Ep.4 Nicole Brown Faulknor – Compassion in the face of Global Trauma

Tune in to hear Nicole’s advice on how COVID is triggering a collective trauma and how fear keeps us stuck. Listen to her thoughts around how we can shift away from fear, and move towards more compassion for ourselves and others.

Gissele: [00:00:00] Hello everyone. And welcome. My guest today is a registered psychotherapist in child and youth counselor. She’s the owner of Wounds to Wings psychotherapy, and has extensive experience working with trauma, addictions and poverty.

She uses a body centered approach called somatization to assist with trauma healing and was recently the 2019 people’s choice award winner by blacks for her work as a counselor, please join me in welcoming the wonderful Nicole Brown Faulkner. Welcome Nicole.

Nicole: Hi thank you for having me.

Gissele: Thank you so much for being here. We really appreciate it.

Nicole: Thank-you.

Gissele: We’re, living in what feels like very challenging times with COVID and the death of George Floyd among others. It seems as our world is undergoing this collective grief and suffering. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about how what’s happening in the world, maybe contributing to kind of a global trauma, especially for some folks.

Nicole: Okay, [00:01:00] we’re going to jump right in. My comment to that, it’s collective trauma, I think that’s going on right now. Which really means that everybody kinda has been shifted, in a way that, I don’t know how to really say that. I think that people have been shifted.

Because there are responding to the chaos and confusion in the world and people are feeling. I think before with the busyness and everything that was going on before, which busyness to me when I work with it as a response, like a trauma response anyways. I think that, people are feeling and they’re connecting in this space.

Gissele: Thank you. If you could go a little bit into how busyness is a trauma response cause in the world that we currently live in, we’re very distractible. And so if you could just provide a little bit more info about how busyness can be seen as a trauma response.

Nicole: Yeah, busyness can be seen as a trauma response because we are reacting, we’re [00:02:00] reacting to things all the time. And so we can fill it by doing things, to avoid feeling I’m trying to simplify this in a way. I think before all of this, the pandemic and everything like that, a majority of us were like moving and we were busy and we weren’t able really to feel, we were just, Reacting. And now with the stillness, I think people are instead of reacting to things or feeling and responding. And so I don’t know, how to go, how far to go with that, other than talk about busyness, being perhaps a trauma response to avoid feeling. Cause I, I tend to ramble and like talk, on and on.

Gissele: No, no, no, this is beautiful. I did want to ask you, your comment “that now we’re dealing in stillness”. it was so insightful because for so long, I think we’ve been avoiding ourselves.

With all these distractions, we never had to be with ourselves in kind of this [00:03:00] being sent home if you may, to our rooms, it’s forcing us to sit with ourselves and be with ourselves, and so I think that may be, what’s bringing up a lot of the trauma and issues.

Nicole: Absolutely. People are talking about this pandemic of fear and erratic behaviors. And like, people are like, everyone’s acting radically and everything, but it’s not erotic actually. It’s regressive. As a defense mechanism by dropping into, but it’s due to a fear response really.

And I think that was brilliant, you kind of give an image about being sent to our rooms and I think that we have regressed, like, no one’s talked about what’s happened and why we are acting the way we are because of the pandemic. And I call it regression. So when we feel unsettled or we’re anxious, a regression happens and it’s a way, when kids do it, it’s a way that they get extra attention, perhaps.

But really, I think when adults do it, it’s a way that we begin to gain and maintain a sense of control. And [00:04:00] so when I work with it, I always say, well, what’s the age of the image? Like, what is your age of this behavior? If you had to close your eyes and kind of go there. And I think the psyche, which is just our mind and our spirit, our bodies have regressed because of it. Because of the insecurity because of the chaos. Cause it confusion. And we have, moved into fear and anger, It’s a regressive response. It’s a fear response.

Gissele: That’s interesting cause, they’re different groups of people. Like some people are really trying to deal with this fear and anger with some compassion and understanding and other people are still stuck in judgment. but I like how you phrase it in terms of seeing. It’s not just the reactivity, it’s a regressive behavior to address a lot of the unhealed grief and sadness that is that maybe in there. And it’s really progressive behavior to get back to what we need.

Nicole: Well, it’s gaining, a sense of control out of what we don’t have any control of

Gissele: You could say the same for children 00:05:00] that they feel they need control.

Nicole: Yeah, children do it. You’re right. The same for children that you see in children is the way that they get extra attention or perhaps like gain or maintain a sense of control around their environment. I’m like toddlers do it because they’re trying to gain control, like master their identity say right.

Or like who they are. Like, you know, they’re kind of falling into themselves noticing that they are separate from the parent. And so that’s what you get there, but in adults, It’s retreating to an earlier developmental stage. You see, like, we kind of don’t think of it in adults, but you might know, like some of the work I do is like inner child work.

So you begin to deconstruct around the adult, like what is happening there. And so usually when I start deconstructing around, I started understanding what the, the survival strategies around the inner child. Of the adult. So emotionally, socially, behaviorally, there’s a regression that’s happening there. It’s a form of helplessness. So, yeah, like I’ll say that

Gissele: it was beautiful. Thank you. [00:06:00] This global or collective trauma can also be. And as you said, fear and anger can be an impetus for change. Do you think that post COVID in post everything that is happening around racism, that this will actually finally be the motivating factor or the impetus for the world to look different?

Nicole: Well, I’m a hopeful person, so I I’ll say I hope so. I can say that I know that people are feeling. And I think that, if you can’t feel or have compassion for yourself, it’s quite difficult to have that for others. And for some reason, with the pandemic, people are collectively. Well, if we’re talking about regression, like people are collectively feeling what they’re feeling and they are then able to feel for others.

And I think the shift around what was what’s happened has created that you see, if this is not happening to me, then I don’t really care. [00:07:00] And I’m not saying it negatively, I’m saying it to create context. Right. So if it doesn’t affect me, then you know what, I’m busy doing something else or I’m connecting to the things that, Connect to me and with the pandemic collectively, we all felt this, this fear and this confusion, which created a unity, I think in that, because we’re all feeling now, I feel the fear for me not knowing what’s happening so I can feel the fear for you. I don’t know how to answer this besides like, I hope so. I hope that we carry this. Level of consciousness with us for others.

Gissele: Wow. That was so very well said. As you were talking, I was reflecting on, I feel in one of the key aspects of compassion is awareness of my own suffering if I’m practicing self compassion and awareness of the suffering of others, if I’m practicing compassion for others. And it’s so true, we are moving to, I feel. [00:08:00] I think it is this collective feeling, this common humanity that we’re finally getting at which before I think what you said was spot on. There’s been situations where like, well, you know, that’s so sad, but if it doesn’t impact me directly, then I’m not going to be motivated to act. What’s happening with COVID and even with all the recent events around, George Floyd, is that we’re realizing that we’re interconnected, that I can’t be well, unless you’re well that these systems impacts all of us

And that we are having this global feeling.

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Gissele: I wanted to ask, the next question, because you talked about this kind of global trauma, but there might be some individuals out there that actually are not aware that they’re experiencing trauma, or that they’re experiencing these regressive feelings.

Can you talk a little bit about how we may hold trauma in our bodies and what kind of the most common signs are so that people can work towards being more compassionate to themselves?

Nicole: Sure. Yeah. And it’s very common that, people who are suffering [00:09:00] trauma may not be aware of the trauma that their bodies are suffering because part of trauma is to dissociate, like move out of your body. So, when working with trauma, the work is that, trauma stored on the body. Like our bodies have feelings. You might have stomach pains, chest pains, a choking sensation, shortness of breath, like there’s cravings of food, lots of appetite, and so that can be common symptoms for people, but people who suffer from trauma tend to have responsive bodies.

And they are not aware that that is connected to something. They just go, I just have a sensitive stomach I, I usually educate around, emotions too, when I talk about trauma because people don’t know what they’re feeling.

So it’s a bit complicated when working with trauma because you have to teach them that there’s a feeling in there because with trauma, the part of the brain that we use to articulate feelings and all that gets shut off as part of like the survival response for the body, and so, I usually let them know right away [00:10:00] what emotions are when I’m doing things.

Cause it’s energy, right? It’s an energy that wants to move and it kind of gets stuck. It’s a collection of sensations in the body and the brain that we give a name to. And it tells us how we are like in relation to a particular current situation. So someone can come up close to my body and I might have a feeling.

So that’s a feeling and I name it. And then I say, I feel unsafe, or I felt frustrated. I start to teach what your body is saying, what it might be doing. And then we start to embody. If that makes sense. I don’t want to like take you for a walk with me and confuse you.

You usually notice things like your body. So that’s one headaches, things like that. Your mind, a mind is a, is always trying to intellectualize what the heart’s trying to feel. So the mind might be a worrying mind, a muddled mind, nightmares. You come in emotions, like we’re talking about depression, when the energy gets stuck, [00:11:00] it feels very heavy.

So the symptoms of depression will come up, can come up in behavior like, accident prone or insomnia, substance use, like smoking more. restlessness, you know.

Gissele: One of the things that I, I noticed in my son in particular is that whenever anything, emotionally laden happens for him, he gets a lot of tummy aches.

Nicole: Mm hmm

Gissele: I think that’s how it kind of, he processes his emotions. And I love the fact that we’re moving towards connecting the physical body with the emotional and the spiritual, because the medical model just doesn’t treat it that way. There’s no resolving what’s at the root cause of this. It’s like, here’s your medication it’s symptom management. I think there’s now. Greater and greater awareness of the connection and how that stored energy can have an impact on your well being and how addressing all of that store trauma in the body. Like you said, can help them get to the point where those [00:12:00] physical symptoms or that trauma can be, assisted.

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Gissele: But currently that’s not, it’s not the vocalization. So a lot of our listeners might be thinking, Oh, you know, this is just a headache like you said, in general, I was born with a bad stomach when really it all this stored emotions and unaddressed traumas that may be, within there.

Nicole: Yeah, exactly. There’s stories. These bodily symptoms, I treat as stories. Right? with children, I quite enjoyed work with children as well, although I don’t, but I love it because they’re expressive right. Where they are. So I would say, allow your tummy to speak to me. What would your tummy be saying?

If it could talk, because that’s where they store their emotions. You see? And then we can begin to work with that. And so with adults, the same thing, the check in around, like, what’s your internal world, how’s your internal world doing, crying happens. So I’ll say if your tears could talk, what are they saying?

It [00:13:00] allows the body to articulate, like you could speak for it because you don’t really know until you kind of hold a frame around it so that we can begin to treat the trauma, which is an undiagnosed story. Let’s hear the trauma memory. Let’s begin to work with that, which is the work really in therapy right?. Just to add onto what you’re saying there

Gissele: For sure. That’s so great. You just gave us a strategy right there in terms of checking in with ourselves. Like, why do I need right now? And if I’m experiencing something, can I talk to it and ask it questions? Can it tell me what it is that I’m feeling? And I think that’s a great way to connect to I feel.

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Gissele: Beautiful. thank you.

Nicole: You’re welcome.

Gissele: Trauma informed practice enables us to understand each other’s behaviors through the lens of trauma. I was wondering how you thought a trauma informed practice can alter our views on addictions and mental health problems or criminal behavior. Because a lot of the times we tend [00:14:00] to, villainize people instead of looking at these, behaviors from the lens of compassion.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Yeah, I call it the othering when we do this othering, like, well, them was we kind of separate ourselves and in the separation is, where, we’re disconnected from we are all perhaps one. So When a trauma informed practices actually inform you around the behavior. I think like, It gives information how to work with that. Now same with trauma sensitive type of, education. I think that trauma work, like I’ve brought, the trauma work from Boston here, the methodology of care, which these are part of it, like trauma informed is part of it.

Trauma-sensitive is part of it. The root trauma work is, allowing people to a methodology that allows people to choose. A lot of, options when working with them, like how they want to work, what they want to do, it begins to empower them. And then allowing them to notice, there’s no [00:15:00] power dynamic.

That’s the most important thing working with, with trauma, which really is what I should bring in. A lot of times coming in, informed practices are still a power dynamic in the room or when working with people. But because we are one, when you work with trauma, you are one, too with the client, they’re the expert.

What do they want to tell me? What do they want to share, creates less othering. You see which separates once you do that. So, you know, trauma informed practice are great immigrants to information and in trauma, how to do it. But the real work is trauma work and how to work with people who have. Suffered from trauma.

Gissele: I love what you said about empowerment, reflecting, before this podcast on the quote by, Pema Chodron, who, who talks about compassion. And she says, the compassion is between equals when you see your own darkness, that you can see the darkness of others and be able to work together to help heal [00:16:00] our own suffering.

So that’s exactly what I thought about as you were talking, it made me think that’s right. Like we want to create, relationships in systems that are empowering. I don’t need to be the expert. I don’t need to tell you how to heal yourself. It really is about tapping into your own power and bringing it, which I think is how you work. I was wondering if, on an individual basis, it might be easier, but in terms of systems, what systems could have greater awareness of trauma, and greater awareness of how to create empowering practices.

Nicole: That’s big ’cause this system always, make light and say, you know, I’m in the world, but I’m not of it. I always like sound the edge so that I’m not part of a system as I work. Even working in large groups the same way. You see with systems. I would empower the people, not the system because the system will be there.

It was there before me. It will be there after me. And so I feel it’s a big feat, you know, but I think working with one individual at a time and each [00:17:00] individual, they are the world to me. Right? Like inside each individual, if we are sharing about being one. Each individual is the world or the universe.

And so I deal with one person at a time and empower them. I bring consciousness to what’s unconscious for them, for them to walk through their healing. I would empower people when I talk about, you mentioned system, that’s what I would do. Like I don’t even touch it because it’s so big.

What do you think? I don’t know. I feel it’s quite big.

Gissele: I thought what you said, it was really beautiful and interesting. I was also reflecting on the whole de-funding police movement and where I landed on that thought was exactly what you said. We really can’t eradicate these systems until our level of consciousness is such that we are no longer afraid of our brothers and sisters.

That we don’t fear them violating our rights. Or needing some other systems of control. And so you’re right. I think that the starting point is empowering the people, empowering [00:18:00] individuals and assisting them or enabling or creating, opportunities so that people can step up into their own power until these systems fall away.

Nicole: Mm hmm, yeah. Systems are interesting. Cause they were there, it’s the way we norm each other or create a societal norm and I’m like air quoting here because what is norm?

Gissele: You know, one of the things we’re interested in doing is looking at systems, Because, I work in the child welfare system and, you know, got into that work because I wanted to help children and families. All of the systems that I see are based on fear and control and power over.

They’re not based on empowerment, trust, faith and lifting people up. So you, start to question where they originated. And when you look at the history, the history is, one of control to maintain the control of a group of people.

So then you start to think, should this systems be shifted? Both the individuals [00:19:00] within the systems and those individuals that make up these systems or the laws for these systems, ya or do we work one on one with the individuals or both? So I think that’s, that’s the challenge, but like you said, it’s, it’s big.

Nicole: Yeah. I agree. You have to work with it from the bottom up top down too, if I’m working with a system. So I’m going into work in, in an agency or something like that. I will train the top. Well, that’s what we call, like the leadership team, stuff like that, and like staff.

And then I work with the people like, so their clients and all that, it’s a tier approach because you can’t work with the people at the top if they are unconscious too. You have to build consciousness. And what is that? That is a re-connection to yourself. Because otherwise we are just unconsciously reacting all the time.

And do you want to be in a space where you can respond? Which is very embodied to be able to observe and like notice and then respond to what you’re [00:20:00] responding to. It’s a very projective type of society, like, right. Like if we’re not conscious, we’re just projecting our stuff on everyone. Easily. I could do it too. like going through a line at the grocery store and the cashier is a little bit upset. Then I might have response personally, like, why are you upset? It’s me. Right. You know? I have to be embodied and wonder about her day. What is your home life like?

Does she feel invisible? I have to really go, this is not me that she’s being upset with. So that I can be in a place of response and look at her and say, well, how are you doing? How’s your day going? As opposed to react to her upset or her anger.

Gissele: yep. Happening for you, right. What’s happening for you that you are reacting this way. I just love what you said. talking about unconsciously reacting all the time. Most of the time it has nothing to do with us directly. It has to do with how people are unconsciously reacting.

Nicole: Yeah. It’s very complicated, but simple at the same time.

Gissele: the province is [00:21:00] reopening. You know, we’re working towards phase two now and so on and so forth. There’s so many people that are very afraid. They don’t trust that people are being socially responsible. They don’t trust that they’ll be okay until there’s a vaccine. But like you said, I believe that we are way more powerful and more empowered than we give ourselves credit. But when we’re stuck in fear, we really only generate more fear. I was wondering what strategies you may share with us to shift ourselves even one degree away from fear.

Nicole: Hmm. Well, it’s a big question. I’m going to simplify. I think the way to work with fear is to, feel because like, I feel like I’m fear is a response. So, maybe um, there’s a connection that needs to happen. Like like a curiosity around like, well, what makes you feel unsafe?

There’s a story behind all of your emotions, all of our emotions, all of their emotions, I think just [00:22:00] offering people a space to be curious around what that’s about, what is my response about I’m responding this way? Why am I scared to go back out there? The thing is that all of us, it’s a universal thing is fearful because we’ve lost trust. I don’t remember a pandemic ever happening. And so if our system was distrustful, then we have to, earn trust back into the system. Me included, you

Gissele: Yah.

Nicole: Because with the pandemic, I was shifted into terror for a long time, and that’s a really regressive feeling for me. It’s very young and you know, all of our stories are going to be ruffled up a little bit. To be curious around why that is, who did I not trust before? Why do I not hold trust, it’s a really big question because universally, we, we all are fearful because we’ve, we’ve lost our trust. [00:23:00] So.

Gissele: Mm hmm, Yeah. And it’s, it’s a great answer. Instead of running away from our fear, if I’m hearing you correctly, we have to be with our fear. You have to be present for ourselves because that fear is telling us something, and I think that’s really important because so often, and this is why we’ve created this world where we’re so distractible.

And now we are like, you know, as we have both said stuck in our rooms, facing our fears. If we keep running away from the fear, it’s not going to help us. When I’ve been afraid, when I’ve had the most fear, when I have faced my fears. I realized that my fear was bigger than the actual obstacle I faced.

And for me that was like something that was overwhelming because I had made myself suffer for so long. And when I was facing it, it wasn’t pleasant, but I realized my own power. I’m more powerful than I think I am. I can get [00:24:00] through this. I can do this. And I think that was a big awakening for me in terms of how I managed my fear

Nicole: Yup. Very powerful. Yeah. There is a messenger, right? Like we, we wait for fear to subside, but fear never goes, if we’re honest about it. So, to do the thing and bring your fear with you. Because if you’re waiting for it to go, it may not. It actually feeds it. It gets bigger. So it’s to befriend it and carry it where you go.

Gissele: Yeah. Wonderful. Yeah, I think that’s the key to empowerment, facing our fear is getting our power back.

Nicole: Yeah. fear itself. I don’t know. It always bundles emotion, like hurt and shame it’s like the emotions that we don’t really like to touch. So learning to actually become its friend, like, okay, fear.

We’re going today. Me and you are going and we’re gonna do this thing. And we just gonna do it for like five minutes. Maybe it’s leaving the house and it’s a teaching to learn to befriend your [00:25:00] emotions, they are messengers with you. So be their friend, right.

Gissele: That’s terrific!

Nicole: So that’s that

Gissele: I believe that the work of creating a more inclusive and less fear-based world, as we were talking about fear working on being more loving and compassionate towards oneself, others and even though this is very, very challenging, I’m challenged by this as well. Those who hurt us. I’m wondering what your thoughts on that might be?

Nicole: Okay. So a lot of times, I don’t know, how you observe it, maybe through social media and all that type of stuff. They are like, compassionate, you have to forgive. Well, actually, they don’t have the like, don’t maybe forgive or like, I don’t know if it’s brushing it away or whatever around the ability to be compassionate is to the people who hurt you, to continue to love them.And I do agree with that in a way, but the thing is to be compassionate for them, you have to be compassionate for your story and yourself [00:26:00] first. So to authentically forgive the people who have hurt you. It’s a grief process, first of all, you have to feel your story.

A lot of trauma survivors narrate their stories without feeling it so they can talk about it. And they said I’ve shared it, but they’ve not felt it. It’s part of this type of disembodiment, that happens with trauma. So you have to feel for yourself what you went through and that journey is a feat.

Gissele: Mm-hmm

Nicole: At that time, when you’re able to feel for yourself, then there is a space where you can remove or move or step back away from your perpetrator or the people that have hurt you so that you can grieve for yourself to say that I didn’t deserve that I deserved more, or I deserve whatever the context is. So that you can allow that grief process for yourself. So then you can observe the other, otherwise it might be falsified in a way, because [00:27:00] you’ve not felt or grieved for yourself yet. Compassion comes up in that space because then you’ve moved away and you can see the perpetrator or the person that hurts you again.

I’m talking about it simply, but this is a complex type of, complex work to do, but I’m giving the big image to say, when you’re able to step back, then you can step back away from your perpetrator a lot, or the person that hurt you. And then things happen in that space. You can create a boundary there.

You can choose what you want to tolerate or not. Do you see what I mean? Like you begin to boundary yourself and that’s a loving space and that allows you to love the other from wherever you are. It doesn’t mean that you have to accept what’s happened and take it in. It’s a really tight space. It’s a complicated space, it’s a loving space.

Gissele: Yes, absolutely. From my own experiences, I’ve gone through the mindful self compassion training. One of the things that they teach us in that class is to titrate. It’s about facing our own fear in [00:28:00] facing that grief, the sadness and everything that we are holding, all those emotions that we have bottled up inside and starting to open our hearts into start to actually feel some of that.

But using compassion to titrate the amount of feelings so that we don’t feel overwhelmed, that we go back to. Cause I think when you think about some of these, these traumas that we’re holding in our bodies can feel like an elephant. I have a friend that says to me, you know, how do you eat an elephant one bite at a time, right.

Nicole: Yeah, exactly. And it is, if we’re honest, it’s terrifying to feel. Isn’t it like to feel your emotions? Everyone, was like, Oh, just feel it. But it’s terrifying.

Gissele: Yes

Nicole: And so it’s, a muscle and, uh, you know, I wouldn’t give you a 500 pound weight right away and say, Hey, Gissele will you hold this, you know, I’d start with one pounds, you know, maybe maybe five pounds, but you know, it’s, it’s a tolerance.

And so you have to build that muscle, that feeling muscle to learn, to feel [00:29:00] and to say, yeah, I can carry this a little bit longer. i can stay with my feeling a little bit longer

Gissele: That is such a good analogy. Cause that’s exactly what it feels like, you can start with a five pound. You’re right. I have five pounder for me, he-he!

Nicole: Ha ha ha ha ha ha

Gissele: And that’s how you do muscle training. So we do that for ourselves physically, right?

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Gissele: Should be able to do that for ourselves emotionally.

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Gissele: Recently I was triggered by something. I was able to connect that reaction to a trigger that happened in that. Like indirectly, like on the face had no connection, but once I actually vocalized what was happening for myself, I made the connection with aha. This is an old, old wound that’s coming up to go, Hey. And I was bawling and bawling. And then after that I felt, I felt the release. I felt But in the moment you don’t know what’s happening. You feel like you’re floundering. You can’t put your finger on it and then just the emotion just how it comes up.

Nicole: Yup. Yup. [00:30:00] That’s how it goes. And you know, the other thing with that too, is like in a safe space. And so I just assume like there’s a safe space for you. So for others too, with the, when I’m witnessing their feelings, it does need a witnessing in a safe space. And so sometimes I use like the therapy room as a sacred space. Because in between these four walls, you get to, practice whatever you need to around your feelings, to be curious about it, to feel them and there’s something very powerful in witnessing, having a witness when you feel. Otherwise, sometimes feelings get old. They can move a lot, but there’s, there’s a work through that might be needed to right.

And so therapy or whatever the safe space is for someone. A witnessing Can may be a very valuable tool.

Gissele: Mm hmm.

Absolutely. And you’re right. I do feel like I have a safe space at home that I can be my authentic self and be able to express emotions. Can you talk a little bit about what a safe space might [00:31:00] feel like for those that don’t know? or maybe how could they could create a safe space for themselves?

Nicole: yeah. At this point for those who might be listening to me, think that’s anywhere where you can process your feelings and that might be in a therapy room, to be honest. Or a group or something, do you know? It just means that it’s a space where you can learn to be authentically you and a space where what happens in there stays there. It’s a trust room, a trust space, and your body’s learning to be safe there. And it might be the only space you have.

Gissele: Mm hmm.

Nicole: And so it’s a space like that.

Gissele: Yah. Until such a time when we can create safe space within ourselves. We have safety within ourselves.

Nicole: Mm hmm, right.

Gissele: I’m not there.

You’re opening up a new trauma center. Please share a little bit more about the work that you’ll be doing there and, when people [00:32:00] can expect to attend your centre.

Nicole: What I’ll be opening, in the local area right now I’m looking for a facility which has taken a bit of time, but, I’m allowing the universe to bring it to me. It’s a trauma health and embodiment center. So we’re talking a lot about the body today, too, in a roundabout way, just by talking about feeling, but there’ll be a facility where, it’s a healing space. Really it’ll be a facility. That’s a healing space to work with trauma, stigmatization, anxiety, marginalized, community, depression, like all these things.

That are labeled, I’d like to create a space where I can use non traditional approaches like I do in my Wounds to Wings practice, like therapy practice towards deconstructing power dynamics that can create environments where we mirror trauma in our mental health system. So, that’s that’s.

Gissele: Yeah. Wonderful. Can you just expand a little bit about deconstructing [00:33:00] systems.

Nicole: Yeah, so deconstructing power dynamics. I really am speaking about neutrally, I’ll say that, hospitals, is a system and, mental health care is a system. And so what happens in systems is that first of all, I have to dismantle trauma and what trauma is. Because trauma comes in all forms. And so we educate her on small T big T traumas, but trauma also is just a form of helplessness and a power over. So that can come into many dynamics. Right. And so in that helplessness, you have to do that. You have to go, or you have to continue to repeat this behavior that you’re continuing to go towards this power over.

And that creates a trauma. So a child who’s hopeless and a parent who’s abusive. They continue to have to go home everyday after school. into the abuse, they don’t have a choice. They’re helpless in it that’s a form of trauma. There’s a helplessness in it. [00:34:00] Going into a mental health care system. So going into a hospital, there’s a system approach. You have to do this first. You have to tell your story, billions of times to different people, I’m exaggerating, but you know, you would create this story and then you, meet this person, but they only work with anxiety or the only work with this symptom of depression.

If not, you have to go to this place. And so it’s always moving and there’s a power over you. And so. It mirrors back. If you think about it, trauma, which is you’re continually helpless, you see, and it’s so easy to fall into the cracks of our system. And that’s where I work. I’m an activist for the unspoken and the silenced.

So they fall into the cracks. So I had to take years to observe what happens in our systems. Sit, perch myself up on this edge and study where are people? How did, how did they get in there? How did they get unnoticed? And this is how this trauma health and embodiment center vision was created.

Gissele: Yeah.

Wow. Beautiful. Mmm. [00:35:00] I’m going to shift gears a little bit.

Nicole: Absolultely.

Gissele: Ihave a dog from, I consider my third child. I love him so much. We adopted him when he was one year old and he was one of the best decisions I feel we ever made. I didn’t want to end the podcast without speaking about your colleague Soljah.

Because I see that you, you display Soljah as a colleague of yours, and I was wondering about how you guys work together, how he assists you in reminding you how to love.

Nicole: Okay. Well, Soljah is a 21 month old Labradoodle. And, uh, Soljah. Yeah. Is a gift from the universe to me. I really feel that, I got about eight weeks and, he’s in the end stages of his training. He’s a registered therapy dog. So his work will be to provide tactile stimulation, like lying at your feet, like grounding techniques and affect regulation. So, relaxing a trauma brain is what I call it. So just being in a room as you know, the love that dog [00:36:00] kind of exude in their energy, works with the symptoms of PTSD, anxiety symptoms and that, and so he’s my colleague because he does. Now I read Soljah more than he’s probably reading the room because I can read him and I can change my technique, knowing that the client might be having an emotional response or, for them to connect to their work and that type of stuff by how he attends toward them. And so, that’s why he’s my colleague. Yeah, he creates these calming effects, but I fell in love with him. I was gonna just use him as a, you know, as the registered therapy dog, but I fell in love with Soljah and I’m as owner, private owner as well. And he does he’s so unconditional in his love and it teaches me. To do the same. Like they just non-verbally teach you love. You know?

Gissele: Yes, exactly. They’re, they’re truly present and being in the moment and just loving. I mean, my dog, we believe came with some trauma. [00:37:00] But then when you see him now, he just wants to be loved.

Nicole: Yeah. So they remind us just by that, you know, and I can be very, not present sometimes as much as I’d like to stay present. And he reminds me of that. Like he, he has his way. Right. And yeah its very important.

Gissele: Thank you for sharing that story. I have a friend who also has a therapy dog and, she had shared a story about how there was this client and, he was seen as very aggressive and, very controlling it was a particular instance when the client was particularly angry and the dog just knew, came over put the head on the lap, and the person just melted and then their emotions just started flooding them and they started crying because they remembered when they had a dog as a child. The animal’s ability to be able to hone in on that and see past the anger, see past the aggression and to see the soul that’s in there. Right which is beautiful.

Nicole: Yeah that’s very powerful.

Gissele: I thought it was awesome when I [00:38:00] saw it on your website. I was like, Oh, its her colleague, very cute.

Nicole: Yeah. Thank you for bringing him in. Yeah.

Gissele: Oh no worries. So what’s next for you. So that the listeners can check you out?

Nicole: Okay. Well, the trauma health and environment center will be next. It’s like an ongoing vision and project that’s underway as well as, I’m an author in a chapter of a book that will be coming out in the fall called embodied healing. I do, trauma yoga and trauma yoga sometimes gets misconstrued for trauma informed trauma, sensitive yoga. But the trauma yoga that, I’ve I brought here into Canada, to do is, to work with movements and shapes of the body is to work with the brain that’s trauma and stuck in a survival loop. And so, I had the opportunity to talk about my body’s healing as a facilitator of this work. As well as my own personal story and allowing my story to be told, to me, from my body, to me and reconnecting to my trauma work that way. [00:39:00] So, I’ve had the opportunity to write about that and, it will be authored in this book that will be coming out. And yeah, that’s big projects that are underway here.

Gissele: Where would people be able to find the trauma yoga? Are they able to do it online with you? Or?.

Nicole: Since the pandemic we did go online. I am situated downtown Kitchener. I have taken over the wellness room in queen street, yoga and was doing psychotherapy practices in there. And, so I do offer seven week courses. To do this trauma yoga again, the yoga name gets a bit attached to it.

It’s not yoga. It’s the shapes. And, movements that we do that look like yoga. But it is the trauma work we do. So I do offer those seven week courses there in the fall. I’ll be opening it up to, the BiPop community, only classes, generating space for, different type of work because of the inter generational traumas on the bodies. That way. So again, that’s offered downtown Kitchener [00:40:00] once we return back to the live environment, yeah. People are welcome to find me there. Right now the online session just ended and I won’t be doing in the summer right now, but in the fall I’ll be reintegrating that back.

Gissele: You also have an upcoming podcast as well. It will be taped in July?

Nicole: Thank you for asking that. I have been, asked to be an ambassador for she’s your neighbor, through the women crisis services of Waterloo region. And, I will be talking about trauma abuse and black women, because you know, our migration, um, is one of pain and suffering and there’s some enlightenment around that in itself and the embodiment of that, or of being kidnapped, as an analogy, in the migration and then the torture and pain that’s attached to that and how that’s lived out inter-generationally.

So I have the opportunity to talk about that in that podcast and, you know, connecting it to domestic violence and [00:41:00] trauma and abuse.

Gissele: wow. Seems like really powerful work.

Thank you so much, Nicole, for sharing your time with us in all the amazing work that you’re doing, we’re really, really grateful that you took time out to chat and what you’re doing every day to help people shift their experiences from wounds to wings.

Please go check out Nicole’s website for the trauma yoga. And lastly, check out the book that’s coming out, called. “Embodied Healing” available on Amazon.

Thank you so much for listening everyone. And don’t forget to come back and check out more episodes on how to increase love and compassion for ourselves and others in our world.

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