Shattering a 20+ Year Pattern of Disempowerment: An Authentic Relating Testimony


Trauma: an embodied flashback. How many years of my life have I been ready to fight at a moments notice, or to collapse, disengage, and disconnect? I’ve always had a hard time speaking my truth and owning my viewpoints around men who don’t yield space for me to speak. Fight or flight.

Yesterday. Coffee with a new colleague. A fellow teacher and movement professional. Different viewpoints on life, but intense conviction on both sides of the table. We skid into a disagreement over an issue I’m wildly passionate about, an issue I’ve built my career around: self-defense.

I feel a deep clench in my stomach. My pulse speeds up. This is where I lose my words and lose my clarity: this is where I posture and regret it later. This is where I shrink and feel ashamed, shut down again, unseen, unheard… and yet: space.

Awareness. Presence. Curiosity.

I can actually feel a range of responses. I slow down and listen to him, to what’s important to him, to what drives his opinions…

What assumptions am I making? What old story is driving my present experience? What IS my experience in this moment and what do I want to share?

I speak. Clear. Calm. I realize that I’m making a truth claim and course-correct mid-sentence. I am fully in my diginity, speaking from a place of deep care and experience.

I ask clarifying questions. I am actually genuinely interested in his viewpoint.

I am in total ownership of my experience. Maybe it’s not a fight, maybe it’s just an intense conversation.

I ask deepening questions. There is space for disagreement and understanding the why of one another’s beliefs.

After a few minutes on a calmer topic, I reveal to him that I was feeling activated, that my nervous system sometimes gets overwhelmed in situations like this. I’m feeling brave, fuck it.

He shares an interest in my capacity and skill for emotional connection.

Twenty minutes later, he reaches across a stark political divide to invite me to his home for a small monthly gathering of his friends.

I walk to my car and sit with the experience of shattering a twenty-plus year pattern of disempowerment.T

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