MaryCatherine McDonald: The Trauma Response Is Never Wrong

March 23, 2023

MaryCatherine McDonald: The Trauma Response Is Never Wrong

MaryCatherine McDonald March 23, 2023

For centuries, we’ve been taught that being traumatized means we are somehow broken—and that trauma only happens to people who are too fragile or flawed to deal with hardship. Instead, says Dr. MaryCatherine McDonald, the trauma response proves our spirit cannot be broken. In this podcast, Tami Simon and “MC” (as her students call her) discuss her new book, Unbroken: The Trauma Response Is Never Wrong—And Other Things You Need to Know to Take Back Your Life, and how we might as a society begin to update our understanding of trauma and its healing. 

Tune in for this inspiring conversation about the impact of trauma on the narratives that make up our identity; recalibrating the nervous system after trauma; memory and the hippocampus; relearning a sense of embodied safety; dealing with loss in our grief-phobic culture; trauma defined as “an unbearable emotional experience that lacks a relational home”; the unconscious nature of triggers, and how to raise awareness around them; the miracle of your adaptive brain and body; trust and community in the healing of trauma; reconciling life’s ultimate vulnerability; finding resilience and strength in these uncertain times; attunement, holding space, honesty, and other elements that provide a relational home; realizing an anchor in the “tiny little joys”; the healing power of… Tetris?; healthy regulation; and more.

MaryCatherine McDonald, PhD, is a research professor and life coach who specializes in the psychology and philosophy of trauma. She has been researching, lecturing, and publishing on the neuroscience, psychology, and lived experience of trauma since completing her PhD in 2016. She’s published two academic books and many research papers, and is the creator of a trauma-based curriculum that serves previously incarcerated folks and veterans. She lives in Los Angeles. For more, alchemycoaching.life.

Author photo © Stephanie Mohan

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Also By Author

The Trauma Response is Never Wrong

We have been tricked to believe that the trauma response is a sign of weakness and disorder. What science shows us is that the trauma response is in fact a sign of strength and proof of an inherent human drive to survive. We need society to catch up with science, and fast. We are no longer living in an era where we can assume that trauma impacts a minority of the population. Trauma impacts us all. This has always been true, but we can no longer pretend otherwise.

Unbroken is a book about the miracle of the trauma response, the importance of acceptance and self-compassion, and the transformative healing potential that lies within us all. Drawing on my experience as a trauma researcher, coach, as well as my own personal journey of healing, this book offers a new perspective on trauma that emphasizes the wisdom of the body and the resilience of the human spirit.

If you’re struggling with the after-effects of trauma, Unbroken can help you understand your experience in a new light. You’ll learn how trauma impacts the brain, the body, and the spirit, and how you can use this knowledge to start your journey of healing. You’ll discover practical tools and strategies for managing trauma triggers, regulating your emotions, and cultivating self-compassion. Most importantly, you’ll learn that the trauma response is never wrong – it’s a natural and adaptive response to a difficult situation.

One of the most important lessons of Unbroken is that the trauma response is never wrong. This means that even if you’re struggling with symptoms like anxiety, depression, or dissociation, your body is doing exactly what it needs to do to protect you. By embracing this truth, you can start to shift from a place of shame and self-blame to a place of self-compassion and empowerment. The book is chock full of tools that will help you understand and appreciate your trauma response and how to intervene when that response is tripped off unnecessarily. I can’t wait for you to dig in and I can’t wait to hear how this book changes you. It certainly changed me.

MaryCatherine McDonald, PhD, is a research professor and life coach who specializes in the psychology and philosophy of trauma. She has been researching, lecturing, and publishing on the neuroscience, psychology, and lived experience of trauma since the beginning of her PhD in 2009. She’s published two academic books and many research papers, and she is the creator of a trauma-based curriculum designed to serve previously incarcerated folks and veterans

MaryCatherine McDonald: The Trauma Response Is Never W...

For centuries, we’ve been taught that being traumatized means we are somehow broken—and that trauma only happens to people who are too fragile or flawed to deal with hardship. Instead, says Dr. MaryCatherine McDonald, the trauma response proves our spirit cannot be broken. In this podcast, Tami Simon and “MC” (as her students call her) discuss her new book, Unbroken: The Trauma Response Is Never Wrong—And Other Things You Need to Know to Take Back Your Life, and how we might as a society begin to update our understanding of trauma and its healing. 

Tune in for this inspiring conversation about the impact of trauma on the narratives that make up our identity; recalibrating the nervous system after trauma; memory and the hippocampus; relearning a sense of embodied safety; dealing with loss in our grief-phobic culture; trauma defined as “an unbearable emotional experience that lacks a relational home”; the unconscious nature of triggers, and how to raise awareness around them; the miracle of your adaptive brain and body; trust and community in the healing of trauma; reconciling life’s ultimate vulnerability; finding resilience and strength in these uncertain times; attunement, holding space, honesty, and other elements that provide a relational home; realizing an anchor in the “tiny little joys”; the healing power of… Tetris?; healthy regulation; and more.

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The Greatest Wealth Is Found When We Gather Together

When people ask for my personal secret to living a life that is authentically happy and liberating, the first thing that comes to mind are my friends. I’ve known for a long time that I am a wealthy and blessed person. The wealth that I’m referring to has nothing to do with my bank account balance. The wealth that I’m talking about are the meaningful connections that have sustained me over the years. What I lacked in familial bonds, the divine provided in long-term platonic relationships.

One of the clearest indicators of someone who is flourishing is their ability to build and keep meaningful connections and quality relationships. When designing a life that supports your becoming the most fully expressed version of yourself, the people who are closest to you can either support or hinder your progress. This is why I’m adamant about being intentional about my connections.

My “Presidential Cabinet,” which is basically what I call my trusted circle of friends, is filled with some amazing folks. I’m forever grateful for my community of friends that became family, strangers that became mentors, and colleagues that became accountability partners.

In the chapter “What About Your Friends?” from my book, Evolving While Black, I share with you that people who have strong relationships feel the support of family, friends, and others in their community. When you know you have a village of folks you can count on, it improves your ability to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression.

An agreement I made with myself in my early thirties was to commit to choosing connection and community over isolation. This decision is the gift that keeps on giving. The investment you make in choosing your connections is the greatest pathway to wholeness, prosperity, and longevity.

What you should consider as you’re continuing to build out your own Presidential Cabinet

Your connections should include people who:

  • Energize you and help you to create a life of ease
  • Encourage you to make your mental and emotional well-being a priority 
  • Consider you for opportunities when you’re not in the room
  • Show mutual support and respect 

Now that you know what to consider, use these prompts to create a plan

  • Who’s in your Presidential Cabinet, and how do they support you? 
  • Who do you need to add, and how will they support your journey? 
  • If you change nothing, what will your life look like three months from now? How does this make you feel?

My hope for you is that you attract meaningful connections that bring you joy and make your heart smile, laughs that make your cheeks hurt, and love that covers you like a warm blanket. You deserve to feel loved, supported, and cared for.

Until we meet again.

Currently evolving,

Chianti


Evolving While Black
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Sounds True


Evolving While Black
Sounds True

Chianti Lomax is a sought-after international speaker, certified mindset coach, and leadership trainer who thrives at the intersection of mindfulness, technology, and transformative coaching. As a registered yoga instructor, certified personal and executive coach, certified workplace mindfulness facilitator, and positive psychology practitioner, Chianti teaches doable habit changes to help increase our well-being and elevate the overall human experience. For more, visit chiantilomax.com.

Author photo © Ambreia Williams

Sara Avant Stover: The Portal of Heartbreak

Heartbreak is a universal human experience. Yet we often lack the vocabulary and the skills needed to move through heartbreak wisely. This was certainly the case for Sara Avant Stover, whose decades of spiritual practice and deep inner work could not prepare her for the “serial heartbreaks” that upended her life. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with the author of Handbook for the Heartbroken about the challenges of navigating loss in a “heartbreak-illiterate” society. 

Discover how our most painful experiences can become a gateway to personal empowerment and healing, in this practical conversation on: taking on a disposition of tenderness; the impacts of cascading losses; entering the depths of our pain; the metaphor of the tightrope over the chasm; moving from self-judgment to self-acceptance; how Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy helps us during heartbreak; the quiet “soul” powers our pain can open us to; grief; supporting the heartbroken; rituals for letting go; the midlife initiation; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Donna Eden and David Feinstein, PhD: The Power—and P...

Tapping is a simple form of energy psychology that can help you transform difficult emotions; overcome addiction, anxiety, or depression; change self-defeating habits; and more. Today, there are more than 175 peer-reviewed scientific studies supporting its efficacy. Yet despite 20 years of growing evidence, many people remain skeptical. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with the authors of the new book Tapping—Donna Eden and Dr. David Feinstein—about why the technique works and how to practice it successfully. 

Listen in to this exciting, illuminating conversation on: energy medicine and the subfield of energy psychology; Thought Field Therapy and Emotional Freedom Techniques; how tapping produces such incredibly fast results; auras and chakras; acupressure points and piezoelectricity; the acceptance statement and other tapping protocols; breaking the cycle of inner judgment and negativity; the deep and authentic personal work tapping requires; subjective units of distress (SUDs) and the affect bridge; obstacles to change and psychological reversals; tapping as a tool for trauma healing; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

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