Today, I feel so deeply blessed and grateful to have Dr. Bridget Cooper with us.
I was powerfully moved and inspired by her TEDx talk to start my own healing journey before I even met her, and as you will hear, I have been even more powerfully moved by her work in this episode! And I know you will find it beneficial too!
In this episode, Dr. B shares her secret on how to overcome shame and fear of judgment when you open up to the world. We also talk about infertility issues after sexual abuse, what are some of the benefits of trauma, and why it’s so important to heal.
Dr. Bridget Cooper is a cage rattler. Change strategist. Thought shifter. Best-selling author of six books on communication, conflict, change, and empowerment. Her latest, “Pain Rebel” offers us a roadmap out of pain with no purpose and into empowerment and abundance.
Dr. B is a lover of higher consciousness and even higher heels!
Her ambitious mission is to change the world, one hopeful life at a time. Born onto the welfare system and raised by wolves, she’s made her own success, one broken fingernail at a time.
She knows heartache and hopelessness and she also knows the power of the mind and spirit to carry you upward.
“Dr. B” sculpts the leader in all of us by making us better people first.
You can find more information about Dr. B here:
YouTube: Dr. Bridget Cooper (TEDx talk: https://youtu.be/XtsAuqu-TxI)
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I know you, you’re afraid to speak up. You’re scared of what other people think of you. And you blame yourself for what happened to you. I know how it feels. Because I’ve been there. If you found me, I’m so grateful you’re here. This podcast will give you hope. And I’m your host in America Nova. And I’m going to hold your hand and provide the guidance. It’s time for you to find your why. And turn your experience into your biggest power. This is your time now. So lock your door, put your headphones in, and enjoy.Anna Maydonova:
Dr. Bridget Cooper, welcome to world’s best Trauma Recovery Podcast, the podcast about healing hope and happiness.Dr. Bridget Cooper:
I am so excited to be here. Thanks for having me, Anna.Anna Maydonova:
And you are very special guests for me. Because two years ago, I found your video on YouTube, your TED Talks video. At the very beginning of my healing journey, I remember watching you and thinking, oh my god, I wonder whether one day I will be like, Doctor be confident and powerful. And you give me so much courage to share my story. And so much empowerment, to start my healing process. And I’m forever grateful for this.Dr. Bridget Cooper:
So I’m so grateful that you found that in that talk. I think that was the that was the impetus behind it was to say you know that so many of us are struggling with our own healing journeys in the quiet darkness, you know of our own path. And when we stand in the light, and we share that journey, and we share the lessons that we learned from that journey, we’re like handing the torch to the next person to be able to do it for the people who are listening and following them. So thank you for that, that that acknowledgement means a great deal to me.Anna Maydonova:
What does trauma means to you? What is your definition of the trauma?Dr. Bridget Cooper:
You know, I look at you know, they there’s been so much talk now about trauma and trauma recovery and what it means to be traumatized. And I think that we have a an innate kind of tendency to deny our own trauma to say, Oh, that wasn’t as bad as and we compare it to some awful atrocity that we heard about or read about. But trauma is really just anything that is often sudden, or in some way, it can be repetitive, that takes us off the natural trajectory of our growth, development and happiness. So trauma can look like an attack, trauma can look like a bad relationship that continues to, you know, take us off our journey of being able to put our best selves forward. It’s really just this interruption of our path. And I think it can be again, large, and it can also be a lot of small droplets, like a huge fire hose or kind of, you know, a sprinkler of trauma. And you know, I have a few friends who work in the trauma space. And one of the things that they talk about in trauma is that we will all face trauma have faced trauma, life is traumatic, right? There are traumatic things that occur in our lives. ongoingly. And the trick about it is that we have to acknowledge that it’s happened and be able to find safety after the trauma so that every time you hit trauma doesn’t mean that you are forever traumatized by that trauma. What what the research indicates is that if we can find safety following a traumatic event, the recovery from that trauma is is expedited and often guaranteed. The issue is that oftentimes when we are suffering trauma, the very thing that we lack is the ability to find safety. So that compounds the original trauma by not only having the trauma, but of living and continuing to live in an unsafe setting, because then our bodies are in constant kind of trauma, alertness, and an in in a traumatic space.Anna Maydonova:
Thank you. You also mentioned that There are some benefits from trauma can be. So could you share with us some of your benefits that you gain from the trauma.Dr. Bridget Cooper:
So I take you back to a therapist office in Amherst, Massachusetts, back somewhere in the late 80s, when I went into my own trauma recovery, and this, I mean, pour Dr. Oz, probably, I mean, probably in her first 30 clients or something I know, she seemed young at the time. And old me Of course, because I was 18 years old, but you know, when I look back, she was probably in her early 30s. And she, I sat in her office, and I started telling her some of the most, you know, horrific stories, and You Your, your story is full of them. And mine is as well. And I start talking about all these abuses from you know, birth on. And I said to her, you know, I’m really grateful for these experiences. And I remember her being like, hell no, like, What the What, no, like, you don’t get to be thankful you don’t get to be great. Like she was so she was so angry at me and not angry, like, cuz I’m a bad was a bad person, but angry at the part of me that was trying to make light or nice out of some just awful things. Because she, I think her frame was, if you deny the horror of it, you somehow are discounting your own, you know, value or, you know, worth in that process. And for me, I was like, No, I’m like, I’m so grateful, because I am going to have known true suffering. And in that I am going to have such a capacity for compassion, and love and gratitude for when things are going even slightly on track, right? Because I have known so much going off track that with like, some, there’s this little glimmer of hope or light, I’m like, Oh, yay, you know. And so I’m going to be able to share that with other people, I’m going to be able to reach back through the door, I’ve walked through and say, Hey, here’s what I learned from the stuff that I went through, maybe something I am saying can be a value to you and your own healing. So I started off the process. Grateful, not saying that I did not have resentment or anger or sadness, or you know, hopelessness. But there was this inner spirit of know, there is something good here, there’s something of value here to be able to see what, what goodness can come from having been hurt. And also recognize and this is what I wrote about in my last book, was looking at how can we help to heal the pain that people are carrying around with them, that is have inviting them to heap that pain onto other people, because had my parents not been walking around in a pain journey? I never would have had the pain I had. So it was also this like rare insight into how can I help to heal people who are in pain and likely to hurt other people, in addition to trying to heal the people they hurt, because hurt people hurt people. And so the process continues.Anna Maydonova:
I 100% agree with you. I went through some physical and emotional and sexual abuse. And when I was 21, I left my house. And they honestly thought finally, I can discharge myself from it. But what I haven’t realized is that I brought this anger. I brought this abusive behavior in me. Yeah. And with my partner with my with my fiancee, Laban. Yeah, I found myself getting so angry at him for small things. Exactly the same. Like my stepfather was getting angry at me. And I was punishing him and, and he said, Anna, what is this anger is coming from, it’s just a water spilled on the floor. And I would go crazy, and I would just punish him and punish him. And and once I started my healing journey, I was able to identify this pain in myself. So that’s why it’s so important thingDr. Bridget Cooper:
is, oh, it is so important. And I think we we get we’re unconscious to ourselves, right? I mean, for those of us who have been through significant trauma and I don’t mean to, you know, mine significant in somebody else’s isn’t significant. But when it’s been enough to take us completely We kind of upside down and take us off our developmental track, we end up taking that pain and we are unconscious. We don’t know what to do with it, we know that we have pain, but we can’t see how carrying it is hurting us. And I was actually having this thought this morning about anger, and about how we hold anger. And that’s if you recall, that’s kind of one of the lessons of my TEDx talk is that when you are holding anger, you’re holding it as a beautiful recognition of your own value. Why? Dr. B? Why would you say that, because when you are angry about having been violated, having been abused, having been, you know, discarded, you’re saying from a soul level, I have value that was not recognized, or you know, validated, I deserved better. So that anger, that rage that often comes from within us, is a beautiful testimony to the human spirit, I often say rage is the most beautiful emotion, because rage demands love, right? The Rage demands the beauty of that connection, of healing of safety of calm. And so we feel that rage in us, which is again, a beautiful thing. But we haven’t figured out how to release it, how to acknowledge it and let it go. And instead, what we do is we hold it as a barrier against people possibly hurting us because when people are angry at someone, they can’t get too close, right? We’re this you know, huge ball of fire in and of ourselves. And so no one can get close to us. So in that we feel safe. So in that regard, anger is beautiful. Unfortunately, it actually has the reverse effect of finding our our healing in our in our that love that we seek in the anger because it keeps people away. So really, the healing journey is all about trying to put that rage and that anger down acknowledging its purpose, acknowledging its message, but then returning to its core purpose, which is to help us to return to love.Anna Maydonova:
That’s spot on coverage. And it’s the anger itself is a good thing. It shows us that something is wrong happening to us. So we we need to do something with that. But the problem starts when people hold on to this. And that’s where when your work is very valuable. Your work is coming. And I hope this podcast will also sell something to people. Yeah. And for delights on their healing journey. Thank you so much for that. Oh,Dr. Bridget Cooper:
absolutely. It well, you’re you’re doing great things and being able to stand in the power of your own story and being able to let other people know that the walk that you’ve walked, if it looks anything like the walk that they’ve walked, it gives them hope that they can you know, step into light too because it can get real dark inAnna Maydonova:
there. You know? Dr. B? Yeah, in a share something personal with you, please. When I was 15 I was forced into the abortion, the first abortion and then the second when I was 16 years old, which resulted in 15 miscarriages, including to ectopic pregnancies. My question is what advice would you give me and my fiance Laban to help the bring this baby in this world?Dr. Bridget Cooper:
You know, I There’s this quote that I’ve often clung to which is the body remembers what the mind seeks to forget. Right? So we are at our core cellular human beings, right we are we are made of cells and tissue and matter and energy. And when you’ve had your body violated in the way that you have, right, in that same rage kind of self protection mode, I believe that the body does what it can to protect us from further harm. It’s like a It’s like our caregiver. The problem is that it often doesn’t know when to shut off. It doesn’t have you know judgment about this as a safe thing. This is a not safe thing because it has felt so unsafe, that everything coming at it is unsafe. Everything coming at it seeks to do at harm. So you know when I think about your healing journey, and this is not and I hope to part ways with this idea that we create our own pain or that we’re in charge of all The things that happen in our bodies, I don’t believe that either I think there’s this very fine line between trying to remove the barriers in our own bodies that might be standing in the way of the result that we’re looking for, and not blaming ourselves for, oh, I didn’t do the healing, right, therefore, I have cancer, or I didn’t do the healing, right, therefore, I can’t carry children. There’s, I think we have to be very gentle in that in that landscape. But I think it is incumbent upon us to find the barriers in us that are holding us back from being able to be as healthy as possible. The there’s a, an old quote, and I’m forgetting the the author, but it’s basically that the the job is not to find love, it’s to remove the barriers within us that hold it away from us, right. So in your healing journey, finding that sense of compassion for your body that had that sought to protect you from further harm. Because why wouldn’t it? Why wouldn’t it want to stop you from ever being pregnant again, so you didn’t have to go through the trauma of having to remove that pregnancy from your body, right to be forced into that circumstance to begin with. So your body not allowing life to be created in it and held in it is, is is a beautiful self protection device, it just doesn’t belong anymore. So I think there’s a lot of compassion that I hope you’ll share with your body, to thank it for being such a defender of you. And to let it know that it’s okay now that you have, you have the capacity to make different choices, you have the capacity to withstand, you know, that, that that change in your in your in your body, and starting to build trust again, with your body, right, and trying to build that trust and that healing in your spirit in your body. And then I guess, let that go, right, because who knows what your body will actually do. Because we are also cellular human beings. And we can do this, this journey as best we can. But once you’ve done your part, then the rest kind of gets handed over. I think.Anna Maydonova:
That’s that’s such a great advice. Thank you so much. Best of luck with that. And what I’ve noticed I with myself, yeah, once I started my healing journey, I actually went back when I was three years old. And when I was four years old, when I was hurting the most when my biological father left, and I remembered, I made a promise to myself that I don’t want to kids. So I’m not struggling with that. Right? I couldn’t even remember this promise. Right? And I feel like this young this, this little euro was protecting me from happening this to myself,Dr. Bridget Cooper:
right? You made it. So you know, I often tell my clients, we would rather be right than happy. Right? That Are we set ourselves up to follow and I talked about this in the latest book on pain rebel is we set up these contracts with the world with ourselves when we are very young. Often before we even can recognize that we’re saying or doing anything, we just we decide we’re going to believe something we’re going to adhere to something. And what happens with these contracts are kind of running and the operating system of our lives is that they are removing all other options for how we see something, how we pursue something, how we make something, you know, come to life literally, by being true to that, like, I’m going to do that because that’s the right thing to do. Because I started believing that I agree to that contract when I was four when I was six, eight. And then we don’t question it because we don’t even know that it’s there. And then we’re operating our lives around it. And our body’s like, Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to be right I’m going to be I’m going to follow that contract. But it doesn’t work for us anymore. So I love that you met four year old you and I think the same thing you’re gonna find that same journey of building trust with four year old you that four year old you couldn’t have possibly known that you would be able to heal in such a way that you would make a beautiful mother that all children don’t need to be you know, kept away from life because the world is unfair and ugly and and mean and scary, but that we can find places where children can be safe and loved and you know developed into beautiful humans.Anna Maydonova:
So for Bridget you know what, it was the greatest blessing Actually, for me to opening up and telling my story, especially to my friends, because one of my friend when she heard my story, she actually recommended me to your gynecologist. Yeah, who also found out this reason why I’m losing my pregnancies. Then, when I was leaving in Australia, 10 different doctors just couldn’t find it. And I think it’s the way that I finally told my four years old, and now that everything is fine, and then she was able to help me to find the reason.Dr. Bridget Cooper:
Right. So absolutely, because you will allow in this change to the story, Lena, we’re all telling ourselves stories about how life is how life could be how life is going to be. And we don’t even notice that we’re telling the story. But if someone else popped into our life, we might, they might tell a very different story than the story we’re telling. You know, so your four year old was telling the story. And then all of a sudden, you’re like, you don’t need to tell that story anymore. And then the world opens up and it’s like, oh, look, here’s another version of this story. It wouldn’t have been possible had you not challenged that narrative? 100% and beautiful.Anna Maydonova:
Dr. B. Yeah. When I went to my hometown, this year, to testify against my stepfather, I had an opportunity to share my story with one of the major magazines. And the story went viral, I received an overwhelming amount of positive messages, saying thank you so much for bringing up bringing it up. Because we don’t have any facilities to support a childhood sexual abuse victims. But I also received a small amount of very negative messages. And I’m just wondering, what is the best way to overcome this judgment and shame?Dr. Bridget Cooper:
So first of all, I think that people are going to do what they’re going to do, right? So if we allow the the conversations we’re trying to have and the the healing we’re trying to bring to be thwarted by people who disagree or don’t understand or stuck in their own, you know, mess or have, you know, outdated ideas about things or just unenlightened or just in pain or mean, who knows, right? If we allow them to thwart us, then we are handing our power back over to darkness, right, and we have to stay in light. So I think that we will, if we know that there is no story we can have published, there’s no video we can produce, there’s no podcast we can release that isn’t going to be vulnerable to someone’s negative attack or criticism, then it almost releases us. It’s almost like, I wonder what fresh nonsense is going to be waiting for me on the other side of this, and what someone will say, and we’ll start to be able to actually predict what people will say. And I’m friends with a lot of, you know, authors and speakers. And they get some nasty comments written on, you know, book reviews. I have one I have a horrible book review, somebody wrote, I’m like, Did you even read the book, like, I don’t even understand what this person says, but that’s fine. If that’s the way you want to spend your energy, that’s fine. But we look at that. And it’s somehow we’re thinking that if everyone agrees, then it’s somehow okay. But you you brought up the word shame. And I think that that’s where we need to kind of like, flip the narrative and you and I had a conversation off camera a little while ago. As survivors of abuse, whether it’s, you know, physical, sexual, emotional abuse.Dr. Bridget Cooper:
We when we come out, especially sexual abuse, I find that seems to still be the taboo one. When we come forward, and we talk about our story whether we then a rape victim, an incest survivor, a molestation victim, we come forward, people talk about our courage. Now, I get such a reaction, like in me, like my body gets like fighter in me, when I hear people talk about the courage that it takes. Because I recognize what they’re saying to me is that wow, you told this story, how courageous of you. But I think to myself, why is it courageous of me, like what about the way that we’re looking at these experiences? makes it so that would be courageous. For me to express this, and I like in the story too, if someone came and broke into my car, and then I got on social media, and I talked about the person who broke into my car and what happened and my radio was stolen, blah, blah, blah, no one, no one would call me courageous. No one will courageous for what because I told them what happened, right? But somehow talking about someone molesting me when I was six, or raping me when I was, you know, 15 is somehow correct, courageous. And I want us to think about how we flip the script on that. Because if my molesters, if the people who hurt me came forward and told their story of what they did to me and others, that would be courageous, because that would be facing their shame. And for the wrong that they did. The problem is, is that we take on their shame, because that’s part of the abuse cycle, right, is we take on the shame for the thing that happened, and somehow in our, in our young minds, and our innocent minds and our gendered minds, we believe that we did something to engage that behavior, because that’s what they want us to believe. Because it makes it easier, right? It hands the load over to us. So we take on their shame. And then we feel like we have to expel the shame in order to share the story. And that’s where the courage is. So I recognize that there is courage in putting the shame down, right? There’s clarity in putting the shame down. But I want us to step away from this model to begin with, that we even take the shame that we hold it for one minute, because it isn’t ours to hold, it’s theirs. They’re the shame based people that need to shed their shame and be courageous and tell their stories, so that they stop doing what it is that they’re doing. And we get to stand in the power of our own light to be able to share the story to help other people heal. Yeah, that’s my sorry, my little I gotta get off my soapbox. Now.Anna Maydonova:
It this is so powerful. And it’s so powerful. Because once we change our thinking, once we change our perspective of the trauma and what’s happened to us, it’s gonna be so much easier to understand to forgive yourself for what’s happened, because I was carrying this shame for a long, long time. And I honestly I thought, probably I did something wrong. Yeah, that this happened to me. But now, now, I know. Yeah, it wasn’t my fault. It’s not always, always a fault of the perpetrator. Because you were just, to your sakes, or and 15 years, you didn’t know what’s gonna what’s happening, but your perpetrator did.Dr. Bridget Cooper:
Yeah. And it’s funny, because I think, um, I just like I think rage is beautiful. I think that the way that we take responsibility for things that aren’t ours is also beautiful, beautiful in a dark, twisty sort of way, but I love dark and twisty things, but it’s beautiful in the way that it wants to take responsibility. And it wants to assume and absorb more power than we’ve ever had in that situation. So if I could be in a situation where I’m responsible for my own rate for I’m responsible for my own, you know, abuse, then I am saying to the universe, I’m more powerful. I’m more powerful than both humans here in this room, look at me go. The problem is, is that it gets held not in that place of I’m powerful, I can change things, but in taking on the responsibility and do your you don’t have the power, right. So I talk all so much about power, and figuring out where your power begins and ends and where other people’s power begins. And so that we don’t get kind of mixed up in that in that mass of trying to assign ourselves more power than we actually have in ways that we don’t have it and therefore missing the ways in which we do have it and can exercise and wield it.Anna Maydonova:
Yeah. Both will be if you would have an opportunity to meet a 15 years old Bridget, what would you tell her?Dr. Bridget Cooper:
Ah, first of all, lighten up on the eyeliner. Honestly, I don’t know what I was going for there. Like raccoon eyes and like lower the hair, I was in the 80s. And we had hair that was like, I mean, I wasn’t as bad. But you know, I had friends who, you know, I think kept the hairspray industry in business. But I would tell myself that I am worthy of love and respect, and that I can put the anger down and still be safe. I spent so many, many years with anger that was directed inward and outward as a way to protect myself and I had such disbelief that I was worthy of something more than the scraps of love that I accepted that it led me down some really dark, dangerous, sad, unfulfilling places that squandered so much of my life. So I wouldn’t I you know, and people that Bob Seger song I want to go, I think it’s no any money, I want to go back and do it all over. I would, I would go back to high school in a heartbeat and restart that clock people like I wouldn’t, I’m like I would, I got a game. Now I know exactly what’s going on. Now, I could totally head into that and manage it. And again, it’s with the wisdom of experience and you know, additional suffering that you figure out what’s important, you figure out what your values are the couldn’t possibly have had at 15, right? You just couldn’t, you know, couldn’t know no matter what Taylor Swift tries to tell you, you couldn’t possibly know all the things that you know, now. When you when you needAnna Maydonova:
them. That’s great. Thanks. That’s a B. And by the way, for our listeners, Dr. B looks amazing. Hey, style. Just,Dr. Bridget Cooper:
uh, yeah, I don’t have the I don’t have the giant bangs. Like 15 inches off my head. Like, you know, we all did, maybes. But yeah,Anna Maydonova:
it doesn’t really matter right now, when you have a beauty coming from inside, isn’t it?Dr. Bridget Cooper:
That’s very true. And you do as well.Anna Maydonova:
Thank you. You’re welcome. Dr. B. What is about you, that people would benefit from knowingDr. Bridget Cooper:
that they don’t already know. I might as as the open book that I am. Um, I think that um, I think that a lot of times, we judge our insides to other people’s outsides. And we look at people and we see that they look all put together or they you know, they snap I call it Facebook pretty, right? They post a picture on Facebook, whether it’s airbrushed or not. And they look like this happy, successful, well traveled, abundant and financial resources person. And they don’t see like what’s going on behind the scenes, right? They don’t see the struggle. They don’t see the challenges. They don’t see the dark, hopeless knights, they don’t see the fights with their spouses, right, they don’t see all these things. So I guess I would say that, for a lot of people who are going through their journeys, I remember I was one of them. When I was really heavy in the dark places. I looked around and all I saw were people’s Facebook, pretty outsides, even though Facebook wasn’t a thing back then I only saw the good stuff that people were showing me and therefore I continue to have, you know, embarrassment and shame and sadness over my own struggle, recognizing and I can tell you this from being on the inside of people’s psyches for the last, you know, 20 some odd years of the people that I coach, I see their outsides, and I also know lots of their insides. And I can tell you that we are all in our own struggles. Some of them are lighter, some of them are heavier, some of them are sprinkled with more pixie dust than others, but we are all going through struggles. And it’s not necessarily you know, a perceivable to the naked eye, right? We might not notice it. So I think just feeling connected in our own likeness helps us feel like we can approach people so I’ve had people say to me, like, I don’t know if I’m ready to coach with you or not because they basically they’re waiting for themselves to get better before they come to me. Right. And I’m like, What’s the point of that? Like, what do you think we’re, you know, so I think there’s just this acknowledgement that we are all human and we all have our own struggles and that, you know, most times people are a heck of a lot more compassionate than we give them credit to, you know, credit for when we’re more in our struggle.Anna Maydonova:
When people can find you knowDr. Bridget Cooper:
what I’m in my kitchen right now I’m just getting. So where can they find me so they can always visit me at Dr. Bridget cooper.com. I’m on Facebook as Bridget Cooper and Dr. Bridget Cooper and on LinkedIn as well, they can check out my YouTube channel, they can find me on Amazon under Dr. Bridget Cooper, I’ve got a half a dozen books and one of them has to fit somebody. So if there’s anything that I can do to support you reach out anytime and and I’ll get right back to him or we’ll set up a free 15 minute call.Anna Maydonova:
Awesome. Do you have any concluding thoughts before we go? SoDr. Bridget Cooper:
um, I, I’m not sure exactly when this is going to be produced. But I guess this is relevant any time of year. But right now we’re heading into the holidays. And maybe it’ll be when we’re heading into the new year that people are listening to this. I hope that people are gentle with themselves. I hope that each day, if you can do anything to shift your energy, it’s to acknowledge how it is that you feel how it is that you are kind of traveling down this road of recovery of healing, acknowledge that and seek to find gratitude not to eliminate the struggle not to say that the struggle isn’t as big as the struggle is. But to use that gratitude as a life raft to be able to keep you above the water and the raging, you know tide waves that sometimes can suck us under. And to know that today is not forever.Anna Maydonova:
That’s so true. Thank you, Dr. Bridget Cooper.