Transcript EP 290 – Interrupting the Cycle Between Stress and Codependency with Victoria Albina
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Dr. Taz: Welcome back, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Super Woman Wellness, where you know we are determined to bring you back to your superpower itself. And joining me today is Victoria Albina. She’s a Certified Life Coach, a UCSF-trained family Nurse Practitioner, and Breathwork Meditation Guide with a passion for helping women realize that they are their own best healer so you can break free from codependency, perfectionism, people pleasing, and reclaiming your joy, nothing any of us have ever experienced, Victoria.
Victoria Albina: No, not at all.
Dr. Taz: Not at all. She’s the host of the Feminist Wellness Podcast, and holds a master’s degree in Public Health from Boston University School of Public Health and a BA in Latin American Studies from Oberlin College. She’s been working in health and wellness for over 20 years, and I’m pleased to have her on the show. Welcome to the show, Victoria.
Victoria Albina: Thank you so much for having me. I’m delighted to be here.
Dr. Taz: Wonderful. Well, this topic, right? Stress, codependency, people pleasing. How did you make that the focus of your life coaching and some of the work you’ve been doing?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. We can go back to 1979.
Dr. Taz: Going way back.
Victoria Albina: So it was a blustery Friday in Argentina, and I was-
Dr. Taz: Nice. Love it.
Victoria Albina: Yeah. So, healing codependency, perfectionism, and people pleasing has been a huge part of my own personal journey, and really, wanting to do this work started in the clinic. So I was a primary care provider for many years. I had a private practice in Manhattan doing functional medicine, and I started to see trends. I started to see patterns where my patients, particularly those with chronic medical concerns, irritable bowel syndrome, hypothyroid, chronic depression and anxiety, adrenal fatigue, I could go on and on, right?
Victoria Albina: I started to see this mindset that was predominant, that sort of reigned supreme amongst my clients, my then patients of putting themselves last, sourcing their worth from everyone else, doing things they didn’t want to do to keep other people happy with them, not having healthy life-supporting boundaries, really being scared to say no because they were worried that other people wouldn’t like them and that mattered more than liking themselves.
Dr. Taz: Wow.
Victoria Albina: I really started to see the thread through, which was codependent thinking. And so-
Dr. Taz: Is that female dominant? Is that what you were saying? That was mainly females?
Victoria Albina: I was mostly seeing it in humans socialized as women, yeah. Because I think it’s part and parcel of our socialization and our conditioning, to be that good girl. And then to be the good wife and the mother and put ourselves last, last, last.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Yeah. So how does this affect the physical body? So you’ve got this attempt to be the good girl, the good wife, the good mother, the good whatever. What’s happening to us physically and physiologically?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. So this is where I might nerd out about Polyvagal theory, the nervous theory.
Dr. Taz: Do it. Do it. If you’re ready. I was thinking-
Victoria Albina: Get your safety goggles on, here we go?
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Well, I think the audience has already heard, and I’m yes, I am speaking for all of you listening and watching, but you guys have already heard the words cortisol, you’ve already heard the word stress. You’ve already heard the words adrenal fatigue. You’ve heard from me, Superwoman Syndrome and burn out. Let’s get into the science. Let’s do it. You have a great in.
Victoria Albina: Oh, I love talking about this stuff. So, when we really pull back and look at our nervous system, well, let’s talk about Polyvagal theory. So it is the work of Dr. Stephen Porges if people want to nerd out about it more. There’s several episodes of my podcast, Feminist Wellness, all about it. And Deb Dana is a social worker, so she puts it into play in English.
Victoria Albina: And so, this is the understanding that our nervous system has these three branches, the sympathetic nervous system, which we’ve probably all heard about before, which is fight or flight or flee. And so, that’s when we believe a lion is coming to eat us and our village and everyone we’ve ever loved, and we’d best book it on out of there, because we’re small. Right?
Dr. Taz: Right.
Victoria Albina: I’m not going to punch a lion in the nose. Are you?
Dr. Taz: Mm-hmm.
Victoria Albina: No, thank you.
Dr. Taz: Me? No.
Victoria Albina: No.
Dr. Taz: No, of course not.
Victoria Albina: No. I love that you’re like, “Absolutely not. Not available for that, thank you very much.”
Dr. Taz: Right.
Victoria Albina: So we have sympathetic activation, which is an adrenaline-based state. Cortisol is also part of that state as one of our stress hormones. At the other extreme, we have dorsal, which is the free state, which is shut down. That, folks I feel have heard less about, and that’s when the foot is all the way off the gas. We’re not getting the adrenaline we need. We’re not getting that get up and go, because our bodies are exhausted. Our bodies have put out so much stress hormone over so much time, but in a way it’s just said, “Bust that, right? I’m done with you. I’m done with giving you all this adrenaline and this cortisol.” It hasn’t saved us yet, and so we go into what’s called this feigned death response in the literature. And so, we get really small and we get quiet, we get withdrawn, we isolate, right? We just want to watch Netflix and be left alone.
Victoria Albina: So sympathetic looks like anxiety and dorsal looks like depression. In the middle is the human home, the ventral vagus. And so, that’s where our nervous systems want to be because we’re pack animals. We want to connect with each other. We want to have that human connection and foster significance, take care of each other in loving ways that are based in mutuality. We want to show up for each other and show up for ourselves, and we can best do that from the ventral vagus. When our body is pausing in it.
Dr. Taz: Okay. I’m going to stop you for a minute. Sympathetic.
Victoria Albina: Sympathetic, “Pew, pew.”
Dr. Taz: Anxiety complications.
Victoria Albina: Yes. Put on the gas. Yeah.
Dr. Taz: Sweaty palms, ruminating, not sleeping, blah, blah, blah.
Victoria Albina: Worrying. Yeah.
Dr. Taz: Dorsal, depression, shut down, isolation.
Victoria Albina: Yes.
Dr. Taz: Are there areas of the brain or different nerve centers that are getting activated?
Victoria Albina: Right. So these are the three branches of the nervous system, the autonomic or autonomic nervous system. Right? And this system, luckily, is automatic, because how long would you survive if you had to think about your heart rate?
Dr. Taz: Right. Not long.
Victoria Albina: Right. About one heartbeat, and then I’d get distracted, like, “Wait. What happened? Squirrel?” Right. So this is an automatic system and it’s governed by the vagus nerve, which is the 10th cranial nerve, the longest nerve in the human body, and it runs through the middle of us, and evervates or gives nerve function to everything along its path. Right?
Dr. Taz: Okay.
Victoria Albina: You got it.
Dr. Taz: But then, the middle is the ventral, and that’s homeostasis almost?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. That’s our set point. That’s where we want to get back to.
Dr. Taz: Got it.
Victoria Albina: We need some sympathetic to be able to get up when the alarm goes off, put on pants, go put the kettle on. We need dorsal or there’s no Savasana, right? There’s no calm. There’s no reading a book on the porch. Right? So this is a spectrum, and we can get stuck in the extremes. And we’ve all met people who are constantly anxious and constantly worried. And we’ve had periods in our life where we’re worked up or we’re just shut down. Right.
Victoria Albina: And so, when we’re in ventral vagus, everything along the middle of the animal is getting optimal nerve function, and thereby everything is flowing appropriately: our thyroid, our heart rate, our breathing, the movement of the diaphragm, our digestion, our reproductive function. When we’re in the extremes and that’s our predominant state, that stuff stops working because it should. Another question for you, if you were being chased by a lion, would you want your body to stop pumping blood to your heart and your lungs, your fists and your feet so it can digest a cheeseburger?
Dr. Taz: No, absolutely not.
Victoria Albina: No thank you. Right? Let’s go beatastaurus.
Dr. Taz: Or I will be a cheeseburger very shortly.
Victoria Albina: Exactly.
Dr. Taz: But how do we stay in this ventral space? How do we stay in that middle space? And do we enter the world, with everything that’s happening in utero, are we already entering the world in one of these extremes?
Victoria Albina: Oh, unfortunately, there’s so much we can look to. It’s a complex field, but epigenetics, we can look at everything that happens like you said, in utero. We can come into the world stressed. And really, our programming, the steady state for our nervous system gets set in utero and ages zero to seven. That’s when our brains are in theta state, we’re most receptive. We can look to Bruce Lipton for further work on this, the Biology of Belief. His work is… There’s so much in there. But it is when our story about what’s normal in our physiology and relationally between ourselves and other humans, that’s when that gets set into motion.
Victoria Albina: And so that’s why my patients were coming into the office in their twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and beyond, not recognizing how much codependent, perfectionist, and people pleasing thinking we’re just part and parcel of their lives. And they were not able to see, because we’re not educated on these things, right? It’s not their fault. But they weren’t able to see how the mindset that kept them in chronic sympathetic activation or chronic dorsal, the chronic disconnection from self, we’re not taught to see how that impacts our thyroid, our period, our digestion, our oxygenation, our immune system, our endocrine system, on and on. It’s wild. We should be learning this in kindergarten.
Dr. Taz: Yeah, we should. So how do we…
Victoria Albina: Come back?
Dr. Taz: Well, no. First, let’s get into more of the science. So tell us how, for somebody out there listing who’s wondering why their thyroid is always off or why they’re in estrogen dominance or why they can’t lose weight. Talk us through the science of this mindset and these hormone imbalances. How do those worlds collide?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. There’s a lot of complexity there, right? And I just want to name it. This isn’t happening within a vacuum, right? So, so much of my own medical issues over the years were due to being in these mindsets and the result in nervous system state, the nervous system state and the result in mindset. But I also had a parasite. I had a Blastocystis hominis, right? But I was also in the perfectionist, people pleasing habit of overworking to prove my worth, over-serving to try to keep others happy with me, over-functioning in every relationship. I would only date people who seemed to not be able to find the laundry hamper. Right? So I was constantly picking up socks from the living room and being really pissed off about it instead of speaking up and setting healthy boundaries or leaving the relationship. Right?
Victoria Albina: So that mindset piece was keeping me, I’d walk into the door of the apartment, dinner wouldn’t be made, there’d be socks everywhere, right? And I would get dysregulated. My nervous system would go to 27 on a 0-10 scale. Right? And all that sympathetic activation, I could feel it in my body, that whoosh, flood of adrenaline. And in that moment, my already compromised thyroid and digestion were taking a hit, right? So then I’d sit down to dinner in that activated state, right? I’d cook dinner angry. I’d make the meal angry. I’d serve it angry, right? And then no wonder I couldn’t digest it properly. No wonder I ended up with SIBO, a small intestine bacterial overgrowth. The migrating motor complex in the small intestine has no interest in functioning and creating that electromagnetic pulse that moves food through when you’re pissed off while you’re eating, while you’re sad while you’re eating, while you’re not grounded in yourself. Right.
Dr. Taz: So complete. Well, how then… It’s so hard to recognize that you’re in that state.
Victoria Albina: Totally.
Dr. Taz: And then the big follow up question is, how do you unwind yourself from that state?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. So we start to recognize it by stepping into being our own witness, and to really deciding one day that we want to live a different way, and recognizing that that doesn’t start with taking action. It doesn’t start with leaving the relationship. It doesn’t start with no longer cooking dinner or setting the boundary. It starts with witnessing. So bearing nonjudgmental witness to your own mind and to your own nervous system right? So when you walk up to the apartment, “I’m about to open the door. What are my habitual thoughts here?” Right? “To hell with this guy who’s sitting on the couch eating hummus, when I just worked a full day as a primary care provider, got the groceries, planned on the meal. Right? And they’re watching reality TV.” Right? “To hell.” This may or may not be my last big relationship, but here we go. Right?
Victoria Albina: So what am I thinking? And then checking in somatically with my body, right? What state is my nervous system in as I walk up to the door? Obviously, sympathetic to start with, right? Sympathetic for years in this example, this random example I’m making up, right? Obviously sympathetic. My heart’s racing, like you said, my palms are sweaty, right? I don’t feel grounded. I’m not present in my body. I’m not present to myself as an animal. I’m swimming in my head. And those thoughts are.
Victoria Albina: So then you pause outside the door, and you write the thoughts down, right? Because what swims in your head is what you ruminate on. And when you get it onto paper, you can witness it, right? And from there, you can metathink. You can think about your thinking and you can ask yourself, “What does this make me feel? Angry, annoyed, irritated, taken advantage of on and on,” in this example. “What are the actions I take from this feeling? Well, I open the door full-on sympathetic, and then I go into being a nag,” which is different than asking for your needs to be met, right? It’s that claw, grasping, demanding energy. I go into that energy, right? And then I do all these actions from that energy.
Victoria Albina: “And what do I create for myself? What are the results that this will create in my life?” Not for them, for me, it’s going to create a bellyache before I even have dinner. It’s going to create all this adrenal impact, right? Of course, I’m not going to sleep well, and of course, I’m going to wake up fatigued. And I’m going to be behind on my charting tomorrow. I’m going to come home exhausted and do it all again.
Victoria Albina: So we start by bearing witness. And from there, we have to step into allowing, allowing that inner part of us to rage, to be annoyed, to have its feelings so that it can be heard. From there, we need to accept that there’s a part of us that, in its way, is comfortable in this chaos or we wouldn’t still be in it, right? That takes us back to zero to seven, our nervous systems get set to, “When I am treated this way, that’s what’s normal. It’s normal. It’s what happens.” Right? Makes sense. So then we accept it. We tolerate it as adults because our nervous system, our inner children, our limbic system believe it’s just fine, thank you. Though it feels terrible, it’s the terrible we’re used to, right?
Victoria Albina: And so, to nerd on that again, humans don’t like change. Puppies don’t either, right? Mammals don’t like for things to change. The three biological human imperatives are to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and put it elegantly, never freaking change, ever, right? Because what you’ve been doing that totally sucks and is garbage, it hurts you, it hasn’t killed you yet. Setting a boundary, “I don’t know. It might kill me. I’ve never done it before.” Right? “It wasn’t modeled for me in childhood. It doesn’t feel safe in my nervous system. All this, that feels safe. I hate it. I hate my life, but safe enough.”
Dr. Taz: So that’s why we constantly are attracted or seek these higher, more stressful situations, because they feel better.
Victoria Albina: Yeah. Totally.
Dr. Taz: Because no. Right?
Victoria Albina: Right. In the nervous-
Dr. Taz: For the rest of our career. Yeah.
Victoria Albina: Totally. Totally. In the nervous system world, we call it reenactment, where the nervous system is trying to reenact a past experience with the hope that this time, this time, there’ll be a different outcome. If we take the same actions, there’s a lot of physics about that one. Right? We know how that’s going to not work out. Right? And so, it’s really only once we’ve witnessed, allowed, and accepted, that then we begin to take action.
Dr. Taz: Witnessed, allowed. And what was the last one?
Victoria Albina: Accepted.
Dr. Taz: Accepted.
Victoria Albina: Yeah. Because we beat ourselves up, right?
Dr. Taz: Right.
Victoria Albina: “Ugh. Why am I thinking this way? I shouldn’t be behaving this way. I should be different. This should be different.” Right? We get so mean.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. And negative self-talk comes over and over again.
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Dr. Taz: So once we accept what’s happening, where’s the metal in the fire to make change?
Victoria Albina: Yeah.
Dr. Taz: Maybe cover that.
Victoria Albina: It’s in the body, it’s in the somatic connection. It’s returning back to the deep wisdom and the knowledge that our bodies hold. And so, somatic, the word soma comes from the Greek for body or the body and its wholeness, is a translation I’ve heard recently that I’m just loving. Yeah. Isn’t that so beautiful?
Dr. Taz: Yeah, it is.
Victoria Albina: The body and its wholeness. Yeah.
Dr. Taz: We don’t trust the body, do we?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. Let’s throw Descartes and the church all the way under the bus for that one, right? For mind/body dualism.
Dr. Taz: But we don’t believe the body. We don’t listen. We’re not trained.
Victoria Albina: We’re not trained, no.
Dr. Taz: We’re not trained, even as doctors, quite honestly. It’s like, “Let’s go find what’s wrong.” Right?
Victoria Albina: Yeah.
Dr. Taz: That’s not the mentality, not what the body’s wisdom is trying to tell us, because there’s generations of wisdom embedded in our cells, in mitochondria, and everywhere else. But again, saying that is different than tapping into that.
Victoria Albina: Absolutely.
Dr. Taz: How do we tap into that?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. So we start with stillness. We start with slowing things down. We start with mapping our nervous system. So if I tell you, “Bring yourself into ventral vagus,” and you’re like, “Cool, cool. I have no idea what that means.”
Dr. Taz: “What the hell are you talking about?”
Victoria Albina: “What are you talking about? You’re absolutely bananas. Thank you. I’ve got to go.” So we start with what is safest for us to feel, and that’s going to be super individual. But some practices that I walk folks through in my workshops and in my programs are about coming into the ventral vagus that others generate for us. And so, that can often be easier to connect in with.
Victoria Albina: So think back to when you were first holding your newborn baby, if that was a joyful moment for you, or the first time you saw your puppy, or the first time you got a Monstera plant, and your heart was flooded with joy, or holding your albuena’s hand, right? A moment that someone or something else generated happiness for you, right? And so that’s easier. You can see from codependent thinking, not thinking we’re worthy, not thinking we’re valid. It’s easier to think someone else creates our feelings.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Victoria Albina: Right? So let’s use it. Let’s use our skills, right? Why fight them? It gets us nowhere. Connect in with that, and think about that love that was coming towards you, right? And so, start by feeling that in your body. And here’s where we use pendulation. So pendulation, if we think about a pendulum swinging from extreme to extreme, for some folks who are not used to feeling joy or happiness or peace or calm, their first thought is, “Well, the other shoe is about to drop,” and their body goes to sympathetic or dorsal, we stay with grounding in that happiness for a second, maybe two and come back to neutral, right? So a neutral resource may be feeling your body being held by your chair, feeling your feet on the ground, right? Just feeling neutral and present, and then pendulate back to the joy and back, and back and forth, and back and forth.
Victoria Albina: And what you’re doing in there, is if you think of the pendulum swinging, it can swing wider and wider. And so that, if you can visualize that, is the window of what the literature calls “the window of tolerance.” It means how much input the nervous system can tolerate and stay in ventral vagus before it pops out into sympathetic or dorsal. So every time we go, and just visit with a new sensation and a new feeling and come back to neutral, we’re slowly widening that window. Yeah?
Dr. Taz: And when you pendulate, you go from a point of neutral to a point of joy in that?
Victoria Albina: You start.
Dr. Taz: You don’t go to the negative?
Victoria Albina: Well, we want to start with resourcing and grounding and in the positive, so that folks can get that felt sensation. And so, then I would go from externally created happiness to thinking of a moment where you created happiness for you. Who doesn’t feel happy when they’re holding the hot cup of coffee with cream that they made for themselves, right? Or a delicious bowl of whatever your favorite is that you made for you.
Dr. Taz: Right.
Victoria Albina: Right? So keeping it again, really cotidian, really just banal things that are unlikely to activate the nervous system. You know our medical training, I can never say it won’t, right? Everything’s hedging your bets. And so, from there, once you feel practiced in that, and usually I’d say with the guidance of a coach, a therapist, a support person, some kind of clinician, then you can head into the darker waters because you know that you are anchored in yourself. You’re grounded and resourced in your nervous system, and it’s okay to go towards sadness, disappointment, frustration. A big one for humans to socialize as women in this culture is anger. We’re really taught it’s not okay to be angry.
Dr. Taz: Yep. Yep.
Victoria Albina: Yeah. And all of that gets stored. The issue is in the tissues, big time, right? It gets stored in our body as tension patterns. And so, if it’s too much to go towards the thought of being angry, for example, you can go towards the feeling in your body. So for me, anger immediately contracts my body, right? Thinking back to before doing somatic work, it would really contract me, and I’d feel like a boxer in the ring. Right? Like I wanted to put my dukes up and defend myself and move on the transverse plane. So how can you move towards that felt sensation, right? How can you take that posture and allow it and be with it, and then come back to ground it, and then be with it and come back.
Victoria Albina: And then from there, sort of the next step in the work is to go from that contracted posture, that tension that that feeling brings, into a more expansive posture, bringing your arms all the way out and finding movement in the sagittal plane.
Dr. Taz: It’s almost like yoga had this down, right?
Victoria Albina: Oh, yeah.
Dr. Taz: Where you ground, you contract, you expand, you grow.
Victoria Albina: Yes.
Dr. Taz: All of that.
Victoria Albina: Yeah. All the many schools of yoga were right on. Again, when we’re talking about somatics and the need to return to somatic connection as an active choice, an active practice, is white settler colonialism in effect, right? Before that framework was foisted upon all of us, the community would gather. The drums would be beaten, right? The dancing would happen. Emotions would be processed in collective, in community. It’s not this bootstraps, rugged individualist framework for healing that completely separates us from our bodies.
Dr. Taz: Yep. That individualism, too, is very Western, right?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. Very deeply.
Dr. Taz: And more than even Western, I feel like it’s very American. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it feels like that’s a very American, ballistic, “I’ve got to get through this.” The community or collective energy is less important. This is fascinating, fascinating stuff.
Dr. Taz: So, as we’re navigating our lives and these safe places of stress and codependency, and you’ve given us some steps to kind of hopefully start to break out of it a little bit, how do we continue that journey? What are some of the triggers that can bring us back to that place? Or can we really rewire that, especially someone who has grown up with chaos their entire life, then routine feels boring, right? A slow pace is almost anxiety-provoking. I’ve been used to moving fast. When my husband drives slow, it’s almost like I have an anxiety attack, because this is not how I function, right? But a lot of it is just what’s comfortable and safe for me. So how do we not fall backwards? How do we keep moving forward?
Victoria Albina: I would start with reframing what has been safe for me, right? So there’s this Spanish saying that I love, which is, “You can’t kiss the same girl twice.”
Dr. Taz: Really?
Victoria Albina: Isn’t that beautiful? Because it’s impossible, right?
Dr. Taz: Right. Uh-huh.
Victoria Albina: Yeah. In other words, you can’t walk through the same river twice. It’s the same gist. Right? So when we can start to de-identify with the habits that previously felt safe and were there by keeping us stuck, and we say, “That’s the past. The present started right now in this millisecond. And from here on, I am going to identify with these new habits that serve me, my life, my relationships so much more.” Right?
Victoria Albina: And so, the move is not from codependent thinking to independent thinking. I think that’s, to get to your point about that very white American framework, to get the move towards interdependence. So interdependence is when we recognize each of our autonomy in any given diad, you are an autonomous human who can make your own decisions and run and manage your own mind, your own life, your own body, as am I. And we come together to co-create our relationship based in mutuality and reciprocity, right? We take care of each other, so we love and care and desire, not from obligation.
Dr. Taz: Got it.
Victoria Albina: Right? And so, the way we move forward is to begin to see where that’s not been the case in your life, and to see where you can bring that framework for living in, in your active life. Though again, that’s continuing to listen to those old thoughts. And then, yeah, if your husband is driving slow and you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to murder you. My nervous system’s freaking out.” Right? Which is so common. My version of it is silence in the middle of a conversation, particularly in the car. And our children are like, “Yo, get out of this. This is not safe. We’re not okay. This is about to get terrible.” It’s like, “It’s not. We’re driving home from the grocery store and everyone’s just in their own thing.” Right?
Dr. Taz: Yeah. Right.
Victoria Albina: So that’s when we come back to the resource in the body and ground the body, right? We can use a skill called orienting as well. We come back into the body, ground ourselves, come home into ourselves, and from there, can start to ask questions and ask the body what’s up. Because remember, the mind is just a repository for old narratives and old stories, right? And so, it’s often going to misguide us. It’s going to say things like, “Well, he’s just an idiot for driving this slow. Can’t he see that we’ll get there faster if we go faster? It’s physics. Come on, dude.” But the body might say, “This reminds me of when…” Because here’s the thing to remember, when we leave ventral vagus, the body, it’s like the nervous system forgets who, what, when, where we are. And so, that’s what it is to be in a trigger, is that your body thinks you’re in a different moment.
Dr. Taz: Oh, wow.
Victoria Albina: A moment that… Isn’t that so fascinating?
Dr. Taz: Interesting, so interesting, oh my gosh.
Victoria Albina: So fascinating.
Dr. Taz: So how do we continue to talk to our bodies? You’ve mentioned a lot of things, what is it? Orientation…
Victoria Albina: Orientation, pendulation, resourcing.
Dr. Taz: Resourcing. Any other tools for us to reconnect with what the body’s telling us?
Victoria Albina: So, I quite literally, talk to my body out loud, and I do it an awful lot, and it really… If I’m with someone else, I’m out, I might do it in my head. My partner is used to it at this point. But I’ll literally say, “Hey belly, I hear you grumbling. I know you’re not hungry because I fed you an hour and a half ago, and I wonder what you’re trying to tell me?” Right? Or, “Hey neck, I feel you tensing up. What are you noticing that I’m not?”
Victoria Albina: And that’s a really beautiful question, because our nervous systems have a beautiful superpower called interoception, which is the capacity to know what’s going on inside of us. They also have exteroception, which is our nervous system constantly scanning the environment to say, “That’s a lion, that’s a tabby cat, that’s a cobra, that’s a stick in the grass.” Right? Safe and unsafe.
Victoria Albina: And so, when the nervous system picks up unsafe, it’s going to send that resonance through your body and create signals for you. In medicine, we call them symptoms. Right. And so, asking the body, “What is it that you need me to know? What do you know? What did you pick up on? What did you experience that I didn’t? That me, as the consciousness, me as the cognitive, the prefrontal cortex, I didn’t notice that. But you saw what looked like a spider in the corner. You want me to know, because you just elevated my heart rate. What’s up?”
Dr. Taz: Interesting. Wow. So somatics, using somatics, another way of really dialing into what’s happening with you internally, happening with your systems overall. This is so fascinating.
Victoria Albina: It’s so fun.
Dr. Taz: So fun. We didn’t talk about perfectionism. Do you want to-
Victoria Albina: Really? We can talk about it.
Dr. Taz: I know we’re getting close on time, but do you want to spill the beans on perfectionism?
Victoria Albina: Oh, with great joy. And a little note on why somatics matters in relationships, our body will respond first, right? And then our brain will kick in with an old narrative. Right? And so, from sympathetic, you only have access to certain stories. From dorsal, you only have access to certain stories.
Victoria Albina: So if you walk into the house or are in a conversation with a partner, with a child, with a parent, with an employee, an employer, and your nervous system is dysregulated, you can only show up and say the things that that nervous system allows you to. So if you’re in sympathetic, you’re more likely to show up angry, argumentative, defensive, worried, anxious, right? You’re revved up. Your foot’s on the gas. You’re a Maserati on the Autobahn, just zoon. And from dorsal, you’re more likely to say “Yeah, no. I don’t want to go, but yeah I’ll go get dressed if that’s what you want. No, it’s fine. I really don’t want to go out, but yeah, okay. I’ll go. I’ll do that. Okay.” Right? We’re more likely to step into people pleasing or people displeasing from aggression, right? We’re less likely to show up as our grounded, centered selves.
Dr. Taz: What does ventral look like in that scenario?
Victoria Albina: Ventral is me in this moment, I think you, in this moment. We’re just chill. We’re co-regulated. We feel safe. We feel social. We’re happy. We’re two nerds, right? Two overeducated women talking about the nervous system.
Dr. Taz: No. I’m not a nerd.
Victoria Albina: Wait. Why are you not a nerd?
Dr. Taz: My teenager.
Victoria Albina: Oh, okay, because I wear nerd like a badge of honor.
Dr. Taz: Yeah. I have a 14-year old. She’s cool, and she’s like, “Mom, you’re such a nerd.” I go, “I am. I am a nerd.”
Victoria Albina: Yay. Another…
Dr. Taz: I am a nerd.
Victoria Albina: Claim it.
Dr. Taz: So anyhow.
Victoria Albina: Claim it. Nerds unite.
Dr. Taz: Exactly.
Victoria Albina: On my podcast, I call my listeners my little nerds.
Dr. Taz: Oh, I love it.
Victoria Albina: Before I launch into science, I go, “Nerd alert.” And it’s really fun. It’s really fun.
Dr. Taz: That’s my jam. That’s safe.
Victoria Albina: Right? That’s safe. You’re like, “I’m ventral with being a nerd. Thank you very much. I’m resourced in nerdiness.” So, perfectionism is believing that we are only safe when we are perfect, right? So if we go back to our definition of codependent thinking, codependent thinking is when we source our wellness, our worth, our validation from everyone and everything outside of ourselves instead of from within ourselves. It’s when our mindset is, “If you are not okay, I’m not okay.” Right? “And I don’t trust myself to make me okay, so I need you to be okay so I can feel okay.” Right? We are dependent on the other person for our emotional wellness, and thereby our physical wellness, through the nervous system.
Victoria Albina: And so, part and parcel of that are behavioral habits, mindset habits like perfectionism and people pleasing, because we need to look constantly perfect, constantly impeccable, right? No one can find a fault with us, because if they do, it will validate our worst fear, which is that we’re not worthy of love. We’re not worthy of care, the oxygen we breathe. We’re not worthy of having our boundaries heard or respected. We’re not worthy of saying what we actually want, what we dream of in this life.
Victoria Albina: And people pleasing is another symptom, we could say, of that. We’ve got to keep all the people happy all the time. And when people aren’t pleased, ooh, that’s a real problem, because they could think something terrible about us, which we then link to the cobra in the grass and the lion on the savannah and danger.
Dr. Taz: Then how dangerous is this?
Victoria Albina: Woo. That cell phone is super dangerous, darling.
Dr. Taz: Social media and all the perceptions of…
Victoria Albina: Totally. Compare and despair.
Dr. Taz: Yep.
Victoria Albina: Yep. Beyond the dopamine, right? We could talk about dopamine for hours. And beyond the blue light. How many people are going to bed with that blue light shutting down their melatonin, and they wonder why they’re depressed. There’s a lot of other factors there, too.
Dr. Taz: Oh, my goodness. Well, it’s just interesting. I know we’re out of time here, but I love… We hear all the time about stress and codependency and perfection, right? We talk about it all the time, but we never talk about the wisdom of our own bodies trying to help us understand that a lot of those behaviors are comfortable behaviors from another time, another place. And our challenge is to bring us back to this sort of steady state, and some of the tools you talked about are incredible. How can folks learn more about this? If they really want to start putting this into action and into practice and doing that work of rewiring, what’s the best way for them to do that?
Victoria Albina: Yeah. So you can listen to my podcast, it’s called Feminist Wellness, and it’s for humans of all the many genders. You can follow me on the gram, @VictoriaAlbinaWellness. I give good gram. And you can check out my website at victoriaalbina.com/superwoman. You can find, yay, just like you and your listeners.
Dr. Taz: Yay. Yes. I love it.
Victoria Albina: It’s so fun. So there’s a set of meditations. There’s a nervous system orienting exercise, which is a tool we didn’t get to that is phenomenal. There’s a boundaries meditation, an inner child meditation. They’re fabulous. They’re free, just for your amazing listeners.
Dr. Taz: Oh, thank you.
Victoria Albina: Yeah, of course, over on victoriaalbina.com/superwoman.
Dr. Taz: Superwoman. I’m actually going to go there right now.
Victoria Albina: Yeah. Go check it out.
Dr. Taz: Awesome. I’m checking it out.
Victoria Albina: Why not? Yay, yay, yay. And my six-month program is where I help people through somatics-based coaching to come into more regulation in their nervous system. That’s called Anchored, and you can find more info at victorialbina.com/anchored.
Dr. Taz: Wonderful. Well, thank you.
Victoria Albina: This was so fun.
Dr. Taz: Incredible. I really appreciate it. And for everybody out there watching and listening today, I hope you enjoyed it as much as me. And remember, we are on Spotify. We’re on Apple iTunes. Don’t forget to write and review us. And if you’ve got show ideas, something you’re really wanting me to talk about or bring a guest on about, make sure to email me, hello@drtazcom. I will see you guys next time. Take care.