Kyira Wackett walks us through recognizing and naming trauma Informed Narrativesby referencing her own experiences and techniques.
Kyira Wackett is a therapist and new (mother/parent). We talk about recognizing and naming trauma narratives and the shame-based thinking that comes with it. She frames this in her own experiences that include being a new mother in the middle of a pandemic.
She discusses the effects of trauma on the body, the difference between big T and little t trauma, and techniques on being able to talk about, externalize, and make space for these traumas to begin the process of acceptance.
For more information about Kyria Wackett and Adversity Rising go to adversityrising.com.
For more information about Michelle, Balance Shared, events, and projects, please visit www.michellelasley.com. Our producer is Matthew Hunter.
Michelle Lasley 0:03ey want to exist with him. In:
Kyira Wackett 1:27
I think that I've noticed, and especially in the last maybe six months to a year, this emphasis on clarity and flexibility have really been, I think, at the center of my personal mantra and sort of the mantra that I have in terms of my work and what I want to pursue. And so much of what I think I am put on this earth to do is to make space for people to explore their lives with more curiosity rather than judgment and to feel to find that power that already exists within themselves to write the story and to lead the story in the lives that they want to lead. And I think that comes from at the same time are sort of in a parallel process doing that for myself. And so rather than feeling like I'm in an expert role, feeling like I'm creating opportunities for people to go on a journey that I'm going on right alongside with
Michelle Lasley 2:20
them. And then of course, you bring your special expertise and skills to help guide the conversations and all that. Yeah. Okay, I am a visionary. So I always like to paint a picture of what that idealized future future could look like. So we have something to aspire to. So could you paint that picture for us?
Kyira Wackett 2:39
I like to think about a life in which you don't constantly exist in a state of imagined basically, on a cellular level, we're all kind of in this state of high vibration all the time, our our cells are just constantly going particularly right now with everything going on in the world. It's even heightened. And so there's in therapy, we talk about a therapeutic window, this ideal place where work can be done. And if we're too low, beneath that, or too high above it, nothing can happen. And I think so many times we're existing in this high vibration that's become our norm that we don't even realize just how much of that background processing is happening. So I think about waking up and feeling like I can be in the moment without automatically grabbing my phone and checking what the email is or what I'm supposed to be doing today to feel like I can ask myself, what feels right, what do I want? What do I need right now without having a shoulder as opposed to immediately following up that question, and just sort of slowing and unknowing, I think really kind of this, this re anchoring on what I want and what I need versus what I should want, and I should need. And I don't know I almost I'm almost kind of imagining this idea of your if you were reading the story of your life, it's being written in first person, it's no longer being written in third person, the external validation the external shoulds and supports, it's shifting to now you're, you're reading it, and it's AI versus Kira, and we're, you know, I'm Harry Potter is my favorite book series. So it'd be like almost, if we could read the whole book series inside of someone's brain versus from the outside.
Michelle Lasley 4:27
Oh, interesting. Okay, so I'm going into a million different directions. But first, you use the term high vibration and using it as like, almost as if it was a space where too many inputs are coming in. Could you kind of just peel that back? Like what do you mean by high vibration?
Kyira Wackett 4:49
So I think I really like understanding what happens in our brain and the biological and physiological response of the load that we carry. So if you imagine, when our cells or neurons when our brain is functioning, it's, there's a certain activation energy that's required to get your neuron to go communicate with another one. So you have to, there has to be enough of a reason for it to go, okay, yep, I'm gonna go do this, right. And so, for a lot of us, there's this certain activation energy that's required to function in our day. Well, parallel that to our energy levels, there's kind of a baseline that we all exist on. And as our energy kind of ramps up, and we have more and more of that increased energy, it can be assigned, let's say, it's your anxiety, your excitement, your whatever it is, as it's amplifying, that's going to be a signal to your body, and it kind of sets off this cascade, okay, let's go do this thing, I'm really charged about this, whatever it might be, well, when it's working for you, it leads to Okay, here's the sort of downturn you have this energy you're putting out into the world, you do this thing you engage whatever it might be, but then there's space to sort of drop down and then slowly come back up and reset. So the ideal is that your energy, you kind of your brain can go into an active state or rest state and then a recovery state where it's kind of coming back up and resetting. Well, for a lot of us our baseline, so that recovery point, you get back up to over time, it's it's gone up higher and higher and higher. So our baseline our norm is just this higher functioning are, we expect more, we're doing more, we're thinking more our brains are always on and the load that we're carrying is higher and higher and higher. But we think it's our norm, because it's again, sort of our quote, unquote, baseline. Well, what I think ends up happening is then we keep asking our brain to go higher and higher and higher, and we're taking away the time, from that recovery state from that rest state, we think, well, we don't need that we can keep going. So rather than seeing this really beautiful sort of curve that goes up and down and rebalances, we're just sort of existing in the up all the time. And then our brain goes, Oh, we have to crash. And so it crashes down. But then as soon as we get enough energy, we ask it to go back up. And so we just keep expecting our brain to be in this state of high function high activity all the time. And it's not getting what it needs to just call them back down.
Michelle Lasley 7:19
Sounds a lot like the cortisol response that our bodies have. Yes, yes, exactly. Yes, it's natural, functioning thing that's supposed to ebb and flow to give us what we need, but ends up because we're living in this state of constant agitation.
Kyira Wackett 7:38
Yes, yeah. And it ends up being kind of in a therapeutic term, you start to call it a survival mode and the brain, your brain is feeling like it's got to be in this state in order to keep functioning. And so we've primed it to it's almost when I, I've had so many patients say this, and I feel it myself to suddenly when things feel calm and feel good, you're almost anxious, because you're in the anticipatory state of will. When Is everything going to go bad again? Or when is something going to blow up?
Michelle Lasley 8:06
When's the shoe gonna drop?
Kyira Wackett 8:07
And that's because you've programmed your brain to only know how to exist at that high level. And the learning to tolerate the distress that goes into resetting your brain is such a long term process and a strenuous process that I think so many of us, even though we might want to get there, it feels like that I would almost rather exist within this predictively hard state that feels overwhelming, then try to figure out a new way to engage because that feels even harder.
Michelle Lasley 8:36
Right? Oh, fascinating. So as you're describing the state that we've gotten ourselves in, it feels like it would take generations to unwind it.
Kyira Wackett 8:44
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. It's this, I was just talking to somebody the other day about being a new mom, and the decisions I'm making that I think are contributing to short term distress. So really trying to not use the swing to put my daughter to sleep every night, but helping her learn how to calm herself down. And that is so incredibly hard, because the distress in the moment sucks. It's terrible. And it means many sleepless nights until she figures this out. But the long term gain from dealing with this short term distress is going to be infinitely better. But I'm not there yet. And so when my brain is like, Hey, we got nothing left to give, we're on negative energy right now, it's so easy to feel like I just want to go and use this swing, I just want to do whatever it is. And sometimes it's really necessary. Sometimes we have to just do what we can to survive that moment. But I think that's that piece of shifting our thinking is learning to tolerate our short term distress for long term gain. Because even though this might be your norm and you feel like you can exist in it, you're not happy you feel like you're sort of ready to fall apart at any moment. The long term distress it might feel like it's a little or amount over time and that you can deal with it better. Because you know it, but the effect it has is so much greater than if we can find ways to figure out how and to invite curiosity around dealing with that short term distress. And maybe it's higher for a while to eventually have that calming effect again, and that reset back to a lower state.Michelle Lasley:
So you probably are aware that I call my work balance shared. And a couple ideas. One is that I believe that we're better together. And so you know, one of the reasons that I wanted to chat is just to continue to share more stories, so people can get different examples and ideas of how we can operate in the world, and then that we meet each other. And then the other piece to that is really, really grounding in rituals that feel good for ourselves, and then our families so that we can walk more in sync with our natural rhythms. Hmm. So I'm curious, you do a lot of trauma work? Mm hmm. What does trauma do to the body?Kyira Wackett:
No. What doesn't it do? I feel like it's I even just when you mentioned cortisol before, my immediate response, anytime someone talks about cortisol is it's this, it's basically dumping poison into your body, it's doing these things that Yeah, and little bits can function or work for us. But in such high amounts, it's just without going to technical kind of thinking about the long term effects is basically your body starts to shut down your body, when it's asked to basically call all of its energy and resources to trauma response. Basically, it's saying, we can't focus on digestion, we can't focus on basic function of the body, even just like things that happen in your muscles, things that happen in your bones, natural mental health processes or hormone functioning, your brain basically gets to a point where it says, All hands on deck, we have to go into this fight flight or freeze response. Basically, you're constantly in this state of hyper vigilance and activation, you everything else goes out the window. And over time, you lose your ability to think rationally, too. And I think sometimes that can almost sound judgmental, because I don't want to say that someone that's experienced trauma, or has gone through this as irrational or something is wrong, it's your brain only knows now how to exist in the trauma state that it's in. And so it's rational and makes sense for the trauma brain. But that brain is now disconnected from the reality or the norm, because it's now sort of, it's almost like you get stuck in that state of activation. And so for example, somebody that I might be working with that experienced trauma in childhood, and now let's say they're in their 30s, or their 40s, a part of their brain has basically gotten stuck in that trauma experience, and has existed there. And now it's kind of like, every memory or experience that we have, if anyone has seen inside out those kind of shiny balls that they talked about, all your memories get coded, and they get put on almost like a library of shelves, will trauma experiences don't get coded and don't get put on the shelves, they just sort of sit in the peripheral existence, and they keep showing themselves to your brain. And it's like, oh, remember, I'm still here. I'm still here, I pop up whenever I want. They're not getting sorted into and cataloged into all of your memories. And so if your brain is constantly in this place where this thought or this literal, physical experience keeps coming to the surface, of course, you're not going to be able to engage in your everyday life. Right? Of course, somebody else on the outside might say, well, but this isn't happening. Now. You're not. It's been 20 years, it's been 30 years, but your brain is going no, it's right here. It is fresh in this moment right now. And so you might be just getting through your day, you might just be going to whatever, but my brain is still trying to have this parallel existence of surviving this trauma that it still sees as being real and active and this threat while getting through my day. And that draining is why I think so many people end up feeling that deterioration from the effects of traumaMichelle Lasley:
and trauma I've heard described as big t trauma and little t trauma. Mm hmm.Kyira Wackett:
Yeah, so I think, really, when someone talks about big t traumas they're talking about clinically, what we would say is a trauma across the board. And so thinking about any form of abuse and neglect, somebody surviving a hurricane, the effects of COVID on everyone right now, that would be a big t trauma. And then little t traumas are more there's some subjective interpretation around it. So it might be that Somebody might lose a dog, and they have to put their dog down. And that is to some people incredibly more traumatic than it might be to someone else and someone else that might not affect their brain as much or a breakup that's not inherently labeled as a trauma, there's a sort of universal experience that people will experience endings. And so it's not considered this high end trauma that we immediately flag. But for some people, it is traumatic enough that it causes those same responses. And so I think there's value in knowing that their subjective interpretation, but I, I know sometimes when, and I've experienced it myself, too, when someone's labeled my experiences a little t trauma, it almost feels dismissive. And so I think the the separation to make is that if it is traumatic and having an effect on you, it has value and importance and it deserves space to be talked about, regardless of if somebody else would label it big T or little t trauma. It's more just how we sort of, in the mental health world delineate between subjective and objective experiences.Michelle Lasley:
Hmm. So it shows up in the body the same Hmm. And can have all of those same effects of coming back and retelling stories and maybe holding us in a space that we don't want to be held in? Yes, yes, absolutely. Let's take a break. And when we come back, I want to know what's on the other side of this. I love aligning my days with nature's rhythms, and I made a tool to make it easier. I would like to introduce you to my moon deck. My moon deck is a perpetual calendar, a calendar that never expires. This 86 card deck with booklet will allow you to lay out your day, week or month, and overlay the sun and the moon with the elements and with the celebrations from the Wheel of the Year. This tool drawn and created by me Michelle Lasley will be your fun, whimsical and practical tool to see how nature and its rhythms can support you. If you want to learn more and get your own deck today, visit www dot Michelle lasley.com slash moon deck. I can't wait to help you align your time with nature and my perpetual calendar, the moon deck. Welcome back. So that feels really harrowing. All of this trauma and these things and the cortisol response and our high vibe society. I mean, like, at the time of this recording, it's COVID-19. Right. And so we're sheltering in place, our norms are completely shifted, like kid just jokingly says a lot the world is turned upside down, but really feels like the world is turned upside down. So please shine some light on this situation.Kyira Wackett:
Mm hmm. Yeah. And I would even argue it's like upside down inside out and has been spun 17 times. Yes. Because and this is where I think this actually is a really interesting way of understanding trauma. So there is also situational or kind of experiential traumas that are short term. And then these very chronic, traumatic experiences. And so we've actually had several waves of traumatic elements of COVID. So it's not just Okay, now people are out of work. Now. It's the the sort of domino effect of what's going to happen to our economy, what's going to happen to our health, there's the trauma of needing to suddenly pull out of your quote, unquote, reality and norm to now reemergence is going to be traumatic in its own way. There's the grief we had to go through, and then the anticipatory grief of what we're going to have to go through. And so one of the things, I think that's really important, and you have to do a lot of work to, I think, personally, but as a community, and especially this idea of needing each other is, we need to make space for patience and grace, because recovery and the journey through any traumatic experience is not linear. In fact, when I'm describing when I'm working with anybody with trauma or in recovery from any experience, it's understanding, everybody wants it to be like, okay, you start here, and then this is your endpoint, and then they'll get upset if they take a step backwards. And my job is to say that it looks like a tornado came and had a pencil on the end and like scribbled all over your page and then like walked away. So that's where we're at right now. And what this process is going to look like is going to take time. And sometimes I actually think there's some really I don't know if it's a column that can be found within it, but to know that where you're at in the moment is exactly where you're supposed to be at. And so knowing there isn't actually a right way to recover from trauma. But the couple things that people can do is to make space for understanding that action is not the only part of this process. We as a culture, and a community, particularly in the US, everything is action oriented, it's, here's this behavior change, here's this modification, here's this thing you have to do, and everything is going to be better. But healing comes from the insight phase, as well. And we're in that phase right now. So even though people are feeling overwhelmed and consumed, there's this balance between learning and getting curious and understanding and just honoring where you're at, and then eventually moving to the action phase. And if we don't hold space for both, we're only we're basically going to ask our brain to function in a half healed state, we can't we can't do that long term, we're going to revert back to a revert back to where we were before. And so instead of saying, right now, we are in the process of healing, because we can heal even though it's still raw, and it's still happening, we can start to get curious and make that change and, and start to bring, bring the experience out of the silence and and talk about it more, because that is going to help us with the inside and help us move forward.Michelle Lasley:
So what could that look like for your average person who may or may not be engaged in therapy?Kyira Wackett:
I think it's really thinking about finding whether it is I had just actually had a phone call with a client right before this. And she was talking about how she's even just started talking to herself in the mirror. And actually just pushing back on the the in her case, it's really the anxiety that's showing up and how her trauma brain basically it's her anxious brain is the brain that I think so many of us exist in that says you need to be the A plus person all the time, though, we don't realize that that's actually an effect of our our shame Based Thinking our narratives pre trauma. And what I think a lot of us forget is that the state we're in now, and what we're experiencing now is not just the product of what's happened to us, but what's happened to us and the shame narratives we came into it with. And so honestly, the first step, I think, for so many people is to just start to talk about what they're feeling with someone, even if it's themselves. And there's this term in therapy. And I think it's talked about more on general population scale now too, but this idea of externalizing the problem, and so shame, trauma, all of these things, the reason that they get so much power and hold over us as we keep them inside, and it's almost like we have the junk drawer or the junk closet that if you open it a crack, everything's gonna fall out. But we keep trying to just like, open it really quickly shove something in and shut the door. And the more we do that, the more we're letting that sort of pressure and power grow within us. And so instead, it's thinking, How do I just open the door a little bit? How do I even just make some space to talk about what I'm feeling what I'm thinking, you know, again, I'll use the new the example, I've no idea what it means to be a mom, outside of COVID, because I had her and then a week later, no one could leave their house. And so I don't know if some of what I'm experiencing is in response to COVID if it's new parents syndrome, if it's a mix of both. But I was feeling this pressure to especially as a therapist, and people seeing you as this expert, right? You're supposed to grab it all together of, well, I'm supposed to be fine. Because you need me to be fine for you to be fine. And that is such a BS story that I've carried with me from the time I was a kid. And realizing that by not releasing the valve and saying I'm not fine right now, I need to cry right now. Or I know that everybody talks about, especially when they've had kids that are older. enjoy every moment and how lucky is it that you get to be with her all the time? I'mMichelle Lasley:
rolling my eyes. I hope you saw that.Kyira Wackett:
I did. Because every moment isn't great. And sometimes I love her and don't like her simultaneously. Like, she is beautiful and amazing. And I can't wait to have more moments of joy with her. But the moments where she's looking at me in the middle of the night and wants to party and I just want to sleep. I don't like her. I don't. And that feeling those like, Oh, I shouldn't talk about that. Right? I should I should, Oh, it's such a luxury or I have all the tools to be able to deal with the anxiety. So I should be able to model that I'm fine. But the ability for me to say I'm not fine. I don't have this figured out. I don't know what to do at every point but right now it's okay to just say I'm not fine and to make space for that. That is me. externalizing and Nope, I can get this out of me. I don't have to hold this pressure. But I'm also making space for other people to see, oh, she's doing that maybe I don't have to be fine. What does that mean for me? And that starts to at least disrupt the shame narratives that have existed for people for so long.Michelle Lasley:
Oh, awesome. Okay, so naming, you said the word externalizing. But I'm going to use the frame naming. So name Yes. going on. And I'm hearing a big need to name it out loud.Kyira Wackett:
Yes. Why is that important? Because when we're in our heads, and we've been existing in this, so for me, I grew up with an eating disorder, I've had my own trauma I have I still live with generalized anxiety disorder. And so there have been periods of time where my brain has been hijacked, right, from an eating disorder from a trauma brain, even now, with my anxiety. It's hard for me to differentiate when my anxious brain is driving the bus or when I'm driving the bus. And so the reason we need to name it and to talk about it out loud, and yes, sometimes we don't maybe have a person to say it to but even just to say it out loud. It's harder for that part of our brain to keep driving when we're shining light on what's happening. Oh, interesting. And so if I, for example, if I start talking to somebody else, I can say, Okay, this is going on, or what about this? It feels perfectly normal to me, because I've been existing in this anxious state of thinking for years. And so I might feel like it's completely normal to how I'll use a trauma example, where I would check my doors 2030 times at night, every night to make sure that they're locked. Well, that felt normal to me, because doesn't everybody do that. And I've had these experiences that have led me to do that. Well, it's not, it was normal for me. But it wasn't helpful. One, it was keeping me stuck in a narrative that was trauma informed. And too, sometimes I wasn't realizing that what was happening was, basically, I wasn't thinking anymore, my trauma was, you know, or in this case, maybe my anxiety is the one that's thinking, the one that's saying, Oh, you have to you have to say yes to everything, you have to check in with everyone, you have to do all this stuff. I don't have to. But my anxious brain, when that is driving the bus, it's telling me that that's the only thing that I can do to be worthy to be a good friend, to be a good partner to be a good, whatever. And so, I might not have the tools within me to say, wait a minute, wait a minute, you actually you're worthy, just by being a human, you're worthy by showing up. You're an amazing mom, even though sometimes you don't like your kid. And you're doing amazing even though your your house looks like a mess, or you know, whatever it might be, but I might not have the ability to do that somebody else will because they aren't existing in my norm, which has been riddled by and rooted in trauma, shame, anxiety, whatever it might be.Michelle Lasley:
So naming your thing, naming it to somebody else would be even better. Mm hmm. What is another thing that we can do to show up in grace, as we rewrite a new future,Kyira Wackett:
sometimes I like to say. So I'll use an example. I had somebody recently who was just basically losing their sense of grounding in the world and really feel like, you know, kind of for all of us, I feel like the rug was pulled out from under us. Some people's natural propensity was to chase after the rug, some people are still laying on the floor, just crying, the rugs, not there. And some people are taking the pieces and trying to make a new rug. So we're all responding in a different way. But I feel like there's this sense of needing to say to ourselves, kind of list all the things going on, and then say, how could it? How would it make sense I wasn't feeling stressed. Like, of course, you're stressed right now. Or, of course, this feels harder for you right? Now, of course, that's the case. And the same way we would for somebody else, and just kind of making it and saying, This is exactly where you're supposed to be and what's happening. And I think the way if anyone is like me, sometimes it might feel like you can't do it unless somebody tells you the science behind it or gives you permission are tells you that it's actually beneficial. But by naming to yourself, this is exactly how I feel right now and how I'm feeling and what is going on is perfectly okay. And perfectly reasonable. By doing that. You're actually making space that you can now figure out how to move forward. But it's there's this term called radical acceptance. And it basically is saying, you have to be willing to accept, this is exactly where you are, this is exactly what's going on. There are certain things you can control. There are certain things you can't and sometimes I can't control that I feel the way that I feel in this moment. This is just a product and a reaction or a circumstance that's related to what's going on. And so naming that and saying, Okay, this is exactly how I feel right? Now. And then I think the second thing you can do with that is then to, at least for me, what I find very beneficial and I work with clients on is then how to re anchor on. understanding our time, our money, and energy all is resources that we have the right to invest in ways that make most the most sense for us. And so a lot of us, you know, it makes sense financially and kind of thinking about our money. But we really need to get clear on our time and our energy investments and to consider that we have the right to, like if I saw, if I had a financial person present my portfolio to me my investment portfolio, and every month I was taking a loss, I'd be like, well, this sucks, let's let's come up with a different plan. Well, a lot of us aren't doing that with our time and our energy. So if we can pause, kind of do that first part we talked about, name it, get clear on what's happening, talk about where we're at. And then really think about what does that mean for us? How are our investments maybe resulting in a net negative over and over and over again? Well, now we can go well, okay. What would it look like to shift to not even positive? Because that's not necessarily the goal? How do we just shift to neutral? What would a neutral investment look like? What would it look like to feel like I'm not constantly running on empty, that I can at least feel balanced? And if we can reassess that and kind of recalibrate that, then those investments over time, maybe we can get to positive, but at least a sort of naming and shifting that I think can be really beneficial.Michelle Lasley:
Oh, my gosh, this is so great. Thank you for closing the loop on where we started. Perfect. Ah, so we are out of time. So where can people find you?Kyira Wackett:
So they I would say you can find me on Instagram Facebook at at adversity rising or on my website adversity, rising calm, I would say that, really, for anybody that's looking for some support or tools, probably one of the best things to do is just DM me on Instagram or to send me an email whatever works best for you. Because I think again, when I'm especially talking about energy investments, trying to figure out what the next right step for you can be in the midst of just 60 million balls flying at your face, can juggle so hard. And so make the next step just be if you're resonating with what I'm saying you want to talk deeper, figure out that Step. Make the connection. Reach out, ask for what you need. And I will help you sort through that piece so that you're not feeling like it's your responsibility in your own self. And then we can help you kind of feel that sense of empowerment and figure out where you want to go from there.Michelle Lasley:
Awesome. And we'll have all those links, of course in the show notes so you can grab those there as well. Kara, thank you so much for teaching us about grace and trauma and how we can start to walk through this. I'm so grateful you joined us today. Thank you, I appreciate it. Valid shared is curated by me Michelle Lasley, and produced by Matt Hunter. The instrumental music grass by Silent Partner is from the YouTube Audio Library. If you've enjoyed today's episode, leave a review, especially on Apple podcasts. If you've loved the messages of CO creating a better future and digging into ourselves, maybe you'd like to become a sponsor, email Hello at Michelle lasley.com to get your sponsorship guide. Thank you for listening to this podcast. This is Michelle Lasley with valid shared space where I truly believe we are better together.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai