Trauma talks: Amanda Wilson 10/7/22 Invercargill

This talk was something I saw on a friend’s Facebook page, reposted from someone she knew through horsey circles. Obviously I do not rotate in those circles so Amanda was completely unknown to me.

I also did not really have any specific expectations about this talk, but wow, the content really did blow my mind. I will do my best to summarise based on the notes I took on the day.

The talk took place in a local hotel conference room. When I arrived (the entry door being at the back of the room) there were not many seats left and there was no one else there who was disabled / a wheelchair user. I rolled up behind the back row and just kinda sat there. A few others came in after me, chairs were pulled up to make another row around me and a lady sat next to me.

Now, the topic of the talk is a sensitive one, so I would not openly make conversation with others beside me like I might usually. However this lady next to me turned and asked me what brought me here. I looked at her a bit stunned that she would even ask that question and I just pointed down at my leg. If she had had some sense she would have stopped the conversation right there, but no. She added – oh, what happened? ‘Medical mistake’ was my response. She was very very uncomfortable with this answer and at the next toilet break got up and moved to sit somewhere else. I really wish people would think before they speak. I am usually really bubby and friendly in a room of strangers but when you are sitting waiting for a seminar to start that has TRAUMA in the title, it should make you behave differently. It sure did me.

Amanda talked a lot related to her own life experience and this was the details she used to illustrate meaning. I will miss those out and just talk about the bones of it.

Often when someone has experienced trauma, it means they spend a lot of time ‘tiptoeing around their mind’ constructing a life so you don’t trigger something that might set you off on a slippery slope. Trauma does not have to be major, and happens in layers. it is often projected onto others.

Some stats

1:2 of us will get cancer

1:3 females experience sex abuse

1:4 males experience sex abuse

1:4 of us will experience domestic abuse

1:4 of us will develop a mental illness.

Our identity

Our human identity was likened to a safety bubble. It contains self beliefs, everything KNOWN.

Everything outside that bubble is things like our ego – survival brain, unconscious mind, the known, the trauma layers.

We inherit a genetic capacity for stress, and everyone’s is different. This was illustrated as a class container / bucket. we all have different sizes of bucket meaning we will all overload at different times under different sized loads. She likened the stress to the dirty sludge at the bottom of a petrol tank and the rest as clean fuel. Too much stress means the sludge is pushed up to the top and the clean fuel spills over the edge. This would be presented as a mental breakdown, or mental and physical disease.

How to develop and grow our identity

  • New experiences
  • by disregarding trauma levels

How to destroy or shrink our identity

  • negative thoughts
  • negative experiences

Lots of small things have the ability to chip away at your identity which ultimately means you change into a different person.

Stress creates an overload in the brain which in turn is translated into a freeze response. This means that it is buried deep inside us until something – a trigger – sets us off.

The fight / flight response in our brain

What physically happens here is as follows:

  • our airways open, heart rate increases, we are being prepared to run.
  • Then, the freeze response takes over when our brain gives up or decides that running won’t save us. The opposite happens here: paralysis, helplessness.

In the freeze response, a trauma memory is downloaded into our brain. A trauma layer that will sit there and be added to all the others.

Symptoms of trauma

  • Anxiety (the alarm system related to old memories)
  • PTSD symptoms
  • Any adverse emotion (this is not a normal state of being)
  • Depression (this is in effect being stuck in a long term state of freeze)
  • Numbness
  • lack of self worth
  • Negative thoughts / judgement

It is a visicous cycle between a trauma memory – unprocessed stress – fear response, and round we go.

Childhood trauma is significant, due to the lack of tools to keep ourselves safe at that age.

Toxic positivity = denying dealing with the bad stuff. This is caused by ignoring the bad stuff and not dealing with it at the same time. This just causes the signs to get bigger.

Our memories are connected to emotional significance. We do not remember the average, only the very good and the very bad.

The emotion attached to the memory is the issue here, not the actual memory itself. This is actually a chemical exchange in our bodies where a neural pathway is lit up and the emotion is released too.

Our brains work on the law of association and law of repetition. For example, if everyone who was involved in the same car crash gave an account, they would all be different. This is based on our perceptions, self beliefs and all the things that happened in our lives before we arrived at that point, not because everyone is lying.

Fight = hate / anger

Flight = anxiety / denial

Freeze = helplessness, terror, stuck

IN modern life we do not used up our emotional energy. We are taught to man up, be perfect, etc etc. We suppress or avoid this unused energy though meds, alcohol, smoking.

We are not addicted to the substance itself, we are addicted to the relief and avoidance it gives.

Amanda Wilson

This was likened to an animal being chased or attacked by another. they would run, run run, eventually stop running, and a few minutes later would be grazing again like nothing happened.

To heal is to feel

Amanda Wilson

Our conscious and unconscious mind

Like I have previously heard in NLP, all the stuff we do automatically is the unconscious mind (like breathing, like when we automatically drive to work then when we got there can’t remember some parts of the journey. Amanda calls this the human blind spot.

Our survival brain sabotages us and prevents us from conscious thought. She believes if we ‘release’ our fears then that allows us to open up our identity instead of battling the survival brain. This then begs the question: who am I without all my fear and anxiety?

What causes trauma?

  • General trauma (divorce, job loss, covid etc)
  • pre verbal (0-3 years)
  • Transgenerational trauma (inherited fears and behaviours from our ancestors through genetic tags)
  • Interpersonal trauma (caused by others)

Narcissistic personality disorder

This is emotionally triggered. Your emotions are used to control others. in effect, emotional manipulation.

Fawning / gaslighting

Where there is a conflict of identity of belief system, the person with a smaller identity or belief system likes control, so they try to control others.

conflict avoidance behaviours = fawning.

It can be conditioned into a fear response by someone else. This often becomes the persons identity when it the only response available.

Can create characteristics in someone that can be mislabeled, eg as depression.

Someone with a small identity is likely to have a big ego, they put walls around themselves to protect what little they have left.

When you leave the company of a narcissist you will feel smaller, more doubtful.

They are threatened by who you are and what to make you feel smaller. But remember. the bigger your identity is, the less affected you will be by everything around you.


This is safety by being able to blend in – mimicking others behaviour. for example the stressed parent (helicopter parent) can project this onto the child without the child having experienced it themselves. Picking up from others can contribute to who you are today – eg, teachers, parents, relationships, the media.

Releasing our fears

Every fear sabotages you. so she then talked about how to release them.

When we act outside our identity we behave outside who we are. This creates shame and guilt which in turn is added to our identity and projects to others as blame.


eg script:

I want to release the fear of _________________ because ________________. So for that reason I no longer want to hold onto that any more. So thank you but goodbye.


This is finding the fear behind the fear. EG a fear of the dark is not a fear of the dark, it is a fear of what happens in the dark.

Suppressing, or not thinking about things is a coping mechanism but does not fix the issue, it will always be there.

It is possible to lose your identity if a large role or belief system is lost.

  • eg mothers when all their children leave home
  • Adult – who finds out they were adopted as a child.
  • Could this also apply to me with the breakup of my marriage and the loss of a leg / triathlon / sport all at the same time?

This will usually trigger major depression – and a feeling off loss. this requires a new identity to be built.

The question we ask ourselves – who am I now..? Who I am is actually what I have been through.

When we strip away the layers we often reveal who we were all along.

Rebuilding ourselves

This is required when we feel unfulfilled or feel a lack of personal growth.


The backbone of your purpose. What gets you out of bed in the morning. What really matters to you. Sometimes it can help identify this by first writing a frustration list.


I am…

I have….

I love….

Write everything that comes to mind. To change your reality you need to change your identity.

Future template – I would love to……..


‘you ran out of information to make that experience successful’ – love that quote!

We can also add to this section a study list or skills list – go and learn something new to help fix it by asking yourself what information am I missing?


Making goals so big they scare you, Amanda believes will set you up for failure.

  • Dreams list – things you have no control over.
  • goals list – things you do have control over.

Related the first to the second by setting smaller goals that might help to get you there.

Luck is where experience meets opportunity

Amanda Wilson


Make a list. if you cant change it get rid of it.


Things that make your life feel full. This is a list to look at when you are going through a storm.


These are the people who will say things like its a waste of time, you will never be good enough.

No one will save you, you will have to save yourself

If trauma happens in layers then healing has to happen the same way

We have a huge amount of power to both build and destroy someone’s identity.

If I have seen more it is because I stood on the shoulders of giants

Author: Melanie Magowan

I am a massage therapist and part time athlete

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