Our Capacity to Bounce Back with Amy MacClain Part 1

This two part episode starts with Amy and Charna talking about #Metoo, gender equity, and power dynamics in the workplace. Charna explains the window of capacity to be with, the difference between self and coregulation in relationships, and how learning to track yourself and others benefits your relationships. They dig into what resilience is and how it might be hard to understand, feel or identify with as a trauma survivor. There is also an exercise to help bring the unconscious material behind triggers into consciousness.

Show Notes

Hello, welcome back to Laid Open podcast. I’m your host Charna Caselle. I’m joined by my friend Amy McLain. She’s an excellent songstress, Master facilitator and a gender equity trainer. Let’s get right into it.

Years ago, I was in a relationship with somebody who called me a communication and I feel like I have this whole thing, I’m going to argue and say, and then you say it and you dismantle everything. And I don’t know what to say. I developed a whole communication practice called the ninja moves. When I was working with the kids, you know, you have to move your hands like ninjas while you say the thing. So you remembering

Oh, I like it. Yeah, that would actually be really helpful. Although our amygdala gets activated with sharp, fast movements, and you perceive the other person as being a threat, right? And you go into a fight response. So if I were to be like, I want to talk, you can’t see what I’m doing right now. But I’m doing some ninja chops and moves with my hands.

It’s more like Jedi moves. They’re more like Jedi, I probably should have called them Jedi moves instead of ninja moves because that would have been more metaphorically correct. And also would have made the movements like this is not the drone you’re looking for with the one hand moving slowly.

Right. So that’s a little more Tai Chi Chi Gong then yeah, then ninja. Yes, exhibit Jedi sounds a lot more fun than Qigong moves.

Yeah. The questions were how did that make you feel? Or how did you feel? Because you know, things don’t make us feel a certain way we feel we can own responsibility for our feelings. How did you feel? What did you need?

I’ve seen you make those moves when it just right handout.

How did you feel left hand out? What did you need? And then two hands together who can help?

That’s awesome. That’s it little offering? Yeah, hands up. Like the Book of God like the book of God. Anyway. So I’ve been binge watching the show the morning show, with Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon, and among others in the ensemble cast. And so if I were to really check in what’s on my mind is the complexity of sexuality and relationship and power dynamics. So I think the question for me is, how do we really build compassion for each other, because this whole me to movement is really dividing people. And what I’m seeing as someone who works with gender bias in the workplace, as someone who’s gone out and done some training around gender bias in corporate workplaces, and in educational workplaces, there’s a fear that men have, and they’re really pulling back. And so as they withdraw, like, what what I mean by that is, they’re not wanting to be in a room with a closed door with a woman, or they’re not wanting to give her feedback that could be perceived as harsh or sexist in any way. And so then what happens is, of course, women get the shaft from that no, no pun intended. But women. Women get it even worse, because men will pull back and then where they were using their power to mentor to support to be a partnership. Now there, they’re pulling that all back.

That’s right, well, and even I’ve had clients talk about what they’ve witnessed in terms of female colleagues not being invited to lunch and things like that, because so then they get left out even more. Yeah, as a result, but I do want to come back to that expression. There’s so many expressions that we have that have, you know, like, either racist or, or violent, sexist, I mean, because literally the origin of that I’m imagining to say like, Oh, he got the shaft or she got the shaft is that you’ve been blocked?

I don’t know. Is that the origin? It’s not I don’t mining,

Maybe. But I’m curious. It’s like, yeah, something worth googling.

Really, it is.

But not now. This is a no phone zone.

Don’t go don’t leave the podcast. Somebody will getting the shot somebody call in and give us that information. Uh Oh, damn, we don’t have…

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I think the the main dynamic here on this show is that in the first few episodes, you see that the host of the show, the male host had what he called affairs with a few different people on the show over 15 years. And for him, it felt like these were consensual affairs. That happened. And yet for one of the young women who comes forward, she was an audio engineer, and she felt like he heavily flirted with her, which she liked, admittedly, and then, you know, he made an advance, like hand under the table kind of a thing when they were sitting somewhere in a meeting. And it moved into this sort of relationship thing that she just didn’t feel that she could say no to. And she also felt like everyone knew, and people were judging her about it. And so I just feel like this is this complicated place where sexually we’re damned if we do, we’re damned if we don’t. And that position is so disempowering for everyone. And it’s really hitting men hard. Yeah, as well as women. So that’s where that’s where I’m at today. That’s what I’m thinking about. Naturally.

Yeah. And then how do you end up feeling in inside of witnessing all that complexity, and given that that’s your work. And given that you’re a woman,

I mean, I think I always reduce it back to the fact that we need to build compassion for each other. So we can have these conversations, because it’s coming out, all of this stuff is coming out. And none of its new, right, none of these dynamics are new. And, you know, like to see racism, so exposed on social media so exposed, none of that is new. That’s been happening for the universe for hundreds of years, 1000s of years, none of that is new. And, and yet, it’s so present, we have to find a way to talk about it, right. And, you know, I can’t necessarily own all of the things that have ever happened regarding racism, but I can build my capacity to listen compassionately, and seek a solution that’s going to work, right for people who’ve been victimized. And I feel like I always reduce it back to that. And then at the same time, it’s like, when I when I come back to sexism, it feels more complicated.

Well, so just to the PC, you were mentioning about compassion. years ago, Stacy Haynes had an organization called Jen, generation five. And it was focused around creating a social change movement to end child sexual abuse. And so I was part of that training and that work. And one of the things that was really important that came up in that training was, you know, if you have to create creating systems for bystanders to be able to report and take some action, because so often, what happens is that people witness something, they see it, they they feel immobilized, they don’t know what to do, they feel powerless, or they’re out of their own fear. Often, women will stay with abusers, because of their own insecurities and fear. Or if you look at institutionalized sexual trauma, or sexism or racism, that around the church, for instance, right, people who priests that abused children would just get moved from one place to another, right. And so, so one thing that I’ve the nugget that I really took from doing that work was if the more that we see things in very black and white terms, and basically just say, oh, you know, people will say something like, Oh, if you’ve molested a child, you need to be like, taken out left on an island to rot. Right. And I can understand the rage that comes from that perspective, or that’s behind that perspective. And yet, the more that we see things in those black and white terms and think like only bad people do bad things, versus beloved people do bad things, then there isn’t healing it, because then you actually remain really blind to where it’s happening. And you can’t see it, because you have to remain in denial or your world would explode. So I think the compassion piece is actually really important in order to be able to be more accountable and actually see what’s around you, and even look at yourself.

It’s interesting, because I think as we’ve talked about this in the, in the context of complexity, it’s like, I feel like the complexity of experiences we’re witnessing through social media have this backlash that’s very simplistic, right, and also have this categorization that’s very simplistic. So what’s happening is we’re getting so overexposed to a multitude of very complex situations and images, and we can’t contain all that information. And we’re not mature enough necessarily when we see it all. And so, you know, what happens is we’re going to make it black and white. We’re going to make our opinion about it. And then we’re going to polarize and we’re only going to listen to the filter that fits our opinion. And as that happens more and more, I just can’t help it feel concerned for us.

Well, there is that backlash, right if things things become polls, things, you know, when people feel demonized, right, if the, if the fear is they’re going to be demonized, they’re not going to come forward to get help. All right, this is what happens. It’s so fascinating, right? I think I was talking the other day, about how we’ll actually I don’t know if I was I was mentioning this, but we’re talking about hyper arousal and hypo arousal. And so for me, my experiences of hypo arousal often coincide with some kind of emotion that I’m not choosing to feel or is unconscious. So it’s usually anger or grief. And I’ll suddenly feel so tired, right as mentioning that like narcoleptic exhaustion that I would feel when I was writing my thesis, and I was writing about a mother daughter relationship. And at the time, things were really hard with my own mom. And how it starts to fall asleep loves writing. And I’ve had that experience in, in hard conversations with a partner. There’s this book, what is it called? Lydia? Jakubowicz. Oh, my God, something of water. I’m blanking on the title. It’s such a beautiful memoir. And there’s the scene in the book, where her partner is driving, and they’re in a fight. And she’s yelling at him, and he falls asleep while driving the car. Wow. Yeah. And I was like, she was so mad at him. And it was, so it was out of his control. his nervous system just did that to regulate. It was like he was overwhelmed. And that’s what it just did. Right. And so for so for me up until recently, it feels like it’s mostly been well, I am having more awareness of it. I think it’s always happened. But I get that incredible fatigue. But I also get it in relation to other people’s experiences. Right? So it’s, it’s some, if they’re not feeling something, suddenly, I will get incredibly exhausted.

But I think this is, I mean, we’re talking about complexity so much today. And I think that there’s a complexity here for me about having the feelings, you know, part of my journey as a spiritual warrior, or a healing person has been to find all the ways I could express myself, right. So I express myself through song I express myself through public speaking, I express, express myself through teaching for a long time I did this emotional release meditation where we would go in for three hours, and there’d be this musical arc and I and you could just you just express the whole time. So you sit there, and you have moments where you’re thinking, but many moments, you’re just crying or sobbing or yelling, or, you know, lots of catharsis, lots of catharsis and movement of feelings. And along the road of depression, you know, I’ve had so many people say to me, like, well just feel the feelings, like you’re holding something back. That’s why you’re depressed. And I’m like, Okay, and so I had a, I had a time where, with support, I went into just following the feelings. And what happened is, I felt the feelings every day, until I was so suicidal, I could barely get out of bed, and I was crying most of the day, most of the time. And I realized that as someone who suffers from depression, there’s this tricky complex line about feeling the feelings, because there’s so much old habitual sadness, or fear, or frozenness, or, you know, nothing, this will never change, or my life is not like other lives, I don’t have the capacity to get up and move the way other people do. So those old stories and those old feelings when they rotate through my body are just toxic. Right? So it’s not like I’m repressing a feeling, there’s this confusion about what to do when that feeling comes up.

Right. So there’s something really subtle and important that you’re touching on, which is some people who are overly contained. They have these structures that are overly contained, they’re numb. And sometimes that can happen in terms of weight in the body, like there’s a thickness and a density more to their structure, and it protects them think of like lots of weighted blankets, right? It’s gonna help you not necessarily feel as much, but that’s not the case for everybody. Right? There’s some subtlety like somebody can, there can be a combination of, of a certain kind of numbing, but you’re also as we’ve mentioned, like you’re really expressive, right? You know how to express in this. So the thing that you’re talking about, that I also relate to win, I have a very different system, right? My system is it’s like, historically more of a live wire and that meditation helped me learn how to create containment and hold. So that wasn’t spilling out all this emotion all the time, there’s a difference between touching into something and having and moving through it, versus cycling into it and getting sucked into an eddy and just spinning and spinning and spinning. My system also it would it had to do, I think, even in utero was hold on for dear life. So it learned how to grip, I had chronic constipation. So starting as a little child, like my body didn’t know how to let go of anything. And I believe that in utero, I started, I took on the belief that I had to make my mom’s pain go away, that I was the receptacle for other people’s pain. And that was my purpose. And that was my function. And that was my value. And if I didn’t do that, then I didn’t, I didn’t get to exist. Wow. And so my system basically started taking on people’s stuff and not knowing how to release it. So not only could I not release my own toxins, like my poop, but I also couldn’t release other people’s experiences. And then I started getting really sick. When I first started seeing clients, yeah, and that was part of it. It was like this training, I had to start going through to discover the process of learning how to release. And I’m way better at it. But my body is still it’s like, how do you move? How do you? How do you allow something to move through you? Right, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, rather than click end up, you know, holding on to it, or getting sucked into it and down into it. Does that make sense?

Yeah, you’re making me think of that book. The Body Keeps the Score? Yeah. I haven’t read the book.

Or the Body Keeps the Score. Right. Yeah. Read that book. I can read it to you.

Yeah, I think there’s something about when you’re, when you’re talking about feeling sleepy as if you’re impacted by someone else in the room, perhaps myself, maybe holding something or not moving something, that that’s where I’m saying, it just gets tricky. For me. It’s like, okay, and I feel like there is a place where I’m learning where I’m on the brink of learning how to have enough resilience, that I can allow myself to experience a negative feeling. And know and trust that I can come back. Yeah.

Right. I mean, you know, I went through a period in college, a suicidal depression. And some that mirrored an experience I had in high school. And it seemed like every winter, right around my birthday, including, you know, like my birth, I mean, it’s just this pattern, which is a conversation for another day, kept repeating itself. And so any similar physical sensations or emotions, I would start to touch into that reminded me of that period. It would panic me it was really scary. Because I don’t want to go back into that.

Yeah, I mean, I think that it’s interesting, I went to a workshop, a Cymatics workshop on resilience and trauma. And inside of that workshop, the first day, we spent practicing resilience practices. Now, as a facilitator and an educator, I always like to make space for everyone, everyone’s experience. And what happened over that day was there were multiple resilience practices that we did. And then there was this, the way that these teachers spoke to me was like, okay, to the whole room, they were like, Okay, so just feel that resilience in your body. Just notice that resilience, just see how that makes you feel resilient. And I’m just like, I don’t fucking feel resilient. So I took off. I mean, I really was like, I really was best. And by the end of the day, I had to give a lot of feedback. That happens a lot. But anyway, that’s beside the point. I was like, listen, people. You’re talking to trauma victims. And I believe that resiliency is sometimes a concept that we don’t know anything about. That’s right. And I feel like what’s been interesting about doing these meditations with Dr. Joe Dispenza, about practicing a particular feeling like the first few weeks, I tried to do it, I just hated the meditations because I was like, not able to feel what he was saying, I should be feeling. But over time, as I started practicing it, more feelings of gratitude or positivity started to come up. And I was like, oh, that’s what this feels like.

Right? Well, and what’s the part of you that even though for two weeks, you hated it? What’s that part of you, that kept going? And was willing to keep trying?

Yeah, that must be my essence. That must be my indomitable spirit that all of us have as human beings. Well, there’s

that and there’s some part of you that’s resilient. Right? There’s some that that part, that essence part of you, if you want to call it that, right. So we have these wise resource parts and then we have these younger kid parts and sometimes we need help parsing those out out and getting a sense of them. But when we’re in our window, which we’ll get into in a different episode, when we’re in our what I like to call a window of capacity to be with, we are our current age, we’re regulated, we’re grounded, we have the resources. And we have the knowledge that we’ve acquired through all these different things that we’ve done. When we’re out of our window. We’re in a more traumatized kids state, and we don’t have access.

A wise teacher of mine, who I studied with for the last couple of years has asked me repeated this repeatedly this question, you know, what do you love about yourself? And every time she asks that I’m like, oh, fuck, oh, God, I hate this. Why do you have to ask me that? I don’t want to talk about it. You know, all this resistance comes up. And I think culturally in America, there’s a lot of resistance to bragging or self acknowledgement, or any of that kind of stuff. You know, Amy Schumer has a whole like video about it, where all you know, someone accepts a compliment, and heads explode all over the right leg. So there’s this resistance that I have that I feel like is both cultural and also, you know, a resistance to being vulnerable. And so she’s asked me that question a number of times throughout the healing journey I’ve been on with her. And the last time she asked me that, which was a few months back, the first thing I said was, I’m persistent. That was in the middle of like, like, and I was really upset in that moment. I was having a really hard time I was struggling, and she was like, Okay, it’s time for you to tell me what you love about yourself. And I was like, rock off. And then she was like, yeah, come on. And I’m like, Okay, I’m persistent.

Well, and I think there’s something important. And this is, I see this with a lot of clients, I see it with myself. Were there qualities, and maybe they are essence qualities like that we’ve come into this world with these certain qualities. But it’s also important to that you’ve cultivated you’ve done a shitload of work. And you’ve developed certain capacities. Yeah, right. And I’ve grown certain capacities, holy cow, like I literally couldn’t do a breathing exercise in a voice class in college without having flashbacks and panic attacks and had to drop the class. And now, you know, I’m in awe, yeah, of what I can tolerate in my body, the feelings I can feel. So

I’m thinking of Hamilton, stay alive. Sorry. I’m just saying, I used to teach this to people about persistence. Because, you know, part of teaching emotional intelligence is teaching persistence, grit resilience, you know, like, how do you, as a teacher bring resilience and grit and persistence to your students? And one of the things that I used to say, when I was talking to kindergarteners, who felt like they couldn’t do it, or a third grader who felt like something was too overwhelming. I was like, Well, did you? Could you walk when you were just a baby? That’s right. And they were like, No. And I was like, did you learn to walk? And they were like, yes. Like, you’re actually pretty good at walking, right? And they’re like, yes. But it’s right. It’s like part of our that’s why I say it doesn’t feel like a specific quality to me. And that’s why it’s so important that you’re saying this, because I haven’t called it out as a specific quality of my resilience.

Yeah. Well, so what I was going to say I have a client who, who does not acknowledge themselves for any positive qualities, an example is, if anybody is in her home at 630, in the evening, they are sitting down at the table all having dinner together. Right? So there was some kind of conditioning and her family, where she learned to have that level of consistency, stability and self care. And she doesn’t even question it. And so I have all these clients that have different qualities, or practices or habits that they’ve developed and cultivated that other clients, you know, think somebody else can’t even grocery shop for themselves. Someone else can’t tell when they’re hungry, because they’re so dissociated and traumatized, right? So we’re all at these different stages, and we have these different skills that are either our essence, or we’ve cultivated them. And we are we’ve had some positive conditioning, so that we don’t even question those qualities. Right, Mike? My quality, I would say is, there’s a work ethic of working hard and a courage. And those words would get thrown at me and I would look at people like Yeah, well, of course, like I just take them for granted. Right? And so I think it’s super, super important to acknowledge ourselves for the things that we’re we’re often blind to and sometimes someone else has to name them multiple times before we can even see them. Yeah. Yeah, so Perabo persistence, persistence, persistence, not to be mistaken. With persimmon,

well, I just wrote a song called, What do you love? And the whole thing is about answering that question like, just can we start to think about what we love about ourselves? Can we just start to think about it, because it is sort of a foundation for not only the resilience of yes, I’m going to be able to make it through another day, because I have these qualities. And these qualities have gotten me this far. And so I have proof that I can keep going. But also, I think, in terms of the complexity of navigating relationship, the complexity of navigating sexuality, of navigating, even finding what we want, there’s a place of like, identifying what we love about ourselves, allows us to step a little bit deeper into what what we both have to offer to someone else, and how to stay connected without a lot of shame. And just to say, I practiced, so I know, these are not linear segments. But this morning, when I took a shower, I got out, and I put lotion on, which I never do. Yeah. And I practiced feeling how it felt to take care of myself that way, and how it felt to just even how it felt to put it on, like physically how the touch felt on my body, and I slowed down and I did that I did the homework teacher did the whole work job. How did it feel to make that contact with yourself?

It felt fine. It didn’t. It wasn’t like exciting, or like, Oh, this feels great. It was just like, Okay, we’re doing this.

What is fine mean?

Like, I don’t think I don’t think I was like, Oh, I love this. But I also was like, I also wasn’t like oh, I hate this. It was just felt neutral. Uh huh. To me to be putting it on. But I felt a little proud of myself for doing the homework.

And so what is proud feel like how do you know when you feel proud? There’s a mental

recognition a thought of like doing the homework.

Okay, so it’s mental but then I also saw you do something with your body just now when when you said that so yeah, that’s a little taller. Yeah, you set up your your your head extended up, you kind of smiled. In your, your finger went up, you’re like, Whoa, right. And so when you do that, when I when I say that back to you, what what do you feel what happens?

I am not sure. I don’t feel like I’m feeling anything in particular.

Okay. Did you can you think of other moments where you felt proud of yourself?

One thing I’ve been noticing lately again, with this meditation practice of practicing feelings of gratitude or joy or happiness, along with practicing those feelings comes a paying attention to different centers in the body. And so they’re in every meditation, there’s a moment where the guide has you noticing the space behind your breastbone or behind your sternum. So really just your heart. So I’ve been bringing my attention to the physical body of my heart. Yes, the first time I really felt it intensely was I was at an event and I was doing the exercise at the event. It was like an opening exercise of connection where you’re just supposed to, you know, say why you’re here to to people that are sitting next to you. And so we all chatted and, you know, I lead those kinds of exercises all the time. I’m totally comfortable doing those kinds of exercises. And then the next exercise that we did was a moment of mindfulness. And in that moment of mindfulness, we did a metta practice a loving kindness, practice. So we all took some deep breaths, and then the leader asked us to think of someone we love and respect, I thought of you, and I practice just sending you some loving kindness just like sending you my love. And I felt my heart, like literally the muscles around my heart, like my pictorials. I felt them, relax, and open up. And it was like, I have never been conscious of how intensely and how tightly I will hold those muscles. Yeah, and do till that moment, I felt that all expand. And I was like, Wow, awesome. This is what they’re talking about opening your heart.

I will share with you, thank you so much. I’m so touched and honored that you thought of me, when you shared that moment of being proud. I felt this incredible warmth spread through my chest and that openness. And so maybe I don’t know if you felt that in that moment. And it just didn’t register. Or if that was me feeling that like I was feeling proud of you. So there’s a vicarious pride and excitement for you.

Yeah, I think that was you. But it’s good because I’m working on feeling these things and the way that it’s sort of thawing out. You know, and I think as we talk about sexuality from trauma to transcendence, I think this is such a big piece of moving out of trauma and what you’re talking about and we might as well just talk about it, we don’t have to save it for Another day, but I think it’d be great for you to just talk about what the window of tolerance or the window capacity actually is. And what it means to begin to open to feeling in such a way that it doesn’t move us out of our window.

The window of known as often the window of tolerance, I like to call it the window of capacity to be with because it’s what what your capacity to be with the amount of sensation and emotion in your body. So you could have a really big body and have a really small capacity. And often trauma creates less capacity and sends you out of your window. So if you picture two lines across a page, you can also Google this and see there’s lots of charts and images online on the upper top. It says hyper arousal and the bottom hypo arousal, okay, so when you’re in your window, as I was mentioning earlier, you are a wise resourced adult, you can be with your sensations, you’re walking down the street, car honks, you go, Oh, that’s a car honking. When you are, let’s say you’ve been to war, and a car backfires and you’re walking down the street, you might jump, your heart starts beating faster, you start sweating, your mouth gets dry, you get dysregulated. Right. So dysregulated means you’re out of your window regulated, you’re in your window. So once you get sent out of your window, you’re sent into hyper arousal or hypo arousal, right hyper arousal is an increase in sensation. Hypo arousal is a decrease in sensation. So some people what what I see is that they shoot really quickly into hyper and down into hypo, if their tendency is hypo. And they don’t even necessarily register the anxiety of hyper, hyper neither are good or bad. hyper arousal is it’s anxiety, panic, excitement, turn on, right, you’re going on the over the edge of a roller coaster. And there’s that fear, but there’s also excitement or you’re having an orgasm.

So hyper arousal could be great,

right? Right. It’s just it’s it’s because your window if your windows really big, that means you could be in hyper arousal and you’re still in your window, right? The Windows smaller. It takes very little, it could be thought I remember in college, I was in a class and the teacher called on me, and I don’t know if I hadn’t done the reading or if I felt like what I said was stupid. But I left that class I went, I went to Hampshire College, and I was walking through these fields and their sheep in these fields. And I was like walking to some building that was a barn. And I just remember beating myself up I was basically having a panic attack because of a comment I’d made in a classroom. My window was so small through meditation and bodywork and feeling through all these different life experiences so that my body wasn’t chock full of old anxiety, old terror, old grief, all these other feelings. I created more room so that I could have a bigger window. So you can think of like meds, right? Antidepressants help create a bigger window. But what also happens is there’s a flatline there’s a certain kind of numbness that off or just like, everything’s fine, I don’t feel highs, I don’t feel lows. Right. So meds create bigger windows, the somatic practices I do with people create bigger windows meditation, and so on hypo arousal we need in order to go to sleep at night, right you need so hypo arousal can look like someone getting really tired, it can look like depression, it can look like numbness. Right. So I’ve actually had couples in my office where they come in, they’re both all energized. And then as soon as one of them launches into a hard topic, the other one drops into hypo arousal. And looks like she’s about to fall asleep. Right? So it can happen super quickly without much awareness.

Is it consistent? Like do you just have one window? Or could you have a bigger window in certain situations and a smaller window and other situations?

Oh, absolutely. I mean, so first of all, I’d say most people get thrown out of their window in their most intimate relationships. Right. So some people have much bigger capacities in a professional context and much smaller capacities in a personal context, we have a range of responses to different people, different situations, different survival strategies will get activated in different scenarios. Before we go too much into that I want to say something else about the window and this is something that you all who are listening can practice, okay. So you can make this drawing, right, draw these two lines on it. page and track, what are the things that send me out of my window? And what’s my tendency do I tend to stay low inside my window and very rarely go out. But I tend to live on the edge at the top or bottom? Do I tend to live outside my window, you can track yourself for the day, you can track yourself over the week, look at your year. And the thing that you want to get curious about are the things that send us out. Often they are unconscious things, and the way that we can start to bring them into consciousness. And then be less triggered by them. They have less charge when they’re more conscious, you can make a list for yourself, right? So there’s thoughts, there’s emotions, there’s sensations, there’s memory, there’s images, smells, sounds. So sometimes people will get song lyrics stuck in their head. And they’re like, Why do I have this song in my head? Well, what are the lyrics? It is irrelevant? It’s an it’s an it’s information for you memory, you can ask yourself, when else have I felt this sensation? When else have I felt this emotion? If it’s sensation, what’s the quality of the sensation? Where do you feel it? What part of your body? Emotion there’s a range. So tip based emotions mad, glad, sad, afraid, disgusted. Powerless is a good one to ask yourself about. And so what you can do is when you realize later, oh, that thing sent me out. Then you can write this out for yourself and try to, to mine. What the source was? What is that? The memory is a pretty big one.

So what do you say to someone who is like, this is just too much? Like we’re thinking too hard about this stuff. We’re over analyzing, oh, my god, now we’re thinking about every single thing. And it’s not going to allow us to like, have a free life because we’re just so in our heads about everything. What would you say to someone who kind of gave that resistance to this kind of exercise?

I would say that’s makes so much sense. I totally get it. I’d say that’s fine. You don’t have to.

What I’m asking is more. Well, yeah, I know what you’re

asking. But I think it’s important to I also don’t use the word resistance. You know, there was a week, a couple weeks ago, where it seemed like every client came in, and they were labeling themselves resistant in some way or another. And it’s really important to me that there’s acknowledgement of the wisdom behind the places where I would say you get contracted and tight and breathe less. And then traditional psychotherapy calls that resistance. And if you’re putting if you’re digging your heels in, okay, what’s that wise young part of you? Usually a younger part of you, that is afraid. And so in what you said, I hear, there’s a fear of oh my god, I’m gonna become freakin, you know, neurotic, and there’s not gonna be any fun. And I’m overanalyzing. And what a drag and what a waste of time. And I don’t know. And I’m going to not manage my life and something like that. Yeah.

I mean, I think there’s also, I think there’s also the place though, where I feel like one of the places where I encounter people having an unwillingness, I won’t call it a resilient resistance bar, but we will having an unwillingness to pursue these thought practices, you know, these self awareness practices. One of the places where I meet unwillingness is yes, inside that fear of what a drag or I’m going to become analytical or I’m not gonna have any more spontaneity, or I’m killing little joy in life. Why do you have to be so serious, this is a whole thing about being PC bla, bla bla. On the other side of it, what I see in you when we hang out, yeah, is a flexibility. Because you’ve become so aware of all of these things. And so there’s more of a flexibility like when something happens right on the spot. And one of the things that first impressed me about you, I forget exactly what happened in this situation where that we were in but something happened, and I felt hurt and disappointed. And I forget what it was that that you did, but you did something I felt hurt and disappointed, and you came forward immediately. And you were like, I’m so sorry. I see you’re feeling this way. I’m so sorry. You know, like you just fully apologize and what can I do? And you know, like, there was this place of repair that was so fast and so thoughtful and didn’t have a lot of shame in it. I didn’t feel like I had to do all the work when you said that I didn’t have to comfort you I didn’t have to any of that. I just got to feel what I was feeling. I was really sweet and there was so much quick resilience in that right and so we were able to heal that in a few minutes. whereas, you know, there’s so many things like how many times have you ever felt someone do something that disappointed you or that frustrated you and you just put it away? I’m fine. You took that away, but it came up as a resentment. And over and over and over again, every time they did anything like that, you’re just like, see, this person is really just a jerk. You know? Yeah. Nice. Yeah. So there’s a freedom and a flexibility to notice that feeling and not be caged by it or held by it, because you’ve done so much work to build your own resilience, and be able to be generative into the relationship. So that’s more of what I was like, what I was kind of wanting to share some of your well, what’s the freedom, something that’s so important, so important about what you just said? And thank you. And I’m very glad that that happened in terms of you felt that it was repaired so quickly, I will share a time where I didn’t have that capacity. Okay. Okay. So early on, I had a girlfriend, a lover girlfriend, not a bestie. Like you, I had been out it was around her birthday. And I was shopping for her. And I was like getting a surprise for her. But that was what I was wanting to do. I remember something happened. And she was hurt and disappointed because I didn’t show up at her plays at a certain time. Because she didn’t know that I was doing this, this other stuff for her. So I had this really good intention. But the reality was that she was hurt and sad. And in that moment, instead of being able to hear that she was hurt, and sad, because my window was so small, and I did go into shame, I think it’s really is a super important, because my default used to be taking on, even if it wasn’t my fault, I would go into shame. And when people collapse and shame and tears, it shuts down the conversation, so the other person gets erased. And I see this with couples all the time. So if you can’t be with your own sensation when somebody has feelings, then often you’ll go into defense or shut it down because you collapse in shame. And it’s only because I’ve grown my window, that I’ve been able to be more accountable. Because I you know, I was crying and feeling bad because my girlfriend’s feelings were hurt, and she was angry. But I didn’t create room for her. You know, it’s like my feelings of I was doing this nice thing for you. And I fucked up and I feel so bad that I hurt your feelings they took over. Right? So if you actually care about the relationships you’re in, and you want to be a person that has room for other people, then this is important to do. So someone not just for you, but for other people in your life.

Yeah, so some of the freedom is being able to have a deeper relationship where the other person feels heard. Yeah, I think you know, your self awareness has brought you a lot of freedom in terms of your sexuality as well, like so being able to track your own sensations.

Yeah, yeah, well, so here’s an example. I didn’t lose my choice full boy, virginity. So I didn’t have P IV with a man until I was 27. penis and vagina. That’s right. Case You Didn’t Know this. This was a friend of mine. And I really wanted to have an experience. I decided I wanted to start having sex with men, but I wanted to have an experience that I would want from my own teenage daughter. So I wanted it to be like really choice full and safe and feel good and feel connected. And so I’m, I’m in bed with this guy. And I started to dissociate. And it was lovely. As I picked somebody who could track he was sensitive enough. And he noticed something. When that moment where I started to dissociate. I had no desire, no sensation in my body. I felt very cerebral. I did not feel turned on or want anything to happen. We were laying there naked. And once he was like, Hey, what’s going on? I don’t remember exactly what he said. But basically, because I could track what was happening just enough, I was maybe three years into somatic work or something I gave voice to what my thoughts were what was happening for me. And suddenly it was like a switch got turned back on. Right? So my know went to it went pretty quickly into a yes. And I got eyes, you know, I was turned on there was sensation, there was desire, everything came back. So being able to track yourself moment to moment, not only this is actually an important thing that I want to say. So you can tell if you’re your friend, your partner or yourself, you’re you’re out of your window when your emotional response. The opposite of what I just described, which is totally blank, is it’s disproportionate. You have a really big, emotional response to something. Have you ever been in a situation where somebody says something to you and you look over your shoulder and you’re like, Who the fuck are they talking to?

You You’re overreacting.

Or if you’ve in that experience of being so confused about what the person is why it’s so dis, it doesn’t connect to what is happening in the moment. Yes, they are triggered and they’re talking about a past experience. It’s not about you. Yeah. And the and the more that you can stay in your window, and be regulated and not defensive, even if it makes no sense to you, if you can respond from that place, they can come back into their window and join you as an adult, and you can have a conversation on packet just happen. But if you react if you go out of your window, and get mad at them, and accuse them all the time. That’s right. And so, you know, a big piece of my work with couples is how helping each other identify the use of being able to track your own tendency, like where are you in your window or on your, if you’re on your way out, and you catch it, you can come back in so much more easily. And if someone else is tracking you, there might be signs that you’re on your way out. There might be sensations, there might be what I call somatic tells like are you dude, tightening in your jawed you touch a certain to you know, touch your hair in a certain way? Or rub your finger rub your fingers on your knee? Like are there certain things that you do habitually, that your partner can see that you’re on your way out? And then in that moment, do you need physical contact? Or do you need space? And in have it verbalized, and acknowledged, like I see what’s happening? And this the naming of, of seeing what’s happening interrupts the moment? Because otherwise it brings your conscious just, yes, it just escalates, right? Like, for me, it used to be if I had a need, and I wasn’t naming it. And I would just get, I would get subtly resentful, or angry. And I would get tighter. And I would get, you know, I couldn’t make eye contact. And I had a girlfriend who would kind of grab me and pull me onto her lap. And in the moment, I’d be like, oh, like I was like, but but then I would soften. Like, for me, contact actually works. Sometimes it’d be wrestling like, right, I could wrestle through to the tears underneath. But if somebody else can help track what you can’t see. That’s called co regulation.

Yeah, and you were saying, you know, I think you’ve said this in a number of different ways. But just to keep it articulated as a thread we’re talking about, which is that when you bring things out of unconsciousness into consciousness, you can dissolve that amount of charge that comes with that response. Yeah, so I noticed for myself, when I started do somatic work, probably about a year in maybe maybe even less, man, I just been working with a somatic coach. And I remember having a flashback in my kitchen, something happened, my husband and I were having an argument. And I literally had a flashback and my jaw felt so tight, and that something happened, I just put my hand in my jaw for a second. And I had this flashback of being hit, which happened a lot in my home. And so in that moment, when I had the flashback of being hit, just because I’d put my hand on my face while he was talking, I got really clear that I keep my jaw super tight. And you know, some people are aware that they grind their teeth at night from anxiety or those things. I have never had that reflected to me by a partner and my husband who I was with for a long time is a very light sleeper. So he’s someone that would have noticed if he heard me grinding my teeth, right. And he never noticed that and I had no awareness. But at one point, I went to a new dentist and he was like, you have the teeth of a seven year old person loves you grind your teeth at night. And I was like, I don’t know. I don’t think so. Right? But to have someone reflect that to me that you know, my teeth even are super worn down because of how much I hold my jaw super tightly. And so now I have this practice of checking. I just checked my jaw probably five or six times a day to see if it’s tight or I’ll just notice Oh, it’s tight. Okay, I know kind of loosen it up. Yeah, because I think the jaw is one of those places in tension that people are super unconscious about. And then this connects back to a practice we did about the pelvic floor. Yes, so I also my little eyeteeth. Do you see how they’re worn down right here?

They’re worn down if you can’t see it going down they don’t look like it they look like regular teeth

like are they look like nose teeth Hi. I used to hold my teeth like this. So I’m in the habit of intentionally I breathe out my mouth. So I keep my teeth and lips suddenly parted. Not super slack jawed like, but I’m just like this. So by by intentionally practicing breathing like that throughout the day But it’s much harder to have a tense jaw. The other thing is in terms of your pelvic floor, it’s very hard to have a tense jaw if you have a relaxed pelvic floor. So to go over what your pelvic floor is, again, interesting, I’m holding it right now. Yeah.

Right? Just like so if you bring your attention, bring your attention to your pelvic floor, which are the pubic coxa Jia muscles, the muscles around your genitals and anus. And instead of so go ahead and bear down. Okay. And just Breathe out. Breathe that way. So imagine if you’re breathing out your pelvic floor. How easy? Is it? To tighten your jaw?

Oh, yeah, that’s challenging.

Yeah, it’s like rubbing your head and padding your belly. So you could take that on as a practice, if you know that you have a tight shot. Or if you’re like, I don’t think I have a tight shot. Try that and see, see if it makes a difference for you. It’s very grounding.

Interesting. I want to talk about complexity again for a minute, because we’ve been talking about the window of capacity to be with the feelings and and how making that window bigger allows you to be with more things, and how do you take take the charge out of certain things? And how do we fly out of our window in conversation on a daily basis. And just wanting to mention in terms of complexity. Something I’m thinking about right now, as you’re saying all these things is I have these two family members that are in a pretty consistent battle. And one of them is far more mature than the other one, and is practicing bringing herself back into her window, while the other one is saying things that are provoking. And the other day, they got into a text exchange. And it was like, the one who’s less mature was sharing something that she had done. For another member of our family, she had bought them a class, which was really exciting and interesting. Now, this was slightly out of character for her to have done that insightful thing in this moment. And so my other family member who is more mature, had seen an advertisement for that class just that morning, and had been thinking about getting that class for the same up third family member. And so my first family members sent her a text, the less mature one sent her a text that said, you know, I just bought this class for so and so. And she responded back Oh, I was thinking of that. I saw that in an advertisement just this morning. And the text that came back was Wow, no acknowledgement. No great job. No, that was awesome. You know, uh, you know, really sarcastic, very sort of intense, angry text. And so the more mature member of my family just calmed down, and was like, this is a miscommunication. She’s not understanding what I was saying. And she’s thinking I, I don’t know what she’s thinking, but I’m gonna calm down, and I’m going to label this as a miscommunication, I’m going to help us both Calm down, which was a very proud moment, when she told me that she did that I was very proud of her, because that’s I might not have even taken that route that route. Right? I was defensive on her behalf. So there’s a place where it was like, Okay, this is exactly what you’re talking about someone being out of their window, and someone being able to calm down. And there’s another level of complexity to that dynamic, which is that the less mature person is not only less mature, but they also have some drug addiction problems, and some mental health issues. And so, inside this extra layer of complexity, the more mature member of my family is having to really rein it in in a way that she probably had to do when she faced her own abusers as a child. And so I feel like there’s this level of complexity of how to unpack some of those relationship dynamics that shifting your window and being able to open your window might even allow you to handle even some of those bigger levels of complexity. Like for us right now, there’s a question of talking about the addiction and the mental health issues that’s like, we don’t know what to do. And it’s hard to face that challenge and figure out what to do when we can’t necessarily be with satisfy all of it.

Absolutely. I mean, if you can think about as you’re sharing that I was thinking about, the bigger your window is the the you’re bringing it back to compassion, right? Your compassion increases, your your things become less personal. Right, so there’s not only less reactivity, but it’s like you’re not taking things personally. What do you have to defend? You can see what’s happening often what people are reacting to is individual words. I like word spark things for people. They push certain buttons and we can get into what dissociation is and how that relates to triggers and other time. But, you know, we’re, the smaller your window is. And the less conscious you are, you are a collection of minefields, if you have a lot of trauma. And it takes very little for other people to push to step on those minefields and set them off. So when I think of dealing with somebody who is mentally ill, and drug addicted, you know, if they’re your family member, there’s a, there’s a couple different options you have, you know, one is really hard. It’s, it’s, you have to grow your window of capacity to be with guilt, and your own shame and your own powerlessness. Right? The more that you can be with those feelings, you either make a decision to not have that person in your life, right, your boundaries, you limit, you start figuring out what do I need to do to manage this relationship? And be okay, versus rescue the person or you’re, you know, you’re you’re still very much actively involved with them, but you, you really have to do massive self care and get very clear boundaries, you know, it’s not personal. Yeah. Right. It takes a lot of work. 

You know, the one way that I orient to relationships is thinking like, what is the lesson? What is the the teaching? Who is who is this person, this moment that I’m feeling so challenged by? In Aikido, there’s a term called an okay, which is your training partner, right? That’s your enemy, AKA your training partner. And so the people that we often are want to like strangle and think of as the biggest challenges in our life, there’s some lessons and and it’s not always about staying in relationship to those people. 

Sometimes it’s about learning self respect, and drawing the line. I guess we should draw a line right there because we’ve run out of time. 

Tune in next week for part two of this episode. Thanks again for joining me today, and I thank you all for tuning in. If you learn something new from this podcast, please like, share and review it so more people can find our community. You can also send questions to laidopenpodcast@gmail.com and please follow us on Facebook and Instagram at Laid Open Podcast.


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© 2022 By Charna Cassell, LMFT. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. MFC 51238.

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