66: Triggers—Sensitivity without Censoring
We live in a world saturated with information. More than ever, podcasts, blogs and social media have exposed each of us to more information about how other people live and what other people's struggles. Culturally, it seems there is a trend toward more awareness about how our words and behaviors affect other people. Many posts on social media will contain trigger warnings as an effort to help warn people about potentially triggering content in the post or episode. All of these things are SO important to help create a world that's safer and more kind.
I wanted to have a conversation about how to navigate and manage triggers in our environment. I think it's fantastic that there is a growing awareness and sensitivity to triggers and that efforts are being made to avoid certain subjects or words that hurt people. I also think it's important to have a conversation about how all of us can remain in our own power when we feel triggered by others.
I invited Charlene Smith, LCSW, to join me for a second time on the podcast to talk about how to create boundaries, ask for what you need, avoid reactivity and how to create a dialogue with people who you don't agree with. This conversation is SO important in recovery from struggles with food and body image because people around you WILL say and do things that trigger you—so it's important to figure out how to navigate those situations without feeling hopeless and discouraged.
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Hi everyone, welcome back to another episode of Nutrition Matters Podcast. I’m Paige, your host, and today I have with me Charlene Smith for the second time on this podcast. She is a therapist in Salt Lake City who I work closely with and I just am a huge fan of hers and I think she’s amazing. So I invited her to come on the podcast to talk about triggers. And to talk about how we can still be sensitive, aware, loving, kind, and compassionate people without feeling like we need to necessarily censor ourselves at every corner. And so that’s what we talk about in this episode - it’s a very tricky subject. It has a lot of potential to kind of be taken the wrong way and so we do our best to use words that adequately try to explain where we’re coming from and our intentions. And just right off the bat I want you to understand that we don’t intend for this episode to be triggering in it of itself - we don’t mean to blame anyone, we don’t mean to point fingers. What we’re really trying to do is just expand this base where we’re all able to exist feeling like we’re all able to be our true, authentic selves and not feel like we have to be silent about things that we’re passionate about. And so I think you’re going to enjoy this, this is a really timely episode. I’ve seen a lot of increased awareness in the circles that I run in around, you know, how can we be sensitive? How can we be more inclusive and aware, and more careful of how we talk and how we behave and how we speak? And I think those conversations are so important to have and I’m so glad that we’re doing that. And I also think that there’s this other side of this story that we need to be able to engage and dialogue and be able to express ourselves in order to be true to who we are. And also to learn and grow. So enjoy this episode with Charlene.
Well Charlene, thank you so much for joining me again on Nutrition Matters Podcast! This is a fun topic to talk about so thanks for joining me.
Charlene: Thanks for having me.
Paige: Yeah. So, some people will already know who you are but some will be probably meeting you for the first time so do you just wanna take a quick second to talk about who you are and what you do? And then we’ll dive into our topic.
Charlene: Okay. I am a licensed clinical social worker and I work in Salt Lake City. I’m in private practice and I work primarily with eating disordered clients. And we have a great voluntary treatment team of doctors and dieticians which you are part of that team. And we provide comprehensive eating disorder treatment for our clients.
Paige: Yeah, and so I get to see you every week for our meeting and I just, every time you open your mouth at that meeting I’m like ugh, I love everything Charlene says [laughs] so when this topic came up as something I wanted to talk about on the podcast, I thought of you and I’m so glad that you’re willing to share your thoughts on it, so thanks for being here.
Charlene: You’re welcome.
Paige: Okay so Charlene, let’s just talk with broad strokes about what we’re trying to do here today talking about this idea of triggers. And kind of in context of food and struggles with food, whether that’s an eating disorder or a disordered relationship with food or exercise or things along those lines. But just sort of trying to have a conversation about what it means to be aware of things that others are sensitive to that maybe you aren’t sensitive to and how to navigate talking about tricky subjects without triggering others but also how each individual can work on their own process of autonomy and responsibility and their own authority. Does that sort of summarize what we’ve planned here, or do you want to add a few things?
Charlene: No, that sounds perfect and you’re right - it’s a tricky situation. It’s a tricky conversation but I think it’s also super, super relevant to everybody.
Paige: Yeah so let’s talk about why it’s relevant just in case someone’s like I’m not following so far and some people can kind of see where we’re going with this but why do you see this is a relevant conversation in context of people who want to learn more about food and nutrition and also people who might be recovering from an eating disorder - why is this relevant?
Charlene: Well I think that 1. Culture today - this is a conversation that everyone is having and their giving you lots of information about what you should and shouldn’t do, how you should and shouldn’t act, what you should and shouldn’t say, and it can get really overwhelming and then on top of that you’re having your own experience of what’s coming up for you when you’re listening to everyone do this. And so if we don’t have the conversation then we just find ourselves in that box of what we should and shouldn’t do and try to navigate that and put ourselves in the box where I think through this conversation we’re hopefully gonna expand that space a little bit more and see that the box isn’t really conducive to what it is actually like to exist in real life with all of these topics and ideas.
Paige: Yes, there’s always a big gap between maybe the ideal or the shoulds and shouldn’ts and the practical, real-life messiness, right? And so we’re sort of trying to, yeah, I like that, expand the box and give people room to think about this issue. I think you’re so right that in this current world of blogs and podcasts and social media, we have this beautiful opportunity to learn more about other people and to empathize with other approaches to life and other struggles and that can be really great but it can also feel really scary to even talk sometimes because you’re like I don't even know what to say. So I think a lot of people sort of find themselves feeling like I’m just not gonna say anything because I’m so nervous about hurting someone’s feelings or triggering someone and i’ve had people say that directly to me and I’ve felt those same feelings myself - sort of nervous about how to be a sensitive person without feeling censored, you know?
Charlene: Yeah I like the way that you said that as well.
Paige: Okay, so Charlene and I, just for the listeners to know, we actually sat down and talked about this in depth a few weeks ago because we wanted to do this topic justice. So unlike most of my podcast interviews where I’m like I have no idea what my podcast guests are gonna say, [laughs] this time - I mean I’m sure you’ll say lots of new things I hadn’t heard the other day while we were out at lunch together- yeah I’m excited, I’ll guide you through some of those answers and thoughts last time we talked. The first place I want to start, Charlene, is talking about some of your general thoughts about triggers - you know, you said a few things here and there about what you think, but what do you see going on culturally in addition to what we’ve already said about triggers?
Charlene: I think this is across the board in that your listeners are gonna be able to relate to this. There’s a lot of conversation and it comes from a very good place, and a very supportive place of let’s be thoughtful of others and understand that when we talk about things, it can trigger an experience in someone else all the way from conversations about trigger warnings in schools, in colleges, to how we are talking to each other about body image and weight and so forth and food. On one hand, that’s a fantastic space that we’ve gotten to as a culture, and on the other hand, it brings up this conversation that we’re having right now. And so the awareness is there, the conversation is there, and now I think what we’re in the process of learning how to balance that, like you said earlier, how to be sensitive without being censored.
Paige: So what do you see as the issues of imbalance in that regard? So what you said sort of implies that maybe we’ve gone too far? Is that safe to say, or what do you think?
Charlene: Yeah, I don’t want to say we’ve gone too far because I don’t want to negate the fact of - I don’t want to negate the importance and the role of being sensitive and being thoughtful and understanding that we exist in a world where our actions affect others - I think that’s a really positive thing that our culture has opened it’s mind to. I also, so I talk a lot about the word “and” - it’s not that it’s gone too far, it’s not that it’s “either/or” but it’s important to understand that there’s another side to it - everything has two sides. And so the other side of it is if we spend all of our time being thoughtful of others, going back to what you said earlier, then we end up potentially, not always, but potentially censoring ourselves. And so, what I think is important is recognizing how we trigger others and how we exist in the world and how it affects others as well as being able to have our own voice and say what we’re thinking and what we’re feeling without feeling that we need to keep that quiet because we’re afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings and it’s a very delicate balance.
Paige: Okay, I love the concept of “yes, and” or “both, and” or however you say that and the particular sentence you’re talking about and I love that idea of “and” instead of “either/or” where it’s like you’re either this way or you’re that way. I love the idea of like, let’s do both and let’s learn to be more sensitive and let’s learn to be more sensitive about the way we speak and the way we behave around others, but let’s also learn how to not take everything so personally that we just cannot function in life because the truth is, like you were saying earlier, there’s this practical level where you have to exist in this world where the cold hard truth is not everyone’s trying to be sensitive or trying to do the work of empathizing and understanding where other people are coming from. So because we live in this world, we have to do our best to function without just feeling triggered at every corner.
Charlene: Right and I, kind of going to this idea of this is an eating disorder connected conversation, and that’s the work that I do, for me it’s all about making sure that both sides exist and that it’s not the concept of “either/or” and the black and white thinking aspect and how that puts us back into dysfunctional relationships with ourselves and with food and also to support people in being able to have their voice. For folks going through a process of changing, recovering, improving their relationship with food and themselves, often having their voice is an important part of that and if we’re being so sensitive to others that we’re not letting ourselves have our voice, then we’re getting in the way of that process as well.
Paige:Yeah, totally true. So Charlene, tell the listens about that story you told about being born - do you know which story I’m talking about?
Charlene: Oh my gosh, yes I do know the story you’re talking about. [laugh] Um, help meeeeee.
Paige: So just in context of this conversation, just the idea of like, we’re born purely, our authentic selves and just how being reactive, right - am I jogging your memory?
Charlene: Yes, you are. [laughs] So there’s, I talk a lot about this idea that you’re born into the universe. [makes baby crying sound]. Paige is here, she’s crying, she’s pooping, she’s eating, and she’s sleeping and she’s not really thinking anything else but I just need my needs met and I’m gonna ask for what I want and what I need . And then as we progress through life, we kind of get layered with life’s experiences and that light of who we were still kind of shining through into the world but it has to go through all these layers and then part of the therapy process for me is supporting people and deciding what layers are important in what layers they want to let go of so that their cheesiness so their life light can shine through. And in that process, we wanna engage in life in a way that brings us closer to that essence of who we are and so we look at our actions and our actions can move us away from that space or our actions can move us toward that space. And we’re constantly in this ebb and flow all the time, it’s part of life. And in kind of relation to our dialogue today, when we wanna be thoughtful and empathetic and compassionate towards other we’re gonna think about okay, what am I saying, what am I doing, am I gonna trigger them and so that might be in alignment with us so those actions might bring us back to us. As well we wanna be thoughtful that when we silence ourselves and when we don’t share our opinions, those are actions that move us away from ourselves because whenever we have actions that move us away from ourselves, there’s discontent in that space. And so I think a lot of the conversation that we’re having today, and my hope is that it can get heard this way, is that that concept of empathy and compassion and thoughtfulness for others isn’t being lost in the fact that you’re using your voice to share your opinions and your thoughts but it’s both - that you’re being thoughtful and you’re still staying kind and sensitive to others and you’re creating space for you to have your own voice and so both of those actions will bring you closer to your authentic self and it will feel in alignment to who you are.
Paige: I love that. That’s exactly how I wanted to sort of start the conversation because I think that sets the tone for this idea of we’re trying to just be as close to our authentic selves as possible and both of these things we’re talking about today about learning to be more sensitive but then also not censoring ourselves, you know, to that point that where we’re completely silenced and maybe sometimes we say oh, that’s not the right crowd for that or whatever but obviously there’s some censoring that’s probably appropriate and reasonable. So I think that’s a really great way to just kind of frame our conversation is this visual of you know, we were born our exact, perfect, authentic self and all through life we’re reacting and we’re learning and we’re struggling and we’re succeeding and all these different things are going on that some bring us closer to our authentic self, some bring us further away but this conversation just tries to give a little bit of a framework and just a jumping off point for maybe your own discussion for your own discussion and your own life about how to make sure that this current culture we exist in of increased awareness and increased sensitivity doesn’t - what am I trying to say? - just doesn’t take away from your ability to be that true, authentic self. But there’s always that balance.
Charlene: There is. There’s always that balance. And I think that in this particular conversation that we’re having right now and how it applies to food and body image and wanting to be sensitive to all those areas, it’s difficult because these are very personal areas. On one hand, what you’re gonna hear is okay, so people -there’s this balance between “don’t take things personally” in a sense but you’re gonna get all this information coming to you and it is personal and use your voice and speak out because that means that okay, I’m making this personal. And so how do you balance all of that because all of it is true. Does that make any sense?
Paige: Yeah, it’s so complex and I’ve had a lot of people tell me that once they start kind of really realizing how terrible the dieting mentality is and how destructive the dieting industry is in terms of like, preying on vulnerable people, and there’s commercials everywhere, and there’s your friends and family talking about it, and once you start to become sensitized to the fact that this is a problem, like on a cultural level. I can sometimes have people say I feel like I’ve seen the light, like there’s another way. And I don’t have to do this anymore. And some people have voiced that this feels so freeing and great and just wonderful and they want to sort of shout it on the rooftops and then you know, you go to your next family dinner and your family, at the dinner table, spends 45 minutes talking about what diet they’re on or how much weight they need to lose or something and you’re just like - I have people tell me just like ahhhhh, I’m so frustrated with everyone else in my life who just doesn’t get it and I feel so triggered when they talk about their diet plan and it kind of makes me want to do that. And so that’s really, honestly, just so that people understand my intentions here.
That’s sort of where I’m coming from like I feel like this podcast, hopefully for lots of you, has been a resource to help create more sensitivity and awareness around struggles with food and body image and throughout all these conversations I’ve had over the years, that’s sort of been the mission of the work that I’m doing is trying to help people see how how someone else might experience this or that comment, or how we can be a better community member, family member, etc. The work we’re trying to do today is that other side, is to balance that out like how can each of us as individuals do better to not, you know, like you said, take things personally that are super personal [laughs] I don’t know, that’s a huge challenge but we’re gonna try to do it so -
Charlene: And I talk about a concept of responsibility and kind of going back to that example that you gave about you’re at the dinner table and everyone is talking about these things and you’re getting super uncomfortable and you’re getting super triggered. So there’s 2 ways that you can look at this - well, there’s many, but I’m gonna talk about 2 ways. [laughs] One way is to ask your environment to change and the other is to do your own shifting and changing. And to ask your environment to shift and change looks a lot like please don’t talk about those things, making some boundaries of, you know, this is a diet-free conversation and we’re not gonna talk about diets, and that’s an expectation that you have and everyone knows that. That may or may not work for you because you may or may not have an environment that is willing to accommodate that for you. And then the other one is to understand that your environment is presenting the way that it’s gonna present and how do you take care of your own personal needs. And take responsibility for your own experience and so for a minute, and this is gonna sound super one way or the other, black and white, and then kind of talk about how it all flows together - there’s a process of okay, this is happening, now how do I take care of myself? How do I - in a sense, like I said earlier - take this thing that’s super personal for me and do what is in my best interest? And that might be saying something out loud, that might be using for voice and saying I’ve found that when I talk about food all the time it makes me think about food all the time and so it’d be so nice if we didn’t do this, like let’s try that. Or this is my experience, I’m recovering from an eating disorder, and this is what comes up from me, this is what I’ve learned about myself. So one way is to use your voice. Another way is to say I’m just done, I’m going home. I’m gonna create space with this. Don’t go to those functions. Another way is to - maybe you’re in a place where you can understand that this is their experience with food and you have you experience with food and start to trust and believe in your own experience internally so you’re doing a lot of internal work. There’s all these different ways that you can start taking responsibility for your process and being curious about okay so how do I handle this without getting really frustrated and angry at whatever’s going on out here? Because most of the time, people didn’t all get together and decide they were gonna gang up against you and present this really difficult experience for you. Most of the time, they’re just in their own head and their own space and they’re working through this stuff themselves and it just comes out this way now making things hard for you. Does that make sense?
Paige: Yeah, I was going to say that that’s one of my best coping mechanisms that I’ve developed. I mean you’ve probably as a therapist probably have this way, way more intensely than I do but there are times when, in my professional work, someone’s sitting across from me and expressing their utter distaste for their body or for a certain food or for something that triggered them and I have to sort of, in order for my to not personalize some of the things people say that potentially from an onlooker could look like woah, that’s potentially kind of offensive for Paige to be hearing her say that about her own body or whatever - do you see what I’m trying to say? Like there are some things people say that can be difficult to absorb as the person who’s listening. The way that I’ve developed this, and I want to hear your thoughts on this, Charlene, is I just, I realized one day that pretty much everything that comes out of someone’s mouth is not really thought out in terms of who am I talking to, what are their needs, especially in like a nutrition therapy or your type of therapeutic setting, like they’re not thinking what does my therapist struggle with or need, you know? You know they’re thinking, I’m unloading on this person and this is not about them, this is about me. I think that’s true in regular life like when you’re sitting around the table and everyone’s talking about what diet they’re on, they’re not thinking oh, Paige needs to be on this diet, so I’m gonna say this around her, they’re thinking I’m trying to navigate this really difficult thing in my life and because it’s on my mind I’m processing it constantly and so things that come out of my mouth are gonna be my own, sort of like a window into another person’s experience of what they’re thinking about and what they’re worrying about and what’s going on with them. And so it can come off offensive to you, like if you come home for a holiday and your mom says, wow you’ve gained weight. Yeah, that’s really hard to hear, but maybe it’s because your mom - that’s really on her mind and she’s really trying to process that in her own experience. So that’s what I’ve done for myself so if someone says wow, you’ve gained weight, or something, to me, I just say in my own head, I just kind of put that away as oh, that’s probably their own thing that they’re working through. That’s probably too long of a way of explaining that but anyway, what do you think?
Charlene: No, I agree with you, well I’m a therapist, so I agree with you 100% that everyone is going through their own experience and they are, you know, they’re reacting to their own experience and their own process and what happens for us is we are there in process with that reaction and so we’ll take that reaction on as it means something about us. I think what you’re talking about is a really great thing to remember, it’s a really great tool to understand to be present with other people and know that whatever’s coming at us from them is largely about them and their own process. And sometimes that’s a really hard for us to do because it brings up so much in us and so I think it’s important to, that’s why I talk about that idea of responsibility like, okay so now it’s on me to heal myself and take care of myself - it’s not on you to be quiet or to change your mind or to don’t do this or don’t do that - it’s on my to figure out how am I gonna be or sit with what just came up and so on one hand it might be, hey mom, that really hurts my feelings. So you get to use your voice, you don’t just have to sit there and go oh, I need to figure this out on my own, I don’t get to say anything you know Charlene said - you can use your voice, you can do what you’re talking about, reframe it because that might help us, you can remove yourself from the situation, you can do a lot of things and understanding that it gives permissions both ways. So we were talking about this space where we’re wanting to be empathetic, patient and kind for others and it’s really easy to do it when we’re thinking about oh, I don’t want to trigger you but it’s really hard to do when they’re triggered us. And to say okay, this is your - i’m not gonna react and expect you to shift and change because this is uncomfortable for me - I’m gonna have that same empathy and I’m gonna try to have that same empathy for you and understand that this is something you’re going through but I’m also gonna have my own boundary and I’m also gonna take responsibility for myself and ask for what I need - and again, that might be saying something to the individual or it might not be. It might, again it’s a very powerful space to say okay, I’ve been triggered, now what do I do with it? As opposed to I’ve been triggered, and you’re the one who did it and then again, that outside trigger is still the object of the power. What we’re talking about is being able to hear trigger and be able to create this space where you start being like okay, now I get to do something with this information.
Paige: Yes, yeah I love that Charlene, that’s so so important and I want to hit on the idea of boundaries a little bit because I think in context of talking about triggers, that’s really one of the - to me at least, untrained, and not a therapist of course - seems like that’s the really, the big deal to work through and to figure out. I know Brene Brown says a lot about boundaries and how it’s like the key to loving - to be able to love someone is when they understand what you’re boundaries then and then you’re not constantly annoyed with them right, and it leaves all this space for love and goodness. And so you gave the example of speaking up and using your voice and saying hey, I’ve noticed that when I talk about this all the time it leads to this, this, and this for me. What are some other examples of boundaries you can set, you know, you also said don’t go to some events if you just need to not show up. I can also think of an example of if you’re someone - or you’re noticing a really emotional or visceral reaction to someone you are following online, you know, just really recognizing that you can set the boundary and just not follow them anymore, you know? And not subject yourself to that. Are there any other boundaries that come to mind or any examples of that?
Charlene: Sure. I wanna say one thing about boundaries because I think it’s very important clarification. A lot of times people think boundaries are about asking others and setting boundaries outside of us and demanding that others be a certain way. But a boundary is not - a boundary is our own personal boundary. So there’s a difference. So what that would look like is, I’m sitting here with you, don’t talk about this anymore. That’s telling somebody else how to be, think, and do. And that’s not what a boundary is. A boundary isn’t about, again, telling someone else how to be, think, or do. A boundary is setting what you need for yourself. And so it would sound more like hey, when we’re around each other, I don’t/cannot listen to these things.
Paige: Not like you can’t talk about it, but I just can’t listen. And there is a difference there.
Charlene: There’s a huge difference there, right?
Paige: Yeah, thanks for saying that.
Charlene: Right, so I could say to you Paige you know, I’m working on this stuff for myself and I am not in a place where I can talk about weight because it’s really hard for me. And I can tell you more about that, I’m happy to talk to you about it, but I can’t talk about those things. And so just know that that’s where I’m at and if that’s something that’s important to you, then I can’t be in a relationship with you. It’s very different than saying, hey I’ve been working on some things and I can’t talk about weight so please don’t talk about it around me.
Paige: Charlene, that’s such an important distinction because if, I think it hits on the very thing we’re talking about here where we know that there are people around us who have struggles that maybe we don’t necessarily relate to and we’re trying to be sensitive but I think it puts the responsibility on the other person to just magically know what the other person can and cannot talk about. And then it gets so overwhelming, especially if you’re a sensitive person where you just end up feeling like ahhh, I can’t say anything, I don’t know what to say so I won’t say anything at all. And that’s not good - communication is really important in any type of healing relationship.
Charlene: Correct. What we’re asking of the other person we may not be able to do.
Charlene: And then we take it personally and feel like it’s a failure of them to be available to us.
Paige: Or that they don’t love us enough, right?
Charlene: Exactly, when it’s really got nothing to do with that and so again, we are responsible for our own journeys and our own experiences and so this puts us back into that space where we set our boundary and we ask for what we need and what we want and the people in our lives get to be available to that or not. And so setting boundaries, so the examples that you were talking about - I think it comes, I’m having a hard time coming up with a specific examples because I just go to this generalized place in my head, so it’s any time that something is triggering you, what do you need for yourself to create that sense of safety and that sense of your ability to stay available, right? To yourself and to whatever’s going on. And so maybe it’s a situation where in order to stay available to yourself - and I know some of this language might sound a bit ridiculous - but in order to stay available, connected to yourself you need to say, I can’t hang out with that person anymore because it’s too hard or I can’t hang out with this person in this particular environment or I’m gonna choose to not self disclose these things because whenever we end up in a conversation in this area, it’s too overwhelming for me so I’m just not gonna talk about that stuff around them anymore. Or I’m not gonna go to that event or put myself in that position because I’m choosing not to do that. Not because they don’t care about me or they’re doing something wrong, but because I’m allowing everybody else to have their experience without judging it and wishing them well in their own personal journey and choosing to take care of my own needs.
Paige: Yes, and this kind of goes back to the idea of what you’re talking about with the story of being born is the idea of reactivity and how each time we’re in a reactive mode -
Charlene: we move away from that place.
Paige: Yeah. So that connects to this idea of boundaries and also of just managing triggers in your own environment which will happen on a daily basis, right? Is just trying to maybe label or understand your experience and your experiences, am I reacting right now, or am I staying in my own sense of self and power and then maybe that can provide some clarity as to what to do next. Is that fair or do you wanna add to that?
Charlene: No, I think that that’s absolutely fair, and you know, I feel passionately about this because this conversation, and the fact that we’re even having this conversation, has taken a long time to have. And society in general has come a long way to where we can have these conversations, right? And that process has happened because people have been able to disagree with each other. People have been able to say hey, what you’re thinking and saying doesn’t make sense to me, this is what makes sense to me and I’m gonna start talking about it. And the minute that we’re in reaction mode, and we shut somebody else down, that dialogue doesn’t continue to happen. And I think it’s really important that as we move through this, we protect ourselves and take care of what we need to in regard to our own triggers, and we allow space for dialogues to happen and for people to say you know it’s really hard for me not to talk about my body and food and this is why because the minute we say please don’t do that, you’re triggering me. Because we don’t allow them any space to go through their own process. And so we need to protect ourselves and if it’s not a place that you can be in, then take care of yourself but don’t shut everybody else down because they need to have their dialogue too because it’s a hard one for us and we disagree with it. So it’s a concept of allowing everyone to have their voice while protecting ourselves in whatever way we need.
Paige: That is so important in today’s world [laughs] to get that message out. And I can understand why you feel passionate about that and I agree. And the way I see it, and I’d be interested to hear what your thoughts are on this too, is the way I see it, we often get so passionate about our beliefs and our views and our approach to life - whether that’s you know, in this context, that’s very much a lot of people feel about their own process and journey with their food, with their body image, whether it’s one end of the spectrum or another there’s a lot of very strong beliefs that are so central and personal and core to who we are that if someone disagrees or puts out another view out there, I think the reason we get so unwilling to engage in the dialogue is because these beliefs, we don’t really separate our beliefs and views from who we are as a person. So when someone is disagreeing with us, it’s almost like they’re rejecting us as people whereas I think, in order to be able to engage in a dialogue, to me it seems like you really have to do some mental work of separating something you feel super strongly about and passionately about from who you are and recognize that if someone disagrees with that view, that doesn’t mean they don’t love you as a person and you guys can still get along and disagree and I think there’s a lot of that missing right now.
Charlene: Yeah, I agree a lot with what you said and in this particular conversation, understanding that this has a lot to do with food and body image and dieting and all of that, I think a lot of times we end up in our views because they have personally worked for us, right? They’ve personally - they are very personal to us, they’ve set us on a path that we feel very strongly about, so someone might come to a place where they believe very strongly in letting go of the diet culture because that’s been a very freeing and important experience for them. And so when someone talks about the diet culture or anything like that and the other individual gets triggered, it’s not just triggering in this kind of logical, cognitive, academic idea, it’s them. It’s this thing that worked for me, it’s very personal. And those are two very different conversations.
Paige: Yes, that’s so true. It’s so hard to do and I think sometimes, I’m sure I’m guilty of it too is you try to, stand for something and speak passionately about a really exciting approach to life that’s freeing, yeah like you said, on your own personal level for yourself and for so many people you work with and help and I think it’s our responsibility to stay open and willing to engage in a dialogue and to not shut each other down because we need that. We need everybody to be able to feel free to ask questions and to discuss and to speak their own truth, you know?
Charlene: Yup, and like we’ve said over and over, that’s how we learn from each other.
Paige: Yeah and that’s, otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir. Then the only people listening are the people who agree with you.
Charlene: Correct, and then, inadvertently, which is never anybody’s intention is you shut someone else up. And most of the time, when we’re so adamant of our voice, we could look back to a time that we weren’t allowed to have that voice and so it’s a very/intricate balance to how we let someone have their voice even though it’s hard to hear it and it is triggering and that’s why I talk a lot about that concept of coming back to being responsible for our own experience because then it does allow space for that other person to have their voice and for us to build and grow from each other. And that’s not saying, you know, that you allow someone to mistreat you or to put yourself in a space where you’ll be taken advantage of - I’m not saying that at all. This is just a concept of allowing, again, you’re gonna have your boundaries, and you’re gonna take responsibility for yourself and you’re also gonna allow others to share their thoughts and you move from there.
Paige: Yeah, and I think and I hope that nobody is taking anything that we’re saying the wrong way here. I think it’s important to say that everyone deserves to feel safe, everyone deserves to have spaces, whether that’s online or in real life or in communities, or friends, or family or whatever group - we all deserve to have spaces where we feel safe and that is so important and we’re never trying to disregard anyone’s experience of feeling unsafe or triggered in various environments and that’s definitely a real thing and a real issue and I think it’s important. Like we’ve already said, that we’re increasing our awareness. Yeah, so those spaces are really important and can really, especially at different points in the healing process, can be really necessary to be like, okay, I know that I can go to this space and not have to worry about doing this internal work of not personalizing and just constantly having your mind going a mile a minute about not feeling triggered. That can be really, really, important but to move into this space where you take that responsibility and where you’re able to live in a life where there’s things at every corner that could potentially be triggering and still be functional. Yeah. So do you see it as like phases where some periods of time you just need a break from the diet culture and talking about weight loss and you just can’t handle it in this particular time frame and maybe through time you can develop more skills with boundary setting for your own self and also not personalizing but maybe that’s not possible for everyone right in the beginning. I don’t know, I’m just kind of thinking out loud here.
Charlene: Yeah, no, absolutely it’s in phases and that’s the beauty of - because it’s not a black and white experience, right? And it can be phases from in general to you woke up in a different headspace [laughs] or you had a weird dream and now you’re super sensitive to different things in the day. Stopping and looking at it through, okay, what’s being brought up in me and how do I take care of me - that allows you to recognize that there are all kinds of phases and you deal with it with whatever you need in that moment. Does that make sense.
Paige: Yeah, definitely. Okay, so what else do you wanna say here? I feel like I might not have asked the questions in the order that makes the most sense here, so I’m hoping our conversation flows.
Charlene: [laughs] Yeah, I know I was thinking about that too, um well I think that there’s so much to say about this and after we had talked and had our lunch, it was amazing to me in my office how many times this idea was brought up. And I guess what I want to say is it flows in both directions all the time. I know I have clients in my office who are in the process of recovering from eating disorders and they are wondering how they’ve got friends who they’re concerned that if I say anything, then it’s gonna trigger them so I don’t wanna do this but I wanna hang out with them but I also wanna start hanging out with these people but I don’t know how to do it - and everyone is worried about this. It’s not something that is an anomaly, I think this is something that’s on everyone’s mind and if we get too sensitive on both ends, everyone gets quiet. Because nobody - everyone is frozen, like you were saying I don’t want to say anything, I don’t want to do anything, I don’t want to be around anything, I’m scared I’m gonna get triggered, I’m scared I’m gonna trigger someone else and I think at the end of all of this, just to sum it all up, what we’re advocating for is starting to talk - have a dialogue, use your voice, and be sensitive. Because the tendency is to get in these corners and we all get really quiet and then we get stagnant and this is not a conversation that needs to be stagnant - it’s a conversation that needs to be had so we can all have that freedom and grow. We’re not gonna be able to do it if we’re so afraid of being too sensitive or we’re afraid and we don’t wanna say anything.
Paige: I relate to that on such a personal level and I might share because I want my podcast listeners to know. I’ve been doing this for more than a year and a half now, and I don’t think you can do this work of having these conversations, talking to these amazing people giving me their time and talking to me - I don’t think I can do this without changing and without learning and becoming a little bit better each time in terms of my own ability to express myself in a sensitive way. I’ve learned, I’ve grown, I’ve changed, but I’ve also gotten lots and lots of people who kind of have made it clear that I’m not doing things the “right way”, whatever that means. And so I’ve toyed around with the idea of being silent, you know? Because this podcast isn’t necessarily something that’s like in my blood, like I don’t really like being public. If I had it my way, I would kind of like go to work and then come home, maybe watch TV, read a book and then go to bed. I wouldn’t write and put myself out there and I wouldn’t podcast and put myself out there but I do it because I literally - I don’t know how to explain it - I feel called on like a spiritual level to do this work and I think it’s important but I also know that I’m imperfect, I know that I say things the wrong way sometimes, I say things that might hurt someone sometimes and for that I’m really sorry if anyone’s felt that way. But I’ve also- just because I don’t really love the feeling of maybe hurting someone - I toy around with the idea of being like you know what? I’m just gonna stop doing that because It’s too hard, I don’t want to. And that also sort of scares me because it’s kind of like I don’t want to be so afraid to say the “wrong thing” that I stop trying to be part of the solution and I really feel like this podcast is my own little labor of love that I’m doing for thousands of people who listen just because I really care about trying to show people a different way and trying to shed light on making peace with all of these areas of life that we’re told to hate about ourselves. And so talking about this is very, very personal to me because I am a sensitive person. The more conversations I have, the more sensitive I get about the way that I talk and I kind of almost feel like I don’t wanna talk anymore, you know? So, anyway, I just thought I’d say that because this just really, really resonates with me on a personal level. Something I’ve kind of been wrestling with on my own time as well.
Charlene: yeah, well I hope you don’t go silent. [laughs]
Paige: I will someday, but maybe not now.
Charlene: Well and that’s, again, to just reiterate, that’s what this is all about and you said it perfectly in the very beginning - how do we stay sensitive without censoring ourselves? And if we can really honor both sides of that balance, then the magic that can happen in that place is really great. I think we’re all benefiting from those moments now by being able to have these dialogues and I look forward to continuing seeing where this all goes.
Paige: Yeah, you know what, this is all connecting so much for me Charlene because that is this podcast, this is intended to be a dialogue and I don’t have every single guest that comes on completely, 100% exactly agreeing with every single thing I say or they don’t agree with everything I say and I’ve said this before on the podcast but I just wanna say this is just like, that’s the point of this - it is to try to create a dialogue and a bridge from one way of doing things to another way of doing things and sometimes a listener doesn’t figure out what they really believe or what really works for them until they hear, maybe the opposite point of view spoken out loud and that just doesn't resonate and they’re like okay, that’s not how I wanna do things. So the purpose of this podcast is not like an echo chamber of oh, I’m gonna have 100 guests on that all say the exact same things I say - that’s boring as heck, right? I want to engage in a dialogue and some guests really see things similarly to how I do and some don’t and I’ve been criticized quite a bit for people not liking certain people I’ve had on and I just don’t really think that that’s the point of what I’m trying to do - this is not an echo chamber. This is trying to do what you’re talking about where we’re trying to set aside our beliefs and just discuss and dialogue about how we do things differently and what works for us and then find our truth and our own authenticity in the process and that’s me included, right? So. Thanks for giving me some time to talk about this, I just kind of wanted to express that on the podcast but haven’t had a chance so this seemed relevant in the context of what we’re talking about here.
Charlene: Well I’m glad to hear your thoughts and I’m glad you’re sharing them, right?
Paige: Well thank you, [laughs]. That’s a perfect therapist answer.
Charlene: [laughs] Well I think it goes along with what we’re saying.
Paige: Well it does. Okay, so if I were to sum this conversation up, Charlene, I think it’s that this is an effort to, yeah like you said in the beginning, increase the space of where we’re allowed to be ourselves and recognizing when we’re reacting rather than staying in our own power and navigate our own life and not constantly in this heightened sense of anxiety and feeling triggered and so hopefully we’ve given people the tools to do that. Anything else you’d like to add to the idea of summarizing?
Charlene: No, I think that you said it well.
Paige: Okay, well Charlene thank you so much for spending time with me the other day at lunch and then today to record the episode, I really appreciate it and I just love what you said and just thanks for coming on.
[podcast soundtrack plays]
Charlene: It’s a pleasure.
Paige: Well, I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation. If you haven’t already, please go ahead and leave a review on iTunes. Thanks again so much for listening and we’ll see you soon for another episode.