Business Trauma

Transforming Emotional Challenges into Entrepreneurial Triumph

Business Trauma
Written by: Sophie Kessner
The Sophie Kessner Podcast
The Sophie Kessner Podcast
Transforming Emotional Challenges into Entrepreneurial Triumph
Welcome back to another episode of the Sophie Kessner podcast. In today’s episode, we’re going to continue the conversation that we have started in regards to trauma and business. Now, as mentioned in episode 14, the conversation of trauma and business is a very nuanced and thorough conversation that needs to be had In previous episodes. If you haven’t listened, i would highly recommend going back and doing so, because we touched on some of the fundamental components of why trauma tends to be so much more prevalent in the entrepreneurial space, especially for folks who have an act for high achieving and high stress tolerance. So in this episode, i want to explore a little bit more of the counter side of that and how we begin to resource, work through and navigate the terrain that comes with being an online business owner just a business owner in general having increased visibility, a sense of increased folks who are looking at you, providing feedback, sharing opinions of you, especially in the online world and for folks who are online brand of personal brands, and how we actually move through this process of growing and creating a bigger brand, generating more revenue in a way that’s also sustainable and nourishing for all of us And when I say that, i mean the whole person that you are meaning that it’s not going to put you into a place where you are feeling like you are living in a constant space of hyper vigilance or urgency or tunnel vision, but rather you’re able to be present in your life, in your day to day, where you’re able to move through the process of the growth in a way that actually feels good and enlightening. And this is different than just the conversation of only do what feels good for you. I think that that can have some substance to it, but it feels like it’s also easy to misinterpret, because the reality is, business is not always things that we enjoy, and especially if you’re somebody who naturally wants to be more of a creative person, the creative side of your business might be thriving, but as soon as there becomes more management or more original components that need and require attention, the business can start to grow. So I want to start this episode with sharing a little bit of a personal story and why. This is a conversation I want to have, and part of that conversation I’ve talked about previously clients on social media here and there over the years.
Another conversation or the story of navigating this interesting pattern of building something up really fast, getting it to a point where it’s really big and going and has a lot of momentum, and then burning it all down and getting bored with it and then starting over again. This is a very fun thing to do, especially if you are somebody who has a history of a very disorganized family upbringing or background, and for me that is very true. My family history and my lived experience through my youth would be very high on the base, scoring the adverse childhood experiences, and because of that I had a high risk tolerance. I have a high risk tolerance for dealing with change and adversity and loss of shifts. In fact, for my system, one of the biggest pieces that I’ve had to continue to work through is feeling safe in stability And I’ll say that a little slower, so that it’s clear To have stability, feel safe for me to be in for extended periods of time.
Now, why is that? That’s because so much of my younger life was not stable. It was constantly changing, constantly shifting, constantly adapting, and that became a cadence that felt normal, and so the protective strategy or the coping mechanism that was developed was to always be prepared for change, to always be prepared for things to shift. And then how do you facilitate a sense of control in these situations. Well, you change them before they require you to change. You can predict it when you choose to change it And, to a certain degree, like all coping strategies, this can be a very supportive and helpful strategy. It is something that we adapt into in order to survive. So at some point, this way of navigating the world and navigating life was supportive and it did help me, and it has been something that has been hugely beneficial for me. There are also times when coping mechanisms and our survival strategies can become outdated, can no longer be helpful, but if we haven’t learned new strategies, then we will continue to go back and revert to previous ones, even if they’re not helping anymore, and the reason being is because that feels more familiar, therefore safer than trying to do something different or new.
Now, if you’re somebody who can resonate with the conversation of instability or constant change or just a lot of chaos in your home life growing up, especially in adolescence, then you may also feel similarly, where stability, normalcy, things of the sort, feel kind of boring. You have a knack for wanting more adrenaline in your life, more business, more chaos. There’s this constant sense of adventure. Now we’re caveatting all of this by saying, none of this is inherently bad or wrong. What we want to do is we want to understand how it shows up, and when does it become that the strategy or mechanism is taking over and we’re no longer present in the process? Because that is when these types of strategies, mechanisms, behavior patterns have the potential to become less supportive and potentially a little bit more harmful and non-supportable we’re trying to create. An example of this is looking at business as a main vehicle for creating a sense of safety in your life.
Now, a lot of entrepreneurs thrive in the face of adversity. This is what they’re here for. They have high risk tolerance and so they want to go really, really fast. I mean, i’m talking a lot of this in a list of two around the attention-reaching business model, and then in a list of one on toxic capitalism and performative business. So if you haven’t listened to this, go back. I’ll reference it a few more times.
But essentially, what we see in the entrepreneurial space is there tends to be a high drive for more and always seeking yet never satisfied experience within ourselves. We are insatiably hungry for more success, more growth, and nothing ever feels like it’s enough. So, no matter what we do, how much we do it, how well we do it, how fast we do it, we have a constant desire to be doing more. Now, again, this is not inherently bad or wrong, but where it can become potentially ineffective or unhelpful is when we get lost in the pattern and we don’t know how to turn it off. When our entire life becomes bigger, better, faster, stronger, more, more, more, more, and we never have the ability to actually slow down and be present and feel safe in the process of slowing down and being present. And the reason being is oftentimes when we’ve lived our whole life in a space of hyper-violence. No-transcript. Slowing down means that we’re not prepared. It means that if something comes, it could potentially hurt us, harm us. So we’re constantly living in a state of protection, a state of readiness for a threat, whatever that might be, whether it be change, whether it be somebody coming, whatever the Experience was in your earlier life that you find yourself always ready to fight against or to run from one or the other.
Now I’m just gonna invite everybody’s listening. Just go ahead and wiggle your toes and your fingers and move a little in your chair. Oftentimes, when we start to have these conversations, it can bring up content and feelings and emotions. So, wherever you are right now, i’m just gonna invite you to feel your seat, wherever you’re sitting, or if you’re standing, feeling your feet on the floor, feeling where your ankles connect your feet to your legs and just rolling that joint a little bit to feel the rest of your body, curling the toes if you can crack them, great, if not, that’s okay And just moving the legs a little bit, noticing that you have a body, that you have agency, that in this moment you are safe, and then take a deep breath.
So when we’re talking about business and pattern that shows up here, we want to figure out how do we actually support somebody who is constantly in the space of needing to be on, always Well, also making sure that they are well taken care of and aren’t falling into or oscillating in between a space of hypervillage Eligilants and hyper arousal, to a space of hypo arousal. And what hypo arousal refers to is a space where we become in some ways incapacitated, and this can show up and look different, but the way that I’ll describe it in this episode is where we Feel numb. There’s a numbness to it and I’m just gonna exist in multiple rounds, but the numbers we’re talking about here is a hollowness, a sense of emptiness, avoid, like the world is just moving way too fast And you can’t keep up. A sense of hopelessness, despair and grief can come up here, feeling stuck, incapable, unable, and Oftentimes the state is referred to as a freeze space because it feels that we feel cold. You can’t really feel anything, you just feel disconnected from your sense of self, your sense of aliveness and from life. It’s off, and in this piece it can feel really far away to imagine doing or being anything.
But often the pattern that we’ve seen and that we talk about quite a bit in these podcast episodes is the oscillation between that space of go, go, go, go, go, go, go and getting to the point to where you reach a point of burnout or just overwhelm and the system can’t handle anymore it’s extremely at all the energy that it has, and so then it forces itself into a shutdown. There’s no creativity, there’s no energy, you can’t think, you can’t make decisions, everything feels hard, it feels really confusing. The thing that used to be fun isn’t anymore, and then it’s staying there and figuring out how to get out of that. Now, when we’re working with these responses, depending on where you are in that process. It’s going to be a very different strategy, a very different process for unpacking and unraveling, and so I’ll speak lightly to you.
But what I want to put a disclaimer on here is that this is work that you absolutely should be doing with a professional who is licensed to certify or train in trauma. Now this does not mean trauma informed. Trauma informed practitioners have the awareness of what trauma is and how it might show up and how to regulate out of it. Trauma informed does not mean that these folks are necessarily equipped to work directly on the trauma and help you actually process it. So it’s really important in this conversation, as we continue down the topic of trauma work, that you have resources. Now, if you are looking for a practitioner, i always recommend going to the trauma healingorg page or site, and they have. You find a practitioner link on there with a library full of practitioners that are all trained and certified all over the globe in multiple languages. So if you are looking for somebody to support you with that, you can go on there and see if you can find somebody who’s local to you. If you’re finding that any of this conversation or topics are a bit more arousing or activating, then you can go ahead and go there and check out the resources.
So when we’re working with this, the first thing that we want to look at and oftentimes what I have most of my clients come is in the downfall of the experience. And in the downfall it’s very much that place where everything feels great, they feel stuck, they feel overwhelmed, the emotions are too much, there’s a sense of feeling lost or confused or not knowing what they want or who they are, what they’re going to do or what directions to go in, and everything just feels hard. And these tend to be indicators of moving through a space of freeze where the system doesn’t necessarily have capacity to do more. There’s no energy or life force left or available because the system is in such a space of shutdown. Now, if the system is familiar to you, the process for it is one of slowness, one of patience, one of space. When we’re working with deep freeze, we cannot try to enforce an agenda or speed onto it, because that will only continue to perpetuate this defense response. And this defense response shows up when it doesn’t feel like it can do anything else.
Now let me backtrack a little bit and give you a little more context here. When we’re infants, in our first experience of life, we really only have two ways of communicating We cry and we scream, and that is all we have that we can do, because we don’t have mobility, we don’t have agency, we don’t have a way to communicate, and so our cry or our scream or yelling or our sense of being displeased is a way to try to communicate that we need something, that we’re not okay, and so you can interpret this as a bit of some activation or arousal in the system. So we’re feeling high-curr, aroused. We can’t try to scream, we yell in a way to try to alert the caretaker that we need something, we need attention, we need whatever it is that we need food, water, connection, love, safety, protection, and in the case that the caretaker does not respond, our response in a way that blames the behavior, makes the behavior wrong.
We can think of an infant or newborn crying themselves to sleep, or an infant or newborn crying and then being yelled at or being shaken, and I want to again just emphasize that, as we talk about this, some of this content may be activating. So please take care of yourself, wiggle up your feet, move your body, make sure that you’re in a place where you feel safe, and if this is bringing up any content or emotional experience for you, i’m just going to invite you to hit pause on this and take some time away from this episode before coming back to it And to look around the room, notice where you are, notice that it’s the present day, naming the objects that you see, notice that there’s people around you and, again, just connecting to the feet, to the chair. You have agency, you are here, you are safe. So, as the system of this type of infant experiences the response whether it be met with a fierceness and ferocity that attacks or it feels like it’s coming at the infant’s system will retreat, it’ll shut down, it’ll click in and you can see this a lot of the times in the body posture there’s a hunched overness, there’s a downward gaze, there’s oftentimes an aversion to eye contact. You’ll see this a lot of the times when there’s a lot more of an oppressive style of parenting that the person or individual experienced growing up.
Now, this is in response to an intense system coming at you or at the system of the infant. The other way that this shows up is in the neglect of it, to the lack there of the absence of anything. And this would be the scenario where there’s crying and a feeling for help, but nobody comes, and so the system learns that there’s no point, in some ways, that if it cries no one will come, and so it stops. It will eventually no longer cry or ask for help because nobody does, nobody comes. And these are the ways in which, from a very early preverbal and pre-cognitive place, we start to develop the foundation for how we move through the world and how we move through life. Now there’s so many things in the child development, parenthood and all these pieces in conversations about what’s right and what’s wrong.
I don’t want to create a stigma around anything inside this episode. I think parents are always doing the best they can with what they have, and when they learn better, they do better. And I think the best thing that we can do as the next generation is continue to give to our children what we wish we would have been given ourselves, and that is how we start to change and shift things. Now back to the process of working with this pattern in real time, in the present day self. What we’re navigating here is first developing a sense of safety and connection Is helping the individual or the system in front of you, and when I say system, i’m referring to the nervous system, the build up of the makeup of how this person operates and the patterns that exist inside of it When you’re working with this. We have to create safety.
Now, when there’s something that comes up that feels like it’s too much for somebody and they default into this sense of feeling stuck, overwhelmed, i’m not knowing, unsure, confused, really rigid, really safe or really flaccid, meaning really limp we need to give it presence and connection and see, And how we do that is not by trying to agon or push, depending on the context of your gaze, allowing space and using simple tools to help resource and orient back to the here now, and when we’re working with a system that has been deep, deep into a free response or into shutdown, it will take time. It will take time and patience, and the first thing that we want to do is just help us say hey, see if you can notice somebody is here with you in this moment. See if you can notice where you are in this moment. See if you can find a sense of safety in this moment, noticing your feet, where you’re sitting, where you’re standing, if your body is making contact with a bed or a couch or a chair, any objects, recognizing that you have agency wielding toes and fingers, moving the limbs, moving the head, if you can, looking around the room, to begin to bring your system back to the present moment. And when you slowly do this over time it will start to thaw. And what I mean when I say thaw is we’ll be able to start to come out of some of that freezingness And notice that the breath is able to go deeper down into the belly, that the body either feels more relaxed or more present, that the vision becomes slightly clearer And we feel more here. We feel more in connection to ourselves and to life. Now this might start really minute and in micro stages where it doesn’t feel very big, and it’s a lot bigger than we think. Starting to take these steps is the foundation for building capacity in our lives.
If we do not feel safe in our body, in where we are in the world, then it is incredibly challenging and hard to do any of the deeper work because we’re not doing it from a place of deep, restorative space. We’re doing it from a place of feeling on edge and not actually allowing our system to fully be here now Which, if you are somebody who experienced a lot of change, absence or oppressiveness in the way that your primary caretakers held you in your earliest and throughout life, keeping trust with somebody who has trained to where you can start to feel held and safe and supported is imperative for the negotiation process Because as you do this work, your system will slowly, over time, orient to feeling safe with itself and feeling safe in relation to other and being able to come out of the freeze, out of the shutdown, out of the numbness. And when we start to do this, there’s a little bit of a counter-experience of how, and that is the experience of a lot of motion, coming up memories, things of the sort, because the shutdown counts as a way to suppress, to isolate. And what I was interested in in this conversation is functional freeze. Functional freeze is essentially when we’ve learned how to navigate the world in a place of being numb.
We get really parallel that somebody is experiencing symptoms of depression or isolation or feeling at war with themselves, but internally they are experiencing all that. Internally they are constantly reading themselves, questioning themselves, doubting themselves, feeling overwhelmed. Externally they’re very quiet. They can navigate and move through it, and this tends to be very prevalent in the entrepreneurial world, because most folks learn how to navigate and work through it, whether they are inundating themselves with caffeine, whether they’re using stimulants, whether they’re pushing past boundaries or trying to get out of the freeze and try to move past the freeze that’s in their system.
Now, these aren’t things that are bad or wrong. This isn’t to say that you should never use caffeine, or that stimulants are bad, or don’t do this or don’t do that, but what I am trying to hit on here is that, if we become hyperdependent on these tools in order to function, it tends to be walking an interesting line where we want to start to unravel. Okay, how am I without it? When I don’t take this thing, what happens? What do I notice? Do I go into a total collapse or shutdown? Do I feel like I can’t function or operate in the world? And this isn’t to say that this is only the case in relation to trauma. There are many other factors that can contribute to the need for things, where you have different disorders, diagnoses, what you’re dealing with chronic symptoms, illnesses But what we are speaking about here is just getting curious about what happens when, where the need for it is coming from, how it supports you And in the entrepreneurial space.
The reason why we want to address this is because if we have a hyperdependence on things like caffeine to get us to function throughout the day and we’re taking exponentially more than the recommended dose just to function, eventually our system will be in such a place of overdrive for so long that it will shut down naturally, and this is where we see experiences as a burnout. So I bring this up not to shame or make long, but to bring awareness to what’s underneath it And, ideally, addressing things from a more preventative space, meaning, instead of leading until we get to a place of shutdown collapse, we start to address the things earlier on, and that way we never have to go into that collapse, we never have to get to rock bottom to unpack and unravel the experiences that we’re having inside of ourselves. Now coming back to the conversation of the business owner and how the business owner or the entrepreneur manages and navigates life. It may not always be an option for us to slow down, to be more present, to be able to take a step back, especially if you are somebody who’s a parent, a caretaker, the sole breadwinner, the person who’s financially responsible. These are the things that you have to do, and so we have to approach the conversation from multiple angles and lenses And we talked a lot about financial literacy, about debts in episodes five, six, seven and I want to say eight as well and how we can start to look at that from a more logical lens.
To support ourselves when we’re needing to go into seasons of sabbatical or the breaks are just taking less on whether that means taking on less responsibility and less clients So we can have more space to do the deeper work when we are moving through really big emotional processes and how we prepare ourselves for those seasons, so that it doesn’t put us into a place where we are in financial scarcity or financial risk. And when I say financial scarcity, i’m talking about the pragmatic component of it. When there’s a legitimate inability to pay for your bare minimal living expenses and jeopardizing your ability to work, you want to make sure that you have resources and figuring out how can you support yourself. And a big part of this conversation as we talked about in previous episodes and especially in episodes one of toxic capitalism and performative business is reevaluating the way in which we build our businesses, the way in which we navigate the world, and where this idea and ideology of what it needs to look like is actually coming from. Because if we can approach that piece and meet it at the center of where it was originated, then we can start to shift things from the inside out. We can start to shift the way in which we navigate and approach life.
And one of my favorite things to hear from clients when we’re doing this work is I no longer feel like I need to be going all the time. I no longer feel like I need to be on 24 seven. I no longer feel like I need to rush through this process. I need to be going. I feel like I have a renewed sense of trust, like I can move in my own piece, and this is how we can start to notice when the system is really shifting. This is when that sense of urgency and emergency, that sense of I need to always be going faster and doing more and go, go, go faith and dissipates Because we are shifting our ability to actually be more present and feel safer in a slower pace.
When we’re able to slow down, it does not mean that we can’t have success, that we cannot achieve, that we cannot do the things we want to do in the world. It just means we’re able to do those things with more presence, and the reason why, for so many people, presence and pacing and slowing down feels terrifying or uncomfortable is because there’s a fear around losing the momentum, being left behind, not being able to get there in time or missing out in some way, and all of these can be rooted back to some earlier cases and how we experienced ourselves through the world. The irony in it is when we allow ourselves to pace, to slow down, to shift away, in which we navigate, the speed at which we’re moving, we’re actually able to experience so much more in the process, but it looks different, and we talked a lot about values and life decisions In one of the previous episodes. If we go back and check that out, what we want to understand here is if we no longer want to perpetuate the culture of urgency, a culture of burnout, a culture of constantly needing to be on the run, doing more, bigger, better, faster, then we have to start with where that exists within us, and I’ll compare this to the conversation of anti-racism, and a phrase that’s oftentimes used, or a saying that’s talked about a lot, is racism inherently exists inside all of us because it exists within the culture. It’s the air that we breathe And, whether we inherently see it or not, it does not make you the fact that it’s there. And part of what we’re doing is unlearning. We’re unlearning in the same way we are needing to unlearn how to show up and how to operate and what to value. And the same way we are unlearning what it means to be successful, how to build a business, how to show up online, how to do all of these things. And the same way we’re unlearning what it means to be a human in the world, what it means to feel a sense of aliveness, connection, love, safety, belonging, purpose and coming back to a place where we can feel at home in ourselves, in the world, in the way in which we build, and we can find a sense of peace in the process, a sense of trust in the process. And again, this isn’t to say that you won’t have seasons of going and getting things done and pushing and growing, but it is to say that in those seasons you will be able to be more present, more intentional, to be able to show up with a greater sense of purpose and aliveness in the process, that you will have fierce boundaries and a sense of knowing who you are, that nothing can stop you in your path, that nobody can tell you or sway you or devour you from what you’re doing, and you are moving at a pace that is nourishing and sustainable for the long run, so you have the capacity to do it until you get to where you’re gonna go. So I hope that you enjoyed a little bit of the unpacking in regards to how trauma shows up in the entrepreneurial space and when it comes to business owners navigating the overwhelm and the deep freeze, as well as the type of vigilance in this global goal that shows up.
If you enjoyed this episode, as always, please, please, please, share it with your audience, with your friends, with your family. Leave a five star review on your favorite podcast player, whether that’s iTunes or Spotify. It means the world to me And it also helps to get this content out into the ears of more listeners, which is part of the work. It’s part of shifting the way in which we show up. So thank you for being here. If you have questions, feel free to reach out at hayatthesacronceo. If you are looking for pieces around trauma support, you can check out my site, somaticswithsofcom, to learn more about the trauma work that I do with business owners And if you are curious about business work in general, you can look at my main site, sophiecassnercom. All of that will be inside of the blog that will be paired with this episode. I’ll see you on the next episode.

Episode Summary

Do you ever oscillate between non-stop work mode and burnout? Join us as we dive into the tricky space of navigating trauma and shutdown responses in the realm of entrepreneurship. It’s essential to work with a professional certified in trauma training, so we’ll be discussing resources to help you find the right practitioner for your needs.

Navigating the complex world of trauma and business growth has always been a challenge for me. I’ve repeatedly experienced the pattern of building something up, reaching momentum, and then burning it all down in boredom. In today’s episode, we discuss how such patterns can stem from a disorganized family upbringing, high risk tolerance, and a protective strategy to always be prepared for change. We’ll also explore ways to update those coping mechanisms and make them more supportive and helpful in our personal and professional lives.

We’ll also talk about the complexities of managing life as an entrepreneur, from relying on stimulants to understanding the deep-rooted causes of burnout. Learn how to create a sustainable and nourishing business growth plan while taking care of your emotional well-being. Don’t miss this insightful and important conversation.

Episode Keywords:

Trauma, Business Growth, Entrepreneurship, Disorganized Family Upbringing, High Risk Tolerance, Protective Strategy, Coping Mechanisms, Certified Trauma Training, Stimulants, Burnout, Financial Stability, Self-Care, Hyperdependence, Caffeine, Trust the Process

Episode Chapters:

(0:00:00) – Navigating Trauma in Business Growth
(0:06:06) – Working With Trauma and Shutdown Responses
(0:13:18) – Trauma and Entrepreneurship

Episode Resources Mentioned:

Blog Introduction:

It’s no secret that entrepreneurship can be a high-stress environment, with constant pressure to perform, to be successful, and to stay afloat amidst changing markets and trends. For entrepreneurs who have experienced trauma, this pressure can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles. In the latest podcast episode on The Sophie Kessner Podcast, host Soph, talks about the intersection of trauma and entrepreneurship, and the importance of prioritizing mental health in business.

The Harm of Always Seeking More:

One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs who have experienced trauma is the tendency to prioritize success over mental health. The culture of hustle and grind can exacerbate this tendency, making it easy to overlook the importance of taking breaks, resting, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As Soph points out, this can be especially dangerous for people who have experienced trauma, as the stress and pressure of entrepreneurship can trigger symptoms and cause long-lasting harm to mental health. It’s important to remember that growth is a process, and being present in the journey is just as important as the end result.

Trauma Trained Versus Trauma-Informed

Being trauma-informed means having an understanding of the impact that trauma can have on individuals and communities. It involves recognizing the signs and symptoms of trauma and working to create a safe and supportive environment for people who have experienced trauma.

On the other hand, being trauma-trained means having specialized training in treating trauma and its effects. A trauma-trained professional has received specialized education and training in evidence-based treatments for trauma, such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), or Somatic Experiencing (SE).

While being trauma-informed is a great first step, it’s imperative to work with a trauma-trained professional when dealing with more intense trauma responses. This is because trauma responses can be complex and multifaceted, and they require a nuanced understanding of the various factors that contribute to trauma.

For example, trauma responses may involve physiological changes in the body, such as an increase in heart rate or changes in breathing patterns. A trauma-trained professional understands these changes and can help clients develop strategies for regulating their bodies and managing their emotions.

Additionally, trauma responses may be triggered by specific events, people, or situations that are associated with the trauma. A trauma-trained professional can help clients identify these triggers and develop coping strategies for managing them.

Finally, trauma responses may involve complex emotions and thought patterns, such as feelings of shame, guilt, or self-blame. A trauma-trained professional can help clients work through these emotions and develop a more compassionate and understanding relationship with themselves.

Working with a Trauma-Trained Professional:

In short, while being trauma-informed is an important first step in creating a safe and supportive environment for people who have experienced trauma, it’s essential to work with a trauma-trained professional when dealing with more intense trauma responses. By doing so, you can ensure that you have the knowledge and skills needed to help clients navigate the complexities of trauma and build a brighter future for themselves.

You can learn more about Soph’s training and background in trauma work at or find a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner on the directory at:

Early Childhood Experiences:

Many entrepreneurs who have experienced trauma may have developed coping mechanisms and survival strategies in response to early childhood experiences. These experiences can shape our foundation for navigating the world, and can impact our beliefs about success, safety, and self-worth.

Unpacking Infant Communication Patterns

As infants, we communicate in two primary ways: through crying and through turning away. When our requests are not met, we develop defense responses that can show up in adulthood as patterns of burnout, overwhelm, or freeze.

For example, if we learned as infants to turn away from our needs rather than communicating them, we may struggle as adults to express our feelings and needs clearly. Similarly, if we cried without receiving a response, we may struggle with patterns of burnout or overwhelm as a way of compensating for unmet needs.

Working With Trauma and Shutdown Responses

As entrepreneurs, we often find ourselves oscillating between periods of intense productivity and burnout or overwhelm. However, it’s crucial to recognize that there’s also a difficult space of “freeze” that we may encounter.

This freeze response can be especially difficult for entrepreneurs who have experienced trauma, as the stress and pressure of entrepreneurship may trigger a shutdown response. It’s important to remember that shutting down is not a sign of defeat or failure – it is often an essential part of self-care and maintaining mental health.

In response to overwhelming or traumatic events, our nervous systems can go into a state of freeze or shutdown. This response is a natural and automatic survival mechanism that allows us to conserve energy and resources in the face of danger.

During a freeze response, we may feel numb, disconnected, or disassociated from our surroundings. Our bodies may become immobile or stiff, and we may have difficulty moving or speaking. We may also experience a sense of time slowing down or speeding up, as well as feelings of helplessness or hopelessness.

When we’re in a freeze state, our nervous system is stuck in a state of hyperarousal, which means that it’s constantly scanning our environment for danger. This can lead to feelings of anxiety, tension, or fear, even when there is no immediate threat present.

It’s important to recognize that these responses are normal and adaptive in the face of trauma, but they can also be disruptive and distressing. For many people, the experience of freeze or shutdown can be overwhelming and confusing, especially if they don’t understand what’s happening in their bodies or minds.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of freeze or shutdown, it’s essential to work with a trained professional who can help you develop strategies for coping with these experiences. Some common strategies for managing the freeze response include deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, grounding exercises, and gentle movement.

It’s also important to remember that everyone responds to trauma differently, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to cope. By working with a trauma-informed therapist or coach, you can develop a personalized plan for navigating the aftermath of trauma in a way that feels safe and supportive.

Building Capacity and finding safety in the Body

Finding safety in the body is paramount when navigating patterns of behavior and responses within ourselves. Whether working with an individual or a system, the first step is always to cultivate a sense of safety and connection. This can be particularly challenging when confronted with overwhelming feelings of confusion, rigidity, or shutdown. However, the key lies in allowing space and using simple tools to help resource and orient back to the present moment. By actively noticing where we are, making contact with objects, moving our limbs and head, and taking deep breaths, we can slowly thaw the frozen response and begin feeling more relaxed and present. Though it may start small, building capacity to find safety in the body is the foundation for making lasting changes in how we navigate the world.


The intersection of trauma and entrepreneurship is a complex and challenging space, but it is possible to navigate with the right tools and strategies in place. By prioritizing mental health, seeking out professional support, and developing strategies for managing trauma responses, entrepreneurs can build sustainable and fulfilling businesses that prioritize health, well-being, and success. As we move forward, let’s remember to prioritize our mental health and support one another in this journey.

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Meet The Host

Hey I’m Soph! I’m a mama and online digital marketer who’s been in the game since 2015. I LOVE building businesses that support creating real time freedom which is why I choose to specialize in email marketing, blogging and podcasting and teach others to do the same.

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I'm Sophie Kessner
Business Trauma

First generation Mexican American mama that’s gone from hood to strategic hustle. I’ve spent the last 10+ years inside the personal development space supporting 100’s of coaches in scaling 6 figure businesses online & supported 4 different companies in surpassing the 7 figure mark. Today, I focus on making scaling more sustainable by integrating the lenses of business, systems, automation and CEO Development through an Equity centered and Trauma informed lens.

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Sophie is the founder of The Sacred CEO™ Agency and has been in the service based coaching industry since 2015. She’s created and scaled 4 different multi 6 figure coaching programs including their latest course, The Online Business Automator.

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