Have you recently uncovered a deep-seated trauma from your childhood? Have you recently gone through a traumatic experience? Or maybe — like our guest today — both ring true for you.
Today’s guest has spent the better part of her adult life working through these challenges and writing books to help others. Her new book is titled, Happy Days: The Guided Path From Trauma to Profound Freedom And Inner Peace, and I’m excited to have her back on the show for her sixth appearance.
Gabby Bernstein is a dear friend, an international speaker, podcast host, and, of course, New York Times bestselling author. I’ve always left our conversations feeling inspired, motivated, and with more tools and resources to improve my life. So, make sure you check out those other episodes.
This episode’s conversation is a difficult one. Before you continue, we’d like to give you a heads up with a trigger warning: Gabby and I open up and are pretty vulnerable about the different heavy experiences we’ve both had to heal and face in our lives. We don’t just look at something that could have hurt you in the past; our aim is to give you tools on how to identify them, be aware of them, and then break through them as you begin to process and integrate the healing journey.
In this episode, we discuss the difference between big and little traumas, a framework to begin healing trauma in your own life, how to handle your response to being triggered in life, how to know if your coping mechanisms are truly helping or hurting you, and so much more.
I hope this helps you reflect, and I hope it gives you some tools and inspiration to process whatever you might be going through, whether it’s from your past or present. Let’s get started!
Gabby or Gabrielle Bernstein is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of eight books. She has been featured on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday as a next-generation thought leader, and the Oprah Winfrey Network chose her to be a part of “Super Soul 100,” a group of 100 trailblazers who are aligned on a mission to bring a higher level of consciousness to the world.
She has also been featured on the Forbes “List of 20 Best Branded Women,” besides being named as one of Mashable’s “11 Must-Follow Twitter Accounts for Inspiration” and is one of YouTube’s 16 “YouTube Next Video Bloggers.” Gabby has even hosted the Guinness World Records’ largest guided meditation with Deepak Chopra.
In her weekly podcast, Dear Gabby, where she offers real-time coaching, straight talk, and BIG LOVE to her listeners. Her latest book, Happy Days: The Guided Path From Trauma to Profound Freedom And Inner Peace, shows that no matter what you’ve been through in life, you can have a future filled with freedom, inner peace, and happy days.
Gabby has appeared on The School of Greatness five times prior, on Episode 1,103, she shared how to manifest your dreams. In Episode 865, we spoke about healing trauma and spiritual freedom. In Episode 618, Gabby dove into faith over fear. In Episode 581, we had a fascinating chat about doing a judgment detox, and all the way back to our first conversation on Episode 391, she shared how to turn fear into faith.
As an athlete, when you hurt yourself, you can’t keep playing until you heal whatever’s wrong, like a broken bone. It’s a bit harder in our emotional life. When we go through a breakup, we might not heal completely and just keep moving.
Gabby splits things into “Big T Traumas,” things like sexual abuse as a child, experiencing violence, living through a catastrophic event, or growing up in an alcoholic home, and then “Small T traumas” — things like being bullied, a teacher telling you you’re stupid, or even surviving COVID.
“Inside [traumatic] childhood developmental experiences is the shame, impermissible rage, feelings of inadequacy, and feelings of being unlovable. We build up different protection mechanisms around us to avoid facing those wounds. Protections could be an achievement, [which] looks good on the outside, [and] workaholism can be praised at times, [but] it can look like alcoholism [or] drug addiction, and we just create all these forms of protection around ourselves to never have to go there. What’s happened recently in COVID is when we’ve been struck with feelings of not being safe, feelings of being out of control, a lot of our typical coping mechanisms won’t work anymore.” – Gabby Bernstein
Typical coping mechanisms range from overeating to overworking, not working, numbing out, or even vegging out the sofa.
“I refer to coping mechanisms as protector parts. I am now trained in Internal Family Systems therapy. In IFS, we talk about ‘protectors,’ and what they protect us from. Those exiled child parts — those impermissible parts that we don’t want to ever go into. Sometimes we don’t even know that they’re a problem. … A workaholic may not yet know that’s a problem for them.” – Gabby Bernstein
Gabby suggests that even spiritual practices can become protectors. Going to every meditation class and doing kundalini yoga is far better than drinking, but it’s another form of protecting yourself from what’s deeper. It’s important to recognize whether we’re doing something to escape facing deeper issues or as part of our healing.
Let’s take an in-depth look at what the healing journey entails.
I started my healing journey at 30 by talking about the biggest shame I faced, which was the sexual abuse I experienced when I was a kid. As my therapist says, healing is not an event, it’s a journey. Healing isn’t suddenly having an awareness and magically feeling good with a miraculous instantaneous release — it’s constant integration.
Unfortunately, most people aren’t even aware of their traumas or their shame. Gabby helps give us a framework on what process we can create.
“I share many methods and tools [in my book] that one can use immediately and also introduce the therapeutic practices that changed and saved my life. I think we all have our own journeys, but my intention here is to help the reader, one, know that they’re not alone and, two, know that there is a guided path from trauma to profound freedom and inner peace. Chapter one is: Become willing to become free. ‘Willing to become free’ means you can’t even open this book if you don’t have a desire to want to be free or look more closely or even just have a mustard seed of hope that there could be a better way.” – Gabby Bernstein
Just being here and reading as far as you have shows that you are willing.
“Even if you tuned into this episode, you’re willing because I’m sure there’ll be trauma somewhere in the title. Chapter two is: Become brave enough to wonder. In my case, I didn’t remember and had to be brave enough to wonder what was there. In other people’s cases, they don’t necessarily remember what happened to them but wonder what could be behind [their] triggers.” – Gabby Bernstein
Even when people don’t think they have any trauma, with deeper investigation and in less than five minutes, they might remember traumas from their childhoods.
“Chapter three is: Why we run. What is the reason that we’re running? We recognize we have this trigger. We have a feeling behind it. We have a reaction to it, and then [it’s about] what could it be?” – Gabby Bernstein
For most of us, it’s just so painful for us to face — that’s why we run. Underneath all of the unresolved traumas, whether a big T or a small T, lies the belief system that we are unlovable and inadequate.
Now that we have the first few chapters helping us start our healing journey, let’s get a deeper understanding of how we can get ready for that process to begin.
Dr. Gabor Mate speaks about the root of addiction being trauma. It might sound logical to start dealing with the trauma first, but if you don’t feel safe enough to face it, you may end up taking longer to dissolve it.
“I think going to the trauma [needs to be] delicate and gentle. It’s like peeling back those layers of the onion, but the bottom line is, we all have these traumas we’re running from. To go head first into them would be like ripping off the bandaid or just being in the dark and all of a sudden walking into the brightest light you’ve ever seen — it might blast you out. Even when you are ready [to see the trauma], it’s terrifying to remember these things or accept [them]. You have to go slow.” – Gabby Bernstein
Suffering doesn’t necessarily just show itself through addiction. Someone may appear calm on the outside and yet really be struggling.
“I was getting my nails done yesterday talking with the nail artist, and she was lovely. She [said], ‘The building could be burning, and I would be fine — but I’m dying inside.’ That numbed-out person is your protector, [and] she’s doing a good job keeping you safe right now. I recognize that everyone is suffering. Going to places that scare us and coming out the other side and doing the deep work [will help you] suffer less because we continue to [do the inner] work.” – Gabby Bernstein
By choosing to face our traumas and utilize tools to overcome them, we allow ourselves to deal with trauma and change our neural pathways in the process.
“The more work you do, the more you change your brain and your nervous system. [Your] suffering [is] primarily based on your willingness to go to the places that scare you.” – Gabby Bernstein
I completely relate to this. At the beginning of the new year, my therapist asked me, “What is your intention?” to which I answered, “Clarity, peace, and freedom.” Every session started with me repeating my intention, and at the end of the year, she asked, “Have you found this?” I said, “I became this.”
After a year of repeating those three words as my intention, I learned a valuable lesson: What we seek is within us.
I didn’t find it.
I didn’t create it.
I integrated it into my life.
Gabby recently went through her own traumatic experience, and I’m grateful to her for sharing so openly and allowing us to hear her biggest lesson.
Gabby experienced the pain of losing her son five months into her pregnancy. That was only three months ago, and it’s still an emotional time for her.
“It has been understanding what a path through grief could look like. [I can go] in and out of feeling completely fine and normal and dissociated or just happy in the moment and then feel into [the pain] and then be doing great. A woman shared her story with me [on my podcast]; we were able to hold each other in that same experience and be able to dip in and out, but the biggest opportunity was to see how my faith is so much stronger than my disbelief and my fear. I have such a strong certainty that this happened exactly as it was meant to and that there’s something else coming.” – Gabby Bernstein
What a powerful place to be — a place of certainty and not being driven by fear. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, and Gabby credits her life’s work as the reason she can respond to her loss in this way.
“My book, The Universe Has Your Back: Transform Fear to Faith [is about that]. [My new] book, Happy Days, is all about reclaiming serenity. I’ve always loved this quote from A Course in Miracles, ‘I’m not here to teach you the meaning of love, I’m here to teach you how to release the blocks to the presence of love.’ … Nothing outside of us [will] be the source of our safety or security or happiness or worthiness. It [must] be restored within ourselves, and it’s a process.” – Gabby Bernstein
I commend Gabby because she not only does the work to move through her pain, but she understands that writing her new book and completing it (even in the face of such difficulty) means the world to the people who will read her book and learn to heal their trauma.
In her own words, “It’s about making sure that whoever needs this is going to hear about it.”
Guys, this was another powerful conversation with Gabby. It was jam-packed with so much information that I couldn’t fit it all into this post; I highly recommend heading over to Episode 1,235 to listen to it in its entirety.
If you are struggling with something right now, check out her new book, Happy Days: The Guided Path From Trauma to Profound Freedom And Inner Peace. I think inner peace is the ultimate key, and without facing the cause of your trauma or hurt, you will never find it. Start to find a way to heal and process your trauma as you create your journey to inner freedom and peace — that way, no matter what circumstances are happening on the outside, nothing can take your peace away from you.
I asked Gabby the final question I always pose to my guests: What’s your definition of greatness?
“[My definition of greatness is] freedom and inner peace.” – Gabby Bernstein
If you liked this episode, we would love it if you could tag Gabby, @gabbybernstein, and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with what stood out most to you. Also, please consider giving us a 5-star rating on Apple Podcasts because they help spread these messages even further!
If you’re ready to start healing your past or current trauma, this episode is for you! So join me for Episode 1,235 of The School of Greatness, and lay the foundation for your future inner peace and freedom today!