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Podcast: Emotional Health is a piece of the whole

cognitive health emotional healing podcast ptsd Jun 24, 2019

In this talk we take last week’s release a step further (review here: I pulled the content from this talk from some info I planned to teach to a live audience re: emotional wholeness…


Emotional Health = part of total health

We’re all multi-faceted people, having various parts to us.

  1. Physical
  2. Spiritual
  3. Intellectual
  4. Social / relational
  5. Emotional

We readily identify with the first four- but maybe not the fifth.

And, we generally OWN and notice the OBVIOUS issue in any area with the exception of emotional issues.

(I spoke more about this in this talk,, where I actually begin with the same point.)

Turns out, though, that you’re only as strong as the weakest link.

Look at it this way: a 20-link chain with 19 links can carry 1,500 pounds and one link that can hold only 15 pounds will never lift more than 15 pounds. Regardless of how powerful the other 19 are, they’re held back by the weak link. That’s easy to understand, right?

Well, in the same way a chain will never prove stronger than its weakest link, well…. neither will we. Think about it with me…

  • If you’re mentally strong and have great ideas that will change the world, you’ll never be able to do it unless you’re healthy. It’s hard to be a world--changer when you’re sick in the bed.
  • If you’re spiritually stout but can’t relate to others… you’ll have a difficult time conveying the deep truths the Lord delivers to you while you’re in your prayer closet.


That leads us to the next point…

Emotional health doesn’t avoid tough thoughts or feelings

The book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 reminds us, “Emotions always serve a purpose.” Even the “bad” ones.

Rather than running from tough feelings, true Emotional Wholeness involves recognizing your emotions, reading what they say before you react, and then responding to the world around you in a healthy + intentional way.

Recognizing them is vital to understanding their purpose. And recognizing requires that we spend some time learning what some of those emotions actually are, so that we can read them properly when we encounter them.

Second, realize what your emotions are telling you- without reacting to them.

Remember some of the analogies we’ve made in other places:

  • Emotions are to the soul what physical pain is to the body. In the same way physical sensations of pain and pleasure alert us to what’s happening in our body, emotional joy and pain- and everything else- tell us the climate of our soul.
  • Emotions are like thermometers. They don’t control us; they simply provide us with valuable information (thermostats set the temperature; thermometers simply read the temperature).

If you can learn to recognize the emotion and then read what it’s saying without first reacting, you’ll find you’re light years ahead of 99% of the people in the world around you.

Third, finally, respond in a healthy way. After taking in what you sense, and after getting clarity on how you should respond (with intentionality, whatever that response happens to be), then move forward with clarity and humility.

Here’s what our “checklist” looks like in the real world. 

Take a look at it and then we’ll discuss the graphic briefly, as it will help you in real life situations.

Here’s what occurs every single day…

First, something happens (far left of picture). It might be new information that we gather, a phone call or text that is received, or something someone else does. 

Second, experience is felt. The data then enters our brain (via the spinal cord) and the experience is first felt (via the limbic system).

Then, after we feel the experience (yes, this happens before we logically think about how to respond!), we have two choices… 

  • Option 1: Healthy = we can work through the Emotional Wholeness Checklist (recognize what you’re feeling, realize what it’s communicating, then respond in a health way).
  • Option 2: Unhealthy = react immediately from raw emotion.

Remember, our emotions are one of the “parts” of our whole being. And, like that chain, we’ll only be as strong as our weakest link. A more emotionally whole you is a far healthier you- in every area.

(Again, I discuss these steps in more detail in and in my book, Emotional Wholeness Checklist.)

This leads us to our third point. Since we we “read” all of the emotions, it makes sense that we can read the emotions related to Post Traumatic Stress…


We can read the signs of Post Traumatic Stress

Again, It makes sense that we can read the signs of Post Traumatic Stress because, in fact, we can read other emotions.

That said, experts generally agree there are four broad categories of symptoms that help them to recognize and diagnose PTSD properly. Note: you can experience multiple symptoms concurrently. 

  1. Hyper-vigilance— can’t relax and has difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Everyday sounds, such as a car backfire or fireworks may cause anxiousness or even elicit a trained response, such as duck and roll. They may tend to sit with their back to the wall in public places in order to be aware of the environment before them.
  2. Re-experiencing symptoms—  nightmares or flash backs where they feel like they are back in that traumatic situation. Certain sights or sounds may trigger these memories of that danger or stress. 
  3. Avoidance symptoms— does whatever they can to avoid anything that reminds them of that trauma. They may want to avoid riding in a car, watching certain movies, or being around certain people— and avoid talking and even thinking about the hurtful memories. 
  4. Negative feelings— may be extremely depressed, have angry outbursts, or just can’t control their emotions. They may be fearful of others or are not able to trust other people.

You might read those four points and think, “Those responses seem fairly common.”

Turns out, they are. Depending on this situation, you may have experienced each of these symptoms before. I have. 

This is one of the reasons I advocate walking in health far more than I encourage seeking a diagnosis. Besides, a diagnosis means nothing if you don’t follow through with the intention to live healthy and whole.

That said, the result of feeling these symptoms generally takes two opposite approaches, depending on the makeup of the person:

Some people fight. Some people choose to turn and face a direct threat. They may become aggressive and launch a retaliatory assault- even against perceived (yet unreal) threat. 

You may have done this or you have experienced this being done to you before when someone “pops off” verbally in a way that’s disproportional to the actual threat they’re experiencing. “The best defense is a great offense” is the mantra of survivors who choose to fight.

Others take flight. That is, the avoid the conflict altogether, protecting themselves by removing themselves from the situation.

Notably, some people might choose to fight in some situations while electing to take flight in others. Often, it depends on the type of perceived threat, as well as whether or not they feel responsible for others who are present (example: I might respond to a true threat of a car-jacker differently if I was alone as opposed to if I had my daughters in the car with me).


It’s actually quite common

A lot of people think PTSD is rare. That’s another misperception. Turns out, it’s actually quite common.

Now, what’s uncommon is the formal diagnosis. In order to be diagnosed, people must meet specific criteria. 

In the Warrior Hope book we included a self-evaluation / Post Traumatic Stress test. When I was writing the book Warrior Hope (for veterans), my coauthor and I located the test on a VA website. 

The version of the test in our book lists 8 criteria related to PTSD.  At the time I began researching it, veterans were required to meet all 8 in order to receive a formal diagnosis. In addition, three more factors came into play- 

  • The trauma had to be linked to a specific event which they could recall to a licensed professional, and
  • At least one of two additional “specifications” had to be met. That is, the person had to either de-personalize the issue (i.e., “this didn’t happen to me,” as if they’re living in a dream world) or they had to de-realize it (i.e.,, “none of this is real”).  And,
  • At least six months had to pass between the onset of the issue and the date of the diagnosis. Even if symptoms occurred immediately, time needed to lapse to prove that the issue was now an ongoing soul wound.

In my mind, there are a couple of red flags with all of this. 

First, many times it’s difficult to hitch soul wounds to a specific event. That is, traumatic feelings are often the result of a series of events. For instance, 

  • If a soldier survives multiple deployments and takes gunfire numerous times… then only feels the emotional pain after she slows down enough to catch her breath and assess what happened, how can she necessarily pinpoint which precise moment birthed the trauma? 
  • If a spouse is verbally berated by his wife… such that gaslighting and name calling and psychotic control occur on a monthly (if not weekly) basis for decades, is it any “less real” because he can’t determine the exact moment it began to feel less like a regular marital spat and more like one-sided, heavy-handed abuse? 

Because of the nature of life and the changing dynamics of human relationships, in most situations it’s hard- if not impossible- to determine which precise instance of trauma is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Second, humans have an uncanny way of white-washing the past, of looking through the rear-view mirror with rose-colored classes. We tend to minimize the emotional hurts we feel, because of two facts: 1) time does heal a lot of wounds (or, at least, it heals them to some degree), as well as 2) someone always has it “worse” than us (we’ll circle back to this notion in a future chapter). As a result, depersonalization and de-realization are real issues that occur even when people are healthy. 

Third, finally, waiting 6 months from the onset of traumatic injury until a diagnosis is received is, on one hand, a positive step, but it’s short-sighted. It’s rarely a good idea for someone to receive a diagnosis after just a few days. The wounds are too raw to completely assess. 

At the same time, we clearly  don’t wait for 6 months to label physical wounds. When something is amiss, we address it. In large part this is because, particularly when it comes to physical hurts, the gaol is often to “get well” rather than living in the diagnosis. 

That said, those are lofty criteria to meet in order to receive the formal label of Post Traumatic Stress. Since there are only 8 criteria, you must score "perfect” on the test in order to receive the diagnosis. 

And maybe they should be case. After all, we’re looking at a label someone will carry with them for quite some time- a moniker that often lands on job applications, school forms, and every health questionnaire you’ll ever complete in the future.

Let’s say you don't score perfect, though. And, for the sake of argument, let’s say you don’t want the diagnosis. You don’t want the label. That’s probably most of us…

But let’s say you emphatically do want to walk in health + wholeness. That's probably most of us, too…

Are you less affected because you score a 7? Does that mean you shouldn’t address the emotional hurts that caused you that much (but just short of diagnosable) internal pain?

I’ve read and re-read that test dozens of times. I’ve looked at it as I've listed to veterans and business partners and friends share their stories. I believe that most of the people who read this book probably score 5-6 on the test. They’re not diagnosable for PTSD any more than the average person on the street is diagnosable with cancer. 

But not having cancer doesn’t mean we don’t walk in perfect physical health any more than not receiving a PTSD diagnosis assures we’re emotionally whole. There’s always room for greater levels of health- especially when we’re not afraid of labels and we’ve embraced the notion of total wholeness as the goal.

Again, the goal isn’t to receive a diagnosis (nor is it to necessarily avoid one). The goal is complete wholeness. And the reality is that, in some sense, precisely because life is both good and simultaneously hard, most of us have soul wounds.


By the way, we can grow in this area

I was reading Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and came across some interesting stats…

  • People with the highest IQs outperform people with lower IQs only 20% of the time- yet people with higher EQs (emotional quotients) out-perform higher IQs over 70% of the time.
  • EQ accounts for a pay increase of $28K per year- across all fields.
  • EQ can be learned. You can GROW in your emotional quotient.

How? By learning to recognize your emotions when they happen… then STOPPING to read what they’re saying before you respond.

Not only does this help us succeed in business, this empowers us to walk “more well” in all of life.

Links for this talk- 

Warrior Hope- purchase on Amazon- 

Emotional Wholeness Checklist book- 

Invisible Scars- stream the film free at 

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