005C. An Interview With Tuê-Si Nguyen on Overcoming Trauma

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Key Quote

By showing up for myself consistently, I can now manage my fear of abandonment because I know that I’ll never let myself go or abandon me.” – Tuê-Si Nguyen

Episode Summary

In this episode, Tuê-Si Nguyen peels back layers of his life that were once shrouded in mystery. Dive deep into the shadows of a daunting two-year battle with meth addiction, and join Tuê-Si as he uncovers the heartbreaking root of his struggles—a deeply buried trauma he experienced at only six years old. 

He will recount how he navigated the treacherous maze of suppressed rage, resentment, and regret that had been plaguing him all these years. Tune in to witness a moving account of self-forgiveness and the transformative power of change. Learn how a simple shift in environment, coupled with daily practices of journaling and meditation, carved a path for healing. 

Through this journey, Tuê-Si fostered a sense of self-compassion that illuminated a new perspective on life. Grasp the profound realization that one must conquer their traumas to trade fear and triggers for a life of love and compassion. Don’t miss this episode if you seek a compelling narrative of resilience and renewal.

Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Wesley Jackson: Can you relate to this? Picture yourself two years deep into a meth addiction. You’ve been using every day now, and you finally stop and ask yourself, why exactly am I doing this? This sends you down a deep rabbit hole, where you realize that you still haven’t processed a significant trauma that you experienced at the age of only six years old. But how do you know where to start after this? What do you do to get better? How do you know if what you’re doing is actually working, if you’re truly finding a way out of this destructive downward spiral?

You’ll find this out today through a story from Tuê-Si Nguyen, host of the Creators in Vietnam podcast.

In today’s self-help podcast episode, you’ll learn about overcoming trauma, how it relates to mindshifts, and how these two powerful forces influence our lives. Welcome to Surviving Humanity, a self-help podcast, where we shift your perspective to help you overcome the obstacles in your life.

We are Wesley Jackson and Andrew Gilley, and we hope to foster a sense of connection and community over our common struggles while providing you with tools to overcome them.

As always, our FacebookSubreddit, and Twitter are the best places to go for community connection and support. Links to these are in the show notes.

Let’s get started.

Tuê-Si, do you have any stories that you’d like to share that are related to overcoming trauma?

[00:01:11] Tuê-Si Nguyen: I do have a personal story about overcoming trauma, and it’s based on my addiction to crystal meth. So I was addicted to crystal meth from 2017 till middle of 2019. I had done it like consistently every day, for all that time. And when I hit rock bottom, it was that little wake up call to find out what was the reason behind the addiction.

Not looking at the addiction for the reason of the crime, but looking at what was the workings inside of my head, the status of my mental health and how I dealt with all the things that happened in my childhood and throughout my life.

[00:01:40] Wesley Jackson:
 When you were backtracking throughout your childhood and your life leading up to this addiction phase, what were you seeing, hearing, feeling, and thinking when you were recollecting all of this?

[00:01:52] Tuê-Si Nguyen: The root of my trauma: I lost my mom very young, when I was six years old. So obviously, that gave me a huge fear of abandonment.

And when I started looking at the tip of the iceberg, I thought at that time, like the whole trauma and the whole problem that I had in my life was the death of my mom. I started observing it and observing that time in my life. And what I realized is, for me, there is three main feelings that I was hiding to myself or I did not know how to express, and those were the feelings or emotions of rage, resentment, and regret.

And so when I was asking myself the question, “Why did it go this far? Why did I have to go this deep into addiction and why crystal meth and why all of this?”

I kept on looking at “Oh, it’s because my mom died, and it was a very simple way to approach things.

And then I was like, “Okay, well, I have fear of abandonment.”

But every time I was like trying to go back into my memories of the past, most of the feelings and emotions that were coming back up was of regrets and resentment. Rage a little bit less; that came after. But it was true resentment for my mom leaving.

So every time I had that resentment, I felt guilt because, you know, like you grew up with people telling you that, “Oh, your mom loved you, you’re supposed to love her.”

And all those things. And there was no room for a six-year-old kid to resent or just to be like “Why did you leave me? Like why did you have to do this?

And there was a whole situation right there where I wasn’t given the tools to understand and process it the right way. So, when I understood how to process that guilt and that resentment, I think that was the first step. And I still remember that day very particularly was in February, 2019.

It was the day I think, that I told myself when I remember the resentment and the hatred and the rage, I told myself, “Oh, you were six years old man. You are allowed to have those feelings and you already had them. So just forgive yourself.”

And so that was my first discovery. “Oh, that’s how it feels to love yourself. That’s what self-love is supposed to be.

For me, it went through self-forgiveness and that was my first step out of my traumas.

[00:03:42] Wesley Jackson: Wow. That sounds like quite the emotional journey. Rage, resentment, and regret. Those are definitely three powerful, negative emotions, especially if they’re directed at your own mom.

I understand. It makes so much sense. Like at the age of, six, you don’t even have the faculties to process that yet.

[00:03:59] Tuê-Si Nguyen: And it’s pretty bad, because 30 years ago we didn’t have any knowledge of mental health, and I grew up in France. So, I was born and raised in France, and my father was a very typical immigrant father. So, like in his mind it was more important to be the quiet Asian, hardworking, and make no waves.

So, don’t put any type of spotlight on the family. And the way that my mom passed, she unfortunately took her life. That was like way too much spotlight on the family already. And all of those details are coming way after, at 35, 36, like couple years ago.

And in the culture back in the day in France or in any country, I would feel, is like someone passes away, a mom or a father, and then one week, two weeks after, you’re back at school and you have to pretend that everything is okay. And so everybody was asking me questions like, “Oh, is everything okay? We’re sorry.”

And I was to act like everything was normal, but nothing was normal anymore. So, I had no recourse to or no tools to process it. And it’s not like at that time, like an Asian father was gonna go, “Oh, I think I’m gonna bring you to the therapist and you’re gonna have to talk about it.

It is what it is. But I am happy that I went through that journey of understanding all those negative emotions.

[00:05:00] Wesley Jackson:
 Yeah, you weren’t really given space to process back then, but fast forwarding now to the present, then how did you find a way through all of this exactly?

[00:05:08] Tuê-Si Nguyen: So, I’m grateful in a way, quote unquote, that I chose crystal meth cuz when you hit rock bottom and in society, quote unquote, again, sees you doing crystal meth, there is no, way out of it. There is just get your shit together or don’t.

But, there was enough documentation out there on addiction, on crystal meth, addiction, alcoholism, and all those different types of addiction that it gave me enough knowledge to try to come up with a plan.

Obviously, knowledge without execution is just talking and so it took me a while to go from, “Okay, think I should change environment.”

I think I said that like in June, 2018, and it took me a year to actually move to Vietnam. And so actually my move to Vietnam in May, 2019 was I think what allowed me to give myself space, finally; to give myself space to heal.

And one of the things that I realized that I did not do my whole life and that I’m practicing since then is, by giving myself that space, I showed up for myself. And by showing up for myself consistently, I can now manage my fear of abandonment because I know that I’ll never let myself go or abandon me.

Because before, that fear that I was projecting on others was just me not showing up for myself because I was too guilty of the feelings that I had. But, the technicals of me now coming out of this whole thing or understanding those traumas was two tools that I use that had really helped me is obviously journaling and meditation.

[00:06:26] Wesley Jackson: Wow, it sounds like you’ve gone through quite the introspection. So, journaling and meditation.

[00:06:32] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Yes.

[00:06:32] Wesley Jackson: What kinds exactly are we talking about here?

[00:06:34] Tuê-Si Nguyen: So, one of the meditations that really helped me was based on the book from Joe Dispenza for the audience it’s a man that I highly recommend.

So it’s a lot based on emotions too. It’s you create your futures through how you feel and so I think I would meditate in 2020 for one hour in the morning and in one hour in the evening, just before bed.

And it’s basically you go through, you focus on all your chakras and then once you hit a point of flow. That’s when you visualize the future that you want to have, and then you create the emotions with them. So, you feel your future. Because the body doesn’t know past, present of future.

So, it’s the same way with traumas. If you wake up and you think of your traumas, or you subconsciously think of your trauma, you’re creating the same chemical reactions of stress and fear, of that day. And so that meditation really helped me to like really start living in the present or in the future that I was envisioning.

And when I say meditation, I didn’t sit here when I say I meditated for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. It’s not like I was sitting and I was levitating and I was like reaching a point of zen for 45 minutes. No, it was a constant battle with my mind to get to that 30 to 45 seconds of “Oh, yeah, I’m connected to something.”

But the rest was like, honestly, at the beginning when I started meditating, it was like me closing my eyes and it was like the worst thing that I could see. And I could hear the drugs talking in my ear, like, “Come on back. Let’s go do drugs and let’s go to the clubs.”

And all those things. And that was like 45 minutes of that to get to one minute of “Oh, I can visualize something. And then very honestly, within the one year that I really practiced this, it’s not like it went up to 30 minutes of fucking bliss. It was like still like a 40 minutes of constant battle, except the battle was like softer and like it was just like more manageable, but it was still like, maybe at most two minutes of bliss. But those two minutes is what makes you come back. So, that’s how I I do.

[00:08:21] Wesley Jackson: Funny, because I was just talking about this on a previous episode with Andrew about how much I struggled with mindfulness meditation in particular and how I recently switched to affirmation statements and anger and resentment, letting go of that. I really wanted to point out something that I really liked that you said was how like the body doesn’t know what past, present, and future is, and so if you think or bring up thoughts of the past of a traumatic event or experience, your body will react to it in the present.

I think that’s a really powerful way to just succinctly put that in perspective.

[00:08:51] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Yeah.

[00:08:52] Wesley Jackson: And I think that will help a lot of people have this kind of idea of how trauma actually mechanically functions within the body. I think you really just helped that click.

[00:09:00] Tuê-Si Nguyen:
 Yeah, that really helped me. It does make sense because you can observe the body and I would observe my trigger and I would observe exactly what was happening and then and I I’m thinking of like my ex relationships and suddenly this toxicity and this like the bitterness come back and I’m like, oh, but I’m here sitting in a present, struggling with myself. There is no, nobody’s here but me. And so I really started observing myself. And then the second side of the method is journaling, because once you observe, then it’s really good to have a discussion with yourself.

Thinking is one thing, but actually bringing those emotions out of you and seeing it in a medium that you can confront in a way means that you have to analyze those feelings and emotions and through words written or recorded, you have to apply one truth to those emotions.

So, if I feel anger and resentment and I don’t know how to express it, the very first time that I journaled, it would be one sentence with words that I thought would mean something, and then I would confront those words. I would be like, okay, this is one truth of it, but it’s beyond that.

And I would right next to it, write a different sentence like, that would mean a little bit more. And then through all of those journaling – it’s painful journaling – you get to mature that emotion and you get to understand a little bit more and more.

But that takes, again, consistency – consistently showing up for myself.

[00:10:13] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, I like that phrase of yours: “Consistently show up for yourself.”

[00:10:16] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Yeah. That’s been the hard work, man. That’s been the hardest, because there is days where I don’t wanna show up for myself, but then I’m like, “I know too much now that I have to.”

So, at the very least I’ll try to sit in for five minutes. People say that about the gym. It’s like showing up is the most important. And it’s true, but it’s the same with all the practice, all the routines that I have. It’s I’m gonna sit there, even if it’s for five minutes, I’m gonna sit there, close my eyes, I’m gonna pop up my I use notion a lot for journaling and I’m gonna pop up my daily touch-base. And that’s it.

And the, at the very least of doing this, the same thing then showing up at the gym. It helps self-management.

[00:10:46] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, self-discipline and self-management. So true. So, how would you say then that this whole experience of yours has changed your perspective now?

[00:10:54] Tuê-Si Nguyen: So, now that I feel that I’ve gone through that journey of understanding the whole spectrum of my negative emotions, something that I don’t run away from anymore, and that I’ve accepted them and I’ve forgiven them, and when I feel them, I let them be, because I know they have to get out of that.

So, that’s already a shift of perspective is don’t hold on to your negative emotions. Accept them, forgive them, and let them run that course. The second thing is through that, that’s the process of compassion, and that’s one of my core values and it’s written on my table right here.

But compassion has been something that I refused to do for myself. And I thought being sensitive to other people’s emotion or having empathy was to have compassion. But it is part of it, but it’s not the whole coin of it. It’s not the whole thing. Today, I understand that everything has to go through the lens of compassion because compassion for me is a true understanding, like without spoken words.

It’s like I understand who you are by you being who you are and letting you express yourself. And same thing for me, let me express my emotions to the fullest. If I didn’t go through that process of self-compassion, then I don’t think I would have accepted my own anger, my own emotion, the whole spectrum of my emotions.

And I don’t think I would be able to do this in return to people around me. And so the reason why I love to do podcasting too, and I love to coach and I love to talk to people, is because now it’s really coming out of that place of compassion and I understand that this is the perspective, the lens that I need to see everything.

Even when I express anger, it’s because I’m self-compassionate and I need to express something and I need to understand it a little bit more.

[00:12:20] Wesley Jackson:
 Wow, that really struck a chord with me. Compassion’s actually one of my top five values as well. And I struggle as well the most with self-compassion.

[00:12:28] Tuê-Si Nguyen:
 Yeah. It’s hard, man.

[00:12:30] Wesley Jackson: Yeah. I understand too. I mean, I’ve mentioned it on my previous episode on your own podcast, Creators in Vietnam, where I talked about my own cannabis addiction, and it was the same exact kind of process: feeling really, really ashamed and guilty about myself and going through that whole process of denial of my own emotions, running away from negative emotions. It’s quite the journey.

[00:12:51] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Yeah.

[00:12:51] Wesley Jackson: So, with that said, how would you say overcoming trauma then is related to mindshifts?

[00:12:57] Tuê-Si Nguyen: A trauma is what brings you out of your authentic self. It’s an event that just push you out of your own path or your authentic path. And it’s here to cover up your truth.

And so, obviously, not overcoming trauma means that you will always look at your life, or you will always live your life through the lens of trauma. So, you won’t be acting out of love or compassion, you would act out of fear and triggers.

If you invested this time and this money into overcoming your traumas, then you will come out of that journey like a hundred percent yourself. And that’s like priceless. You’ll be so much in touch with your authentic self, as bad and as good as it is.

But wouldn’t you wanna be a hundred percent authentic to yourself? Can you put a price to that? I mean, I feel like a million and I’m still a work in progress.

[00:13:43] Wesley Jackson: Man, you are full of quotable phrases today, I love it.

[00:13:47] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Hahaha, yeah.

[00:13:49] Wesley Jackson:
 How do you think this story of yours then is related to larger problems throughout society, and why do you think that’s important?

[00:13:56] Tuê-Si Nguyen:
 I just read a book called Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday, and he says “I think I have a pattern of thinking that I’m too different and nobody can understand me.”

But, very honestly, I don’t think I’m very different. We are all addicted to something like, I, I chose crystal meth, but before crystal meth, it was an area of things that was socially acceptable. But, the way out of those addictions is very similar for everybody. There is methods to get out of addiction and you can find hundreds of methods. What I recommend is choose one that works for you or try as many as you can, because every time you try it, that means you show up for yourself. And a lot of the base of the problem of addiction is self-love.

So, every time you show up for yourself, you show love. So, the methods are a dime a dozen, but the way out is very much the same. It’s always based on self-compassion and self-love. Find what makes you react the best to those two things.

I will be an addict my whole life, which means that I have to consistently show up for myself every day. There is a framework that you have to work with, but, the essence of it is always self-compassion and self-love.

[00:14:53] Wesley Jackson:
 So, would you say that there’s like a lack then generally overall of self-compassion and self-love throughout there in society?

[00:14:59] Tuê-Si Nguyen: It’s a bit of a judgment for me to say that, but I feel that on an observational point of view that maybe there is not a lack of it; maybe there is not enough education on it, and maybe we don’t practice it enough.

Or, maybe our society has been unmindful about those things, and that’s why I feel like we’ve lost ourselves so much, and we talked a lot about mental health before COVID, but now we’re acting on mental health. Because again, there is a difference between knowledge and execution. We talked so much about mental health and yet we didn’t execute on it.

I’ve lost a few of my really good friends because of mental health. And I don’t want to go down that path either. And I’ve lost my mom because of mental health. So, I do feel like our society, if we put the focus more on the internal, of the self, not the ego, but the self-compassion, the self-love, the self-forgiveness, all those beautiful acts of like love, I think we would not be as focused on the external rewarding. And that’s the basis of addiction. The external reward gives you dopamine and all those little bad habits that we have become addictions.

[00:15:57] Wesley Jackson: Yeah, we all serve as mirrors for each other, right?

[00:16:00] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Yeah.

[00:16:00] Wesley Jackson: So, if we’re practicing self-love, then it will externalize as well and other people will respond to that.

[00:16:06] Tuê-Si Nguyen: I do believe you, I do believe if you don’t know how to you love yourself, or if you don’t know how to listen to yourself, or if you don’t know how to talk to yourself, how you’re supposed to do that for others? It has to start with you. You are the one that knows you the best.

And so if you don’t know the ways to love yourself, and I, so I’m dealing with this a lot right now. How do I indicate to someone that is gonna come to my life, how I want to be loved if I don’t know how to love myself?

And it’s hard practice, because like that’s the pattern, especially in my twenties, where it’s “No, love is gonna come from the outside.” Love is gonna come from a female representation of my mother that is going to tell me exactly those sentences that will fix my untold and unknown subconscious resentment.

[00:16:42] Wesley Jackson: Geez, man.

[00:16:43] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Hahaha.

[00:16:43] Wesley Jackson:
 You’re right. You’re so right, honestly. That is very deep, but, you’re right.

What’s the moral of this story then, and what can we all do that are listening today to become better humans in response to all of this?

[00:16:55] Tuê-Si Nguyen: I think we can be more acute or more in touch with our intuition. I think a lot of the people, when COVID happened, I know for you, for example you were pretty – and I feel this is just an observation, an assumption – you were pretty in touch with your intuition.

You were like, “Oh no, this is not gonna go good here in Vietnam, and I want to take care of my mental health.”

And I think you went back to San Diego, if I’m not wrong, and –

[00:17:15] Wesley Jackson: Correct.

[00:17:15] Tuê-Si Nguyen: I think the message should be like, let’s be more in touch with ourselves. And that comes with first being in touch with your intuition. Listen to yourself and don’t stay in situations that generate more bad emotions or more bad feelings. It doesn’t matter if you look bad out of that, just take care of yourself first. I think that’s the first step of self-compassion: being able to not care to look selfish, and to avoid being selfless.

So, don’t sacrifice yourself for others. And then don’t be afraid to look selfish because you’re finding who you are. And the first step of it is stepping out of your environment.

[00:17:46] Wesley Jackson: I like that. Always put your oxygen mask on first before helping others with theirs.

[00:17:50] Tuê-Si Nguyen: Exactly. I love that. Yes. Hahaha.

[00:17:53] Wesley Jackson:
 So, before we go then, If you had to choose, what is your one tip for surviving humanity?

[00:17:59] Tuê-Si Nguyen: My one tip – I think I’ve said it a lot in this episode – love and compassion. Self-love, self-compassion. Love and compassion. It sounds so cheesy, but that’s scientifically proven to be the language of the universe. When you create those emotions of love and compassion, we actually vibrates further and better than when we create emotions of fear and anger.

[00:18:18] Wesley Jackson: Thank you to our guest, Tuê-Si Nguyen. Tuê-Si is the founder of Creators in Vietnam podcast, and he focuses on interviewing creative entrepreneurs in Vietnam who make positive changes in their lives. He covers such topics as fear, relationships, spirituality, and more. You can find his latest work at facebook.com/creatorsinvietnam.

As someone who is once a guest on the podcast myself, I found the format to be really good at providing a safe space for guests to be vulnerable. We highly encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in learning more about the creative journey of entrepreneurs in Vietnam.

Tune in next Tuesday for our monthly newsletter episode, where we’ll share the top insights from this month’s Surviving Humanity articles and other personal development tips.

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