Health Podcast Post

Unresolved Trauma with Ilene Smith

George Grombacher September 29, 2022

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Unresolved Trauma with Ilene Smith

LifeBlood: We talked about addressing unresolved trauma, the flaw of separating our minds and our bodies, the danger of instant gratification, fear-based versus empowered living, and how to get started, with Ilene Smith, Somatic Experience Practitioner, coach and author.

Listen to learn how to build a foundation for a stronger nervous system! 

You can learn more about Ilene at, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Ilene Smith

Episode Transcript

Unknown Speaker 0:15
left with the Stuart G and the time is right welcome today’s guest struggle powerful. Eileen Smith. Eileen, are you ready to do this? I’m ready. All right, let’s go. Eileen is a somatic experiencing practitioner and coach with a mental health focus. She’s the best selling author of moving beyond trauma. And I’m excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work, why you do what you do. Okay, so where do I begin? So personal life I am, as you said, a somatic experience practitioner, I live in Scottsdale, Arizona, I got into this work because I went back to school to get a master’s in mental health counseling in my early 40s Did not expect to specialize in trauma. But here I am. And I wrote a book even moving beyond trauma, because I felt I had been through my own personal journey of therapy, and probably spent 20 years in therapy and still felt like I was really struggling and that I still my nervous system still felt really dysregulated. And so when I started digging into some of the research, I learned that trauma is not so much about an event, but it’s the energy that gets locked in our body around real, real or perceived threat. And so I wrote a book that really helped people understand that we have to bring the body into the healing process. And that healing is possible for everyone. But we’re not going to do it just by talk therapy alone. So that was the book was published in 2020. And now I’m writing another book that I’m really excited about. I was widowed six years ago. And I’m writing

Unknown Speaker 2:09
a book that’s really going to take people

Unknown Speaker 2:13
through my healing journey. And also it’s a prescriptive book to really start teaching people about the things that we need to do emotionally to resolve our trauma,

Unknown Speaker 2:26
loss, kind of talking about all the things that nobody wants to talk about betrayal, shame, attachment stuff, and how that really impacts our decision making process and how fear is really the epicenter of where we get stuck. So working with all that, some kind of busy.

Unknown Speaker 2:51
For sure. Betrayal, shame, attachment, fear.

Unknown Speaker 2:56
Probably some other difficult things you could add in there. Just tackle them while I laid? Yeah, yeah. But I do I really believe that.

Unknown Speaker 3:04
So much of how we make decisions, is impacted by our fear, which is impacted by all the other things that I that I was mentioning,

Unknown Speaker 3:14
for sure. So when you decided to go and get your master’s, you weren’t expecting to focus on travel? What What, what, what were you thinking that you’re going to do? Well, I didn’t know I thought, well, it’s really interesting. I thought maybe I would focus on eating disorders. I haven’t I have a long history in recovery. But I have a long history of eating disorders. And I really understand that population. So I thought I would start there. But what I learned through this process of, of, of trying to get to the bottom of this nervous system dysregulation piece is that truly most of our maladaptive behaviors are really the result of unresolved trauma.

Unknown Speaker 4:00
And that’s how I got to the trauma because I started my work at an eating disorder clinic, I did an internship there. And then I wound up working there for a while. And and it just it just became very obvious to me. And you know, if you think about it, especially with eating disorders, you have to bring the body into the healing process. You have to you have to help help someone learn how to build their body as a safe container to be able to resolve what feels unresolved, but underneath all of it is really unresolved trauma.

Unknown Speaker 4:33
Is that just is that just an American thing where we say the minds over here, the bodies over here are not going to we’re not going to mix them together? Well, I think it’s very Western cultures. It’s a good question because we’re conditioned to think our way out of everything.

Unknown Speaker 4:55
And what that does is it actually distracts that distracts us

Unknown Speaker 5:00
us from when we from what’s really happening in the body, right? If we go always going to the why why did this happen? Why am I feeling this way? Rather than being with the what? Oh, I’m experiencing intense discomfort in through the center of my body. Right? So

Unknown Speaker 5:19
what if when we have trauma, we lose our sense of safety.

Unknown Speaker 5:25
And so the whole idea is that we have to restore the sense of safety and that safety is is a bodily experience, if you think about it.

Unknown Speaker 5:35
Emotions all have sensation, like how do you know you’re anxious? You might think anxious thoughts. But that anxiety runs through your body? For sure question, right? Your, your body goes into a collapse or you can’t move. So, you know, we’re kind of we have to reverse engineer it at this point. But yeah, Western society has taught us to disconnect from our bodies.

Unknown Speaker 6:03
Or unresolved trauma, I

Unknown Speaker 6:07
think that, where do we start? Do? Do, do we all have some?

Unknown Speaker 6:14
I think, to some degree,

Unknown Speaker 6:18
if you’re human, you’re going to have you’re going to you’re going to be traumatized at some point in your life.

Unknown Speaker 6:26
The thing with trauma is how traumatized you become from an experience has everything to do with how safe you felt, going into the experience, and how safe you felt you feel in the aftermath of there’s people that have helped that will, are there to attend to you in the aftermath.

Unknown Speaker 6:46
So that’s why 10 People can have the same experience and have 10 different reactions.

Unknown Speaker 6:55
So it can if I felt safe going in, and I feel safe going out or afterwards, you’re going to be less traumatized. Okay, right, it could not have that it could not have a long lasting negative effect on me moving forward, versus if I wasn’t feeling safe, then that could change my entire life. Yeah, and you know, the thing with being in the event, it becomes traumatic, when you’re not able to defend yourself.

Unknown Speaker 7:27
So for example, you have a car accident.

Unknown Speaker 7:32
And so let’s say you have a car accident, you’re pretty resilient going in,

Unknown Speaker 7:37
okay, somebody rear ends you.

Unknown Speaker 7:40
And, you know,

Unknown Speaker 7:44
your spouse comes immediately to, you know, to be honored to be with you, the paramedics are really attentive. And, you know, you might walk away being okay, maybe a little shaken. But think about think about, you have the accident, nobody’s there for you after the accident, you might feel differently on the other side of it.

Unknown Speaker 8:08
But you didn’t get to defend yourself in the future being inferior ended, right? There’s no time, right, too much too soon, too fast, without any way to defend yourself, that has the potential to become a traumatic event. But there’s all different kinds of trauma. I mean, you have

Unknown Speaker 8:24
complex trauma, which often starts early on in life, when you’ve grown up in a home where maybe there’s abuse or neglect, or you’ve had to be the caregiver for your caregivers. So things like that will create, you know, chronic stress in the system. So that’s, that’s more chronic, right. And it is more acute things that happen, right? It can be a surgery, it can be an accident, it can be a million different things that can be acute.

Unknown Speaker 8:54
But either way, how resilient you are going in, is going to have a lot to do with how you feel how you feel on the other side of it.

Unknown Speaker 9:05
It makes a ton of sense.

Unknown Speaker 9:08
So how it shows up differently for other people, for everyone. Everyone’s going to have a different reaction to their experiences. So But when somebody has been really what I would just say traumatized, right, because we throw the word trauma around all the time. And you know, it’s almost to me, it’s almost become

Unknown Speaker 9:32
it’s lost, it’s lost, its real meaning but when you’ve been traumatized, really been traumatized. You’re not going to be able to live your life fully. You’re going to feel a disconnection to yourself additional disconnection to other people. You’re, you know, it might show up in anxiety, it might show up in not sleeping, it might show up in maladaptive behaviors. I mean, I can go down a long list of potential traumatic symptoms, but it’ll be different

Unknown Speaker 10:00
for each person, but the overall, an underlying thing that you see when people have been traumatized is really their inability to live life fully and inability to really manage stress. Maybe they’re overreacting or unreactive to every situation.

Unknown Speaker 10:19
But you know, living life again, I go back to this word fear that we started with, but living their life, a fear based life. So, fear based life, or an empowered life are two very different things.

Unknown Speaker 10:35
Right, and a lot of times when, when the another another big piece you’ll see is when someone has been traumatized, they are constantly sensing danger and danger is not present. And the reason why is because trauma has no sense of space or time. So it to some degree, their bodies believe their back in the traumatic events, even in the present moment.

Unknown Speaker 10:59
So the unlock this somatic process, tell me, tell me, tell me what that is, tell me how that works. Wow. So

Unknown Speaker 11:10
hard to explain a couple of sentences, but the long and the short of it, is we’re bringing the body into the healing process. And if you look at the way, animals in the wild behave, they do not get traumatized. And the reason they don’t become traumatized, is because they have, they naturally have what I call a biological completion. So if you watch an animal who’s

Unknown Speaker 11:36
who’s just potentially coming out of a threatening event, maybe they’re you know, they’re being chased by a lion.

Unknown Speaker 11:45
When it’s over, you will always see an animal, reset their nervous system by shaking, shaking their bodies.

Unknown Speaker 11:54
We, as human beings, have the same need to have that biological completion and have and move our bodies in some way. Maybe it’s shaking, we release trauma, through heat shaking and tears. And so we have we have the same need

Unknown Speaker 12:13
to reset our nervous systems in that way. But aren’t we because we have a preferred prefrontal cortex, which we’re the only animals that have this executive functioning, we’ve used more complex ways to try to resolve things. But the reality is, we’re still we still have that innate need to, to shake off that trauma, and move that energy through our bodies. So somatic experiencing, works, to help create those biological completions, and allows the body to then move through the experience with some sense of mastery, and file the trauma memory where it belongs, which is in the past.

Unknown Speaker 12:59
That was a mouthful. No, I think that that’s good. That makes a ton of sense. It’s, yeah, it’s pretty obvious when you really look at it, it’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?

Unknown Speaker 13:09
But we spend so much time in talk therapy, trying to figure out why we’re feeling a certain way. And we really need to be with that. Why don’t we experience and become our own observers, so that we can actually be with that the physicalness of our bodies and get to the core of what’s holding us back.

Unknown Speaker 13:30
I was thinking about,

Unknown Speaker 13:33
like, what popped into my mind was this religious tradition called shakers? Are you familiar with that? Oh, not?

Unknown Speaker 13:42
Well, I don’t know much about it. And I was I just remember studying it many, many, many years ago, or to hearing about it. And I wondered, you know, are they actually physically shaking? And was were they just ahead of the curve on that one? Or are there other cultures? That are Western cultures that have physical rituals where they’re moving their bodies and shaking and and is, is does dance fall into this category? Oh, yeah. Dance is like one of those things because it’s, it’s a way of creating embodiment thing. I mean, you know, I talk about in my book about what I call a healing lifestyle. So anything and I think it’s, it’s not an healing is not a one and done. Healing is a series of things that you choose to do to create more expansion in your life and create more embodiment. So anything in and I think the, the important part is that every one has, is going to connect with something different. Right? So one person might connect with meditation. Another person might connect with breathwork another person might want to dance.

Unknown Speaker 14:55
So, part of the process of creating a healing lifestyle is

Unknown Speaker 15:00
Finding those things that you really connect with, to help you feel embodied and doing more of it.

Unknown Speaker 15:09
But getting back to it was interesting, you bring up an interesting point about religion. Because if you look at, certainly in the Jewish culture, and I’m assuming Muslims do tend Muslims do do is there’s always when they’re praying, there’s a lot of movements

Unknown Speaker 15:27
in the prayer, you know, bowing down, in Judaism, a lot of a lot of rocking, if you want you watch the great rabbis. So I think some of these religions automatically, maybe like the shaker religion, just innately or intuitively, that’s part of part of their rituals.

Unknown Speaker 15:46
Yeah, fascinating, is that it’s not a one and done now. Yeah. We, I thought about one of my thought of my two year old, he’s got a toy. And sometimes he’ll just drop it and move on to the next thing. And that’s what we as grownups want to do is okay, check that off the list, got that healed, I took my antibiotics or my pill, and now I’m all better, and I’m on to my next thing. But what in life is is really like that. And if we’re dealing with trauma, and trying to get past it and leave live happy lives? Why would we think that that was a real solution? Well, I think the bigger issue becomes that we’re living in a society where there’s so much instant, instant gratification, and nobody really wants to be uncomfortable, like we’re seeing so much more mental health issues. And I think it has a lot to do with, well, in the technology world, and how we have all these, it’s so easy to easy to be distracted from your discomfort. And so we’re not willing to today to sit in our discomfort maybe the way we were in earlier times.

Unknown Speaker 17:04
And I think that’s one of the bigger issues. So anytime, you know, there’s something new bright and shiny to try to get things resolved. And and you know, people will go there, right? It’s our human nature, because aren’t we always trying to move away from pain,

Unknown Speaker 17:22
yet, we need to sit in our pain and be with it, and lean into it and get comfortable being uncomfortable in order to get something resolved. And that’s not that’s not a quick fix, that will not be a quick fix. But what we know is that, that that kind of healing process is everlasting.

Unknown Speaker 17:43
Is it builds it builds a foundation for different kinds of nervous system

Unknown Speaker 17:48
builds a foundation for different kinds of nervous system, a healthier nervous system has underneath underneath it, if you think about trauma, trauma, disrupt dysregulates, the nervous system. So we’re trying to restore when we when we went when we restore our sense of safety, our nervous system becomes more balanced.

Unknown Speaker 18:14
Fascinating. Yeah, it’s cool stuff, isn’t it? Do we talked about animals that are that are wild animals? What about domesticated animals? are they experiencing mental health differently? Like dogs get depressed? Because, you know, because their caregivers are depressed? Right? So they become a baby? Yeah, how does a baby regulated nervous system it gets co regulated by through a parent, you have an anxious parent, you often have anxious, anxious kids. So I don’t think it’s any different with our domestic pets. So we’ve lost the ability to, to sort of be bored, and to ponder and to just sit and, and to do that because we scroll through our phones, and we’ve lost the ability to, to lean into or sit with discomfort because we’re we’ve got these dopamine dispensers in every aspect of life where Oh, I can just do this thing to get a quick feel good.

Unknown Speaker 19:17
But that is obviously not serving us and you can look across society and recognize that we’ve got all these horrible mental health problems and physical health problems and just health problems, let’s just call it I wonder what would happen right? It’s it’d be like a really interesting experiment, or maybe a good sci fi movie, if all our technology was taken away.

Unknown Speaker 19:44
Like what would that look like? I think people would freak out. I think we’d have we’d have people having having breakdowns

Unknown Speaker 19:53
be really cool experiment. 100% Sure, right, because we’ve we’ve many of us and problem

Unknown Speaker 20:00
I’m 100% Sure, myself included have lost the ability to,

Unknown Speaker 20:04
to, to do a lot of the coping that we would have just had to have done before. Like when we were kids. Sure, right before, right. I remember a time before the internet. Yeah. How about you know, and you’re, you know, Mom, I’m going out. I’ll just in, you know, parents like, Okay, well, you know, be home for dinner. See you later. Yeah, right. It’s a totally, totally different time. But yeah, we’ve, we’ve kind of created this mental health problem, I believe, because of all the technology is seeing so much more anxiety and kids, and depression.

Unknown Speaker 20:48
You know, and there’s less, there’s less face to face contact, which we know we need it, which is, which is so important for our growth and development and our mental health.

Unknown Speaker 21:00
All these scaffoldings we’ve, we’ve built up around us. So you get word for that. It’s true. And hadn’t thought.

Unknown Speaker 21:11
Well, this is awesome. Well, I’m certainly excited for the next book to come out as well. So awesome. Well, they, you know, I mean, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? Where can they get a copy of moving beyond trauma? And how can they engage with you? Oh, so the book is available on Amazon. And they can also reach out to me on Instagram. My Instagram is Eileen i l e. Ne Eileen Smith healing, or my website, which is Eileen Again, I mean, as I’ll end Excellent. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, show, Eileen, your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, pick up a copy of moving beyond trauma on Amazon, find Eileen on Instagram, she’s Eileen Smith healing, and then go to Eileen It’s i Thanks again, I mean, thank you, and until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

Transcribed by

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