As a boy, Jared witnessed his father die unexpectantly at that moment of trauma, a lie entered his life and wreaked havoc on his life until he found freedom and truth.
J: Hey, everybody. Welcome to "Greater".
We're joined today by Richard Black, director and founder of Mind Health, an organisation focusing on empowering people to transform their world.
Rita Williams, a senior psychiatric nurse working in the mental health sector.
And Pastor Wes Chambers, who brings to the table over 30 years of ministry experience.
And I'm Josh Van Berkel, your host for today. It's so awesome that you can join us. Well, team, we are talking about a pretty hefty topic today, it's the topic of trauma. What we're going to do is watch a video very shortly of somebody's testimony, somebody's story, and then break it down, and hopefully glean some great takeaways from that. But before we do, Richard, what is trauma?
RB: Mmm, it's a great question. I mean, we can talk about trauma as a capital T Trauma or a little t trauma, but in many ways, trauma is anything where the brain feels like it doesn't have the resources to cope with what's occurring. There was a guy called Ken Lehman who once described it as unprocessed pain. So when the mind, when the brain is overwhelmed with the events going on around it that feel shocking, that feel traumatic, and it feels overloaded and overwhelmed, that pain gets trapped and needs to be processed. And so trauma can then find expressions and people reaching out for methods to self-medicate and to alleviate the pain.
J: All right. So Wes, you've been in ministry for over 30 years, what are some of the expressions that you've come across during that time of people reaching out to try and deal with their trauma?
WC: A lot of self, quite a lot of self-medication, and that can be many forms. Obviously, the addiction issue, food, shopping, just burying themselves in something that's gonna bring some sort of comfort. A lot of self-hatred at times. Just inability to relate in a healthy way to other people, especially when anything triggers that pain that's undealt with. A lot of deep judgements about themselves and they manifest in all sorts of ways. So trauma is huge, a huge issue. And fortunately, we're learning a lot more about it in these last few decades really.
J: All right. Rita, you're a psychiatric nurse. Is trauma something that you see manifesting a lot in your patients?
RW: I'd say it's the primary reason why people present to an acute state of distress. Yeah, it's usually the driving factor behind a lot of reasons why people come to where I work.
J: Right, okay. What would you say to someone who's watching right now, Richard, who says, ah, I identify with some of those issues that Wes was talking about, whether it's eating too much or other forms of addiction, shopping even, which a lot of people don't equate with addiction because it seems so harmless on the outside, but it's still a manifestation of an internal unsettlement and internal discombobulation, if you like. So what would you say to someone watching right now who goes, oh, that might be me?
RB: Yeah, part of it would be consider why you do what you do. If you could no longer do the shopping, if you could no longer eat that food, if you could no longer have that kind of relationship, what feelings would emerge that you wouldn't like to feel? Because as humans, we are very simple creatures in one sense, that we'll do anything to get away from pain and anything to move towards pleasure. So some things that seem socially normal are there actually as a protection mechanism. So really, just consider with what I do, if I couldn't operate that way, is there anything that would surface that I wouldn't wanna feel? Would it be fair to say, Wes, when you've got more ministry experience than anybody here around the table, would it be fair to say that a vast majority of people, or minority, you can put a figure on it, how many people or what sort of percentage of people would you say are actually unaware that they've got coping mechanisms in their life for a deeper issue?
WC: I would say, conservatively, 99%.
J: So everybody.
WC: To some degree. To some degree. To some degree. And trauma is very relevant, relative to the person. One person can go through something that would be hugely traumatic for you, say, and they might deal with it and process it very differently. So it is actually very personal, very individual, I found anyway.
J: Is it something that oftentimes people from outside your world can identify in your life easier than than you can?
WC: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes you just need a bit of help to process what I would call the root key beliefs and judgements. And conclusions you make, especially in times of trauma. I find that incredibly common and no doubt others have as well.
RW: I think it's important not to minimise what's traumatic for someone as well. Sometimes you might be in a room with someone and someone's sharing their experience and the person who's gone through the same thing is sitting next to them and might be thinking, I didn't go through that, what you are talking about. But yeah, not to minimise what is traumatic for someone, because that's their experience, and to meet them on their level, you have to know that that's what they're going through and that's real for them.
J: Is that something that you see a lot in the people that you are dealing with as a psychiatric nurse, people are presenting and saying that they feel that other people aren't taking their traumas seriously or that they don't understand where they're at?
RW: Yeah. They don't feel validated in that, yeah, yeah.
J: All right. Very good. Wes, you made a comment before about getting to the root of trauma, which leads us very nicely into today's testimony. So why don't we have a look at the screen and watch today's story and then we'll discuss it.
Jared: So I grew up in an amazing family. We were all Christians, went to church on Sunday, had an amazing relationship with God. And then when I was 13, I woke up one night. It was 1999, and I woke about three in the morning, and I could hear this massive commotion. I wonder through my mom's room 'cause I could hear this noise. And I go around through to the ensuite and my dad is lying unconscious on the ground. And mum is kind of kneeling over him, going, "I don't know if I can feel a pulse, I don't know if I can feel a pulse."
And what had happened was he'd had an asthma attack. He was a real mild asthmatic so it was nothing we ever really expected. And he'd had a sudden asthma attack, had passed out, and we lived in the country, so we were a long way away from any real medical support. And so I'm praying for him. And then at some point, like it took forever, maybe like three quarters of an hour or so for an ambulance to get out to where we were.
I get sent off to my room and I'm sitting in my room 13-years-old by myself. And I look around and I have all these pictures on my walls of this cartoon series that I liked, my walls were covered. And then I'm just looking at them.
And then it was like, it was like a voice or a thought and it got pushed in. And the thought said, "If you rip all your cartoon posters down, God will heal your dad." And I knew instantly that that was a lie. And I remember thinking, "That's dumb. God doesn't work that way. Like He's not gonna kill my dad or let my dad die because I've got posters of a cartoon on my wall." So I just ignored it.
And then a little bit of time went by, I'm still sitting there by myself, and somebody at some point came to tell me that my dad had died. And this thought... whispered into my ear, and I remember it was on the right ear and I thought it wasn't audible, but I could feel it like going into my mind. And it said, "It's your fault that he died. If you had done what I said and ripped those posters down, he'd have lived." And in that moment of trauma and vulnerability, that thought just went deep into me, and this incredible sense of shame and guilt wrapped around me.
From that day to about 16 or 17, I started having these incredible waves of I'll call it condemnation. It would build up over about three days to the point that I would end up in a foetal position in the corner of a room just totally crippled by fear. And then it would like, I'd be crying out to God, "God, you gotta help me with this, you gotta help me, you gotta help me." And it would lift off and I'd get like this reprieve and it'd be like, oh, this peace would come back. I'd be like, "Oh." But it was, the peace was only ever temporary.
And I remember one day walking down the street and then I said, "God, am I - am I always gonna be like this? Like, is this life for me now?" And He just spoke so quickly. "You were never like this before your dad died." And I was like, "That's right, I wasn't."
I ended up going to this course that we had at our church. It began to teach me that when we're in a space of trauma or pain or grief or whatever it is and a lie gets spoken into our life, that that lie is like a seed. And it drops down into our being and it begins to put down roots and it begins to grow, and it grows into this big gnarly tree. And then this tree produces this rancid rotten fruit. And what we do is we try and pick the fruit off so we stop having all these negative experiences. And I was having these big bouts of condemnation and anxiety and guilt, and it was like this rotten fruit.
And I'd have people pray for me. It was like they would go around and they'd pick all the rotten fruit off the tree, and I'd have peace for a while, but the tree remained because the lie hadn't been addressed and the fruit would just grow back. Or maybe I'd have a big God encounter and it would be like the tree would get all the branches pruned off, but given enough time, the branches would grow back and then they'd produce fruit again. And I just got stuck in this hopeless cycle.
I remember they went to pray for me and I had my eyes closed and they went to put their hand on my head and my head just weaved out of the way, like involuntarily, like a boxer, it just weaved. And they were like, "Oh." So they went to put their hand on me again and my head weaved again. And I was like, "Well, this is weird, my head is moving on its own." And I have this realisation that there's this, been this demonic thing that has been wrecking my life and I just start laughing. And they go, "Why are you laughing?" Like, "This isn't funny." And I just like, I was so happy 'cause I'm like, "I am moments away from freedom. Like freedom is here, like this is gonna be awesome. God's greater. This is incredible."
And then eventually, they managed to get me. They pray for me. And I think, I think I did this massive burp. And I was like, oh, I was expecting more. And I was kinda like, am I better? Like, is that it? And from that moment on, I never struggled with that sense of condemnation, that overwhelming sense of guilt and shame, and losing my appetite, not being able to sleep, I was just free.
And it was so simple. It was just a lie that got spoken into my life in a moment of intense vulnerability and trauma. And it took its opportunity, it rooted, it grew into a big, gnarly tree. But in one moment, it finally got ripped out, roots and for all, and I was like, "I have my life back."
There is so much in my life that He has redeemed me from. Like, He's an incredible father. He's a best friend. He's so much stronger, He's so much bigger, He's so much brighter, He's so much more powerful. Like even darkness is light to Him. He holds the world in His hands. And He's proven Himself time and time again to me, at the end of the day, to be all that I really need. His love is just so much greater.
J: Wow, what a story. So let me ask this question. I mean, the circumstances of Jared's story, they're very specific to him with a father passing away and him being very much a witness to that process. So circumstance is specific, but is it fair to say that everybody has some form of trauma in their life? What's the likelihood that somebody goes through the world as we have it today unscarred, unscathed? Is that even possible?
WC: Haven't met many people that haven't had some degree of trauma. The depth at which it has affected them, it varies hugely.
J: All right, so Richard, you're the expert in this area. What were some of the similarities in Jared's story that you saw that you would say, look, yeah, the circumstances were unique to him, but there was some markers along the way that you could probably apply to almost anybody?
RB: Sure. Well, one of the things that we saw with Jared was he was emotionally overwhelmed, it was a shocking experience. When you see someone that you love so dearly and who is such an important figure that they are potentially dying, that they've died, that in and of itself can be traumatic. But the other thing with the voice that was being pushed into his head, one of the things that's quite common with trauma is people personalise it. It impacts and attacks their sense of identity. I'm useless, I'm no good, I've caused this. Their sense of hope and purpose. I'll never get through this, my life will never be the same again. And their overall sense of security as well. It can be, I'll never be safe again, life will never be normal again, I won't be able to cope. So all of that trauma of around me and who I am, that's very common with different types of trauma that people experience.
J: You talk about trauma almost as if it's an entity in and of itself. Like you say things like the thing with trauma is it does this and it does that. Jared, in his story, he alluded to a voice. Is there a spiritual aspect to trauma as well?
WC: Well, I've certainly found that. Whether people realise it or not, we're living in a very spiritual world and we are, whether we realise it or not, we are actually spirit beings, and so we do get impacted. And the nature of the destructive realm, I'll use that language, is that it's looking, it seems to look for opportunity to drill, drill in to that trauma or create opportunity for future restriction, damage, pain, through that trauma. And I've seen it just time and time and time again, in my own life would be that.
J: Sure. Jared obviously comes from a church background. He talked about having a relationship with God and God talking to him. And that comment he made, "Am I always gonna be like this?" And he felt, God say, "Well, you weren't like this before your dad died." And for a lot of people watching, they'll go, well, that's great that the creator of the universe is having a dialogue with you, but for someone that doesn't have that relationship or doesn't believe that they can hear that voice, what hope is there for them in that situation? How do you get out of trauma?
RB: Well, one of the great things about the way our brain has been created is we've been created to heal, we've been created to change. So the point that what Jared felt God say to him, that you weren't like this beforehand. You're not born traumatised. You're not born this way and so you don't have to remain this way. The brain has a great way of healing itself. At times, it needs to know how, it needs help with knowing how, but the thing that I find, as I work with people who are caught in all manner of trauma and pain, is there is always hope.
RW: Yeah. I think it's really interesting that he used the analogy of like a tree and he used the picture in his testimony or his story of the rotten fruit. And I guess I see a lot of people who go through trauma and usually what results from that is those coping strategies that often can be unhealthy, a lot of self-harm and that suicidality and using substances and having destructive relationships, things like that often are the result of traumas for people. And it was like that seeded moment and that lie that he was condemned and it was his fault. And yeah, I really liked what he was saying though. It's like he went back to that moment and he had to address that thing that was causing a lot of that unhealthy stuff to result. Jared, his story didn't have the self-harm and things, but I know for people listening, that might be their story, but it comes back to that moment for them and that trauma and really addressing it in that moment. And for some people to go back to that is huge and to see what is the truth out of that moment 'cause that helps change the lens of what they can look through from that moment. So yeah, I think it's a really powerful story. I'd love for a lot of people to have that instant moment of the replacement from the lie to the truth.
J: Yeah. We talked earlier in the show, Wes, about I think you said 99% of people in your opinion probably don't realise that they have these underlying issues. And Jared talked about the fact that that voice came in and he lived with that for sort of three or four years before he realised, hey, something's not, something's outta kilter here. So how do people identify whether they have got issues in their life that need to be dealt with, as opposed to, well, this is just personality or this is just who I am or this is just the way life is, how do you recognise what's real and what's not real?
RB: Yeah, I mean, that's a great question. Part of it that I always think is interesting is what people term personality. Sometimes I'll say to people, "Did it ever occur to you this isn't your personality?" "This is your prison cell. And it's time to step out of it." There is things that we get so used to living with that we think it's just us, that we don't realise that freedom or relief or healing is actually possible. So I'll say to people, can you imagine you being you, but without all the baggage? That's freedom. And that's something that's possible for us to move towards. Is that a journey you wanna go on?
J: Right at the end of the video, we saw Jared planting some new seeds. Is that an important part of dealing with trauma, that not only do you root out the root cause of the symptoms that you're dealing with, but actually then going back and putting something else in its place?
RW: I think it's interesting that it's just a seed also. He didn't get a tree that's already established and pack that in the ground, it's the small beginning. Because replacing it with the truth, it takes work, it takes time to establish itself and to believe that truth and it needs to be cultivated. And there are so many tools that we can use to help cultivate that truth, but yeah, it does usually start from small beginnings because the old is gone and the new has begun.
J: What would be the nature of the seeds, Richard? Do you think like, obviously he's rooted out what he characterised as lies, so you plant truth in its place? How do you find what the truth is for a situation if you've been living a lie for so long?
RB: Yeah. And that's why at times you're going to need professional help to help you do that. And it's not just the opposite of whatever a lie is. The way I put it sometimes is helping people to get a much healthier perspective, understanding themselves better. So it might be as you go back to who you were as a child and realising actually, of course, as a child that was too big for me, of course, that wasn't my responsibility, I was just a child. This was an adult's responsibility, this was not mine. And just that awareness can help to shift things. And then working out, so who does that mean I actually am? And as a person develops their sense of self, their sense of worth, their sense of belonging, their sense of security, and understanding why is it that I'm a worthwhile person? Why is it that I'm actually safe now when perhaps I wasn't safe in the past? Being able to answer those questions means a person can begin to access what's actually true and a truth that brings freedom. And that creates new neural pathways in the brain that helps a person to be, to find healing from the trauma.
J: I mean, you used the word truth a lot, right? I think it's in John chapter 8, it talks about Jesus being the Truth. How much of healing and emotional health and just living an abundant life comes down to a healthy connection with Jesus Christ?
WC: In my experience, pretty well everything. But because my true identity I've found in the love of my heavenly Father. And that love has been made available to me as I've put my trust in who Jesus is and what He did for me. So Jesus was the doorway into the Father's love for me. So the more I've grown in the understanding of that, the freer and freer I've become, because lies have been identified. And the light shines in, it exposes things, and you can shift your agreement from what you did believe and how you did see things, yourself especially, and you shift that and you receive the truth, and you make a decision to believe it, and you meditate on it, you ponder on it. And I found that has made a huge difference in my life.
J: Awesome. Richard, you're someone that works in the mental health space, and I'm sure there's, I mean, there's a lot of practical keys, principles in place. From your perspective as an expert in mental and emotional health, but also a Christian, what's the difference between someone who is trying to pursue wholeness independent of Jesus and someone who is incorporating Jesus or making Jesus the focal point of their emotional health? What's the difference between the two?
RB: Sure. I mean, if you're pursuing mental, emotional health aside from Jesus, you'll get part of the way. I mean, Jesus said that I am the Truth. And so we are as healthy to the degree that we come in line with truth, and truth is a person. So we can come in line with the truth of the way Jesus has set us up. So as we eat healthy, as we get the sleep and the rest in the way that we've been created, that will give us health. But deeper health in terms of our deep sense of identity, deep sense of being loved, I would suggest you'll only really find that when you encounter Jesus.
J: So for someone watching right now who doesn't know Jesus, who's struggling with the topic for today's show, which is trauma or anxiety or stress or overeating or addiction or too much shopping, or whatever it might be, you're saying, look, you can certainly get part of the way there using the tried and true principles that a lot of people are teaching, but ultimately for you to discover who you are, that has to be done in conjunction with Jesus.
RB: Mm, absolutely.
J: Well, I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our panel, Richard Black, Rita Williams, and Pastor Wes Chambers. Thank you so much for joining us. And thank you very much for watching. Trust you found this helpful and encouraging. And if you'd like to know anything more about Jesus or some of the topics that we've talked about tonight, then just head to fantailstudios.com.