How Simplifying Overwhelm Leads to a Successful Life.
I learned a few years back that people seldom mature beyond the age of their first trauma - unless they really take the time to do the work.
It's easy to fall into the same song as our peers, but we each need to recognize our own power and ability to rewrite our lives and create our own healing destiny.
But how? How do we turn our traumas into success stories? What is the secret to becoming a "success story"? Positive attitude and working long hours aside: I believe one of the first key principles when it comes to turning these struggles into successes is not just become aware of the trauma, but the associated overwhelming feelings, thoughts and ideas that follow the traumatic event or experience.
Firstly, let's clarify a few things.
What is trauma?
What is success?
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary: trauma is
a: an injury (such as a wound) to living tissue caused by an extrinsic agent
b: a disordered psychic or behavioral state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury
c: an emotional upsetthe personal trauma of an executive who is not living up to his own expectations—Karen W. Arenson
OR : an agent, force, or mechanism that causes trauma
That last point is particularly important thing to note, as it's easy to forget that if you, dear reader, don't do the work in healing points a through c: it becomes all too easy to become an agent, force or mechanism that causes trauma yourself.
In the wise words of pastor Rick Warren, minister Will Bowen, and rabbi Yehuda Berg: "hurt people hurt people".
So: it's important we develop better skills around healing this trauma and achieving success, right?
Another question, before we get into the nitty gritty.
I kid, I kid... according to Merriam-Webster again, success is:
a: degree or measure of succeeding [to come next after another in office or position or in possession of an estate especially : to inherit sovereignty, rank, or title or to follow after another in order]
b: to turn out well
c: to attain a desired object or end
d: favorable or desired outcome also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
2 : one that succeeds
For the purposes of trauma, it's therefore logical to conclude that "successful people" are those that overcome their trauma. Why? Because trauma often leads to significant overwhelm, and if the secret of successful people is to first begin by overcoming their overwhelm... then we need to zone in on this elusive concept.
"What is overwhelm?" you ask. Great question.
Quite simply: any trauma that we encounter - especially as young people - can lead to some significant overwhelm and stress for young people and adults alike.
Do any of the following thoughts or ideas feel familiar to you?
Feeling anxious all the time
Loss of appetite
Difficulty focusing on topics or tasks
Lacking in motivation
Suddenly withdrawing from your social circles or family
Feeling more sensitive than usual
Clenched jaw and / or grinding teeth
Poor judgment or
Low self esteem
Now, obviously: there are multiple potential reasons for each of these symptoms, but if you're experiencing multiples of these symptoms, chances are: you're overwhelmed. And this is ESPECIALLY possible if you've experienced significant trauma.
NOTE: There are three main categories on adverse childhood experiences: abuse, neglect, and household challenges.
Let's look at an example of domestic violence in the home.
Would a young person witnessing one of their parents being regularly physically harmed in the household present any of the above symptoms? Difficulty sleeping - absolutely. Feeling anxious all the time - definitely. Stress? Loss of appetite? Difficulty focusing on topics or tasks? Withdrawing from social circles or family? Without question.
The clincher, though? If hurt people really do hurt people: there's a huge potential for a young person witnessing violence in the home to go on as an adult to do one of two things:
Become the perpetuator for violence themselves
Seek out violent relationships
Neither outcome is what you want for either yourself, or your teenager. So what can we do about it? How can we ensure that we - or your teen - can achieve success in spite of these adverse childhood experiences we've all endured?
As I mentioned in the very beginning of this blog, we need to not simply be aware of the trauma, but also honor the associated overwhelming feelings, thoughts and ideas that come with the traumatic event or experience.
The most effective way I've learned to achieve success and mental clarity is - believe it or not - songwriting and composing music.
This is because of several key ingredients:
The effect that music has on our mental health [you can hear more about that in my TEDx Talk: How Songwriting and Music Saved Me After Ten Brain Surgeries]
Music and songwriting gives us a valuable ability to cognitively reframe our thoughts surrounding specific traumas, events or experiences
The very first step to writing an impactful song for our mental health and wellbeing is the act of - what I like to call...
One of the key philosophies of Mr Rogers was honoring silence. By honoring silence, he allowed children the space and time to think and verbalize their thoughts, ideas and feelings. It's equally important for teenagers to have the same opportunity. But: in a Gen Z world, you may have noticed young people don't like talking. They instead opt for texting and writing.
Which is perfect for word vomit.
Allowing our teenagers to write out whatever it is that comes to their minds is key to helping them get their overwhelm out of their heads and on to paper... and once this is achieved: they can start the process of analysis, grouping together similar thoughts, words, and concepts, and using those newly grouped phrases to work as a catalyst for their own original songs.
Songs of Self Empowerment
One of the main success secrets I discovered early on is that in order to truly overcome my own personal overwhelm and the triggers associated with my own traumas has been to turn each grouping of word vomit into my own songs of lessons learned, hope, and resilience.
Be Brave allowed me to visualize and manifest what it would look like to become a successful person, in spite of every neglect I had as a young person.
Save You From Yourself gave me permission to reclaim my own life, and break up with my own negativity as a result of my childhood trauma.
Together We Rise helped me understand the power of community, in spite of previous hurts.
Proud gave me the opportunity to grieve, honor, and heal from my father's death.
The Secret of Success - Emotionally and Even Financial Success - Started with writing a song
We're often sold this idea that we need to put in more effort into healing... that the journey to mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness is time consuming, hard work, and often results in failure, but life is a marathon: not a sprint.
It's an ongoing collection of self-written, self-empowered, authentic and honest songs that lead to a whole, and successful life.
I'd love to help you write your Secret of Success album. Because you are a success, dear reader. It's all about letting yourself lean into the silence, simplify your overwhelm, recognize the power of your story, and release your magic - through song.
Click here to book a free discovery call with me to learn more about songwriting process, and how I can help you step into your power with music.
I can't wait to speak with you soon.
- Emma G