Exploring burnout, trauma and Type A behavior to discover the connection between childhood experiences and later susceptibility to burnout.
And sharing some of my own journey and study on trauma.
Type A personality theory
In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, Peter A Levine
The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture, Gabor Mate
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Hi everyone, my name's Dex Randall and this is the Burnout to Leadership podcast, where I teach professional men to recover from burnout and get back to passion and reward at work. Hello my friends, this is Dex and I'm really glad you're here for this week's episode on Dex and the Deathly Hallows and really no idea why I needed to call it that but I looked up Deathly Hallows and it means persons dying sacrificially or even as martyrs because of love to give life to their loved ones. When I read that it made me laugh so much I had to stick with it. Some slight over dramatisation I think now, but I hope Harry Potter doesn't mind. Anywho, as we proceed I'm really a little bit cautious to think I'm gonna spout much sense today but you're very welcome to keep listening in case. And I'm gonna be talking about my recent adventures in personal growth because I think it's worth kind of coughing up about me going through the same lumpy bumpy life as anyone and if with a slightly different perspective on events and whilst I myself am not in burnout I think reflecting on my own journey here has deep relevance to anyone journeying through burnout. And this is part of series two of my podcast on the deeper healing that becomes generally available once we've emerged from burnout. All that juicy goodness, all that peace of mind that may have eluded us for a really long time and often for reasons unknown. Today I'll backtrack a little bit into burnout dynamics and precursors because that's my backstory and because I'm still learning about burnout as a whole, you know, always learning and that learning too might be helpful for you. Although did you know that knowledge alone doesn't affect mental and behavioural change that much as you've discovered if you've had a New Year's resolution? And I wonder personally what that says about psychotherapy but in fact it's emotions that drive change. You have to create a new experience for yourself through your emotions. So I'm gonna talk about trauma and PTSD since really understanding trauma, you know, large, small and everything in between, it turns out and more specifically the coping strategies humans develop when they experience is minor everyday trauma can also inform our understanding of burnout. For some people trauma dynamics have contributed to the emergence of burnout. I'm not suggesting that's everybody but some people for sure. And a lot of what I'm going to talk about today is coming from some new sources of wisdom for me right now, Gabor Mate, The Myth of Normal and Peter Levine in An Unspoken Voice particularly, Shoulders of Giants and I'm gonna include links to those books in the show notes if you want to take a look. And although it's a little bit tender to be talking about my own healing journey live as it's happening, I do feel compelled to do that so that you and I can remain connected. Because what I'm learning is so fascinating really and largely not what mainstream psychotherapy and the medical industries are telling us. So then it'll just be our little secret, right? I'm sharing it with you because we're friends. So also I've observed from my personal experience of therapy that therapists sometimes shield their own psychic wounds or investigate and learn to heal them privately and only when they finished they present their results as kind of a method for their patients to heal. And all of that sounds okay in theory but it really results in an imbalance between the "healer" and the "sufferer" as if the therapist's own wounds were somehow shameful or diminishing or could be seen as detracting from their professional efficacy or wholeness assumers. And you know even reading that I admit it can be hard to own what we regard as our deficiencies and I did present a system for resolving burnout after the fact of my own burnout. You know once I figured it out for myself not real time. Although my burnout wasn't secret at the real time it was scorchingly public and I didn't even know you then. So I do talk about my own burnout but I didn't present the solution obviously until after I'd learned it. But I do think that to hide or to fail to acknowledge our own wounds, our pain, our suffering, confusion, vulnerability and still expect others to speak about theirs is a little bit disingenuous. So to create an even compassionate playing field where our mutual dignity can be honoured I'm sharing my path with you even though it's as yet completely unresolved. The juror is still out for me. And that's why this, that's why I'm doing series two of the podcast it can't just be a single episode because I'm tapping into a really rich theme of exploration here and discovering a lot of new information and truths. So here it is for me. I have complex PTSD, CPTSD and I've had it since I was young and I'm currently undergoing really deep and at times quite oddly delightful healing work with a somatics expert. So that's in the body the experience in the body and that's continuing what for me has been a lifelong quest to sort my brain out and I do struggle. I still struggle in ways that have not been easily remedied. And that of course for me it's got a lot of physical repercussions as well that doctors often tell me fall into the bucket of idiopathy or of unknown cause and that includes my heart attack because I think we can't have emotional or mental dis ease particularly something like chronic stress without it showing up in our bodies and affecting our bodily health because we're just one unit right? Heart, body and soul. We're just one thing. Anyhow, right now PTSD and all I just want to be who I am as I am in acceptance of the whole bundle of squeaky eccentricities and brilliance that comprises this weird entity I've been labelling me. No regrets right? And however this meets you in this moment whether or not you've experienced burnout, stress, whatever you're going through we're all wondrously imperfect gifts to the world right? We're all how we're supposed to be. And I would like to point out that I'm not suggesting that anyone listening has or even might have PTSD if they have burnout. I mean you've probably had tough moments in your life, maybe you are in burnout, I don't know when you're listening to this. You might self identify type A behaviours in yourself but PTSD I think is a separate deal. It just happens to be my journey that I'm talking about here. And let's explore the dynamics of burnout then informed somewhat by my recent learnings about trauma, by type A personality and by the human psyche in general. And as I understand it burnout was for me you know like so many other difficulties I've experienced it wasn't an origin problem, it wasn't a primary problem for me, it was a consequence of unresolved trauma. My PTSD experiences did incubate in me the kind of preconditions for burnout and again that may not be true for other people. So if we explore instead the type A personality traits that people typically predisposed to burnout often display such as perfectionism, people pleasing, impatience, ambition, competitiveness, drive, also hyper autonomy, very self directed and a lot of self stuff, self denial, self abandonment usually in the picture, self criticism and sometimes a bit of aggression. And we begin to see that these so called personality traits aren't intrinsic rather they can often be seen as adaptive coping strategies developed in response to challenges early in life when we didn't have the resources as kids to handle those challenges. And I'm talking about attachment here. If our care giving adults didn't provide unconditional love, care, attention, attunement and emotional support then we'll have experienced insecure attachment to them and developed coping strategies for that. For example, if it was hard for you to secure parental approval as a kid you might have become an overachiever, a straight A student to try to get more. Or if you were told you weren't doing well enough, maybe you weren't as smart as an older sibling and maybe you were criticised or ignored for that you might become a perfectionist to get more positive attention or to avoid judgement and rejection. So whatever you learned as a youngster, how you behaved then and still now might actually not be your personality at all. That entity you label as you probably isn't how you were born. And by the way while we're here you may not know that the term type A personality was coined by two cardiologists, Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman in the 1950s when they realised that their parents were wearing out only the front edge of their waiting room chairs. I think this is hilarious. So they conducted an eight and a half year study of thousands of men aged 35 to 59 and concluded that type A behaviour more than doubled the risk of coronary heart disease in otherwise healthy individuals. And that's my findings exactly on a sample size of one, me. I had a major heart attack out of nowhere aged 55 when I was otherwise pretty ostentatiously healthy. Hence the idiopathic quip from my cardiologists. They all wanted to know what I was doing there. But you know the heart attack nearly killed me just the same. But here's the thing. I believe I'll never return to burnout despite still having a pretty riotous experience of PTSD. And that's because I have awareness of the early warning signals of burnout and the skills and tools to work with them and a motivation towards self care and offering myself grace around my experience. And also and I think this bit is quite important, the awareness that burnout is not built on a reality of inadequacy on my part or in fact yours if that's your experience but perception of inadequacy which is false and which I can easily counter. So I consider myself to be perfectly able to deliver on all my roles now despite my inner critics still telling me I'm not doing enough or sometimes even I'm not being enough. And that's really shame not being enough. The message of shame is that we're fundamentally bad and that it's not fixable. You know which it's a load of rubbish happily we can we can counter that and learn to to reduce shame. But you might notice in this that I haven't transcended any of my mind chatter and it can still be pretty hairy at times. I just don't take it so strong so seriously anymore and I don't engage with it so directly. I kind of observe it a little bit and let it all come and go and I offer myself grace about it. I mean all of that's on a good day I can't always do that but I have a go. Because nobody no human can still the voice in their head for very long. Possible exception meditators that kind of black belt Dalai Lama level. But you know it doesn't matter because any thought you have is fine as long as you let it pass through unmolested if you like. As long as you don't fixate on it and lock it into your system where it kind of persists malevolently like a big lump blocking your good energy flow. And for me the kind of neurological and biological biochemical mechanics of PTSD mean that I'm prone to more negative thinking more mood disruptions and reactivity than perhaps would would normally be my portion because my fight or flight is chronically triggered. I'm in a chronic stress state really but even that I find it's workable because fundamentally this is who and how I'm supposed to be. If this is how I am this is how I'm supposed to be and luckily I have found a way to use how I am in service in a way that's really engaging and rewarding for me so I feel kind of very lucky in that to have found that and I think each of us does have our place and our role in the universe exactly as we are. And I'm putting it this way I am enough and that declaration is permanent it's a refutable and it prevails. And I probably didn't feel that when I was in burnout well I know I didn't I really had to find excuse me, my own okay ness after burnout and I thought that was going to be a really tough gig. I thought it was going to be hard to do but it turned out to be a lot easier than I expected, being in contact with the intrinsic okay ness that was already inside me. And today being enough explicitly includes manifestations and experiences of PTSD which extend to mental emotional physical and social implications. And if you're listening to this I mean hopefully not in morbid fascination but more with a bit of curiosity and wondering how that reflects on burnout recovery for you perhaps. What I'm doing today is I'm telling a bit of my story and I'm kind of linking it into burnout and some of the drivers of burnout. I'm just setting the scene today for future episodes on the podcast where we're going to examine those symptoms of burnout and their relationship to type A behaviors coping mechanisms and the drivers for those behaviors. And I'm gonna do this to draw the roadmap out of burnout by modifying those behaviors cultivating radical set self acceptance and there's a predictable path out of burnout that I teach my clients and that I can teach anyone and I've been using it to enormous success for many years. So if you're in or heading towards or feel susceptible to burnout I want you to have that method out of burnout that path out of burnout too. Suffice it to say for now that if type A behaviors are what generate the perfect storm of burnout conditions then two pertinent conclusions suggest themselves to me and the number one is people in burnout are not fundamentally broken nor is the condition permanent since behaviors are fluid they yield to coaching and neuroplasticity. And number two burnout says nothing about a person but much about the conditions of the person's life. The clients I coach are good hearted capable high achieving people who once restored to well being and energy bring their gifts to the world in full force again. And that my friends is a story of redemption and I really encourage you to participate for your own sake. It could be my redemption and it can be yours too if you choose it. So the book of who you are is still being written, your experience is in a state of constant flux so if it's going to flux you might as well be the one fluxing it right if you get my drift and that's the thing that I'm working with my clients on. Take control of your life who you are how you want to be and bringing it to a place that satisfies you. And I think all of that concludes my rather elliptical thinking for today and I hope you picked up something to ponder in there and listen to future episodes on the symptoms and the drivers for burnout that I'm gonna be bringing out shortly. Thank you for listening today as ever really appreciate you being here. If you like what you heard hey subscribe to the podcast and by all means leave me a rating or a review that would be very kind of you. And please do come back for those following episodes where I'm going to start piecing together undoing type A personality behaviors. It's all about how you get to work with the challenges of burnout and come out smiling. So listen on to the end of the link you must come and talk to me about how to recover quickly and sustainably if you are in burnout and go back to your best performance leadership and most of all enjoyment of life. If you're in burnout and ready to recover come and join my Burnout to leadership program. You can book in to talk with me at burnout.dexrandall.com just tell me what's bugging you and let's make a plan to fix it.