Hello and welcome back once more to the Therapy Spot, everyone! This week, I interviewed Matt Pappas, Certified Life Coach, author, blogger, and podcaster. He specializes in coaching for survivors of trauma, and those dealing with anxiety. He works with clients both remotely, and locally for those in the Central Pennsylvania area.
Matt’s journey began from a very personal place. A survivor himself, he started Surviving My Past as a way to navigate his own recovery. Since then, the blog has evolved into a full-blown advocacy website featuring many different voices. During our time together, we discussed how anxiety manifests itself in trauma recovery, as well as tips and strategies for overcoming anxiety. I hope as you listen along, you can find ways to use Matt’s insights in your own life!
The Effects of Trauma
In IFS we often say that some of our most vulnerable parts, our exiles, come from experiences in our childhood. In previous podcasts, I’ve spoken about little-t trauma as well as big-T Trauma. Many of us experienced childhood trauma, although we may not realize it until much, much later. Matt himself did not begin to address his trauma until thirty years after the fact. So remember: it’s never too late to heal!
Why is it so important to do this healing work? Essentially, the effects of childhood trauma can reach into many different facets of our lives. Childhood trauma can affect your:
- Self esteem
- Cognitive abilities
- Eating habits
The experiences of our childhood can ripple forwards into our current lives. Trauma (especially in childhood) physically changes the brain. As a result, for many trauma survivors, anxiety plays a large role in their day to day lives. But just as it’s never too late to heal, you’re not doomed to a lifetime of anxious reactions. As Matt says, “Anxiety is a learned response. And if you can learn it, you can unlearn it.”
Putting In the Work
When they start coaching or therapy, it’s not uncommon for people to wonder, How long is this going to take? How long, in other words, until they’ll feel better, or happier, or more at peace? During our conversation, Matt emphasized the idea of not looking too far ahead in the recovery process. “Everybody’s healing journey is different. You get out of it what you put into it.”
Whatever course your healing journey takes, however it looks, it’s important to embrace the process. “What it comes down to is, how badly do you want to heal? How badly do you want to change the way that you’ve been feeling?”
The healing journey for Matt was one of discovery and inspiration. For him, it felt like putting together puzzle pieces and finally realizing how everything connected. “Now that I have the tools and I have the information, I can work on changing things.”
“Ultimately, you know, healing is a lifelong journey. You need to embrace the concept of life after trauma. The next step is the one that’s right in front of you.”
Finding A Support Network
It’s important to be kind to yourself during your healing journey, especially when anxiety makes an appearance. Anxiety is relentless — it never takes a break. Not only that, but most of the things anxiety tries to tell you never end up happening. Anxiety tells you lies to try to keep you:
- Stuck. “This is the way I am, this is how I’ll always react.”
- Miserable. “I’m doomed to repeat everything that’s happened to me.”
- Isolated. “I can’t talk to anyone about this, because they won’t understand.”
Matt’s advice here? “Surround yourself with safe people.” If you don’t have these people directly in your life, you’re not out of luck. At the beginning of his healing journey, Matt felt the same way. From parents to coworkers to friends, nobody felt “right” to talk to. Those of you in a similar position can do what Matt did: find your people online.
From Facebook groups to Twitter threads and hash tags, to forums and blogs, you have so many ways to find your people. People who will understand, and won’t judge, and will accept you and listen. No matter what happened to you and how it has affected you, you are not alone.
Resources for Trauma Survivors
I’d like to thank Matt once again for joining me on the Therapy Spot to share his insights and experiences. Are you a trauma survivor? I encourage you to listen to his podcast, read his blog, and reach out to your support network. You can also check out some of Matt’s free downloads for grief and anxiety.
If you need guidance in meeting a strong part of you, you can check out my free guided meditation here.
Thank you so much for reading and listening today.
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“Little Flower” by Flicker user Pat David, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.