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150. Reconceptualizing Attachment as an Act of Social Justice with Dr. Adele Lafrance

Nicole: On today's episode, we have Dr. Adele of France. We'll see you Join us for a conversation about examining mother blame. Together, we talk about healing from internalized patriarchy, navigating the Madonna and the whore complex, and integrating the political need for pleasure. Hello, dear listener, and welcome back to Modern Anarchy, episode 150?

How exciting. How exciting, right? There was definitely a big celebration at 100 and I was thinking, do we celebrate 150? That feels like the, uh, you know, year and a half celebration or that's somewhere in between, but I think it's important, you know, once I start hitting the 300s, the 400s, the 500s, the 700s, you know, and on in infinity until I, you know, leave this earth.

Um, we will celebrate the 150 today because that's a really big milestone. And dear listener, I am so happy that you have been on this ride with me and continue to tune in each Wednesday to hear more of these powerful conversations, these pleasure activism conversations that are changing hearts and minds.

So thank you for tuning in and Today's episode, we talk a lot about mother blame, but of course, this is also important to any sort of parental relationship and attachment. That being said, there are very specific cultural narratives, expectations around motherhood and women and what it means to be in that role.

So we're going to be talking about that today. But. Also, taking that larger context to the ways that society does or doesn't include other people in these sort of traditional roles, right? All of you queer families out there challenging these norms, I love you. I support all of my relationship anarchists that are building expansive networks that completely change the whole expectation of the mother father nuclear family.

I am so excited to be a part of communities that are really changing the narratives because no matter what you're doing, we are not meant to raise children just in a dyad of the nuclear family. We are meant to raise children in community, right? In an expansive network of multiple relationships to help to raise a child.

And yeah, The field of psychology has absolutely been complicit in placing that blame for the child's development on the mother. And that's a lot of what Adele LaFrance talks about today is, okay, sure, we are impacted by our relationships, but what is the larger societal, systemic framework to understand what the mother was going through?

Right? We talk a lot on this podcast about systems and how they impact us, and when we talk about that, that doesn't negate our individual responsibility to examine, reflect, grow, take responsibility for our actions, right, under those systems, but we do also have to place the blame on ourselves. on the systems as well, and not just the individual.

It is a yes, and. And so, that is a whole part of the conversation in psychology that has been completely left out for mother blame, right? What sort of societal context were these women in? My mom, she graduated with a high school diploma, right? Her parents told her, as a woman, why would you ever need to go get it?

A degree beyond that. So that impacts who my mother is and how she shows up in the world and her understanding and perspectives because of that lack of education. Right? I was super thrilled to be the first person in all of my family to get an undergraduate degree. And now to be almost done with my doctorate.

What a wild world. Um, but that's something to take into context when I think about my own. Mother blame right and where she's at and how that impacts her and I think about my grandmother Never graduating high school, right thinking about my maternal side Coming from Poland during the Holocaust to America How did that impact their availability to be in relationship with their children?

I think about my grandma on my paternal side. She had my aunt at 14 years old, single mom at 14, and my dad at 16 years old. How do we think that that impacted her and her ability to be a mom? And I think about my grandmother. Dying of liver failure in her early 40s from chaotic use of alcohol and to think that we live in a country Where there are specific states if you're in America where you will be forced to carry and have A pregnancy, forced.

No bodily autonomy. In 2018, when I got pregnant, I had the privilege of accessing an abortion so that I would not be forced into motherhood at 21. Just getting out of college and knowing that I wanted to go get my education and my doctorate and be able to have the freedom to one day if I choose. To create life in this world.

To do it when I was ready. So many people do not have that freedom that I had to choose motherhood or not. Yeah, these are all parts of the systems that are impacting motherhood. No bodily autonomy, no universal health care, no one year of maternity leave like they do in Canada and Adele talks about. I mean, Long career here, y'all.

Long career ahead of me. Um, so, with that being said, I think I'm gonna go call my mom. Tell her I love her and, uh, continue to invest in that relationship and the ways that it's expanded, uh, over the years. And I hope that all of you, dear listeners, take a moment to integrate an understanding of how these systems are impacting us, whether it's your mom, someone else that holds that relational, parental figure, place for you.

Let's take a deeper dive into the ways that society is impacting all of us and with that I am sending you all of my love and Let's tune in to today's episode.

So then the first question I like to ask each guest is How would you introduce yourself to the listeners?

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Gosh, I would introduce myself to the listeners.

That's a really good question. I mean, a human, that's a good place to start. Yeah. Who is trying to figure out how to be in this world, um, and resist. Engagement in some of the really old structures that I have learned were not so good for me. I think that's really what I'm focusing on is like reclaiming myself.

So a human in process of reclaiming myself.

Nicole: Yeah. Lifelong journey. I'm sure. Oh, yeah. Well, I'm excited, too. Today, I know we're going to be talking about mother blame. So I'd be curious, you know, where does that journey start? Where do you want to take me and the listeners today in terms of mother blame?

Dr. Adele Lafrance: I mean, it started off when I was pretty young and I had feelings of blame towards my mother, you know, different times.

And, um, and then that was definitely reinforced in grad school. You know, I, I'm a, I'm a psychologist and I completed a PhD in school and child clinical psychology. And when I learned about attachment theory, um, wow, that was interesting. I mean, when I look back on attachment theory now, I'm like, that is a structure of oppression,

that whole theory and the way that it's talked about, at least in the academic books that I was exposed to, it was really, really focused on moms and what they were doing or not doing to negatively affect their child's wellbeing. And I drank that Kool Aid, you know, like I felt like I approached it in a more loving, compassionate way than perhaps some of our forefathers. And I do emphasize the word fathers, but I still, I, it was still was like, You know, yeah, but the mom's doing, you're not doing can have a big impact and, um, you know, they started doing, uh, I started learning family therapy and I started working in eating disorders where historically there is a very long and sketchy history.

Of parent blame, and in particular mother blame, like, decades ago, they used to do what's called parent tectonics. So they would remove teenage girls from their parents slash mothers. Um, treat them in hospital settings so that they could heal from the toxic influence of their parents. Yeah, this was, this was not that long ago.

So the field of eating disorders is a very fascinating field because not that long ago, a group of mothers came together and basically said enough is enough. Stop blaming us.

Um, and there was a treatment model that actually came out. That was, uh, really clearly and explicit, um, in its message that, um, eating disorders, the, the origins, they were agnostic, you know, in terms of their origins, there was no blame, et cetera, et cetera.

So that really shaped me. Honestly, I interacted with some of those, um, parents slash mothers as that advocacy group, and they really. Wow, it really impacted me quite a bit, but it wasn't until I started engaging in psychedelic medicine for my own healing that it really started to shift in terms of not just my understanding of mother blame, but also my, like, I mean, total commitment to do what I can in this lifetime to neutralize mother blame and quite the opposite, help people to understand what's might be going on for real.

Nicole: Yeah. Thank you for sharing. And I'd love to hear if you'd share about your own personal experience then with psychedelics, what it was that opened that up for you and where it took you.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Gosh, there are so many, there's so many ceremonies. You know. It probably really started very deeply when I started when, um, I was working on, um, letting go of internalized patriarchy.

So that's when I had a, I was engaged in a medicine journey, um, one night with ayahuasca and the medicine said to me, I'd been working on internalized patriarchy for a while, like internalized sexism. And the medicine said to me, Do you want to completely heal from internalized patriarchy? I'm like, well, yes, of course I do.

You want to go all the way. Yes. I want to go all the way. Forgive your mother. Oof. And forgive your mother to the point where forgiveness is actually not even a concept that is relevant for the situation, that it's such a deep level of understanding and of compassion and of love, you know, that the concept of forgiveness almost feels like an aggressive act.

And I'd already done a lot of work, you know, understanding my mother's different struggles and like everything she overcame, which is honestly like, so amazing. Yeah. But that night, it wasn't just about my mother. It was like, All mothers, you know, and I was thinking back to my graduate school textbooks, autism and refrigerator mothers, parent tectonics and eating disorders and family dysfunction and addiction, et cetera, et cetera, like.

And so I realized, you know, yeah, it's true that when moms aren't able to be there for their kids, when life givers aren't able to be there for their kids, that it can have a negative impact. But what was missing from those textbooks and what I feel is really, really important. Important is for us to ask ourselves why, why is this mother unable to be there for her children in the way she needs, she wants, she deserves and in the way their child, you know, needs, wants and deserves.

What's going on and what's been going on for these, you know, I don't know how many years, honestly. Yeah. So, like, that question has been really at the forefront of my mind. Not because it's hard to answer that question. It's actually very easy to answer that question, but that's where the question should be at the forefront of all of our minds.

Like our culture does not do enough to support life givers and then when they aren't able to be there for their children. We blame them like it's the biggest mind fuck that I can think of, honestly, when it comes to, um, how women are treated, how life givers are treated. I was healing from an addiction recently, so I was addicted to nicotine for many years and then I quit.

Overnight with ayahuasca. Like, I mean, it was amazing. I can't even believe it. Like, you don't hear about that all the time and I was just lucky enough to be one of those people. And so I remained, you know, nicotine free for many, many years. And then I had a relapse when I started working with tobacco ceremonially, which was so embarrassing.

You know, like to end up abusing a ceremonial substance, like a medicine. Oh my gosh. Wow. So, uh, I did a deep dive to heal myself from that addiction and I really had to heal from the inside out. Like I was not going to try any of the behavioral strategies. I had no interest in them. I wanted to heal from the inside out.

And. It took me on a number of different journeys. I went to Peru a few times before I was able to completely heal that addiction, which is a miracle, but it showed me how the women of my lineage, those who came before me also had addiction patterns. And that their addiction patterns were 100 percent to protect them from the pain of oppression and the pain of either real or potential violation.

So my grandmother, for example, she was heavily addicted to nicotine. She died of nicotine related heart disease. And I remember seeing her in a ceremony. Chain smoking while she was watching days of our lives, you know? Yeah. Yeah. And also the price is right. Yeah. Yeah. You know, cause I mean, that's when I would have been home from school when those shows aired anyways.

And it showed me how, when she hauled on those cigarettes. It helped her to engage in this life without being allowed to get a driver's license and without being allowed to work and without being allowed to have all manner of freedoms, you know, and so. Chainsmoking and watching the price is right saved her and I had such respect for nicotine for tobacco.

And so what happened? Well, according to the medicine, I believe it. What happened was that nicotine got encoded as a protective as a medicine. And so when it came down to me, you know, I tried my first cigarette when I was, I don't know, 12 or 13 years old out of her pack, I would add, she did not give it to me.

She did not want that for me. Oh my God. Yeah. She was, yeah. She would have been crushed if she would have known I had the genetic predisposition for it because my body registered nicotine as a helper. And so it really helped me to redefine genetics of addiction. . You know, I'm like, my mind was blown. Yeah.

Yeah. So, um, when my grandmother died, when I was 16 years old. Mm-Hmm. , I was devastated. Yeah. She was. The most kind, warm, you know, loving woman, uh, to me, you know, for sure. And I remember when we were talking about her funeral, they're trying to figure out what song to play. And I remember suggesting to my mom, amazing grace, because I Leanne Rimes had just put out this like, Phenomenal rendition of amazing grace.

I'm like, Oh, what about amazing grace? And my mom was like, Oh, well, that's not really appropriate for the circumstances of nanny's death because, you know, she died suddenly. And usually, you know, you play that song when someone has had like a really long hard fought illness, you know, like finally, You know, it's over kind of thing.

And I was like, yeah, that made sense. And so we ended up playing some other song. Then I had the ceremony recently and I saw like, Oh no, no, no, no. That song. Was 100 percent appropriate in terms of like the recognitions of the shackles that she wore for her entire life. And in that ceremony, I felt like I was engaging spiritually with my grandmother and I made a promise to her that nobody would ever dream of playing that song at my funeral, but I was going to do whatever it took on behalf of my maternal lineage, you know, or.

I, my female lineage, not just maternal paternal as well to, um, break free, you know, break free from the internalized structures, find freedom or breaks from the externalized structures. And then to speak up as much as I could, you know, to help other people too.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Such a powerful story. Thank you for sharing so openly and so vulnerably with me and all the listeners.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: My pleasure.

Nicole: Yeah. It reminds me a lot of, um, I've talked about this on the podcast before, the research with Rat Park. Right. Yeah. About just the ways that, you know, these patterns that we have, the relationships to drugs are so created by the cage that we're in, right? And, and being able to hold that perspective when we're thinking about drugs and our relation to the relationship to them, I think is so crucial because then it's about the frame, right?

Are we placing the blame on the individual? Or are we Placing the blame on the larger perspective, right? The systems that are happening and causing these things. And the amount of times I've had, you know, clients come into my room and, you know, they're like, Oh, I'm so stressed out. I'm so stressed out. And they're working three jobs to just survive under capitalism.

Right? And then a therapist comes in and says, you have anxiety and puts the blame on you rather than, Hey. It's really not fair. You know, this system is messed up in a multitude of ways. Right. And so I think so much of this conversation then is about the frame, right? Like what were women experiencing that resulted in these situations rather than placing it onto the mother blame, right?

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Oh, absolutely. Like I'm going to be doing a keynote presentation in a few months, and I've been thinking a lot about what I was going to talk about. And one of the things I want to talk about. Is the oppression of psychology. You're on the right podcast. And I'm like, I'm a psychologist, but yeah, mine trick was happening for me to be like, you know what?

I think I want to dedicate my professional career to being a psychologist. And now here I am. And I'm like, okay, well. Shoot. And also I'm going to see what I can do to bust it up, you know, from the inside. And I can just think about like, Oh my God, there's so many examples. And uh, for, for, uh, women, um, people of color, people from marginalized communities, there's so many examples.

I mean, I. It's incredible. And also tragic. And when I think about like parent blame in particular, it's another form of oppression. They have not been supported to mother in the ways that they know are necessary. They do their best with sometimes extremely limited support and resources. And like I said earlier, when it comes to light that it wasn't enough, they're blamed by systems, by clinicians, by educators, by the general public.

And worst of all, By themselves and by their children too. And when I offer supervision to individual psychotherapists, I do get a little discouraged on how singular the focus can be on the people's childhood. Mother blaming is 100 percent a strategy of oppression of power over culture designed to hide the lack of support.

That life givers are receiving that they are continued to be denied their rights and identity as people, you know, and it's like, uh, well, like white supremacy, the most potent strategies of oppression end up becoming integrated without our awareness. And that's definitely what happened to me. On both counts when it came to mother blame and when it came to white supremacy.

So it's been quite a journey of like, holy shit, I got a lot of work to do. And oh my God. Thank God. Thank God. I'm awakening to this.

Nicole: Yes. I know, I know that's where I've been during schooling, because I think that I've been in spaces like where I'm training, where I think, you know, Geoff, right? And other members and stuff who have these larger system perspectives.

And so, um, having that enlightenment process during training has been an interesting experience where I'm just like, this field is really, really. Yeah. Scary when you think about it, right? I mean, you go into it thinking that you're going to help people and you do, right? That's the reality is you, you do help people.

There's a lot of helping going on, but there's also a lot of abuses of power. And I think that when we fall asleep to that scary things happen with this level of power in our society.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Oh yeah. A hundred percent.

Yeah. A hundred percent. Like, um, One last anecdote related to that when I was healing from my nicotine addiction, when I was at the very end of it, you know, like just about to let it go.

I saw that my nicotine addiction was a gas lighter, a self gas lighter. And like, think about it, like literally. Yeah.

Nicole: Right.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Yeah. Literally literal gas lighter because nicotine helped me to numb out. Not just from pain and suffering, which so many people talk about when it comes to addiction, but also from expressing the fullness of my being as a woman, say more.

I'd love to hear that. Yeah. It was like, I had this vision. Um, I've always, well, not that I've always in another medicine journey, I saw that, like, I come from a lineage of dandelions and at first I was so offended because dandelions are considered weeds and in French, which I'm, I'm a French speaker. One of the, the commonly, uh, used name to reference a dandelion is peace on Lee, which is what's the bed.

Hmm. But it's like, it's like, uh, not, I would not a nice way of saying like pisses the bed. Like, Oh, I'm like, Oh my God, I come from a line of dandelions, gross. And then I was like, and then I learned that no, no, no. Dandelions are incredible medicinal plants. They're extremely hardy, resilient and brave, you know, anyways.

So I have this. Um, vision a couple of years ago. And then when it comes to this idea of like the nicotine being a gas lighter to prevent me from full expression of self, I see myself as a dandelion unfurling just about to bloom, but being terrified to bloom. Because once I would bloom, Then I would become more vulnerable to attack from the systems that do not want strong women to bloom.

And so I was in this like curled up position physically, even in the medicine was like, what are you going to do? Because no one will have any right to judge you. If you decide not to bloom, to stay safe under the radar, because there are risks, real risks and women have died. In the thousands and the millions for having taken that risk to bloom.

So there was, there was no, like, right or wrong answer, which I really, really appreciate it. And I was just like, curled up thinking, okay, what do I do? What do I do? Looking around thinking about my environment, thinking about the garden that I've been able to cultivate, you know, in my life. And then I just had this, like, this sentence come in.

Might as well bloom might as well bloom, you know, and if I get cut off the head metaphorically, you know, I'll have enjoyed the almost miraculous process of the bloom. But a big lesson was not only not to judge people who make the choice not to, because the fear is too great, you know, but to be there for them and to offer them validation and support.

Um, because There's so many of our sisters in this world who, if they were to make the choice to bloom right now, their lives would end not metaphorically, but actually, you know, so is this like, it was a major recognition of like our current reality, which is way better than it used to be. We have so much to celebrate.

I don't know if that's the right word, be relieved about, because it was always our right. Right. To be, and also we still have a long ways to go here in North America, and there are so many of our sisters. You know who still need our help.

Nicole: Yes, certainly. Yes. And you might find it funny. Geoff has this a mural on his wall where it's literally a dandelion.

And then I know. Yeah. And then there's an adrienne marie brown quote about the strength of that. And then, um, clients get to come on after their experience and, and draw a little seed off flowing off into the wind, you know, without their name for that. So it was, yeah, it was, resonating when I was hearing that.

I was like, yeah, there's a lot of power in that, right? And the story of that. And I'm just thinking about, you know, for me, I came into the field of psychology based on doing some volunteer work for sexual assault survivors. And so I came in wanting to do that sort of work of like, okay, like, let's figure out how I support people and what I could do in this space.

And then I got to the field and started training in my school and got zero training on sexuality at all. you know, which was shocking. Um, and so then I've done a lot of my own research and focus with my dissertation in that area of study. And in terms of women and owning our sexuality, I mean, that is a whole thing that it's, it's dangerous to bloom in so many different ways.

And particularly we can name that for ourselves. For mothers specifically, right? To, to walk that paradigm of the Madonna and the whore and whatever, you know, combination of that as a mother is particularly difficult.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Oh my gosh. Okay. Teach me something. Cause I'm still very internally oppressed. I'm still very much oppressing myself, you know, like I'm so excited to hear that you're doing that work.

Um, because. Okay. Thanks. My girlfriends and I, when we talk about our relationship to sexuality and sexual intimacy and our bodies, like we really hope that the younger generation, um, are able to be less burdened. Yeah. Yeah. So thank you so much. Thank you.

Nicole: Yeah. It's. Interesting. I think that we need models, right?

Like, where do we get models for that? And when we look to media and or our own family dynamics, we don't really see that embodiment of both. So it's kind of hard to turn to find any sort of example to replicate or to step into. And without that, we're kind of left on our own.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Oh my gosh. And honestly, it's really hard to feel sexy when you are caring for young children, working full time and carrying significant emotional labor, like, oh my gosh, oh, I'm tired just thinking about it.

Nicole: Yeah.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Mm hmm.

Nicole: Mm hmm.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You need, you need mirrors where you're able to be seen in your erotic self. Right. Right. And I think that if you're. only caretaking, those relationships are not naturally going to mirror that part of yourself. And so where do you find that outlet? You know, is it taking that pole dancing class where you can go into that and feel into that space?

Or is it reading a book and seeing yourself reflected in a potential narrative? I really feel like, like you said, you know, we started earlier. The systems Have created a world where there's not even time or space to invest in that level of selfhood for mothers, right? So, so where is the time to even do that when we navigate under these systems?

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Oh my gosh, right? Like I was so shocked when I moved from Canada to the U. S. Mm hmm. I heard people talking about the length of their maternity leaves.

Nicole: Yeah. Do you want to speak to that difference? And maybe a listener doesn't know the difference

Dr. Adele Lafrance: in Canada. It's typical for moms to take a year off and employers subsidize that income.

And there's also government programs to subsidize income, not a hundred percent for the whole year, but I think it's 80%. I could be wrong, but it's like so many women have the opportunity to take one year off. At the end of the year, the common reaction is like, Oh gosh, it's, it still feels too early. It still feels too late.

Then I move here and my partner at the time was, uh, talking about how one of his employees was pregnant and going to be off for a while. Um, and then he was talking about her engagement in this project. That was like, like just a few weeks later, like six or seven weeks later, I'm like, excuse me, what? Six, Weeks?

I, how, how is that even physically possible? Like, I couldn't believe it. And then it's like, okay, six weeks, three months. Even those who I know in the U. S. who have like relative privilege, three months was the maxed. And then there's all this internalized belief about whether that's long enough or not. I'm like, Oh my God, we have some work to do to support life givers.

Lots of work. Lots of work. It's kind of shocking.

Nicole: Yeah. And I think that's a really important thing is that sometimes when we're in our own frame, we don't even realize that other countries are doing it in different ways. Right. And, and, and. able to supply that. And so it can be such a shocking thing, you know, even just, I was talking on another episode about Portugal and the way that they've decriminalized a lot of substance use and how they have some of the lowest rates of overdose and death.

Right. And yet we live in this model in America where that's not what we're doing. And we're trying to, you know, figure it out. And then you see these other countries, I mean, even the big cities. Uh, universal health care, right? Like we see other countries doing that. And then America having some of the like lowest, uh, worst health outcomes.

You know, I think that perspective is really important to kind of like shake up the system and realize that, oh, it doesn't have to be this way.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Yeah. No, it doesn't have to be this way.

Nicole: Yeah.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: I know it doesn't have to be this way. That is very true.

Nicole: And so we have that. And then on top of that mother blame, right?

So we're adding this together where then it's like, okay. And it's, and it's my mom's fault. Now, my question is like, how do you, you know, you're talking about supervising other clinicians. How do you support people in holding the nuances? that obviously our attachments and our parents really do significantly impact how we show up in the world and how we interact in relationships without it going to this place of such intense blame.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Yeah. Well, okay. There's, I would say there are at least two methods that I, you know, employ, encourage in my work, including my model, emotion focused family therapy. The 1st is redefining attachment and redefining attachment as an act of social justice. So it's not just about psychoeducation attachment is not just about attachment to the mother.

It's about attachment to the mother who's attached to the community who's attached to nature, who's attached to the land where they come from, who's attached to spirituality. That's attachment. And so I think about it as like a chain link, you know, mom and child are attached. And then if you see that the mom, you know, the society, the community is not attached to mom or nature or, you know, then you start, you don't start to wonder like, Oh, what's wrong with mom.

You're like, uh, hello community. Why, why aren't you linked to this mom here who needs it? So reconceptualizing the definition of attachment. And to be more accurate and in a way that makes it very clear that it's not the mother's responsibility to promote, you know, this kind of attachment. And then the second piece, this is where it gets a little tricky.

Self blame is considered to be a cognitive and emotional strategy for self regulation. So if I had a group of moms sitting in front of me and I said to them, I have a magic potion That you can drink and you on the other side of it, you will no longer blame yourself for the difficulties that your child has faced, whether they're medical, physical, behavioral, psychological, whatever.

Based on my work with mothers, you would find that most, if not all mothers, at least to some degree would be really, really excited to be unburdened in that way. And also most, if not all mothers would have a little part inside of them that would be worried about letting that go. And so I did some clinical investigations in terms of the drivers of self blame.

And there are quite a few blaming oneself is a way of honoring our child suffering being in it with them. So to speak, it's also a way that we convince ourself that we won't screw up like that again. So, uh, preventing future recurrence. And so sometimes. Parents who blame themselves for their child's difficulties.

Are conflicted about, uh, letting go of that self blame healing that self blame because they're still scared, you know, that if they don't have that self blame that somehow they or their child will continue to be at risk. And so I've learned that reassuring self blame. Is not the most effective strategy.

In fact, it can deepen mother blame. So, um, I was doing a workshop years ago, I don't know, 10, 15 years ago, and I was addressing the concept of mother blame and it was an eating disorder intervention, two days with parents. And I was, you know, 1st off, I was like, I just want you to know, eating disorders are complex, multifactorial, you know, clinical presentations.

And I was like, I just want you to know, eating disorders are complex, multifactorial, you know, clinical presentations. No one here is to blame and I was really being kind of intense about it because I wanted them to feel it. You know, I figured if I was tense that it would penetrate. Anyways, after that piece, there was a break and one of the parents, a mom got up, grabbed her coat, grabbed her purse, looked really upset and started to walk out the door.

And so I followed her and I said, you know, is everything okay? And she looked at me and she said, you don't know what I did. Oh, that was the beginning of a research program and clinical investigations to understand how best to neutralize parent self blame, because reassurance. Including like giving the facts, you know, um, was not helpful for her, if anything, she felt further away from me.

She felt like I didn't understand her because she knew that there were some things that she did or didn't do or said or didn't say that had a negative impact. And so when I was like, oh, is that your fault? It felt thin. It felt off point. Yeah. Yeah. And it felt like she couldn't trust me. Yeah. And so now when I teach, uh, when I give workshops on helping people to transform parental self blame, I talk about how important it is to validate their experience.

You know, like I can understand why you blame yourself because you saw the look on her face when you made a comment about her weight, you remember that when you did this, this happened, you know, so helping them to see that you do understand where you're coming, where they're coming from. And then when they feel understood, you know, and they feel validated, which is essentially what we're doing.

Then when we offer that new perspective. They will have the openness, the flexibility, or at least more so to be able to see it from your perspective. Uh, tick not Tom talks about deep listening. Hmm. Powerful. Yeah. Like the medicine of deep listening. And so here it's like, it's not exactly deep listening cause it's like deep validation, but deep validation as a way to help.

It's almost like I picture like really gently gingerly taking them out of a mousetrap, you

know, or like. The jaws of life, like I picture like grips and like claws, you know, it's like, Ooh, let's gently do this. So I'm going to validate your experience. Yes. I see. I hear what you said. I hear what you did. Oh my gosh.

That memory must be incredibly painful because of, you know, the impact that you saw that it had or that you feared that it had. Yeah. And then once that process. It feels complete of really, really witnessing their story of pain and suffering, you know, then that's when it's appropriate to say like, it wasn't your fault who wasn't there for you.

It did not start with you, you know, so it's a slow, gentle, but powerful process.

Nicole: Yeah, and I think it's important and powerful to have these conversations on a public free platform, right? Like a podcast, because I think my big dream of a revolution and I don't think it will happen in our lifetime, but certainly in some future would be that the field of psychology is dismantled and we could come back into community care for one another where the skills that we learn of how to help one another could be put back into community like it was.

you know, before the field of psychology. So I think it's important because when we have loved ones in our life who, who come to us saying like, you know, yeah, I did this, I did that. And of course we want to help them. We want to bring them to that space of seeing it in a different way. But if we come back, like you're saying, and just say, No, you didn't.

It's not your fault. It's not your fault. You know, the brain doesn't even take that in. It immediately goes back to the defense of like, but you're not seeing, you're not getting, you're not this. Right. And so being able to learn the skills of how do we actually listen to one another to support ourselves and our community, I think is so important to, to have conversations like this, talking about that process, which is God, a process of patience.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Yeah. Right. And you have to be able to tolerate some discomfort. Absolutely. You know, and, and how important it is not just to be in our advocate mode, you know, around mother blame, because imagine if your mother or my mother came to me and said, you know, that thing that happened when I said this, when I did that, it's not my fault.

Like that doesn't go well. It's true, but it doesn't go well, you know, for the child. And so what I do feel like the field of psychotherapy, whether it's psychology or mental social work, who cares, you know, like something new, I really support your vision. Um, you know, that, um, we help parents and in particular moms, because.

That's what I'm dedicated to in this lifetime, hold the big picture, you know, that in the grand scheme of things, when they look at the last three generations of their family's life and all of the economic, political, social, cultural, religious influences that shaped the parenting practices in their lineage, that it was that it is not their fault.

And also that armed with that knowledge. You know, rooted into, in their heart, they can also lean towards their children and help them to heal their pain unburdened by that narrative of self blame. And in the treatment model that I developed to motion focused family therapy, there's a whole module called therapeutic apologies, where we support parents and caregivers to craft and deliver Therapeutic apologies to their children to validate their child's pain, you know, in terms of having been wounded by the systemic forces that impact on their parents.

But 1 of the criteria of being able to engage in that therapeutic apology is that the parent or caregiver. We do not allow parents and caregivers to engage in that therapeutic apology. If they have. Moderate to severe self blame because if they have moderate to severe self, severe self blame engaging in a therapeutic apology risks reinforcing their inner narrative of self blame because they're, they can't keep it separate enough.

Yeah. Yeah. And then the self blame gets infused into the apology and then it's not effective, you know, for the child, no matter the child's age. And so if the parent Rates their self blame, you know, moderate to severe, then we first do preliminary work to help reduce their experience of self blame. And we use cognitive strategies.

We use emotion focused strategies. We use activism, you know, all of it to help them to kind of cool. The flames of their self blame so that they can hold both. And wow, the parents who end up doing this, I mean, they are rock stars for their lineage. They are turning things around, you know? Yeah. It's so cool.

It's so empowering. It's one of my favorite things to do.

Nicole: Mm hmm. I can imagine why. And what I feel like I'm hearing then is this nuance, right, of it's not self blame. And when I'm always talking about the systems, people have come back to me and say, well, you can't just blame the systems because then there's no responsibility for what you've done.

What I'm, what I'm hearing is this nuance of the, the yes and right to both and the ways that those are interacting to. Create the scenarios. And so in that, having compassion for ourselves and also taking that responsibility in a balanced, nuanced way.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Yeah. Yeah. And it's also like just the, like the theory of pain, you know, if a child is in great distress, They're focusing on their pain, their pain is getting their attention because that's what pain does.

Yeah, you know, pain is there to wake us up to get our attention so that we are focused on the pain so that we can do whatever we need to do to relieve the pain. So, when kids, teens, adult children are focused on their pain, they can't, they just are not. Neuro biologically able to also hold that big picture.

Yeah. So once the parent soothes their pain, you know, from that more individual relational perspective, and then that pain heals. And reduces its intensity. Organically, the adolescent or adult child organically, they look around and be like, Oh, well, it wasn't your fault. There was a lot going on. And that's one of the really cool things that we've seen with the therapeutic apologies intervention.

Yeah. Is that when parents are able to offer this really, you know, deep therapeutic apology that in the end. So, but even when the adult child is like furious with them and has been furious with them for years, in the end, the marker of like all the way success is when the adult child goes, I see why you did it.

Makes sense to me. You know, I can see it wasn't your, but there's, it's just a process. Like in pain makes us focus on our pain. For good. Limited as humans. Yeah. Right.

Nicole: And that's how we survive. Right. That's how we survive. Exactly. Absolutely. And so. having compassion for ourselves because that's what we have to do to survive.

And I'm thinking about like my own experience with my mother and the ways that, you know, She's always done her best. Right. And, um, a few years ago when I had came out to her as queer, it was, you know, she comes from a Mormon background. And so as you can imagine, it was, I'm so deeply afraid that this is so wrong.

Didn't talk to me, right. All of the things, the place where in, yeah, it was, it was a time, the place that we're in now is significantly better, right. There's been years of conversation and connection and so much. So, you know, and it's part. Probably also because, you know, the way that I research sexuality is based in, you know, academia.

So I get a little bit more space to talk about things these days. Right. Fair and respect. But, uh, yeah, what I think is interesting is, you know, you, you have these experiences where You know, someone that your caregiver, your lover, and it, you know, any relationship, parent or not, where you get so hurt. And again, if we're talking about adaptive strategies, right.

It's to pull away, to protect oneself and to, to, to pull back. And so the amount of times that I've been able to cognitively put that, you know, she's apologized now I put, I put that frame of reference of, you know, she comes from a Mormon, uh, lineage. This is a different generational experience, you know, all of that.

But yet I can still feel it in my body, the, the, the turning inward of hunch of, of not being able to fully open up and just trust again. And so I'm curious what you say to that and, and particularly when you were talking about your own ayahuasca experience, right, of what does it mean to forgive your mother?

Like. How have you gone through that process of actually opening back up to really love when we've been really hurt by these people?

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Well, that's why, um, we have to be very discerning.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Yeah. Because blooming does come with risks depending on where we find ourselves in the natural terrain. Yeah.

And so I want to, like, it's a privilege to be able to bloom and not be afraid. Yeah. You know, not everyone has that or has access to that. And so I would be. Remiss to say like, Oh, yeah, just go for it. Be yourself. I'm like, Hmm, that's not true for all peoples, right? You know? So it's a continuous process of discernment and making choices on the basis of that discernment and creating spaces where it can feel safe.

I think about that. Oh, what's the name of that flower? It blooms in the daytime and then it,

Nicole: uh, a lot of them do that. Right? Mhm.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Really? Well, there's one in particular that I just know about because it was on my fence and I was felt so excited for sure that, um, it bloom in the morning and then it would close back in the night.

And I thought, wow, that's how I am for sure. Yeah. Like I'll bloom in certain settings and then I'll close up those pedals and protect my core because, um, it's still not safe in all settings to do that. So as much as I would love to, you know, just like. Be yourselves always unapologetically. I recognize that is a position of, of privilege that not all of us, um, can afford how to heal from, from that, you know, that deep resentment.

Well, I've spent the last 7 years of my career developing interventions to help people to do that in individual therapy in a way that maintains honor for the parent and the child, you know, so I'm really proud of that. I'm really, really proud of that. Um, and there are other modalities of healing where the manner of healing respects.

The family plant, not just the flower in psychotherapy indigenous traditions, I feel I've been able to preserve this far more. So we have a lot to learn from indigenous traditions around, not just the conceptualization, but also the. Tending to these kinds of wounds, um, you know, of course I've benefited greatly from psychedelic medicines, but not, not every facilitator is an appropriate facilitator for this kind of work because I have witnessed in integration circles in retreats, um, facilitators who don't hold both honoring your suffering and honoring the truth.

Of how things, you know, happened or didn't happen. That's a, that's a delicate balance. And so I feel like I would ask a facilitator, you know, whether it's an individual therapist, a group therapist, a medicine healer, what's your conceptualization of the development of mental health issues?

Nicole: Easy question.

Let's see where they take that.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Right. Right. And the Old fashioned way.

Nicole: Yeah.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: I'm going to walk on. Yeah. I don't need that. And I'm not doing that to my mother. She suffered enough, you know, in terms of cultural expectations that are completely fucking unreasonable. And I've suffered enough from the internalization.

Internalization of that, you know, and no more. Uh, not doing it.

Nicole: So those are some ideas far from perfect. Sure. Yeah. And I appreciate them, right? I think attachment plus systems perspective, right? That's what I'm hearing. And, um, I. Decided to take some electives in feminist therapy, which seems to have that sort of pull together.

Yeah. I really love that. Um, and it seemed to, it talked not too much about attachment, but relational patterns and then larger system theories and how that. Is also there. So maybe that could be another perspective. That's kind of, yeah, I really loved that. Yeah. Yeah. And at least when I was taught in school, they made us take, um, all the different perspectives are the main ones.

Right? So we took like psychodynamic, we took cognitive behavioral therapy and then systems. As well and existential humanistic, so I didn't get just one, which it made me at least think much broader probably than hopefully, you know, when you were in school and taught these more like, it's just the mom and it's the mom and only the mom.

Right. So, so I, I like to hopefully be a beacon of light that at least some of the programs now are doing a little bit more of a wider perspective that will give people hopefully that level of like cultural consciousness to say, it's much larger than just that issue specifically. We hope.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: It's beautiful.

Yeah, no. I think that's really beautiful, really beautiful and encouraging. And it does give me hope. So I thank you for sharing that. When I was a prof a few, like a number of years ago, back in Canada, it was really cool because the university where I worked, they required that every class have indigenous content.

I would love for that to be true across clinical psychology coursework, you know, because there are going to be some tensions, very healthy tensions that I think will help to improve. The field of psychology, because a lot of what we, you know, say and do as a field that wouldn't fly in other more traditional.

Intact, you know, cultures.

Nicole: So, yep, that and the body. That's another area that we've never, yeah, we don't have any classes on that. And, and again, I'll throw down for the need for pleasure, right? And the need for sex, because in reality, when a mother is not connected to her pleasure. I think that impacts everything.

I think that impacts everything. And so I will throw down for the rest of my career on the need for that. And the ways that we can integrate that, you know, shadow, dark, whatever light we want All those things, you know what I mean? The ability to have pleasure in our bodies at baseline and connection, all the different forms is a hundred percent crucial in terms of your ability to be a parent, right?

And love and have that pleasure. So it's just, there's a lot. To do

Dr. Adele Lafrance: bringing it up because you can tell that I still have some internalized structures of oppression here. Cause I'm like, Oh, Oh my God. I would have never thought of that. Just like, wow. That seems like way too much like whipped cream. Yeah. No, it's not.

It's a fundamental ingredient. And so thank you for, um, Helping me sure to refine my intentions list for my personal work for sure.

Nicole: I mean, it's really fascinating. There's very little data on it, which is, you know, its own thing. But from what I see, there's data talking about how, like, Okay. Men's, you know, it's very gendered, but like men's sexual drive and long term relationship stays pretty stable.

And then women's drops off at a pretty stat, like, intense rate. So, I find that really interesting, even that gender difference, right? And I think a lot of it we could point to some of the things you talked about, right? Of Being the primary caretaker, not having enough space, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

But I think there might be even more tucked in that, you know, as someone who's non monogamous, who's kinky, who's queer, I've, you know, there's a lot of play that I'm doing in ways that, you know, women of a hundred years ago couldn't have even, you know, even now many women can't even conceptualize doing without it being like you're a slut and a whore in a negative way and non empowering way.

So I just think there's a lot tied up in that.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Well, you're making me think about like pleasure as also a vehicle for overall flexibility. Yeah. Yes. You know, like it really is such a fascinating tool, if you will. I mean, it's a birthright. But if I'm thinking about it neurobiologically, it also, I think promotes cognitive and emotional flexibility, which is one of the building blocks of resilience.

So, Hey, guess Nicole, not that you need me to tell you, because clearly you have been leading this charge. It's interesting. Can I offer a couple little thoughts? It is,

it's helpful though. I think you're onto something, girl.

Nicole: Yeah, and I mean, I think I see that in the psychedelic assisted psychotherapy work, right?

You have that client who's You know, self deprecating, super judgmental of themselves, and then they come in and they have that session and they are like, wow, I feel good. I feel good about myself. That was actually really pleasurable, right? And it's, it's just even deconstructing that narrative that healing has to be painful, right?

You can come and have, you know, A psychedelic assisted therapy session that brings you into a state of pleasure and the way that that creates then more space for you to even think differently about your life and all that. So I'm sure you've seen that. Yeah,

Dr. Adele Lafrance: for sure. You know, so it's so true. Like people have joyful experiences on psychedelics.

They feel like they're not doing it right, but no, they're creating pathways to make that more accessible and to make it something that they privilege more often, you know, as a right. You know, the right to pleasure, the right to joy, the right to peace, the right to calm. You know, amazing.

Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. Which is funny because like cognitive behavioral therapy, like the fourth wave was coming in.

And I guess they were saying that like, they're going to the space of like asking clients like, when was the last time you were happy? And when was the last time you were thriving and trying to get people back into that paradigm? So I'm like, here we go. People are starting to think differently about the ways that we can heal.

Right. And grow. Yeah.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: I know. You know, it's like, I love one of the legacies of Roland Griffiths. Oh, who just passed what a loss is. He was really, really wanting us to not just think about healing, but human flourishing. And I think that holding both at all times, Is so important that we can both be healing and flourishing and that they're intricately related, but we don't talk enough about the flourishing part.

Nicole: That's part of why I started this podcast, you know, when I'm doing the sexual assault healing work, like, what does it mean to get to a state of pleasure? Right. What does that mean? And we are, as a society, all the forces huge on that one, right? So thinking about what does it mean to go from that state to a state of flourishing and a pleasurable life?

I think that the field of psychology is significantly lacking in that. area. So it's part of why I started having more conversations on the podcast with sex workers and other, you know, somatic educators, other sort of people from all different professions that could speak to it. And, you know, in many ways you've spoken to another one, which is, you know, the mother Wound right and the mother blame and if you have that blame and all of that like tapping into your pleasure is not gonna be as accessible and it's an important thing to talk about and to dismantle and keep that Wider perspective of the systems and how that's impacting our access to pleasure

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Wow, I'm gonna take this forward with me this this particular Aspect of the conversation.

Thank you.

Nicole: Yeah. Check back in with me. Let me know where you get to. What a gift. Yeah. Well, I want to hold some space as we come towards the end of our time in case there is anything you wanted to share with the listeners. Otherwise, I have a closing question. I can guide us towards great.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: I mean, the only thing I would add was that we are still recruiting, uh, participants for the love project research survey.

Basically, if anyone has had a profound experience of love under the effect of a psychedelic, we encourage them to visit our website, www. psychedeliclove. org and click on the survey tab and the survey is about 30 minutes. Many people have shared that it's been quite a positive experience to kind of reflect on a profound experience of love, but we're trying to legitimize the concept of love as a healing technology so that we can more formally integrate it.

Into psychedelic therapy, but also into conventional therapy models, including broad based healthcare delivery. So that would be my only, you know, plug.

Nicole: Yeah. How many times can I put in a submission?

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Oh, my gosh. Thank you. Probably just once, but I would really appreciate it because I want to learn from people's experiences of love.

I feel we have a lot to learn about love. Especially the integration of it and healing. Very, very powerful.

Nicole: Well, if it feels good to you, I'll guide us towards our closing question. Okay. Well, then the one question I ask each guest is, what is one thing that you wish other people knew was more normal?

Dr. Adele Lafrance: That it is normal to have Needs

I'm still grappling with that reality and in our very individualistic survival based culture. I feel like there's so many messages. But if we have needs, there's something wrong with us, but it's so, so normal no matter what.

Nicole: Yeah. And that if it's, you know, if you haven't had the space to express those needs in the past, right, it feels uncomfortable to, to state those and that can be really hard.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: And if you're under resourced and not sufficiently supported and you have A high degree of need, that's normal in those circumstances too, and you deserve to get help and support. So keep trying, keep knocking on those doors until the right ones are enough of the doors open to work for you. You deserve it.

Nicole: Mm hmm. Very, very powerful. It was such a joy to have you on the podcast today.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Well, thank you so much, Nicole, and thank you so much for your work. You are a. Lovely human being. Thank you.

Nicole: Thank you. It's very sweet of you. What a joy. Yeah. I want to ask you to where do you want to plug so people can find your project, find your work, anything that you want to share at the end so people can connect with you.

Dr. Adele Lafrance: Sure. So I have a website www dot. Um, dr. adelafrance. com, which if I could go back and remove the DR, I totally would because it's another system of oppression and, um, and then, you know, the love project can be found at www. psychedelichealing. org. So that's another, um, another place where they can find this work.

Nicole: Lovely. Well, Thank you so much for sharing your story and all of your work today with me and the listeners. If you enjoyed today's episode, then leave us a five star review wherever you listen to your podcast. And head on over to modernanarchypodcast. com to get resources and learn more about all the things we talked about on today's episode.

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


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