Internationally Recognized Psychotherapist, Theorist, Educator, and Author, Marilyn Murray shares her experience and expert knowledge and how people can learn to deal with mental abuse or trauma and survive to live a full life.
Michelle King Robson: Hi. I'm Michelle King Robson. How many of us have suffered from some type of trauma in our life? Today I'm here with Marilyn Murray who is an internationally recognized educator in the field of trauma. Welcome Marilyn.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Hello Michelle long time friend, I'm delighted to be here.
Michelle King Robson: Thank you. We are happy, we are so happy to have you so tell us a little bit about your story.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Well, I lived here in Scottsdale for many years, and was a successful art dealer, and everybody who saw me thought I had my life put together. I had a beautiful home actually just down the street from where you live now, and two lovely daughters that you know, and everybody assumed that my life was perfect.
What they didn't understand that was that I was suffering from severe physical pain, pain which I had gone to many different doctors, and at the time I went to clinics and tried every type of treatment that was available traditional as well as non-traditional. And the doctor just shook their heads and they said we don't know what's wrong. We realize if you have all of this with severe head pain stomach, legs, back you name it.
And it increased over the years, and I had, had asthma severely as a child and a teenager and actually moved to Arizona from Kansas when I was 17 because of the asthma. And when I and the asthma in Kansas it had always been activated by cold snowy weather, and when I came to Phoenix obviously we don't have snow.
So the asthma went away, but I got these severe headaches, and so I started taking lots of medication from the time I was like in my early 20s. And by the time I was 44 which is in 1980, I was taking some massive amounts of medication that were still not helping. And so I had a friend of mine, she and I had started some support groups for women called 'More Than Friends'.
Actually they were some of the first support groups in the whole United States in the early 70s back when you couldn't find a book anywhere on how to start a small group except for Twelve-Step programs. And so during this time, it was the first time in my life that I had started to look at myself because I had been raised back in Kansas where what will other people think was sort of the Kansas state motto I thought, and taking care of others always before you take care of yourself all of those kind of things were the way I lived.
And so during these groups, I was first starting to say, okay what's going on with me, why am I having all these problems, and so my friends really urge me to do something about it. And back in 1980 in this conservative Scottsdale town, nobody went to therapy unless you were certifiably psychotic, and I was at the time running a very successful business, and so I thought well, I don't need to go to therapy, and but my friend that had helped me start these groups had gone to a treatment center in California earlier because she had come from a family where there was alcoholism.
And I said well, that was fine for you, but I had a perfect family, I don't need this. And she persisted, and it's a really tough love, and insisted that I go. And this treatment center at the time was one of the only ones in the whole country that did any kind of outpatient intensive treatment, and they were really pioneers in that. And I was scheduled, this was thanksgiving weekend of 1980 to go there for two weeks and I was gone seven months.
Michelle King Robson: Oh wow.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah and yeah it was really a wow. And during that time, I dealt with some sexual abuse as a child that were, was from some strangers. It wasn't anyone in my family, and it was something I never dealt with, but it wasn't just that. I dealt with the fact that I had spent 44years of my life never dealing with any conflicts or any negative issues. It was always just pushing everything down, keeping the smile on my face, and looking good, and being focused on everybody else. And as a result then I had to work on all of that because I just had this many, many, many years, lots of issues that hung that I never, never dealt with.
Michelle King Robson: So it's like silent suffering which is what women do so often and then --
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Oh yes.
Michelle King Robson: -- and then suppress everything down and --
Dr. Marilyn Murray: And just -- and keep the smile, always keep the smile.
Michelle King Robson: Right so it affected your whole body. Yeah just affected every part of your being and internally as well as externally I would imagine.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: One of the ways I describe it is I was like you're too young to probably remember the old-fashioned pressure cookers, but we had this pressure cooker where you clamp the lid down really tight, only mine didn't have the escape route on the top. And it was like over the years the heat had just been getting turned up, and turned up until finally I was just going like ummmmmm [sound].
And I was at the verge of explosion, and doctors later told me that had I not done this therapy that I probably was just hours or days away from a massive heart attack or a stroke because…
Michelle King Robson: Yeah you were a time bomb
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah it was literally that and so I was like this really badly infected wound that once you touch it, the whole thing explodes.
Michelle King Robson: Right.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: And that's what happened to me in therapy and just like today we don't do open heart surgery. Doctors don't do open heart surgery today like they did 30 years ago. They've learned a lot and the same thing in the field of trauma we learned a lot on how to deal with things so people today don't have to spend seven months like I did.
Michelle King Robson: Right. So now your professional focus is on trauma?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yes. Well, when I came back, I was a really different person in many ways not only -- all of the wonderful thing is all my physical pain was gone. I'm 75 now. And I think that I look better now probably then you know I was 44.
Michelle King Robson: It's hard to believe you're 75.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: When I was 44, and I have since that time before then I was as I said taking massive amounts of medication in the last 30 years number one, I never get sick. I haven't had but two colds in 30 years. I never had the flu during that time. I have never -- I've only missed two days of work ever during that time, and it just other then the fact that I'm 75 and my bone structurally are changing, and having a little problem there. I just -- I'm not sick anymore, and so that's just to me amazing. Now, that doesn't mean that everybody that does therapy is going to have all the physical problems gone? No, but for me that was the case.
Michelle King Robson: That was huge.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: It was huge, huge. And so I came back not only physically then healthy and being able to do all kinds of things that I never been able to do before in the way of exercise, and in fact I did long before 'Dancing With The Stars' was popular I did some ballroom dancing won all kinds of contests doing that, and it was just really great fun. So that I was this different person, but I wanted to know what is trauma, and how why did I do what I did, how did I react to the trauma the way I did. And so I went back to school and to get my degrees in psychology, and I did three years of BA, two years of Masters to start my PhD in 44 months.
Michelle King Robson: Wow, you were really --
Dr. Marilyn Murray: I was really committed.
Michelle King Robson: You were really passionate about making a difference, right?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Very passionate. And so what happened then is because I was well-known here in Scottsdale because of the art gallery, I began to be asked to speak to women's groups, and to and then not just the women's groups, but at universities like ASU and others and then some churches, and soon radio and television, and I became one of the first persons in the United States in the early 80s to speak publicly about abuse issues.
And so during those years it was like rattling cages, going on television, and saying you know that abuse does happen. Sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, verbal abuse all of those kinds of things are happening. And they are happening and in the beautiful community like this or any -- I used to drive down the street, and think behind all those doors I wonder what's actually happening.
Michelle King Robson: Yeah how many yes.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: It's actually happening and so when I would go on like national television, they brought me my mailing sacks, big sacks. And I remember sitting on my living room floor with this heap of letters around me and crying, reading like 18 page letters of people saying, "please, please where can I get help? Where can I get help"? And so the big thing was then is I think it's unethical to stand up and rattle the cages and say here's the problem, here's the problem without coming up with some solution.
Michelle King Robson: Right. We always have to have the solution yeah.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: That's why weighed the plank.
Michelle King Robson: You open up the flood gates. Now you have to have a solution for the problem, right?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah and so I became really concerned that I was making people being giving them freedom to talk about this for the first time when I would go and do these talks. Often times people would drive for hundreds of miles to come and hear me, and we would have standing room only crowds, and I would afterwards I would stand there, and people would be in line clear out the door sometimes to talk with me, and then I would stay and counsel for free 15 hours a day.
They practically slid my food under the door, but every one of them said where can I go for help? So what I did was I started to develop when I was doing my BA and my graduate program developed a theory I use, and how that affects them in all their life, and I thought that only applied to me. I didn't think that I was developing something. That would be anything for anyone else.
And it's interesting we don't have time now to go into, but what happened is it some of my professors started saying, "Could I use this with my clients"? And my own therapist had me started talk to him, and other people about it, and so I found out that this theory that I was developing actually generalized to other people.
Michelle King Robson: So name, let's do a couple of things. Name some of the abuses the trauma that people face, and then let's talk about the treatments.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Okay. Well, first it's like knowing the difference between trauma and abuse. Trauma includes abuse, but trauma can be many things. It can be an abuse issue. Well, for instance abuse is personal okay. So its physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal, emotional abuse, spiritual abuse those but it's when some, somebody's doing something to you, you're experiencing that, but trauma includes that abuse. But it can also be being in a war, being in an accident, having your parent die, your spouse, loved one, so trauma is much, much wider. Its like, trauma is fruit, and abuse is oranges so in other words all abuse is trauma, but not all trauma is abuse.
Michelle King Robson: And so tell us what some of the -- what you can do in a trauma situation. How you -- what are the different methods of treatment for that, and then what are the different methods I would imagine that there is some crossover in treatment and differences in treatment?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Oh yes of course.
Michelle King Robson: Yes.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Well, one of the things I always say to people is that I believe that we're created with our emotions to be able to use them immediately. And so for instance, when my sexual abuse happened I was eight years old, and had I been able to go home, and tell my parents what happened, a cry, I had them comfort me, love me, tell me that I wasn't wrong that I wasn't bad that the men who sexually abused me were the ones that were bad not me. And had them really comfort me, yes I would had some nightmares, and I would have, it would have been bad for a while, but I would have eventually work through that, and to where the long-term effects would have been much, much less.
But it's like one of the things when I teach students now is that I say okay if I'd to cut myself and had a really deep cut. If I went immediately to the doctor and took care of that, my scar would only be so big. But if I ignored it, and pretend like it wasn't there, and I got infected, I can lose my whole arm or it might go into my heart and die. So it's not so much the original trauma or abuse issue that causes a long-term damage as it is the neglect of it, and so for me because I didn't deal with it.
Michelle King Robson: So did you not say anything to anybody?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: No.
Michelle King Robson: Never?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Never did. And I came from a family of trauma. My mother when she was 17 saw her mother and 16 year old sister burned to death in front of her in a fire that she thought was her fault. And my father's mother was killed by a lightning when he was seven, and he was there at the time, and so they learn to deal with those traumas by not dealing with it, never talking about it, keeping the smile on their face.
Michelle King Robson: So then it -- so what happens is then it goes from family member to family --
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Exactly.
Michelle King Robson: -- so it starts with the parents and then it goes down to --
Dr. Marilyn Murray: And the grandparents --
Michelle King Robson: -- the children, and the grandparents, and it just filters right down through the whole family.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Exactly. In fact, one of the things I talk about a lot is that we carry our parents pain, and so not only the way they role modeled to us how not to deal with this pain, or how to deal with it, but the fact of how that pain has affected them definitely affects how they treat us, and how they respond to us.
And so for me when I had finally dealt with this, and then started teaching about it, and developing this theory it was not only on how can I help other people, but how can I continue to change my life, and for my children, my grandchildren so that they do things differently than I did, and encouraging people to be able to feel. So going back to your question about trauma so if you're able to deal with it immediately you know as soon as possible afterwards then the long-term damage is much less.
So I talk with people today if they have a child that has been sexually abused by teacher or someone or has been in some type of major trauma and traumatic situation to allow that person to deal with it as soon as possible. And the good news is today, and here it is 2012, and we live in the United States of America help is available now. And so when you were talking about what kinds of treatments? I think it's always important to know that like back here, this was a trauma whether its childhood or more recent or whatever you learn how to anesthetized, create diversionary tactics often and not, not deal with it.
And so what happens over the years, those things, many people use anesthetizers, alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine, sex, food and etcetera or like I did diversionary tactics work, working hard, becoming a workaholic, taking care of other people. Then what happens is as the years go by those behaviors then become condition learned bad habits which then can become compulsions and addictions. And then what happens if you go to therapy or like to a Twelve-Step program just to work on this behavior, but you don't work at the root cause. You just end up changing behaviors.
Michelle King Robson: Changing habits.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah absolutely you're just going, going around what I called the Addictions Track when you think of how many people stop smoking and gain weight. Many of the sex addicts that I work with and in the office here are dry alcoholics, and so you need to change the behavior, but you also need to get out the roots just like you have an infected plant out there just cutting it off at the base. It doesn't help and maybe dig the roots out. So at the same time if you only work on the roots not work on the behavior that's not okay either.
So therapeutically, people need to do both, need to do something that can help them dig out their roots as well as some behavioral whether it's in a support group, Twelve-Step program something that can continue to help them have long-term follow-up because it just takes a little while to break that habits.
Michelle King Robson: So now you've developed the Murray Method?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yes.
Michelle King Robson: And you've been developing those over years?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah 30 years.
Michelle King Robson: And so tell us what the Murray Method is?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Okay. Well, it started out basically just helping people understand what I've just told you how we start out as this person that I believe that God created us to be what I call this original person or this original child, but that every person has a pool of pain of some degree and intensity some more, some less. And every person's pain is maximum to them.
But then how their defense mechanism deals with that whether you do it in a healthy manner dealing with it right away or doing like I did, and so many people just not pushing it down smile on your face or other people may be with the alcohol or drugs or food or whatever. But so how those three interact determines what you do in your life. And so that was the basic part of my theory, and that I taught that, but as over the years then as I became a psychotherapist, and then I also taught here at Ottawa University for seven years where they use my whole method in the treatment of trauma and abuse and deprivation.
But I after having many, many, many clients and students they would come up with new questions, new problem, so I kept adding more things into you know kind of pushing out the walls until I'd ended up being a whole treatment method, which many, many, many -- my new book called the Murray Method has 33 exercises in it, all different things. And so that's sort of what it is now.
Michelle King Robson: So with some of that let's talk about some of the exercises and maybe some of the -- a couple of the things that people I don't necessarily think people always know that they have trauma, right? They don't, like you they don't ever talk about it. They actually block it out so you see a lot of posttraumatic stress disorder for example --
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Exactly.
Michelle King Robson: -- things of that nature so what do you do to identify it, right? What are some of the trigger points where you can say I think this person is suffering, and then what is -- and then again how do you find the right person for treatment?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Well, obviously I don't find the right person. They find me because but for people who are listening to this what I would say is this if your health is doing well and your relationships are doing well, and you're feeling good about yourself then probably you're okay. But the majority of people have some issue in their life whether it's there having problems in their relationships, or they're having anger issues, they're having lots of stress, they have really bad headaches, various different things, or they have some relationships perhaps with their parents or siblings that are estranged, and so when you're looking at all of those many different kinds of things, it's saying okay how did this get started?
Michelle King Robson: Right. Where is the root?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah where is the root? Is this just the current stressor that's may be just a temporary thing because maybe you've lost your job and etcetera. But if you've lost your job many times then you need to look at it so I think that I always say we don't go looking for black cats in dark rooms. We're not out trying to dig and find out those things, but I think that everybody could. I don't think that anybody's had a perfect life.
Michelle King Robson: No there is no such thing.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: No, no pain happens.
Michelle King Robson: It always looks like its perfect time yeah.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Pain happens in the world. It just does, and so and also I've had many clients who come to me not because they feel they have trauma, but because they feel like I'm not doing the very best that I know I could be doing a lot. I had a young man who was in his 30s had said you know I'm married now and my wife's expecting, and I realized I don't know how to play.
You know I had a dad and mom that were gone all the time, and nobody played with me. I don't know how to read to this baby otherwise how can I be a better father, and then the others that especially the men now and in fact when in my private practice I had about 80% of men which is unusual, but they were men that were just saying you know I know that I'm capable of doing a lot more not for professionally, but personally that I don't know how to do, and I want to be better at that and what's blocking me, what's keeping me from that.
So I think it's not just changing our lives because we've had major trauma and abuse, but just because you know maybe that that we're capable and have the natural talents or the intellective ability to do and change some other things in our lives.
Michelle King Robson: Some thing is obviously missing or --
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yes.
Michelle King Robson: -- you know just doesn't feel quite connected, and that's a great way to look at what else is going on because I think traditionally therapy you know psychological trauma, abuse whatever the case it would be its always had the stigma attached with it, and what we're seeing and empower more and more is that depression and mental health and things of that nature are really at the forefront of our site. I mean it's always one of the top five conditions that we see every single day that people are looking for information on.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: And what I would hope that you would, that I would encourage you to do is to also add the term emotional health.
Michelle King Robson: Yes.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Because what I feel is now as I've trained therapists all over this country and internationally I had actually -- I teach doctor, psychologist, psychiatrist all social workers all kinds of clinicians and clergy, and I have students from 35 countries.
Michelle King Robson: Well, you are doing that in Russia right?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah in Russia, and I will talk about that in just a minute. But one of things I do is I asked them how many of you work with people who are actually psychotic about 5%? And the rest of us are not mental health professionals with people with damaged minds were emotional healthcare professionals.
Michelle King Robson: It's so interesting.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah and so I for years have campaigned to change the name of our field to the emotional healthcare industry. Somebody who is a psychiatrist or psych nurse yes is a mental health, but for the rest of us are about working with people who have damaged emotions, not damaged minds, and so I think that it's really important to understand that because when people are much more apt to seek help when they realize that's what it's about.
Michelle King Robson: Exactly.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: And also like on my new book is talks about how to become a healthy balanced person and our focus is more not so much just on how to deal with trauma and abuse, but how to move beyond trauma and abuse into becoming a healthy balanced person. And so what I love about your site and all the work that you're doing is that you are giving many people many resources and things on how to be a healthy balanced person.
Michelle King Robson: Right because that's what it's all about. So quickly talk to us about what you've done in Russia because I mean I have watched the journey, I see your journals that you, you know that you e-mail out and it's, it's so amazing the work that you've done over there and the lives that you've touched. And I know that you know they are 30 years behind or more then when we were in the U.S. so tell us what you are doing there?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Well, I -- as I mentioned earlier I taught at the university here. And then I was asked to teach for an international university. And one of the places I went was KIB Ukraine 11 years ago. And almost everyone in the class was from the former Soviet Union, and I just really left my heart with them. So the next year, it's been 10 years now. In 2002, I was asked to go to Moscow, and I eagerly accepted because my father's family is from Russia. And I learned to say "Ya es Ameriki, nor na palavino Russkaya." which means I'm from America but I'm half Russian.
And they go, “Russkaya! Russkaya!” They will hug me and kiss me, and but I believe that God can take any bad thing and make a good thing come from it, and the fact that here in this country that I was able to create and bring about healing and change for a lot of people came out my own abuse issues. Well, in Russia I as I've dealt with and I met family members over there, I find that all of my father 's family that stayed in Russia everyone to down to the last one was either murdered outright by Stalin's starved to death and were sent to Gulags in Siberia.
And I met two of my cousins that had that experience. They are in their 80s now, and having that background God has used that because that pays for my right to stand there and speak there. And that they never ever say to me you wouldn't understand which is what they say to any other outsider especially in America.
Michelle King Robson: Right.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: But I -- there I have now over 2000 students that I personally have taught and then we have instructors. I have five levels of classes that go over a number of years, and so I have people that I've been working with 9 and 10 years so I have seen incredible, incredible changes in their lives. And they now are teaching other people, and we're into a -- now, we have some people that are fourth-generation students that they are teaching who are teaching --
Michelle King Robson: So it's like training, train the trainers program, right?
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Trainers who are training the trainers, who are training the trainers.
Michelle King Robson: That's amazing.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Yeah and so I'm so excited this last 10 years. I had no clue when I went 10 years ago for one to teach a one week class that is -- that I would be living in Moscow. I'm there six to seven months a year, every year, and we just open the Murray Method International Center there I opened this.
Michelle King Robson: Congratulations.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Thank you. And so --
Michelle King Robson: Well-deserved.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: That's wonderful thing about that is even when I'm gone back that then everything will continue to carry on, and I just recently was asked to be a columnist for the Moscow Times which I'm finding out is, is really an amazing opportunity because they have a huge international readership, and I'm getting letters and e-mails from people literally all around the world, and so I'm feeling a lot of pressure too because the column it's the first time that its paper, it's the only English language daily paper in all of Russia.
But its read 65% of the readers are Russian, and there the new young Russian who is you know is got may be an MBA that can may be got in a foreign country, and they are there that are really thinking for themselves and becoming, they are very sharp and bright young people, and so it's giving me an opportunity to talk about health, which is our theme is called 'Time To Live'.
Michelle King Robson: Well, it's been such an honor to interview you today. And I have watched your work over the past 10 plus years, and I can't thank you enough for all that you do, you've done for so many, and I love the emotional health piece of this. And you've made me now rethink how we're going to address this on Empower because it's so, it's so unnecessary. It's so much, it's so important, and it's really more important today than ever than ever.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Than ever yes. And the exciting thing is we do live in 2012, and you're in the United States where we have resources like you and part what you do is, it is helping people see all the resources, and that's so amazing. I would love to have you in Russia. Unfortunately, like you said, they're like 30 years behind us, and this is very déjà vu for me. It's almost over there. It's like I've been there, done that. I understand what's going on, but they don't -- part of one of my frustrations in classes is when my students will -- they will be talking maybe about their own issues or their clients. You know say I have this situation, situation, and I would hear -- I would immediately have answers with like, for instance all the resources that you have. Oh call this, do that here, and over there they just say those don't exist here.
Michelle King Robson: And now they do.
Dr. Marilyn Murray: Well, now they are starting to. We're starting to get some -- I have some people who are able that now to give them what I call Hope for Healing, and I think that Hope for Healing worldwide today is greater than its ever been since the beginning of time.
Michelle King Robson: So thank you very much Marilyn. This is Michelle King Robson. Hope for Healing let's that that be our phrase for the day. Thank you.