EP 62: Coping is Not Healing: Making Sense of the Pain with Natalie Gutierrez Part 1

Uncategorized Sep 30, 2022


We all carry pain. All of us. 

We navigate the vice grip of the pains from our past along with the pains from the present while trying to keep it all together. 

And when things break, we often carry the blame and responsibility for our pain because we’ve absorbed the messages that our struggles are our sole responsibility; neglecting to see the systems, the business practices, and the cultural norms that weigh us down, too.

As a result, the desire to control our emotions and our environments runs deep.

And our protectors are often on high alert editing our words, our tones, and how we express emotions–especially the difficult ones. 

But when we seek to control both our inner world and our external world as a means of creating safety, we end up having the opposite effect. 

To counter these toxic messages and systems, we need to do our own inner work and set the foundation for the capacity to make changes in the spaces where we live and work.

When it comes to talking about the pain we carry, I could not think of a better person to have a conversation with on this topic than Natalie Gutierrez, author of the new book and aptly titled book, The Pain We Carry: Healing from Complex PTSD for People of Color.

Natalie Gutierrez (she/her) is a Puerto-Rican psychotherapist, author, and speaker who grew up in native Lenape land, now known as New York City. Much of her work is dedicated to providing trauma-informed psychotherapy to Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color/Mixed race. She works with adult individuals struggling with Complex PTSD.  She is a proud mother of two, and a growing equestrian.

Content Warning: Discussion of childhood abuse, neglect, racism, and traumas. Listen with care and if listening is too much for your system, don’t push through. Honor the messages your body is sending and respect the need to pause if that is what’s needed.


Listen to the full episode to hear:

  • How a formative experience in elementary school impacted Natalie’s relationship with approval, assimilation, success, and hustle
  • What happened for Natalie when her survival and coping mechanisms finally weren’t enough to keep her going
  • How Natalie’s relationship to both her ancestral rage and personal rage have evolved from explosivity to friendship
  • The importance of acknowledging and naming the shame behind our burdens
  • Why we have to accept external conflict in order to honor ourselves

Learn more about Natalie Gutierrez:

Learn more about Rebecca:

 Scroll Down for The Full Episode Transcript:

Natalie Gutierrez: How do we also make space to acknowledge the shame that we are carrying because of the cultural burdens, because of the familial legacy burdens, because of the historical trauma, because of the present-day system that continues to perpetuate racism and oppression. This instills more and more shame in people, and so, how do we talk about this and how do we see it within ourselves. That’s gonna require vulnerability. We need to do this if we are to really begin to heal individually and as a whole. For me, there is no way forward if we’re not doing that.

[Inspirational Intro Music]

Rebecca Ching: I learned early on it was not okay to show or talk about my pain. I still vividly remember sitting in a dark classroom. I think I was in fourth or fifth grade. I had just returned from a family therapy session that was scheduled during the school day. So when I returned to school, my classmates were still at lunch and the office staff told me to wait in the classroom for everyone to return. Isn’t it interesting what you recall from that time? I remember wearing a very ‘70s-style denim jacket and looking around the empty classroom with the lights dimmed while processing all I heard my family share about their wounding and substance abuse and pain.

Now, to be honest, major fail on the therapist who had my sister and I sit in this session. We heard things that were too big for our hearts and minds at the time, but, to be honest, we’d already seen and heard things that were not meant for kids, and I was already used to the whiplash of navigating things in my home and then transitioning back into the world for school and softball and flute lessons. As I sat there in the dimly-lit classroom alone with my feelings and thoughts preparing for my classmates to come back and ask the expected questions of where I’d been, I felt this part of me shut down all I was feeling.


There was this inner-knowing that it would not be okay to show the tears I was fighting back or talk about the things I heard in our family session. This part of me knew I needed to store them away and my protectors diligently showed up to do their job to keep me safe. My heart feels heavy just reflecting on this and knowing at such a young age I learned messy and complicated were not okay to share or show.

Fast forward to when I was living on my own and working and generally adulting and this belief about hiding my pain continued with force. My pain hid behind work and relationships and hypervigilance. I saw it all around me, too. My friends and colleagues all seemed to operate on the same premise - to hide your pain and keep the messy exiled away for fear of being misunderstood or labeled as “too much.” Even today, where therapy and mental health conversations have become cultural norms, I still see the pains we carry weighing us down and burning us out.

I'm Rebecca Ching, and you're listening to The Unburdened Leader, the show that goes deep with humans who navigate life’s challenges and lead in their own ways. Our goal is to learn how they address the burdens they carry, how they heal from them and become better and more impactful leaders of themselves and others.

We all carry pain, all of us. We navigate the vice grip of the pains from our past along with the pains from the present while just trying to keep it all together. I see in  myself and others how we refined our skills to mask and protect the world from seeing what’s really going on in our hearts.


As a result, we believe and also perpetuate the message of it’s not okay to struggle. For many who don't hold the many privileges I do, the stakes are even higher to keep it all together. The pressure to suppress our struggles and our fear robs us of our vitality and our authenticity. We hold our breath under the expectations to figure out and fix our pain so we get through until something breaks, impacting our relationships and our health. When things break, we often carry the blame and responsibility of our pain because we’ve absorbed all the messages that our struggles are solely our responsibility, neglecting to see the systems, the business practices, and the cultural norms that weigh us down too, so, as a result, the desire to control our emotions and our environment runs deep. Our protectors are often on high alert, editing our words, our tones, and how we express our emotions, especially the difficult ones. We end up causing ourselves more pain by not acknowledging the pain we’re trying to cover up.

Many of the spaces we live, work, go to school, and worship also add to our hurt by continuing to pathologize it. The unrealistic expectations of leaders to come across unaffected and unbothered only furthers disconnection and toxic culture, so when we say we welcome the hard and the messy but, in fact, do not have the capacity to witness the pain of others while holding our own discomfort, we add to the pain people carry. When we seek to control both our inner world and our external world as a means to create safety, we end up having the opposite effect. To counter these toxic messages and systems, we need to do our own work.


But note, our inner work is pre-game, not end-game. Creating change internally is hard. Creating change externally is equally, if not more, challenging. Our inner work becomes the foundation for the capacity to make the changes in the spaces we live and work, and I can’t imagine much sustained change happening without making the commitment to do the inner work so we can create room for people to be fully engaged without constantly editing and filtering. When it comes to talking about the pain we carry, I could not think of a better person to have a conversation with on this topic than Natalie Gutierrez, author of her new book, an aptly titled, The Pain We Carry.

Natalie is a Puerto-Rician psychotherapist, author, speaker who grew up in the native Lenape land known as New York City. Much of her work is dedicated to providing trauma-informed psychotherapy to Black, Indigenous, and other people of color and mixed race. She works with adult individuals struggling with complex PTSD and is a proud mother of two and a growing equestrian. Natalie speaks with power, love, and conviction, and anyone who has a chance to listen and learn from her is better for it. I can speak to that personally. Listen for the cost Natalie noted in the constant drive for acceptance and assimilation. Pay attention to the trailheads in Natalie’s story that brought to surface the pain Natalie was carrying. Notice Natalie’s reflections on the power of sharing in community our grief, our shame, and our rage.

Now, this show has a content warning as childhood abuse, neglect, racism, and traumas are discussed. Listen with care, and if listening is too much for your system, don't push through.


Honor the messages your body is sending and respect the need to pause if that’s what’s needed. All right? Now, please welcome Natalie Gutierrez to The Unburdened Leader podcast.

Natalie, welcome.

Natalie Gutierrez: Thank you, my friend. Thank you. It is an honor to be here. Thank you for asking me to come. I appreciate it.

Rebecca Ching: It’s an honor. We’ve got a lot to cover, and I am really excited to dig in. I want to start, like we do in typical Unburdened Leader fashion, by digging deep. [Laughs] I’d love for you to take me back to when you were in school and you got in trouble for daydreaming and not focusing. 

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm.

Rebecca Ching: I’m curious. What was happening with you at the time, and how did your teachers’ responses to your daydreaming impact you?

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah, I really remember -- it feels like yesterday. It’s funny how these -- I don't want to say funny. It’s very interesting and makes sense how these things just impact you sometimes and you remember them. So pretty much on the surface, I was seven. I was seven years old and in second grade, and I had this teacher. I had just been accepted to what used to be called the Gifted and Talented Program at my school. When you're there, you're supposed to be having top-notch grades otherwise you get removed from the Gifted and Talented Program and you go into, like, the general classes. And so, I did my work when it came to subjects like math and things like that, but during art, I just didn't want to do it. I started not wanting to just do any of the things that my second grade teacher wanted me to do.


I just got this sense. You know how you energetically feel people? I just (from seven) had this energetic sense this person is not fully safe. This person is not a fully safe person, and I just remember the teacher -- maybe it was like a daily occurrence, but the teacher was just telling my mom, “She’s not paying attention. She’s daydreaming.”

I was a really good student, but in her class I was just daydreaming. She just went automatically to pathologize. Like, “She doesn't want to pay attention. She doesn't want to do this work,” but she didn't really ask why. She didn't really sit down with my mom and say, “What’s happening at home?” or, “Do you know of anything that’s happening for her because she is just really not present?” She didn't ask those questions. Instead what she did was just tell my mom I wasn't listening.

And so, that, in my home back then, got really major consequences because my second grade teacher wasn't coming home with me in the evening after getting those complaints, and so, I got in major trouble at home. Unfortunately, my parents parented me from a wounded place, and so, I was hit a lot because of that, and yeah, I just wish that she would have asked -- I wish the second grade teacher would have really just been curious.


We talk about curiosity, right, being one of the C’s in self energy. I wish she would have been curious about what was happening for me in the home. At seven years old, when a kid is checking out, it’s not just because -- well, one, it could be several things, but when a kid is checking out a seven and when that’s not in my history and that’s not the kind of student I was, I wish she would have checked in.

Rebecca Ching: I’ve known you for a few years now, and it’s interesting because what I know of you is to be someone -- like, you're doing a lot - working, we’ve been a part of several IFS trainings together, writing this book that we’re gonna be talking about. Daydreaming is not something that [Laughs] I don’t even know if you have the space for. You’ve got two littles at home.

Natalie Gutierrez: [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, and so, I’m curious. Your work ethic (at least from an American, Capitalist, grind perspective) is spot on. [Laughs]

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah. Right.

Rebecca Ching: And so, I’m just curious about the echoes of that time and how that’s impacted how you show up in your work.

Natalie Gutierrez: You know, in hearing you say that, it absolutely has because I think it was from that point on -- so, like, the teacher was saying, “You're gonna get kicked out of the Gifted and Talented Program.” You have to score, back then -- I don't know if they still have it, the city-wide test, and you have to score a certain amount, and the teacher was telling my mom, “She’s not gonna go into the third grade Gifted and Talented. We’re just gonna remove her.” At home, my mom bought all of these Phonics books. At home, she would hit me in order for me to read the Phonics books, and so, I learned from then if I want -- I mean, I learned several things from a very capitalist kind of place and perspective, and teaching is that I really had to pressure myself at all costs to study and to really learn. That was gonna be how I survived this thing.


So I went through that whole experience, right? Then, I took the city-wide exam and got a 99%. [Laughs] The teacher said, “Okay, yeah, she stays in this program,” but at what cost, right? At what cost did I have to stay in this program where my mom was feeling like she was forced to have to take measures to get me to study so that I could stay in this program. At this point, it’s even bigger than the program. It’s what this white teacher is telling this mother about her brown child, and the sense that we already feel behind, right? The sense that there are already legacy burdens in my family around we are behind that all of this together is creating the violence. It's creating this pressure. It’s creating this energy of, like, tension that I’ve carried with me for much of my life because that has always been about getting good grades, getting good grades, getting good grades, getting good grades. I’ve developed parts that are really, really good at executing that. I call them my hustler parts [Laughs] because they really learned to hustle and really be, quote, “better,” whatever that means. Whatever that means ‘cause, at the end of the day, it’s like what am I really chasing?


Rebecca Ching: Right.

Natalie Gutierrez: Am I really chasing the A? Do I really think that that’s gonna bring myself -- what am I really chasing? What is this really about?

Rebecca Ching: What do you think you're really chasing? The A’s weren’t end-game.

Natalie Gutierrez: No, no.

Rebecca Ching: What was end-game at the time and still?

Natalie Gutierrez: Acceptance.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Natalie Gutierrez: Acceptance. Acceptance. I think part of this was also assimilation, right? If I get the good grades, then I’ll be accepted and maybe there’s a chance that people will approve of me, right? Then, I’ll survive this thing, essentially. I’ll survive this thing. They’ll leave me alone. A lot of this was, I think, based on receiving the approval of others, particularly in the institution by the white bodies that governed them.

Rebecca Ching: So if this teacher got down on her knees, when you were daydreaming, right next to you and said, “Hey, Natalie, what’s going on?”

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: What would you have told her if you felt safe to tell her what was going on with you when you were daydreaming and not focusing during those classes that you were not as engaged in?

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah, I would have probably told her my uncle is touching me. I hadn’t told anybody at the time. So I was sitting with what that was in the ways a seven year old knows how to make sense of it, right? I would have told her that I was seeing violence in my house. I would have told her that I was feeling really sad.


Rebecca Ching: Mm. Yeah, thanks for speaking for her right now. I’m glad we got to hear what she was going through and this leads me to my next question and this amazing book that’s coming out really soon, your new book, The Pain We Carry. This quote is a powerful follow-up where you write: “We can find ourselves perpetuating the very systems of oppression and abuse in our own homes within our own minds and bodies, families and communities taught to us by white supremacy.”

Tell me about a time when you found yourself perpetuating these systems of oppression in your own life, and what was the turning point for you?

Natalie Gutierrez: Immediately what comes up for me -- and I’m sure there’s more, but immediately what comes up for me is when I became a mom. When I became a mom [Laughs] because my first son has darker skin. He lives in a more melanated body than I have, and so, I immediately started -- I had some of -- my inner seven year old, I want to say, introduced herself in a different way to me, but it was that same feeling of, like, we’re behind. And so, my son, he just reminded me so much of me when he was little. I remember the pressure that I was beginning to put on myself of, like, “I have to put him in this class, and then I have to put him in this class.” Going through babycenter.com or whatever that is and looking at what, like, he’s starting to -- “Oh, are they doing this? Are they doing this? Is my child doing this?”


Fast-forward to he just completed the second grade. This was a hard year for me because this was the year that, you know, reminded me of my own little seven-year-old me and her experience, and I definitely have seen myself put pressure on my son with, like, “Are you reading a book? Did you read this book?” [Laughs] You know, “Let’s do your writing. Let’s see how you're writing right now. Let’s look at your report card.” I have seen the pressure that I have, at times. I’ve had to really slow my roll, but I have seen the pressure that I have put on my son a little, and how important it is to slow that down because I don't want to recreate that, and I think I have a little. What feels very corrective for me, though, is that he had an amazing second-grade year, and he really liked his teacher. So I’m like [Sighs] it didn't happen again, but I could see the pressure that if I’m really blended with these parts that are afraid of being behind or afraid of falling behind, that it really can take over and wreak havoc.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm. Oh, yeah. I’m feeling that in my system as I hear you talk, too. There’s something about parenting, and if you’re not a parent, caring for those that are of an age when you’ve had a trauma or a difficult life experience, it is wild how those anniversaries show up in those moments and continue to echo if we don’t address them and identify them.


There are opportunities, like you said, for those corrective experiences. So healing.

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: It’s almost like you feel the generational release. There’s almost this -- when you see your little person move through something differently or you respond differently in a way that you needed and didn't get. So that’s powerful.

A little bit on this note. We’re often taught to judge our pain and our struggles, like, literally, as a moral flaw. Like, to have any kind of struggle, what’s wrong with you, right?

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: So often, I see this, not just with our kids, but I see this in places of work, I see this in myself, I see this in culture. We go to great lengths to hide our pain and struggles in an effort to avoid being misunderstood and to protect our reputation and even our safety, but you often say and write: “Your pain makes sense. You make sense.” When did you realize that your pain made sense?

Natalie Gutierrez: So two things come to mind actually. The first one is, of course, when you have children, right? That just brings you into all -- you think you're healing, right? [Laughs] You are, and then when kids come along, there’s just so much more unresolved stuff that comes, but you just shed the light of this still needs to be loved and witnessed within you, right? Even prior to that, I think -- so at the end of high school, my parents separated. They separated, they divorced, but we separated in a way that wasn't amicable, I’ll say, my mom and my dad, right?


And so, I want to live with my mom, and we lived in the Bronx, and my little brother at the time (we’re, like, 12 years apart). I was getting ready to go to college.

So the first year (17 turning 18 years old) going to college, I think it just all hit me. I think all of it just hit me, and I just became majorly depressed, but I knew how to dissociate so I got those good grades. [Laughs] I got those good grades, but I kind of felt like, oh, something is brewing, but I didn't know who to go to because therapy is, like -- who does that? I didn't even know that was a thing at 17, 18 years old, but then when I transferred from the college I was going to, I became really depressed, and then I couldn't keep my grades up any longer. So I was getting F’s. I was getting D’s. I was withdrawing from semesters. I was losing financial aid. I just couldn't anymore.

At some point, those adaptations and those survival skills, at some point they just can't work anymore because that’s coping, right? That’s not healing. And so, I just hit that brick wall, you know? I think that was my rock bottom point, and I just remember getting those refund checks from school and using them to buy clothes ‘cause I thought that that was gonna make me feel better, right? That wasn’t helping.

So then I saw a therapist in the university, and it was around that time where I was thinking, okay, this isn't good. I’m in a bad place. It was not good. It was a really hard time, and I was making a series of survival choices and not the good relationships.


Very toxic relationships - I found myself there. But toward the end of my college year, it began to make sense. It began to make sense why I was carrying all that I was carrying because I had been estranged from my family for a little bit after the separation of my parents. I was being blamed for the separation of my parents. I was holding all the unresolved stuff around the sexual abuse with my uncle. It was just hard. All of it was hard, but I also began to feel like I understood why I was having all of this pain, and that became a turning point for me which, eventually, had me move to Hawaii [Laughs] for my Master’s. I did my Master’s out there in Hawaii, but I just really wanted to pause and just get away from everyone. I really just wanted to journey by myself and just build anew. That became the turning point for me in my own healing with therapy and building healthy relationships and all of that.

Rebecca Ching: I just want to circle back to something you mentioned briefly. You said, “I knew how to dissociate,” and I just want to pause and unpack that a little bit because, especially with insta-therapy stuff, terms are always talked about. Sometimes we pathologize things. We hear dissociation, and we think is this severe mental illness or we judge it.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.

Rebecca Ching: But dissociation’s a beautiful spectrum of ways that we protect.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.

Rebecca Ching: Dissociating sometimes is comforting, you know?

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: Sometimes there are things that are helpful to us and sometimes not, right?

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.


Rebecca Ching: Whether it’s with food or sex or relationships or work. I don't know if you want to say anything about the spectrum of dissociation for you because I just wanted to name that. It’s good for us to be aware of those protectors and even befriend them. We’d all be in straight jackets [Laughs] if we didn't have these parts of us. They often get a bad rap. So I’d just love for your thoughts on that briefly.

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah, I’ve met with a lot of folks that have dissociated in similar ways that I have. For me, along the lines of what you’re saying is it’s this protective piece that tries to really, in service of our survival, in service of just taking care of ourselves does whatever it needs to do to take us out in that moment, right? So when I think about my daydreaming back in the second grade --

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Natalie Gutierrez: -- I think about was that me trying to dissociate from the pain that I was trying to make sense of with all that I was seeing in my house and then also what was happening to my seven-year-old body. Plus, the systemic oppression and systemic racism piece that, of course, I have no language or understanding of ‘cause I’m seven, but you feel it. There’s impact there. There’s impact there when you’re living also in the projects and you don't have the money that other people have. That, I already kind of have a sense of. I knew that there were things that we couldn't buy and stuff like that. So you’re kind of carrying all of this weight, all of this burden. Naturally, there are gonna be parts of you that are gonna want to say, “Let’s time out,” right? Let’s time out for a moment. Let’s imagine we’re riding unicorns, you know? Let’s imagine because that is what, at the time, I imagine my seven-year-old me wanted.


That is what my seven-year-old me needed. It didn't need to do the art thing that the teacher was -- it needed a place to just feel. She needed a place to feel like she was safe, right?

Rebecca Ching: Mm.

Natalie Gutierrez: She didn't have that. She didn't have that, and so, that makes sense that a part of me has then said, “I have a safe place,” right?

Rebecca Ching: Absolutely.

Natalie Gutierrez: And trying to help me say, “I have a safe place. Come with me, and let’s journey here together.” That just makes so much sense, though I’m just really appreciative of my dissociative parts and also of other people’s dissociative parts that just work so hard to give us the safety that maybe we don't have a sense of in our external environments, right - within our family, within our friends.

Rebecca Ching: Absolutely. It is amazing whether it’s childhood to school to even work when we’re in such a productivity grind culture that we’re in. If we’re hard on ourselves or hard on those that we’re leading or supervising, they’re not focusing or they’re not producing instead of saying, “Hey, what’s going on,” or, “What do you need?” Plus, we’re not even taking into account different ways of learning and neurodivergence and different ways of experiencing the world.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.

Rebecca Ching: There’s not one way to be, and so, these parts of us that work so hard just to help us get through the day, it’s good for us to start getting curious about them, not just in ourselves, but in others. So thank you for sharing that.

All right. I want to switch. I want to talk about rage, Natalie. Let’s talk about rage. 

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm. You got it. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: I want to hear what your relationship with it is today, especially how it’s evolved over time and how you’ve responded to it and also what’s helped you befriend it ‘cause, man, you and I both identify as women, and there’s a lot just in that little social location piece around rage, and there’s a lot more, too, depending on what kind of body you show up in with rage.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.


Rebecca Ching: So, yeah, I’d love to hear about your relationship with rage today and how it’s evolved.

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah, I have to say oof. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs]

Natalie Gutierrez: I want to be careful about how I speak for my rage because I understand now how sacred it was and is, but, at the time, I would say the world would say that I was a ticking time bomb, right? That I was just very explosive as a teenager ‘cause, at this point, I just was holding so much. You hold so much it almost feels like you reached the fork in the road where you implode or explode, and I think I did a little bit of both, but I more exploded at some point. When I began to say really mean things to other people, when I began to -- actually, there was a time where I took pride in that. There was a time that I was taking pride in my explosions because they were keeping me sane. They were keeping people away from me, and they were helping guard me from my own vulnerability, right? They were protecting me from me feeling my own vulnerability and also being vulnerable to other people, so no one could hurt me at this point if I was in  my rage, right?

Rebecca Ching: Yes.

Natalie Gutierrez: Then, there was also part of me that began to feel lonely, a little empty. There’s definitely some sadness and grief around just what I was losing and what I had already lost, right? I’m not even talking about in my life. I’m talking about with the people that have came long before me.


I’m talking about what my ancestors lost. That this rage has been passed down throughout the generations and also I’ve learned how anger has been expressed through violence. So, naturally, I began to do those things, and then I want to say, in moving to Hawaii, that really shifted a lot for me. [Laughs] That was really a changing point for me that also invited me to slow down and learn about what I was carrying inside. I want to say, then, it began to make sense why my rage was there, and all that she was trained to do, to protect me, and to also be my voice because she didn't want me to be exploited anymore, right? She didn't want me to be abused anymore. She didn't want me to be silenced anymore. She was like, “Enough!” She was like this dragon spewing fire. Yeah, she is just this really powerful being.

I talk about my rage in two pieces. One being ancestral rage. The ancestral rage that I carry within about what was taken and what was lost. Then, there is the personal rage. The rage that has happened in my lifetime that has happened to me. They hold hands. They hold hands, these two, because they understand one another, and one bleeds into the other. They're really connected. So I’ve learned in that when you name the befriending, I’ve really learned in my own therapy to really see them for who they are which is, really, birthed from love, quite frankly, because this rage exists to protect the things that I love, to protect me, to protect my people, to protect my ancestors and give a voice to all of it. This stems from love. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't have that rage to protect it.


Rebecca Ching: It’s a righteous rage.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.

Rebecca Ching: And we live and work and navigate in spaces where we are told explicitly and implicitly to tone down, and it may not even be full-on rage, but just our anger, our passion, our intensity, our truth.

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: How do you navigate those messages to tone down in the many spaces that you hold? Yeah.

Natalie Gutierrez: [Laughs] That, alone, has also been a journey. I think I’ve definitely developed the part that tone polices to really make sure -- because, I mean, I’ve been called the feisty Latina. I’ve been called that so much. I used to have a nickname. You know, I’m named Natalie. They used to call me Nastalie. I’ll have to say part of this was a little true because I was less tactful, but also part of this was coming from parts of other people that were tone-policing me, right? Even in IFS spaces, that when I speak about things like racism and oppression or anything related to BIPOC, that I say it with charge, that I say it with aggression, and I’m like, “Y’all, if you thought that was aggressive, that was, like, 10%!” [Laughs]


That was, like, 5% or 10%. That was straight up delivered from me being a little blended with my tone-policing part. Like, if you actually really heard how I wanted to say this, aye, you couldn't handle it! [Laughs] Your fragility would not allow you to handle it. That is what that wants to say. 

I also recognize the importance in communicating this rage from a place that will also, I want to say, invite people to receive the message. Sometimes when people are afraid of this -- and a lot of this is also implicit bias, right? If I’m showing up, and there’s already implicit bias against a Latina, right, and any sort of oomph in my voice becomes threatening, you’re probably not gonna receive my message, and there’s absolutely nothing I can do about that, right? There’s just absolutely nothing that I can do about that ‘cause that would -- the other thing that I could do -- the only other thing that I could do is to modulate how I speak and to cold switch and to tone police, and I’m just not willing to do that anymore. But I want to say, fairly recently, I’ve told myself I’m not gonna do that anymore. I’m not even gonna do that because that hurts me. It makes other people feel comfortable (especially folks in dominant racialized groups) but, for me, what that communicates to me is that I’m a perpetrator of violence, that I’m innately a perpetrator of aggression, and I just won't do that anymore to myself. I don’t want other people to do that to themselves either.


Rebecca Ching: How do you feel we can do a better job allowing this kind of grief-rage dance in the spaces we work in instead of trying to mute it or instead of fearing it?

Natalie Gutierrez: How do we create that dance?

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, how do we do a better job allowing for this space when it’s, like, you come into work or you come into a training or you come home, wherever the spaces we are -- go to school, and we just saw the news of another shooting or hitting another horrible milestone with COVID deaths or a major natural disaster.

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah.

Rebecca Ching: I’m just rage-grieving, grief-raging a lot.

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah, you know, in hearing your question, part of this, for me, is who is in your community to help you, right? How do we do this in community? How do we do this in community? How do we heal in community because a lot of when you hear about the shootings in the news, when you hear about all of the loss, all of the violence, there is a collective trauma that happens especially more toward the people that it’s happening to, right? So every time that you see another Black body being murdered, it is violence toward the Black community, right? Same is true for Queer and Trans, right? It is violence toward this community, and so, how do we come together in community and help support and also be supported by our community? I think a lot of this is also allowing ourselves to name that we are feeling this sadness because some of this -- and I can’t speak for everyone in the Latina community, but I know a lot of people in the Latina community, and I know that one of the burdens that we carry is really not talking about sadness, really not talking about grief in, really, all of the ways that we need to.


So I think a lot of this is also how do we allow ourselves to really see and hold our grief and how do we hold it together?

The same thing is true for our shame. You know, when I think about what Ruth King said around shame and rage being connected, (and I say this, both, communally and also internally, individually) how do we also make space to acknowledge the shame that we are carrying because of the cultural burdens, because of the familial legacy burdens, because of the historical trauma, because of the present-day system that continues to perpetuate racism and oppression. this instills more and more shame in people, and so, how do we talk about this, and how do we see it within ourselves? That’s gonna require vulnerability. That’s gonna require a lot of vulnerability, but we need to do this if we are to really begin to heal individually and as a whole.

Rebecca Ching: Mm-hmm.

Natalie Gutierrez: For me, there is no way forward if we’re not doing that.

Rebecca Ching: Amen. I have nothing to add to that. I agree, and that requires a lot of individual work. It requires the Y-O-U turn to do our work so that, as Toni Herbine-Blank says, we can Re-turn to those that we’re serving, supporting, leading, caring for, and it’s that dance. The YOU-turn Re-turn [Laughs] dance had to be in community with our own system and in community with those around us.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.


Rebecca Ching: If we’re not cultivating that within ourselves, it’s sure as heck gonna be hard to cultivate that outside of ourselves.

Natalie Gutierrez: I’m just thinking about the all parts are welcome, right? Like, I get it. I get that all parts are welcome, and I get that even when I think about when it comes to racism, right, white folks really needing spaces to talk about just what it’s like to really be on the receiving end of maybe more heat from people of color that are maybe wanting to hold them more accountable or calling up, right? We talk about calling out, but really calling up the thing - rise, rise. Saying rise, learn, help us. I get there needs to be a space for the parts and people’s systems that carry racism that have implicit bias to be verbalized, and then I think about, of course, there’s affinity spaces, right? I think that’s definitely important, and when I think about the all parts are welcome, the rub that I feel within me sometimes is, like, do we apply that so that in trainings or in spaces where there’s mixed folks, when we are all brought together, is it okay for white people to name and talk about their racist parts and how does that impact people of color hearing it, right? Some folks might say, “It’s important for them to talk about that,” and some folks will say, “It burdens me,” right? It’s an added burden that you have to do the work in affinity, and that makes sense to me. I know that not a lot of people are on the same page with that.


Rebecca Ching: No, it’s a rumble, but Brené Brown in The Gifts of Imperfection, I’m gonna jumble up the order of how she said it here, but this is kind of part of my mantra. “Is this the right person to talk about this thing at this time,” I think is how she says it. It’s kind of like checking out what I want to say, who do I want to say it to, and what’s the timing.  

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm.

Rebecca Ching: I think that is part of my YOU-turn because then it’s my entitlement -- “Well, if you said all parts are welcome, then I get to do whatever I want whenever I want,” and I’m not looking at the system that’s allowed me to do that for most of my life because of how I get to move though the world.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.

Rebecca Ching: And so, there is that if there’s entitlement, you owe me versus, man, I want to speak for these parts, and I don't want to do harm in it. There’s a sense of, “I’m gonna do what I want regardless of the impact,” is not okay either. So, yes, your parts are welcome. Right now, I don't have space to hold space for them, but they're important. I think that’s nuance.

Natalie Gutierrez: Right.

Rebecca Ching: I think part of supremacy culture, right, is this power-over, the urgency and entitlement when we start policing what’s good enough. 

“Someone’s telling me what I’m experiencing,” versus, “Help me understand.” I think when we start to tell other people what they're doing versus this is how I feel when you say or do or don't say or do, that’s very different. I do think we can still say, “All parts are welcome, but is this the right person, the right time, and the right topic?”

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah. 

Rebecca Ching: I think that’s boundaries, that’s accountability, that’s dignity, to me. I don't know how that lands, but that’s my sense.

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah. Yeah, no, I hear that, and to add to that, I think, also, what feels important to me that I hold onto is that all parts are welcome in my system, right? All of it is welcome in my system. I can witness it. My self energy can be with it, but not all of it needs to be expressed.


Rebecca Ching: Yes. All parts are welcome, but all parts do not need to be expressed right now to me.

So I want to shift a little bit to coping. You wrote in your book: “Coping is not healing,” and I just thought -- I paused at this one because so much -- there are tactics and tricks and hacks that we’re trying to help people cope with. They’re not healing, and I think we need to start naming that. Sometimes we need to cope to get to healing, right? There’s a path. We’re not gonna do our healing 24/7. That’s exhausting and not realistic. You continue to write: “Your coping mechanisms are meant to be temporary and help you tolerate stress. I know it’s a horrible marketing plan for a little course or a program that’s being sold,” and you say, “They don't heal you. Only your higher self, your soul connected to the collective soul of your community can help you heal.” 

And so, so many of us right now really are, though, just coping and may not see another way of doing life. You’ve talked about how you’ve been there too.

Natalie Gutierrez: I’m still there. I haven't arrived.

Rebecca Ching: You're still there. Tell me more.

Natalie Gutierrez: Yeah, no, I’m still healing. [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: [Laughs] 

Natalie Gutierrez: I still cope, right? I still cope, and not knocking my coping mechanism, [Laughs] not knocking my protective parts, not knocking my protectors, not knocking any of that, right? That’s important, and they're bonding. How do we heal the infection?

Rebecca Ching: Hello.

Natalie Gutierrez: We need healing remedies. We need healing remedies. We need medicine, whatever that looks like, right? We’re the medicine. We are the source. We are the medicine, both individually and as a collective.


Rebecca Ching: Oh, so I’m sitting with this, and I’m thinking how do I cultivate spaces that are medicine within myself and others? It’s bringing tears to my eyes ‘cause I’m like, wow, we get to be the remedy. We get to be the remedy and be contributing to the remedy in someone else. Regardless of the spaces, our roles everywhere -- walking down the street, in the grocery store, in IFS trainings, in our therapy sessions, in our businesses, in our schools, this is the call. Wow.

Natalie Gutierrez: I really believe that. I really believe that we can, really -- the more honest that we can be within ourselves about where we’re hurting and where that pain lives within us, the more that we can see and be in relationship with it, release what needs to be released, and help each other do it, I just feel like I want to live in that world. I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of the medicine. I want to be a part of the medicine. 

Rebecca Ching: Yeah, that gives me hope. That feels empowering, and I love how our IFS practice is such a beautiful thread for that, a catalyst for that. I’m wondering if you're okay reading something from your book as we wrap up this conversation?

Natalie Gutierrez: Yes, yes, yes. 

Rebecca Ching: All right. After you read that, I just have a couple follow-up questions.

Natalie Gutierrez: Okay. Here it goes: “We’re taught from very early ages the lack of representation, restricted access, and being told we’re not welcome, to not take up space, our need, feelings, and presence don't matter, and when we feel like we don't matter, we feel vulnerable and write ourselves off in one way or another. We might dismiss our own needs and internalize the cultural burden placed on us that says we just don’t matter. That message continues to have ripple effects on the generations that come after us, becoming legacy burdens.”


Rebecca Ching: Thank you for reading that excerpt from your upcoming book, The Pain We Carry, and I suspect many people listening right now to you read these words will feel them deeply, and in some way. It’ll hit some part of their story and their life. I’d love for you to share what the stakes were for you to start to take up more space and stop writing yourself off?

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm. I read something by Mark Nepo. I’ll always hold this within me. We’re always gonna have conflict. We’re just always gonna be in conflict, right? Now, if we silence ourselves, if we don't speak up about what’s happening internally for us, if we don't speak up for what is our truth, if we don't speak up for our needs, then we’re not gonna have conflict on the outside world. We’re totally gonna avoid it except the conflict that is internal. The resentment is, then, internal, and that whole conflict of holding within and holding that internal conflict within and beginning to hate myself for being silenced is just not worth it. It’s not worth that pain, that holding, that being silent and just watching the world continue on, carry on, and me just shrinking myself, me shrinking myself in service of the world around me perpetuating the ism, right, and perpetuating all of that.


And so, in that quote, Mark also says the other option, essentially, is to have conflict in the external world and you don't dismiss yourself and you don't become invisible. So it’s do I have to be visible or do I want to be invisible. Do I want the conflict to exist externally or do I want it to exist internally? For me, I had to choose. I have to let the conflict exist eternally if I want to love myself. If I want to really be that medicine that I want to be, if I really want to do that it has to happen where I can feel good about myself when I fall asleep at night at the end of the day because I’ve made the choices to not remain silent and not to shrink  myself and not to be invisible. I’ve made the choice to be visible even if I’m not liked by everybody. I’ve made the choice to be visible and speak up for other people. I’ve made that choice. Whatever the repercussions are, I’ve made the choice that I don't have to live with self-hate. I can live with self-love, and I can live being proud of myself for it. That was the turning point for me.

Rebecca Ching: Yes, I’m just doing everything I can right now to stay sitting in my chair ‘cause I just want to go, “Yes! Yes!”

Natalie Gutierrez: [Laughs]

Rebecca Ching: Natalie, we have so much more to talk about. Will you come back to continue this conversation? [Laughs]

Natalie Gutierrez: Absolutely.

Rebecca Ching: ‘Cause we’ve got so much more to talk about from your amazing book.

Natalie Gutierrez: Thank you.

Rebecca Ching: This has been incredible. Thank you for your time. I’m so excited to continue this conversation. I’m so grateful this book is gonna be out in the world soon. I encourage everybody, if you haven't pre-ordered it yet, they matter to authors. 

Natalie Gutierrez: Yes. They do.

Rebecca Ching: So share this. This book is for everybody. This book is for everybody.

Natalie Gutierrez: Mm-hmm. 

Rebecca Ching: I just want to reinforce that. It’s like sitting down, you're having a conversation with Natalie, and either you feel like Natalie’s talking to you or you get to witness some beautiful conversations that you’ve been privileged to be in the space for.


So, Natalie, thank you for showing up today. Thank you for who you are and how you lead. Thank you for this book, and I’m so excited to have you back to continue our conversation.

Natalie Gutierrez: Back at you, Rebecca. Thank you so much. 

Rebecca Ching: Traumas of all kinds continue to break down community and add to the pain we carry. In order to survive, we suppress our emotions and disconnect from the pain in our stories. Natalie beautifully reminded us that to really heal and create change, doing our own work is the foundation to cultivating spaces that give room to allow for our collective grief, collective rage, and collective shame. She also reminded us that when we silence our pain, we end up hurting others, in addition to ourselves.

So I want to ask you, are you clear on the pain that you're carrying and how it impacts you and those around you, how do you cultivate spaces that are healing, and how do you make room for showing up full-human with dignity and difference? Natalie challenged us all to be the medicine in our own lives and in the spaces we’re in by doing the work to heal our pain so we stop perpetuating the pain. This is the work of an Unburdened Leader.

[Inspirational Music]

Leading is hard. Leading is also, often, controversial as you navigate staying aligned to your values, your mission, and your boundaries. Navigating the inevitable controversy can challenge your confidence, clarity, and calm, and I know you don’t mind making the hard decisions but sometimes the stakes seem higher and can bring up echoes of old doubts and insecurities during times when you need to feel rock solid on your plan and action.


Finding a coach who gets the nuances of your business and leading in our complex and polarized world can help you identify the blocks that keep you playing at safe and small. Now, leading today is not a fancy title or fluffy bragging rights, it is brave and bold work to stay the course when the future is so unknown and the doubts and pains from the past keep showing up to shake things up. Internal emotional practices and systemic strategies are needed to keep the protector of cynicism at bay and foster a hope that is actionable and aligned.

When the stakes are high and you don't want to lose focus, when you want to navigate inevitable conflict between your ears and with those you lead, when time is of the essence and you want to make hard decisions with confidence and clarity, then Unburdened Leader Coaching is for you and where you deepen the capacity to tolerate the vulnerability of change, innovation, and doing things differently than the status quo.

To start your Unburdened Leader Coaching process with me go to www.rebeccaching.com and book a free connection call. I can’t wait to hear from you! 

Thank you so much for joining this episode of The Unburdened Leader. You can sign up for the Unburdened weekly email, find this episode, show notes, and free Unburdened Leader resources, along with ways to work with me, at www.rebeccaching.com.


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