I had such a wonderful time chatting with Dr. Jennifer Mullan of Decolonizing Therapy about….decolonizing therapy! We chat about her journey, the importance of sacred rage, and her dream decolonizing therapy world.
Feel free to read the transcript below or listen to the audio! The transcript will truncate on Gmail, so click the title at the top of the email to read it all.
Nisha Mody: Hello, everyone. This is the first interview I will be doing for the Healing Hype and it will be with Dr. Jennifer Mullan from Decolonizing Therapy. So, I'm just going to talk a little bit about Jennifer, who goes by Jen. Is it, right?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah.
Nisha Mody: Yeah. So affectionately nicknamed, “The Rage Doctor” by peers and clients, Dr. Jennifer Mullan, she/her is a clinical psychologist, ancestral wound worker and healer, who seeks to unpack the oppressive legacy of modern health mental health practices, particularly for Queer, Indigenous, Black, Brown people of color, and other marginalized populations. Dr. Mullan believes that dialogue is an essential component in addressing the profound effects of systemic inequities and ancestral and intergenerational trauma on people's mental health. Through her collective group healing work and Decolonizing Therapy practice, she creates safe spaces for people and organizations to heal and guides people from all walks of life to unpack the oppression that has been unconsciously passed down inter psychically and socially and continues to live on in our bodies today.
With over 18 years of experience in clinical practice, higher education and teaching, Dr. Mullan is passionately committed to work that effectively addresses inequities based on race, gender, class ability, gender identity and sexual orientation. Her professional research and clinical interests include complex and intergenerational trauma, group psychotherapy, LGBTQIA wellness, spirituality and mindfulness practices, racism as trauma, healing and therapeutic settings, self-love as a revolutionary act, and the process of decolonizing mental health is a vital element of her current practice. Dr. Mullan believes it's essential for mental health professionals to question the relatability of the mental health industrial complex, ultimately to reassess their education and whom they are serving. To further advance this worked out Dr. Mullan felt founded Decolonizing Therapy LLC in 2019, and since has built a significant social media platform, including over 131,000 Instagram followers and growing. Dr. Mullan earned a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies, a master’s degree in Counseling and Community Agencies from New York University's Steinhardt School of Education, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Elementary education from New Jersey City University. Thank you so much for being here, Dr. Mullan.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Thank you for having me, Nisha, it is a pleasure. And I love that both of our cats have made appearances.
Nisha Mody: Yes, me too. Oh, my gosh. Hello, Isis. Yes. I'm so excited. I found your account probably a couple of years ago, I'm guessing, and Decolonizing Therapy was just so appealing to me, because I feel maybe the idea of decolonizing anything probably has come to my mind fresh, maybe in the past four or five years. And mental health being something that's so personal, and especially if you are someone who is of a marginalized identity, I really saw how Decolonizing Therapy was important. So how did this idea of Decolonizing Therapy come to you? And why do you think it's important?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah, great question. So, I think to be real, through my own experience, as a clinician for the past, I think now, maybe it's like 18, 19 years being in therapy and receiving and giving therapy, just realizing that something was not quite it. Like, it wasn't hitting on all of the cultural factors that I always felt that we had to make a case, right? For why it was different for this particular young black male or why we were not receiving what was needed for this particular family. And so, really, it was through my own process of being deeply frustrated with that system and every other system that was like feeding it and corresponding with it. So, with that, I also came to the realization that these waters that we were swimming in are not only problematic, but they’re also systemic, they're violent, that most of us can become very burned out. And even if we take a break, and we take five, six weeks off, and then we go back into the fray, we're feeling that level of burnout again, because every you know, social workers, psychiatrists, nurse practitioner, counselor, is just feeling deeply worked to the bone and holding a great amount of enormous trauma. I would frequently ask myself, why am I so exhausted? Why am I so exhausted? It started to become my, like normal state. And it's not that other people weren't working long hours, and I had friends in other communities that were working long hours but those of us in the helping profession roles, and particularly therapists and social workers, we’re just sort of like at wit ends, we're just like falling apart.
And so I say this to say that Decolonizing Therapy, it's multiple fold, right? It is holding these systems accountable, and saying, hey, this doesn't work and being part of the movement, kind of abolishing things, abolishing, like how things work only for certain people with certain identities with certain amount of money in their pockets. But the other piece of it, I think, is the important part that I really love is the return home, with a capital H, which I talk about very often with people that I work with, and in presentations and workshops, is really about returning home, to our indigenous ancestral ways of knowing, getting curious about who we are, if we don't already know how our people first healed. And it's not to say, of course Nisha that we're going to go back and do exactly what was done. That probably would not work at this day and age. But getting curious and I use that word a lot in this work about where we are and where we're located, and how have we benefited right from white supremacy, or we haven't benefited from it. And most of us have at least a bit, if not a lot, then, you know, how are we also continuing to uphold and maintain it? How are we continuing to uphold and maintain a very, like medical model way of doing therapy? And then the other piece to it is it's not just about the practices, but it is understanding that there is a deep connection to a lot of the ways that our indigenous people and ancestors did work, right? and indeed engage with each other and hold each other and community.
So, I really think that it's important to look at giving land back, you know, but also across the world. I think that sometimes we you know, up here in North America have this view, like it's just US or Island, which just native indigenous people or First Nations and of course, we want to honor that. And of course, many of us are settlers on that land, including myself, but I'm also indigenous part of my people are indigenous and Panama, right, as well as African. There's indigenous identity all over the world and what are the ways that that has been exploited? And can we really do good therapy and good healing work, without having a frame without understanding where all of this is held, right? And that's a pretty crummy crux, if you ask me.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, I mean, it's really messy, but it's a necessary mess to go through it sounds like. I'm actually reading or listening to Braiding Sweetgrass on audiobook right now. And it's touching my heart so much. And it's making me think of everything you're talking about, like you said, we're not necessarily going to go back to how things were but in terms of from that point to now, gosh so much has happened, so much trauma has happened, that we sweep under the rug, and I'm like, okay, well, what am I going to do today? What's the next thing instead of really, having the space in the first place to even dig into anything. And I think that's the biggest challenge, especially in capitalism is even having the space to do it. And I feel like that's a huge part of what decolonizing work is, right?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah. How do I say this? I tell like a lot of the therapists and folks that I work with like you have to work on yourself first. There's no other way around this, there is no model, theory and that's something that I try to push back against because I do notice, which I'm sort of supportive of and yet not. A lot of therapists now saying like decolonizing therapists and this and that and I'm just like well, have we done the work, have you unpacked some of this in community, it isn't just like oh the new thing, this isn't synonymous with social justice.
Nisha Mody: Right.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: This is a practice. This is a way of living and this is constantly being willing to put our work and our jobs sometimes, and our friendships on the line to really look at new ways of creating. And so I feel like it takes decolonizing therapy is about the past and the history, like intergenerational trauma, historical trauma, how we've been affected, as well as the future, how are we going to cocreate this? What was what will this look like? Are there bartering systems? What are the ways that we can imagine outside of boxes that have been, like, socially constructed for us?
Nisha Mody: Yeah, wow. And one thing that you had said earlier, too, was about how burnt out you were. So, I see decolonizing therapy is multifaceted, where it's about therapists themselves, and what they're dealing with, and the way they're being taught, and how much the caseload they have, and how that's facilitating their everyday lives or not. And then there's also how you go about therapy with patients or clients or whatever. And I feel like that itself must be a kind of cocreation, right? And if it's kind of done in this way, where it's surface level and not digging into those roots, it's like, essentially harm, I mean, that's what it sounds like.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah. I would say that I've done a lot of harm prior to even knowing, right? even as a person with a colonized history, racialized person, I think that most of us have. And the other piece to it is that I would dare say that a lot of harm has been also enacted on us, on me, on each other, there's been a great deal of harm and so my goal is for us to not just see it as a form of therapy, because I actually don't do therapy anymore, right? Like kind of like you Nisha, I'm just like, you know and coaching doesn't quite I don't know, if you feel like this as well but coaching doesn't always quite encompass the work that we do, either. Like, it feels good, but I feel like there's another term that needs to like…
Nisha Mody: Like a larger…
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah, that I haven't quite pleased to my finger on because I feel like I'm trying to undo myself from just being a therapist, because it's no longer that I'm also bringing healing in. And the way that I was trained as a psychologist is, okay, we know what you're going to do, these are the steps, you're the people that you listen to you, don't talk too much about yourself, don't act too blank, blank, blank and blank, it's very sort of neutralizing and hurtful and icky, right? And it's also very medical model.
Nisha Mody: Yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: So, it's super, super about, like treatment, and procedure, and even social workers have boundaries. Yeah, so part of the work, I think, is that we wanted to colonize, health for everyone. And so, part of this work is the emotional mental health stuff needed in order for us to have a new world, right? And like, how are we dealing with all of the pain and the suffering from what has happened in the past? And how do we move forward? I don't know if that makes sense.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, no, definitely. And I think what you had said, especially about not sharing things about yourself. As a coach, I find it very hard to not share things about myself, because it's like you chose me, to see me and there must be something that you resonated with in terms of my energy and how is there an exchange, if I'm not sharing parts of myself with you? Yes, I can have boundaries, of course, like about what I will and won't share and whatever. But I feel that it kind of removes the relationship in a way to not to have just that simple, okay, I'm going to have this diagnosis, and this is the treatment and it really kind of dehumanizes it, I think.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah, I would agree with you completely and I think that what also happens in the dehumanization process is this hierarchy. I’d like to see myself as like a steward into healing somebody like inner depths, right? Like in returning like unwrapping themselves and I mean, the people that I generally work with now are usually folks that are in the front line in some way, shape or form of DEI work, right? And thinking wait I thought this was going to be different? I thought I was going to be able to come into this city agency or this organization and really do this more than DEI work, right? But like this real like unearthing and this decolonizing, and instead, they find themselves faced up against a lot of internalized oppression, sometimes from their own peers that look like them, feeling very disconnected, burnt out sick. I'm working with a team right now of eight people, we have individual as well as group gatherings and sessions to talk about what's happening and there's only two people left, the rest are all leaving, were on leave, or have recently had a break of some sort, it's not sustainable the way that it is now. And so yeah, I think decolonizing therapy falls on this line of spirituality, because that's a large part of it as well, like ancestral work and ancestry, politicization, like understanding what is happening politically and in our environment, as well as the psychological.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, definitely, integrating all of that definitely seems important. I was wondering, so for people out there, especially those who may identify as QT BIPOC, who are interested in becoming therapists, what do you say to them? Especially given what you've experienced and what you know, about the field?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: I would say, to really think it through. No, I would like for people to get to the root, to get to the root of is it that you want to do healing work, and it's not seen as accessible? Or you know, possible at this time, or that your family won't approve? Is it that you have a deep interest and a love for helping others? Do you want to do therapy? What’s really coming up? And what do you really want to do, and if therapy, social work, counseling, psychiatry, any of those are it. I say under the process, fine, go to these programs and know though that you have to take care of yourself know that building community with your fellow students in the classes are essential, in order to survive. Know that you are not going to get everything you need, from a program, a doctorate, a master's degree, and know that nothing is going to teach you more than maybe doing a little bit of grassroots work, getting your hands a little dirty in the trenches, with other people and learning of course, with boundaries and guidelines. I know also that most of what you're going to be taught has probably been from some of your people’s history and assimilated and cultivated and watered down and it's going to feel enraging many, many times. So, I don't tell people not to do it and I wouldn't do it differently. I think that the journey was a billion times more essential than what I learned. The journey of being broken apart, being heard, I had my program, my doctorate program, they will tell you, we’ll sue you for slander, how is this slander? Prove that that article and what you showed us with a no context is not racist, you can sue me for slander, and you will get nothing because I have student loan debt.
Nisha Mody: You can pay that off if you want, yeah totally.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Right. Yeah, I think that therapy is super helpful. I'm not saying that therapy is not. But I do think for many Queer, Indigenous, Black, Brown people of color, there's also a limit. There's also like a sort of place where it's like, okay, and I have white ally therapists, friends, they've been with me for like a year and a half, but now they're starting to talk about ABC and D, or they're starting to talk about lineage or identity or things that I could speak to, but just through word of mouth, they probably want to sit with somebody that has some level of understanding of the level of microaggression or racial trauma that they're going to. And so some really great white therapists will refer out, or will say, like a connected connection and I'm doing that with a client now, who I've worked with for four, five years, but knowing that she's really coming up against a lot around colorism, right? And I'm a light skinned woman of color, and connecting together, there's this realization, and I said, so and so, what would it be like to be sitting in front of someone virtually, right? All this and I can speak of this. This must be enraging to have to constantly look at me and be talking about feeling not as pretty lighter skinned black women, and so on and so forth. And so, I think that we have to know where our points of privilege and oppression are at the end of the day and if we don't, what are we doing? And how are we really helping, in this process?
Nisha Mody: Yeah, I really love that because I think we don't even realize how violent something like that can be and of course, it's not intentionally violent but it is, because when that person, does sit down with someone who has darker skin, and then suddenly has a different feeling within their body of comfort and safety, then you know, what was happening before? And again, it’s positionality, you know? So, I think that that's a really great point and it's a really important piece of awareness to have that in a world that wants us to be colorblind, and all types of like, neutral. It’s so problematic and I really do think it's really important, going back to your point about honoring the process, I really appreciate that because I myself I'm on like, my third career, and I'm doing my coaching on the side, I'm divorced, like from an emotionally abusive marriage, like I don't regret any of it. I am where I am and I'm really happy where I am, and it is that process, that kind of led me to where I am, and no one was going to convince me to not marry this guy, it wasn't going to happen, you know what I mean? Like no one could have so that's where I was then, right? So and all of the things I did, I'm a very good self-convincer of myself that no, this is this is what I want, so we have to go through it and we continue to go through it and I think that's also really important as if there's not an endpoint necessarily.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: No, no there's not and I'm with you on that, as somebody who's also happily divorced as well. Yeah, that journey was essential, that 18 years, whatever it is, like that was essential for me to be in and it was also essential for me to get out of and be like cracked open and sit with all the good, hard shit and honestly, probably, I wouldn't be here talking to you about this, or really have been able to birth along, of course, with ancestors, mentors, everybody that has supported this process and big and small wave, I don't think I would be here because maybe, I don't know, I think that my energy, my space, my mind would be somewhere else.
Nisha Mody: Sure.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah, but to your point, there was also something else you said that I thought was really fascinating, when we talked about the journey. I'm also thinking to myself, that’s part of what colonization has done for us to in a negative way, it has stripped us of trusting our inner voices and ourselves. And so I get a lot of what do I do? I'm in this program, how did you get to be where you're at?
Nisha Mody: Yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: And these are moments where I'm like, okay, I should do a training program. I don't want it to be a training, right? Oh, well, I should do this. But I don't want it to be like this kind of structured… So, I constantly talked myself in and out of things. Like, it's like one of my that's why I need to, like always bounce it off to someone else. Because, okay, people need this. But I don't want it to be in this like Eurocentric structured capitalistic way. And so, I say this to say, I think that we need to just get back to the basics, like, one on one. And what I believe I excel at is helping people like emotionally decolonize and that's where I reside, right? And yes, in that emotional decolonization, then we can, you know, deal with the ramifications of what happened in the past, then we can work on policy and giving land back, but if we're still internally, deeply, right? Embedded and these structures telling us, what is beautiful, what is not, what is healthy, what is not, taking away from our people's ways, structures of doing things, not giving us access to teaching about our own ways of being, I think it's problematic and violent. Yeah. And so I feel like it's kind of emotional first aid, so to speak.
Nisha Mody: Yeah. That's a great point, I mean, I definitely consider myself a political person and like you said, like, we have to understand how these things are politicized but it's even like a struggle with me where, yes, I think we need policy, we need all that top-down stuff, right? I mean, structure is extremely important and that's ultimately what is causing so much oppression and it's making us disconnect from ourselves, but at the same time, we have to reconnect to ourselves, so it's like this vicious cycle, but an important one, right? It's the work that needs to be done, but I think the inner work has to happen, because I even think of people who are like investigative journalists. and not just investigative journalists, but truly from an anti-capitalist lens. And I look at them, and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, how is their mental health? Like, I cannot imagine doing this work, this is very important work and that's just one example or someone who's in community or a community organizer or something like that and while I think that work is extremely important, I feel that that isn't my forte and I'd like to see how I can stretch into that. But those individuals really need that support, right? So it's really kind of, yeah, seeing how all of it can be married in some type of way and that that inner work happens, because ultimately, no matter what type of work you're doing, you're still capable of harm.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Absolutely. Yeah. And I think there's the importance also of community, right? My community like other communities, it's so important that's why I want to continue to support all of these different ways that healing happens, right? Like, your work is a form of healing other people's and everybody kind of knows what they need, right? You're not saying, okay, yeah, I'm a therapist because there are certain things that may need a very specific cognitive behavioral therapy, or whatever it is, but even then, I urge us a question, as I'm writing a chapter on the history of mental health. I'm like, wait a minute, mental health originally was seen as a very spiritual-religious issue, right? Initially, it was treated, like curanderos and shamans, and healers. All of our cultures, every single one of our cultures, including people that have come to be known as white, had natural healers in their lineage and so at the more that I'm reading about it, the more I'm just thinking to myself, mental health has been co-opted, right? And again, what would that look like to bring it back to the roots and to allow people that kind of work amongst the divine feminine and I don't mean this in like a male-female way. I mean, more of the energy of the divine feminine. What would it look like to not have all this structure around healing? What would it look like to have more days off for family members to care for their loved one who's in crisis?
Nisha Mody: Yeah, definitely.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: What would that look like for us when we're exhausted? To have a bunch of mental health days to just say, hey, I want to have lunch with my friend today. I want to walk to the park. I just want to lay on the couch and watch Schitt's Creek, whatever it is. Why don't I have the right to do that? And then what about folks that don't have, right? Like days off?
Nisha Mody: And can't afford to do something like that.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Right.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, definitely. It's like I see that all is like the challenge and the gift, right? To come to that awareness and to realize, like, wait, no, this is bullshit. Why am I doing all this stuff? Or, like, how much of myself am I pushing down? I think that a lot about my parents who were immigrants and how they didn't have the space to think about that stuff, and now I have been gifted all the space because of their hard work in so many ways. I mean, I feel like it's such a stereotypical immigrant story, but it's true but at the same time, now my father's passed away, but he was a very emotionally repressed person and I look at my mom too, and it's just it's hard to see that they have not had that space, and they deserve that, we all really, really, really deserve that. And how much of our humanity has been stripped away from these colonial structures, that put them in a position to not care for themselves and to be also stripped of their community. I think of my parents who left India and I feel that even when my mom goes back to India, she doesn't feel the sense of community she felt as a young child or I think of how she did build a community in the United States, but it was built on making food together in a way also to save money and share. But it was also built on dropping off coupons at people's places to get everything on sale. And there was something very beautiful about that. But it was also something that was also vary based on a scarcity mindset, right?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, it's fascinating to explore. I feel like I got away from whatever point we were talking about, but it just totally reminded me of all this.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah you brought it alive because that's exactly what the focus would be, right? And how is that like scarcity mindset, then? How does that show up in our lives? And where did where do we feel that in our bodies, where do we feel that in our spirits, how does this show up and how we work? You get me excited because that's exactly what I would go with it, right?
Nisha Mody:.Yeah, and you had mentioned rage before and I watched your honoring of your sacred rage workshop and it was excellent. I want to watch it again because it provides so many perspectives and lenses to unpack and I can see, especially when their idea of anger management. To me, maybe four or five years ago, that's a good thing for someone who's angry. But that does not honor anything about what that anger is for that person, right? And even if an angry person, might piss us off, we're just like stop being angry, that's still not actually helpful for them, right? To work through that. So I just wanted to talk to you about this idea of rage and it is sacred and what that means and for anyone that might think it's counterproductive, what does this all look like?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah, no, I love that and I thank you for watching it as well. So, my relationship with rage is ancient. And my lineage and my belief systems do go into past lives and so I just deeply identify but bringing it in into this lifetime. So does my paternal family line there's just so much rage there and the rage is not only that ahh, like scream and curse, although I grew up in that because my father is very much a very externally, viscerally overwhelming, verbally violent person also, he's 6'9. So I grew up with an intimidating presence in my household, and I would frequently be like, well, I'm not scared and I was scared as a kid but I learned being the older kid is me and my brother, that being fearful would get me bullied more, by the bully in my house.
For some people, they would go the opposite way, right? And I think that's natural as well as to like, move away from it and as I got older, I would have what I call, rage outbursts. These are like moments, I felt it building, all week long and like building all month long, maybe all year long, depending on the year, the month, the situation, and then the wrong person at the wrong place at the wrong time, or sometimes a very well deserved time would wrath, right? And I also grew up in the early 90s, so it was just an intense time. It was violent, yet I also have to say, I think that hip hop and hardcore rap, saved a lot of our lives, too, because there were like stories to tell about what a lot of us were experiencing and I can say that for myself. So all of that to say, I got into my 20s I'm in a doctoral program in California. So somehow my rage kept me out of prison, right? Or I kept myself and my rage out of prison, rather and my teacher, mentor was an amazing black woman, was a very peaceful person. She was like, a [inaudible 00:34:27] in the 70s. I was an [inaudible 00:34:29]meditating. I wasn't out there in the line, but we were bringing peace another way and I'd be like, oh, f*** that, that's not me. I had a very hard time sitting still, they would be like, oh, you're the east coaster, like you're from the east coast for sure because I was always just like, what's next? what's happening? Let's go, faster, better, more, let's go, like competitive and just and not meaning to just like everything that would come out of my mouth was just like, boom, right? And she recommended me to read Ruth King's book, Healing Rage: Women Making Inner Peace Possible, and anyway I attended her rage retreat and it f***** me up in a good way or not whatever it helped me to really understand that rage was not just about like flipping something over, hitting something or throwing something or just screaming at someone and then feeling whether there was a connection, right? There was a connection to trauma, there was a connection to our childhood trauma, there was a connection to the ways in which we use maths, right?
Unconsciously and Ruth talks a lot about six disguises of rage, which she's given me the permission to review this work and so on because I've lived it and because I teach it and having worked in an inner-city and lived in one and live in one for 12 years and plus, the realization of everyone I'm serving in some way shape or form, even if they're dealing with anxiety, or grief is sitting on a whole lot of f****** rage. And I don't think we think about not just the individual but the collective rage. That is also happening. The rage people are dying, the rage at all this anti-Asian violence, the rage at what's happening and what happened to us when we were kids, right? I learned that I intellectualized it, years of therapy intellectualizing it, but did I drop in and embody what was taken from me, right? Or, like the ways I was scared, or I would pee on myself? Or like what happened? Am I able to access that now? So I believe that rage is the love child of ancestral and current trauma and childhood trauma, and shame because with rage comes a lot of like, tail between your legs, I shouldn't feel like this. This isn't blank-like, and I was told all my life, girls don't cuss the way you do, girls don't get into fights the way you do, girls don't blah, blah, blah, blah and I'm just like, okay, what are you trying to say? Why am I genderized this way? I didn't understand that as a kid, right? But it was just such a confusing message. And so, I believe that ancestrally but as also currently and politically, people have such a right to be enraged, tt's not just anger, right?
Because there's an ancestral component because it reminds us of the colonization, that we can't verbalize, but that our bodies feel, that our energy fields, it reminds us of the genocides that some of our people went through, the levels of control and telling you what to do and I think what's happening because intergenerational trauma is alive and well and I talk about that a great deal. How do you not experience what our parents and grandparents have not processed in their bodies, right? How do we not? And so as there are murders and terroristic American attacks that they don't want to identify, right? By white assailants, Ahmaud Arbery being murdered, and George Floyd, we know the trials going on now. How do we not feel deeply activated and triggered? While also knowing that that could be someone you love? Or wait that did happen to my cousin or that feeling of being jarred, like disjointedness and so I think that rage is healthy, I do. I think it's understandable and I think it's part of our collective shadow, you know, as a country that want to feel it.
Nisha Mody: Wow, collective shadow, I've not heard that. I've heard of the collective and I've heard of shadow work. I think that's amazing because if we look at systemic oppression, yes, it's a fricking collective shadow. It's interesting, I've gone to therapy for probably eight years, relatively, versus my dad died eight years ago, basically, that's when I started my therapy and which was right before I asked for a separation, so it was like, kind of everything happening and I'm so glad, it was so so helpful for me. But it wasn't really until last year that I ever talked to a therapist, and it was a therapist [heard?] coach, actually, about embodiment, and the nervous system and now I can describe what's happening in my body so much more easily now and like literally breathe into it and I'm not saying, talking and intellectualizing, I mean, I was such a nerd, I was all about intellectualizing. I still am a nerd but we are not nerds in and about our bodies, we're not taught to be, right? And it's amazing. I think so much about wow this stuff we learned in high school that was so useless and what about relationships? What about understanding our bodies and like you were saying early earlier, being connected to ourselves, listening to our gut, listening to our intuition, that is embodiment, right?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah it is embodiment and I feel like that's what I'm moving toward. Thank you for saying that, Nisha, because I'm with you. I've been in therapy since 19, 20 because of a pure education group I was in that saved my life in college. And I'm not saying I didn't do any kind of emotional work. I'm not negating that. But I think it's only the last five or six, seven years, yeah, that I started really thinking about embodying and feeling some of the trauma and not just talking about it and I just also want to honor anybody that might be listening, reading to this that knows all about their trauma, right, of course because we're the experts on it and can talk about it, but almost like it's happening over there like it's not me. And just think about the ways that your body may be shouting at you that it needs to like address, what is happening? And I think that that is what rage is. And so I often will say that rage, needs to be honored, it is sacred. First of all, it's a normal emotion, it's healthy, it's relatable, whereas anger is more about like, oh, somebody cut me off, hey,...
Nisha Mody: Right.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Usually we're getting over it in a day or less, right? Usually, like we might tell someone we care about, like this idiot just cut me off, nearly hit my car, but you move on, right? Or there's a sense of like, my boss really pissed me off. But you know what... and then it kind of moves on. Rage is often an experience of feeling like we're out of our bodies and not everyone has experienced it, I just want to say. Where sometimes it's so under, depending on our rage disguise right? It might not be appropriate or safe to unleash it. And I've worked with people that have like, Oh, no, no, no, no, I can't get angry, if I get angry, I don't want to hurt your office, I wouldn't hurt you and I get what they're saying, they feel like they wouldn't be responsible because they're not fully there if they really let it all out. What would that even look like? And so that tells me that, we have just been raising and being socialized to be these sort of, little containers, these little volcanoes and I think that's super dangerous. And I think it's also contradictory to healing and decolonization and I think that rage goes with it, part of decolonizing work is honoring all those shadowy emotions, right? The underbelly of things, right? And to own it and take it back so when everything has been stolen, right? And not that we want to walk around with this on our heads, oh, I'm this wounded...no, but I think that we need to acknowledge it, look at it, feel it, to deal with it, and heal it. Right. So I'm thinking generation three after us, Nisha, they don't have to maybe be dealing with this. They won't talk about there being historical trauma because they're like, oh, my great auntie, right? Or my mom, my dad, right? My second cousin, blah blah blah, they were talking about that a lot and they were working on this stuff and so now I know, I'm not going to blah, blah, blah. I'm going to go kickboxing when I'm really enraged. I'm going to punch the heck out of pillows when no one's home when I'm enraged. I'm going to talk about my feelings more in the way that my ancestors did not because they would be lynched or murdered or hung or... So, I think that also rage gets a bad rap and that they think that it's like telling people that they can just beat someone up or never, no, that's never okay. Well, maybe I can fix it. No, just kidding. But usually, that is not the good case. But what is is honoring that there is something sacred within us, that is a barometer that is like, hey, you need more rest, and the more you say yes to things you want to say no to, you're going to get resentful, you're gonna take it out on people in your house. It just grows within us until it's obese and there's been situations where people I love dearly, again, not harming anyone, but just snapping, like just finding myself like, ahh, or even cry rages, which I think are also acceptable and understandable. And it's our body's way of releasing control, I firmly believe. I hope that answered your question.
Nisha Mody: Oh, yeah, definitely. I think that especially that rage, one it being the ways that it can be disguised, I think that's very, very important and that it's not just yelling at the person who cut you off. And it's so much deeper. And I think also thinking about it and intergenerational way forwards and backwards, both and I think especially thinking about forwards, breaking those cycles. I feel like I keep thinking about my ancestors and I don't always think forward, but it isn't even necessarily my bloodline, it could be someone who's just exposed to me that I'm here talking about this and they're like, oh, because we're all exposed to so many types of people, but definitely within our immediate ancestors, our family line even more so because especially if that's who raised us, etc. So, yeah, that definitely answered the question and I feel like I've been having, so many feelings in my body where it's like, you could just feel how much trauma there has been. And I feel like I sometimes see that oh, people are just calling things trauma and I don't know, I'm curious what you think about that because, if you feel like this affected you to the point where you're having this behavior because of something that happened that you don't even actually deeply understand. If you want to call that trauma so that you can heal from it, do it but I'm curious what you think because I think language is powerful and it's important and it should be used in a way that's useful and meaningful. So yeah, I'm just curious what about your thoughts about that?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah about trauma, right?
Nisha Mody: Yes.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: I have mixed feelings, too. And I try to manage it on a situation-by-situation basis, and how I feel about it, to be perfectly honest with you, because, I feel like it is beautiful that people are reawakening, to the history, to our ancestry, to things that have happened. And I think that intergenerational trauma is now finally getting some attention. I was writing my dissertation in 2012, all around the soul wound and intergenerational trauma. And it was like crickets, nobody cared. It was like what? Now we can understand how like epigenetically, how our DNA, gene expression, changes and shifts based on our environment, and based on what is passed down to us. So I'm talking this out loud because I'm thinking in that way, how wonderful to pay attention to that. But on the other hand, with anything, when we talk about it so much, it sometimes loses its value and it's kind of feel that about decolonizing, too, right? I see all of these people saying it and I'm like, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute.
Nisha Mody: Like how are we all talking about it?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: First,let's acknowledge all of our indigenous people that have been talking about colonization and decolonizing and another part of me, if I could zoom out even more from the storyline, knows that it's kind of like what you were saying before that if our parents, our grandparents, they didn't have the luxury, the time, or maybe even the emotional bandwidth or capacity to understand and process what was really going on, right? There was just like survival. What do I need to do to get through the week? What do I need to do to make sure my family had food on the table? What do I need to do to come to this country or to get out of this country and get out of persecution, get out of colonization and forced migration and everything that's happening around that and I truly firmly believe and not in a watered-down way that those of us alive at this time, I will just say it that way because it's not just one generation, are tasked with the emotional labor, right? I think that we are given this emotional labor because we're moving more into this like feminine space again, not having to do with binaries per se, but just like the energy of the feminine of it, less structure, less rigidity, and more time to feel.
Nisha Mody: Right.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: I also strongly believe that you know it's that thing where it's like someone's like me too, I've been feeling that shit. I feel like some of that happens, sometimes, especially with like Instagram and social media where folks are just like, I felt that.
Nisha Mody: Yeah. They feel seen.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yes, exactly, you feel seen, heard, you're verbalizing something that has been so guttural and so in my body that I have not been able to look at myself in separation from, these things and so yeah, sometimes I get a little annoyed. And sometimes it feels too heavy and I just take breaks and I pull back and I'm thinking okay, well, three, four years ago, not everybody was talking about trauma, you know? And so, as exhausting, and as like, oh, do you really know what you're talking about? Are you really about this? Now everybody is using this, there's another part of me that feels like, well, this needed to come up, because we're clearing out the shadows. This needed to come up and there needed to be this big expansion, for what next and that's part of I think what decolonization is too or in the way that I hold it anyway, that emotional decolonization is also reclaiming, right, and receiving that joy, right reclaiming what was taken and what was lost. And so if that's the case, in order for us to get to the place of joy and lightness, and not having to talk about the heavy shit that happened to us. I think we need to feel like shit for a while.
Nisha Mody: I mean, yeah, be in that shadow, right?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah.
Nisha Mody: I definitely agree. And yeah I feel like it's interesting and even social justice used to be this radical terminology and I feel like now, Toyota is talking about it, like what? it's just stuff like that, where I'm like, I don't know about this, it's just getting really co-opted. And yeah, that can be a whole other podcast. But I'm just curious, it just popped in my head and I'm curious what you think about this because I feel like, for me, it's been useful to understand and I'm not I'm not in competition with other people's trauma. I'm just learning my own stuff, and how it affected me, and I think that that's also really important. Like, we're not here for that, right?. So this has been so amazing. I feel like this is so validating, and I've loved how you framed all these ideas, and hearing your own story behind it, I think that's so so important to make those connections. And I know so much of what you talked about is community and imagining things together. So, while you've been doing this work, and kind of working with others, and thinking of things on your own, what kind of your future utopia of a Decolonize Therapy or world or whatever, what would it look like? Even if it was maybe just one area? Potentially?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah, Well, one would be that managed care gets out of our healing spaces, right? I don't believe it belongs there. And I don't think that we need to share our diagnosis or wounding with corporations, because that's all they are, right? Healthcare industrial complexes. I don't think that they have a right to know that. And so I would completely remove that. And of course, it takes time, energy, effort and I would also really look at licensing boards and licensures. And really look at how we can really bring together rather than say, oh, that's this, and that's that and these are separate. How can we really like work together? I see a lot of social workers will say like, well, oh, yeah, yeah, well, at least we have more training than psychologists do on this. And then psychologists will say, no, I want to work with another psychologist, not a social worker. it's all this dividing and conquering and competition and I would really love for everybody to go to like an untraining and uneducating. Everything you think you need to know, what if you know nothing and what if none of us really know nothing other than what our bodies are capable of doing? And how our brains and our vagus nerve how everything is so amazing to be able to help heal us and restore. So I also think that a really large problem within the mental health complex is licensing. I think it is huge. I have decided to opt out of it, right and still say no, no, I'm a psychologist, like I have hundreds of thousands in student loan debt to support that shit. I have written articles that I've done everything you guys and people have asked me to do sort of disemboweling myself like what else do you need? I'm not even just using that, literally traumatic the process had been especially as a black woman, it was just brutal and so I would like for us to revamp this healing field, I'd like to bring healing back into it. I think that therapists, psychologists, social workers, counselors, psychiatrists, all could benefit from learning from healers, right? Inviting healers into spaces.
So I would imagine that they would be more not clinic centers, like sort of community hubs, like pods. And it's not about a one-stop-shop, It's more about literally meeting families and people where they are, you know, so it's not just like, oh, I need help. But I need help and here's my best friend and here is so and so and this is what they're noticing and here is how we need to do. They're telling me I need to do it differently. I don't know how to do it. Can they come into sessions with me? That's something that therapists don't do, right? And so, maybe there's like a central person, maybe it's peer support, that comes in first, right and so maybe peer-coach support comes in first. And then I would like to see group work that's just not exactly group work. I'm really good at that, making it sneaky. It doesn't feel like group we're over here sharing it all.
Nisha Mody: But here we are.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah. But here we are like oh, you go through that shit too.Yeah, there's times that I hurt myself because I don't feel and I'm dissociated, starting to talk about these things and then maybe some people would benefit from shaman work and that's part of their culture and a lineage, even if they're not aware of it and that's something that would work for them. At that time, they're also getting education and they're looking at their culture and lineage. So it's almost like if they wanted to come in seven days a week, they could, but they're receiving different forms of therapeutic healing support. I don't know if that...
Nisha Mody: Yeah. I love it. Yeah. It. It's integrative and not and not in a way where integrative and even that word kind of ends up kind of sounding like managed care. But yeah, it literally integrates these different healing modalities, just the term managed care sounds so silly, it's like I'm going to manage this, it's like, wait, is it care? Or is it managed care? Just the term itself is very yucky to me but yeah, I think that sounds beautiful, Jen. It's really interesting, professionalization with class analysis, I think is really important to investigate and judge, grade up and in race analysis, there are direct ties to what professionalization is, and I am still licensed as a speech therapist, that was my career before I was a librarian and yes, I definitely feel that there were things I learned in graduate school that I was not going to learn unless I went to graduate school. But I think that just the idea of professionalization, in the context of the world we live in and everything get it can be very, like, well, I know better, as opposed to, can we learn together? You know? So I think that it's just also knowing, you know, it's the idea of knowing and needing to know more, as opposed to what about knowing what's within ourselves and that's something as a librarian, something that's all about knowledge that a lot of work around decolonizing librarianship is about indigenous ways of knowing, not always feeling like we have to be to the written word, this is it, it says it right here. What about oral history? Look, what about all that stuff, everything is knowledge, and our bodies have knowledge, too. And I'm a librarian, but our libraries are empty without our bodies and we have to, look into them. So that's something I actually gave a talk at a library symposium the other day, about listening to your body. And I kind of put a trick question I'm like, hey, everyone names a resource and it's like a bunch of librarians naming all these resources and I was like, what about ourselves is resources? That we are our own resource, and we often forget it, especially within our profession and there's nothing wrong with external resources, I think information is important.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah, I resonate, and I think it's important to also say that, as you've been saying too, therapy, as it stands, can be very helpful for some people. But I find that for people that are relegated to the margins of society, right? At a certain point, nine times out of 10, 10 times out of 10, something shifts, and we need more, right, we need more. And I think that that's why people are hungry for this idea because a) it has been violent in some of our grad schools, particularly for people of color, particularly, we also have to call a spade a spade, especially for probably Latinx or Black folks that are not seen as the model minority myth with the model minority myth of like, oh, you're good at school? I can't tell you how many times after a presentation, you’re articulate. And I one time told my professor; do you want to pat me on the head?
Nisha Mody: Yeah, totally.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Or, you write so well. but every so often this boys in the hood comes out of you, in grad school, the whole class and I just shrink, right? And so when I think of this and I think of what you're saying, I resonate so deeply, because it's also like yeah, some of us even in my vision of the future, there are certain things that we gravitate towards some of us love mathematics, that is not Jennifer, some of us love mathematics and technology, that is not Jennifer. And then so we need you, right? And then yeah, get better at that, learn more, tinker with it, study it, you want to write about it? Great and can we also make space for like, the youth that are like organizer activists, that contain just all about neoliberalism, can teach us all about what happened in the last right 300, 500,000 years, in terms of war and people's resistances, I've learned so much from people that have been seen and discarded as like, not academic enough, right? Not an institution of higher education. And I have to say that being kind of organized, getting that education, and getting that re-education also influenced decolonizing therapy and my rage of work and helped me, let out some of my rage because I had an analysis, I started understanding, oh, wait a minute, this isn't all my fault, this isn't [inaudible 01:02: 58] and there's something to be said about that and I do think that that shift is what's happening in this world. So we're hearing it everywhere, right? And it gets watered down but what's important, I think, as we were both agreeing with is the embodiment, is the practice of it. and so I would like with for that to happen, though, I think things need to slow down significantly, right? I mean, we're all doing too much and too fast.
Nisha Mody: I couldn't agree more.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Not having as I told you my full-time job right now. So what I still have multiple things throughout a day and so somebody that's supporting me is like what would it look like to reimagine your day the way you want to? What would it look like for everything not to get done? And I'm like what? If it doesn't get done then everybody's going to think I'm a flake or if I reschedule then I'm not blah blah blah blah blah. It's like contending with the Eurocentric, kind of, like collective socialization in our bodies, minds, and spirits and...
Nisha Mody: …and your Virgo placements, too. I'm a Virgo sun, so I get it, yeah.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: I'm a Virgo rising? North node, Mars, and Venus, all Virgo.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, that plus Eurocentric notions of productivity and deadlines and time, just time itself. Like, yeah, I hear you. I think that's a beautiful question. Like, how would you shape your day? And it's a scary question when our whole lives have been on some type of schedule, you know? And, yes, freedom sounds great. But then you walk into it, and you're like, what do I do with all this space?
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Yeah. And so we fill it because we think we're supposed to say yes to everything or be productive, or we're going to miss that great big thing, whatever that is. And it's like, we're the great big thing. We're missing the great big thing all the time.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, Right.
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: You're the great big thing, I'm the great big thing land when I sit or when I walk in nature when I slow down when I hike, then I'm able to hear when I'm listening, but otherwise an inspiration doesn't hit because I'm forcing it to hit on this rat race on other people's time and the way that they see fit. So I would say, I would really like to also see a future without so much policing of all sorts. And I'm not just talking about law enforcement, although they're definitely included, but just even the police inside of us and our heads, the way that we police each other, or the way that we know, we've been taught to like tattle, and kind of be busybodies and I'd really love for people to just like really be rooting for everybody. I frequently I'm just always just like, yes, yes. And that's how I think, years ago, I just started reposting people's things on my stories, because I realized, like, it didn't need to be all me, me, me, me, you know that. Like, there's healing that Nisha does that I cannot do. There's healing that I do that others cannot replicate, right? So it's like, there's nothing that can be stolen, right? Well, some things.
Nisha Mody: Yeah, no, I completely agree. I am all about community over competition and I think that there is a damn good energy to that, and yeah. Wow, this is amazing. Thank you so much, Jen. I'm just like, so full of like ideas and wonder and unknowing and unlearning as unlearning is like a huge value of mine and I feel like we're always trying to know more when I feel like we need to unlearn all the structures t that are just like literally around us, like in us and, take over our bodies. So I think that's super, super important. So thank you so much. I cannot wait...
Dr. Jennifer Mullan: Thank you. I'm so grateful.
Nisha Mody: …for everyone to hear this. So yeah, thank you.