Listen: Gretchen Schmelzer, PhD Journey Through Trauma
"Welcome everybody to the cast. I'm your host Jerry. While brock excited to have with me today Gretchen Smeltzer HD. Did I say it right all right so welcome. I'm glad to be here. I've been enjoying your work so well thank you very much. Yeah so we just was saying before we started recording one that You know your your website. I connected on so many levels to one of your blog posts that I really want to talk about the GPS because because your work is in the trauma room yes yes okay You know I do. My blood covers mostly trauma. I blended up there to help. People understand trauma better and also try to create a different conversation around trauma. The kind of respects how hard it hits. How long it takes is to heal deep? Pathology is it And a allows more people into the conversation having enough information nation so it doesn't just stay with the experts My goal but in in looking at healing I also really Look at things things like parents waiting and understanding growth in memory and learning. All those pieces come into play in healing so I started branch out in different places since one of the things I read was in your work with with clients is how many of them quit. Because it's either too scary or we're too long of a process so your book. I think you address about that exact thing of sticking with it in really the journey of healing right. I mean part of my motivation for writing. The book is was just that that people come to therapy to feel better right. and that's what everybody in the world tells awesome. Oh go see a therapist. You're much better rate. And that is true and not true all at the same time I think we you. There's a sense of relief and knowing that you're getting help but in healing from trauma you often feel much worse before you feel better at different points in time and if you don't I know that you think you're doing it wrong or are you thinking what who has time for this. You know. I wanted to feel better so I'm out of here in so I wanted to help. People know where they were when I went backpacking in the white mountains. Like you'd look at the map and the where the lines were really close together. You knew you're supposed to be miserable because it was really right you. Had you had some validation that for this amount of time on this channel it was going to be ugly and then you get to a nicer place and I view like for healing for therapy for a lot of the sort of all in the mental health world. There's not enough mass for the people going through it I think therapists get a lot the information. Actually I had lots of books. And say you know that's GonNa be really hard for that person but I don't know like on the other side there was enough explanation On to help to help people have patience and compassion for themselves. I love that. I tell people that in the podcasts gas. You know I always end with agenda with yourself. Events there's a huge. I think the two things I learned I did. Em Dr Therapy which is movement desensitization reprocessing processing for anyone listening. And I did it for four years. Ninety eight sessions. We kept circling back to the trauma to do the things that she taught me. My therapist taught me was was be gentle with myself into just notice in so innocent stations would arise when panic or during Zayed's embody memories would come back around Just outsourcing without judging what was adding were two huge but yeah the being agenda with myself. I'm really that was a whole new concept for me. It really took me back like what Sir that one of those like simple but not easy instructions right right. Yeah for sure so the five steps in the book. The title of the book is a journey through trauma a guide to the five-phase cycle of healing repeated trauma. And did you WanNa talk about the five steps at all. Sure so we'll start out actually with the whole idea of repeated trauma so much trauma when it's describe either in the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or kind of out in the world. The symptoms described much more the experience of acute trauma trauma. That might have him once from a car accident. or of a violent event rate but Repeated trauma has a different front affect on people and it requires a different healing process so repeated trauma really has three forms of trauma. It's what did happen. So the whatever events did happen over the course of time and then the protections our defenses that we create to survive it that essentially over time can become part of the fabric of who we are maybe personality or they become just the way you are with people are out in the world and then it is also the third. The thing is what didn't happen. So the the growth and development. You weren't getting or doing while you were experiencing trauma and part of the reason. I think that healing I'm from repeated. TRAUMAS so hard. Is that we as a culture. We think of the first form what did happen. We get people to tell their stories or name. What happened but we don't get enough time to the next two? which is how do I? Untangle the defenses Outta why untangle the protection actions so that I'm not using the old rules anymore and how do I start Experimenting being brave enough to do the things. I didn't get to do right so those three things require a kind of a different way of approaching the healing journey I think And because tape requires sort of multiple passes in it's not it's not serve a straight shot or the three easy steps to. I used to the used to joke that I wanted to write the book that was like four thousand really difficult steps to I just was visiting my head mine was like this this fact now. Is this a little bit that we came back. We our means just really hard. So what I I looked you know. I grew up in the psychology world of really good thinkers. So you know I studied judy. Herman's were coming. Thank through my education that had three phases which is really safety remembrance. A morning and reconnection What I did was just You know start looking partly at the language and also kind of at the black box nature of Rebecca remembrance and mourning and trying to come up with language and some some categories of action. That might help. People know a little more specifically what gets done so in terms of safety I decided to call that first part of the work preparation partly because as a trauma survivor. Even if it's called safety not you don't feel safe yet in so you're always in conflict with the The language around it and you know feeling like Oh you need to please somebody saying like like. Oh yes. We're working on safety but you have no earthly notion what that means So I think from a therapist point of view it totally makes sense like I'm we're helping in this person work on feeling more safe but from the client side. I'm not sure that that made much sense. So and there's I think it encompasses the work that needs to get done so if you and the therapist are you in your group or whoever the intervene and the containing forces uh-huh can look at what needs to get done during that time so you know what are what are the resources that person has out external resources internal resources. What is the relationship between the therapist or helper? And how can you what what what needs to happen. So that feels it's strong and connected in. How do you prepare for emergencies or crises? So that that you have some sense of what's coming and so once you do that and that for you know for some people that's two weeks for some people that's two years. It's not a a determined period of time so report once that happens in some ways the next phases come when somebody does feel safe enough to start letting some of the defenses down so it you move from preparation into what I call un-integrate action. which is things start coming apart? But it's a it's an intentional coming apart and this the car where you know where most people would quit like I'm done. I'm you know I'm having these big emotions what we might call emotional flashbacks or strom. I'm feeling like that. I don't. I'm not on solid ground anymore. I used to have a way of dealing with this but now trying to give that up. So now how do I feel. I'm I'm unshaky and it's different than disintegration. which is that you fall apart? Rate that you Actually go back to the worst things you you ever did. Take care of yourself. That's not the same as on integration. I in my book I use the example of the Temples at Abu Sim Bell. Were they were going to Build Lake Nasser. And they had to move the temples and in they didn't knock them down. They took them apart stone by stone and rebuilt is built them on the shore. Line of the new lake for just because as you talked I had visions of of like someone in a fortress and just slowly taking the walls of defense down like it's yes Of taking it apart in you do feel very vulnerable because all of a sudden. You don't have all this that you've put in place rains yes again. That's exactly what I envisioned serves as things come apart. So the thing is what s things come apart. You're having emotions or parts of the story story or the the way Traumatic memory works is that it's not it's not written down as a paragraph it's almost like random words and feeling spread out in as you as they come up that you move to the next stage which is identification which is naming those pieces putting language some language bridge to that experience rate. Whatever the pieces are? And as you're able to do that you suddenly start getting little pieces as a whole which moves to integration rate. And that's why it's a loop which is that. You'RE NOT GONNA probably get your entire life story in one loop but you'll you'll get pieces. I had a client who put together a thousand piece puzzle and you know when we were sorting the puzzle. You know you dump the puzzle on the table. That's on integration integration. When you're picking up the pieces and trying to figure out what they are? That's identification rate so like a puzzle ember of Emperor Emperor Penguins so you pick up a white piece in your life Penguin Ice Sky really in any of those. And then you you'd make a decision and the truth. Is You know another two weeks goes by new. Realize that wasn't sky. That was penguin rate. So as I think what's important as as you're going through this cycle they're all hypotheses. They're all your guessing you're It's an experiment all the way along and not some gene the necessary truth with each statement rate right in what what popped into my head there was with emt. Are I would have these. I would take them as crazy. Random thoughts pop into my head but I knew that they were memories. He's I knew that they were connected to something and most likely to trauma that we were tapping into in so I just talk out loud about. I don't know I'm flying over. You know a bridge on a tricycle. I mean just like weird little things like that and but I had the time such a horrific as your bridges and so we were at my. It was my brain trying to come. Yes find some sense of this this thing. That was haunting me. Yeah Yeah we'll end.."