Since the pandemic started, humanity as a whole has experienced trauma. As leaders, it’s our job to first heal our own trauma so we can then help others. Here are 3 short, practical ways to help start that healing process.
1:30 – How a regular practice of connecting to the divine [or flow state] heals trauma
8:OO – How breathing and tapping helps heal trauma
20:15 – How to use the Memory Imprint Journal to heal trauma
8:10 –End your day with Habit #3
Memory Imprint Journal – 5 Day Trial (FREE)
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This is Episode 61 – Healing from the Trauma of World Events. Since the pandemic started, humanity as a whole has experienced trauma. As leaders, it’s our job to first heal our own trauma so we can then help others. Here 3 small practical ways to help start that healing process. Hi, I’m Carla Rieger and you’re listening to the Mindstory Speaker podcast helping speaker, leaders and coaches, enhance their inner game success, so they can thrive and better serve others.
The main characteristic of trauma is that something unexpected and shocking happens, where we feel a real or perceived threat of death or to our safety feeling trapped and powerless, and feeling like there are no options. And so that’s what the pandemic is doing to the whole world right now. It doesn’t matter what strata of society, what gender, what race, what beliefs, what sexual orientation, what age, or even how many traumas you’ve already healed from in life – it’s affecting everyone – albeit in different ways. But I was speaking at a virtual conference to people who had jobs, job security, made good income, had families that were safe, a roof over their head, and even they were traumatized.
Here’s the first way to start the healing process. What I notice is that, when a crisis like this happens, it makes people rethink core values and beliefs. In our research, at MindStory Academy, the people who heal from trauma more easily are those with a connection to the divine, to a higher power, to something beyond their logical, ego, personality self. What I mean by that connection is different depending on the person, their background, experiences, disposition. For some people that’s originally triggered by a structured spiritual teaching they got at, say, a church, temple, mosque. Or a connection they got during meditation prayer or journaling, walking in nature, painting a picture, looking at a sunset, or playing music, renovating a home, solving a mathematical problem or writing a book…when you’re in that flow state, pure presence. Some people have a regular practice that activates that connection, and some people don’t. So, if you already have that, dialling up on that during times of challenge is hugely beneficial. If you don’t, cultivating that, in a way that works for you, is incredibly important. Chances are you’ve had some moment in life where you got into that flow state, see if you can re-create the circumstances that helped you get there.
On the other hand, those that don’t heal very easily seem to have a separation from the divine. Something happened that cut them off. I grew up in an atheist family. My father, in particular, believed that there was no God, no purpose to life. When you die, you just turn to dust. He lived through a few wars and famines in his life and was clearly scarred from that; he clearly never healed the trauma. I grew up thinking like he did, but then felt in my early adults years like something very important was missing from my life. In university I started to study different philosophies of spiritual thought – western, eastern, indigenous. They all fascinated me. In the end, I formed my own relationship with the divine and my own practices to grow that relationship, which my father never related to.
But I found that connection to be extremely important especially when facing challenging times in my life. Maybe you can relate to that, too. Our studies have shown that relationship to be crucial during times of personal and global crisis. Yet, many people, in many cultures have been separated from this connection either through a bad experience with the religion they grew up with, or because of challenging experiences they couldn’t make sense of. For example, an illness, death, loss, health issues, failure, bad luck, accident. They came to the conclusion that either the divine source didn’t care, or didn’t even exist. And yet, everyone seems to experience illness, death, loss, health issues, failure, bad luck, accidents of some sort or another, that’s part of the game of life. So, one of the most important skills to learn is to reframe those challenges in a way that’s constructive rather than destructive to your mental, emotional and spiritual health.
Some scholars and thought leaders of late have noticed that the virus has brought to the surface this deepest of wounds in humanity as a whole – that wound of separation from the divine. I believe we have two purposes in this lifetime and that is 1) to rediscover our connection to the divine in whatever way makes sense for us individually, and then 2) to express our own unique divine selves.
Those two purposes, in some ways, are more easily activated in times of challenge, in traumatic situations. So there is a beauty and an opportunity here that’s really important. As I’ve talked about in other episodes, the heart is really a master organ in the body, not the brain. That, in fact, the heart has its own brain and you can access what I call heart based logic in times like this.
States of anxiety trigger the reptilian brain, not the prefrontal cortex that triggers heart based logic, where you find all of our highest human gifts. Only the lighter, more positive, higher frequency emotions trigger heart based logic. For example, when we’re in states of peace and gratitude and love and wonder – if we could monitor your vital signs – we’d see the pre-frontal cortex part of the brain communicating in a harmonious way with the heart. It creates a sense of transcendence from the challenges, a sense of connectedness to something that provides a sense of safety regardless of what’s happening externally, that triggers creative problem solving, and inner wisdom and intuition.
And so the easiest and most predictable way to manage stress, especially when you cannot change your external circumstances, is to literally open up that heart-brain connection. I also believe this helps us connect to the divine. I think we’re hard wired for the divine, and so when it’s not there, that causes more stress than anything else in the world. It creates a low level anxiety because you feel like a boat that’s lost its anchor, you are subjected to the elements with no way to counteract that. And so the things that we’ll be doing today are going to reinforce that connection to the divine in whatever way is meaningful to you. Some of them may be familiar, some maybe not. Different things works for different people, so try each on and see how it fits. If it doesn’t fit, that’s okay. If it does, great. The more tools in your stress management tool kit, the better for your health and to be a living bridge for those you serve. Because if you’re stressed, your clients, colleagues, those around you will pick up on it consciously or subconsciously and often get triggered themselves. So, you’re literally changing your immediate sphere of influence, but also, I believe, positively affecting the greater human consciousness, too.
Let’s look at the second way to start that healing process. According to some of the most recent research in neuroscience, when we’re under stress or when we’ve experienced trauma, it creates a brain dysfunction or a dysregulation in the brain. So the amygdala in the brain is like a smoke detector. It’s supposed to let us know if we’re safe or if there’s a threat. And then the amygdala communicates with the hippocampus, which is the memory center of the brain, where trauma is stored if it’s not processed. So, if the hippocampus and the amygdala are overactive, unprocessed, disconnected from our conscious control, which has it’s relationship to the true self, the higher self, the divine—that’s when we feel all the stress physiologically. The feelings of overwhelm, the short breaths, the jitters, the rapid heart rate, the trembling hands, the looping negative thoughts. Sometimes those symptoms are subtle, sometimes not so subtle.
Most people in our culture, especially these days, have an overactive amygdala often due to unprocessed trauma in the hippocampus. This is like having a trash can you haven’t given to the garbage collectors for a long time. It starts to stink, it attracts vermin. By vermin I mean lower formed energies, lower vibrational energy in your system can show up in a host of ways depending on your disposition. It can show up emotionally and mentally as in moodiness, crankiness, pessimism, depression. It can show up physically as stomach ache, headache, heart issues. In fact, there are several studies that show heart attacks are caused by a shut down heart, a dark or cold heart, one in which the person hasn’t processed old experiences, found the learning and let it go. Some have even linked cancer to unresolved emotional wounds that change the chemistry of the body and invite the vermin known as cancer cells. It can throw off the ph balance in the gut, change the health of your microbiome. In the coaching world, people often talk about the inner gremlin that people have, that nasty self talk full of self judgment, self doubt, the neurotic thoughts that make you suffer. That gremlin, I believe, is not you. It’s the unprocessed emotion that’s attracted the vermin to your garbage can. All you need do is throw it out. You don’t need to look through it, as some counsellors, therapists of psychologists might have you do as in “tell me about your worst memory as a child”. Yes, identify it, reframe it, learn from it, but then let it go. Don’t keep talking about it. Don’t wrap your whole identity around that thing that happened to you all those years ago, as that will keep you attracting more of what you don’t want.
Now most people are not breathing properly; meaning taking deep diaphragmatic breaths. When we do it starts the emotional processing happening, it’s like a power hose on mold that’s built up in your system. When we don’t breathe in that deeper way we sending a signal to the brain that we’re not safe, so then the cortisol levels go up and all the stress hormones, which make you have stressful thoughts just to match the feeling of stress in the body. Literally, you subconsciously go looking for what could be stressing you out, just because you’re under breathing. And what you look for, you will find. It must be because that person didn’t return my email.
And so one of the most basic but underutilized things that people can do every hour is just take two minutes to breathe. And we could do that right now. I’m going to add some tapping to this. Some listeners may be aware of the emotional freedom technique or tapping. We are just going to lightly tap with your index and middle finger of one hand on certain acupressure points on the face and body. That sends a signal to regulate the amygdala and the hippocampus. So it’s like meditation on steroids. But what we’re going to do is we’re just going to tap on certain points as we take slow, deep breaths. Don’t do it if you’re driving, just picture what I’m saying and keep both hands on the steering wheel, then try it when you are not driving. So I’ll just guide you through that and ask you to follow along. So we start at the beginning of the eyebrow on one side of the head, it doesn’t matter which side. And we’re just going to tap here at the beginning of the eyebrow, seven times with the index and middle fingers together. Not so that it hurts, just lightly. And we’re going to take in just a real slow, deep breath. And then we’re going to go to the side of the eye, where the eyebrow ends at the side of the face, and take another breath. So, I’m exaggerating that breathing sound. So you know to take that full inhale and that full exhale. The next point is under the eye, at the midpoint, just on top of the cheek bone. Tapping 7 times. One low slow deep breath.
Then under the nose, just above the upper lip, 7 light taps, low slow deep breath. Then under the lips, just above the chin. 7 light taps, low slow deep breath. And on chest on one side of the sternum, just below the clavical or collar bone. 7 light taps, low slow deep breath. And just one more under the arm, about 3 inches below the arm pit. 7 light taps, low slow deep breath. Just take one more breath and just tune in and notice if you feel any different. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. With high stress sometimes you have to do that several times.
But it’s a very simple thing that you can do first thing in the morning, and I know some people just do it every hour to interrupt those stress hormones that are flowing through their body. Eventually you train your body-mind-system to not be addicted to the negative emotions anymore.
Now there’s a lot more to EFT, but for our purposes, tapping and breathing can be so quick and gentle a way for us to refocus and rebalance. Normally I do a few more rounds, but you can do that on your own.
Now if that all seems weird and unbelievable to you, it is based on over 4,000 years of observational data from the East, such as Ancient Chinese Medicine and the acupuncture meridian points. So basically EFT combines acupressure points with positive psychology. There’s over 133 studies over the last 30 years that prove that by tapping on these acupressure points, we’re literally regulating the amygdala and the hippocampus here interrupting the flow of stress hormones and allowing endorphins, or the peacefulness hormones, to flow. So that literally we have the medicine right inside of us, or right at our fingertips as we tap on these points.
For example, Dr. Peta Stapleton, of Bond University is a leading researcher in EFT. She has shown that cortisol levels go down by 43% when we do EFT tapping. We also boost our immune system on average by 23%. So, any immune dysfunction you’re having is positively affected whether it’s a cold, flu, covid or even cancer. It’s used all over the world to help trauma victims of war, earthquakes, shootings, genocides, as well as helping those with day to day stress.
Another characteristic of trauma is that sense of isolation and feeling like we’re all alone. And of course that’s a worldwide condition right now with people on lockdown. And if we overlay that on any stressors we already had that’s going to compound the effect. It triggers a sense of uncertainty on a global level and it doesn’t look like that uncertainty isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, even without the current global situation, life is full of uncertainty. People spend a lot of precious life force energy trying to change or manipulate their external circumstances to feel more certain inside. Yet, the truth is, each of us could face huge losses any moment of any day, by things beyond our control. What we do have control over is our own minds and how we process external circumstances, such as through habits of mind, exercise, diet, EFT, creative self expression, helping others, prayer, meditation or whatever helps us find that peace in our hearts first, so that we’re acting from that place of peace and responding from that place of peace instead of the fear and the anxiety.
Even if you’ve got good habits in place, and you think you’re not affected by all the global trauma in the world, at some level you are. If you believe that we are ultimately all connected, which I do, at some level of consciousness you’re going to feel it. And so there is going to be more overlay to your ability to get peaceful. And then of course, if we have empathy, which most people do unless a person is clinically labelling a sociopath, you can’t help but respond to the suffering in the world as well.
So that’s why finding peace in our hearts and staying connected to the divine gives us what we need in our hearts and our brains to move forward at this time, to take care of ourselves, to heal, to respond appropriately, in a healthy way.
Let’s look at the third way to start that healing process. Another quick and easy way to change from brain-heart disconnection to connection is make a list of gratitudes. I’ve talked about this on other podcasts. In fact, we use The Memory Imprint Journal, which is a gratitude journal on steroids, that only takes 10 minutes. If you’d like to get a free download of the process, you can look in the shownotes for the link to the Memory Imprint Journal 5 day free trial course. Or just go to MindStoryAcademy.com/free, and scroll down to the 5 Day Free Trial image and click on that There’s four parts to the journal and we’re going to talk about here how using it can help resolve trauma in the brain.
And you can do it in your head right now, or with a piece of paper and pen. So you make a list of up to 7 things you’re grateful for with yourself – things you’ve done recently or anytime in your life – ways of being – skillsets – world views. Again it can be something from today, or from 20 years ago. Think of at least two right now. Now a list of up to 7 things that you appreciate about life’s circumstances. Everything and anything from having a roof over your head, to family members, to nature. Now if we could see a brain frequency meter, we’d see your prefrontal cortex being activated when asked to list what you appreciate. You cannot be in the amygdala, the survival brain, and do this exercise. The more you practice shifting your focus like this, the more you build the muscle of controlling how you view the world, which in my opinion is one of the most important skills you could ever learn.
The human mind will usually default to a depreciation mode unless we have a conscious habit to change it, which can become a default habit with practice. In other words, the mind will scan the external world for what’s wrong, what to criticize in ourselves and others, what bad things could happen. So, not to be a Pollyanna. We need to pay attention to issues and dangers, but most people are paying attention to those things the majority of the time, which is very hard on your physical, mental and emotional health. So, its about balancing it out, to learn to scan the world for what’s right, what’s working, what we appreciate in ourselves and others, what good things could happen. It’s very healing. It helps release trauma from the hippocampus. Dr. Lori Leyden, who is an internationally known trauma healing expert, said that when she asks people to write down 10 appreciations with, say, business clients, they struggle to come up with 10. But when she gave this exercise to orphan genocide survivors in Rwanda, who had nothing, on average they came up with 35 things. That’s often the irony of life, that people who have lots of things to be grateful for, take them for granted, and keep looking for what they don’t have. Whereas people who’ve lost everything are almost forced by life’s circumstances to reconnect to the divine in order to keep going, can find feelings of gratitude in the smallest of things.
So, as you think of what you’re grateful for, notice what’s happening in your mind, emotions and body? This can help you build your awareness of how small habits of mind can actually make a huge difference. People often notice circulation increasing, mood lighten, worldview become more optimistic, creative problem solving return, inflammation in the joints lessen, and on and on.
The fourth part of the Memory Imprint Journal is to write out a positive memory from your past. We’re going to do it in a particular way, though. Again you can do it on paper, in your own mind, or sign up for the 5 day free trial course, and get a download of the 1 page Memory Imprint Journal by clicking on the link in the shownotes. The idea behind an exercise like this is something called Building Resources in your subconscious mind. It creates fertile ground for planting the seeds of your goals, dreams and visions. If you’ve ever tried to manifest a goal and it keeps not happening, it might be because you don’t have enough resources. A lack of inner resources is like infertile soil in your garden…a garden full of weeds, toxic pesticides, rocks, or one that is depleted of nutrients or too acidic. If you’ve ever tried to grow something in that kind of soil, you know what I’m talking about. Your seeds just won’t sprout.
Hundreds of people that have worked with the Memory Imprint Journal have reported that just after 30 days of writing out a good memory a day, they notice things like their sleep improves. They feel happier, moodiness has decreased. Others find they release huge regrets from the past, their whole self image changes. I first created this exercise when I was working with speakers, leaders, educators, business owners on what’s called “Your Signature Story”. It’s also called a Why Story that explains why you do what you do in story form. It helps people really “get” who you are at a values level. I found that often required people relooking at challenges from their past from the frame work of how it built their wisdom, resilience and strength to do what they do now. It was the realization that they HAD to go through those challenges, losses, failures, mistakes, issues in order to bring to the world their particular gifts and offerings. That realization alone often caused all kinds of stored trauma in the brain to release, and suddenly they went from procrastinating and avoiding important goals to getting into clear, confident action.
So, let’s try it in a simple way right now. Think of something in your past that was hard, or challenging or uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be a huge issue. Start with a smaller one at first, just to see how this works. It can be from yesterday, last week, last year, or 25 years ago, it doesn’t matter. Tell it from the perspective of what was good about it, or how it made you who you are today in a good way. Here’s an example of what I would call a smaller regret. When I was 18, I had the chance to go to a small college in a small town, or stay in the city and go to a big university. I chose the latter and regretted it. It was hard to meet people. The classes had 250 in them. The tuition was high which I had to pay for myself through summer jobs and a student loan. I thought having a degree from a big university would look better on my resume. Of course, I never went to the small college so don’t know if it would have been better, but I spent a lot of precious time regretting that for years. In my late 20’s I got a job running teambuilding or community building events on campuses all over the world. I’d be on stage with a mic in a gym with hundreds of freshmen in front of me sitting on the floor. I’d call out for them to get into groups of four people and find out where they come from. Then, to find everyone born in the same month and see if you can find someone with the same birthday. And on and on like that for 90 minutes. When I did this Memory Imprint exercise, I realized that I was attracted to this job partially because of my lonely experience on campus. That experience at the big campus helped me have empathy for what it was like be from a small high school and go to a huge campus. It gave me an unbridled passion to help people through their shyness and resistance to participating in the icebreaker games. I felt on purpose and I had a story to tell that they could relate to. So, what’s your reframe on a past regret?
Here’s another example of a big regret. I had a client who spent 11 years suffering from chronic fatigue, which he attributed to overworking and undersleeping for far too many years. This led to having to give up his job in the financial industry and having to on disability. He couldn’t provide for his family. His wife had to cover all the bills and raise their teenagers herself. He discovered a form of meditation that he could do lying down in his bed that calmed his mind. This began his recovery. When he fully recovered he retrained as a business coach and dedicated his life to helping burned out people in the financial industry to make better life habit decisions so they wouldn’t end up like him. Strangely he still highly regretted spending 11 years of his life mostly lying down and unable to do anything, until he did this exercise. He would never have chosen a career as a business coach helping people with the mindset and life habits aspect of running your own financial planning business. He would still be selling financial investments and life insurance.
Being a business coach suited his personality far more, and it led him to speaking at events around the world, writing books and serving people in a way that felt much more satisfying to him. After he re-wrote this story in terms of how it served him, he never wasted anymore time looping in regrets and felt his gratitude for that whole experience.
So, try your reframe on a past regret. I’ve done dozens of them, so have many of my clients. I find there’s still more to do. Once you get the hang of it, try it on whatever you have issues with now, whatever is the personal or global trauma you’re dealing with now, even if you’re not sure how it will all play out in the future. Write a few sentences about how might it end up serving you and serving the world, not to whitewash a tough situation or pretend it’s not painful or challenging, but just to balance things out. The sign of a highly resilient person, according to our research, is that they can change their perspective at will. People who are non-resilient are those who get entrenched in one way of looking at a situation. It’s all good or all bad, whereas in truth, everything has many perspectives. Exploring them all helps you reconnect brain and heart, and sometimes even helps you better magnetize a more constructive future world personally and, ultimately, helping the global mindset to evolve and heal.
So, as I said, you can get a free download the Memory Imprint Journal if you go to MindStoryAcademy.com/free, and scroll down to the 5 Day Free Trial image and click on that. You’ll get 5 days of daily inspiration to clear out regrets from the past, so you can supercharge your motivate in the present.
So that’s it for today…Do post a review of this podcast if you like it – on iTunes or youTube or wherever you listen. It makes a big difference to helping others find out about it.
I hope that was helpful. Until next time, I’m Carla Rieger, thanks for listening.