REGULATING THE NERVOUS SYSTEM: TOOLS & RESOURCES
REGULATING THE NERVOUS SYSTEM: TOOLS & RESOURCES
Hi, I'm Natasha. I relate with Dorie from the movie Finding Nemo. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be a talk show host like Oprah (back when she was more of the people and for the people).
I am curious, creative, serious, playful, super chill, super anxious, queer, nerdy, gendy blendy (gender non-conforming) and a champion of underdogs. My ancestry is Russian and Jewish though I didn't grow up with any religion. I am not religious, I have no personal interest in organized religion but I am spiritual.
My relationship to Judaism is one of disconnect. I see the state of Israel as a colonization and genocide project against Palestinians. I'm not sure why I name being Jewish as part of my identity other than the fact that my mother has always been very prideful about us being Jewish. When I take more time to better understand Judaism in the way I need, my relationship to it will surely change. Right now it feels like I have more pressing matters to attend to, like decolonizing my mind and spirit, so exploring what Judaism means to me is a vast project that is on the back burner for me for now, though identity exploration and remembering and reconnecting with our ancestral roots is a critical part of the decolonization process.
I was born in Leningrad (known today as Saint Petersburg) Russia in 1977. My mother and biological father divorced shortly thereafter and my mom left with me for Palestine "for a better life." I haven't seen my father since. We have connected a bit here and there over the years but we are strangers. He is an artist, he does watercolor painting for a living. My father wound is a deep one that I grieve when it surfaces. This wound also experiences some healing here and there in the most unexpected ways.
I grew up in a small working class immigrant family in a working class neighbourhood in Calgary, Alberta. My family was made up of my mother, stepfather, my younger sister and myself. My stepfather, who was also a Russian Jewish immigrant, came into my life when I was a toddler in Palestine. He sponsored me and my mom to immigrate to so-called Canada and I became an immigrant twice over at the age of five.
My stepfather died when I was 16. This was the first time I experienced liberation. Our relationship was fraught with conflict and I had a lot of rage towards him. I carry a very different kind of father wound from this relationship.
It's easier for me to understand and explain my father wounds than my mother wound. I have a lot of deep, unconditional love for my mother, as well as pain, frustration and confusion. And she has her own mother wound, as generational trauma goes. One big difference between my parent wounds is that my mother has always been in my life and she's open and willing to try different, healthier ways of relating.
My relationship with my mother is complicated and ever evolving. We used to be enmeshed until I started going to therapy. Slowly, surely and messily over the years, we've been relating as two adult women who like, respect and appreciate eachother and who are figuring out how to do conflict better. It is a slow, transformative and slippery process. My mother is a beautiful, creative, silly, funny, brave, strong and sensitive woman. We are a lot alike. She is a trip and our relationship is quite a ride. I am so grateful for my mom's courage, it is what allows us to repair our dysfunction, bit by bit, and which sometimes feels like one step forward, two steps back.
There's all kinds of stuff that comes with growing up in an immigrant family that I have been peeling back the layers of and feeling my way through. This includes the Inconvenient Truth that no Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island invited my family to live here, which makes us complicit in colonial genocide by living on this land in the way that we do, regardless of when, why or how we arrived here. I believe the same to be true for all immigrants, settlers and anyone else who is not Indigenous to the land they live on. Everyone but Indigenous people are immigrants to Turtle Island and through ongoing colonization, we are behaving as an invasive species.
I have no simple or easy answers to this other than knowing for sure that guilt will get us nowhere. Another thing I am certain of is that sensical, effective solutions can only come from centering, privileging and prioritizing Indigenous voices of the land that we live on. I do this whenever and however I am able.
I became an auntie in 2016 and again in 2019. I love being an aunt and I'm also heartbroken because I've been missing out on some foundational relationship building with my niece and nephew due to COVID and needing to practice extreme caution because I have a disabled dependent. Playing it safe and erring on the side of caution is how I've had to live through the pandemic and which I continue to do as I write this near the end of 2022 because it's still not over, even though the colonial-capitalist world is behaving as though it is. A recent tweet by @mildanalyst said it best: "The isolation and gaslighting experienced by people who are still taking precautions have reached unprecedented levels. It feels like this part of the pandemic is actually tougher than the beginning."
I married my best friend Shea in 2008. Prior to this I had developed some intimacy and commitment issues which I began unpacking and processing in therapy in my late 20's or early 30's and which I've been able to slowly heal through my marriage because it is my first truly safe and securely attached adult relationship. And of course we have issues and conflicts, because we're human. My younger self naively thought that a good relationship shouldn't take much work. Boi oh boi did I have a lot to learn!
I fell in love with Shea for many reasons; one major reason was the stories she would tell me about Congo, an Indian ringneck rescue parrot she had for 11+ years. The way she talked about Congo and the stories she told me painted a picture of an incredibly sweet, funny, loving, intelligent, attuned, kind, loyal and protective person. I was not wrong. Shea is 2-spirited and Indigenous to Turtle Island. She is an incredibly talented musician, vocalist, lyricist, multi-instrumentalist and fierce Indigenous land and water protector and educator. She is my person and she makes me want to be a better person. We are each other's first longest term relationship.
I wish my family sought out therapy when I was a child or when I was a teen. There was so much important information about being human, parenting and being a family that my family could have greatly benefited and thrived from.
I think therapists need to be actively and intentionally working on our own mental, emotional and spiritual growth in order to most effectively serve our clients. I also think we need to take breaks, which I do in between my own therapy because there is actual LIFE to be lived and learned from in between intentional personal growth endeavors.
I have been unmining and decolonizing my mind since my mid 20's. This has been a hard and liberating process. I had a lot to unlearn and I have a long way to go. The older I get, the more radical I become in my anti-colonial ways of understanding and moving through the world. I share some of my personal, professional and political learnings and ponderings on my Instagram page.
Some of my favorite things: camping, campfires, cooking on a campfire, swimming, reading, hammocks, sloths, chipmunks, birds, dogs, horses, buffets, my dear friend Mateo, group therapy, music and art of all kinds. I love playing with my niece and nephew and watching "reality" shows like Married At First Sight, 90 Day Fiance and Sister Wives.
I recently discovered the world of improv and am absolutely loving it. It is a delightful and therapeutic space for creativity, absurdity, silliness and play. I feel like improv was a spiritual enema for some emotional constipation I didn't realize I had!
There's a lot more I want to share with you, such as why and how I think the majority of today's human suffering is 100% preventable and how the source of our distress, no matter how different in form, so often boils down to certain dominant organized religions, domestication, industrialization, colonization and global colonization (globalization). And of course technology.
And how euro-centric psychiatry and psychology want to victim-blame people and our brain chemistry and biology for our problems with living, instead of the colonial systems and environments imposed upon us and the violent, neglectful, spiritually impotent, dis-eased and traumatizing ways of living and relating we've been indoctrinated into.
Prescribing chemical lobotomies to people is a greed-driven, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually lazy and miserably failed and failing attempt to fix the social, emotional and spiritual issues that plague us. As such, my interest, focus and energy goes into authentic relating, collaborating, community building and mutual aid practices towards bringing about the Change we so badly need, and with as much pleasure, play and rest as I can get in between.
Please do not mistake my use of the term "chemical lobotomies" as me being "anti-drugs" -- I firmly believe there are some life-saving medicines out there that help folks live more functional, pain-free (or pain managed) lives. Whatever medication you use or will use or will decide not to use, I do not judge it because I don't live in your body and I don't live your life. You are the expert of what works and doesn't work for you.
I decided to share some of this personal information because I always appreciate knowing the kind of person the therapists I work with are. It fosters intimacy and trust building when I get to know them as the humans they are, especially considering I am sharing so much of myself with them when I am in the client role.
I don't align with the idea of therapist-as-blank-slate approach because therapists are not blank slates, so why pretend we are? When I do share things about myself with clients, I aim to do so from the framework of therapeutic use of self. It feels like a bigger power imbalance for clients to be expected to bare all while knowing nothing about their therapists. That said, there are some folks who like and prefer to know nothing or very little about their therapist, which is absolutely fine, because no matter how much or how little one knows about their therapist, therapy is about the client.
I love being a therapist, it's where I learn the most about being human. Each person I work with is SO different, which I think is absolutely delightful, beautiful, remarkable and truly magical. Our differences are our superpower, they make us unique rather than boring carbon copies of eachother. Colonial culture teaches us to fear, judge, reject and destroy difference. An important part of decolonization is to reclaim our respect, acceptance and celebration of difference.
The relationship I build with my clients and the work that we do is sacred to me. I feel very lucky to get to be people's chosen therapist and be entrusted with their stories. I love supporting and witnessing folks in their healing and growth journeys.
At the end of the day, I believe that therapy, like life, comes down to the practice of Love. What does Love mean to you? I really like how bell hooks defines it: "I define love as a combination of care, knowledge, responsibility, respect, trust and commitment."