Why is there a growing need for trauma-informed life coaching? As a coach, when you work with humans, you’re working with their traumatized nervous system. That is the hurdle that we need to overcome. In this episode, Ani Anderson and Brian Trzaskos share their insights on trauma prevalence and the growing need for trauma-informed life coaching. Coaches will help unlearn the inherited trauma from our parents that affects our present moments. Join Ani and Brian today as they dive even deeper into the conversation.
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Why Is There A Growing Need For Trauma-Informed Life Coaching?
We’re excited to bring you episode ten. We’re talking about the growing need for trauma-informed life coaching. Not a lot of life coaches are trauma-informed at this point, and it’s like this growing need. I’m glad about that, not just because of the trauma prevalence, and we’re going to talk about that, but because, to me, it feels like the right thing to do.
There’s a whole idea of, “Do no harm.” When people become life coaches, they want to do that because they want to help people. At the same time, people who’ve experienced past trauma, which we’re going to talk about because they’re more of us than you think, who experienced that, even through a simple coaching process, can be harmful to someone and can be re-traumatizing to people.
Let’s talk about trauma prevalence because we say that we do trauma-sensitive coaching skills and some people go, “Hang on. I don’t work with people who have trauma.” None of us have the luxury to say that.
Think about what happened during COVID. There are pre-COVID numbers and research that 90% of people have experienced at least one event in their life that has been considered traumatically stressful. In other words, they’ve had a physiological stress response in their body that is directly associated with some life threat. That can be a physical, emotional, or psychological life threat. It could be a threat to gender, but some type of direct or racial life-associated threat, which weaves together with physical, emotional, and psychological. What we’re saying is your body doesn’t distinguish between what type of threat it is, whether it’s physical, emotional, psychological, or otherwise.
Practitioners do sometimes or they try to look at somebody and be like, “That trauma is too big. I don’t know about this trauma.” The thing is, we’re talking about 90% of people. Trauma comes out doesn’t often come out as a big traumatic memory. You might have to sit down in therapy and talk about your past. That’s not how it comes out. It reminds me of, “If you take a balloon, you pull apart the mouth part.” It ekes out in things like procrastination, lack of motivation, negative thought patterns, ruminations, stress, anxiety, and all kinds of things that are regular stuff.
If you go out and look on the internet, there’s a lot of debate going on right now about what is trauma and what’s not trauma. The word trauma is being used too much. Do people talk about trauma, “Someone yelled at me,” and they’re calling that trauma versus someone who has some other type of, “I got in a car accident. Is that trauma?” We talk about trauma for a moment because it’s important to us that we step away from a lot of this judgment around trauma around, “Yours wasn’t a trauma and mine was a trauma. Mine wasn’t a trauma and yours was a trauma.”
Let’s step away from it for a second and look at it like this. What would the nervous system say about it? Not what a human person says about it based on all of our past experience or what we’ve learned, taught, or anything like that. What would the nervous system say about it? From a nervous system perspective, if something happened at an earlier time in your life, as early as yesterday or many years ago, that is still affecting your physiology now, that makes it difficult for you to live your life freely, that’s trauma.
Let’s face it. It’s not helpful to be like, “That’s not big enough.” It’s not helpful. You made an important point. Present moment. We like to say our subconscious mind doesn’t know what time it is and how old we are. Things happen and get stored in the subconscious, but they are relevant in the present moment. We can work with them in the present moment. We’re not talking about doing therapy with people. We’re talking about doing coaching and doing present-moment inquiry, being with somebody, and unraveling things within the context of how it feels in the present.
This idea of trauma-informed life coaching. We’re saying we don’t think that it’s important or that it should happen, that life coaches should be doing trauma-specific work with people unless they’ve been trained in trauma-specific work. What’s trauma-specific work? This is something that typically a trauma therapist would do with someone where they were working with a person on the specific trauma content, which was the initiating trauma for that person, which changed their nervous system in the past as early as yesterday, last week, last month, last year or decades ago, the trauma content.
When we talk about doing trauma-sensitive work, we’re working with the person’s nervous system, not with the trauma content itself. We’re working on helping someone regulate a dysregulated nervous system because the dysregulated nervous system is what’s happening in the present moment as a result of something happening in the past.
We have a fantastic article in our library about the four types of trauma-informed practice or levels of trauma practice. That’s a great article to look at. It’s in our library. We’re talking about this 90%, but let’s bring up that other 10% here because the 10% of people who haven’t had a direct trauma in their life, I am willing to bet, were raised by somebody who did. When you’re raised by somebody who has had trauma in their life, you’re taught things, how to think, act, and feel about situations.
You inherit that. You learn that. That’s how you act and behave. It’s how you feel and think. You don’t even know that that’s based on trauma reactions. We’re talking about unlearning things that we’re taught by our parents or our lineage. Even with that stuff, it’s this present-moment experience that we’re having with somebody in coaching to be able to help them unravel.
It’s important. I’m glad that you keep bringing this point up because we don’t know the water that we’re swimming in oftentimes. There’s research to show that trauma responses in the nervous system can be inherited. When they talk about inheriting trauma, what you’re inheriting are the nervous system responses that are associated with certain activating events in your life. It’s fascinating how that works. Someone can be born with an inherited tendency to have a reactivation of their own nervous system in certain situations in the world and think that’s how they are because that’s how they were born. That’s the water they’re swimming in.
Oftentimes, people think they’re broken. They think, “There is something wrong with me.” For both the 10% and the 90%, there are many people and I’ve thought that about myself sometimes. I’m sure you’ve thought about yourself. Almost everybody we’ve ever come in contact with who’s doing this work at some time in their life, they have thought, “I’m broken. There’s something fundamentally wrong with me.” That’s something that trauma does.
Without going into all the details of what trauma would, could, or has looked like, when trauma is initiated at some point in time, especially if it’s initiated in a relationship with somebody else, that can feed our self-esteem and capacity that we are broken. It will affect our self-worth. It’ll affect our capacity to create safety for ourselves. This is what life coaches are working and dealing with. As a life coach, you know this. What’s a basic goal in life coaching?
Have better relationships.
“I want to get along better with my husband or wife.” In the act of doing that, you run into a block. Some end up with a block with someone that they can’t trust their spouse, people, or something. Oftentimes, that marker alone right there is associated with a past experience that is affecting someone’s nervous system. When they try to trust the person, it affects their nervous system. They get dysregulated and upset, not just emotional, but they get spun out. It’s very difficult to bring them back. All those things are signs and symptoms that trauma is at play.
Let’s bring up that it’s important to remember when we talk about the fact that 100% of your clients are dealing with some trauma history. We’re talking about 100% of life coaches. The growing need for trauma-informed life coaching means that life coaches are doing their work to look at this stuff because it’s insidious how we, as coaches, can get hooked in, buy-in, and not understand what’s going on with our clients when we are swimming in that water ourselves and we don’t know it.
Here’s an interesting thing I see a lot of times with life coaches. You go to life coach school and you get your certification. It’s the best ever. You feel better than you’ve ever felt. You’re thinking differently. It’s awesome, then you go to get clients. It’s hard to get clients, you’re not making the sales you want to, you want to leave your job and you haven’t yet, or you’re not able to create the income that you want to create. You think to yourself, “What’s wrong with me that I can’t do this and other people can do it?” That right there is what you were talking about.
Our business development and the ways that we interact with our business as life coaches can reflect some of these things, which is awesome because then we can do our own work to become a clean and clear channel. We live by Lake Champlain. When I look at the lake, I can see the trees reflected in the water. That’s how we can be with our clients, where they’re like the trees being reflected in the water. We can be a very clean and clear reflection for our clients when we’re doing this work for ourselves.
Being that clean and clear reflection and still being emotionally available, not hard and like, “I’m a clear reflection,” we lose that social engagement aspect of important in terms of coaching relationships.
I wouldn’t hire that coach.
At the same time, you could probably admit that if we have a hard time with our own stuff, we get armored up with our clients. We lose that capacity to be connected to another human being, which is valuable. We’re not going to say for healing. We’re going to say it helps someone else reach a goal. There has to be some level of connection that you’re not talking with a robot or some AI creation around helping to facilitate moving forward in a human experience.
Let’s round it back on this growing need for trauma-informed life coaching. Let’s circle back. Why is there such a growing need for trauma-informed life coaching? If I start putting some bullet points in this, it’s because you might not think that you work with people with trauma, but the thing is, you already are. You’re working with humans’ nervous systems. More than most likely, their nervous systems have been somehow sculpted and created by some past experience to them that felt like it was a threat to their life in some way. That could even be an identity threat.
Identity threat is also technically a life threat, the way it processes itself in the nervous system. You’re already working with people with trauma. Let’s get over that hurdle because if you don’t want to work with people with trauma, go into the woods by yourself and work with numbers or something like that. Anybody working with humans is working with people with traumatized nervous systems. Let’s get over that hurdle. The next thing is, “How do we make it not scary to work with people with traumatized nervous systems?” That’s a lot of what we like to do here at The Somatic Coaching Academy. We’re like, “Let’s make it not a scary thing.”
Normalize it. It doesn’t have to be scary at all. It can be unbelievably rewarding and wonderful. As coaches, different than therapists, we’re not going into the nitty-gritty of the traumatic experience and memories and dragging all of that stuff out. We are still helping people to reach the highest potential and goals that they truly want to achieve. That’s what we’re doing. We know how to work masterfully with the nervous system.
Masterful is the word I want to leave people with because, with anything that we go and learn, it’s not just one-and-done with the learning process to develop mastery. I hope for anyone and everyone that they want to develop mastery with their craft. If you’ve gone to life coaching school and you want to develop mastery, and I hope you do, sematic coaching skills are a fantastic way to develop mastery with your craft. The better we get at our craft, the more awesome work we’re going to do, which means better case studies, testimonials, referrals, and all of that stuff. You’re going to discover so much about yourself as you master your craft of life coaching by including these trauma-informed and trauma-sensitive skills.
It is hard to follow that because that was like a wonderful explanation of the importance of all these things. To punctuate that point, as a trauma-informed life coach, having these skills, if you can masterfully affect your client’s nervous system, they will reach every goal that they want. That’s the thing. The key to unlocking and reaching any goal that your client wants is being able to help them balance, stabilize, and then express the beauty of their nervous system out there in the world.The key to unlocking and reaching any goal your client wants is being able to help them balance, stabilize, and express the beauty of their nervous system out there in the world. Click To Tweet
If you’re interested in moving forward with this and becoming a trauma-informed life coach, your first step is to be a trauma-aware life coach. You can do that on our website and go to Unlocking Human Potential. After that course, you are going to have the information to be a trauma-aware coach, which is your first step. Get on that path. It’s a worthy one. We feel like it helps us to feel such deep, meaningful purpose and impact in our lives. We know it’s going to do the same for you.
Thanks for having this conversation with us about the growing need for trauma-informed life coaching. We look forward to seeing you on our next episode.