Saturday, November 13, 2021

Overcoming Trauma: An Interview with Michele Rosenthal

Trauma Recovery Specialist Michele Rosenthal
Trauma is pervasive and invasive. It knows no boundaries, and if left untreated and left to its own devices, it will negatively shape and influence our life. It will affect us to varying degrees, and it often manifests itself in what is commonly referred to as PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). Moreover, life-altering trauma has an immense outreach, and it holds, influences, and shakes us to the core of our being and changes who we are physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually; we are then haunted by the past, live in an anxious and fearful present while dreading the future.

And yet, there is a silver lining to all this toxic negativity: We can recover from trauma. It is going to be different for each person and a lot depends on the varying degrees and the types of trauma that we experienced but with determination, decision, and commitment, there is a way of out the jungle. It helps to have people who can guide us through the convoluted mess, especially those who have not only extensively studied it but who have also personally experienced trauma in their own personal lives.

In fact, Michele Rosenthal is such a helpful and resourceful guide. Not only does she love talking about trauma, but she has recovered from it herself, and she is offering us her wisdom as an author, speaker, and trauma recovery specialist. I had the pleasure to talk to Michele about her wonderful approach that helps people heal from trauma, reconnect with themselves, and gain emotional freedom and independence in the process.

As she herself states, what worked for her as she herself was in the trenches has been equally working for her clients. It is this personal dimension and lens of experience that I find commendable because it is not merely a theoretic study and understanding of the issues, but it comes from someone who has felt and experienced trauma in her bones.

Her three phases of trauma recovery along with nine steps can take you from confusion to clarity. It is all about control, not control over the outside world but control over yourself, that is your inside world. I am often reminded and inspired by the Serenity Prayer of knowing the difference and effectively distinguishing from what is in the realm and field of our control and what ends up falling outside of it.

But one ought to always be reminded and to keep in mind that recovery is hard. It will take a significant amount of dedication, determination, and hard work and may at times seem or feel more difficult than living with the symptoms of the trauma themselves, but it is absolutely worth the effort. It is an essential path (or discovery) and a potential return to (or rediscovery of) one’s true and authentic self.

The recovery will take you to a horizon where you can see yourself and others clearly and where you can reconnect to yourself. This is important because of the profound negative and debilitating effects that trauma has on your psyche. Trauma is a wound that you have suffered and gone through, and, in most cases, you have experienced something that many others have not.

As a result, this creates a distance between you and everyone else, there is, as Michele puts it, a disconnect between yourself and everyone else due to the realms and breadth of the devastating experience you have had. It could also lead to a disconnect because of disassociation, depersonalization, and derealization, all of which are defense mechanisms and are meant to protect you from the harrowing experiences you have gone through.

It is then very important to create a safe ground and platform where you will have the opportunity to reconnect with yourself that includes various phases across the spectrum. It is a gradual, piecemeal process that will be hard, difficult, and challenging at first but that can eventually lead you to feel better and to gain emotional freedom.

To reach the desired goal of recovery, Michele uses a hybrid of traditional as well as alternative approaches. Part of it is talk therapy, where you can freely discuss the issues as well as note and notice the feelings and thought processes involved; through this analysis, you can gain vital insights. Talk therapy is important because trauma impacts the language center of the brain and there is power (often combined with a sense of relief) in using language and actively expressing one’s emotional states.

Talk therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy are great ways to start, but the problem is that they are mostly focused on behavior modification and do not address the unconscious mind. Current conventional methods often do not access the unconscious, which stores and holds vital pieces of traumatic information and emotion. To bring about significant and effective change in your life, you need to reprogram the neurological structures, and other, more alternative, methods are better suited for this purpose.

In fact, there are two important points to highlight here; it is often not enough to just show up and be in the office, and worse, to assume it is the therapist’s job to fix things. You must be actively involved in the recovery process and must fully commit yourself to the work in-between and outside of the sessions.

The second point is that trauma and, more generally, the past, influences the present both consciously and as previously mentioned unconsciously as well. As a significant amount of your experience has been delegated to the unconscious, it is necessary to distill and address these deep-seated issues and root problems. As the neurological patterns and programming are always operating, you need to find a way to deal with them before you can aim for any substantial recovery.

Michele uses various methods for this, including hypnosis and NLP (Neurolinguistic programming) as well as energy psychology and transformation processes to be able to tap into and reach the unconscious and to reprogram the underlying neurological structures. This is an important and often difficult task as unconscious programming is quite powerful. We are biologically hard-wired and driven to survive, so as a result, on average, only 5% of your thinking is in the present moment, while the rest of the time is often spent on thinking about the past to retrieve lessons learned, while we look ahead and often worry about threats looming in the near and distant future.

All of this is best approached in a step-by-step process. In fact, trauma survivors usually cannot see the future and need to have a roadmap and plan that are grounded in the present as they would flesh out and focus on the immediate steps to be taken. This needs to be done in manageable ways and look at what you want to stop doing and what you want to start doing from now onwards. By breaking it all down into choices and actions, you can start gaining some initial control over your inner world and bring about and bring forth some initiatives and changes all emanating from a safe and supportive environment.

While some may opt for pharma prescriptions, and it may be warranted in certain cases and situations, it is best to embrace mindful-based approaches to become more aware and self-aware and to be able to see yourself and to experience yourself more fully rooted in the present moment. Once you are mindful of where you came from and where you are situated at the current moment, you can take the next steps towards where you want to go and where you want to be.

Once that is achieved, at least to a certain and sufficient degree, the next step would involve consistency and working day to day towards your full recovery. In fact, the change part is very difficult and involves not only identifying the root cause and the solution for soothing your wound but also shifting meaning and developing new programming. While many may have resorted to different forms of addiction and substance abuse as a form of survival and of dealing with constant abuse in their life, you would begin to discover and adopt healthier coping mechanisms.

It is at the third level of recovery in which you have laid down the groundwork and have the chance and opportunity to deliberately create your new post-trauma identity. At this point, you will have the necessary internal control to clear up the past, resolve it and make all the vital changes for the future. As Michele explains, you will have the emotional and spiritual bandwidth to be the kind of person you want and wish to be, and with this strategy in mind, you can take the final step in her approach, which is integration.

This includes a more holistic paradigm in which you intentionally and deliberately blend who you have decided to be with all your past history. It is essential not to shut out, ignore, or pretend that the past did not exist and did not happen but rather to give it its rightful space and embed it into your own personal outlook and fabric. And as you have now gone through a transformation from powerless, where the past consumed and controlled you, you can step into your self-empowered state in which you now acknowledge and see the past as a tiny dot and a tiny little aspect of yourself, a drop in the immense ocean, which is you at your full potential and at your best and healthiest version of yourself.

A Big Thank You to Michele Rosenthal! You can access the full-length interview as a video on YouTube or as a podcast on Arash's World Podcast.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Connecting and Aligning with Your True Self: An Interview with Coach Luce Campagna

Life and Leadership Coach Luce Campagna
Most of us will have moments when we feel stuck or when we feel frustrated with the way things are going in our lives. But this feeling has never been as marked and pervasive as during the pandemic, which has put many a life on pause, and, in some cases, it has brought our lives and even our livelihood to a (presumably temporary) standstill.

If this halt and time for introspection and re-evaluation happen to be coinciding with another important crossroad and segment of our lives, a period known and labeled as "midlife crisis", then this feeling of unease and confusion will be felt not only much more strongly and intensely but it can also bring with it rewarding fruits alongside potential and opportunities for transformation.

These were some of the topics that I had the pleasure to discuss with life and leadership coach Luce Campagna. Her work involves and includes helping people to reconnect them to themselves. Moreover, she will craft an actionable and deliverable plan to help her clients to get to where they want to go. As she put it herself, coaching is a journey back to oneself and it is vital and important to get in touch and to be intimate with oneself.

Yet even with a good plan and a detailed roadmap, there will be various roadblocks on the way. They often come in the shape and form of limiting beliefs and/or trauma, while under current circumstances, we are all experiencing an additional layer and state of confusion and shock, courtesy of the pandemic.  This is mainly due to drastic changes to our lifestyle and the fact that we now have more time to be alone with ourselves.

This can be a double-edged sword, that is, a curse and a blessing. After a life of constant doing and external pursuits and of always being on the go, it has been hard to get accustomed to this new lifestyle, and the extra time that is bestowed upon us and that each of us is spending with ourselves. It is not only unusual but, in many cases, it is even uncomfortable, and it brings us face to face and upfront and personal to what Luce calls a time of reckoning. We ask ourselves - and perhaps even more so if we are middle-aged - is this the life that I want to have and lead and is this the path I want to continue?

In fact, this feeling of discomfort, this lack of alignment with one’s true self and calling can lead to escapism and checking-out behaviors, such as video games, substance abuse, or any other addiction and unhealthy coping mechanism. It is shocking but not surprising to find out that mental health issues have increased since the advent of the pandemic and that more and more people are drinking alcohol and taking drugs to deal with this difficult and challenging situation.

Here in Canada, during our general lockdown, the liquor stores remained open because it was considered an essential service alongside the same lines and in the same vicinity of grocery stores and supermarkets. Personally, I was certainly not displeased with this fact as my wife and I like to consume a bottle of wine once a week, but I can also see how this could imply that many may resort to alcohol to deal with their issues and problems and to numb their discomfort and pain.

And yet, those of us who have the courage to embrace the reckoning can benefit from the whole situation. It can serve as a catalyst and essentially catapult us towards a healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life. As the outside begins to blur and fade, the focus is now on the inside, and you can pay attention to what is important to yourself, including your values, self-knowledge, and the opening and widening paths of self-discovery.

In other words, where you once felt you had lost contact with yourself or that you were merely driven by your fears and anxieties, where you were able to ignore the nagging sense of discomfort and the sensation that you were living a half-fulfilled life, or worse, one that lacked substance and purpose, now would be the chance to see wider vistas and opportunities.

The question remains and comes to the foreground, who is in charge and who will be driving the bus? Metaphorically speaking, the part of you that is fearful and traumatized may be the five-year-old version of yourself. Although we age and physically mature, it is often possible that we lag and fall behind psychologically speaking. When that is the case, it is important to not be driven by our fears but to have the more mature version of ourselves take control of the steering wheel.

This is a process called re-parenting in which one faces and acknowledges previous trauma but of course in a kind, gentle and compassionate manner and then manages to care for, release, channel, and control this energy. The trauma is often lodged in the unconscious but by filtering it out and making it conscious, we can then heal and move on and start making better decisions that stem from our current self. It is reclaiming the right to be in the driver’s seat.

Many, however, and understandably so, may look for avenues to check out and will ignore the five-year-old only to give it more fodder and power. It is a form of not taking or not wanting to take responsibility for one’s actions or even deluding oneself to be in control when one clearly and most definitely is not. This lack of acknowledgment of our inherent fears and emotions will then lead us to act without being aligned with or attuned to ourselves and can then lead to various mental health issues, such as malaise, unease, depression, and anxiety and this may manifest itself physically as well in the form of disease and other medical conditions and complications.

It then becomes so important to try to understand why we engage in behaviors that are not serving us, whether it is avoidance, checking-out behaviors, or a consistent and persistent dissatisfaction with our lives and our core being. This is also where a coach can be of help and of assistance in crafting and chiseling out a plan to get to a more robust, healthier, and happier version of yourself.

A life coach like Luce can help you shed light upon and trace your potential and help you to embrace your innate and perhaps hidden talents. As she herself explains, it is her job to empower individuals to get to know themselves and to have some sort of mastery over themselves. For instance, you can then look at what your vision is of yourself, how you envision your own life, and not how others think you should be or what others claim you should be doing. It needs to come down to your very own personal checklist that you will gradually but consistently start filling one by one to reach your desired goal and destination, your life’s purpose, or your North Star.

Although the overall framework will be essentially the same, and Luce has created a creative and playful Playbook for your Life, the elements will be different and customized to each person’s unique needs and desires. Although we all go through similar processes and the main approach and roadmap would be the same, that is, the attempt to connect you with your true self and your core being, the paths and lines of getting there would be somewhat different.

Each of us will also have different challenges and obstacles to face but with a growth-oriented mindset and innate confidence in our own abilities, we can master it much better. We need to engage with ourselves instead of abandoning ourselves with escapist checking-out behaviors. This may even lead to a complete change of relationships with alcohol, work, video games, food, exercise, or whatever your addiction and unhealthy coping mechanism may be.

And it seems that we become more vulnerable to these emotional challenges during middle adulthood. Maybe something catches up with us at this point, while life has taught us to look at ourselves with a different lens. At this point, we may realize that we are losing time and it is going to be time for an overhaul and a re-evaluation and re-calibration that could potentially lead to what Luce calls our midlife awakening. This is most likely the driving force and motivation behind the Great Resignation that is occurring now.

But it is not going to be easy nor comfortable but then again, you will have not only friends and loved ones by your side but also a coach who will attend to your needs and help you overcome challenges as you are opening your own can of worms. Each challenge or each reaction you have can then serve as a vital source of information that can be analyzed, understood, reframed, and acted upon.

It can and will be a jarring experience, but it will certainly be helpful and beneficial in the short term, and even more so in the long term. Even your anger, seen under the right light, can tell you about yourself as it can be a reaction to your values and boundaries being crossed and infringed upon, and you can figure out how to deal with this so that you can reach inner peace and calm down the road.

Regardless of your age, generation, or life experiences, the overall goal and remedy are essentially the same: to find your true self, to align yourself with who you are, and to deal with the many obstacles and curveballs that will come your way. And yet, when all is said and done, the choice, responsibility, and work will have to come from you and from you alone. A coach can help, facilitate, train, and practice with you, but it is you who would have to enter the field and play the game.



If you would like to read more about Luce Campagna and her services, you can consult her website: Luce Campagna Coaching.

I want to thank Luce for an excellent interview in which we also discussed various other matters that are not included here and that I shall add and write about at a later date. Particularly, her insights into leadership and what makes a good leader are quite fascinating!

In the meantime and for the time being, you can access the interview and may see and/or listen to it for yourself on YouTube as well as Arash’s World Podcast.