#SWAAYthenarrative
BETA
Close

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!

Our newsletter that womansplains the week
4min read
Politics

Corporate Leaders Need Get Serious About Gun Violence

As the CEO of JOOR, the leading platform for wholesale business management, I spend my days immersed in the fashion industry. I'm used to weighing in on things like technology decisions, e-commerce trend, and the importance of real-time data.


But I'm also a citizen, a woman, and a mom. As such, I'm affected by what goes on in the world around me.

In December, I watched grisly reports about Jersey City with despair, as gun violence is something I've been profoundly concerned about since the devastating events at Sandy Hook. This year marks the seventh anniversary of Sandy Hook, and heart-wrenchingly, these poor children have now been gone longer than they were alive.

Sadly, these events are far too common in the United States. Every year nearly 1,300 children are killed and 5,800 injured by guns in this country, according to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2017.

Translation? About 19 American children are shot on average every single day. As a mother and as a professional, I am absolutely appalled that nothing is being done to stop this terrifying trend.

I think about this when I sit down with my family for dinner each night. Frankly, the idea of my kids facing an armed shooter at school or in any public place is terrifying to me. And it's terrifying to them.

It may not be in my job description, but as a business leader, I have a responsibility to speak out on what is clearly a humanitarian issue. My feelings on this issue have nothing to do with politics. I'm disturbed that this has become such a partisan issue. I simply don't want to live in a country where 19 children are gunned down every day of the year, and I can't believe anyone else does either.

We're now seeing a trend of corporate leaders owning their power and responsibility by becoming social leaders as well. Peter Horst, consultant and founder of CMO Network, recently said that "in a world where they no longer expect the government to fix things, people are turning to Corporate America to step in and do some good."

Business Roundtable even supported this trend by expanding their "statement on the purpose of the corporation." The document now says that along with shareholders, companies should also consider employees, customers and the community as stakeholders whose interests should be included in decision-making. These are the people who are sending their children to school all over the country today. Just as I send my kids off each morning. It is refreshing that businesses are getting involved to advocate on their employees' behalf.

Along the same lines, I'm especially heartened to see private sector leaders taking action on the issue of gun control. In September 2018, Chip Bergh, CEO of Levi Straus & Co., pledged more than $1 million to American nonprofit organizations dedicated to ending gun violence. Bergh made this decision in spite of the risk that it could alienate consumers; the moral stakes were too high.

I applauded Walmart's decision to end the sale of handguns and handgun ammunition as well as their request to stop open carry in their stores. And I was moved by Dick's Sporting Goods' destruction of over $5 million in military-style, semi-automatic rifles. Both actions came after the horrific shootings last August in El Paso and Southaven.

Despite all these signs of hope and progress, we are not moving forward nearly fast enough on the issue of gun control. Other than a few states passing red flag laws, little to nothing has really been accomplished, and now Jersey City is just another gruesome reminder.

If we, as a country, are serious about stopping mass shootings, we have to disengage from partisan politics and commit to truly protecting our families and communities from gun violence. With so much media coverage and debate, it's shameful we've made so little progress in solving the problem.

We know that gun deaths and injuries can be reduced, because we've seen it happen in other places. Yes, cultures vary, and each country must develop solutions that are unique to its own specific cultural context. But we can learn from nations like Australia, Britain, Norway, and Japan.

Research institutions can provide unbiased help moving forward. For example, the Rockefeller Institute conducted an in-depth study on mass shootings and developed a list of 19 strategies for intervention based on its findings. Each and every one of us must learn about gun laws in our states and advocate for strong research-based legislation that will make the changes we so desperately need.

It's time to set aside partisan fighting, roll up our sleeves, and craft solutions that allow our families to feel safe going to school, church, the market, or any other public place. It's time to take the Sandy Hook Promise, something I did after marching with the organization, and help them fulfill their mission:

"I promise to do all I can to protect children from gun violence by encouraging and supporting solutions that create safer, healthier homes, schools, and communities." - Sandy Hook Promise