#SWAAYthenarrative

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

Today, Companies Need to Retain Veteran Employees in Order to Survive and Thrive

In 2020, as the world turned on its axis, we all held on for dear life. Businesses, non-profits, government organizations, and entrepreneurs all braced for a new normal, not sure what it would mean, what would come next, or if we should be excited or terrified.

At the same time that everything is shifting, being put on hold, or expanding, companies have to evaluate current talent needs, empower their teams to work from home, discover new ways to care for clients from a distance, and navigate new levels of uncertainty in this unfamiliar environment. Through it all, civilians are being encouraged to lean into concepts like "resilience" and "courage" and "commitment," sometimes for the first time.

Let's contrast what the business community is going through this year with the common experience of the military. During basic training, officer candidate school, multiple deployments, combat, and reintegration, veterans become well-versed in resilience, courage, and commitment to survive and thrive in completing their mission. Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

More than ever before, today's employers who employ prior military should focus on why and how to retain them and leverage their talents, experience, and character traits to help lead the company — and the employees — to the other side of uncertainty.

What makes veterans valuable employees

Informed employers recognize that someone with a military background brings certain high-value assets into the civilian sector. Notably, veterans were taught, trained, and grounded in certain principles that make them uniquely valuable to their employers, particularly given the current business environment, including:

Leadership

It's been said that the United States Armed Forces is the greatest leadership institution in the world. The practices, beliefs, values, and dedication of those who serve make them tested leaders even outside of the military. Given the opportunity to lead, a veteran will step forward and assume the role. Asked to respect and support leadership, they comply with that position as well. Leadership is in the veteran's blood and for a company that seeks employees with the confidence and commitment to lead if called upon, a veteran is the ideal choice.

Commitment

The hope is that all employees are committed to their job and give 100% each day. For someone in the military, this is non-negotiable. The success of the mission, and the lives of everyone around them, depend on their commitment to stay the course and perform their job as trained. When the veteran employee takes on a project, it will be completed. When the veteran employee says there's an unsurmountable obstacle, it is so (not an excuse). When a veteran says they're "all in" on an initiative, they will see it through.

Strategy, planning, and improv

Every mission involves strategy, planning, and then improvisation from multiple individuals. On the battlefield, no plan works perfectly, and the service member's ability to flex, pivot, and adapt makes them valuable later, in the civilian sector. Imagine living in countries where you don't speak the language, working alongside troops who come from places you can't find on a map, and having to communicate what needs to get done to ensure everyone's safety. Veterans learned how to set goals, problem-solve challenges, and successfully get results.

Service

With an all-volunteer military for decades now, every man and woman who wore our nation's uniform raised their hand to do so. They chose to serve their country, their fellow Americans, and their leaders. These individuals do not leave their passion and sense of service behind when they separate or retire out of the military. Instead, typically veterans continue to find avenues to serve — in their teams, their companies, their communities.

When companies seek out leaders who will commit to a bigger mission, can think strategically and creatively, and will serve others, they look to veterans.

Best practices in retention of veteran talent

Retention starts at hiring. The experience set out in the interview stage provides insight about how it will be to work and grow within the team at the company. For employers hiring veterans, this is a critical step.

Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent.

The veteran employee may have had a few — or several — jobs since leaving the military. Or this may be their first civilian work experience. In any case, setting expectations and being clear about goals is vital. Remember, veterans are trained to complete a mission and a goal. When an employer clarifies the mission and shows how the veteran employee's role supports and fulfills that mission, the employee can more confidently and successfully complete their work.

Additionally, regular check-ins are helpful with veteran employees. These employees may not be as comfortable asking for help or revealing their weaknesses. When the employer checks in regularly, and shows genuine interest in their happiness, sense of productivity, and overall job satisfaction, the veteran employee learns to be more comfortable asking for help when needed.

The military is a values-driven culture. Service members are instilled with values of loyalty, integrity, service, duty, and honor, to name a few. When they transition out of the military, veterans still seek a commitment to values in their employers. Veterans often tell me that they "look to work for a company that has a set of values I can ascribe to." The topic of values can serve as an opportunity for companies seeking to retain military talent. Make it clear what your values are, how you live and act on those values, and how the veteran's job will promote and support those values. Even work that is less glamorous can be attractive to a veteran if they understand the greater purpose and mission.

Today, veterans working in the civilian sector find the uncertainty, chaos, instability, and fear threading through companies eerily familiar.

Finally, leveraging the strengths and goals of any employee is critical, and particularly so with veterans. If you have an employee who is passionate about service, show them ways to give back — through mentoring, community engagement, volunteerism, etc. If your veteran continues to seek leadership roles, find opportunities for them to contribute at higher levels, even informally. When your veteran employee offers to reframe the team's mission to gain better alignment across the sector, give them some runway to experiment. You have a workforce that is trained and passionate about and skilled in adapting and overcoming. Let them do what they do best.