38. PART TWO: my interview with Opal Turner on Rebel with a CauseAug 05, 2023
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What What were the key things that you found need to be unlearned, to reach that sense of self? And how did you come about those learnings? Or how was that supported by the research?
Yes. So for neuroscience, and from this particular researcher and field and the things that I learned, there's a, there's one theory, which is called, you know, and to just to go back briefly to the philosophical side, one of the things that I unlearned was this idea that neuroscience is very factual and very fixed. And this is the definitive truth about, you know, the body and neurons and so on. And actually discovering that it's much more provisional, and much more theoretical, and we're just trying stuff. And so, you know, one of the, one of the leading theories about how we experience reality in ourself is from something called predictive coding, which is this idea that everything that we're perceiving, we're kind of referring back to a working model of what the world is like, what a self is, consists of what the future will be like. And so, what we could say from that is, there is no fixed reality, there is no objective, you know, fixed, stable reality, but rather that we all have models, we will have working assumptions about what is real, what is true. And so these working assumptions is these models of reality coming from our body. So our abilities, our body shape, the sensory experience that we have. And what I find useful to think about is how different and understanding of self and world of Fox might have from an owl, just because they have a completely different body shape, different senses, that owl could fly. So our sense of what's real, is informed by what we can perceive what our bodies experience, the nervous system, that we have the nervous systems of our caregivers. And as you mentioned before, they're kind of epigenetic, I think it goes back 14 generations of, of data that were that are in us, right. And then we're also informed by our past experiences. So these are not just the memories that we can recall on a cognitive level. But yeah, the fact that I know system is our primary memory storage and drawing on trauma a bit more here, but So those past experiences will shape the expectations that you have, about what you're going to be experiencing, or what things mean. We're also socialised into certain meanings and expectations and values and what to focus on and what's important and who we're supposed to be, and what it's okay and not okay to deal with our bodies. And then also our tools. So we think within we have agency that's extended or enabled or disabled by the tools that are around us. And that shapes what our understanding of that world is and who we are. So this, I think, is a really helpful perspective, because when we're considering the ways that we may have been labelled or categorised there is there is a an assumption in a lot of mainstream and clinical understanding that there is a fixed reality that there is a normal human. And yet, and that, you know, and I think unravelling this idea that there is this fixed reality that it's possible to be objective means that you can start to look at all of knowledge, all of communication, as, as a theory and as a working model of reality. And that, that, that I'm not of often not compatible. So if you have a different body, if you are literally perceiving different things, you're going to need a different working model to make sense of your experiences, then what is available in a lot of the kind of common social communication, which is a lot around shortcutting models, like how did you get that job? Or, you know, what do you think is important or what did you think of this programme? But also, you know, there are different ways of knowing that aren't necessarily widely distributed or resourced, that we don't have tools for yet. And that down. Yeah, that we don't get to that haven't fully been extended in ways that I think would would enable and create a lot of agency for people who do think differently who do experience the world differently. In terms of other things to unlearn, I think there's a lot around being wrong, being not enough. And that that that is a common belief, a common a deep seated belief that a lot of the people I work with, I think everyone that I worked with, and I think most humans actually, we've, we've gathered up these rules for what is okay and not okay to be an A lot of us have have experience that the natural ways that we express ourselves are not quite fitting or not wrong, or don't get us what we want or don't lead to belonging. And so we kind of construct these false selves and these false egos to navigate that. And so yeah, unlearning that there's a fixed reality, unlearning that there's a correct way to be, and unlearning that something like autism is a fact. And that is a, you know, clinical, you know, a thing that can be a reliable, objective, unbiased thing, when when actually, you know, it came out of the Nazi era when psychiatrists were rewarded for finding these categories of difference. And yeah, so there's a lot of was a lot to unlearn. There's a lot to unpack. And I think, yeah, the understanding that, that no one is right, and that we don't need to argue to be right. And we just need to okay, what am I thinking about myself and start there?
That is, so so, so true. And I was just, I was just thinking about, you know, there's, as as we talk more and more about neuro divergence, or I've seen recently, though, there's been kind of more pushback on over, over clinical lysing a thought patterns and personality and so many people go, that that's just a personality aspect, it's not about your dependency, so on and so forth. And having that context of, of knowledge, firstly, of where the medical institutions have have got this information from don't get me started on BMI. Is, is huge, but also just that understanding that it doesn't, it doesn't essentially matter.
Yeah, it does. Yeah. Yes. Yeah. Whether we are right or wrong, we exist. Right. So.
And I wonder is how often have you come up against gender also, as as one of those things, because as you were speaking, I was just thinking, how, how much those those things must apply to gender. And specifically, you know, you mentioned some of your clients of trans non binary. You know, how I've also seen some some recent research, I don't know how reliable it is, again, because it's not just, it's been researched. There is a higher likelihood of within neurodivergent folk of being trans non binary. Yeah, that might be related to the way that we, we believe or think differently, and we have different senses of self. I just wonder if that's something that you've, you've touched on at all?
Yeah, I mean, I think we can theorise and we can look at why. And I think, as you said, just now, it's actually the wrong question. And we exist. And so the question really is, how do we make a world that's more embracing and makes us more possible? I think what I do introduce in the group is that we need to look at the ideological roots of where all of these, you know, binary systems come from, where this classification comes from. And we can trace it back 2000 years, probably longer. And really look at the development of knowledge. As a primarily, you know, I'm talking about Western knowledge in the Global North. A lot of it has its roots in a very white male dominated lineage that goes through imperialism, colonialism, eugenics. And so there's a lot of unlearning that we have to do before we even look at these binaries, around the separation of body and mind the separation of nature and human. The idea that the Enlightenment era philosophers had that, you know, nature is this domain out there, that that we can you know, that that we govern, and that we need to kind of irritate it in order to discover the laws of physics, and you can see how these ideas might have been coming when You know, this idea that we're on this linear timeline of progress, that there's a, there's a hierarchy, you can see that it with the backdrop of imperialism and the brutality that was being exploited. Why those ideas? were, you know, being come up with by those who were
just? Yeah, literally, yeah.
Literally everything. Yeah, yeah. And the, you know, the binary of ill versus cured, yeah. Dependent versus independent, we're all dependent on each other. It's just that some of us have less common dependencies. And so the fact that you and I are depending on laptops and computers and zoom software to make this conversation happen, whereas someone else has a different dependency to, you know, do what they need to do. And yet, because it's under resource, because it's different. It carries a stigma. So yeah, it's a lot of unlearning to do. And I think coming back to trusting your own body and your own sense of self, and finding spaces where that can be affirmed can be the most transformative.
Incredible. It's just it's this just so there's so much I could have started like five other conversations in the middle of that. And I'm going to I'm going to stick to my questions and linear timeline. Yes, this Yep. Can you can you give us an example of how you help and advise your clients to do that? Because that's massive? Yeah, no, that's no small feat by any means. Because it's not easy. Not even just learning one system or binary idea, which, by the way, if anyone is interested in exploring the binary further, there's a wonderful episode with Isabelle Bale, who just did an incredible, incredible paper on this and has wonderful, great thoughts. And that's in the archive. So please do listen to that if you haven't read it. But anyway, yeah, Izzy. I wonder how you kind of even How do you even start going about that? What? Like, how do you help them to use you know, whether it'd be their strategic thinking skills? Or what other personality traits they have to actively enrich their lives? Or their careers or their work? Or? Hat? Really good question.
Yeah. And so part of part of it is, there's materials, there's resources, there's a course that that all of the people that I worked with, in the group coaching programme that I have, they get access to that does some of that. And so there's, there's an element of okay, just, you know, having that intellectual acknowledgement, and the theoretical acknowledgement. But in terms of a practical approach that we that I use is, it starts with knowing what you want. And then, when we started to think about, okay, if I'm really being true with myself about what I want, is when all of the stuff that we've learned that's in our way comes up. And this is like, every time that we're trying to create something new, or we're trying to become a new version of ourselves, or we're trying to just exist more honestly. And more truthfully, there's going to be parts of us that have internalised these ideas of what we're supposed to be, or I'm supposed to look like this to be professional, or I'm supposed to, you know, we have all these rules. And so when we, when we identify what we want, and then we look at all of the reasons why not. So many of those reasons are genuine barriers, but some of them are. Some of them are real. Yeah, real barriers in the world. But some, a lot of it is what am I making that mean about me. However, I decided that that means I'm less worthy of what I want, and really creating more and more safety, to step outside of those rules to step outside of what the examples that we've had, and in our bodies to create the safety to do that. And then also work on the mindset of, you know, what's coming up for me and my thoughts about why not one of my coaches said to me, you can have reasons or you can have results. And that's always stuck with me, because whenever there is a reason that I have, why not me or why this isn't possible, I don't get to have this. I you know, I can look at that as okay, I can I can let that be the reason I don't or I can I can decide that that's not going to be a reason I let be the reason I don't do it. And yes, it might mean an additional level of courage that I'm not yet stepping into might mean doing things where I feel self conscious, or I feel like I'm learning publicly and I'm going to make mistakes. And yeah, so a big part of is, is courage. So knowing what you want, that throws up what we then work on. Yeah.
That's Chris, what do you what do you what do we want under all of those layers of Sunday? Wow, that is, I feel like I'm in therapy. I'm not going to that little emoji where the brain just like explode. Yeah, fascinating and very related to my next question actually, which is, I know one of the things that you come across a lot, and unsurprising for me is, is burnout and overwhelm. And neurodivergent or No, I think we can all relate to that, especially in the creative industries. For what for? Is there any kind of specific reasons or, or mindsets that you feel happens to, to cause that? Or is there is there a key thing that you found that can can really help to think about or to work on to negate those, you know, massive, massive issues, which are personally huge, but also our entire industry? Is, is having kind of a burnout epidemic? So I feel like that's an important thing for us to chat about.
Yes, so. So burnout really is coming from when we push over and beyond our own limits. And those limits may be they may be sensory, they may be things like that, they may be kind of fixed limits that are just always going to be there. But a lot of them are that we've been over adapting, we've been thinking I have no choice but to over adapt, that I am supposed to push past my own limits in order to belong in order to please my caregivers in order to fit in with this industry, in order to look like I'm succeeding. And so it's really about recognising that we all have a different state in which our nervous system is in. Collectively we were all, you know, coming to terms with this, I think and recognising that. Yeah, that we we have what's called a window of tolerance and pushing ourselves beyond it into disconnects actually doesn't doesn't work for long term, there's a there's a there's a cost, right? So yeah, burnout is, is when we're not honouring those limits, when we start to honour those limits, when we start to recognise that we do have a choice. And there are other options, and that we are our health is more important than anything else. And start to come back into them start to say no, when we mean No, instead of Yes, is when we can start to grow that capacity again. So burnout is your body has something to say. And I think what a lot of people experiences that are if I if I listened to it, that means I'm going to have to acknowledge that I just can't do any of this, or I'm going to have to face what my body is saying, then it's saying that I that this isn't working, and then I have to stop and that. And what we do is we project that into the future. And we think that we'll never be able to do it that we'll never be able to get back up. And so a really big part of coming out of burnout and healing it is is honouring the know that your body is saying. But knowing that it's temporary and knowing that it's only through. Through Yeah. Coming into a new relationship with with those signals internally, that you can start to expand your capacity for what you can stay with yourself through where you can stay self connected through without coming into disconnects and disassociating way through life. And yeah,
that's absolutely a really lovely way of putting it in in that, you know, as soon as you start to acknowledge what you actually want and say no to what you don't want that you're actually opening yourself up further. You're not because I think that's one of the things we aren't good. I mean, I'm speaking from my personal experience of of burnout is I go, Well, I can't do it. So I've got to do less. And it is less than one sense but at the same time by saying no, and pulling back from certain aspects. You're actually broadening yourself up to those all those other wonderful things that you actually really do love and you actually really do one. It's not about becoming less. It's just about focusing where you want to be.
And so Sometimes we sometimes we don't want to admit to ourselves what we really want, or that what the path that we're going down isn't working. Because we know that on some level, the path that we do want is going to require us to step up to who we could be and another level of courage. And that's really scary. And so,
recently, I keep thinking about the sunk cost fallacy, that, you know, we so often keep doing things that don't serve us, because we essentially think that we're in too deep. And so if we get out now, you know, we've we've, we've lost everything that we've that we've worked for as if that hasn't meant something because it didn't end up how we were originally. Would. And I couldn't. Yeah, it's I think that's one of the things that we absolutely have to deal with, when it when it comes to accepting what we actually want. Yeah. But I personally have found it helpful to know that it's a psychological thing that everyone has to deal with. Yes, not just me.
Yeah, and but it can be helpful also to to be around people who are, you know, also going in the direction that you want to go in? Or who have gone some way or who understand that, that's that struggle in ourselves of, I'm really scared, but I want to do it. But every single step I'm taking is, is pushing me outside of my comfort zone. And I'm just going to go at the pace I need to, but I'm going to do it. Yeah.
Yeah. And so we're nearly at the end. But our theme at at Radio cat this month is a good one actually is is standard phi. And it's about exploring that that exact line between cutting losses and fighting for something. And I just I wondered if there was any, any thoughts or feelings that you had about that from, from your specific experience in your clients experiences on on there being specific things that, you know, you found, we often need to let go of we've discussed some of them. But you know, in the context of that theme, is there anything else that comes to mind for you?
Yeah, I mean, I think there's so many, there are so many things that we can choose to fight for right now. And we've, we've touched on some of them, right, access needs, the social and gendered and racial inequities of getting diagnosis, but also just, you know, in the workplace in general. And I think that's obviously, a really important fight. I think what a lot of the people I work with, start with is this really heightened sense of justice, where they've been looking for what are the rules, that mean, I'm acceptable, and what is right. And I need to be that and how come I'm being asked to be all of these things. And yet this there's all these people that's that say, they're here to serve me or that the SEC to protect me or, and they're not doing what they're doing. And so we can come into the sense of feeling really at war with the whole world, feeling this sense of injustice. And I think also when we come to, you know, if you've gone for a lot of your life, not knowing that you're neurodivergent, and then you suddenly realise, you also have to process and work through all of the internalised ableism that, that you were indoctrinated into, which can look like an over identification with everyone who shares our assigned identities or or labels or chosen identities. And so a lot of where I'm actually bringing people to is choosing your battles. And there is somewhere in the world where your strengths meet a need that is uniquely yours, that is the fight that you can fight. And that's the one to focus on. And when you start doing that there's an incredibly liberating sense of trust that there is someone else who is doing their bit. I'm this is my piece of the world that I'm solving and there are other people that are also working on their part. And, you know, being open to all of the unlearning and the the understanding of the identities that we don't hold. And then I think another another thing is, is letting go with the idea that we need to be accepted before we can start being who we are. Which is a very difficult one because on a structural level on an access needs level in a workplace. Yes, it's acceptance is safety. But on an interpersonal level, we're often looking for the self esteem that is missing in other people's reactions to us in social esteem in the in, in what we're afforded from other people and how they see us or how we have been accustomed to thinking that people see us. Often we collect up ideas of who we are. And these become these stories, this is who I am, this is how people see me. And, but those are really stories that we've kept telling ourselves that we've identified with. So anytime that you're thinking, This is who I am, and you have an image, or you have an idea of of yourself, it's really just an illusion, it's a collection of thoughts and ideas. And so having a different relationship with how you think about yourself, and how you honour your own needs, how you look after, you know that your own energy and time is where you start to build up self esteem. And then it's about finding people who can affirm those choices. And that is, then how you grow and start to create and be a leader, an example of modelling the social esteem that you've needed. So you become the teacher through how you are being towards yourself. And I think actually, that's the most powerful way to influence and to stand and fight is, there are things I want to do, there's a person that I am here, here to be, and I'm going to honour that and stand for that. And it's amazing what happens when people start to do that is some of those barriers that they've been fighting with some of the ways that they hadn't felt seen, just start to melt, because people are like, Oh, okay, you're just being who you are. And you're safe in that. And you're and, and so suddenly, I feel safe, that I'm maybe not perfect, or that I can be who I am. And and there's a ripple effect. So it's yeah, it's it's a mixture of both. When we do that inner work is when we become the people that can start to influence and make change,
sock. Eyes. The first interviews, like make me cry. Oh, I felt that I felt that deeply. Oh, my goodness, wow.
So I'll just shout out a few of my clients, there's one of them gem whose experience of score was really like, a difficult one who experiences this idea that you need to be right, that there's a skill that you need to have that there are things ways of doing things. And they're creating this new, you know, philosophy around giving workshops. So they're teaching soccer skills, but they're doing it in a way that is, it's about and that they would explain this so much better than me, but creating a space where it's not about getting it right. And it's not about building a skill, but it's, there's something else that starts to become possible. I have another client who's creating a neuro queering network, and they've really gone from someone who really felt cut off from society and separate to really be standing up and leading and starting to create cultural spaces and networks. And so yeah, it's, it's while never stopped doing this, because of what I'm starting to see happen and in, in who people become when they've had the experience of yet another human seeing you. And, you know, they feel seen, and they feel understood and acknowledged and then supported. And it's like shifting an entire shifting the it's like a quantum leap. Right. So shifting the entire paradigm of everything that's happening around them in a very subtle, slow bit the way Yeah,
well, I have no more words other than Well, we will also link in the shownotes to to some of the some of the work that has been done by your clients visit sans
are Yeah, phobia. Amazing. Thank you. And
so before, before we leave, I wanted to speak to all the leaders and the employers out there, because obviously you have this in you know, depth of of knowledge and understanding from a from a personal and a professional point of view. If and it's a gross oversimplification that I'm asking this question, I am somebody I'm aware of that. But you know, is there is there anything that you feel are kind of most powerful kind of fundamental behaviour changes or We're all things that employers or leaders can really do to help specific, the neurodivergent. But in general, all of their team kind of nourish that, that culture in that creativity and help them be helped people be themselves in not as good way as you, because obviously everyone should come to you. But you know, that little steps that they can take that might have have major impacts on on how happy and fulfilled and well that their employees and teams are doing?
Yeah, I mean, I think festival to acknowledge that it's a really difficult thing to support and cater for. Because, you know, we are in companies, we're in businesses, and we're all trying to, you know, there's an element of needing to make it work so that there are jobs, and that there are deadlines, sometimes, and there are things that are necessary. And I think the most important thing is also understanding neuro divergence encompasses this enormous range of very different lived experiences, even within the distinct categories themselves. There is no one way of being and I think that can be really, you know, bewildering and confusing to someone who maybe doesn't identify in that way. And so maybe the most important thing is, is knowing that there isn't a catch a catch all solution that some access needs are incompatible. And that, yeah, what we've talked about really is that the culture of safety comes from a culture of, of people knowing that they can ask for things to be different. And that be an explicitly welcomed thing, and understood that this isn't an inconvenience or an add on, but it can be really infused in everything that the company does. So that it means that there might be one person who, who needs less visual distraction, and another person who likes to verbally process, someone who doesn't work well with fluorescent lighting, someone who needs a flexible time schedule, someone who's struggling with mental health, and someone who needs boundaries around when and how people interact with them, or distract them different ways of zoom call facilitation. Like it's an endless list, right. So the best person to decide what what is needed is the individual. And I think creating a culture of access comes from the top down. And from those in leadership, really understanding what can be done to ensure that there are very explicit channels of communication where those things can be asked for, and maybe having a budget for it. Who knew? Yes,
they might want to be included. But I mean, I absolutely feel that and I had I had a sneaky suspicion that, that that's what you were, you were thinking, so thank you for validating my my similar opinion, is, fundamentally people need to be able to ask for what they want. But I think one of the things that a lot of people, neurotypical or otherwise, sometimes misunderstand is how key that psychological safety is in enabling that to happen, you can't just ask for what you need. Half the time, we don't even know what we need, as we've already discussed. Yes, yes. I wish it was that simple. Really. Yeah. But it's not humanity. Yes.
And I think also, like, there's policy, right, there's, there's these ideas that it's, you know, we're supposedly protected by the law to request reasonable adjustments, and I think it's, it's like 10% of what needs to happen, I think reasonable, is a is a tricky language to work with adjustments is a tricky word as well. And we, you know, it's not reasonable, it's not really about reasonable adjustments, it's about an entire culture shift. And recognising that that leads to more creative, more productive, you know, if we are looking at producing in under capitalism, there are there are benefits but that's, that's not why we want to do it.
Yes, yes. And so before I launch into a yet another tangent, I'm gonna go with you, which brings it back directly to the purpose of the pod for me, which I'm also now realised is just me, creating safe spaces where I've been able to validate myself, yeah, to other people. But there we go. How how do you think that that utilising those strategic thinking skills, you're utilising those inherent parts of of personality? and can actually enrich creative work? And are there any kind of actionable steps that you encourage people to take to do that?
Yeah, so I think there's a, there's a big part of how when you have a structure you feel actually contained and safe to play. And sometimes a lot of the stress that we're experiencing is actually from a lack of planning a lack of structure, and, and a lack of containment. I remember years ago reading an interview with Bjork. And she said she was this is a complete paraphrasing, because I can't remember where or exactly exactly what the words are. But she said that she's 50% business or strategic thinking and 50%. Creative. And that was a big lightbulb moment for me of like, oh, yeah, no, that's that side is, is so key. And, and I think, you know, especially when you're doing something with creativity, what you're doing is creating something that didn't exist. And so a plan a structure helps you start to believe that it's possible. And so something that I do with my clients is I start getting them to think this is after we've done a lot of work with and they're starting to recognise honour, there's this bigger thing that I want to do in the world, is to work in three different timeframes. One is three year goals, and three month goals, and the next steps. And I think three year goals, it feels far enough off that there's a lot of spaciousness, it feels like there's a lot, that's possible. And then three month goals, it brings it right down into, okay, tangibly, what's possible? What can I actually get done in the next three months, which feels like a lot less? And then what is the next step, and I think so much of what neurodivergent people experiences is the given past didn't work. And they're looking for how. And so what I bring them to is, we don't need to know how we just need to know what and why. And let the wife fuel the fact that we're going to have to try a bunch of different stuff. And so often, we, we think of all of the steps, we have this big vision where like, I can see all of the pieces, and we start going into the how we start imagining all of those pieces, we get completely overwhelmed, and we haven't even started and we've we've stopped, right sounds. So yes. So resisting, imagining all of the steps, staying, staying with the vision, understanding and really rooting in the energy of why why does this need to exist in the world? Why am I doing this? Why do I care about this? Why is this important? To me to the people I'm working with? And then that naturally opens up and shows you okay, what's the next thing I need to do towards that. And those next steps is what increases the belief, rather than attaching your belief to have this way will work? Or if I follow this path, or this example.
You know, fascinating, not least, because so much of that language crosses over with how we in the industry literally describe strategy, how we literally do it, NIOSH makes complete sense because we trying to tap into human behaviour and insight and, and so of course, it's completely applicable to us as individuals, but also to the work we do. Yeah, yeah, head blown emoji again. I have already run over and I could go for ages. But I want to leave everyone wanting more view. So thank you, Louisa, for coming on the podcast. This has been quite literally mind blowing. I really, really, personally and professionally, appreciate and respect and love what you do. So thank you so much for joining me.
Well, thank you so much for having me. And thank you for creating such a welcoming and safe space to have all of this discussion and also you know what you're doing with the podcast in general? I think it's really helping people feel seen and understanding that there are examples and representation and struggles that we all go through that, that it's not just it's not we're not alone in those. So yeah, thank you so much for inviting me
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