Today, I have staci b with me as we talk about self-care. And more specifically, how self-care looks when someone experiences trauma. Staci’s a writer and advocates for trauma-informed systems. She becomes a teacher when she talks about her experiences, learnings, and realizations. And like me, you may find yourself being a student at the school of Staci in this conversation. I invite you to join me!
Staci is a writer and advocates for trauma-informed systems. She calls herself a sociologist at heart, and her most important case study is herself. Her story and life’s work have led her down many paths that evolved into a transformational and soulful journey. And when she talks about her experiences, learnings, and realizations - she becomes a teacher. I found myself being a student at the school of Staci in this conversation and invite you to join me.
And if you loved Staci and this discussion, here are a couple of resources for you.
Much gratitude to
staci b for our endless conversations that inform, inspire, intrigue, and humor me. Your story and life’s work truly serve as a midwife to the collective as we enter a new way of living.
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So today, we will talk about self-care. And, more specifically, how self-care looks when someone experiences trauma. I have a dear friend, Staci, with me for today's discussion. Staci, I know you like to call yourself a sociologist at heart, where your most important case study is you. I absolutely love this reference because not only is it the reason we're talking today, but it's also led you down so many paths and evolved into a transformational and soulful journey. And when you talk about your experiences, learnings, and realizations - you become a teacher. And even if you're not intending it that way, I found myself being a student of the school of Staci. So that said, I'd love to start with what started you on this journey?
Well, the Cliffs notes are that I went to a yoga class about 18 years ago. So I've been on this journey for a very long time. But what elevated it was I went to a yoga class to find out the yoga teacher had called off sick. So it turned into a Silver Sneakers class. My ego was like, I don't think so. I don't need a Silver Sneakers class - I'm 38, or whatever I was at the time. And I left in a huff, went home, and put on the CD that came with Caroline Myss' book about St. Theresa of a Villa. And in it, she talked about the power of knowing who you really are. And in me, I said, I wanna know who I really am. And it was as if there could have been thunder, lightning, and all kinds of Cecil B. DeMille-level stop. I feel like that happened on the other side of this dimension because they were like, buckle up, baby. You've said the magic words. And that's what started this level that I've been on and leveling up from over the last 20 years.
I recommend Caroline Myss a lot, but not if you have a tender heart.
Yes, she has a firm love. A very firm type of love.
She does. Sometimes we all need that because we get complacent in our self-care. We get complacent with how our lives are going, and if your ego's involved, it can look like you're doing many things to change that - but you're not. And so, every once in a while, a cross face from Caroline Myss is not a bad thing. But I wanted to put that caveat out there because she's not a gentle teacher. Right?
She offers a tough love standpoint.
So that's what really started this and that journey since, like, 2005, 18 years. I don't know if I'd have signed up. So, in other words, this is why we don't have crystal balls. Erica, this is why.
And a reminder to watch what you wish for.
Exactly. This is such an integral piece of self-care because so many times, we create an intention or we say we want something. Then it looks like the exact opposite happens. And we feel like a helpless kittens. But I thought I did all the right things. I wrote my intentions. I've done my manifestation work, I've done my prayers, I've done this. I've whatever you do, but self-care is trust too. And understanding that if you've created that intention, that's what's happening, even if it doesn't look like that.
And then you layer on the fact that trust is hard for someone who has suffered early trauma.
Absolutely. Developmental trauma is the beginning of a spider web. The actual experience is the core of a spider web, and what gets woven through your psyche, body, and emotions from that trauma is extensive. It affects everything in your life, whether you want to admit it. And that's just the truth from my standpoint. I've also done a crap ton of research. I follow, read, study, and absorb enormous amounts of information every week on this subject. And the commonalities that I see come from different practitioners, people who practice other modalities, and trauma-informed coaches. They're all verifying what I just said. It affects every relationship in your life. Trauma is relational. It affects your relationship with family, friends, partners, career, and money. Everything. So trust can be very challenging. The coping mechanism you employ is the narrative you create to circumvent trust so that you get what you need without actually trusting.
All of that comes back to the developmental trauma, all of it. And peeling that off - whether you want to call it an onion, spiral, or whatever metaphor you're comfortable with - is not linear.
Agreed. It is not linear. And for this conversation, I want to recognize that we've likely all experienced some trauma. Trauma falls on all ends of the spectrum. And I want to honor those whose trauma is too significant to imagine and hold light and love while also honoring those whose trauma could be that second-grade teacher that said, you're never going to make anything of yourself.
And as we continue the conversation, it would be helpful and I'd love for the direction to go: when there's broken trust, what does self-care look like - especially when trying to reconnect with yourself.
In my work, I help reconnect with themselves or their higher self, or that part of themselves that has its best intention. And to do that, one needs to get quiet and still, which can be tricky.
It can be really tricky in a trauma-informed context. Whether you've had developmental trauma or are experiencing trauma from the overwhelming amount of information you've been taking in - it's tricky to get quiet and still. It can be traumatizing living in this digital AI kind of world. We are constantly learning. That's overwhelming. Effects of covid, which we are still dealing with because of all the changes that have come out of that; nothing is the same anymore from how you get your groceries to how you communicate with people is not the same anymore.
And so all of that change at this rapid-fire level is traumatic. If you've had developmental trauma, it will feel like even more. And in terms of trust, the only thing that has worked for me is reconnecting with my body. When you've had trauma, one of the main coping mechanisms is using your intellect and mind to override your body. With developmental trauma, you're not in a place, as a child, to have a cognitive understanding of what's going on. So you don't know how to interpret your body's signals. You don't have that level of awareness at that stage of your life. So by default, your mind becomes the engine instead of the chassis.
In psychology, this is called dissociation. And that's almost become a hack need with all the words, social media content, and stuff created around this subject. But it is a disconnection. So whether it's mindlessly scrolling social media, binge-watching Netflix, overeating, or drinking six beers before dinner, all that stuff is all dissociation.
Every one of us needs to scroll through TikTok for five minutes in the middle of the day because it's a lot living there these days. But when it becomes something that prevents you from doing the things that matter to you, it begins to impact your relationships. And then we're talking about dissociation and disconnecting because you don't wanna hear what your body is saying.
The world's a shit show right now. Let's just be honest about it. Trying to regain trust in humanity, or even in the people around you, can be a tall order at this point in time. Still, you can't ever trust anybody else if you don't trust yourself. And you can't trust yourself if you are dissociated from your body.
What are some ways you can offer our listeners to trust themselves and reconnect with their bodies?
It's not a black-and-white answer. It's a process. It's not like, oh, here's the light switch. Let me flip it on so I can trust my body. Instead, it's a journey. I often compare it to the gym. You wouldn't go to the gym for a week and expect to come out with a bodybuilder's body or look like Heidi Klum. It's not going to happen. It's a journey, and there are a lot of different pieces to the journey.
That's also really important to emphatically state. You know, there are multiple avenues for doing this, and you must be willing to be a scientist. You have to be willing to experiment with different things and see what works for you. Like I have a friend who finds EFT tapping does not work. I love it. EFT t tapping works really well for me to calm me down and help regulate my nervous system.
Regulating the nervous system is an essential part of that building trust. All of us have a nervous system that has three different stages. You have fight or flight. You have the window of opportunity in a healthy, regulated nervous system. And you have the freeze stage where you may shut down. So those are the three pieces of a nervous system. And I hypothesize that so many people have no idea they're at the bottom or the top tier of that spectrum - as opposed to being in the healthy middle.
Fight and flight looks like I can't sit still. I get super pissed off when the computer doesn't do what I need. I get road rage when somebody cuts me off in traffic. I'm always volunteering.
Yeah, it's that aggressive, rigid state that you just get locked in, and it's so hard to get out of that. And I've seen with my clients that when they do have that early trauma, there's that heightened state of scanning.
Yes, making sure they're safe.
So the nervous system is in that healthy middle window when it feels safe. And when the body doesn't feel safe, the nervous system is in one of the two extremes. And when you're in those extremes, you're either running around making lasagnas for Lasagna Love because some people in your area don't have food to eat. Or you're volunteering at the church. You volunteer for boards. And not that there's anything wrong with doing any of that in a balanced way.
It's important to talk about this stuff because people hear fight or flight, and they're like, well, I'm not fighting with anybody, and I'm not running away. Au contraire mon frère! You probably are. You just don't know it.
And so that's why it's important to recognize some of those behaviors that we may think of as normal in our lives but indicate that you are in one of the trauma states.
So I invite people to look at that in their lives. How much time do I spend scrolling on social media when I know I want to do something else? I still fall into this trap today. I have this book I was reading. I loved it so much, but I really like TikTok right now. And I'm like, why are you depriving yourself of joy? You completely love that book, yet you're like listening to crap that doesn't matter from people you don't know! So what's up?
So it requires a level of awareness and a willingness to do some inquiry, to ask ourselves, what am I doing? Then once you have that and have that awareness, you can begin to make more observations about how you behave in that. And once you do that, then you can start to change. So, for example, you're somebody who loves to volunteer. You volunteer and run the church bingo on Friday nights, and you make lasagnas for Lasagna Love or volunteer at your food bank. And you do all these things which are praised by our society, which makes it more difficult to understand what's really going on because everybody's telling you what a wonderful person you are by doing all this stuff and keeping a super clean house and never having a dish in the sink. So that's someone who's in flight.
Someone whose nervous system is in fight mode might be feeling any of these - I don't want to be around other people because when I do, I get irritated. The cashier at the grocery store makes a mistake, and I snap a little bit, even though I don't want to hurt her feelings. Someone beats me out of the gate at the green light that irritates me. I'm at work, and someone left a piece of paper on the copy machine, and now I gotta deal with it. Man, that's a fight. It might not be in a boxing ring with George Foreman, but you're in a fight.
Freeze is self-explanatory.
So when you begin to recognize behaviors that indicate not feeling safe through one of those three prongs, there's also something called fawning, which is excessive people-pleasing and tied in with flight. But in psychology, they've separated it, and now it's actually for defense mechanisms - fight, fight, fawn, and freeze. So if you're constantly making sure people have what they need, you're always making sure that if you're buying a package of Twizzlers, you buy one for your friend because you know she loves them. Those behaviors are fawning.
So once you become aware of these, then when you recognize and catch yourself, At the grocery store, looking at that pack of Twizzlers going, well, I'm gonna buy one for Janice, because I know how much she loves those. So you can stop, breathe, and recognize that you don't feel safe.
And that's so important because, in that awareness, that simple act of pausing at the moment and having that reflective observation will shift things. And then you start to notice that the next time you do it, you notice it a little sooner. So you begin to catch it before it falls into that trap.
That's really sage wisdom. And I wanted to ask you before we package this up, what would you offer practitioners like myself that work with people that get stuck in that fight or flight state, and you're guiding them to get in a restful state. Still, their intellectual chatter is so active that it gets in the way. So what can you offer us?
You need to address the nervous system. And there are several people I recommend investigating their social media content, be it on YouTube or TikTok, or Instagram. One of them is Irene Lyon. She's a brilliant practitioner who has been doing this for a long time.
Suki Baxter is also brilliant in this regard because you have to deal with the nervous system before you deal with the mind. And this is why people with developmental trauma or whose nervous systems are not regulated find meditation a joke.
I've studied all kinds of religious traditions, different forms of yoga, and all this stuff over the years. And at the end of the day, I'm a systems navigator. Why don't you try this? And if that doesn't work for you, why don't you look at this? Not everything works for everybody!
So you need to address the body before you can address the mind. And when you're working with someone as a coach or practitioner who wants to help you get calm, you have to deal with the nervous system. One way is doing what I call Neuro drills. And there are hundreds of them. Anything as simple as putting your finger on your chin and looking over to the nine or three o'clock sign, depending on how you're looking at this, and hold it there until you yawn because that will tell you you're starting to calm down. Then do it to the other side. And if you do the clock, and I count silently in my head, 12 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 until you yawn. Do it 11 through 1 until you yawn. Something as simple as running your tongue along your gums, because I believe, and I'm not going to bet my life on this, but I'm pretty sure the muscles and your tongue are connected to your vagus nerve, which is what you need to stimulate in order to calm down. So do that until you yawn and then in the other direction until you yawn. That's a really great place to start.
I love that. That is so good. Okay, Stacy, I'd like to end my episodes with the question, if you were looking back at your younger self before you started this journey, what would you tell her?
Please don't beat yourself up.
For all the stuff that you're going to experience because of the trauma, you believe it is because of you. So please don't do it. Don't beat yourself up.
That is so beautiful. I asked this question selfishly because someday, when our teen daughters are curious enough to listen to this and get to this point in the episode, I want them to hear this.
Yes. At the end of the day, that's what that comes down to. There's nothing wrong with you. It's not your fault, and you are doing the absolute best you can with what you have from where you are.
Where can people find you?
Well, my website is stacib.com. And I am @heyitsmestacib on all of the platforms.
Stacy, thank you.
It was a pleasure to be here and share.
Yes, thank you, friend.