Hey folks, welcome to another episode of the YouSchool podcast. I'm Scott Schimmel, and the guy that hosts these things and most shares my perspective and also brings other people to share theirs. And today, I've got one of my greatest friends in the world. And not just a friend. He's also very smart, and wise, and trains. So if that doesn't qualify you, Charlie, I don't know what does. So let me frame up the discussion. What we're talking about is the 30 critical questions that every kid everyone must answer in order to build a meaningful life in this particular question is a little bit heavier than some of the other ones. Now we ask questions about what are your strengths? That's a pretty light. But important question, this question is heavier. It's about what you have healed from. And the idea behind it is that it's really hard to build a happy, successful, thriving, flourishing life on top of one that's hurting, or festering, or in pain. And so what we want to talk to you about Charlie is your perspective and experience as a therapist and also your personal work, doing this work, of working through and making sense of your past. So maybe just to get us started. From your perspective, as a coach and a therapist, how do you understand trauma? Can you put that into layman's terms?
I can. It's good to be here again, by the way, and I was going to talk to you, Scott,
and continue our
22 year friendship.
yes, what how do I understand trauma?
What is trauma?
Well, I'm trained
in a model called Organic intelligence, which is going to look at our nervous systems, as
this is a little bit of fancy language, but it's gonna Steve Hoskinson, the founder of that model, basically said,
or came to the realization that you are nervous systems. When we talk about trauma, we're talking about our nervous systems getting disorganized. And so instead of having like, just feeling, you know, if the environments peaceful, I feel peaceful. A disorganization in our system might be like the environments peaceful and I feel anxious, or the environments peaceful, and I feel angry, or I feel shut down or collapsed or frozen or something. And so that disorganization is the result of typically what we call trauma,
and as our nervous
so when we think about what is trauma, trauma is anything that can disorganize our nervous systems because Steve Hoskinson. His big realization was that our nervous systems are complex systems. And complex systems like a tree, or a buffalo herd, or a flock of geese, can be self organizing, and really like
flourishing, or they can get all screwy and disorganized. traffic on the freeway is a complex system. And we all know when there's an accident, and it all gets all disorganized, and we have to be in traffic for two hours,
the stock market, all these things are, they all can operate in very organized ways. And then they can operate in very disorganized ways if certain things happen. And so for us, and our biology, if we go through something that's way too intense, like abuse, or it could even be something like a car accident, or a medical procedure, or
there are so many experiences we have as human beings that are there too much for us, they're too intense. And when we're put into too much intensity, we can't process it in the way we need to. And that typically creates some sort of either minor or major disorganization inside. And then we start exhibiting the symptoms of what we call PTSD. And so anything, any consistent environment or any event that is too much for us, is probably what we call something that is traumatic, because we can't handle it. And if we can't handle it, we're going to start having things like anxiety or irritability or depression, show up over time, especially if things happen again and again and again and again, that are too much, then we're going to start to get more and more and more of those symptoms.
Can you give some You already gave some examples. But I'm curious because a lot of the people listening to this are teachers, educators, parents. And I think there are certainly experiences or events where everybody would say that's trauma. But then there's maybe a gray zone, where in popular language these days, especially the news, we're calling lots of things drama. And I hear this voice in my head of friends, or even myself, sometimes it says, Come on your comment trauma, that's just the school of hard knocks, that's failing attacks. That's a really challenging coach. So can you kind of talk about what is and what isn't? And how to distill some of that confusion about the traumas?
Well, I think that's where things get really complicated, because
we want really clean definitions of these things. Because that feels better. Like it's, it's a really black and white view of something like trauma is going to be going to lower my anxiety and make me feel better, because I can now say like, that's traumatic. That's not, and it's it doesn't quite work that way. And so yes, you're right. There are things where we go, Well, is there anything that tends to be across the board too intense for people or kids to go through? Yeah, sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect. We pretty much say any human being who goes through those things is going to be like, Oh, my God, that's too much. But then we talk about like, wow, that was really traumatic breakup, right. And it's like, what was traumatizing about it? Well, I just didn't have any heads up. And it was like traumatized. Okay. For some people, that will be traumatizing. For some people that won't. For some people, getting a D on a test is traumatizing. For some people, it's just another D, like for some people, you know that. And what that means is some things depend on the net, what we call in complex systems theory, the initial conditions of the system. So if I've already been through a level of neglect or abandonment in my past, and then I go through a bad breakup, that might be traumatizing for me, because the initial conditions are already have sensitivity to that. Then you give me that event. It puts me into too much intensity and triggers my past and I'm traumatized. Somebody who goes grows up in a family, they have secure attachment or release a lot of safety. The bonding is secure. They go through a breakup, they're more resilient. Yeah. They don't show signs of PTSD. They're fine until it's like well, are breakups innately traumatizing? No. are bad grades innately traumatizing? Nope. And you could even argue some of the things we tend to think of as being more traumatic, or typically traumatic, don't necessarily have to be if there's enough resources available, for example, in nature, do if a gazelle is chased by a lion running for to life and gets bitten and brought to the ground, but then escapes from that lion? Is it traumatized? No. Why not? Now, it could be but oftentimes, no. gazelles don't walk around showing the signs of trauma. They're fine. Well, why is that? Because they're biologists are organized in a way already because of how present their environment, lots of other factors that makes them more resilient to these sort of things. So I know
we're a little bit in the weeds here. But but the point is, we want to call things trauma that aren't necessarily are always struggling. So it's a little bit tricky. Yeah. But in general, teachers can think yes, abuse and neglect, life threatening experiences, probably traumatic. What you're talking about sparked something for me, I just wrote a book, and I share that book, a bunch of autobiographical experiences. And my parents, there it is. Thanks for watching. There's a cover. Thank you.
If you want to know more about Charlie's in it. So my parents are reading this. I'm in this book. It's good, I think so.
Second Edition, I acknowledge
as my parents are reading, I keep and they're hearing about experiences that I went through when I was growing up. One thing my mom has shared, she's she'll say things like, I didn't know you were, I didn't know that was a big deal to you, or I didn't know you experienced that. And one thing that may be considered is perhaps as a parent, there are things my kids are going through that I'm not aware of. And you talk about the signs of PTSD, the signs of trauma. What what are those? How could a parent tell if an event their kid has gone through has left a mark a horrible mark in their kids?
Yeah, I mean
You know, and this is again,
the question is, what does this mean? So if I'm seeing anxiety, that could be PTSD, if I'm seeing more irritability, or I'm seeing an avoidance of certain people or environments,
if there's an if I'm easily startled as a kid.
If it appears that certain things are very triggering to me, and quickly, activate me like, and it changes fairly rapidly, like, one day, I love a certain sport, and the next day, I don't want to participate it anymore. And I'm, like, very hesitant and reactive about it.
Same thing around certain family members or people. So you'd be looking for that, like, what you'd be looking for is a fight flight or freeze response coming up. That's different than used to be so
easily overwhelmed, things like that. And again, it's in the question is why? Yeah, because adolescents also is quite anxiety provoking. And school can be overwhelming. And so we'd really be looking for changes probably that are like taking place where you're like,
we that's where you'd want to start being suspicious.
But something else could be going on, too. We don't we don't always know. There's obvious signs. But a lot of times, it's more subtle, like what your mom's talking about is that wasn't obvious. Right? Right. And so you might you might be looking and saying, Actually, Mom, it was, you know, who knows? But to the untrained eye, there might have just been like, Scott looks fine.
Unless he tells us he's really anxious. I don't know, you know, so it's, that's what's, that's what's hard. You mentioned the resources, the systems that have the preconditions, to handle traumatic events better. So if I'm a parent, a family, listen to this. I want my kids to be able to handle hard things in life. And I think it's inevitable, they're gonna have hard things happen to them. There's things globally happening, that are hard. So what, what are some of those assets, those resources that maybe we could be mindful of? to lean into our family?
Yeah, I know, they,
I believe the Kaiser Foundation's score on our research on on our first childhood experiences that it was called the ACES search. And you can take an Asus test, it's just 10 questions and basically says, did any of these 10 things happen to you, and if more than four did it means you, you are at a much higher risk for some pretty severe health issues into adulthood? Because it's basically the more traumatic stress you carry, the harder, it's going to be on your health. But what they also said was, that was all like, did this bad stuff happen? But the other half of that is, was there good stuff present? Oh, and some of the good stuff present is like, was there a trusted adult you could talk to?
Did anyone take a keen interest in you and your well being? Wow,
did you feel loved or liked? By people? You know? And then you could you could extend that out? What did you have a community you felt belonging in? Did you feel like you had a special role or a place in those environments? I mean, these things are all these are all, essentially, it's like, did you have stuff that made you feel good and safe? And, and at home? Yeah. Because lots of things can do that. Friends, family, that, you know, like,
I had friends, parents who really, really liked me, it was really helpful just to have as I was going through hard stuff. As a kid, it was helpful to have these parents who took a big interest any very helpful.
I did have grandparents and parents that I knew loved. To me, that was really helpful. You know, my parents are divorced. I went through hard things as a young kid, like, I have my own trauma. But I know in hindsight, those resources available, family available friends available, parents of friends, that sort of bigger tribe, we call it sometimes is a huge resource. And it helps you think about it, it's like, well, what helps mitigate stress? Usually support right? And so how much support was there? From the family and bigger community, the less of it available? That just means it's basically like, you know, it's almost like you think about like, if you have a bucket, and we are drilling holes into it, call that trauma, like, that's not good. Now, the buckets full of water, it starts to drain out. Well, if you got people filling into it, that helps. So as your buckets draining out, if you've also got people pouring in, oh, maybe we're, we can handle those traumatic experiences as they get repaired and healed. It's easier, but if there's no if nothing's coming in and we're just draining out all your support and resources, that's stressful. And so
yeah, good stuff going in. Let me let me ask you an obvious question. When, when should a family look at professional help for a kid
They notice things. And also, or the nuance of that question is, what can a family doing? In addition to or in the midst of seeking professional help?
So the last part again, what kind of family do we like? And in addition to the help, like, it's not just send your kid to a therapist. What else can a family do for their kids? It'll be conditions right?
I mean, okay, so on the one hand, I think it would be great if families just had a therapist, like, we have our dentist, our accountant, we have our massage therapist, we have our marriage and family therapists, we, you know, like, we just have this person that we talked to, and it's not this like, because also often it's like,
you know, you hear people were like, You tell them, You're in therapy, and it's like, oh, yeah, what happened to you? Right? And it's like, we don't say that, like, I have an accountant that's like,
No, I just have someone, I have someone I talk to about my money, like, you know, I'm a, you went to the dentist, what happened?
Nothing happened to my teeth. I go twice a year, whether I need it or not, I just go, you know, and so therapy, ideally, will become more and more like that, like, yeah, of course, I, I have someone I check in once a month. Regardless, if I need it. Sometimes I go every week, I just, I have a professional who has my their eyes, in the same way that Dennis has his his or her eyes on my teeth. And my accountant has their eyes on my money. My therapist has their eyes on my mental health regularly.
So thought, since therapy is still relegated to as needed, versus regardless which I think it should be in the regardless category. But as long as it's in the as needed category. When is it needed.
Basically, you start to see any sign that looks like there's disturbance in the Force, you know, anxiety, irritability, depression, talking back volatility, something that looks like there's a lack healthy systems or stable systems. And so when you start to see Dan Siegel, UCLA psychiatrist, talks about when you complex systems that are getting disorganized, will get chaotic. So if your kids start looking a little chaotic, like, erratic behavior, not doing homework, showing up late staying out, sneaking around lying, like that looks this feels chaotic.
Or they go into rigidity in flexibility
obsessiveness like I have to be in my room by 9pm, or I melt down. Or if I don't eat dinner before six, I cannot handle it, I see a lack of lack of flexibility in them. That's a sign that something's going on, could be something in their brain chemistry, and they just have some sort of mood disorder, like bipolar or an anxiety disorder or something are out there on the spectrum or something.
But it could also be just they went through something really difficult. And you're seeing in order to handle the symptoms, they're either getting really rigid, yeah. Or they're starting to get a little all over the place. And so those are two really broad categories. You know, how do you define rigidity? How do you define chaos? To degree, they're intuitive, but
I just think parents wait way too long to get a therapist. And that's like,
what's the worst case scenario? Sit down and talk to an expert and see what they think. Tell them what you're going through? And they might tell you that that sounds like normal development, they might tell you
sounds like something's happening. Yeah. And so
let's see if we can get this kid to start talking about what's going on. And that's also you know, if they've been to a big, big shift in their environment recently, you probably want to be a little more suspicious that it's something traumatic, like they changed schools, you moved a shift in their community or their friendship group or they had a major loss around an achievement or sports or a hobby or a personal failure. Like these are all things that are like, have they been through something stressful? Right? If they have we should be more suspicious that there's something Yeah. So what what can a family do to maybe the top three or four things that come to mind? The good stuff the kids need
Well, I like this book called
I can't the guy's name is
called How to really love your child.
It's called critical foundation.
No, it's it's
it's Dr. Something and he wrote a book called How to really love your child and another book called How to really love your team.
And he talks about three things I think are really helpful. With with certainly with younger kids, lots of eye contact, and lots of time, lots of touch. So that basically just means presence, presence, presence, feel, you see, you get to experience you alive, it's very basic. But when parents are gone a lot, that is stressful on a kid, of course it is, when they don't have a lot of touch, when they don't have a lot of eye contact, when they don't have your presence, that is stress. And so they need those things, those are basics. Basically, what we're looking for is, we want a lot of low intensity, what we might call deactivating, or calming, family or group activity. So let's do a puzzle together. Let's play a game, let's just have non intense pleasure and enjoyment. A lot of families, when they when they have pleasure, or an or they have fun, it's always intense, I'm going to throw you in the pool room, and we're gonna play ball tag, right, go paintballing, that's fine. But do we also have low intensity where we get out of all the like, whoa, all the adrenaline and we come all the way down, because coming all the way down is very good and healthy for our nervous systems, we need times of excitement. And we need times of super low intensity, usually physical touch, eye contact, good presence is calming for us. So we need things that are calming.
we're not just doing activities that are calming, but we're also having conversations as a family that are supportive. And so this is hard, because a lot of us don't come from families that have these conversations. So we don't know how to do it. But
some basics is
you can help your child or your kid talk about what's going on with him.
having these conversations means, you know, you might have to be vulnerable with them first, Hey, I just you know, when I was your age, yeah, this is what it was like for me. And I just, you know, if you've ever gone through something like that, I want to talk. But that, but also when they share, you know, don't you have to be able to listen and stay present and
reflect back what you hear that sounds really hard. And oh, you know, I've been there too. And,
you know, that's what we call that attunement. And again, for a lot of people, these having a deep, intimate conversation is not something they do very well. So these are skills that we often have to learn how do you have? How do I share my inner life with you? And how do I do a good job of letting you share your inner life with you? And when we're talking about our inner life, when I'm thinking about what I'm feeling, what I want what I need? What are the sensations in my body? These are, these are, we're often very disconnected from our insides. And so it's one thing to say, hey, parents, like have a conversation about your kids in life? Well, if the parents not doing that, it's hard to suddenly turn around and do with your kids. But ideally, we do learn how to how to talk about our insights, what's going on.
And one way to think about it is I can tell you what I've been doing my outer life. And then I can tell you what it's like for my inner life. We want our kids talking about both. So I did this, that this person was there. This is what they said, This is what I said. And it felt good. It felt bad. I was scared. I was nervous, my stomach hurt through. I was really excited. I ran away like, like, yeah, what happened to you? What was it like? Right? Can we talk about both those things, and parents need to probably start priming that by doing a little bit of modeling about what it's like for them around the dinner table. You know, I'll start guys, I went to work today. And it was pretty stressful, had a lot of meetings, I was anxiety, anxious. And you know, I did my, I did my breathing exercise, and it was okay. And I called your mom and she was helpful. So how was your day?
Figuring out how to do that. So low intensity activities, taught conversations that can talk in process about their inner life. And then ideally, there's some sort of community experience. So we're like, we're doing these things as a family unit, a small unit, but like in human history,
secluded families of two to five to eight, maybe in one home split off from the community is
an anomaly. That's it's new. And so we've got a biology that's got whatever they say now 500,000 years of Homo sapiens existence that is used to living a certain way. And all of a sudden, we're in these red, you know, brick and mortar structures cut off from it.
And so we need to like fences, we need to recreate this idea of community, through churches through sports leagues through
neighborhood outings. You know, Can we somehow get like, there's lots of adults who know my name, they care about me. They want to know how I'm doing. Yeah, that's ideal. That's
hard to find. It's hard to do that.
But it's ideal is incredibly helpful, Charlie. And as you're listening, I'm sure there's five things that you thought of better applicable to your family. So this is, this is your invitation, go and do don't just listen to go and do. And if folks want to get in touch with you or find out more about you, where do we go?
Probably Charlie reese.com. That's the easiest, easiest Avenue on
the interwebs. You bet. Thanks, Scott. Great to be here.
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