Something Scary Happened the Other Day, and I Wanted to Talk About It With You (and a PhD Trauma Researcher)
The Mel Robbins Podcast
Mon, August 14, 2023
Podchat Summary

Processing Trauma: Understanding and Integrating a Traumatic Experience

In this episode, host Mel Robbins opens up about a personal experience she had witnessing a traumatic event and shares how it profoundly affected her. She emphasizes the importance of self-support and the need to process the intense emotions that often accompany such experiences.

Joining the conversation is Dr. Mary Catherine McDonald, a trauma specialist, who sheds light on what happens in the brain when witnessing a traumatic event. Dr. McDonald explains how the brain processes and files the memory, highlighting the significance of integration in properly making sense of the traumatic experience.

The discussion delves into the common emotions of shame and guilt that can arise during the processing of trauma. Dr. McDonald provides valuable insights and practical steps for integrating a traumatic experience, including the importance of setting shame aside, narrating the event, connecting emotions to the narrative, and assigning meaning to the experience.

Throughout the episode, the significance of feeling and processing the emotions associated with the traumatic event is emphasized. Listeners are reminded that the trauma response is not a sign of brokenness but rather a testament to survival. Healing is possible, and this episode serves as a guide to understanding and integrating a traumatic experience.

Original Show Notes

A few days ago, I was the witness to a very tragic accident, and the experience affected me very deeply.


I reached out to a renowned trauma specialist, and the advice she gave me changed my life.


In this episode, you will hear that incredible advice because she allowed me to record it. 


Dr. MaryCatherine McDonald, PhD, a best-selling author and professor, reveals the 5 essential things you need to know about trauma so you can finally move forward with your life.


Listen, and I will help you pick up the remote control for your brain and turn OFF the trauma loop.


What’s the trauma loop? You may be in it and not know it: if you get triggered and have no idea why (and this expert says we almost never know why), have flashbacks playing in your head over and over again, the trauma loop is at play.


With the help of our expert, Dr. MaryCatherine, you and I unpack (in real time) the accident I witnessed and how it affected me.


With compassion and clarity, she explains what trauma really is and how to heal from it. You will learn and benefit from her decades of research and clinical experience. And she’ll help you understand what steps you need to take so that your brain does not store an experience as "trauma". 


Dr. McDonald is one of the few experts who explains trauma and how to heal it in a way that is easy to understand, and her 5 truths will change the way you relate to yourself forever.


The strategies and science in this episode will help you:


  • Know what to do 4–24 hours after the traumatic event occurs.
  • Understand the ‘trauma loop’ so you can identify when you are stuck and how to get out.
  • Properly process traumatic events, even if they were deep in the past.
  • Spot myths about trauma that even psychologists don’t understand.
  • Know what narrative psychology is and why it’s proven to work.
  • Uncover and heal from your flashbacks, looped thoughts, and triggers.
  • Learn why you and your siblings have different memories of the same events.
  • How to calm your nervous system and be present with your emotions.



This episode could change your life. And it is absolutely one you want to share with anyone who could benefit from Dr. MaryCatherine’s expertise.


And I want to be upfront with you: yes, today’s episode is powerful, and it’s also a serious topic. If this isn’t the right time for you to listen, I understand completely. Just bookmark it so you can come back to it later.


I’m not going anywhere.

Xo, Mel



In this episode, you’ll learn:


01:44: The very scary moment that left me feeling traumatized.

06:19: Full panic hit me at this exact moment.

11:26: What narrative psychology is and why it’s proven to work.

14:10: Understand the ‘trauma loop’ so you can identify when you are stuck. 

17:41: How your brain processes a normal event or memory. 

19:38: How your brain processes a traumatic event.

23:08: Uncover why you have flashbacks, looped thoughts, and triggers.

27:32: How EMDR can integrate traumatic memories properly. 

30:29: Why do you and your siblings have different memories of the same events. 

37:28: Why feeling shame around a trauma response is normal.

41:52: Three ways to calm your nervous system and be present with your emotions. 

44:26: The biggest myth about triggers that even psychologists get wrong.




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