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Unraveling Trauma to Write a Personal Narrative

Self

Quilt host. Alicia , shares how addressing personal trauma can lead to a more embodied sense of self—a crucial key to finding success and content. Sign up for her workshops here!


We all have a story. These are the stories that we present to the world, those that inform how we respond to those around us, and the stories that we internalize, that become part of our psyche. For Quilt host and trauma-informed class facilitator, Alicia Magaña, the latter are what inform our personal narratives — or deepest truths about who we are. Developing a healthy personal narrative is crucial to realizing our fullest potential. But what does that mean, and how do we do it?

Over the course of an average life, we all experience things that complicate or even harm our subconscious perception of self. When left unaddressed, this negativity can snowball and have serious and damaging effects. Thankfully, we all have the power to create a cohesive and embodied personal narrative. It just takes a bit of work.

Defining Trauma

So what does that mean, "complications"? It's no secret that life is tough. No one gets through it without a few hurdles. "In the psychological sense," says Alicia, "trauma is anything from the past that is intruding in the present moment. Sometimes we're aware of it, but most of the time, we're not."

Trauma is a big word. There's Trauma with a capital T, that affects entire groups of people in one fell swoop — the legacy of slavery and its systematic effect on black Americans is one such example. To be very clear: These kinds of Traumas are more difficult to address and require cooperation from institutions as well as individuals.

Then there's trauma, something that unfortunately most people experience in their lives, whether knowingly or not. These can be relationships with our parents, deaths of loved ones, or the collective wounds of mass shootings or sex trafficking. Alicia believes that the majority of personal traumas occur in childhood when we are entirely dependent upon others for our survival. If, for example, we grow up in an unsafe home, we are required to be dependent upon caretakers who don't feel safe.

This was Alicia's experience growing up, and she has seen it manifest with her 4-year-old son. Just recently, she had an epiphany when her son didn't want to eat his vegetables. She took the time to embrace him and come to an agreement with him, but at the same time, felt an anger swelling in her.

"It's like this 9-year-old angry me was so pissed off," she says. Her subconscious was jealous that her son had a parent who cares about and is curious about his feelings and his needs. Being able to recognize and address those feelings allowed her to begin to unravel and heal them.

Why Would I Want to Dig Deep?

"The benefit is that you can put it in the past," says Alicia, "you can take it from implicit to explicit." The work may be painful, but it allows you to change the course of your own history. By digging deep and investigating past hurt, you're then able "to connect to yourself, knowing how to identify and name the feelings and needs behind it," she says.

Trauma is anything from the past that is intruding in the present moment.

Here's where the narrative part comes in. By going through the process and naming those feelings, you're able to build a coherent narrative then and define what triggers you.

"The key is to clearly define the beginning, middle, and end," says Alicia. That way, when something takes you out of your "resiliency zone" — say, being stuck in traffic, or when life throws you a challenging curveball — you're able to take a step back and understand why you're feeling that way. You can then react in a way that's healthier and more in line with the person you're choosing to be.

"It's knowing the signs so that you can identify it and then be able to say to yourself, 'Oh, I'm in that space again,'" says Alicia. "It's like ongoing maintenance. Because we're all humans. And we all need daily maintenance."

The Importance of Collective Sharing

This is deep work that can certainly be done on your own or one-on-one with a trusted friend or therapist. But, like most things in life, coming together to address and unravel personal traumas can help accelerate breakthroughs and jog memories. Alicia hosts classes through Quilt in Los Angeles, and the journey has been significant for participants.

"Being in a group setting allows you to listen about other people's experiences," says Alicia. While everyone's experience may be different shades, they're at least all in the rainbow. "It starts to look a bit the same in everyone's home," she says. "That's one of the biggest benefits I've noticed in our particular group."

It's like ongoing maintenance. Because we're all humans. And we all need daily maintenance.

Alicia keeps her classes a safe space for all by offering strict agreements — no interrupting, no cross-talking, etc. — and participants are more than welcome to pass on questions if they'd like. "You can absolutely just show up and be an observer," she says.

Observer or participant, we all know the power of what can happen when women come together. Imagine what would happen if we all rewrote our personal narratives — together.

If you're in LA, don't miss Alicia's remaining classes in the series! Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Quilt is a mobile app that offers a deeper sense of connection in the modern world by making it easier for women to come together for real conversations online and offline. Download the app and join us for a chat, gathering, or house party!

​4 Min Read
Business

Please Don't Put Yourself On Mute

During a recent meeting on Microsoft Teams, I couldn't seem to get a single word out.


When I tried to chime in, I kept getting interrupted. At one point two individuals talked right over me and over each other. When I thought it was finally my turn, someone else parachuted in from out of nowhere. When I raised and waved my hand as if I was in grade school to be called on (yes, I had my camera on) we swiftly moved on to the next topic. And then, completely frustrated, I stayed on mute for the remainder of the meeting. I even momentarily shut off my camera to devour the rest of my heavily bruised, brown banana. (No one needed to see that.)

This wasn't the first time I had struggled to find my voice. Since elementary school, I always preferring the back seat unless the teacher assigned me a seat in the front. In high school, I did piles of extra credit or mini-reports to offset my 0% in class participation. In college, I went into each lecture nauseous and with wasted prayers — wishing and hoping that I wouldn't be cold-called on by the professor.

By the time I got to Corporate America, it was clear that if I wanted to lead, I needed to pull my chair up (and sometimes bring my own), sit right at the table front and center, and ask for others to make space for me. From then on, I found my voice and never stop using it.

But now, all of a sudden, in this forced social experiment of mass remote working, I was having trouble being heard… again. None of the coaching I had given myself and other women on finding your voice seemed to work when my voice was being projected across a conference call and not a conference room.

I couldn't read any body language. I couldn't see if others were about to jump in and I should wait or if it was my time to speak. They couldn't see if I had something to say. For our Microsoft teams setting, you can only see a few faces on your screen, the rest are icons at the bottom of the window with a static picture or even just their name. And, even then, I couldn't see some people simply because they wouldn't turn their cameras on.

If I did get a chance to speak and cracked a funny joke, well, I didn't hear any laughing. Most people were on mute. Or maybe the joke wasn't that funny?

At one point, I could hear some heavy breathing and the unwrapping of (what I could only assume was) a candy bar. I imagined it was a Nestle Crunch Bar as my tummy rumbled in response to the crinkling of unwrapped candy. (There is a right and a wrong time to mute, people.)

At another point, I did see one face nodding at me blankly.

They say that remote working will be good for women. They say it will level the playing field. They say it will be more inclusive. But it won't be for me and others if I don't speak up now.

  • Start with turning your camera on and encouraging others to do the same. I was recently in a two-person meeting. My camera was on, but the other person wouldn't turn theirs on. In that case, ten minutes in, I turned my camera off. You can't stare at my fuzzy eyebrows and my pile of laundry in the background if I can't do the same to you. When you have a willing participant, you'd be surprised by how helpful it can be to make actual eye contact with someone, even on a computer (and despite the fuzzy eyebrows).
  • Use the chatbox. Enter in your questions. Enter in your comments. Dialogue back and forth. Type in a joke. I did that recently and someone entered back a laughing face — reaffirming that I was, indeed, funny.
  • Designate a facilitator for the meeting: someone leading, coaching, and guiding. On my most recent call, a leader went around ensuring everyone was able to contribute fairly. She also ensured she asked for feedback on a specific topic and helped move the discussion around so no one person took up all the airtime.
  • Unmute yourself. Please don't just sit there on mute for the entire meeting. Jump in and speak up. You will be interrupted. You will interrupt others. But don't get frustrated or discouraged — this is what work is now — just keep showing up and contributing.
  • Smile, and smile big. Nod your head in agreement. Laugh. Give a thumbs up; give two! Wave. Make a heart with your hands. Signal to others on the call who are contributing that you support and value them. They will do the same in return when your turn comes to contribute.

It's too easy to keep your camera turned off. It's too easy to stay on mute. It's too easy to disappear. But now is not the time to disappear. Now is the time to stay engaged and networked within our organizations and communities.

So please don't put yourself on mute.

Well, actually, please do put yourself on mute so I don't have to hear your heavy breathing, candy bar crunching, or tinkling bathroom break.

But after that, please take yourself off mute so you can reclaim your seat (and your voice) at the table.