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E74 Healing Modern Trauma with Christine Gibson

Tagline

Rising from the ashes: A Scottish-Ukrainian general physician and traumatologist speaks about the niche space from which all healing can emerge.

Bio for Christine Gibson

Dr. Christine Gibson is a general physician and traumatologist in Calgary, working in the public system with people who otherwise couldn’t afford such services. She created a residency in health equity, runs an international non-profit working in East Africa and Asia, and is a social entrepreneur.

Dr. Christine Gibson believes that all people need to learn trauma processing and nervous system regulation, so has created a TikTok channel (tiktoktraumadoc), written a book (Modern Trauma Toolkit), and created a company to train in these tools for workplace environments (Safer Spaces Trainings) and elevate the conversation about trauma and post-traumatic growth.

Episode highlight

Christine Gibson took her own intense personal experiences and laced them to her deep curiosity about healing trauma together with her background as a medical doctor. The result is a practice that is deeply responsive to the requirements of people’s nervous systems.

Links

Quotes

  • “The trauma isn’t the event, the trauma is your response to the event.”
  • “The word trauma sounds really heavy but I think there’s a way to break it down to help people understand that you can shift it back if you’ve been influenced, if you’ve got these stuck trauma responses, there’s a lot you can do.”
  • “I love the idea of doing something that’s strongly academic but infusing it with creativity and fun.”
  • “What else can we do that is playful yet healing?”
  • “That’s where you can continue to do great harm – is to have a little bit of understanding but feel like you’ve got it mastered.”
  • “If we continue to face these really difficult things, is when we have the best possibility of shifting it.”
  • “When a caterpillar has to form the cocoon, it dissolves its own skin in acid before it emerges as a butterfly, and I really like building a safe cocoon for that dissolution.”

Takeaways

Childhood Incidents

Christine grew up in Edmonton. Her father had immigrated to Canada from Scotland at 20 without a lot of education but was always emotionally available to his 2 daughters. Her mother is of Ukrainian heritage with a father who suffered from polio. Seeing her parents overcome obstacles inspires Christine’s work in health equity and she remembers being encouraged to pursue her interests.

Christine’s mother was very intuitive, putting her in a more creative and challenging academic environment and even driving home from work to retrieve a school assignment she knew Christine forgot. Being introduced to a different way of knowing fuelled Christine’s curiosity and desire to learn more about people.

Christine had all types of friends in school – sporty, experimental, religious, outdoorsy, geeky. That was her beginning of becoming a “trans-disciplinarian” even though it was difficult to feel like she didn’t have a place to belong to. She began travelling at 19, and has further developed her interest in people and her ability to adapt.

Influential groups

Christine’s father came from a small coal mining town in Fife, Scotland, dropped out of school at 16 and escaped the blue-collared lifestyle for a musical life in Canada with a guitar over his shoulder. His escaping a defined way of life influenced her to chart her own course.

Her maternal grandparents taught her a lot about Ukrainian culture and ethos, and she credits them with her work ethic. Even though Ukrainians settled in Canada are different from those in Ukraine, her cultural roots and the marginalization her community has faced have influenced her personality and driven her work around equity. She also learned the “there’s just nothing I can’t do” attitude.

After Christine survived an earthquake in Nepal in 2004, her work and reach expanded to impact different groups beyond traditional spaces. She began to explore trauma, realizing the collective trauma in the world and how it takes place in people’s bodies and impacts their lives overall.

Temperament and Personality Influences

Christine has always been a curious person – exploring kitchen ingredients as a child and relishing creative academic pursuits in school. She also explored bringing that “curiosity, creativity and fun” into her work especially in the field of trauma, and chose Tik Tok and her book as the media.

She also considers herself an early adopter of ideas and trends, which has influenced her career, allowing her to innovate and take risks in a conventional and traditional field like medicine. She is exploring the confluence of social media, Indigenous ways of knowing and trauma-informed approaches to guide her work, including music as a way to support mental health.

Cultural Epiphanies

Christine shares her experiences participating in a social innovation residency cohort, where she realized that she hadn’t understood decolonization and was still operating from a colonial culture till an Indigenous woman from Brazil navigated them through those difficult conversations.

Advice to an Employer

Christine needs to be well-rested, nourished and in touch with her internal environment to show up “ready to face hard truths and to be challenged”. She also enjoys working with people who expand beyond check boxes to see what’s possible, willing to be playful around tough concepts.

She also loves when she can provide space for deconstructing and regeneration, “when things are falling apart and reconstructing and you are trying to figure out the resources left behind”. She thrives when she can work with the sensibility of exploring what can come from the ashes.

More Great Insights!

Christine’s book is a solution- and strength-based piece where you can discover personal practices and links to videos to help through trauma using metaphors to enable catalyzed growing. Her training module is designed to help professionals and organizations create safer workspaces.

Extro

Dr. Christine Gibson has used every opportunity in her life to explore expansiveness. From the blue sky prairies her Scottish father escaped to so he could realize his dreams, to the rootedness of her Ukrainian Heritage and its embedded traumas, Christine forged a path that created bridges between people who were very different from each other to become a physician, and a corporation and not for profit co-founder. Her experience of being in an earthquake in Nepal began a quake in her perception of the world that upended her even more when she experienced the full force of the effects of colonization through the skilled exercise of an Indigenous woman from Brazil.

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