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Podcast Ep. 56: Waking Up to Trauma and Healing as a Parent, Partner, and Person, with Tanner Wallace, PhD

In this episode

Once again, buckle up. This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is emotional trauma and this week we're talking with the incomparable Tanner Wallace, PhD. Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn. Tanner describes herself as a compassionate, no-contact daughter, supportive sibling to an also-in-recovery human, a second wife, an ex-wife, a biological mother, a stepmother, a holder of space, a cheerleader, and a champion for Self Energetic living.

We dove deep into trauma, complex trauma, and healing from trauma as a parent, partner and person. Tanner dropped so many nuggets of wisdom, you’ll need to listen to this episode multiple times—on half speed. So, grab a cup of tea, relax into your favorite chair, and meet the amazing and wise Tanner Wallace, PhD.

Listen here

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Google Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

About our guest

Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Show notes

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW)

Tanner Wallace, thank you so much for joining us on the Yes Collective Podcast. We are so grateful to have you here because the Yes collective theme of the month is emotional trauma, and you're the perfect expert to have on. So you're a trauma recovery coach and educator. You're a level one practitioner in internal family systems. You have recovered from your own complex trauma and you're a parent, but you also have a PhD in education, and you were a tenured professor studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Okay, so that was a lot. Did I miss anything? Is how you mean? How did I do that?

Tanner Wallace (TW)

That's like the really tidy version of it.

I think the more authentic version is, is that externally I was a very high achieving, high performer that constantly had chaotic negative relationships. And I didn't understand why. Even though I taught human development, I was in psychology, and even though I struggled with my parenting and and had so many rock bottoms before, I was given the gift of Pete Walker's book, which is called Surviving to Thriving About Complex Trauma and the day I read that book, I thought to myself, I finally understand why, like I am the way I am, it makes so much sense.

The best intro. I mean, all of those other things that like, yeah, I did that, I did that, I did that mostly in trauma responses.

JW

Yeah. Right. Yeah. So that's fascinating and I would love to get into that later. How trauma responses can appear to the outside world to be really functional and.

TW

Go my whole life as a trauma response. And in fact, one of the reasons I left the Academy is because that was entirely predicated on my performance as part being fully engaged at all times. And I realized like, that's actually not my true self, it's a survival mechanism. But yes, we can keep talking about that.

Audra DiPadova (AD)

I mean, Justin, as a recovering academic, I imagine that really resonates with you and then it makes, you know, we both worked in academia and that what comes up for me hearing this is it's just almost an arranged marriage of folks in trauma response with these parts, you know, activated like it like in what environment is that not the case really work work environment.

TW

That's yeah I mean I think a lot of work environments you know, exploit I think some professions are worse than others that definitely exploit, you know, people's kind of survival codes. Right. They they, they benefit the business. They benefit employers. And so it's kind of learning how to find the I call it like the squeaky clean version of that.

That's unburdened.

JW

So hearing hearing that I recognize a lot and in myself and in my past experiences in academia and it strikes me, I really appreciate how you brought in the lens and you're like, okay, this is a lot of most work environments and it strikes me that any place where we can see clear whoops and clear rules and it's like, Oh, if I can jump through this hoop, if I can of align with these rules, then I'll finally be okay.

Is that what you're getting at?

TW

Yeah. Yeah, just the I mean, I think it's it's probably like, you know, as you get deeper.

And a little more complex than that. But I mean, it's like a whole ecosystem, right? Like how we interact with each other, how we resolve conflict, how we negotiate power differentials, how we reward people for their contributions to the community. You know, all of that has its like interconnected web benefiting the level of productivity that's the highest without necessarily considering what do people need to do this level of like productivity. But still maintain like health and well-being and and, you know, a lot of how we maintain health and well-being is through like the best survival code that we have as humans, which is like in distress, leaning in connect. Right. I mean, that's that's the ultimate survival code. That's what we want for our children. That's what we want for our partnerships.

That's what we want for our employee employer relationships. When people are in distress, lean in and connect. But a lot of our ecosystems can't accommodate that, you know, they designed. So that's not actually a way of of receiving.

JW

Yeah, I think and so you are not in this ecosystem that the healthy ecosystem that you just described in academia and so the the transition out for you, was it really that book like was that book the big turning point for you?

TW

Yeah. I mean, I think it was slow. I mean, I think, you know, anytime you're doing identity shifting work, it's clunky and messy. And so for me, it was the unraveling of core identities that I thought were my personality. And what I came to understand is my trauma has been masquerading as this personality. It's not who I am. And that's a big, big point in one's life. I mean, I think people face drugs and alcohol and other things like sex is like a reach, you know, like which I’ve written in the relational healing lab. When you’re looking for just that thing to get you out of your body or distract you from what's really happening. I've used those things as reaches food, but I don't I wouldn't say I've ever had like an addiction, like I know some people in my world have had. But I think, you know, when you're recovering from addiction, any major thing where you see this huge consequential thing that has literally organized your life is not actually you. And it's a trauma response.

Now I talk about this in other places. I think waking up to your trauma is like you're in a dark room. You can't find your way out and you're you're just I don't know where I am, but it's super dark. This is not okay. And then someone flips on a light and you look around and you think to yourself or like why? It's like this level of clarity around what is actually happening in my life is really disorienting. And so I think for me part of the transition, the shedding of the identity was I did this kind of really wobbly not smooth transition into content creator, podcast host, where I wanted to tell my story more. I wanted to really connect with this identity as a survivor. That's complicated in my story as well, though, because I was in active recovery and so when my performance part was still engaged, right, this part of me. But I was too. I wanted to start truth telling about my survivorship. I kind of built this big community around me that was about being a survivor, about being in the community and really the truer version of that is I really want to be a mentor and a coach. I, I don't want to be like in the survivor community, peer to peer. Like I'm a leader. Like I have aspirations to lead, to be a thought leader, to be an innovator.

So there was this kind of messy transition where I built a lot of community spaces and then recognized this still isn't my true self. There's still a truth that's trying to emerge. That I'm not ready to leave my expert Professor Self behind because there's a piece of that that's really true self.

So then I kind of had to wobble through that. Kind of rebuild this alternative universe outside of the academy. It's even a little bit different. And so it's been, I mean, recovery in real time that involves real humans. And I've done it so publicly. It's like a very high moon. And the people that are so happy with me, I have some people in my community that literally started when my first podcast was Marriage is Hard and they're still listening, they're still in containers. And I'm like you have walked me through a lot. We have a front row seat to this. So yeah, but the academy is long gone. I mean, really long gone. Even to the point, there’s an IFS internal family systems conference and you know it when it came out, I thought oh I should present here I should run a workshop with innovative theory around complex trauma and then I looked at the application and I'm like for why? This doesn’t benefit me, I mean this might feel good, but I don't need the external validation to know that I'm building theory around IFRS and complex trauma. Anyone who wants to know that will come find me and talk to me. So this is really like empowered move away to just build something that works for me.

AD

I feel like you invited us to travel with you. And I'm a very visual person, you know, so I felt like I was really there with you along the way. And one thing a question that came up for me is when you when you picked up that book and and you you you started to realize that the life that you're in was built in trauma response. And you kind of unveiled you flipped on the lights like that. Did you have help? Did you or did you you already have help or at that point?

TW

I didn’t and that's part of my journey as well, is that, you know, I've said this, that that book gave me the answer, but it did not give me a method and a map. It was like, here's your answers.

Like, okay, great. You know, I mean, I'm a I'm a make things happen type person. I have resources as great. I'm ready. I'm I'm here. Let's do this. What do I need to do? And I looked around. And no one could tell me. It was like this little thing here, this little thing here. And this is the beauty of being trained as a scientist and having expertise in human development.

When people were presenting me options, I immediately was like, I'm a developmentalist. I didn't know I had trauma, which is shocking and shows you what your brain and body do.

But now that I know there's no way this complex of an injury to my brain can be solved like just an intervention potency standpoint. There's no way what you're telling me is not believable because I've studied interventions in the real world. And so I just knew that a developmental process that had taken decades to kind of transpire, there's no way that the piecemeal solutions I was being handed were going to have the potency to address all the different aspects of what you really need to do when you're 42 with four kids in a second marriage and everything built around your trauma, there's just no way. And your brain not processing information, you know, in a way that's that's based in reality. So so that's why I kind of I've been on a journey since then to to create that for people so that when they have that moment where they read a book or see a podcast or listen to a podcast or see an Instagram post, someone's like, I know where you go. You go to the Relational Healing Lab, just start walking. It's all there.

AD

So it was a big step for you starting to share your story. Was that a big step in expression?

TW

So what's really fascinating about it was another really great question. What's fascinating about that is I did and it felt big. And actually, in retrospect it's actually the smallest part of your journey. It was the only thing that was available to me readily. So I grabbed it and grasp it because it made sense, because that's what I saw other people doing. That's what. But in fact, from a parts work perspective, from internal family systems, that was not true self telling that story. When I listen back to interviews, I did even my own podcast, like I deleted Instagram posts, but I've kept my podcast totally intact as an archive of my healing.

When I listen to older episodes those are wounded parts telling my story, they’re very protective parts, wounded parts.

They need to truth tell, they need to be witnessed. But you don't need that publicly for healing. And in fact, I kind of wish a lot more of that was private. Because I didn't need to do that publicly to heal. You can do that in private containers. They're spaces and it's it's this much of your healing journey. So it's a fascinating question that you see so much of that. Right. But that's a trauma response to wanting to seek justice.

So I actually think there's a really healthy way to do that that has more effective healing benefits without the external relationship destruction.

AD

And I'm thinking about that through our lens actually, you know, alongside. Yes. Collective, but through our nonprofit work and the child, the cancer community. And I'm thinking about it for myself with the trauma of my son's diagnosis and and that, you know, I know almost 11, almost exactly 11 years ago, you know, just being thrown into that world.

And I can identify with that. And I think many of our moms who probably listen to this podcast can identify with that without taking that step to publicly tell the story. But I love and it's so value in appreciate the connection you're making here with the the speaking out of the protector parts and that wounded the wounded parts and the the speaking of when you said the word justice I mean that was like the the the key.

So, what’s a better what's a better way? You mentioned that there is there's probably a better, better way to do this.

TW

A better way to do I mean, to one of the other things and maybe you can relate to this in being in communities where big things happen, traumatizing things happen and storytelling is the primary way to get connection. So I'll go back to what I was saying so I can be a clean at it. The other thing that I didn't mention, but now you've kind of set me up to say it is that it takes a huge energetic toll on a support community when people are showing up in containers and they're just dumping their truth, dumping the details, everyone has to relive that trauma and parts are now engaged that feel obligated to it because when you see a human suffering, you see someone in the depths of it. Now I have to have my caretaker parts, potentially my therapist parts, my coach parts, my parent parts step up and offer you something because it's cruel not to and just ignore that. It lowers the frequency of the healing and a container that's there for peer support.

So I think a better way is to really contain that truth telling to a very specific containers where the invitation is a truth telling container. So you're opting into it. You knowingly are like, yes, like I have a part of me that wants justice, that wants to speak the truth. You come in prepared like this part of me needs to just have witnessing and validation and have a moment to just say it unfiltered, uncensored, maybe not even fully the truth, but our experience of what happened to us needs to be voiced. That should be contained in very specific truth telling containers, where the survivor is guided by someone and to identify what part of you needs to tell this truth, and are there other parts of you that are concerned or want to censor or silence this part? B And then that's a process, a good rule. Yeah, there's a part that's like, we shouldn't criticize the doctor because then at the end it was like they saved. And so it feels really like ungrateful. So then you do this inner work of like, no parts of us deserve space in an uncensored way to release this truth. Because if we just keep suppressing it inside, the energy is still there. And it's exhausting because at some internal processing level you're dealing with that anger, but you're suppressing it. You're like, Let's just get it out.

The container, it's equally shared. Someone shares the truth. People witness it, they validate it, they get to connect to it. You move on to somebody else.

Then you you put all the energy in the container, you close the container, you walk people through moving the energy and leaving it in the container, and then they can come back and tell the truth from another part. Like, so this is really orchestrated structured process and I think this goes to a bigger thing about trauma healing that I would love to have a chance to say here, which is one of the things I'm so passionate about. And I think this is my researchers analytical mind meeting trauma that's very emotional and embodied in this perfect marriage is it's not messy to heal trauma.

The experience feels mess. But the structure to walk someone through trauma, healing is actually very structure and sequenced because it's a brain injury. So it's so universal. Our details might differ a little bit. But it's your brain. And your body. And there are some universal laws about how those things function in the face of trauma that are freakishly universal. And so that's where we don't serve trauma survivors. Well, it's not complicated. We know exactly what to do. It's just how do you scale that and how do you get it in the hands of people that need it?

So I think that that response I gave is showing you there is a structure, but when you just put survivors in a container and imagine everyone's going to heal or imagine 50 minutes a week with a therapist who's not connected to their whole ecosystem, it just it's it's like a setup to fail or not be successful.

JW

Yeah. So, yeah, we've, we've gone to the deep end. I mean, yeah, amazing, amazing stuff. And I want to unpack a little bit more of it, but I feel like I want to kind of pull us back to the shore and just define, if you could, for us. Tanner What is trauma and what is complex trauma?

TW

I mean, my definitions pretty straightforward, pretty pragmatic. And of course it's taking a lot of different resources across a lot of different people and integrating them into a way I think people can understand. You know, all of us in life have stressful, challenging things happen. You the human experience is one where we can't control every outcome. We can't control every situation. People around us are in all different states of wellness and health and people of all different kinds of resources. So it's expected that we will experience stressful, challenging events. And I know some of these are going to be videos I'm using my hands for those of you that are listening, and I've one hand like that showing there's a certain level and then I have another hand on top.

And so I think of this bottom hand as our coping skills, right? Like how much capacity do we have to process what's happening? How much capacity do we have to, you know, make sense of the stress to take in? All this needs to be taken in. And then the top hand is kind of the stress level of the event or situation.

And so in one hand of the stress level, the situation and our coping skills, there's a gap, right? And that's a potentially traumatizing event. Our coping skills are not keeping pace with the stress of the event. And what's really fascinating about this is there's no absolute scale of the stress of an event. It's so dependent on us as a human, on our ecosystem, on our brain processing what we've experienced before, what's come after. What makes something traumatizing is either that gap does not close. So we don't know how to increase our regulatory capacity or our ability to gain new skills. So we're like raising the bottom bar or we have agency resources, you know, some way to decrease the stress of the event. So the gap is closed when you're a child this gap is happening all the time for you because it's a developmental process, right? You know, you're developing human you're in all these new environments all the time. I mean, you want that gap to be there for your kid occasionally. And what we as good parents or good enough parents are charged with doing and as humans and minimizing the gap in a way that's developmentally appropriate and builds resiliency. So it's not like we just take away the gap because nothing ever stressful happens or we do everything for them. So there's no skill building. You want the gap to happen for your kid. And then you teach them how to build their regulatory capacity. And then you use your adult choices agency to minimize where you can or equip them to minimize it, where they can. Where trauma happens is what happens afterwards if that gap is not closed, there's not a safe human that's paying attention that is well enough to protect and do this work, the gap increases for a kid or increases for an adult. And then you have now what is trauma, right? Like the gap increased at you and then you develop, you know, your brain, your body, your mind is like this gap isn't okay. We know that for our survival, our evolutionary codes, like, nope, this isn't good.

So you figure out how to close it. But that's in a like an adaptive way that's not in the connect to minimize stress. It's around like the freeze, the fight, all the different trauma responses. Complex trauma, as I think about it, is when that gap happens again and again and again across your childhood, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and there's an additional layer to it that is nuanced but important from a developmental perspective, is that it's happening in the context of attachment. So not only is the gap there, but you’re developing this additional story that is I'm not worthwhile. There's something wrong with me because I shouldn't feel this way.

. . .

To fix it and solve it and heal it because there's a lot of people in my world, they get this news from me who has this really comprehensive view of it and like, Yeah, I can't do it. Or like now that this is actually let me just stay here. But the humans that hear what I just said and say, okay, Tanner, what do I do? And they walk through it for a year which is what I think it takes to get through. It is it is a full year of it being a top three priority with massive changes in your life. And you'll get through it and you'll heal. And you just keep coming back. You keep coming back, you fall down, you get back. I mean, it's peak performance at a whole different level and it literally changes the course of human evolution.

. . .

AD

So because you're sharing a different, you know, I think a different lens to sort of the norm. And when I what I hear often is just very fear based, you know, thinking and like helplessness, you know, around it. I've seen our daughter, for example, learn so much from tik tok.

I mean, I love TikTok. Like, there are so many interesting, tiny doses.

JW

Well, yeah. Before we get into Tik Tok and social media. Yeah. So my job. Exactly. A whole different set. I'm bringing it back. Oh, my gosh. So I do have a quick curiosity that I want to follow up on the so the people that you work with who when the lights or when they get this broader perspective from you on complex trauma and are like, nope, I'm out is this I'm imagining that one of the big barriers for them is they can see if I follow you down that road, I'm going to lose everyone in my life.

Yeah. I mean, because that like, like, oh, my gosh, mom, dad, sister. Like, like extended family like that road leads me out of the trauma ecosystem that is my entire social network.

TW

Think about a developmental context for doing this work, that it's incremental, that you don't have to burn everything down all at once, that we know lot about communication, about emotional intelligence. If you kind of do the inner work first and then when you're healed enough, I mean, so the way I look at it is I have like circuits of healing power. It's a sequence in a scope the first three are just you getting the leadership of your own internal world. It's not until circuit four do you start addressing external stuff. And so at that point you're in a wiser mind. You typically can coach yourself through a trauma, respond to can ideally even put somebody else through their own trauma response not to make it worse. So when you do all that foundational work when you get to the point where you're deciding, is this person coming to me to the other side or are they not?

. . .

JW

What is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth and development?

TW

Yeah, so healing kind of has layers and it matches kind of the unburdening process of internal family systems where with complex trauma you really work a lot with protective parts.

At first honoring their scene, witnessing them, unburdening them, so they'll give you access to wounded younger parts and then you release them from your system. And then you keep working with protective parts, release dark energy.

And then what I've discovered is for many survivors, there’s the controller of the whole system and that's itself self like part and usually don't meet that part until other things are gone.

And it feels like a kind of program that's running in your brain that given there were bigger things happening. You're like, I didn't even notice that there's, you know, this thing like this alarm sounding all the time because when there's things popping off all the time and it's really big inputs. But if you do healing in this piece, more peaceful, sequential calm, self led way, which I advocate for everyone, you've changing internal and external simultaneously.

. . .

Podcast Ep. 56: Waking Up to Trauma and Healing as a Parent, Partner, and Person, with Tanner Wallace, PhD

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Podcast Ep. 56: Waking Up to Trauma and Healing as a Parent, Partner, and Person, with Tanner Wallace, PhD

Trauma recovery coach and educator, Tanner Wallace, PhD, joins Audra and Justin to talk about complex trauma, the road to healing, what it means to bring trauma healing into your parenting, and so much more.

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In this episode

Once again, buckle up. This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is emotional trauma and this week we're talking with the incomparable Tanner Wallace, PhD. Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn. Tanner describes herself as a compassionate, no-contact daughter, supportive sibling to an also-in-recovery human, a second wife, an ex-wife, a biological mother, a stepmother, a holder of space, a cheerleader, and a champion for Self Energetic living.

We dove deep into trauma, complex trauma, and healing from trauma as a parent, partner and person. Tanner dropped so many nuggets of wisdom, you’ll need to listen to this episode multiple times—on half speed. So, grab a cup of tea, relax into your favorite chair, and meet the amazing and wise Tanner Wallace, PhD.

Listen here

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Listen on Google Podcasts

Listen on Spotify

About our guest

Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Show notes

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW)

Tanner Wallace, thank you so much for joining us on the Yes Collective Podcast. We are so grateful to have you here because the Yes collective theme of the month is emotional trauma, and you're the perfect expert to have on. So you're a trauma recovery coach and educator. You're a level one practitioner in internal family systems. You have recovered from your own complex trauma and you're a parent, but you also have a PhD in education, and you were a tenured professor studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Okay, so that was a lot. Did I miss anything? Is how you mean? How did I do that?

Tanner Wallace (TW)

That's like the really tidy version of it.

I think the more authentic version is, is that externally I was a very high achieving, high performer that constantly had chaotic negative relationships. And I didn't understand why. Even though I taught human development, I was in psychology, and even though I struggled with my parenting and and had so many rock bottoms before, I was given the gift of Pete Walker's book, which is called Surviving to Thriving About Complex Trauma and the day I read that book, I thought to myself, I finally understand why, like I am the way I am, it makes so much sense.

The best intro. I mean, all of those other things that like, yeah, I did that, I did that, I did that mostly in trauma responses.

JW

Yeah. Right. Yeah. So that's fascinating and I would love to get into that later. How trauma responses can appear to the outside world to be really functional and.

TW

Go my whole life as a trauma response. And in fact, one of the reasons I left the Academy is because that was entirely predicated on my performance as part being fully engaged at all times. And I realized like, that's actually not my true self, it's a survival mechanism. But yes, we can keep talking about that.

Audra DiPadova (AD)

I mean, Justin, as a recovering academic, I imagine that really resonates with you and then it makes, you know, we both worked in academia and that what comes up for me hearing this is it's just almost an arranged marriage of folks in trauma response with these parts, you know, activated like it like in what environment is that not the case really work work environment.

TW

That's yeah I mean I think a lot of work environments you know, exploit I think some professions are worse than others that definitely exploit, you know, people's kind of survival codes. Right. They they, they benefit the business. They benefit employers. And so it's kind of learning how to find the I call it like the squeaky clean version of that.

That's unburdened.

JW

So hearing hearing that I recognize a lot and in myself and in my past experiences in academia and it strikes me, I really appreciate how you brought in the lens and you're like, okay, this is a lot of most work environments and it strikes me that any place where we can see clear whoops and clear rules and it's like, Oh, if I can jump through this hoop, if I can of align with these rules, then I'll finally be okay.

Is that what you're getting at?

TW

Yeah. Yeah, just the I mean, I think it's it's probably like, you know, as you get deeper.

And a little more complex than that. But I mean, it's like a whole ecosystem, right? Like how we interact with each other, how we resolve conflict, how we negotiate power differentials, how we reward people for their contributions to the community. You know, all of that has its like interconnected web benefiting the level of productivity that's the highest without necessarily considering what do people need to do this level of like productivity. But still maintain like health and well-being and and, you know, a lot of how we maintain health and well-being is through like the best survival code that we have as humans, which is like in distress, leaning in connect. Right. I mean, that's that's the ultimate survival code. That's what we want for our children. That's what we want for our partnerships.

That's what we want for our employee employer relationships. When people are in distress, lean in and connect. But a lot of our ecosystems can't accommodate that, you know, they designed. So that's not actually a way of of receiving.

JW

Yeah, I think and so you are not in this ecosystem that the healthy ecosystem that you just described in academia and so the the transition out for you, was it really that book like was that book the big turning point for you?

TW

Yeah. I mean, I think it was slow. I mean, I think, you know, anytime you're doing identity shifting work, it's clunky and messy. And so for me, it was the unraveling of core identities that I thought were my personality. And what I came to understand is my trauma has been masquerading as this personality. It's not who I am. And that's a big, big point in one's life. I mean, I think people face drugs and alcohol and other things like sex is like a reach, you know, like which I’ve written in the relational healing lab. When you’re looking for just that thing to get you out of your body or distract you from what's really happening. I've used those things as reaches food, but I don't I wouldn't say I've ever had like an addiction, like I know some people in my world have had. But I think, you know, when you're recovering from addiction, any major thing where you see this huge consequential thing that has literally organized your life is not actually you. And it's a trauma response.

Now I talk about this in other places. I think waking up to your trauma is like you're in a dark room. You can't find your way out and you're you're just I don't know where I am, but it's super dark. This is not okay. And then someone flips on a light and you look around and you think to yourself or like why? It's like this level of clarity around what is actually happening in my life is really disorienting. And so I think for me part of the transition, the shedding of the identity was I did this kind of really wobbly not smooth transition into content creator, podcast host, where I wanted to tell my story more. I wanted to really connect with this identity as a survivor. That's complicated in my story as well, though, because I was in active recovery and so when my performance part was still engaged, right, this part of me. But I was too. I wanted to start truth telling about my survivorship. I kind of built this big community around me that was about being a survivor, about being in the community and really the truer version of that is I really want to be a mentor and a coach. I, I don't want to be like in the survivor community, peer to peer. Like I'm a leader. Like I have aspirations to lead, to be a thought leader, to be an innovator.

So there was this kind of messy transition where I built a lot of community spaces and then recognized this still isn't my true self. There's still a truth that's trying to emerge. That I'm not ready to leave my expert Professor Self behind because there's a piece of that that's really true self.

So then I kind of had to wobble through that. Kind of rebuild this alternative universe outside of the academy. It's even a little bit different. And so it's been, I mean, recovery in real time that involves real humans. And I've done it so publicly. It's like a very high moon. And the people that are so happy with me, I have some people in my community that literally started when my first podcast was Marriage is Hard and they're still listening, they're still in containers. And I'm like you have walked me through a lot. We have a front row seat to this. So yeah, but the academy is long gone. I mean, really long gone. Even to the point, there’s an IFS internal family systems conference and you know it when it came out, I thought oh I should present here I should run a workshop with innovative theory around complex trauma and then I looked at the application and I'm like for why? This doesn’t benefit me, I mean this might feel good, but I don't need the external validation to know that I'm building theory around IFRS and complex trauma. Anyone who wants to know that will come find me and talk to me. So this is really like empowered move away to just build something that works for me.

AD

I feel like you invited us to travel with you. And I'm a very visual person, you know, so I felt like I was really there with you along the way. And one thing a question that came up for me is when you when you picked up that book and and you you you started to realize that the life that you're in was built in trauma response. And you kind of unveiled you flipped on the lights like that. Did you have help? Did you or did you you already have help or at that point?

TW

I didn’t and that's part of my journey as well, is that, you know, I've said this, that that book gave me the answer, but it did not give me a method and a map. It was like, here's your answers.

Like, okay, great. You know, I mean, I'm a I'm a make things happen type person. I have resources as great. I'm ready. I'm I'm here. Let's do this. What do I need to do? And I looked around. And no one could tell me. It was like this little thing here, this little thing here. And this is the beauty of being trained as a scientist and having expertise in human development.

When people were presenting me options, I immediately was like, I'm a developmentalist. I didn't know I had trauma, which is shocking and shows you what your brain and body do.

But now that I know there's no way this complex of an injury to my brain can be solved like just an intervention potency standpoint. There's no way what you're telling me is not believable because I've studied interventions in the real world. And so I just knew that a developmental process that had taken decades to kind of transpire, there's no way that the piecemeal solutions I was being handed were going to have the potency to address all the different aspects of what you really need to do when you're 42 with four kids in a second marriage and everything built around your trauma, there's just no way. And your brain not processing information, you know, in a way that's that's based in reality. So so that's why I kind of I've been on a journey since then to to create that for people so that when they have that moment where they read a book or see a podcast or listen to a podcast or see an Instagram post, someone's like, I know where you go. You go to the Relational Healing Lab, just start walking. It's all there.

AD

So it was a big step for you starting to share your story. Was that a big step in expression?

TW

So what's really fascinating about it was another really great question. What's fascinating about that is I did and it felt big. And actually, in retrospect it's actually the smallest part of your journey. It was the only thing that was available to me readily. So I grabbed it and grasp it because it made sense, because that's what I saw other people doing. That's what. But in fact, from a parts work perspective, from internal family systems, that was not true self telling that story. When I listen back to interviews, I did even my own podcast, like I deleted Instagram posts, but I've kept my podcast totally intact as an archive of my healing.

When I listen to older episodes those are wounded parts telling my story, they’re very protective parts, wounded parts.

They need to truth tell, they need to be witnessed. But you don't need that publicly for healing. And in fact, I kind of wish a lot more of that was private. Because I didn't need to do that publicly to heal. You can do that in private containers. They're spaces and it's it's this much of your healing journey. So it's a fascinating question that you see so much of that. Right. But that's a trauma response to wanting to seek justice.

So I actually think there's a really healthy way to do that that has more effective healing benefits without the external relationship destruction.

AD

And I'm thinking about that through our lens actually, you know, alongside. Yes. Collective, but through our nonprofit work and the child, the cancer community. And I'm thinking about it for myself with the trauma of my son's diagnosis and and that, you know, I know almost 11, almost exactly 11 years ago, you know, just being thrown into that world.

And I can identify with that. And I think many of our moms who probably listen to this podcast can identify with that without taking that step to publicly tell the story. But I love and it's so value in appreciate the connection you're making here with the the speaking out of the protector parts and that wounded the wounded parts and the the speaking of when you said the word justice I mean that was like the the the key.

So, what’s a better what's a better way? You mentioned that there is there's probably a better, better way to do this.

TW

A better way to do I mean, to one of the other things and maybe you can relate to this in being in communities where big things happen, traumatizing things happen and storytelling is the primary way to get connection. So I'll go back to what I was saying so I can be a clean at it. The other thing that I didn't mention, but now you've kind of set me up to say it is that it takes a huge energetic toll on a support community when people are showing up in containers and they're just dumping their truth, dumping the details, everyone has to relive that trauma and parts are now engaged that feel obligated to it because when you see a human suffering, you see someone in the depths of it. Now I have to have my caretaker parts, potentially my therapist parts, my coach parts, my parent parts step up and offer you something because it's cruel not to and just ignore that. It lowers the frequency of the healing and a container that's there for peer support.

So I think a better way is to really contain that truth telling to a very specific containers where the invitation is a truth telling container. So you're opting into it. You knowingly are like, yes, like I have a part of me that wants justice, that wants to speak the truth. You come in prepared like this part of me needs to just have witnessing and validation and have a moment to just say it unfiltered, uncensored, maybe not even fully the truth, but our experience of what happened to us needs to be voiced. That should be contained in very specific truth telling containers, where the survivor is guided by someone and to identify what part of you needs to tell this truth, and are there other parts of you that are concerned or want to censor or silence this part? B And then that's a process, a good rule. Yeah, there's a part that's like, we shouldn't criticize the doctor because then at the end it was like they saved. And so it feels really like ungrateful. So then you do this inner work of like, no parts of us deserve space in an uncensored way to release this truth. Because if we just keep suppressing it inside, the energy is still there. And it's exhausting because at some internal processing level you're dealing with that anger, but you're suppressing it. You're like, Let's just get it out.

The container, it's equally shared. Someone shares the truth. People witness it, they validate it, they get to connect to it. You move on to somebody else.

Then you you put all the energy in the container, you close the container, you walk people through moving the energy and leaving it in the container, and then they can come back and tell the truth from another part. Like, so this is really orchestrated structured process and I think this goes to a bigger thing about trauma healing that I would love to have a chance to say here, which is one of the things I'm so passionate about. And I think this is my researchers analytical mind meeting trauma that's very emotional and embodied in this perfect marriage is it's not messy to heal trauma.

The experience feels mess. But the structure to walk someone through trauma, healing is actually very structure and sequenced because it's a brain injury. So it's so universal. Our details might differ a little bit. But it's your brain. And your body. And there are some universal laws about how those things function in the face of trauma that are freakishly universal. And so that's where we don't serve trauma survivors. Well, it's not complicated. We know exactly what to do. It's just how do you scale that and how do you get it in the hands of people that need it?

So I think that that response I gave is showing you there is a structure, but when you just put survivors in a container and imagine everyone's going to heal or imagine 50 minutes a week with a therapist who's not connected to their whole ecosystem, it just it's it's like a setup to fail or not be successful.

JW

Yeah. So, yeah, we've, we've gone to the deep end. I mean, yeah, amazing, amazing stuff. And I want to unpack a little bit more of it, but I feel like I want to kind of pull us back to the shore and just define, if you could, for us. Tanner What is trauma and what is complex trauma?

TW

I mean, my definitions pretty straightforward, pretty pragmatic. And of course it's taking a lot of different resources across a lot of different people and integrating them into a way I think people can understand. You know, all of us in life have stressful, challenging things happen. You the human experience is one where we can't control every outcome. We can't control every situation. People around us are in all different states of wellness and health and people of all different kinds of resources. So it's expected that we will experience stressful, challenging events. And I know some of these are going to be videos I'm using my hands for those of you that are listening, and I've one hand like that showing there's a certain level and then I have another hand on top.

And so I think of this bottom hand as our coping skills, right? Like how much capacity do we have to process what's happening? How much capacity do we have to, you know, make sense of the stress to take in? All this needs to be taken in. And then the top hand is kind of the stress level of the event or situation.

And so in one hand of the stress level, the situation and our coping skills, there's a gap, right? And that's a potentially traumatizing event. Our coping skills are not keeping pace with the stress of the event. And what's really fascinating about this is there's no absolute scale of the stress of an event. It's so dependent on us as a human, on our ecosystem, on our brain processing what we've experienced before, what's come after. What makes something traumatizing is either that gap does not close. So we don't know how to increase our regulatory capacity or our ability to gain new skills. So we're like raising the bottom bar or we have agency resources, you know, some way to decrease the stress of the event. So the gap is closed when you're a child this gap is happening all the time for you because it's a developmental process, right? You know, you're developing human you're in all these new environments all the time. I mean, you want that gap to be there for your kid occasionally. And what we as good parents or good enough parents are charged with doing and as humans and minimizing the gap in a way that's developmentally appropriate and builds resiliency. So it's not like we just take away the gap because nothing ever stressful happens or we do everything for them. So there's no skill building. You want the gap to happen for your kid. And then you teach them how to build their regulatory capacity. And then you use your adult choices agency to minimize where you can or equip them to minimize it, where they can. Where trauma happens is what happens afterwards if that gap is not closed, there's not a safe human that's paying attention that is well enough to protect and do this work, the gap increases for a kid or increases for an adult. And then you have now what is trauma, right? Like the gap increased at you and then you develop, you know, your brain, your body, your mind is like this gap isn't okay. We know that for our survival, our evolutionary codes, like, nope, this isn't good.

So you figure out how to close it. But that's in a like an adaptive way that's not in the connect to minimize stress. It's around like the freeze, the fight, all the different trauma responses. Complex trauma, as I think about it, is when that gap happens again and again and again across your childhood, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and there's an additional layer to it that is nuanced but important from a developmental perspective, is that it's happening in the context of attachment. So not only is the gap there, but you’re developing this additional story that is I'm not worthwhile. There's something wrong with me because I shouldn't feel this way.

. . .

To fix it and solve it and heal it because there's a lot of people in my world, they get this news from me who has this really comprehensive view of it and like, Yeah, I can't do it. Or like now that this is actually let me just stay here. But the humans that hear what I just said and say, okay, Tanner, what do I do? And they walk through it for a year which is what I think it takes to get through. It is it is a full year of it being a top three priority with massive changes in your life. And you'll get through it and you'll heal. And you just keep coming back. You keep coming back, you fall down, you get back. I mean, it's peak performance at a whole different level and it literally changes the course of human evolution.

. . .

AD

So because you're sharing a different, you know, I think a different lens to sort of the norm. And when I what I hear often is just very fear based, you know, thinking and like helplessness, you know, around it. I've seen our daughter, for example, learn so much from tik tok.

I mean, I love TikTok. Like, there are so many interesting, tiny doses.

JW

Well, yeah. Before we get into Tik Tok and social media. Yeah. So my job. Exactly. A whole different set. I'm bringing it back. Oh, my gosh. So I do have a quick curiosity that I want to follow up on the so the people that you work with who when the lights or when they get this broader perspective from you on complex trauma and are like, nope, I'm out is this I'm imagining that one of the big barriers for them is they can see if I follow you down that road, I'm going to lose everyone in my life.

Yeah. I mean, because that like, like, oh, my gosh, mom, dad, sister. Like, like extended family like that road leads me out of the trauma ecosystem that is my entire social network.

TW

Think about a developmental context for doing this work, that it's incremental, that you don't have to burn everything down all at once, that we know lot about communication, about emotional intelligence. If you kind of do the inner work first and then when you're healed enough, I mean, so the way I look at it is I have like circuits of healing power. It's a sequence in a scope the first three are just you getting the leadership of your own internal world. It's not until circuit four do you start addressing external stuff. And so at that point you're in a wiser mind. You typically can coach yourself through a trauma, respond to can ideally even put somebody else through their own trauma response not to make it worse. So when you do all that foundational work when you get to the point where you're deciding, is this person coming to me to the other side or are they not?

. . .

JW

What is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth and development?

TW

Yeah, so healing kind of has layers and it matches kind of the unburdening process of internal family systems where with complex trauma you really work a lot with protective parts.

At first honoring their scene, witnessing them, unburdening them, so they'll give you access to wounded younger parts and then you release them from your system. And then you keep working with protective parts, release dark energy.

And then what I've discovered is for many survivors, there’s the controller of the whole system and that's itself self like part and usually don't meet that part until other things are gone.

And it feels like a kind of program that's running in your brain that given there were bigger things happening. You're like, I didn't even notice that there's, you know, this thing like this alarm sounding all the time because when there's things popping off all the time and it's really big inputs. But if you do healing in this piece, more peaceful, sequential calm, self led way, which I advocate for everyone, you've changing internal and external simultaneously.

. . .

In this episode

Once again, buckle up. This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is emotional trauma and this week we're talking with the incomparable Tanner Wallace, PhD. Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn. Tanner describes herself as a compassionate, no-contact daughter, supportive sibling to an also-in-recovery human, a second wife, an ex-wife, a biological mother, a stepmother, a holder of space, a cheerleader, and a champion for Self Energetic living.

We dove deep into trauma, complex trauma, and healing from trauma as a parent, partner and person. Tanner dropped so many nuggets of wisdom, you’ll need to listen to this episode multiple times—on half speed. So, grab a cup of tea, relax into your favorite chair, and meet the amazing and wise Tanner Wallace, PhD.

Listen here

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About our guest

Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Show notes

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW)

Tanner Wallace, thank you so much for joining us on the Yes Collective Podcast. We are so grateful to have you here because the Yes collective theme of the month is emotional trauma, and you're the perfect expert to have on. So you're a trauma recovery coach and educator. You're a level one practitioner in internal family systems. You have recovered from your own complex trauma and you're a parent, but you also have a PhD in education, and you were a tenured professor studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Okay, so that was a lot. Did I miss anything? Is how you mean? How did I do that?

Tanner Wallace (TW)

That's like the really tidy version of it.

I think the more authentic version is, is that externally I was a very high achieving, high performer that constantly had chaotic negative relationships. And I didn't understand why. Even though I taught human development, I was in psychology, and even though I struggled with my parenting and and had so many rock bottoms before, I was given the gift of Pete Walker's book, which is called Surviving to Thriving About Complex Trauma and the day I read that book, I thought to myself, I finally understand why, like I am the way I am, it makes so much sense.

The best intro. I mean, all of those other things that like, yeah, I did that, I did that, I did that mostly in trauma responses.

JW

Yeah. Right. Yeah. So that's fascinating and I would love to get into that later. How trauma responses can appear to the outside world to be really functional and.

TW

Go my whole life as a trauma response. And in fact, one of the reasons I left the Academy is because that was entirely predicated on my performance as part being fully engaged at all times. And I realized like, that's actually not my true self, it's a survival mechanism. But yes, we can keep talking about that.

Audra DiPadova (AD)

I mean, Justin, as a recovering academic, I imagine that really resonates with you and then it makes, you know, we both worked in academia and that what comes up for me hearing this is it's just almost an arranged marriage of folks in trauma response with these parts, you know, activated like it like in what environment is that not the case really work work environment.

TW

That's yeah I mean I think a lot of work environments you know, exploit I think some professions are worse than others that definitely exploit, you know, people's kind of survival codes. Right. They they, they benefit the business. They benefit employers. And so it's kind of learning how to find the I call it like the squeaky clean version of that.

That's unburdened.

JW

So hearing hearing that I recognize a lot and in myself and in my past experiences in academia and it strikes me, I really appreciate how you brought in the lens and you're like, okay, this is a lot of most work environments and it strikes me that any place where we can see clear whoops and clear rules and it's like, Oh, if I can jump through this hoop, if I can of align with these rules, then I'll finally be okay.

Is that what you're getting at?

TW

Yeah. Yeah, just the I mean, I think it's it's probably like, you know, as you get deeper.

And a little more complex than that. But I mean, it's like a whole ecosystem, right? Like how we interact with each other, how we resolve conflict, how we negotiate power differentials, how we reward people for their contributions to the community. You know, all of that has its like interconnected web benefiting the level of productivity that's the highest without necessarily considering what do people need to do this level of like productivity. But still maintain like health and well-being and and, you know, a lot of how we maintain health and well-being is through like the best survival code that we have as humans, which is like in distress, leaning in connect. Right. I mean, that's that's the ultimate survival code. That's what we want for our children. That's what we want for our partnerships.

That's what we want for our employee employer relationships. When people are in distress, lean in and connect. But a lot of our ecosystems can't accommodate that, you know, they designed. So that's not actually a way of of receiving.

JW

Yeah, I think and so you are not in this ecosystem that the healthy ecosystem that you just described in academia and so the the transition out for you, was it really that book like was that book the big turning point for you?

TW

Yeah. I mean, I think it was slow. I mean, I think, you know, anytime you're doing identity shifting work, it's clunky and messy. And so for me, it was the unraveling of core identities that I thought were my personality. And what I came to understand is my trauma has been masquerading as this personality. It's not who I am. And that's a big, big point in one's life. I mean, I think people face drugs and alcohol and other things like sex is like a reach, you know, like which I’ve written in the relational healing lab. When you’re looking for just that thing to get you out of your body or distract you from what's really happening. I've used those things as reaches food, but I don't I wouldn't say I've ever had like an addiction, like I know some people in my world have had. But I think, you know, when you're recovering from addiction, any major thing where you see this huge consequential thing that has literally organized your life is not actually you. And it's a trauma response.

Now I talk about this in other places. I think waking up to your trauma is like you're in a dark room. You can't find your way out and you're you're just I don't know where I am, but it's super dark. This is not okay. And then someone flips on a light and you look around and you think to yourself or like why? It's like this level of clarity around what is actually happening in my life is really disorienting. And so I think for me part of the transition, the shedding of the identity was I did this kind of really wobbly not smooth transition into content creator, podcast host, where I wanted to tell my story more. I wanted to really connect with this identity as a survivor. That's complicated in my story as well, though, because I was in active recovery and so when my performance part was still engaged, right, this part of me. But I was too. I wanted to start truth telling about my survivorship. I kind of built this big community around me that was about being a survivor, about being in the community and really the truer version of that is I really want to be a mentor and a coach. I, I don't want to be like in the survivor community, peer to peer. Like I'm a leader. Like I have aspirations to lead, to be a thought leader, to be an innovator.

So there was this kind of messy transition where I built a lot of community spaces and then recognized this still isn't my true self. There's still a truth that's trying to emerge. That I'm not ready to leave my expert Professor Self behind because there's a piece of that that's really true self.

So then I kind of had to wobble through that. Kind of rebuild this alternative universe outside of the academy. It's even a little bit different. And so it's been, I mean, recovery in real time that involves real humans. And I've done it so publicly. It's like a very high moon. And the people that are so happy with me, I have some people in my community that literally started when my first podcast was Marriage is Hard and they're still listening, they're still in containers. And I'm like you have walked me through a lot. We have a front row seat to this. So yeah, but the academy is long gone. I mean, really long gone. Even to the point, there’s an IFS internal family systems conference and you know it when it came out, I thought oh I should present here I should run a workshop with innovative theory around complex trauma and then I looked at the application and I'm like for why? This doesn’t benefit me, I mean this might feel good, but I don't need the external validation to know that I'm building theory around IFRS and complex trauma. Anyone who wants to know that will come find me and talk to me. So this is really like empowered move away to just build something that works for me.

AD

I feel like you invited us to travel with you. And I'm a very visual person, you know, so I felt like I was really there with you along the way. And one thing a question that came up for me is when you when you picked up that book and and you you you started to realize that the life that you're in was built in trauma response. And you kind of unveiled you flipped on the lights like that. Did you have help? Did you or did you you already have help or at that point?

TW

I didn’t and that's part of my journey as well, is that, you know, I've said this, that that book gave me the answer, but it did not give me a method and a map. It was like, here's your answers.

Like, okay, great. You know, I mean, I'm a I'm a make things happen type person. I have resources as great. I'm ready. I'm I'm here. Let's do this. What do I need to do? And I looked around. And no one could tell me. It was like this little thing here, this little thing here. And this is the beauty of being trained as a scientist and having expertise in human development.

When people were presenting me options, I immediately was like, I'm a developmentalist. I didn't know I had trauma, which is shocking and shows you what your brain and body do.

But now that I know there's no way this complex of an injury to my brain can be solved like just an intervention potency standpoint. There's no way what you're telling me is not believable because I've studied interventions in the real world. And so I just knew that a developmental process that had taken decades to kind of transpire, there's no way that the piecemeal solutions I was being handed were going to have the potency to address all the different aspects of what you really need to do when you're 42 with four kids in a second marriage and everything built around your trauma, there's just no way. And your brain not processing information, you know, in a way that's that's based in reality. So so that's why I kind of I've been on a journey since then to to create that for people so that when they have that moment where they read a book or see a podcast or listen to a podcast or see an Instagram post, someone's like, I know where you go. You go to the Relational Healing Lab, just start walking. It's all there.

AD

So it was a big step for you starting to share your story. Was that a big step in expression?

TW

So what's really fascinating about it was another really great question. What's fascinating about that is I did and it felt big. And actually, in retrospect it's actually the smallest part of your journey. It was the only thing that was available to me readily. So I grabbed it and grasp it because it made sense, because that's what I saw other people doing. That's what. But in fact, from a parts work perspective, from internal family systems, that was not true self telling that story. When I listen back to interviews, I did even my own podcast, like I deleted Instagram posts, but I've kept my podcast totally intact as an archive of my healing.

When I listen to older episodes those are wounded parts telling my story, they’re very protective parts, wounded parts.

They need to truth tell, they need to be witnessed. But you don't need that publicly for healing. And in fact, I kind of wish a lot more of that was private. Because I didn't need to do that publicly to heal. You can do that in private containers. They're spaces and it's it's this much of your healing journey. So it's a fascinating question that you see so much of that. Right. But that's a trauma response to wanting to seek justice.

So I actually think there's a really healthy way to do that that has more effective healing benefits without the external relationship destruction.

AD

And I'm thinking about that through our lens actually, you know, alongside. Yes. Collective, but through our nonprofit work and the child, the cancer community. And I'm thinking about it for myself with the trauma of my son's diagnosis and and that, you know, I know almost 11, almost exactly 11 years ago, you know, just being thrown into that world.

And I can identify with that. And I think many of our moms who probably listen to this podcast can identify with that without taking that step to publicly tell the story. But I love and it's so value in appreciate the connection you're making here with the the speaking out of the protector parts and that wounded the wounded parts and the the speaking of when you said the word justice I mean that was like the the the key.

So, what’s a better what's a better way? You mentioned that there is there's probably a better, better way to do this.

TW

A better way to do I mean, to one of the other things and maybe you can relate to this in being in communities where big things happen, traumatizing things happen and storytelling is the primary way to get connection. So I'll go back to what I was saying so I can be a clean at it. The other thing that I didn't mention, but now you've kind of set me up to say it is that it takes a huge energetic toll on a support community when people are showing up in containers and they're just dumping their truth, dumping the details, everyone has to relive that trauma and parts are now engaged that feel obligated to it because when you see a human suffering, you see someone in the depths of it. Now I have to have my caretaker parts, potentially my therapist parts, my coach parts, my parent parts step up and offer you something because it's cruel not to and just ignore that. It lowers the frequency of the healing and a container that's there for peer support.

So I think a better way is to really contain that truth telling to a very specific containers where the invitation is a truth telling container. So you're opting into it. You knowingly are like, yes, like I have a part of me that wants justice, that wants to speak the truth. You come in prepared like this part of me needs to just have witnessing and validation and have a moment to just say it unfiltered, uncensored, maybe not even fully the truth, but our experience of what happened to us needs to be voiced. That should be contained in very specific truth telling containers, where the survivor is guided by someone and to identify what part of you needs to tell this truth, and are there other parts of you that are concerned or want to censor or silence this part? B And then that's a process, a good rule. Yeah, there's a part that's like, we shouldn't criticize the doctor because then at the end it was like they saved. And so it feels really like ungrateful. So then you do this inner work of like, no parts of us deserve space in an uncensored way to release this truth. Because if we just keep suppressing it inside, the energy is still there. And it's exhausting because at some internal processing level you're dealing with that anger, but you're suppressing it. You're like, Let's just get it out.

The container, it's equally shared. Someone shares the truth. People witness it, they validate it, they get to connect to it. You move on to somebody else.

Then you you put all the energy in the container, you close the container, you walk people through moving the energy and leaving it in the container, and then they can come back and tell the truth from another part. Like, so this is really orchestrated structured process and I think this goes to a bigger thing about trauma healing that I would love to have a chance to say here, which is one of the things I'm so passionate about. And I think this is my researchers analytical mind meeting trauma that's very emotional and embodied in this perfect marriage is it's not messy to heal trauma.

The experience feels mess. But the structure to walk someone through trauma, healing is actually very structure and sequenced because it's a brain injury. So it's so universal. Our details might differ a little bit. But it's your brain. And your body. And there are some universal laws about how those things function in the face of trauma that are freakishly universal. And so that's where we don't serve trauma survivors. Well, it's not complicated. We know exactly what to do. It's just how do you scale that and how do you get it in the hands of people that need it?

So I think that that response I gave is showing you there is a structure, but when you just put survivors in a container and imagine everyone's going to heal or imagine 50 minutes a week with a therapist who's not connected to their whole ecosystem, it just it's it's like a setup to fail or not be successful.

JW

Yeah. So, yeah, we've, we've gone to the deep end. I mean, yeah, amazing, amazing stuff. And I want to unpack a little bit more of it, but I feel like I want to kind of pull us back to the shore and just define, if you could, for us. Tanner What is trauma and what is complex trauma?

TW

I mean, my definitions pretty straightforward, pretty pragmatic. And of course it's taking a lot of different resources across a lot of different people and integrating them into a way I think people can understand. You know, all of us in life have stressful, challenging things happen. You the human experience is one where we can't control every outcome. We can't control every situation. People around us are in all different states of wellness and health and people of all different kinds of resources. So it's expected that we will experience stressful, challenging events. And I know some of these are going to be videos I'm using my hands for those of you that are listening, and I've one hand like that showing there's a certain level and then I have another hand on top.

And so I think of this bottom hand as our coping skills, right? Like how much capacity do we have to process what's happening? How much capacity do we have to, you know, make sense of the stress to take in? All this needs to be taken in. And then the top hand is kind of the stress level of the event or situation.

And so in one hand of the stress level, the situation and our coping skills, there's a gap, right? And that's a potentially traumatizing event. Our coping skills are not keeping pace with the stress of the event. And what's really fascinating about this is there's no absolute scale of the stress of an event. It's so dependent on us as a human, on our ecosystem, on our brain processing what we've experienced before, what's come after. What makes something traumatizing is either that gap does not close. So we don't know how to increase our regulatory capacity or our ability to gain new skills. So we're like raising the bottom bar or we have agency resources, you know, some way to decrease the stress of the event. So the gap is closed when you're a child this gap is happening all the time for you because it's a developmental process, right? You know, you're developing human you're in all these new environments all the time. I mean, you want that gap to be there for your kid occasionally. And what we as good parents or good enough parents are charged with doing and as humans and minimizing the gap in a way that's developmentally appropriate and builds resiliency. So it's not like we just take away the gap because nothing ever stressful happens or we do everything for them. So there's no skill building. You want the gap to happen for your kid. And then you teach them how to build their regulatory capacity. And then you use your adult choices agency to minimize where you can or equip them to minimize it, where they can. Where trauma happens is what happens afterwards if that gap is not closed, there's not a safe human that's paying attention that is well enough to protect and do this work, the gap increases for a kid or increases for an adult. And then you have now what is trauma, right? Like the gap increased at you and then you develop, you know, your brain, your body, your mind is like this gap isn't okay. We know that for our survival, our evolutionary codes, like, nope, this isn't good.

So you figure out how to close it. But that's in a like an adaptive way that's not in the connect to minimize stress. It's around like the freeze, the fight, all the different trauma responses. Complex trauma, as I think about it, is when that gap happens again and again and again across your childhood, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and there's an additional layer to it that is nuanced but important from a developmental perspective, is that it's happening in the context of attachment. So not only is the gap there, but you’re developing this additional story that is I'm not worthwhile. There's something wrong with me because I shouldn't feel this way.

. . .

To fix it and solve it and heal it because there's a lot of people in my world, they get this news from me who has this really comprehensive view of it and like, Yeah, I can't do it. Or like now that this is actually let me just stay here. But the humans that hear what I just said and say, okay, Tanner, what do I do? And they walk through it for a year which is what I think it takes to get through. It is it is a full year of it being a top three priority with massive changes in your life. And you'll get through it and you'll heal. And you just keep coming back. You keep coming back, you fall down, you get back. I mean, it's peak performance at a whole different level and it literally changes the course of human evolution.

. . .

AD

So because you're sharing a different, you know, I think a different lens to sort of the norm. And when I what I hear often is just very fear based, you know, thinking and like helplessness, you know, around it. I've seen our daughter, for example, learn so much from tik tok.

I mean, I love TikTok. Like, there are so many interesting, tiny doses.

JW

Well, yeah. Before we get into Tik Tok and social media. Yeah. So my job. Exactly. A whole different set. I'm bringing it back. Oh, my gosh. So I do have a quick curiosity that I want to follow up on the so the people that you work with who when the lights or when they get this broader perspective from you on complex trauma and are like, nope, I'm out is this I'm imagining that one of the big barriers for them is they can see if I follow you down that road, I'm going to lose everyone in my life.

Yeah. I mean, because that like, like, oh, my gosh, mom, dad, sister. Like, like extended family like that road leads me out of the trauma ecosystem that is my entire social network.

TW

Think about a developmental context for doing this work, that it's incremental, that you don't have to burn everything down all at once, that we know lot about communication, about emotional intelligence. If you kind of do the inner work first and then when you're healed enough, I mean, so the way I look at it is I have like circuits of healing power. It's a sequence in a scope the first three are just you getting the leadership of your own internal world. It's not until circuit four do you start addressing external stuff. And so at that point you're in a wiser mind. You typically can coach yourself through a trauma, respond to can ideally even put somebody else through their own trauma response not to make it worse. So when you do all that foundational work when you get to the point where you're deciding, is this person coming to me to the other side or are they not?

. . .

JW

What is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth and development?

TW

Yeah, so healing kind of has layers and it matches kind of the unburdening process of internal family systems where with complex trauma you really work a lot with protective parts.

At first honoring their scene, witnessing them, unburdening them, so they'll give you access to wounded younger parts and then you release them from your system. And then you keep working with protective parts, release dark energy.

And then what I've discovered is for many survivors, there’s the controller of the whole system and that's itself self like part and usually don't meet that part until other things are gone.

And it feels like a kind of program that's running in your brain that given there were bigger things happening. You're like, I didn't even notice that there's, you know, this thing like this alarm sounding all the time because when there's things popping off all the time and it's really big inputs. But if you do healing in this piece, more peaceful, sequential calm, self led way, which I advocate for everyone, you've changing internal and external simultaneously.

. . .

In this episode

Once again, buckle up. This month’s theme in the Yes Collective is emotional trauma and this week we're talking with the incomparable Tanner Wallace, PhD. Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn. Tanner describes herself as a compassionate, no-contact daughter, supportive sibling to an also-in-recovery human, a second wife, an ex-wife, a biological mother, a stepmother, a holder of space, a cheerleader, and a champion for Self Energetic living.

We dove deep into trauma, complex trauma, and healing from trauma as a parent, partner and person. Tanner dropped so many nuggets of wisdom, you’ll need to listen to this episode multiple times—on half speed. So, grab a cup of tea, relax into your favorite chair, and meet the amazing and wise Tanner Wallace, PhD.

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About our guest

Tanner is a trauma recovery coach and educator, a level 1 practitioner in Internal Family Systems, a complex trauma survivor, and a parent. She also earned a PhD in education from UCLA and was a tenured professor at the University of Pittsburgh studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Show notes

Transcript highlights

Justin Wilford (JW)

Tanner Wallace, thank you so much for joining us on the Yes Collective Podcast. We are so grateful to have you here because the Yes collective theme of the month is emotional trauma, and you're the perfect expert to have on. So you're a trauma recovery coach and educator. You're a level one practitioner in internal family systems. You have recovered from your own complex trauma and you're a parent, but you also have a PhD in education, and you were a tenured professor studying psychological safety and the motivation to learn.

Okay, so that was a lot. Did I miss anything? Is how you mean? How did I do that?

Tanner Wallace (TW)

That's like the really tidy version of it.

I think the more authentic version is, is that externally I was a very high achieving, high performer that constantly had chaotic negative relationships. And I didn't understand why. Even though I taught human development, I was in psychology, and even though I struggled with my parenting and and had so many rock bottoms before, I was given the gift of Pete Walker's book, which is called Surviving to Thriving About Complex Trauma and the day I read that book, I thought to myself, I finally understand why, like I am the way I am, it makes so much sense.

The best intro. I mean, all of those other things that like, yeah, I did that, I did that, I did that mostly in trauma responses.

JW

Yeah. Right. Yeah. So that's fascinating and I would love to get into that later. How trauma responses can appear to the outside world to be really functional and.

TW

Go my whole life as a trauma response. And in fact, one of the reasons I left the Academy is because that was entirely predicated on my performance as part being fully engaged at all times. And I realized like, that's actually not my true self, it's a survival mechanism. But yes, we can keep talking about that.

Audra DiPadova (AD)

I mean, Justin, as a recovering academic, I imagine that really resonates with you and then it makes, you know, we both worked in academia and that what comes up for me hearing this is it's just almost an arranged marriage of folks in trauma response with these parts, you know, activated like it like in what environment is that not the case really work work environment.

TW

That's yeah I mean I think a lot of work environments you know, exploit I think some professions are worse than others that definitely exploit, you know, people's kind of survival codes. Right. They they, they benefit the business. They benefit employers. And so it's kind of learning how to find the I call it like the squeaky clean version of that.

That's unburdened.

JW

So hearing hearing that I recognize a lot and in myself and in my past experiences in academia and it strikes me, I really appreciate how you brought in the lens and you're like, okay, this is a lot of most work environments and it strikes me that any place where we can see clear whoops and clear rules and it's like, Oh, if I can jump through this hoop, if I can of align with these rules, then I'll finally be okay.

Is that what you're getting at?

TW

Yeah. Yeah, just the I mean, I think it's it's probably like, you know, as you get deeper.

And a little more complex than that. But I mean, it's like a whole ecosystem, right? Like how we interact with each other, how we resolve conflict, how we negotiate power differentials, how we reward people for their contributions to the community. You know, all of that has its like interconnected web benefiting the level of productivity that's the highest without necessarily considering what do people need to do this level of like productivity. But still maintain like health and well-being and and, you know, a lot of how we maintain health and well-being is through like the best survival code that we have as humans, which is like in distress, leaning in connect. Right. I mean, that's that's the ultimate survival code. That's what we want for our children. That's what we want for our partnerships.

That's what we want for our employee employer relationships. When people are in distress, lean in and connect. But a lot of our ecosystems can't accommodate that, you know, they designed. So that's not actually a way of of receiving.

JW

Yeah, I think and so you are not in this ecosystem that the healthy ecosystem that you just described in academia and so the the transition out for you, was it really that book like was that book the big turning point for you?

TW

Yeah. I mean, I think it was slow. I mean, I think, you know, anytime you're doing identity shifting work, it's clunky and messy. And so for me, it was the unraveling of core identities that I thought were my personality. And what I came to understand is my trauma has been masquerading as this personality. It's not who I am. And that's a big, big point in one's life. I mean, I think people face drugs and alcohol and other things like sex is like a reach, you know, like which I’ve written in the relational healing lab. When you’re looking for just that thing to get you out of your body or distract you from what's really happening. I've used those things as reaches food, but I don't I wouldn't say I've ever had like an addiction, like I know some people in my world have had. But I think, you know, when you're recovering from addiction, any major thing where you see this huge consequential thing that has literally organized your life is not actually you. And it's a trauma response.

Now I talk about this in other places. I think waking up to your trauma is like you're in a dark room. You can't find your way out and you're you're just I don't know where I am, but it's super dark. This is not okay. And then someone flips on a light and you look around and you think to yourself or like why? It's like this level of clarity around what is actually happening in my life is really disorienting. And so I think for me part of the transition, the shedding of the identity was I did this kind of really wobbly not smooth transition into content creator, podcast host, where I wanted to tell my story more. I wanted to really connect with this identity as a survivor. That's complicated in my story as well, though, because I was in active recovery and so when my performance part was still engaged, right, this part of me. But I was too. I wanted to start truth telling about my survivorship. I kind of built this big community around me that was about being a survivor, about being in the community and really the truer version of that is I really want to be a mentor and a coach. I, I don't want to be like in the survivor community, peer to peer. Like I'm a leader. Like I have aspirations to lead, to be a thought leader, to be an innovator.

So there was this kind of messy transition where I built a lot of community spaces and then recognized this still isn't my true self. There's still a truth that's trying to emerge. That I'm not ready to leave my expert Professor Self behind because there's a piece of that that's really true self.

So then I kind of had to wobble through that. Kind of rebuild this alternative universe outside of the academy. It's even a little bit different. And so it's been, I mean, recovery in real time that involves real humans. And I've done it so publicly. It's like a very high moon. And the people that are so happy with me, I have some people in my community that literally started when my first podcast was Marriage is Hard and they're still listening, they're still in containers. And I'm like you have walked me through a lot. We have a front row seat to this. So yeah, but the academy is long gone. I mean, really long gone. Even to the point, there’s an IFS internal family systems conference and you know it when it came out, I thought oh I should present here I should run a workshop with innovative theory around complex trauma and then I looked at the application and I'm like for why? This doesn’t benefit me, I mean this might feel good, but I don't need the external validation to know that I'm building theory around IFRS and complex trauma. Anyone who wants to know that will come find me and talk to me. So this is really like empowered move away to just build something that works for me.

AD

I feel like you invited us to travel with you. And I'm a very visual person, you know, so I felt like I was really there with you along the way. And one thing a question that came up for me is when you when you picked up that book and and you you you started to realize that the life that you're in was built in trauma response. And you kind of unveiled you flipped on the lights like that. Did you have help? Did you or did you you already have help or at that point?

TW

I didn’t and that's part of my journey as well, is that, you know, I've said this, that that book gave me the answer, but it did not give me a method and a map. It was like, here's your answers.

Like, okay, great. You know, I mean, I'm a I'm a make things happen type person. I have resources as great. I'm ready. I'm I'm here. Let's do this. What do I need to do? And I looked around. And no one could tell me. It was like this little thing here, this little thing here. And this is the beauty of being trained as a scientist and having expertise in human development.

When people were presenting me options, I immediately was like, I'm a developmentalist. I didn't know I had trauma, which is shocking and shows you what your brain and body do.

But now that I know there's no way this complex of an injury to my brain can be solved like just an intervention potency standpoint. There's no way what you're telling me is not believable because I've studied interventions in the real world. And so I just knew that a developmental process that had taken decades to kind of transpire, there's no way that the piecemeal solutions I was being handed were going to have the potency to address all the different aspects of what you really need to do when you're 42 with four kids in a second marriage and everything built around your trauma, there's just no way. And your brain not processing information, you know, in a way that's that's based in reality. So so that's why I kind of I've been on a journey since then to to create that for people so that when they have that moment where they read a book or see a podcast or listen to a podcast or see an Instagram post, someone's like, I know where you go. You go to the Relational Healing Lab, just start walking. It's all there.

AD

So it was a big step for you starting to share your story. Was that a big step in expression?

TW

So what's really fascinating about it was another really great question. What's fascinating about that is I did and it felt big. And actually, in retrospect it's actually the smallest part of your journey. It was the only thing that was available to me readily. So I grabbed it and grasp it because it made sense, because that's what I saw other people doing. That's what. But in fact, from a parts work perspective, from internal family systems, that was not true self telling that story. When I listen back to interviews, I did even my own podcast, like I deleted Instagram posts, but I've kept my podcast totally intact as an archive of my healing.

When I listen to older episodes those are wounded parts telling my story, they’re very protective parts, wounded parts.

They need to truth tell, they need to be witnessed. But you don't need that publicly for healing. And in fact, I kind of wish a lot more of that was private. Because I didn't need to do that publicly to heal. You can do that in private containers. They're spaces and it's it's this much of your healing journey. So it's a fascinating question that you see so much of that. Right. But that's a trauma response to wanting to seek justice.

So I actually think there's a really healthy way to do that that has more effective healing benefits without the external relationship destruction.

AD

And I'm thinking about that through our lens actually, you know, alongside. Yes. Collective, but through our nonprofit work and the child, the cancer community. And I'm thinking about it for myself with the trauma of my son's diagnosis and and that, you know, I know almost 11, almost exactly 11 years ago, you know, just being thrown into that world.

And I can identify with that. And I think many of our moms who probably listen to this podcast can identify with that without taking that step to publicly tell the story. But I love and it's so value in appreciate the connection you're making here with the the speaking out of the protector parts and that wounded the wounded parts and the the speaking of when you said the word justice I mean that was like the the the key.

So, what’s a better what's a better way? You mentioned that there is there's probably a better, better way to do this.

TW

A better way to do I mean, to one of the other things and maybe you can relate to this in being in communities where big things happen, traumatizing things happen and storytelling is the primary way to get connection. So I'll go back to what I was saying so I can be a clean at it. The other thing that I didn't mention, but now you've kind of set me up to say it is that it takes a huge energetic toll on a support community when people are showing up in containers and they're just dumping their truth, dumping the details, everyone has to relive that trauma and parts are now engaged that feel obligated to it because when you see a human suffering, you see someone in the depths of it. Now I have to have my caretaker parts, potentially my therapist parts, my coach parts, my parent parts step up and offer you something because it's cruel not to and just ignore that. It lowers the frequency of the healing and a container that's there for peer support.

So I think a better way is to really contain that truth telling to a very specific containers where the invitation is a truth telling container. So you're opting into it. You knowingly are like, yes, like I have a part of me that wants justice, that wants to speak the truth. You come in prepared like this part of me needs to just have witnessing and validation and have a moment to just say it unfiltered, uncensored, maybe not even fully the truth, but our experience of what happened to us needs to be voiced. That should be contained in very specific truth telling containers, where the survivor is guided by someone and to identify what part of you needs to tell this truth, and are there other parts of you that are concerned or want to censor or silence this part? B And then that's a process, a good rule. Yeah, there's a part that's like, we shouldn't criticize the doctor because then at the end it was like they saved. And so it feels really like ungrateful. So then you do this inner work of like, no parts of us deserve space in an uncensored way to release this truth. Because if we just keep suppressing it inside, the energy is still there. And it's exhausting because at some internal processing level you're dealing with that anger, but you're suppressing it. You're like, Let's just get it out.

The container, it's equally shared. Someone shares the truth. People witness it, they validate it, they get to connect to it. You move on to somebody else.

Then you you put all the energy in the container, you close the container, you walk people through moving the energy and leaving it in the container, and then they can come back and tell the truth from another part. Like, so this is really orchestrated structured process and I think this goes to a bigger thing about trauma healing that I would love to have a chance to say here, which is one of the things I'm so passionate about. And I think this is my researchers analytical mind meeting trauma that's very emotional and embodied in this perfect marriage is it's not messy to heal trauma.

The experience feels mess. But the structure to walk someone through trauma, healing is actually very structure and sequenced because it's a brain injury. So it's so universal. Our details might differ a little bit. But it's your brain. And your body. And there are some universal laws about how those things function in the face of trauma that are freakishly universal. And so that's where we don't serve trauma survivors. Well, it's not complicated. We know exactly what to do. It's just how do you scale that and how do you get it in the hands of people that need it?

So I think that that response I gave is showing you there is a structure, but when you just put survivors in a container and imagine everyone's going to heal or imagine 50 minutes a week with a therapist who's not connected to their whole ecosystem, it just it's it's like a setup to fail or not be successful.

JW

Yeah. So, yeah, we've, we've gone to the deep end. I mean, yeah, amazing, amazing stuff. And I want to unpack a little bit more of it, but I feel like I want to kind of pull us back to the shore and just define, if you could, for us. Tanner What is trauma and what is complex trauma?

TW

I mean, my definitions pretty straightforward, pretty pragmatic. And of course it's taking a lot of different resources across a lot of different people and integrating them into a way I think people can understand. You know, all of us in life have stressful, challenging things happen. You the human experience is one where we can't control every outcome. We can't control every situation. People around us are in all different states of wellness and health and people of all different kinds of resources. So it's expected that we will experience stressful, challenging events. And I know some of these are going to be videos I'm using my hands for those of you that are listening, and I've one hand like that showing there's a certain level and then I have another hand on top.

And so I think of this bottom hand as our coping skills, right? Like how much capacity do we have to process what's happening? How much capacity do we have to, you know, make sense of the stress to take in? All this needs to be taken in. And then the top hand is kind of the stress level of the event or situation.

And so in one hand of the stress level, the situation and our coping skills, there's a gap, right? And that's a potentially traumatizing event. Our coping skills are not keeping pace with the stress of the event. And what's really fascinating about this is there's no absolute scale of the stress of an event. It's so dependent on us as a human, on our ecosystem, on our brain processing what we've experienced before, what's come after. What makes something traumatizing is either that gap does not close. So we don't know how to increase our regulatory capacity or our ability to gain new skills. So we're like raising the bottom bar or we have agency resources, you know, some way to decrease the stress of the event. So the gap is closed when you're a child this gap is happening all the time for you because it's a developmental process, right? You know, you're developing human you're in all these new environments all the time. I mean, you want that gap to be there for your kid occasionally. And what we as good parents or good enough parents are charged with doing and as humans and minimizing the gap in a way that's developmentally appropriate and builds resiliency. So it's not like we just take away the gap because nothing ever stressful happens or we do everything for them. So there's no skill building. You want the gap to happen for your kid. And then you teach them how to build their regulatory capacity. And then you use your adult choices agency to minimize where you can or equip them to minimize it, where they can. Where trauma happens is what happens afterwards if that gap is not closed, there's not a safe human that's paying attention that is well enough to protect and do this work, the gap increases for a kid or increases for an adult. And then you have now what is trauma, right? Like the gap increased at you and then you develop, you know, your brain, your body, your mind is like this gap isn't okay. We know that for our survival, our evolutionary codes, like, nope, this isn't good.

So you figure out how to close it. But that's in a like an adaptive way that's not in the connect to minimize stress. It's around like the freeze, the fight, all the different trauma responses. Complex trauma, as I think about it, is when that gap happens again and again and again across your childhood, and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and there's an additional layer to it that is nuanced but important from a developmental perspective, is that it's happening in the context of attachment. So not only is the gap there, but you’re developing this additional story that is I'm not worthwhile. There's something wrong with me because I shouldn't feel this way.

. . .

To fix it and solve it and heal it because there's a lot of people in my world, they get this news from me who has this really comprehensive view of it and like, Yeah, I can't do it. Or like now that this is actually let me just stay here. But the humans that hear what I just said and say, okay, Tanner, what do I do? And they walk through it for a year which is what I think it takes to get through. It is it is a full year of it being a top three priority with massive changes in your life. And you'll get through it and you'll heal. And you just keep coming back. You keep coming back, you fall down, you get back. I mean, it's peak performance at a whole different level and it literally changes the course of human evolution.

. . .

AD

So because you're sharing a different, you know, I think a different lens to sort of the norm. And when I what I hear often is just very fear based, you know, thinking and like helplessness, you know, around it. I've seen our daughter, for example, learn so much from tik tok.

I mean, I love TikTok. Like, there are so many interesting, tiny doses.

JW

Well, yeah. Before we get into Tik Tok and social media. Yeah. So my job. Exactly. A whole different set. I'm bringing it back. Oh, my gosh. So I do have a quick curiosity that I want to follow up on the so the people that you work with who when the lights or when they get this broader perspective from you on complex trauma and are like, nope, I'm out is this I'm imagining that one of the big barriers for them is they can see if I follow you down that road, I'm going to lose everyone in my life.

Yeah. I mean, because that like, like, oh, my gosh, mom, dad, sister. Like, like extended family like that road leads me out of the trauma ecosystem that is my entire social network.

TW

Think about a developmental context for doing this work, that it's incremental, that you don't have to burn everything down all at once, that we know lot about communication, about emotional intelligence. If you kind of do the inner work first and then when you're healed enough, I mean, so the way I look at it is I have like circuits of healing power. It's a sequence in a scope the first three are just you getting the leadership of your own internal world. It's not until circuit four do you start addressing external stuff. And so at that point you're in a wiser mind. You typically can coach yourself through a trauma, respond to can ideally even put somebody else through their own trauma response not to make it worse. So when you do all that foundational work when you get to the point where you're deciding, is this person coming to me to the other side or are they not?

. . .

JW

What is a new, challenging thing that you're working on in your own personal growth and development?

TW

Yeah, so healing kind of has layers and it matches kind of the unburdening process of internal family systems where with complex trauma you really work a lot with protective parts.

At first honoring their scene, witnessing them, unburdening them, so they'll give you access to wounded younger parts and then you release them from your system. And then you keep working with protective parts, release dark energy.

And then what I've discovered is for many survivors, there’s the controller of the whole system and that's itself self like part and usually don't meet that part until other things are gone.

And it feels like a kind of program that's running in your brain that given there were bigger things happening. You're like, I didn't even notice that there's, you know, this thing like this alarm sounding all the time because when there's things popping off all the time and it's really big inputs. But if you do healing in this piece, more peaceful, sequential calm, self led way, which I advocate for everyone, you've changing internal and external simultaneously.

. . .

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