Author’s Note: I wrote this piece on healing Parts and money burdens with privilege as a white, cis-gendered, able-bodied, American-born woman with Western and Eastern European ancestry living on stolen native lands. I dwell on the present and ancestral homeland and unceded territory of the Lisjan people, who are made up of the seven nations that were directly enslaved at Mission San Jose in Fremont, CA and Mission Dolores in San Francisco, CA: Chochenyo (Ohlone), Karkin (Ohlone), Bay Miwok, Plains Miwok, Delta Yokut and Napian (Patwin). I am committed to restoring my relationship to Mother Earth and rematriating the land where I dwell through Sogorea Té Land Trust. I am committed to equity and healing justice with Hersiliency in Minneapolis, MN, where I was born on the present and ancestral homeland and unceded territory of the Wahpekute and Očhéthi Šakówiŋ first peoples.
My alarm clock buzzes, I hit the snooze button and return to the stress dream where I’m trapped in a shopping mall. The alarm sounds nine minutes later, and I haven’t escaped the mall, so I decide to begin my wake up routine. I say a prayer of gratitude for as long as I can, until an exile illuminates my body with a shockwave of anxiety. I notice the exile this morning in my ribs and diaphragm. I hold those parts of my body and welcome them into my day. My daily-surfacing exile holds more than my preverbal trauma scars. She also carries the collective burdens of money across cultures and generations.
I’m in the middle of my Capitalism Comedown. This is what I call the embodied process of unburdening individual, inherited, and collective Parts attached to my career and earning money. Reading The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist last year pulled the first thread that would unravel my capitalist identity, one I had clung to since earning twenty dollars for a few hours of babysitting. Eleven-year-old me had stashed the cash in a wooden cigar box in my sock drawer, where I safeguarded the other monies I had received from birthdays, holidays, and other cash-gift milestones.
I never liked reaching inside the cigar box to use the money, but I never wondered why. My mom was a widow raising my younger brother and me on a nurse’s salary. We lived in a tiny house by the train tracks at the edge of an upper class Chicago suburb. I was the highest achieving kid in my grade and well-liked by my teachers and peers, which made me feel connected to our community. A friend once asked me why I was so well-behaved and got good grades. Was my mom pressuring me to succeed? A very parentified and achievement-obsessed manager replied, “Nope. It’s just how I’m wired!”
My overachieving Part continued earning money from full-time nanny jobs over the summer. In high school, I became a private math tutor paid by paper checks. To cash them, my mom and new stepdad helped me open my first bank account. I delighted in the small monthly interest increasing my balance for free. They didn’t tell me that “free” was really “free-market capitalism” wherein the bank used customers’ money to earn more than those interest payments through investments in companies. Companies depleting Earth’s natural resources without accountability.
I worked on campus during college, though not all the money paid off loans or landed in my bank account. I’d discovered alcohol, an effective but expensive firefighter numbing increasingly powerful exiles. After graduating, I took the first job offered to me and worked full time for the next twenty-one years climbing the corporate ladder. I rarely saved money because firefighters and managers controlled my bank account, spending to keep heavily burdened exiles at bay. Unaware of my Parts, I identified with their brand-name survival tactics. I loved drinking Tito’s vodka, earning Delta SkyMiles status, and filling my closet with Marc Jacobs handbags.
The Soul of Money landed in my hands midway through our second year in the COVID pandemic. The first COVID year, I didn’t bake sourdough bread or retreat to a beach house. I moved from New York City to work remotely in the San Francisco Bay Area from my high school bedroom, where I logged many hours crying on the floor between Zoom meetings.
A forty-year-old, single executive humbled and triggered by moving in with her parents, I had the space and vulnerability to awaken to my unconscious childhood trauma. In the second COVID year, that awakening evolved into redirecting my money toward unlearning racism and colonialism, healing justice organizations, and IFS therapy. Although I had no cognitive memories of my father’s cancer and death when I was preverbal, IFS explained how it had caused extreme, unconscious burdens throughout my entire mind-body system. Cultural unlearning taught me some of my burdens came from my ancestors and the society around me, too.
By the time I read The Soul of Money, I had enough access to Self that the book awakened curiosity about my relationship with money. I googled the author, Lynne Twist, and applied for her six-month program, The Remarkable Women’s Journey (RWJ). It cost more than I ever spent at once, and my anxious exile panicked over the amount. I asked why. She told me she was scared to let go of that much money and wondered if it was wrong to spend it on myself when others needed it more. I thanked her for her valuable insight and reminded her we needed new places to learn Self leadership out in the world. I promised we would use our privilege to serve with the communities who needed us. The precious exile took a deep breath and relaxed in my lap while I paid the bill.
In the RWJ program, Lynne created a sacred space for us to unearth what was longing to happen through us by shifting out of scarcity mindsets. None of my Parts minded Lynne asking me to question my conditioned inner narrative on money. My Parts attuned to her kind eyes, welcoming smile, and well-earned wisdom. Courage grew within me.
I journeyed with Lynne and my RWJ sisters into the sacred headwaters of the Amazon rainforest. We spent time with the Sápara people of Ecuador, who live in harmony with Pachamama (Earth) through dreams and plant medicine. To prepare, we had written down dreams for interpretation by the Sápara wisdom keepers. I shared a recurring narrative about water flooding my nightly dreamscapes. A Sápara elder said I had been dreaming about climate change, a common problem perceived by Westernized (capitalism-driven, technology-powered) humans like me. In the Sápara culture, they believe there aren’t any problems. Climate change is not a problem for Pachamama; she will adjust to human overconsumption of her resources, but humans may not live through her adaptation process. The elder said that as the perpetrators of climate change, Westernized humans face a simple choice: do we want to stay on Pachamama or not?
Returning from that trip, my body rang a five-alarm fire during the first week back at work. An anxious Part sent shockwaves through my nervous system, an angry Part made my blood boil, a frustrated Part imagined throwing my laptop out the window. I’d experienced those responses my whole career. Before IFS, my firefighters had numbed them out with intense cardio workouts, loads of alcohol, and when all else failed, Xanax. Unburdening those firefighters had taught me to trust the signals my body produced. Over the weekend, I spent time listening to the stories of those somatic signals. They reminded me of when I had gotten COVID earlier in the summer and took a week off work to recover. I remembered that as the virus had receded, I had heard my Parts say they were happier sick and not working than healthy and working. Monday morning, with a calm clarity emanating from my mind-body system, I quit my job.
My IFS therapist was on medical leave and I knew I had to continue IFS on my own outside of my parents’ house. I asked my Parts where they would feel safe to divulge their unemployment responses to me and release them. The answer: the ocean. Dipping into my savings, I rented a beach condo for a month and built a Self-led sanctuary.
An overachieving Part itched to submit job applications all day even though I could afford the self-funded sabbatical. I asked her why she had that role, and she revealed a seven-year-old me counting green beans at the grocery store. I watched my younger self drop five extra beans into the produce bag in her hand and noticed a physical sensation rising in my child body I’d never felt before: anxiety.
Naming the exiled anxiety, my sternum tightened. I supported the burgeoning somatic awareness with my hands using Susan McConnell’s Somatic IFS practice of attuned touch. I took a conscious breath to slow down my nervous system, another signal to my Parts that I was listening. I followed the impulse to lay on the bed and bury my face in a pillow. The overachieving Part showed how a toddler-aged exile had been so worried and afraid my mother wouldn’t be able to provide for us. I didn’t know an exile had absorbed my mother’s burdens of single motherhood, and that my Parts had assumed roles to suppress it, like my overachieving Part’s never ending quest for money. With radical resonance between exile and Self, I used mindful movement to scream and cry out everything the exile held, directing it into the pillow. When the wave subsided, I went down to the beach and returned my exile to embodied self via physical connection to saltwater, sun, and sand.
For three weeks, Parts released somatic burdens related to scarcity, ambition, achievement, and capitalism, all sourced from my lived experience, my ancestors’ unconscious beliefs, and cultural norms buried deep in my cellular structure. With each unburdening, Parts asked to fill my body with water, sun, rainbows. I increased my time in the ocean, walked the sandy shores in bare feet, and slept eight to ten hours each night.
Midway through, an inner critic Part thought I was being lazy, and I asked why. She showed me my mother’s face and I understood. Inner critic’s role was to live from her interpretation of my mom’s need state. Inner critic showed me that she lived in the cigar box and thought I was eleven. I gave her a hug and explained that I was forty-two, we had a safety net in the bank, and that our job right then was resting and healing. We cried to release her judgment, and she decided we needed a nap. I fell asleep by the pool that afternoon and later watched a sunset with cotton-candy clouds and a rainbow over the teal-colored ocean, everything my younger self had been filling her body with for weeks.
My final night at the beach, a dear friend invited me to a dinner party. I was aware of a drained body from a month of deep inner work and an early flight the next morning. Unsure what to do, I asked myself a question, one that I’d learned during RWJ, “What’s longing to happen through me right now?”
The answer came immediately, “Seek new connections so you can do the work you were born to do.”
Weary but inspired, I accepted the invitation. That evening, my friend introduced me to Dr. Edith Shiro, author of The Unexpected Gift of Trauma. Dr. Shiro and I discovered a mutual belief that healing trauma in individuals, across generations, and within collective fields can transform the world. I mentioned the importance of online reviews for book sales at some point in the conversation. Dr. Shiro asked why I knew that. I said I had been a digital marketing executive, and her eyes lit up. She had been frustrated that morning about driving book sales on her own and was astonished to have a marketer standing before her, the answer to her prayers for help. I told her that she was the answer to mine: a clinical trauma expert who validated what I had learned through IFS and trauma research.
I devoured Dr. Shiro’s book as it mirrored my healing process across diverse scenarios and use cases. Today, she and I are working on several projects supporting posttraumatic growth as a driver of systemic transformation.
Capitalism Comedown has been a more intense experience than expected, with burdens reaching far beyond my lived experience. While I regenerate my identity and relationship with money through Self leadership, I discover fiscal burdens I inherited from my deceased Grandpappy, a career salesman for 3M. I notice collective scarcity mindsets I share with my colleagues at Fortune 500 companies. I see people oppressed by the same systems that support me, systems rooted in scarcity and inequity. As I’ve learned from the Sápara, none of this is a problem. Without a problem, I hear a question: “Do scarcity and inequity align us with Pachamama?” I hear an answer: “No, we must live in harmony with her.”
I see how humans can build a regenerative connection with Pachamama, and it requires individual and collective unburdening. As a result, I have taken responsibility for my privilege to remain in the space between money and Self to listen for guidance on how I can support the reconnection. I’m confident I cannot return to my career; I’m clear that earning money must pause for now; I’m compassionate for how my Parts react to my choice of the unknown path ahead. Each morning as my anxious exile shows me everywhere she lives in my body, I accept my role as Self-healer, the lowest paying and most rewarding job I’ve ever had.