Gender Stories

Hell Yeah Self Care! A dialogue between Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi

October 19, 2020 Alex Iantaffi Season 3 Episode 44
Gender Stories
Hell Yeah Self Care! A dialogue between Meg-John Barker and Alex Iantaffi
Show Notes Transcript

Alex Iantaffi and Meg-John Barker interview one another about self-care  from a trauma-informed perspective. They talk about what self-care is, why embodiment matters, and how individual and collective trauma impact our capacity to care for ourselves and others. Their new book "Hell Yeah Self-Care!: A Trauma-Informed Workbook"  will be published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in January 2021 (but you can  pre-order it now).

This talk was given as part of The Embodiment Conference. However, both Alex and Meg-John want to be clear that their participation is not an endorsement of the conference.  In fact, they invite you to read the open letter about the conference that Tada Hozumi wrote at: https://medium.com/@tadahozumi/public-letter-to-mark-walsh-and-the-embodiment-conference-ab9319ee4b69

Alex and Meg-John hold their participation in the event with open hands and with as much transparency as possible. Thank you for listening!

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Hosted by Alex Iantaffi
Music by Maxwell von Raven
Logo by Lior Allen

Intro:

Everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello, and welcome to Gender stories with your host, Dr. Alex Iantaffi.

Meg-John Barker:

Thanks so much. So yeah, what we're going to do today is sort of interview each other a bit, we're going to start by saying a bit more about ourselves and what we're going to cover, we're actually just getting to the end of a writing retreat, writing our most recent book, which is going to be how to understand your sexuality. So we're really excited about that. But we're not going to talk about that because that's not out front of the year or so. Do you want to say what we are going to talk about Alex?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely, we are going to talk about how to approach care, including self care from a non binary perspective, and a safe healthcare with a little bit of caution, because I feel like that word has been thrown around so much. And we are really looking at care in a slightly different way from a trauma informed perspective, and also taking this non binary approach that we'll say more about, and we've known each other for a long time. Now, I think it's 17 years since we met just gone past 17 years this summer. And we've been writing together for the last three, four years, I think our first writing retreat. I mean, proper, like we've written chapters, but like books.

Meg-John Barker:

The old paper and chapter before that. Yeah, so the book that we're talking about

Alex Iantaffi:

Whatever that is. I don't even know that. And I think in terms of who we are, as well as being people who do work with other folks as therapists and mentors, and as authors, I don't want to speak for both of us. But I think we're pretty committed to our own healing journey. And so I think there's going to be a lot of weaving of both our work but why we consider this particularly important on a personal level as today is called Hell Yeah Self Care, and that comes out by well. Jessica Kingsley in January next year. But we wrote it in Barcelona, actually, around this time last year when we were together. And at the moment, we're not together. I'm in the UK and Alex is over in Minneapolis in the US. So yeah, if you're if you'd like this, there is actually a zine on my website called Hell Yeah, Self Care that you can already download. But that's like a really tiny version of like, what we expanded into the book and then bringing a lot of Alex's systemic and somatic expertise together, because that's why like, as soon as I heard the about the embodiment conferences, like can we do something together, because you're really the somatic embodiment part of our team I feel the pressure. Having said that, even work, I reckon. though I'm the somatic part of our dynamic duo, I wonder if before getting started with interviewing one another, we can just take a minute to breathe. I feel I don't know about you all. But sometimes we can rush through our day, especially for me, especially with everything happening on my computer. I don't even take breaks sometimes even though I should so let's just take a minute to breathe and arise. Just in case you've been rushing through your day, whether it's morning, evening, night, whatever time of day, it is where you are, it's amazing to see people from all over the place. And as you breathe, just see if you can now relax a little bit more into whatever support is underneath you. You know, maybe it's a chair, maybe it's the ground, maybe it's your bed. Just relax a little bit more and let yourself be held by that support by the Earth and gravity. And I personally want to take a moment to breathe into connection with the earth underneath us, the land. Here the season is starting again. We had our first snow where I am. So acknowledging the changing of the season. Acknowledging that I am on Dakota and a little bit north of Anishinaabeg lands, currently known as Minneapolis, Minnesota and all the complex history that I'm in as a recently as a recent immigrant. Just breathing into that... Then maybe just one more breath for all the people have come before us who've made this work possible. We're not the first ones to talk about those ideas and we've drawn from such an amazing body of work and, and so does ancestors of writing and of care and those somatic practices, let's just take a moment to connect to that ancestral web. No, we're not the first to be doing this work. And I sure hope we're not the last. Then one more breath for ourselves. Being here in the body, doing this work today, listening to one another. Just taking a moment, maybe even to look around where you are. And if there is something that feels pleasant or comforting, just take a moment to connect with that. So welcome, welcome. It's so nice to take a moment to breathe with you all. As MJ said, We're gonna kind of interview each other. And I think I'm getting started with the first question for you MJ if that's okay. And...

Meg-John Barker:

I feel better about answering it. Now we've done that. Thank you,

Alex Iantaffi:

Right? I do this all the time. Now. I'm like I need to breathe, and probably other people do first, body first. And that's what we're talking about today. How do we embody this non binary approach to self care? So why self care? And why now? Right? Why does it feel so vital to talk about self care right now?

Meg-John Barker:

Well, I suppose I was so grateful to have written this book with you in Barcelona just before 2020 hit because it hit me with a number of really challenging personal things. And then obviously, the pandemic, hitting, but against the background of climate crisis already. And then we had the Black Lives Matter uprising over the summer. So there's just so much going on. And then for us, in the UK, we've got Brexit unfolding, even during this pandemic crisis, you've got the US elections over there now, and so much uncertainty, so much background level of trauma going on. So I suppose I feel like self cares, vital right now. Because we need to be really like really kind and honest with ourselves and with each other. And that needs that kind of cradle of kindness that we talked about a lot in the book, the cradle of kind of self care, both in order to be able to be kind enough to ourselves and compassionate enough with others. And also to be honest with ourselves about what's going on in the world, and what capacities we have to offer anything, what we need for ourselves where our boundaries are. And I suppose I feel like for me, that's been the background level of trauma just means a lot of people knocking up against each other a lot more. Lockdown has meant this is something I've blogged about quite a bit like lockdown, this meant some of us being isolated alone, which happens one set of real challenges, because you're right up against yourself day after day, you just get to see all of your stuff playing out, like without any filter. But for other folks, they've been locked in with other people. And that's its own different challenge of like rubbing up against each other and not being able to necessarily get away or do the kinds of supportive things you might be able to do. So just feel like we've all probably got some level of background trauma, but it's it's just really up at the moment. So having this really trauma informed understanding of self care. And being able to practice self care is just the kind of vital buffer and, and vital for being honest with ourselves about what's going on for ourselves and able to communicate that more to others.

Alex Iantaffi:

I love that you talked about kindness and how vital it is and I wonder if I can ask you a follow up question about what we mean by kindness because I know that we're not saying niceness. And maybe I'm biased because I live in Minnesota and I love weather... Yeah, Minnesota Nice. It's kind of scary, because right people can be nice on the surface and racist transphobic underneath, you know, that surface so you can go through your day, thinking everybody's okay, but actually, if you're specially if you have a marginalized identity or experience, you know, that underneath that niceness, that doesn't mean that it's kindness. So I wonder if you can say a little bit more about the kindness piece.

Meg-John Barker:

I mean, I feel like it's that's why I always say kindness and honesty, because I feel like kindness without honesty isn't really kind, it is more nice, you know, this performative just trying to, you know, just try and get people to approve of you and like you. So that's why you need this deep kindness for yourself, to actually be able to be honest with yourself, because without the kindness, it's really hard to see what you do and acknowledge it and recognize the impact that it can have. So, but also, honesty without kindness and really honest, you know, because if you're just honest with people in that blunt, like, I'm going to tell him what I think you're you're not being honest that you can probably do exactly those same things yourself, you know, so to be really honest with yourself and others, needs the kindness to recognize, like we can all do this stuff, especially when we're traumatized. So it's kind of that piece about assuming that, you know, if people aren't doing well, something's going on for them, or they all these wider cultures and systems that they're part of a kind of playing out through them to sort of get out in a way it gets away from the personalizing it. Like to really understand why people are where they are.

Alex Iantaffi:

I love that and I think that's so true. And it's also so complex, right? Because one of the things I often talk about is how trauma can make us really self centered, because when we're in survival mode, we have to center ourselves. And so it can be really hard to be kind when we're in a trauma response. So for me that the only other piece, I would add that for me kindness, and honesty is also about, oh, let's be aware of what's going on in the world and why am I this person, or people might be coming at me in a certain way that doesn't feel kind. But actually, if I take the big picture under consideration, it makes a lot of sense, right? That might be something that's coming at me not in the kindness way, and also adding that honesty to look at the big picture, right? It's this interplay between the individual and the systemic.

Meg-John Barker:

And for yourself having that if you have that kind of awareness of like, this is what it looks like, for me when I'm going into a trauma response, either because someone's come out of me like that, or, or from some other reason, it's like, then you can refrain, you know, and and say, I'm not ready and take the time you need, which I guess gets us into the next question for you, which is obviously being the somatic practitioner, and the theme of the embodiment of this conference. What do we mean by embodied self care? Like, and how did we weave that into the book? Yeah.

Alex Iantaffi:

That is a great question. I mean, can we do any self care that's not embodied that like our language fails us, right? It's like, it's so hard when we talk about ourselves as if mind and body were separate. And I guess that makes sense in the context of Western dominant discourses. And, you know, because we've had all this idea of mind and body as a separate since this cart, you know, and really, when we think about who benefits, and maybe even who profits under Neo colonial capitalism, from the separation of mind and body, really, this separation of mind and body is in the interest of colonialism, patriarchy, capitalism, kind of all of those kinds of larger oppressive forces. And, you know, I would say that kind of the ongoing settler colonial project is really at the root of some of this perpetuation of the separation between body and mind. So I'm gonna get a little heavy for a moment. But if we see the mind and body as separate, and we see the mind as superior to the body, then we can do things like think that we can own land, and you know, that we can take ownership of this body that we leave on that is the body of the good, greener, right. And then it means that somebody's maybe can be seen as inferior to others in and some bodies are superiors, which is where you get all the anti blackness, which, you know, has existed for a long time, and that some people are really starting to see how it plays out in all system, some white people are beginning to see that. And really, when we separate the mind and the body, you know, this, so so much oppression becomes possible, right? It's not just about the Industrial Revolution, is also about how people here and what we now call the US were profiteering from slavery to build this country. Right? And if we our love that comment in the chat, if we can separate we can objectify. Absolutely. That is absolutely what I'm trying to say. Right? Whether yes, we I could talk about this for a long time, if you want to know about more about what I think about this, oh, look, self promotion moment. Gender Trauma. I am terrible at self promotion. So I've been told that.

Meg-John Barker:

Well done, it's an amazing book. Yeah.

Alex Iantaffi:

There's a book I've written all about how the Doctrine of Discovery is also linked to the rigid gender binary if you want to know all about that. Please read it and tell me what you think. But going back to your question, really, what happens is then we can see our body as a commodity, right? If our body is inferior to the mind, it's a commodity that we can exploit. Just like we can exploit the land just like we can exploit that our people, we can exploit ourselves, right? And so how can we not talk about self care without talking about the body, because we really live in a dominant kind of Neo colonial capitalist society, at least where we both live, where we really are going to buy more, if we see the body as a commodity, we're going to push ourselves harder to produce more, right, we're going to be more productive. And we're gonna keep perpetuating this idea of separation between body and mind. And, you know, in our recent book that we're writing now, How To Understand Your Sexuality, we're using this word body mind, which is really from disability study. Dr. Sami shock has got a great book on body mind as well and race. And body mind is really challenges the separation and highlights that the body and mind learn a dynamic relationship with one another. And as a somatic practitioner, I know that right? Our all field is based, while as well as the probating, a good chunk of stuff from many indigenous healing traditions. There's also based on interpersonal neurobiology, that's kind of rediscovering that wisdom from a different perspective. And so when we're talking about body mind, we're really taking care of our whole self, right, we cannot care for the land each other and ourselves if we're not caring for the whole, right? And so in the book, for example, in all of our books, including the self care book, there's like slow down pages, there are exercises. And also acknowledging that embodiment is not easy, because of all this history of oppression, right? This history of separation or oppression, we have deep, deep systemic wounds. And so some of the things we do in the book about self care is also really naming how we're impacted by this larger system, especially if we have marginalized identities and experiences, because so often we internalize an individualized systemic problems where we're like, 'Oh, I'm not taking care of myself enough' or you know, 'I'm not doing enough self care how many times we might have felt' or said, 'I'm not doing enough self care', when actually what we're trying to do is survive under capitalism in a system that doesn't allow enough time and resources to care for ourselves and one another, and where even very basic things like health and education might be things that we have to pay for, because they're not being provided on a community level. Right? And I know we really problematize also the concept of self care, even in the book, because of the soul challenging of the idea of self that we'll talk about in a moment. Sorry that was a lot. The caffeine

Meg-John Barker:

Talking about the body minds, you know, you kicked in. put caffeine in the body mind and something happens. But yeah, that was awesome. I agree with the chat. But um, I was thinking like, we also talk a lot in the book about staying with feelings, right. And it makes me think, I think, Gabor Mattei was talking at this conference, right? And this stuff about how we're so much more at risk of mental and physical health problems, if we can't know our needs, if we can't know our boundaries. And if we can't feel our feelings, like, that's what I really get from his work. And so we talk a lot in the book about like, given that we're probably trained, you know, in this culture, but often in our families due to intergenerational trauma, which is something you talk a lot about, then, you know, it's just really hard. And for me, it's been really hard my whole life, I wouldn't say I have been very embodied, you know, it's all been in the head. And so I'm really learning this piece about how do we stay with feelings? How do we learn? When? Where? Yes, no, or maybe how do we articulate our boundaries and our needs? Right. So all of that requires the somatic and the embodied piece.

Alex Iantaffi:

Right? I mean, I wouldn't know anything about thing in the head after having gone to the Doctrine of Discovery to talk about the body as commodity, but yeah. I remembered my very first somatic training where a somatic practitioner, we were doing a practice session looked at me and this was an experienced somatic practitioner and going so sometimes we dissociate in our prefrontal cortex. So you know, for people really intellectualize so we want to watch for that. And I was, like damn 10 minutes, and you see me, you see, like, I've been with the same therapist for over a decade, I don't think she pointed out quite that you know, and that's sharply and that's the thing that when we go to the body, we know what we need, but we cannot go to the body if we've never been taught how to go to the body, right? So much so, so, so much feel so many feelings about this topic. So that I want to talk about all the other things we want to talk about. So we don't just talk about the body in our books, right? Because we take all the systems into account. There are other themes that we talk about a lot, which we're also very passionate about, which are gender, sex, and sexuality, and relationship expansiveness. We care so much about gender, sex and sexuality, relationships, disability, like all this kind of big ideas? How do they relate to self care? MJ? What do they all have to do with self care?

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, well, I guess it's sort of like a thread through all our books in a way. Hell Yeah Self Care is that one book that's just about everything. Most of our other books focus on gender, or sexuality or relationships. So we did this book, How to Understand Your Gender. Amazing cover there. And then we're doing this whole series now. So it's how to understand your gender, then we're doing sexuality at the moment. And then we also do doing relationships and a couple of years, hopefully. And I guess we see all this, like completely intermingled, right, because the, I guess, the norms of gender, and sexuality and relationships are part of what does so much damage to people. And it does a lot of damage, whether people are trying to rigidly adhere to those norms, and try to be very, you know, a real man or a woman or trying to be very heteronormative, or trying to do relationships in a particular way. But it also obviously really harms those who are marginalized and oppressed in relation to their gender, sexuality and relationship. So part of this whole piece of like the self care book is this, it's not individualized self care, which is the real problem with what's kind of happened to self care, similar to what's happened with mindfulness, it becomes this very individual tools to like, fix yourself, rather than recognizing that it really is the systems and structures that harm us. And that those need to change. And so what we can do in it, I mean, I've called them anti self help books, the kind of books that we write, rather than self help books, because it's much more about alerting people to these cultural messages, and the systems and structures that surround us, and how to survive in those worlds, and also to how to create their own systems and structures of support to kind of be a buffer against so much of that toxicity, rather than giving people this very individualized kind of techniques and tools, which seems, you know, really problematic, because it kind of, it's that whole kind of wider cultural idea that it's something wrong with you that needs fixing, rather than something wrong with the world out there. Does that make sense?

Alex Iantaffi:

It does makes so much sense. And what strikes me as I'm listening to you is just our relational approaches, and I know that when you name like, and then we're doing a relationship book at the moment of like. And to foreheads like, Oh, my God, that is gonna be probably the hardest book we've ever written. I think we've talked about that, you know, when I bring it back to this, in a way, I'm thinking about how relational this approaches, and now challenging it can be to be relational in the context of all this. You know, in the context of all this big stories that we have in the world about how our bodies are gendered, our bodies are sexualized, racialized and then try to relate to each other. It feels really challenging how? And I don't know, this is the question, I'm gonna go off screen. But I'm really curious about whether you have some thoughts about how that impacts our capacity to care for ourselves and one another a little bit as well?

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, I mean, again, it comes back to this sort of objectifying piece, doesn't it? Like people are being it's very us and them, like who, who agrees with me, and who doesn't, who's doing this in the right way, and who's doing this in the wrong way. And then it's also non consensual, you know, the kinds of structures you were referring to, before they really rely on non consensual treatment, as you said, treating somebody's as inferior to others. And they rely and caps neoliberal capitalism relies on us non consensually, treating, treating ourselves in order to produce more all the time. And to sort of monitor ourselves all the time, you know, it's based on consuming more and more and more, right. So you have to get people to want to consume more and more and more. And how's that done? By encouraging people to monitor themselves, compare themselves to others, judge themselves, and they feel like that's just all ramped up under the pandemic, as well as a real encouragement to shame people in relation to how they're behaving. Again, to separate and to see this group as bad and this group is good, or this individual is bad. And this is good sets. It's really about. Yeah, the challenging of relating under all these conditions, is huge. But it's about like, yeah, how can we how can we relate differently in that kind of an honest way that we were talking about before? How can we do that? And how can we see the problem as these messages and these systems rather than the problem is, either it's my fault, or it's that other individuals fault?

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. You know, I'm thinking about the issue of taking care of children who are being schooled at home at the moment and trying to work and now that can become like, is this an issue you know, so much falls on folks who are assigned female at birth, in terms of house labor and is this an issue on an individual family level? Or is this an issue of a structure? The structure of capitalism that we live under, and the structure of agenda and the structures of the patriarchy? And so, so much bigger than what's going on in one family and one household? Right? That I would love for you, you also mentioned consent, which is so key to a lot of the work we do. And often people haven't come across the idea of self consent, in a way, you know, a relationship with ourselves is one of the foundational relationships in our lives. And can you say a little bit more about self consent? And how that plays out in, when we're talking about in modern self care?

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, I mean, I guess it's the big work I've been doing this year, I've been blogging quite a lot about it is really to reach a position of better self consent with myself and I, again, I think we're trained out of it, you know, not just in the obvious ways of like, kids are encouraged to have a touch that they don't want, and they're encouraged, they have to do things that they don't want to do. They're not really, they're not really encouraged to tune into their feelings, they're encouraged to override them, as self consent is about, you know, learning how to tune into yourself. And again, this, you know, where's your yes, no, and maybe, like, where are your boundaries? Where are your needs? How can you, then how can you know who's safe enough to articulate those with consent, for me is about feeling free enough and safe enough to bring yourself to any encounter or any interaction. And so self consent is learning, again, on a really important level like, what does it feel like when I feel safe enough and free enough. What does it learn? What does it feel like when I don't? And, yeah, like I'm doing it around. And I think that's where mindfulness does come in, is that like, the pause, or even like, just just sitting for a moment between tasks you can learn then to really like check in, like, what do I feel up for doing next? Or do I not rather than just pushing through pushing through, but right up to really big questions, like, you know, do I have a relationship with this person or not? And sort of like the whole spectrum, but of just like really tuning in? And I guess that's where it relates to trauma sites? You know, the question I throw back to you, it's like, well, given though, that we're all traumatized to some level, and some of us quite a lot, that's what makes that's what really gets in the way of being able to do the self consent as and as you said, often to be kind with others. It's really hard when you're traumatized. So how do you bring in a trauma informed approach there?

Alex Iantaffi:

Right, what a great question, How can I not be a trauma informed approach? I love that somebody in the chat said, we treat ourselves the way we were treated as children. And that is so true, you know, we know more and more how easily trauma is passed down within the family. And sometimes even when people cannot identify like a big T trauma, I think that sometimes when people think about trauma is like, what, nobody beat me and nobody abused me, you know, and some of us have had those experiences. Right? But trauma is not just those things that might be much more apparent. Trauma is also not getting what we need as we grew up, right? When we come into the world, as this little beings that have no nervous system containment, we need to be scaffolded by our caregivers into nervous system regulation, you know, into being able, you talked about sitting with feelings, while we can only see with feelings, your feelings don't feel so overwhelmed. And we feel we might literally die if the feelings are like too big. Right? Exactly. There's like large T traumas, multi trauma, and it's all trauma. And sometimes my clients say or Alex do you have and so does everybody have trauma? You talk about trauma all the time. And I'm like, how is it possible under ongoing settler, colonial patriarchal, racist white supremacist atates not to be traumatized? Right, even the place where I live was literally founded on trauma and exploitation. So of course, everybody's traumatized, right? And then that trauma, that big kind of historical, cultural, social trauma trickles down through our families, right in lots of different ways. And sometimes we might not be able to pinpoint something that has happened to us or something that has happened to our parents. But then as you kind of you know, brush away the first layer, it becomes so apparent what might have happened and in sometimes this is bigger, cultural, historical, and social traumas. And the way they've trickled down are much more subtle. So it doesn't have to be this like single incident, but it's about our nervous system, and not just our individual nervous system, but our collective nervous system, right. So there are people like todos zoomy for example, they're doing work around cultural somatics. And, and I think that that's so important to think about that larger kind of trauma, which is where I will slowly pass over the screen my book again. Twice in one talk. Because I am totally buying into neocolonial liberal capitalism, because I need to also survive under capitalism right now.

Meg-John Barker:

But if you read the book, then you'll want to dismantle it. So that's why.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes, especially if you're a therapist or a counselor or a coach. This book is really, for educators, counselors, coaches, therapists, but then, you know, going back, and it is all about this the trauma of a rigid gender binary and how it impacts everybody, by in terms of like, practically, how does this apply to our book, how does this apply to our practice, as well, if we're working with clients is, we really need to be, you know, we've done our best in our books. So always be mindful of both individual and collective trauma of being mindful of not assuming that people with marginalized identities and experiences can ever come to a place of safety. I know, when I started to do my somatic training, that was one of the things I was, I knew that what I was going in was not a social justice environment. But one of the things that was frustrating was really to think about the fact that there was this assumption that there would be a place of safety that my body could know safety, you know. And if we are marginalized identities and experiences, how can our body ever know safety in the current condition, right? And for some bodies even more, so, you know, I have the privilege of living in white skin and benefiting from white supremacy. And so for bodies who don't have that privilege, you know, again, how is safety ever possible? And I think more and more people are waking up to that. And so both in our in our books and our work, you know, we want to be mindful of that, we want to be mindful of naming that not assuming safety. And also not assuming that everybody has the resource they need to do this work because of all this ones of all this large systems. So many of our resources have been taken away. And not just material financial resources, even though systemic poverty is absolutely an issue. For many populations from for many of us, it's not just about systemic poverty, it's also about resources such as language, culture, belonging, right? Ancestors, ancestral relationship, relationship with indigeneity to land, right, all of those things have been severed by those large system impact us. And I do think that we try to have some awareness of this, you know and we also, you know, I definitely try to bring that awareness to my individual work. And for me, that's also what it means to be trauma informed, not just thinking trauma lives in the body on an individual level. Yes, it does. And trauma also lives in our collective summer. So my right off when I talk about gender, for example, I talk about how, in some ways, we're all constricted when it comes to gender, because if we expand, we are so severely tarnished on a collective level, right? So both hands and talking about both hands, I'm kind of I'm aware of time and I know that we want to do a couple more things, talking about both hand, one of the ideas that it's increasingly becoming more apparent and coming to the surface in the books and, and in healthier self care. We have the whole section about being plural and plurality, and you write a lot about plurality plurality nowadays, Meg John. Let's talk about that a little bit more like we don't really necessarily think about the self as an individual kind of phenomenon. But and for some of us, that's just not the case at all. So yes, tell us more about plurality. How does it impact self or selves care?

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah. Well, I guess it's one of our way, like one of our non binary approaches is getting beyond this kind of individual self to this kind of idea of multiple selves. And I think maybe this will be our last, because we've only got like four minutes left before we take some posits.

Alex Iantaffi:

Apparently, we have no questions so we can keep going.

Meg-John Barker:

Oh no we don't wanna. So yeah, I'll just say a little bit because it follows on really nicely from what you were saying about individual trauma, particularly the trauma of childhood of not having your emotions regulated or contained. I should definitely my experience, you know, just the was not that language was not that understanding in my parents generation. You know, it was very much like emotion, but you know, negative emotions are bad, we need to get rid of them. You know, that was literally the understanding that was there in the wider culture, and that was there in our family. So really, the work I've been doing around plurality has been a lot about different sides of me holding different feelings. Or you could say I'm really influenced by Janina Fisher's work, who thinks about it as different sides holding the different shore the different trauma patterns, so people talk about fight flight freeze fawn, sometimes they talk about attach as one as well. And I really relate to that. So I have different sides of me who really, you know, they feel like different parts that hold the shame that hold the fear that hold the real yearning for connection, that hold anger and that whole to kind of like trapped feeling. So a lot of my work of this embodied work of staying with the feelings and learning how to self regulate or self contain or self attune has been about being able to separate as Janina Fisher describes in her excellent book of like, separate a kind of more parental part. Yes, Janina draws on internal family systems model so yeah, but you can also, there's so many different authors who talk about plurality, like John Rowan and Helen Said Resown. And like there's there's lots of different so I've been trying to weave together all these different approaches. Plus, there's also kind of in terms of mental health survivors, like there's a lot of people reclaiming terms like multiple personality and dissociative identity and seeing those as like something to reclaim rather than medicalize and pathologize. So there's lots of different literature's that you can draw on for this. But I think Janina Fisher's book was the one that claimed places to my lived experiences that which is that it's so helpful to have this kind of adult or parental part who can hold the part that's struggling the part that's feeling shame, or the overwhelming feelings that you were describing, which has definitely been my lived experience of just this utterly overwhelming rush of feeling. But now I can hold a part that's having it and really hear them and hear their needs, and start to learn, like how to have those feelings in a way that isn't so overwhelming. And it's actually I can see, oh, this now has some benefits of I can hold the anger without it overwhelming me. I can do boundaries, I can do self protection. If I can hold fear, I can learn. Okay, this is telling me something that I need to take attention, you know, pay attention to right.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. Oh, so yes, this is so great and I'm also aware that we have some question.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah lets. Let you ask them... How do we do this?

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes, we do. Yup, I can I can see the question and answered, shall I? Shall I go with it?

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, go for it.

Alex Iantaffi:

Alright, so McDonnell, read the question. Do you have any practical ideas or somatic practices for helping people to deal with the different ways oppressive structures such as hetero-sexism, transphobia, and so on show up in their queer and polyamorous relationships? For example, different structures influence influencing partners and their past in different ways leading to conflict and trauma activation in the present? Do you want me to go or do you want to go? Where are you at Meg-John? I'm trying to see you and the questions at the same time.

Meg-John Barker:

Yeah, I mean, I think, for me, I think it's definitely so helpful to do that normalizing piece of like we're all under these structures. So we're all going to have internalized all of the isms, all of the phobias, right. So but having some time, like, when you're in relation with others, when you're in close relation to like, do some of that mapping of like, what was your background? Like, we do a lot of this in our books, like, what are the cultural messages around you growing up? What was your community? What was your family? What is it now and you know, like opening that up for a discussion when you're not right in it. So rather than when you're, you know, in that actual conflict, and that can lift some of the shame around it, and just recognize that we all have this, and we will have areas we need to be working on more than others. But I don't know if you want to add something from the more somatic.

Alex Iantaffi:

Yeah, I'm gonna follow up from what you were talking about, actually, to highlight the work also of Sophia Graham, who's got this great blog love uncommon, and Sophia does talk about, for example, when you're not in conflict, to make agreements about how do you want to show up in conflict so that there are real agreements in your relationships about how to show up in conflict, and somebody in the chat had also talked about how anger is not seen as acceptable, which is so in kind of different white Western dominant cultures. And I think that's very true for Anglo culture. I remember moving from Italy, to the UK when I was in my early 20s and being seen as a very aggressive and very outgoing when, you know, up to like, the day before when I was in Italy, I was like, quiet and soft, spoken and introverted. And all the sudden I was seen as like this aggressor, and I'm like what is even happening right now? You know, those messages are so culturally specific. And so doing that work, especially in polyamorous relationship or queer families can really help us see that we might be coming from different places. And then in terms of kind of subtract got ideas as well as kind of go to love uncommon and look at this conflict agreements, ideas that Sophia has, but also really working on our own self soothing grounding. You know, I've become much more outspoken as being somebody who lives with complex PTSD myself, as well as working with clients who have complex PTSD. And I know that for me, some of the somatic practices that are like really foundational are, you know, am I taking care of myself, going back to basics is something that my clients hear a lot from me, you know, somatic practices are not just this, like, let's tap ourself, and let's breathe, and let's do which I love all of those. And we can talk about those if we had like, another hour, but it's also, am I doing my best to like, get some sleep, drink enough water, eat regularly, like take care of myself? What's getting in the way of taking care of myself? And how much capacity do I really have given how impacted I am by this oppressive structures to be in relationship with myself and others? But then so all this takes us like soothing, grounding, oriented techniques, which we don't have time to go in a lot of depth right now, but I'm always happy to talk with people about are so important, and really thinking about what happens when we feel activated, finally getting to know our own activation. So that then, and communicate that with our partners, so they can see that and if we need support from them, so that we can be clear what kind of support we want from them. Sorry, I've seen a comment that says please have one more hour. I know, I feel like we should spend one hour talking about this.

Meg-John Barker:

I've put it in the chat. Yeah, love uncommon, like the thing she has been writing about recently has been how do you take a timeout? You know, like, what do you have got activated? How do you notice? How do you communicate to that partner? How can you agree beforehand that timeouts are important? It's really good. So yeah, as well as hopefully the healthy, healthier self care book will be helpful for people on this, but also love uncommon, somebody's just asked what, what makes our approach non binary?

Alex Iantaffi:

Yes, I thought we should go to that question. Let's do it.

Meg-John Barker:

This was our book that we wrote already about the non binary approach, Life Isn't Binary. And I feel like two of the things that make it non binary we have already touched on which was mind body. Right? Seeing that as mind body rather than the mind and body separately. That's one way it's not binary. Another way it's non binary is the plurality piece. So rather than saying like just self and other as individual units, it's like seeing everybody as potentially multiplicitus. But do you want to say a bit more about what makes our approach non binary, as well as we are both non

Alex Iantaffi:

What both non binary and we think all things binary? from binary are awesome. But you know, beyond that, I think the other thing, you know, obviously, we have not invented a non binary approach. Nobody has a non dual, I want to be real clear on that. Non dualistic approaches have existed for well over 1000 years in many Asian cultures and in fact, many of the non dualistic ideas in some Asian culture such as dailies, I'm really underpin a lot of somatic practices. So this is not new. And things like mindfulness and like I said, kind of even modern somatic approaches are really based on this idea. I think one of the things that makes her work non binary is really focusing on trauma. And if we think about trauma, and now with trauma, we often see this all or nothing patterns, or my clients see me do this with my hands all the time, when one goes from one end to the other. Because all or nothing thinking and trauma patterns show up in our lives every day, in a million ways kind of goes back to the question, as well, that was asked earlier, in terms of what you find most helpful, actually, this challenging, kind of this polarized, extreme way of thinking, because one

Meg-John Barker:

Person was safe, another dangerous.

Alex Iantaffi:

Exactly right.

Meg-John Barker:

Both think that you're wrong, you're good, you're bad. Yeah. I just take a little bit onto that, because it

Alex Iantaffi:

You're good, you're bad and also, I'm good or bad. This is the right or wrong way. This is what I should or relates to the plural piece as well. And a lot of what we've shouldn't do, right. This kind of with this polarized all or nothing thinking there cannot be any nuance and there cannot be been saying is, I think that capitalism and developmental any compassion. And ultimately, there can also be no relationship. We cannot all or nothing. Trauma patterns are really about survival. And we cannot be in relationship when trauma, and how those come together, they make a lot of us, we are in survival mode, right? There's to have a little geek moment I've really been getting into the serious 100 on Netflix, like become this, this binary, which is basically we believe, and I won't spoil it, but but really one of the big themes is who is with us and who is the other right? And now when we're really, fundamentally, we're bad. And we try to hide that and in service, extreme survival situations, we cannot really relate to humanity, but also if it's like, my family, my people, push it down, and we pray a front, that's good. And we have other people, that's not going to help us survive collectively either, right? So a non binary approach is foundational, I to be really good in order to counter that fear that we're think to that kindness and honesty that you were talking about at the beginning, is foundational to challenge the really bad. So like, we become this good and bad, good and bad, separation between body and mind is also foundational to challenge the separation between self and other. Right? Often when we're in a trauma survival response, we think either my right? And if, and we can't care for ourselves very well, because needs can be met or somebody else's needs can be met, you know, this car city mentality. And so approaching self care in we can't really love and care for the good because we know a non binary way is also saying there is no self care, other care, there is care, there is community care, there is it's kind of fake. And we're really bad, right? So I feel interdependent care, you know, going back to, to those ideas that have never went away for many indigenous cultures and like for me a lot of the pleural work a lot of the trauma, but other cultures, that there is not the separation between self and other between self and community. But that this both and the approach, and really bringing it to life much more. work, a lot of the work is about shifting from that model of And again, like, I'm aware that we have more questions. like, there's this fake goodness with this real badness underneath to like really challenging that, like, that Exactly. You're just the human. And, you know, can't be the case. And that is challenging seeing that out there, that people are either good or bad, and also challenging seeing it and here, like, it's such a relief to recognize that you are not this perfect person that you've been presenting. That's not really real. But you're also not that fundamentally flawed, terrible person that neoliberal capitalism tries to sell you that you are in order to buy products. Right. there are a couple of questions about safety that I think segues really well, from there, you know, there's a question about is it possible to create a feeling of safety and agency when we're fundamentally unsafe in the world we live in? And the other question is, what are some of the things people from sexual and gender minorities can do to take care of ourselves and feel safe? And so I really, you know, that again, that's where the non binary approach comes in. And that all or nothing, right? If we think in all or nothing, patterns, then I'm either safe or unsafe. But if we challenge that, and we're like, well, I am maybe unsafe on a global level, that is true on so many levels. However, what are the relative contexts of safety that I have.Rright now I am safe in my home, and my household and my, you know, closest group of folks and relatively safe in my community. So can there be degrees of safety and agency, I do not necessarily have as much agency as people with more privileged identities in the world, but I do have the relative degree of agency. And so kind of challenging the solar nothing patterns can really help us challenge also, safe, unsafe, power, powerful or powerless, right? There are lots of there lots of degrees of possibilities between powerless and powerful, and between the safe and unsafe for all of us, right.

Meg-John Barker:

And that's why and it links back to consent. Because if we're if consent is about trying to be free, make ensure people are as free and as safe as possible. But recognizing that power imbalances between us and cultural scripts will make it hard for people to be free. No one's going to ever be totally frank and, and safe and a really non consensual culture. But we can try our best to maximize our own freedom and safety and that of others in the ways that we can by kind of recognizing those power imbalances and that impact, recognizing the cultural scripts and offering alternatives.

Alex Iantaffi:

Absolutely. Which goes back to this idea of none of us are free until all of us are free, which is very foundational to black liberation movement. And somebody has just asked a really poignant question about I mean, the US, me to what effect will our November 3 election have on safety for such people? And, and how may they care for themselves? That's a great question. I know that personally, maybe I shouldn't say this publicly. But I will. I know that personally, I do have a safety plan. I know that most folks that most trans folks, non binary folks, folks of color, have a safety plan. And also if we have more financial privilege, can we contribute to ensuring that folks with less privilege like black and brown indigenous folks also have options? So I think it is an issue of interdependence. I think the folks who are marginalized identities and experiences are very aware of what's going to happen on November 3, is really crucial. And it's what you know. So once more is really, where is our web of interdependence, and how can we not just think about our individual safety, the safety of our families, including queer families, but also the safety of our community, right? And really noticing how all this fight flight freeze fan responses come up in us, and try to come back to breath, which is where we started, right, try to come back to this grounded place, try to come back to a relational place, try to really come back to all of this ideas we talked about and ask ourselves, How can we hold ourselves and one another in this incredibly scary moment, which is not the first scary moment in US history? And what wisdom is out there that we can tap on? And also, how do our ancestral stories impact us? Like, I'm very aware about my people survived in Italy, under fascism? And how that lives in my body? And am I gonna follow the same ancestral patterns or different ancestral patterns? Right, in terms of threes and hide or flight or fight? Or, you know, and what is possible beyond those, right? Also, knowing that those leaving our body, I don't know if I'm making sense.

Meg-John Barker:

So much sense. I'm just aware of that time. Yeah, maybe we have to stop is that.

Alex Iantaffi:

We have one minute, do you want to say, I'm like to the minute kind of person sorry.

Meg-John Barker:

These are, these are books that are already out there. If you're going to share one of your solo works, that's one of my so yeah, you should as well. But yeah, it's been so great talking today. Thank you for your amazing questions. Yeah, been really great.

Alex Iantaffi:

Thank you for this conversation has been amazing. And yes, I think that actually extend us put our websites also in the chat. And yes, if you want us to talk to you right now we're on Zoom. So we can talk to anybody anywhere. Contact us, right?

Unknown:

And the finally, the top tip, maybe from both of you, or from one of you how to stay embodied.

Alex Iantaffi:

That's... wow, no pressure.

Meg-John Barker:

I'm such, I'm such a newbie to being embodied at all.

Alex Iantaffi:

Ok, my two top tips are... I have two top tips. Breathe. There is always time to breathe. No matter how fast you're going. Even if it's like, stop, take one breath. Like that right now. We did that. Breathe and slow down. We can now be embodied if we don't slow down. And I know we're breathing all the time, of course from our first breath to our last breath. But even if we take three intentional breaths throughout our day, that that can really change your day. So slow down, breathe, and you're not alone. A third tip you're not alone. Remember, you might feel alone, but you're not alone. There's somebody somewhere in the world that can relate to what you're going through, or some ancestor, or a plant just outside or the sky or the air if you're never alone. Slow down and breathe and remember connection.