297: Deconstructing Trauma + Chronic Skin Problems w/ MaryCatherine McDonald, PhD

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I'm over the moon to share today's interview! My guest today authored one of the first trauma books I truly enjoyed reading, and I think the book makes sense to the average person; it's not like a difficult-to-read textbook at all. Not to mention, she is the first expert on trauma that agreed to come on the show!

MaryCatherine McDonald, PhD is a research professor and life coach who specializes in the psychology of trauma, stress, and resilience. She has been researching, lecturing, and publishing on the neuroscience, psychology, and lived experience of trauma and stress since beginning her PhD in 2009. She is passionate about destigmatizing trauma, stress, and mental health issues in general, as well as reframing our understanding of trauma to better understand and treat it.

She's also the author of Unbroken: The Trauma Response Is Never Wrong: And Other Things You Need to Know to Take Back Your Life — which I've personally read + give five stars on!

Have you ever felt trauma when dealing with the health system surrounding your skin condition? Have you considered how past trauma may be playing a role in your health! Please share with me in the comments!

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn | Subscribe on Android

In this episode:

  • When does the trauma response kick in?
  • How trauma shows the body's strength NOT weakness
  • Understanding your brain's “filing system”
  • What constitutes trauma + how the definition has changed
  • How to think about skin picking
  • When is it time to seek help in processing trauma or unprocessed emotions?
  • Strategy to actively develop hope (even if you don't feel hopeful now)


“To be traumatized was to be feminine and weak and disordered. And then when soldiers started coming home with those same symptoms, researchers were like, “OK, well, it's obviously not the uterus,” but we still carried with it that idea of shame and feminine weakness.” [05:36]

“You go to the medical community, and then unfortunately sometimes, for whatever reason, you are dismissed, and you are told it's all in your head, right? By the way, if it's in your head, it's in your body.” [18:33]


Find Dr. McDonald online | Instagram | TikTok

Get her book — Unbroken: The Trauma Response Is Never Wrong: And Other Things You Need to Know to Take Back Your Life

Healthy Skin Show ep. 162: Loss + Trauma Associated With Topical Steroid Withdrawal w/ Kathryn Tullos

Healthy Skin Show ep. 029: Is Trauma A Root Cause For Your Skin Rashes? w/ Dr. Keesha Ewers

Healthy Skin Show ep. 087: Skin Picking Triggered By Chronic Skin Rashes

297: Deconstructing Trauma + Chronic Skin Problems w/ MaryCatherine McDonald, PhD FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer Fugo (00:24.257)
Thank you so much MaryCatherine for being here today. I am honestly over the moon thrilled to have you as a guest on the Healthy Skin Show.

MaryCatherine McDonald (00:33.958)
Yay, thank you so much for having me. I've been so looking forward to getting to talk to you.

Jennifer Fugo (00:38.413)
So you are here because you are the first person. I don't mind admitting this to the audience. Some of you who follow me on Instagram already know, you're the first expert on trauma that agreed to come on the show. And I've been searching for somebody for a year and a half, and I am so appreciative that you're here. And I know my listeners are really excited as well. And one of the things that I think I've, maybe this is, it was the timing, right? And it was all the things… You wrote this amazing book called Unbroken, the Trauma Response is Never Wrong. And I have struggled with reading different books on trauma because I get partway through, they're so heavy, they're so depressing. I mean, like I know, listen, I have trauma, I know it's hard, but then I'm trying to read a book that's making it feel like this insurmountable mountain.

MaryCatherine McDonald (02:12.182)
Yeah, no, and I think that's absolutely true. So many clients and students that I've had have had the exact same comment that they, they pick something up. They're so excited. You know, The Body Keeps the Score is a great example, which I love that book, but it's very textbook and, um, and it can also be triggering. And there's not a lot of, um, practical advice or guidance about what you should do as you're reading it to help ground yourself and what might come up. And I think, you know, it's a great question. Why is it like that? I think part of it is the reason is the fact that the history of the study of trauma is very episodic. And so we, instead of having this sustained study since the 1800s, we've had these peaks and then these huge valleys and big chunks of time where no one is really kind of allowed to talk about trauma because it becomes sort of taboo. And so I think that creates, or that's at least part of what creates a weird space for us to talk about trauma and… One of the things that I see that I'm really working against, this is I'm kind of devoting my life to this, is this idea that the only way you can talk about trauma is in a textbook style. And the only place you can talk about trauma is within a therapist's office. And the only kinds of stories we can hear about trauma are clinical case studies.

Because I think that…it's really critical that we all get to a better understanding of what trauma is and how to heal from it and that we understand that trauma healing can happen in many different ways and not just in a clinical space. And so I'm so glad to hear it's such a huge compliment that, that you felt that way about the book, cause that's exactly why I wrote it that way. I wanted to kind of enter the conversation, but in a more accessible way.

Jennifer Fugo (04:23.561)
I would agree that accessible is a great word for it, because the trauma that I'm personally working through, there is so much shame around it. If you point out a reaction, then maybe it might be associated with some sort of past issue. Like they get, they feel really embarrassed. People shut down, they feel, like why is it that the trauma, why do we associate trauma or maybe even the trauma response with shame?

MaryCatherine McDonald (04:37.146)
I think that's a great question. We've inherited this understanding of trauma that comes from shame and bad science. When researchers in the 1800s and then again after the First World War, when they couldn't really get any traction when it came to understanding and categorizing trauma, often what they ended up doing was shaming the patient and saying, okay, we have a subgroup of patients that is healing and then there's you guys; and you guys aren't healing. And so we're going to sort of assume because of ego on behalf of the clinician that it's your fault that you are broken, that there's something wrong with you and that has nothing to do with what you've been through. The the study of trauma begins with the study of hysteria which was this old ancient belief that that number one- trauma only impacted women and number two- that the reason that these symptoms happened was because the uterus went wandering all over the body which like sounds like I made that up, but I did not.

So to be traumatized was to be feminine and weak and disordered. And then when soldiers started coming home with those same symptoms, researchers were like, OK, well, it's obviously not the uterus, but we still carried with it that idea of shame and feminine weakness, like that you're, you know… Stop being a girl.

And when they would develop these treatment modalities that worked on some people and not others, they would just say that the people that it didn't work on, it was their fault. And so we just have inherited this belief that to have these responses means that you're broken. And the science has caught up with it and understands that that is not at all true. The trauma response is a sign of adaptation. It's a sign of strength. It's not at all a sign of brokenness. It's the opposite, but I think it's just gonna take a long time to kind of catch up.

Jennifer Fugo (06:43.467)
The one thing that struck me about this book is that trauma can be almost protective in some way. Can you talk a little bit about that?

MaryCatherine McDonald (06:46.858)
Yeah, so the trauma response is a set of default responses that we kind of come into the world with that are designed to kick in when we get to extreme overwhelm because there's an outside threat that is threatening our life. And so you have fight, flight and freeze. When your system sees something and thinks, okay, I can fight it, then it goes into the fight response. When it says, oh, I don't think I can fight that, but I think I can get away, it goes into flee. And then when it says, I can't fight that and I can't get away. So think of the example of a child who has an abusive parent or neglectful parent, you can't get away and you certainly can't fight. Then you freeze. And these responses are designed to keep you alive. They're adaptive and evolutionary responses that are there so that we, number one, feel less pain in, in a moment like that. Number two, we're less likely to die.

And so those responses are adaptive. There's like an incredible life force underneath those responses. And the symptoms that they cause when they get sort of switched on and stay on are absolutely distressing. I never mean to say that the trauma response isn't upsetting, because it certainly is. But when we understand that it comes from adaptation and strength and that kind of the system's will to survive, then we can peel away the shame.

And when we peel away the shame, then we can start to have some mastery over the responses once they get kicked off and intervene.

Jennifer Fugo (08:17.801)
Well, so when you're talking about these systems kicked on, kicked off, and the one thing that you've also talked about, at least in the book, was this filing system. Because I didn't fully understand, I think, you described this very well. Like, I didn't understand what a trauma response was and why a memory, for example, could, you know, I can think about… doing something and it brings a smile to my face and so much joy and then I think of something else and I'm talking about that in therapy and I just start to cry and I can't it's not it's not forced. What like what's going on in terms of this filing system that I think people hearing this it might help them better understand what is happening?

MaryCatherine McDonald (09:03.774)
Yes, this is the thing I always say that I want to Pixar. Like if I won the lottery, I would drive immediately to Pixar and be like, I have an idea, let's do this. I have all this money because I think that if we can understand memory, we can understand ourselves. And, um, the way that I picture this is that so that you, so your brain has a structure that's called the hippocampus, which is like a big filing room. And that's where all of your long-term memories are stored. And it's really critical to your system that the, that the memories are stored in a way that's easily accessible, because if we have really good memory and we can access that memory quickly, then we're more likely to stay alive. So if I can remember really quickly, for example, that this mushroom is food and that one is poison, like that's super important knowledge. That means that my lifespan just went up by a lot. And so again, that's an evolutionary thing that we need. And so every event that happens gets filed away in the hippocampus usually between four and 24 hours after the event. Each memory has three things. So if you imagine a file folder, on one side of the file folder, there's a narrative. It has a beginning, middle, and end. That that's the story of what happened. Then on the other side, you have emotional content. So you just mentioned like, you could be thinking about a funny memory or a joyful memory and you're feeling the happy things. It's because you opened a file and there's happy emotional content in there.

And then there's a set of meaning tags that go on the file that helps your brain categorize and then pull that out later when it needs to. So if I ask you for stories, funny things that happened when you turned 21, you can immediately go through the file cabinet and pull out two stories and then put them away with relative ease. So when you have a normal event happening, your brain, all your brain systems are online. And so the filing process happens basically without you knowing it at all. Event happens, funny thing happens at work, by the end of the day, it's kind of consolidated, it's in a file and you can tell that story at a cocktail party a week later. But when you have an overwhelming event and your system is in danger, one of the ways that your system adapts is by pulling the energy and blood flow away from the filing room. And that may seem like, why would it do that? It needs to do the filing, why would it do that? But it's because it needs that energy elsewhere.

So if you're being mugged or you're being chased down the street, you don't need to be doing filing, right? You need to be paying attention to your, you know, your area, what's happening in your perception and getting out. And so your filing system shuts down, which is adaptive and good. And it creates this problem that you then get a fragmented memory file. Now you can tell like where the Pixar movie comes in. Cause if you imagine like a bunch of little guys in the file room, they don't like it when there's a fragmented file. And so what they do in order to try to help your brain and the system is push the file to the front of your mind any time it notices anything that matches a fragment in the file. So if you go to the example of being mugged, if the person who mugged you was wearing like black rimmed glasses, anytime you see those, your brain is gonna try to push that to the front of your mind so that you do whatever organizational work didn't happen originally.

And that could be anything. It could be that pieces of the narrative are missing. It could be that there's an incorrect amount of emotional content, or it could be that the meanings aren't, like your brain doesn't know where to put it. And so it helps you, it tries to help you by pushing these memories that are disorganized to the front of your mind so you have the opportunity to organize them.

The problem though is that your alarm system also recognizes those fragments as dangerous. And so instead of getting the opportunity to relive them, or sorry, to remember them, you end up in this instance of reliving. So it's a very long explanation.

Jennifer Fugo (13:01.245)
And that, yeah, no, but that's helpful to know because I feel like sometimes not understanding what's happening makes it feel like overwhelming, like even adding to the pile of overwhelm with the problem that you can't even, like how do you fix that? Well, oh, oh, now at least I understand. All right, so it's an issue with the filing system and I can have some level of grounding with it. So I felt like that was really helpful to have that visual. It was, and so I'm curious, can you touch on, obviously my audience is primarily people who have had health issues, many have chronic skin problems, varying in severity, some still have them, some have perhaps healed from them but still have an interest in them, is it possible to past trauma to actually impact health issues that you have a future date?

MaryCatherine McDonald (14:11.974)
Yes, completely. And I don't, I want to start off by saying I don't want to be so reductive that I say like, if you have a problem, this means you have this past trauma, because I think it's often multi-layered and very complicated. But what we do know is that, so when you're overwhelmed to the point of being potentially traumatized, but this is also true in the case of extreme stress, your stress response system activates. And the way that your stress response system tries to prepare you for that chronic stress or that trauma is by releasing stress hormones in your body. And we are designed to kind of have hopefully a quick blast of stress hormones and then use them and then kind of toggle back into the rest response. What happens if you have unprocessed trauma or you have chronic stress is that you have tons and tons of stress hormones coursing through your body, which create systemic inflammation. And that inflammation shows up as disease in some way. So that could be skin inflammation and problems, that could be chronic pain, that could be migraines, that could be gastrointestinal distress, fatigue and inability to sleep. Like the number of symptoms that go in here are almost endless, but they all come back to that kind of same root of too much stress.

Jennifer Fugo (17:07:00)
Is it possible for someone to feel traumatized by your condition and maybe even the process of going through the health system?

MaryCatherine McDonald (17:50.818)
1000%. So one of the things that I'm trying to do in the book and just in my life in general is to redefine trauma because clinically there's a very narrow view of which kinds of things can count as traumatic. And historically we look at combat, sexual assault, and things that kind of rise to that level of extreme. And I think what we know when we look at what the body is doing, that you have trauma any time you have an unbearable experience that lacks a relational home. And so you have, because part of our psychology is structured kind of interpersonally, we need to be able to relate to other people about things that we're going through, especially if they're overwhelming. And when you have a health condition that is upsetting, you've already you know, reach the bar of unbearability. You've got itching, you've got, I actually have celiac disease, so you have celiac disease, nothing is making sense. Everything that you, you know, this kind of thing of eating, it becomes dangerous. You know, all of these things happen, and you go, that's already unbearable. And then you go to the medical community, and then unfortunately sometimes, for whatever reason, you are dismissed, and you are told it's all in your head, right? By the way, if it's in your head, it's in your body. They're not separate, you know? If it's in your head, it's in your body. If you're stressed, you're gonna have a reaction in your body. Just think of what happens if you get nervous before doing public speaking or something like that. What does that immediately bring up? Nauseousness, shakiness. There are body symptoms that go with psychological issues.

And then to have this experience of having something that's rare or something that no one you know has, you've been then dismissed by the medical community and you have no relational home. On top of that, you're dealing with this excruciating symptom, whether that's from celiac disease or rosacea or psoriasis or the itching thing that you mentioned a minute ago. And so add all of that together and that's absolutely the grounds for a traumatic event.

Jennifer Fugo (20:30.021)
I got a few questions from my Instagram community… A number of people asked me about seeing photos of themself. You may have family members that may make comments. What is the deal with being so triggered by photos? Even like some individuals said like, I'm not anywhere near as bad as I was, but I cannot look at photos of myself from like when I was at my worst, it is just like, it's triggering. Like is that a real experience that people can have and why?

MaryCatherine McDonald (20:50.862)
Yeah, absolutely. I think what's happening is that it's like a, it's a snapshot of unbearability. Like it's like you took a freeze frame of the most unbearable moment and all of the shame is in that one little photo and all of the pain that you were in is in that one little photo and all of the layers of complexity when it comes to struggling with something like that is in the photo and it's really hard to look back at that with anything other than overwhelm because what you're looking at is the unbearable experience. And so I relate to that a lot. I had an awful, totally sudden outbreak of rosacea right after my mom died that was months and months long that was really, really physically obvious. It was really severe. I was kind of dismissed by a dermatologist and given a single cream and told to basically get over it. It was painful.

I felt like elephant man. I didn't want to leave the house. Um, people would make comments. People would suggest random things. Like, are you washing your face? You know, people say things without meaning to, because they don't know what's going on and they can see that you're in pain. And when I even think back to that time and just picture myself, let alone look at a picture, I start to feel that flush of embarrassment, that desperate feeling like you want to disappear, you know, like and I think it's just because what's happening is you're opening up that file folder that has all that pain in it and so when you do that some of that pain is going to come up. I think what's really important for for listeners to think about is what is the level of pain? When you're looking back, are you like Oh gosh, I feel so much compassion for myself I was in so much pain and that was so hard to go to work when I didn't want to leave the house and all this stuff. Or are you feeling continued shame? And I think if you're feeling that pain and say that was such a hard time and I can feel compassion for myself. That's just a healthy memory. All of our memories are gonna have emotional content. We don't take issue when it's joy or laughter, but we don't like it when it's sadness or embarrassment or whatever, but it's normal. All of our memory files have emotional content. That's part of the way that our system files things. But if you're feeling this shame that's then making you feel in the moment, ashamed of yourself and you're kind of entering back into that space and you find yourself like not wanting to go out for the next couple of days because of it, even though you're, you're in a different position than you were back then, then that's a suggestion that's kind of an indicator light that something needs to be processed. There's some pieces of overwhelm that need to be looked back over with someone who can help you bear that pain.

Jennifer Fugo (23:36.157)
Yeah. And I think along with that too, you know, we have also people who, and I've mentioned this on the podcast, who struggle with dermatillomania. So picking in the skin, trichotillomania, pulling at hair, scratching behaviors. And when I say scratching and I've had clients who have acknowledged that they do think that it's almost the scratching has almost become habitual because when they're busy, they don't really scratch. But then when they're sitting in silence and there's not much going on, all of a sudden they're incredibly itchy. So on one hand, I think many of us, and I have personal experience with this, I automatically have related it to it's harmful, look at how I hurt, my body was doing it, I was doing this to myself, how I was hurting myself, and I see it as such a negative thing. But then on the other hand, what I've more recently been shifting the conversation around is perhaps it was a soothing mechanism. Can you talk a little bit about that? Can you talk about how something can be harmful but soothing?

MaryCatherine McDonald (24:47.114)
Yeah, it's really hard for us to hold two contradictory things to be true at the same time. But this is one of those cases where we have to try because, yes, it does hurt you and it is soothing. And there's some recent research that suggests why. And this is also true of folks who engage in cutting and are sort of experiencing a desire for pain that seems like, why would I want to cause myself pain? One of the ideas is that when you have pain, you get an instant release of opioids in your body. And so those are happy chemicals that make you feel good. And so sometimes we pick, and I relate to this too, I'm a skin picker and it's been and I used to be made fun of relentlessly by my mom for it because it wasn't, I don't think it was recognized at the time in the eighties as a soothing behavior. She was like, you're a freak and everyone can see it, which thanks mom, like that's helpful. But what's happening is that you need, your system needs a little bit of the happy chemicals and so you're creating a little bit of pain so that you can get those happy chemicals and kind of even your system back out. The other thing that that pain does is it brings you into your body. So if you're someone who tends to disconnect or dissociate when you're feeling really anxious or freaked out, the little bit of pain that you experience when you're picking or pulling can bring you back into your body and be very soothing and almost grounding. It's almost like kind of a mindfulness practice, which isn't to say that it isn't harmful, it is, but I think when we understand that it's an adaptation that comes from a legitimate need and that it's actually kind of brilliant that we reach for these things without any cognitive knowing, then we have a ton of data, we peel away the shame, and we can say, okay, what kinds of things can I do for myself that give me that same benefit without scarring or without hair loss, you know, and then you can, so for me, I don't actually have anything right now, but I almost always have tactile things on my desk that those like those little pressure point rings because they cause that tiny little bit of pain without piercing the skin, but they give you the soothing moment, the mindfulness, the release of the positive chemicals without getting the negative effect. But you can't get there until you accept that what you are doing is a normal adaptation. That's why I think the shame thing is so important to look at.

Jennifer Fugo (27:13.849)
Yeah, it is. And I want to ask this before I ask my last question, because I think that this is such a that what I'll ask at the end, I think it's just such you blew like I had like my mind just blew open when you had shared about this in the book and I saw you talk about it on Instagram, but these things, I mean, we're talking about things that have a really big impact on people's lives. And we never know, you know, like you said in the book, like we talk about big T-trauma, little T-trauma, and that's not really, yes, there are, you know, you said the really big, traumatic, obvious kind of events. And then it may not be as big, you know, like I lived in New York City in 9-11. Is that really something that really impacts me today? Probably not, but there are things from when I was a child that really seriously impact me that aren't on the level of the scale of devastation is nowhere the same. And so is it possible to work through these things? Can you work through them yourself? What are some of the… and like when do you have to say, all right, you know what, I probably need some extra help. Like I can't… because I think I do some things myself. Is it a sign of failure?

MaryCatherine McDonald (28:36.122)
Yeah, right. Yeah. No, because I think again, we, you know, our brains are interrelational. Like we, we're, we think of ourselves as these individuals that are these like, you know, perfectly packaged, like I'm over here and you're over here. But like this conversation, we, we, we are over the course of this conversation. We are co-regulating. So our nervous systems are meeting each other. And if you're really, really activated and I'm really, really calm, then we're going to kind of find a middle ground. Which is… There's tons of research on that. And so I think that we need other people, period. And once we normalize that, then I think things get a lot easier because then we can go to therapy without the shame. I think that if we looked at therapy also as sort of exploration instead of a sign of weakness or brokenness, I think that that would also help a lot.

That being said, I think there's a lot that we can do on our own, especially when it comes to figuring out and sort of justifying which things happened that were traumatic for us. Because I think a lot of what I see in my clients and just people in general is this incredible amount of judgment and a creating of a hierarchy of yes, this thing happened, but it can't possibly be traumatic because these other people have this, or I've been through something worse than that. And so how can this be the thing that's traumatic? And I think it's interesting because trauma is one of the only wounds that you have to be convinced that you have, you know? If you had a physical injury, if your arm was broken, nobody would have to like argue with you that yes, people sometimes break their arm worse, but your arm is still indeed broken and so it's worth going to the doctor, you know what I mean? Like we don't draw that parallel in when it comes to psychological things. And so I think… understanding that your step one is kind of understanding that your body is a barometer and it's giving you important information about your status and what has been wounding and what is activating and then two validating that and trying to peel away some of the shame and then figuring out where you need other people's intervention you know where do you need a therapist where do you need a friend how else can you fill out a support system that's not just one thing. Because I think sometimes we swing to the other extreme and we say if I've had trauma, the only place I can talk about it is in therapy. I can't talk to my friends, I can't talk to my family, I can't talk to anybody else. And that's, we have to cut that out because we are living in a time where we have just gone through a global trauma that we have not even begun to process. And so we have to get better at talking about these things more openly and in many different kinds of spaces.

I don't know if that answers the question.

Jennifer Fugo (31:19.765)
Yeah, I think it's helpful to hear these, you know, because I think we think I just have to live with this the rest of my life. I just have to. I used to think like this is the stuff I need. This is my life. This is my life. These are the stones I got to carry in life, and it just is what it is. And I'll figure it out. That was always my approach.

MaryCatherine McDonald (31:42.046)
And usually figuring out is like, let me take all these things and I'll just carry them. I'm going to put them in the back of my car and I'm going to carry them. And you're like, yeah.

Jennifer Fugo (31:45.769)
I'm gonna keep carrying them, I'll sort it out, I'll find mechanisms, I'll be really resilient and after a certain point I had to be like, you know, I'm not okay. And it's okay that I'm not okay, but acknowledging that I was not okay was actually a very freeing moment. And so anyway, I thought this was a great conversation to end on. The concept of the hope circuit… I'd never heard of this before!

MaryCatherine McDonald (32:24.522)
Yes. So the hope circuit is one of my favorite things to talk about. Um, because, so if you've ever lived in an old house, you may know that sometimes circuits are counterposed, meaning they cannot be on at the same time, otherwise what the, you know, the fuse blows. And so I live in an old house and I can't, if I have the air conditioner on, I can't run the hairdryer or the microwave, the fuse blows. Your brain is the same thing. So when we talk about the brain, we can talk about the structures, like the hippocampus, we can talk about blood flow, and then we can talk about electrical activity. And when we're talking about, brain circuits, we're talking about electrical activity. And so you have the fear circuit, which is like the amygdala of the limbic system. And then you have the hope circuit. The fear circuit is the alarm system. It's the hypervigilant part of your brain that's looking out for a threat and trying to protect you. So it's really important that it gets energy at the right times. And the hope circuit is the part of your brain that's responsible. It's a couple of different structures and they all are connected with this electrical circuit. And it is responsible for future planning, imagination, and basically dreaming. And so the cool thing about the hope circuit and the fear circuit is that they're counterposed. And you may have experienced this because if you're in a really dark time or if you've been really overwhelmed or going through a trauma, it's really hard to dream, right? If you're really afraid, you're not gonna start like daydreaming. And so that's because those circuits can't be on at the same time.

Knowing that though, we can sort of reverse engineer it and turn the fear circuit off by turning the hope circuit on. And there are a lot, this is, I think, basically what the entire field of positive psychology is built on is this idea that you can, you know, make positive changes in your thought processes, which can change your mood and your kind of worldview. And the thing that I think is maybe a gap in positive psychology is that a lot of the exercises around the hope circuit aren't designed for people who have just been through trauma and are really struggling with hope in general. And so there's a tool in the book that's actually my favorite tool called the absurd hope exercise, where you spend five or 15 minutes a day imagining for yourself in great detail, a future that you know is impossible. Because sometimes it's too much to ask for you to dream about your own future.

Right? If you've just gone through a divorce or you're having a chronic health issue, your future looks bleak. And so I can ask you to imagine a hopeful future for yourself, but you're probably just going to come up against negative thoughts, right? You know, which makes sense. But if you can, when you're taking a shower, imagine a life for yourself where you're like a train conductor in Switzerland with a fabulous group of friends who bring you wine on the train every afternoon, like you, you turn the hope circuit on which then turns the fear circuit off. And the more you do that, I really believe within like five or seven days, you actually start to see more hope in the world. And then even, yeah, right? So then your own life starts to look hopeful pretty quickly.

Jennifer Fugo (35:54.253)
There's so many great strategies! I just I found again I really truly love the book I want to make sure those watching on YouTube can see it's Unbroken: The trauma response is never wrong and it is available everywhere and I just I found it so helpful I just I that's why I wanted to have this conversation with you today because I think that the reframing of This was the first time where I was like, I'm excited, like, isn't that weird to be like, I'm excited to talk about trauma. But like, I felt like you made it accessible and it felt like it wasn't about how bad it is and how awful and how I'm gonna cry and how, it was reframing all of these ideas and concepts and notions that I've had, probably partly due to reading some very heavy, dense, dark trauma textbooks now that I've come to learn about it and made it very accessible to see what I may have been experiencing or what I may be working through through someone else's story, which is also really powerful.

MaryCatherine McDonald (37:01.75)
Yeah, each chapter has a client story, and those were really fun to write because I got to bring my clients and their experiences to life. Yeah. Thank you so much for having me, it's been great.

"To be traumatized was to be feminine and weak and disordered. And then when soldiers started coming home with those same symptoms, researchers were like, "OK, well, it's obviously not the uterus," but we still carried with it that idea of shame and feminine weakness."