Pulling The Thread with Elise Loehnen

Elise Loehnen and Audacy

  • 53 minutes 52 seconds
    The Brain’s Secrets (Karl Deisseroth, M.D., PhD)

    “What optogenetics does is it's an engine of discovery. It helps us identify what matters, what's causing things to happen in the brain. And we know now the cells and the connections make these powerful motivations and drives manifest. That opens the door to any kind of new treatment, right? If you know the cells, then you can look at the DNA and the RNA in those cells. You can see what proteins those cells are making, and that gives you clues for medication targets. You can say, okay, this cell has these proteins on its surface, that would give us an idea for a pill, for a medication that might act specifically on that cell that now we know for the first time is causal. It's not just correlated with, it's actually causing these symptoms or the resolution of these symptoms. And if we can now design a medication that targets that cell, we might have a treatment.”

    So says Karl Deisseroth, a psychiatrist, neuroscientist and bioengineering professor at Stanford. Karl is also the author of Projections: The New Science of Human Emotion, which is a beautiful revisitation and exploration of his time as a psychiatry resident, where he encountered all sorts of people who didn’t quite understand what was happening to their brains—and by extension their minds.

    In the book—and in our conversation today—Karl explores mania, autism spectrum disorder, eating disorders, borderline personality disorder, psychopathy, and dementia, all in gorgeous prose. Karl runs a lab at Stanford that focuses on optogenetics, mind-blowing science that can pinpoint where adaptive and maladaptive behaviors begin in the brain. He’s won the Kyoto Prize and Heineken Prize for his research, which is not surprising—it just might change the entire world of psychiatry.

    Today’s conversation is far-ranging and it’s also surprising, including a conversation about how some of these disorders—like eating disorders, which can be deadly, can also be strangely adaptive. Please stick with us. 


    MORE FROM KARL DEISSEROTH, M.D., PhD:

    Projections: The New Science of Human Emotion

    Follow Karl Deisseroth on Twitter

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    20 June 2024, 7:01 am
  • 1 hour 20 minutes
    To Transcend and Include (Ken Wilber)

    “All growing up stages are the product of scientific investigation of the stages of growing up that people go through. And those are all defined in third person terms because they're the person or thing being spoken about. When we talk about the archaic stage or the magic stage or the mythic stage, if you look within right now, you can't see any of those stages. As a matter of fact, before we had this conversation, you had no idea that you had all these six to eight stages of growing up that you will go through. You didn't know anything about those because you can't see them. They're not first person or even second person phenomena. They're third person, the person or thing being spoken about.”

    So says Ken Wilber, whose work and intellect is difficult to describe. Throughout a long career—and the authoring of 20 books, including A Brief History of Everything, Grace and Grit, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality, and The Religion of Tomorrow, Wilber has put together what is essentially a synthesis of every psychological model of development. In fact, he locked himself away for years, writing every model down on pieces of yellow legal paper, and then knit them all together. I’ve written about Wilber’s work at length in my newsletter, which is also called Pulling the Thread—I’ll put links in the show notes—and I talk about his work on this show as well. Most recently, I talked about Ken Wilber with Nicole Churchill in our conversation about Spiral Dynamics. Wilber is a Spiral Dynamics wizard, though he uses it in aggregate with the work of other developmental thinkers, integrating the work of luminaries like Carol Gilligan, Robert Kegan, and others. 

    In today’s conversation, we talk about Wilber’s brand new book, Finding Radical Wholeness, which explores the five big processes we all undertake in our lives. In today’s conversation, we mostly talked about two: Waking Up and Growing Up, which are often conflated. Wilber makes the case for why they are unrelated processes—and the essential nature of the latter. While Waking Up, or having a Satori experience is wonderful—and something that 60% of people report—we all need to grow up. Wilber and I spend most of today’s conversation talking about our political environment from the standpoint of developmental psychology: Why we’re so fractured, and what it will look like when the Integral Stage becomes the leading edge of culture and we learn how to include and transcend. I think this is fascinating, and reassuring, and excellent context for a moment that feels so out-of-control.


    MORE FROM KEN WILBER:

    Finding Radical Wholeness

    A Brief History of Everything

    Sex, Ecology Spirituality

    Trump and a Post-Truth World

    The Religion of Tomorrow

    Grace and Grit

    More books from Ken Wilber


    More from Pulling the Thread Podcast:

    The Basics of Spiral Dynamics” with Nicole Churchill

    Our Collective Psychological Development” with John Churchill


    More from Pulling the Thread Newsletter:

    Transcend and Include

    Embracing Nondual Thinking

    Right Doing

    Ascending and Descending

    States vs. Stages

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    13 June 2024, 7:01 am
  • 49 minutes 58 seconds
    Working with the Divine (Nicole Avant)

    “I really think that the past, we can go back to it and we definitely learn lessons because I'm always a hindsight person. So in hindsight, I'm always thinking that, okay, what could I have done better? But the past experiences for me, I've learned as I've gotten older, is to grab the lesson. And hopefully there's a blessing in there too. And then move on. I used to stay stuck in the past and try to understand why, why, why, why, why I would spend so much time, Elise, that I'm never getting back or why did this person do that? Why did this happen? Why did they treat me this way? And really try to unpack all of their baggage. And what I've learned is the “why” doesn't even really matter. It's, you know, what is the lesson for me? What is the lesson for my soul that I need right now?”

    So says Nicole Avant, a philanthropist, filmmaker, and former diplomat. In her recent memoir, Think You’ll Be Happy, Nicole describes attending to the grief and shock of her mother’s unthinkable murder—she was shot in the back by a home intruder in 2021—by creating a living legacy in her honor. Her mom, Jacqueline Avant, had turned her Los Angeles home into a refuge for artists, politicians, and world-changers as the partner to Nicole’s father, entertainment mogul Clarence Avant, who is the subject of Nicole’s beautiful documentary,The Black Godfather. Nicole grew up sitting at the feet of extraordinary artists like Bill Withers, Oprah Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier watching as her parents navigated the world to make it better for future generations. In today’s conversation, we talk about that legacy—as well as Nicole’s relationship to the divine. Like her parents, she is a master connector—putting people together to see what unfolds.


    MORE FROM NICOLE AVANT:

    Think You’ll Be Happy: Moving Through Grief with Grit, Grace, and Gratitude

    The Black Godfather, on Netflix

    Follow Nicole on Instagram

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    6 June 2024, 7:01 am
  • 51 minutes 38 seconds
    Recovering Our Ability to Feel (Prentis Hemphill): TRAUMA

    “I think we need each other. I say this all the time, there are some things that are too big to feel in one body. You need a collective body to move them through. And I think that's what we need. We need to come together in spaces to heal, not just to consume together or to watch a movie together, but to feel together and to have human emotion in real life, in public and act from the place of a feeling body, to choose action from a feeling body and not just a reactive or a numb body, but a body that feels, a body that can connect. What kind of actions do you take in the world from that kind of body? I think it's different.”

    So says Prentis Hemphill, therapist, embodiment facilitator, and author of the just-released, What it Takes to Heal: How Transforming Ourselves Can Change the World. In today’s conversation—the final in a four-part series—we explore a path to putting ourselves, and the collective, back together, and how this begins with a visioning…but a visioning born from getting back in touch with how we actually feel. I loved their book—just by reading along with Prentis’s own path to re-embodiment, I found myself finding similar sensations in my chest, back and heart. In today’s conversation, we talk about somatics, yes, but also about conflict—and what it looks like to become more adept with our emotions in hard times. This is one of my favorite conversations I’ve had to date on Pulling the Thread—I hope you enjoy it too.


    MORE FROM PRENTIS HEMPHILL:

    What it Takes to Heal: How Transforming Ourselves Can Change the World

    Prentis’s Website

    The Embodiment Institute

    Follow Prentis on Instagram


    RELATED EPISODES:

    PART 1: James Gordon, M.D., “A Toolkit for Working with Trauma

    PART 2: Peter Levine, Ph.D, “Where Trauma Lives in the Body

    PART 3: Resmaa Menakem, “Finding Fear in the Body (TRAUMA)

    Thomas Hubl: “Feeling into the Collective Presence

    Gabor Maté, M.D.: “When Stress Becomes Illness

    Galit Atlas, PhD: “Understanding Emotional Inheritance

    Thomas Hubl: “Processing Our Collective Past

    Richard Schwartz, PhD: “Recovering Every Part of Ourselves

    To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: https://www.audacyinc.com/privacy-policy

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit https://podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    3 June 2024, 7:01 am
  • 58 minutes 1 second
    The Myth of Resilience (Soraya Chemaly)

    “This is the richness of the traditional wife explosion, right? There's this simple idea that you get to choose. Now you're choosing to emulate a situation that's a fiction in that those women didn't choose anything. They had to dress like that. They had to live like that. They had to be nice to the men like that, because they had no bank accounts. They had no cars. They had no licenses. They had no income. They had no security. So, don't equate these two things because you're just kind of living a dignified version of something that was pretty egregiously harmful, you know. And it's the difference, I think, in knowing that you have an option.”

    So says Soraya Chemaly, an award-winning writer, journalist and activist whose work has been at the center of mine. Her now-classic, Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger lit me on fire—not only for the deftness of her arguments but also because she is a meticulous researcher. What she gave air to in the pages of that book blew me away. She figures prominently in the endnotes of On Our Best Behavior.

    Her new book, The Resilience Myth: New Thinking on Grit, Strength, and Growth After Trauma, follows a similar path. Soraya takes something we’ve been served as an ideal—develop resilience—and flips it on its head, both widening and undermining this definition. She challenges our cultural myths about this concept and urges us all to shift and expand our perspective on the trait, moving from prioritizing the role of the individual to overcome and conquer to focusing on what’s really at work, which is collective care and connections with our communities. As she proves in these pages, resilience is always relational. 


    MORE FROM SORAYA CHEMALY:

    The Resilience Myth: New Thinking on Grit, Strength, and Growth After Trauma

    Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger

    Follow Soraya on Instagram

    Soraya’s Website

    To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: https://www.audacyinc.com/privacy-policy

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    30 May 2024, 7:01 am
  • 47 minutes 22 seconds
    Finding Fear in the Body (Resmaa Menakem): TRAUMA

    “Here's what I would say: peace will happen when people invest in cultivating peace as opposed to war. Peace will happen. And one thing I know, for me, I know peace, I know I will never see it, but maybe I can put something in place to where I leave something here and my children's, children's, children's grandchildren can nibble off of and feed on what I've left here the same way I feed off of Frederick Douglass's stuff.”

    So says therapist and social worker Resmaa Menakem, author of the New York Times bestseller My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies and originator of the Somatic Abolitionist movement. I met Resmaa many years ago, when he was one of the few voices in this space—Resmaa calls himself a communal provocateur and this is true, as his work challenges all of us to recognize and acknowledge that we’re scared. And that much of this fear is ancient. We were supposed to talk today about trauma in relationships, but our time together took a different turn—Resmaa jumped at the opportunity to put me in my familial and familiar fear. It’s hard, or at least it was for me, but hopefully you’ll stick with us to see how this works. This is the third part of a series on trauma, and it won’t surprise you to hear that Resmaa also trained with Peter Levine.


    MORE FROM RESMAA MENAKEM:

    My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies

    Monsters in Love: Why Your Partner Sometimes Drives You Crazy—And What You Can Do About It

    The Quaking of America: An Embodied Guide to Navigating Our Nation’s Upheaval and Racial Reckoning

    Resmaa’s Website

    Follow Resmaa on Instagram


    RELATED EPISODES:

    PART 1: James Gordon, M.D., “A Toolkit for Working with Trauma

    PART 2: Peter Levine, Ph.D, “Where Trauma Lives in the Body

    Thomas Hubl: “Feeling into the Collective Presence

    Gabor Maté, M.D.: “When Stress Becomes Illness

    Galit Atlas, PhD: “Understanding Emotional Inheritance

    Thomas Hubl: “Processing Our Collective Past

    Richard Schwartz, PhD: “Recovering Every Part of Ourselves

    To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: https://www.audacyinc.com/privacy-policy

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit https://podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    27 May 2024, 7:01 am
  • 53 minutes 35 seconds
    Take Back Your Brain (Kara Loewentheil)

    “There are studies showing that, once your basic needs are met, and you're not worried about losing your house, losing your health care, increases in money don't significantly increase happiness, right? So I think, you know, money helps alleviate the very real biological primitive fear of you're gonna die if you don't have shelter and food and in our society, healthcare, but when it comes to things beyond that, I think that we have been sold the lie that money creates security and it's a natural conflation because at a certain point for securing the necessities,and it makes other problems easier to solve also clearly, but emotionally, money is not the solution to an emotional problem any more than food or having a certain kind of body or being married or not married.” 

    So says Kara Loewentheil, author of Take Back Your Brain: How a Sexist Society Gets in Your Head—and How to Get it Out. While Kara and I went to college together, I first met her when she was gracious enough to have me on her hugely successful podcast, UnF*ck Your Brain, where I obviously fell in love with…her brain. Kara is theoretically an unlikely life coach—she graduated from Harvard Law School, litigated reproductive rights, and ran a think tank at Columbia University before deciding that she wanted to go upstream and rewire our culture’s brain instead. 

    Kara is fixated on what she calls the “Brain Gap” in women—the thought patterns so natural to women that keep us feeling anxious and disempowered. It’s in that “Brain Gap” that we continue to both unconsciously support and re-enact a culture that doesn’t do great things for women. My work and Kara’s work are very aligned. In fact, Take Back Your Brain: How a Sexist Society Gets in Your Head—and How to Get it Out is a cousin to On Our Best Behaviorone that’s written with actionable insights, by a life coach, for getting to the root of the problem.


    MORE FROM KARA LOEWENTHEIL:

    Take Back Your Brain: How a Sexist Society Gets in Your Head—and How to Get it Out

    Kara’s Website: The New School of Feminist Thought

    Kara’s Book Website

    Kara’s Podcast: UnF*ck Your Brain

    Follow Kara on Instagram

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    23 May 2024, 7:01 am
  • 47 minutes 5 seconds
    Where Trauma Begins (Peter Levine, Ph.D): TRAUMA

    “There are therapies where the person is made to relive their traumas over and over and over again. It's called flooding. And that's the one type of therapy that I do not agree with. I think it, not all the time, but it can be harmful, again, in somatic experiencing, we titrate the experience, we touch into a sensation in our bodies that have to do with the trauma, but just touch into it, and then notice the shift to a higher level of order, a higher level of coherence, a higher, greater level of flow. To go from trauma to awakening and flow is really, I think, what healing is all about."

    So says Peter Levine, PhD. If you’ve read or heard anything about trauma, you likely know Peter’s name, as he’s the father of Somatic Experiencing, a body-awareness approach to healing trauma that’s informed the practice of almost every trauma-worker today. Levine is a prolific writer—his international best seller, Waking the Tiger, has been translated into twenty-two languages—though much of his work has been for fellow academics and teachers. He’s just published a new book, An Autobiography of Trauma: A Healing Journey, which is highly accessible for all of us. It’s a beautiful book that recounts how he came to understand the somatic experience of trauma through an event in his own childhood—and the scientists and cultures he encountered along the way that informed what ultimately became a world-changing protocol. Today’s conversation explores all of this—including some very surprising appearances by Einstein.


    MORE FROM PETER LEVINE, PHD:

    An Autobiography of Trauma: A Healing Journey

    Waking the Tiger: The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences

    Trauma & Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past

    In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

    Somatic Experiencing International


    RELATED EPISODES:

    PART 1: James Gordon, “TRAUMA/Tools for Transforming Trauma

    Thomas Hubl: “Feeling into the Collective Presence

    Gabor Maté, M.D.: “When Stress Becomes Illness

    Galit Atlas, PhD: “Understanding Emotional Inheritance

    Thomas Hubl: “Processing Our Collective Past

    Richard Schwartz, PhD: “Recovering Every Part of Ourselves

    To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: https://www.audacyinc.com/privacy-policy

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit https://podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    20 May 2024, 7:01 am
  • 58 minutes 28 seconds
    Choosing Wholeness Over Wokeness (Africa Brooke)

    “In writing my book, I wanted to bring it back to the self because being online allows us to have this inappropriate level of audacity. And I think audacity is a very beautiful thing, but it gets so inappropriate online where you can go into Elise's messages and say, “by the way, I saw you liked this, you should be liking this, prove yourself to me”-- when the same person is probably not even able to have a conversation with their own partner in their home, but they can go online and demand people to say certain things, but in your home, are you that courageous to have a difficult conversation? Are you that courageous to have that same level of audacity in your day to day life. And I just worry that we're performing this very shadowy version of ourselves, especially online, without making any kind of effort in our everyday life to cultivate a strong sense of self, where you're able to handle conflict, where you're able to express disappointment to someone face to face and have a dialogue.”

    So says Africa Brooke, coach and author of The Third Perspective: Brave Expression in the Age of Intolerance. I’ve been smitten with Africa for years, after I was one of the 12 million-odd people who read her Instagram manifesto, “Why I’m Leaving the Cult of Wokeness” in 2020. There, Africa gave voice to being part of a culture that was supposed to be tented around diversity and inclusion, and yet, she found herself sounding and behaving in an increasingly intolerant way, a way that resisted diversity of thought. Originally from Zimbabwe, Africa lives in the U.K. and had already amassed a following for documenting her path to sobriety online—a path that anticipated the sober curious movement that’s become more mainstream today. She’s well-versed in spotting patterns and recognizing the way culture was working both on her and in her, in ways that were separating her from herself. 

    I loved this conversation, a conversation I was very excited to have—it’s a vulnerable one. I’m grateful to Africa for saying what needs to be said and conscious that more of us need to join her. As she explains, people quickly finger her as far-right—and the far-right would love nothing more than to co-opt her—but she’s more of a social justice advocate than ever. She needs people in the center, and people on the left to join her in pointing out how our cancel culture is, to use her term, actually “collective sabotage.” And how we abandon our highest principles when we turn on each other so quickly and make each other “wrong.” I think this conversation speaks for itself.


    MORE FROM AFRICA BROOKE:

    The Third Perspective: Brave Expression in the Age of Intolerance

    Why I’m leaving the cult of wokeness

    Africa’s Website

    Follow Africa on Instagram

    Africa’s Podcast: “Beyond the Self

    Loretta Ross’s Episode: “Calling in the Call-Out Culture

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    16 May 2024, 7:01 am
  • 1 hour 2 minutes
    A Toolkit for Working with Your Trauma (James Gordon, M.D.): TRAUMA

    “Now the tragedy, in one sense is a tragedy, that often people only become open when they've suffered horribly when that is both the tragedy of trauma, but also the promise. It's one thing to be trauma informed. It's another thing to inform our experience of trauma with some kind of courage and some kind of hopefulness for profound change. That's what's got to happen. If that can happen, then maybe out of all this contentiousness that is present in our 21st century United States, maybe something really good can happen, but we've got to pay attention, we've got to act on it, and take responsibility.”

    So says Dr. James Gordon, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, former researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health and Chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, and a clinical professor of psychiatry and family medicine at Georgetown Medical School. He’s also the founder and executive director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine and a prolific writer on trauma. This is because he’s spent the last several decades traveling the globe and healing population-wide psychological trauma. He and 130 international faculty have brought this program to populations as diverse as refugees from wars in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Africa; firefighters and U.S. military personnel and their families; student/parent/teacher school shooting survivors; and more.

    I met Jim many years ago, and he’s become a constant resource for me in my own life and work, particularly because he packages so many of the exercises that work in global groups into his book Transforming Trauma: The Path to Hope and Healing. We talk about some of those exercises today—soft belly breathing, shaking and dancing, drawing—along with why it’s so important to address and complete the trauma cycle in areas of crisis. This is the first part of a four-part series, and James does an excellent job of setting the stage.


    MORE FROM JAMES GORDON, M.D.:

    Transforming Trauma: The Path to Hope and Healing

    The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

    Follow Jim on Instagram


    RELATED EPISODES:

    Thomas Hubl: “Feeling into the Collective Presence

    Gabor Maté, M.D.: “When Stress Becomes Illness

    Galit Atlas, PhD: “Understanding Emotional Inheritance

    Thomas Hubl: “Processing Our Collective Past

    Richard Schwartz, PhD: “Recovering Every Part of Ourselves

    To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: https://www.audacyinc.com/privacy-policy

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit https://podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    13 May 2024, 7:01 am
  • 1 hour 34 minutes
    The Complexity of Weight Loss Drugs (Johann Hari)

    “I realized I think there's a few things that are in our heads that are so deep in the culture. One of them is the idea that being overweight is a sin. It goes right back to if you look at Pope Gregory I in the 6th century when he first formulates the seven deadly sins, gluttony is there, it's always depicted with some fat person who looks monstrous, overeating. And how do we think about sin? If being overweight is a sin, we think sin requires punishment before you get to redemption. The only forms of weight loss that we admire are where you suffer horribly, right? You think about The Biggest Loser, that horrid, disgusting game show. If you go through agony, if you starve yourself, if you do extreme forms of exercise that devastate your body, then we'll go, he suffered. We forgive you. Well done. We'll let you be thin now, right?”

    So says Johann Hari, author of many bestselling books—Stolen Focus, Lost Connections, and Chasing the Scream. Johann is a fellow cultural psychic and his latest book—the subject of today’s conversation—bears this out. He takes on drugs like Ozempic and Mounjaro in Magic Pill: The Extraordinary Benefits and Disturbing Risks of the New Weight-Loss Drugs. He also writes about his own relationship to these drugs, as Johann is taking them. His book is a subtle and sensitive navigation of what is a tightly bound convergence of health and culture—and every page of his book anticipates and precedes the conversation. (As a disclaimer, I’m in it.) We talk about all  of it in today’s conversation, along with what would have happened if a woman had written this book first.


    MORE FROM JOHANN HARI:

    Magic Pill: The Extraordinary Benefits and Disturbing Risks of the New Weight-Loss Drugs

    Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention—and How to Think Deeply Again

    Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope

    Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

    Johann’s Website

    Follow Johann on Instagram

    To learn more about listener data and our privacy practices visit: https://www.audacyinc.com/privacy-policy

    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit https://podcastchoices.com/adchoices

    9 May 2024, 7:01 am
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