Lifestyle 28 January 2018
As a female immigrant to this country, I had big dreams and even bigger obstacles to overcome. Looking at where I am now—running my own business, managing an all-female team of designers, and living out my passions to bring healing and positivity to the world—I wish I could tell my younger self to worry less and dream even bigger. I still wonder what was the strongest drive that kept me moving. Was it my motive to prove my worth as a woman entrepreneur? Or was it my desire to infuse greater meaning and mindfulness into the interior design industry?
Perhaps, it was both.
I am Mitra Pakdaman Silva, the founder of the Beverly Hills-based LA Healthcare Design Inc. I started my journey as an interior design student, made my way into the design industry by working with leading firms, and now, here I am, leading an all-female team of designers and architects in a joint mission to encourage greater healing through thoughtful, spiritually-minded, and eco-conscious interior design and architecture.
Photo Courtesy of addvantageusa
Over the last several years, popular design trends, such a minimalism and hygge, have shown just how significantly interior design can influence our mental attitudes. As someone who has placed my focus on the healthcare industry specifically, I would like to now familiarize the public with the concept of “healing design.” In taking a more mindful approach to the interior aesthetics and even the architecture of a space, I believe we can create environments that actually enhance our ability to heal. Furthermore, as a female interior designer thriving in the male dominated medical industry, I am hopeful my work will contribute to cultural healing between genders as well.
Mitra Silva. Photo Courtesy of lahealthcaredesign
Here are my top three design mantras:
“Heal the space and it will heal you.”
The word “healing” is a multi-perspective concept. It is both internal and external. Healing is an authentic place of being, and that which triggers recovery from within, but it is also energetically linked to our surroundings. For most people, a visit to the doctor’s office will trigger thoughts of a cramped, dark, and stressful waiting room along with a confusing maze of cold and intimidating examination rooms. This external experience impacts the patient’s internal wellbeing in a negative way, which is the entirely opposite point of visiting a doctor in the first place. These are places people go to feel better and yet, the design often connotes the antithesis of this. It is this lack of soul, energy, and life that inspired me to seek a more thoughtful solution to healthcare design. I believe that if you can heal the space, the space will in turn, heal you. Implementing mindful design elements that are both internally and externally aligned to the core purpose of the space will create a natural sense of harmony that will lend to greater peace, comfort, and wellbeing for everyone involved.
“Clutter invites chaos. Emptiness invites energy.”
This thought has altered my personal design perspective dramatically, as I move to create more authentic, appealing, and transformational medical spaces with a personal touch. As a spiritually minded individual, I have fused traditional healthcare interior design and architecture methods with my objective to create qualitative and quantitative healing spaces. Finding the balance of decluttering your environment while also ensuring no details are left out and everything is at a hand’s reach, is the basis to creating a healing space. When I look at a space, I draw a mental image of how I would want the space to look and feel if it were my own. I ask, “how can this contribute to recovery?” This is the starting point in finding the necessary precision that is required of a space that is both aesthetically-pleasing and functionally-efficient. I often meditate on the Yin-Yang, which indicates a balance of negative and positive energies. Healing design needs emptiness to breathe, but also a certain amount purposeful objects and elements to give it life.
“Design is neither masculine nor feminine. It is a powerful fusion of feminism with its masculine counterpart.”
I am a strong believer of Feminine Power and the potential of women in business. A majority of women entrepreneurs in the design industry dedicate themselves to residential design, and limit their scope to creating concept sketches, sourcing materials, and providing the complete design package. However, as a business woman in the modern era, I believe women have equal potential when it comes to contributing to the architecture and construction administration when compared to men. In a male-dominated industry, like Healthcare Design and Construction, I am wearing more than one hat – of an interior designer and another of a construction administrator. In a world where interior design delivers a gender-specific feel, my unique designs are a blend of masculine and feminine energy to create holistic balance, and of course, healing. We’ve always been the women who care, now it’s time to transform a generation of mothers, sisters and wives into ‘women who dare.”
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."