Dishonesty as a Trauma Response

In my new book, From Triggered to Tranquil, I help people notice when subtle trauma responses are interfering with their ability to be present to themselves and communicate authentically with others. This morning, as I write this, I am playing with the idea that “dishonesty is a trauma response.” Here’s why I say this:

First, let me explain how I define dishonesty in this context—the context of human relating where communicating feelings and needs, listening with an open mind, asking for what you want, and marking boundaries, are essential ingredients for honest communication. As I often say, “You can only be as honest as you are self-aware.” You can’t be honest when your truth is unavailable to yourself because you are in a freeze reaction. And you aren’t being honest when you know your feelings and wants but do not feel safe to reveal them or to reveal that you do not feel safe (perhaps because you are seeing the other person, or the social situation, as a threat). Obviously, these are not situations where you are being intentionally dishonest. And there is a deeper, but unconscious, “honesty” at work in these survival reactions, as well—the organism’s honest attempt to survive, to protect oneself from perceived or imagined danger. I show in the book how most of the dangers that trigger us these days are interpersonal dangers….things like the danger of feeling disconnected from someone who is important to us, or the danger of a challenge to our self-image or our power.

But, getting back to how trauma responses can mess with our ability to connect authentically to one another, so many examples come to mind. See if you recognize yourself or someone you know in the following:

Roy and his girlfriend Raina have not had sex in 6 months, even though he has tried to initiate. And he has noticed her becoming more and more unavailable, even for conversations. The  “honest,” way to deal with this would be for Roy to invite Raina into a discussion about this matter, telling her he is frustrated and fearful, and asking if she is still committed to their partnership or if something has changed.

Why can’t he do this? And does it even occur to him to do this? The answer to both of these questions has something to do with the fact that somewhere in his past, something happened that had him either cut off (repress) feeling his need for touch and connection or had him conclude (unconsciously) that his feelings don’t matter so why bother expressing them. The “something” that happened is some sort of developmental trauma. It could have been the consistent experience of being neglected or over-controlled. So, the you learn that your voice doesn’t matter. Or it could have been the experience of being criticized, judged, put down, or abused whenever you drew attention to yourself. So, you learns it’s safer to stay invisible.

Roy functions quite well in most aspects of his life. He has friends and a good job. Evidence of his past trauma only shows up in his intimate relationships. He knows he is unhappy but feels helpless to do anything to change the situation. He does not know where to look or what to do to make his intimate life more authentic and satisfying. He complains to friends about Raina’s lack of interest in him, he makes excuses for her in his mind like assuming she is depressed or stressed at work—anything to avoid the emotional risk of feeling his fears and expressing his unmet needs.

What is the risk here for Roy? And where does the hope lie? Since Roy rarely feels relaxed anymore when he’s with Raina, almost anything he says will be laden with the energy of tension or anxiety. The hope lies with Roy learning to notice his tension/anxiety as it is occurring, then developing the practice of attending to this tender part of him with loving acceptance, acknowledging his fears rather than attempting to override them. This creates a compassionate space for these feelings to be held and witnessed. He slows his communications way down—pausing and attending to himself when he begins to freeze, get tongue-tied, or go on autopilot… himself support for what he is feeling before attempting to step further out on a limb into the unknown.

In the new book, I show you how to take emotional risks and step out onto an untested limb slowly and mindfully—never going too far without offering yourself enough self-support to enable yourself to feel safe to keep going. As you step out toward another person, seeking whatever you are seeking, sometimes the other will offer the support and reassurance you seek, and sometimes they won’t. In your past, perhaps it seemed like no one was there for you at the end of that limb. That’s why you’re cautious. It’s okay to be cautious.

This stepping out there while being mindfully cautious is a self-healing practice. It may be hard to admit it when you feel the need to slow down and feel your way forward. This may not fit with your desire to present a confident image. But it is how you authentically feel. And once you try this slower, more mindful pace, and make it a practice, you will find that authenticity brings with it a sense of power like no other. Being present to yourself has a power all its own.

I hope you will get your copy of From Triggered to Tranquil soon. It deals with so many aspects of the human condition, culled from my 55-year career listening to peoples’ secrets. Besides being a great read, it is also a self-paced self-healing guide to help you be a better human.

How to Get Your Copy
Order it now from any bookseller. Here is a link to some reviews of the book and ordering information:

Upcoming Events

Getting Real: The Power of Conscious Communication  

A weekend in-person workshop with Susan CampbellMay 7-8, 2022  10am-5pm both days (yes, 2022. I am only doing one in-person workshop per year now)

Cost: $350

“You can only be as honest as you are self-aware.”

GETTING REAL teaches 10 truth skills that make you a more present, aware, spontaneous, authentic communicator. Most people have fears and insecurities which interfere with being fully present and honest. These insecurities can be healed. If you learn to put your attention on your here-now experience, rather than trying to control the outcome of your communications, you discover the real source of personal power, love, and inner security.

In this workshop, you will learn how to:

•   communicate with presence, authenticity, and spontaneity (even when you feel fear about it)

•   be aware of how you impact others

•   clear the air and keep it clear

•   repair rifts in trust and connection after a misunderstanding

•   keep your present relationships free of accumulated unfinished business

•   come back to being present after your fear-buttons have gotten pushed

•   communicate from the deepest parts of yourself—so you can be truly heard and accepted

•   notice and free yourself of all the ways you “go on automatic” as you communicate or listen

•   replace these “control patterns” with honest, spontaneous self-expression

•   recognize all the various disguises that mask the “need to control”

•   ask for what you want without being controlling

•   say “no” or mark your boundaries with compassion and sensitivity

•   embrace and value the silences in human communication

•   heal past trauma and unprocessed pain

•   communicate about difficult topics in ways that foster deep intimacy and trust

The workshop is intended for people who want to join with like-minded others to explore honesty as a spiritual awareness practice, getting to the essential self that is beyond conditioned fears, beliefs, and control patterns. Emphasis will be on developing communication skills and relationship practices that you can take home and integrate into your daily life.

Cost: $350

Time/date: May 7-8, 2022 (Sat-Sun), 10am-5pm both days

Location: Sebastopol, CA, one hour north of San Francisco (directions to follow registration)

REGISTER NOW: Call Susan’s landline, (707) 829-3646 or email:

Led by: Psychologist Susan Campbell has worked as a relationship coach for over 50 years. A former professor at the University of Massachusetts, she is author of 11 books on relationships and communication. Her website is

Coaching Skills Webinar: Doing Parts Work in Coaching (via Zoom)

 A 4-week webinar training for new and experienced coaches 

Time: 4 consecutive Thursdays in January and February, 2022, beginning January 20, 11am-12:30 pm PDT (2-3:30pm Eastern time) and ending February 10.

Cost: $200 (visa, paypal, venmo, transferwise, and mastercard accepted)

To register or get more info, call or email Susan at (707) 829-3646 or

You will learn and practice how to use various types of parts work, for your own growth and in your work with clients, such as:
-top dog/under dog (from Gestalt Therapy)
-empty chair work (from Gestalt)
-dreamwork (from Gestalt)
-The Committee (from Virginia Satir)
-your inner family (from psychodrama)
-wish and fear as two sides of a coin
-giving voice to various parts of your body or various emotions (from Gestalt)

You will be given homework assignments to practice with a homework buddy on a separate zoom or phone call during the week.  This will require an additional hour per week of your time.

All sessions will be recorded and archived on the web, so you can re-listen to them if you have to miss a session.

Honesty Salon in Webinar Format 

Beginning November 10, I will offer a six-session Honesty Salon in webinar format (zoom). It is scheduled for 6 consecutive Wednesdays, noon-1:15 pm Pacific time, and ending December 15.

Cost is $200 for the 6 sessions. An Honesty Salon is a small group experience where we practice the 10 Truth Skills with one another, sharing whatever arises in the present moment. We use a set of simple communication guidelines that assist us in un-hooking from identification with mind chatter and being innocently open to whatever arises.

Between sessions, participants will have the option of meeting in dyads or triads to de-brief and do practice exercises. All sessions will be recorded and archived on a private page, so if you miss a session, the recording will be available to you.

To register or get more information, email me at  If you are interested in this offering, and the announced  time is not convenient, I may be able to change the time.  So please contact me about that at the email address above.

Free Mini-Workshop on Compassionate Self-Inquiry at The Stoa

I will be offering a free, zoom-based mini-workshop at the exciting and stimulating internet platform called The Stoa on Thursday, October 28, at 9-10am Pacific time, noon-1pm Eastern.  Here is the blurb from The Stoa website:

Susan will guide the group in a self-compassion exercise that she does with all of her counseling clients. The practice is designed to help you develop spacious presence as your default mode. Then, she will engage in dialog with group members to help you integrate this practice into your personal life or your coaching/counseling work with others. This practice is described in Susan’s latest book, From Triggered to Tranquil: How Self-Compassion and Mindful Presence Can Transform Relationship Conflicts and Heal Childhood Wounds.

Pre-registration is required for this free event.

To register, via website, visit

Free Monthly Group Coaching Session on Zoom

I have resumed my free monthly group coaching sessions. From now on, I will be sending out a link in my monthly newsletter for these calls which will happen on the first Tuesday of each month at 10am Pacific time. In these calls, I generally present an idea or a practice and then work with a few volunteers, followed by group sharing and Q and Sometimes I will start with the Q and A part, or with check-ins, and offer what I have in response to what is coming up for people. This month I plan to facilitate a discussion and a listening practice around the topic of “our polarized positions re vaccines and mask-wearing.” That should be interesting. And if people get triggered, we will do some group practices to get “from triggered to tranquil” (the title of my new book).

Check the newsletter for a new link each time. And on rare occasion, I may change the time on Tuesday to an hour earlier or an hour later, so check the announced time each month.

Below is the link and phone-in information for Tuesday Oct 5, 2021 at 10am. These sessions will be recorded and posted publicly on my You Tube channel. If you subscribe to me on You Tube (drsusan95472), you will be notified when these recordings appear. is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic:‘s Zoom Meeting
Time: Tuesday, Oct 5, 10-11am Pacific US time

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 662 789 0203
Passcode: 4373
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Join Our Community of Loving Relationship Explorers

If you’re single and seeking a more heart-centered dating experience, read on. There’s a kinder and more fulfilling way to approach dating and new relationships–at the FREE How to Inspire Love Summit. Join me in this one-of-a-kind LIVE ONLINE EVENT by clicking here:

My free mini-workshop on “Being Present in Dating and Relating” will occur Saturday, Oct 3, 5-6pm Pacific US time. I will be joined by over 30 other Dating and Relationship Experts helping you master…
sexual polarity
deep listening
playful connecting
how to attract your ideal match
spiritual partnership
overcoming the narcissist/codependent death spiral
compassionate communication
overcoming betrayal
healing each other in intimacy…and so much more…

Besides hearing useful content, you will also have the opportunity to join discussion and sharing groups who meet regularly to build a community of aware, like-minded people. Learn more at:

Video Available of My 80th Birthday Party

If you attended my 80th birthday celebration on zoom in July, thank you so much! I said I would post the link for the video for those who missed it. The “party” was me answering questions about my life–on such topics as my spiritual mentors, my sexuality, the early childhood experiences that shaped me, finding my calling, how it feels to be 80, and much more. Here is the link to the You Tube recording of this fun and interesting 90-minute event attended by over 100 people.

The 10 Truth Skills You Need to Live Authentically

Here is a summary of the 10 truth skills detailed in the book, Getting Real. For those of you familiar with my latest book, Five-Minute Relationship Repair, you may see that that entire book is about truth skill #6, Taking Back Projections. This is such a complex and often difficult-to-master truth skill. So I thought it deserved a whole book. 

Now here’s the list:

1. Experiencing what is  You have a felt body-based sense of your present feelings and sensations. You can notice and not identify with your judgments, projections, and interpretations.

2. Being transparent  You can disclose to others what you are feeling, sensing, imagining, or saying to yourself—with the simple aim of “knowing and being known,” free of the need to explain or defend.

3. Knowing your intent  You can consciously reflect on the intent of your communication. Is it to relate or to control? Are you revealing yourself in the interest of transparency or are you managing and strategizing in order to avoid discomfort?

4. Asserting what you want and don’t want  You can express a desire clearly and impactfully, without expecting to get everything you ask for. You mark boundaries when you need to.

5. Thriving on feedback  You are open and curious about others’ impressions and reactions to you.  This is different from being dependent on others’ reactions.

6. Taking back projections  You know how to learn from situations where your buttons or “favorite fears” get triggered. You can differentiate your fear-stories from what really happened.

7. Revising an earlier statement  You can re-visit an interaction if your feelings change or if you discover later that you have mis-spoken or were on automatic. You can say, “If I had it to do over….”

8. Holding differences  You can hear and empathize with someone else’s feeling or viewpoint while at the same time holding a different feeling or viewpoint. You can “be with” the tension of holding both in your awareness at once.

9. Sharing mixed emotions  You can communicate your multiple feelings about an issue or situation, e.g. You may wish to clear the air with someone while also fearing that your words might feel hurtful to the other.

10. Embracing silence  You can allow some space after you have spoken. You do not fill in the space with explanation or justification. You can experience the nonverbal emanations in the silences during a conversation.  You can tolerate uncertainty, ambiguity, not knowing.

Practicing these skills brings you to a deep and abiding sense of serenity, presence, and compassion. These three words that describe the qualities that we begin to embody when we practice Getting Real.

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