To begin our new series on Mind-Body Wellness, we will share the research on traumatic events and how they impact your mental and physical health. We discuss:
• Why does the body hold on to trauma?
• Working with trauma in a coaching vs. medical model
• The possibilities for your life if you can work with your mind-body to free yourself from the past
This information is for educational purposes and not intended to diagnose or treat any mental or physical conditions. Please consult your physician before beginning any mind-body intervention.
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How Trauma Impacts Your Mind-Body
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversation about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let's begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:30
Hello, welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with CreativeMind. I'm Debra Maldonado. I'm here with Dr. Rob Maldonado. Before we begin our session today, I wanted to invite you to subscribe to our channel if you're on YouTube. Just click the button here in the corner of the video. If you are listening to us on Spotify, iTunes or another podcast broadcasting service, please be sure to subscribe there as well, so you can receive every episode. This episode is called “How trauma impacts your mind body”. Rob, why are we doing this series? It is our new series on the mind body.
Robert Maldonado 01:12
We've been wanting to do a series on the mind body for a while now. But the opportunity is finally here because CreativeMind University is launching a new mind body program called Creative Mind Wellness. In honor of that, we're going to be presenting some of the topics that we're interested in and that are relevant to mind body issues.
Debra Maldonado 01:40
I want to say what is unique about our mind body system and our mind body coach training is that it's based on Eastern philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and the latest techniques in working with the mind meditation, guided imagery. All pain management and these wonderful tools we have, that we believe help a person free their mind body from pain, suffering, illness, helping them have longevity and happiness in their bodies and mind. We know that stress is the number one reason why people seek medical attention. If we can train coaches to help others in a very empowering way to work with their mind body, I think the world’d be a better place and people’d be much happier. That's our mission.
Robert Maldonado 02:37
Let's start with some stats. This is from a study that looked at 24 countries around the world. It wasn't a small one, it was a big study. What they found on average, about 70% of people experienced some kind of traumatic event in their life. That's a lot of people, 70%. About 30% of people experience four or more traumatic events in their life. It has a cumulative effect, that’s why they've mentioned these four or more episodes. People that don't process that first experience, are at risk of having another traumatic experience in their life.
Debra Maldonado 03:26
They attract it because they see the world in a certain way, they start to be unconsciously drawn to more situations like this?
Robert Maldonado 03:37
That could be part of it. Also, people that experience one or more are probably in environments that are chaotic. They’re more prone to experiencing difficult situations.
Debra Maldonado 03:53
We know from psychology that people tend to stay in the same situations even if it's not helpful because it's comfortable versus making changes. This episode is about how trauma impacts the mind body. All our other episodes are going to be on different topics but today we're going to specifically talk about trauma. Why does the body hold on to trauma? Why can't we just have the experience and then forget about it, and live out whatever our lives were, why do we hang on to it?
Robert Maldonado 04:28
The consequences of trauma range, and they really impact what we call the mind body because they can range from chronic inflammation, meaning some digestive problem, some heart disease problem, all the way to full blown PTSD where we see individuals really traumatized by past experiences where they're reliving a lot of those difficult experiences continuously in their mind, in their dreams.
Debra Maldonado 05:02
They're having nightmares, are triggered all the time. But if you think about 70%, not all of us have that extreme. A lot of us have these things that trigger us and bother us. Even just chronic stress from trying to protect yourself can impact the body.
Robert Maldonado 05:23
A lot of us have subclinical presentations of PTSD, meaning we've gone through difficult things that we haven't had the time or opportunity to process properly. They impact our mind body wellness or health.
Debra Maldonado 05:42
I don't know any person that doesn't go through life without something. We all have to deal with death and illness, we're sick when we're kids, or we have someone that dies when we're younger, divorce that happened, being bullied at school, a lot of different things that happen in an ordinary life. It would be hard to find someone who did not have those issues in some degree.
Robert Maldonado 06:11
Back to your question, why does the mind body hold on to those difficult experiences in the first place? If you think of PTSD, somebody goes through a war, somebody experiences a flood, a car crash, the mind body sees those experiences as important lessons for the individual. It's saying, if this is going to be part of your experience in the world, and this is the kind of world you're living in, pay attention to these traumatic experiences, because you want to survive them.
Debra Maldonado 06:49
It assumes you most likely will not change your environment. It's going to be showing up again.
Robert Maldonado 06:55
It's saying, this is an important experience, remember it. At the cellular level, the mind body absorbs it, takes it in and says “I am holding on to this, so I can learn from it.” The problem comes in when people have no opportunity to process that experience properly. They try to soothe it, drink it away, use drugs, or they might even go through some healing or therapy. But often it’s to treat the symptoms, the anxiety, the depression, the panic attacks, the nightmares, instead of getting at the root of that experience.
Debra Maldonado 07:39
Often it's pharmacology. Take this pill, it'll take the edge off type of thing. It's this idea that it's really made for our survival, it's saying “Pay attention” because it's trying to protect us, it's a protective mechanism versus seeing it as something broken in you. Actually the healthy mind does this. It reminds me of this is great analogy. Back in when we were cavemen, there were two cavemen hunting, they were going out into the wilds while everyone's safe at camp. There was a rustle in the bush, and all of a sudden, a tiger jumps out. One of the guys is watching the other guy get eaten by the tiger, which is traumatic, so he gets into a fight or flight response, and says “I gotta get out of here. It's dangerous, I'm not going to survive.” Adrenaline fills his body, so he can run away from the tiger. It's really an excellent system our body has to protect ourselves and give us the energy to move away from danger. But the problem is, the next time he goes out to hunt, he hears that rustle in the bush and immediately goes into fight or flight. He doesn't even see the tiger yet. And then a bird flies out of the bush. When we talk about a body hanging on to it, it hangs on to the thing or things in the environment that are associated with that event, not necessarily the actual thing that happened or the actual perpetrator. That's why it feels so illogical, why do I get so stressed about loud noise or loud voices or when someone's angry or hearing a certain sound? Why do I get sensitive to that? That’s that rustle in the bush. It isn’t the threat but it's the thing that happened before the threat. Then it makes sense why the mind would do that because why make you upset during the threat? Let's take a step back, rework it, and protect you before it even happened. It's really a powerful system that we have, thank God, we're not hunting for our food anymore but we still operate from that same type of old brain.
Robert Maldonado 10:10
The modern world has changed around us, the environment, but the internal structure of our mind body is still very ancient. It is essentially the identical system that was operating back in the Paleolithic times when we lived in caves.
Debra Maldonado 10:33
What happens when it’s replaying over and over again? What does that mean when somebody keeps obsessing over things that happened? Even not a traumatic event, but me being single for so long, I used to replay “Why this person left or why this relationship didn't work out? What did I do wrong?" I was constantly trying to get my way out of being hurt again. When I liked someone, this part of my mind was being protective. It works not only in life threatening, abuse, or dark, traumatic things that happened to people, but also emotional hurt, it’s there to protect. Why does it replay it over and over?
Robert Maldonado 11:17
The idea is that anything that's replayed like a recurrent dream or a recurring nightmare, the mind is saying “You haven't paid proper attention to this.” It brings it back up, so that we can master it, deal with it. Our body has a homeostasis mechanism, meaning, it's always trying to find a balance within neurotransmitters, hormones, blood pressure, everything, it's trying to always keep that balance, it does it naturally. The mind has a similar mechanism. Whenever there are things we experience in our mind that we haven't processed appropriately yet, it brings them back up, so that we can pay attention to them. The problem, again, is simply that usually the individual doesn't have the proper tools to process those difficult emotions, that experience. That's where therapy and coaching come in, they can help the individual make meaningful sense of those experiences.
Debra Maldonado 12:42
It’s like using the content in a different way than just thinking “This is a bad thing, and I need to get rid of it, or I need to cope with it.” It's like “What's another possibility here?”
Robert Maldonado 12:53
What's another possibility? How can I use this in a creative way in my life? That's really the idea. If I or you had gone through some difficult, traumatic experience, the ideal would be “Let's work with people that can help us make sense of this and make a meaningful work out of it.”
Debra Maldonado 13:21
Instead of feeling like a victim and feeling like it's a life sentence. Because you had this experience, you're forever broken. There is a way out, I love what you always say, this a sign of a healthy mind that you have this response. Something's not broken, it's working the way it is, just from the old perspective. You can always change your perspective.
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Debra Maldonado 14:43
How would you work with trauma? Coaching versus therapy?
Robert Maldonado 14:49
That's a great question because it often comes up in our training. We train coaches, some of them are therapists, so the question comes up, what is the difference in the approach? In some forms, it's very subtle, but in some forms, it's very obvious. The obvious side is that in coaching, we're moving the high functioning individual towards their full potential. Whereas in therapy, it's often bringing people up from subpar functioning, their functioning is lowered because of their traumatic experiences, or the condition, depression or anxiety. We're helping them rise to the level of normality, whatever that means.
Debra Maldonado 15:48
I always found that, the years of doing a lot of self help work and having healers work with me, there was always this “I'm broken, I’m gonna have to fix myself.” But then I still identified as someone who had an experience that made me broken, which makes me hyper vigilant to not get hurt again. It is not very empowering, you had this experience, now you have to heal it, then keep the barriers up and watch for the red flags for this not to happen again. It doesn't feel like you've really transcended the experience. It's just you learned how to manage it in a way.
Robert Maldonado 16:32
That's a good way to put it. Of course, we're oversimplifying it because there are very good therapists that specialize in working with traumatized individuals and families, and are really able to help people in a very profound way. But what we see and certainly what the research indicates, is that most people— and remember, 70% of the planet essentially is, has been traumatized in some form or another. Most people are not able to find proper treatment for their conditions or their trauma. They’ve been doing patch work on it. They might read a book, and it helps them a little bit, they might go to a seminar or healing weekend or something, and it helps them in some form. But they're not getting systematic, comprehensive approach to help them process these difficult experiences.
Debra Maldonado 17:37
Not getting to the root basically, what's keeping them replaying this in their mind, what's not allowing them to be free. What's the first step? How do you look at the client differently?
Robert Maldonado 17:54
If we take the best of yoga philosophy, the Eastern wisdom traditions, the best of current neuroscience, most of the research now comes from psychoneuroimmunology, meaning how the mind impacts the immune system, because that gets at that connection of the mind body. If we combine what we know from those two traditions, the best picture that emerges is that our approach should be to look at the individual as a mind body, meaning the mind body is working together. Their body went through an experience, and their mind interpreted that experience in a certain way.
Debra Maldonado 18:55
It's like thoughts and feelings, people separate them, “If I just changed my thought”, but it's a thought and feeling dynamic.
Robert Maldonado 19:02
It's together, you can't separate it. Although, in modern medicine, it's often separated. You go to the emergency room, they treat your symptoms without asking you “What is the meaning of this to you?” They don't care about what meaning you make out of it. They're separating the body and the mind.
Debra Maldonado 19:24
Anytime I went to the doctor, the doctor never mentioned “What's going on in your personal life? Are you stressed out? Do you have any major changes in your life?” It's more like “This is what the biology is showing.” But now things are changing because a lot of people, a lot of physicians, a lot of medical companies are starting to realize that there is this mind body connection.
Robert Maldonado 19:46
Yes and no. Yes, there’s more awareness, more education, and more information, certainly, from the internet. People can look these things up now. But ironically, I guess because their life is more stressful, less people are accessing that information. There's more people that are traumatized, more people that are stressed more, that are not getting that proper treatment. Back to the philosophy, if we take the best of the Eastern wisdom and current neuroscience, the picture that emerges is that there's this mind body that is experiencing traumatic events and holding on to them because it's a survival mechanism. But from the Eastern tradition, we get the understanding that we are neither the mind nor the body, nor the mind body together. The awareness, the consciousness that is allowing my body to experience the world, and in which the mind body is experiencing the world, is not damaged by that experience. That's a radical departure from modern medicine, from healing systems, from so many ways that people have been trying to treat their trauma versus transcend it. We're not saying because the pure awareness in the human being cannot be damaged, to neglect the trauma.
Debra Maldonado 21:39
That didn't happen, almost repress it, or deny it, or deny how you feel, or say “This isn't real, I'm not going to pay attention to these emotions or this trigger.”
Robert Maldonado 21:51
We're not saying it's not real. It certainly happened because you experienced it, your mind held on to it and has interpreted it as a traumatic event. The difference in this approach is that we're questioning what is the nature of that experience. If we look at the body as a machine, we can certainly say the machine was damaged, because it impacts the neurotransmitters, or part of the mind body was physically damaged. It had to be repaired, and therefore it's permanently damaged and scarred in some way. Then that makes sense. But if we look at the individual in that bigger perspective that we are the pure awareness, the consciousness that allows the mind body to experience the world, and that the mind body, that consciousness that allows my body to exist, cannot be damaged, then we see that it doesn't matter what the experience is, how it traumatic, how injurious it was to the mind body, the true self in the individual is undamaged and cannot be hurt.
Debra Maldonado 23:06
A simple way of thinking about it is that I may have had this experience that affected my mind body, but there's also an aspect of myself that has not been damaged. Instead of saying “I'm all all damaged, every aspect of me is damaged, I got to heal it and then one day, I can be better”, you’re saying there's a part of you that's already healed, that's already whole. How can you magnify, open up that other part of your consciousness, so that you can truly process it in a more conscious, more aware way. The healed part is already there instead of it's something to attain.
Robert Maldonado 23:50
Not only that, the traumatic experience itself, the pain of living, the pain of being alive, human suffering, is pointing to the true nature of the individual. It's forcing you to ask the question “What happened to me? What is the meaning of my suffering here?” It’s a wake up call. It's a natural progression in the stages of awareness. Firstly, become aware of yourself as a body, when we're babies, we're crawling around, touching things, experiencing the world. Then we start to get a sense that there's this mind inside of me, observing, experiencing, feeling. The next stage, which most people don't get to because they think that's all there is, is the internal mind, that's who I am, the sense of I, the ego. They believe that's who they are, so they stop. But what is this suffering in our lives? It's an opportunity to go deeper and ask the question, is there anything else? Is there a deeper foundation in me that I can count on instead of just trying to ease my suffering at the ego level?
Debra Maldonado 25:22
It reminds me of the Matrix where he says “You could take the red pill or the blue pill”, you can stay unconscious and live your life chasing the fantasies of making more money or getting that partner and all the human experiences. But when there's suffering, it really forces us to stop and make a choice. If everything was going well in our life, we probably would be so externalized to the illusion of the world being all there is, but when we suffer, we’re forced to turn inward, we're forced to look in. How could that be bad? Suffering itself is uncomfortable. But that discomfort leads us to asking bigger questions. Finding meaning in that experience can be a catalyst for something even greater.
Robert Maldonado 26:12
Often, the best coaches are people that have gone through this experience themselves, they've come to work because of their suffering. They found a way to transcend it. They've made meaning out of their suffering and their experience. Like Viktor Frankl, he was in the concentration camps, if you can imagine any worse scenario of the human condition than that, that was the most horrible experience a human being could have. He made that a part of his mission to keep that idea of life, you can transcend anything, any experience life can throw at you, no matter how terrible. His message was, it transforms you and gives you your purpose in a sense. It allows you to keep on moving in a meaningful way, and not to let it crush you.
Debra Maldonado 27:29
You have two choices. You can let it just crush you and defeat you. Or you can face it and say “I'm not going to let this event, my past experience define me, I'm ready to create my life.” Jung famously said “I'm not what happened to me, I'm free to choose who I become.” That's the philosophy behind our mind body system. The CreativeMind Wellness is that we want to help people see their own potential for healing, their own potential for empowering themselves, to use their mind to direct their body versus letting their body decide what it does to them and limits their life. There's so much powerful research on this. 70% of people are traumatized, there's so much that's happening in the stress in our body that makes all these other things occur. These dysfunctions, diseases, disorders, like autoimmune disorders start to become an epidemic. Even chronic pain is an epidemic that's happening. The way they treat chronic pain is through the opioids, which created the opioid crisis. It's not like the modern medicine has figured this out. The ancients from thousands of years already had, so why don't we tap into that wisdom of understanding who we really are, that we're not just the mind body, but we are a higher consciousness, a higher awareness?
Robert Maldonado 29:03
That's where the contribution of the Eastern wisdom traditions come in. It’s really revolutionary, in the sense that we see that people are ready to accept these higher teachings. Basically, if you do any search on Google, you'll find thousands of sites that talk about these principles, and they work. Yoga philosophy, for example, has been around for about 5000 years, because it works.
Debra Maldonado 29:38
It's not something that you have to believe, it's not a religion. It's something you actually get a direct experience of by examining your mind, examining the principles and seeing if this make sense, testing it out. The main thing that we teach is this idea that you're not the mind body. So much of our life we believe we’re who we are, we believe we’re a combination of all our past experiences, we’re this name, our degrees, our relationship status, the money in the bank or credit score, our level of success we achieved, our title if we work in a corporation. But all these external things that the mind body carries are uniform. We never really know what's beneath that part of us, that is the mystery. The magic in us, that is non-physical, non-tangible to the naked eye.
Robert Maldonado 30:37
In coming episodes, we're going to be discussing other issues surrounding mind body. In psychology, it is actually called the mind body problem, because they can't figure it out. In consciousness studies in the West, it's also talked about as the hard problem of consciousness. The simple problem is to figure out how the mind thinks, how it processes emotions and all that. We can figure that out, we can use neuroimaging now to look at what the brain is doing and how it processes all this information. But we can't figure out how it does it, what animates it, what allows it to experience that subjective experience we call our life. It's still a mystery in the West but Eastern traditions have a much more sophisticated way of understanding awareness and consciousness. Including that with the understanding that comes from neuroscience is the most powerful way we can work with a mind body, because it addresses all levels of existence: the physical body, the internal mind, its emotions, its meaning-making functions, as well as the spiritual elements of consciousness, awareness.
Debra Maldonado 32:28
Coaching is not replacing traditional treatments, if you're in medical treatment, you don't want to replace it, you want to complement it, you want to work with your mind, while you're getting the traditional treatment, so you heal faster, you have less pain, you can transcend and be free faster. It's a more of an acceleration. If you're just treating the symptom and hoping the symptom goes away, but don't get the gift of that experience, it's like you suffered for nothing. What if you can take that suffering and give it meaning? It's a doorway to your awakening. That's a very valuable thing to have, instead of pushing it away. You're now welcoming it in, saying “This was part of my experience, but it's not the whole of my experience. There's so much more to me.”
Robert Maldonado 33:28
I can't wait to get to some of the visualizations you do.
Debra Maldonado 33:34
Tell some stories about what we've seen in this work, people that have had dramatic changes in their health because of it.
Robert Maldonado 33:43
Hypnosis, meditation, casualization, guided imagery, dream work all go into work with a mind body.
Debra Maldonado 33:55
We’ll see you next week for our next episode. Don't forget to subscribe, you don't want to miss this series. Our last words are that you're not broken, you are more powerful than you think. We hope you’ll be inspired to look deeper within to find your true nature and see who you really are.
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