Dr. James Gordon: Transforming Trauma for Burnout

45m | Mar 3, 2024

Dr. James Gordon, Harvard educated psychiatrist, founder and CEO of the Center for Mind Body Medicine, is recognized throughout the world for his use of self-awareness, self-care and group support to heal population-wide psychological trauma. He joins us on this episode of FRIED to discuss techniques featured in his new book “Transforming Trauma: The Path to Hope and Healing.” He begins by dispelling two prominent myths. Trauma is not relegated only to those who have extreme experiences. We all have dealt with or will deal with trauma sooner or later. Divorce, death of loved ones, facing immortality, major career setbacks or disappointments, all have traumatic impacts. What’s more, contrary to popular belief, we are not doomed to carry our trauma with us for the rest of our lives. We can not only heal ourselves but in doing so come through the other side as better human beings—wiser, kinder and more thoughtful. 

One highly effective component of Dr. Gordon’s recovery program as described in “Transforming Trauma” is the method of shaking. For those stuck in a freeze response, shaking our bodies, often to music, brings us back into the present. He tells a beautiful story of his time spent working in Haiti with a group of female nursing students who were barely out of their teens. They had recently lost 90 of their classmates and friends to the 2010 earthquake. Dr. Gordon led them through a shaking exercise and the results were both life affirming and hilarious. 

Another element that keeps us frozen is our judgment—of ourselves and others– a vicious cycle that prevents us from feeling joy and spontaneity. Dr. Gordon explains how we can free ourselves from this rigid, dogmatic state. Any trauma recovery program should be comprehensive, and requires experimentation and mindfulness of our own needs. When we free ourselves from our frozen state we open our minds to infinite possibilities.


  • “If trauma doesn’t come early in life because, in fact, you have been abused or neglected or you have a congenital deformity of some kind or because you live in a community of violence or poverty, it will likely come in young adulthood or midlife, when we have terrible disappointments, when relationships break up.” (4:31 | Dr. James Gordon)
  • “Change is possible and you can create that change yourself.” (11:04 | Dr. James Gordon)
  • “[Shaking] is the body’s natural way of dealing with certain kinds of overwhelming stress. This is a method that is native to vertebrates, in general. You can see it if you have a dog who’s been in a fight with another dog. After that fight, you pull the dog away on the leash, and the dog is going to shake. It’s shaking off that high level of stress that’s come about from that confrontation. So, it’s part of us, biologically.”(16:00 | Dr. James Gordon)
  • “It’s a vicious cycle, in which you’re judging others and you’re looking for their judgment, it just goes on and on. It’s what inhibits change and it’s what inhibits joy, and certainly inhibits spontaneity.” (16:00 | Dr. James Gordon)
  • “That mind, which can be so useful, needs to be a tool. It shouldn’t be running us.” (40:24 | Dr. James Gordon)


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