Danny Greeves is a highly recommended, multi-award-winning therapist, author, and speaker who is one of the UK’s leading experts in childhood and relationship trauma. Danny has authored four books, he is a regular on BBC Radio, and he writes expert contributions for various online media publications. In his new book titled Accelerated Trauma Resolution, Danny expertly explains the key principles of trauma, he reveals the hidden process of how and why the mind creates trauma, and he presents a powerful, easy-to-understand method of overcoming it that shows how a person can reduce and resolve childhood and relationship trauma forever.
IN THIS EPISODE, YOU’LL HEAR ABOUT THINGS LIKE:
- The origins of Danny’s own anxiety, low confidence, and stress.
- How Danny cleared his first trauma and the monumental changes that occurred in his life as a result of that healing.
- The imprint of trauma in children up to the age of 7 that occurs from early childhood and imprinting.
- The latest science from the UK that helps to accelerate trauma resolution called Split Second Unlearning Theory.
SOME QUESTIONS IRENE ASKS DANNY:
- What is the correlation between adverse trauma events and chronic health conditions later in life?
- What is the difference between traditional talking therapy and Accelerated Trauma Resolution?
- Why is it important to identify the balance of opposites in everything we do in order to find joy in life?
Watch the episode here
Listen to the podcast here
Danny Greeves: Trauma Leads Over Time To Chronic Health Conditions. Healing Trauma Gives Us The Chance To Restore Optimal Health So We Can Get Back Into The Driver’s Seat Of Our Lives And Enjoy The Journey
I‘m delighted to be welcoming Danny Greeves, a highly recommended multi-award winning therapist, author, and speaker, who is one of the UK’s leading experts in childhood and relationship trauma. Danny has authored four books. He is a regular on BBC Radio, and writes expert contributions for various online media publications.
In his new book titled Accelerated Trauma Resolution, Danny expertly explains the key principles of trauma. He reveals the hidden process of how and why the mind creates trauma. He presents a powerful and easy-to-understand method of overcoming trauma that shows how a person can reduce and resolve childhood and relationship trauma forever. I’m looking forward to talking with Danny about his own trauma history, and how he healed it, the prevalence and impact of trauma, the latest science from the UK helping to accelerate trauma resolution called Split-Second Unlearning Theory, his book, Accelerated Trauma Resolution, and more for what is surely going to be a very enlightening interview with many healing insights. Danny, welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for the introduction.
You’re welcome. You’re thoroughly credentialed and know what you’re talking about. Since one of the focuses of this show is on grief, trauma, healing, and recreating rebirth in your life, after you’ve been held back in your life from trauma and grief, this is a poster child interview for what the show is all about. Let’s start with this question so everybody can get to know you and how you got into doing what you do. Please tell us about the origins of your own anxiety. It’s hard to believe now that you had anxiety, low confidence, and stress. Describe how you connected with your teacher and mentor, Matt Hudson, who helped you with your trauma, which got you started on your path.
It wasn’t a plan that I was following in terms of going toward this area of work. One thing that probably a lot of people can relate to is at the time, I didn’t understand what the origins of my anxiety or low confidence were. All I was aware of is I had these unpleasant sensations that were growing in intensity over time.
Were they with your body?
Yes. I had lots of health anxiety. That was a big one. I had lots of stress and worry, and a lot of that negative internal dialogue. At that point, I wasn’t thinking that I got trauma. All I was thinking was I’ve got these unpleasant sensations and how I can deal with them. Initially, I did what many people do and tried to self-medicate. I would experiment with going out with friends. I would drink and eat a little bit too much. They would help for maybe that evening. The next morning, they would come back with a vengeance. That went on for several years, and it progressively became a habit of mine. One day, I was on a course for my first job when I was working as a physiotherapist. I was working with people with chronic pain.
Is that physical therapy like you’re doing bodywork with them?
Yes. My interest is learning about how the nervous system works. That shows in what I do now. Back then, that’s where it started. One of the teachers of the course brought me to the front of the class. I was in front of about twenty people who I didn’t know all that well. He started asking me questions, which helped me to connect to the primary trauma, which was the origin of my symptoms. For me, that was when my parents separated or the divorce of my parents. It was only at that moment when I was asked this series of questions that allowed all of those memories and pain to flood into my system. At that point, I realized that those events that I thought I had brushed off had a much bigger effect on me than I thought.
Was that your mentor, Matt Hudson?
That was before I met Matt. That was while I was still in a bit of a whirlwind. I left that day thinking I need some help there. I need to do something about this because I’ve got this issue, and I have no idea how to sort it out. I did what many people do. I looked for recommendations and someone who has worked with someone or known someone. One of my friends recommended seeing Matt. I was a little bit tentative, but I thought I have to do something. I reached out to him. I bought and read his book. From the vibes that I got from the book, I thought, “This is someone I’m interested in working with.”
Was he a trauma specialist also?
Yes. He’s now a social scientist. At that time, he was heavily working with clients. I reached out and we ended up arranging a Skype session. I remember it clearly. I was sitting in my living room about to log on feeling nervous. I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know, in about 60 minutes, my whole life was going to change.
That’s for whatever he did with you.
The main thing was he helped me learn how my mind works. That was a game-changer for me.
You’re such a role model for grief, healing, and rebirth. You’re telling us how you cleared your first trauma, which was with your parents’ separation. Once you started working with Matt, what changes started occurring in your life as a result of beginning to clear your trauma?
I was 27 at the time. One of the primary challenges that I had is that I hadn’t been in a relationship. I was struggling when it comes to finding a partner and finding romance in a relationship. There was something I was blocked. I couldn’t quite gain access to it. I was 27 and still single. I had my first session. I got an idea and learned how my mind works. Ten days later, I met my wife. It completely released all of that old baggage. I felt for the first time in years that I could relax enough to be myself. As soon as I could be myself, I met my wife.
It sounds like through your healing, you met yourself also.
One hundred percent, yes.
That was a new person who was meeting your wife as opposed to the other person who met these other ladies, and the relationships did not work out.
All of those other versions of me were trying to put on masks, pretend, and impress. When I released those traumatic moments, I was able to be myself. Meeting myself was the first and most important step, and then the rest followed.
Many of the people who are tuning in to this show have children or grandchildren. You talked about the impact of trauma in children up to the age of seven that occurs from early development and imprinting, so people don’t know what that is. What does the learning of family rules up to the age of seven have to do with trauma that manifests in adults?
There are lots of anecdotal stories that talk about the importance of childhood. We’re now starting to get a bit of research to help explain why that is. One of the studies helps us to see that up until about the age of seven, we spend a lot of time in a certain brainwave state. This brainwave state is called theta brainwaves. It essentially means that we’re highly suggestible. We’re in that area where the things that people around us tell us about ourselves, we absorb them in as if they’re real and facts.
We make meanings out of the experiences we observe, and then we absorb them. Rather than being able to filter it, process it, or contemplate it in any way, we absorb all of these in. If we have challenges during those early years, or we have an environment that maybe doesn’t foster learning or relationships in the healthiest way, we can take on all of those meanings, and then we start to move into the world with them as real.
They’re like building blocks that are inside of us, and they’re not good and are toxic.
They’re toxic, yes. One of the challenges of this is that many of our first experiences in life come at an age before we’re able to speak. How do we deal with those processes if we can’t articulate and vocalize them? What happens is we take on the feelings and store them in the body, and then we take those with us as we move forward. It’s an important area. A lot of the time, those events get stored and we carry them within. You talked about family rules, which is something that I find so interesting. This started back with probably the most famous family therapist called Virginia Satir.
Is she from the UK?
She’s from the US back in the ’60s and ’70s. She very quickly realized that as we grow up in the family unit, we learn rules about what’s acceptable in our home. We learn what types of behaviors will classify us as a member of this family, and what things cannot or should not be done. As a simple example, when we’re very little, many of us get taught the rule of not talking to strangers. This is a common family rule that many people will learn. It’s one that over time, many people naturally grow out of. That’s one of the conscious family rules.
What Hudson also started to show us is that there are many unconscious rules or rules that we’re not aware of such as it’s weak to show your emotions, respect your elders, and be seen and not heard. These are all unconscious rules that make our way into our system and frame our whole model of how the world works. Many people will go through their entire lives governed by these rules, but not know what the rules are. It’s incredibly powerful to start to learn about what these rules are, and then how we can start to break out of them.
That makes so much sense. As you get older and when you heal, you start to learn to discern which of those rules can still work for you, and which of those rules are no longer important for your life, and then you could learn to make other choices. That comes from healing because then you become more conscious of what happened and how you were programmed.
When you then gain that awareness, you can make different choices. If you don’t gain that awareness or if the healing hasn’t happened yet, you’re inside the rules and you can’t identify them.
Can you tell us about the prevalence and impact of trauma, and the key principle of trauma, and share the latest science from the UK that helps to accelerate trauma resolution called Split-Second Unlearning Theory? Can you help a person unlearn trauma in a split-second?
There are many components of it but yes. That’s it in a nutshell. If we think about the definition of trauma because it has lots of different definitions, what I’m talking about is an event or an experience that overwhelms your ability to cope. We can think of traumas with a capital T or those big life-changing events. We can also think about those traumas with the small t, where you’re in a certain environment multiple times, or you get certain criticism multiple times. All of it is stored by the mind. The key principles of trauma are subjective. No one can tell you what is trauma and what isn’t trauma.
Unfortunately, one of the things we tend to do is minimize our own experiences because we’re comparing them to something big that’s in the news. We then get over compared to that, “Mine wasn’t that bad.” What happens is we minimize our own experience, and we start to suppress it. One of the phrases that I was taught is whatever the mind represses, the body will express. Those things that we hide away will find a way out some way. It’s just how. For many people, it will be symptoms in the body. We’re thinking that trauma is subjective. It’s based on your experiences. Trauma is all about perceptions. Often, when someone says, “I’ve had a trauma,” they’re talking about the event itself. Actually, trauma is a perception of an event.
Give us an example of those two realities, the perception of the event and the actual event. If someone’s house burns down, what is the difference between the trauma of the house burnt down and the perception of it?
I’ll give you a real one from my life. When I was 18, I was physically assaulted. I was significantly punched, and I got a jaw fracture on both sides from one punch. It was a big one. We can think of that as the event. Originally, my perception of that event is that it was an awful event. It was traumatic and painful. I didn’t deserve it. There was nothing that could have happened, and it was awful. Later on, when I learned the tools to look back on it, I saw that as a result of that event, I completely stopped my drinking habits. I completely changed the way that I ate and related to food. I completely changed the way I handled myself.
I learned that I could communicate with people in a more respectful way. I learned that if I put myself into dangerous situations, I’m going more likely to be led to dangerous scenarios. There was so much learning in that experience. Now, I can see it as an event that had pain there, but I can also see all the learning and benefits that came through it. For me, it’s not a trauma but a learning experience. What we want to do is turn those painful events into learning experiences. We’re not pretending the pain isn’t there. We’re just saying, “We acknowledge that, but how can we use it to take us forward?”
That’s what healing is all about. What is this Split-Second Unlearning Theory?
Split-Second Unlearning Theory is based on the idea that when we have a traumatic experience, in the split-second where that trauma occurs, our mind takes a snapshot of where we are, what we’re doing, who we’re with, what it smells like, what it tastes like, the light, the contrast, all of this information, and it stores it in something known as an emotional memory image. The mind takes a snapshot and stores it in an emotional memory image. The mind will store that emotional memory image almost on a danger list.
It’s associated with an emotion.
It stores all of the visuals, feelings, and chemistry.
The fear, anxiety, and the whole thing. The mind takes a snapshot of the whole picture.
All of it. It stores it subconsciously on what’s known as a danger list. This means that whenever that individual goes into an environment, if there’s anything in that current environment that they can link back to the original event, then the same triggered response will happen again, and they’ll experience an echo of the first trauma. This means that a trauma that happens when you’re seven and if there’s no healing can be re-triggered for decades without being resolved. Split-second unlearning shows us that it only takes a fraction of a second for the body to learn that response. Similarly, when we learn how the mind works, we can unlearn that response in a fraction of a moment as well.
That must be what you talk about in your book, which we’re going to get to very soon about how you unlearn that. Is there anything you want to add before we go into talking about your book about the correlation between this adverse trauma and chronic health conditions later in life? I happen to have a few friends who have had trauma in their lives, and they are going through some very difficult health conditions now.
Over the last 10 to 20 years, it has been difficult to help someone who has a chronic health condition to see if there is a connection with previous trauma or mental models of the world. What’s happening now is as research expands around the nervous system and how it works, that connection is now being made. There’s a series of structures in the brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, also known as the HPA axis. That’s key in the stress response.
You say adrenal, and I am relating to that because in my own life, I had trauma and my adrenals were shot when I began to become aware and begin to heal. One of the first things that I was told was, “Your adrenals are done,” because I think they had been on overdrive for so many years. That was a chronic health condition that I had that came from my trauma until I healed it. Would you say even a health condition like cancer can come from trauma?
I tend to stick with what the current research proves. My personal opinion would be the role of this HPA axis can contribute to those types of things, but it is a very gray area. There are lots of conditions that are well-established. This HPA axis is a key part of the body’s response to stress. This means that it controls or influences the amount of cortisol and adrenaline that are released. What happens is over a period of time, the HPA axis does its best to keep up with all of these triggers. With everything over time, it starts to become dysregulated.
When the HPA axis becomes dysregulated, the body becomes more disordered. The chemistry goes out of balance. The ratios of the different hormones change, and it’s those changes that then lead to chronic health conditions. It has been linked to things like chronic digestive issues, Crohn’s disease, all the way to things like potential dementia, and chronic inflammatory conditions. It’s all because this HPA axis keeps so many of the body systems in balance. When that becomes dysregulated through trauma, it then leads to the physical manifestation of symptoms.
You can certainly tell me if my perception is not correct. It seems to me that would lead to why so many things manifest as people are getting older. That’s because the regulatory function that is doing so well while we’re young starts to get dysregulated as people age.
Let’s say a previous trauma was involved in the context of relationships. We’re going to have relationships throughout our life. If that trauma happens when we’re eleven, and a little bit of cortisol and extra adrenaline are secreted daily or weekly from the age of eleven, by the time we get to 40 or 50, that imbalance has become a huge change and volatility in the system, which then means the health condition then starts to become expressed. At that point, often, we then use medication to try and move that back into balance. While the trauma is still there, the balance needs to be kept in check. The longer the trauma, the more likely it is that health conditions will manifest.
People who treat everything with medication still have trauma. They’re just quieting it down as opposed to it will be valid in their mind. Some people are taking medication as they are starting to heal their trauma at the same time. Eventually, they can forego the medication and then hopefully, the health condition heals.
I certainly don’t want in any way to make medication right or wrong. It’s more a case of if you are aware that there is a root cause driving the imbalance, it’s wiser and makes more logical sense to address the issue while you got all the support of the medication. Often, your health professional will help you wean off that as and when it’s appropriate. It’s certainly something that can take place with your health professional. It’s not something that I would recommend someone to stop or anything like that. As the body heals, it moves closer to what’s called homeostasis or stability balance. When we’re in that homeostatic position, all of our systems start functioning well again and we find healing.
It’s a fallacy to believe that just because you get older, you’re going to get sick. You can avert a lot of that by healing your trauma.
The thing that proves that is that there are so many examples of people in their 90s weightlifting. There are people in top shape in their 90s. Although they tend to be the rarer cases, it’s because we live in a culture and a society that tends to use medication, rather than address the cause. This is important to know. It is that in the past, we haven’t had the strategies or the techniques to help people heal as well as we can now. It’s not people’s fault that it’s there, but it’s probably their responsibility now to do something about it because no one else will do it for them.
We are helping them to understand that they can heal and they can change things, which is wonderful. In your book, Accelerated Trauma Resolution, you’re talking about how and why the mind creates trauma, but you also explain the difference between traditional talking therapy and this accelerated trauma resolution. Would you like to explain that to us? Share anything else you’d like our audience to know about your book, which they should get because it’s going to enlighten them so much, and maybe open the door to their own healing.
It’s important to know that there isn’t one right form of healing. Anyone that says there’s only one way of doing it is a little bit closed-minded. Everyone has certain preferences and values. One of the big obstacles for me in getting help was that I didn’t want to pay someone to go sit with them and talk about my problems. I could already see from my viewpoint that it wasn’t going to help me resolve the symptoms. It might help me manage them a little bit, but it wouldn’t help me resolve them. I believe a lot of the talking therapy approaches out there at the moment are designed to help us cope with symptoms rather than neutralize and resolve them, and move on.
The wonderful thing about the split-second unlearning model and emotional memory images is that it allows us to reach a place where trauma is resolved. Therefore, we can move forward without thinking about it anymore. It doesn’t become a barrier to our quality of life. There may be certain cases where talking about the trauma and vocalizing it is a key step.
The first time when you ever talk about it can be a powerful experience. I also believe that after that moment, in order to resolve the trauma, we need to think more about how the brain and mind work. When we have these emotional charges or traumas, it creates noise in the brain. It creates lots of electrical imbalances. When we neutralize the trauma, the brain becomes quiet. When the brain is quiet, it can function optimally, and then we get optimal health.
Can you give us a little bird’s eye view of what it’s like to have this accelerated trauma resolution? I can almost see where someone goes to therapy, and they’re not in touch with their trauma yet. Talk therapy helps them to identify what happened to them. Perhaps they can use this method to resolve it, but then they may want to stay in therapy a little more to get good coping skills or move on in other ways in their life. Even therapists could use this type of additional healing for their patients. Give us a little snapshot of what an accelerated trauma resolution is like for a person.
I’ll use an example. We’ll call her Sarah for now. When Sarah contacted me, she was having more anxiety progressively. It had been building up for months, and it now reached the point where it was having a huge impact on her work performance and most importantly, on her romantic relationship, and it was causing a disconnect within her family. Sarah was aware that she had several experiences when she was younger that were painful, and that she would call traumatic. She’d been through CBT. She’d been through traditional talking therapy.
CBT is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Yes, thank you. She had been through other forms of counseling in talking therapy, which she felt gave her an understanding of what happened, but she still had the problem. It’s almost like, “I now know what the problem is, but talking about it isn’t allowing it to resolve or be processed.” We had our first session with Sarah. In the first session, we could see that she had an emotional memory image from when she was eleven. Her parents were standing up above her shouting down at her. At that moment, she felt terrified and scared. Her mind stored this image of two big people shouting down at her. She had that image for nearly 30 years.
She wasn’t conscious of it. Through therapy, she now became conscious of it.
Through our questioning, she became conscious of it. We started to piece the parts of the puzzle together because her anxiety had been increasing when she had a new boss who was assertive, quite blunt and was being critical of her in a quite commanding way. This new change in her circumstances was triggering the old memory that was then reverberating in her system and causing more anxiety. Within the one session, we were able to clear or help process that experience when she was eleven. Over the next coming days and weeks, her fear and anxiety around work start to melt away.
Is that because now, she starts to perceive that boss as not such a threat?
She didn’t perceive a threat. She could see that they were critical, but criticism doesn’t mean scary. When she was eleven, it did. It’s all about updating those old beliefs that come with traumatic experiences.
The perception. What else would you like everyone to know about your book?
First and foremost, the book is free. The book is available for anyone to download because I think it’s so important for people to get an understanding of how and why trauma occurs, and how and why we store it. I’ve had so many people who have read the book, and then thought, “That makes sense.” When things start to make sense, they’re less scary. Whichever avenue someone takes to get help with a little bit of information, that then gets us on a firmer platform to then think, “I can do this.”
When a lot of people have traumatic experiences, one thing they doubt about themselves is if they can do it or if it will work. If you don’t understand how something happens, then you’re probably going to doubt yourself. If you know, “This is the process,” then you’ve got much more confidence that it’s going to work for you. First and foremost, having that educational piece for people is so important. When it comes to accelerated trauma resolution, it’s also not a case of just one session, and all the problems disappear. As nice as that would be, it still takes time, patience, and work. Everyone can be in a dramatically different place in as little as 8 to 12 weeks.
Do people usually connect with you online through a Zoom call maybe once a week, or how does that work, Danny?
All of my sessions are done online. I’ve been online since 2015. One of the prime reasons for that is Split-Second Unlearning Theory works best when we’re face to face. Often, in a therapist’s office, we’re offset or to the side of one another, and so much communication is missed through that format. Whereas when we’re on a video call, you help give me all of the clues I need to help you break through. The way that I usually work with someone is we’ll have one session a week over twelve weeks. Over the course of that, we continue to clear more of those past experiences. You come out on the other end as a different person. That different person is who you are.
That’s so uplifting and inspiring. That is so much what you and this show are about. What is the importance of healing as it relates to the latest developments in neuroscience? We know that healing gives us the power to restore optimal health. The main focus of healing is to get us out of our suffering and to change the trajectory of our lives, what would you say as to why it’s important for people to go on these healing journeys and go out of their way to release these traumas?
A key concept here is something called Hedonic Adaptation. Essentially what that means is regardless of our experiences, positive or negative, we get used to them quickly. If someone has had years of feeling unwell, anxious or stressed, that becomes their new normal. The thing that is a big driver for me is it doesn’t need to be. When we get to the point where we decide, I want and deserve a better quality of life than what I have now. The only way to get that is through healing. What it does is liberates us from all of that old emotional baggage.
From an individual perspective, it opens up a better quality of life. That’s what most of us want. On a bigger scale, it allows us to also connect with our loved ones in a different way. It allows us to be role models for our children, make a difference in our community, and make positive changes in the world. We can’t do that if we’re bogged down by all of those old traumas that have been sitting in the closet. Both individually and collectively, when we help someone to transcend their trauma, it benefits everyone.
I agree with you. There are fewer damaged people walking the planet and hurting other people, would you say?
Absolutely. A lot of that hurt comes from pain. If we can help someone ease that pain, then the dynamic shifts.
For instance, that person who punched you, I wonder what kind of trauma was in that person’s body to do that to you.
There were many other clues in his lifestyle that indicated that there were other issues there, and I was in that place at that time.
It’s like when you would talk about road rage or something. It’s what’s inside of that person. Why is it important to identify the balance of opposites in everything we do in order to find joy in life?
If there will be one idea that someone could take from this and start applying it in their lives, it is the idea of balancing positives and negatives, and balancing advantages and disadvantages. When we go through our lives based on our own values and what’s important to us, we make judgments. We judge that as being positive or negative. All the negative judgments that we make, we store and carry them with us. The more extreme or intense the judgment, the bigger the trigger that we’ll experience in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, what many of us tend to do is go through the world judging it in a black-and-white way, “That’s positive, negative, good, or bad.”
What people don’t realize is that all of those negative judgments start to stack up. They start to build powerful associations, which then lead our bodies to feel stress. Anytime there’s a challenge, there is an equal opportunity in it somewhere. Anytime there’s an extreme high, there are downsides that can help ground you. When we start to pay attention to those, our whole physiology, as well as our emotional well-being, starts to get more grounded. That allows us to focus on doing what we love and finding joy in the things that are most meaningful to us.
What you’re saying is trauma resolution allows us to be free from the inside out.
Absolutely. If I could use that catchphrase, that would be it.
I got it. If you are free from the inside out, then you can feel and respond positively to the positive things that come into your life.
You can be present at the moment, conscious, and enjoy.
That way, you’re down with that backpack that has held you down your whole life. Danny, I love this quote of yours, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.”
That was from the legendary psychotherapist, William James.
William James, which I found in your book. I think you quoted him. He also added, “In essence, where you learn how to change your perception is you can change your reality,” which is exactly what we’re talking about. I want to thank you, Danny, because you help so many people throughout the world to heal their traumas so that they can be restored to optimal health, and enjoy a greater quality of life, which gives all of us a greater quality of life when there are fewer people who are walking around with their backpacks of problems in the world. I want to thank you from my heart for this enlightening, insightful, and wonderful interview.
It’s an absolute pleasure contributing to the difference that you’re making. It is inspiring to be a part of. Thank you for having me.
Here’s a loving reminder, everyone. Make sure to follow us and like us on social, @IreneSWeinberg on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you’re watching on YouTube, click subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode like this one with Danny. As I like to say, to be continued, many blessings, and bye for now.
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