In my last email I shared part 1 of this story about how money trauma blocked me from paying myself in my own business, which led to huge conflicts in my marriage and seemed impossible to overcome.
In mid-2020 I learned about a somatic therapy modality called Somatic Experiencing when Luis Mojica taught a workshop to my online community.
His story of healing trauma and his live demonstration working with someone who had been in a bike accident blew my mind, and within weeks I started seeing a Somatic Experiencing therapist.
What even is trauma anyways?
Nearly every session with my therapist centered on money because money triggered SO MUCH STRESS in my life!
What made somatic therapy different was that we were able to work directly with my body and nervous system to disentangle the sticky threads of trauma that would involuntarily trigger my body to feel like it was going to die if I were to get paid.
Your body’s nervous system is always unconsciously scanning your internal and external environments for signs of safety or threat.
When your body believes it is safe, then you feel at ease, creative, confident, energized, a sense of connection, and more fulfillment. Your body rests, digests optimally and repairs damages big and small.
We NEED to feel safe in order to feel ALIVE and be healthy.
When your body believes it is threatened it will very quickly, and beyond your conscious awareness or control, choose a method to protect itself, such as fight, flight, freeze, or appease/fawn.
If your body senses that you are facing certain death and there is no chance of escape, it will go into an extreme state I call shutdown mode.
While we need threat responses to protect us from danger, we also need to be able to return to a sense of safety.
Trauma happens when our bodies don’t know or remember how to return to safety after a threat response, and instead, stay looping in that threat response.
If we are always in a threat response, then our bodies don’t get to rest, digest, and repair. And we never feel the aliveness and ease that comes from being in a state of safety.
Healing trauma involves guiding the body to build a bridge from a looping threat response back to safety.
Creating a connection from a looping threat response back to safety is the healing, but it takes time.
Each somatic therapy session would leave me feeling a little more relieved, yet after 16 months of therapy I was still stuck in a life-threat response of shutting down in response to having to earn money.
It all came to a head when my business partner, husband, and I set a deadline where I would have to get paid in my business by the end of 2021, or I would have to get a job.
This was terrifying to me.
Having lived in constant exhaustion caused by shutdown mode for so much of my life, I also feared that I didn’t have the physical capacity to work hard enough to get paid a living wage in a “normal” job.
But I also couldn’t continue working without pay.
There’s no certain timeline to healing, especially with deeply rooted trauma such as the life threat I was feeling around earning money.
At this point I had enrolled in a trauma-informed business coaching program with Kat Lee (which was an amazing help on my journey), was seeing my somatic therapist weekly, and was having intermittent couples therapy sessions with my husband’s therapist.
I failed to reach my income goal by our agreed upon deadline.
It was during a couple’s therapy session in January 2021, that I experienced what I call a “critical mass of safety”, where my body finally felt like it was safe, not life threatening, for me to earn money.
In that session I expressed how I felt like even if I were to earn money, it wouldn’t be mine to do what I wanted with. On hearing this, my husband was able to wholeheartedly assure me he was in support of me having control over the money I earned.
This one little piece was the last pin holding the life-threat response in place in my body, and it all came tumbling down in a few minutes of being met with the support and care my wounded inner child needed.
Decades of helplessness dissolved inside me while I ugly cried in a huge emotional release.
I didn’t yet know I had reached a critical mass of safety, yet within days I felt so different and good.
I had more energy, courage, confidence, and ease.
I started preparing my resume to get a marketing job.
Then the universe’s mysterious ways brought me opportunities and ideas to make money in methods that I wouldn’t have sought out, and yet were perfect for the intersection of my skills, passions, physical and energetic capacities, integrity, and what people were willing to pay for.
A past advertising client from my business reached out about working with me 1:1 for marketing coaching.
Had I been stuck in my trauma story of “I have to fix all their life’s problems in order for them to pay me,” which is one way my life-threat response to earning money would present itself, I would have said no.
Instead, I felt confident and excited about helping them and said yes!
Then I proposed an offer to another advertising client that I thought could benefit from my coaching, and I made an offer to a past client that I had coached through multiple successful launches.
They were both thrilled about my offers and signed up to work with me!
With finesse and ease, not force and “figuring it out”, I reached my monthly income goal days after hitting that critical mass of safety around earning money.
It was MAGICAL.
But it wasn’t just magic.
It was many privileges that enabled me to have more access to resources and income, while also not being burdened by very real life-threats that marginalized people feel every day in our toxic societal systems.
It was years of building my skill sets around messaging, creating and selling dozens of my own and other peoples’ offers, growing audiences in weird niches, and marketing with real integrity.
It was years of therapy, coaching, and persistence through moments of despair.
And it was the magic of building a bridge from threat response back to safety, where all that energy my body was using to protect me turned into energy towards being creative, making connections, taking healthy risks, and trying new things.
Many people don’t face life-threat responses in their everyday lives as I did, but they do experience less-intense threat responses around putting themselves out there, regardless of whether or not they’re confident that they can really help people in their business and have a positive impact on the world.
Our body’s threat responses are on a spectrum from something being “kind of irritating and inhibiting wellbeing” to something being registered as a life-threat leading to CERTAIN DEATH.
Trauma rooted in threat responses that fall outside of the life-threat zone and closer to the “kind of irritating and inhibiting wellbeing” zone don’t take as long to heal as my life-threat money trauma took.
In business (and creative expression) these threat responses can show up as staying small, imposter syndrome, procrastination, perfectionism, feeling icky about marketing, lack of confidence, anxiety, and fears around rejection, being judged, failing, etc.
Have you felt these things in your business or creative expression?
Threat responses are inescapable, but you don’t have to get stuck in them.
What matters isn’t that you never feel threat responses, but rather that you know how to recognize and process them, so you can return to a sense of safety.
What most people don’t understand, but would benefit greatly from truly taking to heart, is that your thoughts, feelings, and actions involuntarily emerge based on what state your body is in: safety or threat.
If your body is in a state of safety, then the emergent thoughts, feelings, and actions might look like: “I can do this,” flow state, confidently reaching out to others, enjoying being social, and creativity sparking seemingly effortless action.
If your body is in a threat response, then the emergent thoughts, feelings, and actions will depend on what protection mechanism your body chooses.
A mix of fight and flight might look like: “I can’t,” anxiety, defensiveness, not wanting to socialize, and staying busy but never actually getting anything important done.
Remember, trauma happens when our bodies don’t know or remember how to return to safety after a threat response, and instead stay stuck looping in that threat response.
Healing trauma involves guiding the body to build a bridge from a looping threat response back to safety.
Even though earning money is no longer a life-threat to me, I still experience anxiety about it at times.
This is because earning money and the acts involved (engaging in relationships, risking failure, etc.) can still activate threat responses in my nervous system.
The difference is that now these threats don’t register as certain death. Rather, my body responds with fight and flight.
I know how to recognize and process these threat responses, instead of getting caught by them and staying stuck feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or anti-social.
In my next email I’ll share what creating a bridge from threat response to safety looks like and how to do it.
I’ve been training for a year now to become a Somatic Experiencing practitioner.
I’ve not only been studying the intellectual hows and whys behind trauma healing, but also putting it to practice with dozens of clients and in my own everyday life.
My clients are building their own bridges back to safety from places of looping threat responses.
Instead of staying small, they are telling their stories, starting podcasts, holding in-person classes in their towns, and feeling more confident putting their offers out there.
Their stories are sparking others to have AHA moments that bring relief and clarity, help them understand how to get the help they need, and affirm they’re not alone in what they’re going through.
From the inside out my clients and I are building connections, like fungal mycelial threads growing webs of nutrient exchange, connecting a whole forest of plants with more resources than they could reach alone.
Do you want to see what magic might emerge from you, if you were to find your way back to safety from a threat response like procrastination, perfectionism, imposter syndrome, or staying small?
I’ll spill all the secrets about how to do this in my next email.
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🤠 I published my first video of my personal adventures! In May 2021 John and I rented a camper van and spent some days in the Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe. We hiked with friends (Dolly Hodgesmith) to crystal clear mountaintop lakes.
😝 Adults could achieve global physical activity targets by “silly walking” Monthy Python style for just a few minutes each day.
Invitation to work with me:
I have one space in January for 1:1 messaging coaching where I’ll help you learn how to talk about what you do and convey the value of what you offer without having to be something you’re not. This is best for folks who already have a proven offer they’re ready to amplify. Apply on my website, and we’ll chat to see if this offer is a good fit for your needs!