Nervous System / Embodiment

Andrea Glik on Understanding & Nervous Systems (Episode 8)

Actionable insight about acknowledging oppression at work, understanding, and being gentle with our nervous systems.
Andrea Glik on Understanding & Nervous Systems (Episode 8)
In: Nervous System / Embodiment
And it really does feel like a full time job to take care of yourself. It’s hard to feed yourself and take care of your body because it is, it’s actually not meant to be one person. We’re meant to be living in community with people and sharing those responsibilities. And so it does feel like a lot because it is. - Episode 8

About Andrea Glik

Andrea Glik, LMSW is a psychotherapist, somatic healer, and sex educator. Andrea specializes in treating trauma and PTSD for women, survivors, and queer & trans folks, utilizing body based and feminist therapy practices to help clients come home to themselves. Andrea practices on occupied Lenape territory (colonized as NYC) and can also be found on instagram @somaticwitch

Pronouns: she/her

Connect with Andrea

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Episode Transcript

Liz Wiltsie: Welcome to What's Leadership? I'm Liz Wiltsie. The more I learn about leadership, the more I'm convinced there's not a one size fits all solution. So I am on my own learning journey and I invite you to join me. EbonyJanice reminds me that being open about my journey is important. Each episode features someone I admire with actionable insight to share. So please join me as I ask what's leadership?

Andrea Glik, LMSW is a psychotherapist, somatic healer, and sex therapist. Andrea specializes in treating trauma and PTSD for women survivors and queer trans folks. Utilizing body-based and feminist therapy practices to help clients come home to themselves. Andrea practices on occupied Lenape territory colonized as New York city and can also be found on Instagram @somaticwitch.

Now. Andrea, tell us what's the biggest challenge leaders face at work?

Andrea Glik: Oh, boy. Well, the first thing that came to mind when I read your question is the way that we are still so uncomfortable addressing systems of oppression in the workplace. And how restricting it is to not be able to acknowledge the privilege or oppressions that are in the room in the workplace.

I've recently become my own boss and business owner, which is great, and I have no employees except for myself and all in my parts of the many parts of myself. So it's just me and one of the reasons why I made that move, even though I love working collectively so much. Is that, I had worked in a lot of different environments since I was 15 years old in which there was so many power imbalances that were not addressed.

And it's so limiting because you want to be able to fully express yourself. And if the environment is not safe because people have not done the work to acknowledge their privilege or their power that they have, whether it's within capitalism or as a white person or as a cis person or a man or, so many different things. I think that it really does create an environment in which we don't feel like we can be our authentic selves, and especially seeing people move up who have more privilege. And that's another way in which we feel like, okay, we can't really, like, what can I even do here?

Because I'm not that person. And so in, in working environments that I've been in, that there have been more open discussions around oppression and privilege. I do feel like there is more ability for there to be authentic leadership in the sense of people who  actually deserve to get the position.

But that means that there has to be people in power who reflect more marginalized communities. And I don't think that there's any other way to do that work. Basically.

Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. So with that, that's a whole lot, whole lot. With that, if you were going to give folks a tip to get started, what would it be?

Andrea Glik: In being a leader?

Liz Wiltsie: In being a leader, unlike, or addressing, yeah. Addressing privilege and oppression at work. Any of it.

Andrea Glik: Yeah, for the leader part. I would say figuring out a way to be your authentic self no matter what that looks like. Whether it's like I'm going to have my side thing and  my job that I'm employed at is not going to be the place where I fully dedicate and devote my time because it does not allow me to be fully who I am.

And that can be for a number of reasons, obviously. And then for addressing privilege and oppression in the workplace. Again,  the only place I've worked that I feel like did a good job of this, there were working groups, so there were working groups for white folks to unlearn white supremacy, that happened every week. And then there were working groups for folks of color to support each other through working alongside white people, essentially. And also,  the multitude of other complexities of that life experience. So I think having that is really important.

If you're someone out there who's  a manager or is in charge of onboarding and training,  having an unlearning white supremacy or discussion around oppression and privilege as being  part of that process, even if it's  a day,  it's all so helpful and, yeah.  I think we could talk about this for hours, but I do feel like, in my experience, that has been the largest barrier that I've seen for myself and for other people as well.

Liz Wiltsie: Yeah. So what concept, book, talk, program, article has been the most impactful for you? Theory, has been the most impactful for you.

Andrea Glik: The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana is  my work sacred texts. I was doing somatic work for awhile. Before I found that specific book and it really felt like, oh, this is the first book somebody should have handed me about the nervous system.

And now looking through that lens at myself, my clients, people on the street  every single moment of every day. Using that framework is so helpful and understanding why people have the reactions that they have or how. Why I have the reactions that I have, why my body responds the way that it does.

And it's this, it's this way of being somatically attuned to yourself. So essentially the theory is about learning what your body feels like and what your thoughts are like and what takes you to different places in your nervous system. Whether it's fight or flight, which is the more  sympathetic response. Or collapsed and submit, which is the dorsal vagal response. Or the safe and connected grounded zone of ventral vagal.

And so once you kind of become an expert through this book, and it's for therapists, but anybody can read it. And, you become an expert at your own nervous system, and then you can really just start to understand why things feel the way they do or why you have reactions the way that you do. It puts into context so many mental health issues. In my opinion, where you could be diagnosed with something that feels really stigmatizing or really heavy.

Whereas using this framework, there's a little bit more lightness because there's hope and there's answers for how to move out of these states. Whether it's "depression" which is that dorsal place or anxiety, which is that sympathetic place. So that book has really transformed my personal life, and then also my practice as well.

And I really haven't worked with anybody or met anybody who didn't read it or hear about it and be like, Oh yeah, I get it.  It's really intuitive for pretty much everybody. Even though it's about the nervous system. So it sounds like it's going to be sciency,  I'm not a science person. And it really does click with pretty much everybody right away.

Liz Wiltsie: Yeah, I can attest to that. I, I got it a couple of weeks ago, when I started, looking at some different folks on Instagram and they recommended it. And it is, it is easy for the non-therapists. Like I got a little bit worried.

Andrea Glik: Yeah.

Liz Wiltsie: I was going to need a master's in social work.

Andrea Glik: Exactly. Yeah. It's really for everybody. For sure.

Liz Wiltsie: Well, and is there something else in relationship to. Polyvagal theory that sort of gets, that is an easy breakdown for folks who maybe have no in to that. Is there a really quick way to kind of describe it?

Andrea Glik: Definitely. Yeah. So I also really liked the Polyvagal Podcast for this too.

They talk a lot about this and it's very digestible. But just as a quick, sort of summing it all up. our nervous system has different states and we move through them depending on the patterns of our nervous system, which are formed when we're children. Are formed and really significant periods of our life.

And the different states are, as I said before, at the top of the Polyvagal Ladder, which is a nice way to think about it, top of the ladder. So you're  at the top, feeling good is the Ventral Vagal nerve, and that is this place of connection and groundedness. It's how I'm feeling right now talking to you.

It's how we feel when we're. In relationship with others, whether it's with ourselves, nature, a human and animal, whatever. And then right below that is the sympathetic place, which can be a fight or flight response. But it can also just be being really excited about something. So maybe how you feel before, you know, public speaking or seeing someone that you love. After a long time, your heart's racing, you're kind of shaking a little bit. So that can be either a place of a survival response or of excitement. And then right below there, at the bottom of the ladder is the Dorsal Vagal. And that is the place of the collapsed and submit, freeze, play, dead survival response.

But it can also be how you feel after eating  a really, really big dinner where you're just like, I literally can't move and I'm so happy. So these states have kind of like polar, they have, they have sides to them. There's complexity to them. And so people who experience moving through these states really quickly can make me feel like, Oh my, I feel so intensely.

Or like I'm all over the place. When it's like, no, the pattern of your nervous system is that you move through States really quickly. What are some regulatory practices you can have in place to repattern your nervous system to go a little slower? Or if someone's like, I feel like I get stuck in dorsal for like a month where I'm just like really depressed.

I don't want to do anything. Then there are ways to motivate or get your nervous system out of that place into a more sympathetic place, and then you move through that more active place into the grounded Ventral Vagal. So she this really, really neutral. Very easy to digest, very de-stigmatizing way of thinking about our mental health, but it brings in the body where it's like a lot of mental health just completely ignores the physical stuff.

If we can look at the DSM and apply the nervous system to most diagnoses, again, not all of them, but most of them. There's a nervous system response that goes with it. And we've never talked about that, in such a large cultural way that I think we are now. But it really does help people feel less like, Oh, there's something wrong with me, or I have this diagnosis, or, this is just who I am.

It's where like, Oh, this is just a state that my nervous system is experiencing. It really, really does de-stigmatize a lot of different diagnoses and feelings that we have.

Liz Wiltsie: Well, and that then means that there's just more ways to deal with it, right? If it's, if it's a nervous system state?Then yeah, absolutely. Do something. Right.

So what should I have asked you that I didn't?

Andrea Glik: Oh, when I had for dinner.

Liz Wiltsie: What did you have for dinner?

Andrea Glik: A dinner cooking is one of the ways that I show up for my inner child, and I also regulate to, to bring back something more serious. When I get home from work, if I'm able to, I listen to a podcast and I cook dinner. And it's extremely regulating and it's such a nice way cuz it's movement. If I don't have time to  go to a movement class and, or I'm just  really hungry. Cooking is really the way that I, I regulate after work. And I love the New York Times app cooking out for this reason.

And I cooked Alison Roman's new pasta recipe. She's amazing and it's a shallot, jammy tomatoey anchovy pasta and it's so delicious and your nervous system and your body are going to love it.

Liz Wiltsie: Perfect. You're literally the first person who's ever had a recipe here, but now I'm absolutely going to ask people this question.

It's going to be great. We have songs people like we're going to have recipes that people regulate with. It's going to be great. Yeah. So you have a free resource you want to recommend to folks. Tell us about it.

If you don't want to commit fully to the Polyvagal Theory in Therapy Book. There's some really wonderful worksheets on the author Deb Dana's website that really help you to get to know your nervous system.

I would recommend reading either online or listening to the Polyvagal Podcast, which is also free resource to understand a little bit more about the theory before doing the worksheets, but the worksheets are a large chunk of the book, so if you don't want to commit to the book, you really can't take a look at the worksheets and do a lot of them on your own, and they're incredibly helpful to really getting to know and befriend your nervous system.

Great. We love, we love free things. And then one of the questions that I like asking people is, what's something that you're grappling with in your life, in your practice? What have you.

Andrea Glik: Yeah. It's probably not going to come as any surprise, but I'm still finding the balance between working and growing and resting and taking care of my body and having fun.

And, I feel like I get really good at doing one of those things. My nervous system is  really in a pattern. I'm  getting up early and going to yoga, or it's just like work, work,  work, work. And I get stuck in these patterns where it's like I'm crushing it in one place and then other things really fall to the side.

So the thing that I'm working on is finding the balance between those components of my life. And it really does feel like a full time job to take care of yourself. And I say that to clients all the time. It's hard to feed yourself and take care of your body because it is, it's actually not meant to be one person.

We're meant to be living in community with people and sharing those responsibilities. And so it does feel like a lot because it is. So I'm really trying to be patient with myself as I figure out what that, what that looks like, especially being my own boss. I can be a really mean boss, so I have to be to be gentle with myself.

Liz Wiltsie: Wow. I think that is pretty universal. That one right there. So that's a perfect end. Thank you so much for being with us.

Andrea Glik: Thank you so much. This is wonderful.

Liz Wiltsie: Full show notes from this episode, and every episode are available at If you're intrigued by this episode, please subscribe.

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