In this episode, I talk to Michele Rosenthal to look at the neuroscience behind relationship beliefs and ways to create breakthroughs.
Connect with Michele Rosenthal:
Heather: Hello Michelle. I’m here today with Michelle Rosenthal and she is an amazing woman and I think you’re really going to enjoy what we’re gonna cover, which is the neuroscience behind your relationship beliefs, the blocks, and most importantly, how to create some breakthroughs. Let me tell you a little bit about Michelle. She’s a trauma recovery specialist, an award-winning trauma and PTSD blogger. Now PTSD is post-traumatic stress disorder. She’s an award-winning and nominated author of multiple trauma PTSD recovery books, popular keynote speaker and a workshop seminar leader as well. She’s a certified professional coach, hypnotist and licensed master practitioner of neurolinguistic programming. For many years, she hosted a radio program and podcast series dedicated to interviewing top experts in the fields of trauma, psychology, neurobiology, and recovery. She’s a trauma and PTSD survivor herself, and she struggled with PTSD for almost 30 years. She affectionately calls her recovery process a healing rampage and it worked. Michelle achieved a hundred percent recovery. Really pleased for you though, Michelle, really pleased.
Michele: Thank you so much, Heather. It was a journey to be sure, but a rampage is a really useful thing in healing.
Heather: Yes absolutely. But you’ve got that supercharge really to get you through, haven’t you?
Michele: Well, I think it’s self manifested, you know, it’s that desire to be free, it’s that desire to be different. It’s that desire to stop living this dysregulated life that feels out of your control. And so I think the rampage comes from, I’ve had enough of this, and there’s a moment where you just sort of flip into that and leading up to it. I think it comes from a desire, it’s just this deep seated desire for things to be different. And you know, I always see it as there are sort of four stages of trauma recovery. So Heather, I’m just sort of diving in here. Is that okay?
Heather: Please carry on. Okay,
Michele: So there’s four stages of trauma recovery. So Stage One, you don’t even know you’re a trauma survivor. You just know that life does not feel good. And I think the biggest problem in that stage and it’s global is nobody teaches us what trauma is. So I think it’s really useful to start our conversation from that space of defining trauma. Literally the baseline definition of trauma is any experience that feels less than good. Now that’s not my theory. That is in the psychological canon, the definition. So when you think of that, we are all trauma survivors, but nobody explains to us the nature of experience. So in that stage one of trauma recovery, you’re totally unaware that there’s a context and a reason for why you can’t sleep, why your jittery, why your hyper aroused, why your mood swings shift faster than Florida weather. And I am in Florida and I can tell you in one moment it can be pouring down rain and on the other side of the black sky , it is gorgeous sun.
When your moods shift that quickly, it’s hard to keep up and you know, an inability to manage your thoughts, whether they keep going back to whatever it is that happened to you, you just can’t stop thinking about it. Or the flip side of that, which is you can’t go near that topic at all. And just the idea of thinking about it or being in any physical location that reminds you of, it just makes you feel like you’re going to go wild inside. So a lot of us, myself included, live a long time with the effects of trauma, not realizing that those are the effects of trauma. I just thought I was crazy. So that stage one of trauma recovery is an unaware of trauma, but a total awareness that you just are out of control. Yeah. And then stage two is an awareness.
H: I just wondered, before we go to that, if you could just define for me, because I’ve heard you speak about it before about Big T trauma and little T trauma. You might be coming to that later?
M: No, I totally defer to your direction and you’re right. So thank you for calling that out. So if everything is defined as traumas, any experience that feels less than good, you’re right, it’s the right moment to then define trauma because not all trauma is the same. And there are categories of trauma survivors. So big T trauma are those huge life altering experiences that change who you are and how you live and how you relate to yourself, others, and the world. So in that space we can think of childhood, physical abuse, childhood sexual abuse, domestic violence, car accidents, major illness, a parent leaving, all of those big experiences that come as a huge shock and your world changes in an instant. So those are big T trauma and those are the things that we, you know, war, you know, although you know the biggest in the United States anyway, the biggest precursor for post-traumatic stress disorder in the military is not not actually combat itself, it’s what happens in the military rather than in the combat zone. So that’s a whole other story, but just to start calling out what the different elements are.
H: Yeah, and I think that’s a really important point because in terms of relationships, which is partly what we are going to look at today, is that trauma may not be obvious, it may be abuse, but it may be subtle neglect. And like you said, the things that happen in the military, the things that happen in the home. So it may be really something like that your parents weren’t equipped to parent you well, so they didn’t know how to create emotional security or physical security.
M: So, right. And it’s funny that you bring that up. So I first started working in this field in 2009 and one of the first things that I did was go to the trauma conference with Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk in Boston that summer. And I remember feeling such shock at the education that I received there because I had never heard, and he spoke at length about that childhood neglect is one of the major precursors for post-traumatic stress disorder. And I had never thought of that. The fact that something could not happen to you would be as traumatic as the things that actually happen to you. And in that way, what I mean is you could be a child who is not physically, verbally, or emotionally abused, but the effect of not being loved, not being cared for, not being protected was as huge in impact as all the other traumatic physical experiences that children had. So that’s a great point, Heather.
H: Thank you. Okay, I will let you get on to point 2.
M: Yeah. Okay. So point 2. So if stage one of trauma recovery is not being aware, you have trauma. Stage two is being aware you have trauma but not wanting to do anything about it. So you now understand, oh this is trauma. And you know, after my trauma occurred, it took me 17 years to be able to speak the words about my trauma. I just simply could not talk about it without feeling like I was going to go crazy. And literally the picture in my mind was always a straight jacket on me and a padded room. Like I couldn’t contain how I felt about the memory of what had happened. So it took me 17 years to be able to speak about it. So it took 17 years for anyone to put a context on, here’s what happened to you, it’s trauma. And in that moment that was all I could handle.
M: Just the awareness that it was trauma, I was not yet ready to do the work. It took me a solid amount of time to settle with the idea of, oh, this explains a lot and I don’t want to have to do anything about it. I just want to sort of sit in this space. And that can last as long as you decide that it lasts until you’re ready to move into Stage Three where you’re open to getting the work done. You may not be good at it, you may not be really willing to engage in it, but you become open. Because in stage two, while I understood I was a trauma survivor and that explained so much about me and I have people reach out to me who they know that they’re trauma survivors, but they don’t really want to engage. They’re not ready for a formal approach to healing it.
M: And then Stage Three, you’re ready for the formal approach. You get into it, usually you have a therapist, you start talking about it, you start being able to put language to what happened to you, which is extremely useful and empowering. But I find that in Stage Three they want to be on the surface of the work. I literally have clients who say to me, I didn’t cause this trauma, so why do I have to be the one to fix it? And you know, I get that trauma recovery is really hard. I posted on my profile on Facebook recently and on LinkedIn, the very fact that trauma recovery is hard. It’s worse than living with the symptoms and it’s a short term investment that is really, really painful for the long term gain of reclaiming the freedom over who you are and how you live. So that’s what Stage Three is all about. It’s starting to engage in the work but not really being wholly fully invested.
H: Yes. I’m just wondering if you would mind to explain what happened to you, because I’m imagining people will be curious.
M: Sure, absolutely. So when I was 13, I had just run of infections and my doctor was away. So the covering doctor was a little overwhelmed and instead of reading my chart, he just went ahead and prescribed a medication, which had he read my chart unbeknownst to me or my family, my physician had put a note in my chart that he thought I was allergic to a very specific medication. I should not be given that medication. Now, he never told my parents that. So it was only up to a doctor to read the chart and be able to see that. So the covering doctor was busy, he didn’t have time, he just prescribed the medication and I am horribly allergic to it. And it turned me into a full body burn victim almost overnight. And you know, this is 1981 when none of the doctors had seen what was happening.
M: I was immediately put into a teaching hospital and everybody came to look at this freak, you know, that was morphing into this really horrific situation and nobody knew what to do. They didn’t know what it was, they didn’t know how to stop it. Today obviously it’s easier to diagnose because it’s more, you know, there’s Google for example. More people can see what’s happening and immediately these patients are put into an induced coma until this is over. Because once this reaction starts, it does not stop. So after many weeks in a quarantined burn unit room, by the time I got out and I knew that my body changed, yes, do I have scars? Yes. Do I have some lingering conditions that have to be managed? Yes. But overall I’m a totally functional, physically healthy person. The problem was that mentally I had been completely destroyed from the absolute terror of it all and the excruciating pain that, even though I’ve written a memoir about trauma and recovery that covers this aspect of my experience, I still don’t have a words for what it felt like. So that’s the short version.
H: Thank you. I really appreciate you saying that and I’m so sorry that that happened to you.
M: Well I appreciate that Heather. But you know, it’s funny, I was working with a new client yesterday who’s grieving, her daughter was suddenly killed in an accident three weeks ago. And she was saying, I’m a really good person, my daughter was a really good person and I just don’t understand why this would happen. And she kept going over and over what we all ask ourselves as trauma survivors, why? Why me? Why me, why me? And I got stuck there for a while after my trauma. And my mother gave me a book by Rabbi Harold Kushner, maybe you’ve heard of it called “When Bad Things Happen to Good People”. And I was 13 and very adolescent and angry at the time. I remember reading the book and just tossing it across the room because it didn’t really answer the question of why in a way that was satisfying to me.
M: And I was sharing with this client last night, you know that the why question is just an open loop. If you think about like programming for computers, I don’t know if you had to do this, but in high school I took a computer programming class, you know, it was the beginning of the eighties and that was like the new thing. And I remember we had to write if then loops and all this stuff. And the question why me is very much like an if then loop. If you don’t have the right then the if just keeps going around and around in the program until you plug in the right then. And if you’re just missing a period or a comma or a semicolon, you’re in a never ending loop in that program. And, and I see that as being, being very similar to what happens after trauma.
M: There is no good reason why there is just never going to be a satisfying reason for why something horrible happens. And I was talking about this with this client yesterday and in the process of healing, what I see work is just eliminating the why program because it’s an endless loop. Because it is missing information that you can never put, you can’t plug it in. Um, and when we shift from, why me to a very different question. It’s two words, it’s a quick question, but it changes everything. And I’ll share with you what that is and how it, how it really helps relationships actually. Because when you shift from, why me to this one simple question, it’s the shift from looking behind you to looking ahead of you. And when you’re in relation with people, that’s extremely useful. So the question to be asking after trauma and the one that starts to change the neuroscience of your brain, because you start training your brain to look at things differently, the question is not why me?
M: The question is what now? What now, Beautiful? What now? And my client yesterday, immediately her face just was holding so much tension and it softened and she thought about it for a second and she said yes. Because when you say what now? Now you’re asking me to be present. Now you’re asking me to start thinking about where do I go from here? Now you’re asking me to look into my future, which means I have to turn away from the past. And it’s not a turning away in terms of disrespecting the past. It’s honouring and respecting the past and saying, how do I go forward from here? And this client has a boyfriend who adores her, has another child who is still alive, who needs her, has a father who’s widowed, who depends on her and has sisters that are her best friends. So for her to be in relationship with all of these people, it’s crucial for her to start figuring out how to change, how the trauma of losing her daughter is going to encode in her brain and allow her to continue to live forward rather than get stuck in this moment.
H: Yeah, I’m loving this. It fits so well with what we do in Conscious Uncoupling and Calling in The One because we look at the meaning people make of the past. And there is always a wish on a sort of primitive level to have some control. And if you can see the reasons and make sense of it, then it gives you a sense of control, which may or may not be useful. But the process that you are talking about is healthy control in the present. Yes. Cause I’m thinking, you know, we may make sense of something bad that’s happened in the past by saying it must be because I’m a bad person or I’m unlovable. Which is not useful. It’s not useful. And if you use that as the premise from which you make all your relationships in the future, then you’re going to be at a real disadvantage. But if you are holding this in the present and sort of saying, actually it’s not about me being a bad person. That’s the sense I made a bit. And what can I do with my life now it’s even better. Much, much better!
M: And to bring it even more into the space of relationships, I’ll share a quick story. I have a client who was abused as a child and he grew up with the traumatic imprint of it’s dangerous when people are nice to you, it’s dangerous when people are kind to you. His mother was abusive and his stepfather was abusive. And it always came after they would lure him into relationship with them as a child. Now like 9, 10, 14, whatever it was, they would lure him into a sense of everything’s okay, you can trust me, whatever it was. And then the next thing you knew he was being beaten to within an inch of his life. And so as a 60 year old man, now he’s really struggling having relationships, right? Because if somebody’s nice, he immediately starts to dissociate. He feels so afraid, so uncomfortable.
M: So it’s, you know, he has two ex-wives because he wasn’t able to maintain those relationships and now he’s single and wanting to date and finding it very difficult, even down to the point that he goes to the same diner every evening for dinner. And it’s not like he’s friendly and outgoing, but he had a comfortable relationship with the waitress who served him night after night after night because he always ordered a slice of cherry pie for dessert. One night she brought the cherry pie before he had ordered it and she was just anticipating him and okay, okay, he didn’t think anything of it. But then when the bill came, the cherry pie was not on the bill and he said to her, you forgot to put the cherry pie on the bill, so please revise this.
M: And she said, no, it’s my gift to you. I just wanted to give it to you tonight. You’re here every night. I just wanted to give it to you. And he didn’t go back to the diner for months because it made him so uncomfortable that this woman was nice to him and it had nothing to do with gender, it was just the kind act. And it’s taken him a lot of work to be able to go back and you know. The pandemic came at a good time for him to do that work and then be able to go back now that things are open and to accept the kindness and generosity of someone with a feeling of safety. So you can see how trauma encodes and embeds with the meaning that you’re talking about and then expands out into different types of our relationships and really hijacks what they can be because of their encoding that becomes just a reflex.
H: Yes, absolutely.
M: So just before we move on, I just want to say the fourth stage of trauma recovery is when you get to that moment where you decide to go all in. And that’s the rampage moment when you decide, I’ve gone from unaware to awareness. I’ve gone from not wanting to have to do the work to realizing I am the work. And it’s that moment of going all in and saying, I’m going all the way or however far you want to go because not everybody wants to heal all the way I did, but I respect that other people don’t. But it’s that moment that you decide I’m all in for as far as I want to go. And that’s stage four. And that’s the moment that the rampage can really get lit and give you the momentum to succeed. And that’s an exciting journey point.
H: Yeah. And it’s when the pain of not doing it is worse than the pain of doing it.
M: Yeah, that’s true. Yes. And I think there’s two ways to look at it. It’s when the pain or the fear, you know, it’s the pain of not doing it is greater than the fear of doing it or it’s the fear of living that way. A moment too long is, you know, greater than the fear of what it’s going to take to do this. And just because I like to sort of flip things around, I think it’s also that moment when the desire to be free is more overwhelming and encompassing than any pain or fear could ever hope to be.
H: Yeah. The lights come on and the hope is there. Yeah, absolutely. I see that quite often, particularly in Conscious Uncoupling actually when people have been in relationships that have not been healthy for them, they sort of see the light and they really go for it.
M: Yeah. So I have a question for you then. So, with Conscious Uncoupling, how does that work in relationship with trauma survivors who are both alcoholics and really aware, they’re in this dysfunctional, toxic relationship and so they keep triggering each other and they go round and around and really push each other to the extremes of their addiction. And then how does one apply Conscious Uncoupling in that situation?
H: I think actually if people are in heavy addiction, it’s very hard to do this sort of work. It’s an active addiction. You know, they may be alcoholic but dry and in recovery, in which case they could do Conscious Uncoupling. Sometimes, I work with two people together and sometimes I work with one part of the couple. A sister coach or a brother coach may work with the other half of the couple so that they can do their work without retriggering each other, but we can bring them together in the Step Four of it for a clearing of the air where they look at their own role in everything, their own contribution, the meanings that they’ve made of their early life and what that brings to their relationship, how it’s made them behave in the relationship and the effect that it may have had on the other person, which may well have triggered bad behaviour back. So, we go through all of that and acknowledge that in the Step Four as a sort of resolution and a setting up of a new way of being, new ways of communicating new respect and a greater steadiness and sanity.
M: That makes sense. Really interesting because I think that with trauma, you mentioned control earlier, and I do think, you know, all trauma survivors need two basic things, and that’s safety and control. And sometimes we put in place control mechanisms that are really powerful and positive and healthy. And sometimes we put in place control mechanisms that are the antithesis of that. And it’s realising that we’ve done that and how that impacts our relationships that can be so freeing. I had a client whose parents had a very toxic, dysfunctional relationship. The father was a narcissistic abuser and the mother was a perpetual victim. And what this client grew up witnessing in this relationship was really awful and gave her an image of what a relationship is that, you know, in her world it was that as a woman you had to take abuse, you were always the victim and that you could stand up for yourself, but you were always wrong because in narcissistic relationships you are always wrong.
M: So she grew up and for a long time did not want love, did not want to be in a relationship because that was her only vision of what a relationship could be. And she didn’t like it. It wasn’t that she was single, but she would always choose men to date that she knew on the first date all the reasons she would leave them. She just didn’t know when she would do it. And then at a certain point she would jump ship because she already knew she was going to leave. And when it was no longer serving her, she would jump ship. So this went on for years and she was in her early thirties by the time she actually allowed herself to rethink, you know, is there another way to be? And ironically enough, although I’m sure you see this in your work all the time, she opened herself to relationship with a narcissist.
H: Yes, understandably.
M: And you know, she got into this relationship, ended up living with him, being verbally and emotionally abused day after day after day and convinced herself because you know, the flip side of narcissistic abuse is they’re grandiose, right? So all this love that they shower on you in their manipulative language and the flowery words and their promises create a lot of romance. In those particular moments that is deceiving. So for a year she lived with this man in this abusive relationship. And the whole time you talk about trauma and how it encodes the whole time she was in that relationship, she was making the excuse to herself, this is what love really is, because this is what she had seen her mother do. And she felt so grown up, so mature that she had finally learned and understood how to be in relationship with someone and withstand the relationship in a mature way because that is what her mother had modelled. And so she felt like she was doing the right thing.
H: That’s so sad, it make me gasp.
M: I’m sorry.
H: I’m glad she found you.
M: Yes, because it was starting to feel so bad. And then I’m sure in the work you do, this is part of it, right? It’s realising what the patterns are that are intergenerational and you have picked up somebody else’s trauma and made it your own and now you are living that trauma perspective that was never yours to begin with. That’s, you know, partly the function of intergenerational trauma and how things get handed down because from the ages of zero to six particularly, but then, you know, all the way through adolescence we’re modelling what’s around us. And you know, the happy news is that she finally got out of that relationship and she’s married now, this is a while ago. She’s married to a really great guy who just adores her and she’s so happy. And so the antithesis of what she witnessed in the trauma of her parents’ relationship and she is so far beyond the impact that it originally had on her.
H: That’s beautiful work. Beautiful work. You’re absolutely right. You know, the piece that I do in Calling in The One really looks at the patterns in the parental relationship and beliefs that come from the broader family background. Sometimes, it goes back many generations and that that is quite surprising. But real, you know,
M: Well it is real. And you know, I don’t know how you feel about all the different realms, but in the work that I do, you can see, well let’s just start with the physical. Genetically trauma affects your genes and we know this from epigenetic research. Trauma turns on certain genes and turns off others. And so you’re literally, your genes are imprinted with the experiences of your parents. And so there’s that. There’s also whatever trauma happens to your mother while you’re in the womb, whether that’s emotional, physical, spiritual, mental, whatever it is. So that’s the physical side of things, the biological side. But then we also know that emotional and mental stress and trauma changes your physical chemistry. So you can literally be in utero with high, high doses of adrenaline running through you, for example. And you’re almost are born “addicted” to that high stress state.
M: And of course there’s the spiritual element of things where you are connected energetically to the people that came before you. And I don’t do past life regression in my practice, but I am a hypnotist. And so in the community in which I operate, there are colleagues who work with that kind of stuff and literally can trace back through the generations that energy that’s handed down trauma to trauma, to trauma generation to generations. So, you know, whether you’re into the energy field and the quantum level of things, or you’re just liking the science of the physiological biological imprint, either way, intergenerational trauma gets handed down very significantly.
H: Yeah. If I look at my own family, my parents both came from very military backgrounds. My mother’s father was in the horse guards and my father’s father was in the Merchant Navy and through the wars and they lived in Hull in the war. So by the time they actually came to try and start a family, they’d been bombed, you know? Members of the family had been lost. Yeah. The women further back were both sort of disowned. So there’s a huge amount of stuff that has come through me to be healed in this lifetime for me. And it really makes a total sense.
H: It’s really valuable to know that, so that you can separate out what actually is me and what is in inheritance.
M: That’s right. And you make a really great point there, because I think one of the biggest problems with trauma is what’s me? You know, what’s my fault? What I’m to blame for? This is who I am. It becomes an identity crisis, a real identity crisis of what defines you and more importantly how you define yourself. And I find that when we start understanding we are not at fault for the impact of trauma, neurologically, physiologically, biologically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, in all these ways, this is something that happens to us for which we are not prepared. I watch my nephew now, he’s seven, so he is in the second grade and he has a class called Mind, Body, and Spirit. Why didn’t I have that class in second grade? They’re teaching them to meditate and yoga and all this stuff. And he’s so cute because he’s really frustrated because other kids in the class don’t get quiet and he wants to meditate. And he’s annoyed because they keep giggling when he’s doing tree poses and he’s serious about his focus. And I think he’s going to be so much better prepared for the traumas that happen in his life then we ever were for the ones that happened in ours.
H: Yes, absolutely. And there’s a massive heritage from the last century, I think, for all of us to be healing.
M: That’s very true. And not really seeming that much better in this century, is it? I don’t, well, things are different in the US than the UK, but not particularly good right now.
H: It’s all chaos basically, isn’t it?
M: Yes, it is. It is. And it gets back to what you were saying earlier, you know, depends on the meaning that you give it. And you know, if we give it the meaning of this is growth and growth is chaotic, and growth is about ripping everything apart so that you can make something better out of it. That’s one way to look at it. But that’s not the way everybody looks at it. Because if you’re looking at it like the whole world is falling apart and everything’s being destroyed, you’re going to stay in that fight, flight, or freeze state for a really long time. There was an interesting study done in the 1970s, this is a weird and disturbing story, but not graphic, but just the concept. So there was a school bus of children that was kidnapped in Nevada, which is a state out west in the US and this school bus.
M: And I don’t recall from the study if they even explained why these children were kidnapped. I’m sure there must have been a ransom involved, but it was a school bus of children and the bus was driven to this very remote place in the desert. And the school bus was put into a hole and covered over with sand or dirt or whatever it was. Now I think we’re 38 kids on the bus and two adults. And the interesting thing, everybody lived, everybody was fine because one of the adults and one of the kids, the boy was 14, and the adult was, I don’t know, in his forties or whatever, they broke a window on the bus and were able to crawl out through it and just started digging their way through the dirt, trying to go up. And they dug and they dug and they dug and they dug until they broke through, you know, to the ground above.
M: And they could see light and they tunnelled a path out. And then all of the other people on the bus were able to go through that window and out and eventually everybody was rescued. Now the interesting thing is that psychologist, a team came in and they assessed everybody for symptoms of post-traumatic results or effect, because at that time they wouldn’t call it PTSD It was too early for that diagnosis. So they were just looking for how did this trauma affect everybody? And then they followed everybody for the next 20 years. And the interesting thing, and it speaks to the sense of being empowered and the effect that it has, how it changes the meaning of how we experience trauma. The teacher and the student that broke the window and created the tunnel, no post-traumatic stress, none. Everybody else on the bus elements of post-traumatic stress. And the point of the study was that when we take empowered action in a trauma, it encodes the meaning differently than when we do not now. We don’t always have an opportunity to do that. But the point is, as quickly as we can start creating a meaning around the trauma that allows us to be in relationship with ourselves in a way that allows us to feel powerful and connected to our own sense of self-efficacy, the quicker we are going to access our resilience and move forward from the trauma with the least amount of impact.
H: Oh, wonderful. That’s wonderful. And if we think about that in relation to relationships, if you excuse the pun, it’s massive, isn’t it? As soon as you really start to take yourself seriously, things can change. You’ll feel more powerful, you’ll be an inspired action. You know, lively, creative parts of yourself that you’ve needed to keep buried in order to stay safe on some level will now be accessible to you.
M: That’s so true. And so well put. And I think, you know, you work with relationships, how often do you work with someone on their relationship? Not with others, not with the world, but with themselves?
H: That’s at the core of every piece of work I do. And in fact, I leave quite a long time for in my programmes. Some people will do things in six or seven sessions, but I do at least 10. And quite often it goes into more because I give time to process some of the trauma if it emerges. And that’s where, you know, my psychotherapeutic background comes in really handy because I can stay with people in relationship. We can process stuff that goes on between us in a way, because I’m more calm with all of that. You know, if I’m away, I’ll understand that people may be upset by that. So we can work with that and look at how that might be triggering. And if they’ve got a mindset of “I am alone” and live life as if they’re alone, then we can see how that keys in and we can work then to the empowered meaning of actually I was alone, but I held us inside me so I could work with myself and comfort myself, make a little mantra for soothing myself.
M: I get it
H: And reassure myself that we were going to come back together and the work is going continue. I was going to keep digging out.
M: That makes total sense. I love that. And I think that’s so often what’s missing in our own education about our evolution. Nobody teaches us to be in relation with ourselves.
H: No. It’s an absolute cornerstone. Yes. I mean, the first sessions for me are really about that. We use a beautiful meditation, which is about feelings and needs, and it’s just going inside and asking yourself what you feel and what you need from a compassionate self. Quite often the little self is there as well being asked, and it creates a benign, warm presence rather than the old internalised parenting that we might have had, which may or may not have been wholesome. So it creates a sort of integration from the beginning that it’s such a cornerstone for them to relate to other people because you know that you can take care of your own feelings and needs and you’re not asking somebody to be your parent.
M: That is so true. Such a good point.
H: Thank you. Now, I mean, we are whistling through the time, and I’m sure there’s much more to say that, are there things that you would like to communicate? I know you’ve got some tips for us to start the process of change, but I wonder if there’s more that you want to talk about.
M: Oh, Heather, I could talk to you forever about all this, but in the interest of time, I think let’s just jump right to the three tips so that people can really walk away and then start their own process of learning how to do this. So my approach to healing trauma is a three phase process, and in each phase there are three steps. So it’s like this nine step journey where you go from chaos to control and it’s a healthy control and getting away from that unhealthy experience of chaos.
Tip One is that element of control, and it’s reclaiming that sense of direction of your own self. So to me, that starts with a healing intention. I see so many people come into the healing process and they do not know what they want. They are not clear in what they want, they’re not specific, they just want to be happy.
M: But your brain only does what you tell it to do, and it does not know what happy is. It needs details. And so I think the first thing to do is sit down and, and work on your healing intention, get really specific in the language of what it is you want to achieve. And that’s not something that you necessarily know. The first time that you sit down to write my healing intention is, and then fill in that blank. And I have a whole process for doing this that really nails it so that by the time we’re finished, and I just completed work with a client this week, and we went back to look at her healing intention so that we could literally see how we had hit every single element of what her desire was. And I find that the more specific you are, the more effectively and the more efficiently you create those outcomes because your brain starts looking for, how can I do that?
M: Because you’ve told it so clearly what it is that you’re wanting. So that’s the beginning of this tip of control, is figuring out your healing intention and then putting that together with mind and body practices on a daily basis that allow you to reclaim control over your state, because that’s the most important thing, being able to manage your state so that you are calm, so that you are connected, you are present, you are peaceful, you are in charge of how you respond to external stimuli, internal reactions, all of that. So my first tip is figure out how to start reclaiming control. And that starts with a healing intention. And that starts with a daily practice, whether it’s breath work, meditation, journaling, yoga, exercise. I actually do all five of those things every day done because I see that for us all, the things you put in place to heal are the things that keep you healed, you know, forever.
M: Yes, absolutely. I have a lot of people that say to me, you know, does this stuff come back after you heal? And you know the answer is no. If you keep working the process, the process keeps working for you. Yeah. But if you let it all go, what are you doing? You’re asking for some dysregulated state because you are abdicating your ability to create the state that you want. Yeah. You’re not taking care of yourself. So that’s one, you know, start reclaiming control.
TIP Two is start creating change. And in this part of my approach anyway to trauma recovery is identifying what in your past is creating the way you’re behaving in the present, and directly going in and changing that. Now, in my practice, that means, you know, I’m a certified professional coach. I’m a certified hypnotist with a specialty and PTSD and trauma, and I’m a master neurolinguistic programmer.
M: So we can be in the conscious mind with coaching aspects and resolving the unconscious mind and its issues with hypnosis and literally reprogramming the neural pathways of the brain with neurolinguistic programming. So it’s figuring out what needs to change about you, and then then finding the way that you feel comfortable creating those changes. And that’s releasing the past. It’s, you know, hijacking and interrupting those old habits that are interfering with you. And then that’s also installing new patterns so that you start living in a different way. So tip number two is start figuring out what needs to change about you and how you’re going to affect those changes and who’s going to help you do it.
H: It. I just love this, Michelle. It’s just absolutely amazing. Such a beautiful resource. And it’s so full of life and positivity, moving towards the light all the time.
M: All the time. You’re so right. You’re so right. And that’s an important aspect of trauma recovery. And it’s not the conventional approach, but it’s an approach that feels so much better, and that I see bring results so much quicker. So then that leads us to
TIP Three, which is through the whole process, but really at the end, the total focus, which is creating identity, because you are a changed person. You were one person. I was talking to a new client two weeks ago, and he was saying, look, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to go back to who I used to be, and I can’t get it to happen. I need you to help me do that. And I said, that’s not what we’re going to do here. You can’t go back to who you used to be. That’s not possible. But what we can do, and you know, I wrote an entire book about trauma and identity.
M: It was my second book, it’s called Your Life After Trauma: Powerful Practices to Reclaim Identity. Because I feel it’s such a central part to that ultimate healing and being able to sustain those long term results. So my third tip is start figuring out who you want to be now, who do you want to become when you move through this trauma recovery process? Who do you want to be at the end of that? So it’s literally crafting that identity vision so that you know, and it’s a living document, right? It’s an organism that evolves, but it’s starting to choose who you are because we don’t choose who we are. We are born, and from zero to six we become who we are in a state of intermittent hypnosis, frankly, because children’s minds are so open and they don’t know how to filter. Yet we become who we are as a response to what we experience.
M: And then that is just the model that we live in until we get to a point of being able to choose. And, you know, trauma, I hate the platitude of the gift of trauma, but if there were to be a gift, I would say that the biggest gift is the opportunity to really choose who you are and to make that happen. And that’s the third tip. It’s really going into that space and getting serious about who you want to be so that you, like you were saying, allow the light of that to guide you forward.
H: That is so beautiful. Thank you so much, Michelle. That’s a wonderful line to end on. Thank you.
M: You’re welcome. Thank you so much for inviting me to be here. And if anyone wants to know more about what those steps are in those three elements to deepen the process of how they utilise these tips, there’s a graphic for this on my website. If you just hop onto mytraumacoach.com and go to the program page, there’s a link that just will pop you out, an entire graphic. You could just start working the steps and see how you do. Gives you a good framework.
H: Thanks Michele, I’m glad you gave that. So let’s just reiterate that. mytraumacoach.com.
H: That’s lovely. Thank you, Michelle.
M: Thank you so much, Heather. I’m glad that we got to spend this time together and I think you’re doing incredible work and it has such relevance in the trauma space. So thank you for the work that you do.
H: Absolutely. Likewise. Just as amazing to hear you speak and to really see how our work sort of, uh, enmesh, you know?
M: That’s so true. It’s just lovely. So true. Yeah. Thank you.
H: Thank you.
Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Revolutionise Your Love Life. I’d like to know what has been your biggest takeaway from this conversation? To take a minute and share this with us and visit us on our Facebook page. You can connect with me personally on my email, firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can think of someone who will benefit from listening to this podcast, please do share it with them. If you have any feedback on how I can improve it, please do reach out to me as I’m always keen to learn more. Thank you so much again for listening, and we’ll meet again on the next episode of Revolutionize Your Love Life.