The Coming In of Coming of Coming Out explores the feelings of pride and shame experienced by members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Jess and her guest Alexander Einsman, LMFT, discuss identity, relational wounding, shame, and the development of pride both in community and within one's relationship with Self. Alexander, who specializes in psychodynamic therapy focused around LGBTQIA identity, the Queer shame -pride continuum, and trauma, provides strategies for cultivating pride within and healing the relational wound of shame.
Produced by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Edited by Jessica Warpula Schultz
Music by Jason A. Schultz
The Coming In of Coming Out
[00:00:00] Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-based mental health podcast. We're your hosts, Jessica Warpula Schultz and Jeanne Kolker Whether you've tried everything to feel better and something is still missing or you've already discovered the wisdom of the body. This podcast will encourage and support you in healing old wounds, strengthening relationships, and developing your inner potential all by accessing the mind body connection. Please know while we're excited to share and grow together. This podcast is not intended to be a substitute for mental health treatment. It doesn't replace the one-on-one relationship you have with a qualified healthcare professional and is not considered psychotherapy. Well, Welcome to Insight
MInd Body Talk. My name is Jessica Warpula Schultz and I'm your host. Today's episode is "The Coming In of Coming Out". And my guest is Alexander Einsman, licensed marriage and family [00:01:00] therapist. Alexander, pronouns. He/him/his, is a psychotherapist practicing in Madison, Wisconsin at Harmonia Madison center for psychotherapy.
In addition to treating anxiety and depression in adults, teens, and couples, he specializes in psychodynamic therapy, focused around LGBTQIA identity, the Queer shame -pride continuum, and trauma. Alex relies on several treatment modalities in his practice, including ego state or parts therapy, eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing therapy.
Also known as EMDR and clinical hypnosis. He also mentors and offers his clients the same mind, body connection. He practices derived from yoga, meditation, and hypnosis. Alex graduated with a BA from the university of Wisconsin Madison, and he received his Ms in marriage and family therapy, marriage and family therapists from Edgewood college in Madison, Wisconsin, where he researched [00:02:00] protective factors for queer youth development.
He completed his clinical internship at Briarpatch Youth Services, a Dane county, nonprofit offering teen and family counseling and a youth shelter for at-risk youth. He has published columns and articles on therapy and psychology in Our Lives magazine and the Wisconsin State Journal. Alex, I am so happy you are here.
I am so excited. Welcome. Welcome to Insight Mind Body Talk. Thank you so much. It's such a pleasure to be here. It's great to have you. You are well, we know each other. Let's talk about it. Let's share a little bit. We have been therapy frenzies for quite a while. Haven't we? We have. Yeah. And met prior to when we'd became therapists, which is cool.
For our listeners, Alex and I met long ago at Briarpatch Youth Services. When you were doing your clinical internship. And I was working in street outreach as an AmeriCorps member, and we were doing, [00:03:00] co-therapy kind of driving around to schools and also providing therapy at the center itself.
And I just remember it being a really meaningful time for me to learn from you and to practice our work together. So I'm glad you're here. Yeah. I feel the same way. That was such a wonderful experience. And , my interest in becoming a therapist really started with just volunteering at Briarpatch, just to see what is this like, you know, trying to help people.
And so getting to meet you there and getting to work together was so fun and just like watching our paths expand throughout life. And this podcast that you're doing, which is so amazing. It's so fun that you invited me to be here. I'm sorry. Excited. I'm very excited. We'll have to have you back at another time to talk about hypnosis and other things of the mind-body connection.
But for today, we're here to talk about the coming in of coming out. What does that mean? Yeah, that's a great question. And it's some language that came up for [00:04:00] me as we were talking about this episode and really thinking about, the process of pride and shame and for members of the LGBTQIA+ community or the Queer community as we'll refer to moving forward.
Is it pretty significant process. We think of coming out as this language it's pretty common, which in a way, represents a step away from shame to pride. And oftentimes coming out, is focused on seeking that external acceptance or validation, which is so important when we have any aspect of identity that we feel is, could be shameful or bad.
And then at a kind of parallel process, I think for many people who identify as part of this community there's this process of coming inward. That even when we come out and ideally we get acceptance in some form. That there's this process of like internally connecting that most people who have had an aspect of their identity that they've hidden, or even felt shame [00:05:00] about, the process of kind of disconnection within the self occurs.
And the coming in of coming out refers to how can we also come inward and move toward ourselves? Even if we're not getting the type of acceptance externally that we want, or even if we are. To create coming toward or moving toward the self and, ultimately showing up as a whole person.
So Let's talk more about the continuum between pride and shame first. Alex, what does pride mean to you pride to me is something that has really expanded in my own experience and definition, and has changed in different ways throughout my development, as a as a young person, a young gay man in this world, I first kind of experience and thought of pride as the opportunity to be out in this world and to show who I am or who we are without any apology basically to show up in a way that we can be seen and accepted and so the way that's expanded for [00:06:00] me, and I think for many people, is that at a point in my development, I realized that the coming inward of pride was something that was really necessary for me I love the celebration and the embracement.
And over time, I think I've thought about pride a little bit more as like, how can I show up for myself and for others in the community? So both as a connection outward and inward, it reminds me of some ways of Dr. Kristin Neff's work in self-compassion actually, what you're describing is. She talks about how we need tender self-compassion as well as fierce self-compassion.
And that there's this balance of energies to create wholeness where there's the tender self-compassion of accepting ourselves to alleviate suffering and working on that inner healing. So the coming in and yet there's also the. Fierce self-compassion of taking action to alleviate suffering. So [00:07:00] protecting yourself, drawing boundaries, providing for yourself, saying yes to your own needs and then also connecting with your community and learning how to grow and change within the world.
And so what you're describing here is in a way this delicate balance of if we have too much of one and not enough of the other, that. Can shape whether we're there for our whole self or feeling as though our full self is being nurtured. That is such a great perspective to weigh in on this. And I love that idea of the balance between.
Being fierce, which is often necessary and feirce self-compassionate has such a great ring to it. And really reminds me of a lot of the original nation of pride. If we look back at Stonewall, the idea to fiercely push back against police brutality to members of the Queer community was just necessary.
And then also that kind of inward process of providing some of that. Gentler self-compassion inside. That's a [00:08:00] lovely kind of expansive way of looking at it. Thank you for sharing that. Sure. Yeah.
Alex in our production meeting, you said pride is ideally the absence of shame. I guess what I meant by that when I said it was that I really seen conceptualized prior to, as the antithesis to shame And, when we're stuck in shame, it can be really hard to feel prideful or engage in pride.
and after, production meeting, I thought a little more about it, and I still agree that ideally it would be the absence of shame and also want to hold space that, with having that continuum between pride and shame, I think it offers a sense of freedom. But also that, as therapists, we often talk about things don't have to be either, or it can be both.
And after talking about that, I think ideally it is the absence of shame, but I think pride really on that continuum connects, the lightness to the darkness or the connection to the disconnection. And and I just think it can [00:09:00] be helpful for us to think about those terms together in that continuum.
Mostly because it's, there is something else other than this, the shame, and to really look at that, what our own experience of shame is, whether it's conscious or unconscious and to find ways that we can really explore pride in a personal and both collective, but also in and individual way.
Yes. We're starting to talk a little bit more about shame the belief that something is wrong with who we are a sense of unworthiness, in your clinical opinion, how does shame manifest itself within the context of queer identities? Yeah, great question. I, shame is really a universal experience for many people.
It's one of our ways of coping. And I think that we can have pretty specific experiences with shame. So when I think about shame within the context of, within the context of queer identity, I think a lot about the internal and [00:10:00] external rejection of self and how we often think about shame as something that is learned both in overt and covert messages throughout our development.
When we think about queer identity, there can be overt. Attacks with language on that identity, or even like mixed into our language such as referring to, the use of gay is referring to something bad, wrong or different. It's a really good example of that. Like pretty ingrained into our language, even when I was a kid.
And unfortunately seems to still be happening in some ways. Although I think we've made a lot of changes. But shame can also, be manifested silently, something that's not talked about at all. So we get these messages that like, Ooh, there is, there is something bad about that. Yeah.
And I think you're right. I often, when I'm describing shame to clients. It's about looking at that dichotomy between guilt or something, which I think comes from a lot of Brene Brown's incredible work on exploring shame, but like guilt is oh, I [00:11:00] feel I did something. I feel bad about it versus shame being like, I am bad.
I am bad as a person. There's something wrong with me. Possibly even something that can't be fixed, like who I am is bad. Exactly. Yeah. So Shame is like the internalization of a lot of these negative messages and it can often come as an explanation too, as a young human in this world, if I'm not cared for and loved the way I ideally should be, or, worse, if we experience abuse or trauma than shame is like the explanation, right? There must be something wrong with me that caused this. And I think that's why within the queer community, it can be such a challenging thing to navigate in terms of that idea of like, is this something wrong with me versus moving to.
Place of pride or even like fierce pride or fierce compassion, like you said, where it's like, this is me and I welcomed this. And so it reminds me of how in Janina Fisher's book, which I probably referenced in [00:12:00] every podcast, episode Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors.
She talks about how, when we experience. Trauma. And if you think about chronic shame as a very significant trauma, These messages we get, even just from society. This misrecognition not being seen clearly not being loved as we are this chronic shame and how it can start even in infancy for whatever reason or as small children.
And often when we experienced a trauma. We're not in the front of our brain. We're not in our prefrontal cortex. So we don't have that. Concrete memories to later go back and say, oh, this is why it happened. This is what happened. I was doing the best I could. And so what we're left with is these are these body memories or these emotions.
And when we're smaller people in our brains, aren't fully formed, until [00:13:00] we're 24 sometimes what's left is feelings of shame or confusion low self worth. And. That becomes the narrative just because our brain was offline , a little bit. you know, our hippocampus didn't make a memory.
We can't pinpoint, oh, that person was wrong to do that. To me, it wasn't about me. We just have this leftover residual emotion, which sometimes becomes a shame narrative. And so we then believe the narrative and I think that's one way we can challenge these narratives of shame or fight this story that there's something wrong with us or that we're unworthy is saying what was my brain doing?
What was my brain experiencing? And can I look at that with curiosity and see if my brain decided it was my fault because that's the only data it had this leftover residual emotion ,
is that making sense? Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense in what you're saying really [00:14:00] resonates and reminds me of how, shame is in its origin. It's very concrete. Like you were describing. It's it's a coping mechanism. It's about like good, bad, right? Wrong, like very young kind of concrete thinking.
And which you described in the process of exploring our personal definition of pride is really. Is an expansion of that entire story and perspective is really looking at oh yeah, there was a lot going on there. Or even with some of the clients I work with and myself included realizing that what was we track that shame?
Far back it's, even when we look at the sexuality or gender piece, a lot of times we realize oh yeah, that, that actually started like even earlier, but then there's this awareness of this pivotal aspect of identity that is going to be rejected or hurt or harmed than taking up a lot of space.
Which brings me to polyvagal, right? And I was watching a Ted Talk by Crystal Rasmussen, A Queer Journey From [00:15:00] Shame to Self-love and Crystal referenced that at certain points safety was more important than curing shame. And to normalize that along the continuum, can you speak to that? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Even when we think about the language of being in the closet, what we're describing as hiding, and one of our oldest forms of survival, our most powerful is that kind of like that freeze or kind of hide response.
When we access that dorsal vagal r eaction . When we think about, sometimes people have the idea of pride, of oh, it's very concrete. You just have to come out and then you're good. But I think I really agree with Crystal on that, and it really resonates with, working with youth.
Safety is the most important. So if you are an environment or a contact or situation where you could be unsafe by coming out, then You may choose not to. And that may be one of the best choices that you have, particularly because like all around the [00:16:00] world, people with queer identities are still victimized and targeted, attacked.
We've made so much progress and there is still so much to be made. And so thinking about that aspect of safety. Within hiding can de-stigmatize it a little bit. We realized that cause sometimes we can get down on ourselves for being in the closet, like the longer we stay in, it can be harder to come out and to really look at that from like a survival lens that what you're doing to surviving and then how can we look at our internal and external environment and understand , how can I safely do this?
How can I engage? In pride and that can come in a lot of different forms, but yeah, I really liked that idea of just validating that's a, that is an appropriate human response to survival. Exactly. How else do you see shame manifests behavioral? Yeah. In a lot of ways I personally think that within a lot of different mental health symptoms, [00:17:00] that shame is often is underlying fuel.
We can see shame, really influence experience of depression, of anxiety. We can see that manifest in a hyper-focus on the body or a hyper-focus on what we do with our bodies. So it's really quite fascinating, the myriad of ways. Our psyches can really try to cope with this aspect of shame, this deep disconnection.
And I actually, interestingly enough, preparing for our talk today, had my own little experience of shame come up. That was brought some awareness to me that I really, I wasn't consciously aware of it. I noticed myself procrastinating on preparing for this a little bit more. I'm a, I'm an Olympic procrastinator in a lot of ways.
I'm not surprised. But but what I noticed is that there was a different feeling to those when I really sat with that and tried to connect with what [00:18:00] part of me was feeling that resistance. I realized that it was still, a part of me, a teenage part that had really procrastinated on accepting.
Had procrastinated on accepting an aspect of my identity. And, I came out early in life and my teen years, but by that point, it had still been several years where I knew this thing about me and I just did everything I could to avoid it. And so it was really fascinating for me realizing, whoa, this is like, you know, I can both be, have been out for a couple decades and truly honestly, fully embrace myself and feel good.
And think that I feel no shame, but underneath the surface for a part of me, I think the idea of coming and talking and just outside of the therapy relationship, which is pretty intimate and confidential, but just speak to queer identity. In my own experience, I really noticed that, young closeted part of me, I really felt that part and had a really interesting experience with connecting with that and [00:19:00] reminding that part.
You know, There are other resources here and this is something we're choosing to do. And this is about sharing and ideally helping other people and not so much about performance or the perception of rejection. So it was really quite fascinating, but even in the preparation of this, I uncover just a little bit of shame hanging out in there.
Thank you for sharing. I think sharing that part of your story really exemplifies also, in my opinion, how we work with shame, you know, as you were talking, our listeners can't see it, but I saw you put your hand over your heart for a few moments when you were speaking to that part. And as a therapist, I hear.
This compassionate self energy going towards that younger part who is feeling scared or apprehensive or unsure and being present with it and soothing and being gentle and being [00:20:00] kind and allowing that part to share its fears and concerns. And at the same time, supporting it in moving forward in a way that is healing.
So thank you. You're so welcome. Yeah it's a pleasure to share it. I think because it's, I find that for myself and for many people, that's, again, more than one truth can exist at the same time. We can have come out and feel tons of pride about who we are and our queer identity. And that I think a lot of times those younger parts are still there.
So with the idea of pride being like, how can we really show up for those. For those inside parts that, that may still get scared. And how can we shift that? Cause I tapped into lots of self-compassion and what I didn't mention is that prior to that, there was a different framework.
What's wrong with me? Why can't I do this, all these things, but then to shift that right to change and to be like, wait a minute and not so much why. Get us caught in a cycle of rumination [00:21:00] or certainty, but what part of is this coming from? And can I really show up for that part of myself and for this part of myself, I think offering a sense of choice.
To do this, to talk about this was really quite powerful and really just sued that part of myself. And I think that with the queer, with humans in general, but particularly with our queer community, it's yeah. Really showing up for that teen or young part, I think we talk a lot about the inner child, which is important, cause there's know so many things that happen early in life, really impact and imprint on us.
And around teen years is often when we're coming to awareness of some aspects of sexuality or gender identity, it happens at different times for different people, but you know, for people to maybe think about, what's that like for me, when I start to know about that, how did I cope at the time?
And could that still be occurring in some ways in life? Yeah. Outreach LGBTQ+ Community Center's hosting [00:22:00] Madison's third annual Magic Pride Festival as a sort of virtual/live hybrid event this month, August 22nd, 1-5pm. We've started talking about ways in which people can make pride celebrations more personal, even more, as a therapist, we'd say intra-personal right, the relationship with the self.
What are some different ways to help people celebrate pride within as well as with their community? I think, outward celebration within community is so powerful for many people because it offers that opportunity to co-regulate with others and to really just be seen and have fun.
So I think a lot of times that outward and external expression of pride can be a really fun and often a really necessary part for people. And I do think that the, when we think about pride in a more expansive way, we can look at how can I make this more personal? [00:23:00] The example I gave was really, or identifying with the part of myself that, that may have still been holding a little bit of shame and kind of showing up for that. part of myself essentially we're talking about self-acceptance.
I think so much of what causes us to hide and feel shame is the perception or. Actual experience of rejection and without even realizing it, we ended up like rejecting those parts of ourselves. And so engaging in some ways of showing up for those parts of ourselves in a sense of pride can often be connected with engaging.
In first recognition, right? Just the identification of yes, there is a part of me that still feels that I really like the concept of healthy multiplicity, , that we can have many parts of ourselves and this is appropriate and we should, but using that awareness to witness those.
Aspects of pride and shame within us. Writing is a purely powerful tool for that. It might sound a little cliche [00:24:00] as therapists we're often like right about it. And there's a reason we do that. It's the same thing with therapy. About being present and offering witness to something. I'm glad you bring that up--oh, sorry to interrupt.
I'm glad you bring that up because you can journal with your parts, right? Yeah, exactly. I denify that part. And then from that self energy and what I mean by that, An Internal Family Systems technique Self-energy yourself is the self healing aspect that we all have within that innate self-healing. And can that self healing energy communicate with those younger parts or that part who more, possibly more than one part who feels shame and journaling back and forth sometimes just opens it up and investigates and.
Builds that relationship, because when you build that relationship back between self and between that traumatized [00:25:00] part or that part who feels shame. That's where I think a lot of that healing can happen and journaling puts us in the front of our brain. If we look at it neurologically too, we're in our prefrontal cortex, we're not reliving the shame It Gives us space to work with the shame and that's where healing begins. I couldn't agree more. That is such a great way to look at it and really highlights that when we do that, when we find a way to communicate. With parts of ourselves that might be holding shame where we're ultimately looking at seeing pride as reconnection and when we're writing that is often an expression of Goodwill towards that part of ourselves and expression of I see you and I'm here with you.
And so we often want to look at the original wounds to parts of us, which is often like rejection or trauma and try to provide something else. And sometimes that can come with writing. Music can be really powerful. Sometimes I'll throw on some music What does that part of myself want? Do I want to have a [00:26:00] dance party to my favorite song in my house? Or do I want to dance with other people? Sometimes I'll throw on some music from that time in my life. Some 90 days, I know it can be really fun.
And, you know, even just the idea of playing. You know, like that could be at a celebration or out in a park meeting with friends. But ultimately focusing on that idea of reconnection in some way. Cause shame at the end of the day is a relational wound. And there's a relationship we can build upon with ourself .
I've really appreciated this conversation, Alex, thank you so much for shifting the perspective not only can someone heal through relationships with others, but what can a person do to facilitate internal pride
yeah, it can be a really powerful experience. And then I hope some listeners will engage in that. And often we realize that throughout the day we can have awareness of that. So if we feel like a sense of, [00:27:00] shame come up. I often describe shame is like this invisible emotion that can camouflage itself in different ways.
So sometimes we're aware of it. Sometimes we're not, there's often a pretty sematic experience to it, right? Like we can feel that response. Feeling your gut, your face might flush maybe our shoulders roll in. tension.
Shame, if you think about it, it almost makes our body contract in a way it's a pulling in and working with the body or right. Can help open that up and open up new opportunities. Yeah, yes. I love that. You mentioned that cause you're right. What better way to survive in hide than to close our bodies into the shoulders.
Come forward, we get smaller and in an attempt to protect. So if we notice those feelings or shifts in our body, we can bring awareness to that, expand our body, open those arms a little bit, and, or even just acknowledging. To that feeling or that part, like I'm here with you. I see you. And sometimes even just the acknowledgement can be a really [00:28:00] powerful experience.
And thinking about the body on a continuum as well. If it feels too vulnerable, right? Cause we roll our shoulders in because we're protecting our organs, the most vulnerable aspect of our system it's so natural for all of us to pull in, but maybe completely sitting up and exposing ourselves.
Like too much at that time. So perhaps someone can practice with opening up only one hand while putting the other arm across their waist. And then noticing, Hmm. Am I feeling safe, and can we bring compassion
to that area of the body building that relationship with those parts that are often pushed away because we hold this trauma in our bodies as well. And when we can acknowledge and feel it in our system, we become more fully present, more fully, whole. I'm glad you brought. Yeah, I really appreciate , the [00:29:00] focus that you have with your work and this podcast on the integration between the mind and body, because they are so inherently connected.
And so, you know, for some people therapy can seem intense or maybe a little scary and cool thing about that. And you're talking about a lot that we can heal by movement. And so many of the members of the queer community, including myself, that a big aspect of this healing journey is.
Has been working with the body. And so if anyone's not ready to sit down and talk with the therapist and you may get there or might find a similar amount of healing, but just that idea of engaging in some movement based techniques that can be really powerful for us. Cause we're no longer hunched over protecting our organs in survival.
If we're expanding, if we're doing yoga movement, walking, dancing, it's. Dance can be a really cool and powerful way for people to just embrace themselves and really feel a sense of pride. Oh, that is so cool. thank you for being here. This was a great conversation. You are such an amazing human being, Alex. I really treasure anytime I can get with you. And I just, I really want to thank you for sharing yourself with the [00:31:00] community and with anyone who's listening.
Thank you so much. And I have so much appreciation that I got to have this conversation with you, because I think as I was mentioning for my younger part, one of the things that I reminded is like, Hey, this is Jess. This is a, a person that I know and love. And so to have this safety and the co-regulation where we're experiencing right now is, has just been so wonderful.
And thank you for, for doing this podcast. I am a fan. I've listened to pretty much all of them now. And even as a therapist, it's so much great information. And to communicate all of this to people without, you know, having to find it or seek it out is such a wonderful example of connection.
And then just looking out for, for other people. So thank you for doing that and thank you for having me. Yeah. Thank you. That means a lot to me, Alex. Thank you.
Thank you again for joining us on Insight Mind Body Talk, a body-centered mental health podcast. We hope today's episode was [00:32:00] empowering and supported you in strengthening your mind-body connection.
We're your hosts, Jeanne and Jess. Please join us again as we continue to explore integrative approaches to wellbeing. Until then, take care.