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107. Recovering from Spiritual Trauma through Psychedelics and our Inner Healing Wisdom

Nicole: Welcome to Modern Anarchy, the podcast featuring real conversations with conscious objectors to the status quo. I'm your host, Nicole,

on today's episode, we have a psychedelic therapist, Kayla Fenton. Join us for our conversation about the healing journey of reclaiming our spirituality and intuition. Together we talk about how submitting to a male God complicated our dating lives, differentiating between our inner healing wisdom and trauma scripts, and tapping into the feminine divine.

Oh my goodness. For anyone who has been listening to this podcast, you are gonna immediately hear how this is a huge intersection of so many things that we've talked about. Spiritual trauma, connecting to pleasure, psychedelics, altered states of consciousness, listening to your intuition. I mean, there are so many pieces that came together for this amazing conversation that I had with Kayla and.

We reflected on how some of these fundamentalist religions and conservative religions cause us to become disconnected from our own inner healing wisdom. And that's something I've struggled with a lot to believe in, right? Do we even have that capacity? But I do think in the same way that we have scars on our bodies that heal, right?

When we have a cut, maybe our psyche can do the same thing and maybe that psyche, just like our body and our skin knows how to form that scar to keep us safe. Maybe our psyche knows how to do the same thing. But for years, maybe you were taught like me, that we give up that credit of healing, of intuition, of knowing to a god's structure that for some relationships did cause spiritual harm and abuse.

And I think there needs to be more space to talk about that and the pain of how these sorts of relationships to spirituality. Have lasting effects with our thought structures and relational patterns that we still deconstruct through years of unfolding the ways that these narratives really shaped our world.

Y'all know I am so, so passionate about this, so being able to record with someone else who is doing this work and just as passionate about the amount of healing that can happen in this space, it was a very magical conversation that I hope all of you enjoy and certainly learn something new. All right.

Dear listeners, I'm happy you're here. Happy Wednesday. I hope you enjoy this episode and tune in.

All right, so you are just introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about how Modern Anarchy resonates with you. If you could, uh, introduce yourself to the listeners one more time.

Kayla: Yes. My name is Kayla Felton, and she/her pronouns.

I, um, have a couple of different realms where I resonate with the, just the concept of anarchy, the of anarchy of different, of queering, the. The possibilities, the realm of possibility. Yeah, so I currently, in my, in my realms of work and advocacy, I have a, a nonprofit organization. It's an advocacy organization for religious trauma and spiritual abuse survivors.

As always, there's a story that got me there. I was born and raised with, been a fundamentalist evangelical cult tur called the Plymouth Brethren. And so me, I've always kind of existed as a mirror, kind of letting other people know that better and different is possible. I've never been someone who could just.

Sit with like the singular homogenous model given to me and be content and not believe that a different path was also not just possible, but definitely like what I was destined for. And then in another realm of my current advocacy work is psychedelic advocacy and medicine protection. Um, I'm a psychedelic therapist outta St.

Paul, Minnesota and it's just been really beautiful over the last probably four or five years to watch these two realms of my career, kind of my professional realms overlap so seamlessly. Mm-hmm. Um, being able to hold space for people who are seeking to certainly heal and in many cases heal kind of a very wounded part of their, their spirit.

So a lot of people seeking to reclaim a sense of spirituality outside of. Uh, organizing work, kind of a prescriptive, this is the one fundamentalist best way to be in relationship with God, self, others, the world. Um, this is the one way to see things. So really outta a fundamentalist, aka supremist worldview, watching out of that, but still find a way to be in communion with spirit.

And so in that sense, reclaiming spirituality, often using psychedelics as a way of. Just having a different framework of what is possible existing on a different vibration entirely during the ketamine treatment, which that's the me medicine that I'm currently holding space for in the clinical realm as as are you.

Woo. I was so jazzed to hear that you and I are doing some similar work. Yes.

Nicole: And it's so powerful. It's so powerful. And thank you for sharing a bit about your personal experience. I'd be curious if your experience was anything like mine where after going through that sort of trauma with religion, I was so adverse to anything spiritual, anything that got close to that at all.

I'm curious what your experience was like going through that and then stepping out of that.

Kayla: Yeah. I think I refer to this part of what is very common on the deconversion kinda path. For many people, I call it a pendulum swing, where sometimes we, we leave a, a culture, an identity, religious, you know, denomination, sect.

And we can say, ah, I'm safe now. Like I'm this place, this leader, this congregation, this church, this belief system was the singular problem. And we can leave and say like, I'm safe now. Um, and sometimes have like this pendulum swing, like that was all, that was bad. That was all that was oppressive, marginalizing, uh, dangerous controlling.

And we can have this pendulum swing of like, well, now I'm safe. And also now, I have like the new truth. Mm-hmm. We can kind of be looking for like the new absolute truth, the new fundamentalism. Right. And so I do think that it is very common that people will exit one fundamentalist culture or belief system and pendulum swing right into the next.

Um, and so. I bring up this question of like, have folks ever met a fundamentalist, you know, atheist or a mentalist yogi or a fundamentalist vegan and kinda expanding the realms of like, fundamentalism isn't just about religion, it's about believe that you possess, fundamental truth, and then the supremacy part comes in.

Cause we do gotta talk about that. Where you believe that your absolute truth should bring supreme overall. Mm-hmm. Even those who don't connect or identify with that belief structure, that identity, that lived experience. And so I, part of my deconstruction journey then, so that's followed my deconversion.

I did deconvert in my mid twenties and now, ever since then, and probably forever and always in my lifetime, I'll be deconstructing those fundamentalist beliefs, thought patterns and relational cycles because that's how I was cult. You know, socialized, indoctrinated, really. And so yes, there was a season.

That's a long way of answering your question, Nicole. But yes, there was a season where I had left that and I was like, that shit sucks. I'm not, I'm not gonna be part of any of that. And then through deconstruction, kind of recognizing, okay, maybe it wasn't spirituality that was problematic, maybe it wasn't the parts of me that are spiritual that can get activated, like spiritually activated.

Hmm. Maybe those things are actually holy and organic to me. And he, God, by Jesus, was actually the problem of giving glory to him. I'm putting that in quotes, you know. Maybe that was the part of all of this that was problematic, but there was parts of this that were holy and organic to Kayla Felton. That was my intuition, my inner healing wisdom, my preferences and dreams and hopes, you know, and that stuff is actually kinda magical.

And there's been parts of me that have been here all along, but there's been parts of me that have been co-opted to be said. This is actually. Not you, Kayla. This is God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, or all these things about you don't actually matter at all. Cause the only thing about you that matters is your intersection of Christianity, your intersection of connection to this community, this belief system, this intersection of your identity.

It's the most important and arguably the only thing that matters about you. Does that, does that resonate? Is that him? Uh, yeah, that's it. And yeah.

Nicole: Yeah. That whole part where it's like, please let go of all of me so that I can be a servant to God. Like that whole negation Yeah. Of the self, whole negation, of any of my sense of desires.

Because at least for me, you know, being taught that like any sense of felt connection in my body was bad because the body is fleshy and I can't trust the body to tell me the truth. I need to quiet that and try to submit to the will of God. Right? Like, All of that negating, I appreciated you said, um, that this is a process of continual deconstruction, right?

Because this is how we were raised and grew up in that. And so it takes time to unfold that. And that's been so much of my own journey of seeing the ways that it continues to creep up and come through. And, um, yeah, there's, uh, I could, I could write a whole book on that. You know what I mean? submitting to the will of men

Nicole: Now, that was a whole thing too, being taught that the men were somehow closer in the amount of times that I've idealized men as somehow more closer to truth than my own.

I mean, ooh, you know, that comes through in dating life real fast,

Kayla: you know? Yes. Yes. Oh, absolutely. Well, and that's exactly what I mean by deconstructing the thinking cycles and the relational patterns. So because I was socialized and this is how to relate to people who are men, to automatically assume an intersection of authority over me.

Yeah. That's taken me a lot of very intentional deconstruction, even post deconversion. Yeah. I've always known, there's a part of me that was uncomfortable around men in general, but especially, you know, the patriarchal, misogynistic, kind of just the power differential. I, I actually can think of times in childhood that, that I wasn't, I was not thrilled by that.

I was consciously a annoyed Yes. Inconvenienced by that power dynamic. And yet even after I decon. Here I am actually more like 10 years post deconversion and still recognizing ways in where it still shows up for me. Yeah. For example, I still know that I get really activated, really activated, and there's a lot of an abundance of narratives, familiar old narratives that come back and visit me whenever I'm around men.

Especially men who I do care about, who I am in relationship with, you know? Sure. Um, and they express that they are frustrated and upset. These are all holy and organic emotions for all humans to tap into. And yet when I hear men verbally verbalize, you know, just being really frustrated, expressing anger, I often internalize that as I'm to fix this, men shouldn't have to feel this way.

I should be stepping in protecting the men in my life from having inconvenient, uncomfortable emotions and, or I assume I have, I had to clarify with many men in my life, you know, partners, my brother, you know, are you mad at me? Mm-hmm. Cause there's always this assumption personally, that I'm like, oh, I think you're upset with me.

I think you're disappointed with me. I think that you feel like I should be doing more so that you don't have to experience this, this emotion, this inconvenience. And really hard for me still in my thirties as someone who's been able to curate a life where truly the only men in my life are the ones I have handpicked.

You know, in terms of, yes. In my workspace and I, yeah, like I really have curated something incredible for me in terms of I do have an abundance of masculine. And energy and insight surrounding me, but I have handpicked it.

Nicole: Yes. Hell yes, absolutely. And yeah, I, I really hear you on that, that experience of, um, internalizing the reaction of the other, especially a man, if they're upset as something's wrong with me, I need to be smaller.

Right? Like, we can talk about the collective trauma that is the socialization of womanhood to be small and quiet. And then yeah, you add something like religion on top of that, that, you know, servant and subjective to the wisdom of the man who's the leader of the family. You know, we could add all of that onto there for how this starts to, um, connect and create our relational patterns.

And I think that's, you know, part of what I'm so interested in with sex and relationships, it's like all of these outside containers are directly affecting our most intimate and personal relationships. If you don't think that the society, the religion is infecting that, like. We're missing out on a whole piece of the equation of how we're interconnecting with one another with these larger systems that are at play.

And um, I also appreciated what you said about like feeling like something was off and always knowing that I remember being young in the church and feeling like I. It's a little, it's darker. But, um, I just remember feeling at a young age that I would commit suicide at some point when I got into my like thirties.

And I just, I just was like, this is not gonna work with me. I'm gonna be out Sylvia pla. Like, this does not, this is not feel like my path. And that seems so like, just normal at two the time. And I don't have any of those feelings now. And it's something like, I process a lot in therapy. And I think that like, in a same way of like maybe my inner healing wisdom, my inner sense of gut and instinct was like, this is not the path for me.

Yeah. And in a world where I was gonna be stuck to be a servant to a man and have children and be unable to work it just like basic things. Basic things. Mm-hmm. Uh, that was not my path. That was never gonna be my path, and my body knew that was not gonna be my path. And so like those sorts of thoughts were kind of like how I understand that now because I never have those feelings.

Now I see life as this full and abundant space to explore and expand. But at the time I didn't see that out. And so it just felt so restrictive and so

Kayla: stuck. Mm. Ugh. I relate to an element of that. I, I can't say that I recall envisioning that I was going to be dead, but I know that I did have trouble envisioning myself living within the brethren within that culture, within like a marriage, uh, with children.

Like I knew since I was eight years old. Pregnancy is not my path. I've known that I have no interest in being pregnant. And as I've gotten older and gotten out of that culture, which. At the time told me, well, this is probably God telling you that you're supposed to adopt children. Ooh. So I, at eight years old thought, because I knew there was an innate part of my intuitive knowing of who I am, that I'm not going to be, you know, having children biologically, I was already given a narrative for what that meant.

God was guiding me towards, God was telling me that I'm here to adopt, you know, still within this heteronormative mindset of you're gonna fall in love with a man and you're gonna still wanna create a family with this man. But there was just parts of that since eight years old that I was like, I actually don't think that's what it's gonna look like for me.

And so that's actually been a lot of my inner healing. Um, my inner child healing work has been around looking back to my childhood and giving myself some goddamn credit for how intuitive I've been this whole fucking time. And I can look back to see like at eight years old, at 12 years old, at 14 years old, when things didn't feel right at the time, I probably experienced a guilt or a shame cycle thinking, wow, I'm probably not being submissive to the will of God or submissive to the will of of man.

And now I can say, no, I was intuitive. It didn't fit because it wasn't aligned, it didn't fit because there was people being actively harmed. Mm-hmm. You know, it didn't fit because there was a part of me that was always this queer ingest. Didn't know it until my late twenties. Yes. You know? Yes, there's parts that just weren't aligned and didn't fit.

And now I can see I've always been this intuitive.

Nicole: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Absolutely. I think as you're speaking here, I'm feeling a lot of this sense of, yeah, how these restrictive religious structures deeply disconnect us from our intuition. Like it's just hitting me so hard right now. That injured instinct that happens when exactly what you said, you felt that experience of it being off, and then someone comes in with a narrative to say, you are wrong.

You're wrong. Fit back into our model of existence. And that over time, if you keep getting that response, then you have to shut off everything that you're feeling within yourself. Mm-hmm. I think what's been interesting too is like, you know, working at Sauna Healing and like doing other sorts of things mm-hmm.

In terms of the psychedelic space. Um, a lot of discussion about this inner healing wisdom and a lot of, I think my supervision in this sort of work has been like my pushback on it of like, what is the inner healing wisdom? Can I trust that? Like, what is that? And I think a lot of that is my own religious trauma creeping in Yes.

Of, um, can I trust this thing? Who, who is that? Where is that? So I'm curious if you could speak to the inter keeling wisdom in this concept and what it means to you.

Kayla: Yeah. Well, to me, when I think of inner healing wisdom, I'm thinking of just intuitive knowing and kinda transitioning from the external locus of control to an internal locus of control.

So I can take flaw directions. Let's see if my. My A D H D tangential brain can make a decision of which way we're gonna go first. We're just your gut places with this one? Yeah, that's a good question, Nicole. Well, I'll say that. Um, I, I do run integration circles through the recognition collective as well as I do some integration circle work as a collaboration with the ancestor project and psychology.

Psychology. Mm-hmm. And one of the questions that I ask in these integration circles, particularly the ones with the record collective that are for religious trauma survivors or for survivors of trauma in general, I talk about the differentiating, how do you know if something is your inner healing wisdom or your intuition, or if this is a trigger, an activation, a a trauma cycle.

Yes. Um, how do you know? So for example, if I'm someplace and I suddenly have this wave of anxiety that I need to get outta here, is that like my inner healing wisdom saying something bad is about to happen here, you need to get out of here. Is that some part of my unconscious or subconscious kind of actually taking note of something in my environment that is going awry cause that is possible?

Or is this something, uh, about my trauma history, my trauma narrative, that I don't feel safe? And as soon as I see, for example, maybe a man walk past me, we just talked about I'm acknowledging I have some patriarchy trauma, a man walked past me. Is that my trauma response? That like, I'm a, I can't feel safe in my body and my environment because of this reminder of my trauma narrative?

Or is this my inner healing wisdom protecting me, saying, get out of here. This is actually, something's about to go down, or something's already going down. You know, so talking about differentiating trauma response from inner healing wisdom, I think is especially difficult for those of us who already have preexisting or longstanding cycles of nervous system dysregulation.

And I don't have like just a super, you know, direct clear answer to that question. I think that is what trauma resolution work is. Is differentiating, yeah. But ultimately giving all the parts of me. The wounded parts, the terrified parts, the anxious parts. Some credit that you're here for a reason. Instead of trying to say, I shouldn't feel this way, instead of going in that resistance, if I shouldn't feel this way, trying to ignore or push down that sensation.

Instead, inviting it as a wise and insightful teacher. What are you here to share? Is it because a wounded part of my younger self needs to be held and honored of? Yes. It is scary sometimes to be around strangers. Mm-hmm. Yes. Sometimes strangers do things that are really unpredictable. Mm-hmm. Is this a part of me that needs to be held and honored?

And or is this a part of my environment that I can do, I, I can take that note and say, okay, I'm gonna be looking around. I know that I have a way outta here, I have a car, or I have a way to Uber outta here. Mm-hmm. For me, a lot of my trauma, um, a lot of my triggers come up when I feel sensations are being trapped.

Mm-hmm. Like I'm stuck somewhere. Like I don't have access to my autonomy. Yeah. Um, to get outta something. Right. Right. And so I know I've been in those scenarios where I'm like, I'm having a trauma response. I think I'm actually safe, but I do need to do that work so that the younger parts of me, the scared parts of me, can bear a witness to my whole adult self looking around.

Mm-hmm. Making a, an exit strategy plan. Not necessarily exiting. Yeah. Not being to stop and, and get outta here, but just saying, I know that I have a way outta this. I am not Chad, I am not, um, going to be forced to interact with any of the men in this space if I don't wanna. Yeah. And sometimes I just have to be able to speak those truths, those new narratives that do inform my reality.

Now, as an autonomous adult making decisions for myself, I need to speak that over myself. All of my younger wounded parts. Yes. Um, And I think that's what this differentiation work is, is honoring, I'm not trying to avoid triggers. I'm not trying to avoid being activated. I accept that nervous system dysregulation is a part of my, mm-hmm.

My presence and part of my story. And I also honor that that system dysregulation proves at Affirm that I've been through some shit. Yeah.

Nicole: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we can always have so much compassion for our bodies in the ways that we're trying to protect ourselves. Right? Like that, you know, that response of having the male walk through the room and the activation that comes up in our bodies, that response is trying to protect us because yeah, maybe from the past there's been experiences where that hasn't been safe, and so our body knows that and it's trying to keep us safe.

Right. Slash also, maybe it is that instinct coming through and like you said, that can be so. Tricky to navigate. I think that has been my theoretical exploration in supervision for the last year of like, how do you help people to figure that out? Because I don't wanna just be blanket willy-nilly coming up to people like, yeah, just listen to your body.

Listen to your gut. It's totally gonna tell you the way to go. Like super clear. Just go for it. Right, because like, like you, like my own experience. I've had so much trauma responses that I've been able to see now as. Exactly that trauma that I think has been important to explore in therapy, in community and other healing modalities.

Right? And to be able to, um, I don't wanna say let go, but move through those emotions in my body in a different way that I don't feel like I'm carrying them as much. So I think like I. Now where I'm at, I feel like I'm able to kind of notice when that comes up. Like you were saying in my body as a sort of fear response.

And I loved what you said about bringing in curiosity, like asking ourselves like, what is this here to tell me? What is this here to say? And when we kind of sit with that, I think it might become slightly more clear about where it's coming from, of a. A felt sense versus that fear. And it can be so important to like, like you said, challenge our own reality at times.

Right. Sometimes in the fear response, our perspective starts to narrow more. So like, this is gonna happen. I'm gonna fail, I'm gonna fall apart. Like, you know, versus like, Hey, what are all the other contexts where maybe this has been different? What are my outs, my safeties now that I know that I have, and being able to like sit back on our own perspective and balance, it can cause us to have a different reaction in our body when we take that time to slow down.

But yeah, like you said, there's no clear, easy answer. I wish there was to be like, that's trauma and that's gut intuition. But I think that's some of the beautiful work of, of sitting with that and learning to feel that

Kayla: difference. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Well, should we talk about how and when, um, drugs came into the picture?

Nicole: Yeah, let's go for it. You tell me. Yeah.

Kayla: Cause I, I think that, that's been such an interesting piece of, of what, for me personally, has been a, a huge intersection of my healing trajectory. But then now also getting to hold space for other survivors who are using psychedelics and plant medicine and ceremony to reconnect with community, reconnect with self, reconnect with spirit.

And when I use the word spirit, I'm not talking about any particular conceptualization of God. I am talking about just to your own holy and organic spirit. Mm-hmm. Um, that belongs to you. Um, but I probably was 26, 27 when I had my first communion with psilocybin mushrooms. And that experience was so awakening for me in that.

This was every sensation of spirituality. Some of that sensation was familiar because there was a part of me that was always deeply spiritual and very responsive to my own emotional realm. And also like how deeply connected I've always felt to other people, even people that I've never met across the globe, learning about geography, learning about other cultures.

There's always been a part of me that's felt deeply connected to people, uh, not just across the globe, but across time. Some of those sensations were familiar, but some were all entirely new sensations. Um, as you know, you know, with sitting with psychedelics, there are some parts of those experiences that are just not explicable in human languages.

There's just not. It's an interdimensional experience, a sensation, and so, Having that experience in an entirely non-religious context in an experience where I truly get to experience this for myself and interpret what does it mean for myself, no one else is trying to tell me in a prescriptive way how to commune with this medicine or how to learn from this medicine.

At least I had that experience. I am aware that there are many places in psychedelic and plant medicine realms where people are being given prescriptive protocols for the supreme, fundamentally best way to sit with medicine, to integrate with medicine. But I was spared that and I'm very grateful that, yeah, because that was an experience for me of, wow, I am so deeply spiritual and I feel like that was the moment that I gave myself permission to be deeply spiritual and to honor that that was not take back around full circle.

Female God, white Jesus. Yeah. Organized religion. I just knew that that actually has nothing to do with what I'm experiencing. Yeah. So that was my beginning, my personal journey with, with medicine. A few years later, as I had started to launch the Recla Mission Collective, um, I started facilitating some support groups and actually had a number of people bring up specifically how important and in and quintessential their psychedelic, um, experiences were to their reclamation work, their reclamation journey of reclaiming intersections of identity.

Yep. How to, um, connect with pleasure and how to pursue, um, autonomy. These are all pieces of reclamation that. People weren't communicating to me. This was really helpful. Yeah. And as a, a freshly, clinically licensed therapist who was kind of launching this new organization, I really was curious what were gonna be my, uh, boundaries, my protections, and being able to honor and validate these true experiences that people were reporting, uh, to me and wanting to explore how do I hold sacred space to honor that?

Well, also acknowledging that I myself have al have also been socialized within the war on drugs. Mm-hmm. And I also don't really know what is, I wasn't yet super familiar with harm reduction and what that makes possible for safer communion with medicine. Mm-hmm. Um, and so I at that point had facilitated a panel where I was interviewing a panel of kind of professionals, people who did work in a more professional or had studied in a more academic context, psychedelic interventions for therapy.

I had a workshop, um, around psychedelic assisted psychotherapy and I was interviewing this panel of folks and, um, it was the largest. You know, audience that we'd had at any recognition collective event at that point. This is still just a few months before Covid Yeah. Changed our lives. But, um, so I knew that the response from community was huge.

I was like, people want to talk about this. Yes. People deserve safe spaces to talk about this. Absolutely. I know many of us are coming from fundamentalist cultures. We're purity culture has unfortunately impeded us from having asked a sex education, a comprehensive, you know, conceptualization of consent.

Oof. Yes. And so I was like, ok, clearly we have a whole nother realm of the same shit where if people don't have access to a, a concept of harm reduction and personal safety and sovereignty over self, when entering these realms with psychedelic medicines, there's a lot of danger. Mm-hmm. Potential for danger.

Yes. So, That kind of lit up something in me of like, oh, okay. I really would like for the recognition collective to offer, as part of reclamation supports some type of drug education harm reduction approaches to communion with medicine. Just knowing how I anticipate as we have more and more access to plant medicines and psychedelic interventions, I think that this is going to be especially a potent opportunity for people who have experienced spiritual abuse, indoctrination religious trauma, um, and honoring that that can happen both within an entirely outside of religious context.

So I'm talking to more than just people coming out of religious cultures. Um, I'm talking to anybody who's ever been indoctrinated into any belief or cult. Um, you know, yeah. So that was. A vision there. And within a few weeks of that workshop, I received a text from one of the folks who was on the panel saying, Hey, uh, we do hope to launch a psychedelic clinic here in the Twin Cities.

Would you have interest in coming on board and helping us launch that? Amazing. And at that point in my life, I had just started my seventh year as a middle school social worker. Wow. And I had started that school year knowing it would be my last knowing I was already burnt completely. And so I was able at the.

School year to be able to start building a caseload in this mental health clinic as we launched a psychedelic therapy clinic. So that is still where I'm connected to in St. Paul, Minnesota. That's inro psychedelic therapy. That is where we offer ketamine treatments. I also been able to help launch some ketamine, um, group mm-hmm.

Treatments. Mm-hmm. Which is also a beautiful opportunity when people have been harmed in a community context. How wonderful and potential for a corrective experience, a therapeutic exposure to what is possible when we heal also in community, while having access to our autonomy. Yeah. While having access to our agency.

While actually having open conversations about the power dynamics that can exist. You know, I really enjoyed being able to be a part of all of that.

Nicole: Yes, all of that. I can tell, I can feel it. And how you're showing up and man, I just wanna say selfishly, it's giving me so much excitement because I'm seeing how like, oh, always thought like, oh, the sex part and psychedelics can come together.

And then hearing you talk about the spiritual trauma piece of it, I never even like imagined that being a part of my career too. But so many people reach out on the podcast saying like, You know, I heard these conversations on the podcast about spiritual trauma and I resonated so deeply with that pain and like, thank you for bringing this light into the world.

And so like, I think there are so many people that have suffered under those systems of oppression and so like bringing this out, I do think that is continue, it's gonna continue to grow and get stronger for people who are looking for this sort of support. And it's, it's amazing to hear the work that you're doing and being a part of that.

I think that the field of psychology is gonna have a really hard time with it. And, uh, because yes, as a psychologist there's a lot that we can share and teach and help people in terms of their growth and their healing and processing emotions. And also that inner healing wisdom of being able to step back and know that I don't know what's best for my client.

Right. I do not know what their images that they're receiving on the medicine mm-hmm. Mean I do not have that power. And I think the field of psychology has taught us, uh, because it's a patriarchal system that was built under that right form of oppression and colonial structures of power over dynamics.

There's so much that comes in to be like, I'm the psychologist. I'm gonna interpret this for you. I'm gonna tell you the way to go. I'm gonna do this. And I think that as we start to step into the space of psychedelic work, having people connect to their inner healing wisdom, I think a lot of psychology is gonna have to go through its own change of realizing, maybe I don't have all the answers.

Maybe my job is to help the person connect to their own inner truth within reason. Right. Big asterisks. Right. Because of what we said earlier too about the trauma that can come up to, uh, make it difficult to hear that wisdom, but it's

Kayla: supporting. It's supporting people and differentiating that for themselves.

Yes. Yes. Because especially when I work with folks who come to an intake, I'm always very clear as a therapist that, um, especially for folks coming from cultures where there only ever, always was an external locus of control. You needed permission and direction for everything that you did said, but war.

Yeah. So I understand that I, folks coming into treatment with me, really wanting to just replicate that, replace that with, okay, Kayla, I trust you. You kind of understand how to heal religious trauma. And I just say, I know how to heal my damn self. I'm not anyone's healer. I'm here to help hold a container so that you can heal yourself.

But that's gonna be really challenging and kind of terrifying if you've only ever, always had telling you what to do. So I'm gonna hold space so that you can be exploring what feels right. And some of the decisions that you make, you'll find out had some unexpected surprises. Consequences. I wanna be careful with that word though.

Cause I know people from our cultures of origin hear consequences and think punishment. Oh yeah. And it's not this punishment that you made the wrong choice. It's a natural consequence reaction response to how, how this decision, how this plays out in your path. Yeah. But it's terrifying to lean on your internal locus of control when you've only ever been told that you are inherently evil.

Mm. You cannot trust yourself. Mm. You are, you know, original sin doctrine is such a quintessential, you know, foundation of so many fundamentalist Christian cultures and beliefs we're inherently bad. We cannot lean on our own understanding. We are, we are stupid, you know? Yes. So I think that, That's where a lot of my work is around in doing psychedelic treatments, especially with religious trauma or spiritual abuse survivors, is really leaning on how do we transition this external locus of control to the internal.

Yeah. And how do we learn to build trust within yourself. Mm-hmm. You know, intrapersonal trust. Yeah. Not just interpersonal, which we understand for people with trauma, it's very hard to trust other people. Mm-hmm. But we had to start with the intrapersonal trust building. Uh, how do you trust yourself and lean on your own understanding when that was literally a sin Yes.

Perhaps for decades of your life. Like it was for me, for two decades of my life.

Nicole: Ugh, if I could, I just wanna hold so much space for that. Like that is huge, the amount of disconnection that we go through in that.

Kayla: Were you gonna say something in the amount of self-hatred? Yeah. The amount of self-hatred and self-loathing.

Nicole: Yeah I just wanna say, and I've said this multiple times, that if we took off the framework of that organized religion as a religion that has a part i I respecting religious structures.

And the cultural aspects of that. But if I were to put what you're saying to me into a relationship and say, okay, so I'm, I'm dating this person who is telling me that

Kayla: I am wrong.

Nicole: I am sinful. I cannot be trusted at all, and what I need to do is actually listen to this person because they know the truth, the way, and the light, and I need to be quiet and submit to this person.

If you came into my office saying that, I would call that abuse, I would say this is a toxic relationship that is unhealthy, that is cutting you off from your own intuition, like, and putting you into this space of continued need, which is to say that you're wrong, you're bad, you need me to have light. And it's like, whoa.

If that was put into any other context, we would be having huge red flags about what sort of messages that says about the self. And yet, Understanding the importance of respect for religion, but like also like when do we call out the fact that that's traumatic and needs to be called out for the kind of relationship that it is creating with the self, which is that you are sinful, wrong and fleshy, and the flesh cannot be trusted.

It's like, oh.

Kayla: Mm-hmm.

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I also wanna share a little bit about my approach to psychedelic intervention in the clinical space is in my prep work with clients, we're doing all this inventory of what are the narratives that have informed your reality? Oof. Kind of the main perspective that informs my, my work in the psychedelic realm is that we all live in our own reality as informed by the narratives we've been given.

Yeah. But particularly those that we've internalized Right. And accepted as truth. Right. Um, we can both have, you know, same experience, but walk away having different feelings Yeah. Different interpretations, different conceptualizations of what the meaning is of that experience. Yes, absolutely. Of this conversation, you know?

Yep, yep, yep. And so in the prep work that I'm doing with my clients, preparing for ketamine transcendence is let's take inventory of all the narratives that inform your reality. Mm. For some people that might be, I'm inherently evil. I cannot trust myself. I cannot trust men. I will never be able to lean on anyone, depend on anyone more than I can depend on myself, you know?

Um, so real, that's one of my narratives that has informed my reality is I can't depend on other people. I have to depend on myself for everything that I'll ever need. And so when we take inventory of that, we start differentiating who does that narrative belong to? Is that actually your, is that your childhood pastors?

Is that your grandmother's narrative? Whose narrative is that? And is that actually something that you want to take into the rest of your life forming your reality? Mm-hmm. Or is that narrative actually what we've now pathologized as depression? Yeah. As anxiety. Is it actually a clinical cycle or is it a narrative that is telling you, yes, something bad is gonna happen?

I can't trust myself to protect myself. Right. And so then once we're cre, we're kind of identifying, we're gonna cleanse out, we're gonna remove shed some of these narratives. We're creating space through what is possible. Now let's identify what are the narratives that you are going to design. Yes. And invite in to inform your new reality as you turn this new leaf.

Have this big, hopefully disruptive experience. That's the point of, in my opinion, of a of right. Really any psychedelic transcendence that's intended to be therapeutic. Let's disrupt this default mode network. Mm-hmm. Let's completely shatter what we thought was the extent of what was possible and recognize so much more as possible.

Yeah. You can go to a different dimension. You can sit on the moon and play with the baby elephant. You can literally do that. Yep. You know, like that was one example of, of a client who their experience in, in ketamine transcendence, like we can completely blast off Yeah. Our conception of what is possible.

And that kind of disruption can be so conducive to some of those narratives behind. And just having a fresh start. Mm-hmm.

Nicole: Yes. And I love how you pointed out that those narratives are relational, right? Like, we are not an island. We show up in this world and we are constantly shaped by the different narratives in, you know, whatever family system we have, whatever cultural system.

And the larger society, it's always painting narratives of who we are, what we can be. And that sinks into us and it affects how we see ourself. And so I, so much of the work that I've done with people who even come in and say like, I just feel like I'm wrong. Something's bad with me, I'm always asking like, where did that voice come from?

Who told you that? Because I know that is not. You. That is someone, yeah. Whether it's religion, whether it was an abusive family member, whether it's society that says that you're not accepted as a queer person. Right? Like it's not always a direct human. It can sometimes be the societal collective thinking.

Mm-hmm. And so it's like, yeah, all that internal sense, we're like, why am I so hating on myself? You know, why am I so negative? It's like, well, because there was some relationship, some narrative, someone else who told you that it wasn't you. And just getting the, taking the time to really. Parse that out and sit with where those come from, and then letting that go, ugh, that sounds so incredibly powerful.

And like such a way of disrupting the narrative and being able to move forward as you let go of those narratives. And, and that's a long journey exactly like we've been saying throughout this process, right? It's not like we just wake up one day and we're like, oh, cool. That was gone. Like, cool. I did, you know, ketamine and like that religious trauma's out the window, you know, it's, it's a long process of, you know, slowly undoing that work over time.

And I think what has been so beautiful is that when you have these experiences, you're able to take that moment and stay connected to that, right? Like that's the beauty of integration. And once you've had that experience mm-hmm. Where you have been so connected, you know, I think some of the work we've talked about, even though M D M A isn't legal yet, but through the underground support, you know, and integration work of people talking about the first time they've done M D M A and feeling such calm in their body, people with chronic anxiety coming out and saying, yes, I didn't know that I could feel that way in my body.

I didn't know I could feel that relaxed. Mm. And it's like you don't have to have that experience on the medicine every day to keep that. Once you've had that experience, you're able to tap back into it. And remember when you're feeling stressed, like, okay, what did that feel like in my body? Where was I at in that moment?

And being able to pull that out and integrate and move forward as part of the beauty of this work is keeping those moments with us. Ugh. I could probably get on a soapbox and ran those forever.

Kayla: I, I would join you. We'll have to make a, a soapbox big enough for full feet. Yeah. I, I love that concept. It's the remembering.

Yeah. It's the remembering. And that's what I do see as a very spiritual experience for many people. It's the remembering that you, like the medicine is only here to highlight what already exists within, right? Yes. So remembering what already is part of you. Joy is part of you. Mm-hmm. Gratitude is part of you.

Mm-hmm. Peace is part of you. Mm-hmm. But for many people who have experienced years, decades, perhaps a lifetime of what we've put, what we identify as. Depression, anxiety, p t, nervous and dysregulation. Yeah. Then to have a remembering that I am peace, I am love, I am secure. You know, to have these sensations of gratitude, of security, of safety.

Yeah. I'm thinking especially for trauma survivors, sometimes we don't remember what it's like to feel safe in our own bodies. Yes, yes. Then we experienced life and we are in relationship with the world around us, thinking that all these places are dangerous. Yeah. When it's like, actually that's already a preconceived narrative because you're existing in a body.

Yeah. Where lots of bad things have happened to you. Mm-hmm. And it doesn't matter if you're in a room by yourself or out in the middle of, you know, times Square, you don't feel safe. Yes. So how do we restore a sense of safety in your own body so that that body can go places and you can still come back to a sense of safety.

Yes. Yes,

Nicole: yes, yes. I wanna share something very personal for me as a sexual assault survivor and, you know, all we can throw all of the purity, culture trauma on that equation for myself. Yes. Uh, um, you know, I think it was so profound. I, I live in a studio apartment. I have my own space. That is a privilege and I love that so much.

And it was so profound to be able to be on the medicine, to be in my own apartment, to just lay down naked and ask myself, why do I still not feel safe in my body? Mm-hmm. I am laying here. I have nothing to do, nothing. No one's gonna bother me. I'm in a safe space. Why do I still feel unsafe? And just like letting that and like relaxing into my body in a safe space and also going beyond that to even feel like breath orgasms through that experience without even touching myself.

Kayla: Wow. Mm-hmm. Wow.

Nicole: What didn't know that was possible. Right. And like that has been such a thing for me of taking that out, you know, of feeling that level of pleasure in my body without even having to do any manipulation, just breath work and to feel safe in myself, my God. You know? And I don't think there's enough space in the field of psychology to talk about the power of that experience.

And so I just appreciate you for even creating that container with me to like talk about this because I think there's a lot of healing to be done. A lot of harm, right? That can happen with these substances and, and potentially trying to navigate that on your own. I don't wanna just say everyone, like, go do that by yourself.

Right? But for me, for me personally, it has been a healing experience for me.

Kayla: Hmm. Thank you for sharing that, Nicole. Yeah, I think that is beautiful. That was just a great. Depiction of you tapping into your inner healing wisdom being held by your own divine divinity. That's what I think of when I think of like tapping into my feminine divine.

Yeah. Mm.

Nicole: And we all deserve that. We all deserve to have that connection and to feel good in our bodies. Yeah. To feel good, to feel pleasure, to feel safe in our bodies. Mm-hmm.

Kayla: Ugh. Yeah. You got me tearing up over here.

Nicole: What are your tears saying? I'm so curious.

Kayla: Oh, I think it just feels really nice to be obviously in connection with you, Nicole, and just the, the deep resignation that we've had throughout this conversation.


Nicole: yeah. That we understand, like that journey of having to reconnect after years of like, just being so disconnected, it was really hard, you know?

Kayla: Yeah, yeah. And also like what a gift it is to me. It, it's actually part of my reclamation journey now is not just holding that sacred space for myself, but also getting to hold that and even curate that for other people.

Yeah. And getting to bear witness to people getting to reclaim their connection to spirit. Mm-hmm. Their connection to divinity. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Uh, that shit is potent. Yes. It's potent, is powerful, and it's such a gift. It's such a gift to get, to be in, in this position. And that actually does bring me, I'm gonna change the vibe here, but it's something I really, I actually think we've set this up very well to talk about.

Yeah. As you and I are holding the, the sacredness, the intimacy, the vulnerability, yeah. Of, of where people are at. I also think we must continue to talk about the dangers. Yes. The risks of when this type of sacred space is held in. In unprepared or in other cases, unsafe containers. Yes, yes. Ultimately, unprepared is an unsafe container, but yes, there's some that are unconsciously unsafe and there are some that are consciously, maliciously unsafe.

Right. There is the potential to exploit what we just are talking about and sitting in ourselves the po, the potential for our feminine divine, our divinity, our healing. Yeah. To be exploited for someone else's power. Yes. For someone else's money, finances. We're gonna have to talk about capitalism and psychedelics.

Yes. Forever and always. Oh my God, yes. I also wanna kind of also say another piece of my career path was a few years back after I had started to launch the recognition collective. I had already known that I was hoping to do some work around psychedelics in my therapeutic path, but had not yet started that journey.

Mm-hmm. I was asked by a, a dear friend of mine who had connected some thoughts in recognizing that we have and still have a primary abuser among us in Minnesota in our plant medicine and yoga communities. My friend had recognized that she had more than four friends of hers. Um Oh. So her knowing that if I have this many friends that I'm in connection and community with, surely there are others who have been harmed by this same man.

And so she had asked if I would be open to holding some underground support space for spiritual abuse survivors. Wow. And, um, so that these individuals could be invited. And we of course invited it up to anyone who's a spiritual abuse survivor, which of course includes, you know, survivors of clergy abuse, survivors of, um, financial exploitation in both religious and non-religious cultures.

People who have lived and existed in other forms of cults of non-religious cults. And so that experience for me in my career was super quintessential and expanding my understanding of. Spiritual abuse outside of, and in addition to religious context. Right. And also that brings me kind of full circle to now whenever I have the opportunity to speak about psychedelic advocacy, medicine protection, and trauma resolution work.

I think we have to also continue to advocate that people need to be able to take inventory of, am I actually safe? Yeah. In this therapeutic container. Yep. Am I actually safe in this communal or ceremonial container? Mm-hmm. Um, do I have access to and agency at all? I ways pressured to. Commune with medicine in a way that I, I don't feel comfortable.

Mm-hmm. Um, am I being told there's only one Supreme way to commune with this medicine to integrate these insights? Am I being prescribed or directed? Um, about or having my visions, my experience is interpreted for me. Right? Or am I able to truly have this be an experience where I'm exploring me, for me, about me on my terms?

I get to set boundaries with this person. They do not have an authority over my transcendence, my relationship to medicine. This is mine. Right? Yes. Mm-hmm.

Nicole: Yes. And that is so needed because if we only talk about the joys and, and the benefits of the work and not talk about the real risks, we're not having informed consent about the reality of this sort of medicine and healing.

And we need to be having open dialogues. Yeah. About the risks, about the safety that is needed to be able to undergo these experiences. And so I really appreciate you bringing that into the space because it's a part of the conversation that needs to be had.

Kayla: Yeah, absolutely.

Nicole: I wanna hold space too, as we come towards the end of our time in case there is anything lingering for you, still on your heart that you wanna share.

Otherwise, I always have a closing question too, to kind of wrap things

Kayla: Yeah. Yeah, I do just wanna share a little bit about the recognition collective and the resources, the offerings that we hold there. We, as I mentioned, it's a religious trauma and spiritual abuse advocacy organization. We hold space for virtual online support groups so that folks from all over the country and ultimately the globe have access to holding a sacred space for healing.

We. Offer support groups for folks navigating deconstruction. We offer support groups specifically for spiritual abuse survivors. We also offer a handful of intersection specific, um, intersectional identity specific, uh, support groups. So we have support groups specifically for queer folks, specifically for Bipo, um, specifically for women.

Um, and just honoring that people are obviously targeted differently and more specifically in, certainly in religious realms and also in like the spiritually abusive dynamics. Yeah. Cause ultimately spiritual abuse is the use of power within any power dynamic. Mm-hmm. Um, to manipulate exploit control.

Yeah. And so we know that anyone with an intersection of identity that is particularly marginalized is going to be more, uh, vulnerable, susceptible to signing ourselves in a spiritually abusive dynamic. Absolutely. And so, That has been lovely. We are able to offer all of our online support groups at a pay as you can, model exchange of, um, 200 to $400 for the entire season.

Wow. That comes down to 10 to $20 an hour for access to a licensed mental health professional facilitating these, uh, conversations. They're not court, not courses, they're not workshops, they're support groups. So truly we are trying to curate corrective experiences, therapeutic exposures to what is possible when we can connection to community without obligations to community, without the need to.

You have any kind of obedience, you know, or any type of like, it's, it's not rude to come in late. There's no such thing as late or leaving early. It's as long you get to choose your proximity to and boundaries with this community of people as is conducive to your healing trajectory. We trust you. With you.

Yeah, ultimately, and then additionally, we have monthly workshops. Some of those are specifically for therapists and sacred space holders. We have some consultation groups for both psychedelic therapists as well as religious trauma clinicians. We have a religious trauma clinician directory that is a free resource for all on our website so folks can find a therapist who is licensed in their state.

That is another part of the inspiration for why we are specifically an organization that is curated, you know, led by licensed mental health professionals. But we are curating nonclinical interventions because we honor that the clinical realm. So often is not accessible. Yeah. To most and certainly not to.

All right. Um, and so we are wanting to make sure that we are curating space that folks can access from any state, ultimately any country. And we try to keep our offerings at a pay as you can exchange to ensure that people have access to that. And then also retreats. We've just brought back retreats last summer actually.

And so at least, uh, a handful of times throughout the year, we hope to be offering those in-person sacred spaces for healing and connecting to community.

Nicole: It's inspiring, Kayla. It's, it's beautiful. You're doing some really, really powerful work. Uh, I heard this quote and I, it's not me. Um, the other day that I feel like resonates with a lot of our conversation.

Uh, it was the scars are where the light shines through, right? Being able to know all the experiences that we had through our own experience and being able to bring light through that and help other people through that and support other people with tuning into their own inner healing wisdom. It's, it's really beautiful to see and hear about your work.

Kayla: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah, of course.

Nicole: I'll ask the one closing question that I ask everyone on the podcast, and that is, what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?

Kayla: Hmm. One thing I wish people knew was more normal. Mm. Mm-hmm. I feel like one thing I wish people knew was more common. I love, I love that switch.

Abuse. Yeah. One thing I wish people knew was more common is spiritual abuse. And so in that sense, I think it is more normal than people realize to have experienced and survived spiritual abuse. I do just wanna say that when I talk about a comprehensive conceptualization of what spiritual abuse is, we have to identify, it's the conscious or unconscious use of power to direct control, manipulate, exploit.

And so, so often I've held space with survivors who are years and decades away from being in proximity to that person who had perpetuated spiritual abuse. But they for many years or decades have not been conscious that that's what happened to them. And it becomes even more nuanced when we acknowledge that the people who have spiritually abused others in some cases also not conscious that that's the cycle they were, yes.

Perpetuating. Yes. So when we talk about abuse cycles being unconscious, that becomes an especially hard barrier when it comes to accountability and holding people accountable for harm. Done. Why didn't know I was doing that? I was just doing this out of love. You know, I do believe better as possible and more people are coming to this understanding as survivors are able to come together in community and connection and realize Me Too, and, oh, I'm not the only one.

And no, I was never crazy. Still not that spiritual abuse is very common and to have realized that I survived spiritual abuse is normal. Yes, yes.

Nicole: I will tell you that you are on the right podcast because this has been a running conversation on this and the amount of listeners that have reached out specifically about this, Mm, you're in the right space and I am so, so thankful that we were able to have this conversation and to talk about the power of connecting to our intuition, our inner healing wisdom.

And yeah, it was, uh, such a beautiful medium point to connect with you and get to have this space to talk about this. I feel very seen and very inspired to keep doing this work. So I'm just, I'm really thankful that we had time to chat today.

Kayla: Yes, me as well. Nicole, thank you for having me for interviewing me on this podcast, and I look forward to getting you to hear about learn about other modern anarchists, living and breathing in today's world.

Hell yeah. Light fires. What did I say? Lighten fires and stomping on toes. Let's go

Nicole: Let's do it. Let's do it. That's so

Kayla: fun. I really appreciated this.

Nicole: If you enjoy today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast, and head on over to modern anarchy to get resources and learn more about all the things we talked about on today's episode.

I wanna thank you for tuning in and I will see you all next week.


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