People 12 October 2017
You probably recognize actress and entrepreneur, Sarah Lancaster, from Saved By The Bell: The New Class, and you would be spot on.
We tend to look at people in the spotlight, especially ones able to get up in a room full of people as act their heart out, like Lancaster, and think that they are fearless in every avenue of their life - but that's not always the case. After growing up and having children of her own, she credits becoming a mother to be what drove her to write a screenplay of her own and star in a new film, The Stray.
Photo Courtesy of The Stray
Her acting career literally began with Saved By The Bell, which is a huge accomplishment in itself. “SBTB was a great experience. I was 14 when I started that show... it was a dream come true for me at the time. As well as a tremendous learning experience, I had never stepped foot on a set before that," she shared with me.
Her acting career has taken her through many more notable experiences such as the Warner Bros. series, Everwood, and ABC's What About Brian, but becoming a mother was something even more magical to her. “When I became a mother I felt like a superhero. I felt so empowered like I could take on anything. I've always wanted to write and produce get on the other side of things."
"Becoming a mother really freed me of any doubt I had. So I went for it, approached the author of a book I've long loved and started the process of adapting my first screenplay," she says.
“Superhero" is indeed the word to describe that experience. It's incredible the drive that becoming a mom gives women. Taking care of these tiny human beings create a confidence that is pretty much unparalleled by anything else in the world.
"Last year I optioned a book I've long loved. It is a female-driven coming of age piece. I reached out to the author personally, we co-wrote the screenplay together. Long story short I secured financing and we are currently prepping a top of the year shoot in NYC. We're taking meetings with directors, specifically looking to attach a female. I've wanted to be on the other side of the camera for years and years… something about having my two children gave me the courage to step up and start taking risks. So far so good," she shared with us.
The screenplay is something that resonated with Lancaster on a really personal level. “The story of is about a brother and sister who are very isolated from the rest of the world, they are largely left to their own devices. I began my career at a very young age which could be quite isolating in itself. My friends back home had a completely different teenage experience then I did."
Taking these huge risks with being on the other side of the camera has been completely liberating for her, “When this project began taking shape, anytime I'm working on it... I'm on cloud nine. It's my baby. We still have a long way to go. But the fact that we've gotten financing and a prominent production company behind it... I'm ecstatic."
Balancing all her accolades and being a mom isn't always easy though. In fact, “balance" seems to be that thing that all parents and entrepreneurs are reaching for every day and is a juggling act we're all looking to play a bigger role in our lives. Lancaster gets it, too, “It's not easy. I fumble all three on a regular basis! What I'm trying to work on is not making myself to feel so guilty about it! Remind myself that I'm doing the best I can. It's a work in progress."
But of course, working on the screenplay isn't the only project that she's been up to. Her newly released film, The Stray, came out on October 6th and is something she's so excited and proud of as well. “The Stray is a true story about The Davis family. They're a young family with several small children and when we meet them they're really struggling. Mitch, the dad, is working overtime, disconnected from his wife and kids. A stray dog happens to find them and without giving anything away is the catalyst for bringing them back together."
If she can offer one piece of advice to all the moms out there that are trying to start businesses and get back to work after stopping to have kids, she says to “be that squeaky wheel. Be bold. Take risks. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've heard "no" as an actress and now with my screenplay. Keep going!"
For decades, women have been unknowingly suffering from PSD and intergenerational trauma, but now Dr. Valerie Rein wants women to reclaim their power through mind, body and healing tools.
As women, no matter how many accomplishments we have or how successful we look on the outside, we all occasionally hear that nagging internal voice telling us to do more. We criticize ourselves more than anyone else and then throw ourselves into the never-ending cycle of self-care, all in effort to save ourselves from crashing into this invisible internal wall. According to psychologist, entrepreneur and author, Dr. Valerie Rein, these feelings are not your fault and there is nothing wrong with you— but chances are you definitely suffering from Patriarchy Stress Disorder.
Patriarchy Stress Disorder (PSD) is defined as the collective inherited trauma of oppression that forms an invisible inner barrier to women's happiness and fulfillment. The term was coined by Rein who discovered a missing link between trauma and the effects that patriarchal power structures have had on certain groups of people all throughout history up until the present day. Her life experience, in addition to research, have led Rein to develop a deeper understanding of the ways in which men and women are experiencing symptoms of trauma and stress that have been genetically passed down from previously oppressed generations.
What makes the discovery of this disorder significant is that it provides women with an answer to the stresses and trauma we feel but cannot explain or overcome. After being admitted to the ER with stroke-like symptoms one afternoon, when Rein noticed the left side of her body and face going numb, she was baffled to learn from her doctors that the results of her tests revealed that her stroke-like symptoms were caused by stress. Rein was then left to figure out what exactly she did for her clients in order for them to be able to step into the fullness of themselves that she was unable to do for herself. "What started seeping through the tears was the realization that I checked all the boxes that society told me I needed to feel happy and fulfilled, but I didn't feel happy or fulfilled and I didn't feel unhappy either. I didn't feel much of anything at all, not even stress," she stated.
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Valerie Rein
This raised the question for Rein as to what sort of hidden traumas women are suppressing without having any awareness of its presence. In her evaluation of her healing methodology, Rein realized that she was using mind, body and trauma healing tools with her clients because, while they had never experienced a traumatic event, they were showing the tell-tale symptoms of trauma which are described as a disconnect from parts of ourselves, body and emotions. In addition to her personal evaluation, research at the time had revealed that traumatic experiences are, in fact, passed down genetically throughout generations. This was Rein's lightbulb moment. The answer to a very real problem that she, and all women, have been experiencing is intergenerational trauma as a result of oppression formed under the patriarchy.
Although Rein's discovery would undoubtably change the way women experience and understand stress, it was crucial that she first broaden the definition of trauma not with the intention of catering to PSD, but to better identify the ways in which trauma presents itself in the current generation. When studying psychology from the books and diagnostic manuals written exclusively by white men, trauma was narrowly defined as a life-threatening experience. By that definition, not many people fit the bill despite showing trauma-like symptoms such as disconnections from parts of their body, emotions and self-expression. However, as the field of psychology has expanded, more voices have been joining the conversations and expanding the definition of trauma based on their lived experience. "I have broadened the definition to say that any experience that makes us feel unsafe psychically or emotionally can be traumatic," stated Rein. By redefining trauma, people across the gender spectrum are able to find validation in their experiences and begin their journey to healing these traumas not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
While PSD is not experienced by one particular gender, as women who have been one of the most historically disadvantaged and oppressed groups, we have inherited survival instructions that express themselves differently for different women. For some women, this means their nervous systems freeze when faced with something that has been historically dangerous for women such as stepping into their power, speaking out, being visible or making a lot of money. Then there are women who go into fight or flight mode. Although they are able to stand in the spotlight, they pay a high price for it when their nervous system begins to work in a constant state of hyper vigilance in order to keep them safe. These women often find themselves having trouble with anxiety, intimacy, sleeping or relaxing without a glass of wine or a pill. Because of this, adrenaline fatigue has become an epidemic among high achieving women that is resulting in heightened levels of stress and anxiety.
"For the first time, it makes sense that we are not broken or making this up, and we have gained this understanding by looking through the lens of a shared trauma. All of these things have been either forbidden or impossible for women. A woman's power has always been a punishable offense throughout history," stated Rein.
Although the idea of having a disorder may be scary to some and even potentially contribute to a victim mentality, Rein wants people to be empowered by PSD and to see it as a diagnosis meant to validate your experience by giving it a name, making it real and giving you a means to heal yourself. "There are still experiences in our lives that are triggering PSD and the more layers we heal, the more power we claim, the more resilience we have and more ability we have in staying plugged into our power and happiness. These triggers affect us less and less the more we heal," emphasized Rein. While the task of breaking intergenerational transmission of trauma seems intimidating, the author has flipped the negative approach to the healing journey from a game of survival to the game of how good can it get.
In her new book, Patriarchy Stress Disorder: The Invisible Barrier to Women's Happiness and Fulfillment, Rein details an easy system for healing that includes the necessary tools she has sourced over 20 years on her healing exploration with the pioneers of mind, body and trauma resolution. Her 5-step system serves to help "Jailbreakers" escape the inner prison of PSD and other hidden trauma through the process of Waking Up in Prison, Meeting the Prison Guards, Turning the Prison Guards into Body Guards, Digging the Tunnel to Freedom and Savoring Freedom. Readers can also find free tools on Rein's website to help aid in their healing journey and exploration.
"I think of the book coming out as the birth of a movement. Healing is not women against men– it's women, men and people across the gender spectrum, coming together in a shared understanding that we all have trauma and we can all heal."