In this interview, I talk with Dr. Melissa Hankins, a 17-year Harvard-trained psychiatrist and certified executive coach. We had a very open conversation about what trauma is, how it affects our lives, and what we can do to heal ourselves.
We have all experienced some form of trauma, and many times that trauma plays out in our adult lives. It might affect how we react to our spouse, how we parent our children, and how we navigate our work lives. As Dr. Hankins explained, trauma can affect us in big ways, such as anger, violence, or yelling, but also in not so obvious ways, such as perfectionism, workaholism, and lack of boundaries. Many times it’s the root of our very deep wounds, but we can work to heal ourselves and become better for ourselves.
What’s in the episode:
What is trauma, and how does it affect our lives?
The difference between Big T and Little T trauma.
What is a trauma response, and why would someone have one?
What is the key to reshaping our lives?
How can we approach trauma, understand its effect, and move beyond to heal?
“Even though we are not responsible for the traumas that happened to us as children, as adults, we are responsible for healing them.”
-Dr. Melissa Hankins
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About Dr. Melissa Hankins:
Dr. Melissa Hankins is the founder and CEO of Melissa Hankins Coaching. She is a Mindset and Success Coach for physicians and other high-performers who may “look great on the outside” but are struggling on the inside. Her clients typically struggle with burnout, perfectionism, workaholism, “trying to do all the things” and feeling completely overwhelmed in the process while doing their best not to show it.
Connect with Dr. Melissa Hankins
Kim Strobel is Chief Happiness Officer at Kim Strobel Live Events and Retreats. She is a teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, happiness coach, and mission-minded person whose passion is helping others overcome their fears and discover their joy!
You can follow Kim’s journey on Instagram at @KimStrobelJoy and in the free private She Finds Joy Facebook community.
Kim Strobel 00:05
Hello, everyone. I am going to welcome Dr. Melissa Hankins to the she finds joy podcast today. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Hankins.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 00:14
Oh, I'm so glad to be here. I'm so excited.
Kim Strobel 00:17
I know I honestly everybody who's listening, you need to know we've already had a 15 minute conversation and I'm kicking myself because there were I said, I'm an Exaggerator if Melissa has already picked up on that. And I'm like, there's already been 72,000 Great tidbits that we needed to record here. But I want to explain to the audience how I came across and found you. It was actually we're probably two weeks out from the Will Smith Chris Rock Oscars incident. And I happen to be a member of a Facebook group full of school administrators, and someone had shared this very thought provoking post that she had written. And so I was like, I've got to look this lady up, I want to ask her if she would mind if I shared her post. And then I dug a little bit deeper, and found out that you were a Harvard trained psychiatrist, who has now kind of transitioned out of that into more of a coaching realm. But before we get into all of this, Melissa, would you just kind of give us a little bit of the backstory of who you are, and what you do on a daily basis, and kind of how you cuz I'm thinking, Oh, my goodness, Harvard University psychiatrist, a Boston, you know, oh, my goodness, I and I love that you're just this very normal, real beautiful person on the other side of this camera, you're not, you know, see, we were talking about how we get these images of people in our mind, that you're just you're you're just a normal person with this amazing road of how you've gotten to where you are. But go ahead and introduce yourself a little bit to my audience, please.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 01:53
Dr. Melissa Hankins 01:53
Yes, absolutely. Thank you so much, Kim. I am a psychiatrist, for I was a psychiatrist for at least 1718 years. And in during that time, working in the Harvard systems, I was trained in the Harvard systems worked in the Harvard systems and, and during that time, I really had gotten a sense of feeling like a square peg in a round hole, actually, and some of the ways of going about psychiatric care just didn't really mesh with who I was finding myself to be as a person. And, and I was also, around the time, a couple of years before a few years before I ended up, kind of leaving my clinical practice of psychiatry and returning to coaching, I had become this, I kind of knew that I didn't want to stay in medicine forever. And that was, I think around, and I can look back on it now and have a deeper understanding of why actually, it was actually a lot of limiting belief kind of things that I can look back on but, but certainly I was pregnant with my son, who's now 14, but you know, pregnant with my son, and, and I had this sense that, oh, I am going to have to choose between medicine or success, professional success or family. You know, and I didn't realize it consciously at the time, I can look back now and see that, but But I, I bring that up, because I think that helped kind of set the stage for my later burnout in medicine. And so when I eventually went through my own burnout, in that was at a point where I was feeling completely overwhelmed with trying to balance continual clinical work, trying to manage a family with a young toddler, my relationship with my son's father, whom I was engaged to was imploding. It was just all of this stuff that was happening all at once. And it was just too much. But yet, on the surface, people would look at me and say, oh, you know, she's got it all together this and that, until I didn't until I was like, just falling apart. And it got to the point where I had a thought that one day might, I had a thought one day my son would be better off without me. And and I said, Well, that's not good. That's not good.
Kim Strobel 04:47
At least enough about my professional training to know that that thought is problematic,
Dr. Melissa Hankins 04:52
right? So so I went in and I and I talked to my boss And I said, Look, I need to take a medical leave. And he said, Oh, okay. All right. That's that's fine. I remember distinctly it was a, a Wednesday. And because he said, but can you come in and see your patients for the next couple of days? Because you have a full patient load, and we don't know where to put them, and we can't burden your colleagues. And so as the conditioned physician that I am, I said, Yeah, sure, sure. Come Thursday morning, I, I had my first ever panic attack. I was I couldn't get dressed, couldn't leave my house. I call the administrator, I was sobbing just sobbing on the phone. I said, I can't leave, I can't leave. I can't get dressed. I can't just total meltdown, total meltdown. And, and she said, Oh, okay. All right. We'll take care of, you know, things here. I pulled myself together after 20 minutes, because I had to get my son to school. And he was in Montessori at the time. And I realized it was his last day of ice skating lessons at his school, like they were doing ice skating, I had missed every single one. Because I was always seeing patients I was always working. Right. And so I missed this beautiful part of my child's development. And I went it no panic, no anxiety, nothing fully present had a beautiful time, beautiful time. And it was just, I loved it. And, and I thought I was going to be out for a couple of weeks from work and I wasn't turned it, you know, it turned out to be 10 months before I actually resigned from there. And but every time I went near kind of my work computer, I started to get anxious again, any other time I was fine. So it was really directly related to to
work. And it was during that time off where I really began to do some, for the first time ever in my life actually spent some time on me for me. And first time I wasn't either working or in school. Because you know, I put myself through school. I put you know, I was always working part time jobs through school through high school through all of that, right?
Kim Strobel 07:26
Yeah, cuz you said earlier that you grew up with a single white mother and you grew up in poverty, so to speak. You you, you were talking about you know, you you're you remember your mom getting an apartment and you guys had a sleeping bag, and there was no beds and a roach crawled in your mouth. And you were scared to go to the bathroom. Because at night there were more roaches in the bathroom. And so I think that's important, because you and I were speaking about how Yeah, you know, we can look at the the so called resume of Dr. Melissa Hankins. And be like she is a total badass, who went to you know, Harvard, became a psychiatrist did all of these things. And yet, and you even said, somebody said, Oh, well, it must be nice. You must have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth. And you're like, let me just go back and tell you the 56 things that went wrong in my life before I was six years old. Right, right. Right.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 08:23
It's so true. It it's this this assumption that we make about people? And because we, we always we see where they are, but we don't see where they've been.
Kim Strobel 08:37
Yes. Yes. And you and I were also talking because I was saying that I was explaining to Melissa that, you know, one of the stories I share from the stage is my own debilitating illness with panic disorder for a big part of my life. And sometimes I when people introduce me, or they'll say like, Oh, she went from walking, not being able to walk to her mailbox to standing on this stage with 3000 people. And basically, they paint this picture of me just being this amazing person who jumps on a plane and zips around and, you know, gives these talks and is super successful. And I am the first to say like, let me back up here a minute. Yes, I'm wanting to inspire you. I'm wanting to let you know that you can take responsibility for your own life and you do have the ability to make it better. But don't don't let me stand up here or anybody pretend that like oh, she had it terrible. And now she lives this perfect, flawless, beautiful life because you know, even though I can sit here and woo you for the next 60 minutes and most people are scared to death of standing on a stage next week. I don't know I might struggle to drive my car five minutes to Walmart. I'm going to hope that I don't But to think that I am 100% fixed, would be a misrepresentation of who I am. And you and I spoke a little bit about that, that we almost feel like people need, they want to know we're fixed.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 10:12
Right? Right, right, because people we all have our own histories are trauma histories, whether it's big T trauma, a little T trauma, you know, trauma is trauma, we've all had our fair share, or not so fair seemingly, have challenges of life, right. And so when we, when we see someone
not so fair seemingly, have challenges of life, right. And so when we, when we see someone that we think, Oh, that person is kind of like me, they're they challenge they've been challenged in a similar way. And they've made it, okay, I need to make sure that they have made it but if that person then kind of falls off has more challenges, and God forbid, they're in the public light, you know, that that happens, then, then it's like, Well, wait, what's wrong with that person? They should. And so we get upset at that person. Because really, what that often can be is, Well, geez, I saw them make, they're like me, they were like me, they made it. And now they're falling back off. If they can't sustain it, then how could I possibly so I might as well not even try. And so so then some of the depression or the anxiety or the anger or the frustration, or the overwhelm, just continues to pile up. So it really is recognizing that it's a journey. And we make, it's not this automatic, like, whoo, Yay, it's a staircase kind of go up. And you know, and sometimes those stairs go down again, and then you know, and then we kind of, you know, step up and we plateau, and we kind of acclimate to the new. Okay, okay, I can I can get out of the house and go to Walmart now. Okay, that's good. All right. So then you get used to that, and then you you start to, you know, build up from there, and you struggle to get to the next plateau. And it's like, oh, wow, okay, I can, I can actually drive across the state now. And that's, that feels good. You know, and, and, and then we next step up, oh, I can actually speak at my, you know, companies meeting, I can speak there, wow, when, and use my voice and not be afraid that people are gonna laugh at me or my boss is gonna shut me down. And then, you know, but but you might have them, you know, a step back where it feels like, ah, that's terrifying. I can't do that. I did it once. And I'm supposed to always now be able to do it. That's not how it works.
Kim Strobel 12:50
Yeah. And I think like, for me, when I think about what you just described, I've always kind of felt like I go two steps forward, and then I go one and a half steps back. Yeah. And then I go, and, and I look at, because even when I had my really bad relapse in 2018, that just felt like it came out of nowhere. I was saying to myself, This is how I felt at 22. I am, you know, whatever I was at the time 4044. How can I possibly be all the way back to where I was before I even had a diagnosis before I even had medicine? Before I even had therapy? Like, how can I be all the way back to that again? And what I will say is, you know, the person who was dealing with that in 2018 is not the same person who was dealing with that, because I had resources I knew to get back into my counseling I knew to reread my books I knew to practice my strategies again. Did it bring me all the way out of it immediately? No. I mean, I'm currently working with a psychiatrist. Because we're now going to adjust meds because I've been on Zoloft for 28 years. And so I now know that there are action steps that I can take that are going to get me out of the gutter quicker. So that's a positive. Right. And that's, that is where our power lies.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 14:21
Yes, I love that. Yeah. Because oftentimes, people make that mistake. They feel like Oh, I'm gone right back to where I was. And you're not you, if you can center yourself enough to recognize Wait, okay, yes, I've relapsed in whatever way and I have more knowledge than I had, you know, back then I have access to more resources. I know I may not be able to reach out to all the resources or or engage all the resources that I know, even the the internal resources that we have. Yeah. Over time, but but it really is something that you have already started to have a toolbox. You have them and you have more tools in your toolbox.
Kim Strobel 15:16
Yes. And I and I have evidence that shows that Kim Strobel is always willing to do the internal hard work to make herself be able to leap forward again. Yes, yeah, that about me I, because it's so easy right to get down. And you know, that is a we're, I had a million different ways I wanted to go with this session, because I really do want to talk about what you wrote with the Will Smith and Chris Rock example. Because I feel like it's such a wonderful way for us to look at trauma and how that affects us as adults. And then I also know that you have this expertise about this, the learning how to deal with stress and anxiety in your own burnout struggle, you know, that led you to what you do now, which I always find that interesting. There's always some type of catastrophe that kind of leads us to our mission. Right?
Dr. Melissa Hankins 16:15
You're right. Yeah.
Kim Strobel 16:17
I don't know why it has to be that way. Melissa, right. Right.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 16:21
It's like, okay. I think, you know, you know, for me, it was really interesting, because when I, when I had my burnout, I had signs I had signs before. And, and I didn't listen, I didn't listen to you know, taking the time for myself, I just kind of kept going. Because that was part of my sense of worth my perfectionism and workaholism. And that comes back to my background of this was my way out my way out of, you know, food insecurity and money insecurity and all of that stuff that we struggled with when I was a kid. Yeah, and then, you know, and we're
Kim Strobel 17:03
gonna do everything you can, so that you never ever even attempt to go back to that struggling life of a finding. Yeah, right.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 17:11
Right. And then for me, there was an additional layer, actually, because I was raised by a single white mother in Utah until we were in eighth grade. There was racism there, so I had to be the best. I'm the best white girl in the most perfect white girl in a black girl's body.
Kim Strobel 17:39
Oh, that's so powerful. Yeah. Yeah, that is a powerful. That's a powerful thing that you just say that one more time.
that one more time.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 17:46
Yeah, so my, my internalized belief was that I had to be the most perfect white girl in a black girl's body. And that, yeah, that did a number on me what?
Kim Strobel 18:01
So it's no wonder that you flip. Yeah, but you really became a complete over achiever, really, in all areas of your life. And then you struggle to sustain that, especially when God gifted you with your child. And now it's like, oh, my gosh, I am so spent over here. And now I'm failing as a mother over here. And this is causing dissonance between me and who I want to be and how I want to serve. And I, I can see where you had to basically get slapped across the face. And
Dr. Melissa Hankins 18:37
yes, I always said God took me out when I couldn't take myself out, huh,
Kim Strobel 18:41
that's good. Yeah, God took me out when I couldn't take. That's, that's fantastic. Oh, my gosh, such powerful stuff. So what I'm gonna I keep fighting with myself here. Because though I can come back, we can talk more than love. You're gonna have to girl, I mean, we are just going to have to because I just cannot not read what you wrote here. Because I think there are so many tidbits and I want to just break it down and have you respond to some of what you wrote. But if my listeners will bear with me, because I think what I'm about to read to all of you is going to, for most of you really open your eyes up to understanding trauma, and its many multiple facets and how that trauma plays out in every single one of our lives. Not just our students lives, but in our adult lives. And so what Melissa said is here, here's her post. This is what the result of unresolved trauma can look like. What many of us witnessed during last night's academy award ceremony between Will Smith and Chris Rock was indicative of a trauma response. While I am in no way condoning violence I I think this is a very public and important opportunity for us to all understand what a trauma response can look like. A trauma response can take many forms, some surprising, and it can look like slapping someone for saying the wrong thing. yelling at someone for not doing something fast enough, or up to your standards, avoiding or not responding to a boss's emails about scheduling an upcoming performance review, having to do everything perfectly. Otherwise, you feel anxious, yelling at staff throwing things around your office, or feeling frustrated and have a bad outcome at work. Not setting boundaries, working in less hours. All of these things are trauma. And when you wrote that, you also go on to write that when a PERT a person has experienced trauma, and you call it Big T and little t and I think that's the terms that are now used. And so big T trauma. Can you explain that a little bit to us?
Dr. Melissa Hankins 21:16
Right. And so I want to preface that with saying trauma is trauma is trauma. So, so even if you,
you know, I put big T and little T because most people tend to kind of identify with that on some level. But it What if you've had a trauma that as an adult, we might look at and say, Oh, that wasn't anything or whatever, but you were small, you were a child. And I in my post I talked about, you know, a two year old who accidentally, you know, gets it locked in a closet because the door closes behind them. And that's traumatizing for them. Because they might not be they might think oh my gosh, I'm cut off from the world. I don't know how to get out. I'm unsafe, I'm all alone. I mean, all of these things that will go through the mind of a very young child can be a big T trauma, because they might feel like their life is being threatened in that moment. And of course, they can't process it and say it in that those ways. But that's the feeling that feeling of, oh my gosh, I'm all alone, I have no one to take care of me. And as an adult, an adult being in that situation. They can go in and they are like, oh, yeah, the door closed behind me. Let me just open it, you know, it's not an issue. So So I say that. When we think of big T, little t it it really also depends on your age, your resources, your history, and all of that. But big T trauma, what people might consider be big T trauma, are life threatening traumas, things like an assault. So if you were somehow assaulted, physically, sexually, these types of assault to your body in some way, a war being in a war. That's a life threatening kind of situation, being in a motor vehicle accident, those types of things can be big T traumas. So where people might consider Oh, they look at that and say, oh, okay, I get it, I get it. You get your sense. Right. Right. So So somehow that that's like, Okay, I see I see your trauma, okay, that I can relate to, or I can maybe it hasn't happened to me, but I can accept that that's a trauma. Now, little T traumas. Those are things where you might have been horribly shamed or embarrassed. And and like, if you're in a classroom, and you are, you give the wrong answer, and the teacher doesn't handle it well, and, and, and shames you somehow in the class laughs or, and you feel like, okay, I can't say anything now and play
Kim Strobel 24:25
out for the rest of your life. That little incident right there that we are calling a little tea, that because we say little we're not saying it doesn't have leverage and impact in lifelong consequences,
Dr. Melissa Hankins 24:38
right? Because that can show up. Maybe not when you're going out to speak on stage. It could show up in a business meeting with your boss that could show up in Okay, well, this is an authority figure, this teacher who shamed me that means what I have to say is not important or I can't make mistakes. So that can limit your willingness to try new things in life? Yeah. Because if I don't get it right, then I'm going to be shamed somehow. So I might as well not even try.
Kim Strobel 25:08
Yeah, you know, when I was reading your post I was thinking back to and I only made this connection in the last 10 years or so. But I felt like I was kind of like the, you know, how there's classifications in school and you have the popular kids. And then you have like, the kids that aren't popular and you hate to say it, but many times they come from like the low poverty families, right? Unfortunately, that's just the these little things that we grew up in school
systems that were like this, and then you had like, the middle of the road kids, and I was like, a middle of the road kid. But I very, I remember, all I wanted to do was be popular, I just wanted to be pretty like this girl was in my school, or I wanted to be in Mr. baby's room, because that's
where all the smart kids were in his, he was their teacher. And then I felt like I was a middle of the road person, all the way till High School. And in high school, I start to develop, I become athletic, and I become so called one of the like, for lack of better word popular kids, you know, Homecoming Queen, and, you know, just, I kind of step into my, my worth, I guess, and I feel pretty good about myself. But in middle school, I was in a group and I was hanging trying to hang with the popular girls. And one of them slapped me across the face in front of all the other girls, and she told me to shut up, Kim, we don't want to hear what you have to say. Wow. And it so. So the way this story goes is I ended up kind of having this core group of friends that again, for lack of a better word, are kind of like the popular girls. And after we graduate and get out on our own, we we are continuing to hang out and have these little like, we call them girlie nights where I would have everybody over and we'd have some drinks, and we'd have a lot of fun. And in my mid 30s A few of them who were the mean girls, all through school, they decided they were going to kick me out of their group, it was just like a junior high thing. Wow. And I remember being 35 years old, and all of a sudden, I see that they're, they're now creating the meetings and they're not inviting me. And I didn't know what I had done wrong. And I felt exactly like that 12 year old girl who had been slapped. And I also was able to see that I had been like Brene Brown says I had been hustling for their worthiness, my whole life. And then I was trying to hold on to it, I was still trying to be one of the people that was in that group, even as an adult. And I was so I spent the next probably four years feeling just at times like I did in middle school, like, I'm just not good enough. Like I don't know why they've kicked me out. But I feel like I feel humiliated. I feel like something's wrong with me. I I just wanted to be back in the group is in it sounds kind of demoralizing now just hearing myself say it. And then I don't know how I transformed that. But the conclusion I came to was, I saw that those were never my people. They were never my people, like I would never consciously choose to spend time. I mean, a few of them were, but I would never consciously spend time with that type of person now, but I would not choose them no matter how popular they were, they're not my people. And it became like really freeing for me, because I started to see that Kim Strobel a lot of the time knows her value and worth and Kim Strobel gets to pick who she wants to spend her time with in her you know what I'm saying? And so when you said that it just took me all the way back to how that one slap played out for many, many years in my life in different ways.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 29:19
Yes, absolutely. And, you know, so many things from that, that just kind of went through my head. You know, first of all, you know, we we have a tendency to fault ourselves and and and get down on ourselves for a behavior that we think oh, I should just be over that. Why am I not over that already? Or how is that coming up now and was embarrassed? Right right. And then we feel like Yeah, so we feel so embarrassed. We feel shameful and we feel like ah you know get over it Kim already or get over it. Listen, what's what's wrong with you? You know, that happened a long time ago when you were a kid and Why are you letting you know impact you now, but the fact of the matter is, it absolutely shape you as human beings, we are wired for connection. And we are also wired for survival. And the two at when we are infants because we cannot survive on our own, we need the connection of our caregivers in order to survive. Now, as we are are trying to navigate our, you know, path in the world, we are trying to still connect with people. And, and it gets kind of warped because of whatever conditioning, we may have that okay, in order, we don't seem to realize that as we get older, especially as adults, that we actually have the ability to, we have the ability, and we can create the resources to ensure our
own survival. And it does not and and I'm and yes, there are. And I can already hear what people say, you know, in terms of racial disparities, and this Yes, absolutely, I absolutely acknowledge that there are disparities and inequities that absolutely hold some people back and communities back back, especially black and brown communities, and indigenous peoples and, and all of that. And at the same time, I am saying that we have the ability as adults to create our own realities in so many ways. And and that we can create the path towards our own survival. And we don't need to necessarily have yes, we want connection, because that is actually absolutely a core part of our humanity to be connected. However, we don't need that connection as our source of survival as we did as children, infants. And so so but we still have that wired in our heads. Yes. So deep work, right? Until we do the work inside that says, Wait, I don't need to have my worth and my value, and being measured externally. And my own sense of being and my own sense of worth and value. That's not I don't need to have the other person say that I'm good enough. I know that I'm good enough. Yes. I don't need the other person to say you can have this you can be this, I can tell myself that. But it's work to actually change that internal dialogue. And a lot of people don't actually do the work because it's it's hard. It's not easy. No, face a lot of crap inside. You have to face all of those like, what are those voices? Okay, now,
Kim Strobel 33:18
cuz even as you're talking, I'm thinking that who is it? Is it Maya Angelou who like, maybe it's Oprah, I've heard say this before, like, those people who hurt me, I am nice to them. If I see them, I'm nice to them. And sometimes I'm probably too nice to them. But they also are not going to be invited to my dining room table anytime soon. Yeah, nor ever. Because those people no longer deserve an invitation into the greatness of who I am and know myself to be.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 33:56
Right. Right. And you know, another Yes. I love that. And it reminds me of I don't know who said this, but something along the lines of, you know, the the space in your head is valuable real estate. It's priceless real estate. So just be very mindful who you rent it out to? Oh, yes. You know, yes. And and so, so really, and and that can be passed people who are still playing that those are the voices that you hear in your head that are telling you Oh, I can't do this. I can't show up this way. I can't, you know, bla bla bla bla bla, or I should I should be this I should be that even if it's not aligned with who you want to be. It's like, No, this is what my parents told me I need to do. This is what my culture says I have to do, because this is what what is success, you know? Yes, may not be alone. with who you want to be and what you are internally,
Kim Strobel 35:04
yes, and that those are barriers that we also have to break through. I'm also thinking as we're, as we're talking, I know what my next work is just as I'm talking through this with you. Because the way that so even now, I don't need, I don't need their acceptance like I don't need anything from them, like it feels so good to know that like, you don't get to be in my life in that way. Now, I will say, Here's how that has showed up. And maybe you can resonate with this a little bit as well. I'm not quite there, where I'm like, Oh, but I wish you all the love and health and
happiness and wealth that you could, I'm over here going you know what MF FERS, you're going wish you could get invited to my table? Because look at what this bitch just did. Right? Like, look at what I've done, like you motivate you've motivated that, you know, what out of me for the last 25 years? And let me just tell your sister, I have brought it, you know? Yeah, like I can still feel that that's like this internal drive of like, what makes Kim Strobel want to be successful? There's a little bit of that, oh, oh, well, you watch and see what I do now. And I know that that's my work too. Because I've got to get to the place where I'm I do do it mostly for me. But I also know there's a part of me that's doing it to kind of sticky a little.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 36:24
And and you know what, that's being human. That is being human? Give yourself, you know, if you need to forgive yourself for that if you need to accept who you want. Yes, that is part of being human. That's where you're at right now in this part of your journey.
Kim Strobel 36:42
Yes, yes. I mean, you know, someday I'll be that highly evolved Buddhist monk in another life. But to get this,
Dr. Melissa Hankins 36:51
right, right now, this is where you're at tremendous work and helping others have gave me that we don't have to have all of our shit together in order to you know, oh,
Kim Strobel 37:03
God, are we both be spring?
Dr. Melissa Hankins 37:05
I know, right?
Kim Strobel 37:08
Oh, my gosh. So I'm so I love that you've explained to us like, you know, the big traumas. And then the little traumas or things that we've maybe never even considered like, I had not always considered that the slap in sixth grade, played out in my life in in different ways. And so I want to read the next part that you said, because you said the brain and the body will store that traumatic memory in ways such that aspects of that memory can be re activated by present day interactions in situations. Yes, yes. And you said when this happens, the person experiencing this reactivation, which means basically, you had some type of trauma in your life, and you got triggered. And when you got triggered, it re activated. Some kind of you said split second processing on a maybe an unconscious subconscious conscious level. And that
particular event that just happened is being filtered through the past trauma. Can you explain that and even correlate it to the Will Smith Chris Rock thing, since we're just also in the face of that right now?
Dr. Melissa Hankins 38:30
You know, so when we experience a traumatic event, or when we experience any event that has heightened emotions, positive or negative, that gets stored in our hippocampus and our amygdala, our limbic system, I'm not going to go you know, too sciency here or anything, but but the part of our brain that that you know, those it's a different part of our brain, then that that processes conscious thought. That's our
Kim Strobel 39:08
frontal cortex. Frontal Lobe Yeah, right. Oh, protects. Yeah, so
Dr. Melissa Hankins 39:12
right. So so those are different parts of our brain. So when we have and when I say a positive or negative, I mean, some people might have this beautiful memory of going to grandma's house and every time you go you have you know, she makes you this very special chocolate cake that
nobody else can make. It's like oh my god, that's grandma's cake, you know, whatever. And and you sit at the table and you sit with grandma and whatever that might be just a beautiful memory and you have so much joy and happiness. Then it gets filed and every time now you see chocolate cake, you think of grandma, or when you smell chocolate cake you feel love and You're like, I don't know why I feel this immense level. That's how like food cravings can get started, right? Especially when we're feeling, you know, really down and depressed or sad or angry. And we're like, Oh, I gotta eat that food, because that makes me feel better. Oftentimes, it's because it's associated with a memory that has a heightened positive emotion connected to it. Yes. So So with a negative, you, the same thing can happen with a negative experience. So something that is traumatic and you have a negative, you have a fear meant fear, sadness. And certainly with trauma, you might, you often feel trapped, and it's unexpected and, and you are unresolved. First, you have a lack of resources. So all of these things go into what a trauma experiences. And so when you are and that gets stored in the amygdala, and hippocampus, so the limbic system, and, and it may be stored really like a file cabinet. Except for when you have trauma, it doesn't necessarily get stored really clearly, like you can't pull it out as a paper and like read it really clearly. It might be little bits and pieces, it might look like it has some redacted parts in it. But then you access but but it's all still there. It's just in that moment, you might not be able to remember all of those redacted parts. So then jump forward 20 years, and something similar happens. You know, it may not be exactly but it might react you it might be similar in the sense that, okay, it's bringing up a similar intensity of emotion associated with maybe someone's tone of voice or a movement someone has. And it's like, wait a minute, I don't know why that's activating this part. But oh, my gosh, I'm right back in that moment.
Kim Strobel 42:10
Oh, my gosh, I have to tell you, you're making me think of I just read Dr. Bruce Lipton and
Oh, my gosh, I have to tell you, you're making me think of I just read Dr. Bruce Lipton and Oprah Winfrey's book titled What happened to you? And and he is someone who has extensively studied behavior and traumatic how trauma on the brain affects people. And he talks about this one student, I'm not going to get this totally right. But it was like a student who, you know, had been in 14 foster families, and he was completely out of control, and no family could handle him. And then are, maybe that was a different one. I'm sorry, this particular person was well behaved except for this one teacher. And in this one teacher's class, he was completely out of control. He had behavior challenges he, he literally would repel. Like, he was repelled by the teacher and the teacher was nice and kind. And they finally related it to the teacher wore a certain cologne. Do you remember that?
Dr. Melissa Hankins 43:13
Yes. So this Yes. So since, you know, because when we have a trauma that happens, because our mind the date stamp, and the processing of that trauma is kind of garbled, so we might remember certain pieces of it. And we can't put it all together. So we have Yes, you might have a scent. Yeah. And like what in that activates another story. I've certainly heard of a person who was sexually abused and the person who abused her had a bald head. So every time she saw someone with a bald head, she just started to have some panic attacks. Yes. And she didn't know why. I mean, these could be perfectly No, no, yeah, nothing wrong with that person. But but it's what the mind then associates. And and you think you're going crazy? You know, like, yeah, like, the
Kim Strobel 44:20
teacher, the teacher was like, I don't understand. I've been nothing but great. But they found out that whatever cologne that teacher wore was the exact cologne that this person who had abused this boy had worn and so every time he sat in that teacher's classroom, hit like the prefrontal cortex, which is you know, the logical reasoning part of the brain shut down on Yes, offline. And then outcomes these weird like you said, little, little fragments of files that were stored back in the limbic system or the amygdala, that is saying warning, danger, danger, danger, danger. And so all they had to do was to get the teacher just wearing the Cologne. And everything changed. Yes. So I love when you're explaining that, that what happens is there's this trigger this kind of visceral reaction. And it's instantaneous. And it's usually because there's some type of similar scenario taking place. And you related that to what Will Smith did when he went up and slapped Chris Rock? Because tell the audience why
Dr. Melissa Hankins 45:34
No. So with that, and I have to, you know, preface this with have I examined Will Smith No, no, I spoken to him. No. So so this is my hypothesis. Yeah. And, and, but knowing, understanding trauma, the way that I do, having worked for so many years with traumatic, you know, scenarios with patients, understanding my own trauma doing becoming even more trauma informed long after, you know, medical school and taking courses in it. And so, so really understanding it on a on a deeper level that that in people talk about, oh, he was laughing, he was laughing, you know, he laughed at the joke. Well, people can have nervous laughter. We don't know why he was laughing. He might have actually found it. Funny. He may have already been feeling a little nervous. He may have but but even in that moment, you know, Jada, his
wife had this look on her face. She had this look on her face. And it could be that that look, was reminiscent of something for him that may have brought him back to his own childhood trauma when he was nine, witnessing his father, horribly, physically abused his mother, to the point where, you know, he beat her. He saw blood coming out of her mouth, you know, I mean, he talks about it in his autobiography, and I put a little excerpt in, in in the post that I wrote.
Kim Strobel 47:21
Yeah, I'm gonna read it because I read wills book. So I know exactly the incident you're referring. In that book. He said, As you wrote, When I was nine years old, I watched my father punch my mother in the side of the head so hard that she collapsed. I saw her split bud blood, that moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life has defined who I am. Within everything that I've done. Since then, the awards, accolades, spotlights and attention. There has been a subtle stream of apologies to my mother for my in action that day, for failing her in the moment for failing to stand up to my father for being a coward. And I remember in his book, he talked all about that, that even though he's achieved these many things in his life, the underlying theme of his life still is I am a coward, because I don't stand up for the people that I love.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 48:28
Right. And this you know, seeing Jada his response that she was visibly upset by this and and whether it was her own trauma, whether it was for just anger, frustration, what have you, you know, we can debate until the cows come home on this because we don't know we frankly don't know. But we do know that she had a look on her face that that was not she the indicates she was upset that she was upset by what had just been said by Chris Rock and, and for for will that could very well have brought up oh my gosh, and not even a conscious way once again, this is this is it occurs in a split second. It really does. It's not that accessing of those kind of, you know, memories occurs on an unconscious or subconscious level. So it's not as if he was he may have said, Oh, okay, this is what I see. I'm going to go up and and smack him and implode my career. You know, that is you know, it. It is very much that here. The woman he currently loves his wife was in distress and he was not able to protect the world. He loved as a nine year old. And that's, as you said, his driving force one of his driving forces, you know, that everything he does, is with that in mind. And so when that is so deeply embedded in the actions that you take, and then there's an incident, where, you know, you keep in mind, he's at the Oscars, this is the first time he's a, you know, Academy Award winner, you know, this, that he's up for this, and this is an end looking like, he's gonna win the amount of stress and adrenaline already, that's already, you know, playing havoc, probably with his, you know, neural networks, right. And, and, you know, who knows, if he, if he how much alcohol he may or may not have had, I don't know, I don't know that, but, but we know that they serve alcohol at these events. So a lot of things could have come together to make it a very fertile ground for this incident to happen in the split in a split second. Yeah. And
Kim Strobel 51:11
I know enough about the brain. And I know a lot about the amygdala because the amygdala is the part of my brain that fires when I have a panic attack. And the reason it feels like it's coming out of the blue, is because I don't know if you even know this for sure, but or have read
coming out of the blue, is because I don't know if you even know this for sure, but or have read this, but the amygdala fires in 1/14 of a second. Hmm. So that's why you're getting these subtle clues. But your amygdala, the amygdala is the fight, fight or flee, or sorry, fight flight or freeze part of the brain, right. So you're either going to flee the situation, when you're under distress, you're going to fight in the situation, or you're going to freeze up. And so when the amygdala fires that fast, it purposely has shut down any reasoning whatsoever that you have your prefrontal cortex, your ability to logically reason to think is completely gone. Because that part of the brain is trying to react to this situation. And so I just think that's further evidence that he really did have a split second reaction where he went into fight mode. And
Dr. Melissa Hankins 52:21
the survival brain kicked in, yeah, survival brain kicked in. And this is, this is, you know, what I was speaking to a little bit earlier, our bodies are wired, for our brains are wired for connection, and survival. Right. And, and, and here, you know, he's seeing this, this split second, or he's having this split second reaction, seeing his wife, whom he's connected to, and, and, and her level of distress, and it's accessing that that past trauma, you know, it's likely accessing that, you know, so that all of his survival brain kicked in Absolutely. Our survival brain is all about fight flight, freeze or fawn response. So you know, yeah. So so, you know, the he reacted with a fight response. Now, of course, Chris Rock has, we know, an extensive trauma history also. And, you know, could his response, he handled it beautifully. And he's done a lot of inner work. And at the same time, could his response be looked at as also a trauma response? That might have been a freeze response? Even though he didn't freeze in that moment? There were elements of, you know, with the shock and, and oh, yeah, but he brought himself around and out of it pretty very quickly. Yeah. Cuz
Kim Strobel 53:54
I was reading about him. He was actually I did not realize this. He was sent to a kind of a prestigious white school, where he was extremely bullied all through school, and in fact, I think was unenrolled and then re enrolled in a in another school or something, but like he had suffered really terrible bullying behaviors all through his K through 12. school years. I did not know that about Chris Rock. You probably know more about his traumatic background than I do. But yeah, I would say that he also had a reaction, which was probably, you know, either fine or freeze. I think we saw a little bit of both.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 54:38
Right. I would agree. I would agree those two. Absolutely. And, and so so his his ability to recover quickly, probably has a lot to do with, you know, he's also talked about the fact that he has worked with a therapist, and he's talked about that publicly, and and to deal with a lot of his trauma. And so, you know, the point being that these kind of reactions have the potential to reside with in all of us. None of us as human beings walking the planet Earth are are not going to have trauma of some sort exist within our histories.
Kim Strobel 55:30
Yes, yes, I agree. And I thought you were you also stated like you are in no way, no way.
Yes, yes, I agree. And I thought you were you also stated like you are in no way, no way. condoning this as a free pass, but oh, well, okay, we'll have this trauma. So that's why he reacted, so we just need to have compassion for him. You clearly stated, you know that, does having a history of trauma give a free pass to present day trauma reactions. You said, No, of course not. Of course, it doesn't. But it does highlight the importance of understanding trauma, you said in its many manifestations, and helping us understand, you know, that obviously, Will Smith has more work to do on his self, just like you and I and every other human being walking the planet. But I'm sure knowing Will Smith, just in what I know of him what I've read about how he seems to really always be willing to go in and work on his hard stuff, I think it's just a big red flag to him that there is some stuff in there that needs to be further explored.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 56:32
Right? One of the things that I always say when I was you know, working with my patients psychiatrically now, even with my my coaching clients, is that if you have a reaction that seems out of proportion to the situation, that it's, there's history, there's past history, you're not reacting to the present moment, you're reacting to the past, and you're bringing that past forward into this moment, and reacting from that space. And, and so when when we find ourselves really overwhelmed with with an emotion, even with anger, you know, when we get angry with someone, yes, there are times when our anger can absolutely be justified. However, I tried to and I, I'm a work in progress around this myself, for sure. But uh, but I really try to for myself and remind my clients to look at that as an opportunity. Because that's a light being shot up, shining on an aspect of you that might need healing might need, you know, to be introspective, and look at that.
Kim Strobel 57:51
That's very true. And I think the courageous question there becomes, are you willing? Are you willing to do the work rather than avoid the work?
Dr. Melissa Hankins 58:01
Yes. And I love that you use the word courageous, because it does take courage, it does take courage to, to go and do that in our work, because it's not easy. It's not easy. Because even though we are not responsible for the traumas that happened to us as children, as adults, we are responsible for healing them.
Kim Strobel 58:22
That is one of my favorite quotes right now. Yes. So you are not your past trauma is not your fault. But your responsibility in healing yourself. Now as an adult is,
Dr. Melissa Hankins 58:35
yeah, so if you don't, if you don't do the work, then then that's on you. You know, and that's really the whole point of the article was about shiny, it was much less about, you know, Will
really the whole point of the article was about shiny, it was much less about, you know, Will Smith and Chris Rock, it was that was a great and very public example that I think a lot of people could resonate with and see and of course, you know, all kinds of camps and this and that and debate and what have you, but but the point of the article was really to look at that as a jumping off point of, okay, what's going on inside you? And that's why I gave such varied examples of what trauma can look like a traumatic experience can look like as well as how it can manifest in a person's life. Right. And, and because in that, and I think, you know, like I was telling you before this, this what started off as a, you know, Facebook post on my personal wall that got shared, you know, to other places and other groups and then some 1000 times, right 30,000 times it's been, you know, shared from, you know, someone else's wall and who you know, she put it on her public feed and it just got shared. And then, you know, it's an article on Kevin MD, and it got shared 11,000 times. And so I mean, it the reason I think it's gotten shared and gone viral in that sense is because people see themselves in it.
Kim Strobel 1:00:15
Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. And we've talked about, it's like, I can see it with my husband and I and how we navigate our relationship. And, you know, sometimes he'll have a reaction to me, and I'm like, I'm dealing with six year old Scotty Strobel. And I know that I bet but I also dude, I need you to work on that shit. Because I want to deal with 50. I want to deal with 56 year old Scott, you know, and same thing with me. I mean, it's like, oh, my gosh, I've really been able to identify some childhood patterns that play out in my relationship as an adult with my husband that aren't, aren't helpful. And so you know, I'm doing my work with my counselor, because I know that my husband deserves a better version of Kim than six year old Kim, you know,
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:00:57
and Kim deserves a better version. Yes. His six year old?
Kim Strobel 1:01:01
Yeah, very, very. Yeah, very good. Absolutely. Well, I'm also going to drop that article in my show notes, because it really is wonderfully written. I think, like you said, you're not even sure where it came from, because it's just like, divinely LED. Right. Like,
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:01:19
like, it was just something that, you know, the world is so traumatized, you know, for so many reasons, with the pandemic, and the war in the Ukraine, and then, you know, all of the things, before that, you know, all of the racial disparities, all of you know, the events that we've had over the past, you know, George Floyd, I mean, all of these things that have been so traumatic to us, as human beings, that trauma needs to be recognized and healed within us, right. And so that is something that is, is so important, and that's really, you know, what, what the article speaks to please look within yourself, and if you need help with that, seek out services, you know, you know, for me, with my clients, because now I coached physicians and other high achievers, right in, in their areas around perfectionism, and workaholism, and things that I know very personally, right. So, but, but yes, I coached them around that, and I use not just
coaching I'm certified executive coach, I use that aspect. And I use Emotional Freedom Techniques or EFT tapping. And that, yes, so I'm trained in that I've been doing that for over a decade now. And, and that, and I've, I've taken, you know, specialized training in that. And so a trauma informed approach to that. So when people have these stuck patterns, even if it's not violent, even if it's not a substance abuse kind of thing, even if it's not bad, maybe it's, geez, I want to stop working, you know, 80 hours a week, and I don't know how, because it's ruining my marriage, or, you know, I want to stop being feeling like, I have to be perfect, because I see I'm doing it to my child. And, and they are feeling like, oh, they have to do everything perfect now, and it's causing them to not want to try new things or feel like if I don't get a perfect, then I'm not even going to do it mom, you know, so these types of things. You know, I use EFT to help my clients. Really look at those patterns of behavior, break them down. And, and and release those. Well, okay,
Kim Strobel 1:04:08
so I've several thoughts. And I think I told you this at the beginning of the interview, but I am creating something called the Leadership Academy, and it's for people in leadership, who I feel like many times, I'm starting with school principals, and anybody who's in school administration, because I feel like they're kind of the middle child and you said something that kind of blew my mind at the beginning of this conversation before I hit record, but you said that the higher higher up you go, what was that statement that the more isolated, the more isolating it is? Yeah, the more isolating it is. So I know that as part of that leadership academy, one of the topics is overcoming stress and anxiety in that whole perfectionism piece. So I've made so many notes I know I'm going to I'm your I'm going to have to be my coach for that module for those people. Not that I can't coach him some, but I feel like your your level of expertise in what you have to offer that is great. But for people who are listening who are like, You know what? I'm who she's talking about, I need her help. Where do I get in contact with her? I want you to tell my people, but we're also going to drop all your links in the show notes as well.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:05:21
Yes, yes, absolutely. So people can reach out to me on LinkedIn. Absolutely. I'm on Instagram, you can, but you can message me certainly. On LinkedIn. I do free consultations for people. So site, right. Um, you know, I don't because I've been referral base. I learned Wait,
Kim Strobel 1:05:44
are you kidding me? I'm not kidding. You. You sent yourself like $300,000. I know. Right?
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:05:51
But people come to me. It's like, okay, yeah.
Kim Strobel 1:05:58
Kim Strobel 1:05:58
I just got a $30,000 overhaul on my website for the 17th time.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:06:03
I know. And, you know, i my i keep saying, oh, yeah, I should do that. And I it's probably time, you know, it's time.
Kim Strobel 1:06:12
But no, no, no, that it's word of mouth that's working for you.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:06:16
Right, you know, and, and because I really am. I work one on one with people. I've done groups, you know, at the beginning of COVID, for example, I did groups with physicians. That where I did actually tapping I did EFT, tapping in this group to process the overwhelm overwhelming emotions that they were having the fears, all of those kinds of things. But I really look at emotions as our superpower. Emotions will guide you either. When you're feeling that it's an unpleasant emotion. It's a guidepost to look at, okay, what am I thinking? How am I behaving that is not in alignment with who I actually want to be. Okay, this is where this is, you know, that's where,
Kim Strobel 1:07:05
so I'll drop your email that way they can also directly
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:07:10
Yes, absolutely. So my email my my LinkedIn, my Insta, absolutely woke
Kim Strobel 1:07:16
up all that to them that way. They they do have your information? Yeah. Oh, my gosh, I mean, I knew this would be, yeah, this, this is powerful. And, and I know it's long, but it's like, I think it's so meaty. There's just so many tidbits. And I like I think that we both did a good job of like, relating how that has surfaced in your life and how it's surfaced in my life as well. And so understanding that trauma is just part of the fabric that is woven into us as human beings, but that the power lies in being able to identify it, and then work to overcome and create like new neural pathways in the brain. So we are not reacting that way all of the time. So thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate your expertise, and just your honesty and your vulnerability. Thank you so much.
Dr. Melissa Hankins 1:08:11
Yes, thank you so much for having me. It's just such a pleasure. You know, I think when we can be honest and vulnerable ourselves, it allows other people to be that way, even if it's with themselves for the very first time.
Kim Strobel 1:08:27
I couldn't agree more