How I Finally Reframed Traumatic Events after Decades of Anxiety

Michael Thompson
5 min readNov 10, 2020

“This is gonna hurt!”

I stared at the man, rested my sweaty palms on my knees, and nodded my head to let him know I was ready to begin.

“Good. Now, I want you to close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think back to the first time you ever felt embarrassed because of your stutter. Don’t overthink it. Just find the moment. Once you’re there, let me know.”

Presentations…
Getting made fun of…
Presentations…
Getting made fun of…

My mind finally settled as I found 6-year-old me standing in front of my class at a new school struggling to get my name out.

“Got it,” I replied.

“Good. Now I want you to go from that moment and move through your life taking mental note of all the times you felt uncomfortable because of your stutter. Don’t spend too much time on something. Just find the moments and keep moving forward until you reach today. Let me know when you’re finished.”

My eyelids fluttered wildly. I searched for all the times I’ve fought like hell to forget.

Presentations...
Getting called on in class...
Meeting new people…
Getting made fun of…

“Done,” I said after a few minutes. “That hurt, but I was expecting worse.”

“Don’t worry, it’s coming,” the man said in a calm voice. “After you take another deep breath, I want you to do the same thing. But this time you’re going to move backwards. Start from this very moment and think about all the times you’ve felt embarrassed until you’ve found that little boy standing up in front of the class. Let me know when you’re done.”

Once again, the stressful images flashed before my eyes. Only this time, instead of only seeing myself struggle to speak in class and getting laughed at, I also saw my classmate's jaws hit the ground as they saw me being body slammed against a cafeteria table.

“Done,” I said quietly.

“You were shifting a lot. Are you alright?” the man asked. “Did you notice anything new?”

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Michael Thompson

Co-creator of two cool kids • Storytelling Coach •.Fast Co., Insider, Forbes • Free storytelling guide here: https://bit.ly/3h1KZeT