"We don’t just have bodies,
we are bodies."

"Our bodies are not inserted into a particular culture. Our culture is embedded in our DNA. We embody our culture. We embody our generational trauma. As such, culture is not just a consideration or a lens, it is the way we participate in being human."

-Vanessa

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Intergenerational & Racial Trauma

Let's be real. We all have bodies, but not all bodies get to life in this world in the same way. 

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Without insight into culturally-bound assumptions and privilege, BIPOC individuals can be encouraged to spend time identifying distortions based on normative realty—the provider’s reality—which often does not bring about truth or a safely livable outcome. It is an ongoing discipline to offer culturally-informed care, increase cultural humility, and further wrestle with my own privilege, identities and judgements. 


This uncovers unfortunate  truths:

Working with the body highlights the differences in realities and the cultural gaslighting that exists within traditional, western society. Who gets to be the arbiter of reality? Who gets to determine safety? 

1.) Much of the time thoughts include cognitive distortions and unfortunate realities that are true for some people even if not true for others.

2.) Often, emotions are a blend of misguided and justifiable reactions to realities, truths, and perceptions.

3.) Feeling safe in a body is a privilege.

4.) We experience a tension between unpermitted, healthy aggression—required for developing and maintaining appropriate boundaries—and the reality that displaying healthy aggression could be socially— even physically—dangerous

5.) Bodies hold memories of past trauma— our own or inherited— and anticipation of potential experiences that need to be validated, untangled, and legitimized.

We don’t just have bodies, we are bodies.  Our bodies are not inserted into a particular culture.  Our culture is embedded in our DNA.  We embody our culture. We embody our generational trauma. As such, culture is not just a consideration or a lens, it is the way we participate in being human.

I came to work with BIPOC and embodied and transgenerational trauma by accident. In working with Veterans and the embodiment of combat trauma, I began to see there were differences in the typical and predictable patterns and responses in the body. I was aware of the subtext that didn’t have a way of entering the room. Just as Veteran’s bodies respond differently that civilians, black bodies respond differently as well. 

I was the only female in my class to complete fire school and the first female Marine to serve on my duty station. I never liked the specifier female Marine. Once, after a training exercise, our Warrant officer praised me, referring to me as “the female Marine.” I was amazed by the deep pride I experienced for doing the same thing each of the men around me did. I had not done something better, just equally well. I became acutely aware of normativity as I determined where to embrace standards and be “like a woman” and where to deviate and be “like a man.” After all, I was not celebrated for being strong for a woman, I was commended for being strong like a man.

I was not only interested in what was normative, I was intrigued by diversity. Bootcamp strips individuality from recruits of all backgrounds and creates a new collective system unlike the dominantly individualistic American culture. Still, I was impressed by how this uniform environment did not stop the different backgrounds from informing the diverse manner in which individuals experienced, expressed, and processed powerful emotions like rage, terror, and grief. Most interesting was observing the culturally-informed permissions people received, or didn’t receive, to express these emotions and the ways these emotions were demonstrated. This interest led to completing a Master’s degree in Intercultural Studies, but my diversity awareness stems more so from my intentional close relationships with people who are different from me. Wisdom and insight gained through these relationships offered me critical insights into my work with BIPOC. This is critical as someone raised, trained, and educated with in a white hetero-normative system. 

A large portion of my clients are clinicians, academics and other professional men and women of color acutely aware of the difficulties negotiating this system. Chances are if you are reading this you were referred to me by a current client.  We can talk and see if my work and your needs are a fit.

Vanessa

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Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict. SE facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotion.


SE offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others— Excerpt taken from SETI.

Somatic Experiencing (SE) is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders resulting from multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma. Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Excerpt taken from SETI

An Embodied approach to healing

Excerpt taken from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. 

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) is a complete treatment modality to heal trauma and attachment issues. SP welcomes the body as an integral source of information for processing past experiences relating to upsetting or traumatic events and developmental wounds. SP incorporates the physical and sensory experience, as well as thoughts and emotions, as part of the person’s complete experience of both the trauma itself and the process of healing. Excerpt taken from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.  


An Embodied approach to healing

SP seeks to restore a person’s ability to process information without being triggered by past experience. SP uses a three-phase treatment approach to gently guide the client through the therapeutic process – Safety and Stabilization, Processing, and Integration. The therapist must pay close attention to the client to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the process while simultaneously engaging their own abilities and capacities for healing.

It is thought that SP strengthens instinctual capacities for survival and assists clients to re-instate or develop resources which were unavailable or missing at the time the trauma or wounding occurred. Once resources are developed and in place, the traumatic event can be processed with the aid of resources. SP is a well-developed approach with decades of success in the treatment of trauma and developmental wounds. — Excerpt taken from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. 

Excerpt taken from ACBS Association for Contextual Behavioral Science. 

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a comprehensive multi-diagnostic, modularized behavioral intervention designed to treat individuals with severe mental disorders and out-of-control cognitive, emotional and behavioral patterns. It has been commonly viewed as a treatment for individuals meeting criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) with chronic and high-risk suicidality, substance dependence or other disorders. However, over the years, data has emerged demonstrating that DBT is also effective for a wide range of other disorders and problems, most of which are associated with difficulties regulating emotions and associated cognitive and behavioral patterns. 

radical acceptance and change

As the name implies, dialectical philosophy is a critical underpinning of DBT. Dialectics is a method of logic that identifies the contradictions (antithesis) in a person's position (thesis) and overcomes them by finding the synthesis. Additionally, in DBT a client cannot be understood in isolation from his or her environment and the transactions that occur. Rather, the therapist emphasizes the transaction between the person and their environment both in the development and maintenance of any disorders. It is also assumed that there are multiple causes as opposed to a single factor affecting the client. And, DBT uses a framework that balances the treatment strategies of acceptance and change - the central dialectical tension in DBT. Therapists work to enhance the capability (skills) of their client as well as to develop the motivation to change. Maintaining that balance between acceptance and change with clients is crucial for both keeping a client in treatment and ensuring they are making progress towards their goals of creating a life worth living. — Taken from DBT-Linehan Board of Certification. (click to learn more)