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Last Updated on October 31, 2022
Feeling anxious in your life and your business? We’re revealing the root cause of what causes anxiety and depression, why we tend to focus on the negative things in our lives, and practical advice on how to shift into feeling safe in our bodies so that we can achieve our dreams.
In our lives, even when there is so much good happening?
The answer: it’s a biological design in our nervous system to keep us safe. If you think about it, it makes sense that it was evolutionarily advantageous to remember where pain was found, whereas remembering where you encountered joy was less essential for survival.
In fact, for every negative experience, you need 3-5 positive experiences to counteract it. That’s how powerful the negativity is!
It makes total sense, but what about the implications of this on our modern-day lives? Could this have an impact on why you feel anxious?
Nowadays, we fortunately don’t often have to worry about literal survival like our ancestors did, but we still carry threats to our survival ALL the time without even realizing it.
When we get stressed in even the smallest of ways, our bodies can often respond with an overreaction (like feeling anxious, getting panic attacks, or a general feeling of constant agitation), or respond with an underreaction (like depression, numbing, or dissociation).
For example, when you’re perpetually stewing over what’s gone wrong (and worrying about what might go wrong next), it cues the body to release more stress hormones more often, which our bodies weren’t built to do.
As entrepreneurs, this has an enormous impact on our businesses! Of course, your mental health and emotional wellness play a huge role in your ability to get things done in your business and your life, while feeling joyful and on purpose.
But one sneaky thing most of us don’t realize is that we tend to overly identify with our businesses and think that we ARE our business, and that our safety comes from our business (newsflash: we aren’t and it doesn’t!).
Learning how to feel safe in our bodies and heal from past experiences is ESSENTIAL. It’s the root cause of what we need to get unstuck and start taking the steps to follow our dreams, and that’s exactly what we’re talking about today!
My guest today is Dr. Elizabeth Cohen, a clinical psychologist with over 15 years of experience specializing in the treatment of anxiety and depressive disorders. Dr. Cohen has a particular expertise in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and has treated adults, adolescents and children with state-of-the-art CBT treatments.
The underlying goal of Dr. Cohen’s practice is for clients to achieve synchronicity with the person they truly want to be. Throughout her practice, Dr. Cohen has witnessed hundreds of clients break away from the fear, worry, and despair that had once defined them. She believes that it is a unique gift to be part of their journey towards a new, healthy and fulfilling definition of who they are.
Thanks so much for joining me this week. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comment section below!
If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the bottom of the post.
Also, please leave an honest review for The Success with Soul Podcast on Apple Podcasts so we can improve and better serve you in the future. Plus, you could be featured on a future episode during our listener spotlights. Ratings and reviews are extremely helpful and greatly appreciated! They do matter in the rankings of the show, and I read each and every one of them.
And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on Apple Podcasts to get automatic updates. My goal for this podcast is to inspire those who seek flexibility and freedom in their lives by making something happen with holistic, soulful, step-by-step strategies from me and other experts.
Kate Kordsmeier 0:00
Welcome back. It's Episode 16 of the Success with Soul podcast and I'm your host, Kate Kordsmeier. Today's episode is such a good one. I say this every time but I'm so excited to share it with you. It's gonna seem a little bit, maybe out of left field. But let me just preface this by saying I invited my friend Dr. Elizabeth Cohen. She's a clinical psychologist in New York City with over 15 years experience in treating anxiety and depressive disorders. She has an expertise in cognitive behavioral therapy, and she's treated adults and teens and kids and she's got just state of the art CBT treatments. All right. She also has an amazing program called afterglow. She's known as the divorce doctor, and she really helps women reinvent their lives post divorce, but today, Elizabeth and I are talking Talking about trauma. And a lot of us over associate with that word trauma. So we're breaking down big T and little t trauma, how it affects every single one of us. And then how trauma can also affect our businesses. So we start off with some basics, like what is the central nervous system? And how can we better balance our sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. We've all heard fight, flight or freeze and we were talking about what this looks like in our business lives. And perhaps most importantly, we're talking about how this trauma lives in our bodies, not necessarily our minds, and the steps that we can take to help us feel safe, so that we're able to take those steps that we need to follow our dreams. A lot of us stay stuck in the known even if it's bad, so for example, if you can relate to hating your corporate career, but being afraid to do your own thing because it's unknown. This episode will really resonate with you. We're giving solutions for healing trauma in the body. And I think you'll be surprised at how much you actually may be able to relate to this episode. Even if you hear the word trauma and you immediately go, Oh, I haven't had anything life or death happened to me, I don't have trauma in my life. We all do. We're breaking it down exactly what this means and how it can affect our businesses and what we can do about it. So without further ado, let's get into it. You're listening to the Success with Soul podcast with Kate Kordsmeier x journalist turned CEO of a multi six figure blog and online business. But it wasn't that long ago that Kate was a struggling entrepreneur who lacked confidence, clarity, and let's be honest, the money but all those failures experiments Lessons Learned helped Kate create a thriving business that impacts thousands and brings freedom, flexibility and fulfillment to her life. If you're ready to do the same and make something happen with holistic, soulful, step by step strategies from Kate and other experts, you're in the right place. here's your host, writer, educator, Mom, recovering perfectionist, bookworm and sushi connoisseur Kate Kordsmeier. Before we jump into today's episode, I'd love to share another listener spotlight with y'all. This one comes from silly sweetie love these names. Looking forward to more she says Kate has such great advice and her voice is lovely. I love her stories and I'm looking forward to learning more from her. She is a true soul sister and I love her advice on doing less and achieving more. Thank you so much silly sweetie for this really kind review. I'm so glad the podcast is ready. nating with you. The fact that you took the time to leave your honest feedback means the world to me. In fact, if you're listening now please send me a DM on Instagram at Kate Kordsmeier. As I've got a special surprise gift I'd like to share with you as a thank you. And if you'd like to be featured in a future listener spotlight, head on over to iTunes Apple podcasts to leave a review. Your reviews are super helpful and motivating to me personally. But beyond that the reviews help with rankings, which helps others find the show and allows me to keep providing you with free content every single week. I hope to feature you on a listener spotlight soon.
Elizabeth I could not be more just so honored and excited that you're here with us today.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 4:50
Me too. I'm so happy to be here. It's an honor. Oh, thank you so much.
Kate Kordsmeier 4:56
So I have so many questions for you. You've either only known you a few months, but I feel like I've known you much, much longer. And you just are one of the most I mean, you're somebody that you meet and not in that way that's like stop psychoanalyzing me but you can just tell that you have this nurturing like therapist, mind because of the way that you are so supportive and you just really make people feel so seen and heard. And I love that about you.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 5:26
Oh, thank you so much. It's so easy to love and support someone like you, Kate See?
Kate Kordsmeier 5:33
Well, so one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is this quote that we pulled, I think it was from either an article that you wrote, or somewhere on your website, we found it now I can't remember but it goes like this. Our brains are Velcro for bad events and Teflon for good ones. This is because it was evolutionary advantageous to remember where pain was found, whereas remembering where you encountered joy was less essential for survival. And I thought that was fascinating and would love to just start off by talking about, like, tell us more. And how does this affect us in our daily lives now?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 6:14
Yeah, this is I'm so glad you pulled that out, because it's one of my favorite facts. And it's actually been supported in the research, and we know it from brain scans as well. It's really important. I've had so many clients come into my office and say, things are going so well for me, I finally have the relationship I business is doing well, why am I focusing on the one thing I can't get, which is my friend from college to decide whether she's going to come to my party or not, like why am I focused on that one negative experience. And so often people think I must be a bad person, or there must be something wrong with me. And so it's really helpful when I can say, Oh, no, that's actually designed in your nervous system to keep you safe. This was a mechanism that we had. Because when we were living in a time where we would leave our homes, and we would go to look for food, and then come back home, we needed to know where a tiger or a bear or some sort of danger was. We didn't need to know where the most beautiful lilies were, or the most beautiful roses were that didn't matter for our survival, what mattered was what might threaten our survival. So we learned to focus on the negative and it's research shows that you actually need for every negative experience that you focus on, you need anywhere from three to five positives to counteract that, because that's the power of the pole to the negative. Interesting. Yeah. And you really have to be active. It's really an active process. I think that what I like to help clients see is that it's not it's normal. You're focusing on the negative, what we need to do is do that counterbalance kind of like a seesaw of focusing on the positive so that you can see that your life is more complex than just that one pole of negativity.
Kate Kordsmeier 8:16
Yeah, I know. I mean, we're all guilty of it, but certainly myself, like, as a perfectionist to that I can go. Yeah, okay, this went really well, this launch to great, this is doing awesome. But this one little thing is, you know, and it's so easy to focus on it. So how do we actually like train our minds to shift the focus? How do I turn that negative brain off?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 8:42
Yeah. So one of the keys to changing any sort of behavior. And this comes from behavioral therapy. I'm a cognitive behavioral therapist, is to break behaviors down into repeatable, observed observable and small parts. So here's the The news, there is no magic focus on the good pill, there is no one thing you can do. There's no one retreat where you can go for a weekend and then suddenly change your perspective, you need to create a practice of checking in and touching into the positives. That's the first part about the being repetitive. The second part is it needs to be very specific. So very often in my practice, people will write say, Well, okay, so I'll assign them every night before you go to bed, write down three things that went really well for you, or that you feel like you succeeded it or is something positive, and they'll write things like I'm healthy. I have a good family. I have a roof over my head. And now those are all wonderful things that I think it's great to be grateful for. But they're not specific enough there and they also which have been talked about later, like, there's a little Bit of like survivor's guilt or guilt around that, like, how can I even be complaining because I have all these things. So I like to get people get really specific. So I live in New York City. So one of the ones I would say is like, I held the door open for somebody when they were walking into the building, or I said hello to the doorman, or I gave icontact to someone who was serving me at Starbucks. So really small, positive experiences that you did that day. Because even when you mentioned like the launch, I mean, maybe those are just too big. Maybe it has to be like I showed up, right and sent my first launch email on time, like something smaller and more specific. Yeah, yes, no.
Kate Kordsmeier 10:46
I remember last year or two years ago, I started doing that five minute gratitude journal. I don't know if you've heard of that. But it was like such an elementary practice that it's so easy to dismiss, but then when I actually started doing it, it was amazing. And they really emphasize the small that Yeah, you don't be grateful that you have a roof over your head and food to eat. I mean, of course be grateful for those things. But like, the practice is more like, be grateful that you had a really delicious cup of coffee this morning rather than the general idea of I have nourishment in my life.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 11:23
Exactly. And Kate, did you notice when I do this, I noticed that throughout the day, I start looking for those positive so it does double duty, right where it also shifts your focus.
Kate Kordsmeier 11:35
Yes, I know. And I've fallen out of the habit and every time I talk about it, I think why am I letting myself fall out of this because it really was so powerful. But yeah, when I started having to think about Okay, think of the small things, then yeah, I was noticing everything. Oh my gosh, the fireplace looks so nice and cozy right now. And like just the smallest things that normally I would just not even pay it to attention to. And it totally shifted my mindset into just a much more positive place overall.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 12:08
Yeah, and I think what it's also doing, Kate, as you say, This made me think about the fireplace is it helps you also get back into this moment, which is also not biologically helpful for survival, like planning and thinking forward. And anticipating is actually good for survival. But we don't live in a time now. All the time. Right now, we're in one of these times, but we don't live in a time where there's as much trauma around us so that we can reflect on being in the moment. And I recommend to clients like you're right. I mean, I don't know for me, when I hear five things to do, at least from my nervous system, sometimes that feels like a lot. So I really recommend to clients, just pick one, two or three things at the end of the night that you can think of in your head. You don't even have to write it down. But only there's so many behavioral strategies that are fantastic. Like There are hundreds of them. But I really want people to ask themselves what's doable for me right now? Because it's more important, as I said earlier that you can repeat it, then you do it perfectly.
Kate Kordsmeier 13:11
Yeah, that's so true. And so you mentioned central nervous system. And I feel like there's a lot of things like that those terms central nervous system fight or flight things that are thrown around a lot, but maybe people don't fully understand, like, what are we talking about when we say that? So can you kind of just give us like, what is our central nervous system? How does what does this mean?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 13:33
Absolutely. So our central nervous system involves every neuron fed goes through our entire body that picks up on any sort of information. And so our central nervous system runs from our head to our toe through our fingers. It's it's every it's throughout our entire body. So it's what I remember from high school where you learn like the circulatory system, the nervous system, the bones, system, it's kind of, if you think about a human body as having layers, which I really like to think about the nervous system is one of the layers and there's the musculature. There's the bones, there's the skin. So there's all these different layers. And the nervous system is the programming that allows us to interpret, threat, interpret, approach, basically approach or avoidance. So it's a pretty simple system in the sense that it only has approach and avoidance, but it can get very complicated. There are there are two main parts of the CNS of the central nervous system, we have something called the sympathetic nervous system, which is our nervous system that responds to stress. So the part of us that adrenaline starts rushing when you let's say, you hear thunder and you weren't expecting it, or you hear the screeching of a car tires, that kind of rush of fear. That's your sympathetic nervous system. And that involves neurotransmitters like cortisol and adrenaline. And it's supposed to be pretty much short lived. It's a short kind of quick response of Oh, something's going on, orienting to what's going on and then taking some sort of protective action. Again, remember, it's all to protect you. And then the parasympathetic nervous system, which a lot of people refer to as the rest and digest is where we ideally are more of the time, which is just kind of coasting through feeling safe, feeling comfortable doing what we have to do. The other endorphins for that are oxytocin, there's, there's other neurotransmitters that are involved in parasympathetic. So we really want to spend more time and kind of the ease in somatic experiencing, which is one of the treatments I do we talk about kind of having these peaks of some stress and then being able to go back to feeling calm. So again, you hear tires on your street and you look out your window, so you have some intense anxiety thinking, Oh my gosh, I hope that The person who just left my house is okay, you notice everything's okay. And your anxiety goes down and your stress response goes down and you kind of level off. And so ideally, we want to be able to have peaks when they're appropriate and go down. And the people that I work with who have trauma usually are in one or two places, which is either they're too high on the sympathetic. So these are people who are having anxiety and panic attacks, feeling constantly agitated. That's one response where you kind of never getting to go down. But interestingly, you can also be overly down into the sympathetic, and that looks more like depression, numbing dissociation. So the nervous system and how you're responding really can dictate what emotional expression you're having.
Kate Kordsmeier 16:56
Yeah, so interesting. And I mean, it makes sense that like If you were at a peak that that would make you more irritable and like short tempered, and that's where I fall more so. But in the moment, I'm not thinking, Oh, I'm, I'm reacting this way because I'm in this like peak adrenaline phase, right? And I think because sometimes it's hard for us to know because, like you said, the normal kind of like healthy way to be would be that you have these peaks when appropriate, but then we come back down. But I think so many of us go up and never come back down. And we're just like living our whole lives at this peak, high cortisol, high adrenaline, and it becomes our new normal that we don't even realize. We're that way until our body really starts screaming at us, which is what happened to me started having panic attacks and saying like, you can't live like this.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 17:54
Exactly. I talked to a lot of clients about overriding that we actually override the cue that something is too much for us. We don't listen to that natural message and it sounds like that happened for you, Kate have I need to slow down, or my nervous system is taking in too much, you think I can just do a little bit more and a little bit more and a little bit more. And so one thing that I like to suggest to people because I'm sure the question is coming out of Okay, so what do you do if you have one of those peaks? And so there's a few things that you can do similarly to the example about hearing the car tires outside is you can stop and orient yourself to where you are. So as you know, Kate, one of my favorite tricks is to look around the room and ask yourself to name two things that are blue, three things that are red, and one thing that's yellow, to orient yourself to where you are. It's the same way that when you open the window to see if if there was a car accident that you look to see is anyone hurt is there smoke is Their fire. It's the same type of what we call orienting. So you orient to where you are, which will help ground you. And then you can ask yourself, and I usually put a hand on my heart, you know, am I in any danger right now? Because remember, your nervous system is feeling like there's some sort of danger, right? It's like, okay, yeah, well, I might not get this email out on time. Okay. Right. I mean, just to just to kind of give your system the like, okay, but I'm still safe. I'm out. You know, I'm in my house. I'm okay.
Kate Kordsmeier 19:36
Yeah, yeah. I'm so glad you mentioned that example, because I had a note to bring it up and say that that was something you taught me, so helpful to me. I have a lot of triggers of driving and feeling stuck somewhere something and I'll start feeling panicked. And it's so frustrating to me because I'm such a logical person, that when I start feeling these physical panics you know, in my body that my head is going, what are you doing? Like what's wrong with you? Nothing, you're not in danger. Nothing is wrong, like, stop it. But obviously, not only is that not a kind way to speak to yourself, but it doesn't actually solve the problem and what you taught me the counting colors and a lot of I know there's other people and I'm sure you do this to where they would say, like, do your five senses. What do you smell? What do you see? What do you feel? And that helped, but it didn't distract me enough, I think. And maybe that's not the goal. But that's how I felt was like I did. I didn't feel fully embodied at that point. But when you had me stop and really count and it was so specific, like oh, okay, and all of a sudden, like all those hormones and everything would start coming down and my body would start relaxing.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 20:56
Yeah, it's a trick to get the parasympathetic nervous system back. online. So essentially, remember, we're really just talking about a balance between sympathetic and parasympathetic. And so it feel incredibly overwhelming. But there's a few things. One of the things that kicks parasympathetic back on is to connect to other people. So to call a friend to hear another person's voice, facial gestures, any sort of movement, because think about it, right? When you're in the fight, flight or freeze, you're tight, you're constricted, and so even just kind of moving slowly, can kick up the parasympathetic nervous system. Mm hmm. There's a lot that we can do in our body.
Kate Kordsmeier 21:40
Yeah, well, that's what I was gonna say is you mentioned somatic experience before and I know that's a lot about movement and in your body. So can you tell us more about how you use that as a tool?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 21:51
Sure. So you had a great example of, you know, when you were in the car and you're telling yourself there's nothing to be worried about. There's no problem. Hear You know that your thoughts were going and were right and correct, but it wasn't shifting you emotionally. And that was my experience as a cognitive behavioral therapist that I had a lot of clients who I worked with who would say, I get it. Now, I know my thoughts are rational, but I just don't feel it in my body. And that's when I decided I wanted to do some further training in this body based work. And what I learned is that the fight flight or freeze response can basically get stuck in our bodies. So let's say in your situation, you started getting you had a experience where you got felt stuck and you felt trapped, and you kind of talked yourself down and got home and then went and did everything else, right. You had a fight flight freeze response that you kind of didn't allow to move through you. It's a very funny concept that the example they give, there's a great book, it's called. I love this book. It's called why zebras don't Get ulcers are so great. It's so great because zebras in the desert in the Sahara are constantly under threat, like more threat than we're under all the time, except you don't see them sitting on therapists couches like right? Like they just. And the reason that is, is because they have a threat, they flee, or they freeze and play dead. And then once the threat has moved on, they kind of have you ever watched those great videos and they shake it out, they move it through their body. And you I'm sure you've seen that also, like sometimes if you if you ever had a cat and you were like chasing a mouse that plays dead, and then it dropped the mouse because they think it's dead and prey doesn't like to eat dead time predators like to eat dead prey, and then the mouse will just like shake it all off and like shakes off that energy and then can continue moving through their life. So that's why zebras don't get ulcers. And so the idea is, how can we do this? How can we allow them adrenaline rush, and really shake it out of us so that we can go back into that parasympathetic space instead of holding on to it. So I work with a lot of people who have had experiences that triggered a feeling of being trapped a feeling of threat to their life, either early on in their life or throughout their life, like with an ad with a car accident. But the you know, there's this idea that we've all had some sort of traumatic experience. And so it can be a small t trauma, it can or it can be a big t trauma, but we've all especially, you know, we've all experienced different kinds of trauma and have we fully allowed that to move through our body, and if we haven't, then it might keep picking its head up at different times.
Kate Kordsmeier 24:51
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I am new to this but I learned about the shake it off at our mastermind retreat in February I think or maybe when maybe our first call or something but our leader Kate Northrup, she had us all stand up and you know, start shaking out your wrist and kicking your legs and moving your body and you feel really silly doing it and then afterwards you're like, Oh my gosh, like this big release feeling. So I started doing that a lot more. And then also, I love the kind of big t little t trauma. And this was also i'm sure you knew about this way before, but I learned of it when we read the book, patriarchy, stress disorder. And I think trauma is such a word that people over what's the, like the connotation means like, a your life had to seriously be at risk in order to call it trauma. So just having a fight with a somebody that you love, or, you know, being scared of getting sick during the COVID pandemic, or whatever, like, that's not trauma that's just like a regular stressor. But when I started shifting my mentality and saying, no, it is a form of trauma, and then you could address it as such, it was so much, you know, so powerful. So I'd love to hear more about how you work with clients with big t little t trauma and yeah, there's more, more About little stuff, because I think we all diminish it. Like if I wasn't like raped or murdered, it doesn't count.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 27:07
Absolutely. And part of that is the responsibility of my, you know, field of clinical psychology and psychiatry, which is that we have these very rigid labels for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. Now I understand why we have those that was because, you know, if I had a client and they were in a hospital, we needed to quickly be able to communicate about their diagnosis. So I get the value of labels, but there's a lot of problems with them too. And to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there is a list of experiences you could have had. But the most important thing is that you had to feel your life had to be threatened. I believe that trauma is when you feel like your life was threatened. It doesn't have to be that it was actually threatened. And so California has this amazing questionnaire that now which is amazing they give to everyone. It's called the app. adverse childhood experience scale. And it has a beautiful, beautiful questions that really take into consideration that when you're in a vulnerable position as a systemically oppressed person, as a woman, as a child, your life is in the hands of other people.
Kate Kordsmeier 28:23
So depending on how the other people react, you will feel threatened.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 28:29
Mm hmm. Your life will feel like it's in danger. So, if you had a parent, for example, and this is very often in my practice, who didn't show up emotionally in a way that you needed, either minimized your feelings or shamed you for having feelings that could feel like a threat to your existence, because that was the only person you had. Who was keeping you alive. Uh huh. Yeah. And what happened I see a lot of my practice is that people develop these amazing survival strategies to live through that. So if you have a parent, for example, who's going to minimize your feelings, you're going to get really good at not having a ton of feelings. Because that's good. You can't question or challenge the person literally who is feeding you. Right? So you need to find a way to make that situation in that environment work for you. Now, fast forward, you come into my office, you're in a relationship and your partner saying I never know what you want. You say you want one thing but you seem to want another and then you get mad at me. And then I can start talking about Oh, okay, so what's coming up for you? When your partner asks if you want you know, Chinese or Italian, and it's that same trauma feeling of I cannot say what I want otherwise in my life will be in danger.
Kate Kordsmeier 30:00
I think what's so fascinating about this is that their life wasn't in danger. And like on paper, you know, they weren't being abused. They weren't, it wasn't something like that we typically would think of as trauma, but in our body, way we internalize it, it becomes that.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 30:22
Exactly. And even more. So it's sometimes more confusing, because people are telling you, you have such a great life. Right, and that your parents are so great. And that every and you're thinking, yeah, but they don't really see all of me, right. They don't really see all of me. And so now when I have to be all of me, it's feels threatening to my life. So that gets triggered. The thing I have to remind myself and my clients all the time, is that if you're not aligned with your parents, your life is in danger. I mean, we know because we have kids like they rely on us for everything.
Kate Kordsmeier 31:00
Yeah, that's so true. And I know when I had my first kid Jackson on paper, and I'm sure if you asked any of the doctors or anybody that was involved with the hospital with my birth, if I had a healthy delivery, they would all say yes, absolutely. You know, she was very safe and uncomplicated the whole time. But I ended up having so much trauma to work through. And it took me a long time to even call it that because of exactly what you're saying this like, almost guilt of saying, well, I had a healthy baby, and we both survived. And on paper, it all went fine. So what am I upset about? You know, like, it could have been so much worse. And I read this book called The fourth trimester. That was phenomenal. And it wasn't really until I read it that I fully understood. Kind of what I was feeling And that once again, once I was able to sort of identify it as trauma, I was able to work through it in a way that I couldn't have. When I was just telling myself, you know, you both survived, you're both healthy. That's all you can ask for. I have this quote from the book that I still go back to in reference, and it says, I mean, this is all about childbirth. So this is a little different, but it's between 25 and 34% of women report that their children's birth was traumatic, even though the staff and their support team may not perceive it that way. Birth trauma includes more than just danger of death to mother or baby. It also includes physical injuries and the perception of danger as well as feelings of extreme fear aloneness, disrespect, lack of control or helplessness, when we only think of a major catastrophe, death or accident as trauma, the smaller but also significant, under justed pieces are left untreated and dismissed all together, then women may blame themselves for an inability to move on or feel satisfied about a birth that everyone else thinks went great. And I think that applies to so much more besides birth. But it's really helped me to be like, Oh, it's these feelings of fear. I was very scared, even though the doctors may have known everything's fine.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 33:27
Exactly. Well, it's using the outcome as a measure of how you should feel. So it's losing all of this experience that you had leading up to it. People do this all the time. I mean, even the first question people say, like, you know, I had I had gotten a fender bender at a car accident. Oh, did anybody get hurt? No. Okay, good. And then it's like it's over. But right. It was terrifying. It came out of nowhere. I wasn't sure what was happening. I wasn't sure if I was okay. There's a whole host of experiences just like with childbirth, that we're missing. And I think that when we focus only on the outcome we miss so much. And I think also dismiss people's experiences that then as she said beautifully, is not digested and gets stuck in your body and comes out sideways. So it's my I feel like it's a gift that I can give to people to start understanding why what feels irrational is not really irrational. It worked for them for a really long time. It's just not working right now anymore.
Kate Kordsmeier 34:30
Right, exactly. So how does healing this trauma, whether it's big T or a little t that we all have in some way? How can we relate this to like improving our business? How can healing it help us? You know, maybe it's holding us back in a way in our business that we haven't even realized?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 34:51
Definitely, I think one of the main ways trauma rears its ugly head. Remember, fight, flight or freeze are in those three ways. The biggest One that I've maybe this is just because what I've experienced is is like reactivity, like responding to an email too fast, firing somebody too fast. Anything too fast, like this kind of impulsive response to cut out to anger, that kind of fight response can cause a lot of disequilibrium in a business. So that's, that's one, the flight is the same thing. So avoiding emails that you have, avoiding meetings, not looking at your finances. So if you're stuck in flight, or again, or if you're stuck in stuck in fight, it's gonna have an impact on your business for sure. Same with freeze. Right? And so, by working through your trauma, Kate, what I would say is you are allowing yourself to be fully present in your business, so that your business doesn't feel like a threat, because I've seen that in a lot of clients the success or the, you know, struggle of a business. It's becoming their survival.
Kate Kordsmeier 36:04
Tell me more. What do you mean?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 36:06
Well, that either this launch goes beautifully or I'm a piece of crap. Ah, yeah, this is like, right. You heard it. Right. So this Oh, this is like anthropomorphize like putting this need to feel valid and to be safe in your business. Like, you know, there's some there are numbers, there's money that you need to have to feel safe. And that's that's can be a real threat. And we're going through that now with a lot of people struggling with that. But as far as how many or maybe a better example is like how many Facebook likes you get or how many Instagram likes, like, that is not a sense of your safety. And I know I'm sure you've done this too. I have worked from places of lack of safety in my business, and they've been terrible. You know, clients that come in twice a week instead of once a week because I was afraid of the money like they never came back because they Feel like?
Kate Kordsmeier 37:01
Yeah, I can always tell when I'm operating from that, like desperate, you know, that place of desperation in my business and that like lack feeling of oh my gosh, I'm so scared of what might happen. Like, let's just throw a bunch of stuff out there and see, and it's like, that's never gonna work.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 37:20
Yeah, and that's a trauma response. That is a feeling of my life is in danger. I have to do everything I can to save it. And the truth is that it's not in danger in that way. And maybe you need to look at what is really at at risk, and what is not at risk. But my sense is all the people I know who do that. It's not a real threat.
Kate Kordsmeier 37:41
Right, right. So you said something, though, about feeling safe in your business. And I know like we just said financial stress or abundance can affect that. But I've also heard a lot of especially female business owners, or aspiring entrepreneurs, they do Don't feel safe to be seen, even like they don't even want to start their business or become more visible because it doesn't feel safe to them.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 38:09
Do you see when you brought that up? Yeah, I'm so glad you brought that up. I mean, I see that a lot. I see it, you probably see it in a different way than I do. I see it and people in my practice in New York City who are deeply stuck in corporate America, who hate it, and can't even imagine anything different. They just can't imagine their ability, they can't see their light. They can't see their capacity to have something so much brighter and so much more amazing. I see way too much. And their light being dimmed, I do believe is related to the trauma of being a woman and then they put themselves in a circumstance that's familiar because the devil we know is better than the devil we don't. That continues to say that. So they're the only woman on the team. You know, they're working places where they're not where it's confirmed. That they shouldn't be visible.
Kate Kordsmeier 39:01
Right? And this was something that really resonated with me when we read the patriarchy stress disorder book because Dr. Valerie, the author, she talks about this concept of it is a traumatic experience to be a woman. And when she first said that I kind of rolled my eyes and was like, Oh, come on, it's 2020. Like, we got it. And then I kept reading and was like, we so don't have it. What am I thinking? And yeah, tell us more about the collective trauma of being a woman. I mean, I think the way she phrased it that spoke to me a lot is that we have been conditioned literally since the beginning of time that we are worth less than a man. But there's a lot of other things that go into that, too. So most of I mean, I know. And so I'd love to touch on this.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 39:53
Oh, great there. Most of your listeners were great. I just want you to think and you're a woman. So you'll feel this in a moment. Like how do you Feel walking down a quiet street with nobody around? Just notice what you feel in your body at night in the dark. Yeah, exactly. I don't want to do
Kate Kordsmeier 40:08
it. I'm constantly looking over my shoulder. I like think about Okay, I'll get my keys out. I'll you know, just in case. Yeah,
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 40:16
exactly. So I have like, chills moving up my body which is a sign of anxiety, anxiety goes up and the stress response goes up and the relaxation response goes down. So I can feel that already. Because I know what that's like so much as women, all the women listening I'm sure can feel it in their body like that. We carry that threat to our survival all the time.
Kate Kordsmeier 40:40
Yeah, all the time. unconscious. It's like we don't even realize we're doing it.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 40:45
Exactly. So that is a threat that we constantly have. So when something happens, birth trauma, or we're afraid that someone might be sick and we're not sure if they're sick, it's piling on top of that already. Ready, scared space that we just live in. Same way people of color feel this hyper vigilance, this need to constrict. So we just when we have something difficult happen, it's just on top of that it's layered on top. Uh huh. And my men men walk down the street, particularly white men, even the most loving and accepting and beautiful ones, they do not feel that same threat. So when something traumatic happens to them, like a pandemic, they're not coming into that with some other layers that have already been there for a long time. Right,
Kate Kordsmeier 41:40
right, exactly. And this could be something small too. It could be your boss. You know, dismissing your ideas and meetings or never addressing you directly but addressing your male counterpart or something that's small and almost so subtle that if you're not paying attention You not even notice it, but it's layers and layers and builds.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 42:05
Exactly. And I think they're small. So again, small teas, big teas. I mean, I think that both of us are surrounded by such smart and powerful women. You know, I don't work with a ton of men in my practice. So you would think that I have this example again, like the Velcro, like I'm taking in all these powerful women. But again, some of the stats she shares there, I look on the television and I see the people in power are not women. Or I know that there's only 40 women in the Forbes 500 who are CEOs, right. So I have that same feeling, again, of fear that runs out my body when I say that, but even if we in our small collective feel supported by our partners, by women, we still know that we don't have as much power and and that we carry that in our bodies all the time. And so what Dr. Valerie talks about, and What I think is really important is that we have to recognize that it's in our bodies, because as you said, it's unconscious. It's not like if someone said to you like, how do you think the fact that there are only 40 CEOs, you know, who are women in this whole country, in the whole world, like, how would you feel? And you'd be like, I think that sucks, but I'm fine. But actually, physiologically, it's having an effect on you. It might be having an effect on who you decide to hire. This is an interesting thing with business. I did want to talk about this. If it's if it's okay, because it's a business related thing, which is that one thing I have found that is so fascinating, Kate, is that very often, you create a team that looks very similar to your family of origin.
Kate Kordsmeier 43:40
This is very interesting. Oh, turning now.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 43:47
Exactly. So think about it our or, like these unconscious choices. There was a great article years ago about the nannies that you pick to, or the helpers you pick for your kids. They're either like Depending on your relationship with your mom, they're like your mom and just think about all the people that we bring into our lives, that those choices are sometimes driven by trauma, and certainly driven by unconscious choices. Because I have people say in my office, my boss, he's so controlling, he wants to do everything. And I think that is your mom like you are working with your mom. Right? So you think of so it might be curious for some of your listeners to think about the person who's most difficult for you right now in your work. And the one who's working really well and who do they remind you of? Because it might be coming as a lesson for that for something that you can work through.
Kate Kordsmeier 44:41
Yeah, that is really interesting. I'm, and I like what you said to on a on the related note about I can't remember the exact expression but the devil of the unknown is worse than the known or something like that. Because I think that is so true. When I hear people who are miserable in their corporate careers. And I'm like, the answer is so clear to me. Why aren't you leaving? There's so much for you to do. And I mean, of course, there's probably a million reasons, but I think a lot of it is that feeling of safety of, well, at least here, even though I may feel threatened, I may feel dismissed, I may feel horrible. I know that I'm going to feel those things. But if I leave, and I start my own thing, I don't know what's gonna happen. And that feels somehow worse. Exactly. Well, it brings us right back to where we started about the idea of the survival of the good is Teflon and the bad is Velcro. Like if we know what's coming up, even if it's bad, we can predict it and we can protect our nervous system. We don't know what will happen if I take that big leap and do that dream. We don't know we can't predict the danger there. So either we're not going to do it. Or when we do it, we're going to try to find all the danger places of it. to figure it out. Yeah,
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 46:01
Kate Kordsmeier 46:07
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okay, how do we break this cycle? How do we get it out of our bodies? We talked about shaking it off. What are some other things we can do?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 47:18
Yeah. So there's one of the things I was just thinking about this was this this conversation and books like Dr. Valerie's and reading about there's a great book called The body holds the score by Bessel Bessel Vander kolk. There's a book by the person who I was trained by called Waking the tiger whose name is Peter Levine. So getting more aware of the physiological experience that you're having is really important. Because it just puts you into a very kind of clear space of like, what, what do I need right now? So I would, I would, I think reading about it, reminding yourself that are really our body has a reason And our thoughts interpret it. Not the other way around.
Asking and checking in with your body a lot.
Kate Kordsmeier 48:11
Yeah, you always are encouraging me to do this. And I have a hard time with it. Because you'll say sometimes like, where do you feel it in your body? Like, I don't know. It's like I'm so outside of checking in with my body and really being in tune with it that I don't even know how to. You know how to answer the question, but I think it's from lack of practice.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 48:33
Yeah, I think you can practice some people are better than others. I think I gave you this suggestion. Sometimes you can think of an image too. You can imagine kind of what you're going through and watching yourself on a screen and kind of seeing what that images and what your how your body might be contorted. So sometimes it's just hard to turn in, you need to look out, but you want to just remember that your body is the vessel that's holding a lot of the emotions and that you're it's not necessarily only your mind So being Yeah, being aware of that is is really important. Any sort of breathing technique, you know, so lots of belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, I think there's like this for square breathing a lot. There's lots of different kinds of reading. So basically all of those are trying to put an equilibrium in your nervous system. So those are really beautiful. Any sort of breathwork is really a great idea.
Kate Kordsmeier 49:26
Yeah, I love this very, very simple breath work of just make your exhale two times longer than your inhale. So whether you're in house, inhale for four through your nose, exhale for eight out your mouth, or inhale for two out for four, whatever it might be. That like, immediately calms me down. Amazing. Such a simple, simple thing.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 49:52
Yeah, I think that's actually physiologically just turning on the parasympathetic nervous system. So it is tapping. That's the whole thing around tapping it Basically bringing bringing on the parasympathetic nervous system. So that's another great tool to use any sort of, there's a ton of them, but any sort of body based intervention is great. And you have to find, as I said, with the gratitude list, like you have to find the right one for you. So for me, it's yoga and movement. For some other people, it's breath work. And then if you're really fine that you continually find yourself in a situation that feels uncomfortable, or you're having trouble enjoying many things in your life, you can come to someone like me as the Matic therapist, and we can do some work specifically on isolating those traumas, and then actively working it through your body. Just some examples. Like if anyone has ever felt, feeling the feeling of being trapped, we can do a lot of sessions with just kind of like a movement of pushing away. You know, we can really kind of tailor it to your specific struggles, some of this work and tapping. That's more general How to get the parasympathetic nervous system on, which is great. But if you have this sense after listening to this talk that there's something you really need to work through, I would recommend reaching out to a professional who can help you with that. And the cool thing is, it doesn't take very long, it can be six to eight sessions where you can just do some really good work around that event.
Kate Kordsmeier 51:18
Yeah, that's great. And you have a virtual practice so people can reach out to you no matter where they live.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 51:26
Exactly. I'm available. And it's what's really cool is you can still do it virtually, like sometimes you feel like you have to do it in the session. But you can really, you can really co regulate, which is means figure out what another person's nervous system is feeling. Over video, I was just doing a session this morning with someone and I could feel so strongly her left leg really wanted pressure. And I asked her I said just because my left leg felt that way. And I said do you finish it? Oh my god, he Yes. And so you can really pick up on someone's
Yeah, you can really pick up on someone's nervous system if you're taught how to do that. Pretty much beautifully.
Kate Kordsmeier 52:01
I love that. That's so cool. So before we wrap up here, because I know we're coming up on the end, but uh, two questions, I guess one is, and you mentioned social media and how likes and comments and that kind of stuff can can cause all kinds of trauma and negative emotions and stress and all that. So, obviously, I think everybody listening can relate to that. Do you have any tips for healthier social media or technology habits as a whole? And just like, how to avoid that comparison trap?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 52:33
Yeah. So first, I want to go back to the biology. So when we were living at times where we it was safe to be in a group. If we were different than a group, then we were at risk because if we were, let's say slower, so we couldn't keep up. They would, they would just leave us behind because we it was all about survival. So being on the outs not being part of a group, physiologically feels like another thing. threat to our survival. So when we don't feel the same as others, we can have this physiological response of, oh my god, my life is in danger. I need to either like Hurry up and get part of that group or give up completely. And I believe that's a physiological response that happens when you're on social media, and you are comparing yourself to other people.
Kate Kordsmeier 53:22
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 53:23
So the truth is, we can never I say this clients all the time, we can't compare our insides to somebody else's outside. Because all we're seeing is the outside. We don't know what's happening on the inside. And so we just know, kind of what I suggest to my clients is just know you're going in for some discomfort. It's like if you go to McDonald's, like you go to McDonald's because they have the best friggin fries. But you know, it's terrible for you.
Like you just know. So just know that going on social media is probably not so good for your nervous system, but you might still do it. Yeah, it's just being honest. Being honest with yourself, you know?
Kate Kordsmeier 54:04
Yeah, definitely. I I have, like many I'm sure such a love hate relationship. And I often think like, man, if I didn't have to be on it for my business, I wouldn't. And then sometimes I go, Do I really have to be on it for my business? Like, is this just something I'm telling myself, but the truth of the matter is I could have a perfectly successful business without being on Instagram, three hours a day, probably. We could
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 54:34
test that out. You're about to be able to test that out with your Yeah, that's true. Hey. Yeah. So you know, just being aware. I think it's just being being aware and making conscious choices and saying, like, sometimes I just want to go for that thing that's gonna make me feel worse, but just know that that's what you're doing.
Kate Kordsmeier 54:54
Yeah, I think when you have that like it, there's the intention behind it and you're aware like You said that, that makes all the difference and you just go, okay. I'm not going to feel good after this and then maybe even having that thought before you do it will actually sometimes stop you and go Okay, then why am I doing this? Now? I'm just gonna put this down.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 55:14
Exactly one of the questions I always ask people to ask themselves, same thing that you do with mindful eating is how am I feeling right now? What do I actually need?
And every time for me, I feel like what do I need? I think it's like, I need a hug. I don't know why I go to Instagram for that. But I actually need some,
Kate Kordsmeier 55:35
like, I need a punch in the gut. Great. Not
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 55:40
exactly. So it's like I put my phone down. I'm like, Okay, I'm gonna go ask for a hug then. So really to ask yourself what you need before you take that move.
Kate Kordsmeier 55:49
Yeah, I know so many of us and myself included, like, well, I often do it. What do I need right now? I got I'm just bored. I just kind of want something to do. But I don't really want to have to think about anything.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 56:03
So here's the thing. That is a freeze response. So that is fight flight or freeze. That's a freeze response. So I would recommend that when you feel bored, you get on that beautiful bouncy ball you have you do a little shaking, you move your body. I bet you'll move through that freeze and you'll find something you want to do.
Kate Kordsmeier 56:22
Oh, okay, I'm gonna test that out. Yeah, no, you will. Yeah, time of this recording. I'm 37 weeks pregnant. So I'm often found bouncing on my ball.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 56:36
Kate Kordsmeier 56:37
So this has been so great. I could talk to you for so many more hours, but we wrap up by asking the same five questions to everybody and so they're just kind of like quick lightning round. Don't overthink it. What is your favorite way to make time for self care?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 56:54
Sexy dancing, sensual dancing. I was gonna say I know she's gonna say
Kate Kordsmeier 57:05
Yes, I love it.
So, do you have like a thing that you do?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 57:10
Or Yeah, so I highly recommend. I mean, I living in New York City when I can go to dance classes, there's a class called s factor that is my favorite. But I now because I can't go, due to the pandemic, I just put on some sexy Spotify music and just dance as much as I can around my house.
Kate Kordsmeier 57:29
I love it. And your kids are probably like, what is mommy doing?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 57:32
Oh, they're always like, Mom, do you need more shoes for your pole dancing class? I mean, they're always like, they're my booty shorts. Yeah, so pleasure. I lean into pleasure, any sort of pleasure. I think that's one of the keys for running a good business and a good heart.
Kate Kordsmeier 57:48
Yes, I love that. Okay, what is one tool or strategy that you use to help with time management.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 57:55
I use energy cycling for my life. Don't I'll do all patient In the morning and do things in the afternoon that are easier. So I definitely do that. I think I'm a natural born Scheduler. In fact, I think the better question is like, how do I not schedule? That's what I need to work on.
Kate Kordsmeier 58:13
Yeah. Over scheduled I can relate to that for sure. Yeah. Okay, what we've talked about a lot of awesome books. So it may be one of those we've heard. But do you have like a favorite, a favorite book? That's been the most powerful business mindset book you've ever read?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 58:32
Yes, I would say, too, but I would say radical acceptance by Tara Brock.
Kate Kordsmeier 58:38
Oh, okay. That's a new one to me. I haven't read that. dense, asking all these questions every week to people and like, my reading list is so long now.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 58:48
Oh, great. I hope you share that with everyone. I'd love to see the reading list. I listen to the podcast but it sounds like a great reading lists.
Kate Kordsmeier 58:55
Yeah, I should. I'll have to put together like one document that has all the books Okay, what is one of your favorite quotes or mantras or affirmations that you tell yourself in your business?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 59:08
It is safe to be successful.
Kate Kordsmeier 59:11
Oh, that's beautiful. I love that. I love that very fitting to. Okay, last question, What does Success with Soul mean to you?
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 59:28
I would say being fully integrated, this idea of integration of having your entire life be driven by your heart and
to let go of the trauma to not have
you know, your soul is not traumatized. Your body has gone through a trauma but your soul is pure. So it's like this magical pure
balm for business. Just clarity and peace.
Kate Kordsmeier 1:00:01
Yeah, I love that so beautiful. Thank you for coming on today I like I said, I keep this going for hours. Let everybody know where they can follow you and find you.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 1:00:12
Yeah, you can find me on Instagram and Facebook as the divorce doctor. And my website is Dr. Elizabeth Cohen comm which you can find that information, my practice and about my divorce programs there.
Kate Kordsmeier 1:00:23
Yes, also you have a beautiful program called afterglow, which is like the best name ever.
Dr. Elizabeth Cohen 1:00:29
Thank you. Yeah, I have a program for women post divorce to know that this next chapter can be beautiful, even though it can be a traumatic experience, how to work through and move through this chapter so that you can have the best life after it's called. Yeah.
Kate Kordsmeier 1:00:45
Beautiful. I love it. Thank you. Thank you. Okay.
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We are an LGBTQIA-affirming, interfaith-oriented, diverse organization. We are committed to social and environmental justice, including civil rights, dismantling systems of oppression like the Patriarchy, White Supremacy and Diet Culture. We believe Black Lives Matter.