Sexism PTSD & The Body – Elizabeth Menzel

Sexism PTSD & The Body – Elizabeth Menzel

Elizabeth Menzel’s life’s work is understanding and healing trauma trapped in the body – including her own. Originally a trained physical therapist she became intrigued by the link between clients with fibromyalgia and a history of trauma.  She found help in Somatic Experiencing and other modes of releasing trauma.  She talks about the science of releasing tension and stress, PTSD and sexism – including sharing her own struggles coming from a childhood with an overtly misogynistic father.

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More About Our Guest

Elizabeth's main site: http://thehappywomanacademy.com/

the link to Non-Linear Movement Method®: http://thehappywomanacademy.com/nlmmclass

a note from Elizabeth:

"I actually will be putting up a NEW training of my full Happy Woman Formula within a month. So you can tell people that if they sign up at TheHappyWomanAcademy.com now they will have access to that training for free this Summer. Non-Linear Movement Method classes start up in the next couple of weeks too, and they are also virtual so anyone can join. I give both women only and co-ed classes, so you will have to join us some time. As my guest of course. "

a link to her partners site on dealing with workplace sexism http://www.inclusionaryleadershipgroup.com/

Follow her on Twitter @TheHappyWomanAcademy and on Instagram @HappyWomanAcademy

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Episode Transcript:

Sexism PTSD & The Body – Elizabeth Menzel

Transcribed by Kajsa Lancaster

 

PG: I’m here with Elizabeth Menzel. She founded the Happy Woman Academy, and one of the things that you go round the world speaking on and dealing with is the relationship between sexism and PTSD.

EM: It’s true; that’s what I do.

PG: And a shocker – you experienced sexism as a child… First of all, I can’t believe anyone experience sexism, but…!

EM: (Laughs)

PG: Before we started recording, Elizabeth was sharing a little bit of her relationship with her father, and – give me some of the greatest hits in this terrific relationship you had with this open-minded, progressive man…!

EM: (Laughs) So, my father actually abandoned me as a child and then the family, because I was born female!

PG: If I saw that in a movie I would go, ‘Nobody’s that big of a dick.’

EM: (Laughs) No, he is! And, as a matter of fact, once I said to my brother – I have an older brother who is eight years older – and I said, ‘I just don’t know why Dad hates me so much!’ And he said, ‘Oh, he doesn’t hate you – you don’t exist!’ (Pause) And that just summed it up.

PG: Yeah. Yeah. Because you have to care about something to hate it, right?

EM: That’s right.

PG: Wow.

EM: Yeah. Yeah. But I found that obviously I’m so not alone, right? I don’t know a woman who hasn’t experienced some form of sexism. I mean, I don’t know a human who hasn’t – men experience it, too. Men aren’t left out of this equation at all. I just happen to focus on working with women.

PG: Yes, and thank you for mentioning that. I got an email from somebody yesterday, a guy who experienced sexual assault, and he said that he’s feeling frustrated with the #metoo movement because he feels like it’s not being inclusive enough of men. And my feeling was, yes, I have experienced sexual violation by both men and women, but I feel like this is a moment in history that kind of needs to be its own thing, and especially the workplace, because my feeling – and I could be wrong – is that the overwhelming amount of sexual harassment is towards women in the workplace. I know men get harassed but, whereas with childhood sexual abuse, the numbers are a lot closer of male/female in terms of experiencing abuse. And to me, that’s what this felt like; why this just needs to be a national moment for women.

EM: Yeah, I feel that any group that is experiencing the majority of the depression that, while, yes, this type of sexism and sexual assault can happen to any gender, women have been silenced overall for so long, and that sexism is so much more than sexual assault; it just includes sexual assault as part of its problem. And overwhelmingly – as least in Western culture – white men have had the floor for centuries. And I think it’s not too much to ask to have them listen, and not have to also be in the forefront and, realistically, women understand men’s pain, and know that men have pain. I just think it’s okay for men to maybe open their ears a little more and close their mouths a little more. Maybe just for a short while, while we try to catch up and bring ourselves to a place of equality within society. We’ve just been oppressed for a really long time.

PG: Well said, and much more succinctly and elegantly than I tried. So many questions. Let’s start with your story.

EM: Yeah. My story definitely started with my Dad. So my Mom was left to, as many women are, to care for two children. She worked really hard; she worked night and day.

PG: How old were you when your Dad left?

EM: I was seven, so my brother was fifteen. And my brother soon went off to college, so he was older, he wasn’t around much anyway. But he thinks I had it worse, and I think he had it worse, because he was with my Dad even more, and my Dad was quite abusive. He had Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

PG: Anybody who’s a sexist, their asshole-ishness is not going to stay within the boundaries of just sexism!

EM: (Laughs) Right! So I think, as bad as it was, and as bad as the neglect and the effects of the neglect were from my father, it still was better than having to endure him day in and day out. He secretly lived with another woman when I was a little girl, and nobody knew that. They just thought – he was a doctor, so his practice was about an hour away – so she didn’t know he had a family, our family didn’t know she existed…

PG: Wow, what a fucking juggling act.

EM: Yeah, I can’t fathom, right? So when he came home, I would have panic attacks every time, because I was so terrified of him.

PG: Give me some instances of – was it the words he would say, was it his demeanor?

EM: One of his big words was ‘responsibility,’ because he took no responsibility for his children so he was always sort of yelling at us about responsibility. He was a bully, he was a big bully. He would tease me about, you know, I’ve got my nana’s nose, I have a big nose, so he would tease me about my nose even as a child. I was always trying to look perfect, and if I didn’t look perfect, I didn’t want to be seen at all.

PG: Did he ever compliment you?

EM: Oh god, good question. Did he ever compliment me? I do not remember. That’s a blank.

PG: The fact that you can’t remember is…

EM: (Laughs) Telling enough?

PG: Yeah! It’s kind of like horse shoes – that’s close enough! That’s close enough.

EM: (Laughs) My story is so similar to so many of the women I work with, too. My Mom worked day and night to be both mother and father. She kept a roof over our head, but then wasn’t around because she was working so much. And I learned – I think as with the Puritan work ethic – that working hard is all that matters. And I felt so guilty, and such a burden to my mother because she was working so hard to provide for me, that even though I was an A student, I quit high school at sixteen and got my GED and ended up following in her footsteps in the way that I had four jobs, I didn’t take a day off for years, and just really worked myself into exhaustion, as so many women do.

PG: And it seems like you still are somebody who has a gigantically full plate. The few emails that we’ve had –

EM: Hehe, okay, I’m going to say this. That’s this year, and that has never happened. I literally teach women how to balance their being and doing, and this year, this has been the busiest three months of my life. I had my [Nordic Heel for Realtor plan ? xxx 12:40] six months ago, and then I was speaking at the Women’s Economic Forum in The Hague in Amsterdam, and then I ended up moving… (Laughs) It has, honest to God, been the fullest time in my life!

PG: Okay, yeah, I wasn’t casting aspersions – I was going to follow it up with the question of, is throwing yourself into work something that comes from a place of self-soothing, or is it just that you have all these things that you genuinely want to accomplish because they have meaning attached to them?

EM: My motivation is definitely the meaning attached to my work. That I really, really want to help women overcome the long-term effects of sexism and trauma and PTSD. So that keeps me motivated. But I am not very much of a self-starter. One of the big long-term of PTSD is depression, and the inability to move off of the couch at all. So I went through a lot of years of overworking and never stopping, and then when I stopped I would collapse, and I wouldn’t want to get up again. So it was that really high-low-high-low type of thing. But, always appearing cheerful on the outside, so not true happiness. None of my friends or people around me back then would have told you that I had depression and severe PTSD. They wouldn’t know. I didn’t know! (Laughs) And they wouldn’t have known either. It was very private. So I went on like that until I started my healing career with becoming a physical rehabilitative therapist. I do neuromuscular therapy, and my focus became fibromyalgia. And I just started attracting all of these clients that had fibromyalgia, so really working with that, and at the same time I started studying trauma. Then I started a four-year healing program at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing. I don’t know if you know her – she was the first female physicist at NASA, and she was the person who really brought the physics to the world of energy healing, and really described it in the term of physics. And if that hadn’t happened – I was so science and medically based, I never would have gotten into the healing work I now do if it wasn’t for her.

PG: That is such an important field, because there is such a widespread belief that it’s all smoke and mirrors. And there are some people who are smoke and mirrors, but my belief is that there is energy and science underneath it. It’s just – can we measure it?

EM: Right! It is getting more and more quantifiable. I’ve been in my career for twenty-five years and most of my work that I do is based on neurobiology. Science has caught up with the work I’ve been doing, and now it’s all quantifiable. So when I speak, I name the data, and in the back of the books – I have three workbooks: Supercharge Your Health Vibe, Love Vibe and Money Vibe – and in the back is all the quantifiable data that backs up what we as humans are able to do with our neurobiology. Which is amazing!

PG: Yeah. It’s so important, and it’s certainly not helped by all the charlatans out there that give the things that are difficult to quantify a bad name.

EM: Yeah, it’s funny – I don’t hang out with a lot of healers; I mostly hang out with a lot of academics. (Laughs) And scientists. In fact, when I went to speak at the Women Economic Forum, it was agriculturists, people in tech, and me. (Laughs) And I’m like, ‘You’re my people! Even though I’m not really one of you!’ (Laughs)

PG: Yeah. When you look back at your interest in trauma as you were getting these clients with fibromyalgia, do you feel like that was the universe kind of opening a pathway for you, or was it a conscious decision on your part that there was a link and you wanted to know more?

EM: There was not a conscious decision when it started at all. I was in my own exploration with it, because these people just kept coming out of the woodwork and coming to me for healing. It actually took a couple of years before I even started to see the link between my clients. And that’s what you always want to do, is ‘What’s the common thread here?’ What I saw in all these very different people with different backgrounds – the common link, I called it at that time, ‘frozen fear.’ All of these people had this frozen fear. And it was after that, that I started studying trauma and learned that trauma is frozen fear. It’s frozen stress. The stress response gets interrupted in some way where you don’t get to fully run away, fully fight, or you freeze in some way and get trapped, and you don’t get to work out all those chemicals that are produced in your system. So it sinks back into the soft tissue of your body, and that – as far as what I’ve found – is what creates the chronic pain and stiffness in the fibromyalgia.

PG: I would imagine you’ve read the book The Body Keeps the Score?

EM: Yes.

PG: And one of the things he says in it, is he talks about in the animal kingdom – well, why don’t you say it?

EM: (Laughs) I’m not going to say it any better than you could, but so yeah – when an animal gets to run away, fully, or gets to fight and save its own like – or get eaten – but gets to fight and save its own life or freezes… If they don’t burn all those chemicals, what happens is, once they’re in safety, they shake. They shake and they shake and they shake, and that shaking – full body shaking – is what burns off the chemical. So when we nearly get hit by a car but don’t, or something that happens to us, we feel shaky. And that’s because we want to shake; we want to burn off those chemicals. We either want to kick ass, we want to run for miles… And if we don’t, if we aren’t able to complete to a healthful resolution the stress response, we want to shake. And if we would let ourselves shake – what do we do? We put it on lockdown, right? We’re like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to make myself be still, I’m going to get myself together here!’ We clamp it down.

PG: We go in the corner.

EM: Right, and we stuff it way down deep inside! And we do stuff it way down deep inside, and that trauma burrows into the soft tissue of your body, it burrows into your psyche. And for some people – I was experiencing my PTSD symptoms all along and it took me a while to know it – a lot of people don’t experience their symptoms – they’re on so much lockdown! – and it starts to come out in their forties and fifties.

PG: In what ways?

EM: Sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, short-temperedness. Those are what I’d say are the top ones. Avoidance. Not wanting to go out so much anymore, not wanting to see people. Losing interest in things that they always felt really keen about.

PG: M-hmm. And what ways do you find it presenting itself neuromuscularly?

EM: Chronic tension.

PG: You massage this one thing and then another part locks up, or what?

EM: It never actually really goes away. There might be some relief, but ‘Ooh, my neck always hurts, my shoulder is always stiff!’ The chronic tension builds. I know for myself, too, when before – it’s actually part of what prompted me to go into physical rehabilitation, was my chronic tension started at twelve years old. And my Mom started sending me to a massage therapist and chiropractor, and… I had that chronic tension until a year and a half ago, and I’m going to be fifty-two. So for almost forty years I had that chronic tension. Even with really wonderful – for me, the best form of therapy for trauma-related symptoms is Somatic Experiencing therapy.

PG: Talk more about that, because I know about EMDR, but I don’t know about much beyond that.

EM: Okay, great. So Dr Peter Levine is the doctor that came up with Somatic Experiencing therapy. He has, at this point, over forty-two years of clinical data and research as well as experiential… He’s a great writer and a great speaker, and a great therapist. So, really, it has to do with helping you find the place within you that isn’t traumatized, so that you can reorient and reidentify with the place within that isn’t traumatized, and working out – in a safe way – that locked trauma in your system. And I say safe, and that’s the word that’s so important, because there are so many forms of therapy that mean well that are not safe for trauma survivors, and that can retraumatize.

PG: For instance?

EM: I don’t want to vilify it, I don’t feel comfortable doing that.

PG: Okay. And the expertise of the therapist has a tremendous amount to do with it as well.

EM: The expertise of the therapist, of course, in anything, in any doctor or gardener or shoemaker. The expertise has to do with it. But also, there are too many forms of therapy, like re-experiencing was big in the 1970s, right? It makes you retraumatized. There is a hyper-shortened definition of trauma, which is ‘too much, too soon, too fast.’ Anything that happens too much, too soon, to fast can be traumatizing and can cause PTSD symptoms. And women are more than twice as likely to get PTSD symptoms than men. So people always think that trauma happens if you’re a soldier, if you were raped, if you had a terrible car accident… That’s what we associate with being traumatic. But trauma can happen from a thousand tiny little cuts, from little things happening.

PG: Neglect?

EM: And neglect, sure. And I see sexism being that – thousand tiny little cuts. You don’t have to be raped to suffer the effects of sexism. It is so the water we’re swimming in; it’s around us all of the time. And, like I was saying to your earlier, I didn’t even know how much I was suffering from sexism and the PTSD. Every woman I have ever met, once I start working with her or we get into a deep conversation, I can see her PTSD symptoms around sexism. Low self-esteem, feeling powerless, shutting down sensuality.

PG: Hating their body.

EM: Hating their body. Huge one. Huge! Yeah. Not being able to get paid their worth because they don’t think that they’re worth as much as men. Or just that they flat out feel worthless.

PG: Was your Dad still home – I guess he would have been? – when the ERA movement was happening? I can’t imagine how much your father hated that.

EM: I remember – you know, he was always a bully, and a racist, so it was all women and… anyone who wasn’t him!

PG: (Laughs) Wouldn’t that be great if somebody just came up one day and said, ‘I hate anybody who isn’t me. Wait! I hate me!’ And then they had their breakthrough.

EM: Oh, that would have been lovely (!).

PG: Isn’t it funny how often people are actually yelling at themselves. I mean, your father yelling at you about responsibility while he has two families! Secret families.

EM: Right, while he’s being utterly irresponsible. So true, so true. And what we do is internalize that bully and become our own bully. I certainly have. I, honestly, in the last few months, had one of my biggest breakthroughs, when I realized about six months ago that I was still – very subtly and very quietly! – being really hard on myself, and really mean to myself, and that I was still bullying myself and putting myself down. So I doubled down on, let’s see – I have a list of five things that women who I’ve witnessed now – because I’ve been doing this for so long – that if they don’t do these five things they’re going to fail and not heal. If they do these five things, they’re going to heal. So the second thing is being kind in your mind. So I was like, ‘I am going to be more kind in my mind! I am doubling down on this.’ And I just started talking really kindly to myself, like all freaking day. And a couple of months ago, I noticed that my back – I’m going to cry – that my background voice was, ‘Liiiz, you’re doing so great today! Wow! I’m so proud of you, Liz. Right on! You can do this, girl!’ That is my background voice now.

PG: Wow. And what was it before?

EM: (Laughs) It was actually – because I’ve done so much work, it was getting subtler and subtler. And that’s why it was harder to detect. You know this, right – you’ve been doing therapy and healing for a long time. It used to be the 2x4 that was whacking us over the head.

PG: ‘You’re an idiot!’

EM: Yeah, right. Then it just becomes like, ‘You really fucked that one up, didn’t you.’

PG: Yeah.

EM: And it’s quiet. It’s just sliding in under the surface. ‘Oh, you still are so stupid.’

PG: Yeah. ‘That was embarrassing.’

EM: Right, and it’s just this sly little voice that gets in there.

PG: Mm. ‘You shoulda done better.’

EM: Oh, shoulda!

PG: Shoulda, coulda, wouldas.

EM: Pfft!

PG: You know, one of the things I wanted to mention when you were talking about the going a hundred miles an hour or shutting down is, there’s a fantastic article written by Dr. Alan Rappoport and it’s called ‘Co-Narcissism.’ He talks about the effects of being raised by a narcissistic parent, and that doesn’t necessarily mean a parent with diagnosed Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but a narcissistic parent. Some of the effects that are really common in the children of that is black and white thinking.

EM: Oh yeah.

PG: Depression, addictions. So anybody who’s never read that – it’s only five pages long, you can just google it. It’s some good reading. So, going back to the 1970s.

EM: Oh yeah! So, I remember, I just watched the Billy Jean King movie when I came back from Norway.

PG: How was it?

EM: It was great! I thought it was pretty darn good. And, you know, they’re such great actors. But I remember that time as a kid. I remember the whole Billy Jean King thing and women burning their bras. I was born in ’66. With my Dad, he wasn’t around much. When he was around, it was constant snide remarks, constant bullying, constant put-downs. If you dropped something, you were stupid, you were clumsy, you better watch out. He was just down your throat all the time. But he was that hard on my brother too, but he spent time with my brother; they did things together. My brother of course was going to college; it was never mentioned to me.

PG: Because your father didn’t care about you going to college, right?

EM: I was a girl! What did it matter! I should just get married and have babies – what else is there to do?

PG: Correction: Have stupid babies, Liz.

EM: (Laughs)

PG: Stupid babies that drop things.

EM: Right?! So yeah, it was just constant. And I never ever saw my mother and father embrace or kiss, or really have any level of intimacy or genuine back-and-forth kindness.

PG: Yeah, I never did either.

EM: So painful.

PG: And you never even realize it until you get to be maybe a teenager or older, and you begin to have affectionate moments, or wonder why you struggle to have affectionate moments.

EM: My mother was very affectionate with us, and my brother and I were, my mother was – so that was good. My grandparents all were. But never between those two.

PG: On both sides?

EM: Yeah, on both sides.

PG: Really?! So why do you think your Dad was – if his parents were affectionate, was there just another side to them that you guys didn’t see, or had they changed?

EM: Well, his father was not affectionate. I got to see my paternal grandfather maybe once a year, at Christmastime. My Nana I saw every other weekend; she came and stayed with us. She had a hard Brooklyn accent, she was awesome. She was great. She would hug and kiss us, no problem. But you know, he was raised in the ‘40s and ‘50s and didn’t necessarily show a lot of affection. Both of my grandmothers, maternal and paternal, had severely traumatizing happen to them. My father’s mother tripped on a toy at the top of the stairs, fell down the stairs with my father’s baby sister in her arms and killed her.

PG: What…!

EM: So my Nana obviously got very depressed and got shock therapy.

PG: Urgh! Oh my god.

EM: So she wasn’t around a lot to be there for him. And then he had this German distant father, and then they divorced, and then my grandmother had a very traumatic childhood. Her sister died and then her mother died in childbirth and she was left to raise all the children when she was thirteen years old. So just a lot of trauma.

PG: And if it sounds like we’re piling on her Dad as if he is the source of all of this, I think it’s worth mentioning – I assume you agree with me – that these are generational ripples that go back and it’s not nec-

EM: That’s the thing, and I’ve seen it. I see the trauma going back in my own lineage. I actually have a ton of compassion for my father. I understand that he was traumatized.

PG: And he’s scared.

EM: And he’s scared – well, and that he has a mental disorder that has gone completely undiagnosed and, as you know, with most Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you will not seek therapy.

PG: No!

EM: It was only as I progressed in my own education as I got older that I realized – it was always, you know, ‘Dad must be crazy.’ But it was like, ‘Oh! He really does have a personality disorder!’ So I actually have a ton of compassion, as I do with my friends with personality disorders. And what I’ve found and what I’ve discovered is that the healthiest thing for me was to just not be around him so much. And so that’s what I’ve done. And of course, as many women do, I married my father. Right? I married a man who seemed like he was strong and wise, and he also had a personality disorder and was extremely abusive and neglectful, and would leave me locked up – I mean, it was really bad. We repeat it until we heal it, and until it’s revealed, it can’t get healed.

PG: Yeah. And often it seems like catnip – it’s like catnip that is poisonous, you know? The person that represents the unavailable parent. There’s something so intoxicating about it at first, and yet it’s the worst thing for us.

EM: I like that you say ‘the person that represents the unavailable parent.’ I haven’t heard that exact sentence before – that’s awesome. I thought this person I was marrying was the polar opposite of my father, and he literally – like a lot of abusers do – once they have you, that’s when they show the other side of their personality.

PG: Yeah. A red flag is people that come on with a ton of charm in the beginning, a ton of compliments.

EM: Oh yeah.

PG: And I always say, look at their actions and not their words.

EM: Yep.

PG: A lot of times, if there is a disconnect between that, run.

EM: Absolutely. I’d say, some of the most charming people… (Laughs)

PG: Going back to the thing about working with the clients with fibromyalgia. What did you discover as you began working on them physically? If there are any case examples you think could kind of help highlight…?

EM: Yeah! I’d say that the common physiological thread is always chronic pain and tension, and working with fascia and connective tissue – especially surface fascia. It’s called myofascial release.

PG: And for those of us that don’t know technically what fascia is – including me – I know the term but I don’t know exactly what it means?

EM: So, fascia is a connective tissue that is a very thin sheet. If you think about a piece of chicken, it has this skin, and then under the skin is that other very thin membrane – that’s fascia. Fascia is amazing because in a mammal, it wraps not only every muscle, it wraps every muscle fibre, every muscle cell, every organ. It also runs underneath your skin, just like in a chicken – but it’s one sheet.

PG: And it keeps us juicy.

EM: It keeps everything in! (Laughs)

PG: So that is where some of the trauma gets locked, into the fascia?

EM: It does. So what you can get is sort of, like – when I ask people where exactly does it hurt, they’ll say something like ‘This whole area hurts’ and they’ll point to their whole upper back or their whole lower back. It can happen in sheets like that. So working with them, doing a combination of myofascial release work before you can even get into the muscle tissue, is really important. Something to look out for – if you do have a lot of chronic tension, I think the easiest way to say it using myself as an example, because I had so many years of chronic tension and got tons of body work and lots of healing work and therapy, and it would get me so far. I would start to feel better, but it would always come back. Up until about a year and a half ago, it would always come back. And then I started doing what’s called non-linear movement, and specifically I was doing the Non-Linear Movement Method. And because trauma, fibromyalgia, is this frozen, stuck trauma, this frozen, stuck stress, we tend to freeze, and feel paralyzed at certain times. Or our mind goes blank, right? Doing this Non-Linear Movement unhooks these neural pain loops. I was being trained to become a teacher of it, so I had to do it every day, and after only – oh my gosh – eight weeks? Ten weeks! Ten weeks is when I really noticed – I was in the classroom and I noticed for the first time that I wasn’t in pain. And I was doing the Non-Linear Movement for the emotional benefits. I wasn’t really thinking about the physical. So I was in shock that, ‘I have no pain. I’m sitting here with no pain.’

PG: Wow.

EM: I’m sitting here right now with no pain. And that blew my mind! I turned to my teacher, Dr. Michaela Boehm, and I just looked at her and said, ‘I have no pain!’ And she’s known me for – at this point – eleven years, and she said, ‘I know, you’ve been practicing, I could tell when you walked in the door that you were consistently moving non-linearly every day.’

PG: So what does ‘moving non-linearly’ specifically mean?

EM: We’re so used to moving in certain patterns. We move forward, we rarely move backwards, we rarely move diagonally – we move very much on this plane. And even when we’re dancing, we’re dancing to a rhythm, so we’re keeping a beat. It’s linear. When you’re doing non-linear movement, there is no habitualness happening. And it gives your brain a chance to unlock patterns.

PG: Kind of like the animal shaking?

EM: Yeah, similarly. And what can happen during it – I guide it – what can happen during it is spontaneous shaking. It comes out of nowhere. I started spontaneously shaking about ten years ago when I got into a safe romantic relationship. For the first time in my life I felt safe enough. Instead of being alone or in an abusive relationship, which is all I had for forty-two years before that! I felt safe enough that spontaneous shaking started happening.

PG: What was that like?

EM: I knew what it was because I had studied trauma. And luckily he used to be a rape crisis counsellor, and he studied trauma and he knew what is was! It would just start flopping around out of nowhere, or just my leg, and sometimes my whole body, and it would last a few minutes and then it was over.

PG: Wow!

EM: And because we knew what it was, it didn’t scare us. I think if we hadn’t have known it would have been pretty damn scary! But there wasn’t even emotion with it. And sometimes I would cry – same in non-linear movement – sometimes I would cry, but it’s such a clean release, it not even connected to a memory. It’s literally shaking out of you! So I started shaking about ten years ago, but it still didn’t heal that chronic pain until I was being consistent and doing it every day.

PG: And what would you do every day?

EM: Non-Linear Movement Method.

PG: For how long?

EM: I was doing it from between twenty minutes to an hour. Now I do it from ten minutes to thirty minutes. Sometimes I go longer.

PG: And what do you actually do?

EM: If you go to http://thehappywomanacademy.com/nlmmclass - Non-Linear Movement Method class. You can see a really little clip. And that also will explain what’s happening neurobiologically behind it. You move in any way that your body wants to move. It doesn’t matter – it can be fast, it can be slow, it can be undulating, it can be shaking. Your body is the boss and the director, and you just move.

PG: Mine wants to move to Hawaii!

EM: Yeah! (Laughs) So we’re on mats, and we stay on our mat. Our eyes are closed, so we stay very internal, and so no one sees each other; you’re in your own little world. And you just keep moving and you don’t stop. The three rules are: eyes closed, keep moving, no stopping. That’s it.

PG: Do you think that that’s why sometimes people feel a release from speaking in tongues?

EM: (Laughs) Maybe! Maybe it’s doing something neurobiologically! Ooh, I wonder if there’s a study about it. We should look it up!

PG: That would be really cool. Going back to Peter Levine.

EM: Yes!

PG: He was a pioneer in somatic therapy.

EM: Yes!

PG: We know about EMDR. Talk about the breakthroughs that he had. You mentioned the animal shaking it off, and then we kind of got sidetracked.

EM: Right, so, exactly that. In his book, In An Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, he really takes you through each step in trauma release and exactly how and why it is happening that way, and why it works. So there’s nine main phases. And honestly, through years of seeing – like any good scientist – seeing what worked and what didn’t, and he got a lot of it from the animal kingdom, from watching animals. And this is a thought I had when I was young and then he taught me why I don’t have to worry about it, which is, since I was very young and I learned about prey animals and predators. I felt sorry for prey animals because I thought they must feel scared all the time. I’m a bleeding heart, I walk around with a big, open heart. (Laughs) I was worried about this from my childhood until I started reading Dr. Levine’s work, which is – and he explains it, right – that animals aren’t traumatized – that animals in the wild aren’t traumatized. Because they either get away and run, fight and use up those chemicals, and whatever they don’t use up, they shake off! Then they’re totally fine and they go about their business untraumatized. We don’t do that. We go on lockdown – we’re told to go on lockdown! We’re told to suck it up, right? We’re told that emotions don’t matter and that they’re not as important, and to get it together. So we put it on lockdown all the time.

PG: So if I decided I want to go do somatic therapy. I’ve done EMDR, and I did about a half dozen sessions and one was profound; I slept for almost two days solid afterwards and I felt like my body had been oiled afterwards.

EM: Wow, yes!

PG: Like joints were moving that had never moved so freely.

EM: Yes!

PG: But I feel like something is still trapped. I feel myself clenching a lot.

EM: There you go. Clenching is another PTSD symptom.

PG: So what would it look like for me to – tomorrow, what should I do?

EM: I send people – before I work with someone I do a really long intake with them, and I ascertain – we ascertain together – am I the right fit? Because I don’t want to work with anyone who I’m not the right fit with. So what I do is I send people to www.traumahealing.com and there you can find a somatic experiencing therapist in your area. That’s how I found mine.

PG: Okay. And they do things other than EMDR?

EM: Yes, it’s not EMDR at all. It is somatic experiencing.

PG: Oh, so EMDR doesn’t fall under the umbrella of somatic experiencing?

EM: No. Somatic experiencing is Dr. Peter Levine’s body of work.

PG: Oh, okay.

EM: This is somatic experiencing. There is any type of somatic experience, EMDR would fall under that.

PG: I see. So it’s kind of the brand name of his therapy? I gotcha. So, somatic therapy is the umbrella that both of those are underneath?

EM: Probably, yeah, that makes sense.

PG: Okay, so what would they do? Give me a typical case.

EM: Well, I am not a somatic experience therapist – yet! Give me a couple of years! What I did, in mine, I can tell you – it was so cool because I had had somatic experiencing therapy for about a decade. I knew Dr. Peter Levine’s work, but in this last book that I just mentioned, In an Unspoken Voice, he really explains each step. And I was like, ‘That’s what my therapist does!’ I don’t have them memorized so I don’t want to get it wrong, but I can tell you that you do feel extremely safe. They really have you contact in your body how things feel; finding that safe space. I remember the first time for me, I was freshly traumatized – someone had just been violent with me – and the safe space was the very tip of my pinky. That was the only safe space I could find that didn’t feel shaky. You anchor in that safe space so that you can safely, without being overwhelmed – which other trauma therapies that are dangerous do, sort of overwhelm you with sensation; you want to be very careful to not be overwhelmed with sensation, because trauma is too much, too soon, too fast. So they do something called titration, which is feeling very safe and just dipping a toe back into that trauma and letting it move and shake through you, and then feeling very stable again.

PG: Yes. Sounds a little bit, too, like exposure therapy in terms of gradually dealing with something, tiny bits at a time.

EM: M-hmm – dosing. Dosing is very important.

PG: As you were sharing this I was thinking, so many of the paths for healing, an important part of it, are baby steps!

EM: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And you know why it’s so great and why I’m so grateful for somatic experiencing is, I worked with my therapist for about ten years, and this was so awesome – he said to me one day, ‘You know, Elizabeth, you’ve come so far, you’re doing so well, the only thing I can really suggest – you don’t really need me that much anymore – the only thing I can really suggest for you is a practice of non-linear movement.’ And I said, ‘I’m in teacher training to become a non-linear movement teacher! Woo!!!’ It was such a confirmation for me!

PG: Wow.

EM: And then really never imagining how much farther I’d get with that in such a short amount of time. You want to hear something really embarrassing?

PG: Sure. This is the podcast for it!

EM: Ha! I didn’t know the name of non-linear movement but I’ve been doing it with my mentor, Dr. Michaela Boehm, for eleven – well, let’s see, I started working with her in 2008. So since 2008, whenever I do a workshop with her, she would open with that. She’d have us do some non-linear movement – it wasn’t named, but every time we did it, I’d have that, what you said, that well-oiled feeling, and I’d be so calm, and I’d be like, ‘Man! I could just do this at home, I should do this more often!’ And I wouldn’t. And then I’d go there a few months later, do another workshop, do it again – ‘Hey, this is that thing! I should do that…!’ For ten freaking years I did that, before I became a teacher.

PG: Would Tai Chi fall under the banner…?

EM: No, because it’s linear. You are doing a set, prescribed movement. This is absolutely no prescribed movement. I have now done it hundreds of times and I don’t move the same way.

PG: How about shitty Tai Chi?

EM: Ooh, really bad Tai Chi? Hmm!

PG: Yeah! I’m going to go reserve badtaichi.com and become a healer.

EM: (Laughs) I think ‘shittytaichi’ is better.

PG: Shitty Tai Chi was my name when I was a male dancer when I was in Thailand.

EM: (Laughs)

PG: Actually, Tai Chi is from China, right?

EM: Qi-Gong is Chinese.

PG: Uh, okay, where does Tai Chi come from?

EM: I don’t want to say the wrong thing.

PG: I know it’s not Nebraska.

EM: I know Qi-Gong is Chinese because I was trained in Qi-Gong by a Qi-Gong Master for seven years.

PG: How was Qi-Gong, is he good?

EM: For me it was great.

PG: I was just fucking around, I said ‘Is he good?’

EM: Oh, is he good! I’m sorry! I thought you said ‘Is it good?’ It was great for me.

PG: So, now that we’ve talked about all of those things, let’s go back to the primary thing we wanted to talk about which is sexism and PTSD. What are some myths about sexism and PTSD, and what are some truths that people might not be aware of? And the more concrete of an example that you can give, if there’s a real-life example, while maintaining someone’s anonymity.

EM: Mm. Yeah, I honestly think you can get real-life examples from any woman on the planet. I know someone whose boss would always say to her, but never anyone else in the office, he would always frame her assignments around blowjob jokes. Right? But it was ha-ha! Isn’t that funny? No! No, it’s not funny. It’s really damaging and hurtful. He didn’t touch her, he never cornered her. So there can be these little things that happen, but they’re degrading.

PG: Yeah. And she doesn’t know whether or not it’s going to escalate.

EM: Right. And it’s often that thing where it’s the person in power, so you’re helpless.

PG: And that’s not to say that that alone on its own isn’t enough to fuck somebody up, but I want to paint the full picture for somebody who has never experienced that – especially in the workplace. The threedimensionality, the full scope of the experience, because a lot of times people think, ‘Oh yeah, it affects your self-esteem a little bit, it’s annoying,’ and they think end of story. But they don’t realize how much more there is to it than that.

EM: Yeah, it’s like being pecked to death by ducks, because it doesn’t just start in the workplace – it starts when we’re born. It starts when we’re little girls. By the time we get to the workplace it’s been the water we’ve been swimming in for so long. Women do not get raises as often as men, we know they don’t get paid as much as men, and a really common thing that’s happening – I’ve heard this exact example from thirty or forty women, which is, they will be in a meeting, they will make a suggestion, it gets either unacknowledged or pushed aside, like ‘Mm, yeah, maybe I’m not so sure,’ and then Jim makes the same exact suggestion… ‘Oh my god, Jim, that is freaking brilliant! Yes, we are doing that! Everyone, you should be like Jim! Pay attention to him! This guy is golden.’

PG: Yes. And for those of you that think, ‘No, that doesn’t really happen,’ I know women who have told me stories of that happening to them. And then that person being credited with it, and oftentimes their career advancing because of it.

EM: Yeah. I know a woman who was in the military, was at a military party, and on her way out was systematically raped by her colleagues. At the party.

PG: We read an email on last week’s podcast by a woman who finally made some progress in healing her PTSD from being raped by her superior and other people, and no action being taken on her part, and being given the wrong type of therapy at the VA and them not really understanding what it was she needed.

EM: Yeah, yeah. I would love to talk about things that help people heal, and lift this mood! (Laughs)

PG: Fantastic, yes.

EM: Because we’re just going to bum people out, man! And that’s what I do, that’s what I go all over the world speaking about. Because people feel helpless. That’s part of PTSD, to feel helpless and hopeless. And there isn’t just hope, there is science! Yay! I’m a neuroscience geek, and kind of missed my calling with that one, I think. I mean, had a had a Dad that thought I could get an education, I probably would be a neuroscientist, because I love this stuff! So, the things that I’ve noticed, for all the people I’ve worked with that actually heal, including myself – I don’t get away with it either, you cannot coast forever! And I find that if people do just even a couple of these things, they’ll start to feel better, but then they’ll get frustrated because they’ll just take two steps forward and one steps back.

PG: And is this anybody with PTSD?

EM: Anybody with PTSD, yeah. This is what I’ve noticed. One, you just have to be willing to heal and do what it takes to heal. To just be willing to open that door and do what it takes. You’ve got to be willing to release the old and receive the goodness. So if you’re willing… Two, you’ve got to be kind in your mind. Look, I’ve been doing this for so long, and I had to take myself to the next level! Right? It was so sneaky! So, kind in your mind. Three, you’ve got to keep moving. You’ve got to – trauma is frozen, stuck stress. You’ve got to keep moving. For me, it’s been that non-linear movement, that has been my life saver!

PG: So you’re never done?

EM: You’re never done. I remember seeing my healer probably twenty years ago, and I had already been receiving energy healing and therapy for a couple of years. I went in there and I said, ‘You know, I just can’t wait till I’m done! When am I going to be, like, I’m thinking a few more months of this and I’m done!’ And she laughed and said, ‘Honey, you’re never done!’ And I burst into tears. There was such a level of self-hatred and pain – physical pain and emotional pain – and frustration. That’s all gone. The frustration, the physical and emotional pain, the past residual pain, that is mostly all gone. What I find is what I said earlier, that it’s no longer the 2x4, it’s very subtle now. It’s the little ways that I can be kinder to myself and kinder to others. When you’re kind to someone else but not to yourself, you’re not going to heal. And so many women especially are really good at taking care of others and terrible at taking care of themselves. That’s ingrained into us, that a good woman takes care of others and is selfless. There’s such a dichotomy with that because women are told that you’re selfish – if you take care of yourself, you’re selfish, but if you don’t take care of yourself, you’ve let yourself go.

PG: And if you show an emotion that is perceived to be the least bit male, you’re unattractive and you’re a bitch or whatever it is.

EM: Right, if you’re powerful, you’re a bitch. If you’re emotional, you’re weak. But if a man is powerful, he’s strong! And if a man is passionate, he’s worthy. There are all these dichotomies. Women are just so overwhelmed and undermined by these dichotomies. And they’re constant! So, going back – this movement is very, very important, and I’ve found too that, with myself and a lot of my clients, they can go in these opposing directions, right? They either work out too much, too hard, and they’re just kind of destroying themselves. Or they join the gym, but they never really go. It can be these two opposite ways that people with PTSD – they push themselves, they’re overdoers; or they’re stagnant. Stagnancy is the word I’ve been looking for. So you want to come to that happy middle place.

PG: I’m laughing because there was a period time when I would run in 105 degree in smoggy heat, and then a period of time where I went to the gym, I swiped my card, the woman behind the counter gasped and said ‘You haven’t been here in 700 days!’

EM: (Laughs) There we go! That’s perfect, right? That’s the PTSD. It’ll get you like that. So, keep moving, and the non-linear movement is what unhooks it.

PG: And you just mean every day, find some practice that has that –

EM: Yep. That keeps you moving, yeah.

PG: Keeps you moving. But you don’t mean during your day, never sit down.

EM: No, I do not mean that. And it’s to do it healthfully, so that it feels good.

PG: Not compulsive and from fear.

EM: There we go! And the fourth thing is consistency. You can’t take a shower on a Monday and expect to be clean on Friday. You’ve got to stay consistent with whatever your – I call them energetic practices – whatever your energetic practice is. You’ve got to be consistent with it. None of us can coast forever. It doesn’t work – me included. So when it’s therapy, whether it’s yoga, meditation, whatever it is, consistency is key. You’ve got to keep doing it.

PG: And I would imagine, when you go through a period where you’re not consistent, don’t talk negatively to yourself for having done that.

EM: That’s right. Just come back and do it.

PG: Just come back and do it.

EM: That’s it. Just, ‘Oh, I love you, I’m going to love you even more, and we’re going to get back on this, and I’m going to – whatever it is – I’m going to meditate again, I’m going to exercise again, I’m going to eat healthy again…’ Just lovingly bring yourself back. No scolding, people!

PG: Yeah. I’ve never met someone who shamed themselves into being the person they wanted to be.

EM: No, right? Doesn’t work, does it! No. But you can love yourself into it.

PG: It’s so awkward, though! It’s so fucking awkward, talking nice to yourself.

EM: (Laughs)

PG: It feels so Stuart Smalley. You know? There are times when I do it and I just want to punch myself in the face.

EM: I’ve got to say, I’ve had a big shift with it.

PG: Yeah?

EM: Really! In the last few months it’s gotten… I mean, I’m downright giddy this year. And again, especially with this being the busiest time of my life. I teach something called the Happy Woman Formula, and because of doing that, and because of keeping these five things in place – lovingly not compulsively – I haven’t gotten sick, I got no jet lag… I was going back and forth to Europe repeatedly, and got no jet lag. I’ve just stayed really healthy, I’ve stayed really happy. I mean, I’ve been going through some of the biggest stressors.

PG: I would imagine you’re less reactive as well.

EM: So much…! I laugh things off now, things that used to either piss me off or bring me down, now I just laugh them off. It’s small thing to a giant!

PG: Having a good baseline of peace in one’s life is the most resilient tool to not take people and life personally, and to have faith, whatever it is that you believe in. But it’s so hard to get there!

EM: That’s the consistency piece. Honestly, that’s the consistency piece. I was trained – I did Louise Hay’s last teacher training in 2000, so I’ve been working with the concept of positive affirmations for a long time. And I’ve taken them really into the realm of neurobiology, and that is that it’s not talking to yourself. It is actually feeling it and actually letting yourself feel good.

PG: Kind of like letting your walls down?

EM: Well, actually letting yourself feel happy. For those of us who have been traumatized, it’s so foreign to feel consistently good.

PG: Yeah, because it feels like you’re bullshitting yourself. Like you’re being dishonest.

EM: Well, because there is so much fear in your system, there’s even a fear that if I feel good, something’s gonna come and hit me over the head and take it away from me. Because that’s what happened to us when we were little and when we got traumatized – we were feeling fine, and then… [mimics explosion] Something horrible happened to us. So we don’t trust feeling good, and we aren’t able to sustain it.

PG: So to feel good is to feel unaware and vulnerable in a bad way, like, I’m open to more enemies coming at me because I’m so busy smiling that I’m not hypervigilant and I’m not thinking of worst case scenarios all day long, so – is that something… I’m trying to imagine what it’s like.

EM: I can tell you are, and I can tell you are working hard at it. There’s a bit to unpack there because there aren’t enemies that are out to get me.

PG: I mean what they brain is telling you, resisting the nice things you say to yourself. Is it the protective voice, the voice that protected you as a child is no longer serving you as an adult. Is that kind of what is happening?

EM: Yes, there’s a couple of things. One is that that’s the psychological part. There’s the neurological part which is actually building neural pathways to happiness.

PG: In what part of the brain does that happen?

EM: It happens all over the brain. But what you want to do is you want to get out of the amygdala as fast as possible, right, that’s the thing that kicks in within a quarter of a second. That’s where the fear response happens, the stress response happens. What I teach is how to get yourself out of the stress response. I have a five-step system for that. Teach you on your fingers, it’s really fast and easy, and it’s neurobiologically – you take yourself through your own system. So you can get out of that stress response really fast. You’ve got to be able to know that it’s happening to be able to do it.

PG: Right. Is that what a trigger is?

EM: Yeah. That triggers your stress. I teach how to trigger your relaxation response and actually build neural pathways to happiness and relaxation and peace.

PG: And there’s data to back up that this happens?

EM: Oh yes, absolutely.

PG: That’s so exciting, too, now with the brain imaging that we have, that there is data that backs this.

EM: It’s so great, it’s so great. You know, Louise Hay and those that came before her, I mean, this work really started in the late 1800s of positive affirmation and with science of mind.

PG: I just love the idea of some guy in a stovepipe hat talking nice to himself in front of the smoky mirror.

EM: (Laughs) Seriously, right! I like that. So now that we know, you can make the new neural pathway with the positive self-talk with feeling it, emotionally feeling it, and you can build your tolerance for feeling good so it doesn’t feel like bullshit. But you’re going to go through the ‘it feels like bullshit’ stage, for sure!

PG: Yes. It seems like emotional healing of any sort is so confusing and such a war between two voices.

EM: Yeah, the voice of you that was wounded and the voice of you that’s whole. So coming back to your place that is whole, that is already at peace, that it’s already at peace even when the stormy ocean of your emotions are in a hurricane on top of it, there is still a place of you that isn’t disassociated, that is still peaceful. It’s about getting back to that over and over again, and doing it so consistently and so many more times that your brain alters. I mean, I’ve had nine concussions because of being so abused –

PG: What! Oh my god.

EM: So for me, maybe it took a little bit more work, because I have so much brain damage. Even being able to sit and talk to you like this, to just talk consistently and make somewhat sense, took me so much work to be able to do and so much repetition. Because the PTSD was so strong that I’d leave my body and disassociate all the time, so I’d barely be here on the couch with you, let alone being able to keep eye contact! And being able to be cohesive, it just didn’t happen. So I’ve done so much brain training with myself.

PG: That’s amazing. And I would imagine, as with a lot of healing, is once you begin to feel a little bit of the results, it’s easier to stay consistent. It’s that period between the old coping mechanisms, the mean voice, keeping your life small, repeating abusive relationship patterns; and the new part – it’s that valley in between those two that is the biggest test.

EM: Yeah. And that’s why just being really easy on yourself, being really gentle on yourself, coming back to the kindness over and over. Being consistent is important, but none of us are going to be perfect. Ever. So you do it as often as you can, and then you stop, and then you start doing it again! (Laughs) And you just say, ‘Oh, I stopped for a little while. I’m going to do it again.’ Not, ‘I stopped for a while, I’m a useless piece of shit, I’ll never be anything.’

PG: Right.

EM: That voice doesn’t happen to me anymore.

PG: That’s amazing.

EM: I don’t think I’ve felt suicidal in two years. That is definitely the longest I’ve ever gone.

PG: That’s great.

EM: Yeah, yeah. That’s amazing.

PG: You have worked with some very high-profile celebrity people.

EM: Yeah. But I don’t need them. (Laughs)

PG: Yes. Is there anything particular to their stories, situations, healing that is worth sharing?

EM: Let’s see. I’d say maybe, the first thing that pops into my head is, as far as trauma goes, where it comes from, how it happens – all the same as everyone else. Something that anyone with celebrity has to put up with in the invisible world – but it’s still very real – is thousands, tens of thousands of people energetically connecting to them that they don’t know. We have all kinds of energy connections between people – between the Trader Joe’s check-out person, we have a nice little energy connection with them and then it drops, and then with our parents there are much stronger ones, with our close friends there are really strong energetic bonds between us. So when you have – and I’ve coached almost all of them on how to handle this – when you have tens of thousands of people you don’t know kind of plugging into you and having opinions about you – this is even before the Internet! Right, now, oh my gosh, they can actually see all of these people! But that can be very traumatizing in and of itself. Because these energy connections can suck you dry, and they feel it.

PG: Even if it’s a positive thing?

EM: It can be, yeah. Because there are still unknown people connecting to them. To have that many people connected to you, you can feel it. You feel it. I mean, have you ever been anywhere like India? Or somewhere really, really crowded?

PG: No. Well, you just mentioned Trader Joe’s – the parking lot at Trader Joe’s.

EM: The parking lot at Trader Joe’s!... can be traumatizing. (Laughs) Straight up! I really have seen this with every famous person I’ve worked with, that they would have all of these people plugged into them that… What do they say – you can only really have, like, six people that you’re truly, deeply connected with? And they have thousands!

PG: So what do they do?

EM: I do a process with them – this is actually important to say, especially to people that are into energy healing or have heard of this – you never cut cords. It goes in waves over the last twenty years, of people going to these workshops or seminars where they cut cords. And it’s very, very dangerous. If you’ve ever seen a downed electrical wire, which I have seen, it’s spraying all over the place and the energy is flying around and it’s really dangerous to try and harness that. That’s what happens when you cut energy cords with other people.

PG: Give me an example of what cutting an energy cord with somebody would look like.

EM: It would look like – the way that these untrained healers do it is, this is a real cord. If I were to take scissors and cut this, it would break the cord and the energy would, like that downed electrical wire, and I’d get a terrible shock. The power would still be running on one end but would be dead on the other end. And this is what happens – they energetically cut these cords through, I’ve seen them use stone, I’ve seen them use swords, I’ve seen them use their hands, and they cut these energy cords. It’s become very fashionable.

PG: How are you cutting something that isn’t physically touchable?

EM: As a trained energy healer, they are physically touchable! They might be invisible to your eye but I can see them. You have to tune into the frequency of what it is.

PG: So you would be touching someone with a sword?

EM: No, the energy cord, not the person. The energy cord between you?

PG: Oh, so it’s outside of your body?

EM: Yeah. If you have energy cords going from one to the other.

PG: I see.

EM: It’s very popular. Say someone has a bad break-up and they want to cut the – we’ve heard that saying forever, right? Cut the cord. Because they were talking about an umbilical cord, is where it comes from. But this cutting of energy cords is very, very dangerous. They use all different systems for cutting these – invisible to most people – energetic cords, and I think a lot of people do it without actually being able to see them; there’s that woo-woo thing we were talking about in the whole spiritual world.

PG: So you have a picture of someone there or something that represents them?

EM: Some people do it that way, yes. They’ll have you bring a picture. I don’t do it that way. Don’t ever cut cords. You have to gently – and there is a very specific system for disen- Um, I’ve got to come up with the right word.

PG: Disengaging?

EM: Yeah, disengaging is a good word, but…

PG: Disemboweling!

EM: Don’t disembowel! Haha!

PG: Impaling!

EM: You actually get where they meet in the middle and you dissolve the relationship, so that everything from one person goes back to them and everything from you comes back to you. Because what happens is, as you know with transference, right? Other people’s opinions come into you and cloud your own judgment. Everything goes back to them; everything comes back to you; and you dissolve the relationship. You dissolve the connection very safely and they come back. I’ve done that with a lot of stars that I’ve worked with who had all kinds of symptoms of exhaustions and migraines, feeling very scattered and overwhelmed. When you release other people’s energy cords, let theirs go back to them, let everything from you come back inside you, and you can be centered again, back whole, and not have that overwhelmed, scattered, horrible feeling.

PG: So would that connection still be there even if this person went to live on a desert island for ten years?

EM: Sure. What we do is we keep the love and disconnect anything – I alluded to this earlier – keep the love, if they want to – if not, you can dissolve the whole relationship. But, keep the love, and just remove anything negative or harmful in any way, any ill intent, and let that each go back to the other person. You know, just being able to center within yourself is so important – otherwise we get in these horrible, co-dependent relationships.

PG: And allow toxic people in our lives.

EM: And allow toxic people in your life. And that’s one of the most important things, to be able to not put yourself in that same place as your abuser. Allow yourself to get away. And what you were saying earlier about women in the workplace – you’ve got to work to survive, you go to your job to make a living, and there’s your abuser and you’re trapped with this person.

PG: And your ability to pay your bills depends on surviving that.

EM: Right!

PG: Maybe you have kids on top of that.

EM: Exactly! It’s all so intertwined. I got on a thread the other day on Facebook, where men were just being so horrible to the women on the thread about, like, ‘Well, just kick ‘em in the balls and quit!’ It doesn’t work like that. First of all, we don’t have the same level of testosterone… (Laughs)

PG: It’s not a solution.

EM: It’s not a solution! And it shouldn’t be up to us anyway!

PG: Exactly!

EM: But it’s that thing of, when you are trapped in some way, that’s when the trauma sets in. That’s where the connection between sexism and PTSD happens, in that we’re often trapped in some way in these situations where we’re just constantly having these big and little abuses, while we are trying to survive and make a living.

PG: And would it be fair to say, then, that dealing with that is not merely an intellectual endeavor – it requires both the emotional part of the brain having the momentum to deal with it, and the intellectual part of the brain knowing how to logistically go about it? Because logistically, I would imagine, there are people saying, ‘This is unacceptable, but I can’t find the words…’ And there’s just a generalized fear of me speaking up.

EM: Yeah. Because when we do speak up we’re not believed, we’re called a bitch…

PG: Or we’re fired.

EM: We’re fired. Right. So it’s emotional, it’s mental, it’s very physical – again, not just if there’s physical encounter; I mean, it’s happening in your body. That stress is happening in your body. Stress is a physiological response to not being safe.

PG: What do you think are the primary sources of men who act this way? Because I don’t believe men are born that way.

EM: No, I don’t believe – unless you’re born with some kind of true mental illness –

PG: Like psychopathy, or –

EM: M-hmm, then I do think I do believe that all men and women are basically good, and have a massive capacity for love and right relations. I think that it gets taught out of us through xenophobia and through that –

PG: Fear of people who are different?

EM: Yeah, xenophobia is fear of people who are different. And through that lineage of trauma, which to me is a lineage of pain. Only hurt people hurt people. People who aren’t hurting, don’t hurt other people. Unless it’s pure, straight-up self-defense, they’re not going to actively seek out violence. So I think there are eons and eons and eons of pain that we’re now dealing with, and that reacting to someone or something with violence is a protective mechanism. And you only feel like you have to protect yourself if you’ve been hurt. I think what’s going on today – that’s been going on for millennia – is this, people stuck in trauma and people acting from the long-term effects of it and trying to protect themselves even when life or death isn’t happening. The stress response should only kick in when your life is being threatened. And when we get a stress response because our credit card was declined, or because someone cut in front of us at the grocery store line, those are not life-and-death situations.

PG: You haven’t been in those lines.

EM: (Laughs)

PG: Again, you haven’t been to my Trader Joe’s. (Laughs) Go ahead.

EM: We now elicit the stress response when it’s utterly unnecessary, because it’s not a life-or-death situation. We’re in this place where we’re constantly thinking we have to defend ourselves, but we only have a quarter of a second before that part of the brain kicks into the stress response. So unless we are intentionally trying to elicit the relaxation response, we’re screwed!

PG: Yes. And aware of our triggers and fears.

EM: Yeah. We can’t do anything without the awareness, right?

PG: That’s the first step.

EM: It is. We don’t know it – we can’t do anything about it. Yeah.

PG: Anything else you’d like to share?

EM: Yes! One last thing. So the fourth thing was consistency, and the fifth thing is support.

PG: Talk about that.

EM: We’re not made to do it alone.

PG: It’s no fun doing it alone anyway.

EM: It’s no fun doing it alone. Oh my god, it’s so much more fun doing it with others. We are communal beings, we are made to do things in community. We’re not made to do it all alone. And so many of us have become lone wolves. God, most women – I don’t know how men are, but most women do not know how to ask for help.

PG: Uh, yeah. I second that. The male friends I know, we have to get to a point where our life depends on it, where we are looking at death – and even then, it’s like, ‘I gotta get back to ya.’

EM: (Laughs) Right! So we’re truly not made to do it alone and I have been training myself and training other women in how to ask for help, and those of us who let ourselves do it keep getting happier and healthier, and keep having more fun. We’re not made to do it alone, we’re not able. We cannot see ourselves – the eye can’t see the eye. We cannot see the picture if we’re standing inside the frame. We need someone else’s reflection! And when we bring our minds and our energy together, it multiplies ten-fold anyway.

PG: And the feeling is amazing. The feeling of community is amazing. We were talking about that before we started recording – I was on Liz’s Twitter feed, and that thing you posted about the flash mob playing Stairway to Heaven. I watched it and it gave me the warmest feeling, and just for a minute, improved my faith in humanity. Actually, not for a minute; I’m still feeling it. Hours later, I’m still feeling that, ‘God, people can be so fucking awesome!’

EM: They can, they can.

PG: Yeah. Two things: What are some tips for somebody who’s in a workplace that doesn’t feel safe and isn’t sure they can go to Human Resources?

EM: Mm, yeah. So, that is not my area of expertise. It is Dale’s area of expertise, that’s my partner. He can speak on that and name those resources until the cows come home. I don’t want to mess it up. There is very specific – because of safety – things that you can do.

PG: Okay. And what’s his website?

EM: Inclusionary Leadership Group. You can go to inclusionaryleadershipgroup.com. This is what he does.

PG: He goes to corporations and speaks about –

EM: He has a whole training program for the team, for upper management, for sexism – and a lot of people don’t think they’re sexist, just like a lot of people don’t think they’re racist. We know how that’s been going! A lot of people don’t think they’re sexist and they find out the little, insidious ways that they are.

PG: Yeah. That’s the twenty-first century, you know. The twenty-first century version of sexism and racism is so –

EM: Yeah, it’s hidden to a lot of people.

PG: Yeah.

EM: So he really goes in there and helps them see it, and helps them move people of colour and women up through the ranks. He’s your source for that and I don’t want to misquote or say the wrong thing in that. What I work with is women internally. I work with what I call the inner world, and helping them with their inner world, and really how to overcome the effects of sexism and PTSD.

PG: I gotcha.

EM: It’s an inside job, and you need help. Self-value is so huge because self-esteem goes right out the window when you’ve had any bad thing happen to you. So saying to yourself ‘I’m worth it,’ it’s going to take a leap of faith. Whenever we try something new it’s so vulnerable, it takes such a leap of faith, because we don’t know how the other person is going to react. So I always start going within first, even just saying ‘I’m worth it, I’m worth getting help, I deserve help,’ and then my suggestion is, go to your most trusted friend and start there. Start with someone you already trust, where you have a better chance of them saying, ‘Yeah, sure, of course I’ll help you, I’d be happy to help you!’ Because that is usually the response. You’re usually happy to help them, and they are equally happy to help you. So whenever you’re doing something new, start with the easiest way and build from there. When you get good at that, then you branch out more. Knowing that we can never control what another person says or does – we can just accept. And really letting someone else love and help you is a beautiful act of love.

PG: Yes, it is, because it helps the person who’s helping you feel better about themselves, feel a sense of meaning and purpose, feel more connected to humanity. Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.

EM: And as a healer, people often apologize when they need my help! And I’m just like, ‘Without you, I don’t get to do my calling! I don’t get to do what I’m here to do.’ Humans naturally love helping each other. Most of us really, really love the feeling of helping our friends.

PG: Yes. And the last thing that I would add to that is, if you don’t have somebody that you feel you can reach out to, a good page that has a list of resources is helpguide.org – you might go check that out. Sometimes being desperate is the best gift that you can be given, because –

EM: It’s the mother of invention!

PG: Yeah, it gets you off your butt to take that scary step.

EM: I love talking about asking for help because – I come back to this point just because it’s important – we’re not even made to go it alone. We can have some of that guilt asking for help, but when I come back to, ‘Oh, right, humans aren’t even made to do things alone!’

PG: We’re social animals.

EM: We’re social animals! That alleviates the guilt for me. That’s how I got to at least start asking for help, was accepting my humanity, you know? I’m human – I’m going to need help with things! (Laughs) I can boil it down.

PG: Liz, Elizabeth, however you prefer to be addressed –

EM: It’s Elizabeth.

PG: Elizabeth. Thank you so much for coming and sharing all your wisdom and experience.

EM: Thank you!

PG: We’ll put all your links up, and the link to your partner’s page, and I’m sure I’ll forget some of them and then I’ll go back and put them up but I won’t shame myself.

EM: Nah, it’s always good enough, and we can always do better! (Laughs)

PG: Thank you.

EM: Thank you.