Let’s talk trauma and racism. I found today’s guest, Francesca Marguerite Maximé, from her podcast called Re-Rooted on the Ram Das Be Here Now network. She interviewed Dick Schwartz, the creator of Internal Family Systems (IFS) about his “racist parts” and I was all in on their discussion.
Side note to spell out the Body Kindness connections in case it’s helpful before I go on:
Connection is one of the three core pillars for practicing Body Kindness. The book and dominant “anti-diet” / “body positivity” message mostly centers the idea of connection to one’s own body — noticing and sensing what is happening in the present moment, feeling your “feels” and then thinking about what you need to care for yourself. This theme plays out in mindfulness, meditation, intuitive eating, and pretty much anything you do to care for yourself.
Connection is also about others… being part of something greater than yourself, forging connections in your community, the power of belonging to a group (this is all of part 4 of the Body Kindness book).
Trauma, including historical and racialized trauma, significantly impacts both of the ways in which we engage in “connection” in practicing Body Kindness.
Francesca came on the podcast to talk further about trauma and take me through a guided somatic experiencing exercise, which I fell in LOVE with after reading Resmaa Menekem’s My Grandmother’s Hands, which is truly an excellent book. I recommend audiobook! He reads it and guides you in several meditations.
You could win a FREE 45-min session with Francesca! Don’t miss the details at the end. Plus anyone can learn from her for FREE in an upcoming video series.
Here’s a few items we cover:
- Conversations on historical and racialized trauma.
- Being an embodied anti-racist is not something you do, it’s someone you become.
- How to take nervous regulation skills and use it to lean in and become active allies instead of performative allyship.
- Cultural trauma needs to be worked through for collective healing. That’s why we talk about reparations.
- The four core wounds of this country: racism, oppression, white body supremacy, and capitalism.
- Why White people especially struggle to home themselves with warm positive self-regard. (We are products of the same oppressive system.) We are more comfortable naming “diet culture” and “beauty culture.”
Listen to Episode 157 here
Rebecca Scritchfield: Welcome to Body Kindness. I'm Rebecca Scritchfield, creator of the Body Kindness philosophy, book and audio book. I'm here to help you create a better life by reinventing health from the body oppressive shaming and "you'll never be enough" type of mindset, to positive and joyful ways that you can spiral up your energy, mood and your well-being. At any size, shape, or weight and as you are right now. Get started for free at bodykindnessbook.com/start.
Rebecca Scritchfield: That's the sound of me smashing a stack of scales in front of some friends. And I have to say that breaking up with the scale and all the other ways I was judging, monitoring and measuring my worth was absolutely pivotal in my life. Creating the Body Kindness philosophy and letting myself be a human being again helped me become a better mom, a better clinician, and a happier and healthier person. I believe we all have a right to decide how we want to care for ourselves, and I think we all need support in figuring out what that looks like. You don't have to do this alone. There's a whole community of like-minded people who are fed up with diets, who are embracing intuitive eating, and who are completely redefining their lives from body shame to Body Kindness. You are not broken, our culture is. Find your inner caregiver and create a better life with Body Kindness.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Trauma itself, unless it's resolved, unless it's allowed to deactivate, unless there's something actively done to release it from the system, it won't leave the system. And if the systems of oppression remain as they do, then it's going to continue to be perpetuated. And that's why people talk about reparations. That's why they talk about equity. That's why they talk about inheritance of wealth. That's why they talk about shifting funds. That's why it's talked about in a way that is reconciling. Where there's remorse, where there's grief on behalf of people who have inherited privileges based on racial privileges, racial advantages, based on just being white.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: And that there's that kind of trauma, that cultural trauma needs to be worked through in order for us to be able to actually move toward collective healing. Because it doesn't help white people either. That's the problem. Everybody thinks that we're all just going to win the 1% or lottery game and we'll be billionaires. But that's not how it works. It's necessarily exclusive. And we have this because of this libertarian sort of mentality, this meritocracy of pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Do it, you can. There's a place for that, right. There's a place for effort, there's a place for discipline. I'm not saying that. Mindfulness teachings call it Varia, it means that you have a certain energy, a certain dedication to something that's good. That's a good quality to have. But you need to be able to recognize that that's separate from being the recipient of this constant state of threat, which people who are in black bodies in this country are, that doesn't exist when you don't exist in a black body.
Rebecca Scritchfield: That was Francesca Marguerite Maxime and she's at maximeclarity.com. She's a Haitian Dominican, Italian American. IMTA accredited, certified mindfulness meditation teacher, mentored by Jack Kornfield. A somatic experiencing trauma healing practitioner, indigenous focusing oriented therapy practitioner, relational life therapy couples coach, focusing oriented therapy practitioner and award-winning poet, author and former television news anchor and reporter.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Francesca is based in Brooklyn, New York where she sees adults, couples and groups in person and online; and teaches therapists and other trauma specialists about mindfulness, the nervous system, attachment, embodiment and racialized trauma. Francesca also hosts the Be Here Now Network podcast, where she explores the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, spirituality, social justice, and the creative arts. Francesca was also the recipient of the 2019 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Student Advocacy and Service Award for contributions in the field of advocacy, clinical work and traumatic stress, as well as the 2019 first prize winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards for her poem Pleather, recently featured on PBS television. She was also featured in the article Spreading the Word About Racialized Trauma by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation.
Rebecca Scritchfield: More about Francesca can be found on her website at maximeclarity.com. I'm so excited to share this conversation with you. It is amazing, necessary, so helpful. I didn't even want to give you the highlights because I feel like her tease said it all. The only two notes I want to make; make sure you listen to the whole thing toward the end, she invites me to dip in into a brief Somatic Experiencing exercise. I also want to make sure that you are aware of some new offerings that she has that includes courses around racialized trauma and racism. And, please check out the show notes for all the details that you can get about that and the opportunities that we have related to this podcast. Thank you so much. If you have any questions, thoughts or concerns, you can always email me. It's firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Francesca, welcome to Body Kindness.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: It's nice to meet you Rebecca and thanks for having me on the show.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Oh, I'm so grateful for you and giving your time and expertise and insight. I know it's going to help me personally, and it's going to help all the Body Kindness listeners as well. I usually like to let folks know how I came to find someone else and I came to find you through your podcast. So, I'd love to talk about that. It was a particular episode interview that you did with Dick Schwartz, who is the founder of Internal Family Systems, which I love. It's part of the Body Kindness philosophy that's used as far as our healthy approaches to well-being and mindful self-care. I'm always fascinated to hear Dick Schwartz talk and especially you guys were in conversation about his racist parts and racism and the two pandemics of COVID and racism. And it was such an interesting conversation, I will be sure to share that link in the show notes. And then getting to know you, I found out that you do all this amazing anti-racism work. So, I would love to start there, to let the listeners know more about your background and experience, and in what you want them to know about the kind of work that you're doing right now.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Sure, thank you Rebecca. I really appreciate Dick's approach to legacy burdens and intergenerational trauma; and I think he says the four sort of cultural traumas are materialism, individualism, patriarchy or sexism and racism. And I think that the IFMS, the Internal Family Systems approach that he uses is really helpful because a lot of people want to defend and say, "You know, I am not racist, I am not a racist," but it's a little bit more open and possible to say, "Yeah, I have a racist part." Right? And even that maybe sounds harsh, but at the same time, it's a little easier to acknowledge and to sort of begin to digest and say, okay, well, how did this racist part come into being and why is it here? And what is it here to teach me? And how can I help unburden it in a way that allows it to live with greater facility, ease and bring in more self-energy, which is our metacognitive and our mindful awareness? So, Dick's interview was really I think, one of the trauma practitioners. Obviously, his model's very popular that I felt was already there, where he was already talking about some of these issues; where some of the other models are still trying to find their way because they talked about trauma but they haven't talked about systemic oppression and systemic racism.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: So some of the work that I personally do right now as a Trauma Healing Practitioner, as a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, as a Psychotherapist, and as a person who works with a Certified Mindfulness Teacher and with Indigenous Focusing, and Focusing and Relational Life Therapy, all these certifications that I have, they're all really about recognizing sort of, from a Polyvagal Theory perspective, you know, what Steven Porges talks about in terms of nervous system regulation, bringing your body back to balance, being able to restore, you know, your capacity to sort of ride the waves of activation and you know, sort of checking out and kind of being with all of these different various states and emotions and feelings that we have, that Dick's model addressed the racialized trauma piece well, and I've addressed that a lot with the other podcast that I do. The podcast is called ReRooted, R E R O O T E D on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: And I guess, all of that is to say is using mindfulness trauma and psychotherapy combined, trauma healing modalities combined, I offer to white skinned or light bodied, you know, light skinned bodied people a group on Wednesdays, which is called ARREAA - Anti-Racism Responsibility, Embodiment, Accountability and Action. And it's really about how do we start to take all of those nervous system regulation skills, and bring them into play when we're bumping up into this really difficult, challenging, very real epidemic of racism and use them to help us lean in and become active allies and not just performative.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: And then I also do a free TV show on Wednesdays at noon time with my colleague, Dr. Natasha Stovall who wrote a great article that I would encourage everyone to read called Whiteness on the Couch. And it's about how you talk about racism in the therapy room with your clients? How do you bring it in? How do you make parallels in terms of who else is oppressed? Or what is this bringing up for you? And also, how do you bring it beyond the therapy room? And that's a free TV show we do online on Wednesdays, at noon time Eastern. And then I'm going to be offering an anti-racism for white therapists course in the fall.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: So those are the things that I kind of do, that we can talk a little bit more about, that course with therapy wisdom. But, the main thing that I'm trying to do, is my personal clients, a lot of them are BIPOC, they're black, indigenous people of color; my one on one clients, many of them, not all of them. But then a lot of my outward facing work is with white bodied therapists or light-skinned, racially advantaged people; and I say this in a white body supremacist society advantaged, not inherently advantaged necessarily, but just advantage structurally given certain kinds of access. That a lot of that work is outward facing is really trying to call in people who have certain privileges. Racial privileges that they're unaware of and be able to start to process what those are, what that's about, and start to become an embodied anti-racist.
Rebecca Scritchfield: It's so important, right? Because, and this is myself included, right? But there was even an article that was written about, the context is like, another black person dies and white people go read books, right? And, it's like, I started a book club on White Fragility, that was one of the first things that I did. And look, there was some, it's not to say that there was nothing valuable about that action, there was. But I think a lot of what you're talking about is taking it, taking even one action to that next level of work. When I remember first learning that one of the main sort of, if we talk about problems it seems so simple, and yet a major barrier to anti-racism work is white people don't see themselves as a race. Right? And so, if you can't see your whiteness as a race then there's a lot more work to do. And I think reading books can be great and helpful. But, there's this step between what can you read and taking meaningful action. And, I think being in a therapeutic group setting where you trust the leader, right? But where there can be some shame resilience, so that you can feel what you need to feel because you're not going to get through any anti-racism work without feeling uncomfortable, without feeling shame, without having difficulty, that you can do so in a space that can be helpful to your personal well-being, but also help you learn and grow so you can become part of a better humanity that if you're showing up, you actually really do care about creating.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Right, right, right. No, I think that that is, you know, sort of the missing link. We know race is a construct. We know there is no black, there is no white, there is not. There's ethnicity, and there's culture, but that race itself is a construct. Meaning that it's invented. However, it was invented in service to others, in service to oppressive in sort of systemic divisions. And so, it's become something that we've had to name and get to know and recognize is a real lived reality, but that we're really in truth all just part of the human race. But systemically when you have populations of people with different levels of melanin being literally counted as three fifths of a person, or as non-persons, or as only used as part of a property, and, all of this is in service to wealth, and what generation for certain populations that were granted access to certain things that others weren't only not granted access, like the Homestead Act. No black person got acreage, I mean these are FHA loans you know went 98% to white people, as opposed to people of color. Building equity is not even post enslavement, even post reconstruction. It's not possible in the same kind of ways because structurally it's not there.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: So, race is important in those kinds of contexts; to be able to name and interrogating quitness to your point is the fundamental piece that's missing. Because if we aren't interrogating whiteness, and what is whiteness? How is it created? Why was it created? What is it in service to? What does it mean for me to not really have considered what it means to be the inheritor of quite or light skin? And that's where the interrogation begins. And you can read a lot of books, and you can acquire a lot of knowledge, and that is certainly important and it can certainly work in tandem with having a head, heart, belly shift. But, it's actually the subcortical limbic processing and the emotional learnings that we have around race, and around things like safety and our sense and our perception of safety that are the things that shift how we end up being able to show up differently, sustainably over time, and commit to an anti-racist course for life, and not just do performative things that we might do and say, "Oh, I read a book, I made a donation here," those kinds of things. How do you actually shift hearts and minds? And those are subcortical synaptic changes that usually happen experientially, that can happen around race just as they can happen around any issue that's a traumatic issue. But that doesn't negate the structural issues that are still at play that keep certain populations marginalized because it's centering a certain population that is most often white, cisgendered, heterosexual, male and also, often women.
Rebecca Scritchfield: And maybe there's a relation between when you do that individual self-work; from the book, to the group support, and then the healing; that as part of that change, congruent with that change, you're also springing into action where it matters on the structural pieces. Voting, community organizing, and engaging and continuing to use your power for the greater good for the common humanity. So, I could see that benefit too.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Absolutely, it’s always a both/and when we're talking about trauma, trauma resolution, well-being, balance. It's always a both/and, like, we have to sit with the discomfort, recognize we're not perfect, know we're going to make some mistakes, as we start to lean into this. No, we're not going to always say the right thing or have an immediate response. Know that we're going to want to check out sometimes and not do some of the more difficult work in terms of learning some of the things we'll learn about. The history of the founding of this country and the way in which people were tortured and murdered and things like that, and the way that that lives today in what we see with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and everyone who has continued to really be sacrificed in ways and brutalized in ways that affect the collective consciousness of not only bipoc folks, black, indigenous and people of color - but also clearly of white people in a way of, are we going to lean into what this really is about? Or are we going to continue to kind of dissociate, and sort of defend and sort of say, "you know, that was in the past, and it's not really alive now." Or, "he must have done something wrong because otherwise this wouldn't have happened," and those kinds of things.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: So, this action piece, whether it's voting, whether it's bail funds, whether it's calling your congressman and literally working on certain bills that are up. Whether it's interrogating segregated schools. Looking at whether or not you live in the suburbs and all of your tax dollars are going to your local school district and you can put your kid in there, but urban schools are floundering. What's that about? How can we create a more equitable school system? The school to prison pipeline, looking at incarceration rates. I mean, we just brought back federal executions, which is horrendous. And so, who gets put in jail as a percentage of the population? Primarily black men. Why? Unless we're looking at structural issues, we have to really interrogate that. We'll just say, "Oh, it's because they did something wrong." It'll go back to something like that right, law and order. Everybody needs police or whatever the calls for defunding the police are. Calls to take away the structural legacy of the origins of police, which is slave patrols and night patrols. Which are about reclaiming property, human property of enslaved people. It's not about law and order, it's about property protection and who had the property. Other people who are quite owned property, who were black. So, these are the reasons why these things come up. So, when we talk about prison reform, defunding the police or those kinds of things, and we're talking about actually Showing Up for Racial Justice is a great group search. And, going through whatever their mandates are and whatever calls to action that they are appealing to us for. The reason is, it's a both/and, right. So, as I can do these things, non-performatively. But I can donate my money, I can donate my time, I can donate my phone calls, I can do phone banking, whatever it is that I need to do in order to get certain people elected; like you say, vote myself. But, it's also how am I in this and am I going to be able to do this in a way that I'm really committed to this process of awakening around the reality of the legacy of the core wound of this country. Which is racism, oppression, white body supremacy, and frankly, capitalism, because racism is in service to the economic piece.
Rebecca Scritchfield: 100%. And this is hopefully the tiniest pivot because I tend to make pivots and then there you go. I recently, speaking of book clubs, recently did a book club with several feminist authors, and we read They Were Her Property, and it was just a gut punch, right? Because you see in these texts, I feel like as part of the white racial innocence, I think there was this white racial/feminist innocence that I had about it before I read that book, but then you realize, oh wait, women were very complicit and leaders, and just were very, very bad. And then also, you could see the patriarchy woven into the text as well. And, it was definitely a difficult and challenging text just to get through from the historical standpoint, and I think that was part of the benefit and value of getting the book written is to stop rewriting history. I think that how those texts can also teach you things about, there has been a revisionist to our history, women suffered and created suffering. And absolutely, when you understand how slavery worked to build capitalism, that it's just, it's kind of, you feel it in your body. Which I know we're going to talk about the somatic transference and everything like that. So, I just wanted to make that comment. I don't know if there was anything else that you wanted to say specific about that book.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: No, I mean I appreciate what you're saying and I think that that's part of the whole thing. I mean, when we looked at who voted for 45, a lot of the tipping point was around white women. And, you know, we sort of were a little bit surprised by that. And yet, black women especially have always said white women choose race over gender all the time. And when you look at Emmett Till's killing, brutal murder, it was that, as it often had been the lore of just looking at a white woman, forget about allegedly whistling, anything like that was enough to become brutalized. We see that lived out in what we see with Amy Cooper in Central Park with Christian Cooper, in terms of weaponizing the performative protection of white female womanhood and fragility around any sort of, I can't be wrong, I'm going to create this other. I mean, Susan Smith, I don't know if you remember that case. She invented a story about a black man who took her kids when she really took them in a car and dumped them in the lake.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: And, you know, it's become that the psyche of white people gets put on black people; meaning that who really did some of these violent and atrocious things here, coming over colonizing, genocide, all the indigenous people; the Dene, the Lakota, the Otoe? I mean, who really was responsible for that? And then how does that get held culturally somatically? And, all of that countertransference projection somatically. Where does that get held? Who owns that? Who holds that, and who's going to process that? Reparations financially are a huge piece, but also, what's the sort of embodied cosmic inheritance somatically of what it means to have been the inheritors of this kind of perpetuation of trauma, and also sort of like lies of omission. That's why they say silence is violence. Meaning when do we not step in now? Because we sort of put it in the past and kind of dissociate and sort of say, "well, you know, I'm doing this little piece over here."
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: It's a lot to take in, it's a lot to hold. And I don't suggest that we hold it and keep it. I suggest that we breathe it in like a tonglen practice, and that we breathe it out. We breathe in the suffering and we breathe out the compassion. Breathe in this suffering, and we breathe out the compassion. That we breathe in the truth of these atrocities and we breathe out the embodied, compassionate action, deepening into our deepest intention, which is not only the awakening and the recognition of all of the trauma, but our own integrity and commitment to healing and facing the flames.
Rebecca Scritchfield: I'm just out of it. I'm tingling right now because with that shift in your voice, there was this instant reaction to close my eyes and to mirror this breathing pattern. Just right away instinctually, this is what I need to do right now, and I felt very regulated with the pace of your words and the cadence of talking about breath. And, A: just to let you know that that was beautiful and meaningful and I could feel that. And also, B - I think it could really help listeners to how can we structure and brace what we've talked about so far, but structure some more education around trauma. You know, we've used the word trauma, we use dissociation, we've talked about somatics and kind of given some highlights, and where I would like to start with it is, I think you use wellness and kind of talking about the spheres in which you work and so I would say from day one, client one, trauma was in the space. And yet, I wasn't taught in any of my training what trauma is, how to have trauma in the space, and as I became more trauma informed through education and development, I also started to realize; wow, my clients were coming to this space, and there are things that are happening to them that they don't even recognize as a trauma in their life. And so, in that context, I wanted to just start to ask you about some of the basics on what is trauma? Why is there a stigma against it that we don't recognize it? I feel like it's part of our sickness, you know.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Yeah, it's a myth. It goes against the myth of meritocracy. It goes against the myth of meritocracy, which is sort of like, everybody has an equal opportunity, and we're all just going to work hard, and then we're going to get what we need and get ahead and all of that. If everybody started at the same place with the same resources and had the same everything, then maybe, but that's not how it is because there are systems where certain people have and others are denied.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: On trauma, generally, I think the best way I've come to just sort of in a shorthand way describe it is kind of, you know, an organismic level, you know, too much, too fast, too soon. Too much, too fast, too soon, something that over stimulates the system. Something that the demand on the system exceeds the system's capacity to process, integrate, and return to homeostatic balance. So, it's a dysregulated, interrupted stop process kind of state. It can happen personally to one's organism right, if I have a traumatic event like a car accident, I personally can have a traumatic somatic host of symptoms and beliefs and things that will come out of that. I can have complex relational trauma from early childhood caregiver, misattuned experiences around abuse or neglect or unpredictability. And a lot of that is relational in terms of what I've come to believe, and who I can trust and not, and it might be coupled with incident trauma also.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: And then there's this cultural somatic, actual bigger less specific kind of trauma when we look at what you're talking about, which is the systems of oppression that are rooted in a supremacist way of thinking, What's challenging is, it's certainly true that we're all unique in many ways. And it's certainly true that we, as human beings worked individually, meaning we come into our own agency, we want to be our own people, we don't want to have our parents be the ones that are still in our head all the time. We want to sort of come into our own way of being like, I'm living a purposeful life that I have ownership of and agency with, and most people's journeys in life are about that very thing. Whose life am I living anyway? The one that the people I grew up with wanted me to live, the ones that in my household I learned it was safe to live, or the one that I really authentically want to live. And it's that stop process of trauma or the beliefs around that that often is inhibiting us from doing that at a personal level.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: But at this cultural somatic level as Resmaa Menakem, me and some other folks have talked about it's more that there is so much stuck in the system of genocide, violence, oppression, because collectively, this individuation isn't allowed to happen to certain people. And so, for example, black people are seen as a collective in that way, and so there's no room for that individuation. And so, one black person becomes the person who is representative of an entire culture, whether they do something right or wrong. And so, it becomes that one person ends up being the holder, if you will, of the lineage of all of that trauma. And I guess what I'm trying to say on a larger level is basically this; is that trauma itself, unless it's resolved, unless it's allowed to deactivate, unless there's something actively done to release it from the system, it won't leave the system. And if the systems of oppression remain as they do, then it's going to continue to be perpetuated.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: And, that's why people talk about reparations. That's why they talk about equity. That's why they talk about inheritance of wealth. That's why they talk about shifting funds. That's why it's talked about in a way that is reconciling where there's remorse, where there's grief on behalf of people who have inherited privileges based on racial privileges, racial advantages, based on just being white. And that there's that kind of trauma, that cultural trauma needs to be worked through in order for us to be able to actually move toward collective healing. Because it doesn't help white people either. That's the problem. Everybody thinks that we're all just going to win the 1% or lottery game and we'll be billionaires. But that's not how it works. It's necessarily exclusive. And we have this because of this libertarian sort of mentality, this meritocracy of pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Do it, you can. There's a place for that, right. There's a place for effort, there's a place for discipline. I'm not saying that. Mindfulness teachings call it Varia, it means that you have a certain energy, a certain dedication to something that's good. That's a good quality to have. But you need to be able to recognize that that's separate from being the recipient of this constant state of threat, which people who are in black bodies in this country are, that doesn't exist when you don't exist in a black body.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Let's take a quick pause from this conversation for an important message from Bernie Salazar.
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Rebecca Scritchfield: So, when we talk about system overload, we can think of it like, okay, in our lifetime things happen to us that can overload the system, and that is what we can call a trauma, and at that point it is in your body, impacting your body. And it's not necessarily something that you could just scope out and look for necessarily and say, oh, this is trauma in a physical space. But we say trauma shows up in the body, so how would we explain that to people for an example?
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Well, I think that Dr. Vincent Felitti, somebody that interviewed for one of my podcasts, who did the ACEs study, The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study with Kaiser Permanente talks about how all the psychosomatic pieces that came up for people were because of these adverse childhood experiences; like divorce or incarceration of a parent or alcoholism in the family. And if you have an ACE score of 6, 7, 8, 9 the higher you go, it's like up to 10, the more trauma that you've had in your history. You have like a 6000 more percent chance of being an IV drug user if you have an ACE score of six or above, then if you have zero or one or two or something like that. So, understanding what your history is, in terms of understanding how you're impacted, those things all live out in your body.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: For example, the way that they did this study, it was a weight loss thing where they were talking about people who were able to sustainably keep the weight off, and then there was people that didn't. And when study querying why this woman was gaining the weight back and then some after she had lost it, it was because somebody at work had been paying attention to her and was starting to flirt with her, and she had been sexually abused as a child. And so, the weight, of course, was a barrier to being desirable, which was a protective adaptive mechanism. And so, you always have to ask what's the need? How is this serving? Instead of seeing it as a pathology, seeing it as, how is this actually serving to keep me safe from a very basic and fundamental level. And the way that it can be stored in the body is all kinds of things; hypertension, high blood pressure, obesity. All these kinds of things. But that those are all symptomatic manifestations of an adaptive mechanism usually from a prior series of traumas, or learned way of being when it comes to complex trauma in terms of relational stuff that is continuing to be employed beyond its utility, because we haven't caught up with our present state, which is, maybe I'm safer here. Now, I don't have to only eat, for example, in order to be undesirable in such a way that I won't be molested. And that would be where a more psychotherapeutic, or more trauma informed way of working somatically with somebody might start to uncouple the beliefs that are associated with how is this serving me? And why is this here?
Rebecca Scritchfield: Right, right. And so, the idea is that in working in a psychotherapy setting, or with some somatic experiencing, you can work on trauma processing for people, right? Before I go into that, I was hoping you could help differentiate, because I'm definitely reading a lot more about this, and I have a feeling that listeners are reading more and might not quite get it. But, differentiate between historical trauma and racialized trauma for people. Because one of the connections is not just our lived experiences, but how we inherit the experiences of our ancestors.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Right. So, if you use a lens as I do, which is more like space-time is sort of irrelevant. There's future, past, present, we're just sort of mixed all in. And that it's also all my relations; so, my ancestors are here, as well as my future and that I'm not just this fixed entity anyway. I carry all of that which was before me and everything that came into my creation here, in this embodiment, in this moment in time, as well as everything else that is to come. Meaning that I'm constantly in process, right? I mean, I've been dying since the day I was born. You know what I'm saying? I'm not a fixed thing. And, when we look at a river, is a river a fixed thing?
Rebecca Scritchfield: Nope, always changing.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Is it ever the same? Is the water that's rushing through there ever the same as the sand? Is it really ever the same? So, we have to start questioning. What are we thinking when we're thinking of what's fixed or isn't? So, this historical trauma and this racialized trauma is essentially that. A lot of the critiques of the trauma models and I certainly have this critique, is this idea of returning back into homeostatic balance. It's returning to safety. You weren't safe then when your dad was beating you up and he was an alcoholic, but you are safe now because you live in a nice cul de sac with a wife who loves you, or something like that. That isn't the truth. That's not the lived experience of someone who is a black American who is walking down the street, who is still subjected to racialized violence because of the implicit biases of generations of inherited white body supremacy attitudes, conscious or unconscious. And so, there's two ways in which the historical trauma lives in white people, and that the racialized trauma is experienced by black people today. It's not safe for a person of color to walk down the street, in the way that it is for a white person to walk down the street.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Yes. And I remember reading articles to that point about a black surgeon, a male black surgeon talking about, "I'm always going to wear my scrubs in public from point A to point B." Or somebody in two different outfits, same person in two different outfits. "And this is what people think of me in this outfit, this is what people think of me in my work outfit." To that level of how can you say that you are truly safe if you are going to be judged by the skin and the body that you're in, and the clothes that you're wearing.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Right. And, so again, a lot of people of color have had to do code-switching and have to talk a certain way and look a certain way and perform a certain way and be a certain way with certain groups of people, white people, in order to stay safe. And then, have a more full, relaxed, more regulated life at home. But just being in the midst of, I mean, I've existed in spaces that have been pretty much all white. And as a woman of color with a lot of light skin and white skin, racial advantage and privilege. You know, I don't think that people understand that the microaggressions are heavy and unrelenting. And so while I've never feared for my safety in the same particular way that it would be that we've seen, especially lately based on my skin color, I've certainly felt as though that because I've been just a lot more than people are used to, you know, I dress a little differently, my hair is a little bit different, I am a little bit bigger or louder or something, that all of those things are ways in which we're constantly putting pressure on ourselves to stay in a box and be narrow, that people who are light skin privileged or white racially advantaged don't really even consider or think about, which is that whole Peggy Macintosh Invisible Backpack article, which everybody should read if they haven't already, which is what is this list of inherited things that I get that I don't even have to think about? They don't ask me for two forms of ID when I go to cash a check at the grocery store because I'm quite. They don't follow me around the store when I'm shopping because they're not thinking I'm going to steal something because I'm quite. But if you are a black body just like Oprah was for God's sakes in Hermes. Oprah, she's a billionaire. She gets stopped because they didn't know it was Oprah, but because she has black skin. And what does that do cumulatively to one's psyche over time. And, how is that not even thought about when you're white and you don't even, "Well that never happened to me, that doesn't happen. Well, that never happened to me, you must have done something wrong. Well, that never happened." And, you know, as opposed to understanding the way in which it's so entrenched.
Rebecca Scritchfield: And I think that it relates to this idea of that your privilege is somebody else's racialized trauma. And then your, you know, unintentional microaggression, "Oh, well, that didn't happen to me, so therefore it didn't happen." Right. Another microaggression. So even in white body supremacy we know that there's necessary work to learn and grow, and in doing that learning and growing there can be harm done, just in being in process.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Yeah, I mean, listen, I think that being an embodied anti-racist isn't something that you do. It's something that you commit to becoming. And once you start doing the work you can't unsee it. Once you know, you can't not know. And, it's a privilege to remain ignorant. It's a privilege to remain ignorant, to not read Ibram Kendi, to not read Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Dr. Joy DeGruyto. It's a privilege to not just bear witness to the atrocities and the horror. And I think that the ask for me, it's you know, my formula for, and I don't know that this is really possible, or if this is what other people think. But, my personal formula tends to be around; every person has dignity; there's value and worth of every person and that person, whoever you are, who is a white bodied individual, that you aren't just as I was talking to earlier, you aren't just your ego. You are you're imprintings. So, you come into this world with this sort of basic goodness. They call it Buddha nature, they call it presence or self-energy if you're using The Internal Family Systems Model. That your spirit is just your embodied spirit, and that you get a lot of imprintings and conditioning over time; through your early caregivers experiences in your family, society, culturally, through school, through church, through synagogue, whatever it is. And then we come to learn and believe certain things. And because of that, we often end up having other base self-esteem or attributes that base self-esteem or other kinds of self-esteem that are all contingent upon something external. That there isn't this relationship that we have to our own psyche, our own way of being where we hold ourselves in warm, positive self-regard, that whole piece around self-compassion. And we feel ashamed when we don't, we feel like we're a bad person, we feel like there's something wrong with us, if people would like me more, I'd have more money, or I'd have a better job if I were different than how I am. And white people generally carry a lot of this, which is a big problem, because A, it's not true. There's nothing wrong with you, you just have conditioned imprintings that then show up in these behavioral patterns that are not helpful to you or to people of color, if you have racist parts that act out. And that B, that's good. Because as long as you can be in that self-energy, and that presencing you can bear witness to your own parts.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Like I started the conversation with these racist parts of view. Learn to kind of unpack them, and then see what they're here to teach you and then you can move into a place of embodied anti-racism, action and work, and collective liberation. Because you're already separating yourself from yourself. That's what supremacist ideology does. It creates another in service to an idealized version of something that doesn't exist. And so, when you really look at the truth of when people say, "well, our oneness, our connectedness." Yes, that's true, but we can't ignore or spiritually bypass the fact that even within this, certain people have certain advantages that others don't. I may feel crappy about myself and feel ashamed about myself, or feel like a bad person or something. But I may still not be subject to the kind of violence that someone with more melanin is going to be subjected to. So, it's a both/and. But how do I work through my own internal blocks so I don't just hit a shame spiral wall, say, "Oh, this is too much for me, it's overwhelming. I don't know how to lean into this work where I'm trying to be kind to others, or interrogate whiteness because I'm already feeling so unworthy." That unworthiness isn't really in service to anyone, it's a product of the same system. You know, white Western beauty standards, all the things you were talking about. You have to look a certain way, you have to have a certain kind of hair, you have to be a certain age. When we look at how everything is actually just process. Like I was saying earlier, you're never going to be 22 for your whole life, you're never going to be 28 for your whole life, you're never going to be blonde for your whole life, you're never going to be 120 if you want to be 120 at 5'4 for your whole life. You're never going to be all those things. You know what I mean?
Rebecca Scritchfield: I don't know what my weight is. And even when I was having a baby, I agreed to getting weighed at the doctor's. And I just decided self-care was standing backwards. And again, that had to do with some cultural conditioning and my own experiences, where when you can see what's unhelpful and learn to let go of that. I do think that that really helps you evolve further into a more grounded, centered and whole person. I don't know if it's the right words to say; like less self-centered, but you know what I mean. But to where you can pivot energy back into common humanity. If we see that all those things are all part of the same oppressive systems, that some of that work that you might do for your own personal well-being and what you're able to let go of, is also going to help you if you're feeling less day to day shame, and doing some of that work, that's going to help open you up to be able to do other important work. You know, like we've been talking about throughout with what it would mean to commit to anti-racism. It's not a thing you do, it's not a box that you check, but it's part of your human evolution. A lot of what you were talking about made me think, oh, it's good to talk about somatic experiences now, because I felt like we were teasing that up. So, what is somatic mean, and what are somatic experiences? How can they help people?
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Somatic Experiencing is just a way, it's a trauma resolution therapy. It's a trauma healing modality. And like I said, it's about nervous system regulation and understanding where there are places in the body that are stuck and we're not releasing them in this cathartic way where it's this big whoosh or anything, it's more very titrated; little bites, little bites, slicing it very thin. So, I don't know, I mean, maybe we would do a quick piece of work. I don't know if you want to dip in for a moment and see. Because I think it's just easier to kind of do it experientially than it is to just talk about it. But I don't know, is there something that's bothering you or that there's something that you're feeling? If I say; gee Rebecca, you told me you were anxious and I asked you where that was in your body, that anxiety.
Rebecca Scritchfield: I would say that I feel it right now at the top of my head. I feel almost two places though. The top of my head, I feel this pressure. Probably from my eyeballs and temples up, and I also feel something where my heart is. Where I would say, okay, this is my heart and it's around my heart. I don't think it is my heart, but it feels like, I wouldn't just say my chest area. It feels localized more to where I would say if I was putting my hand on my heart. That more feels achy. Yeah, achy. Almost if I use the word sore, I'm not thinking like muscle soreness. It's not that, but it has an achy quality.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Yeah, yeah. I'm sensing a heaviness or a longingness or a sorrowness or something there.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Mm hmm. Yeah, I think.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: What's the quality of that achy? Is it got a texture or color? A sound?
Rebecca Scritchfield: It's interesting, because blue came to my mind and it's interesting because blue is a favorite color of mine. So, there's part of me, "No, don't say blue. That's your favorite color, that makes you happy." Right? So, there's that the monitor part. But I think that it does feel like a little blue. Maybe a little, you know a little bit cold or sad.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: So, with that blue there's a sense that there's something colder there, a little bit sad there. And I'm just noticing your jaw tightness. So just noticing that and maybe just saying hello to it. Saying hello to the blue. Saying hello to the achy, to the sad. Just saying hello to whatever the jaw and the eyebrows are doing. And, just notice what it's like if we just asked those parts that are sad, or blue, or achy, or tense, or anxious if we could just keep them company. Would it be okay? Just say, oh yeah, here we are together. And there's a little bit of blue, and there's a little bit of sad, and there's a little bit of tense. And here we are with those parts.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Mm hmm. Yeah, it's okay.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Yeah, just noticing your hand on your neck and just checking in with what you're noticing now.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Yeah, I felt something move into my shoulder. So, you know, I can easily explain that as "maybe you didn't sleep right." While maybe part of that could be true, it's interesting that there's a part that wants to kind of jump in and diagnose something that is more literal, explainable to a physical feeling. Yeah, maybe that wasn't a good night's sleep, as opposed to emotion.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: So, being with the experience. Right. So, the somatic piece is to really just notice and slow it way down and be with the experience. And the left brain may want to jump in and make sense of things and try to find out a story diagnostically. We just do a lot of interrupting in somatic experience to say, thank you for trying to protect me, I know you don't want me to get too close. And can we just sort of dip into just taking one little bite here of what it's like to be with this experience?
Rebecca Scritchfield: It is very powerful and I feel like people who practice with somatic experiences by doing it, they can realize the benefit, but it does go I guess maybe sort of against that very prescriptive, this thing, that immediate effect. And so, I really appreciated how you talked about how the left brain will try to chime in and make sense of something, and you could still maintain a calmer, mindful presence with what is happening. What are you sensing right now, inside your body? That's very helpful. Thank you.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Yeah, we don't give up the left brain in order to check in with our body, we just asked to just turn the volume down a little bit so that we can create a little bit of space to notice what's also here, that may not always be on blast.
Rebecca Scritchfield: And the idea of connecting that back through to our conversations today is that somatic experiencing is one way that we can heal from our traumas, partially in making sense of them when the left brain is involved. But less of that dialectic talking and more about experiencing and having a presence with. And not that that's the topic of today, but there's a lot of science around it that it is valid and can be very helpful and very important in what someone might come to and sit on my couch and say, "oh, I've got to do something about this weight." Say that is a primary complaint that you know you could peel the layers of cultural conditioning and focus and talk about habits and talk about these things, more the things you learn. And really, when you understand about listening to one's lived experience and helping to validate the value of lived experience; that really, the way in which we heal as humans, is also rooted in connection and living and being, without judgment and in connecting to ourselves.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Absolutely. That's exactly right. And I think that that's a really, really good place to encapsulate this conversation for the day. Because I think that this idea of, it's okay to connect with ourselves, we don't want to always exile the parts of ourselves that we either don't know exist or don't feel good about or feel like are too confusing, or whatever, we want to be able to be able to integrate. You know, Dan Siegel talks about having a cohesive narrative. You want to be able to have a more integrated, organized self, a more homeostaticly balanced and regulate self. And as you move into that place, it's not to just then hold on to that, it's that you actually become more flexible, less rigid, meaning that you can have and lean into more places that are a little bit more challenging. When you're doing for example, embodied anti-racism work, and know what to do, you're more discerning, you're more wise, you slip down, you can be a presence about it. As opposed to just being someone who feels as though I'll never get this, right. You've already reconnected to your core sense, your core essence, where like we said just a moment ago, when you're willing to accept your basic goodness, or your essential nature, and you recognize that we've all been imprinted. We all have internalized thoughts, feelings, and beliefs based on our personal and our collective experiences structurally and in our families, that we can start to shift. And, when we tune into the wisdom of the body, when we tune into those places, we can start to do it in a different way where it's more like it's long lasting, because it's more transformative than something that sometimes just with the left brain cognitive piece, it doesn't always penetrate the deeper, more subcortical limbic parts of the brain where meaning is stored, and from that meaning then behavior is enacted.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Yes, and I'm leaving with the power of recognizing that you can't have one without the other. So, you can't have your individual healing without also thinking of common humanity. And we know that our collective traumas of racism, especially how it's rooted in the United States, COVID-19 and the global pandemic that is existing and that like you had eloquently mentioned several times, it is a yes/and. There are things you could do as a person, but also, I think it's so important, you know, of not letting that fear take hold to allow white body supremacy to just try to pass on by. Because you won't have your personal well-being and evolve based on the imprint without also doing the work.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: Right. Yeah, that's right. It's a lot of work, but it's also good work. You feel better doing it. You feel differently. It's not a Sisyphean. You know, it feels more integrated.
Rebecca Scritchfield: I'm so glad you're in the world here helping people. What is your website so folks can find and follow you and work with you on these?
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: So, I have maximeclarity.com, which is my last name and that's where I offer all of my mindfulness and Somatic Experiencing offerings. And I also have another psychotherapy practice where I offer psychotherapeutic services through Brooklyn Somatic Therapy.
Rebecca Scritchfield: Oh, that's so wonderful. Well, I'll have the link to your website and your social media, and the references you mentioned today in the show notes for listeners. Deepest gratitude, thank you so much for coming on today and sharing your experiences and your expertise with us.
Francesca Marguerite Maxime: All right, it was a pleasure Rebecca. Thank you so much for doing this work. Take good care.
Rebecca Scritchfield:And that's our show. The podcast is made possible with support from listeners. Please donate to help offset production costs at gofundme.com/bodykindness. And please rate and review the show when you have a moment, it really matters. Let's keep the conversations going on Facebook. Search Body Kindness and request to join the group for Body Kindness readers and listeners. Have a question for us to answer on a future episode? Visit bodykindnessbook.com/question. Body Kindness books and audiobooks are available wherever books are sold. To request a signed print copy, visit bodykindnessbook.com/order. For other questions about this podcast, please email email@example.com.
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Francesca Links and Resources Mentioned:
- Showing Up for Racial Justice (I’m a member of the DC metro area group)
- Whiteness on the couch article by Natasha Stovall and her podcast interview
- Inside Out With Natasha and Francesca – weekly TV show
- 2018 Podcast interview about Adverse Childhood Events (ACE-scores) study on trauma and attachment, mindfulness, and more podcast interview with Dr. Vincent Felitti (CW: discusses “O-word” but acknowledges weight not the problem, but trauma. Some interesting dialogue about the history behind ACE scores development. I can see the White Supremacy in medicine power structure in this conversation.)
- Peggy McIntosh The Invisible Knapsack article, original article and updated article and resources included.
Learn from Francesca:
- Available now! Cultivating a Courageous Heart. Three FREE 30-min embodied antiracism teaching videos. (90-min total on the themes of shame, empowerment, and mindful approach to anti-racism) and invitation to join Francesca for a FREE LIVE video teaching mid-October (after you get the videos.)
- 5-week embodied anti-racism online course, primarily for White (or light-skin privileged) trauma-informed helping pros in collaboration with The Academy of Therapy Wisdom This new embodied anti-racism course begins 10/14/2020.
- Stay connected with all of Francesa’s work or learn how YOU can work with her.
Francesca Marguerite Maximé is a Haitian-Dominican Italian-American IMTA-accredited certified mindfulness meditation teacher mentored by Jack Kornfield, Somatic Experiencing Trauma Healing Practitioner, Indigenous Focusing Oriented Therapy practitioner, Relational Life Therapy couples coach, Focusing Oriented Therapy practitioner, and award-winning poet, author, and former television news anchor and reporter.
Francesca is based in Brooklyn, New York where she sees adults, couples and groups in person and online, and teaches therapists and other trauma specialists about mindfulness, the nervous system, attachment, embodiment and racialized trauma. Francesca also hosts the ReRooted Podcast where she explores the intersection of psychology, neuroscience, spirituality, social justice, and the creative arts.
Francesca was also the recipient of the 2019 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Student Advocacy and Service award for her contributions in the field of advocacy, clinical work and traumatic stress, as well as the 2019 first prize winner of the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards for her poem, “Pleather,” recently featured on PBS television. Last year, she was also featured in the article, Spreading the Word about Racialized Trauma by the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation. More about Francesca can be found on her website www.maximeclarity.com.