S3 E20 TRANSCRIPT Historical Trauma and Attachment

[00:00:00] Jennifer: Welcome to Trauma Rewired, the podcast that teaches you about your nervous system, how trauma lives in the body and what you can do to heal. I’m your co host Jennifer Wallace. I am a Neuro Somatic Psychedelic Integration and Preparation Guide. I’m also a Junior Educator for Neuro Somatic Intelligence. And I love bridging the incredible modalities of sacred spaces and nervous system health.

[00:00:29] Elisabeth: And I’m Elisabeth Kristof, founder of Brain Based Wellness, a virtual platform that teaches your nervous system how to heal deficits, relieve stress and move out of old behaviors. 

[00:00:41] Elisabeth: All of this season, we’ve been looking at relationship and the impacts of relationship on the nervous system. And exploring complex trauma as an attachment wound, looking at attachment styles or schema through the lens of applied neurology in the nervous system. And then Jen saw this post on Instagram where you, Dr. Jennifer, posted that your anxious, disorganized, and dismissive attachment styles also arise from your ancestral history. And you went on to talk about how, in a very deep way, attachment theory needs to look at the social, the cultural, the historical factors that influence that.

[00:01:23] She sent that to me and we knew like, oh man, this is a conversation that we have to have. This has to be part of something that we talk about as we’re talking about attachment theory and nervous system health. So I’m really excited to dive into this with you today. And I’d love to just start there, start talking about some of that, and then maybe back up and talk about your work and what else you do.

[00:01:42] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Yeah. Thank you for that. I’m so glad that the post resonated. I think it is a post that, sometimes things come out of me at the right time. And although I had felt this way and probably verbalized this such like somewhere in my grad programs, (laughing) You know I was frequently shut down when I would bring in the historical the cultural and particularly the word ancestral, you know, if I wasn’t talking about it in a biological or neurobiological sense, by a lot of my professors.

[00:02:15] So it had become very clear to me in the work that I had done with individual over the last, maybe now it’s 24, 25 years as well as in the reparative process of my own nervous system and in my own attachment wounds, just how closely related, how we show up in relationship with each other. As we know, doesn’t even have to be your love relationship, right? All different kinds of relationship. How showing up in relationship is deeply correlated to also how safe we feel. And I know this sounds super obvious, but how safe we feel in a system, in an environment, in a setting, and even deeper such, how that has showed up throughout our history.

[00:03:04] So for example, if we have family members, which I do, that have been separated due to migration. And many, many migration patterns, not all, but almost all have a direct correlation to some form of colonization. And I’m not talking about the emotional sense of colonization that I talk about, but like the literal taking of land, taking of resources, displacing people, like “forcing” people to migrate when they were thinking, ‘Oh, well, I’m just choosing to go to have a better life’. And so that separation, A- not only separates us from the literal physical land, but also relationship to the land and how many of our, especially some of my culture how we relate to it, how, when we wake up, when we feel best, when we’re connecting with others, whether we’re removing siesta time or nap time or downtime at all from our cultures. Down to the being removed literally and having to leave and having to make this choice in order to survive fiscally or sometimes survive, literally, if there is a war or if there is any type of other violence that is occurring. 

And so as I started working with a lot of clients, I started realizing that although I would lean back onto my Bowlby, you know, very thorough training in my doctoral programs because I was working with a lot of youth, a lot of children, a lot of families, great deal of very violent, violent trauma.

[00:04:42] Where my research and interest came in was the intergenerational piece, but then also like this attachment piece and frequently I would, you’re really great, smart, brilliant professor, say, you know, and shout out to them because they were doing the best with what they had. They would frequently say to me, you know, you’re going too deep, you’re going too far.

[00:05:03] And my response to that would be, well, aren’t we here for the deep and far? Like if we’re not going deep and far, who the bleep are? Who is? You know, who is going far? So let me also say though, but also culturally, when we think of what may be occurring and what has been occurring, let’s say children born in the last 10, 15 years, right? So what was happening in their lifetime? What levels of violence? If we talk about what is now known as the United States, right? If they are black, brown, indigenous children, how has that impacted them to see other children that look like them, or like their older brothers, sisters, parents, family, uncles, being murdered by police, seeing displacements, seeing who is allowed into the country and who isn’t, you know, how is all of that impacting how they feel, who’s talking to them about this culture, and how does that impact, impair perhaps, they’re feeling that they belong, that they can trust, that they can connect with teachers, with people.

[00:06:09] And how does this impact, also, our movement and evolution of race relations? How does that impact and/or impair our movement when we say, well, we don’t want to divide. We want to come together, but if something naturally feels unsafe, in our, in our bodies, in our psyches, in our nervous system, even if we don’t have words for it, particularly before the age of three as we know for children with a lot of trauma, they don’t have words for that. How does that show up? And how do we want to start talking about this, looking at it, and how can we on earth separate this from history that’s currently happening and has happened?

[00:06:50] Jennifer: Thank you. Wow. I am understanding now just from a much deeper level and making connection beyond color and culture, but the broader connection of what I’ve heard you say before that the original attachment wound is the separation from your ancestral lands. That was suppressed and ripped away from your expression as the colonization whitewashed every bit and intentionally, intentionally, really forcefully repressed your ancestral lineage. And now that shows up in a classroom present day. And how can you trust the other bodies on an ancestral level, it lives in your DNA. And we’re trying to give voices to young people and it goes much deeper. And how could they understand what’s really happening in their bodies? 

[00:07:41] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Yes. Yes. Yes. 

[00:07:42] Jennifer: Chills.

[00:07:43] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Right? Thank you for also reiterating in this way and kind of bringing it together. Because if I may give a quick example, but of course, information changed and not identifiable. But I’m thinking in particular of a young person that deeply impacted me… I’ll take like a moment. Every time I think of them, I just feel this. This is one of the reasons, a very real life reason, of “why I do what I do” kind of energy. And I think we all maybe have that do the work, right? Like a person, a place, or even our own family histories and experiences that impact us and embody this. This young person was deeply struggling with all different forms of trauma. I know this is not new for many of us, you know, depending on the work that we do, if you’re listening out there, I know the majority of my early years, this was sort of like, Oh, yeah. Okay. This is just like sort of case rounds. However, looking back, I realized, A, how much, like also secondary and vicarious trauma comes up, yeah?, as when we’re listening to this and then how our attachment personally may be, how our attachment might be flared up also while engaging, right, and listening and holding space.

[00:09:01] So anyway, this young person, six years old, and they were nonverbal, and they were an amazing artist. An amazing, when I tell you an amazing, amazing artist. And do you know that this six year old who had never been, as far as any of us knew, had never been outside of the New Jersey area. Wouldn’t know something mystical about this, I must also say, I just want to put that out there, would draw sort of what is that called? Like pencils, you know, that color different pencils would draw images of what looked like islands and land.

[00:09:41] So it sort of felt a little Caribbean and there would be visibly brown, darker people like their skin tone and other people that appear to look like, I don’t know, maybe like they were from England, right? Or the UK. And now many of us could say, okay, he saw this on TV, or he saw this in a book, which may be true, but however, when these drawings would come up is when he started and only, because again, he was hospitalized and in and out residential and partial care maybe from the age of four and a half to like six and a half, seven. And only would these drawings come up when he started to form a relationship with one of us and started to feel safe. Right? It had to be one on one, and when he started to feel safe. 

[00:10:28] He would say, basically, that he was dreaming about this. That it was in his dreams when he was sleeping. He knew a little bit of sign language because his early foster parents were great and they were afraid he was never going to speak. And he goes, that’s happened to me before, but I was a big man. I was an older man and they took me away. This whole story, this young man is feeling his history. And we were all in agreement with that, that there was a historical trauma coming up in him, that he would correlate for us when he was playing out or acting out any of his experiences very real life trauma and violence. He would somehow start talking about when I was an older man, when I was older they put a gun that looked like this to my head and it looked like a bayonet or something like that.

[00:11:14] Or, and a man had a hat like this and he would draw it. Who knows? Who knows? But as I move forward and understand epigenetics better, better methylation, and all this understanding historical and generational trauma a bit better, and as I look at attachment, I believe that in some way, shape, or form, they’re all deeply intertwined. That’s the point of this is all deeply intertwined- our nervous systems, how safe we feel, who we trust, who we don’t, our attachment, and our willingness to be able to kind of work through, um, traumatic events and how they have an impact on our body. I hope that it made sense why I brought up that.

[00:11:54] Elisabeth: Yes, it absolutely did. And especially it really stood out to me that in the moments where this little body and nervous system had that safety, some of this stuff was able to come through and be processed in a safe container. And how important it is to have that safety to be able to work through and process and create some change and regulation around some of this stuff.

And I really was thinking as you were talking, we’ve talked on here in some episodes about this, it’s almost like a large scale disorganized attachment when like society and the institutions that are supposed to protect us and the containers that, you know, we all need social connection and we need society at large for safety and for social health and relational health.

[00:12:44] But when these broader paradigms are also threatening, when they also create that sense of day in day out stress on a nervous system there’s this real conflict inside at the level of the nervous system. Like I need this, I need to be part of the herd, I need good, healthy social connections and they don’t feel safe for maybe historical reasons or just like right now in the moment, like you were saying, like kids watching on TV someone in a black body or brown body being abused by these institutions and now there’s this internal conflict, this internal chaos of both needing and not feeling safe with something.

[00:13:26] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Precisely. Precisely. How do we make sense of that? Then again, going back to children and young ones, even teenagers, right? And I think of the angsty, confusion, the ragey-ness of a teenager and definitely my teenage years. And again, if we add all of these system structures, inequalities, if you’re living at or below poverty level, if you’re worried constantly about your immigration status, if you’re living with chronic pain, disability, knowing that you’re in the wrong body and dealing with puberty and changes and, you know, I’m thinking of all the ways in which teenage years and adolescence and latency even ages is already confusing. And then we’re getting messages like trust police officers or we would have, you know, I’m in my forties. So like we would have like D.A.R.E. officers come in and talk about don’t do drugs or do this or do that. I think about like what a mixed message when also as I’m heading home with my little brother, waiting for my mom or dad to come home at like five or six, whatever, eight o’clock at night, whenever they did, thinking well, ‘I’m seeing these very people in very icky situations where they’re beating up on or acting like the gangsters in my community to other people that look like me or my brother or more like my mom and this is confusing. And so people that I’m supposed to trust lie. Right? And then if they lie, dot, dot, dot, dot.’ right? Like just the very natural, innocent, I would rather say, ways that we make all these connections as we grow up, even adults, but especially children and adolescents, I believe, how we make all these connections and come up with findings on our own based worldviews, what’s happening around us and how it’s very difficult also to shift that.

[00:15:24] And do we want to? I’m not saying we should. I’m just saying, what does need to shift? Because that’s the part I’m also interested in, right? Like the information is great. And how on earth do we start moving towards healing, not just the treating, but towards some level of healing and expansion when these things are still happening. And the safety still is not there. And we’re wondering, well, who can I trust? And then let’s just say a partner comes along or getting older and you’re dating someone, and then all of this, and I think we all, you know, I don’t know about you, but being in love brings up everything unlike it as well. And all of our insecurities and all of our unresolvedness. 

So I know for me that that also brings up the sense of ‘I can’t trust anybody but myself’. And then having to constantly check that. Wait a minute, this isn’t true. You have great examples of people that have showed up. They’ve been disappointing, as all humans can be, but that’s not the same as not being Present.

That whole other conversation would be, maybe we have time for it or not, but then I’m also thinking of each attachment style. Sometimes I wonder where’s the gray area too? know that there’s room for nuance and I know that some of us can be a mix of both and depending on who we’re around and so on. But it also makes me wonder what else is possible on that spectrum of attachment.

[00:16:53] Elisabeth: Yeah, just speaking of your work, there’s so many things I want to talk to you about. I’d just love to know a little bit about- you were talking about with your professors early on, these ideas were kind of shut down. How did you get to the place where you have Decolonizing Therapy now? And when did it start? How did you really move this out into the world and make it possible for yourself to go up against some of those paradigms?

[00:17:20] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Yeah. I joke, and I frequently say, that it was like forced upon me. But maybe it’s not a joke. Maybe it’s true. I say that through external forces, maybe this is the work I was supposed to do, an alignment. Because frankly, it feels like a mix between being someone that lives, embodies, multiple intersecting identities, some of which frequently come up against forms of oppression and experience it, even with the privilege of being lighter skin and having a doctorate and so on and so forth.

[00:18:01] There’s still those forms of oppression there, but mixed with that is having the incredible honor and privilege to work with a variety of individuals and families in deep, deep, deep trauma and crisis. As well as working with very violent sexual offenders for many years that were adults and children. And then just working with children. I say this because I really had some great mentors, thank goodness for our mentors, right, and our elders and our people that have been great, that might make you really uncomfortable. A lot of those mentors, not all, but many of my mentors were Jewish, or white identified, they would frequently say, and they would look at me and be like, ‘Don’t trust me. Don’t trust me. I want you to question me.’

I know that sounds so tiny, but that helped me also push up against and learn that, okay, wait, you’re not going to annihilate me. And there’s some attachment trauma in that, right? Like even, Oh no, no, I’m not allowed to do that. When I did that with that teacher, I got suspended. Or like, that’s not allowed. When I do that with my dad, I’m in trouble. That’s not allowed. So that’s a small, that’s not small, that’s a chunk of it. But I think the other piece is also being in a PsyD program that was very clinical, but also very, very Buddhist and spiritual. I’m going to focus on intergenerational trauma, but I want to look at spirit wounding or this wounding that is older than what we can quantify qualitatively or quantitatively. And she gave me Native American Post Colonial Psychology by Roberto and Bonnie Duran. And I’m reading it, wah!

[00:19:44] It’s funny now, but I was reading it and I was reading myself and my history in that, although I don’t identify as North American indigenous, it’s just the soul wounding and the identity around like domestic violence and directing the violence towards someone that is like yourself or looks like yourself. It just explained so much. And then I read Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary’s, Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. More tears. Psychological Enslavement by Naeem Akbar. More tears. You know, Willie Lynch letters, although there’s debates about whether or not that’s a “real account”. By all means, it is in some way, shape, or form. Sobbing sick for a week and a half. So my body and my nervous system was telling me and showing me where I needed to go to heal. So this decolonizing therapy is getting created because I was told, ‘yeah, go to therapy.’ But I was never, not in my master’s at NYU, not even in my doctoral program that was very feely and very othering and very like primal screen therapy, you know like trauma in the womb, that kind of thing. 

I was never encouraged to really, really work on any of my trauma or any of our stuff. Or really deeply look at how our shit, sorry, was showing up in the work that we do. So I think that this work in these books shifted me, impacted me. Then I came back across to the East Coast and I would say the most impactful thing was working at a university counseling center and teaching and running peer education, doing a million things at once at the university for 13 years. And facilitating a nationally recognized peer education group, which saved my life.

[00:21:39] But I say to this day that my peer educators and their trust in me and their trust in the group and forming healthy attachment bonds and allowing me to help gently offer steps to rewire their nervous systems the constant levels of trauma were just very, very present. So taking these students away to the ocean with their permission, I don’t mean taking them away, but taking them away to the ocean, saying no phones. Whatever’s happening, it’s going to happen anyway, this is your time for three days. Going deeeep. And when I say deep, woof, deep. 

And of course I’ve had to have work with them. To be honest with you that with the community organizing that I was like already naturally doing and learning from students and community organizers and being a psychologist, all of that. And deeply, deeply realizing that I wasn’t going to get to any place of healing if I wasn’t letting myself integrate my rage. My very sacred and righteous rage, not to hurt people, but I am allowed to F’ing feel this and know that there’s grief underneath it and shame. 

That if I did not allow myself to do that, and I didn’t teach my clients and students and people I serve to do that, that we were going to get stuck if we just said, ‘okay, we’re just going to jump to, we trust everyone and we like everyone’, that it was never going to be real, authentic if we don’t allow ourselves to be fucking enraged and find healthy places and outlets. They would come back. They would be mentors to others. 

[00:23:13] They’re like, we just want you to be yourself. The world needs us. Like, you’re showing us how to undo, unlearn, look at the political, look at the ancestral, look at the psychological, be a community. So they push, otherwise I would never be on Instagram. Then I just started being honest and fed up of being exploited and extracted and getting paid this and doing this and getting sick and getting burned out, going into early menopause, all of it. I’m being real. I mean, I talk about it to be honest, you know, my body shutting down because it was like, no, this is not a reciprocal healthy energetic exchange. So all of that, to be honest is the creation of DT, of Decolonizing Therapy. And it was totally just like, kismet? Is that what they say? Or fate? There was no plan. There was no plan at all, 2018, 2017 whatever it was to create a movement. But while I was being abused and exploited and extracted from the university, I was being honest. And as I left, my honesty grew. And my honesty and also the work that I was already doing.

[00:24:24] Jennifer: Really beautiful. It’s been the case for us as well, and our own stories that we’ve had these really profound awakenings of truths in our bodies through books. And then through many modalities, we’ve been able to shift the capital S self into a place of safety and learned emotional processing, which has been huge. Also it’s totally self-taught. You know, as you’ve stated, and we talk about so much on here with so many of our conversations on emotions that we’re self-teaching and learning emotions and the emotional pieces really. What I love about your messaging, the safe processing, our shared love of rage and all the energies woven into rage. How we often find rage or repress rage, also linked to shame, to Freeze, dissociation, grief and that these emotions, they are often bonded. Would you please speak to sacred rage and boundaries and how gage is not a Fight response?

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[00:26:40] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Yes. I can talk about rage forever. I think I have a love affair with it, right? I grew up in a rageaholic home, not my mother, she’s opposite, but my father. And he knows this, he listens to all my podcasts. And that rage was also, I was mirroring that back in some way too. And being born in 78, you know, like the gender roles really, really pressed upon little Jen, put that there, right. And as years went on, I was a very rageaholic teenager and I got in trouble a lot, straight A’s, but I got in trouble a whole lot. My parents could testify to that. When other people were being harmed is when my sacred rage, I think, came out. My righteous rage. I won’t call it sacred yet. I would say righteous. And it was like, what? If it was me, maybe I could take it. But when it was other people being picked on by teachers or cops or someone bigger than them, I just literally would black out. Literally, literally, I would lose time. 

[00:27:49] I was working with my transformational healing therapist in San Francisco. And she said, talk to Ruth King. My friend Ruth King is doing this really great work. Her book, Healing Rage, Women Making Inner Peace Possible, and I really see myself in it. I love the self assessment. I love her discussion of the six disguises of rage and how she classifies and kind of, and these disguises of rage in particular for queer, black, brown,  women identified, femme identified people kind of gets broken down into Fight where it’s like dominance and defiance and Flight, which is distraction and devotion. These are disguises that we wear, we don’t see these as rage. Then Freeze which is depression and it’s funny how I always forget this one, which should say something, right? (laughing) I always forget the sixth one, but there’s six of them. And these disguises keep us alive, keep us thinking that we’re functioning, allows us to think that ‘no rage is that that over there’. You know, the defiance or dominance becomes too much.

[00:29:01] And her definition of rage is Trauma + Shame = Rage. And I would lovingly add in my generational lens and what have you that Sacred Rage = Ancestral Trauma + Suffocated Grief + Shame. That is sacred rage. I believe that Sacred Rage is a rage that we are starting to form relationships with, that we’re inquiring and connecting with this, I’m going to use this word, this primordial ancestral energy. It’s a feeling, it’s an embodiment. And that that sacred rage is requiring to be seen. It requires an audience and we can form a relationship with it prior to like snapping out at our closest loved ones or slamming a door or punching a wall. I’ve been there, right? Like, Oh my gosh, I just hurt my fingers and my hand is sprained. 

That our Sacred Rage wants to come out and that it is a boundary. It is a Sacred Boundary. It is sometimes a Sacred Agitator. I would dare say also that this Sacred Rage can also be like a Sacred Lover, because for some of us- we drown in it and we sort of need to be pulled back out or say, wait a minute, this is too much. And there’s a martyr energy there too. So, you know, that, that it’s healthy, that it’s okay. It’s never okay to take it out on someone else, you know, and l harm them, but it is okay I think having spaces for even families to have safe rage releases, whether you’re literally holding space for the other, holding parameters, whether it’s pillows, you know, and then regulating our nervous systems too, right? Having breathing exercises, whether tapping, putting your hands in cold water, chanting, depends on the family for me and who I’m working with or what’s happening. But I think that there are many, many ways to prep, to make sure that we know what we’re doing, what’s going to happen. There’s ways to also titrate, right? And to make sure that it’s not always so extreme. But I do feel that individuals in this world need spaces to rage safely.

[00:31:19] Jennifer: We do, too. 

[00:31:20] Elisabeth: Oh my gosh, me too. Yeah, I mean, I think it’s so critical to our ability to emotionally regulate has everything to do with our ability to stay regulated, period. There’s a couple things that really stood out to me. I love that you were talking about- one, titrating that rage expression and combining it with regulation tools. Because I also can really identify with the deep levels of rage in adolescents. I had early body boundary violations as a little kiddo. So there was a lot of rage in there that came out. And also it came out a lot physically, right? Eczema, rashes, autoimmune. When I first started trying to process my emotions, my body was very reactive to it, and did not feel safe expressing that big rage. So again, I would experience a lot of these issues with my body as I started trying to somatically move some of this stuff through and learning how to to calibrate that. And then that rage can show up in these different types of protective responses from our nervous systems, not always Fight response. But for me it would often look like dissociation and Freeze and a complete loss of time.

[00:32:39] I think that there is just such value in the work that you’re doing to create safety around that emotional expression. And I think it’s important to remember this lack of emotional expression, like it hurts us all. 

And I was doing a training for police force with another one of our facilitators, Victor Jones. And he took a moment to stop because we were talking about the culture of the police force. And they were saying, ‘it’s not safe to express emotions. We’re not allowed to, especially grief and tears and sadness, like hold it all in.’ And he took a moment to stop the group and be like, I just want you guys to recognize that this culture of like emotional expression is not safe or healthy, like when really it’s just a natural bodily process comes from systems of oppression. It benefits oppressors to not have to feel the pain of the people that they oppress, the rage of people who are enslaved or the tears of the women that they violate. And that whole paradigm is harmful to everyone, because now all these people are not able to express their emotions and re-regulate themselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and it leads to sickness, it leads to disease.

[00:33:58] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: It does. It sure does. Thank you. Yeah, it reminds me of what you’re saying. I was listening to a podcast, I’m not going to remember her last name, It’s the Trauma of Biology. Dr. Amy something or another and it was Dr. Gabor Mate. Although he was being interviewed, he ended up interviewing her, which was fascinating in itself. (laughing) I had mixed feelings about it, but it was fascinating as she’s a medical doctor and I believe he is as well, or a psychiatrist. 

They were talking about how they both got to where they were and doing this work and looking at biology and trauma and what have you. And it was interesting that for both of them, it were personal stories of people they loved and their own impact and experiences with trauma that helped to make their work shift. You know, and I’m thinking about, um, law enforcement and others that are often put in those positions- how important it is for them to also feel and how dangerous that could be initially too. Like the danger of letting myself feel all this. Also the fear being maybe appropriately so many times right projected onto me, and the fear that’s coming up and all of it.

[00:35:16] So, I think that trauma, as you said, impacts us all. And it almost sometimes, I would say, that it feels like it has the last word unless we acknowledge it, that we acknowledge that it’s in the room. And I like to think of rage as an expression of trauma that has been buried, you know, nowhere for it to go. I have to say, I don’t have any research on this other than my clinical and personal lived experience. But I often feel that when rage is often and deeply bottled and sucked in and pulled in and pulled in, because as we know, it’s not safe for some people or they just don’t know how to express it or they had very violent caregivers that were expressing it all the time and then they have learned how to internalize. I notice intense panic attacks, right? When there has been like a repression and internalization it’s like, I’ll just take it until my body and my system just literally can’t anymore. So I was just thinking about what you were saying. 

[00:36:20] Jennifer: Maybe because of so much internalized shame and disconnection. Disconnect from self, disconnect from the herd. I mean, just so much disconnect. All the examples that we’ve talked about today are really disconnecting for an individual in their body. You would dissociate for so much of what we’ve talked about today. And so then how are we supposed to experience emotions or lay down the proper memory encoding when we’re not in our bodies? And so surviving all of this social threat and stress. 

[00:36:53] What we know is that the laying down of memory is impaired when we’re dissociated. We also know that shame impacts memory, the tools that we use to activate areas of the brain, like the frontal lobe are all available to you on the Brain-Based membership site. And you get free two weeks by going to rewiretrial.com

[00:37:11] Elisabeth: There was one thing that I wanted to ask you about and just tie it back to attachment styles. It was one more part of this post that I thought was really interesting. And it talked about how access and allowance of entrance into borders has been a theme in someone’s life. Would you speak a little bit and connect the dots on how that could impact someone’s attachment style?

[00:37:32] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Yeah. Well, I love to think about this and talk about this in terms of  bodies. But the land has body, but also if we can almost see like cultural body. So as someone who my spirituality and my energy hygiene and all of that is important to me, you know, I’ve learned about the etheric body and the astral body and the physical body and your cells and those bodies and things of that nature.

[00:38:03] But I really also like to look at the macro of the land as a body because for many of us, when you come to a new place you miss food, sounds, accents, language, people whose bodies are shaped like yours, whose hair textures like yours. You know, there’s a sense of missing home with a capital H, I like to say. 

And so when there are enforced boundaries around places and spaces, for example, if we would take Mexico, right, in which large chunks of what now is known as the United States was Mexico. And then now you’re not necessarily allowed, let’s say you’re a Mexican heritage. You’re not necessarily allowed. You’re seen as “illegal” is the language that sometimes gets used. Because that’s a language that I wouldn’t believe that all the bodies absorbs Right? That “I’m wrong.” There’s something wrong with me. And then how that gets projected to everyone else. And how everyone else projects it back. Right? There’s like projective identification of how this sort of  bounces everywhere. 

[00:39:16] What comes up for me with the attachment and how we form attachments is that kind of the way we would when we think about stealing. You know, or something that was mine is no longer. So how does that impact my body? Even if I buy a home or I save up a lot of money, it will still never be enough because I will never be allowed here. So if I’m never allowed on this land or there’s a border and I can’t go back and visit my mother, she’s dying. Any of these possibilities, right? 

So when there is access denied to basic humanity, I truly believe that when we’re dealing with the migration crisis, right? And immigration crisis and migration trauma when this geopolitical kind of migration trauma. I believe that we’re talking about one of the deepest forms of attachment wounding. And I say that because I also have worked with and have very dear close friends that became like student political organizers, like activists. And this kind of goes full circle to what we’re talking about with the rage and the political trauma. And the ways that some of them beautifully, you know, feel like they’re protecting all of us and fighting for our freedom. But how burned out, exhausted. 

[00:40:32] Both can be true at the same time, right? Like, I’m not insulting them and their level of ferocity, but it also reminds me of that rage, distraction, devotion to an extent and defiance, right? To the extent where you were ready. One of my friends had said this, and I remember I was like bawling, and few of us were bawling when she was saying this and she was forced to migrate, although she didn’t know that as a child. She’s like, ‘they’ve already taken my spirit. They’ve already taken my people. Colonization has already completely tried to wipe out. They’re continuing to kill indigenous people. The number one export is people. So they’re already taking my body, my people’s culture. What I have left is my fight in my spirit. So I could prevent this for other generations.’ 

And I think of the way that she and others have also disconnected from a lot of us who are not in that set of circle and silo. And what feels safest are other individuals that are willing to give up their life, bodies, worlds, money in order to fight for this larger freedom and democracy on a global level. 

[00:41:46] And I can see how it has shredded her form and ability to connect. I can see the ways in which it tatters her connection to possibility of love or relationship. Not there, you know. Or how it also disconnects in the body and the nervous system with the burnout and the crash. And getting deeply sick. Deeply, deeply, deeply for months. And then going back and engaging in the same cycle. It’s not probably a figure eight. I don’t know what it is, but you know, it’s like the same up and down cycle. All of that having to do with that, “you’re illegal” energy. You’re not allowed in or you’re not allowed out unless you have this card, unless you have this agreement, unless your family’s had this amount of money, unless you’re lucky enough to have won the lottery.

[00:42:36] And so for me, there is a very deeply lineage ancestral disconnect. And also, I think part of this migration trauma and this attachment pain is this, I don’t know where it goes exactly, maybe both of you do or can help me, but where there’s like a rage where it’s like, ‘I’ll never love this place in this country.’ Like I might have to be here, but I’ll never hold allegiance to it, you know? I’m not saying they need to in any way, shape or form.  I’m not saying that or implying that, but there’s this ragey place where it continues to be cyclical and it impairs an ability to feel any kind of safety anywhere, even if they go back and that is something that I have witnessed. 

So even when folks are like, okay, I got my green card. I’m allowed to go back to Georgia, to Latvia, to wherever. Okay now I’m allowed to go back. They would come back and tell us in group, or an individual, ‘I was definitely a stranger there. So I have no home anymore and I’m an orphan. Dr. Jen. I’m an orphan. Like, I don’t belong here, and I don’t belong there, and it’s this country, or that country, or this experience, this war, this form of colonization is the fault and the reason why I had to leave in the first place. And now I don’t belong anywhere.’ And that’s the feeling, it feels like there’s like a severing and a cord being removed to like the motherland of this person. I don’t know if I did that justice.

[00:44:09] Elisabeth: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. Yeah, beautifully, it makes a lot of sense. And having that really, it feels so deeply threatening to connect. Maybe avoidant, but stronger than that, like, I will not. And then how that impacts day to day stress and nervous system health. Absolutely.

[00:44:33] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Yeah. So there’s a thievery involved. And sometimes my friends and I joke around, and of course these people that have the language that we’re talking about too, right? We do this kind of work and they’ll talk about this. We joke and say, oh, it’s like a plantation moment. Like sometimes we’re at work or something happened and we have a group text and that’s what it’s called, right? It’s like the plantation. And we’re like, this is gaslighting in its purest form. It feels like a form of gaslighting. It feels like a form of.. I think this can happen in institutions that we work for and organizations. I think this can happen on a global larger scale with countries and why I focus on colonization. 

Sometimes parents are like, ‘huh, we’re talking about colonization and therapy?’ And I’m like, yeah, hear me out. Here we go, right? When I can break it down or give them examples of the ways that happened. A lot of them will say, ‘yeah, I couldn’t go back and see my grandmother when she passed. I wasn’t able to pay respects or I couldn’t go back and take that house back from developers. I would have land, but I couldn’t because then I would leave my children here or I would lose because I’m here without papers’ or what have you. And really helping people see that colonization still occurs. And that I’m over here talking about the emotional components, the emotional companion, the cousin to the physicality of colonization. Like how the removal of land, of culture, also produced an attempted euthanization of spirit. It is a genocide attempt, any way you cut it of culture, of spirit, of cutting our hair, of minimizing how we talk, what we talk about, whether we’re allowed to talk about spirit and soul, right? But soul and psyche and spirit, these words all have very similar meanings. 

[00:46:32] When I work with people, I’m frequently telling them ‘we’re talking about the core soul wounding’. And yes, a lot of that happened in childhood, but perhaps that wasn’t the first stop. It may be that it was way before that. And how do we make space to talk about that? Especially when the people coming in are not always first bringing that up, as we know, right? Like not always. It won’t always, and that’s what I teach. Sometimes therapists and social work, like clinicians, they’re not always going to come in and be like, ‘I want to talk about racial trauma today Dr. Jen’. I’ve had that once though, I will say. I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ 

But generally speaking, folks are going to come in, and I talk about this in my book and give examples, like I love my boss and they look like me, but they basically told me to take my dreadlocks out in order for me to be professional. Or they told me to do this. Or all the myriad of examples of: my father struggled with alcoholism and my uncle died of alcoholism and now here I am every other night getting blackout drunk. I’m saying that there’s no connection, but there’s gotta be a connection, right? And then they go into these drunk rates, right? 

So that’s how I started talking about intergenerational trauma with people. I don’t per se always name it as it is, maybe right off the bat although nowadays, Instagram and TikTok make things a little bit more, it’s watered down, but like some people are used to what things sound like and what it means. But I do feel like there’s a massive correlation with the colonial wound and how it impacts people, how it gets passed down and transmitted into our families and our nervous systems. And I think that we’re only unfortunately seeing the tip of the iceberg. I think many of us know this, right? They’re doing this work. (laughing)

[00:48:17] Jennifer: This is the beginning. People, We’ve got a lot. We’re going far, there’s a road. We’re on a path, you know. We’re on the right path in some ways, I think so, at least being able to have these conversations.

[00:48:32] Dr–Jennifer-Mullan: Absolutely, at least being able to have these conversations. I’m really hoping to see next- more intensive work. And I’m working with a certain organization being on their board. But when it comes to psychiatric hospitalizations and how we handle that kind of crisis response, dealing with it personally with friends and family. Or as the person being in charge, so to speak. I’m like, no, there needs to be pre-work. There needs to be during work. There needs to be a whole shift in paradigm. Because as we know, there’s so much trauma that gets enacted that happens, so much reenactment also when people are psychiatrically hospitalized. What options do we have, especially when they don’t have a ton of money or a ton of friends, family, resources. That’s a whole other topic, another time.

[00:49:28] Jennifer: We love to talk about ACE scores and addiction and all of what you just talked about. Mental health paradigm.

[00:49:33] Dr-Jennifer-Mullan: Yeah. Yep. I’m with you. Thank you. 

[00:49:36] Jennifer: It’s been so fun today to explore all of this with you. And as you can see, I think we could just go on and on.

S3 E20

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