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Our Dividing Line / an Open Letter to You

Written for my podcast audience -

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of feeling recently. And I wanted to share my feelings and my thoughts with you if you’ll hear them. People seem to like it and appreciate when I am more open and transparent, so I’m going to really lean into that and share with you.

This episode might be the point where we part ways. And that saddens me. Deeply. It might sound odd for me to say this, but I love this audience. And that includes you. And if that makes you feel uncomfortable, just think of it as utmost admiration and respect. That’s what I feel for you. I know, we’ve never met. We’ve never talked probably. It’s an odd thing being on this end of the mic and having a relationship with the audience. And the audience is really just a collection of individuals.

You and I are on a path together. And I am honored, I’m humbled, that you’ve allowed me to be on that path with you. My voice that you’ve allowed into your ears. You have entrusted me with your time. And your patience. Your hope. Your eagerness to help others. To be the best version of you in all areas of your life.

I hope you know that I don’t take that lightly. I want to bring something new to you with every episode. Not just more minutes of your day filled, but a new understanding. A new angle. A new experience. If you don’t walk away from each episode I put out with something new, I feel like I’ve let you down. It is absolutely imperative to me that you get something different. That I bring you something different.

I’m going to ask you to stay with me during this Open Letter. There’s a very good chance that you will not like what I have to say from here on. Or you might not care. Or you’ll get something positive out of it. Take a deep breath. Know that this comes from a place of compassion. Please know that. And I would ask you to come from your own place of curiosity. Get that ventral vagal state activated before you go on, seriously. If you can smile right now, you’re in good shape. If you’d be able to hold my hand if I extended it, you’re in good shape. If you can make those beautiful eye crinkles, you’re in good shape. And if you can’t access that safety state, you’re of course still welcome to listen in and I’ll just trust and hope that you expect the best out of me as I do of you.

I’m going to ask you to use your imagination along with me. It’s all safe, I swear. No harm is ahead. But use your imagination with me. Imagine me standing there with you, in front of you. Picture me however you want. Seriously. If you don’t know how I look, just make it up, it doesn’t matter right now. Or if you know how I look and don’t feel safe with it, change me up to whatever you need.

Imagine you and me facing each other. The first thing I am going to do is put a divide between us. I’m going to slowly bend down and draw a line in the ground. It’s not a wall. It’s a simple line in the ground. You can hear me and see me just fine. Keep this image in mind; I’m going to come back to it.

I hate to be at this point, but I’m here. I had a goal with this podcast to present helpful information in a safe and easy to understand way. And to do so without getting into politics or sharing my opinion on anything in the social, political or any other spheres. You don’t know how I think or how I feel about these things. You don’t know who I vote for or if I even vote. You don’t know my party affiliation or if I have a party affiliation. You don’t know if I’m a religious person or not.

The focus has been the polyvagal theory and how to apply it to everyday life. Or at least giving you my best understanding of the polyvagal theory and then entrusting you to do with it what you will. That’s really it.

Not telling you how to live. What to do. Just sharing and trusting you to do what’s right for you. Not making statements, giving hot takes, making stances, commentating, chasing headlines or taking sides. You will not hear me give my commentary on any presidential elections or probably ever say the names of any politicians. Although applying the Polyvagal Theory to the chaos of the elections does sound kind of fun, so I might rethink that. But you get the idea.

My goal has always been to make this information available to absolutely anyone who comes across it. Anyone. Anyone from around the globe no matter their circumstances. No matter who they are living with. How much money they have. If they’re in therapy or not. No matter who they love or how they feel about themselves inside. That applies to you. No matter what, I want you to be able to listen to my voice and these ideas and this knowledge and know that you’re safe. Maybe challenged. Never coddled. But safe. In your nervous system, I want you to feel that safety.

But in this hardline goal of avoiding these topics altogether, I may have actually created some distrust. Some questioning of me and what I’m about. Do I actually care about these issues? About who you are? About what’s important to you? Do I actually care about you?

Of course I do.

I’m not dumb. I know your skin color may not be the same as mine. Or your sexuality or religion or gender. I get that. I see that. Of course I do. I often zoom out of all of this in my head and reflect on who is listening and who is following. I have had the absolute and unmistakable privilege of being able to share my thoughts with a wide wide variety of people.

You wouldn’t believe it. People from across the world. All sizes. All genders. All shapes. All diagnoses. All belief systems. All colors. It’s incredible. There’s a really good chance that the person that you think hates you is listening to these words right now, right along with you.

I am so incredibly thankful and humbled.

But there are topics that are important to you and I have neglected that. Due to my own fear. Race, religion, sexuality, gender (and more).

One on one with friends? This isn’t difficult to talk about. I genuinely enjoy talking about this heavy stuff with people one on one or maybe a small group. Like, heavy talks. I love it. With clients? Not a problem. I regularly explore things like race and gender with my clients, typically in the first session. I acknowledge with them I’m a white male and do my best to make it okay to talk about any obstacles that might be there. I give them permission - if they need it - to request a change of therapist for whatever reason. I give them permission to discuss it with me whenever they need to.

But this podcast and social media thing isn’t therapy and isn’t talking one on one with a friend. It’s scary! Talking about these volatile issues to thousands of people is absolutely terrifying. And quite honestly, I’ve lacked the bravery up until recently to go there. I’m scared. This is scary. I feel it in my gut, Dear Listener. My dorsal system activates and tells me to curl up and hide.

I want to step up and confront some of this stuff. And I want to do it in a way that feels genuinely from me. Not reactive. Not from an uncontrolled defensive sympathetic state. From my state of safety and compassion. From love. From interest and curiosity. And some challenge too. I’ve got a few things in mind already. They’ve actually been there for a long time and I haven’t acted on them.

I think I can help. I think I’m creative enough to bring something new to the table.

I’m going to stick to my goal of making this available for anyone that wants to listen. And this is where that line in the ground comes in. If you need me to take a stance on something, to give my opinion, to editorialize, to become a part of your echo chamber, whatever it is… I don’t think you’ll be able to cross that line and join me on this side.

I have no idea what just happened within you when you heard that. A lot of stuff might have just flown through your mind in response to an increase in sympathetic activity. Story follows state.

I have to address this stuff in my own way. I don’t parrot other people. I don’t invite people onto this podcast just to get the right names on here or to appease someone or some group. That’s not me. I’m really not very good at being fake with myself. Or to be fake with you. I hope you’re okay with that and I hope you’d expect nothing less from me.

I’m also patient with myself. So these ideas that I have might not be coming out immediately. They might be staggered and spread out. If I’m serious about this, it’s not just something I address once and move on with. So I would ask that you be patient along with me. I want to address some of these issues in my own way, but I also want to continue to address the whole list of stuff I’ve been brainstorming, the emails and DMs I get regularly, the questions I get regularly, the Open Letters that I’ve written, meditations and sleep aids I want to write and record. There’s a lot that I want to give to the world, mostly for free, and I don’t want to neglect any of it. And I know that there’s a good chance you’ve got layers of pain. I want to address as much as I can with clarity and compassion. It’s just me. There’s no team. So I’d ask that you be patient along with me.

On my side of the line in the ground, there’s nothing but an outstretched hand or open arms. Or a gentle gaze. Or an open chair for you to come sit down on.

I’m going to guess that I have another fifty years of being alive if all goes well. I want to use what time I have to add to the world in a positive direction. That’s it. And this podcast, so far, is the action that I am taking. I want to be able to look back and know that I handled it with integrity and care. And that I’ve handled your time and attention with integrity and care.

Dear Listener, there’s something right going on here. Something really right. This thing that I set out to create and that Mercedes was instrumental in, it’s doing a lot of good. Like, real good. It’s helping people to change their life. To change their classrooms. To change their families and their relationships. To change themselves. Maybe even you. You might be one of those people.

You and I are going to change the world. We will. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing. And then some. And you’re going to work on you. You’re going to start there. And then touch someone else’s life. You will. Let’s make that agreement. I’m gonna do my thing and you’re gonna run with it.

We’re going to change the world and it’s not going to look the same as what others are doing. Or sound the same. And that’s okay. We’re coming at this from a place of ventral vagal safe and social love and compassion. That’s our ground. That’s our footing. That’s our connection with each other. That’s what I am going to come to each episode with.

We have a template for change. Big change. Radical change. Social change. We have a template. People of all types before us have already shown us what’s necessary for change. And it’s love. It’s safety and invitation. We already know this. Those incredible human beings knew this in their bodies, without even having the cognitive understanding of the polyvagal theory. But they knew it in their bodies. And they acted from it. From love.

So that’s my goal. To come from love. And then go from there.

I hope you commit to the same with me.

I hope you cross that line.


106 views1 comment

1 commentaire

Justin, Eloquently written. I’m taking your hand and stepping over the line to be next to you. I am grateful for you and the message you speak. You have been helpful in my learning to understand myself. 🙏🏼


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