We all understand what it means to feel guilty. 

When we do something to step out of our boundaries, or something selfish or hurtful to others, guilt arises in an attempt to get us to fess up and resolve the issue. If we don’t, our conscience will eat away at us. 

This built-in alarm is designed to keep us on track with what is right and wrong. 

In Complex Trauma, we can develop a poorly trained conscience that makes us feel a false guilt. 

False guilt is when we are made to feel guilty or responsible when we have done nothing wrong. 

There are five causes where false guilt occurs;

1. Parents blame us for their emotional state, addiction or we are used as a reason or excuse not to have our needs met. 

• “You are the reason mom/dad are unhappy.” “It’s your fault that I …” 

2. We take responsibility to fill the unmet needs of our parents or siblings.

• Unable to protect mom or siblings from abuse, addiction, etc. 

3. Unrealistic expectations of ourselves. 

• Not being perfect, not reading our parents’ minds, we must be bad to be neglected or abused. 

4. Guilt is our default setting.

• Find something wrong in everything we do, overanalyze or are often hard on ourselves. 

5. Unhealthy institutions such as some churches or support groups.

• Made to feel guilty for grey-area or debatable things such as tattoos, piercings, hair length or incorrect standard of spirituality. If we challenge or disagree with the authority or leaders, we are made to feel we are bad. 

What is behind false guilt? 

When parents or authority figures don’t want to take responsibility for their actions, they distort their reality and point the finger at others. They transfer this away from themselves and make us believe it is all our fault. 

While this blog is just the tip of the iceberg to a deeper topic, it is designed to raise awareness. 

The next time we are made to feel guilty for something we didn’t do, question the issue. Sort out the situation to find the truth. Whose responsibility is it? If we are not responsible, put it in perspective and lay the blame where it rightfully belongs. 

We are only responsible for ourselves and our actions. That is a tall-enough order without taking on other peoples’ emotions and shortcomings. To learn more, follow the links and join us in our LIFT Online Learning program

Imagine our boss comes up to us while we are on the job and says we have been doing great work lately. He suggests we meet next week or so to discuss some changes.

Do we become curious and embrace the idea or feel paralyzed because we are afraid of change?

The only thing guaranteed in life is that everything is subject to change. Our ability to handle change comes from our experiences as children. 

Growing up in adverse environments or in Complex Trauma, change may have been a constant worry in our lives. Every time things changed, we may have experienced more hurt, pain and abandonment. 

Broken promises from caregivers and parents may have offered disappointment, and left us feeling unworthy. 

Or, there was very little change in our lives. Routines and structure were such an integral part of our daily lives, there was no room for change. This may have provided a sense of safety and security, but may have instilled a fear of change. 

Change may have been moving from one foster home to another. From one school to another. Too much change causes insecurity. 

In a healthy home, children learn resilience. They embrace change and something good comes from it. 

For those with Complex Trauma, change is scary. In the past they may have been subjected to teasing or bullying, or set up for failure. They are convinced nothing good will happen and a lot of stress is created with anticipated change.

We have no power to stop time. Change is part of our evolution process.

We see it in nature with the four seasons. 

Businesses grow, reorganize and restructure to become more efficient.

Relationships grow and change with time as children move from pre-school, to school-aged then off to post-secondary education or the workforce.

Our lives evolve and change as we embark on our recovery journey. 

Our perception needs to change. Believing healthy change will bring positive results and improve our lives is an important part in recovery. Change can offer us a fresh start. A chance to create a happy life filled with peace, contentment and joy. 

We may have a default setting to fear change when most of our experience has left us with negative outcomes. It is scary to change our thinking to expect positive outcomes. 

Let us show you how. Visit timfletcher.ca to learn more. 

We are all guilty of it. 

We start a book, only to leave it a few chapters in to pursue  another book or some other distraction. We start a sewing or craft project, only to abandon it in pursuit of another that looks more interesting. Or we may have a few renovation or yard projects that only need an additional hour or so of attention before the job would be complete but we keep procrastinating. 

One of the 60 Characteristics identified in Complex Trauma is Great Starters, Poor Finishers. 

January comes and there are many who make resolutions to become more fit, lose weight or any number of goals are always set with the best of intentions. Two weeks later, we tend to fall off the wagon and by the time February 1 rolls around, we have lost all our motivation. 

Examples:

  • New job: we excel at what we do for about two weeks. Then we feel unappreciated      because the daily validation stops or we don’t get along with our coworkers. Then we quit. 
  • We buy a house and have a few renovation projects we undertake. We pursue them with enthusiasm for about two weeks. We become busy and distracted, put the tools down and walk away. 
  • Gym membership: we are excited and determined to become fit and go every day for about two weeks. The momentum wears off as we have worn our bodies out and have not seen any results. We stop going.
  • Going back to school: we are super students for about two weeks. Then the course may be too easy, too hard, boring or the instructors are not providing us enough support. We quit or change courses. 

It is a brain thing.

New pursuits give us an adrenaline rush. Our limbic brains love a new challenge and we always start out full of enthusiasm, with the best of intentions. After about two weeks, when the monotony of the routine begins to set in, we discover it may not be what we anticipated or we lose interest.

We begin to find fault with the plan and we find a way to use someone else as an excuse to quit or abandon the project.

Complex Trauma? 

Many with Complex Trauma have a hard time focusing on one project or goal at a time. Our perfectionism may be holding us back if we are unable to complete the tasks without fault. 

Or …

We become hypercritical of ourselves and others when it comes to a goal or task. The first two weeks of anything is a learning curve. It is when we need to be open to training and expect some criticism and instruction on how to succeed.  If we are hypersensitive to criticism or feel like we are failures for not getting it right the first time, these are Complex Trauma traits we need to address.

There is hope.

Creating awareness of our habits and patterns and understanding why we are unable to follow through is the first step to having those projects and goals realized. 

Some of us had parents who were also great starters and poor finishers and they are our role model. 

Overcoming this Characteristic has great rewards. If we are great starters and great finishers, we:

  • New job: work for awhile and are rewarded by being able to support ourselves and our families. We are able to support a charity, possibly a care child overseas and they write us a letter of gratitude. We are able to save a bit of money and purchase a car, home or take a trip. Gaining experience can lead to promotions, or a better job down the road. We can plan for retirement. 
  • We buy a house and have a few renovation projects we undertake. Focusing on one task at a time, completing the jobs, fills us with pride at our beautiful home. Entertaining friends and family is rewarding. 
  • Gym membership: we are excited and determined to become fit. We work with a personal trainer who sets a realistic fitness routine. After three months, we feel amazing and see results. 
  • Going back to school: we are super students and pursue our studies. This leads us to work in our chosen field or in a career we truly love. We are rewarded with an excellent workplace and ability to create a fulfilling life. 

Our limbic brain in the drivers seat keeps us hopping around from one pursuit to another. Using our cortex brain, this provides us the discipline required on our way to living a healthy, happy, joyful life. 

Imagine there is a glass of water sitting in front of us that is filled half way. Do we see it as half empty or half full? Our answer can tell us a lot about our mindset. 

People who see the glass half full depict a positive attitude, optimism and a general feeling of all is right with the world. 

For those of us who view the glass as half empty, we may be victims of a critical and negative mindset. Is this common, but dangerous headspace, is one that can be learned from our parents or other family members?

Or, do we develop this as a part of Complex Trauma? 

Many of us may be critical and not realize we are. It is possible we do if we have a tendency to:

  • Complain a lot and blame others for our woes
  • Expect the worst outcomes from people and situations
  • Always are in a hurry – rush for time and have road rage
  • Gossip about others, complain about the boss, fellow employees, wages, hours, etc.
  • Ask others “How was your day?” but don’t actually care

How do we develop this mindset? 

If exposed to people who are negative and critical as a child, our brain trains itself to look for the negative as a protective measure.  If one or both of our parents were negative we adopted the same approach. We may have learned this way of coping drives people away and makes it easy to avoid healthy relationships or connect with others. 

Other possible reasons may include:

  • Our inner critic believes it’s easier to judge and find fault – this is our shame
  • Feeds our sense of self-worth or value – find something negative in order to feel superior
  • Grew up with a double standard and had to live up to unrealistic expectations 
  • Use it as an excuse to blame our problems and lack of happiness on others 

What are we teaching our children? 

Children who grow up with parents who have a negative and critical attitude tend to shut down, hide and feel they can’t be themselves. They may develop anxiety, depression and feel hopeless as anything they do or try is never good enough. 

They become afraid to open up, share their hearts, ideas and dreams in fear of being judged, criticized or put down. A negative and critical environment does a lot of damage to a child.

If we find ourselves resonating with the above information, we may be a victim. When we grow up in a family who gravitates to a negative or critical mindset, is there a more positive way to live?

Yes.

Complex Trauma is the underlying cause that lurks in our background. Understanding how our parents actions negativity rewired our brains, in order to keep us safe, is the first step to creating awareness. 

Evolving research over the last 25 years has exposed this field of study, opening new doors into successful, trauma recovery. We are pioneers in this field and our programs effectively transform Complex Trauma at the deepest levels.

It is more than developing a positive attitude or changing out negative thoughts for positive ones. True transformation comes with self-awareness. When we uncover the root cause and learn how to control our thought patterns, we can stop the cycle of negativity in our lives and see positive results. 

Life can and does change.  Visit timfletcher.ca to learn how.

Does life feel like riding a roller coaster and the exit is nowhere in sight? Is it hard to find pleasure in simple things that you used to love? Do feelings of sadness or anger set in for no apparent reason? Feel lost and don’t know who you are?

Our brains and bodies are on overload.

Never before in the history of mankind have humans been under more pressure. Employment demands have increased, putting a strain on our relationships and recreation or down time is limited. Socially, our lives have been put on hold due to COVID-19. No wonder we feel out of sorts.

What underlying cause is lurking in the background?

We all know carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless, tasteless, flammable gas that is slightly less dense than air. We never saw a need for a detector until we became aware of the dangers. Undetected, multiple health issues arise and long term exposure can be deadly.

Complex Trauma is the carbon monoxide of the mental health and addiction world. Undetected, it has kept people stuck in unhealthy coping patterns, feeling lost, angry, sad, depressed, anxious or addicted. Over time, it has devastated the lives of millions of people for centuries.

Blame our brain.

If our world feels out of control and we notice our lives have become a patterned theme of good times and then bad or happiness following sadness, is it possible our brains have been wired this way?

Yes.

Complex Trauma is the underlying cause that lurks in our background. Our brains are the master organism that is designed to keep us safe. Becoming aware of the patterns it has developed to enable us to live, cope and relate, is the first step in creating awareness.

Evolving research over the last 25 years has exposed this field of study, opening new doors into successful, trauma recovery. We are pioneers in this field and our programs effectively transform Complex Trauma at the deepest levels.

It is more than developing a positive attitude or changing our negative thoughts for positive ones. True transformation and healing comes from self-awareness, uncovering the root cause and learning how to rewire our brains to achieve successful outcomes.

Life can and does change. Visit our website to learn how.

Since the start of RE/ACT, I have noticed that the ‘emotions’ week is a very tough but important week. My goal in designing this week was not to stir up painful emotions and leave you sitting in them but rather to make you aware of your emotional world. I want you to be able to resolve painful emotions, and learn how to manage them in a healthy way; so that you will no longer go to Fight, Flight, or Freeze whenever you experience a painful emotion. I hope that you have learned some tools to do that, and have seen that getting healthy and staying clean are dependent on you developing a higher EQ (Emotional Quotient).

I want to give you two perspectives that I hope will encourage you:

  1. Throughout my life, I have seen many people go through similar experiences that involved intense pain but I have seen people respond to it differently. Some become angry and bitter and some shut down and try not to feel; but others walk into the pain, learn the lessons of it, figure out what they need to do to resolve it, and grow as a result of it. In other words, the same pain makes some people stronger and better, whereas it makes others weaker and sicker. It is dependent on how people choose to respond to it.
  2. I heard someone make an observation once, and it really impacted me. It was that as you look at history, you discover that the people God used for the greatest tasks were those who have experienced the greatest pain, and allowed it to shape their character in a positive way.

Complex Trauma created tons of pain that a child could not resolve so, in order to survive, they had to go to Fight, Flight, or Freeze. My hope for each of you is that you apply the tools you have learned so that the pain that used to send you in negative directions will now make you stronger and better. 

With Love,

Tim Fletcher

In my childhood, when my parents fought, I was never talked to after about the situation and how I felt about it. Neither of my parents said, ‘We’re sorry that happened in front of you”, “It isn’t your fault’ or asked, “How did it make you feel that you had to witness that?”

I didn’t have the tools to process what had happened around me. Instead, I would do one of two things, hide in my room, which led to stuffing or when I was old enough, flight or run to a family member or friend’s house. My feelings or emotions never mattered, I didn’t know how to identify with them because I was never taught how to.

I learned that when things were “good” between my parents, life was okay. It became my life’s mission to make everyone and everything okay.

After my parents divorced when I was 20, my mother fell apart. She had been with my father since she was 18. She lost everything she thought she knew; I understood and recognized that being a wife and mother was her identity. This was the time it came for me to “fix” everyone else as she wasn’t able to. The goal was to make everyone better and happy.

My doctor thought it would be a good idea for me to start seeing a psychologist at this time. I reluctantly went. My first visit he asked me how I was doing. I replied “I’m good”. He said “Krista, how are you really doing?” No one had ever asked me that before. Since when did I matter? He then said,

“Krista, you know it’s okay if you’re not okay”.

Those words changed me and my life after that. He gave me permission to be angry and sad and to feel those emotions for the first time. To allow them to start coming out. How to deal with them and sort out my childhood and how it affected me was a different matter.

That process has led me to today. I had to fail miserably before I could get back. RE/ACT finally gave me those answers. In writing these words, I realize, all of my heartache and pain could have been saved if my parents had provided me with the tools to identify and deal with my emotions and have had them themselves.

With Love,

Krista Michie 

“Having an addiction is like sitting under a large pile of rocks. The rocks, are shame.  My shame. The first days when I learned about Complex Trauma, it was like someone taking one rock away at a time so a little bit of light could seep in, and I could begin to find myself.”

June marks a significant milestone for Tim Fletcher, as his dreams of publishing books on Complex Trauma in the context of addictions and mental health are finally being realized. Cindy McKay, together with my team have been working tirelessly to prepare this first book for publishing.

The original title was “The Missing Link”. After much consideration of the title, and running it through book databases, we were concerned that the title of the book was not original enough. Not on its own. The line of thinking was 100% correct, but I was strictly thinking from a marketing perspective. After quite a bit of digging into book titles that would be unique, and we came across the word “RELINK”. Its definition is simply “to reconnect”.

 Somehow, this singular word had the powerful double meaning of reconnecting – addiction to complex trauma, as well as reconnect – the opposite of addiction.


Based on some discussions I had with some clients from RE/ACT and primarily with Tim, we wanted to depict an “uncovering”. The idea that in this book, you can begin to find yourself. We didn’t want it to look like a smooth or easy process, but one that would take some work. As we developed the concept, I kept referring to one of the RE/ACT clients who mentioned: “Having an addiction is like sitting under a large pile of rocks. The rocks, are shame.  My shame. The first days when I learned about Complex Trauma, it was like someone taking one rock away at a time so a little bit of light could seep in, and I could begin to find myself.”

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FOREWORD

Cindy McKay

There is Real Hope 

(Excerpt)

In the media, politicians and policing organizations all rave about the war on drugs and addictions. Governments vow getting tougher on crime policies with more severe penalties attached, all in the name of public safety. This may be a great way to win over the general population’s perception of safety but over the last several years, has very little impact on the level of crime seen in cities everywhere. The fear continues. The insurmountable problem offers very little in the way of real solution. 

The goal should be to get to the root cause of the violent behavior in the criminals. Develop and understand why people feel compelled to commit crime and become addicted to substances. The politicians have to adopt the attitude that, just maybe, with the right supports in place, prevention of people crossing the line to criminal or risky behaviours can be the real change. 

Tim Fletcher did a four-week series on Complex Trauma at Riverwood Community Church, of which we attend. The message delivered to the congregation hit home with everyone in the audience as we learned that to be human, often, sadly, means experiencing trauma in some way shape or form in our lifetime. Whether it be the abused child who grows up in an unhealthy home or one time traumatic events of car accidents, verbal, sexual, emotional or spiritual abuse, how we perceive these events can have long lasting effects on who we are and how we show up in the world. 

As I sat in the audience, I realized that I have experienced several one-time traumas in my life. Although I feel I have coped well, I realized that these experiences shaped the decisions I have made throughout my life. Connecting the dots was emotional and it deepened my understanding of how much of our society is affected by Complex Trauma. 

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Pre sales begin June 1! We will be launching an E-Book to start, and hopefully a hard-cover book later this year. We will keep you updated on availability!

With Love,

Shannon Vanderlinde
Tim Fletcher Co/ Finding Freedom/ RE/ACT COO

“Of all the mammals, we humans have the least mature brain at birth. Early in their infancy other new born animals perform tasks far beyond the capabilities of human babies. A horse, for example, can run on its first day of life. Not for a year and a half or more can most humans muster the muscle strength, visual acuity and neurological control skills – perception, balance, orientation in space, coordination – to perform that activity. In other words, the horses’ brain development is at least a year and half ahead of our own – probably even more, in horse years. Our evolutionary predecessors were permitted to walk upright, which freed limbs to evolve into arms and hands, capable of many delicate and complicate activities. Those advances in manual versatility and dexterity required a tremendous enlargement of the brain especially of its frontal areas. Our frontal lobes, which coordinate the movement of our hands, are larger than those of our closest relative, the chimpanzee. These lobes, particularly their prefrontal areas, are also responsible for the problem solving, social and language skills that have allowed humankind to thrive. There are times in the first year of life when, every second, multiple millions of nerve connections or synapses. are established. Three quarters of our brain growth takes place outside the womb, most of it in the early years. By three years of age, the brain has reached 90% of adult size, whereas the body is only 18% of adult size. This explosion in growth outside the womb gives us a far higher potential for learning and adaptability than is granted to other mammals. – Dr. Gabor Maté (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts)

There’s lots to glean from the above paragraph, whatever your beliefs about creation / evolution are. What I find most profound, is the immense amount of growth our brains have right after birth until about age 5. This growth slows down, but still continues at immense speed right up until our early teens. Unfortunately, most health-care systems treat addictions as an acute disorder. The cause of addiction is not basically substance dependent, it’s “experience-dependent”. This doesn’t completely rule out the addictive factors of substances or genetic factors that contribute to addiction, but primarily, the root, lies within the experiences we faced in childhood.

Our understanding becomes so much more clear and succinct when we start with, “this began in childhood.” I often have clients tell me that they don’t want to blame their parents or family members for their problems. That is NOT the purpose of going back to the beginning and uncovering what went wrong. But discovering more about complex trauma and the “why” helps us to know better. And when we know better, we do better.

Please as always feel free to reach out – you are not alone! We have staff and supports who are ready to help. I wish you all the best as you continue on your healing journey.

With Love,

Tim Fletcher

Imagine you are driving a car. It’s just you in the driver’s seat, and the roadway lies ahead. After driving a short distance, you realize something is wrong. Your car isn’t running properly. People on the side of the road begin staring and pointing at you. So you pull over to a restoration shop at the side of the road and get your car repainted. You head back out and continue driving. Your car is bright and shiny! Now, those on the side of the road are impressed by the look of your car, and give you a wave! You feel slightly better, but realize that the problem still persists. So you pull over to another service shop, and this time you get the tires replaced. You head back out on the road, but the problems remain. Stop, after stop, after stop, you continue pulling into different shops, and one piece at a time, you continue to get new paint, parts fixed, and things repaired. Something’s wrong, you just can not figure out what. Finally, you come to the realization that the only thing left to have a look at, is the engine. You never expected that this could possibly be the source of all the rest of the issues. Fixing the engine is scary, and you’re not even sure if you know a guy… If only you could just fix everything else, maybe the engine would start working properly? If you flushed all of the lines? If you replaced the spark plugs? Are you sure it’s not the battery??

This story is a depiction of the vicious cycle of complex trauma, and its effects on lives. Complex trauma directly affects the engine – the brain, and in over 97% of addicts, often goes unchecked. Those who suffer try treatment after treatment, program after program, and never actually achieve real, lasting healing. The reason is we’re only solving one side effect at a time, and never getting to the real “why”.

Those who struggle with addictions or mental health disorders, need to go into the shop for engine repairs and, I’m your guy.

Our current system tends to focus on the side effects of the hurt (how to overcome the addictions themselves), but I’ve dedicated my life’s work to striving to get to the source of, and forge healing from that hurt – I’m spending my time under the hood. Over the past few decades, I’ve discovered that the real solution – the real healing from this type of trauma, begins with unconditional love.

Complex trauma is any dynamics that cause a child not to feel safe or unconditionally loved. It occurs in childhood between the ages of 4 and 14, and happens at home, school or in church communities. This trauma can be real or perceived, and is not necessarily a form of physical, verbal, or sexual trauma.

Scientifically, complex trauma is defined quite well as following:

“The dual problems of children’s exposure to traumatic events and the impact of this exposure on immediate and long-term outcomes. Complex traumatic exposure refers to children’s experiences of multiple traumatic events that occur within the caregiving system – the social environment that is supposed to be the source of safety and stability in a child’s life. Typically, complex trauma exposure refers to the simultaneous or sequential occurrences of child maltreatment – including emotional abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and witnessing domestic violence – that are chronic and begin in early childhood. Moreover, the initial traumatic experiences (e.g. parental neglect and emotional abuse) and the resulting emotional dysregulation, loss of safe base, loss of direction, and inability to detect or respond to danger cues, often lead to subsequent trauma exposure (e.g. physical and sexual abuse, or community violence). – Portland State University, Consumer Topic “Complex Trauma in Children and Adolescents”.

Do you or a loved one suffer from complex trauma? Do you think so but aren’t sure? I hope this gives you a bit of hope. Please feel free to reach out, or access the various resources on the site. I can promise you there’s so much to learn and there’s so much hope – just be patient. We’ll get there together.

With Love,

Tim Fletcher