๐ŸŽ™ Exploring Somatic, Social, and Relational Healing

Discussing the inner work of healing social ecosystems with Emily Mitnick

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

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๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: During a time of international grief, I sat down with social healing practitioner and people development specialist, Emily Mitnick. She shared how somatic healing and the mind-body connection can play a role in healing social ecosystems, plus, we deepen our connection with ourselves.

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Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change Hey, y'all. We are back at Roots of Change with my partner, actually, Emily Mitnick. She is the founder of Nellie Labs and the 8th House, and she is a social healing practitioner and people development specialist. Welcome, Emily.

Emily Mitnick (she/her) Hey, Sam. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here, and I'm like, finally made it.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change Haha yes! We have all of these conversations offline, so we figured it would be a good time to finally bring our brains together. I brought us together because there's a lot of chaos in our world and you are really focused on somatic healing and mental health and mental well-being through these uncertain times. And I'm very much more about like how we communicate and how we message towards change.

And I really wanted to kind of bring our brains together to kind of meet in this moment of uncertainty, especially on the world stage with Israel and Gaza right now. So can you tell us a little bit more about your work and kind of what that means for you?

Emily Mitnick (she/her) Yeah, absolutely.

And there's not only chaos, but there is just immense grief and pain. And at least in the Western world, we're not super comfy with those things, generally speaking.

And so there is so much opportunity, I think, in the realm of, you know, how we're communicating about these things and how we are experiencing them and feeling them.

So yeah, my work. As Sam mentioned, I am a social healing practitioner and I wear a lot of hats under that role. And so sometimes I show up as an embodied leadership coach within organizations. And I also support employees within organizations around embodied conflict transformation. I support organizations through people development consulting as well, helping them build processes and programs that are centered around well-being. And more recently, I have been feeling called to work with individuals outside of organizations, primarily in a mindful somatic poaching capacity.

And For the record, the word somatic simply means of the body. So when we're talking about somatics, we're talking about body-oriented modalities.

And Sam, maybe you can help with this as we move through our conversation. I know that we're very familiar with that word, but I will try to be cognizant of it if I am speaking about somatics and something seems like it needs further explanation, just flag it.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change And somatics is like kind of a buzzword it feels like, or it's coming more into the mainstream and people are recognizing it, which is good, but then it also seems like there's some misconceptions. Misunderstandings in a Western culture.

Emily Mitnick (she/her) Yeah, I think I'm struggling in this moment to sort of land on a specific misconception around body-oriented work. I see that happening with therapy and language of therapy as it moves into the mainstream. And definitely, yeah, the weaponization of terms like boundaries, gaslighting, and trauma as another concept. Being misused and also misunderstood. That's the sort of generous perspective. But in terms of somatics, I think there's, not always an understanding of the depth and power of somatic healing work.

I think many of us have heard the term the body keeps the score. Um, It also happens to be the name of a book that I do not want to promote because it's not a trauma-informed book. If you want to read a trauma-informed book, pick up My Grandmother's Hand by Resmaa Menakem. We can come up with a whole list, potentially, of trauma-informed books about trauma. The Body Keeps the Score is not, but The Expression the Body Keeps the Score is a really powerful one.

And our bodies are a source of so much important information about our needs and whether they're being met or not, for example, which is a pretty big thing when it comes to navigating the world.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change And that one's a really interesting one because, you know, we've talked about the in Western cultures, the divide between the mind and the body and how our culture is very mind-focused. And I think like in my own journey, the idea of somatics, like kind of being the guide and telling the truth has been a wild thing for me to take into and know that like, yeah, when my body's sending me a signal that there's a reason for that. And trusting that versus pushing back against the idea of not listening to our bodies.

people are recognizing it, which is good, but then it also seems like there's some misconceptions. Misunderstandings in a Western culture.

Emily Mitnick (she/her) I was sarcastically thinking, like, what a concept, right?! Like, listening to a signal from your body! I mean, Yeah, I should back up and mention that the framework that I use is a relational framework. So everything that I do in my work is considered through the lens of relationships. And by virtue of, existing. We are in relationship with everyone. Everything, every environment around us. And to me, that's pretty remarkable. I'm like, oh, wow, like what can we learn about relationships and how we relate to relating by just looking at how we are in relationship with an object in our space, right?

Like a person in our orbit, like it's really fascinating. And I am drifting here, so let me pull myself back. But yeah, with this idea of listening to your body and in, you know, many Western cultures, right? It's like mind over body, right? Literally like mind over matter.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change Which is a combating or like a taking over, it's a very militarized term.

Emily Mitnick (she/her) Yeah, I mean, there's like a real violence in it, but we come into the world, embodied, connected to our bodies. Our bodies, the reason why our bodies hold so much powerful information is because they're our first source of language. And around the time we start, most of us start to develop verbal language. You know, that is not obviously the case for everybody. Not everybody is a verbal language person. We begin to sever our connection to body and it becomes unacceptable to be embodied in many ways and in many spaces.

I mean, let's just think about school. I mean, it's been a minute since I was in elementary school, but I mean, I remember raising my hand. Can I go to the bathroom? As an adult who is immersed in this work as a practitioner and also as a student, always, and somebody who is going through the process of healing, that's mind-blowing.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change Because you're so young and you're being taught not to trust your own instincts over an exterior force, which is your teacher in this instance.

Emily Mitnick (she/her) You know, when I was referring to the breaking of the connection between mind and body, I use the term violence, which I know can be an uncomfortable world word for folks, but I want to make sure that we know that we're talking about how violence exists on a spectrum. And on one end of the spectrum, we have like the grading of sandpaper somebody like kind of rubbing us the wrong way, right. And then on the other side, we have atrocities and these really big, can't be missed examples of violence. But yeah, there is violence in an adult using their power over someone who doesn't wield as much power.

And saying, No, you can't do this very natural thing. And so then like what happens over the course of time and why I am so, oh, this work just feels so juicy and especially in a moment. Like a global moment that we're in right now is because what happens is the child is denied babies and children, we are utterly reliant on others for our survival, right? So the child has to trade in their authenticity, which is their bodily need, right? For connection, right? Can't make my teacher upset.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change For connection and for survival, essentially.

Emily Mitnick (she/her) Exactly, Yeah. You know, and safety, right? That's part of part of survival. And so then what happens? Is when these messages get repeated when the child raises their hand again, I have to go to the bathroom and they, you know, can't go or like, oh, fine, you know, the message is, don't show up in that way. And so this need, right, is just press down and press down and press down. But the need still exists. And so that's when we start to see different behaviors pop up. You know, in adulthood, in teenagers, and, you know, and

Ultimately when we extrapolate that, and then, you know, we look at communities, population, you know, systems, you and I talk about systems a lot. We see, we see these cycles of, arm perpetuated.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change Well, what I really love about your example is the childhood aspect of it, because of what you just described, like those power dynamics. But I think another piece to the mind-body connection that I've been really playing with in my work is the storytelling angle, is the creativity. And what came up for me when you were talking was how in our societies, in Western culture, within these harmful systems, we view like emotions, heart first, all of that to be weakness or to be primitive.

And the idea of like, Mind over matter, mind over body is essentially saying mind is superior to our emotions and our body. And so when we as a society have that, then we are not allowing ourselves to have that childlike joy, to have that creativity, and in my opinion, to frankly be a human. So I'd love to hear your perspective on that, but then also kind of dig into what does that do to us as a society when that continues to happen?

Emily Mitnick (she/her) I'm just noticing the weight of that question. Not because the question itself is weighty, but because I just had this image of this giant metal thick black metal slab just going โ€œwhompโ€, just depressing, suppressing, repressing, oppressing. So that's what happens, everybody.

But yeah, in cutting ourselves off from body, like you said, we're also severing our relationship with love, joy. And these other really juicy parts of what it is to be a human. So I think you captured it beautifully and in what you said.

And then the second part of your question was like, what does this mean? How does this play out in society?

Okay. So back to the classroom. The kid is denied and gets, let's say, systematically denied. I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. I have to go to the bathroom. Okay. No. And that's the other thing, if anybody out there is listening and has said, maybe you're a teacher and you've told a kid, like, you can't go to the bathroom right now. We're talking about patterns that happen, right? It's like, we're human.

We are going to collide with one another. We are going to show up imperfectly.

The point of this is not that we have to be perfect humans. Right? It's like having awareness of our pattern, right?

So when the kid starts getting cut off from body, there's also a getting cut off of my sense of humanity. Right?

And then ultimately we think about like this happening with a population. This isn't just happening to one child. It's happening to every child to some degree. And these children are growing up, and what do you think they do when they come into contact with one another?

Someone whose humanity has been denied denies humanity to others, right? And when we see this happening on like, a broad scale, then there's the answer to your question about how does this play out on a societal level?

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change So now I appreciate that clarity, because I think that is a big piece of what people individually are trying to figure out is like, how much of this is my own work? Our mental health and healthcare system are not strong, at least in the United States. And then how do we do this in community? And how do we build back community that has been lost? And not to end too much on a cliffhanger, because we do have to go and we are going to resume this next week. But I just wanted to kind of offer you some a chance just to share some insights before we pick up this conversation again next week.

In the meantime, what what can you leave people with to kind of think and take with them into this week?

Emily Mitnick (she/her) One thing to chew on is thinking about moving more slowly and make it a point once a day to just ask your body how it's doing. If you notice you have to go to the bathroom when you are on a call or writing or whatever, just like meeting that need, eating when we're hungry, resting when we're tired. These are, sort of like micro. Yeah, just micro-moments of checking in with body. Yeah, I'm just realizing that there's like, I'm like, Oh, there's so much that I could share. But I think I'm just gonna pause, pause there.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change I appreciate that.

About Emily Mitnick (she/her)

Hey โ€“ I'm Emily. My greatest joy comes from creating and fostering relationships that offer space for people to feel seen, heard, and nourished so that they can bring their greatest gifts to the world from an empowered, embodied place.

For the past 13+ years of my professional life, Iโ€™ve followed my curiosity to explore how humans relate to the built, natural, and social environment, navigate relationships within organizations and with work, repair and transform through intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict, and heal the connection between mind and body.

I'm deeply excited about designing and facilitating people-first, integrative experiences that are supportive, inclusive, generative, and sustainable. Doing this work with people who are committed to creating a more equitable, compassionate, and creative world excites me even more.

When I'm not at my desk, you might find me riding my bicycle up steep hills, writing poetry and telling stories about queerness and mental health, playing the guitar, gobbling up books, and running mountain trails.

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๐Ÿ—ผ๐ŸŽ™ Type: Podcast๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒฑโค๏ธโ€๐Ÿ”ฅ Our Inner Growth

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.

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