Trillion Small is the founder of Navigate You Counseling & Consulting in Nashville, TN. In her private practice she specializes in interpersonal trauma. Trillion is a Doctoral Candidate (PhD) in Clinical Counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University. She is a professional speaker, counselor, and author of Internal Navigator: Basic Steps to Get You from Point A to Point B in Your Life (2013) . In her new book, The Caged In Heart, available everywhere on November 10, 2015 from Clovercroft Publishing, author Trillion Small helps us discover what it takes to break the cycle of childhood abuse and be the change that the generations to follow we are in desperate need of.
Hallels: Congratulations on the release of your new book "The Caged in Heart." Let's start with yourself, tell us a little about yourself and your work in counseling.
Thank you so much! Well, I am currently finishing up my Ph.D. in Clinical Counseling at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, TN. I have actually completed all course work and I am now just working on my dissertation so that is keeping me really busy. I am also a mental health counselor in Brentwood, TN. I specialize in interpersonal trauma so essentially I work with those who have experienced some sort of abuse from another person and are experiencing depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The abuse can range from sexual or physical abuse to emotional, verbal, or mental abuse (i.e. being controlled, manipulated, ignored, bullied, and criticized). I truly do enjoy working one on one with my clients because it gives me an up close and personal opportunity to see their progress on their journey.
Hallels: For our readers who may not have read it, what's the book about?
The Caged in Heart is all about how your childhood wounds are affecting your adult life; as the subtitle alludes to. The main goal for this book is to help individuals become self-aware of how his or her past is still present. I provide specific ways to heal from the past and ways to move forward so that the past stops negatively affecting our relationships with self, others, and God. I state in the book that our past doesn't dictate our future but it does influence it significantly.
I anticipate the day when our communities and society are healthy relationally. I believe it starts with each individual person first becoming the best "them" that they can be. My philosophy is, "if you want to change the world around you change the world within you" and that was the purpose of writing this book.
Hallels: When you talk about abuse in our past, what sort of abuses are you addressing in this book? Sexual? Psychological? Spiritual? Physical?
I briefly talk about sexual and physical abuse but I am specifically talking about psychological abuse, which can be emotional or mental. I like to call these forms of abuse heart or internal wounds because they do not leave any physical evidence that you have been abused but there is no doubt that what happened to you left a lasting impression on your heart. Often times those who have experienced sexual, physical, and/or spiritual abuse also experienced emotional abuse directly or indirectly so this book covers it all. Heart wounds can come from various experiences such as never feeling loved by a parent, being verbally criticized, being controlled and/or manipulated through power or money, being yelled at or called negative names, or being threatened (to leave, to hurt you, to hurt themselves, or to hurt someone/something else you love such as a pet). This is by no means an exhaustive list but I hope it gives you a good idea of the things that I address in the book.
Hallels: Can you give us a practical example of how a person's behavior or relationship has been (mis) shaped by a cycle of past abuses?
Of course. I will use myself as an example. My first encounter with a man was with one who was an angry, abusive, alcoholic. This man was my biological father. The physical abuse was directed towards my mother and I received the emotional pains of being in that type of atmosphere. As I continued to grow older I felt that I always had to be perfect and please people. If I wasn't perfect then I immediately feared being rejected. This carried over into my professional life and even into my relationships. If I didn't do what I thought the guy expected from me I would think that he would get really upset with me and possibly leave or cheat (which rarely happened; they were just fears). It was similar with employers; if I felt I didn't meet their expectations (that I imagined in my own head) then I assumed they thought negatively of me as a person. For some reason I never felt good enough either so I often had the urge to "perform" to get or keep a man's attention. Now, if we were to look at my story from the eyes of my younger self then it all makes sense. I was simply reliving what I saw and experienced as a child. I felt that I had to be perfect and good for the man that I was with but unconsciously I was feeling that I had to be good and perfect for my dad so that then maybe he'd want me.
Another example is a man who finds love and comfort in sex and relationships with many women. When we assess his childhood experiences we learn that his mom or dad never said "I love you", they rarely gave him hugs, and they rarely expressed emotions. So now as an adult he is deprived of love so he searches for some sort of connection and intimacy from women. If one woman doesn't give him exactly what his wounded heart needs then he will find another to make up for the void.
In both of these examples the views of self, love, and relationships were misshaped by the past. The great news is that they weren't shaped in stone. With great intentionality and willingness to heal and change these old ways of thinking, feeling, and acting can be reshaped to a healthier and more adaptive form.
Hallels: How can we tell if we ourselves have been affected by past abuses?
I believe that we all have experienced something in our past that wounded our hearts. Some of us have dealt with and healed from our past abuses while others may still have the residue of our past active in our lives today. I go in depth with several carry over effects of childhood abuse in the book but one of the biggest indicators is by looking at the way you view yourself and the way you view others. We are not born (self) critical so just begin noticing the way you think and feel about yourself. If it is negative then you may have some heart wounds that have gone unaddressed. You will know if you are self-critical or not by the way you talk to yourself (i.e. I can't do that, I will fail, I'm not good enough, I'll be rejected, etc...). The messages that we tell ourselves are often times similar messages that others once overtly or covertly told us in our past.
Also, if you view others negatively then take some time to see if it is possibly rooted in your past. For example, feeling like no one cares for you or like nobody has your best interest in mind (suspicious of all people) is not normal nor is it healthy for you or your relationships. Trust issues are a great indicator that your past may still be present in your life.
You can also pay attention to your ability to give and receive love. If it is difficult to show yourself self-compassion (kindness) or even receive love and compassion from others then your past may still be affecting you. Essentially, if it is difficult to let love flow out or love flow in, your heart may still be "caged in".
Hallels: How will this book help people who have had been abused before?
This book will be a mirror for the reader. It will provide the opportunity to truly self-reflect on his or her own thoughts, emotions, and experiences. I have noticed that self-reflection tends to soften and open our hearts. Once that window to our heart is open that is when the healing can begin. It may seem easier said than done but we can't become aware of and heal from what we refuse to look at. I understand that looking at our own wounds can be quite painful but it does us more harm to just sweep it under the rug. Would you rather be uncomfortable for a short period of time or live a lifetime of misery? Ignoring what once hurt us but is still lingering in our hearts is just like choosing the second option.
When I began my own heart-healing journey I was totally unaware that I was even "caged in" so this book will help you to determine if you too have been caged in and if so then it'll help you to see that there is life out side of the cage. It is possible to heal from the past and begin living a life full of peace, joy, love, and happiness. My hope is that this book will ultimately give those who have been abused affirmation in knowing that what they experienced was a big deal and that their story does in fact deserve to be given a voice and shared. There is no such thing as "a small abuse" so I hope this book will help us all to realize that we do not have to minimize our own experiences just because what happened to us wasn't "as big" as what happened to someone else. The way I view abuse is anything that we have experienced that has caused us to view others or ourselves in a negative way.
Hallels: You also speak at conferences and churches. Where can our readers go to find out more about where you will be speaking?
Yes, I actually think traveling to speak is one of my favorite ministries! You can visit my website at http://www.trillionsmall.com/speakingtopics to stay up to date with where I will be speaking next. If your city is not on my list then I'd love to be invited to speak. You can do that by simply going to the same link above and click "start the conversation".