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March 30, 2021 37 min

Marisa Wandeler is a trauma Coach in the somatic mind-body realm with a heavy emphasis on decolonized Psychology. She leans on indigenous practices and meets virtually one-on-one with clients from all over the world to experience their stories as an empathetic witness. 

Marisa says that COVID has shown that in America we have not been equipped to process or handle this current level of suffering. She names  it’s been hard because pre-COVID she was already doing difficult work with her clients in terms of story work and trauma work... Now it’s at a whole new level with totally different layers of coping, resilience and equipping ourselves and one another to move forward in what will be impacting us emotionally for decades to come.

Maggie recalls a post from Marisa’s Instagram (@Latina_heals) about resilience: “The goal of building resilience is not strength or toughness. The goal of resilience is increasing the flexibility and adaptability of the body and brain in navigating the inconsistencies and unexpected of life.”

Marisa says the conversation around resilience starts first with identity and how our bodies are storied in society. “The notion that resilience is really about toughing things out, or being strong enough, or mentally positive enough, isn’t for everyone.” She says that depending on your story, you’ll have different resiliency skills. For People of Color and people who are continually marginalized, positivity isn’t enough. What does it look like in the body and brain to be under stress? Resilience is about how  the body experiences  stress and when that same stress comes up again in our lives, are we able to cope with it in healthy ways? “Resilience is not about effort so much as it is about equipping.”  Marisa says that it doesn’t put us all on an level playing field but it does give us the mutuality of humanity—we all have a nervous systems and a brain and the way we are designed to react to stress has mutuality within everyone’s bodies.

Danielle mentions that her clients have been asking questions around resilience because the struggle keeps going: Is this resilience? Am I actually making it?

Marisa approaches these questions with validation. It’s not just COVID; It’s not just someone’s daily stress. She was raised in El Paso, TX:  “a border Latina.” COVID has brought a different dimension of worry and awareness in her body. When someone asks her about COVID, whether that be politically or related to health, she’s not just thinking about her body. That is not the way she was raised, that is not her culture. She is thinking about how the border is impacted. She’s thinking about the kids at the border. And then you add COVID on top of it. It’s so multilayered in her own body so when she works with her clients they try to name the layers in their body. Even if they can’t get to them all, they name the layers that feel present and the whispers of narratives that are attached. All that noise can feel like overwhelming static in the body. “Sometimes the best we can do with what we have is just lament.” We can be resilient and in lament at the same time if the emotions that we are feeling are being validated for our body.

Marisa says one of the hallmarks of the decolonized approach to trauma healing is to start with consent. The assumption is that we are to go to therapy and automatically offer vulnerability and disclosure when very often the body is not ready for that. Clients need to “feel into” where they are at. It’s about allowing the client to sink into their own body; she asks clients, "is that what your body needs tended to today?” We cannot just assume that we can go to the new place without permission and consent. She says, “I’m not going to push you into disclosure and so what does it look like for you to actually take my offering for care … in a way that can be received.”

  • Consent
  • Exchange of offering and receiving (vs. fixing and doing)
  • She brings a "be with" and "tend to" mentality. I will only give offerings if you are willing to receive it

    Danielle said this isn’t counter-cultural to her, but it is counter-cultural to some people and most of the current educational systems.

    Maggie names it is a beautiful way of existence to always enter into spaces by asking for permission or consent. And in the realm of trauma healing / coaching she suggests this may also create some “buy in” from clients. To give consent feels disarming and it allows the client to relax into themselves. Additionally, Maggie agrees that majority culture has not viewed therapy or coaching through the lens of offerings and receiving but instead through fixing and doing.

    Marisa says it is a kindness to the trauma work because people who are seeking to do trauma healing already have trust issues; Their bodies, minds and identities have been forced or co-opted in trauma. "Trauma is a taking.” So by allowing people to experience what it looks like to choose what you’re giving and to choose what you give, it is doing the healing work.

    Marisa says the one-on-one work will transcend into the communal thought. 

    She believes this way of living shouldn’t be counter-cultural and asks "what does it look like to be a community of consent, a community that offers and receives rather than takes and owns?" It is disarming and yet empowering: There is nothing in this interaction that makes me better, or higher or have more than what you bring. It says, I want to receive your offering, do you want to receive mine? To use indigenous language, she says, it puts us “in circle.” Time is sacred rather than transactional.

    Danielle says the idea of a circle is so much a space of collaboration. Community, like a round table, where we can exchange ideas, not like a transaction, but a place of mutuality, respect and reverence for others that  allows for more freedom. As opposed to the American Dream that has defined freedom as “I’m an individual. I’m going to take what I can get. I’m going to put my stake in the ground and now I’m free.” And Danielle points out, “Well actually you aren’t free; You’re chained to your stake.” 

    Marisa returned to the idea of “I gotta get paid,” and how she has looks to the indigenous wisdom of her ancestors—They believed that knowledge is not something you charge people for, it is an offering. She likes to think about her work as getting paid for her time.  “My knowledge and my offering and my desire to sit with you is totally free. My time is not.” She said this distinction is important when navigating these places of consent because she never wants to enter a time or a space where we are starting off transactional. Having this way of thinking allows her to sit in the space with integrity and not attach a pressure try to “fix” some one or say the right thing but instead to just show up as herself.

    Maggie said she absolutely loves Marisa’s way of being. It’s a shift in how to view money as well as time and knowledge.

    Marisa is a referral only business and works with all kinds of people. They are all “Humans with stories.” She has a really different tone and presence with people who have addictions—there is something powerful to offer consent and non-judgement. A lot of her clients are facing some kind of addictions that are born out self-protection they have built up out of their trauma stories.

    Marisa’s background is in medical exercise (her first career) - specializing in reproductive cancer and autoimmune diseases. There are many links to autoimmune diseases and trauma and that is actually how she ended up in trauma coaching. So she also has a set of clients that are working through medical issues and physical pain.

    My clients are “Humans with stories that need an empathetic witness.”

    Danielle adds that often times addictions are decontextualized.

    “All of my clients are courageous souls.” Her goal is to help her clients get “In Circle” with their support systems.

    Marisa says that body work / somatic is a relatively new area of trauma work. There are research driven experts that show how trauma affects our physical body—in particular our nervous system and brain. We know through science that our emotional and mental well being impact our physical body directly. Somatic work is about allowing our thoughts and emotions to have a voice and also welcoming in the voice of the body through sensations (our felt experience).  She asks, "How much is your trauma affecting your everyday life? Look at your symptomatology." Repressing thoughts and emotions have a direct negative effect on the cells in our bodies. Through somatic engagement she is able to help her clients integrate how their stories are walking with them throughout their day. We build resilience in the physical piece, so if people are unaware how their stories are affecting their physical bodies then they will struggle with healing.

    Connect with Marisa:

    She has a “Library for Courage” database of curated information on decolonization of trauma work as well as mind-body work.

    Follow her on Instagram: @Latina_heals

    Once a month she does a workshop on a relevant trauma topic that she decolonizes.

    April 5th - Strengthening relationships with self and others.

    May - Effective Communication

    Marisa is reading: The Five Levels of Attachment: Toltec Wisdom by don Miguel Ruiz, Jr.

    Marisa is listening: The Huberman Lab Podcast on Neuroscience!

    Marisa is inspired by: The children at the border who are in trauma and yet still in that experience are hoping for a better life. The exemplify holding grief and hope simultaneously.

    Marisa’s Benediction:

    May the wisdom shared in circle today bring healing,
    bring joy,
    bring peace,
    bring a stirring in the soul that is not forgotten easily
    such that we are changed to love ourselves and one another
    that much more
    may it be so.

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