Susie Castellanos Hansley is a first-generation Mexican American who was raised by her grandmother from the age of two after her mother died, along with her siblings and cousins. Susie found school was a refuge and something she was good at. She followed the school path straight through a Ph.D. and postdoctoral studies only to find that teaching didn’t suit her, which led to years of trying to find the right professional fit. She equated her value as a person with her ability to earn an income, so these years of wandering left her in a deep depression. It wasn’t until her late 40s that she realized that her childhood trauma was affecting her personally and professionally.

Guest Bio 

Susie Castellanos Hansley, Ph.D. is a speaker, workshop leader, and Master Certified Life Coach who helps high achievers reduce stress and achieve more success. She does this through one-on-one coaching as well as through speaking and workshop engagements for businesses, organizations, universities, and other groups.

As a high achiever herself – she’s a first-generation Mexican American, first in her family to go to college, earned an Ivy League Ph.D., and was a tenure-track professor – Susie had the drive, curiosity, and intelligence to be successful. But her anxiety, unresolved trauma, and imposter syndrome caused her to push herself too hard – and she burned out.

This experience led her on a quest: to help herself and other high achievers NEVER be undermined by stress again. When Susie learned about recent developments in NEUROSCIENCE and nervous system regulation, she had a EUREKA moment: “My stress, overwhelm, and imposter syndrome aren’t signs something is ‘wrong’ with me – I just hadn’t learned HOW to work WITH my nervous system!”

Now that Susie knows how to REGULATE her nervous system and DE-STRESS, she helps other high achievers do the same – so they can achieve their goals while feeling GREAT doing it.

Susie’s clients go from anxious and stressed to confident, certain, and calm – which allows them to stop wasting emotional energy and become more productive, accomplished, and fulfilled in their work, relationships, and lives. 

Turning 40 and Healing First Generation Wounds

In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, host Stephanie McLaughlin talks to Susie Castellanos Hansley, a first-generation Mexican American who was raised by her grandmother from the age of two, along with her siblings and cousins, after her mother died. Susie didn’t understand how her childhood trauma was affecting her personally and professionally until the Covid lockdown. She was using the Clubhouse app to connect with other people and entered a room on anxiety that blew her mind. She asked, “Is it possible for you to have anxiety and not know you have anxiety?” She found out it was. That led her to uncover the trauma of growing up in poverty with an abuela who had her own unhealed traumas. Susie shares her journey of navigating various career paths, dealing with trauma and anxiety, and finding her passion in coaching. She discusses the importance of understanding the nervous system and how trauma can impact our lives. Susie also emphasizes the power of having a compassionate witness and finding your “pack” of supportive individuals. 

Highlights from the episode:

  • Susie’s journey of academic achievement and trying many different careers, plus her feelings of failure that led to a 15-year midlife slump.
  • Confusing her value as a person with her ability to make money. 
  • The realization that she had trauma and anxiety and the importance of finding a compassionate witness.
  • Discovering the power of the nervous system in healing trauma and understanding triggers.
  • The role of shame in suppressing emotions and the importance of un-shaming ourselves.
  • Finding your “pack” of supportive individuals who can be compassionate witnesses.

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend, or consider rating the Forty Drinks Podcast.

Guest Resources

Find Susie on Facebook 

Find Susie on Instagram

Find Susie on LinkedIn 

Susie’s Gift to Forty Drinks Listeners: Which High Achiever Archetype Are You? (Personality Quiz)

The Stress Less Coach

Topics Mentioned in our Conversation

Forty Drinks episode with Mitch Webb, or Episode 73 on the podcast platforms

Information on the Human Givens School

What are Human Givens?

Human Givens therapy approach

Susie’s former trauma therapist – Colleen Sodano

Irene Lyon – nervous system healing

Irene Lyon – resources

Do you have the Midlife Ick? 

Download Stephanie’s guide to the Ick to diagnose whether you or someone you love is suffering from this insidious midlife malaise.  

Listen, Rate & Subscribe

Apple Podcasts 


Amazon Podcasts

Google Podcasts


The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications


Stephanie: Hi, Susie. Thanks for joining me.

Susie: Hello, Stephanie. Hello, world.

Stephanie: I'm so happy to have you here. You came to me through our now mutual dear friend, Mitch, who connected us, who, I love he just sort of turned into my little brother from another mother, like we had no idea. And then he connected me to you and now you and I have been in touch for a couple of months now.

So I could even say that we're friends.

Susie: I would say we're friends now. I love you.


Stephanie: I love you too. In fact, I would say we're more than friends because as I said, at the end of my, my episode with Mitch, I said, you know, now he sort of connected me to this program, which I'm sure you and I will talk about and that we created a Marco Polo study group and I said, it was him and one of his friends and me and one of my friends and, and, and it, and you're the, the friend.

So I feel like we're sharing all kinds of stuff in that group that like, we're like, great friends now.

Susie: I agree. And I'm so excited the way these things work

Stephanie: I know.

Susie: You just reach out and then you start meeting people and then the right people fall into your world and everybody shows up when they're supposed

Stephanie: I could keep going down that path for, for a while, but let's jump into what we said we'd talk about today, which is midlife transition. And why don't we start by setting up the story with what brought you to midlife, what forces created the Susie that showed up in her mid thirties.

Susie: For me, the biggest thing that impacted my life was that I'm a first generation Mexican American and I came from poverty. I was raised by my maternal grandmother who had a third grade education and she had a lot of trauma and she had a lot of emotional dysregulation, could be a little abusive.

She loved me. And, she did not know how to raise me well, and she had a lot of different things that impacted that my mom died before I turned two, there's, there's a lot of like family history that now that I understand more and understand why I was the way I was, but, um. You know, I, may I say what I, what the story of like my mom

Stephanie: Please. Yeah, absolutely.

Susie: Yeah. I just, you know, it's a trigger warning. Um, so my mom and my grandmother, they moved to San Diego from Mexico at a certain point. And, my mother was married, had an older brother, I had an older sister and an older brother from, from that person. And then they divorced. My mom had had an illness when she was a child called rheumatic fever back in Mexico and it messed up her heart.

So she always had a weak heart. So she was a woman living alone with her two kids under five. My grandmother lived across the street. She didn't speak any English and she was raising my two cousins. So our landlord started, um, sexually abusing my mom. So he raped her multiple times.

Apparently I found this out through different stories. And so she got pregnant with me and. When she went to the doctor because, uh, as being on the border, she would, they would go to Mexico, you know, because at this point, abortion was illegal in the US, but not in Mexico. They told her she should have an abortion because the baby was going to kill her because she had the weak heart.

And my mom said, you know, it's not the baby's fault. She's innocent. I choose to have her, right. So she did have me, but then she had a stroke when I was born and then she had another stroke. Uh, about a month before my second birthday that killed her. So then my grandmother raised my two older cousins, my sister, my brother, and myself. And so that was really stressful.

Stephanie: Wow.

Susie: But it's the kind of thing It's only been in retrospect and we'll get to that later in the story when we get to kind of the, the transition out of, out of the, the ickies,

Stephanie: Right, right. Yeah.

Susie: Midlife ickies into yeah, there's a happy story. um, What I did realize is that, you know, I didn't really understand what trauma is really till about two and a half years ago.

But now I understand that. So, there was trauma that my grandmother had experienced in Mexico. My mother had experienced. Then there was the trauma of the rape, you know, the, and the trauma of, of being in a foreign country and not speaking the language and not having anybody to help.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Susie: Um, and what we now know is that from the time you're in the womb, you know, if your mother is feeling a lot of stress and secreting a lot of cortisol, that's going to impact the fetus.

And so the, you know, push comes to shove, I was pretty much born anxious

Stephanie: Wow.

Susie: Without knowing it, you know, and again, when we get to later, I'll learn, I'll be able to be like, what? I have anxiety. How do I not know this? Because it's been the water you're swimming in your whole life.

Stephanie: Right. Right. It's your soup.

Susie: It's the soup!

Stephanie: How do you, how do you separate the potato from the soup? It's just in the soup. Um, that was actually, that was the Irish of me. What, what would a Mexican be? It would be, how do you, how do you separate the tomato from the soup?


Susie: or the frijoles

Stephanie: The beans. Yeah

Susie: how do you separate the corn from the tortilla?

Stephanie: Right, exactly. That's it. There we go. That's our that's our statement. So tell me about childhood you were growing up in your grandmother's home, one of five kids

Susie: Yes. And then eventually like, right, like my cousins grew up and got married and stuff. I think like my oldest cousin, she got married at 18, so I think I, I, so I think she, that was maybe when I was three, she left. And then when I was about seven, the other cousin left like

Stephanie: Mm

Susie: But, uh, it was, I mean, there was a lot of love, but I was, there was also a lot of fear and terror in my body, like all the time.

And it's because my grandmother was very stressed out and you just didn't know how she was going to react to anything. Like you could, I remember reading about adult children of alcoholics and how they are people who are always wary, like unconsciously worried about like, Oh, I'm going to do the wrong thing because you don't have any kind of steady rules.

Like one day you're doing X and nothing, it's not a problem. And the next day you're doing X and it becomes a blowout. Well, that's what it was like with my grandmother. Um, and then for those of you who maybe are Latino listeners or know Latinos or Mexicans, it's like la chancla, the shoe. It's always the thing about, um, it's, it's funny, but it's actually like abuse.

You know, it's The

Stephanie: shoe, tell me about the shoe

Susie: Oh, you don't know about the shoe.

Stephanie: no,

Susie: You don't know about la chancla. Oh, okay. Let me tell you. So it's kind of one of those things where, uh, you know, your parent, the mother or the grandmother or the tia, anybody like they take the shoe off and they hit you with it.

Stephanie: okay

Susie: So that's like how you hit your kids is like, and then there's all these jokes.

Like, I'll, I'll send you like, uh, like memes and stuff. Like, it's a joke of like, I throw the shoe at you across the street and it hits you over the head. And did you ever see actually in, um, what's the, the Disney movie, uh, Coco.

The shoe paid a, oh, okay. Well, the shoe plays a role in that. The grandmother has a shoe.

Stephanie: Oh, okay. All right.

Susie: So it's funny because it's like, it's this cute little like, Oh, it's so great. But it's like, it's not, it's like abusive and you're a little kid and you're terrified that you're going to get hit.

Stephanie: Right. Oh, God. by the time our story picks up in midlife, you are on a tenure track job as a college professor. So, you,

Susie: What happened?

Stephanie: Well, you're telling me that you, you had a very, um, Uh, volatile childhood, a very stressful childhood. And yet when we, when, when you and I meet at midlife, you're very successful.

So what was, how did you go through school? How did you, how did you sort of make your way through, through, you know, from, from five, six, seven to like 30, 32?

Susie: Yeah, to Ivy League Phd, cause that's always the thing that cracks me. Yeah. Yeah. I went to Brown.

Stephanie: Okay. Mm

Susie: Well, so. What it was is that it wasn't until I went to school and I started school at age four, going to pre kindergarten that I started to get any kind of approbation. People said I was smart

Stephanie: Okay.

Susie: At school. So I loved it. So I was the smart kid. I, I learned as much as I could, you know, that was the one area in my life where I felt that I was regarded well.

Stephanie: Okay.

Susie: Because at home I never was, you know, I was always a problem. I was the crybaby. I was whatever, like all the different things. My brother would beat me up and my grandmother would defend him and said it was my fault.

I mean, just like all sorts of stuff, right? And and so I was good at school. So that was the thing I did. I was good at school. Um, you know, I did well in high school. I went to Scripps College. Claremont College is in California. And, and when I got out of there, it, I, um, I thought, Oh, I want to be a lawyer. So I get a job as a law clerk right out of college. And I got fired after six weeks,

Stephanie: Not a fit.

Susie: Not a fit, but it was like, that was the precursor to feeling like super anxious and not fitting in, like being really smart, but feeling like I need a little bit more mentorship. And the thing is in law, you have to just jump in and hit the ground running. And it was so stressful. So I got fired.

And then for that year, like between a undergrad and grad, I was just trying to figure out what to do. And I think that was what happened is that, well, what's the one thing that I ever really loved? Like I quickly was like, well, I loved school. I loved being an English major. That's what I was. And then I was like, Oh, I love, I would love to be a professor.

Then I could teach people about language and how to think critically and how to write better and all that stuff. So then I applied to grad school. I got into Brown and then I got my Ph. D. there, with a lot of struggle because, just because, there's not a lot of people who came from poverty and are first gen there.

Stephanie: Sure. Right.

Susie: Even though it's, Brown was the nice Ivy League.

You know, I don't know, it's not like I went to Harvard where everybody's like more cutthroat.

Stephanie: Right. Right. But still, they're hallowed halls.

Susie: They are, and I just didn't know. I used to get so stressed out, and angry that I couldn't communicate, that I would start to cry and things in class. And I made it through. I did finish in eight years and I'm really proud. Um, I finished faster than some people and I finished slower than others, but I did finish. The, the big impetus for me to finish was they're going to take away my funding. So I'm just being honest, like when you're very stressed out and you're feeling like, I don't know if I'm going to be able to survive because like my whole upbringing was we have no safety net. When you turn 18, you will no longer have medical insurance.

You will no longer have Aid for Families for Dependent Children. You need to go make your own thing. So that was always a big thing. Like, I have to go be successful. So I did all the things to be successful. Like I got my PhD. I got a postdoc at Duke and I got a tenure track job at Bowling Green State in Ohio. And I quit after a year and a half. Like I just, I couldn't do it.

Stephanie: So you were, by the time you made it to Ohio, you're about 35. And

Susie: Yeah, that's right. I was, I finished my PhD in 2000. So I was 32 going on 33. And then I was a couple of years in Duke,

Stephanie: mm hmm.

Susie: and then I went to Ohio at, I think I'm doing the math wrong, but I know I, I know my, my husband and I got married at 35 and I think I quit when I was 34.

Stephanie: Okay. All right.

Susie: So I was there like, yeah, from about 32 and a half to 34. In Ohio,

Stephanie: And, um, speaking about fit, how, how did college professorship fit for you?

Susie: It was very interesting because I didn't realize how spoiled I was because when I went to undergrad, it was a nice, beautiful women's private college. I had a full ride.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Susie: And then I went to Brown. It's a nice research one. People understand and love English, and appreciate it, and understand the value of it.

Duke, people understand the value of writing and thinking critically and reading critically. And then I went to Bowling Green State and the English department was a service department for the teaching school.. And it was just really, really hard to feel like, like, basically what I was used to teaching was not what they wanted.

Stephanie: Oh. What did they want?

Susie: They just needed to teach people enough about books that they could then get their teaching degree.

Stephanie: Oh. Okay.

Susie: weren't going to be people that were going to go on and, study it deeply like a research one.

Stephanie: Okay.

Susie: And there's nothing wrong with that. It was just a bad fit and I didn't realize that till afterward that, oh, I had been living in a rarefied atmosphere

Stephanie: Right.

Susie: and it turns out that not everybody's interested in the things I'm interested in and I needed to teach to them.

And I didn't figure that out until after.

Stephanie: Oh, interesting. Right. They needed the functional English, and you wanted the beautiful English.

Susie: Well, I just wanted the analytical English. Like, could you look, you know, read, read the text and analyze what's happening. Not here. Here's the plot of this book.

Stephanie: Yeah.


Susie: And here's the theme.. And now I can teach this theme to my, you know, fifth graders.

Stephanie: It's so funny that you say about the fit because, um, we'll go back a little bit in your story and in mine. I also spent a little bit of time at a law firm, um, here in New Hampshire. I was the director of client development for a multi state law firm, and when I, when I was recruited to the job, I thought, Oh, this is perfect.

Like the job description was perfect. And they came looking for me and, and it was just, I thought I'm going to be here for 20 years. I'm going to like start a family here. This, this is it. And probably within a year of, uh, of me starting the management team turned over and there were new sort of managing partners, management committee, and the folks who came in did not have the same. Um, We were not aligned in our understanding of my position there. Um, you know, I thought I was a, uh, professional person with, you know, credibility and sort of understanding of my service area. They, they kind of this new set of management just wanted a monkey to do, you know, the things, the point and shoot things that they said that they thought they wanted.

Not, they didn't want my sort of critical thinking. So, and, and I did not see any of that. I did not pick up on any of that. I just started making mistakes and losing confidence and getting in trouble and losing confidence and making more mistakes. Right. The, the circular, you know, circling the drain kind of downward spiral until one day the, the managing partner came in with the HR director, which if I had been smarter, I would have understood what was happening, but literally they came in and shut the door and I said, hi guys, what's going on today?

Thought we were going to talk about, um,

Susie: though? Yeah.

Stephanie: was I? I was probably 35. Um, 35, maybe 36, uh, something like that. Yeah. Um, you know, I thought we were going to talk about a project or something. And, uh, and I, and I was so gobsmacked when they, when they terminated me that I, that I actually laughed. I, I literally went, are you kidding?

Like, uh, but, but when, after that, I, I worked with a career coach for, uh, maybe six, six or eight months. And. What she taught me, one of the things she taught me was that your success at a job is only 50 percent the job description, and the other 50 percent is actually the fit. And for me, the law firm was not a fit.

It was a hierarchical, class based, male dominated situation, and I just, I was too much of a wild pony to fit in, and sit in the spot they wanted me to sit in. So it just, it turns out it was, it was not their fault. It was not my fault. It was just a bad fit. And, uh, and I wasn't able to see that from forward.

It's like you said, it's only in hindsight. Can you kind of put all that together?

Susie: Yes. And, you know, I hope for anybody listening to recognize that if this is happening to you, it's so normal because we, you know, cause kind of like in our first adulthood, like you talk about, we are so following the things that we think we know, and we're just trying to fit in and it's like, okay, I'm doing the thing.

So, okay. I'm doing all the things to get in. Okay. This looks great. If we don't know, we just don't know. We don't know things like fit. Like, I was fine in Research one places as a teacher. I was not fine in that. Now on the flip side, the other part of academia is publish or perish, if you want to get tenure.

And that was actually the biggest reason I quit. It wasn't even the teaching. It's that I realized, like, I don't want to write.

Stephanie: Mm. Mm

Susie: You know, there was a reason I didn't want to write my dissertation and I finally did. And I think it's this that it used to piss me off that I'm being asked to write something that's arguing with maybe 10 people in my field that maybe 10 other people will ever read. And it really bugged me. Like I thought I wanted to have a bigger impact and, and It bugged me. And then I wasn't doing a good job teaching there.

I knew that I wasn't going to publish, so it just, and then we decided to get married, my husband and I, so I quit, came back. So, so there goes the end of stage one of my, that's the thing that brought us up to my midlife.

Stephanie: Right. Right. And it's, it's yeah, I can see the whole thing about publishing too, because as you, even as you just tell the couple of the sentences you just used, I also feel like it's, um, do it because some dude said you had to.

Susie: Yes, another hoop.

Stephanie: uh, Yeah, and I don't know about you, but those kinds of things just, they do, they, they, they rubbed me the wrong way.

I'm too, one of the things I learned with that career coach is that one of the things that's important to me in a professional setting is autonomy. So that's why owning my own business is so such a great fit for me because. I don't have to play by anybody else's stupid rules.

I don't have to, you know, do face time for the sake of face time and get there early and be there late. Cause if not the boss is gonna, think worse of you or you're not going to get the plum assignment or something. So, um, but again, these are things we don't learn until we get to, you know, one of the crossroads.

Susie: Right. You bump into that bumper that you didn't know was there, that, that barrier. And you're like, what the F just happened. And at least for me, and I think maybe for a lot of people, maybe for you, it's, you think it's your own fault. Like I thought it was me. I fucking failed.

Stephanie: Oh God.

Susie: I'm the failure. I screwed up and there's so much shame.

And, you know, I know we were going to talk about like, what, what's the midlife slump. Mine was like 15 years long and some of it was because so much trauma that I had and I did not know it was just really triggering. I was probably depressed for 15 years. I didn't know.

Stephanie: Right. Right. Um, yeah, I, I felt the same way about the law firm job. Cause especially after I was, you know, making mistakes and getting in trouble and losing confidence and then making mistakes and like mistakes on stupid things, and it was like, you know, how could I have failed? Like I should have been able to do, you know, so

Susie: all the shoulds I should have been able to do this.

Stephanie: Yeah, yeah. And, and I remember during that period in time talking to, I forget if it was a massage therapist or my chiropractor, but saying, you know, Oh, every night when I go to bed, I, I have like creepy crawlies, like running up and down my legs and I just want to like shake my legs and like my heart flutters.

I'm like, what is that? And she's like, Stephanie, that's a panic attack. You are having panic attacks every night when you go to bed. Like, do you think something should change? Yeah. Nah, I'm good. I just have to try harder.

Susie: We all, yeah, it's like, because that's what we've been taught in our culture. It's, it's like, just work harder. You know, it's like that, you know, you, you've seen that, that poster. It's like the beatings will continue until morale improves.

Stephanie: Yes. Yes. A hundred percent. Oh my goodness. So, so you reached burnout and, uh, and, and, and bad fit and all the rest of it at like 35, you got married. So there was one wonderful thing in your life that you could lean on and was a nice foundation for you from there. You had a bit of a wandering path professionally, right?


Susie: I did. I did. And it was one of those things that I, if you recall, you know, when, when I had the law firm thing happen where I got fired.

Stephanie: hmm. Mm hmm.

Susie: That was one of those things like, now what am I going to do? I need to support myself. What am I good at? What, what, and it's one of those things that, you know, now we talk about entrepreneurship, but that would have never occurred to me.

I didn't grow up in that kind of mindset. You're supposed to work and then get paid an hourly wage and whatever. Right. So I just kept trying to find, well, what's something I'm good at that I like that someone will pay me. So then that's when I decided like, Hey, I'm really good at school. And then that didn't work. And then having that not work really sucked because I didn't, I think my whole thought about myself is that I'm really, I have a, I have a high IQ, but I had low EQ.

Stephanie: Mm.

Susie: I used to shame myself for it that it's like, Oh, I wish I had street smarts. Like, why am I so sensitive? Why do I get upset when this happens or that happens? Like, why can't I just roll with things and not be all anxious and panicky? And again, now we know why, because nervous system dysregulation and trauma, but. But at the time, the only answer that I had was cause you're fucked up. Am I allowed to curse?

Stephanie: Yeah, you can curse. Go ahead.

Susie: I should've asked beforehand,

Stephanie: No, no, no, no. Some of this stuff, some of this material requires cursing. It requires the emphasis that cursing will bring. So yes, I'm all for well used cursing.

Susie: I don't think you can talk about trauma without using the F word.

Stephanie: I agree.

Susie: That's all I have to say.

Stephanie: I agree. Putting

Susie: yeah. So when I, when I quit, I came back, got married and trying to find my way through things. Initially, I just was like, I don't know what to do. What's going to pay me. And I will say that that's probably one of the biggest driving things that only until this year, I didn't realize was such a big deal to my own sense of self worth was the idea of like, can I make money? Can I make enough money? Because I was so instilled that we were poor and that you had to be able to save yourself. And it's also part of like our society. Right.

So pretty much everyone has that unconscious connection between my value is my ability to make enough money, right? Even if people don't admit it, it is.

And so there was that. And I kind of just basically was in a freeze. I was depressed. And Bill was finally like, honey, I love you and you need to go out and get something. I don't care if it's just something small. I mean, go work at McDonald's. I don't care. Just go do something. So then for a couple of years, I was splitting time, as a teacher assistant for Durham Academy, which is where my stepdaughter was going to school. And I was working at the Target Portrait Studio for minimum wage.

Stephanie: Putting that PhD to good work, huh?

Susie: Oh, yeah. Well, yeah, exactly. Right.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Susie: So I did that for a while. And then I thought, well, you know, maybe I can be an English teacher in K through 12. Cause then I don't have to be tenure track. And then that's when I ran into the same thing of like people not wanting to be there and worse because I decided I wanted to do ESL.

I see, I've always been called to this whole like, Oh, I want to help my people. I want to help Latinos. I want to help people who are immigrants. So then I got my, uh, K through 12 ESL degree. I got a job in Durham public schools and it was terrible fit. Terrible fit. Because once again, like I was so stressed out and I didn't know how to help the kids because I didn't realize how messed up they were like in retrospect, they had a lot of trauma.

So a lot of these kids were coming, especially the ones coming from Latin America. There was a bunch of like El Salvadorian and Guatemalan and, a bunch of kids like from Central and South America who were coming. And what I learned about their histories is that, you know, the parents would come leave the kids home with the grandparents. And send money. And then once the parents would establish, they would pull the kids back and the kids were resentful. The kids didn't want like, cause they just got pulled away now from everything they've known, their grandparent. And now they're, and now they're being raised by somebody they don't recognize.

They're kind of preteens and teens. So it's like a terrible time anyway. So the last thing they wanted was me trying to help them learn English. Like they were just pissed and resentful and stressed out and they had all these other stressors. They weren't going to sit and read homework, like, you know, and so it was just a terrible, terrible mess. And so then I quit after that year too.

Stephanie: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

Susie: And then I was like, okay, now what can I do?

Stephanie: Right.

Susie: But I'm accumulating so many failures. And on the one hand it's like, okay, let me try this. Let me try this. But there's just so much shame there. So much shame that I kept failing., Like I kept thinking what's wrong with me. And so then the next thing I tried is I went and got, um, I went to the local, uh, you know, to Durham Tech, the community college, and they had like this great program on being a Spanish facilitator for communities.

And it's like, yes, I'll go do that. And then I can't get a job. Like nobody wants to hire me. I think this was right around, uh, 07, 08, when the economy tanked. And it's like, okay, nobody wants to hire for social services. So then I eventually like, okay, and then I found a job doing tech support for Sprint. They were looking for bilingual. tech support. And, and literally just doing that, I think I trained for like three months and then I only ended up working a month because thanks to that I got like my first real job post academia, which was working in a tier two bilingual tech support for an email marketing company.

And that felt so good. And I was like, I loved it because I could do the work and I could leave. So the first two years was great. And then it started to suck because I started seeing ways to improve things. Remember how you like you have an independent mind and then people are like, no, you need to stay in your lane.

Stephanie: Yep.

Susie: You need to stay in your lane. And so I

Stephanie: back to your cube.

Susie: Go back to your queue and answer your calls and the emails and the chat.

Stephanie: Yep.

Susie: And so I was doing that. I did deliverability. It's like my brain loved for the first couple of years not to have to do anything like academia. Like, I love just being like, somebody calls, they have a problem, I help them, it's done. And I was like, yes, like dopamine hit, right?

Stephanie: Yeah.

The stability there was probably a nice, um, catch your breath from the couple of years previous of this, but not that. And then that, but that, that, and, and, and so that first couple of years, I can see it myself, like just going into a position like that and being like, Oh, Oh, okay. I'm just going to do the job, the J O B and then that's it. Right. And you've got your stability. You've, you know, you can rely on the job. You can rely on the paycheck. You could, you get steady again. And then it sounds like after two years, you kind of picked your head up and you're like, so what else can we do here?

Susie: Like you get bored because now you know the job and you're like, how can things get better? So I, I got into a more complicated job that I liked, which was deliverability where you're really getting into like the spammers and why aren't emails going in and that felt a little more empowering and be like, I'm going to shut your account down, you spammer. And then help them, you know, anyway, a little play there.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Susie: But it was one of those things, though, that then it just kind of felt like again, like I could see the big pieces of the ways that we could communicate things better. Ways that we could streamline processes. Why don't we try this? And it's like it was always like, Nope, Nope, Nope, Nope, Nope. And so then it was in that process that I thought, Oh, I could be a technical writer because that's the things they need.

So then I go get my master's at at NC State. In technical communication, and it's through that that I get this job at, doing contracts and proposals writing for certification. It was a company called Castle, they got acquired by Scantron, that was my last real job before the end of midlife crisis and I found myself in the glorious hall.

Stephanie: You were there a long time. You were there like seven years.

Susie: I was, I was.

Stephanie: So tell me, tell me about that seven years because you know, we said that your path was through this messy middle was long and winding. And you've, you know, you've told us about some of the, the twists and turns and some of the jobs and the recovery of that, you know, the first two years at that job and, but now you go into technical writing and you're there for seven years. Tell me a little bit about that. How it fit, how, how it worked, how it, I don't know. I just want to know more.

Susie: Yeah, sure. What's funny is that you probably know this, but a lot of times women will not apply for jobs because they don't think they're qualified. And it's like, you're totally qualified. The only reason I applied for that job is because one of my peers at school was in that job already.

And she said, you should apply for this one. And I looked at it. I'm like, I don't know what an RFP is. What is that? It's a request for proposal for anyone listening. Okay. And, and I, and she's like, Oh, trust me, you can do this job. You're fine. And thanks to that. And, you know, she was a black woman. So it's like, okay, we, we women and women of color, we got to support each other. So I got the job. and I was very well qualified. When I first went, I loved it because my manager was really smart and she saw my potential and she would help me get better and she would tell me everything I did great and then she would tell me what to improve on. I mean, right like that to me that was just like, yes.

Stephanie: Sounds like a dream. Yeah.

Susie: It's it was a dream and then, things shifted the, the VP had to quit her job because unfortunately her daughter was very sick and so she quit her job in, in from the business development and we got somebody who, white guy with privilege who doesn't do anything, kind of thing. And then my manager, she decided she wasn't going to be the manager. She was going to work more on special projects. So they brought in another person and that was the bane of my existence. So this second manager, who we'll call T for her first name, the initial is T. So she, she was really, it wasn't that much of a problem when we were still Castle, I think. But then when we got bought by Scantron, and I'm sure a lot of listeners can identify with this when, it's sort of when you're working for different companies and what happens when venture capital buys you or somebody else buys you, the culture can really change. And so this is this is now my second experience with Castle. The first one was with iContact where it was a small company, that then gets bought out.

And so what does that mean? Profit first. So they put a lot of pressure, on becoming profitability. So they get their investment back and it wasn't even Scantron specifically. Cause the people at Scantron were really great. It's the fact that they were owned by somebody else called Harland Clark. If you, if you still write checks, you'll see their name on it.

Stephanie: Okay,

Susie: A lot of tech stuff and that, that really shifted things. And so then that's when T my manager started to show more of her true colors, and got very controlling. She didn't trust me. She didn't trust anybody except one other person. She would hold on to things for a long time. She would lie about things.

It wasn't really until afterward, and I talked to my therapist about this, that she said, yeah, she's actually a classic narcissist because she's very charming, very smart, but it's in the hidden areas that then she would gaslight me. And it was after I quit and I talked to some trusted people that other people were like, Oh, she did that to me too. It's just that I was her direct report. So I was really under her thumb.

And so that's what ended that job, that it was like, I can't do this anymore. And, but the blessing of that job is that that's what led me to go look for a coach because I had a friend who was like, Oh, listen to this podcast. It's called the Life Coach School Podcast. Started listening to it. And I was like, Oh my God, this is changing my life.

And so eventually I became a client and I started getting coached by them and stuff. And then eventually I was like, Oh, I want to be a coach. And so what happened is I got certified and my plan was I'm going to keep working at my company while I build my side business. And then at a certain point I'll quit. But there was a straw that broke the camel's back with T where the thing that really messed me up was, she lied about something on a call that, and it was such an egregious lie that I was just like, I was like, I can't even anymore. And I got off that call and I burst into tears.

I walk in, you know, I go into the, to the bedroom cause at this point it's COVID. So we're working from home and my husband's working from home too. And he's like, what's wrong? And I tell him, and he always, he knows the whole story. He's like, and I said, I just don't know if what to do. I don't know that I can continue to work there. I can't, I don't know if I can do this anymore. And. You know, and it had never occurred to me to quit early without having like a built business or another job

Stephanie: Right. Your safety net

Susie: I Yeah, because I was so worried about the money, and and what was there too was things that I now more recently understood is like again, I was equating my value in the marriage and as a human being with how much money I could bring in And it was like, so I felt like I can't quit. And Bill was like, honey, your mental and emotional health are more important than the money. And I was like, Oh my God, I married the right guy.

Stephanie: I like Bill. Everything I hear about Bill. I like Bill a lot.

Susie: Bill's awesome. Yes.

Stephanie: Um,

Susie: That was that.

Stephanie: So you were able to quit your job. Um, you had the privilege. Of course You actually did have a safety net You had a wonderful husband who was willing to help you find the bridge from that job to wherever, whatever was next.

Susie: And, and we had the privilege of having savings in place. Because when my mother in law sold her home and then moved to Raleigh to live in independent living, she gave us and my brother in law money. And so that was super helpful. Like we, the only thing we owe money on is the house. And then we had savings.

So we realized, oh, we can actually do this. Now it wasn't quite the end of the midlife blues, mind you, but it was the beginning of the, it's the beginning of the end, everyone,


Stephanie: Right. Right.

Susie: But it'll get worse too.

Stephanie: Right. Right. Right. Right. So it isn't, but isn't that the truth? It's going to get better and it's going to get worse at the same time. Right? So what, where we've come to in your story is that the wandering has kind of come to an end. You, you've made it through the desert. You've tried all these things. They haven't worked. They haven't been a great fit. you've had some reasonably okay experiences and some bad experiences. And now you've found the thing that is starting to light you up. You've, you've found some great coaching that's helped you personally enough that you feel like, Ooh, I can do that. I want to do that. So you start towards a coaching practice and then what?


Susie: Oh my. So anybody who knows who's been an entrepreneur, unless they grew up with it and it's just in their blood, it's just another game. It's a different ball game than working for somebody.

Stephanie: hmm. Mm

Susie: Because when you work for somebody, if you've never been an entrepreneur, I mean. You're just good at your job, but you don't have to find people for whom you do the work. They're finding you the clients. Whatever it is you're doing, you know, like when you're working in that law firm, you're doing, you have your internal clients in the firm and you have external clients, but you're not doing the work to find them. Somebody else in that business is doing it.

Stephanie: Well, and it's more than that too. When I first started my marketing business, which is almost 17 years ago, no, it's about 17 years ago. I used to say to people, this was like one of my like early, you know, selling propositions was, you know, people go into business because they're good at something, or they love something and that thing is not usually marketing, right?

They don't love to market their business. They don't love and the right, the, the next one is, and it's not business development. Selling. It could be accounting. It could be HR, right? That people go into business to do the thing that they love. In your case, it was coaching. In my case, it was marketing and communications, but there's so much more to running a business that just comes with the territory, unless of course you're just, you know, going to do it, my, my career coach used to call it as a hobby, right? If it's just going to be something that you do along the way, but it doesn't need to provide a full time income. It doesn't, it doesn't need to support other people, right? Then you could probably just do the thing you want to do, but if it's going to be something that's going to sustain you, uh, from a full time perspective, and or more people, it comes with more responsibilities and requirements that aren't necessarily about the thing you got into it because you loved.

Susie: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, because if you don't know how to market or sell, you're, you know, you can't earn money. And, and there's more to than just knowing the, the, the nuts and bolts of that. For pretty much everyone, there's going to be a recognition and I think this is what I was saying about how we, how we conflate our own value with our ability to make money.

I think for pretty much most entrepreneurs that I've ever, that I've met, at least in like coaching, like those of us who are like, we went into coaching and now we want to have our own business. We're all running into this unconscious thing where we want to go make money and prove to ourselves that we're great. And so that's the thing that's driving us. And then, ooh, if I can make six figures, that means I have arrived, right? And so then you're putting so much pressure on your business and on people saying yes to feel good about yourself.

Stephanie: Yeah. To have right for, for the sake of an achievement, for the sake of an external marker of success.

Susie: Right. And what it is, is that, and I think, I mean, this, this is true of everyone, I'll just be honest. Like it doesn't matter what you do. I mean, when you, when parents look at their kids and then they want their kids to be successful, most of the time it's so they all feel good about themselves, not because they respect their kids and want their kids to be real people. I'll just be honest that that is often the case. And that's why we in turn become the people who are like, well, if I get that achievement, then I'm gonna feel great about myself, and finally I will have arrived. And that's really hard when you're building a business because then that means anytime you get on a sales call, you're desperate for them to say yes.

Because then that'll prove that I'm worthy, that I'm good enough, that I'm making money, and ain't nobody gonna say yes to you when they smell that desperation.

Stephanie: Yeah. It also means you're probably not going to price your offerings appropriately because you're relying so hard on them to make up that income that they've got to be bigger. And maybe at the beginning, they're not worth being bigger or they shouldn't be bigger or Or, you know, you've only got a handful of clients, so you're trying to make a full time income out of a handful of clients instead of a bunch of clients. So, yeah, there's, there's all kinds

Susie: There's a lot of stuff. And, and, and the key thing is that, that until you get your nervous system and your brain, right, it's not about knowing how to do it because knowing makes no difference. It's about are you recognizing that, you have these unconscious fears and you know, and you're terrified of failing and, and so that's driving all your decision making. And so then, you know, for, as an example, I, I joined a 25, 000 mastermind.

Stephanie: My God. Oh my God. I have a girlfriend who is a coach who has told me of such things and I have always, just my jaw drops. You joined one.

Susie: I did, I did,

Stephanie: Was it worth it?

Susie: It was worth it because I learned every, like I had to go through the fire and realize that wasn't for me. I always get my money's worth, whether it's, oh, I get the outcomes they promised me, or I get better outcomes, which is me understanding that's not me. And recognizing, that when you go into something that promises to teach you how to make money, if they're not doing any nervous system or thought work around it to help you understand all your hidden bullshit or all your early trauma that you have about not being worthy and how triggered you are, it's not going to work. Because that's what I learned, that it doesn't, it didn't work because I needed, I needed to tend to my nervous system because I was still trying to hustle my way the way everybody else was doing.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Susie: And, and I think, and so I would say that was worth 25, 000 because now I'll never, now I know.

Stephanie: It's so funny that you say that. I, worked with a sales coach, uh, for a couple of years. Oh, probably, I don't know, maybe 2013, 14. I don't know, something like that. Maybe 15. He was a bully. He was a bull in a China shop. and I knew that his way of presenting things was not going to work for me. So we always used to joke that I would take what he said and I would Stephanize it, right? And so I would sort of turn it to, to make it work for me. And, and for a while that. Yes,

Susie: it for a second, like Stephanize it.

Stephanie: And, and for a while that, you know, and I was, going through his courses for a couple of years, you know, that, that was fine, but there came to a point where he literally fired me because I wasn't growing my business as fast as he thought I should be growing my business and for a long time, that bummed me out, that made me feel bad. It made me feel like a failure, of course. There was this whole crowd of people. It was associated with a software platform, and he was sort of training us to sell the platform. So it was sort of a win win, training us as, as partners. But there was a whole crowd of us that were like, Oh, we're, the, the collateral damage. We're the, losers left behind, because there were a handful of people who like grabbed onto his stuff and were like implementing it and like cranking, which, great for them. But there was like no thought around any of the rest of us about, you know, how we were implementing it or whether or not we could even, you know, handle the, a business of the size that he wanted us to handle. Um, and, and so it's, it's so interesting because it, it, that bro culture, um, can be really damaging. Yeah, really

Susie: It is and and I will say that the the mastermind I did, um, wasn't bro culture, but it was, but it was because it was, it was, um, like, I wouldn't say anything bad about that experience, but I would say the truth that unless you already have a pretty well regulated nervous system and you're not constantly feeling like I'm not good enough and I need you to teach me how to do this so I can be good enough. If you go in there with that, it's not a good match. And in general, I mean, I think most of the time, that's the kind of stuff that I work with with clients all the time is that most of my high stressed out high achievers are constantly trying to get good enough. And that's what's stressing them out. It's like, you're trying to get to that other thing. But I think it was great for me to recognize that for me that, oh. Um, I won't say I Stephanized it, maybe I Susanized

Stephanie: Right, right. Yeah.

Susie: But that's always been my way, Stephanie, is that, that I think that's like what you said at the very beginning, that, we might have said it before we started officially recording you were saying like, you know, I'm not hireable in corporate. I don't remember if we said it. Yeah, and, and part of it is, you know, I probably could be, but I choose not to because I just feel like my whole life I've always had ideas about how to do things. And a lot of, most environments don't enjoy that about me.

Stephanie: I agree.

Susie: And and I will say that so much of my trauma early on was also around silencing me. That I was too much. And I know we've talked about this personally, like not obviously on the podcast that, you know, in my case, I was a cry baby, you know, you know, I was always complaining. I was always asking questions and, and this was a problem. My whole life, like up to, you know, tenure track was trying to fit in and suppress who I really am. And then that whole midlife crisis, I was still trying to like fit in and suppress who I really am, but just in different ways.

Stephanie: Yep.

Susie: And then there was that point where, you know, having T, that manager, it's like that straw that broke the camel's back was really the thing that I finally said, like, it's not me. This is just, it cannot work. And then that's when I started, you know, getting trauma therapy. I started doing all this other stuff. I started to really realize like, holy cow, you know, it makes perfect sense. Why I put up with it as long as I did, because there is a lot of ways in which her patterns matched my grandmother.

Stephanie: Ah,

Susie: The one that did not match when she did that straw that broke the camel's back. That did not fit my grandmother's pattern and that's how I saw. That's what I was able to see wait! You just crossed the line. That my nervous system could recognize it and so it's been really cool going back and looking at that and seeing, whoa okay I can see why I did what I did. I can see you know what was happening and and I will just say that you know to turn to you getting out of that transition to like feeling really great about myself, like, yeah, I'm out of the ick. Took me 15 years, but hey.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah.

Susie: And, you know, and part of the reason it took me 15 years is because the trauma. You know, you talked about a bit in on the Mitch podcast, which I'm sure you could put a link at the end of the show notes so people can go back and listen to his. That it's because we now have all this new science on trauma and nervous system work that this is why things have shifted for me.

That this wouldn't have been possible five years ago or 10 years ago. And so I don't feel bad about my journey because it couldn't have happened any other way. Like we just didn't know. And then for me, I'm very practical. I'm like, okay, well now I know. Let's do this shit. And let's help people.

Stephanie: yeah. So, and that's so interesting because I want, I want to, because you've said nervous system a bunch of times and I want to talk about nervous system. But before we talk about nervous system, I think what came first for you was the exploration of the concept of trauma and understanding that the way you grew up traumatized you.

So was that through therapy or how did you pick the corner of the word trauma and pick it up to sort of understand that A) it related to you, it had something to do with you. And B) to work through that. Where, where did you first encounter the concept of trauma as it applied to you?

Susie: Sure. So what happened was I began my certification, it was a six month program, and then an extra six months of applied coaching that we did in September of 2020. And I completed the beginning of April 2021. And at that point, I was still working, I quit my job, like October of 2021. When that happened. What happened is so You know, I completed my training April 2021. We are in COVID, but you know, that's the beautiful thing about being a coach is you can do it through Zoom. It's like, okay, find ways to meet people that are not in real life networking. I've found, an app called Clubhouse. It's still around. It's changed a bit, but that was a really great app at the time for me because I was suddenly not alone.

I was meeting people from all over the world, literally, uh, including other professional Latinos, which I was like, Oh, cool. Right. And what happened is as I was trying to expand myself, I was having so much anxiety. I'm, I'm a pretty okay speaker. I think I'm actually pretty good. And I would be terrified being on Clubhouse, like saying the wrong thing, worried about being judged, all sorts of things, in a way that to me was like, what is going on?

I was trying to build my business. I was doing things for that. And I was just anxious all the time. And one of the things that I learned in coaching, like my certification, it tends to work with a more cognitive behavioral model, CBT, where the, the whole concept is that the model of the world is like there are circumstances that are neutral, but it's, we have thoughts about the circumstances that create emotions that then drive our actions and then give us our results.

So you have control over the thoughts, the emotions, the actions, and the results. You don't have control over the circumstances. And so one of the things is that, well, if you look at that model and I'm being anxious, what the heck are my thoughts that are causing me to be anxious? Like, what's wrong with me? Why am I being so stressed out? What am I being scared of? And the model couldn't answer it for me. It was just so overwhelming. And so then I was on a Clubhouse room one time and they were talking about imposter syndrome. And I was like, what is that? And I was like, well, it's just like a little trendy phrase that people use. Cause it's cause I looked it up and I'm like, it's not even a real diagnosis.

Stephanie: Right? Right?

Susie: I'm a PhD. I

Stephanie: ha.

Susie: look at stuff. And, but then I started, I met My therapist who the person who ended up becoming my therapist through Clubhouse, because she was doing some really good work and I started seeing things and I was like, Whoa, that's really interesting.

And I think the biggest one was I went into a room on anxiety and the guy was talking about anxiety and it suddenly was like, what? I have anxiety. So I raised my hand and, you know, in, uh, you know, in the, in the Clubhouse room, it's not obviously virtual audio. And, and I, you know, he calls on me and I come up and I said, Wait a minute. Is it possible for you to have anxiety and not know you have anxiety? And he's like, yes.

Stephanie: Yup.

Susie: And that was like a jaw drop moment. Like, cause he was talking about it and I was like, whoa. And that's when I realized, well, holy shit. And then, you know, people are talking more and more about how traumatizing, you know, it is with COVID and like this guy was talking about anxiety, was talking about his early childhood trauma. And I was like, wait a minute, that's trauma?

Stephanie: Right.

Susie: Right? And so was really, you know, super grateful that Clubhouse was there in 2021 when I needed it because I started listening to new people talking about things that I would not have ever heard.


And and it was thanks to clubhouse that I learned that I had trauma, that I had anxiety, that I found my therapist, and that was it.

And, and so then that's when I started doing that work. And then I discovered Irene's work through somebody, Irene Lyon, who, who, who does somatic experiencing work and, you know, how to reset nervous system, things like that.And, and then just the more I talk about it, the more I meet people like meeting Mitch and then now meeting you, that it's like, wow, there's so many of us who are now learning about this stuff.

And it's so empowering to know that I think my number one thing, Stephanie, and for anybody listening is like, my number one thing is that I used to think I was irrevocably fucked up.


And to learn that it's like, it's not me. It's my nervous system. It's oh, it's science. It's a way this thing works. It makes sense. To me, that has been so empowering because I never have to feel a shame ever again about how I feel or if I get triggered. I mean, I will still feel ashamed because we've been acculturated to feel shame, but I don't stay in the shame. And I could be like, yeah, this is just my nervous system trying to tell me something. All right, let's look.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. So. Okay. So you learn about trauma. You are able to identify that your childhood was traumatic and left you in a place of anxiety and you were able to start working with a therapist to start working some of that out.

Susie: She's in the UK and her, her school is called the Human Givens School. And it is, and what she does in that school, it's far more effective than what we do in the U. S.

Stephanie: hmm. Mm

Susie: Um, like EMDR is kind of the, the known thing that people do in the U. S. And I have, I've done EMDR, it didn't really do much for me, it doesn't, it's not that great for complex trauma, it's better for shock trauma. But the stuff she did with me that uses the Human Givens School, and I could send you links, you can put them at the end or whatever, is like, It works much faster because it takes into account that you don't have specific memories. So it's working more on the affect and, and, and the affect part, not like, you know, trying to find a specific memory. Cause EMDR is kind of more like, here, think about that memory when your grandma hit you. And I did that and it's like, well, you know, there's a shit ton of those.

Stephanie: Right? Right.

Susie: But, but you kind of, there's other work that she did that it includes more unconscious shifting of things and, and changing timelines and imagining different things that did faster work. And I'm happy to send you links to share with people.

Stephanie: So then you come across the nervous system work and it's different than the trauma work, but it's related. So talk just a little bit about the nervous system work that Irene does and that you and I are working our way through.

Susie: I can talk a little bit about what Irene does and then kind of a little bit more. So the nervous system work has come about because of trauma. Like this new awareness of the nervous system has come because there's so much trauma out there. And I know you're familiar with Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score, kind of the, one of the first books that really started getting people to seeing this.

Stephanie: Mhm.

Susie: So, the nervous system is the root of, and specifically the autonomic nervous system, the part that manages, you know, uh, fight flight freeze. Like, am I feeling safe? Am I not feeling safe? Like, that's always checking. It's always checking unconsciously, even when we're asleep, which is why sometimes we don't sleep well, because it doesn't feel safe. And then you, you can't sleep well,

Stephanie: Okay.

Susie: Right? Um, so, so trauma in, and this is, you know, Irene, um, has done her studies. I use the same people, but it's the new idea is that, people have always kind of thought of trauma as something in the head in a way, like. But what we now understand, and especially if you look at animals, and this was one of my favorite things in, in, in Van der Kolk's book, when he talks about the dogs, I don't know if you've read the book,

Stephanie: I have read the book, but I'm going to need to go back and read it now that I'm into this, uh, this nervous system work. Cause it'll have a whole different presentation to me now that I have a different understanding, a different framework. So, um, so tell me about the dog's piece.


Susie: Yeah, the dog piece was the one that was most fascinating to me. There's a chapter where he is talking about, Pavlov, you know, and he has his dogs in a basement, you know, like they're in their kennels. And one day there's like torrential rains and the river is rising, like the river behind his house is rising. These dogs are panicking because they can't get out because they're in their kennels.

Mm hmm.

And so he eventually gets them out. And then what he realizes is that some of those dogs are never the same again. And what he saw is like the dogs that were able to get out of their kennels and escape on their own were fine after, but the ones that were trapped in their kennel, so they didn't die, like he was able to save them. But it was that whole thing of the trauma of being trapped and not being able to use your energy to fight or flight.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Susie: Caused them to go into a freeze, basically. Because they were just like, I'm going to die and they never recovered.

Stephanie: Okay.

Susie: And so Pavlov started paying attention to that. And so that was one of the things that then, when we talk about the body keeps the score, it's like, if you have any kind of experience that your nervous system sees as potentially threatening, and it starts to churn cortisol and adrenaline. If you cannot expend that energy out of your body, it stays inside of you. That's what the trauma is. The trauma is that you didn't secrete the cortisol and adrenaline out and shake it out.

Stephanie: Right. And so you almost, um, sort of re swallow it into your body rather than, getting it out.

Susie: Right, like you didn't get to use it to fight. You getting to use it to flight. It kind of stays as a freeze. And the thing that I always talk about with my clients and I got this from Irene definitely, but the key thing is that for animals, you know. I have deer in my backyard. You know, I live right by Eno River State Park. I love using deer as an example because they're mammals. They're pack animals like humans. So what happens is, you know, if I go outside and throw trash away, and one of the deer is like, you know, like freaked out, and then I go back into the house. They shake it off and they keep eating. There isn't another deer that's going to be like, well, you're stupid. Why'd you get upset about that? It was just Susie taking out the trash.

Stephanie: Oh,

Susie: The other deer are like, yeah, that was scary. All right, let's go eat.

Stephanie: ha ha.

Susie: So what, what is the difference? Like you can get trauma. You can have something that triggers fear, cortisol, adrenaline, whatever. That's not a problem. That's always going to happen, because that's part of what keeps us alive. The problem is when then once the danger is over, if you don't have a compassionate witness to allow you to let it process, it gets stuck. And so the key thing that keeps human beings stuck. Is the shaming because we are shamed in our society for having feelings or being weak or being a crybaby


Susie: So we have that thing that then we're trained from a very young age that any kind of emotion like that is a problem because you know, that's why people never, mean it's like, oh don't cry

Stephanie: Right.

Susie: You know, they're trying to be nice

Stephanie: Stop crying.


Susie: Yeah, they could be don't cry Or it could be stop crying and both of those are like, oh, there's a problem with your emotional affect. You need to suppress that. So that that's the issue that that if you want to be like a deer and somebody's crying what you want to be like, hey, I'm here. Let me, you know, let me know how I can support you.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Susie: And then they just get witnessed. There's no shame. And it's like, how can I support you right now? And then they'll tell you. And usually it's like they feel fine just being able to say or do what they're going to do, knowing that somebody witnessed it and wasn't shaming and was just there for them.

Stephanie: Well, and also I think I've found too that those things pass quicker than the ones you try to suppress.

Susie: Oh, for sure. Because when you're trying to suppress it, you're not releasing the cortisol and the adrenaline.

Stephanie: Right. And I forget if you and I were talking about this previously, but the idea of trying to hold the beach ball underwater.

Susie: Yeah. Cause Irene mentions that, um, is what, yeah. Or she actually, she doesn't mention that when she has a different beach ball example, but that when it's the whole, that, that was one of my mentors, Brooke Castillo gave me that first metaphor of, the thing just wants to come out and if you're trying to hold it.

Stephanie: the

Susie: It's so much pressure, the energy,

Stephanie: it's going to take you to hold it under and, and keep it hidden and keep it shoved where it can't be seen. It just takes so much more than to just let it go. Let it

Susie: Right. And you're, and you're being in sympathetic energy, meaning you're in fight flight. You're trying to like, hold it down, hold it down, hold it down. But, but I think like the key, this is the key for me, um, is the whole learning to unshame emotion. That's the thing, because if you never felt shame for your emotions or for being triggered, would it ever be a problem?

Stephanie: Right.

Susie: You would just be like, Oh, look, I got triggered. Huh? What's going on? All right. Okay, cool. Let's move on. We would be like the deer.

Stephanie: Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah.


Susie: So I would say that's kind of the big thing that in from 2021 to now that has really made my transition is learning not just about the nervous system and trauma, but understanding that what caused it was not having a compassionate witness and that the way we undo it is to having a compassionate witness. That's how you undo trauma. And then you become your own compassionate witness as well. That's how you undo it, unshaming it.

Stephanie: So you can be your own compassionate witness. You don't need somebody to mirror you and say, you know,

Susie: Initially you do. Initially you do, because you never had it. Initially you need somebody, you know, because healing happens in community. It happens in having other people. But then you start to internalize and have that ability to do that to yourself and to other people as well.

Stephanie: Yeah. It's like building a good, a great new habit.

Susie: It is. Yeah.

Stephanie: You need, first you need the education and then you need the support and the, that sort of the other person helping. And then once you, you're skilled with it, you can do it on your own. And like you said, maybe help others.

Susie: Yeah. And I will say that you will always want other people there to be your compassionate witness because there's always going to be things that trigger you. I think the old triggers might not trigger as much, but let's just be honest, the one constant in our lives is change. Our bodies get old. They change. Our parents get old and then we have to deal with them. Money happens. We are always having circumstances in our lives where we're going to get triggered because it's something new that we haven't encountered. I mean, um, for those of us, ladies of a certain age, you know, you're going to learn about your body changing when you're going through menopause, for example. And that, and that's going to trigger a bunch of things because now you're like, Oh, wait a minute, but I used to be this or that, or. and that's going to continue to happen until we die.

There's always going to be circumstances whether it's in our own bodies, like I know you have experienced this with, you know, learning like your body and your health and feeling like, how do I fucking deal with this? What does this mean about me? What is, you know, like all that shit is going to trigger stuff.

And so the key isn't that we never need other people to mirror us and be witnesses. The key is to know that that is the thing that makes us feel better. And that we're not alone.

Stephanie: Then comes the challenge of finding the right people.

Susie: Finding your pack. Very important.

Stephanie: The right people. Because you could think you're doing some of this work and, and the feedback that you're getting from that witness might not be so compassionate. It might be more of the shaming, more of the, you

Susie: Especially if you have that issue because your family of origin was originally shaming you. They're probably not going to be your pack. Doesn't mean you ditch them. I mean, everybody has to make those decisions, but you will learn quickly that some people who maybe have been part of your whole past the whole time, as you start to shift and you realize, oh wait, they're kind of slightly shaming me.

They're not going to be the people that I am going to turn to in this circumstance. And, and I run into that too. I mean, I literally just ran into that this weekend with some people that I got together with and I realized, okay, maybe they're not my pack for this kind of thing. For other things, sure. But not for this.

Stephanie: Right. You can go out and have a nice dinner with people. You can go to the show with people, but they might not be the people that you open your heart to.

Susie: I can get really triggered by things that other people don't get triggered by, let's just say. And you know, when I saw Encanto, that was very triggering to me because of the grandmother. and it's the kind of thing where then if somebody's like, Oh, but it's just a Disney movie. Well, that's a little shaming.

Stephanie: Right.

Susie: So then you know, okay, that's not going to be a person I'm gonna, I'm going to share that with because, I shouldn't have to convince you that my reaction is valid just because you don't think it's a big deal.

Stephanie: Mm.

Susie: And I think, and I think learning and shaming doesn't always look like that. Sometimes it's not shaming. It's more kind of like, um, toxic positivity.

Stephanie: Yes.

Susie: So if you have people who, and this is a particular issue if for anybody who happens to be a first gen person who maybe they're like first gen professional.

Stephanie: Mm hmm.

Susie: Your family might be very supportive of you, but they're never going to understand maybe what you're going through. And so if you try to tell them maybe you're running into an issue, they just see you as so fantastic and so well equipped that they'll be like, Oh, I'm sure you'll figure it out. You're going to be fine. And that doesn't just happen for first gen professionals. I mean, that happens for anybody who they're used to being the strong one. And everybody just sees them as a strong one. And then they try to get some support. And then somebody is like, Oh, but you're so strong. You're going to be fine. Like that's also diminishing you and not witnessing you. So it doesn't mean they're bad people. And what I always suggest is that you decide if the people are worth keeping, you can educate them on how to become a good, deer supporter, you know, how to be your pack and how you'll be a pack to them.

And. What I, all I need you to say is to say, Oh, I'm sorry, you're feeling that way. How can I support you? That's all we ever have to say. You never have to give advice. You never have to tell them, Oh, don't feel that way. Oh, I'm sure it's going to be fine. Just saying, gosh, I'm sorry you're going through that. How can I support you? That's it. All you ever have to say.

Stephanie: Interesting. Oh, goodness. We could go sideways on that for, for a while, but we've, uh, you and I have been at this for a while, so I want to be thoughtful of your time and, and your afternoon. I just wanted to say thank you so much for joining me on the podcast. It has been so wonderful these last few months, getting to know you personally, and now to finally connect here on the podcast.

I, I appreciate you being so generous with your story and sharing so much of your early experiences. I, I know that's not easy. And, um, I, I thank you for that.

Susie: You're welcome. I share them only because I, if I hadn't been for those experiences, I wouldn't have learned about the nervous system. And then if I hadn't learned about the nervous system, then I wouldn't be able to help everybody because guess what? It doesn't matter what level, if you had really explicit trauma or you didn't or whatever, we all have a nervous system.

And we were all to a certain extent traumatized by our conditioning in a Western capitalist culture. You just kind of want to know that.

Stephanie: Right.

Susie: And our parents were traumatized by that conditioning because we're told that we're supposed to be hard workers and be successful, and that's, what's going to make us great. And if you have any kind of feelings that make that harder for you to do, You're told that that that makes you not good enough. That's what we've been conditioned to so that is a trauma that we can all detox from and feel more empowered to create the lives that we love without feeling like we're trying to meet that expectation

Stephanie: I love that. Thanks so much.

Susie: You're welcome

Scroll to Top