Episode 5: How do you handle being ‘triggered’?

Mónica talks to Luis Mojica, a therapist who’s learned loads from his patients about how we physically react to intense political disagreement… and what we can do about it. Luis sheds light on what happens to us when we feel “triggered” by something someone says, and the two share tips and bold ideas on everything from how you can feel more secure in tough conversations to where that all-important line might be between what’s painful and what’s harmful. Then Mónica, a liberal, joins her conservative friend April to break down where Reds and Blues seem good and not so good with these strategies… and Moni recounts a tense exchange with a critic where all the trauma responses Luis talked about — fight, flight, freeze, and fawn — showed up big.
Credits
Host: Mónica Guzmán
Senior Producer & Editor: David Albright
Producer: Jessica Jones
Contributor: April Lawson
Artist in Residence: Gangstagrass
Cover Art & Graphics: Katelin Annes
Publishing Support: Mike Casentini
Show Notes: Ben Caron
Featured Song: “The Quiet Voice” by Alex Wong and Elise Hayes

A Braver Way is a production of Braver Angels.

We get financial support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and Reclaim Curiosity.
Resources & Links
Call to Action:
Submit a question: If you’ve found yourself mulling on a concern or reflection as you’ve listened, turn it into a question and share it with us in a quick email to abraverway@braverangels.org. Mónica and friends will be answering questions on an upcoming episode.

Subscribe: If you like what you’ve heard, hit subscribe, and leave us a 5 star review!

Share this episode: https://braverangels.org/a-braver-way-episode-5/

Follow us: Instagram | X/ twitter | TikTok | Youtube 
Supporting Partners
All of our supporting partners are members of Braver Network

  • AllSides.com– AllSides Technologies Inc. strengthens our democratic society with balanced news, media bias ratings, diverse perspectives, and real conversation.

  • Rehumanize International– is a nonprofit human rights organization dedicated to creating a culture of peace and life. They seek an end to all aggressive violence against humans through education, discourse, and action.

Mojica explains “somatics” and the relationship between trauma and the body [04:19]

  • Mojica: “It means that you are trained to sit with people one-on-one or in a group space much like a psychotherapist would. But instead of being trained through D S M to diagnose them, you’re trained to see how their body stores traumatic events from their past. So you can help them actually access where that lives and even teach them the roots of some of their behaviors.”

 

Mojica explains how trauma responses relate to political polarization [07:39]

  • Mojica: “So the way that looks in politics is what you disagree with me on, makes you a threat to me. And so now I’m in a trauma response with you. I can’t connect or be curious. I’m either fighting, fighting, freezing, or fawning.” 

 

Mojica shares a pattern that emerged within his patients when Trump was first elected: a similar trauma response that was linked to past experiences with oppressive or abusive men [08:48]

  • Mojica: “So Trump had won, you know, the election and this woman came into my office the next day and was like, destroyed. She couldn’t sleep. She was crying, she was shaking. She just felt like utter fear and panic. And as we sat with it, somatically. All this memory  these images and these sensations of her abusive father were coming up.”
  • Mojica: “Sitting with it somatically, for everyone listening, I’ll say it in the simplest context. It literally means where do you feel that in your body? So when, let’s say she walks in the room and I’m intellectually with her, it’s like talk therapy or it’s coaching, it’s more cognitive. We might try to figure out the meaning. What does it mean to you that he was elected? Or what are your thoughts about him? Or how can we create a strategy to, cope with this, these next four years? Somatically means, okay. When you think of Trump being president, what happens in your body? And in this case, you said, I can’t breathe. My, my chest is so constricted, I can’t even get a deep breath. Like I was up all night hyperventilating and we sat with that and one of my lead questions with people is where have you felt that kind of hyperventilating before? Like where in your history was this a pattern and it was with this person’s abusive father, Now, that was the first moment I like. Oh, interesting. I never had seen in my practice that direct connection between somatics trauma and politics. But what was profound was 20 more people that same week had the same experience with Trump and it was mostly women.” 

 

Mojica defines “safety” in regards to trauma responses and political conversations [11:14]

  • Mojica: “If we think about ‘safety,’ just like you said, I am not talking about ‘safe spaces.’ I’m not talking about a ‘safe word.’ I’m not talking about any of that. I’m talking about the biology of safety. So earlier when I said trauma has a biology, the stimulus, the event, the trauma response, and then the body regulates, we call it, so that that bear ran past you. It’s long gone. You look around, there’s no bear anywhere. Ah. You take a breath, your shoulders relax. You come back to yourself. That’s the biology of safety. It is actually a result of your body’s perception of non-threat. So that’s actually what I am talking about when I say I’m teaching you how to find ‘safety’ in yourself.”

 

Mojica shares how he was bullied, and how this work allowed him to find curiosity, empathy and compassion for those who once triggered him [18:31] 

  • Mojica: “I grew up being severely bullied for years and years and years through grade school, middle school, high school. So for me to feel when I was around certain people that I wasn’t able to be myself, I wasn’t able to speak to them, I wasn’t able to be seen. It was this thing in me where I thought it was up to them. Like they had to like me before I could be happy, before I could be myself, before I could be valid. And I lived that way for a long time until I found this work. And then after I would do these practices, I would find myself going into the rooms with these same people and not having an activated response, and my body was completely relaxed around them. And so this idea I had before, which was, ‘you are the cause of my stress. I have to stay away from you. I can’t think about you. I don’t want anyone to say your name’ turned into, ‘oh, you remind my body of stress and when I’m with my own stress, I can be around you and nothing even comes up.’ So I felt the transformation in me where I had a different feeling in my body around the same people that before I thought I had no control or power over how I felt.” 

 

Mojica prays we could learn to ask, “what happened to you that made you vehemently believe this. And why does this belief feel safe for you and it doesn’t for me?” [20:58]

  • Mojica: “Everyone’s belief is sacred to them. And that’s where my curiosity came through because even when I dealt with bullying and a lot of pain from people, I always had a wonder in my mind like, what happened to them? What made them so disconnected from their own heart and their own empathy that they could just be so cruel to somebody over and over again and not care. So once I didn’t have the trigger around them, like once I felt my body’s totally fine, even if you say something rude, right? Then I could see them as this person that was actually having endless reactions based on what happened to them.”
  • Mónica: “‘Why does this belief feel safe for you? And it doesn’t for me.’ That’s a pretty profound question.” 
  • Mojica: “It’s really hard ’cause people over-couple ‘acceptance’ with ‘permitting’ or like ‘acceptance’ with being on the same side of something. Whereas ‘acceptance’ for me is literally my body’s not constricting against it. I’m not fighting with it. I’m not pushing it away. I’m like, ‘Oh, there it is. I accept that. That’s your reality. And I’m embodied to my own [reality.] Like, we can be in the same room, we can be in the same marriage.”

 

Mónica and Mojica discuss the difference between being “triggered” and being “harmed” [24:01]

  • Mojica: “You  said  something  really  important: you said “reminded of  harm.”  I’m  gonna  underline  that. So  most  of  the  time  when  we  are  triggered  or  having  a  conflict  with  somebody  it  either  reminds  us  of  something  we’ve  experienced, and,  or  because of that  experience  we  expect  a  really  painful  result. Now  when  you’re  reminded  of  a  painful experience  or  you’re  expecting  a  painful  result, guess  what  happens? That  gets  somatically  experienced, that  becomes  a  biology.  It  hurts.  So  you  are  literally  in  pain…”

 

Supporting Partner – AllSides.com  [34:16]

Mónica checks in with April Lawson [35:58]

April shares where she believes Reds struggle and succeed with ideas of somatics, harm and trauma [39:09]

  • April: “Trauma response is not just occasionally how we respond to political things. It’s all of it…This is a human response. And because we all have bodies, we all respond this way.”
  • April:  “I  kind  of  think  that  there’s  the  rise  of  therapy  and  therapists  in  the  last,  I  don’t  know, 50 to 200  years, depending  how  you  think  about  it, and I think  it’s  largely  in  response  to  the  fact  that  the  church  no  longer  is  taking  that  role  in  society…People  went  to  their  pastors. People  talked  to  the elder  woman  in  the  church  who  was  wise. That’s  how  that  all  was  handled  in  our  life  in  that  way  and  I’m  not  saying  that  was  perfect, but  I  do  think  that  that  was  where  that  work  happened  and  that  it  was  pretty  powerful.” 

 

Mónica shares ways that Blues struggle and succeed with ideas of harm and trauma, including negating their own agency [45:06]

  • Monica: “I  worry  that  we  are  taking  away  on  the  blue  side  our  own agency  to  make  this  magic  happen, because we  believe  that  there’s  always  power  at  play  and that  therefore  everything  is  harmful [and that] we  have  no  agency, we  have  no  influence, and  so  we  will  only  be  harmed  and  we  cannot  engage.”

 

April speaks about how conversations about Edward Snowden trigger her as a conservative who used to work in the intelligence community [51:20]

  • April: “…what  that  makes  me  feel  is  scared  for  people  around  me, admiring  of  the  sacrifice  and  work  that  people  in  the  intelligence  and  military  communities  do  to  protect  us, and  then  it  feels  desecrating  of  them  and  of  the  sacrifice  that  they  are  making  to  be  callous  and  cavalier.” 

 

Mónica shares about a time that someone gave her critical feedback about a workshop she lead, and how she managed feeling triggered, including taking the person to lunch to hear more [56:26]

  • Monica: “I experienced all the temptations to fawn, absolutely, to freeze. I’m reminded of past trauma. I’m reminded of people who think that they’re right and they’re totally wrong. People who think they’re doing good in the world and they’re actually harming everyone. I don’t wanna be those people. I’m terrified. I’m reminded of being canceled, which is something that’s never happened to me, but I keep reading about it. And so I’ve internalized and identified those other experiences…I’m terrified about that. I’m terrified about all of it, right?…So I’m thinking of past and I’m thinking of future. What I need to be thinking about is this moment right now with this woman and this conversation.”

 

Supporting partner:  Rehumanize International  [1:02:55]

Community Voice: Richard Logis. Rich shares about listening to his own reactions and hearing what once seemed like awful, threatening ideas, very differently. [1:04:07]

  • Logis: “I  was  one  of  the  Trump  voters  of  the  belief  that  the  election  of  Hillary  Clinton  was  the  end  of  America.  I  was  very,  very  deep  in  the  Republican  MAGA  partisan  world.  While  I  didn’t  buy  into  all  of  the  theories  and  conspiracies  and  the  mythologies,  I  believed  a  lot  of  them  in  the  MAGA  Trump  world.  I  was,  I  had  a  community.  I  was  part  of  a  community.  I  was,  I  felt  validated.  Those  were  those  with  whom  I  broke  bread  congregated.  I  felt  that  there  was  a  legitimacy  to  what  I  was  doing  being  around  others.  And  that  is  a  very  underestimated  part  of  why  for  some  people,  they  become  very,  very  immersed  in  what  they’re  not  realizing  is  actually  very  politically  traumatizing  surroundings  and  relationships.”
  • Logis: “Once  we  start  to  see  that  there’s  actually  a  whole  other  world  outside  of  what  we  may  think,  we  start  to  be  able  to  piece  together  and  heal.  Yes,  on  one  hand,  I  left  behind  a  community,  but  I  also  was  able  to  find  another.  And  I  believe  that  my  footing  in  this  community  more  and  better  reflects  and represents  who  I  am  than  my  prior community.”

 

Mónica closes the episode with an invitation to send questions, end credits, thank yous and the song “The Quiet Voice” by Alex Wong and Elise Hayes [1:10:12]

Mónica: 

What did this therapist learn from his patients who felt deeply triggered by politics?

Mojica: 

“What was profound was 20 more people that same week had the same experience. She left my office and I remember thinking, okay, and I took some notes.  Next person came in same thing -next person came in – same thing.  Men and women – it was amazing!” 

Mónica: 

And how do our two big political sides see these kinds of strategies differently – in ways we might not even be aware of? 

April: 

Conservatism and the right has like this toughness thing, which I love in some ways, right? Like the self sufficiency ethic and resilience.  But I think the downside is that we are not very good at this piece. 

Mónica:

All that and more, is just ahead.  

Mónica: 

Welcome to A Braver Way, a show about how you — yes YOU — can disagree about politics without losing heart. 

I’m Mónica Guzmán, your guide across the divide, and I’m here to help you hear and be heard by people who confound you.

We don’t want to be at war in our country. We want to be at home. 

So strap in.

 ‘Cause it’s time we learn how to turn up the heat, turn down the fear, and get real about things that matter with more of our fellow Americans than we thought possible. 

Mónica: 

Hello all, and welcome back.  

Thanksgiving is around the corner. And with it, so much talk about how we’re talking with our families, over meals, wherever it is, and how we might do some kind of better job of it when big political disagreements come up.

But I didn’t want our surviving-the-holidays episode to be about how we talk. I wanted it to be about how we listen. NOT to other people! Not this time! No, this time we’re going a level deeper. We’re going to talk about how we listen… to ourselves.

Now. Before you think this episode is going to be some woo-woo session about our inner light, no no. Rest assured we are here for some real talk and oh boy — so is my guest.    

He is a therapist. But unlike most therapists, he doesn’t start with what goes on in your mind, but with what goes on in your body.

I first met Luis Mojica through a really good friend of mine. She introduced me to his ideas at a time when I was just figuring out how important it is to stay curious in political disagreements. Not just about what other people say and mean when things get heated, but what I say and mean. 

You can’t wonder about something you barely notice. And what I’ve realized — and biology bears out — is that noticing my part in tough conversations doesn’t begin with what I say, or even what I think. It begins with the physical reactions I have. Reactions that tell me I am stirred up. Provoked. Or dare I say the loaded word, “triggered.”

I invited Luis to do a workshop at the Braver Angels Convention in Gettysburg this July. Before the session, I thought about a stereotype I’ve picked up on around liberals and all things “therapy” and wondered if only liberals would show up. I shouldn’t have worried. There were more conservatives than liberals at that session, and they all left wanting more.

So today, we’re gonna zoom way in to those moments we all have. Moments when someone who disagrees with you says something jarring to you — and with a physical flinch or cringe or a sensation like a “punch to the gut” — you react. 

What do you do next, if you still want to hear and be heard? 

How can we handle — really actually handle — being “triggered” in political disagreement? 

Here is my conversation with Luis Mojica. 

Mónica: 

Let’s  start  with  this. You’re  a  somatic  therapist. So  for  people  who  have  never  heard  that  term  before,  what  does  that  mean?  

Mojica: 

It  means  that  you  are  trained  to  sit  with  people  one-on-one  or  in  a  group  space, much  like  a  psychotherapist  would,  but  instead  of  being  trained  through  DSM  to  diagnose  them,  you’re  trained  to  see  how  their  body  stores  traumatic  events  from  their  past,  so  you  can  help  them  actually  access  where  that  lives  and  even  teach  them  the  roots  of  some  of  their  behaviors.

Mónica:  

Okay,  and  I  know  that  you  focus  also  on  trauma.  What’s  the  trauma  body  connection  there?  

Mojica: 

The  trauma  body  connection  is  really  biology.  We  thought  trauma  was  a  mental  experience, but  trauma  is  a  biological  response  to  an  experience,  so  if  a  big  experience  occurs,  let’s  call  it  the  stimulus.  The  body  has  a  response  to  every  stimulus  that  seems  possibly  threatening, and  that  response  is  called  the  trauma  response,  and  it  literally  means  you  make  a  bunch  of  adrenaline,  your  blood  pressure  rises,  your  blood  vessels  constrict,  and  you  get  a  rush  of  neurotransmission  through  your  nervous  system. The  whole  purpose  of  this,  it’s  like  a  propellant.  It  forces  you  to  go  into  fight,  flight,  freeze,  or  fawn,  so  you  can  survive  a  situation,  so  your  mind  shuts  off,  body  takes  over.  So  trauma  responses  happen  like  all  day  long. The  people  I  tend  to  work  with,  and  when  you  think  of  someone  going  to  therapy,  it’s  someone  who’s  traumatized,  where  the  response  doesn’t  turn  off.  It’s  meant  to  be  short -term,  until  you’re,  let’s  say,  like  a  bear  is  chasing  you, and  you  freeze,  and  the  bear  runs  by  you  because  it  doesn’t  see  you  frozen  against  the  tree,  and  the  bear  is  long  gone  and  you  take  a  breath  and  you’re  back  in  your  body.  So  the  trauma  response, let’s  say  it  was  on  15,  20  minutes,  just  in  this  example,  when  your  trauma  ties,  it  just  stays  on.  The  situation’s  over,  but  you  stay  braced  for  decades.  

Mónica: 

Decades. Okay,  real  quick,  to  go  back  to  something  you  said,  you  said  “fight,  flight,  freeze,”  which  I  think  many  people  can  more  or  less  know,  and  you  said  “fawn.”  Fight,  flight,  freeze or fawn.  What  is  “fawn?” 

Mojica: 

“Fawning”  is  a  people-pleasing  mechanism.  So  it’s  actually  a  reflexive  charm  or  reflexive  pleasing  strategy  that’s  used  when  the  other  person  has  some  kind  of  control  over  your  well -being. The  best  example  of  this  is  when  someone  gets  hijacked  by  somebody  or  abducted  or  held  hostage  and  we  hear  those  stories  where  I  became  friends  with  my  kidnapper. So  that’s  like  an  extreme  example  of  why  fawning exists.  A  simple  one  is  like  a  dog  is  growling  at  you,  like  it’s  going  to  bite  you  and  you’re  going,  “nice  doggy,  nice  doggy.”  That’s  a  fawn. You’re  trying  to  relax  the  nervous  system  of  the  potential  predator  so  you  can  escape.  Fawning  is  the  most  used  strategy  in  society  and  it  ends  up  becoming  the  way  we  actually  relate  and  connect. So  when  you  hear  like  politically  performative  allyship,  that’s  a  fawning  mechanism  where  you’re  reflexively  agreeing  with  someone  just  to  not  be  canceled  to  belong  to  you. 

Mónica:  

Oh  my  gosh.  That’s  amazing.

Mojica: 

Okay.  It’s  amazing.  I  know.  Yes.  

Mónica: 

Perfect  segueway  because  I  was  going  to  ask  you  that.  You  do  trauma,  you  do  somatic  therapy.  Where  do  you  see  all  of  this  in  our  political  disagreements?

Mojica: 

It’s  literally  the  reason  why  there’s  political  disagreements.  I  shouldn’t  say  disagreements.  It’s  a  reason  why  there’s  polarity,  right?  Because  you  can  have  disagreement  without  polarity. So  the  way  that  looks  in  politics  is  will  you  disagree  with  me  on  makes  you  a  threat  to  me.  And  so  now  I’m  in  a  trauma  response  with  you.  I  can’t  connect  or  be  curious. I’m  either  fighting,  fighting,  freezing  or  falling.  

Mónica: 

But  connection  is  actually  unavailable  as  long  as  I’m  in  those  areas.  

Mojica: 

And  so  most  people,  especially  if  you  think  of  like  people  that  are  yelling  at  each  other  on  different  sides  of  the  aisle, they  are  in  an  active,  let’s  say  fight  response.  response,  like  when  they’re  arguing  versus  asking  questions  and  pausing  and  reflecting.  

Mónica: 

Mm,  yeah.  And  I  guess  we  all  we  all  spend  time  in  those  responses. All  of  us,  all  of  us.  No  kidding.  So  at  the  Braver  Angels  Convention,  you  shared  something  you  observed  in  your  practice  back  around  2017, where  you  saw,  I  think  you  said  it  was  a  woman  who  came  into  your  office  and  mentioned  Trump  in  this  trauma  connected  way.  Can  you  tell  us  about  that  and  what  you  observed  after  that?

Mojica:

Yeah,  so  Trump  had  won,  you  know,  the  election.  And  this  woman  came  into  my  office  the  next  day  and  was  like,  destroyed.  She  couldn’t  sleep.  She  was  crying.  She  was  shaking. She  just  felt  like  utter  fear  and  panic.  And  as  we  sat  with  it  somatically,  all  this  memory  and  these  images  and  these  sensations  of  her  abusive  father  were  coming  up.

Mónica: 

So  wait,  I’m  gonna  stop  you  right  there.  Just  explain  what  you  mean  when  we  sat  with  it  somatically.  

Mojica: 

Good  question.  So  sitting  with  it  somatically  for  everyone  listening,  I’ll  say  it  in  the  simplest  context. It  literally  means  “where  do  you  feel  that  in  your  body?”  So  let’s  say  she  walks  in  the  room  and  I’m  intellectually  with  her.  It’s  like  talk  therapy  or  it’s  coaching.  It’s  more  cognitive.  We  might  try  to  figure  out  the  meaning. “What  does  it  mean  to  you  that  he  was  elected  or  what  are  your  thoughts  about  him  or  how  can  we  create  a  strategy  to  cope  with  this  these  next  four  years?” Somatically  means,  okay,  when  you  think  of  Trump  being  president, what  happens  in  your  body?  And  in  this  case,  she said  “I  can’t  breathe.  My  chest  is  so  constricted,  I  can’t  even  get  a  deep  breath.  I  was  up  all  night  hyperventilating.”  

And  we  sat  with  that  and  one  of  my  lead  questions  with  people  is  “where  have  you  felt  that  kind  of  hyperventilating  before? Like,  where  in  your  history  was  this  a  pattern?”

It  was  with  this  person’s  abusive  father.  Now  that  was  the  first  moment  of  like,  oh,  interesting,  I  never  had  seen  in  my  practice  that  direct  connection  between  somatics, trauma  and  politics. But  what  was  profound  was  20  more  people  that  same  week  had  the  same  experience  with  Trump.  Wow.  And  it  was  mostly  women  because  because–  – 

Mónica: 

Wait,  that  same  week,  that  same  week.

Mojica:

 – That’s  what,  like  she  left  my  office.  I  remember  thinking  like,  okay,  and  I  wrote  some  notes.  Next  person  came  in,  same  thing.  Next  person  came  in,  same  men  and  women.  It  was  amazing.  And  it  was  every  single  person, it  took  them  back  to  either  an  abusive  father  or  an  abusive  boyfriend.  Some  memory  of  like  an  oppressive  male  figure.  

Mónica: 

Oh,  that’s  amazing.  And  we  should  note,  you  live  in  New  York, you  had–  – I  live  in  New  York.  – A  blue  area.  

Mojica: 

This  was  in  Woodstock,  New  York.  Very  blue,  very  liberal.  

Mónica: 

Very  blue  area,  right,  right.  Wow.  So  you  teach  people  something  that  sounds  pretty  radical. You  teach  them  how  to  find  safety  inside  themselves.  Now  I  wanna  zoom  in  on  the  word  safety  because  with  things  like  safe  spaces  and  safety,  you  know  that  that  in  and  of  itself  can  become  a  charged  word  across  our  divide. What  do  you  mean  by  safety?  What  do  you  mean  by  safety?  You  teach  people  how  to  find  safety  within  themselves.  What  do  you  mean  by  safety?  

Mojica: 

I  love  to  ask  the  question  because  if  we  think  about  safety,  just  like  you  said,  I’m  not  talking  about  safe  spaces, I’m  not  talking  about  safe  word,  I’m  not  talking  about  any  of  that.  I’m  talking  about  the  biology  of  safety.  So  earlier  when  I  said  trauma  has  a  biology,  the  stimulus,  the  event,  the  trauma  response, and  then  the  body  regulates,  we  call  it.  So  that  bear  ran  past  you,  it’s  long  gone,  you  look  around,  there’s  no  bear  anywhere.  Ah,  you  take  a  breath, your  shoulders  relax,  you  come  back  to  yourself.  

That’s  the  biology  of  safety.  Safety  is  actually  a  result  of  your  body’s  perception  of  non-threat. So  that’s  actually  what  I’m  talking  about  when  I  say  I’m  teaching  you  how  to  find  safety  in  yourself. So  finding  safety  in  yourself  means  learning  how  to  help  your  body  perceive  that  you’re  okay  in  this  moment  so  it  can  biologically  regulate.  You  can  have  a  little  break  from  a  lot  of  adrenaline.  

Mónica: 

Okay,  so  the  question  I  wanna  ask  is  when  I  think  to  myself,  you  can  learn  to  find  safety  within  yourself.  And  I  bring  it  into  the  realm  of  politics  when  something  we  hear  about  some  issue  that  really  matters  to  us, someone  who  really  disagrees  with  us  and  we’re  so  disappointed  brings  up  that  threat  response.  And  the  question  I  want  to  ask  is  
“how  is  that  possible  to  find  safety  within  yourself  when  there’s  these  giant  issues  and  they  matter  so  much  and  you  care  deeply  about  them. They occupy you. And that feels correct. Go where you’ll go on that  question  because  it’s  a  big  one.  But  how  do  you  know  it’s  even  possible  to  find  this  kind  of  security  safety  within  yourself  no  matter  what’s  going  on  out  there?  

Mojica:

Yeah,  yeah,  I  mean,  it  started  with  me.  It  started  with  me  finding  discovering  this  in  my  own  body  and  thinking  I  really  need  to  teach  other  people  this  is  possible.  And  then  from  a  sense  of  curiosity  and  a  desire  to  serve, seeing  other  people  do  it  in  the  most  powerful  situations.  I’ve  worked  with  people  in  the  Middle  East  that  are  dealing  with  war.  I’ve  worked  with  people  who  are  living  in  abusive  relationships  and  houses, like  environments  of  abuse,  situations  that  seem  impossible,  and  they  can  find  safety  in  themselves. And  so  I’m  going  to  explain  this  a  bit.  

There’s  this  thing  that  happens  with  all  of  us. We  call  it  talk  about  empathy.  Empathy  is  somatic.  It’s  biological.  So  when  I  look  at  you,  and  let’s  say  I’ll  use  the  political  example,  you’re  saying  something  to  me  that  I  like  vehemently  disagree  with, right?  That  feels  like  a  threat  to  my  system,  like  you  believe  in  something  that  feels  oppressive  to  me,  right?  So  I’m  seeing  you,  I’m  hearing  that  that  rush  comes  up,  just  like  you  said,  the  rush  is  coming  up  because  I’m  attuning  to  you.  My  body  is  mirroring  your  stance  about  what  you  believe  in,  and  I’m  attaching  my  safety  to  you,  which  is  why  we  get  desperate  to  change  the  mind  of  the  person  we’re  in  front  of.

Mónica: 

Wait,  so  so,  attaching  my  safety  to  you,  does  that  mean  I’m  looking  to  you  and  what  you  do  and  what  you  say  for  my  sense  of  safety?  

Mojica:

Exactly.  Like  if  you  believe  in  this  and  I  believe  in  this, I  need  to  change  your  minds,  I  can’t  rest  till  I  know  you  agree  with  me.  That’s  me  finding  safety  in  you.  I’m  looking  toward  you  as  once  you  change,  I  will  finally  relax. Finding  safety  myself  in  that  same  experience  would  be  okay,  there  you,  there’s  Moni,  just  believing  what  she  believes.  Here’s  me  believing  what  I  believe.  What’s  actually  happening  in  the  room  right  now? Nothing.  Just  two  people  having  different  beliefs.  What  it’s  bringing  up  in  me  comes  from  my  past,  and  it  comes  from  what  my  body  is  expecting  in  the  future,  and  that  feels  like  threat, right?  So  I  attach  it  to  you.  The  stress  that  comes  up,  I  say  is  because  of  you.  When  what  you’re  saying  is  reminding  my  body  of  past  stress,  right?  Past  situations.

When  I  can  realize  that’s  in  my  body,  then  I  also  realize  in  the  safety  is  also  in  my  body.  You  didn’t  create  the  stress,  you  don’t  create  the  safety,  my  relationship  to  myself  does  either  of  those. 

Mónica: 

Yeah,  that  sounds  like  a  journey  to  get  through  that  experience. And  I  want  to  hit  pause  on  another  word.  You  did  mention  the  word  triggered,  that’s  another  word  that  can  have  partisan  connotations,  trigger  warnings  and  whatnot.  When  you  say “ trigger,”  what  does  that  word  mean?  

Mojica: 

It  means  two  things  to  me.  So  one  thing  it  means  just  to  respect  the  lineage  of  the  word  is  trigger  often  means  let’s  say  someone  who  came  back  from  war, combat,  and  they  have  PTSD,  and  a  very  loud  horn  or  sound  or  explode  like  a  broken  glass  or  something.  They  experience  this  big  sound  and  their  whole  body  takes  them  back  to  combat. That’s  like  when  we  think  of  the  origin  of  the  word  trigger,  that’s  the  origin  of  it.  So  I  want  to  respect  that  because  a  lot  of  times  we  use  trigger,  like  when  someone  annoys  us,  “oh,  you  triggered  me  when  you  chew  with  your  mouth  open,”  it’s  like,  not  really, it’s  a  little  different  than  that.  But  I  also,  I’ll  play  with  that,  that  use  too,  because  trigger  can  also  just  simply  mean  reminded.  When  I  walk  into  the  room  and  I  don’t  even  know  who  you  are, but  I’m  triggered  by  you.  That  tells  me  that  something  about  you,  there’s  an  unconscious  bias  or  memory  in  my  body  about  you.  Your  face,  what  you’re  wearing,  what  you’re  saying,  it  opens  something  up  in  me  that  I  have  yet  to  even  maybe  know  is  there.

Mónica: 

Even  though  you  don’t  know  me,  it  has  nothing  to  do  with  who  I  am  because  you  don’t  know  me,  so  it  can’t  possibly  come  from  me.  

Mojica:

And  that’s  how  I  know  in  my  body  triggers  are  reminders  triggers  aren’t  proof  that  you’re  wrong  or  you’re  scary  or  bad  or  evil. We  get  triggers  and  intuition  very  mistaken.  Trigger  means  you  remind  me  of  something.  My  body  attaches  a  meaning  to  you  before  I  even  know  who  you  are.  

Mojica:

Right. So  the  session  that  you  did  at  Braver  Angels,  the  main  title  was,  “You Are Not Responsible for My Reactions.”  And  I  remember, you  know,  yes,  let’s  be  provocative.  But  that,  that  is,  tell  us  why  you  think  that’s  true.  You  know,  this  sense  of  you  are  not  responsible  for  my  reactions. “Wait  a  minute,  but  they’re  saying  this  thing  that  is  wrong  and  that  I  need  to  change.”  Like  how  could  we  not  think  that  way?  You  are  not  responsible  for  my  reaction.  What  makes  you  think  that’s  true?  

Mojica: 

So  what  makes  me  experience  that  is  true  is  there’s  someone’s  action. And  then  there’s  my  reaction.  And  these  are  two  completely  different  things.  Your  action  is  a  hundred  percent  yours.  Like  I’m  not  responsible  for  what  you  say  or  do  to  me. Okay.  What  comes  up  in  my  body,  I’m  responsible  for. What  that  just  means  to  me  is  my  ability  to  respond  to  it.  So  when  we’re  talking  about  me  in, you  know,  this  example,  I  get  triggered  by  you,  which  I  haven’t  haven’t  yet  in  our  friendship,  but  maybe  it  will  happen.  I’m  open  to  it.  But  I  get  triggered  by  you.  And  I  feel  that  feeling  in  my  stomach, right?  That’s  coming  up  in  me  that  lives  in  me  now.  Even  if  it’s  something  you  said  horribly  to  me,  you’re  that’s  yours,  you’re  accountable  to  what  you  said  to  me. Where  that  goes  and  where  that  comes  up  in  me  is  in  me. And  now  how  I  know  this  is  I,  we  had  talked  about  this  in  the  beginning.  I  grew  up  being  severely  bullied  for  years  and  years  and  years  through  middle,  grade  school,  middle  school,  high  school. So  for  me  to  feel  when  I  was  around  certain  people  that  I  wasn’t  able  to  be  myself, I  wasn’t  able  to  speak  to  them.  I  wasn’t  able  to  be  seen.  It  was  this  thing  in  me  where  I  thought  it  was  up  to  them. Like  they  had  to  like  me  before  I  could  be  happy, before  I  could  be  myself,  before  I  could  be  valid.  And  I  lived  the  way  for  a  long  time  until  I  found  this  work.  Then  after  I  would  do  these  practices,  I  would  find  myself  going  into  the  rooms  with  these  same  people  and  not  having  an  activated  response. And  my  body  was  completely  relaxed  around  them.  And  so  this,  this  idea  I  had  before,  which  was  you  are  the  cause  of  my  stress,  I  have  to  stay  away  from  you.  I  can’t  think  about  you  don’t  anyone  to  say  your  name  turned  into, “Oh,  you  remind  my  body  of  stress.  And  when  I’m  with  my  own  stress,  I  can  be  around  you  and  nothing  even  comes  up.”  

So  I  felt  the  transformation  in  me,  where  I  had  a  different  feeling  in  my  body  around  the  same  people  that  before  I  thought  I  had  no  control  or  power  over  how  I  felt.

Mónica:

And  how  does  that  change?  How  did  that  change  your  ability  to  connect  with  those  people,  get  curious  about  them?  Did  you  see  them  completely  differently?  

Mojica:

Completely  differently.  Because  what  I  was, and  this  was  part  of  what  I  taught  at Braver  Angels,  that  one  of  my  mentors,  Bill  Riddick,  who  does  incredible  work  with  conflict  resolution,  he  taught  me  that  everyone’s  belief  is  sacred  to  them. And  that’s  where  my  curiosity  came  through.  Because  even  when  I  dealt  with  bullying  and  a  lot  of  pain  from  people,  I  always  had  a  wonder  in  my  mind,  like,  what  happened  to  them?  Like,  what,  what  made  them  so  disconnected  from  their  own  heart  and  their  own  empathy  that  they  could  just  be  so  cruel  to  somebody  over  and  over  again  and  not  care?  So  once  I  didn’t  have  the  trigger  around  them, like  once  I  felt  my  body’s  totally  fine,  even  if  you  say  something  rude,  right?  Then  I  could  see  them  as  this  person  that  was  actually  having  endless  reactions  based  on  what  happened  to  them. It  didn’t  justify, you  know,  what  they  did  to  me.  It  didn’t  make  me  want  to,  like,  have  them  over  for  dinner.  But  this  whole  story  about  them  left  my  mind.  They  weren’t  these  horrible,  evil  people.  They  were  also  someone  in  their  own  trauma  response. And  it  just  gave  me  much  more  compassion  for  everybody,  you  know.  And  politically,  that’s  one  of  my  prayers,  is  we  could  learn  what  happened  to  you  that  made  you  vehemently  believe  this. And  why  does  this  belief  feel  safe  for  you  and  it  doesn’t  for  me?  

Mónica: 

Why  does  this  belief  feel  safe  for  you  and  it  doesn’t  for  me?  That’s  a  pretty  profound  question.  

Mojica: 

That’s  what  I  wish  we  were  talking  about  in  debates.  Instead  of  you’re  wrong,  I’m  right.  Like,  well,  why  does  it  feel  safe  for  you  and  why  does  it  scare  me?  Then  we  get  to  the  bottom  of  it.  

Mónica: 

Right,  because  then  you  can  exchange  all  kinds  of  really  interesting  different  experiences,  insights, but  you  said  something,  the  idea  that  whatever  you  believe  is  sacred  to  you  and  I  somehow  accept  that,  I  think  is  a  really  hard  one  to  swallow  for  a  lot  of  folks.

Mojica: 

It’s  really  hard  because  people  over  couple,  like  acceptance  with  permitting,  or  like  acceptance  with  being  on  the  same  side  of  something,  whereas  acceptance  for  me  is  literally  my  body’s  not  constricting  against  it. I’m  not  fighting  with  it.  I’m  not  pushing  it  away.  I’m  like,  oh,  there  it  is.  I  accept  that  that’s  your  reality.  And  I’m  embodied  to  my  own,  like  we  can  be  in  the  same  room.  We  can  be  in  the  same  marriage.

Mónica: 

 That’s  amazing.  Well,  I  was  just  thinking  about  on  an  earlier  episode,  folks  heard  from  my  mom  and  my  mom  and  I  disagree  on  abortion  policy  and  she’s  pro -life  and  I’m  pro -choice. And  she  told  the  story  about  when  I  was  a  teenager  and  she  heard  from  me  for  the  first  time  in  real  clear  terms  that  I  am  not  pro-life.  I  think  abortion  should  be  legal  and  she  talked  about  how  it  absolutely  broke  her  heart  and  how  for  a  long  time  she  carried  that  in  her  but  she  talked  about, I’m  trying  to  remember  the  words  she  said  that  after  a  while  she  became  okay  with  it  and  she  said,  “it’s  not  that  I  became  okay  but  I  got  used  to  it”  is  how  she  put  it  and  so  what  you’re  saying  is  reminding  me  somehow  of  that  process. She  and  I  can  talk  about  abortion  all  day  long  and  she  gets  probably,  I  should  ask  her  whether  she  would  call  it  being  triggered  but  somehow  we’re  able  to  stay  in  it  and  yeah, get  curious  about  the  “why”  and  how  is  this  safe  for  you  and  not  safe  for  me  is  a  really  interesting  way  in. 

Mojica: 

That’s  why  I  love  calling  it  “sacred”  because  it’s  not,  I’m  not  asking  anyone  to  find  a  sacred  for  them  but  if  we  just  have  this  practice  of  oh,  like  “I’m  pro -life,  you’re  pro -choice”  and  someone  says,  “I  believe  in  this,  I  believe  in  abortion”  like  they  say  the  words,  “I  believe  in  abortion”  and  someone  who  doesn’t,  imagine  if  the  first  thing  we  thought  would be, “okay,  their  belief  in  abortion  is  sacred  to  them,  it’s  sacred.  How  do  I  treat  something  that’s  sacred  to  somebody?”  It’s  very  different  from  like, “how  do  I  treat  an  opinion? How  do  I  treat  an  ideology?  How  do  I  treat  a  truth  or  a  false?” It’s  like,  it’s  sacred  to  them.  So  I  think  when  we  show  up  to  something  that’s  sacred  for  someone,  we  get  curious,  we  get  gentle,  we  get  kind, we  have  compassion.  Like  “that  means  a  lot  to  you,  teach  me  this  meaning,  teach  me  about  this.”  Not  ’cause  I’m  gonna  believe  it  but  I  just  wanna  know  why  you  do.  

Mónica: 

Yeah,  well,  let’s  talk  about  another, I  mean,  important  distinction  that  comes  up,  I  think  a  lot  with  this,  is  the  difference  between  “being  harmed”  and  “being  triggered.”  I  hear  about  a  lot  of  questions,  people  going, “what  do  you  do  when  people  have  ideas  that  are  harmful  and  so  you  have  to  engage  with  ideas  or  even  the  conversation,  if  you  feel  disrespected  or  dehumanized  to  a  certain  degree. Are  you  being  harmed?  Aren’t  you  being  harmed?” So  how  do  you  know  the  difference  between  “I’m  just  afraid  of  harm. I’m  reminded  of  harm.”  versus  “No, no, no, right  now  in  this  moment  sure  they’re  not  hitting  me  with  sticks  but  they  are  harming  me.” 

Mojica: 

Mmm, we need a whole other podcast about this. 

Mónica: 

We  probably do. I  don’t  know  if  you  can  sum  this  one  up. But  for  the  listener  having  that  thought. 

Mojica: 

Right  like  yeah, absolutely. Evan and I had a six-hour conversation about this the whole ride  home  by  the  way.  

So  you  said  something  really  important: you said “reminded of  harm.”  I’m  gonna  underline  that. So  most  of  the  time  when  we  are  triggered  or  having  a  conflict  with  somebody  it  either  reminds  us  of  something  we’ve  experienced, and,  or  because of that  experience  we  expect  a  really  painful  result. Now  when  you’re  reminded  of  a  painful experience  or  you’re  expecting  a  painful  result, guess  what  happens? That  gets  somatically  experienced, that  becomes  a  biology.  It  hurts.  So  you  are  literally  in  pain…

Mónica: 

But  the  pain  is  real. Either  way

Mojica: 

The pain  is  real.

Mónica:

The pain is  there.  

Mojica: 

Maybe  we  can  talk  for  a  minute  about  the  demo  I  did. The  whole thing is, if you’re  calling  the  stress  and  pain  in  my  body “ harm,”  I’m  attaching  an action  on  to  you. This  is  where  it  gets  dicey  for  me, because  when  I  think  of  the  people  I’ve  worked  with,  the  situations  I’ve  gone  through,  my  experience  of  harm is in someone. It  actually  impinges  on  my  agency,  like  when  I  think  of  harm  I  think  of,  and  there’s  so  many  levels  to  this,  there’s  parents  to  children. Like  if  you  tell  a  child  every  day  growing  up  that  they  are  worthless, right, we  can  call  that  a  form  of  “harm” because  this  child  has  no  agency.  They’re  looking  to  these  two  people as all  they  have  in  the  world. If  I’m  30  years  old  and  my  best  friend  says  like, “Luis, you  know  what,  you  suck.  Your  music  is  worthless.”  I  don’t  know  if  I  personally  would  call  that  “harm.”  I  call that  “rude.”  I  would  call  it  “painful.” I  wouldn’t  call  it “harm.” It  doesn’t  impinge  on  my  agency.  So  for  me,  again,  just  somatically,  when  something  impinged on someone’s  agency,  I  see  it  as  “harm.”  That’s  where  I  could  call  it  that. When  I  feel  pain  because  of  what  you  said, I  feel  pain.  I  wouldn’t  say  “you  harmed  me.”  I’d  say,  “What you  said  to  me,  brought  me  to  pain  inside  of  my  body.”  I’m  going  to  be  with  that  too. 

Mónica: 

“What  you  said  to  me  brought  me  to  pain.” Not  “you  brought  me  to  pain.” 

Mojica: 

That’s  right.  

Mónica: 

That’s  a  big– that’s  a  big  jump  for  some  folks.  

Mojica: 

It’s  huge, because  when  you  say  to  someone,  “you  harmed  me.”  Most  people  don’t  have  the  capacity  to  even  sit  with  the  idea  of  harming  someone. So  you’re  not  really  going  to  get  much  out  of  that  by  pointing  the  finger  at  “you  harmed  me.”  And  then  let’s  say  you  do,  let’s  say  I  look  at  you  like,  “Moni,  you  harmed  me  when  you  said  that.  I’m  harmed  now.”  Like  your  fawning  mechanism  is  going  to  kick  in  really  quickly.

Mónica: 

“I’m  so  sorry.  Oh  my  gosh.  I  apologize  100%  for—”  Because  all  I  want  to  do  is  repair  what’s  been  broken.  Not  that  person.  

Mojica: 

Exactly.  But  that’s  actually  not  a  relationship  or  a  repair. That’s  me  performing  connection  to  soothe  you,  to  tamp  you  down.  

Mónica: 

That’s  not  connecting.  That’s  performing. 

Mojica: 

Exactly.  It’s  an  imitation. And  fawning  is  all  about  imitating  connection  to  soothe  the  other  person’s  body.  So  what  you  said  this  earlier  about  triggers,  and  what  I  was  hearing  was,  when  you  have  a  really  deep  relationship  with  someone, it’s  the  kind  where  you’re  open  to  getting  triggered.  I  don’t  want  you  to  tiptoe  around  me  because  I  trust  you.  I  trust  your  beliefs  are  sacred.  And  I’m  willing  to  hold  what  opens  up  in  me  and  be  responsible  for  them. And  you’re  willing  to  hold  your  actions  and  be  responsible  for  them.  That’s  the  kind  of  relationship  I  feel  actually  safe  in,  rather  than  someone  like  skirting  around  me  because  they  don’t  want  to  say  the  wrong  thing.  That  doesn’t  feel  safe  to  me. That  feels  performative  and  it  feels  tense.  

Mónica: 

Yeah.  Well,  something  that’s  coming  up  for  me  as  I  hear  all  this  is,  it  almost  feels  like  if  I’m  going  to  talk  to  someone  whose  ideas, or  anything  about  them,  might  trigger  me  politically, then,  oh  my  gosh,  I  need  to  be  kind  of  a  Zen  master  superhuman  of  myself.  

Mojica:

Yeah.  

Mónica: 

How  do  I  do  that?  And  is  that  really  the  ask?  

Mojica: 

No,  and  it’s  not  possible. It’s  not  about  not  getting  triggered.  And  it’s  going  to  sound  like  that.  We’re  all  going  to  take  like  the  takeaways  and  be  like,  okay,  I  have  to  get  to  a  place  where  nothing  bothers  me.  Not  not  possible.  That’s  not  the  point  here. It’s  about  when  something  bothers  me,  do  I  leave  myself  to  attach  it  to  you  to  fix?  Or  do  I  sit  within  myself,  get  some  clarity,  then  bring  it  to  you  to  share  with  you. “That  thing  you  said,  I  just  need  you  to  know  I  have  a  real  sensitivity  around  that  word,  because  for  a  long  time,  dot  to  dot  to  dot,  it  doesn’t  feel  good  in  my  body.”  That  is  so  different  than  coming  to  you  and  being  like, you  know,  “you’re  phobic,”  or  “you’re  red”  or  “you’re  blue,”  you  know,  whatever  we’re  going  to  call  somebody.  When  I  make  you  and  your  character  based  on  something  that  came  up  in  me,  I  don’t  even  share  myself  with  you. I’m  just  making  it  about  you.  So  again,  no  connection.  Then  how  many  people  can  just  sit  there  with  open  arms?  “I  receive  your  anger  toward  me.”  No.  So  it’s  about  feeling  it  and  responding  to  it  yourself  first, and  then  sharing  that  with  the  other.  That’s  all  this  is  about.  

Mónica: 

Right.  So  in  other  words,  it’s  more  bite  size.  It’s  much  more  one  thing.  There’s  one  thing  you’re  triggered  by.  Just  practice  it.  When  it’s  too  hot, take  a  break.  You  know,  you’re  still  in  control  very  much  in  control.  

So  in  the  in  the  last  bit  of  time  that  we  have,  I  wondered  if  you  could  help  us  identify  other  tips, strategies,  and  I’ll  kick  it  off  because  I  sat  in  your  breakout  in  the  convention  and  the  chairs  had  backs  to  them.  And  you  told  us,  if  you’re  having  a  difficult  conversation  with  someone  or  you’re  getting  ready  to,  check  to  see  if  your  chair  is  comfortable.

Mojica: 

Absolutely.  So  everyone  can  try  this  right  now  and  you’ll  feel  exactly  what  I’m  going  to  say.  So  sit  in  whatever  your  chair  you’re  in  and  sit  without  your  back  touching.  And  just  notice  the  amount  of  tension  that  that  takes. You  have  to  constrict  a  lot  of  different  muscles  to  like  erect  the  spine  and  hold  yourself  up. Not  a  bad  thing,  but  that  doesn’t  create  a  sense  of  ease  in  the  body.  So  if  I’m  speaking  with  someone  about  something  I  know  I’m  going  to  disagree  with  or  I  might, this  isn’t  a  very  supportive  posture. Now  the  moment  we  sit  back,  just  feel  that. So  if  I’m  focused  on  my  body,  taking  breaths, taking  pauses  before  I  speak,  feeling  my  back  resting,  the  ease  from  my  body  gets  mirrored  in  their  body. 

Mónica: 

And  then  let’s  state  the  obvious.  The  ideas  you’re  talking  about  will  also  relax.

Mojica: 

Yes,  because  think  about  what  you  just  said.  Even  that  statement, “the  ideas  you  talk  about  will  relax.” Where  do  they  relax  in  your  body?  Ideas  are  just  floating.  You  know,  the  body  responds  to  them. So  if  I’m  in  a  restful  state,  my  ideas  and  your  ideas,  especially  are  going  to  land  an  arrested  body  instead  of  a  constricted  body. 

Mónica:  

Yeah,  no,  that’s  great.  And  it  makes  me  think  of  the  internet. We  all  lose  our  bodies  online.  That’s  right.  All  the  conversations  and  disagreements  have  no  embodiment  whatsoever.  So  no  wonder  that  when  we  do  get  into  conversations,  even  in  person,  we  ignore  our  bodies.  We  were  doing  it  already.  We  were  doing  it  already.  It’s  just  the  default.  

So  one  of  the  places  that  I  found  a  lot  of  hope  in  your  workshop  toward  the  end,  somebody  was  saying,  I  think,  something  basically  around,  “wait  a  minute,  what  if  I  come,  you  know,  ready  to  try  to  be  more  conscious  about  what’s  going  on  in  my  body,  ready  to  be  responsible  for  my  own  reactions? But  the  other  person  doesn’t.  Don’t  I  need  to  get  them  to  agree  with  this  method  or  like,  you  know,  to  agree  to  be  curious  and  to  soften  their  bodies  so  they  can  be  open.” 

And  I  think  you  said  something  like,  “no,  it  only  takes  one.”  So  can  you  say  something  to  that? 

Mojica: 

Yeah,  so  our  bodies  already  have  so  many  things  happening  just  from  looking  at  each  other  without  knowing  it,  right? So  this  is  why  it  takes  one.  Notice  how  it  feels  in  your  body  when  I  just  sit  back? 

Mónica: 

Oh,  I  want  to  sit  back.  Immediately.  I  just  did  it.  

Mojica: 

You  feel  that?  Your  body  mirrors  my  body. So  it  only  takes  one.  So  you  don’t  have  to  teach  anybody  or  rely  on  them.  You  do  it  in  yourself  and  other  bodies  will  respond.  

Mónica: 

There  you  go.  That’s  it.  You  can  work  on  yourself. And  that  does  more  than  affect  yourself.  

Mojica:

That’s  right.  

Mónica: 

And  that,  that  seems  like  such  a  radical  and  I  think  very  hopeful  idea.  And  hopefully  our  listeners  are  feeling  their  own  power  here.

Mojica:

I’m  so  excited  for  your  listeners  to  hear  this  because  we  don’t  talk  about  this  in  the  political  realms.  

Mónica:

We  don’t.  We  just  don’t  talk  about  it.  

Mojica: 

And  the  amount  of  people  that  came  up  to  me  at  the  convention  saying,  I’ve  never  had  the  permission  to  put  trauma  with  politics. And  these  were  largely  red.  I  couldn’t  believe  it.  I  didn’t  have  permission.  And  they  were  so  open  and  all  made  sense  suddenly.  So  I’d  love  to  recreate  this  conversation  where  we  can  bring  these  two  things  together.

Mónica: 

Yeah,  absolutely.  And  the  idea  of  if  you  find  safety  within  yourself,  how  much  less  stressful  does  the  world  become?  Could  we  become  more  creative?  

Mojica: 

And  creative  is  a  good  word  for  it  because  you’re  not  fighting  anymore.  You’re  getting  curious.  And  through  that  you  get  to  actually  be  really  creative  and  how  can  we  make  this  work  for  all  of  us?  

Mónica:

Right.  And  it’s  freeing  ourselves  from  the  trauma  response.  Fight, flight.  What  was  the  third  one?  Freeze  and  fawn.  Freeze  and  then  fawn.  ‘Fascinating.’  There’s  another  F.  Yeah.  The  fifth  one.  Well,  at  least  it  was  an  absolute  delight. As  always,  thank  you  so  much  for  bringing  your  wisdom  and  your  experience  to  all  this.  And  I’m  sure  this  won’t  be  the  last  conversation  you  and  I  have.  

Mojica:

Thank  you,  my  friend.  It’s  good  to  see  you.  

Mónica: 

Thank  you.  Bye. 

Mónica: 

Before we move on I want to tell you about one of our Supporting Partners. 

Have you ever been in a conversation where you felt misunderstood for your beliefs? Have your relationships fractured over differences of opinion? Or have you ever seen a news article that misrepresented your side of things? 

AllSides.com is here for you with tools designed to heal our divided society. 

AllSides helps people get outside their filter bubbles so we appreciate differences of opinion and find something closer to truth.

Its balanced newsfeed serves up news from the left, center, and right, all side-by-side so you can get out of your bubble, spot bias, and think for yourself. Spotting bias is not easy, but as a longtime journalist, I can tell you, they’ve made something of a science out of it. 

Their newsfeed is powered by over 1,400 AllSides Media Bias Ratings™ they’ve gathered that rely on the judgment of everyday Americans, not one elite group. They also host conversation  to help us to communicate across divides.

Check out the newsfeed and help rate media bias yourself at Allsides.com.

Thank you to Allsides for being a supporting partner of A Braver Way.

Mónica:

After talking with Luis, I was pretty eager to check in with my friend and colleague, April Lawson. 

This episode is about listening to yourself in disagreement, a bit of a different angle. What does that bring up for conservatives, like April, or liberals, like me? 

Here’s our conversation… 

Mónica: 

Hello  my  friend.  How  are  you?  

April Lawson: 

Hello, good.  How  are  you?  

Mónica: 

I  am  now  more  conscious  of  my  body. I’m  sitting  in  a  chair. I’ve  propped  pillows  behind  my  back  so  that  my  back  is  somewhat  supported. What  is  your  body  doing  right  now?  

April:

Well,  I’m  noticing  with  my  chair. I’m  sitting  in  a  folding  chair  because  I  moved  recently  and  I  didn’t  like  I  don’t  have  a  good  desk  chair  yet. It’s  not  the  most  comfortable, but  I  I  slept  well. And  so  my  body  is  fairly  loose  because  of  that.  So  excellent.  Plus  I’m  talking  to  you  and  that  makes  me  happy. Yeah, I  feel  pretty  pretty  chill 

Mónica: 

Very  cool.  Well,  we’ve  just  heard  from  Luis  Mojica, somatic  therapist, and  the  driving  question  is, “How  do  you  handle  being  triggered?” So  let’s  start  with  our  favorite  moments. April what, what  stood  out  to  you?  

April: 

Oh  my  gosh.  I  mean, like, so,  I  also  just  like,  I’m  feeling  comfortable  right  now  because  I  love  being  in  trauma-informed  spaces. I  think  you  know  this  about  me,  but  I  spent  a  little  under  10  years  working  on  a  sexual  assault  hotline. And  so  I  loved, loved  this  interview, and I love Luis’s  work. I  like  actually  have  a  bit  of  a  professional  crush  on  him.

Mónica:

We’re very candid here on a Braver Way.

April:

That’s right. So, I  had  a  bunch  of  moments  that  were  like, “whoa”  for  me, but  I  think  the  one  that was  in  some  way  the  most  foundational  is  just  when  he  said,  “Trauma  response  is  not  just  occasionally  how  we  respond  to  political  things. It’s  all  of  it.” It  took  something  that  is  often  made  sort  of  niche  and helped  universalize  it and  say, “okay, this  is  a  human  response because  we  all  have  bodies, we  all  respond  this  way.” And  in  politics, which  we  think  of  as  this  super  intellectual, cerebral, polished, in some  ways  more  masculine  area. Yeah, and  you  know,  like  yeah,  we  are  all  responding  out  of  that.  So  that  that  was  amazing  for  me.

Mónica:

Yeah,  I  think  that’s  spot  on  so  my  favorite  moment. Man, I  really  loved  when  he  articulated  a  question  that  seemed  so  helpful,  which  was  asking  the  question  in  disagreement,  “why  does  this  belief  feel  safe  to  you, but  not  to  me?”  Or  “why  does  this  belief  feel  safe  to  me,  but  not  to  you?” And  that  flowed  out  of  when  he  was  talking  about  one  of  his  mentors,  a  facilitator  named  Bill  Riddick. Bill  teaches  that  you  have  to  understand  that  somebody’s  belief  is  sacred  to  them,  whatever  it  is,  it  is  sacred  to  them. And  what  a  daring, crazy,  like, weird  thing,  right? To  try  to  internalize  that  somebody’s  belief  is  sacred  to  them.  And  something  about  listening  to  them,  respecting  them  requires  accepting  that. What? And  how  hard  that  is  with  like  certain  beliefs  for  certain  people. And  anyway,  so  that  that  really  stood  out  to  me.  

So  let’s  move  to  where  the  blue  side  and  the  red  side  are  good  and  bad  at  the  strategies,  the  aforementioned, in  the  aforementioned  interview.

So  let’s  start  with  you.  Where  do  you  see  the  conservative  side,  your  side,  being  good  and  bad  at  these  sorts  of  things?  

April:

Yeah,  I  thought  about  this.  And  I  have  to  tell  you, I  don’t  think  we’re  very  good  at  this.  

Mónica:

Well,  define  this,  like  when  you  say  good  at  this,  what  do  you  mean?  Sure.  Well,  specifically  at  engaging  trauma -informed  ideas  about  this  stuff  and  admitting  that  safety  is  relevant  to  it, that  like  the  body  is  part  of  this. Conservatism  on  the  right  has  like  a  toughness  thing.  It’s  got  like  a,  which  I  love  in  some  ways,  right,  like  the  self-sufficiency  ethic  and  the  like  resilience. And,  you  know,  there’s  a  lot  of  things  I  love  about  that.  But  I  think  that  the  downside  is  that  we  are  just  not  very  good  at  like  holding  space  for  your  own  internal  discomfort  with  things, and  like  acknowledging  that. It  all  feels  very,  very  mushy.

Mónica: 

I  have  to  I  have  to  stop  you  for  a  minute  because  I’m  noticing  that  as  a  conservative  you  are  using  terms  that  are  often  really  related  with  the  left. You  know, you’re  saying  “safety.” You  also  just  said  “hold  space.”  

April:

Yes.

Mónica:

Which  tends  to  be  this  phrase  that  comes  out , or  even  the  phrase  “trauma-informed spaces.”  I  bet  it’s  just  really  unfamiliar  to  a  lot  of  folks  who  aren’t  in  the  kinds  of  context, frankly  very  blue  context, most of  the  time  where  people  even  know  what  means.

April:

Yes, and  then it sounds  like  jargon, and  then  it  sounds  intimidating, and  it’s  being  used  as  an  assertion against  somehow  that  you’re  not  privy  to. So  yeah, no  you’re  right,  it’s  because  I  spent  so  much  time  on  the  hotline  and  have  some  background  in  this  that’s  the  reason  I’m  using  those  words. But  it’s  funny  because  as  you  say  it  I  am  actually  kind  of speaking, that  like,  I’m  conscious  of  speaking  a  dialect, that  is  like, not  at  all  universal  in American  political  culture, but  I  do  think  that  the  right’s  version  of  this  often  shows  up  in  religious  spaces  and  it’s  very  powerful  there. And  that  so  here’s  what  I  can  say  about  what  I  think  we’re  good  at.  I  think  that  this  is  a  sort  of  grand  and  over-generalizing  comment, but  I  kind  of  think  that  there’s  the  rise  of like  therapy  and  therapists  in  the  last  I  don’t  know  50  to  200  years  depending  how  you  think  about  it, and  I  think  it’s  largely  in  response  to  the  fact  that  the  church  no  longer  it’s  taken  that  role  in  society  previously. People  went  to  their  pastors. People  talked  to  the  like  elder  woman  in  the  church  who  was  wise. Like  that’s  how  that  all  was  handled  in  our  life  in  that  way  and  I’m  not  saying  that  was  perfect, but  I  do  think  that  that  was  where  that  work  happened  and  that  it  was  pretty  powerful. 

Mónica:

Let  me  ask  a  question  on  that.  When  I  think  of  spiritual, you  know,  community  type  spaces  that  were  more  prevalent  and  present  in  people’s  lives  some  generations  ago,  don’t  think  of  a  lot  of  body-aware  somatics. I  think  of  Buddhism,  like  yoga  and  the  Buddha. There’s  traditions  where  the  body,  I  think,  has  been  more  present  than  Christianity.  We’re  not  going  to  probably  go  down  a  rabbit  hole  on  religion, but  I  guess  my  question  is, do  you  find  that  the  somatic  piece  is  something  that  we  didn’t  do  as  well  ever?  

April:

Yes.  Touché. I  do  think  that  Christianity  and  the  West  goes  back  to  Descartes  and  the  mind-body split,  and  the  soul  is  totally  this  other  thing. It’s  not- the  relationship  between  body  and  spirit  in  Christian  history  is  very,  I  would  say,  fraught,  painful,  broken,  so  that’s  a  good  point.

Mónica: 

All  right,  well,  I  took  a  lot  of  notes  on  what  I  think  the  blue  side  is  good  and  bad  at,  so, what  is  the  blue  side  good  at?  Well, apparently,  it’s  kind  of  housed  a  lot  of  the  language,  the  dialect  of  some  of  these  practices. I  don’t  think  that’s  a  good  thing  because  when  a  language  feels  foreign  and  unfamiliar  to  the  other  side, it  becomes  less  accessible  and  it  whispers  underneath  itself,  “you’re  not  part  of  this,”  and  I  hate  that.  I  hate  that.  

I  think  the  blue  side  is  good  at  embracing  trauma  as  real  and  potentially  debilitating  and  widespread. I  think  the  blue  side  is  more  comfortable  with  the  whole  idea  of  therapy,  which  I  know  when  I  talk  to  my  parents,  when  I  talk  to  a  lot  of  conservatives  in  my  life,  there’s  more  of  a, “ooo, if  you  need  therapy,  there’s  something  wrong  with  you.” But  the  kinds  of  practices  Luis is  talking  about  do  not  have  to  be  part  of  some  repair  type, you  know,  I  need  to  go  see  a  therapist  every  week.  This  is  more  about,  no,  this  is  how  you  are  aware  of  yourself.  So  yeah,  we  accept  that,  we  embrace  that,  I  think  pretty  well. And  to  good  ends. The  severity  of  pain,  you  know,  and  the  idea  that  that  whole,  what  is  that  quote? “Sticks  and  stones  may  break  my  bones, but  words  will  never  hurt  me,” has  really  become  complicated  in  the  last  generation  or  two.  It’s  true  that  they  won’t  draw  blood,  but  we  know  from  research  that  your  mind  will  treat  a  psychological  assault  as  just  as  threatening  in  a  lot  of  cases. And  so  when  you  dismiss  that  as,  well,  it’s  not  physical  and  therefore  it  doesn’t,  we  don’t  need  to  treat  it  as  seriously,  then  there’s  a  lot  of  unaddressed  pain  and  a  lot  of, you  know,  tools  or  spiritual  practices  or  things  that  people  that  won’t  know. 

Okay,  this  is  a  nice  bridge  to  what  I  think  the  blue  side  can  be  quite  bad  at.  During  the  interview, Luis  said  that  he  distinguishes  between  pain  and  harm.  And  I  thought  this  was  such  a  key  moment.  To  him,  harm  is  something  that  impinges  on  your  agency.  So  he  gave  the  example  of  parents  telling  their  child  that  the  child  is  worthless. In  that  scenario,  the  child  just  doesn’t  have  a  lot  of  power  or  agency.  So  one  could  claim  he  thinks  that  that’s  harm.  But  if  somebody  tells  him,  you  know,  I  hate  your  music,  you’re  a  bad  musician,  like  that’s  rude,  but  it’s  not  harm. So  that  distinction  of  between  pain  and  harm  is  where  I  think  sometimes  the  blue  side  can  be  bad,  bad  at  this. Conflating  pain  for  harm  every  single  time. And  then  taking  the  concept  of  safety  and  basically  externalizing  it  all  the  time,  I  think  is  just  taking  things  too  far. That, you  know,  my  safety  is  your  problem.  Which  again,  it’s  like  if  we’re  at  war,  if  you’re,  if  I’m  in  jail  and  you’re,  you  know,  my  torturer,  like  there’s  certainly  relationships  where  again, the  agency  piece. And  this  is  where  like  this  makes  me  understand  the  blue  perspective  on  power  better.  I  mean,  it’s  the  perspective  that’s  native  to  me  already,  but  I’ve  always  been  really  curious  about, you  know,  what  is  it  that  makes  the  blue  side  really  preoccupied  with  power? I  mean,  there’s  a  million  valid  reasons.  But  when  Luis  distinguished  pain  from  harm  and  he  said, harm  is  about  impinging  on  my  agency,  I  said,  aha,  right? The  blue  side  says,  if  you  have  power  over  me,  the  pain  that I experience  as  a  result  of  something  that  you  say  is  harmful. So  then  what  you  do  is  you  take  all  the  labels  in  the  groups  that  we’ve  separated  ourselves  into  by  race,  by  class,  by  economic  privilege,  and  there’s  always  someone  who’s  above  someone  else, so  there’s  always  someone  harming  someone  else. And  so  then  I  think  we  get  caught  in  this  trap. There’s  always  someone  harming  someone  else.  We  become  more  and  more  kind  of  preoccupied  with  identifying  the  oppressor  in  every  single  situation. And  what  I  think  that  does  going  back  to  the  distinction  between  pain  and  harm  is,  if  harm  impinges  on  your  agency,  and  you  believe  that  every  time  you  feel  pain  about  when  somebody  else, you  know,  says  something  that  you disagree  with,  then  it’s  causing  you  harm,  then  you’re  taking  away  your own  agency.  That’s  the  thing  that  I’m  going,  wait  a  minute. Because  that’s  where  I  think  reds  can  be  really  strong,  you  know?  Sometimes  with  a  tinge  of  like  blindness  to  things  they  ought  to  be  seeing,  but  they  tend  to  hold  the  ground  a  little  more  on  personal  agency  and  responsibility  and  power. And  so  I’m  afraid  that  these  psychological  little  twists  and  turns  and  loops  that  we’re  building  on  the  blue  side  are  ending  up  disempowering  us  when  they  are  intended  to  empower  us.  

April:

Fascinating, Moni.  

Mónica:

So  yeah,  and  like  one  more  thing,  ’cause  where  I  landed  on  this  basically  was,  and  what  that  means  to  me  is  that  a  lot  of  blues,  sometimes  who  I  think  go  too  far  on  these  things, will  will  not  even  recognize  the  power  of  conversation  that  that  within  the  context  of  a  one-to-one  conversation  in  particular  where  things  are  contained, trust  can  be  built.  And  I  believe, just  this  is  my  personal  opinion,  that  the  longer  you’re  in  that  trust-building  space  with  another  individual  the  less  that  whatever  power  dynamics  are  out  there  matter  in  here. I  worry  that  we  are  taking  away  on  the  blue  side  our  own agency  to  make  this  magic  happen  because  because  we  we  believe  that  there’s  always  power  at  play  and  that  therefore  everything  is  harmful  and  that  therefore  we  are  not  we  have  no  agency, we  have  no  influence, and  so  we  will  only  be  harmed  and  we  cannot  engage.

April: 

That’s  really, really good  and I you’re  right  there  is  a  sort  of  because  what  I  hear  the  red  say  is  like  is  the  thing  about  like  yeah  but  “you  can  decide  how much  that  hurts  you”  right  and  there’s  a  degree  to  which  that’s  true  and  degree  to  which  that’s  not  and  it’s  all  complicated. But  I  love  your  point  about  “let’s  at  least  not  take  away  our  own  agency.” 

Mónica:  

Yeah  let’s  be  careful  of  that. Yeah  let’s  be  careful  of  what  that  can  do  and  again  I  mean  this  is  just  thoughts  that  bubbled  up. But  but  this  is  my  concern  this  is  my  concern  on  behalf  of  fellow  blues  who  are  so  good  at who  are  so  good  at  acknowledging  pain, and  want  so  much  to  identify  with  pain  so  that  we  can  be  compassionate  and  understanding. That’s  so  awesome, you  know,  but “where does  it  go  too  far?” is  a  question  I  think  Blues  and  Reds  should  ask  about  every  tendency, not  just  this  one. 

April:

Totally.

Mónica:  

So, so, April  how  does  this  driving  question  show  up  in  your  life? The  driving  question  being  “how  do  you  handle  being  triggered  in political  disagreement?” 

April:

Yeah,  well,  I’m  still  sitting  here  kind  of  absorbing  what  you  just  said,  because  it’s  amazing. It  also  helps  me  understand, and I  will  answer  your  question,  

Mónica: 

No,  please  keep  raising  my  point.  

April:

But  really,  like,  there’s  this  thing  about  weakness  and  strength.  And  like,  who’s  a  victim  that  like,  I  think  that  sometimes  on  the  red  side,  people  say  like,  “you’re  not  that  weak,  stand in  your  power,  like,  you’ve  got  more  power  than  you’re  acting  like  you  do.” And  I, you’re  helping  me  see  the  validity  in  that  I  confess  that,  again,  with  my  just  personal  background  in  this  work,  I’m  more  likely  to  be  like,  “well,  there’s  a  power  dynamic.” But  yeah. Thank  you.  

Okay,  so  where’s  the  show  up  in  my  life?  I  have  lots  of  places  is  the  first  answer.  It  has  taken  me  a  long  time  to  learn  to  notice  it. And  like,  honestly,  the  most  important  thing  really  has  been  like,  can  I  notice  when  this  is  happening?  So,  and  I  find  that  it  shows  up  in  places  where  I  have  a  personal  experience  that’s  relevant  to  the  issue. So  for  example,  when  does  this  happen?  And  one  example  is  Edward  Snowden.  And  that’s  unexpected  for  people, but  I  worked  in  the  intelligence  world  for  a  while.  And  I  just,  boy,  so  what  happens  in  me  when  people  are  like, “Oh,  you  know,  Snowden  was  a  freedom  fighter,  or  like,  you  know,  the  government’s  out  to  get  us. Intelligence  community,  whatever,” like,  what  happens  in  me.  So  I’m  going  to  try  to  do  Luis’s  thing.  I’m  going  to  try  to  say, “where  does  this  happen?” And  like  in  my  like  solar  plexus  and  chest,  I  begin  to  get  tight  and  I  begin  to  say,  “no,  no.” And  because  what  it  does  is  it  one  of  the  experiences  of, when  you  work  in  the  intelligence  world, and  you  see what’s  coming  in, I  just  acquired  that  experience, [it] made  me  much  more  conservative  because  I  acquired  a  visceral  attunement  to  the  fact  that  there  are  lots  of  people  in  the  world  who  are  trying  to  attack  us, and  yeah  you  can  try  to  understand  their  ideology  fine, but  like  they  have  it  out  for  us, they  want  to  like, kill  your  daughters  and  sons  and  I  don’t  mean  that  in  a, forgive  the  dramatic  language, but  I  that  became  so  clear  to  me, and  so then  what  that  makes  me  feel  is  scared  for  people  around  me, admiring  of  the  sacrifice  and  work  that  people  in  the  intelligence  and  military  communities  do  to  protect  us, and  then  it  feels  desecrating  of  them  and  of  the  sacrifice  that  they  are  making  to  be  callous  and  cavalier. And  my  actual  feeling  about  Edward  Snowden  is  that  “who  is  this  26  year  old  who  thinks  that like  he  knows  better  than?” and  that  like it’s  fine  that  what  he  says  and  reveals  because  he’s  being  some  hero  is  like  gonna  jeopardize  literally  lives, um  here  and  abroad. And  so, sorry. See, you  can  hear  it. You  can  hear  the  like—

Mónica: 

Luis  has  that  question. Well, Luis  has  that  statement, “you  are  not  responsible  for  my  reactions.” What  do  you  do  when  you  picture Snowden  in  your  head? Do  you  blame? Do  you  go, “you  need  to  change  in  order  for  me  to  be  okay.” 

April:

Boy, you  know.

Mónica: 

Yeah, tell  me.

April: 

I  have  to  tell  you, I  had  trouble  when  Luis  said  that, because  I  was  like  “yeah  but  some  people  do  bad  things.” 

Mónica:

Yeah,  and  they’re  accountable.  

April:

Yes,  we  need  to  hold  them  accountable.  However,  he’s  right,  but  like  my  reaction  is  mine.  So  yeah, see  it’s  funny.  I’m  like  not  even  facing  somebody  who’s  telling  me  Edward  Snowden  is  great,  and  I’m  like  already, I  can  feel  my  body.

Mónica:

You’ve  created  it  yourself.  

April:

Acting  out,  yeah.  

Mónica: 

Right,  because  he  talks  about  reminded, reminded  of  past,  you  know, will put  you, your  body  right  back  in  there.  

April:

Yeah,  so  what  do  I  think  about  I  when  I  picture  Edward  Snowden?  I  think  oh  gosh  that  sentence  is  tough, Moni. “You  are  not  responsible  for  my  reactions.” That’s  true. But  I  guess, I  just  feel  intensely  motivated  to  control  the  outcome.  Like  I  want  to  make  sure  that  Snowden  and  his  ilk  do  not  get  the  power because  I’m  afraid  of  what  they’ll  do  with  it.

Mónica: 

And  you’re  sharing, I  mean, I  think  part  of  part  of  these  skills  we’re  talking  about  today  is  about noticing  a  physical  reaction, right? Understanding  that  it  is  connected  inextricably  to  beliefs  you  have. Because  it’s  all  words. “It’s  just  words. Just  words somebody said. Right? Meaningless.”

April:

Right, right…

Mónica:

No,  it’s  because  of  the  beliefs  you  hold  your  body  is  listening  to  those  beliefs  and  is  monitoring. You  hear  something, and you go   And if  you  notice  the  physical  reaction,  if  you  know  where  it’s  happening, then  it  allows  you  to  kind  of  come  into  the  body  and  then  say, “Oh, this  is  what  I’m  reacting  to. Right.”  And  then  totally  kind  of  get  curious  about  it. And then see. What  you’re  talking  about  is  when  you  say, “You  know, this  is  an  experience  I’ve  had.” It’s  like, you’re  taking  some of  the  data  that  your  body  is  giving  you and  you’re  sharing  that. Whatever  came  up  for  you  in  the  past. Whatever  seems  to  be. And  I  think  when  we  do  that, what  we’re  doing  is  we’re  giving  each  other  the  ability  to  understand  us. When  we  go  straight  to  attack  or  to  contesting  opinions, we  don’t  do  that  very  well. Now  that  I  heard  you  know  when  I  heard  you  say  I  have  this  background  in  the  intelligence  community. I  felt  viscerally  that  “no  no  no  no  these  threats.  There  are  real  people  are  out  there.” You  know,  and  I’m  like,  “yeah,” and  a  little  voice  in  my  head  said  “keep  that  in  mind  next  time  you  come  to  this  issue.” So, thank  you.  

April:

Thank  you  for  for  receiving  it  that  way.  So  how  about  you?

Mónica: 

Right.  So, you  know  about  this  thing  that  happened  some  weeks  ago  at  one  of  my  talks. So,  you  know,  I  travel  a  lot  and  meet  a  lot  of  amazing  people  and  hear  really  candid  stories.  So  recently  there,  I  was  doing  a  workshop  and  a  person  in  the  room  was  clearly  very  critical  of  it. And I  know  this  because  she  sort  of  called  me  over  during  one  of  the  exercises  and  kind  of,  you  know,  was  somewhat,  you  know,  pretty  upset,  I  suppose.  You  know,  said  that,  “hey,  you  know,  this  is, this  is,  I  don’t  think  this  is  right.” And  I  remember  in  that  moment, when  she  told  me  that,  like,  in  fact,  I  am  feeling  the  feeling  again.  

April:

Mm -hmm,  mm -hmm.  

Mónica: 

In  the  back  of  my,  this  is  so  weird  to  say  this  out  loud, right?  But  like,  I’m  kind  of  pointing  to  like  the  center  of  my  chest,  but  in  the  back,  toward  my  spine.  There’s  this,  you  know  how  you  pull  a  straw?  You  pull  it  off  and  you  kind  of  like  push  the  paper  down, down,  down,  so  it  gets  to  this  little,  this  little  like  crumped  up  thing.  My  spine  does  that.  It  starts  to  curl  into  itself  and  crunch  up.  And  that’s,  I  can  feel  it  again. And  I  came  up  to  the  podium  and  I  said,  “Okay,  Mónica,  like  you’re  feeling  this,  you’re  feeling  this.  What  are  you  gonna  do?”  And I  thought, “I’ve  done  this  workshop  many  times. I  know  that  she’s  upset, but I do  not  believe  objectively  that  this  is  an  emergency  or  anything  needs  to  change.”  But  my  body  was  like,  my  body  wanted  me  to  fawn.  There  was  a  little  fantasy  playing  in  my  head  of  like, I  need  to  make  this  woman  okay  with  what’s  going  on.  And  so  I  need  to  fawn,  I  need  to  perform.  But  I  told  myself,  you  know  that  you’re  okay.  You  know  this  workshop  is  okay. And  that  this  feedback  is  valid,  but  chill,  right? Then  after  the  workshop  was  over, I  was  very  motivated  internally  to, for  flight,  right? There’s  fight,  flight,  fawns,  freeze.  I  was  like,  I  saw  her  and  I  was  very  curious. I  wanna  know  what  she  meant.  but  another  part  of  me  was  like, “no,  you  don’t,  you’re  not  gonna,  no,  we’re  gonna  go  straight  the  other  direction  because  we  don’t  want  this  in  our  lives  right  now.” 

April:

Totally. 

Mónica: 

Just,  just  a  feeling  of,  so  I’m, I’m  walking  behind  her  out  of  the  room  and  I  just,  I’m  like  breathing  faster  and  I’m,  you  know,  trying  to  slow  it  down.  I  go  up  to  her  and  I  ask  her  to  lunch. So  we  have  lunch, I  did.  

April: 

Oh  my  gosh,  Moni.  

Mónica:

So  we  talked  for  like  the  whole  hour  and  a  half  of  lunch  and  she  delivered  really  stinging  critiques  and  I  say  stinging  because  that’s  also  a  physical  reaction. You  know,  some  of  the  things  she  said,  including,  I  will  just  say  this  one  and  this  one  is,  you  know,  like  it  sticks  in  my  mind,  like  “you’re  upholding  white  supremacy  with  this  work.” So, okay,  like  the  feeling  I  get  when  I  hear  that  and,  and  again  at  the  table,  I  had  this  temptation  to  fawn,  to  fawn,  to  fawn, but  I  said, “there’s  a  reason  you’re  doing  what  you’re  doing  and  you  know  that  there’s  something  really  important  about  it  and  so  can  you  stay  grounded  in  that?” And,  and  it  was  a  physical  thing  because  even  at  the  table, I,  I  felt  myself  wanting  to  shrink  and  I  made  myself  not  shrink.  I  just,  I  just  made  myself  like  stay  steady  and  I  listened  as  well  as  I  could  and  I  saw  her  gestures  and  she, you  know,  I, I  added  a  slide  to  one  of  my  talks,  like  after  this  conversation,  I  learned  a  lot  from her.  But  I, but I  experienced  all  the  temptations  to  fawn, absolutely, to  freeze, because  I’m  reminded  of  past  trauma. I’m  reminded  of  people  who  think  that  they’re  right  and  they’re  totally  wrong. People  who  think  they’re  doing  good  in  the  world  and  they’re  actually  harming  everyone. I  don’t  want  to  be  those  people. I’m  terrified.  I’m  reminded  of  being  canceled, which  is  something  that’s  never  happened  to  me,  but  I  keep  reading  about  it  and  so  I’ve  internalized  and  identified  those  other  experiences.  What  if  it  happens  to  me? I’m  terrified  about  that.  I’m  terrified  about  all  of  it,  right?  And  all  these,  so  I’m  thinking  of  past  and  I’m  thinking  of  future.  But  what  I  need  to  be  thinking  about  is  this  moment  right  now  with  this  woman  and  this  conversation. But  we  ended  thanking  each  other, and  I’m  still  thinking  about  it,  right?  

April:

I’m  going  to  ask  how  you’re doing now?

Mónica:

Yeah,  no,  it  was, I  mean,  I’m  back.  I’m  back  to  feeling  afraid, right  now  as  I  tell  you  this. I  can  feel  all  of  that  coming  back  into  my  body, and  the  feeling  of  threat  and  now  a  little  feeling  of  vulnerability.  I’ve  just  talked  about  this.  

April:

Well, thank  you.  

Mónica:

Yeah,  these  things  happen. And I,  you  know,  and  there  were  things,  there  are  things  I’m  wrong  about, and  that  that  part  is  the  deepest  terror  of  all,  right?  What  if, what  if  this  person  convinces  me  I’m  wrong?  I  can’t  even  be  here  for  that.  It’s  like,  yes,  you  can  and  you  must.

April: 

Well,  and  actually,  I  think  that  that’s  a  really  important  thing  because  what  if, what  if  you  are  harming,  right?  Right?  What if you’re  part  of  the–  and  somebody  very  wise  said  to  me  once  that  like,  “until  we  can  hold,” there’s  that  language  again,  but  “until  we  can  like,  just  be  like,  handle,” but that’s  a  neutral  word , “handle  the  fact  that  we  might  be  harming  someone.”

Mónica: 

Exactly.  

April: 

We  will  never  get  anywhere, because  we  get  so  wrapped  up  in  like, ‘I  am  not  a  harmer.  I  am  not  that  kind  of  person’  that  we  can’t  stay  focused  on  the  thing  that  is  happening.  And  this  is  again,  I  promise  I  will  not  harp  on  this  every  episode,  but  this  is  why  I  think  the  concept  of  “sin”  is  so  helpful  because  we  need  a  way  to  universalize  the  fact  that  we  all  harm  people. Like  we  actually  do.  

Mónica: 

Oh,  what  a  what  a  great  way  to  tie  back  to  that  point.  

April: 

And  that  means  we  have  to  that’s  a  part  of  us.  And  if  we  can  if  we  can  just  be  okay  with  that  in  a  in  a  not  that  we  don’t  try  to  change  it, but  like,  I  think  that’ll  help.  

Mónica: 

Yeah.  Oh,  chills.  Yeah.  Chills  on  that  point.  Yes,  Yes,  as  a  non -religious  person,  I  totally  see  that.  Wow.  Okay,  well,  whew.  And  after  this,  I’m  gonna  take  a  few  breaths.  I’m  gonna  take  a  few  breaths.  I’m  literally  thinking  like, yes,  I’m  gonna  stretch.  I’m  gonna  just,  yeah,  feel  that.  Yeah,  big  thank  you  to  Luis,  because  I  think  he’s  really  good.  I  used  to  think  this  stuff  was  really  hokey.  Then  I  really  experienced  it  and  I  said, no,  this  is  real,  this  is  really  helpful.  This  is  a  really  helpful  way  to  be  responsible  and  find  our  power. 

Mónica: 

Now, let me take a moment to tell you about another one of our Supporting Partners, Rehumanize International. 

Rehumanize International is a nonprofit human rights organization dedicated to creating a culture of peace and life. They seek an end to all aggressive violence against humans through education, discourse, and action.

Their advocacy is based on the Consistent Life Ethic, a moral philosophy centered on the principle that each and every human being has inherent dignity from the womb to the tomb. 

Their organization is non-sectarian and non-partisan, and promotes collaboration amongst many organizations and movements in an effort to achieve their goal that each and every human being’s life is respected, valued, and protected.

You can learn more at rehumanizeintl.org

Thank you to Rehumanize International for being a supporting partner of A Braver Way -and just like Allsides – a member of Braver Network. 

To learn more about Braver Network and how your organization can join the movement for civic renewal, go to braverangels.org/abraverway. 

Mónica: 

Politics seems so high stakes these days, it’s no surprise that just hearing some ideas can feel like a threat.    

How we react to that feeling is as varied as our politics. But left, right, or center, a sense of danger is going to make us look for safety with people who agree with us. 

Sometimes, though, that group of people, as good as it feels, isn’t where we end up wanting to be.

That’s what a man named Rich Logis found out when he started listening to his own reactions, and hearing what once seemed like awful, threatening ideas very differently… 

Rich Logis: 

I’m  Rich  Logis.  I’m  in  Delray  Beach,  Florida.  I’m  formerly  a  New  Yorker, will  always  be  a  New  Yorker  to  some  extent,  but  I’ve  been  in  Florida  for  a  little  over  a  decade.  I’m  46  years  old  and  the  first  election,  presidential  election  I  voted  in,  I  could  have  voted  in  ’96,  but  didn’t. But  in  2000,  I  voted  for  Ralph  Nader.  And  the  reason  I  was  actually,  I  gravitated  toward  his  campaign,  part  of  it  was  policy,  not  to  say  I  agree  with  all  the  policy  then,  but  part  of  it  also,  a  significant  part,  was  that  I  noticed  that  both  major  parties  didn’t  like  him.  And  I  found  that  really  quite  appealing.  And  my  political  journey  in  my  adult  life  started  and  continued  for  many,  many  years  as  an  anti-two-party  system  guy.  I’ve  always  considered  myself  a  very  political  person,  but  for  many,  many  years,  up  until  just  a  few  years  ago,  I  would  qualify  that  I  was  political,  but  also  quite  ignorant.  So  as  I  was  this  very  political,  but  ignorant  person,  very  anti-two-party,  once  the  2016  election  came  around,  of  course,  everyone  knew  Trump  by  name  for  all  of  his  various  entertainment  and  business  dealings.  But  I  noticed  something  about  his  campaign  that  I  thought  was  similar  to  Nader’s,  which  was  that  both  parties  didn’t  like  him.  So  I  thought,  hmm,  maybe  there’s  something  there  that  I  wanna  pay  attention  to.  So  it  didn’t  take  a  lot  for  me  to  become  enamored  with  his  campaign.  That’s  where  I  believe  my  trauma,  my  political  trauma  really  started.  It  was  in  that  late  2015,  all  throughout  2016  is  that  when,  when  that  election  was  happening,  I  was  one  of  the  Trump  voters  of  the  belief  that  the  election  of  Hillary  Clinton  was  the  end  of  America.  I  was  very,  very  deep  in  the  Republican  MAGA  partisan  world.  While  I  didn’t  buy  into  all  of  the  theories  and  conspiracies  and  the  mythologies,  I  believed  a  lot  of  them  in  the  MAGA  Trump  world.  I  was,  I  had  a  community.  I  was  part  of  a  community.  I  was,  I  felt  validated.  Those  were  those  with  whom  I  broke  bread  congregated.  I  felt  that  there  was  a  legitimacy  to  what  I  was  doing  being  around  others.  And  that  is  a  very  underestimated  part  of  why  for  some  people,  they  become  very,  very  immersed  in  what  they’re  not  realizing  is  actually  very  politically  traumatizing  surroundings  and  relationships.  Because  I  think  with  trauma,  with  political  trauma,  especially  another  point  that  I  like  to  bring  up  in  my  work  is  that  the  more  traumatized  we  are,  the  more  that  we  are  actually  abusing  ourselves.  So  after  the  2020  election,  of  course,  we  had  the  January  6  insurrection.  And  for  even  up  to  that  point,  I  was  still  on  board  with  Trump.  I  was  of  the  original  thinking  of,  well,  January  6,  yeah,  it  was  bad,  but  it’s  made  into  a  bigger  deal  than  it  really  was.  And  then  I  started  to  examine  closely  some  of  the  forces  that  led  to  that  day.  And  I  came  to  realize  that  it  was  actually  much  more  serious  and  the  factors  that  fueled  it  much  more  nefarious  than  I  had  originally  thought.  And  combined  with  the  constant  undermining  of  the  will  of  the  people  of  our  democratic  institutions  and  norms  with  the  constant  stolen  election,  which  again,  I  use  this  word  a  lot,  but  it  was  and  is  a  traumatizing  mythology  that  our  former  president  continues  to  espouse.  So  I  started  to  see  more  and  more  that  those  were  mythologies  that  I  did  not  at  all  believe  and  then  they  actually  explained  a  lot  of  what  might’ve  happened  that  day.  As  I  look  now  back  on  that  life  that  I  had,  how  I  thought,  the  answer  I  have  is  really  so  simple.  And  I’m  actually  happy  that  it’s  simple  because  I  feel  like  it  can  be  easily  applied.  I  diversified  my  news  and  information  sources.  And  as  I  did  that,  I  could  account  for  the  fact  that  all  of  these  important  issues  are  not  quite  as  black  and  white  as  I  actually  once  maybe  wanted  to  believe  that  they  were.  I  came  to  realize  that  I  was  chipping  away  at  what  I  considered  my  own  inner  morality,  my  own  inner  intellect  that  I  now  have  embraced  more.  Why?  Because  I’ve  gone  through  that  period  of  liberation.  So  I  went,  I  had  that  community  and  that  is  really  powerful  and  immensely  influential  when  it  comes  to  our  political  dealings.  Once  we  start  to  see  that  there’s  actually  a  whole  other  world  outside  of  what  we  may  think,  we  start  to  be  able  to  piece  together  and  heal.  Yes,  on  one  hand,  I  left  behind  a  community,  but  I  also  was  able  to  find  another.  And  I  believe  that  my  footing  in  this  community  more  and  better  reflects  and represents  who  I  am  than  my  prior community. 

Mónica: 

Does your political community reflect who you are and what you aspire to for this country? Or does it just reflect the people you — at this moment — feel most comfortable around? What a question.

It makes me want to listen to myself. Watch my own reactions. Stay curious. 

And speaking of curiosity, we want to know what questions this episode — or any episode — has sparked in you. Because later on, we’re doing an “Ask Me Anything” session! I know there are a ton of thorny issues that come up around bridging these divides we’re talking about — some of you might be skeptical of the whole concept — and this can’t just be a one way street. So please, throw your toughest questions at me! We are here for this! And later this season I’m going to gather a few of my bridge-building friends together – both Reds and Blues — to offer some responses.

Just email your question to us at abraverway@braverangels.org, and thanks to everyone who’s already reached out. 

With that, I’m ready to send you brave souls back to your worlds with a song. It’s called “The Quiet Voice” by Alex Wong and Elise Hayes, and it was one of the honorees in the 2020 Braver Angels Songwriting Contest. Take a listen…

Song, “The Quiet Voice” by Alex Wong and Elise Hayes

“Darlin, darlin, you’re not okay. 
I can see that you’re hurtin’.
The look in your eyes shows me the pain.
I feel the anger burnin’.
Words hit you like hand grenades.
Throw ‘em back, you can make them pay.
But maybe there’s another way, hidin’ in the silence.”


And that’s our show! 

Thank you for joining us on this fifth episode of A Braver Way. 

A Braver Way is a production of Braver Angels. 

We get financial support from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust and Reclaim Curiosity. 

Our Senior Producer and Editor is David Albright. 

Our Producer is Jessica Jones. 

Our theme music that you hear in the intro each episode— and in some other spots —is by the fantastic #1 Billboard bluegrass-charting hip-hop band, Gangstagrass. 

A special thank you to Mike Casentini, Ben Caron, and Michelle Schroer — and to our contributor, April Lawson.

I’m your host and guide across the divide, Mónica Guzmán.

If you like what you’ve heard, hit subscribe, give us a 5 star review, and share this episode with anyone you know who’s ever reacted to things said from across the divide over the holidays or anytime at all. Spoiler alert: that’s everybody. 🙂 

Questions? Comments? Surprises? 

As always you can reach us at abraverway@braverangels.org.

Take heart, everyone. ‘Til next time.

“But the storm won’t go away, until you climb inside it.
Let the quiet voice drown out all the noise.
Even when they’re screaming out, I know that your love is louder.
Let the battle cry fade away this time.
Darlin, we still have a choice.
Listen to the quiet voice.
Yeah, just cuz they shout it, doesn’t make it true.
Cuz everyone gets the loudest when they’re about to lose.


Let the quiet voice drown out all the noise.
Even when they’re screaming out, I know that your love is louder.
Let the battle cry fade away this time.
Darlin’, we still have a choice.
Listen to the quiet voice.
Listen to the quiet voice.” 

More Episodes

Episode 10: Ask Me Anything

Mónica is joined by four friends in bridge building to answer your toughest questions about our shared mission of connecting across the political divide. Angel Eduardo, April Lawson, Manu Meel and Wilk

READ MORE

abraverway@braverangels.org

© 2023 A Braver Way. All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy.

Braver Angels Support