Are you still suffering from trauma?
You’ve probably experienced a traumatic event at some point in your life. While it’s natural to feel scared or overwhelmed in the aftermath of an upsetting incident, for some people, these feelings don’t go away easily. In fact, they may actually get worse over time, leading to debilitating anxiety, depression, and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If you’re still dealing with the effects of past trauma, there is hope.
Friends welcome back. Today’s guest is psychiatrist Dr. Paul Conti. I’m so excited to have him on the show, and in this episode, we discuss why it is so hard for us to talk about our shame, the three biggest lies that we tell ourselves, how to heal from trauma without reliving it, and so much more. Our conversation was truly inspiring, so be ready with your notes because the information he shared can help us improve the quality of our thoughts, emotions, and lives.
Dr. Paul Conti is a graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine. He was appointed Chief Resident, and he completed his psychiatry training at Stanford and at Harvard University. He also served as a medical faculty at Harvard before founding his own clinic.
As a psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Conti is adept at helping others untangle complex problems, incorporating a holistic view of each patient or client into his work by understanding the extent of impact trauma can affect on communities or systems where the individual serves, works, or resides. He also offers business, legal and personal consulting services on top of his clinical practice, and he’s written a new book called Trauma: The Invisible Epidemic: How Trauma Works and How We Can Heal From It.
I was so inspired by this work because I feel like so many of us have dealt with different types of traumas in our life — from our childhood to adolescence and to our adult lives. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the types of trauma we’re facing.
There are a lot of things that people are ashamed to talk about. Trauma is definitely one of them. People feel like they have to bottle everything up and deal with it on their own, but that’s not always the best way to go about it. In fact, it can often make things worse.
“More often than not, there’s an undercurrent of trauma that, unless that’s thought about and addressed, we’re kind of like polishing the hood, when we need to get under the hood and really get into the engine. There’s a mental health system that loves polishing the hood. … We kind of want to spruce things up and make them look a certain way and not look at what’s really going on underneath the surface. … [There’s a] sort of reflexive creation of shame when a person suffers trauma — the sort of immediacy of that sense of shame and the response to it — to keep everything inside.” – Paul Conti
Oftentimes people who are suffering from trauma don’t look like they have a problem at all. This is because many people try to hide their problems and deal with them on their own. Trauma can be very isolating and embarrassing, so it’s no wonder that so many people try to keep it hidden.
“Shame is synonymous with the message of, ‘You must keep this secret.’ And if shame is evoked, … then the reflexive shame is in and of itself a message of secrecy. And that’s why … people are carrying burdens around with them. And you can look from the outside and tell ‘This person has achieved this and this person has achieved that,’ and you know, what we see from the outside is so often not at all reflective of what’s going on inside.” – Paul Conti
When people think of those who have suffered from a traumatic experience, they often imagine someone who is visibly upset and struggling. However, many people who suffer from trauma don’t look like they’re having a problem at all. Trauma can impact individuals in many different ways, and not everyone experiences it in the same way. This means that you can’t always tell if someone has been affected by trauma just by looking at them. In fact, many people with traumatic histories are able to function relatively normally in their everyday lives. It’s important to remember that just because someone doesn’t seem like they’re struggling doesn’t mean they aren’t dealing with trauma.
Do you ever feel like you’re stuck in a rut? That no matter what you do, you can’t seem to get ahead? It’s easy to feel down about yourself when things don’t seem to be going your way. But sometimes, the biggest obstacle in our lives is ourselves. We tend to tell ourselves lies that hold us back from achieving our goals.
“‘I’m not lovable. I’m not good enough, and … I don’t deserve it.’ … To say one is not lovable — it’s such a blanket statement of persecution. If you think about what it would be like saying that outwardly to someone, … it’s awful. That’s why the persecutor inside of us can say things to us that people outside of us generally don’t. We wouldn’t tolerate other people — how dare one say that — but it’s going on inside of our minds.” – Dr. Paul Conti
We all tell ourselves little lies from time to time. Maybe we pretend that we’re not hurting after a break-up or that we’re totally fine spending another weekend alone. But sometimes, our lies can be pretty damaging. We might tell ourselves things like “I’m not lovable,” or “I’m not good enough.” Sometimes, we often think that we don’t deserve happiness, love, or success, and these thoughts are running through our heads on a regular basis as a result of some past traumatic events in our lives.
“The consequences of trauma change our memories. Our memories only have meaning through the emotion that’s attached to them. … So if you change memories and now there’s a negative spin on it, [you can turn a happy memory into a trauma.]” – Dr. Paul Conti
It may sound crazy, but it is so true. Memories have meaning through the emotions we’ve attached to them. If you have a good memory in the past of a happy and wonderful event with someone and then you go through a trauma, somehow you can connect that traumatic event to your positive experience and completely shift your perception of that event to being a negative experience.
Trauma changes the way we remember things. It’s not just the scary event itself that impacts our memory, but also how we cope and deal with the aftermath. This can have a ripple effect on every area of our lives. Understanding the consequences of trauma can help us work through them and move on to the healing process.
We’ve all been through tough times, but for some people, the experience of trauma can be life-changing. Recovery from trauma is possible, but it takes time and patience and often requires us to go through a painful process.
“I think you have to go through the pain again. There are exceptions where someone is sort of blessed with a lot of egos, strength, and a lot of resilience and can look and say, ‘Look, I know this, this, and this. This is true about me, and this is something I don’t want to be there for me.’ … Usually, we have to look at the pain of it, but that doesn’t mean reliving every detail.” – Dr. Paul Conti
It’s no secret that traumatic experiences can leave deep, lasting scars. We all deal with trauma in different ways. Some people bury their pain and try to move on as quickly as possible. Others constantly revisit the event, trying to make sense of what happened. Then there are those who find themselves stuck in between, unable to let go of the past while also failing to move forward. But there is a way out, and while it may require that you face the pain again, you may not have to relive every detail of the experience.
“Sometimes it’s necessary when the sense of shame is so lodged in the details. Sometimes you do have to go through all of it. But more often than not, … the idea of not having to go through every detail also emphasizes the shared humanity of it. … How many of us are traumatized? There’s a commonality to that by someone telling me about what their trauma is and how that makes them feel. … We can have a shared understanding of it.” – Dr. Paul Conti
Trauma is a reality for many people. It can be anything from experiencing or witnessing violence to having a natural disaster affect your life. For some people, trauma can feel like it’s constantly with them, making it hard to move on with their lives. Fortunately, there are ways to heal from trauma without reliving the pain. One of those ways is through shared humanity.
Shared humanity means reaching out and connecting with others who have experienced similar traumas. When we share our stories and experiences with others, it helps us to see that we’re not alone in this. It also allows us to build relationships based on understanding and compassion rather than fear or judgment. Connecting with others who understand what you’re going through can be incredibly healing.
Guys, this interview has so many words of wisdom from Dr. Paul Conti. Listen to the full episode for more, and don’t forget to share the episode with someone who needs to hear it. You could change the life of someone secretly struggling with trauma today.
Check out his website to know more about his books and the Pacific Premier Group, where he assembled a team of courageous and compassionate providers working in collaboration to untangle the complexities of trauma and discover the inner leader in you.
To conclude our discussion, I asked Dr. Paul Conti for his definition of greatness, and his answer was perfectly concise.
“Perseverance and humility.” – Dr. Paul Conti
Greatness is something that is earned through hard work and perseverance combined with a dose of humility. Nobody achieves greatness without putting in the effort, and nobody becomes great at the expense of others. True greatness comes from within and is expressed through kindness, compassion, and self-awareness. Those who achieve greatness are never too busy or too arrogant to help others reach their potential. So don’t give up on your dreams — greatness is within reach if you’re willing to work for it!
If no one’s told you lately, I want to remind you that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter. Now it’s time to go out there and do something great.