๐ŸŽ™ Navigating Trauma & Healing in a Brutal World

Part IV: Exploring Somatic, Social, and Relational Healing in Relation to Activism

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: we wrap up our chat with social healing practitioner, Emily Mitnick, touching on our individual and collective role in healing socialist ecosystems and how we do that with the window of tolerance.

In Case You Missed It: Healing through Rest, Community, & Activism

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๐Ÿ“– Read Todayโ€™s Interview๐Ÿ‘ฉ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿซ

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Hey y'all, this is Sam with Roots of Change. And we are back with our conversation with social healing practitioner, Emily Mitnick. Yesterday, we recorded an awesome podcast about the window of tolerance. We listened to it today and we quickly realized that we wanted to cover so much in a really small amount of time. That just doesn't lend itself to a lot.

And so rather than too quickly digging into the realm of healing social ecosystems and how that relates to activism, we figured let's get back on, talk about the window of tolerance, and then pick up on a part of our conversation that we love that was super juicy around the individual versus our collective role in healing socialist ecosystems and how we do that with the window of tolerance.

So I'm welcoming Emily back on to talk about the window of tolerance before we pick up on that combo.

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

Yeah, thanks, Sam. I'm feeling really excited that we made this decision. And I just want to, before jumping into the window of tolerance, I want to just have a really nerdy moment of celebration.

What Sam and I actually did was we checked in and noticed that both of us were feeling really uneasy in our bodies when we were listening to the podcast. And that is actually, we use that information to help us realize that we were not in the place that we wanted to be with the podcast. And so that's just me nerding out and pointing out that these tools of developing somatic awareness can be used universally.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Great point!

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

So Window of Tolerance, Sam mentioned this term. The Window of Tolerance is a model that was developed by interpersonal neurobiologist Dan Siegel. Lots of info out there about him. If you wanna learn more than what we share here, I highly recommend Googling โ€œwindow of tolerance, Dan Siegel.โ€ You'll be amazed with what you find. And the window of tolerance is a state where our relational brain, the parts of our brain that allow us to be in relationship with ourselves, with others, with the world around us, with beliefs, ideas, is online.

That's really what the window of tolerance is. And when the relational parts of our brain are online, we have the capacity for creativity, problem-solving, resourcing, which is what helps us to remain in the window of tolerance. Yeah, this is the space where we are able to come into our wholeness, where we are able to tap into joy, pleasure, all of these things. When we leave our window of tolerance, because we are in survival mode, the relational part of our brain actually shuts off because we need to direct our energy to our survival or to our protection.

So when you hear about being โ€œdysregulated,โ€ that actually means that we have left our window of tolerance and we are either going into hyper arousal, fight, flight, or high freeze, deer and headlights, or We are dysregulated and moving into hypo arousal, which is freezing via dissociation. In both of these spaces, we realize that our survival is threatened, and in hyperarousal, fight, flight, or high freeze, we realize that survival is still possible. And so we, our bodies use up a lot of energy, or we realize that survival is probably not possible.

And so we dissociate or leave our body, which is actually the most energy-intensive state.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Oh, Interesting. Wow!

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

So that is a very, very brief overview of the window of tolerance. But the big idea here is that within the window of tolerance, our relational brain is online. And when we are dysregulated and moved into either hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal, our relational brain is not online.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Amazing. Thank you so much. I actually learned like new things just from this short, short review. So thank you.

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

I think actually there's one more important piece thinking about the part of the conversation that we're going to share. And that is that trauma shrinks our window of tolerance and doing somatic healing work can help us expand our window of tolerance. So the window of tolerance is something that can change in size.

And something that I think is really important to take note of is that being in a state where our nervous system is regulated, being within our window of tolerance does not mean that we are calm. That feels really, really important to name. We can actually experience big feelings within our window of tolerance. The difference between experiencing these big feelings in our window of tolerance versus in a dysregulated state is that we can be in relationship with our experience of these feelings.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Thank you for clarifying that. Yeah. I think it's especially important within activist spaces to differentiate that because a lot of times activists are deemed angry and, you know, especially most, a lot of activists are people of color, women, marginalized communities who are disrespected by most mainstream systems and a lot of that tends to fall on emotions. So it's important for us, at least in ourselves, to understand what that difference is so that we can show up in ways that are healthy.

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

Yeah, definitely. And because when we are in a regulated state, we have the potential for choice, we can decide how to express our emotions. Whereas when we are in a dysregulated state, we do not have choice. We are absolutely on autopilot.

Sam Chavez (she/her) at Roots of Change

Awesome. Thank you for that. Okay, well, I think we're now going to jump into the final part of the conversation. And this is really just bringing into wholeness a lot of what you shared around the window of tolerance just now, and then how that relates to both our individual healing and then the collective healing that we're all trying to do. So I hope you enjoy the rest of the conversation!


Sam Chavez at Roots of Change

How are you seeing that balance between the personal and the collective, like, particularly around the window of tolerance because of, you know, this place and time that we are in?

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

The way that I am seeing this play out, the window of tolerance play out on a collective level in this moment is that we're in a moment of window shrinkage. Yes. Big moment of window shrinkage.

And the reason why that's happening is that even if most of us are not directly experiencing physical violence and that trauma, our own traumas, the witnessing of it activates a lot within ourselves. It activates trauma that lives within us, especially when it is unprocessed.

Sam Chavez at Roots of Change

That was my question was around unprocessed trauma because, you know, we talk about the window shrinkage and there's a lot of reasons why part of that began with the Trump years, but especially the pandemic and how that impacted the global collective.

So like, I think that has been, you know, the reactions that we saw during the pandemic, and we're still in the pandemic, have been really hard for a lot of people to see. And I think not everyone is seeing that link between our window of tolerances and what's happening today.

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

Yes. Yes. It's a really, really important moment for healing to happen. And I am really heartened to see a lot of grassroots organizations holding space for healing to happen.

Sam Chavez at Roots of Change

Yeah, absolutely.

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

And I am also still just devastated that we have not created space for the necessary collective healing, the necessary mourning and grieving from the pandemic.

And all of the loss that we that we all endured during that time. Not even just loss of life, but loss of safety. Loss of sense of community care.

Sam Chavez at Roots of Change

Guardrails, trust in institutions, all of those things have really been shattered.

I guess my question is, as individuals, where do we go in this moment? No matter where we are on our healing journey, understanding that like the pandemic and the increasing destruction of, you know, cultural and societal norms that have just fallen apart in this time, like how do we navigate that so that we can stay whole and healthy?

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

It's a really big question. Before you got to the whole unhealthy part, I was like, we got to undermine systems of oppression! But I think the wholeness and the being well while being in relationship with activism with our deep grief, with our work around social change is just, it's so, so critical for the sustainability of the movement.

How do we move through this moment? I think by doing our best to be gentle with ourselves, to be gentle with others, This world is really, really brutal and sharp and tough.

And there is violence that we don't, we're not even aware of because we've just come to accept it as normal. I think doing our best to remember that we were all once children, we were all once babies and trying to bring that same compassion that we would to a baby, that we would to a child, to ourselves. Finding one moment over the course of a day to take a deep breath and remember that that breath belongs to us.

And remembering that everyone is worthy of that same pause, of that same rest.

And really starting small, starting with noticing. Because I think also what happens for better, for me, it's for better, but sometimes it's really painful, but like once we see, we can't unsee. And I think for me, that's been a really potent catalyst for this work.

Sam Chavez at Roots of Change

Absolutely. Yeah, I'm reminded of Glennon Doyle. I don't know if this is what she coined, but she called it brutiful. Yeah. And I really feel like life is very brutiful right now. Because there is a lot of joy and beauty that is happening in the movement that you spoke to and the ability for us to talk about somatic healing and to talk about ourselves and to set boundaries the way we frankly haven't done in healthy ways in at least in the United States.

And so I, yeah, I just really appreciate that of coming back Like nurturing that child in yourself and seeing that child-like self in others. You know, I think we can. Build and set ourselves up so that we are protecting ourselves while also being open to possibility and open to that connection. I know online talk is so violent and hateful right now, but I go out to the bodegas and the coffee shops and everyone is very kind and it's just finding those connection points that we haven't really But, you know, it's scary sometimes.

I know we have to wrap, so I would love to just offer you the space for anything else you want to bring in here and leave us with.

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

I think a lot about the notion of wholeness, which we discussed in some of our earlier conversations and I think that wholeness can be really terrifying, the idea of coming into wholeness, because it requires us to be with all of ourselves. Yeah, sometimes the road there is a really, really bumpy one. We have to traverse a lot of unknowns. Unknown territory. I think what I would love to invite is just a moment to envision your own wholeness and your own liberation in the deepest, deepest sense of that word, being free to be all of yourself and just imagining what that might look like, what would you get up and do every day, what would it feel like to be in your wholeness, to be embodied, and to think about what the world would look like if we were all able to exist in our wholeness.

Yeah. And Notice what happens in your body. Notice if it clenches, notice if it releases, notice if tears come, notice if walls come up and just pay attention. There is no wrong way to visualize this, but just notice and think about, wow, if defenses come up, what is standing in my way of what's here, right? What is keeping me from wholeness? And yeah, I think that's where that's what I would like to offer. Thank you for inviting me to have this conversation and in a recorded way.

Sam Chavez at Roots of Change

Yes! Thank you. Thank you for agreeing. Yeah, this has been really lovely. And that vision that you just gave, it sounds very brutiful. Yeah. And I hope everyone can dive a little bit deeper into themselves and feel that love. So, thank you and hopefully we will have this chat on air again. There's so much more to talk about around mental health and somatic healing and how this work can build the movement that we are working towards in a liberated, sustainable world. So, Thank you, Emily.

And just so everyone knows, this will be on podcast form. So if you go to Substack, you can actually get this on your favorite podcast app. And then we'll also have this up on YouTube. So really appreciate everyone that joined and listened today and hope you keep listening and keep reading. And we will be back again next week at Roots of Change. So thank you so much. And again, thank you, Emily.

Emily Mitnick (she/her)

Yeah, thanks.


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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