. So, that also once I became a CEO, I became a mission of like, I've gotta hang in here, I've gotta hang in here. I have a lot to prove now.
Gloria Zhang - Finding LOVE after trauma
Michael: In that one of the things that I'm curious about is, you know, there are people who, right now they're starting to maybe and even just listening to this for the first time, have this moment of clarity and think, oh wow, maybe there is some symbiosis between this experience in childhood and this person I'm in a relationship with. For me, like having a moment of recognition about this was kind of like literally an epiphany. It was like a holy shit moment, but how can somebody note was that the same for you? I'm trying to like draw a path for people to create a foundational understanding of being able to recognize whether or not they may be in a similar situation as what we used to be it.
Gloria: Yeah, totally. Well, for those starting off who might just be learning about this for the first time, there's always one tip that I find very helpful to share with folks and it's to look at the relationship you're currently in, or look at past relationships and to actually identify how is it that the other person makes me feel, right? How do I actually feel when I'm around this person? And I've gotten a range of different answers of, I feel unimportant to all these people I date, I never feel like I get enough attention, I never feel like I'm enough or I feel like I'm too much, I feel like I can't commit to them. Right? There's always some common denominator of the way that you actually feel in that relationship. And then to tie that feeling with someone from your past, who also made you feel the same way, and I can almost guarantee you, there's gonna be a clear connection that comes up for you. That it's probably mom or dad or someone who raised you or someone from your past, that was a very important relationship for you.
Michael: And when you're in that, I think that can be super unsettling for people. I think predominantly if it's the first time you've come to that realization and you're like, for me, I was like, oh my God, this is like the worst moment of my life cause I was like, what is happening right now? And you kind of actually kind of realize, like you're also playing a factor and a role in that and I think that there's a level of reconciliation that has to happen. And so, you know, one of the things that you mentioned is you're like, all right, I'm in this place, I'm super successful, I'm a high performer and I'm gonna make this a personal statement. I resonate with that tremendously because that's where I was, super successful, high performer relationships, disaster. And I'm like, same as you hopeless, romantic, seeking, hoping, praying somebody be that, fix that thing to fill my cup. How do you like reconcile the fact that like here I am super successful, but this one thing that maybe probably should matter more is a complete wreck?
Gloria: Yeah. Oh gosh. I'm getting flashbacks to years ago but you know, I will tell you something about this. One thing I think is really important to mention is being good at relationships it's not this, you know, elusive, random thing that only happens to lucky people. And I think that when we grow up with all of these very dysfunctional examples, it's really easy to believe that. It's easy to believe this scarcity, you know, these are false narratives that there are so few good people out there, or there's no one out there for me and we kind of get stuck in these narratives and it can make relationships feel very random. Like it's not possible for you, but it's just a skill like everything else. Like if you're an entrepreneur you didn't just build a business by like guesswork, right? Like you actually had to implement skills and pull it together. But becoming securely attached is also a skill too, these are things that we can actually learn when it comes to regulating your triggers and relationships, managing the connection, finding the right people. But you know what, Michael, I think what I'll say to that is taking responsibility in your choices in these relationships is probably the first step. I mean, I know you know this, but to those people listening, I mean, I was at a point where I was just blaming everyone else. Right. I was thinking, well, this guy sucks, that person sucks. Right. And I was always putting the blame on them like they were the toxic ones, not me, not me. I'm over here, you know, crushing it. I'm a boss, babe. Right? You know, like I was avoiding personal responsibility. But the fact was, there was only one comment denominator in all these relationships. It was me, right? Like I was choosing to go on these dates with people. I was the one choosing to stay for 12 fricking months with someone that didn't wanna call me his girlfriend. You know, at that point there, I couldn't even blame him anymore, it was just, I was the one that was allowing it to happen. Damn that gutted me, right? To realize that, wow, maybe I have a part to play in this as well. I saw a smile on your face, maybe you felt that way before too. So, I think taking radical responsibility for your journey and what you want and what you truly deserve in relationships has to come first before we're even ready to talk about the strategic and the healing piece.
Michael: Yeah. And I'm smiling because I'm like, yeah, take fucking responsibility for your life. And it's hard because it's so much of the causation and correlation where you find yourself effectively building a life that you had already once lived because it's comfortable. I mean, what's more comfortable than known experiences and until you're willing to face the other side of that, and the discomfort in this context is like, empathy and compassion and grace and love and acceptance and being claimed, right? Like what's more scary than that I've never had that before, so I'm going to shy away from it. But even in that moment of like, for lack of a better term, this coming to Jesus experience where you're like, oh shit, wait a second, this is on me. I feel that one of two things typically happens. One being people go, all right, well, this is just acceptance. This is what I deserve. This is what I'll continue to have. Sand's a rock bottom potentially. Right. And the other being like, I'm gonna destroy myself. I deserve this. I'm a piece of shit. How do you step through that space?
Gloria: Oh, that's such a good nuance question. I've never heard anyone ask it quite like that before, because you're totally right. I think, you know, as the high achiever we we're so good at polarizing things and either going this way or the other way. Right. So, I really believe it's about finding that middle balance. I mean, the reason intimate relationships are so hard for, you know, people like me are we feel safe in our professional life because that's where we've established our authority, but we don't feel safe with this relationship stuff, cuz it's totally new to us. But when it comes to taking responsibility and not having it go through this downward spiral. Now one half, I think it's really important to be in a community or work with someone that can show you what it's like on the other side because, how do you if I've never seen what a healthy relationship looks like, I have no point of reference to even get there. So, you know, whether it's therapy or working with a coach or even reading a book, I think having some sort of external guidance is always very helpful when you're going somewhere that you've never been to before. But combining that radical responsibility with compassion and self-compassion, I think is the sweet spot.
So, it's not only this, oh, it's all my fault. Right? Like I made all these choices, like I'm the toxic one, but we have to pair that with the understanding of why we have made those choices. I wasn't a bad person for choosing these people. It was because that's all I've ever known. I didn't know any better, I thought I was dating people that on paper would've been good matches for me, but I was not in connection with my body. I didn't know what my type should be based on my attachment style. Right? And so, I was just repeating wounds. And so, when we do make mistakes, I think it's super important to take responsibility for our own options, but also pair that with that unconditional self-compassion as well so that we're not just beating ourselves up.
Stephanie M. Hutchins, Ph.D. - Transformation after trauma
Michael: How does one start to tap into awareness when the only thing that we've ever known or understood is that following our intuition leads to ramifications, thus, as a defensive mechanism, we've learned to stop listening to ourselves?
Stephanie: One thing that has helped me immensely, and I still do it today is because the thoughts in my head were very self-destructive for a long time, I needed to start putting different words into my head, different voices into my head than my own. And so, what I did in that, like the, when I did reach that tipping point and I decided to pivot and become healthy or become healthier is I had to start having a voice in my head that was again different than my own. So, that's where listening to personal development audio, whether it used to be CDs, whether now its podcast and YouTube and audiobooks. But that having that different person in my ear that was infusing positive energy, positive thoughts, and reminded me that I was worth taking care of, that is what helped me to start making incremental changes. And some of those in the earliest changes I made to start taking care of myself were some of the hardest, like starting to brush my teeth and bathe regularly were really hard for me because I didn't feel I deserved even like deserving of that basic self-care. So, because my inner voice was telling me I wasn't deserving, I needed somebody else to interject in that. I guess just story I had going through my head and I needed them to input a different story. And so, that's why, and even today I'm constantly listening to podcasts and audiobooks because they help remind me of where I'm heading and where I wanna be and make sure that I'm on the right path. And so, I encourage anyone that's, you know, in those very low moments and it's really hard to even figure out how to get through the day is to work on, on interjecting new energy and new input.
Michael: Yeah. I respect that and I believe that's totally practical. Right. And, from the outside looking in, if someone's in the beginning of this journey, and they're not sure about this, and even myself, I used to look at guys like Tony Rams, I'm like this guy's full of shit. Right. And that's because what I was afraid of was recognizing the potential that I had within myself to create the life that I wanted to have. And in that process, I came to the understanding that self-talk is everything in this game. There are people right now saying things, and I said things to myself that you would get arrested for, or you get punched in the face and it's incredible to me to think about the power of reframing that talk in my own personal life. And I've come to the understanding and belief that what you think is what you speak, what you speak becomes your action, your action become your reality. Talk to me about the pivot and the journey and more so the way you used to talk to yourself versus the way you talk to yourself now.
Stephanie: Oh. Yeah. So, in NLP reframing is a very important technique with us and I've used reframing through much of my healing journey. So, when I reach that pivot that tipping point and decide to pivot, I had to figure out like I was immensely overweight. And so, I had to figure out like, how was I gonna start taking care of myself? And I had to start getting out of my home that was part of my issue was I was staying in my home all the time. And so, I decided to start being around other people, and I started getting together with meetup groups and in walking groups and hiking groups and with being morbidly obese, anytime we walked up, even just a little hill, I felt like I was climbing Mount Everest, I was so outta shape. But something interesting started to happen as I started hiking, I started to see that I got stronger with each hike, like physically I was stronger and something else started to happen because I was so overweight and each hike was hard. I had to mentally work through that difficulty to keep going during the hike and not give up.
And so, after each hike, even if it was a short hike, I would have to look at it and I would say I would look at it and be like, I didn't think I could do that, I didn't think I could finish, but I did. And so, what it started showing me is I was actually stronger than I gave myself credit for. I didn't think that I was strong enough to make it through my traumas, I didn't think I was strong enough to get through everything on my own, especially after my ex died. I didn't think I could go on. But as I started to progressed through higher mountains and longer climbs, I started to prove to myself that I was strong and that is where I could start reframing the story that I was telling about myself, the belief I had about myself is that instead of looking at all that I had lost from my traumas. I started to look at what I had gained from them.
You know, I started to look at the strength and resiliency, it took for me to stay standing with each progressive, you know, stronger blow that life threw at me. And that was really important for me and still today, reframing is very significant that I look at any setback I still have today and I look, I shifted and I looked at what is the positive in it. It's really been transformative for me.
Michael: Yeah, that that's beautiful. There's so much power in that because when you control the way that you talk to yourself, but also understand that you have to develop resilience in that and resiliency in that, to be able to step into it time and time again, and understand the power of that. And while you're in this position of like being in nature and seeing the world and seeing trees and mountains and things like that. Like you must have absorbed that environment and saw something powerful in it. Did you feel like being in nature was a part of this journey for you?
Stephanie: Oh, absolutely. So, part of my background is that, I was a biology professor for 12 years. And so, I love everything science and so being in nature, what was really interesting for me is I started to notice examples of resilience in nature. I started to pay attention to how trees would navigate, navigate around rocks like obstacles like rocks and how their root systems would allow them to stay anchored even though they were trying to get over this rock and how they would bend to reach the sunlight and how they would just make it work and no matter what they would bend and turn. And I started to see, like, because I know that all living organisms’ certain things in common if trees and other plant life and animals can exhibit resilience in nature. I start to see and remind myself that that same resiliency is possible in me. So, if something that can't get up and move around, like a tree can figure out how to get around an obstacle and still not only survive but thrive in an environment I could do that as well. So, seeing that resiliency in nature was very therapeutic for me, but it was also, I think, therapeutic in that, just getting outta my home, but also like,it just being in nature, opens up possibilities in your mind. And I can't say enough and even today I still hike at least once a week because being in nature is just so helpful to me and it's part of my spiritual practice.
Stephanie M. Hutchins, Ph.D., author of Transformation After Trauma: Embracing Post-Traumatic Growth, helps individuals overcome trauma and cope with stress. She is a Certified Life Coach, Stress Management Coach, Neuro-Linguistic Programming Practitioner, and Yoga Instructor. She also owns Serotinous Life, a company that helps individuals overcome stressful and traumatic events.
Gloria Zhang helps High Achievers break patterns of toxic relationships and attract the love of their lives through Inner Child Healing. Gloria is a Registered Psychotherapist and Inner Child Coach based out of Canada, and host of Top 100 mental health show The Inner Child Podcast. Her work on anxiety, childhood trauma, and relationships has been featured in articles such as Toronto Star.
Born and raised a country girl from the Midwest, TL Durand led a fairly simple life – a mother, wife and accountant. A move from peaceful country life to the big city changed everything.
Suddenly a single mother, TL found herself not only struggling with the immense heartbreak but facing bankruptcy and the loss of everything she worked for her whole life. She and her youngest daughter spent the next nine months living with her mother while she got back on her feet. Then, within a few short months, she met the man who would change her life but not in the way she’d hoped.
Toxik chronicles her relationship with Kristopher, a malignant narcissist, whose emotional abuse nearly destroyed her.
Sondra started out originally as a Gatemaster client operating an the late 90’s. She worked in Gatemaster’s training department traveling the world assisting clients in opening new facilities, then moving to sales and now Gatemaster CEO. Sondra has been crucial to Gatemaster’s growth as chief executive officer. She prides herself upon bringing her core values of integrity, clarity, and prosperity in the business and software development culture at Gatemaster.