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Move With Deb the Podcast

Oct 20, 2021

Welcome to Episode 35. I wanted to continue the conversation I started last week about Fear language in Trauma healing. But also what if there is danger? What if the systems we need to engage in for our lives to be operating with ease are rife with racism, sexism, fat phobia, trans phobia and so on? How can we use these tools and other ones in a skillful way for our highest benefit?

Please feel free to reach out to me via instagram @movewithdeb or book a curiosity call at

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Kai Cheng Thom -



[00:00:00] Welcome to Move With Deb. I'm Deb your friendly neuroplastician. And this is a podcast that explores the relationship between the body and the mind from a health at every size, judgment, free perspective. I teach you how developing a new internal conversation based on curiosity, self friendship and simple neuro-plasticity techniques can rewire your bodymind out of pain and emotional overwhelm to help you build the rich full life that you want to live. Disclaimer, this is not a replacement for medical care.

[00:00:50] I want to read this piece by Canadian writer and social worker Kai Cheng Thom. She's written a number of books, including novel, Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars, A Dangerous Trans Girl's Confabulous Memoir, a poetry collection called No Homeland, a children's book called From The Stars To The Sky, To The Fish In The Sea and I Hope We Choose Love, A Trans Girls Notes From The End Of The World, a book of essays centered on transformative justice. I am interested in reading all of those, but I wanted to share this piece that I saw posted in 2020. In which she writes: 

[00:01:35] "I think the major difference between a social justice and a white colonial lens on trauma is the assumption that trauma recovery is the reclamation of safety. That safety is a resource that is simply out there for the taking and all we need to do is work hard enough at therapy. This is in quotes." I was once at a training seminar, in Toronto led by a famous and beloved somatic psychologist. She spoke brilliantly. I asked her how healing from trauma was possible for people, for whom violence and danger are part of everyday life. She said it was not." 

[00:02:15] Colonial psychology and psychiatry reveal their allegiance to the status quo and their approach to trauma. That resourcing must come from within oneself rather than from the collective. That trauma recovery is feeling safe in society. When in fact society is the source of trauma. Colonial somatics and psychotherapies teach that the body must relearn to perceive safety, but the bodies of the oppressed are rightly interpreting danger.

[00:02:46] Our triggers and explosive rage, our dissociation and perfect submission are in fact skills that have kept us alive. The somatics of social justice cannot, in parentheses, "I believe" close parentheses, be a somatics rooted in the colonial frameworks of psychology, psychiatry, or other models linked to the dominance of the nation state. Psychology was not always this way, but has become increasingly so over time.

[00:03:18] The somatics of social justice cannot be aimed at restoring the bodies to a state of homeostasis slash neutrality. We must be careful of popular languaging, such as the regulation of nervous system and emotion, which implies the control and domination of mind over emotion and sensation. Because we're not in the end, preparing the body to return to the general safety of society, parentheses this would be gaslighting, close parentheses, we are preparing the body essentially for struggle, training for better survival and the ability to experience joy in the midst of great danger. Quote in the cauldron of social justice healing praxis. We must aim for the relationality that has the potential to generate social change, to generate insurrection, we must be prepared to challenge norms, acknowledge danger, embrace struggle, take risks. Above all we must not overemphasize the importance of individual work, which is important indeed, to the detriment of a somatics that also prepares us essentially for war. Somatics that allow us to organize together, fight together, live together, love each other.

[00:04:46] So that piece, is incredibly powerful because it really speaks to the fact that there are moments and instances, not just in trauma of things that have happened to us in the past, but also the very real danger that some people face in certain situations. 

[00:05:10] We can look at safety through this lens and also bring in the lens of, am I safe right now? Right. So we can prepare for times that might feel unsafe. Like if you are a fat person trying to navigate, medical care, which is often unsafe. We can make plans. We can call in comrades. We can find best practices. We can prepare ourselves as best as possible. And we can do the nervous system resourcing that I teach, which is about acknowledging, allowing, and processing emotion. We can understand that we are perfectly whole and worthy beings, living, surviving, thriving, and sometimes not, in imperfect systems and systems that are organized to deny our wholeness.

[00:06:12] And this is the dance between the mind and the body, between the body and society. And I am one person, but I help people in this work by telling themselves the truth of their feelings about something. I think what she says is so brilliant, which is, all of us have operated for our survival, right? So that includes dissociating. That includes submission. That includes rage. And all of them make sense. When we have a feeling or sensation, when we have pain in our body, we can ask ourselves what's going on. What am I feeling that maybe I'm not allowing myself to feel? Or what is the fear?

[00:07:03] We think about fear as the driver of protection. There's a nervous system response being motivated by fear, and we can ask ourselves, why are we afraid? And sometimes we're afraid because we're anticipating harm. Sometimes we're afraid because we have been harmed in the past and we're afraid of it happening again.

[00:07:25] There's a lot of room when we slow down. When we choose to tell ourselves the story of our own survival. And when we look to our community and think about how many incredible resources there are to be shared. Sometimes that means telling somebody who knows what you're going through, that you are scared. We always want to look at allowing and processing an emotion rather than suppressing as a part of our healing. 

[00:07:59] So I just wanted to share that powerful piece. I think it goes along with the conversations that we hear now through trauma recovery, through somatics. There's often this overemphasis on balance and calm. What I am noticing both in myself and my own healing and in the healing process of the people I get to work with is, trying to tell somebody to find calm when they're suppressing rage, in some ways reinforcing this idea that there's something wrong with them. Reinforcing the idea that somehow rage is not a completely reasonable response to oppression, to harm. 

[00:08:47] And we can learn to feel all feelings and create welcome for all feelings to be felt. So what we want is to create the practice and habit of feeling without sending our nervous system into overwhelm, into fight or flight or into shut down into freeze. And that is how we heal. And sometimes that means standing on the front lines and doing something brave. Sometimes that means checking out. Sometimes that means learning to be with. And we can learn to be with, by asking for help. We can learn to be with, by watching other people do it. We can learn to be with, by practicing. Creating opportunities for ourselves to practice a new skill. Emotional allowance and regulation is a skill. And when we get good at it, it means that we can also show up in ways in which we have protected ourselves somewhat from the harm that we are subject to. I am blessed to learn from BIPOC and marginalized folks who are telling their truths that yes, there is healing and a lack of safety simultaneously. We can become storytellers of our own wellness, but not if we have to pretend like there aren't systems of harm being actively engaged.

[00:10:15] We can't deny that there are social determinants of health. I teach this in my program. I have an entire supplemental section and it's not book learning. It's people in marginalized communities, having their own conversations about how stress illness arise and affect their communities. And so I put that in there because those are things that are true and they had to be said. I wanted people to see themselves reflected in this work.

[00:10:47] And also we do the work of changing this inner conversation, creating awareness building on this pain science education. And creating the ability to pay attention and notice the change and shift in sensations, the change in shift in symptoms. And then we build on that and we go from there. There's always some entry point. You don't have to be perfectly safe. We don't have to have this return to safety. Safety is a felt sense in the body. And some people can experience that felt sense of safety in very chaotic environments. And some people can feel the opposite of a sense of safety. Some people can feel abject terror in what other people would experience as being very ordinary and very safe.

[00:11:40] So this is why it's important, not to think about what we should be feeling, but to be paying attention to what we are feeling and then learning how to allow feeling. A lot of times, what I really see is when we feel fear, we push it away. And then what we're actually feeling is resistance to feeling. And resistance is a very loud feeling in the body.

[00:12:11] What often happens is when we open the door to fear, it just comes in, it transforms itself into a young human, with a big heart who is looking for love. I see that all the time, but when it's on the other side of the door, it looks like a terrifying monster. And that is the resistance to the feeling. 

[00:12:33] When we let a feeling in, learn how to be with, and how to allow it, learn how to be feeling human beings who do feel hurt and pain, as well as joy and ecstasy and connection, then that fear gets to be felt and gets to be incorporated. Of course, we feel fear. We are living through a very terrifying experience right now.

[00:13:00] It's important to recognize that is okay to feel fear. That feeling fear is part of both the human condition, but also a working nervous system. A working mind body system feels fear. When we can allow ourselves to feel fear. We can also assess in this present moment am I in danger? When we allow ourselves to feel fear, we can begin to get curious and ask ourselves why, ask ourselves what's up? How do I care for you? What do you need? 

[00:13:37] Because when we feel resistance, all we want is to not feel. And then we take action. To suppress feelings, we take actions to not feel. And when you are working so hard at not feeling, there's no room for curiosity, you can't have both feeling and allowing a feeling, leaning into curiosity and self-compassion and repression and resistance at the same time.

[00:14:07] Which that doesn't mean go feel the biggest feelings and let them sweep you away. It's about building skill, building the ability to lean in for a moment. Open that door just a little crack and see what that is to feel fear. And use the beautiful tool of somatic tracking to keep yourself good company while you experience an emotion.

[00:14:30] Then come back to the place where you start asking yourself, what is the felt sense of safety? When do I notice it? When you feel it and you have moments of it, you can say. Oh, hello. I have been waiting for you. I am supposed to notice when I feel this felt sense of safety. So when it happens, you can pay attention, celebrate it, get to know it, roll around in it, make out with it.

[00:14:59] Know that that felt sense of safety is a feeling that you can have. Even if it's for a blip or a moment. Notice, what are you looking at when you're feeling it? What are you thinking when you're feeling it? Who's around you? What is it like?

[00:15:16] And just know that if you feel it for a second, you can feel it for two seconds and you can water it and tend it and grow it. There's lots of skills I talk about all the time on this podcast about how we can scaffold, build ourselves some assistance around this growing of safety inside of us process.

[00:15:42] What's true is that a lot of this is complex, I may or may not be the person to help guide you through this process, but I am a person who understands that this is true, and I have a lot of resources that I always try to share. So if at any point you are curious about how this mind, body, healing can work, please reach out to me. Please book a curiosity call. Please listen to my podcast. Please start thinking, at least, that healing is a possibility for you because you have a brain and a body and a nervous system. And anybody who has those can create healing and we'll just keep moving ourselves forward. And also finding ways to collectively come together to mitigate some of the harm that's created by these systems. I'm looking forward to trying to get more into these conversations and bringing guests on and talking more about it. It'll probably happen in the new year once I get settled, but I am excited to be at the very least thinking about these ideas, articulating them with you. Even if I'm doing it in the very beginning baby stages of this process. 

[00:17:15] That is what I've got to share with you today. I hope that it's helpful. I hope that it gives you something to think about. And of course, with thinking, I always want you to be feeling. Thank you for listening.