Here’s the transcript for episode 009 of the Trauma-Informed Everything podcast:
and I’m Andie and welcome to trauma informed everything.
On this podcast we examine how trauma shapes our individual family and societal experiences.
We demystify trauma and promote a world of trauma informed everything because like it or not trauma informed everything.
As always remember our disclaimer? Everything we say is for informational purposes only,
and nothing on this show is meant to replace treatment from a licensed mental health professional. Thanks for listening and enjoy the show.
Andie, what’s your favorite book about trauma?
Seriously, do you even have to ask? I mean, Allison, do you even know me? Well, what’s mine
I mean, exactly. That’s what I thought. Okay. Okay, how about this? On the count of three? We’re both going to say our favorite trauma book. Cool. Cool. Yeah. Okay. All right. All right. Ready? 123 the body keeps the score. I know, right?
It took me months to finish because there was so much good stuff to absorb and learn and fly.
Yes, me too. That’s why when I recommend it to people, I tell them to take their time. It’s gonna be a lot. You know what I mean? Oh, totally.
Oh, wait, wait, wait, here’s an idea. Here’s I did hear me out. Okay. Okay. You ready? Pretty good. Let’s let’s you and I get some folks together to read us process and apply the concepts from the body keeps the score. Hey, why don’t we start in the fall.
Ooh, that sounds like a good idea. Okay, okay, but seriously, y’all, this book is thick. It’s important, and it’s key for understanding trauma in the real world. That’s why we’re choosing it for our first ever fall book club starting this September.
We’ll have regular online gatherings printables to help you process while you read journal prompts, and more. We want you to get the most out of this incredibly important piece of trauma research. So we’ll be there with you every step of the way. To sign up, click the link in the notes for this show or go to Allison Sweatman comm slash fall book club.
This episode is very important for us to say that we are not therapists are we Andie? No,
I’m not even close.
I mean, me neither. We’re just pretty nerdy about this kind of stuff and Love to bring it to the masses if we can. So, more disclaimer, we just want to add more disclaimer before we talk about something that’s kind of like newer in trauma research, right?
Yes and newer, and may be enlightening for a lot of people. And if you feel enlightened, or have an emotional response to any of our episodes, especially this one, I think, take that to a therapist, a real therapist who has letters behind their name. And we say that because we’ve been there and it’s incredibly important to be led and guided and assisted in processing those emotions and those responses and, you know, potential diagnoses in a professional licensed place that is held accountable by a standard
huh. That is why we love The people in the therapy room doing that one on one work. So all that to say, let this serve as a disclaimer slash trigger warning, maybe but just know, we’ll be here. You know, this podcast episode is not going anywhere. So you can pause it step away process journal through it if you need to. But if you really feel like you need to take whatever is coming up to someone so that you can process it in a therapeutic relationship. Obviously we recommend that and this is not a replacement for it, though.
We are in a We are an assistant tool. Yes. used alongside.
Yes. So with that said, complex trauma. No biggie, no biggie. We’ve had some folks on our Instagram page tell us kind of their understanding of complex trauma. It’s been cool to see how it really is something that more and more people are coming to understand. And I think that it is important and exciting. But it’s also just a hard thing to talk about. I am in a trauma, a traumatic stress studies course right now. And I sat through a two and a half hour lecture, all about complex trauma. And that’s a lot of the basis of what we’re going to be bringing to you on this episode and in the next episode, and it was a two and a half hour lecture. And it took me about eight hours to process because I was taking copious notes. And I was triggered. I was like, wow, we’re just laying it all out there. So yeah, let’s let’s talk like Eddie, if someone were to just say to you, what is complex trauma? Like you’re just having brunch, right? And someone’s like, what’s complex trauma? I heard this thing about complex trauma. What is that?
What do you say? Well, I would know that that person is my people.
I just want to unpack company. trauma over mimosas
which are probably, in my case for a complex trauma. Um, so I describe when people ask me what the difference is between PTSD and see PTSD, complex trauma. You know, when we think of PTSD or trauma, we think of a large event. Or it can happen over a short period of time we think of veterans who have fought wars and this large event that ends and it’s like a giant sledge hammer, just crushing with a huge impact. A giant Meteor, if you will. trauma is is more a slow, a slow burn, I guess. complex trauma is a more slow burn. Or, you know, if we want to go back to the sledge hammer, it’s more of a hammer just consistently tapping away. That’s how I mean, I describe it like that. But I think Allison, when we were talking about this before, you had a really great description
of what complex trauma is to you.
Today we’re talking about the things are missing versus
Oh, yeah. Yes, yes. And we’ll definitely get into the specifics of this. But one aspect of what people adults with complex trauma will describe is that it’s not that there was one big thing that made childhood really hard or made the upbringing really hard. It’s that something was missing that needed to be there in order for them to develop appropriately or develop in a healthy way. So it’s this idea that, you know, it wasn’t just a horrible childhood. For a lot of people. This is the case developmental trauma can be present when the childhood is, like really, really bad in terms of traumatic event after a traumatic event. But a lot of people with complex trauma, just say, I just feel like something was off about my childhood. And there’s all kinds of symptoms that can come with that which we’re going to discuss. But I just feel like there was something that I needed that I didn’t get, and it resulted in developmental complexities and issues for me. And so I think that is kind of what turns the, the normal understanding of trauma on its head. That’s what complex trauma does, because a lot of times we’re talking about something that was missing, instead of this extra event. That happened. We’re talking about something that needed to happen, that didn’t happen. That was kind of a lightbulb moment for me in the course that I’m taking when The professor was explaining complex trauma. So that is one way of thinking about complex trauma is that something is missing. And then like Andie said, it’s like this slow burn. Rather than a big sledgehammer coming and shattering something to pieces. It’s just like little dents over time. And the next thing you know, something is just really, really broken. And so these are just a couple of ways of thinking about it. But we want to jump in to something that will help you if you have an understanding of PTSD. So the three symptom clusters of PTSD are re experiencing, which a lot of people will call flashbacks to some degree, avoiding or numbing, and then hyper arousal. So those are the three symptom clusters of PTSD when we’re talking about complex trauma or cpts. As many people call it, we’re going to have five other clusters that look a lot like those three, but show up in different ways.
The very first thing is emotional regulation difficulties. Now this is impulsivity, self destructive behaviors. Difficulty regulating yourself. This can be in the moment or over time. Mm hmm.
Yeah. And we had an episode. Oh, a few episodes back where we talked about self regulation. This is where that’s going to come into play and be very difficult for those with complex trauma where we’re talking about, you’re very impulsive, so you don’t stop yourself from doing things that you know are harmful to yourself or others or potentially harmful to yourself or others. When we have self destructive behaviors, sometimes the self destructive behaviors are coping methods isms for the emotions that we can’t regulate, and then emotional constriction or just like completely suppressing ignoring that you have emotions, and then they’re not able to move through your body system. And so it can which we’re going to talk about somatic or body stress later, but for sure, just these emotional regulation difficulties, when we talked about regulation and co regulation, and how important that is just for every single human. And when we’re talking about cptsd, it’s like, this is gonna be really, really hard for people who have complex trauma, and it comes back to what we talked about on the regulation episode. This started very young. This is an attachment based issue. This is when the brain was newly developing. And we needed a foundation in this human’s subconscious That said, the world is a safe place. The world is a place with people who are generally trustworthy, right like to have their system at a subconscious level know that that can be the way the world is. That’s good enough parenting, right? That’s good enough attachment, but these emotional regulation difficulties can come out of those attachment issues not those attachment needs not being met very, very early in life. Yeah. So the second kind of cluster of cptsd is going to be disturbances in relational capacities which also goes back to attachment, I would say this is even more connected to attachment.
The attachment styles come out Mm hmm.
Those those disorganized or anxious ways of repeatedly, trying to connect, trying to have relationships and meaningful relationships and then seeing those relationships fall apart. And it’s not to say that the person or with complex trauma is always at fault whenever that happens, but it is to say, we can see where it comes from, we can see where it’s coming from from a very neurobiological a very primal level. relational capacities isn’t just your relationship with others, it’s your view of yourself as well. Andie, what do you have to say about view of self and trauma? I, I think we could do a whole episode about this. This was huge for me in my personal healing journey, but when I think about disturbances in relational capacities, just as much as my relationship to others has had to heal as a result of healing from my trauma, my relationship to myself has healed even more.
Yeah, this is always feeling when when you struggle with this, this is always feeling as if you are unworthy as if you
I see this in my life on a daily basis when I literally make the smallest of choices. And I judge myself upon those choices, like very simple things like choosing to go to the restroom, choosing to eat, choosing to take care of myself, and I judged myself for doing it wrong consumed. And having this, this very negative view of oneself where no matter we it’s feeling that no matter what you do, you’re failing. Yeah, yeah, it’s just not having a relationship with yourself. It’s it can be self hatred, it can be feeling very unkind towards yourself, not feeling like you deserve to do things such as go to the bathroom when you need to or eat when you need to take care of you know, we can give you seeing a lot of giving to other people around you, but having the inner ability to look inward and meet your own needs on a very basic level.
Yeah. And the inability to show up for yourself, the the worthy, the worthiness comes in there. And then I also think there’s a sense of otherness that you feel at a very, very basic, Primal level you feel like you have a defectiveness that no one else in the world has. It’s this feeling like there’s something wrong with me that I can’t explain. And you just can’t like kind of can’t shake that feeling of there’s something wrong with Yeah,
there’s a lot of internal browbeating on a moment to moment basis of you know, and it’s very personalized. It’s not I feel like there’s something wrong with me because something happened to me. It’s, there’s something wrong with me because I’m the thing that’s wrong. Yes,
yeah. Yeah. Like Like, even as a traumatized person. And might be blaming others outwardly, you can bet there is an inner self loathing and inner self hatred or in blaming that’s going on in that, right? It’s not going to be it’s not going to be that they are just blaming others and actually believing they’re not like standing up for themselves, right? Like it’s a coping mechanism.
mechanism. It’s a defense mechanism. When somebody truly believes that they have no worth, they, they don’t, most people don’t, you know, like, crumble into a mess in the corner. We all have those moments, obviously. But most of the time we put our walls up and we go on the defensive to protect ourselves. There’s very much this concept of having two people within ourselves, having the broken inner child and then having this fierce warrior who defends ourselves and That fierce warrior picks up those coping mechanisms in order to protect that inner child. And that’s where we see the destructive behavior or the self sabotaging has start to happen the defensiveness.
So I think that when we are in relationships with traumatized people, or potentially traumatized people, or if we just want to live in a more trauma informed way, when we see those disturbances in relational capacities know that there’s something else going on, a lot of times, it’s not just an altered view of the reality of their relationship. It comes from also an altered view of self that is usually very, very difficult for that person in a way that can’t be articulated. It’s just this view of myself being other you know, because they weren’t given something that they needed in a in a critical developmental time.
I think of the people you know, it’s Very difficult to talk about these things and not start people and we’re all doing that. I know you’re doing that as you listen. But these are the people where we can see a lot of serial dating, or jumping from friend group to friend group or jumping from situation to situation and they’re consistently looking for this need to fulfill something and nothing fixes it, nothing fits. So they’re just moving around. And this is where, you know, this is where the aunt at the family party says, I just don’t understand why Kristin can’t seem to keep a boyfriend every year she brings a new one, like, you know, I’m in and I’m not saying diagnose all these people.
Right, right, right.
What I’m saying is you see this consistent movement that no one can quite explain because on the on the general on the regular, they appear to function very properly and orderly and are functioning people Citing, but there’s just something in relationships that they can’t quite get or hang on to.
Absolutely. And even people who would not have these five clusters that were going to describe these symptom clusters, they might have just that disturbances in relational capacities because they weren’t given something developmentally that they needed, right? Or, or they were given something that hindered development at a particular time and development that makes those relational capacities really, really limited for them, and disturbed and so even if we might not use the word trauma, and we definitely wouldn’t say that they have complex trauma. We can understand like this is this is developmental, you know, and I think that is a trauma informed way to live even with people who may not have experienced anything that we would ever define as trauma. You know, it’s a way of life.
Again, that’s why we say take this to your therapist, because you may be sitting here, you know, you’re going to pick one or two of these things and you’re like, oh my goodness, that’s me. It doesn’t necessarily mean you have complex trauma, it means that you are lacking in that area. And there are specific ways to you know, diagnose that go beyond just what’s the word? The specific ways to diagnose that go beyond just connecting with the symptoms we’re describing? Mm hmm.
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Okay, number three is alterations in attention or consciousness, which includes dissociation.
Yes. So let’s start by defining dissociation. dissociation is one word that can mean a lot of things in a lot of different people’s lives. You might hear people describe it as feeling like they’re not in their body. So sometimes people who have extreme dissociative episodes will literally feel like they’re hovering above their body watching themselves from above like they’re not in there. body. And there’s lots of different causes for that not even just trauma, but it’s really common with trauma. There’s also amnesia, like legitimately you just have memory loss from large, large chunks of time. That’s what you see most often, I would say in complex trauma because you forget a person with complex trauma will forget large periods of their childhood that’s, that’s something that I have experienced and then kind of in the moment, this depersonalization or derealization, so like, you feel disconnected from your body or disconnected from the world around you that you’re in immediately. You don’t feel like you kind of feel nothing and so I think a lot of times when I before I understood dissociation, I thought it was just bouts of depression. I really because that that kind of disconnected feeling from reality from the world around me. They can definitely be both happening at the same time, but If I would have known what association was, you know, five years ago would have been really helpful. So,
yeah, if I don’t at all I didn’t.
Um, this is also we see, you know, in a severe case of disassociated dis Association, you will see multiple personality disorder, where, yeah, there have disassociate disassociated parts of their personality into separate beings within themselves in order to have defense mechanisms. So if they’re triggered in one way or have something that they would like to express, instead of seeing different emotions, you will see different personalities step forward, to take on that role. And either to perfect either to defend or protect or to explain or share or connect. So that’s another very it’s much rarer. form of resistance should but you can see that you can see that in a much milder form, it will be somebody who feels as if they have two personalities within themselves that aren’t necessarily actual personalities. But it’s where when you are triggered or feeling, you know, having a more depressive day, you can see the emotional side and the logical side and have a conversation. I mean, if we want to get as cliche as having the angel and the devil on your shoulder, where you’re able to separate your bodily actions with what’s happening on the inside. Mm hmm.
Yeah, that’s another really interesting and specific way like that it can show up I think, it took me a while to understand the very complex ways that dissociation can manifest in people’s lives, like multiple personalities is obvious or really obvious. A really extreme diagnosis dissociative diagnosis. But what I did to get personal what I did as a person with complex trauma was akin to showing up as a different person in different places. And that was a coping mechanism, you know, and so it’s something that as a child, people with complex trauma often have to do to survive, because as a child, you’re dependent upon the adults in the room and so you figure out who you have to be in order to please them to find you know, and so, that is sometimes a decision, right? That becomes a coping mechanism. That was once a survival tool.
Mm hmm. This is we talk a lot about this. In the adoption community, adoptees, every single adoptee will relate to this. We call ourselves chameleons. Oh, right. Yeah. The Yeah. It’s a very powerful midterm has been a donkey where we were taken out of our biology. So from the moment we were taken away from our biology, we had to start becoming chameleons and adapting. And we have done this since day one. And it’s for survival that I need to look and act like these people to fit in in order to emotionally survive. This trauma that I’ve been placed into, which is difficult and hard for adoptive parents to hear. But that’s, that’s what’s happening. Hmm.
Yeah, I think that’s one manifestation of the truth that biology matters. It doesn’t mean that your adoptions not great. It doesn’t mean that you can’t still be a good enough parent right and an adoptive parenting situation. But that’s one example of of what so many adoptees described so. So the fourth symptom cluster that we’ll talk about is somatic distress and anytime You hear the word somatic? Just think body. We’re talking about the body whenever we talk about somatic distress. And so this is like chronic pain, other physiological symptoms that can range from, I mean, my goodness, heart disease to rheumatoid arthritis to other. Oh, really? Maybe that’s why it came to my mind. I forgot I knew that to two other issues, like autoimmune issues, you know, we’re seeing that a lot in people with complex trauma. I think let’s go back to the aces study, right? Like, that’s where you see all of these things, you know, show up in people who had complex trauma, but anyway, yeah, so somatic distress is something that we’ll call traditionally disease, right? Like just things, things that will show up later in life. And a lot of times they’re not related. Or they’re not connected clinically early on to see PTSD because of the medical model of mental health, which is a shame.
Yes, which is a shame and it is the gap is closing there, you know, going back to our education on the nervous system, one of the parts of the nervous system is the somatic nervous system, and that’s where all of this stress is stored in your somatic nervous system. And it’s very primal. And that’s where we see you know, these early childhood traumas such as being adopted show up in our somatic nervous systems, which causes things like autoimmune disorder and autoimmune disorders are incredibly prevalent in adoptees because we’ve been holding that child that trauma in since more and more science is showing that we’ve been holding that trauma since prior to being born prenatally. Where we are overloaded with cortisol, which cortisol triggers this somatic nervous system and starts changing our very biology and our cellular structure as we’re developing in the womb. So, if the gap is closing, we’re getting there closing medical and mental gap.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we’re getting there. Oh, sludge. I’m definitely in a season. I’m definitely in a season where and I recognize this I am just really like, well look at that medical model of mental health and how that’s messing everything up and like and throwing my hands up and feeling really hopeless about it. But I need friends like you to bring me back to like the gap is closing people are asking more for you know, us to think about this in a different way. So
yeah, thanks for that reminder that the bike keep score outsells the DSM. Yeah. I think about every single time I get frustrated with the medical board. I’m like, we’re outselling the DSM here.
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Love it. Um, okay, so adversely affected belief systems is the fifth cluster of complex trauma, which this was really, really interesting to me my healing from complex trauma was coterminous or happened at the same time as my kind of faith deconstruction. And I didn’t think I really didn’t put two and two together, how connected those things were, you know, like, it’s not that I don’t believe that they everything that I kind of grew up believing, but it is that those things look very different than they did. So, adversely affected belief systems. Some people also say, altered systems of meaning. So like life starts to mean something different than it always did. And that can be really hard. If you grew up in In a very stringent ideology that doesn’t welcome questions.
Name that right now. Yeah and and that’s where I’m to get really personal that is where it’s gonna be in my book one day. I’m gonna hold myself accountable right there. Um, that’s where I first started realizing even as a very small child, that something wasn’t right within myself something was not typical or I was different. And it was where my faith system that was being taught to me was gaslighting and ignoring the very physical reactions that I was having, and didn’t acknowledge them or handle them. And so that was just very interesting to me that my belief system was were one of the first places where I were ready flags were being thrown on sidelines like glitter.
Yeah, that’s really interesting. Well, I mean, if you think about it, and so my husband is gonna be a social worker too, which is fun. And
got him in. But his focus in his study is religious trauma. And for so many people who grow up in Super stringent ideologies, religiously, their complex trauma is unfortunately compounded by that setting, because it’s very much anytime there’s a this is how you should be and this is how you shouldn’t be that your that is repeated to you as a child. That, that plus being an adoptee or that plus having a very broken family with a father with a disability. You know, like that that’s my story. All of that added to an already difficult developmental situation. And it’s kind of a recipe like for me, when I got really serious about my this particular belief system. In late teenage years, it was it was a coping mechanism. Yeah. Because Because Oh, I can be in like, I’ve found a place where if I do say, and believe the right things I’m in no matter what you know. And that is why and now that I’m kind of really talking it through that is why when I started to heal, it was like, everything had to come undone in order to be redone again, in a more healthy way. And yeah, you know, this is we, we are a place for literally everyone like this podcast. Trauma research is for everyone. That’s part of why we do this podcast, no matter what you believe, but if you are a person who believes that God believes in Universal reality of some kind, a source of all things that are good. It’s something that like, I don’t know very many things for sure. But what I do know for sure is that what is healing for you and your nervous system and your body and the way that it was created in the way that it came to be, is what that God that ultimate reality wants for you. And so, that is something that I have had to know believe trust, let myself help myself believe because the healing was so crucial to me having a faith at all again, like
I think Well, here we are on our stuff. I, you I just want to add on that, that I think that people fate sometimes stops them from wanting to heal because we you know that it’s going to dismantle your faith in some way and now is scary to dismantle your coping mechanism, whatever faith it is. And it I just want to say like you can dismantle your faith and then rebuild it. It doesn’t mean you lose your faith or you stop believing which you know does happen for some people. And which is also okay. Mm hmm. But don’t use your faith as a protection mechanism as a coping mechanism. Because you are going to have the opportunity to rebuild it is still believing in that universal What did you say universal
universal goodness is what I say are universal source of all things good.
still believe those things because if that if that universal source of all things good, truly is the universal source of all things good. You’re dis deconstruction of your faith. Will will be good for you. They, like it wants good for you whether whether it’s a force or a god. And as you rebuild that, that’s only going to add to your journey. And I just see so many people who use it as a defense. And I took my heart breaks for them because I want to say, this goodness, wants goodness for you.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And there’s nothing that speaks to like being close to the goodness in the universe to God is the language that I use. There’s nothing that speaks more to that than actual healing, like true real healing that we can see evidence of. So to bring it back to what the symptom cluster is here. Sorry, it is. Oh, no, no, no, I just thought I’d bring us back there. It’s adversely affected belief systems also referred to altered systems of meaning. So the way we can generalize this and even speak about it in A way that is very not religious at all, is altered systems of meaning. So whatever it is that you constructed, or that the person with complex trauma constructed as the meaning of life or the way that life should be the way that you like, the very nature of humanity, if you will, yeah, you can also come crumbling down.
Yeah, it can be family systems, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a faith, it can be your traditions and your culture. Oh, yeah. It can be those things as well. Mm hmm.
And then I also want to say when we’re talking about culture, religion, faith, like, you know, family and like faith and family, whatever it is that become has become the meaning of life for you, when we talk about adversely affecting them or altering them. It can be really scary because like we said, it’s a coping mechanism. But it’s my understanding of healing and kind of the process of reconstructing that the full circle nature of this is that someday you really can come to a Place where you look back on even the messed up stuff in that ideology and you’re like, it had a place it hadn’t had a place it you know, it wasn’t I would never condone the harm that it caused to me and continues to cause to people, but it had a place in my story and I can accept it because that’s what helps me continue to heal is accepting, you know, so, um, I feel I feel a little preachy when I say that kind of, but I just I really believe that these belief systems, the the, like non negotiables that were given about belief systems as very young children can be incredibly traumatic and that’s why the healing is coterminous with the deconstruction. I see it all the time. I’m in the I’m in those circles on Twitter. And the people who are the people who are talking about this nervous system work this body He worked his healing work from complex trauma. So often it’s wrapped up in faith and the faith they were given as a child turning out to be pretty harmful, you know? So all that to say it’s better on the other side. And you really can look back with eyes that that see that it had a place even if it was even if there was harm there. Again, we don’t condone the harm. We don’t want to continue. But we can we can see it in that way. So that we can move forward. So yeah, so recap. What are the five symptom clusters of cptsd?
Well, you asked me. Yep, quiz. Oh, boy. Oh, all right, the first one emotional regulation difficulties. Number two disturbances in relational capacities. Number three, alterations and attention. Consciousness, which includes dissociation, for somatic stress, chronic pain or other psychological symptoms, connected to that somatic nervous system and five adversely affected belief systems, which could be faith, culture, family traditions, etc,
Yes, yes, yes. So, if you came to this episode like complex trauma, what’s that? That’s kind of in a nutshell, as an adult who’s like, oh, maybe I need to learn about this complex trauma thing. Those five things are a good place to start right like and if one of them seems like something you need to unpack again, do it with a practitioner, do it in us in a place that safe a trauma informed practitioner can help you understand these things as they relate to your particular story. So this is a this is a good place to start. In our next episode. We are going to continue the conversation about complex trauma, and we’re going to talk about seven things that relate to the developmental impact of trauma. So we will call them seven core domains of developmental trauma. And this, these are going to be connected. Some of them are the same as these five clusters of symptoms that we talked about with with C PTSD today. But we’re gonna get into all the good childhood stuff. Sounds fun, right? attachment behavior, self concept, it, yeah, it’s gonna be good. So, so join us there, and we’ll see you at that episode.
See ya. Bye.
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