Did you know that trauma is based on perception? Something that you were afraid of as a child might not scare you as an adult. But there are some traumas that are difficult to heal. They can become the cause of triggers down the line. Join Amy Killingsworth as she talks about trauma and why it is imperative that it is healed. In this episode, learn about the different patterns it may show itself up as and how it can shape your life. Amy shares some traumatic experiences that still haunt her to this day. Remember, traumatic experiences are subjective and problematic until uncovered and healed.
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How is Trauma Sabotaging Your Life?
I’m super excited about this one because it is all about trauma. Trauma is not an exciting, fun or happy subject to talk about. However, if and when you begin to understand trauma and that everybody has it to varying degrees stored in your body and your central nervous system, it will truly change and revolutionize your life. When you begin to recognize, meet and heal the trauma, it truly 100% changes the way you show up, how other people experience you, how you live and your quality of life. Let’s get started.
Every single person has experienced trauma. Why do I say that? The reason is that to a child, the world is a big scary place filled with big loud people. Think about a three-year-old and then the dad who’s 6 foot tall and has a booming voice. As adults, we’re habituated to that. As a child who’s fairly new on Earth or maybe even a baby, these people are huge and loud. Everything is unknown and scary. Children have no frame of reference through which to process their experiences.
Most of what happens to a child especially in early childhood is brand new. Think about that. Every single thing that happens the first time in childhood is the first time it’s happening. We forget this but childhood is a very uncertain time. It’s a big, loud and scary world. Trauma occurs in two ways. There’s the obvious event. It’s the event that is so scarring. It’s seen or experienced with a high degree of emotional activation. This is fear sorrow, etc.
One thing I want to point out here is that trauma is patterned into the central nervous system based on perception. If you look back with your adult eyes and think, “That wasn’t that big of a deal,” you’re rationalizing with your mind that it wasn’t that big of a deal. When it happens and is imprinted into the central nervous system, it’s based on perception. It’s based on how that child or even that adult experienced that situation whether it was objectively scary or dangerous or not.
The things that we perceived as children create subconscious rules that we play by throughout life. Click To Tweet
Here’s a great example of this. I’ve done this to my children. Let’s do it from the mother’s perspective. Let’s say that you’re at the grocery store. The child wanders over and is looking at something in the cookie case. I’m watching him the whole time. I’ve got my eyes on him. I might be doing something else but I know where he is. He looks around, doesn’t see me and starts to panic. He starts to look around in a panic state. When I get his attention, he’s crying and hysterical. He thought he was lost.
He was never lost. I had my eyes on him the whole time but the trauma or the adversely experienced event has been patterned into the nervous system how he experienced it. Even though he was never in objective danger, he subjectively experienced danger because he thought he was in danger. That’s a minor example. There are traumatic things that happen in our lives that make a hugely dramatic and traumatic impression. The other way that trauma is patterned is by the everyday situations that we experience with regularity.
It’s an often repeated experience that creates a feeling of uncertainty or fear. This could be something simple like the fact of parents fighting in the home. One thing that creates a traumatic imprint is intermittent reinforcement. It’s the walking on eggshells dynamic. This happens a lot in alcoholic homes, “Is dad going to come home and be nice? Is dad going to be happy or enraged? Am I going to be loved or punished and rejected?” Obvious examples of dramatic events are death, abusive events, abandonment, accidents and divorce.
Less obvious examples of trauma could be a discipline that involves shame, embarrassment or physical violence. The birth of a sibling can be traumatic. Remember, this is key. Trauma is patterned based on perception. Everybody around may be thinking, “This is such a joyous event. The baby is born. This is wonderful,” but to the child who has been an only child for three years, their whole world is crumbling, “Here comes this interloper. Is there going to be enough love to go around? Am I going to lose attention?”
To a child especially a young child, that can be very traumatic because it creates that sense of uncertainty. Bullying is a huge trauma instigator. It’s being lost or separated from parents and being left with a teacher or caregiver you are afraid of. It’s parents fighting, illness or an inebriated family member. The earliest and most often repeated experiences in childhood lay the foundation for a child’s perception of the world.
Remember, this is so critical. Patterning is based on perception. The child’s self-perception or what they perceive inside themselves creates the subconscious rules a person will play by for their entire lives whether or not people are safe whether or not money is abundant and whether or not God is angry.
The things that we perceive as children create the unconscious or subconscious rules we play by throughout life. It’s very common for children with parents who were addicts to become people-pleasers because they were constantly enabling and playing the rescuer or tiptoeing eggshells around their alcoholic or drug-addicted parent.
This is a point I want to make. Don’t get stuck minimizing traumatic wounding because you’re comparing it to others who had it much worse. A lot of times, we look back on our childhood with adult eyes and think, “It was happy. It wasn’t that bad. I was loved and safe. I had a roof over my head.” It depends on how you experienced it. The bottom line is if there’s trauma in your nervous system then it’s causing problems whether you had a happy childhood or not. Nobody had a perfect childhood.
You can't find the light by investigating the darkness. Click To Tweet
Sometimes we will look at people in war-torn countries, refugees or make these harrowing journeys or children who are abused, neglected or abandoned and we think, “I didn’t have it that bad so I’m not traumatized.” Traumatic experiences are subjective and problematic until uncovered and healed. If you have big major trauma or what might be considered simple trauma, trauma is trauma. The comparison works against the process of acknowledging and healing.
I want to talk about something that I call stakes in the ground. These are moments that are critical to development, not necessarily in obvious and flashy ways but they may not feel significant at all. What is a stake in the ground? Stakes in the ground are formed primarily by experiences that induce fear or uncertainty especially if those experiences are repeated. Adversely perceived events experienced repetitively in early childhood are the primary way our emotional patterning, personality, style of relating or “survival mode” is formed.
I say this all the time in coaching, “You can’t find the light by investigating the darkness.” Unlike behavioral therapeutic approaches like talk therapy, the Rise to Reign method works within triggers in real-time to activate the trapped emotion and process it out. The way that trauma is laid down is when you’re experiencing that fear, it’s usually fear that creates trauma. The other things come later like the sorrow or the anger but it’s usually fear. That heightened emotional state is where trauma is recorded.
When you’re experiencing that, it gets frozen in time because you lack the tools as a child usually and even as an adult if the trauma is significant enough to process it in real-time. You stuff it and it stays buried. Feelings buried alive never die. The way that we work within Rise to Reign is what I call somatic coaching. It’s a proprietary method of somatic coaching and a community healing model where we work in real-time to activate that emotion and process it out. You have to feel it to heal it.
That freaks a lot of people out because they don’t want to feel. They’re afraid of their feelings and of experiencing that. The amount of energy that it takes to keep that down is enormous. The amount of energy that it takes to feel it and process it out is much smaller compared to the combined energy that it takes to keep it at bay and keep covered the addictions, numbing and relational problems. The cost of unhealed and unfaced trauma is very high. We see it playing out in our individual lives and our culture as a whole.
Something that I always say is, “You can’t find the light by investigating the darkness.” We don’t go looking for trauma and digging for memories. Usually, it’s enough to work within the emotional energy itself. The way a trigger works is when you experience a heightened emotional experience now, it will connect. Imagine a wire from this button to this trigger from this experience to this reaction. When that button is pushed, it activates this emotion. It’s not about what’s going on. It’s what happened back here.
I’ll give you an example of this in my life. I do CrossFit. You have heard me talk about that. For a very long time, I had this block where if my heart rate would get too high and my respiration or breathing would get too labored, I would start to panic and almost hyperventilate. Because of that, I could never push myself enough to get to the next level in my workouts. It’s because I do the work that I do that I was like, “What is that about?” The reaction felt extreme to the stimulus. That’s your first clue.
I always say, “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” I didn’t come up with that. I heard it somewhere but I don’t remember where. When you find yourself reacting or having your action be bigger than the situation, that’s the first clue that you’re dealing with trauma. I sat down, went through the process of investigating that feeling and did some work around going into that heightened emotional state. If there’s a memory there and it needs to surface, you can trust your subconscious under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to bring that to your memory.
In trauma, if it's hysterical, it's historical. Click To Tweet
What it was for me was when I was about seven years old. I remember this but I hadn’t thought about it consciously for years until I did this process. We lived on a lake. We would always go out on a boat and go water skiing and kneeboarding. I was about seven years old and I was learning to kneeboard. My dad’s friend who had a son was helping me learn how to kneeboard and wakeboard. He was behind the boat with me. I was 7 and he was maybe 15 or 16. He’s a big guy.
He had me laying down on the wakeboard. He was behind me. He was there to help me make sure that I didn’t get hurt. The boat would start up and then you would wiggle up and put your knees in the strap. That’s how they worked back then. He was a nice guy. He was trying to be helpful but he was laying on top of me as the boat began to go. His weight shifted and my rib cage was pressed up against the wakeboard. He was on top of me. The nose was making spray come up at my face. I couldn’t breathe.
There was this moment or what seemed like a lot of moments strung together but it wasn’t very long where I couldn’t breathe. I was panicking because I couldn’t breathe. That’s the same feeling. It only lasted for a few moments because somehow, I got his attention and got him to shift off of me. I got my breath and I was fine. I never thought of it again but there’s that moment where I thought, “I’m going to die.” That was patterned into my nervous system.
Here I am. Years later, it’s affecting my workouts. This is how this works. If you don’t do the exploration, you’re like, “You’re lazy. You form all of these beliefs or meanings about yourself of why you’re not doing what you want to do, why you can’t grow, why you can’t get past something, why you can’t have a certain level of money, why you can’t get that promotion, why you can’t find and sustain love or whatever it is.”
There’s always a reason and a solution. The reason is trauma and the solution is healing. That wraps up this episode on understanding trauma. That’s not a deep dive. That’s just a primer on trauma. Once you begin to understand trauma and accept it, you can start to acknowledge it, heal it and process it out. My friends, thanks so much for reading. That is it for this episode of the show. I’ll see you next time.
Are you a Prisoner or a Queen? (or something in between)
The four archetypes help you distinguish between your true identity and how you might react in times of stress or out of unhealed wounds. Your identity is defined as: a) The condition of being a certain person and/or b) the characteristics by which a person is known. How do you see yourself? How do others see you? Who does God say you are? By understanding the prisoner, slave, princess (prince) and Queen (King), you can be intentional about choosing to show up as your true self and stepping away from patterns of dysfunction.
You were born to reign. But you have to know who you are first. In this free download, I explain the four Rise to Reign Archetypes (Prisoner, Slave, Princess & Queen). Self awareness creates the ability to shift in the direction of your wildest dreams instead of your worst fears.