What's the F***ing Point episode 06: Karen Kenney on Storytelling & Reclaiming Your Peacock-ness

Y'ALL. Get ready to hold onto your f-ing hats, because my guest on the pod this week is the fiercely loving and vibrant Karen Kenney.

I have so many things I want to say about Karen and what she shared on this episode, but rather than you sit here and read this, just listen and hear it for yourself! The time during our conversation FLEW by, and even though this is a longer episode, I think you'll feel the same way.

To listen to today's episode, you can stream or download from the embedded player below, or find and subscribe in your fave podcast listening app. 

Thanks for listening, and if you dig, please share it with a friend and review the podcast on iTunes

About Karen Kenney (website | instagram)

Karen Kenney is a writer, speaker, and the founder of Fearless Flow Mentoring. She’s been a student & guide of A Course in Miracles for 25+ years and a certified yoga teacher since 2001. KK is known for her storytelling, her sense of humor and her “down-to-earth” approach to spirituality. Karen helps people let go of their old stories of suffering and victimization so they can write a new kick-ass story from that inner place of power, forgiveness and Spirit. She leads transformational retreats at the renowned Omega Institute in NY and in the New England area. Karen’s currently at work on her memoir and her podcast, Wicked Hard  is also in development. 

Mentioned on Today's Show:

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.

check out my interview on the HeartSpace podcast!

A little while back, I got to have a juicy conversation with the sweet, smart, and multi-talented Corinne Dobbas (a dietitian + dating coach) on her podcast, HeartSpace.

The episode with my interview went live today, and it was fun to listen back and remember all the good stuff we got into! We cover a broad range of stuff, from Buffy (yuuuup) to trauma to body+self acceptance. 

Head over to your favorite podcast app and check it out! <3

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.

the lasting impact of childhood emotional neglect

the lasting impact of childhood emotional neglect

At this point, hopefully most of us are on the same page that physical or sexual abuse of a child is wrong (read: as morally repugnant as it gets) and incredibly harmful to them long-term. If you're not yet familiar with the term "Adverse Childhood Experiences" (ACEs) or the landmark ACEs study done by CDC and Kaiser, taking a few minutes to explore these will help you understand the link between early childhood trauma and the majority of our societal and public health issues — like substance abuse, depression, and the cycles of poverty and violent crime, to name just a few.

While some people who enter into therapy know they have endured traumatic experiences (and might also know that these experiences are at the root of the other things they struggle with, like anxiety, an eating disorder, or relationship issues), many others have minimized their childhood experiences to an extent that they are not "connecting the dots" with how they are still being impacted by the things that happened (or should have happened and didn't) in their early years of life. 

The Risk of Overlooking Covert Trauma

Emotional abuse tends to be a particularly slippery issue. For instance, if someone is physically or sexually abused during childhood and doesn't know at the time that this was wrong and not "normal," often they learn this fairly early in adulthood. (Though due to the internalized shame of abuse, sometimes it takes increasing pain from dysfunctional coping behaviors before a person is ready to enter therapy for help.) Hopefully with this recognition, and the support of a skilled trauma therapist, the wounds they need to heal are fairly evident, and the path for healing, though not easy, is clear.

With emotional abuse and neglect, however, the experience is often more covert, and thus harder to identify as the root cause of whatever present-day issues someone is struggling with. Sure, some types of emotional abuse are more overt; but again, hopefully in these cases the person is aware that what was happening was not okay, and then has the opportunity to heal. But many times, the impact of more subtle forms of emotional abuse or neglect are like a rust that erodes a person's sense of self (healthy ego development) over time, until she takes on a world view that she is inadequate, does not matter, cannot trust others, will not be loved if others find out who she really is, and basically, better be able to figure things out on her own. She may not make the connection that the impact of a highly critical grandfather and workaholic mother is still impacting her beliefs about herself 25 years later. (And if no one ever helps her to make that connection and do the healing work, she will likely struggle with feeling like no amount of affirmations, anti-depressants, and cognitive behavioral therapy ever seems to help, so she must be right about herself that she's just fundamentally flawed.) 

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using guided imagery to heal in recovery

using guided imagery to heal in recovery

How to use guided imagery as a tool in your recovery from an eating disorder, addiction, or trauma

Many of the most powerful experiences I’ve witnessed in session with my clients have in some way involved guided imagery. If that sounds a little new-age woo-woo for you, stick with me for a minute.

As psychologists Judith Rabinor and Marion Bilich write in Effective Clinical Practice in the Treatment of Eating Disorders, “Focused imagery, in a relaxed state of mind, has been shown to positively affect medical conditions such as cancer, to improve self-regulatory capacities such as heart rate and blood pressure, and to enhance performance in a wide variety of fields (Naparstek, 1995).”

So what exactly is guided imagery? Basically, it’s an umbrella term for any type of focused imaginative exercise that incorporates one or more of the senses (visual, auditory, olfactory, kinesthetic, and tactile). You can do some types of guided imagery on your own, and others are easier with a therapist or other trained practitioner directing the exercise in a group or one-on-one setting.

Rabinor and Bilich continue, “We have found that guided imagery is a powerful but underutilized tool that can transform one’s clinical work no matter what one’s theoretical orientation… Imagery is the language of the unconscious. It has long been known that imagery techniques tap into that deep level of consciousness that cannot be accessed by words alone, giving voice to the unconscious thoughts and feelings that may affect behavior.”

In my experience, guided imagery — especially when used in conjunction with evidence-based treatments like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Internal Family Systems (IFS) — can help people access deeper layers of awareness, insight, and healing than they’re able to reach with purely cognitive approaches.

EMDR with a Therapist

With EMDR, a widely-renowned trauma therapy modality, imagery is a key component of the protocol. While it’s important to allow space for the client’s experience to organically flow where it needs to, a well-trained therapist can deepen the healing work by skillfully guiding the client through the session, often involving rescuing or reparenting the younger wounded self.

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randomness, synchronicity, & the law of attraction

randomness, synchronicity, & the law of attraction

Having an "examined life" means grappling with some pretty big questions: 

ow much of life is truly within our control, and how much is left to chance and luck? Are coincidences just random, or is there a deeper meaning? If even bad things “happen for a reason,” why does one child with cancer die while another has a miraculous recovery? Is it random, or is the former burdened with bad karma from a past life (or shitty luck, or parents who didn't pray as hard)?! Do people just say "things happen for a reason" because they need some kind of explanation or meaning for horrible/unfair things that happen?

Obviously, this can become a highly charged discussion, as these are topics that connect to our most fundamental beliefs about our place in the world — and often, to our deepest pains, and our religious and/or spiritual beliefs.

In writing this post, I hope to engage in meaningful discussion about these concepts and questions, whether you agree or disagree with some of the opinions I share. 

Coincidence, Synchronicity, and Destiny

I have always been fascinated by coincidences. I adore the movie I Heart Huckabees, and my favorite episode of This American Life is all about great coincidence stories. I’ve experienced some gasp-worthy coincidences in my short time already, and heard tales of others’ jaw-droppingly-crazy coincidences. But just because a coincidence happens doesn’t mean there’s anything more to it, right? Well, maybe… and maybe not.

In the 1920’s, Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung was the first to coin the term “synchronicity,” which he defined as “meaningful coincidences.” To illustrate this definition, let's look at an example from Jungian contributor Marie-Louise von Franz in the book, Man and His Symbols:

"If an aircraft crashes before my eyes as I am blowing my nose, this is a coincidence of events that has no meaning. It is simply a chance occurrence of a kind that happens all the time. But if I bought a blue frock and, by mistake, the shop delivered a black one on the day one of my near relatives died, this would be a meaningful coincidence. The two events are not causally related, but they are connected by the symbolic meaning that our society gives to the color black."

Some of the more metaphysically-minded folks go so far as to say that “there’s no such thing as coincidence,” or that "all coincidences are meaningful.” To me, it seems inherent in that idea that there is some “greater plan,” fate, destiny — that “everything happens for a reason" and the synchronistic events are lining up to keep the plan on-course… and then what of free will?

Personally? I believe that meaningful coincidences can happen, but I do not believe that everything happens for a reason.

I just cannot get on board with the idea that a child being abused “happened for a reason," even if that child is provided the opportunity to work through the trauma and become a functional adult who gives back to the world and perhaps to children who have had to overcome similar adversity.

Still, for some reason I am compelled to attribute meaning to coincidence.Perhaps it’s my fascination with the mystical, the desire to believe in a little old fashioned magic, or in parallel realities (a la Sliding Doors).

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