Women heal differently than men.
The origins and foundations of how we’ve looked at bodies and at healing, from religion to medicine to fitness, have been established by men.
In Western medicine, the male body has long been the standard, the one that procedures and drugs are designed for and tested on.
In yoga, postures and positions are taught as if the specificities of gender would have no bearing on the relevance of certain physical and energetic outcomes.
Many fitness methods, when you go back to the founds, are developed by men and then end up being played out on women’s bodies.
Much of the latest dietary advice — whether paleo or keto or intermittent fasting — originates from male doctors, purported by men, and studied on male bodies. Blanket recommendations are made based on their experiences as if that automatically applies to any woman at any stage of life.
So many of the problems that women experience are dismissed or go undiagnosed because their issues traverse many domains — biomechanical, biochemical, emotional, and fascial. The solutions lie at the intersection of all these fields: within the nervous system. — From Call of the Wild: How We Heal Trauma, Awaken Our Own Power, & Use It for Good by Kimberly Ann Johnson
As a Somatic Experiencing™ Practitioner, educator, and author, Kimberly Ann Johnson helps women heal trauma, awaken their power and feel at home in their bodies to start living life on their own terms. Kimberly’s deep knowing that she would change the world came into sharp focus when she became a mother. That gave her the “what”. Learning the Somatic Experiencing™ tools and having her world rearranged all over again in that experience gave Kimberly the “how”. Now, she uses her training, education, experience, and advocacy to help women get closer to their blueprints, unpack all those layers of habits and conditioning, so they can hear what their body’s telling them, and know who they really are.
- Call of the Wild: How We Heal Trauma, Awaken Our Power, & Use It for Good by Kimberly Ann Johnson
- Activate Your Inner Jaguar Course
- The Fourth Trimester: a Postpartum Guide to Healing Your Body, Balancing Your Emotions, & Restoring Your Vitality by Kimberly Ann Johnson
- Kimberly Ann’s podcast Sex Birth Trauma
- Complex PTSD: From Surviving to Thriving by Pete Walker
- Polyvagal Theory by Stephen Porges
- Episode 22: Birth Trauma & Hope for Healing with Diana Tayan
In this episode with author, somatic practitioner, doula, and trauma educator Kimberly Ann Johnson, we…
- discuss the release of her new book, Call of the Wild: How We Heal Trauma, Awaken Our Own Power, & Use It for Good as a “feminine Body Keeps the Score”
- talk about the feminine perspective of trauma-healing and why women heal differently than men
- discuss outdated teachings on the parasympathetic/sympathetic nervous system
- create a nervous system understanding so that listeners can identify the reaction they are having (fight/flight/freeze/fawn)
- reveal that most women are stuck in fight/flight/fawn responses because of cultural conditioning and patriarchy
- discuss why women need to awaken their inner predator and embody a healthy fight response
- talk about establishing a sense of safety and confidence within our female bodies
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Welcome. Welcome. I’m so glad to be back with you today. Wherever you are. Thank you for being here. Thank you for investing. In this time for yourself and for your growth and your healing. This is no small thing that you’re doing. So take a moment, pat yourself on the back. Give yourself some kudos. Give yourself a high five.
Just acknowledge that you are here and you are choosing yourself and your healing and your own learning in this moment over anything else, even if you’re just driving in the car. So welcome. I’m honored that you’re here. I am also honored to be giving you this episode today. Um, I never imagined when I started this podcast in October of 2020.
That I would have the opportunity so quickly into the podcast to bring you some of the people that I’ve been able to bring you.
And today is no exception. I have the lovely Kimberly Ann Johnson on the podcast today. Kimberly Ann is a somatic practitioner, birth doula, postpartum educator, author, and teacher who helps women recover from all forms of trauma. In her work, she has seen the same themes play out time and time again in a culture that prioritizes executive function and mind over matter.
Many women are suffering from deeply unresolved pain that causes mental and physical stagnation and illness. I love this interview with Kimberly and Johnson, because she gives it to a straight that women experienced trauma differently than men. Trauma manifests in women’s bodies differently than it manifests in men’s bodies and healing trauma. It looks differently for women than it looks for men.
And I am so here for this conversation. Of course, we are going to be talking about Kimberly and her new book called the wild. How we heal trauma, awaken our power and use it for good. And this conversation. We well, Kimberly really not really me so much. I’m just listening and learning. But Kimberly Ann talks about awakening our inner predator and how there’s a stigma against women being in our fight responses.
You know, our society has normalized men having fight responses. It’s acceptable for men to be angry and aggressive. We even expect it. But we don’t expect that from women. And so when women are in situations that their bodies need to be able to access that fight response in a healthy way, women aren’t able to, because our society hasn’t given us the freedom to do that.
And so we are in situations. We perceive them as traumatic. We store that traumatic energy usually because we’re in a freeze or a flight response. And what I love about Kimberly’s work and her book is that she wants to help us as women awaken our inner predator and use our fight responses for good.
By accessing this inner predator, we can establish a sense of safety and security within ourselves that is independent of an out of control world. And this will lead to better boundaries at work and at home, and even help us to create the sex and relationships that we want. Not just what we’re offered.
So I’m here for this conversation and I know you’re going to love it. Of course, we will be talking about Kimberly’s new book. We are also talking about the feminine perspective of trauma and healing and why women heal differently from men and why we need to make space for that. We are discussing the outdated, thinking about the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the nervous system.
Uh, as per usual, on this podcast, there’s a lot of discussion about polyvagal theory, but it is presented in a way that is very understandable. We talk about the emotions associated with the four F trauma responses. If you’re not familiar with the four F responses. Those are outlined and described in detail in Pete Walker’s book complex PTSD. I will link to his book in the show notes. Those four F responses are the fight flight freeze and Fon.
Responses. And yeah, we’re just having a really, really amazing conversation. I am so honored to have Kimberly here. Um, she’s such an inspiration and such a successful woman, both in her career and also how she has taken the bull by the horns and made herself her own healer. She has her own advocate and she.
Is teaching women all over the world, how to be their own advocates and heal themselves as well. And I, I love me an empowered woman, so please enjoy this interview. But before we jump in, I want to read from the introduction of Kimberly Anne’s new book, call of the wild, in this interview, Kimberly and calls.
Her book. The feminist body keeps the score. So, if that doesn’t tell you how powerful this book is for healing trauma, particularly for women. I don’t know what will, so I’m going to read from the introduction of the book here is what Kimberly says. Women blame themselves for lack of agency, but these are the waters we’re swimming in. The origins and foundations of the way we’ve looked at bodies and healing from religion to medicine to fitness have been established by men. In Western medicine, the white male body has long been the standard. The one that procedures and drugs are designed for and tested on in yoga. The male body is also standard. Postures and practices are taught as if the specificities of gender would have no bearing on the relevance of certain physical and energetic outcomes. Many fitness methods. When you go back to the founders are developed by men and then ended up being played out on women’s bodies.
Much of the latest dietary advice as well, whether paleo or keto or intermittent fasting originates from male doctors and then is purported by men and studied on male bodies. Blanket recommendations are made based on their experiences as if that experience would automatically, and by default apply to any woman at any stage of life.
In these fields from medicine to fitness to spirituality. The female body has been considered derivative implicitly and or explicitly. We’ve begun to wake up to these biases. Intellectually. Many of us understand them. My work with women helps mend that divide between mind and body and offers an integrative model of pelvic gynecological and sexual health.
Our healthcare system is simply lacks the structure to effectively address these kinds of issues. OB GYN is treat the body, but too often fail to consider the role of trauma and emotions in physical symptoms. Physical therapists may alleviate pain, but generally aren’t trained to deal with biochemistry or trauma. Psychologists can offer useful mental and emotional coping tools, but don’t address physical healing.
So many of the problems that women experience are dismissed. Or go undiagnosed because these issues traverse many domains, biomechanical, biochemical, emotional, and fascial, the solutions lie at the intersection of all these fields. Within the nervous system. Can you tell why I love this book and why I love Kimberly Ann’s work.
So much. This is a beautiful statement of holistic trauma healing. This is saying that. Exactly what I say, which is we don’t yet have a system in place that addresses us as whole people. Because doctors and specialists. Are so fragmented. They are only focusing on one organ or one part of the body.
And fail to consider the ways in which trauma, which is stored in the body can manifest as physical disease symptoms. As pelvic floor dysfunction, which was my case, I was in pelvic floor, physical therapy every week for over a year. Because of pelvic floor dysfunction. And I know that, I know that I know there was such an emotional component in that for me.
Um, Just wow. Just so much. Wow. But yet it all originates in the nervous system. It’s all connected by the nervous system. That is the common denominator. So that’s what we’ve got to learn to talk about, which to develop the language for that. And we have to understand what that looks like in our own individual bodies and newsflash, it looks different for men than it does for women.
And I just want to go ahead and say straight out that I recognize that the binaries of male and female may not be applicable to you. If you are not gender conforming, or if you. I don’t identify with either gender, have they, them pronouns or something else. I’m just going to go ahead and state out of the gate that I am not an expert at that.
That is not really what we discussed in this conversation. I had just started reading Kimberly’s books. So I am unclear as to whether she addresses a non-gender conforming identities. And non-binary gender identities. I just don’t know what that looks like. So as I read the book, , I’m definitely reading it with that in mind.
So, I don’t want to say that this episode is strictly for women. I don’t want to say that at all, women who identify as women who have female bodies and who identify in those female bodies. But that is the, the large portion of our conversation is through that lens. So I do want to just state that as a disclaimer.
And in no way, are we trying to discriminate or leave out people who are non-gender conforming? It’s just, that’s not really what we talked about in this conversation. So just want to give that disclaimer, and I think that’s all that I need to say. I think that’s enough of an introduction to this conversation and to Kimberly and Johnson. So please enjoy this interview.
Welcome Kimberly Ann Johnson to the podcast. Thanks so much for being here. Congratulations are in order or you just released a book this week. Thank you so much. Yeah. Tell us about your book called the wild. This book called the wild, how we heal trauma, awakened our own power and use it for good. It’s like a feminist body keeps the score.
So a lot of the trauma literature that’s out there is written by men. From a male perspective, oftentimes the cases that they present are women. But they’re not from a female voice. And so all of, and actually even in my trauma training, birth pregnancy is just considered something that’s separate.
It’s not really considered something. That’s a part of what could be compound PTSD or so I wanted to write a book that centered the female experience and everything that I’ve learned working with thousands of women over the last. Specifically seven years helping them heal from birth injuries, birth trauma, gynecological surgeries, and sexual boundary ruptures.
So the book is the culmination of my own personal experience healing from. A difficult postpartum period where I had a birth injury and I was a yoga teacher before that. So I was really in touch with my body and I knew a lot about my pelvic floor. But it just took me a long time to heal. And that’s what my first book is about.
The fourth trimester. And this book is really a wider lens about how people with less structural power and in this case, specifically women. Okay. How we awaken our power and how that looks from a nervous system perspective, which is actually different than how men heal women heal differently than men do.
And that was something that no one has ever once said to me. And I felt like needed to come forward in the conversation. Yeah, that’s. I want to explore that more in the podcast. So you don’t know this, but Diana tan has come on my podcast to talk about birth trauma, and she actually mentioned you in the episode, and she mentioned your book, the fourth trimester.
And so your Instagram account and your book, the fourth trimester are linked in the show notes of that episode. So for people who want to learn more about birth trauma and Healing from birth trauma. Go back to that episode. I’ll link it in the show notes. But so you don’t know this, but I actually am familiar with who you are because of Diana and her work.
So I’m really excited to have you here. And I would love more than anything to talk more about the feminine perspective of healing trauma. And I am like frothing at the mouth wanting to hear more about that. So can you just expound on that? I think there’s two really interesting things to talk about when it comes to how a female system might heal differently.
One of them, while there’s like actually probably like a million, but to keep this simple, because sometimes the nervous system information and polyvagal theory, it just gets really technical and really complicated. And what I’m interested in is how we perceive these responses and our nervous system in our own bodies.
When we, most of us were in high school, we learned that the sympathetic nervous system was fight or flight and the parasympathetic nervous system was rest and digest. And still today in most popular conversations, that’s what you’re going to hear from people you’re going to hear. Sympathetic is bad fight or flight and people are even saying it colloquially like I’m so fight or flight.
And then parasympathetic is good because it’s rest and digest. But when polyvagal theory came along, Stephen Porges in 1994 said, actually, that’s not how the nervous system works and we’re mixing apples and oranges. So when we feel safe, In our system, our sympathetic system is what motivates us. It’s what wakes us up in the morning.
It’s what gives us energy and forward movement. And when we feel safe, our parasympathetic system is rest or digest. It’s where most visceral organ function happens. It’s where sphincter release happens. Conversely. He also said it’s actually not just those two choices. We’re not, it’s not an on and off switch.
You’re either fight or flight or rest and digest again, mixed metaphor. But in fact, there’s a whole nother layer of the nervous system, which is called the social nervous system. Some people call it the social engagement system. Some people call it the ventral vagal system. So Pauli bagel, poly is many in Vegas is Vegas nerve.
The vagus nerve has branches to it. And the social nervous system is the ventral vagal branch. It’s the thing that moves from the heart. The heart is in the superficial fascia layer up through the neck head it’s takes care of all of the muscles and the eyes and the small muscles of the face, nose, mouth, and ears.
It’s also our orienting apparatus. If we’re talking about evolution and how these nervous systems evolved, the social nervous system is the most recent. It evolved for mammals and specifically primates. It’s not that animals, all kinds of them, including birds and reptiles don’t have complex social networks, but they don’t have this specific social nervous system wiring that runs through eye contact.
And it is designed for the survival. Of the maternal dyad, because these little babies that we have depended on this for forever compared to other species, they can’t crawl to their own food until they’re like nine months old. And so we need to know and be acutely aware of how they’re feeling so we can take care of them.
And it’s a feedback loop of co-regulation where they’re also giving us feedback about how they are. And so that is a tier of how we survive as mammals, by interpreting facial signals and gestures and heart rate. When you have estrogen, estrogen is a bonding hormone. Most women, 80% of women have more estrogen than most men estrogen is what makes us really care about how other people feel and be super.
Tapped in to, who’s looking at us up and down and who we think likes us or don’t, doesn’t like us because it is wired in for us to be able to protect the group. So in a way, it’s our super power because we have this, lots of women have babies and then they go, Oh my gosh, I’m so pissed because I just know so much more about how my baby’s feeling than my partner does.
And it’s yeah, because it’s wired in like at that’s a survival mechanism. Thank God for that. So that’s the first thing. So we could just suspect that the social nervous system is going to disproportionately impact women because women have all of the apparatus and higher estrogen for that group awareness.
The flip side of that. So just like the sympathetic had how it is. In safety and how it is under threat and the parasympathetic has how it is in safety and how it is under threat. The social nervous system also has how it is in safety. In safety. We feel we belong. We feel that we can be different. We don’t have to be the same to belong and that we can connect and collaborate on the flip side of that.
We have fawning and fitting in. So fawning is like a fawn that a baby DOE is an animal. That’s got big eyes and it’s when you go towards a threat. So you sent something is threatening and you get closer to it. And you’re nice. And you’re you diminish your own needs. You might not even know what they are because it’s safer to have the threat close to you than it is to have it wandering out there.
And the other choice in the social nervous system is fitting in camouflaging. Don’t be seen don’t stand out because if we were to stand out from our partnership, our family, our social group, our religion it could be our race, our ethnicity. Then it could be dangerous for us because we need that social acceptance in order to survive, especially when we’re a child.
It has everything to do with power and how we navigate power and what I hope from my book. And just maybe even right now, for people that are listening is that you understand that this is not manipulation and it’s not a personality flaw that is actually physiology. That’s determining how we do our rational minds, not in charge of your nervous system.
So the finding response that we learned a lot about during me too. If you watch the movie bombshell with what was going on in the Fox news room, it’s all about specifically how, if we feel there’s a threat that we might return to that threat. Even though from the outside, that seems crazy.
Why would this person go to the hotel room? Or why would you go back to the abusive partner? Because our system is saying if it’s closer to me, I know what’s happening. At least if it’s out there, I don’t know what’s going to happen. So I think that’s really the biggest nervous system idea.
That’s new from me coming out in this book. It’s been very hard to get anyone to talk about that because so much of the trauma literature is written by white men. Who are in positions of structural power who even consider this to be like a super power. Like this is something that like is really hard to do, but if you’re in a female body or in a black, Brown, indigenous body, we know these responses because we’ve been trained into them our whole life that we know that we have to diminish ourselves or blend in order not to have the repercussions of conflict or separation.
Ooh. That’s like a lot to digest. I never thought about it being like physiologically because we are women and the hormones that we have in our bodies, that the way that we engage socially, even when it’s unhealthy or dysfunctional is tied back into our physiology of being a woman. So is it, I just want to make sure I’m understanding, is it only estrogen that sort of creates that.
Filter that we see everything through that. We’re not even aware we see everything through, but is it estrogen or are there other things involved in our physiology as well? Connective tissue is also involved. Fascia is. Do you think your listeners know what connected tissue is? Fascia? Hopefully that’s it’s underneath the skin layer and it’s what creates the form of our body.
So fascia is if you peel an orange and then you get the whole pith, that’s surrounding the orange, and then you separate the orange in half and then each section, and then each piece of pulp, that’s the same in our human structure, down to the level of the cell. And we have different combinations of collagen and elastin that are in our connective tissue, that proportion of college into elastin determines how quick nerve signals, because the nervous system is made up of nerves.
I think people sometimes don’t understand that if you dissect a body. You can hold a nerve. You can’t hold an energy channel. You can’t hold a Chinese Meridian, but you can hold on to a nerve and you can see a bundle of nerves that are bound together. Nerves. Communicate in electro-chemical signals in your car and they can communicate through your connective tissue.
So if you tend to have more elastin, there’s more space, which means it’s harder to have boundaries, literally because you’re your literal fashion is not as tight and tightly woven. So that’s one thing. Another thing is which I really go a lot into the book in which was a huge light bulb for me in my own life.
And my own training was that each of these States has emotional correlates that go along with them. So when you are in a fight state, the emotional correlates are irritation, frustration, anger, and rage. When you’re in a flight state, The emotions are concern, worry, fear, panic, and terror. When you’re in a free state, the emotions are confusion, disorientation, apathy, helplessness, and resignation.
So if you commonly feel one or more, one of those, we all feel well. Hopefully we have access to all the emotions, but most of us really tend to feel one emotion the most. And. What was radical for me was realizing, Oh, in this culture, white over culture, most men are permitted to feel irritation, frustration, anger, but not permitted to feel worry, panic, fear, or confused and disoriented.
We don’t really like males expression of that. And then on the converse, we are used to women. Expressing fear, panic worry, or disorientation and confusion, but we don’t like women expressing irritation, frustration, anger, and rage. So the nervous system runs in patterns and the patterns themselves predispose, how we will continue to act.
So healing traumas, interrupting those patterns that have gotten set in place. That is the U S the question was, is it only the social nervous system that’s different? No, our cultural conditioning comes in, so we’re already predisposed towards the finding and fitting in, and we see how that’s affecting us on social media, even to a higher extent, because there’s more layers of social comparison.
And then within these other branches our culture might tell us like this is the acceptable way to act, and this is what to modeled. And so we stay within that range. So my course that I teach, one of them is called activate your inner Jaguar. And that’s why the Jaguars on the cover of the book, because.
What I’ve found is so many women have incomplete things. They couldn’t say movements. They couldn’t make situations where they were nice when they wanted it to be fierce. And in order to help them reestablish that sense of groundedness, centeredness, and power. I had to teach them how to have a healthy fight response.
And in my own journey, that is what created the that’s what helped me cycle up out of the earlier traumas that I had was physically learning. So not just in my mind, cause most of us know in our heads that we’re in charge of our own bodies and that we can. Decide who we want to be with.
It’s just that when we get into the present moment with a doctor or with a new lever, or maybe even with an old relationship where we can’t seem to get into a new groove with a person, that’s when all of a sudden the threat starts to rise. We don’t know why. And we can’t tell the doctor, I don’t want that procedure or let me think about that.
Or we can’t tell the person, I changed my mind. I actually don’t want to take my clothes off after all our mind and our body get out of sync. Yeah, I’m really glad that you touched on women having a healthy fight response. I’ve actually been doing that in my own life. Learning that defensiveness is actually a healthy fight response.
And unfortunately it seems like in our culture, when people defend themselves, we take that as an indication of guilt. And rather than realizing that like defensiveness is a very normal, very healthy part of a fight response, because if you were being attacked in an alley, no one would blame you for defending yourself.
If one of your children was being attacked or someone you loved was being attacked, you would be able to defend yourself and be totally fine. But if you get accused of. Being something that you’re not, and seek to defend yourself, it’s like, Oh, see, she’s guilty.
That’s an indication of her guilt. Have you encountered that with any of the women that you’ve worked with, where they have tried to form a healthy fight response and they’ve been like criticized and critiqued because of it? Sure. All over the place, when there’s political candidates, female candidates they get trained out of.
Expressing any kind of anger or indignation because their like ability just plummets. And in fact, I had a really interesting conversation with a neuroscientist who basically told me you’re doing your work all wrong because you should never teach women how to be angry because it’s going to be terrible for them.
And I’m like yeah, maybe, if they’re going on the news, but in our daily life, it’s actually the thing that is the most healing. It’s, that’s the amazing thing about the work is that if you’re trying to cycle down and heal the fawning and fitting in, you go to healthy fight. And if you want to heal the freeze and the flight, you go to healthy fight.
And I think people misunderstand, sometimes defensiveness does come off like guilt because you’re acting in your own. You’re responding at a level of activation that may not be proportional to the situation, which makes total sense, because if you’ve been oppressed for a lifetime or several of them, then you’re going to bring all of that charge and it’s going to escalate.
And so then people are like especially because, in white, over culture, we’re really more familiar with passive aggression than outright aggression. Then it’s what if you turn it on the other person? Why are you acting this way? And. If you haven’t had a lot of boundaries in your life because the healthy fight response is also a boundary.
I don’t want to do this knowing where your know is and knowing what you’re a yes to. Having boundaries does cause the situations in your life to change because people aren’t used to it. If they’re used to you going along, fitting in and just going along with the program and now they see no you’re gonna stand your ground.
You’re going to stay and maintain your position. It forces the other nervous systems also to shift and to shift their patterning. Which is why, some people go why didn’t you focus on men? Why don’t you work with men? That it’s just not my work to do. I do actually talk to many men in this.
As this book has come out, I’m really interested because the book was really spurred the urgency to write. It came hard with the me too movement. And then of course the pandemic came on the heels of that. But I’ve found that when women are able to really restore their healthy fight responses, their partners and relationships change, because most people do care and most people are interested in something that’s mutually beneficial and enjoyable.
We just don’t have the language. We haven’t been , given any skills. We have terrible sex education. That’s. If we even had it, that’s reproduction separate from pleasure, separate from care and relationality. My daughter asked me yesterday at dinner, it was so sweet. She goes, mom, my friend asked me if she, her French, my daughter’s 13 and her friend is 16.
And her 16 year old friend asked her, which is so cute. Do you think it’s okay if I like somebody and, but I don’t want to marry them. And my daughter was like, Yeah, mom. I told her that it’s okay, like we’re teenagers and we can experiment and you don’t have to think that you’re going to be committed forever.
And then she goes what do you think mom? She goes, I think it’s a way for, I think it’s a patriarchy thing to keep women feeling ashamed and like they only have to, what do you think about that? And I go, I love the way you’re thinking about this and wouldn’t it be nice if sex ed actually included this.
Because w sex ed never includes. How do you choose who you want to have exchange with Patty? You decide what your own rules and boundaries are. The book has the word trauma in the title. Which can either be like really attractive or really repulsive, but I’m really interested in how we gather and how we be together in a way that’s mutually respectful for everyone and this not so overly rational because even consent culture right now.
It just, it’s all about talking and language. And what we know about the nervous system is that’s just oftentimes not what’s going on below the surface. So if you read the book and you use the tool is in the book, you have a language. And when you use that language, other people learn from your nervous system and from your language.
And so it’s actually, it seems Oh my God, how are we going to all of the structures are being dismantled. Everything is changing. What people want out of relationships is changing. How we make the, how we make them is changing. What we want out of culture, I think is changing for most people.
And it’s where do we start? It actually might be closer than we think if we can start to communicate from our nervous systems and from our felt sense, because then we don’t override boundaries. We have a tolerance for difference. And we can hold our ground and we can give other people our code.
We have this idea in, I think, romantic relationships that like the thing that makes it hot is if everyone’s wondering, and trying to discover how the other person works, but you can actually locate and orient yourself and tell someone, I really, I’m really excited about this, but I’m noticing I’m in a freeze response right now, and I don’t know what to do about it, or someone else could save you, you’re telling me you want to do this, but are you sure?
It seems like your body is recoiling a little bit and we could just have that space because we can do real time repair like that. You don’t have to be a trauma therapist. You can actually just be observant and communicate what you’re observing.
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That’s so good. And you’re right. And that’s what we’re doing in our home with our kids.
We have two teenagers as well. And in the last couple of years, we’ve started using language. For instance, one of my children has a really strong freeze response. And because we’ve talked about our fight flight, freeze fun responses and what that looks like and what that feels like. When I see that this child is going into a freeze response, I’m able to say, Hey, it seems like you’re going into a freeze response right now.
Would you like to talk about that? Do you need some space? Do you want to sit with that and feel that like, how can you consciously move yourself out of that freeze response? And it’s been really life-changing for our family because I’m really proud of us because not only are we giving our kids these words and this language to have.
This communication with us as their parents, but it’s made our relationships as a family stronger because it’s no longer me against my son or me against my husband. It’s like my nervous system. And your nervous system are just trying to find a balance here and We’re not going to blame, and we’re not going to say this is your fault because you’re this way.
It makes me feel XYZ. We’re going to own our feelings and we’re going to own our truth while also like using this language where it’s not me pointing the finger at you, but it’s us talking about our nervous systems together. And it’s really been pivotal for our family because I think before we had this language in our family We have a really healthy family, I feel like, but we also have had some levels of dysfunction that were like patterns that we couldn’t quite get out of.
And having this language is helping us to move out of some of those dysfunctional unconscious patterns that we’ve had both as parents and that my children were developing as their little egos developed. I hear what you’re saying, and I hope that listeners are understanding that you don’t have to be a therapist for this to be possible.
Thankfully with books like yours the information is becoming more readily available to be able to have these conversations. And likewise we’re just starting to scratch the surface of talking about attachment styles with our kids. And so it’s like when you’re learning about attachment styles, like I have a disorganized attachment style and my husband understands that now.
So whenever I’m like getting close to him and then I pull myself away and then I get close and then I pull myself away. He started to be like, Hey, you’re acting, being really disorganized right now. Do you want to talk about that? And it’s something that we can laugh at because then it’s not like I can be and awareness about it, but he’s also an awareness about it.
And then he can also like examine his behavior and be like, how am I contributing to this push pull response that you’re having. I’m not really asking a question. I just want to like, validate that what you’re saying. It works and it’s real. And hopefully this type of communication will be taught more.
Like this is the kind of stuff that I feel like needs to be taught to kids from the time. They’re little I don’t understand why this is not part of public education. I have some theories about that, which people would probably say I’m a conspiracy theorist for sharing, but I think a lot of it has to do with keeping us.
Unaware and powerless, because when we’re unaware, we’re not acting in our power and we’re more easily controlled that way by mostly white patriarchal systems. Yeah. I was a teacher and education is its own beast. So that’s probably another conversation. The title of the book is called the wild because wild animals don’t experience trauma, but humans and domesticated animals do.
And we could see school as a project of domestication. And I think most teachers are doing their best schools. It takes so long to make change within the school system. And the reason they’re not teaching it is because this is embodied learning. You don’t just learn it in your brain, listen to one podcast and figure it out.
You don’t check the boxes, nervous system understanding and moving through the world with your felt sense. Is an ongoing process because we all are domesticated. And if you’ve had people on here about birth trauma, it’s like most women giving birth are having traumatic experiences because hospitals are another product of domestication.
And I’m not saying that you didn’t, people listening don’t need the hospital and all those things. It’s just that It’s the farthest thing from an organic process these days. And so the other thing about female nervous systems and female healing is that we trauma is an unfinished loop, an incomplete cycle.
As females, we have more cycles. We have monthly cycles for some period of our life. We have cycles of fertility. We have some of us go through births. And postpartum times, we just have so many cycles, we have abortions, miscarriages losses, and, I was just thinking there’s there’s so much about the female experience.
That’s unseen and hidden because that’s just how it’s been for the last few thousands of years. And it’s, that’s changing. But the amazing thing is we have all these cycles, so we have more opportunities for ruptures, but that also means we have more opportunities for repair, because if you’ve had a challenging postpartum time and you didn’t have any help and you have some symptoms and, whatever kind of them, mental health physical, to me, it’s usually the same thing when it comes to postpartum.
Then any period that you have after that, you can use that to repair the earlier postpartum. If you don’t have a period anymore, you can use the moon to do the same kinds of things to repair. So we have a lot available to us, cyclical to complete those loops. And the reason that the first way that I was even given the Jaguar was because I’m a single mom.
I have been, since my daughter’s nine months old, when she was about five years old, we went to visit some friends. They all, we were with four people, they all wanted sushi or maybe they wanted pizza and she wanted sushi, something like that. And she went out, she convinced everybody and we ended up having sushi.
And after that, my friend pulled me aside and said, You need to take care of this cause you’re raising a really authoritarian child and it’s going to be a problem. And this is really hard to tell you, but dah, and I was horrified, totally ashamed, really mad at the person telling me that. But also I trusted this person.
And it was another person who is a somatic experiencing practitioner. So I couldn’t ignore what she said. So I went to my somatic practitioner. Who’s a man who I chose because I have a history of sexual assault and he had a stature similar to my perpetrator. And in that session I told him, I feel I’m feeling like so sorry for myself, because I have to do all the unconditional love and I have in the emotional attunement and I have to do all the boundaries in bread-winning.
And I’m so exhausted. And I was just really feeling, pitting myself. And he just looked at me and I lived in Brazil for eight years. So he said, did you know him from the Amazon? And I’m like, no. And he goes, you’re a Jaguar. Look at you, look at your golden skin, look at your spots. Cause I have freckles them.
It’s the females that teach the Cubs to hunt. And in that moment he fractured this. Fight flight freeze within me, that was like either I’m kind and maternal or I’m rigid and disciplinary. And it was like, the Hunter is the female. So the females teach the Cubs to hunt. So go watch Jaguar videos and see how the females are dealing with their Cubs.
And so basically I went on this process of becoming. The Jaguar. And in Portuguese you would say old says Jaguar and Senia is like a little Jaguar. So playing like ALSA on senior with my daughter and basically showing her physically who was in charge. And it made her relax so much because before she had like anxiety, because it’s not normal for a five-year-old to have an equal opinion as.
Her parents. And she was my flexibility, which was actually lack of boundaries based on my upbringing. I’ve grew up in an alcoholic family. That co-dependence was basically like, I wasn’t even noticing because I’ve developed such a flexible personality where. I also, I have a mom. That’s if she goes, Hey, do you want to go to dinner?
And I say, yeah. And she’ll go, what do you want? And I’ll go Mexican. And she’s great, I’ll meet you at pizza or whatever, like she just she’s like a steamroller. So I just learned to not have a preference. Cause why have one, if it’s going to be ignored anyway. And therefore my daughter was getting this dominant because it was like her way all the time.
So for me, I had to start to develop this Huntress and this ability. To show her through everything, not just by bulging my eyes out or not just by saying something and repeating it over and over. But by matching my facial expressions, the tone of my voice, the content of my words and my body language.
And that’s how we did that that repair, because, I think all moms have had the experience of, like you say no a thousand times and like, why aren’t they listening? And it’s cause it’s it’s not coming through as a real, no. Have you thought about writing a parenting book next? No.
I told my daughter, should we have a deal? Because I’m still a single parent and she’s just okay, I’ll donate you to the computer for another year. She’s going into ninth grade. She’s no more books until I’m at a high school. But also my next book, if it’s on parenting, it has to be called donut parenting.
Because donut solve all problems. Nice. You’re the very off-brand for me, since everything I do is basically about like holistic wellness and like healing, but. It’s also just like what’s practical, what works. Yeah. Yeah. It sounds like you’re doing really amazing job with your daughter.
And that’s definitely something that I wish I would’ve learned, 10 years ago when my kids were little. Thank you for sharing that with me. So you touched on this a few times when, especially when you talked about the Jaguar how do you help women? And you talk about this in the book as well.
How do you help women access their energy McGuire or their inner predator and Tap into the healthy parts of the fight response or the flight
response or whatever. Can you explain how you do that? Sure. So I think we should talk about the words, predator and prey, because pretty much when anyone hears the word predator that makes us have a visceral kind of retraction, mostly because if you’ve first of all, as a culture, we’ve vilified predators, we think that predator is bad.
And. In nature, we need predators and prey. So it’s a system and the predator and the prey rely on each other. When I was in somatic experiencing school, which is the kind of trauma resolution that I practice. We watch videos of wolves and rabbits, and we watched the hunt and the entire time. I was tense, sweating and rooting for that rabbit like getaway.
Oh no. Here it comes. Get away. Why can’t you smell it? What are you doing inside? Just so raptured with what’s happening with the rabbit. And then the video was over and the teacher said, who here identifies with the rabbit, which I thought was getting to be a hundred percent of people. And I raised my hand and it was 70% of people.
And then who identifies with the Wolf and there were 30% of the people I already knew these people, I liked them. So I couldn’t just be like, Oh, these people are fucking assholes. They’re actually people I like. And I realized in that moment I had a huge aha. Wow. I am totally identified 100% with the prey so much so that I think that the predator is actually bad, even though this is just a natural relationship because in the wild predators, they only.
Eat and catch what they need. It’s feral predators that, wolfs that destroy henhouses that’s because feral means wild approaching domestication. So I just recognized I don’t even, I, and I also realized, Oh, that’s why I’ve been a vegetarian all this time. This is why I love films about underdogs.
Like my favorite movies are always the ones where, somebody comes to the rescue of somebody who’s like really hurt or in jail or something like that. So many ways this is why I did this kind of yoga for so long that I had oriented myself into that. And also because we’ve said that, okay.
Predator is usually man and predator is bad. So men are bad and praise, usually women. So pray are good and women are good. And then we just polarize ourselves foreign, farther and farther into this dynamic without realizing that we actually really need each other. And we all need to occupy the full spectrum of those responses.
So if you have a predator response, it doesn’t mean you go around like an alpha female or, dominating people. It just means you have healthy self-protective responses. And you know that if you needed to protect yourself, that would be online right away. But you don’t go around That stereotype is actually an overcompensation.
It’s not actually a centering in that nervous system pattern. So the same goes for surrender. You may love being submissive. You may love being in a surrendered place, but that needs to be a choice in your system. Not the only place you can live, because then you’re actually more in like a collapse or a tolerance than a surrender and a submission.
Makes so much sense. Thank you for that. Something that I talk about a lot is if we’re going to heal the collective than individuals have to start healing because calling out massive systems or, whatever, like we’re not going to do anything from the top down, we’ve got to start from the bottom up.
And that starts with me and you and. Individuals listening. So can you talk about how healing trauma helps individual women, but it also helps the community and it helps us to have better boundaries and it helps us to have more compassion with each other and better support for each other and for ourselves.
Can you just talk more about collective and individual healing? Yeah, that’s the last part of my book. And something I’ve given a ton of thought to, because I’ve worked with so many people individually and now I do work with big groups of people. And I just really curious about my assumption based on my own life, because collective healing and systemic structural change specifically with racism has been something I’ve been committed to since I was a teenager.
So I just assumed that if somebody was doing their own personal healing work, that would necessarily push them towards sensing the other beings around them. But I did actually stop teaching yoga because I started feeling like this isn’t effective enough. It’s just almost like a palliative.
It’s making people feel better enough for themselves, but it’s not actually turning them towards what’s happening on a structural level. I think it’s a balance. We have to be well enough that we can show up. So especially as white women, We’ve been permitted to be somewhat helpless and we’ve been conditioned into that helplessness.
And we collapsed, the trope of white women, crying. We, and I cry all the time. And when I cry, when I’m talking about racism, I always just preface I know what white fragility is and I just a person who cries a lot. And so I’m not, I’m crying and I’m still in action. And because the nervous system tends to polarize, the more sympathetic someone gets.
So the more angry, hot, the oftentimes the more collapsed and retracted the other person gets. So it’s definitely, I believe that in. Helping women get to a healthy fight response. Part of that is also to help them have racial stamina and have stamina to change systems because I’ve worked with so many people that because of their own trauma, they went in onto the front lines.
Like whether that’s working in a rape crisis, they there. A survivor. And then they go and work in rape crisis shelters, or they go to the front lines in a war zone and they die. And then after a period of time, they have adrenal collapse or an autoimmune disorder, or like really dramatic, like things where like they can’t go out of the house for a year because they were way overriding what their nervous system could actually handle.
It’s both. It’s like we need to, yes. Be shoring up our own capacity to be with conflict and to be with things that feel really uncomfortable and provide things in the outer world that are also like, it’s a, for instance, like it’s okay. There’s this there’s so much input into our systems about how we should be behaving right now, what you should say.
What it means when you say it, are you on the right or the wrong side? Are you this or that? And none of us are robots and none of us are any of those things. So we need, that’s all happening in the social nervous system. I believe that what I call Jaguar energy. So there’s a part of our healing path where we need to be victims, where we need to say that thing that happened to me was not my fault.
And that was whack. And then there’s a part of our journey where. We’re still working through it, but we’re not fully in the victim space. We’re in the survivor space, but our life is still in relationship to that wounding. And then there’s Jaguar energy where maybe every once in a while those things come up, but you have access to your full life force energy.
That’s not being determined by the things that happen to you in the past. And that’s available for anyone in any structural position of relative power. But. I definitely, that’s why the chat the title of my book is awaken our own power and use it for good, because just feeling better is to me like a very low bar.
And that’s also why I was like, I don’t know if I want trauma in the book because the flip side of me for me to trauma is life. And just not feeling bad. Isn’t good enough. It’s what is our full creative expression? How are we interfacing with each other? Playing improvising holding, having collective spaces to hold grief, all of the things that make us fully human that’s, what’s going to make us really change the way that we’re living so that we’re in harmony with each other and with the earth.
And it’s not like peace and love. It’s like that’s hard work to do, but when you have your availability for your own life force, and you’re not just collapsing back into old patterns all the time. Then you actually, we can actually move this forward. Yeah, absolutely. I want to be respectful of your time.
So we’re going to have to wrap up, even though I feel like I could keep going for quite some time. Can you tell people who are listening, how to find you, what you’re currently working on. What’s exciting you right now and how they can find you. You can go to Kimberly Ann Johnson dot com. The Jaguar courses where I take people step by step through this process.
It’s Kimberly Ann johnson.com/jaguar. Get the book it’s out at all the booksellers, and we love supporting in these, if you have patience for that. So you can go to indie bound.org to get the book. We’re leading book clubs because, Embodiment is a weird thing to read a book about, frankly, it’s just, I’m glad we have the books and sometimes that’s, as far as a lot of people can go because they feel so lonely or disconnected or anxious, or, depressed that it’s hard to imagine being with other people and being honest about how they’re feeling, but the courses are a great way to do that because they are online.
And so if it’s. Really hard for you to imagine, like having your camera on, you can turn it off. I have a podcast it’s called sex, birth trauma so people can listen. I have about 120 episodes over there and I have something called Jaguar bites that are just like under 10 minutes of little nervous system sort of nuggets.
And I’m on all the socials. Amazing. Thank you so much for being here. This was a pleasure to interview and congratulations again on your new book. Thank you so much.
All right. Was that just so amazing? Is your mind blown? I hope so. I hope that. The next thing you do, as soon as you turn off this podcast is that you go order Kimberly’s book called the wild. I am reading it myself right now. I have just started it at the time of this recording, but I am already loving it. As I shared with you in the introduction, cannot wait to get into the meat of this book and apply some of the exercises and practices to myself and to step more into my power and access my inner predator and see how it transforms my life, my relationships, my health, all the things, all good things.
So, as always you can catch all of the links and everything that we talked about. There were a lot of resources that were shared in this episode. And so all of that is listed with links in the show notes of the episode, you can find the show firstname.lastname@example.org. Forward slash podcast. And this is episode 37 with Kimberly and Johnson.
And as always, you can catch me on Instagram. If you’re not following me yet, it would be amazing. If you would do that, you can find me at, I am Lindsay lockets. And I would also just encourage you to please consider, , that it costs me time and money to produce this podcast. This is my job. This is what I do. This is how I spend my time. I don’t have another job outside of this. I don’t get up in the morning and go to work and then come home and edit podcasts. Like this is what I do.
And, I love being able to share this work with you. And I believe that nervous system education and trauma human resources should be. Available accessible, affordable and approachable, which is why this podcast is free. It will always be free. And I hope. But it will always be ad-free. However, in order to do that, it has to pay me.
And so for the cost of buying me a fancy Starbucks latte, once a month for $5 a month. You can help to support this podcast. Help me to keep having interviews with amazing people like Kimberly Ann Johnson. And putting this healing information into the world. It’s, it’s just $5 a month. If you have a few extra bucks a month, it would be amazing if you could consider partnering with me, um, and supporting me and this podcast and my time and what I’m putting into the world, because I truly believe in it. And if you believe in it too, that’s a great way to show it. So if you would like to support the podcast for $5 a month, you can go to Lindsay lockett.com forward slash circle.
And become a grateful listener. And I believe that’s all I have for today. So I will send you out with my usual outro and I will see you on the next episode, the next episode. It’s very exciting. I’ll give you a little bit of a. Trailer here I am interviewing Dr. Maria Yes. About trauma and eating disorders.
That’s all. I’ll say it’s a really, really good interview. And I’m grateful to have someone who I consider to be like one of the world’s experts on. Treating eating disorders. As a guest on the holistic trauma healing podcast. I hope you have a lovely day or nights. Wherever you are right now in the world thanks for being here