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Five Components of Embodiment for Mixed People

Updated: Dec 22, 2023


mixed person with a blanket wrapped around them

Mixed race people are more common than ever, but that doesn’t make being mixed any easier. Discussions about the mixed experience are still relatively new.


As my mixed friend and colleague TaRessa Stovall (author of this blog and this book) said to me, we are currently cutting the path with our own hands. We have the machetes and we’re making our way through the brush.


My machete of choice, so to speak, is somatic practice.


A somatic approach to healing racialized trauma has gained tremendous popularity in recent years, but the mixed experience is still left out of the conversation. It’s a real loss for everyone, not just mixed people, to not consider the lived experience of carrying two or more lineages in and what that means for mixed people’s capacity to be “embodied”.


I’ve come to recognize embodiment for mixed people as involving a sense of freedom to be yourself without hiding or overcompensating aspects of who you are. Interested in learning more about why embodiment matters for mixed people? Check out this past blog post.


Then, when you're ready, here are the five themes I think contribute to that sense of freedom for mixed people.


Critical Consciousness


It’s important for mixed people to have political consciousness and clarity about the context of the mixed experience.


One of the first things that often happens in therapy and coaching is that I provide a lot of education on trauma, both the neurobiology of trauma as well as the context of colonial and racialized trauma.


We live in a colonized world. As a result, humans have learned to see each other in an “us vs. them” light. So when people reject us, as much as it hurts, it can be helpful to remember that their rejection is a reflection of their own pain and suffering as a result of our colonial and white supremacist culture.


Understanding trauma on a neurobiological level - that it really is our body's wisdom, an adaptation - can be really normalizing for all the thoughts and feelings you have about how “weird” or “not normal” you are. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are shaped by our past experiences, especially the harmful ones. Our bodies remember these experiences and then works on a subconscious level to protect us from experiencing harm again.


That said, self-compassion is kind of a subtenant within consciousness. As you develop clarity on the issue, you can be more and more compassionate with yourself about what you’re struggling with.


Nervous System Capacity & Mobility


Nervous system work is helpful for developing a higher tolerance for discomfort and conflict, as well as developing adaptability so that we don't feel imprisoned by our emotions and physical experience.


Somatic practice helps you develop what’s called ‘dual awareness.’ Dual awareness is the ability to think and feel at the same time; to notice your experience rather than feeling like you are drowning in overwhelm.


I have an E-Guide, my Foundational Somatic Skills Guide, where you can dip your toes into practicing dual awareness.


When you have a strong dual awareness practice it is easier to select your plan of action when your nervous system kicks into protection more. Should you get to safety? Or can you be with the discomfort?


Nervous system work involves practicing dual awareness, experimenting with sensory input, somatic coping strategies, trauma processing and more.


Unburdening the Body of Trauma Responses & Personal Sovereignty


When we face immediate threats, our choices are generally limited. We have just a few options: fight, flight, or fawn. These are all reasonable survival responses that generally aim to prevent us from experiencing pain or abandonment.


But being in this space prevents us from exploring our autonomy and feeling entitled to our personal soverignty. While there are many real and persistent threats in our daily lives, healing and liberation requires deep belief in what's possible and a conscious choice to work towards it.


When it comes to embodiment, soveriegnty can mean carving out the space to do the things we love. If early in your life you were preoccupied with fitting in, you might not have developed your own personal hobbies, for instance. You might not know what feels pleasurable and exciting to you. Sometimes I give clients homework to experiment with different activities.


Soveriegnty can also mean consciously working to release ourselves from the burdens we’ve been carrying. Being able to slow down and grieve what’s felt hard about or been missing from our lives allows emotions to move through us. Otherwise we are constantly stuck with them, and they pile up, making us have to exert even more effort to stay above the surface.


When we give ourselves space to grieve what has and hasn’t been, we can stop trying to live in a different reality. We can reparent ourselves by both validating our feelings and exploring alternative ways of interacting with the world. If you are familiar with Internal Family Systems Therapy and the process of unburdening, this is a big part of what I do with my clients.


Confidence


One way that I help clients develop confidence is by exploring the big, daunting question of ‘who are you?” We do this by exploring their values, interests, hobbies, relationships and more. Then, we get comfortable with owning that these are aspects of who you are.

mixed person sitting on a ledge. they are bald and smiling.

It’s important to remember that who you are is a dynamic thing - it doesn’t have to be a single sentence that never changes. There are layers to your identity and you are always changing. So there are many answers to this question of “who am I?”


I also like to have clients explore their ancestral roots. You might not get the cultural connection you desire from your family, but you can explore the lives of your ancestors either through resources like ancestry.com or just reading history books about cultures in your lineage.


You can also think about other places that feel like “roots” to you. I grew up dancing, and my community of peers from my dance studio often felt like home to me, for instance.


If you’re interested in this question of ‘who am I?’ I have a short and simple E-Guide that you can download and explore.


Belonging


The final embodiment need of mixed people is belonging. Belonging can be is especially hard for us mixed folks, and the previous pillars of embodiment are intended to bring ease into finding places where we belong.


Somatic practice can help you develop a tolerance for the risks of putting yourself out there. One way I do that is by engaging a sense of playfulness. Play is how we take our very first risks in life: What happens when I put this block on top of that one? What do my friends do when I wear a silly Halloween costume? Some of my favorite somatic exercises are ones that engage play.


Somatics also helps you get more comfortable with the inbetween-ness of new relationships. Relationships can be hard to define. But that doesn’t mean that they are wrong or that we are wrong.


Finally, somatics is also extremely helpful at helping people develop discernment. As mixed people, making decisions can be hard if we are used to appeasing others. Discernment helps us sort out what we want in our lives and what we don’t.


In Conclusion

If you’ve been struggling in your mixed identity, I promise you there is hope. I guide my clients in this work every day. I’d be honored to support you in your journey of feeling more embodied, more alive, and more connected. There are a few ways we can work together:


  1. Individual Therapy: I support mixed race clients on a number of issues. I’m a trauma specialist by training, and help my clients not only reshape their lives in the face of racialized trauma, but other sources of trauma as well.

  2. Individual Coaching: Coaching is targeted support focused on identity and belonging, and is open to anyone regardless of location.

  3. Mindful Mixer: A free monthly event where we come together and practice mindfulness in community. A great opportunity to meet other mixed people and feel validated in your shared experiences.


 




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