It was last Fall and I was sitting in a meeting with a representative from a well-respected financial institution, at a conference I had tried for years to score an invite to. I had set up meetings with a variety of people from a range of companies, some with a goal of potentially partnering with, others to hear how they would value my business.
For this specific meeting, the goal was the latter. I thought the meeting was going really well – the gentleman was very impressed with the financials of the business, the growth year over year and the industries we were focused on. Just before we were wrapping up, he turns to me and says, "so what's the deal with all of this money I hear you donate to charity?" I explained to him that philanthropy has always been a core tenet of EvolveMKD, and for me personally, I've always felt that when you are lucky enough to have success, it is your responsibility to make the world around you a better place. The meeting then took a quick turn towards negative town – he immediately started lecturing me about how I was impacting the long-term value and potential sale price of EvolveMKD – saying that any investor, private equity company or services network would immediately look at that as a waste of revenue. I politely thanked him for his perspective and ended the meeting.
Let's start with the obvious falsehoods around his point of view. Good karma and doing the right thing aside, EvolveMKD specifically focuses on charities that empower women and children in the U.S., working with organizations ranging from Safe Horizon, a shelter for domestic violence victims, MaxInMotion, founded by our longtime client, Jonah Shacknai and DREAM, an after-school athletics program and charter school located in Harlem. These organizations provide the participants access to resources and programs that they didn't have before – for example, many of the kids that participate in DREAM are the first in their families to go to college. From my perspective, those are all future well-educated consumers of many of the clients my company represents. More consumers equal more business, which helps fuel my agency's future growth. We also have hosted many events for DREAM students in our offices, which has resulted in us finding talented and hardworking long-term interns. Most recently, we hosted a group of high-school and college-aged students from the DREAM organization, educating them on the public relations industry and offering career advice. To see our very own senior intern, who we discovered through DREAM, lead a presentation about PR and Digital marketing to a group of students her own age was truly a rewarding moment.
The other business angle that was never considered by the gentleman I met with is how amazing of a business development and recruiting tool a commitment to philanthropy can be for a company. While we don't go overboard promoting our philanthropic efforts, we do highlight our commitment as a core principle of the agency in every new business presentation we do, as having values that match, is an important component of a successful agency/client partnership.
More often than not, when we sign on a new client, our agency's commitment to philanthropy comes up as one of the top five reasons EvolveMKD stood out from the competition. In our recruiting, the candidates will often come to interviews, asking about the opportunity to involve causes that are near and dear to their hearts and how they can potentially work them into EvolveMKD's programming. It's also been a huge part of our company culture – between donating our time, meeting new people and the financial support we provide, it's given the team a chance to bond and see one another in a different light. Plus, it never hurts to be reminded how much we have to be grateful for, especially on tough days, when nothing seems to go right with clients.
As I reflected more on that meeting, and the gentleman's reaction, I really felt that he was missing the big picture. Not only are we redirecting dollars to those most in need and providing our employees with something bigger than themselves to believe in, we are building our bottom line through philanthropy. That meeting helped to cement to me that if I ever do decide to take on outside investment, a partner, and/or sell business, an important part of my vetting process will be to determine how the company across the negotiating table views philanthropy. Philanthropy should be seen as a 5-letter word and that is "smart".
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."