✔ What exactly is trauma and what does it look like in our brain?
✔ How do we become “traumatized”? (as an adult or child)?
✔ How can we recognize “traumatic” experiences in our life, so we can address them, (trauma-informed strategies) heal from them, and prevent them from holding us back?
✔ If our Primal Emotions are hard-wired into our brain, then how do we overcome them? (FEARS, ANGER etc)?
✔ How can we eliminate things that are worrying us? Our CRAP (conflicts, resistances, anxieties, and problems)?
Welcome back to Season 10 of The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast, where we connect the science-based evidence behind social and emotional learning (that’s finally being taught in our schools today) and emotional intelligence training (used in our modern workplaces) for improved well-being, achievement, productivity and results—using what I saw as the missing link (since we weren’t taught this when we were growing up in school), the application of practical neuroscience. I’m Andrea Samadi, an author, and an educator with a passion for learning and launched this podcast 5 years ago with the goal of bringing ALL the leading experts together (in one place) to uncover the most current research that would back up how the brain learns best, taking us ALL to new, and often unimaginable heights.
For today’s episode #298, we will be speaking with someone I got to know well, as we both took and became certified with a neuroscience certification course, through Mark Waldman[i], learning the basics of neuroscience and a unique technique called neurocoaching that we can both use to help individuals, schools or organizations. Grace Reynolds, who lives in Tasmania, Australia, (near Antarctica) went on to achieve a deeper level of certification as an advanced certified trauma centered neurocoach. We’ve been friends and colleagues for years studying and learning brain-based coaching strategies, and she recently asked me “have you covered neuroscience and trauma yet?” I knew that we’ve touched on it, but hadn’t covered it thoroughly yet.
We have covered trauma and the brain in pieces with Dr. Bruce Perry’s[ii]What Happened to You book, Sarah Peyton[iii] and her work on anxiety and self-regulation, or Dr. Lori Desautels’[iv] work on rewiring our perceptions of discipline in our schools, and it was even a part of our interview with Hans Appel[v], a school counselor whose book, Award Winning Culture took off in schools across the country. I remember while reading Hans’ book, it was in the first few pages that he mentioned how he had a difficult childhood, and he talked about how the sound of his back door opening after school would make his skin crawl as he remembered the trauma that would occur for him in his life after school, urging him to spend more and more time at school, away from home. I wonder how many of our students have stories like this. I remember in the first few pages of Dr. Bruce Perry’s What Happened to You book, he talked about a student who would act out in class. It turned out that the teacher’s cologne was triggering him to a bad memory of a past experience, showing us that triggers can occur and set us off when we least expect it.
How do past traumas show up and do they impact our life?
What Can They Teach Us About How We Might Respond to Certain Situations?
What strategies can we use to help us to maintain balance in our life?
While I didn’t have an experience as painful as Hans Appel’s, or the student with the cologne, these stories made me remember something from over 20 years ago that made my skin crawl, and still does. Psychological trauma impacts our brain, and can trigger us to feel threatened even when we are not in a threatening situation.
When I hear the sound of ice hitting a glass from a refrigerator ice machine, this sound takes me back to a time when I remember someone pouring themselves another drink, at night, and I just didn’t understand it. I can see the memory and feel the unhappiness from that time period, clearly each time I hear that sound. This traumatic memory shows me that trauma once it hits our brain, embeds itself deeply in there, until we can uncover it, identify it, and then figure out what we will do with it (forgive it) so it loses its power over us, or doesn’t interfere with our future results.
Trauma is something that we have recently begun to train our teachers with. Our episode with Dr. Michael Gaskell[vi] on leading schools through trauma remains one of our top most listened to episodes, and I have communicated with Mathew Portell, whose work and podcast covers Trauma Informed Education[vii]. We just haven’t been able to connect to set up a time to speak but will find a way to connect his work, since there is no better time than NOW to become trauma informed.
I say this at a time where it’s become important to understand in my own personal life, since the world sometimes throws us curveballs, and we are forced to STOP and figure this all out. I’m sure my personal story will resonate with many of you listening, if you have children, going back to school this fall. Our girls (ages 11 and 13) have just gone back to school, (AZ students get out in May, and go back the end of July). Both are in new schools, the youngest transitioned to middle school, and the oldest in high school, and life as it was for them has changed suddenly. Life with this new transition just seemed to be a lot for both our girls, and I hear this is not uncommon. Trauma informed expert Mathew Portell, reached back to me about our interview this week, and let me know what we are experiencing with these new transitions is “becoming the norm with pre-teens and teens.” When a breakdown happens, or a situation that overtakes a child, or even an adult for that matter, we are left with trying to figure out the pieces of what to do next. In our situation, we are still working through the pieces, reading books, and looking for the best direction.
I was referred to the New York Times Best Seller The Emotional Lives of Teenagers by Lisa Damour[viii] to help us with some understanding of what might be happening to our girls as they are moving to new schools, entirely new friend groups, and new lives, and ways that we can help them to cope with these new experiences, with some understanding that goes beyond what our parents would have done for us—kicked us out the door and said “get to school” as the door slammed shut behind us. Times are different now, and I know that when we know better, we can do better.
So today I’m going to be asking our guest, Grace Reynolds for some strategies that could help all of us move forward in our lives, an understand what happens to our brain, during times of trauma and high stress.
This is a topic we now teach in our schools, as you will know if you’ve been learning Dr. Bruce Perry’s work, and his book, What Happened to You is a quick reminder of the fact that our students could possibly be misbehaving in class, because they are being triggered in some way from a past memory that has set them off.
Intro: Grace, we’ve known each other over the years, and I know that you’ve spent 45 years (or more) helping people come out of trauma. Can you share a bit about your background, and why you’ve been so successful in helping people in acute psychiatric hospitals, high security prisons, refugees, and schools, to understand and overcome trauma?
Grace is from Tasmania, Australia! From our statistics, we can see all the listeners from Australia. Thanks for tuning in from down under.
Q1: What is different from the Mindfulness Neurocoaching we were certified with from Mark Waldman, versus other therapies and counseling?
Q2: What is trauma and what does it look like in our brain?
Q3: How do we help someone who has been “traumatized”? (as an adult or child)?
Q4: How can we recognize “traumatic” experiences in our life and then what are some strategies you have to help someone heal from them?
Q4B: What about our primal emotions (Panksepp) that are hard wired into our brain. I know you know these emotions well. How do you teach people to overcome their FEARS (me jumping off the boat), or the FEAR of the unknown (like my daughter being afraid of her future because school is new) or ANGER?
Q5: What other questions should I ask about trauma/brain?
Q6: How do our core emotions/values tie in?
Q7: How do we use our 7 Primal Emotions (Panksepp-Curiosity, Caring, Playfulness, Sadness, Fear, Rage/Anger, Lust) for our benefit?
Q8: How do you use/teach the CRAP BOARD (to eliminate conflicts, resistances, anxieties and problems)?
Q9: Final thoughts, and how can people work with you?
This interview with my good friend Grace helped me to see that no matter who we are (a parent struggling with something at work, or home) or a child struggling with life, and their new transitions, there is current brain-research and mindfulness based strategies we can all use, immediately to self-regulate, and move forward.
I had forgotten about some of them, but will begin to use Grace’s suggestions myself and with my family, and hope that her ideas have helped you to look a bit closer at your own life, and perhaps why certain things might make you feel uneasy. It is just the way our brain is wired to keep us safe.
How can we all use this new understanding of our brain to move us forward?
I’ll let you explore how you will do this, but I’m going to update my CRAP board, and see what conflicts, resistances, anxieties and problems I have TODAY vs the one I did in 2018 to see which ones are REAL and VALID and if I can cross any of them off my list, and get them all out of my head.
I’m also going to attempt a CRAP BOARD with my girls, to see if it helps them to get their worries out of their head, and onto paper for us to look at and solve together.
And with that, I’ll close out this episode and will see you next week and we go back to PART 2 of Going Back to the Basics. See you next week.