The Trauma-Informed Lawyer

The Upside Down World of Trauma

Episode Summary

CW: This is an emotional episode which discusses Indian Residential Schools, child rape, the memories that haunt us and the hard stories we have to tell.

Episode Notes

This is an emotional episode which discusses Indian Residential Schools, child rape, the memories that haunt us and the hard stories we have to tell. It also focuses on healing and empathy and the choices we must make in order to heal. This episode also offers listeners ideas on how they can connect to Canada's Day for Truth and Reconciliation. 

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Episode Transcription

The Upside Down World of Trauma Episode 19, Season 2

Myrna McCallum (00:00):

I'm Myrna McCallum Métis-Cree lawyer, and passionate promoter of trauma-informed lawyering. Welcome back to the Trauma-Informed Lawyering Podcast season two, folks. As you know, I believe that law schools and bar courses are missing a critical competency requirement in their curriculum, trauma-informed lawyering.

Myrna McCallum (00:17):

Becoming a trauma-informed lawyer will among other things, challenge you to critically reflect on your personal behaviors, beliefs, and biases, call on you to positively transform the way you approach advocacy, guide your practice to avoid doing further harm to others and ask that you commit to remaining open to learn new and old knowledge you didn't know you needed before beginning your career.

Myrna McCallum (00:40):

Your education starts right here, right now. Transcripts for season two have been generously sponsored by the BC Law Foundation. All right. Welcome back to another episode of the Trauma-Informed Lawyer Podcast. So I've got a few episodes left before we wrap up season two, and some of you who follow me on social media know I may just wrap this podcast right there.

Myrna McCallum (01:11):

I don't know that I'm going to continue beyond season two for a couple reasons. One is I'm really becoming increasingly interested in the subject of healing and talking about healing and thinking about healing and learning to embody healing. And I don't know that continuing to focus on trauma would take away from that.

Myrna McCallum (01:32):

I don't have all the answers, but maybe trauma and healing are this intertwined thing that you can't really have one without the other and you've got to talk about both of those things. And I get that. I don't know exactly whether this is the audience for those conversations. You tell me. I'm thinking mostly right now about the lawyers and the judges who listen to this podcast.

Myrna McCallum (01:56):

Do you want to learn about healing? Do you want to learn about how to achieve healing and embody it within yourself and then display it within your practice? Or do you just want more content on how to bring a trauma-informed approach to what you do? Being trauma-informed can allow us also to maintain a bit of a disconnect and not really have to self reflect too much.

Myrna McCallum (02:22):

But healing, it's a deep dive, man. It's a deep dive into those dark and murky places that we sometimes just don't want to go, but we got to go to clear it out and feel better and find a better way forward. So I don't know, you tell me what you want. Secondly, this podcast, in order to do this podcast justice and to do this well, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of expertise, it costs money.

Myrna McCallum (02:54):

Ever since I launched this thing a couple years ago, I pay for everything. I've never had a sponsor, I've never done ads on my podcast. I don't have any income stream for this podcast. I would love to keep this going if it had an income stream to make it self-sustaining.

Myrna McCallum (03:12):

Right? So I'm not constantly paying for the equipment, paying for the hosting, paying for the editing software, paying for the software to create, and the programs that create the promo, paying for the transcripts. Right? I can continue to pay. I just think that every project I work on, I think in order to truly embrace my sense of self worth and commitment to self care means everything shouldn't just draw from me and leave me just giving, giving, giving.

Myrna McCallum (03:50):

Reciprocity is huge, right? It's huge. And so I would love to see this podcast become self-sustaining. But if it doesn't do that, I'm going to have to let it go because I can't keep feeding it, feeding it, feeding it when it doesn't. It just is going to ask for more. I know it will. That's kind of how it goes.

Myrna McCallum (04:08):

So yeah, I would love to see great things happen with this podcast. I'd love to see law societies and law libraries ask to create an archive of all these episodes for future generations. Because I know how huge this work is and how unique it is. And there's real value in it.

Myrna McCallum (04:27):

I know it because I hear from all of you telling me how valuable it is and I see all the listeners I'm picking up all across the world. So there must be something here that you like that helps you in your practice and in your relationship. I would also love to see this podcast become more inclusive.

Myrna McCallum (04:47):

I'd like to not only be able to create English transcripts, but also be able to pay somebody to create transcripts in French, so do an English version and a French version. I'd like to put this thing on YouTube so people who are hearing impaired could see episodes of the podcast with close captioning overlays so that they can read what is being said.

Myrna McCallum (05:11):

There's just so much more that could be done to increase access to this content, but I can't do all those things. I am no social media guru and I am no editor. As you know from listening to the episodes, I struggle through all these things. And so time consuming. So nevermind just the cost, but the time. I podcast on the weekends.

Myrna McCallum (05:33):

So what does that mean? I'm working full days Monday to Friday and weekends I podcast. And so I never get time off. And I work when I'm sick. Self care for me means I need to let go of things that I don't have help with and focus on the things that I do have help with. And ask for help, that, I think that's probably a important part of self care is to ask for help.

Myrna McCallum (06:01):

Right? So I'm going to do that now. I'm asking for help. If you love this podcast, you want to hear more, you want to see this thing grow and reach more ears across the land then I would love it if you would leave me a tip. Yeah, just a tip. You can decide how much that's going to be. I signed up recently on this platform called Ko-fi.

Myrna McCallum (06:27):

It's It's like a tip, a digital tip space. So I made the suggestion of a $25 tip to help go towards my hosting site fees, but some people have decided to leave bigger tips, which is awesome. And yeah, if you like what you hear, go to and leave me a tip.

Myrna McCallum (06:59):

And leave me a note. Let me know what you like. Let me know what you want to hear. Let me know if you're interested in healing or if we just want to talk about what it is to be trauma-informed, which is cool too. That's the first bit I guess, that I wanted to share with you. The other bit is I kind of come to this podcast, this episode today with a heavy heart.

Myrna McCallum (07:21):

There's a lot going on in the world right now. I feel so much and I think I've always kind of been that way. I'm kind of sensitive. And so you wouldn't think it, right? When you meet me because I know I look like a total hard ass. But I'm totally sensitive. As I reflect on what has happened out at James Smith and I think about the traumas that my people have experienced because of colonization and more specifically because of the residential school system.

Myrna McCallum (07:52):

I just keep thinking about what it's going to take to overcome. What will it take to heal? What will it take to want more, to do something different, to take a path that doesn't hurt us? The second National truth and Reconciliation Day is coming up here in Canada on September 30th. And in anticipation of that day, I'm thinking, what can I say that lends my voice to the subject of healing?

Myrna McCallum (08:21):

The other day I was reading a news article and I posted about it on LinkedIn where this young woman, Eva Jewel, had said really succinctly, she was talking about Truth and Reconciliation Day coming up and she said, "I don't think it's sustainable for indigenous peoples to have to trot out our trauma year after year.

Myrna McCallum (08:45):

And I don't think that it's okay for Canadians to just sit back and consume our hardships." I agree. I mean, that's why you can't get me to come and talk about reconciliation. Folks who have tried to book me, you know, I say no. Because it follows a certain kind of pattern that is exactly like Eva spoke about, trotting out our trauma year after year, having other people around us consume our hardships.

Myrna McCallum (09:11):

Something about that is not only keeps us wounded, but it reinforces these stereotypes about who we are and who we aren't or what we can't be or what we will never be. I don't know, but it's fucked up. I don't like it. I think it hurts a lot of people, not just the speaker, but others who listen, particularly indigenous people.

Myrna McCallum (09:34):

And like I said somewhere last year, I'm like, if you want to invite survivors in, then it should solely be for the purpose of you presenting to them to tell them what you are going to do as an organization to achieve reconciliation in their name and to give them a big check so that if they want to go and do a healing program, hire a therapist, buy food for their family, whatever, this is the way forward.

Myrna McCallum (10:04):

I think things need to really be shifted because everything feels so fucking upside down. I was in the car the other day and I heard a broadcast about how some Russian soldiers have been found to have been torturing and raping civilians in Ukraine, some as young as four years old. And so when I heard that, it just hit me.

Myrna McCallum (10:27):

It hit me so hard. And I think part of it is because I have a four year old granddaughter and I started to think, how could people be so fucking cruel, so dehumanizing, so cruel, so evil? And I mean, I'm not naive about the reality of war, and I think about lawyers and judges who do nothing but deal with cases involving war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Myrna McCallum (10:55):

And I don't honestly know how you all hold your hearts and your spirits together because I would be devastated. I then began to think about residential schools. I mean, we hear all the time about how there was sexual abuse there and there was physical abuse and children were forced there against their will and they were removed from their communities and some have died there and there are unmarked graves.

Myrna McCallum (11:19):

And I think it's easy when we start to hear these things to almost disconnect from what that means. Right? It's just a kind of a broad statement. But without connection, we're not going to be able to humanize that experience or connect to it or feel it. Feeling together, right? Empathy. This world needs more empathy.

Myrna McCallum (11:43):

I can feel these, what this means because I have had a history of being sexually abused as a child. I have a four year old granddaughter who I would protect with my life. And for years when I did the residential school adjudication work, I heard these stories. I heard stories of children being raped, of other children watching rape, of other children being forced to engage in the sexual abuse of other children, being forced to engage in that.

Myrna McCallum (12:24):

There are many more stories I could tell you, but it's so hard to put words to certain acts of cruelty and evil. And sometimes I think, I don't know that there's benefit to speaking those words. I don't know. I don't know what the experience was for a lot of my colleagues who did the work that I was doing.

Myrna McCallum (12:54):

So I can't speak for them, but I could speak for myself as somebody who has a personal connection to residential schools and experiences of childhood abuse. That was the hardest work of my life. The fact that I got through it and survived it blows me away. But the stories that I've heard, the experiences that others shared with me, sometimes they still, I still, I feel them, I hear them.

Myrna McCallum (13:24):

I don't know that that will go away. But I just want to say to people who are thinking, "What do we do on this September 30th Truth and Reconciliation Day?" I would invite you to just go and be present and listen. Just listen. Sometimes listening to people is the greatest act of love, support, empathy, kindness. Just listen. Doesn't cost anything to listen to people.

Myrna McCallum (13:57):

Many folks just need to be seen and they need to be heard. And I think nothing could be more true than for indigenous people who for too long, I would say have been treated like we are disposable and worthless. I felt that quite a bit in my life. So listen. And if you can't go and be in community, listen to a podcast. Listen to Duncan McCue has a podcast called Kuper Island.

Myrna McCallum (14:29):

Listen to that one. I'm sure there's so many more out there that you could go and listen to. I think we're living in a really critical time where we need to start to grow empathy and healing and we need to care for each other and we need to be compassionate with each other.

Myrna McCallum (14:47):

And I think that that begins with ourselves. Forgive yourself for whatever it was that you did or didn't do. I think about young indigenous people, they see a lot of pain and they see a lot of trauma in their communities. And maybe they struggle with finding a better way, and what is that better way? And who lives in a better way or who strives for a better way.

Myrna McCallum (15:13):

I think that there are a lot of folks out there, lots of indigenous folks choosing a life and choosing relationships that don't hurt them. And I think it begins there. And letting people in who only make you feel better. Healing begins really with self forgiveness and self compassion. And then it just takes on a life of its own from there.

Myrna McCallum (15:42):

And so I would just say be very careful about who you let in and trust your gut. If something doesn't feel good or if you feel like you've got to compromise your own self worth or your integrity to be in a relationship with somebody or to take a certain job that doesn't align with your values, those are all indications that maybe that is not the path for you.

Myrna McCallum (16:11):

And if you go down that path, it could just be a lot of pain. Ask yourself the question, do you need more pain? I would say the answer should always be, hell no. We don't need any more pain. Because I'm a little obsessed right now about healing and thinking about what that means, I'm doing a couple things.

Myrna McCallum (16:32):

One, I'm saying no more often, but I struggle, especially when it comes to my family to say no to them. I'm reading more things about healing and I'm exploring things that can reinforce healing, like getting real about why I've always felt like I don't belong places.

Myrna McCallum (16:55):

What informs that or why have certain patterns of behavior, what is informing that? And is there something that I have to let go? I'm going down to Sedona in November to take part in a meditation retreat because I've always wanted to learn how to meditate.

Myrna McCallum (17:13):

And I think it's a little bit of a bonus that I get to go back to Sedona and that I get to do it in a group because sometimes I need that kind of structure. And I get to get escape from my phone. And as my kids know, I've come to hate my phone a little bit and it's evident by how beaten up it looks.

Myrna McCallum (17:36):

And I take 30 minutes of the beginning of the day to just read. Instead of going for my phone, I just read a little bit. Sit by a fireplace, and I read. And I just think about what healing means to me, how we're going to achieve that, how do we do it individually and how do we do it together. And I think about what it's going to take to be able to go the distance.

Myrna McCallum (18:01):

Right? I don't know if any of you out there listening to this ever feel like there's almost a sense of urgency, that time is ticking. And if we really want to contribute to healing in this world or healing our own traumas or our own, our intergenerational trauma, then we don't got a lot of time for that.

Myrna McCallum (18:27):

And we need to get our shit together and we need to build up our stamina and we need to get our health in order so that we can run this healing marathon. I don't know if you feel that, but I definitely have been feeling that way. It doesn't help that I had a dream that a psychic told me that I'm going to die in 2024. I'm sure that is adding to the urgency of it all, but life is short anyway.

Myrna McCallum (18:51):

So whether life ends in 2024 or somewhere else down the line, we don't all get a lot of time here anyway. So I'd like to spend my time embodying, achieving, healing, being somebody who is representative of a healer. I know I deserve it. I know that had my mom known what I know now, she would have maybe still been alive and doing better than she was in the days leading up to her passing.

Myrna McCallum (19:21):

Same with my grandmother. And I look at my grandchildren and I think this is what they deserve. They need a healed kokom, a healed grandmother. They need somebody who embodies love and patience and a tolerance for affection. Yes, and I say tolerance because as my kids would say, one of the byproducts of the abuse I endured as a kid is I couldn't allow anyone to touch me.

Myrna McCallum (19:49):

So that meant my kids. And unfortunately, as my son-in-law Brett knows, I pass that down. So my daughter, Alicia, is constantly pushing him away when he wants to cuddle her. But she's learning to let him in and that's good. And she's learning to even hug him back, I notice. So that's something. I think that healing is a bit of a relay.

Myrna McCallum (20:15):

I probably will not be able to run this whole marathon in my lifetime, but I could take it as far as I can take it. And then hopefully my daughters and my son pick it up and take it as far as they can. And then Addie, River and Hazel, my grandkids can take it even further than I could dream of right now.

Myrna McCallum (20:34):

And so for those of you who have trauma, traumatic childhood experiences, whatever it may be, these things that show up even when you think you've gotten over them, be kind to yourself, be compassionate. Remember, Gabor Mate’s question. He invites us to ask ourselves, What happened to you? What happened to you to set you off like that? What's happening for you that you're feeling so impatient?

Myrna McCallum (21:04):

What's happening for you that you're reacting with anger in the face of an angry colleague? What are you feeling inside? Why is it so challenging to act out of love? Or why is it when you think about love, you immediately feel fear? What's happening for you? Where is that coming from? And there doesn't need to be any judgment attached to that.

Myrna McCallum (21:27):

I invite all of you, regardless of your fancy positions and your fancy titles, to think a little bit about how you can embody a little kindness, a little self forgiveness, a little self-compassion, and a little empathy in how you do what you do and who you are, how you connect with those around you, those you love, and especially those you dislike.`

Myrna McCallum (21:55):

I think healing begins there. Thanks for listening to me and being patient as I struggled through this episode due to emotion and sickness, this cold that I got. I really appreciate all of you listening and continuing to download the Trauma-Informed Lawyer podcast. If you have any feedback, have any thoughts about whether you want to hear more about healing, let me know.

Myrna McCallum (22:20):

You can find me on Instagram at the Trauma-Informed Lawyer. You could find me on LinkedIn, also the Trauma-Informed Lawyer, or I just Myrna McCallum. You can also go to my website, You could leave me a note there. I'm on Twitter, but not so much, at the TIL Podcast. My daughter runs Facebook page for the podcast. I'm never on Facebook. Don't leave me a message there. I'll never see it. So there's all those other platforms, you could find me there.

Myrna McCallum (22:51):

I'd like to know what you think. And wherever you happen to be Truth and Reconciliation Day 2022, I just want you to listen. This episode was recorded on the ancestral, traditional and unseated territory of the Tsleil-Waututh people. If you'd like to support this podcast, please go to and leave me a tip. I greatly appreciate that. All right. Till next time, take care.