We all struggle. It’s maybe one of the most universal human experiences. Live long enough, and it’s going to happen. Whether it’s rooted in relationships, money, work, health, life, or even just existing in a culture that makes it hard not to struggle, we’re all going to feel it, in different ways, at different times.
So, riddle me this, if this is such a common experience, why do so many of us hide it. Or try to pretend our struggles don’t exist. Like there something to be ashamed of? Truth is, that approach, stifling your pain, pretending it away, not letting anyone in the help, it just makes things worse.
So, what’s a better approach, then? That’s where we’re headed in today’s wise and open conversation with my guest, Minaa B.. A licensed social worker, community care advocate, and author of the new book Owning Our Struggles: A Path to Healing and Finding Community in a Broken World., Minaa found healing in her own life through tending to her “inner child” – the wounded parts of ourselves from childhood – which uncovered resources for resilience within. Now, I know that phrase leads many to roll their eyes, and we talk about that very reaction, and why maybe we should all reconsider.
Minaa is also a huge advocate of revealing and healing in community, since that’s how we live, and it’s the place all need to eventually find peace and ease. In our conversation, Minaa also shares practical strategies for tuning into our inner wisdom and regulating our overloaded nervous systems, and recalibrating our own inner compass. We also explore how honoring our personal struggles while also cultivating community can lead to greater peace, purpose and belonging.
Minaa’s perspective – rooted in her own journey of healing and self-discovery – resonates deeply for anyone who feels pulled in a thousand directions yet yearns for a simpler, more meaningful way of living. Her grounding yet powerful message invites us to listen within for the answers we seek while also connecting more deeply with one another.
If you LOVED this episode:
- You’ll also love the conversations we had with Alex Elle about healing & self-care.
Check out our offerings & partners:
- My New Book Sparked
- My New Podcast SPARKED. To submit your “moment & question” for consideration to be on the show go to sparketype.com/submit.
- Visit Our Sponsor Page For Great Resources & Discount Codes
photo credit: Kat Bawden
Minaa B. (00:00:00) – I think a lot of adults believe that your childhood gets erased the moment you step into adulthood. And the inner child concept is really an invitation for you to just simply reflect on your childhood and nurture yourself so that you can realize, actually, I’m safe in my body and I am not my five-year-old self anymore. There are a lot of adults that I’m sure we have interacted with that we can say they act in ways that we will say, Well, that’s not mature of you. You’re 30 something, 40 something, 50 something years old, acting like a child. I have worked with so many adults who spend most of their time in session talking about their childhood because those are the years that were primitive, that shaped their brain, shaped what love meant, shaped what care meant. And here they are acting out those things, that abandonment, that loss in their marriages, in their friendships, even when they go to work. Right.
Jonathan Fields (00:01:01) – We all struggle. It’s maybe one of the most universal human experiences live long enough, and it’s going to happen whether it’s rooted in relationships, money, work, health, life, or even just existing in a culture that makes it hard not to struggle.
Jonathan Fields (00:01:16) – We’re all going to feel it in different ways at different times. So riddle me this If it’s such a common experience, why do so many of us hide it or try to pretend that our struggles don’t exist? Like there’s something to be ashamed of? Truth is, that approach stifling your pain, pretending in a way, not letting anyone in to help. It just makes things worse. So what’s the better approach then? That’s where we’re headed. In today’s Wise and Open conversation with my guest, M.B., a licensed social worker, community care advocate and author of the new book Owning Our Struggles A Path to Healing and Finding Community in a Broken World. Mine found healing in her own life through tending to her inner child, the wounded part of ourselves from childhood, which uncovered resources for resilience within. Now I know that phrase inner child may lead many to roll their eyes, and we talk about that very reaction and why maybe we all might want to reconsider. Minute is also a huge advocate of revealing and healing in community, since that’s how we live and it’s the place all need to eventually find peace and ease in.
Jonathan Fields (00:02:22) – Our conversation also shares practical strategies for tuning into our inner wisdom and regulating our overloaded nervous systems and recalibrating our inner compass. And we also explore how honoring personal struggles, while also cultivating community can lead to greater peace, purpose and belonging. Metis perspective, deeply rooted in her own journey of healing and discovery, resonates deeply for really anyone who feels pulled in a thousand directions yet yearns for a simpler, more meaningful way of living. Her grounding yet powerful message. It really invites us to listen within for the answers that we seek, while also connecting more deeply with one another. So excited to share this conversation with you. I’m Jonathan Fields and this is Good Life Project. There are so many different topics and places that I want to explore with you before we dive into some of the topics of your fantastic new book though. You shared an article not too long ago, I think it was February of this year and XO Nicole website. And you were talking about empaths sort of like what an empath is. And also on this notion of feeling so much not just of your own emotions but everyone around you, and on the importance of not taking on emotions that are not yours to carry.
Jonathan Fields (00:03:42) – I love you to sort of take me into that a little bit more because I feel like it’s a conversation that is relevant to so many people, but nobody really talks about it all that much.
Minaa B. (00:03:52) – Yeah.
Minaa B. (00:03:53) – When it comes to being an empath, that is basically someone who honestly just feels very deeply they find themselves being able to relate to the emotions of others. But to the extent where they start to carry the emotions of others, I will see people who are empaths and they will say, I have a friend who is depressed and now I feel this chronic state of helplessness. I’m feeling this chronic state of sadness. And it’s because they are way so enmeshed with this other person where they’re starting to mirror the different emotions they see, the people around them experiencing. And I think it’s really common for people who maybe grew up in homes where you were pretty much responsible for tending to the emotions and needs of other people, especially if you grew up with emotionally immature parents. This can be very common if you are the older sibling and you experience parental fixation.
Minaa B. (00:04:56) – So you are at, I don’t know, 14, 15 years old, but you have to calm down your little siblings and you have to tend to their emotional needs because a parent is not doing that. You know, a lot of the way we are in adulthood tends to stem from the things we experienced in childhood. And I think it’s just important for us to pay attention to those signs and patterns in our relationships, because I’ll hear so many people say, like, I don’t know why I feel this way. I don’t know why I’m always feeling down. I don’t know why. I’m always feeling anxious. And they’re surrounded by so many people who are feeling the things that they’re naming and in their own lives, they’re like, I don’t have any circumstances or situations that I feel like I need to have this emotional reaction toward. Nothing’s happening in my life. But when I look at the people around me, I might realize, Oh man, this is why I’m always feeling down or sad. It’s because the people around me or have been feeling that.
Minaa B. (00:05:55) – So I think for me, one of the things I’ve had to work with when I’m working with clients who have felt this way or just general advice on coping mechanisms people can engage in is really learning to discern where that boundary needs to be drawn. You know, what is mine to carry versus what is someone else’s to carry. I think another thing is really paying attention to what can I be doing to self regulate and be able to manage the emotional responses and reactions I’m having when I’m around this person? Because I might find myself coming into a situation, being really excited. But then I walk away feeling really drained from being around certain people and not realizing it because you’re feeling so deeply with that person is feeling.
Jonathan Fields (00:06:42) – Yeah, that makes so much sense to me. And I imagine it’s tough also, right? Because these may be people you care deeply about and you want to be there for them. Like you want to be the person that listens and that’s there to give care and take care. And you genuinely, like really love them.
Jonathan Fields (00:06:57) – And but at the same time, there may be just something about you where it’s because it’s almost like this porous boundary where you just you absorb so much of their emotional state that it’s almost not healthy. And you really have to think about your own state of being in that context. But I wonder if that sometimes might come with the sense of shame, like I want to be there for this person, but I feel like I can’t be there. But then I feel shame about the fact that for me to be okay, I feel like I can’t actually be there in the way that I want to.
Minaa B. (00:07:30) – I think that is so common. I think a lot of people carry shame around wanting to be very supportive to other people and not having the capacity to do so. And so I often tell people, what does giving support look like for you? I’ve been in situations in my own life where I realize there are certain people that I cannot provide emotional support to, but I’m willing to provide tangible support. So maybe I’m not the friend that has the capacity to be on the phone with you to hear certain things.
Minaa B. (00:08:03) – But do you need me to run errands for you? Do you need me to babysit for you? Is there something tangible that I can do that. Is still helping to take the load or for whatever burdens that you’re carrying. Can I show up for you in a completely different way that doesn’t require me to self neglect, that doesn’t require me to drain myself of my emotional bandwidth and having honest conversations. That’s what community care, in my opinion, is all about. Being able to honestly say, I don’t have the capacity and maybe I will have the capacity tomorrow, right? Because our emotions ebb and flow. But I think if you are someone who you realize you’re an empath and you are always in situations where when the people around you are dealing with something, you tend to carry that emotional burden. I think it’s okay to let people know that I may not have the emotional bandwidth to support you, but can we explore other forms of support? You know, instead of always focusing on the emotional lens? I think we think that emotional support means I have to be on the phone with you all the time or I have to listen to your problems all the time or I’ve even had said to people, Let me do the research for you.
Minaa B. (00:09:13) – Let me send you some resources. Right? Let me do something that is going to help you manage your day today. And that is also helping you with your own emotional well-being. Because a lot of us, when we are burnt out, when we’re struggling, when we’re depressed, when we’re dealing with these emotional reactions to life stressors, it might trickle into other areas where we don’t have the capacity to do the other things that need to be done, You know? So I always say to people, what does support look like? And it’s not one dimensional. There’s so many different ways that we can support people while also honoring our own needs and figuring out this is what I have the capacity to do, but this is also what I don’t have the capacity to do.
Jonathan Fields (00:09:57) – Yeah, I love that distinction. I think the language you use was the difference between emotional support and tangible support, which I think is just so powerful. It’s almost like I can be your friendship doula, but I can’t be a shoulder to cry on right now.
Minaa B. (00:10:10) – Yes. Yes.
Jonathan Fields (00:10:12) – You know, it’s like, I’ll take care of all the other stuff. Like for that moment in time, I’ll wash the dishes. I’ll, like deliver some food, whatever it may be. And that way you can feel like you’re actually you’re kicking in like you’re actually are or helping take care, but in a way that’s sustainable for you, too.
Minaa B. (00:10:27) – Absolutely.
Jonathan Fields (00:10:28) – So you brought up the notion of community care, which I know is so much of what you’re about, and I want to dive into that in a lot of different ways and community care as a way of self care and also like individual healing and communal healing and how it really it all works together for you. This is personal too. I know, like you grow up first generation Panamanian and Colombian in a multigenerational household where this is not some thing that you read about like this or like the idea of community, the idea of multi generations, the idea of actually sharing space, the origin of what’s become your professional practice, and a lot of your devotion.
Jonathan Fields (00:11:04) – It’s based so personally in your own lived experience, especially in childhood.
Minaa B. (00:11:08) – Yes, absolutely. You know, as you shared first generation. And so my parents were born in Panama, but they were raised in San Andres, Colombia, and I am the youngest of 13. So I grew up in a small household, but filled with a lot of people, you know, And when you’re the youngest as well, you have so many voices and so many parental figures. My oldest sibling is about 33 years older than me, and most of my siblings are between 20 and 32 years older than me. So literally when I say I had multiple parental figures growing up, I absolutely did. And so growing up, I remember just one. I thought that was the norm. I thought everybody had large families. It wasn’t until I started telling people, Well, yeah, I’m the youngest of 13. They’re like, What?
Minaa B. (00:11:59) – How, what?
Minaa B. (00:12:01) – And I’m like, Is that not normal? And then I started to be around people who are like, I only have one sibling or I’m an only child and I’m like, Oh, okay.
Minaa B. (00:12:09) – So this is culturally different for a lot of people. But in my household, you know, and it’s very specific to my Hispanic and Caribbean culture, where we believe in the importance of community and togetherness. We believe in the importance of collective care. I’m a big advocate in believing that community care is child care, and that is because I was raised that way. I was raised by a village. I was not only raised by my parents and growing up, my parents were really big on ensuring that we knew people in our community as well because that is how we saw caregiving. And so I have people that I know who I call my mom, I call them dad, I call them on, I call them Titi, I call them DIA, because to me that is what community care is. The people who have played a role in investing in you, nourishing you. And so as I got older, I started to. Really understand how individualism is deeply rooted in American culture. The concept of the nuclear family, which I think a lot of people are realizing was a disaster concept.
Minaa B. (00:13:24) – And this idea that we should be segregated, this idea that we are supposed to grow older, turn 18 or whatever age it is, move out of your home, never engage with your family, only unless it’s the holidays. And that’s just completely different from what I was raised around, you know? So it’s interesting because what made me focus specifically on community care as a professional was one, community care is deeply rooted in social work concepts, right? So we are social workers because not only are we caring for the well-being of individuals, we are also plugging those individuals to resources and figuring out ways their communities can support them as well. And what can we be doing to contribute to our communities? So my own upbringing led me to this work, but while being in this work, my second year of grad school, I was placed at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which is a substance abuse treatment center. Yeah, and their model is group therapy. And I loved it so much that I’m like, why isn’t group therapy talked about enough? And the reason why I loved it so much is because it brought up this familial sense where you have all these people in the group 10 to 12 people where we have to talk things out.
Minaa B. (00:14:45) – We see each other four days a week for 90 minutes in this room. If I’m upset, I have to talk about that emotion in this room. As the therapist who was in charge, I’ll say things like, Jonathan, I saw how you looked at personnel over there. Do you have something you want to say? Because you can’t leave this room without saying it. Right? And so for me, and that’s not honestly how I was raised. I was raised in a household where people asserted themselves. Of course, there were some dysfunctional patterns that had to be broken, but we’re all together, so we had to learn how to heal those things while living amongst each other. So then now being in this therapeutic environment called group therapy, where I’m also teaching people these skills of making repairs to the ruptures that happen in this place, I often think that’s missing in our society. So that is where my love and my passion for community care comes from, because my own personal journey has informed my professional journey.
Jonathan Fields (00:15:45) – Yeah, I mean, it’s so powerful also. And you brought up the, you know, the mythology around like, self-reliance and rugged individualism. And it’s been so glorified in a lot of Western culture, a lot of American culture. And yet, you know, like we’ve been running this experiment for a number of generations now. And like at some point you got to ask, so how is that working, right? It’s like and the answer is, you look around at culture, you look around society, you look around like the level of dysfunction and polarization and community harm and people dealing with anxiety and depression and and you’re like, okay. So yes, there are multiple causes and there are individual causes and communal causes. But, you know, it does parallel this rise of the prevalence of the individual and self sufficiency and self reliance. And you wonder if you look at cultures that are more communal, where the family doesn’t like the second you get out of school, just split to another place of the country or the world.
Jonathan Fields (00:16:44) – But everyone stays in community and stays in relation and how very often there are much better outcomes and there’s like the happiness is higher and the levels of mental illness are lower. You wonder what’s going on there? And you wonder like, why haven’t we started to figure this out yet?
Minaa B. (00:17:01) – Yeah, you know, and there’s so much research to support too, that people who actually migrate here from other countries that are so community care focused, they end up struggling with a lot of loneliness as well as other mental health issues because they realize the culture of what feels like seclusion. This culture where, for example, many people in other countries, even my country back home in Panama or Colombia, everybody knew everybody on the block, right? We all knew our neighbors. And something as small as that, that sounds so obvious. Or it might sound like common sense. There are people in our country who could say, I’ve been living on my block for ten years. I don’t know the person who lives next door to me.
Minaa B. (00:17:45) – I’ve never interacted with them and that’s not the norm for so many people. And so when people migrate here, there’s this great level of sadness and even loneliness and depression that comes with that seclusion and trying to figure out, well, how do I integrate into a society that is so individually focused? And so I think for me, when I think about the concept of community, I’m often thinking about what. What can I be doing to be a better member of my society? Even when we think of the loneliness epidemic, I asked myself in what ways and my contributing to it. Right? In what ways is it impacting me, but also what is my contribution to this epidemic that is honestly on a rise? Because three years later we’re still seeing increases in people feeling lonely, people feeling disconnected. And so we have to realize at some point the method, like you said, we’re using, isn’t working. But I think a lot of people are struggling with the tools on, okay, well, if it’s not working, how do we fix it and how do we repair it? And a lot of us don’t realize it starts with us.
Minaa B. (00:18:50) – It starts with the self and bridging self care to community care.
Jonathan Fields (00:18:54) – Yeah. I’m curious whether you see this in your practice. I wonder if part of what goes on in some of our heads is like, we have this script running that says, Well, I feel like the problem was caused in isolation or individually, so I need to solve it individually. And the notion of actually no, actually the solution might not be for me to just step into like figuring this out on my own or just 1 to 1 with somebody else. But the notion of actually solving this in community healing and community so that I can not just feel better myself, but also like heal community around me, it just feels so far into us because we look at the experience as being just a wholly our own.
Minaa B. (00:19:32) – You know, when I was working as a therapist, I practiced for about nine years and that was within private practice, community mental health, even as a mental health consultant and Early Head Start working with children ages 0 to 5 and their families.
Minaa B. (00:19:47) – And I tell you, Jonathan, every single person that I worked with was engaging in that concept of what you just shared, trying to heal in isolation. However, the ruptures that they were experiencing was caused by another person. And so here we are trying to do all of this internal repairing when the rupture, the trauma, whatever it is that we endured, was literally caused by someone else. And so now there is this distrust, there is this severance from connection, severance from community. But the thing is, we are biologically wired to be connected to other people. When a child is born, doctors encouraged skin to skin. They encourage engaging with your baby because you need to develop a secure attachment with that child or else. A lot of us may be familiar with other concepts of attachment. They might grow up to have disorganized attachment, ambivalent attachment, which ends up leading to poor mental health issues and adverse childhood experiences. And what’s fascinating to me is we grow older, that child grows older, and this concept of continuing to build bonds and attachments start to fade away.
Minaa B. (00:21:03) – So how come you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps? How come you can’t manage this crisis on your own? You are in charge of your happiness. You are in charge of all of these different things. It’s not the people around you. It’s you, you, you, I, I. And we forget the importance of we. Especially when, again, you’re in a situation where maybe there is a person who caused that pain. But despite the fact that there’s a person that caused that pain, relationships are at the center of our being. So we still have to learn how to heal so that we can build new, healthier relationships. Instead of saying, well, you know what? Someone hurt me, but I’m going to do all this individual work in silence and I’m going to lock myself in a house or I’m going to go on a silent retreat and I’m going to do all of these things. And that can be beneficial for some people, but it can’t stop there. And so I think it’s just really important for people to be thinking of the ways that we heal not to exist into a vacuum.
Minaa B. (00:22:00) – We heal so that we can integrate into community. And I think that integration piece is where a lot of people struggle.
Jonathan Fields (00:22:08) – Now that makes so much sense. I know you actually write in your book that we’re all in search of belonging, but too often we trick ourselves into believing that assimilation is belonging, which is part of what we’re talking about here. It’s like, let me shape myself into whatever I think is going to be the thing that lets me feel in some way, whole or accepted, thinking that it’s going to make me feel actually better. But it never really does.
Minaa B. (00:22:30) – It never does. It never feels fulfilling. It never feels satisfying because ultimately it just ends up feeling like self abandonment. And if I feel that I have to abandon myself repeatedly to be loved, to be cared for, to be nurtured, that is a high standard to try to live up to and its unrealistic one. And so I think it’s just important for people to be doing that in the work of asking themselves, am I showing up fully and wholly as myself? Because that is also how we repair trauma, giving ourselves an option to say that I can show up as my full.
Minaa B. (00:23:09) – Self and discern who is for me and who is not for me, because I don’t want people to think that community care means that we all live as Kumbaya and we all get along right. You know, there’s no such thing as boundaries, and.
Jonathan Fields (00:23:23) – We still have to inhabit the real world.
Minaa B. (00:23:25) – Exactly. Exactly.
Minaa B. (00:23:27) – Right. So just really being able to own and recognize that who is my community, who are the members of my society that I can lean on for support, care and nurture?
Jonathan Fields (00:23:39) – Yeah, that makes so much sense to me. In your new book, which is really fantastic, owning our struggles, you introduce sort of like the notion of a series of different struggles that we tend to all grapple with. And when I say we, by the way, I’m talking about the collective we, but also different people grapple with different structures based on their history, based on the system in which they live in, based on what that allows them, and also prevents or shows up as struggle or limitation or challenge or oppression.
Jonathan Fields (00:24:10) – So one of the starting points for you in the conversation, the struggle that you kind of open with is this struggle around wholeness. And you introduce a conversation around really grappling with this notion of the inner child and the context of this struggle for wholeness. And I know some folks will hear that. And like the minute they hear inner child, they just roll their eyes. They’re like, really? We’re going there? Like, come on. But others will be like, I had that same reaction and I did everything I could possibly do to avoid going there. And then eventually at some point, there was nothing left to do but just say, even though I don’t believe in this or it sounds weird to me, I don’t even know what we’re talking about here. Let me just actually step into the conversation. I have so many friends and colleagues who have had that approach, and that led to profound both awakening and then healing for them. So talk to me a little bit about this notion of the inner child and what do we actually talking about when we’re talking about it and why is it matter so much in the context of healing?
Minaa B. (00:25:12) – Yeah, I mean, I know for a lot of people it sounds like that psychological voodoo, right?
Minaa B. (00:25:16) – Like what?
Minaa B. (00:25:18) – Here we go.
Minaa B. (00:25:19) – The reason why I wanted to talk about the concept of the inner child is because often when people struggle with trauma, adults in particular, I had the privilege of being able to work with adult clients as well as children ages 0 to 5. A very thing I see happen with adults when they find themselves having trauma responses in adult situations is they start to regress. They start to go back to their childhood and literally act out the coping mechanisms that they did when they were a child to protect themselves from harm. There are some children who they may have shut down and they did not know how to express themselves verbally. There are some children who, when they can’t regulate themselves, they throw a tantrum or they start to yell and scream because they don’t have the regulation skills as of yet to communicate what they need. There are some children who their anxiety takes over. They start to feeling of fear and worry, especially if they have a parent who abandoned them. Right. And so am I lovable? Am I likable? I’m scared that I’m going to lose mommy.
Minaa B. (00:26:33) – I’m scared that I’m going to lose daddy. And I’ll hear adults say, I’m scared. I’m going to lose my partner. I’m scared I’m going to lose my friend. And that is the reason why I introduced the concept of the inner child. And what I mean by the inner child is literally recognizing that we have a past. Because I think a lot of adults believe that your childhood gets erased the moment you step into adulthood. And the inner child concept is really an invitation for you to just simply reflect on your childhood and nurture yourself so that you can realize, actually, I’m safe in my body and I am not my five year old self anymore. But right now I feel afraid like my five year old self. Right now I feel anxious like my five year old self. And so your inner child is manifesting through an adult body because there are a lot of adults that I’m sure we have interacted with that we can say they act in ways that we will say, Well, that’s not mature of you.
Minaa B. (00:27:35) – You’re 30 something, 40 something, 50 something years old acting like a child. A lot of us say it, but then when we say, well, maybe they need to tend to their inner child, Oh, that psychological woowoo. Right. And so it’s like I have worked with so many adults who spend most of their time in session talking about their childhood because those are the years that were primitive, that shaped their brain shaped what love meant, shaped what care meant. And here they are acting out those things, that abandonment, that loss in their marriages, in their friendships, even when they go to work. Right. Some of us still have a difficult relationship with our boss because of that power hierarchy where we feel like our boss is our parent. Right? I can’t say no because there’s an authority figure, right? A lot of us still wrestle with authority figures and I’m not talking about police because that’s a whole different conversation that engages the nervous system in a different way. But when we think of people who hold certain titles in our lives, the very first relationship we have with someone who owns a title is our.
Minaa B. (00:28:42) – It. And depending on how they exercise that title, we might feel like we can’t speak up. We might feel like we can’t set boundaries with our parent. We can’t express ourselves with our parents. So now we move through the world feeling like when I’m in a situation where someone has that power dynamic over me, whether it be my boss or my supervisor, or I’m in some sort of space where there is some sort of title that’s above mine, I might shut down and what am I doing? I’m regressing back to my five year old self. And so in the book I outlined that because as you read in the book, Jonathan, I also share my story and I talk about I turned 18 not knowing how to engage in adulthood. I turned 18 knowing that I was not emotionally equipped to engage with the real world because I did not do any trauma healing work. So it was still stored in my body. And at 18 years old, 19 years old, 20 years old, I still found myself thinking about five year old Mina, thinking about the pain.
Minaa B. (00:29:46) – Five year old Mina dealt with thinking about the hurt. Mina. Five year old Mina was exposed to that I never talked about, and so I needed to tend to my inner child because I realized five year old Mina needs love and care. But she’s manifesting through 18 year old Mina and I can’t move through the world expecting safe, healthy relationships. If I am going to act like my five year old self in an adult body.
Jonathan Fields (00:30:10) – Yeah, that makes so much sense to me. You know, it’s interesting, the primary relationship that we’ve been talking about when we think about this notion of the inner child is it’s between the parent or the guardian or whoever was the safe keeper of the child and the function and often dysfunction like nobody’s perfect. We’re all doing the best we can as parents, especially on any given day. And sometimes we cause harm or we cause trauma because we’re dealing with our own stuff, right? Not with intention. And yet it happens. There’s also a bigger relationship, and this is something that you speak to and you write about in this chapter.
Jonathan Fields (00:30:43) – And also it gets threaded in later in the conversation as well, which is the notion of, well, sometimes the inner child is also impacted in a traumatic way, in a way that stays with you, that you have to unwind on a communal basis, on a societal basis, on a cultural basis. And this sort of expands. On the one hand, it expands a ripple of positivity and grace and community, but also it expands the sphere of like who can influence that inner child in a way that leads to the need to cope and then leads to potential dysfunctional patterns that carry through into adulthood. Break this down a little bit for me when we expand beyond the parent to talk to me about the role of community and society, because one of the things that you also introduced around this conversation is the notion of healing and healing inner child ruptures as both a communal issue and also more broadly, social justice issue.
Minaa B. (00:31:40) – Yeah, you know, I talk about how healing in itself is a social justice issue. I think collectively when we are trying to heal, we also have to pay attention to the institutional and systemic ruptures that take place from the moment we are born.
Minaa B. (00:31:58) – Actually, because we are born into a world where those ruptures are already prevalent, right? And so here you are already born into a system that is traumatic, right? So yeah, you have your family and that’s great that they’re loving. If you grew up in a loving home, but you now have to interact with the world where you might start to realize, outside of my home, there’s a struggle for safety. And the reason why is because I have to engage with people when I’m in school, when I’m at work, when I’m on the bus, when I’m riding the subway, I always have to engage with people. And so I think that inner child healing ripples trickles out to community because it helps us realize that we bring our full selves to community. And it goes back to that concept of hurting people, right? And it helps us recognize that by not doing my own inner work, not only am I impacting myself, I am impacting my family unit because often trauma can be intergenerational, right? And so it’s being passed down through DNA, but it’s also being passed down through habits and behaviors and even cultural norms.
Minaa B. (00:33:16) – I even share in my book some of us engage in dysfunctional patterns, and we call it tradition in the home. This is normal. This is what we do in our household. Well, this is not okay, right? Like it’s not okay. It doesn’t make me feel good. It doesn’t make me feel safe. And so now here you are having this intergenerational trauma, but then we bring that into the world and we traumatize other people. But. By not dealing with our own stuff and we traumatize other people by how we interact with them. By gaslighting people. By manipulating people, by lying to people, by not being assertive. Sometimes that’s another thing, right? Where sometimes we self abandoned so much that we don’t realize we can be causing ruptures in those relationships by not asserting ourselves and expressing ourselves and communicating our needs. We’re leaving it to other people to figure it out. We’re making assumptions and so we’re not doing the literal work of practicing togetherness and connection. And I think that inner child healing also helps us to see in this relationship I’m yearning for something deeper.
Minaa B. (00:34:29) – But I realize this inner child of mine is scared. It’s afraid because my whole entire life I’ve been dealing with maybe it’s abandonment or this anxious feeling, whether it’s physical abandonment or emotional abandonment. So I have to figure out the different ways that I can tend to my inner child. Because, again, as I outlined earlier, there are some people who are regressing to their childhood selves and their marriages. And what you’re trying to do is get your partner’s attention. Maybe you’re trying to ask for more attention. You’re trying to ask for more quality time, you’re trying to ask for more affection, but instead your five year old self shuts down. So you shut down and now you’re isolated from your marriage, you’re isolated from your partner. And that inner child healing helps you to now solidify the things that often feel broken. Tending to that inner child helps you repair that relationship of your marriage, but also outside of the home. Because if that’s happening in your marriage, imagine what’s happening when you go to work, when you communicate with your friends, when you’re in social settings.
Minaa B. (00:35:31) – And I’ve seen it happen where people will I’ll be on the outside having like an objective view of certain situations happen and I’ll literally hear someone say, I can’t believe this person said that to me. And I’ll have to say, When did they say that? Because I didn’t hear those words come out, come out of their mouth. Right. But when you are in a state of constant pain, when your body is in a constant state of fight or flight, you can always misinterpret things that are happening around you, even on a community level. And so I think it’s just important for us to be thinking about ways that we want our society to repair itself, ways that we want to practice collective healing, but recognizing that we are members of our society and our world functions because of people, right? Our electoral officials and our presidents. These are people. And so we have to figure out ways that we can engage in our own healing work but bridge it to the communities around us so that if we say we want the world to be a better place, we can ask ourselves, what is my contribution to making this world a better place?
Jonathan Fields (00:36:38) – Yeah, know that lands so powerfully and it’s like we don’t heal so that we can live a better rest of our lives in isolation.
Jonathan Fields (00:36:45) – We heal so we can live the rest of our lives like in community in relation, because that’s what makes life rich. And this really brings up the notion of and this is another one of the things that you speak to is the I think you call it the struggle for safe spaces, because at some point it’s really hard to go into this healing modality, especially if we’re doing it in community or in conjunction with other people. If we don’t feel in some way, shape or form safe, you know, we won’t we won’t reveal who we are. We won’t get vulnerable on a level that actually allows for the things that really need to be centered, to be centered. So talk to me a bit about the role of safe spaces in this whole in not only in the role of like the struggle to try and find it or cultivate or create it, but also in the role of individual and collective healing.
Minaa B. (00:37:33) – Yeah, you.
Minaa B. (00:37:33) – Know, when I wrote that chapter, I was thinking about the collective loneliness a lot of bipoc individuals were feeling after the racial injustices that were happening in 2020, specifically the murder of George Floyd and how his murder literally just kind of shook the world.
Minaa B. (00:37:53) – I think it’s still shaken right now as we speak. Right, because it left this ripple effect. And when I wrote that, it was because I was in a space where I was thinking about what it means for me to move through this world as a black woman trying to find safe spaces, trying to find spaces where I can be vulnerable and having to often reconcile with the fact that there are going to be times where those safe spaces don’t exist. So how do I regulate this racially traumatized body in a space that is trying to traumatize me in a space that is dysregulated, in a space that is literally just unsafe? And I think there are a lot of people who realize there are spaces that they. You have the frequent, it tends to often be the workplace where I will hear a lot of people say this does not feel like a safe, nurturing environment. What am I supposed to do? Keep quitting my jobs until I find it right? Like, how do I rest in this body knowing that the spaces that exist around me can very be very harmful and it can lead to something called collective loneliness, where on a collective level we feel ostracized and often pushed out of community and we do not have what is called psychologically safe spaces to be able to express our fear.
Minaa B. (00:39:23) – Our concerns are exactly without punishment, especially, again, if you exist in this world as someone who is bipoc, you can often feel used to being punished for existing. And so when I wrote that chapter, it was really all about one acknowledging the importance of safe spaces. Two acknowledging the importance of community members making safe spaces for people. I think people are often trying to figure out how do I heal? How do I heal? How do I overcome my childhood trauma? I, I, I write. Everything is so focused without realizing in the midst of me wanting to tend to my own needs so much. I’m forgetting about what it looks like to the tent, to tend to the needs of the people around me. So sometimes that might look like in the midst of me healing my trauma, I also need to heal my biases. I also need to check in with myself and ask myself what are some stereotypes that I harbor toward people, whether it be about their race, gender, sexual orientation, anything.
Minaa B. (00:40:34) – Right? It’s also about assessing inwardly and saying, what contributions do I make to the spaces around me to actively be an ally? I do a lot of allyship workshops and a lot of people say, Well, what am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? And I always remind people that there are resources available for you to be learning and unlearning, right? And so being a community member who wants to create safety for people is a part of collective care. It’s a part of community care. But on the other side, when you are that person searching for the safe space, I think what happens is it requires a lot of courage and self regulation because as I shared earlier, there are going to be times where you’re searching and you’re searching and you’re going to realize, you know what? I might have to reconcile with the fact that my work environment is not psychologically safe. It is not psychologically safe for somebody who lives in a black body. It is not psychologically safe for somebody who is a part of the LGBTQ community.
Minaa B. (00:41:42) – It is not psychologically safe for all of the marginalization that people experience. Right. And oppressed groups experience. And so a big part of that is gaining courage and assertiveness in owning who we are in these spaces that are trying to often push us out. And that takes a lot of inner work. It takes a lot of self regulation, it takes a lot of co regulating with people who are safe outside of that environment so that when you do walk into these environments, you feel that you can be rooted in your truth. You feel that you can be rooted in the safety that you can provide yourself, and that is where those self regulation practices come in that I share in that chapter because I’ve had to reconcile with the fact that there are just going to be places that I go in life that people don’t want me there. People don’t like me for whatever the reason is, and I have the choice to either shrink and keep myself small. I also have the choice to, in my dysregulated body, decide I need to self soothe other people over soothing myself or I can make the choice to engage in radical acceptance and realize this actually isn’t a safe environment.
Minaa B. (00:42:55) – And if it’s hard for me to pull myself out of this safe environment, what does it mean for me to cultivate my own safety?
Jonathan Fields (00:43:01) – Yeah. And that last element, I think in particular, it’s tough, but I think for so many they find themselves there because let’s say this is a space where it’s supporting you, it’s supporting your family, your extended family, which makes it really hard to just extract yourself from that situation or show up as your full self and just say, this is me. Deal with it in a culture where you may expect, and rightly so, that that won’t be accepted. And yet from a value standpoint or just from a a security standpoint, you’re reliant on the basic thing that it gives you, which is a living and some sense of financial security. So it’s a difficult dance to do. But the notion of you saying. The notion of radical acceptance. I think some people hear that and they’re like, Well, isn’t that just giving up? But that’s not what you’re talking about.
Jonathan Fields (00:43:48) – So for those who may hear it as that tease out the distinction here for us.
Minaa B. (00:43:54) – Right.
Minaa B. (00:43:54) – It’s absolutely not giving up. It is owning a situation for what it is. I think often when we’re dealing with adversity, when we’re dealing with things that are difficult to experience, we kind of want to beat those things into submission. So we want to mold it and we want to shape it and we want it to conform into the thing we want it to be. And we got at some point realize, I don’t have control over this, right? I know that I am not a powerless person, but there are certain things in my environment that I don’t have control over that I don’t have power over. And radical acceptance simply means owning the truth for what it is. This person is showing me who they are. This person is showing me that they don’t care about my emotional well-being. This person is showing me that they are not engaging in the work of being a psychological, safe, partner, friend, colleague.
Minaa B. (00:44:56) – They are literally holding it up in my face and saying, Mina, this is what you’re going to get from me. And radical acceptance means, okay, I got to acknowledge that as truth. And so it is not giving up because here’s the thing. We can’t change people. And I say it in my book when it comes to my inner work as healing through my own racialized trauma and moving through this world. As a black woman, I had made a choice that I refuse to do someone’s anti-racism work. I refuse. You know how tiresome that.
Minaa B. (00:45:32) – Is.
Minaa B. (00:45:33) – To try to always have to train people on how to be a kind person to me because I exist in black skin. Oh, no. So radical acceptance for me has been. All right. Well, I guess if you’re going to be racist or if I guess if you’re going to be cruel, I guess if you’re going to be unkind. If you’re going to be manipulative, I’ve decided that you and I don’t have a relationship. All right? Radical acceptance means that you’re showing me who you are.
Minaa B. (00:46:01) – And instead of me engaging in delusional optimism, which basically means I have this idea in my head, in my idea is more powerful than than reality. So in my head, you can be this person. So I’m just going to stick around until you become the thing that I manifested in my mind. But radical acceptance means, Oh no, I have to face the truth. The person that I want you to be in my head doesn’t exist in front of me, so I need to own that. You’re showing me who you are and I have so much power within that I can decide how I want to show up in relationship with you. I might decide that I need to make adjustments in how I interact with you. I might also decide that I don’t want to interact with you at all, right? Because I hold the power in that. So I don’t want people to think that radical acceptance means you’re giving up and that you are not fighting for yourself worth and that you are not fighting to be seen or that you’re not even doing the work.
Minaa B. (00:47:04) – But I also want people to realize that you should not be tiring yourself out by trying to control people and force people to be someone that they don’t want to be.
Jonathan Fields (00:47:15) – Yeah, that makes so much sense. It’s about reclamation of power of anything, you know, and it’s about actually being radically honest. Also in your assessment of like, what’s true here.
Minaa B. (00:47:26) – Exactly.
Jonathan Fields (00:47:26) – And what’s changeable and what’s not changeable, and how is that affecting me and what do I do to take care of myself in this circumstance, in this scenario? You know, one of the other things that that you you dive into is the notion this is a separate struggle that you listed. And by the way, for for everyone tuning in with each one of these different things, Mina offers basically a prescription. You know, just there are things that you we’re just touching on a couple of them here in the conversation, but please dive in because in the book, they’re detailed list of things to think about and to do and to consider and to explore and actions to take and decisions to make.
Jonathan Fields (00:48:05) – One of the other struggles that I thought was interesting that you tease out here is what you call the struggle for fulfillment. And I think that is one of the questions that so many of us have been dropped into over the last three years also. You know, we’ve been the world has been turned upside down. Nobody was left untouched by the last couple of years. A sense of ground lessness, a sense of urgency, the sense of fear over a future, the sense of nobody’s made any promises. And the notion that we want to spend our time wisely and that we want to feel a sense of meaning and purpose and we have a yearning to feel fully expressed and fulfilled. And yet at the same time, you make this really fascinating distinction with that yearning and this culture of busyness, culture of we I think we’ve all heard the phrase toxic productivity in many different ways over the last couple of years. And there’s this really interesting and dysfunctional dance between sort of like the notion that you’ve got to be constantly busy and wildly productive, often in things that you’re genuinely disinterested in and provide no source of meaning or purpose or passion for you.
Jonathan Fields (00:49:18) – And at the same time, we feel like we’re beholden to that. And yet we really want to feel like we’re living in a way that matters, that is meaningful, where we have a sense of purpose and passion and expression. And it leads to this struggle that you describe.
Minaa B. (00:49:32) – Yeah.
Minaa B. (00:49:33) – You know, it’s interesting because I even outline in that chapter my own experiences with toxic productivity, you know, and I highlighted in the book how when I was writing the book, there were moments where I was so drained, I was so tired. And the moment I allowed myself to rest, my brain will be like, Well, the book isn’t going to write itself now, is it? Huh? And I’m like, Oh my God, I have a deadline.
Jonathan Fields (00:50:00) – As a fellow author, I’m nodding along because I felt that so many times and I have judged myself so many times. I’m like, slacker, get back to it.
Minaa B. (00:50:08) – Right? All right. It’s that small.
Minaa B. (00:50:11) – Voice that just creeps in where it’s like the book isn’t going to write itself and you’re missing out an opportunity here.
Minaa B. (00:50:19) – Why do you need to watch Netflix? Why do you need downtime? And it’s so crazy because, like, you know, it is so ingrained in us. I think that is the first thing that a lot of us need to acknowledge. We are born into a world that profits.
Minaa B. (00:50:37) – Literally.
Minaa B. (00:50:38) – Profits on our exhaustion, our labor and our productivity. And so one, I say that because I think a lot of us think that it’s some sort of moral failure or some sort of internal issue where it’s like, why can’t I rest and why can I can’t I fight back against productivity? And it’s like, well, you were born into a system, right? And so from young right, children have to go to school, right? Their school schedules line up with work schedules. You get a few months off in the summer, but then you’re right back into that cycle. Then when school is over, you think you’re done. But no, you need to go to college, because we’ve also been taught that in order to have certain careers or certain salaries, you need a degree, right? So it is.
Minaa B. (00:51:22) – And then once you get the degree you’re working and then you got to wait till you’re 67 to retire. So literally, it is a system that we are forced to engage in. And I just want to share that first for the person listening who might think that it’s me, it’s me when it’s like, no, it’s a system. I had to do a lot of inner work to challenge that inner voice that was always creeping up on me. And this is often the work that I had to do with clients when I was seeing clients who are always engaged in doing and doing and being productive and being busy and realizing that in the midst of all of this doing, they were still feeling deeply unsatisfied. So at some point we have to pause and say, okay, I am the busiest I’ve ever been by am also unhappy. I am unfulfilled. I am unsatisfied. So I need to do an internal investigation of how I am utilizing my time, where I am putting my effort in energy because something here isn’t lining up.
Minaa B. (00:52:30) – I’m doing and I’m doing and I’m doing, but yet I feel so unhappy and. Satisfied with the quality of my life. And so that chapter really helps people really hone in on the power of purpose. I talk about how I’m a corporate wellness coach now, and I remember at the height of the pandemic, a lot of organizations were reaching out to me to talk about burnout. The concept of quiet quitting had came up, and a lot of people were like, You know, Mina, what can we do to get people to feel more satisfied with their work lives, to feel more happy about working? And I’m like, Listen, you’re running a running up against the power of purpose. People are realizing that there is more to life than work. The workplace is competing with something that they literally have no chance at fighting because once a person realizes that they have purpose outside of the work that they do, that is hard. It is hard to try to convince someone, well, you should do more overtime this weekend.
Minaa B. (00:53:35) – Right? When I realized.
Minaa B. (00:53:36) – No, I want to be with my family this weekend. Right. And I think the great resignation that happened in 2020, where so many people left the workforce, realized that they left the workforce because of low wages. They left the workforce because of burnout. They left the workforce. And even after the 2020, they’re like, listen, if I’m not getting a remote job, if you’re calling me back into the office, I’m leaving, too. So people are seeing an increase in their quality of quality of life because they are starting to realize that community, family connection, healing, being with nature, exercising, all of these things that bring us joy plays a role in the betterment of our mental health. And so I often just tell people, when you find yourself always being busy, you need to ask yourself the way am always pouring out and pouring out and pouring out into being productive and into being busy. What am I doing to nourish myself? What am I doing to restore and repair my nervous system? And how am I filling my cup? Because I’ll hear a lot of people say, I’m pouring out, I’m pouring out, I’m pouring out, but then I’m doing and I’m doing so that I can fill my cup.
Minaa B. (00:54:43) – But the issue is the thing that you’re doing isn’t restorative, the thing that you’re doing is it nourishing? And so when you’re pouring out, you need to make sure that you’re equally pouring into yourself, and whatever you’re pouring into yourself has to be something that is sustainable. It has to be something that nourishes you. It has to be something that literally repairs and restores your nervous system so that you are not always feeling burnt out. Those are the things that keep us sustained. Those are the things that really help us heal and move forward when we’re investing in ourselves and stepping away from the culture of urgency.
Jonathan Fields (00:55:20) – Yeah, I mean, that’s so powerful. I think, especially at this moment, like so many of us are really reconsidering this dance that we’ve been doing and why we’ve been doing it. It was in this section where you actually write The only way to create a new narrative around rest purpose in the American Dream is to live in alignment with the truth you define for yourself, not society’s truths, but your truth.
Jonathan Fields (00:55:41) – Begin thinking about what it means to live a full life outside of the labor. You perform by using the following exercise to reflect, and then you share some some ideas. But that notion of like really teasing out like what is your truth versus the the expectations and truth that society lays over, which circles us back to the beginning of our conversation, which is this notion of, okay, so we can do as much of this work as we can individually, like we can figure out what is our truth, how are we going to strike a balance between rest and productivity and purpose and expression, Right? But do we ever really get to heal when we are the outliers who are just trying to to just constantly fight against a culture that says, but that’s not the way it is and that’s not okay, and that’s not how we live as a society. And it keeps pulling us back into this bigger conversation that says, yes, okay, so maybe you carve out a way for you to figure this out for yourself, but there’s always going to be friction and tension and resistance in your life, and you’re going to have to invest labor and effort if we don’t in some way expand the conversation and invite more people into it and say, how do we all engage in this exploration together so that we can feel the things that we want to feel collectively?
Minaa B. (00:56:57) – Absolutely.
Minaa B. (00:56:58) – I love how you just framed that. How do we engage in this act together? Because it makes me think about this culture around boundaries, this culture around togetherness. And I always say to people, often when we’re setting a boundary, it’s because that person wants to be in community with you. They just want you to be a safe person to them. They want to know that you listen. They want to know that you respect them. They want to know that there’s trust. But if you are constantly violating boundaries, if. You are constantly oppressing. If you are constantly.
Minaa B. (00:57:40) – Ignoring.
Minaa B. (00:57:41) – Talking over, boasting yourself up while putting others down. You’re showing me that it’s may not be possible to be in community with you, and that is actually what I’m yearning for. And so I think it’s really important for us as individuals to always be asking ourselves, I have needs, but what am I doing to meet the needs of the people around me? I have desires. What am I doing to be a valuable community member to the people that I say I want to be in community with? Even in my book, I say for people to reflect and say, Why should people want to be in community with you? Because when we’re healing, we’re always about, Oh, surround yourself with positive people, surround yourself with this, surround yourself with that.
Minaa B. (00:58:30) – And sometimes we have to look inward and say, But what about me? Where do I stand in this? Am I the healthy friend or am I the problematic friend? Am I the healthy partner or am I the problematic partner? Right. And so all of this work is literally about the concept of bridging self-care to community care. That self care piece is we need to heal. And so I need to do healing exercises and healing practices. I need to overcome my trauma. I need to find ways to restore my nervous system. I need to do all of these things. And sometimes I might do it in therapy one on one. I might find myself doing it in a sacredness of my own space in my house. But I’m doing it because I’m now bridging it to my community. So the same way I found that I felt wounded, I felt abandoned by people. I felt all of these things that other people caused me. I need to make sure I am not bringing that same hurt and pain into my community and harming the people that I say I want to be around and want to build with, you know? And so I think it’s really all about always reflecting past yourself.
Minaa B. (00:59:41) – And that is the, the the main thing theme in the book, you know, and the main theme that I want people to walk away from is owning how do I own my struggles by also looking past myself. Because if I want to succeed in life and I want to do this work of healing, it does require the involvement of other people. It requires the involvement of community. It requires the involvement of nurturing and safe relationships. So I know what I want from other people, but also what am I giving to other people as well?
Jonathan Fields (01:00:20) – Yeah, it can’t just be a me thing. It’s got to be a wee thing, you know? It’s just it’s just the way it is. And that feels like a great place for us to come full circle in our conversation as well. So in this container of Good Life project, if I offer up the phrase to live a good life, what comes up?
Minaa B. (01:00:37) – So many things.
Minaa B. (01:00:39) – I think to live a good life. I often the first thing that comes to mind is people connection, community as what we talked about to live a good life.
Minaa B. (01:00:49) – I want to know that I’m loved. I want to know that I am cared for. I want to know that I’m valuable. I want to know that I am treating people with kindness, kindness and respect. But to live a good life, I also want to make sure I’m giving those people the things that I want as well. How am I showing up for others? How am I respecting the needs of others? How am I building safe, healthy relationships with others? And most importantly, how am I allowing myself to define my own truth? Because to live a good life, I have to live in alignment with my thoughts, my beliefs, my values, and what I feel is right for me. And so I think that’s what’s necessary to live a good life is owning. This is who I am and this is how I want to show up in the world. While also, of course, being mindful of how that impacts the people around me. But I want to make sure that I’m living in my truth so that I can be fulfilled.
Minaa B. (01:01:51) – Thank you.
Minaa B. (01:01:52) – Thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan Fields (01:01:55) – Hey, before you leave, if you love this episode, safe bet you’ll also love the conversation we had with Alex. All about healing and self care. You’ll find a link to Alex’s episode in the show notes. And of course, if you haven’t already done so, please go ahead and follow Good Life project in your favorite listening app. And if you found this conversation interesting or inspiring or valuable and chances are you did. Since you’re still listening here, would you do me a personal favor, a seven second favor, and share it maybe on social or by text or by email. Even just with one person. Just copy the link from the app you’re using and tell those you know those you love, those you want to help navigate this thing called life a little. A little better so we can all do it better together with more ease and more joy. Tell them to listen, then even invite them to talk about what you’ve both discovered. Because when podcasts become conversations and conversations become action.
Jonathan Fields (01:02:48) – That’s how we all come alive together. Until next time, I’m Jonathan Fields, signing off for Good Life Project.