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Rooted in her experiences growing up in an Evangelical Christian family, Jamie Lee Finch’s “You Are Your Own” offers an overview of Evangelicalism and the painful confusion and anxiety experienced under its demands. Finch explores the mechanisms of trauma and how fundamentalist denominations match the patterns connected with PTSD. She elaborates on the doubt, guilt, fear, and grief that haunt those leaving the Evangelical faith and offers an approach to help them recover healthy self-worth and resilience.
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Welcome to the Uncensored Empath, a place for us to discuss highly sensitive energy, illness, healing, and transformation. My name is Sarah Small, and I’m a life and success coach for empaths who wants to create a thriving body, business, and life. Think of this podcast as your no BS guide to navigating life, health, and entrepreneurship. You’ll get straight to the point, totally holistic tips from me, in real time, as I navigate this healing and growth journey right beside you. This is a Soul Fire Production.
Holy sex magic. My guest today is going to blow you away. Not only does she have a very captivating story of recovering from religious trauma. She also has this experience with invisible illness, that has continued to show up in her body, and continue to send her messages. And she has come full circle to come back home to herself, through and despite the trauma, and setbacks, and challenges, and physical pain, and emotional unknowns. And after having this conversation with Jamie Lee Finch today, I just feel so inspired that we can all come back home to ourselves. Jamie published a book called, ‘You Are Your Own: A Reckoning with the Religious Trauma of Evangelical Christianity’. She is a sexuality and embodiment coach, and intuitive healer, a self-conversation facilitator, a sex witch, and a beautiful poet. She helps humans connect to their own bodies. And her work focuses on reframing the reality and experience of embodiment. The language of relationship. In today’s conversation, we start by getting to know Jamie better. She shares her story. And regardless of whether you are somebody who has a similar trauma story with religion, with organized religion or not. I think you are going to resonate so much, to the way that trauma shows up in the body. And how we can reclaim our power over a story that we potentially have been born into. Take back that power, and create and write our own story, in our life. So, I’m so honored to have Jamie on the show. Let’s get this conversation started.
Sarah: All right, welcome to the show. Jamie, I’m so excited to have you on today.
Jamie: Thank you. I’m really excited to be here. And I’m really excited to get to know you a little bit better in our conversation too.
Sarah: Yes, same. We were just getting to know each other a little bit, and Kelly connected us. And I’m just so glad she did because I’ve been following you on Instagram. And really resonating with the words that you share. Your words are so beautiful. And I think, embody a lot of the emotions that I felt, and have been feeling lately, as well. And there’s a line in your Instagram bio that I could not look away from, which was that you published a book on your experience, your journey with evangelical Christianity, that got you kicked off of Instagram. So, can you tell me a little bit about that?
Jamie: Yes, I’d love to. So, the book that I published, and self-published, it was my academic thesis. I feel that’s important to say too because there’s a lot that I didn’t know about, that I didn’t know I was getting myself into when it comes to publishing. Because I haven’t really had a standard publishing journey. I just needed to graduate school, and I had to write a thesis to do that. And then, as my following grew on social media over the last few years, a lot of people via social media, asked if they could read it when I was finished because it speaks to an experience that a lot of people have shared. So, I got it into an ebook format, and then an audiobook format in March of last year. And then a generous friend, Tucker Fitzgerald, helped me navigate the world of Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon. And that resulted in just a self-published paperback copy of it. And, right in between those two things, which was probably really inconvenient for trying to promote the paperback copy of it. And about three weeks after the launch, heavy air quotes, launch, the ebook and audiobook version. The cover used to look different. And so the jury’s a little bit out, if I got kicked off Instagram because of the cover. I highly doubt it. Cause it wasn’t breaking any rules or violations. The jury’s out if I got kicked off because of sexually explicit content on the cover. Or, if I got kicked off Instagram because my book was classified as hate speech.
All I know, is around the beginning of April of last year, I woke up one day and couldn’t gain access to my Instagram. So, I thought maybe I was hacked. And really at this point, all I had been doing, I hadn’t officially been promoting anything. So, in my mind, there wasn’t anything official to promote. I was just reposting in my stories, people posting about the book, and posting about the audiobook, and the content. So, after a couple of weeks of that, all I knew is that I woke up, couldn’t get into my Instagram. When I attempted to reach out to their support, repeatedly, is when I got, what’s it, the standard letter of we have disabled your account because you violated our terms, and here’s what you violated. And so, it was a lot, cause I was primarily confused about what in the world I violated. But then, the more people I talked to who knew things from inside that world and were on my end of the experience as well. The more we figured out that, what it looks like had happened is that, evangelical Christians were not pleased with the fact that my book is literally called, ‘You Are Your Own: A Reckoning with the Religious Trauma of Evangelical Christianity’. And decided that I was using hate speech to target a specific group of people. If that is what I was actually doing, that does violate Facebook and Instagram’s terms and conditions. So yeah, it was disabled for eight or nine months, I want to say.
Jamie: And so a reporter, Nico Lang who at the time worked for Out Magazine, and now I’m pretty sure he works for Vice News. Someone on Twitter had alerted him. He was doing a piece on, Bethel in Redding, California, their relationship to their version of conversion therapy, and their anti-LGBTQ policies. And he was writing this for Out. And someone on Twitter alerted him to the fact that, Oh, Bethel is allowed to promote conversion therapy and actual hate speech on Instagram. And people report them over, and over, and over, and they don’t get disabled. But yet, Jamie Lee Finch writes a book about this abuse, and this trauma, and gets kicked off Instagram. So, he reached out, he was, what’s that about? Can you tell me more? We had a conversation. He reached out to Instagram for comment. And honestly, within, I think about three or four days, my account just reappeared. So, I still, I will probably never know what happened, except for what I pretty much know, what happened. And I’m really glad I got the old account back because it was nine years of memories. But, by that point, I had already started a new one, and had started building that one up. So yeah, that’s the story of the book and getting kicked off Instagram for it.
Sarah: Thank you for sharing that. And now, I and my listeners are probably very curious about your story and what did you write about in your book. And what is out the reckoning that you talk about?
Jamie: Yeah. Even learning that I needed to write about my own story, and the book was its own journey. As I said, it was my academic thesis. So, I set out to make it highly academic, which was not just what I logically thought needed to happen but also was a bit of an avoidance tactic, on my own part. Because the idea of diving into my own story, it’s a difference between writing about trauma and looking back at your own life, and seeing how that trauma has impacted you. And that felt, obviously, way more vulnerable and way riskier. And I largely avoided it for the first half of that writing process, until my academic advisors very sternly, and lovingly, encouraged me otherwise. And I just got brave enough to reshape the thing and do it. So, it really was a lot. Ultimately, the work that exists now, involves a lot of going back through my own past experiences, not just cerebrally, but quite literally.
About six months before I was finished, no about three months before I finished, it was, in the 11th hour. I went back to the town where I grew up, and went to my dad’s house. And got six boxes worth of stuff from my childhood, my adolescence, even my early twenties. Just notes I’d saved from middle school, or journal entries I had written throughout my entire existence. AOL instant messenger conversations. I’d print it out with friends from ninth grade, or particularly notes that I had taken, and things I’d written down from my evangelical experiences, and church services at summer camps. I also went to a Christian school. I had Bible classes. The most noticeable thing about those six boxes is there is very little of me, and an overwhelming amount of who I thought I was, by way of my relationship to my religion.
So, you could trace the through-line of how I was feeling about myself, depending on how I was writing about myself and these things. So, a lot of self-flagellation in my early twenties, when I thought I was being too sinful. And that was actually something throughout a lot of it was, however, I thought I was being the wrong kind of woman, wrong kind of Christian. That’s predominantly what I was writing about. Was being so bad, and wanting God to make me better. So, I feel very much I was able to commune with my younger self in this writing. And it did result in the work that exists now, which is a very honest look at not just the idea of the things that I was taught, and whether or not they’re legitimate, or true, or false, and more. But what’s the psychological impact of teaching someone, whose brain is developing these things about themselves, these things about the world, around them, and these things about God?
And so, what I now know and what I’ve been able to name as traumatizing, and what I’ve heard from so many people in the last year, has been so helpful. For them to name as traumatic, in their experience was that, being taught things you’re born bad and there’s nothing you can do about it. And then, also, further than that, and the evangelical idea that someone had to die. God’s son had to die, in order to make you good. And then, further on top of that, but you still can’t be good on your own. There’s nothing good about you. Also teachings like the existence of hell, eternal conscious torment. That was a thing that really messed me up when I was a young little empathic, highly sensitive child. And my parents were trying to get me to calm down and see that I was safe because I had prayed the prayer, and accepted Jesus into my heart.
But I didn’t know how to explain to my parents, as a seven-year-old, highly sensitive child. That’s not a good enough answer for me, because you’re telling me other people are going to go there. How are you okay with this? How are you okay with believing in a God, that’s okay with this? I wrote in the book, at one point that, I actually wasn’t afraid. I think my parents thought I was afraid of going to hell. And I wasn’t afraid of going to hell. I understood how the math worked. What I was actually afraid of, was going to heaven. Because the guy that came up with the idea of hell, and seemed to think it was such a fine idea, with heaven. And I didn’t want to be near that guy. Not language I had when I was seven or eight, but I was, that guy sounds sociopathic. I don’t think I really like that guy, or want to be on his team.
So, it’s teachings like that, that I go into again, both from this perspective of brain science, and studying trauma, and Marlene Grinnell who wrote, ‘Leaving the Fold’. She’s the one that coined the term, “religious promise syndrome”. So, I go into it from that aspect, but also speaking very pointedly about my past experiences in childhood, and adolescence, and beyond. And how these ideas and teachings interacted with, how they informed me to interact with the world around me. And the actual devastating impacts that had, not just on my brain, but then, also on my body, until, I got out and I left. And I, again, figuratively and quite literally, started to heal, after leaving and no longer feeling required to believe those things about myself.
Sarah: Can you talk a little bit about, it sounds like it never really resonated with you, especially as this highly sensitive empathic child that just didn’t feel comfortable with this. The way the math did add up, and wanting to live along that framework or those rules. So, what shifted when you decided to walk away from that to dive into healing around it?
Jamie: A lot of what shifted was honestly, my body got too loud to ignore. Because you’re exactly right in what you’re saying, it never really resonated. But I also felt so compelled to try and make it fit. And I constantly thought it was my fault that it wasn’t fitting. So, it was at both, and my entire life, which was so internally disruptive. Which is why, again, with everything I know now, about how much our bodies are on our teams, and the reality of somatic experiences as it relates to trauma. It’s not surprising to me that my body got her wits end of about staying quiet, anymore. At a certain point, just about how tormented I felt the entire time I was in that religion. About, this is apparently true, and I’m supposed to not just believe it, but feel great about it. I’m supposed to feel hopeful, and happy, and free. And I feel none of those things, so I must not be doing it right. So, after years of doubling down, and tripling down, and quadrupling down, and going from, denomination to denomination, to church space, to everything from Southern Baptist to Catholic, to reforms Presbyterian, to all the way to very charismatic Pentecostal expressions of evangelical, white evangelical Christianity.
I ended up the culmination of all of that efforting, for me was, moving to England to join a religious community that I now see very, very clearly as a goal. But you don’t know you’re in a cult when you’re in one, that’s kind of how they work. It’s very insulated, very toxic in their teaching and theology, which I go into in the book. And I got to a point, I was on a visa for only six months, or I wasn’t on a visa. The longest you can be in the UK as an American, without a visa, is six months, and not one day more. And so, I’d been there for six months to give it a test run. The indoctrination had worked. I was, I’m here, I want to give my life to this. When really, I just was longing for a family, and for somewhere to belong. But, the entire six months I was there, my body was still yelling very loudly at me about all the ways that this wasn’t working. In the same way that my body had been loudly yelling at me through all of my other religious experiences, and mission trips, and very spiritual endeavors.
I had been sick for a lot, at that time. I had been in pain that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be in, for a lot of that time. All these things I thought were just normal, or a product of my sin, that I just needed to keep believing stronger and it would go away. When I came back from England, carrying all of this deep desire to belong there, and this I was supposed to be back in the States for about three months, and then do the visa application process and go back there, and be with them forever. I was dealing with lots of panic attacks. I was dealing with lots of digestive issues. I was dealing with lots of pain, lots of chronic pain. The culmination again, of years, and years, and years, of this stuff already happening, but it was louder.
And, they also just very practically, about two months into my time, back in the States, they sent me an email saying, “oops, we miscalculated our finances, we can’t bring you back”. And it was devastating. Half of everything I owned was still in my closet, in my flat, or in my wardrobes, they didn’t have closets. But, my wardrobe there, because I was so convinced I was coming back. Because they had convinced me, and I was convinced in my heart, that’s where I was supposed to be, and God wanted me to be.
So, that absolutely broke my heart. They didn’t apologize. They just said, this is what God must have had planned, the whole time. And so, you just have to be obedient about it. And so, once again, just further shoving down my actual emotions, that emotional suppression that I had been functioning on my entire life. Increased the pain, increased the imbalances in my body, increased panic attacks, increased anxiety, increased everything. And nine months after I got that email, it definitely, I know I keep saying it’s like building. But it reached this boiling point where I couldn’t physically be inside of a church building anymore. I would try and go to church. At the church I was going to here in Tennessee, I would have such an intense panic attack that I would have to leave the room. And once I was outside, I would quite literally, step outside, not of the church, the sanctuary space, like into a lobby. But once I was out of the building altogether, all of the symptoms would immediately disappear. And it happened repeatedly, about three or four weeks in a row. And for someone who’s trying to go to church three or four times a week, because that’s how invested I was, that’s a lot.
That I got to a point where I was, something is wrong, and I can’t keep going here. It’s just functionally, a waste of my time doing this. So, I think I have to leave to figure out what happened to me and to figure out what’s going on with my body. And so, I’ve been curious about what’s going on with my body for years, prior to that point had seen lots of doctors. I’ve done lots of curious, investigating on my own, but it had never been this unique combination of leaving this, I now know, traumatizing environment, that I was trying so hard to fit into and be a part of. I had never experimented with this combination of leaving that environment, and getting curious about what was going on with my body.
And within a few months, everything changed. I felt very free, to let go of these beliefs. Like hell, that I’d been wanting to let go of since I was seven or eight years old. I was shocked at how free I felt to let go of them. I was shocked at how obviously my body didn’t, quote, “heal” overnight. That’s not the story. That’s not what happens with bodies, usually. But I had so much of a clearer ability to connect with my intuition, and to connect with my own internal curiosity, and my own internal knowing. It was like my intuition was growing back again, and I could hear signs, and signals, and communication from my body again, in a way I hadn’t since I was a child. And so, that was about five years ago, from that day to this one, it’s just been a continual journey of learning to listen to that internal information. And let that internal information guide me, in all ways. Whether it relates to the physical wellbeing of my body or otherwise.
Sarah: It’s so amazing the way that our bodies, these physical symptoms show up, and there are always these deeper messages. And, as you were telling your story, I just felt this deep yearning to belong to a community. Yet, then that community said, actually, no, you can’t be part of this. We can’t bring you back. And how triggering and how retraumatizing, when you’re just trying to find this community, where you can have a sense of belonging? And I’m curious about it, because you have written about this, and because this was your academic thesis. Can you talk about the brain science, and how more specifically that created a traumatizing effect or was really triggering? It’s so obvious that being in a church, it became very intense for you emotionally and physically. And then, through that brain science and that trauma, it sounds like you’ve found somatic healing. And now, you are the sex witch. So, that’s obviously this big, big turn of events. How has somatic experiences and somatic healing, how did you get there, based on what you’ve learned about the trauma?
Getting curious, developing critical thinking, and emotional processing after leaving religion
Jamie: Well, I don’t know how I got there. It was honestly, again, just my body leading me to get curious about, again, this unique free in my curiosity. About why have I been in pain my whole life? What’s been going on with my digestive system? What’s been going on just in general inside of my body? And so, in order to get that level of curious, inside of evangelicalism, you’re gonna have to ignore all somatic sensations. Because pain, or imbalance, in any way it’s chalked up to either something, you have to have more faith over or something that is linked to your sin, in some way. And so, you have to lay it down on the altar. If you were to pay too much attention, so to speak, to your somatic experiences, you would likely, at least in my experience being accused of not having enough faith, or not believing enough.
And so, in order for you to obey God the right way, you have to shift your attention away from caring too much about what’s going on in your body, and doing a weird twisted version of a mind over matter like, I’m already healed, I’m already well. At least in a lot of charismatic spaces, that’s a lot of what they do.
Sarah: And it doesn’t allow you to then, just feel what you’re feeling.
Jamie: To feeling what you’re feeling. Yes.
Sarah: That’s almost dis-associative in some aspects.
Jamie: That’s the exact word for it. And because you and I both know that in order to accomplish any sort of somatic experiencing or to learn that signals from the body, or communication, you have to feel them first. And then, you have to dialogue with them on some level. And that dissociative process, that dissociation when you are either wordlessly encouraged towards, or directly commanded to engage in, is a large ethic of what’s going on inside of white evangelical Christianity.
So that contributes to even what you’re saying about the question of the brain science behind it, as we know. So you’ve got these two things going on here. You have these traumatizing teachings, which, again, I talk about in the book, is there’s a lot of aspects of these things. And if we look at behavioral development and cognitive development even through the lens of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. There are quite literally, very specific needs that are either not being met, according to the fundamental principles of the teachings of white evangelical Christianity. There are these things that either aren’t being met, or they’re being met in a way that Oh, what’s that the word for it? They’re conditional, they’re being met in a way that’s entirely too conditional, which then actually further doesn’t meet a cognitive or a behavioral developmental function. This is, in order to develop well and to develop in a healthy way, as far as attachment goes, you need to know deep in your body and in your brain, that your attachment to your caregivers is not conditional in your attachment.
And so, then there’s also attachment with God, as attachment theory, if that’s not as conditional. And then, a lot of parents inside of that religious system, who are doing the best they can, because it’s how they’ve been told to parent, while that be conditional. So there’s layers and layers here, as to why these things create trauma and create a psychological disturbance. So you’ve got that going on, but then, like you’re saying, you’ve also got this dissociative response. So these two things spiral in with each other and create. And then, you also have the narrative of sin, put on top of all of that. Which is, you have unmet needs going on. And then, you develop coping skills because of those unmet needs. But then, a lot of those coping skills which are dissociative responses or at least adjacent to dissociative responses, are things that inside of that religious system are often looked at as being sinful behavior.
Sinful behavior is not seen as an answer to a question. Which sinful coping mechanisms actually aren’t answers to a question. Sinful behavior is just seen as the question itself. Oh, we got to deal with your sin. We have to deal with what’s going on there. So, they try and tell you, again, they double you down on things that are causing you the trauma in the first place. I remember a lot of years of being told to pray certain verses over myself about how horrible I was, and how undeserving I was, and wretched I was. As if that would somehow make me better. As if that shame would somehow set me free ultimately. So again, this all feeds in on itself. So you get stuck in this closed loop. Is one of the things I call it in the book. It is this closed loop of needs not being met, and functional behavioral, psychological needs, not being met according to how you’re brought up inside of that religious tradition.
And then, as you develop these incredibly adaptive, and incredibly natural coping skills to deal with those needs not being met, that religion has an answer for that too. And tells you to again, further dissociate from this somatic information, your body’s trying to give you, about what you actually need. Because your body’s sinful, remember. The flesh is bad. So you’re supposed to pray more. You’re supposed to rely on the spirit more. You’re supposed to be above the information of your flesh. So you double down on any associative response and shame in the face of those coping mechanisms. And when you double down with shame, and your coping mechanisms, you never stay compassionate long enough to get curious, about what your body’s actually trying to tell you. So it really is, you get so stuck inside of this loop.
And that loop, it had me for years, until, I don’t know if it was always going to break. If that was always going to break, or if it was this specific combination of a community of people that I so desperately wanted to be my family. That told me they were going to be my family. It could be that heartbreak was just so intense, that my brain and my body couldn’t handle staying inside of that loop, and more. I’ll probably never know if it would have always worked out this way. I have a suspicion it would’ve. But it has worked out the way that it’s worked ultimately, thus far. I really do think that evangelical Christianity was never going to keep me because I really think my body loves me more than that. And that she would have gotten my attention one way or another, eventually.
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Sarah: So, in the curiosity, you said, this combination that couldn’t have really happened if you were still in the institution, the structure of evangelical Christianity. This partnering up of compassion for yourself, the curiosity. What then, did that road, that leads you out and starts to re-experience yourself, or question what was true and what’s not true, and who am I? And I would assume that these really big, life-changing questions probably surfaced around, what am I going to choose to believe? And how can I change my relationship with myself? And just a quick side story. I was raised with nothing. So, I wasn’t raised atheist, agnostic, Presbyterian, Catholic, Christian, like nothing. I just had no structure. And so, I think it’s so natural that at a certain age if we’re not told what to think, that we start to ask those questions. And that was my experience, I bought, at 18, 19 years old, when I went to college, I bought books on God because I was just curious. I was, I don’t even fucking know. Do I believe in God? Do I not? And there were so many questions. And eventually, I found my own beliefs, my own path through a lot of other things in my life, and more spirituality than anything I would ever say is religious. But, there were all these questions. And I imagine when you stepped away and were able to have then that compassion for yourself, the curiosity of your body, and your belief system. That you also had these really big questions. So, in those big questions, what have you discovered?
Jamie: Such a good question. The first thing I discovered is what you just described when you were talking, I was, man, I’m so jealous. So those very naturally, developed and easily come by, critical thinking skills. That’s what you were just describing that I was brought up with nothing, so I got to explore and figure out what worked for me and what I wanted. Those critical thinking skills were so, a hard one for me. And that was the darkest time honestly, was the first year or so, after I left, the only thing I’d ever been told was true. And all I knew is that it wasn’t. And for all, I could assume, maybe nothing was. But I certainly wasn’t even ready to entertain the idea that something else possibly could be. And so, that first phase that was vital, honestly. And this is something that when I talk to people who have just left, it’s terrifying. You largely start to double down on all those coping mechanisms. I talked to a lot of people who were, I’ve been drinking a lot. Should I be worried? And I’m like, this might just be part of it. The part where you feel so, I have had many moments where, the idea that not only was, I no longer talking to anybody, but my child self, who grew up in an abusive home, and only had God on her team. Maybe she wasn’t talking to anybody then either.
My largest breakdown happened, unfortunately, while I was driving my car. And that thought, occurred to me that I was, Oh, I’m not just not talking to someone now. I’m not just blown now, I was also alone then. The nine-year-old me was utterly alone. And I had to pull my car over for about 20 minutes because I couldn’t handle that. And I was sobbing so hard, I couldn’t keep driving. Those moments were terrifying to be in, but they were necessary to go through. Because that’s the only way that I was able to develop a relationship to critical thinking. Was to have those scary moments, and not dissociate away from them. Not just double down on the answer I thought was true. That’s the biggest difference I think, is what happened was when I left fundamentalism, I didn’t have an answer for everything at first.
And then I had to engage the pain of the mystery of not having answers. And that plunged me back into my body because emotions lived here. Pain, grief, sorrow, anger, confusion was here, and I’ve been avoiding emotions and avoiding my body at the same time. So I didn’t have the luxury of dissociation, and it’s a weird way to put it. But I didn’t have the luxury of dissociation anymore, because the emotions were too strong. And so, when I lost my ability to live in a constantly dissociated banner all of the time because I was going through so much grief. That also then, led me again to be, Oh, there are other things going on in my body, like chronic pain. And there are other things going on in my body like the presence of digestive problems that I’ve had apparently, since the day I came out of the womb. And learning that, again, my pain isn’t just a symptom of my sin. Or my malfunctioning, so to speak, the body isn’t just a symptom of, Oh, well, bodies don’t matter, spirits matter more. And our bodies are just failing and passing away. And that’s just what happens. I got to get curious about why the hell I was put on a medication when I was 20 years old. That I was told I was going to have to take 30 minutes before I eat every meal, for the rest of my life, because my body just didn’t work. Was literally told, your body just doesn’t work. And I got to get curious about why. Why? Maybe I was born with that, but also maybe not, maybe there are other things. So I want to know all of the why. So, as I started to develop critical thinking, and find out what emotions actually felt like in my body. Primarily if they’re getting really good therapy, that helped me learn how to navigate my relationship to emotional regulation.
I also got curious about, I don’t know, something, even as simple as, this sounds, it’s so obvious to me now, but it was still, it’s almost laughable. But at the time, I figured out I was allergic to half of what I was eating. That’s what’s going on here. So I got to even get curious about that. Maybe my body has something to tell me about what I’m eating. That there’s a reason why. Once I stopped being dissociated and just living with pain as if that was normal, I was, Oh, after I eat this thing, I’m in pain. What happens if I don’t eat that thing, eat something different instead? And then, I’ll notice. My ability to just notice happened. So along with the critical thinking skills, going through that really dark depression in order to start crawling my way back to what could possibly have meaning for me. I think the place where I first started to find what could have meaning for me was, just what my body had to tell me.
And to be honest with you, I think that is the thing that has continued to navigate me. I don’t really identify myself with any sort of belief or spirituality in any specific way anymore. Even my relationship to the idea of self-identifying as a witch is pretty loose. Because I think it should be, because for me, or at least it needs to be, I don’t like the word should. But for me it needs to be the thing that I know will potentially put me down a road of dissociation with my body again, or dissociative responses, or emotional suppression, is if anything becomes too fundamentalist. If I start believing that I have a cognitive answer for something, rather than just sitting in the pain of not knowing. I desperately need to continue to have a relationship with my body where I sit in the pain of not knowing. And I feel all of my feelings. And I don’t repress my emotions, and I don’t immediately revert to coping mechanisms. Or if I do, I can pull myself back lovingly, and compassionately get curious about what sent me to those coping mechanisms. So, the idea that I would develop any kind of religious belief, or practice, or way of being, or moving through the world, that would cause me to rush to a cognitive explanation for something without sitting in the mystery and how that actually feels. Is the main thing that my body has taught me in the last five years, that she and I don’t ever want to do again. So that’s a lot of what that has looked. And I am honestly really jealous on some level for people that just got to start to explore that, during their formative years. Or just know that would be her permission to do that, during their formative years. Like, honestly, I should have, we all should have. That’s what those developmental years are for. But, in our healing, and re-parenting is a thing, and that’s a journey we’re on now.
Sarah: Yeah. And I truly believe that it’s brought you to where you are today. And yeah, it’s so interesting that you brought up that one of your main physical symptoms are digestive issues. Because the emotional root of digestive issues are entering into this world, where you’re, I can’t digest this shit. This is not my truth. I can’t digest this. This is not for me. I can’t digest this. And I’m like rejecting it. Even the food allergies, I’m rejecting my reality. I’m rejecting this as my truth. And yeah, it’s just another instance, another example of how our bodies are working for us versus against us. That really brings me to the topic of sex. Because sex is also something that is obviously talked about in a very certain way within the institution of religion. And you were taught one way, and it’s a very curious path and this started to use your critical thinking. And that has, I think, shifted for you. So how have you reclaimed your sexual agency?
Jamie: Well, first of all, one of the things I love about what you just said. What welled up in me while you were saying all of that, which was so beautiful. It was this feeling of yes. Yes, to all of that, because my body has always been committed to telling the truth on my behalf when I couldn’t. When I had to lie to myself, functionally, in order to belong inside of the religious system that, I couldn’t digest. I was needing to reject it, because it wasn’t for me. My body was doing it on my behalf. And this is a big thing I work through with my clients, is learning to not and be with hostility on that. Do not believe that’s my body being mean to me, that’s actually my body being wildly kind. In a way, I just haven’t learned how to recognize it yet. And so, the work I do with my clients is learning how to recognize, with compassion and curiosity. Let’s at least pause long enough to give the most generous assumption, and see what our bodies might have to be telling us. And then, expect kindness from them, and see how the conversation, dialogue with our bodies opens up after that point. So, to piggyback off of that, to your question. Sex, fascinatingly, was I won’t say always, because I didn’t start having, well, I didn’t start having partner sex until I was 20. But, masturbation was something I engaged with my body and self-pleasure, I think around 11 or 12, I think, part of at that point. That relationship to sex and sexuality, sexual expression, was really the only area that I had at the time, where I felt I was getting close to telling the truth alongside my body.
There was this, and again, but that caused a further internal disruption because I didn’t experience actual, naturally, occurring shame for engaging with myself or partner sexually. But I experienced shame over the fact that I wasn’t experiencing naturally occurring shame. I felt as close as I could possibly I feel when I was so dissociated, and so emotionally repressed. I felt as close as I could feel to being connected with my body. And hearing some of my body in those, again, both partnered and solo experiences. Predominantly then, solo, because again, that shame is such a villain. And it was something that caused me, a lot of the sex I had prior to leaving religion. Cause I was in that cycle of, I’ll have sex, cause I know this is not what my body’s supposed to be doing. And then I have to shame myself and be, I’ll never do it again. And then, you just see that cycle.
So, a lot of the sex I was having was pretty dissociated. And usually, I was on some substance like weed, predominantly alcohol, in order to lower my inhibitions, to be able to do it in the first place. But, I even see those impulses now, to move in that direction towards expressing my sexuality as a kindness for my body. Where, when I’m in the religious tradition, I have to see that as, Oh, that’s my flesh, or that’s the devil tempting me in some way. And I’m, no, she’s trying to get me back to myself. That’s what she’s doing. So, knowing that was always true, that sex was the way in which my body was always trying to remind me that I’m allowed to belong to myself. Once I no longer had to play the game and shame. Create this artificially imposed shame, because the naturally occurring shame never happened.
Once I got to leave the religion, that told me to play by different rules. Basically it was, again, none of this has been overnight, but I got to let myself get curious about what it would be like to just enjoy it, or to just remain present. I also got to get curious about the reactions going on in my body. Again in partnered situations, but particularly in experience with self-pleasure where I would feel a resistance rise up. Or I would go somewhere in my head that would sound a lot like shame, or my body would get really rigid. Certain areas in my abdomen or in my thighs would go so rigid, that I would have to stop masturbating before I even climaxed. Because this felt sense of my body was resisting what we were doing. And rather than shame, or rather than the other response I might have had when I was a Christian, were thinking that was God trying to save me for doing something bad. Who knows what, or how I would have explained that, or how I did explain that. Because I was doing this other work, I got to slow down and be, what are you trying to tell me right now?
Or you remembering something? Are you remembering years, and years, and years, of purity culture telling us you weren’t allowed to do this? Because I need you to know that we don’t agree with those rules anymore. In fact, those rules were never true. You knew that, but you were doing such a good job trying to get me to be able to belong. But you are really trying to believe those rules. And thank you so much for all that work you did on my behalf, that we’re writing new rules now, for ourselves. So this is safe. This is good. What we’re doing here is okay and you can let go. And that’s been, again, years of a process. Of learning that there is, there can be a self-intimacy, and intentionality to my experience of, and with sex. Whether again, with a partner or with myself. And that does segue naturally, into my relationship to sex magic, because on some level, what I just described is sex magic.
It’s partnering what you’re doing with your intention, and with your own energy. You’re raising your energy and partnering with your intention, to try and manifest what you want to bring about in the world. What I most desperately at that time, and still do want to bring up out in the world is my own whole wellness and the liveliness of healing. So, there are many different ways in which people engage with sex magic, and all of them are legitimate. But for me, it hasn’t really been about wanting to manifest more money, or manifest a partner, or anything like that. It’s been wanting to manifest an intimacy in my relationship with myself, and wellness and my relationship with my body, and that doesn’t mean a fixed healed-ness. That means a relationship with her, where I don’t become hostile to her when she is unwell. Because she might remain some level of unwell, for the rest of my life, at least according to, western medical standards, and capitalism, and patriarchy, and all these other oppressive systems. She might remain, sub-par, until I die, according to those standards. But that doesn’t mean I abandoned her, that doesn’t mean I leave her.
So I’m not actively trying to use the sex magic to really manifest any sort of external thing or a fixed body. I’m trying to manifest kindness, and compassion, and an intimacy with her. That remains my guiding ethic, and my relationship with my body, as I navigate moving through the world, as someone who has an invisible illness, honestly. And there’s been other things with sex magic too, that I have. You can set your intention anywhere. So I have set my intention in other places. But how I’ve found that that’s powerful, and how I found that actually it works, is because this kindness, and this compassion, and this curiosity, did overtime, well up within me in her direction. So I was, Oh, maybe there’s something to this. Maybe all spell work is, or all sex magic or any magical practice is, maybe it’s all placebo on some level. Because it is, but that’s because whatever we believe has meaning, has meaning. And so, I was deeply believing that what I was doing had meaning and that she, was worth me doing it. And eventually, I lived my way into that being effortlessly true. And so, that’s really all magic feels like to me. I don’t think I’ve ever described it that way before. And I think like what I just said, more than any other way ever described it. So thank you for asking that question.
Sarah: You’re welcome. And it’s interesting as you’ve been sharing this, as I already shared with you, was not brought up in any sort of rules, institution, and you should believe this, this is good, this is bad. But, I still feel society, media did tell me. And there were so many rules on how I was supposed to feel about my entire lady parts, vulva, vagina, uterus, all of it. And so, when it was first presented to me, that the energy of organism was the most potent, powerful, creation energy. And that my vagina was not just for a man’s penis or anything else. It was not just this serving, giving thing, and there was creative energy in my womb. There is a powerful, fucking energy of creation. I was, holy shit. Why did I not realize that? Why did I think it was only for this one, singular purpose? And the practice of sex magic, which was presented in the words of orgasmic manifestation to me. I was, Oh my, it blew my mind. And I was, at the same time, I was, give me more, please. I love this coming home to ourselves and seeing our bodies in a different light. And it was so beautiful to hear you describe this very clear desire for belonging within these religious communities, and the seeking, this yearning for belonging. But you really came full circle, and then, eventually, realized, I don’t need to belong in this institution, I need to belong to myself. I need to come home to myself, and through connecting to myself, and through loving my body and giving her pleasure, I can reconnect to her in a beautiful way to get to know her better and listen to her messages better. With me, it was my intuition, I saw this circle, Oh shit, yes. That is such a full circle process for me. Of course, this has been your path to find, not belonging externally, but belonging internally. And, I can only assume it took so much courage to confront all of this and to make the changes to get to where you are today. So, I just want to say, thank you so much for sharing this. Is there anything else that you feel has come to the surface, wrestled out, that you feel you want to share or speak on today?
Jamie: Apart from just saying what you just said, and the way you just described it, just gave me so many chills. Because again, I’ve never thought about it exactly that way before. And I also see it in this full circle, really clearly in this moment. And I’m in a very authentic brand new moment of awe. Cause on some level, it is my journey, but it truly, mostly just feels like my body’s journey. Cause the work I do is, centering the personhood of the body. So, holding space for people to learn how to, and what it means to refer to their bodies as he, she, or that, instead of it. So, I think of her as a person, and I think of her as not only my greatest teacher. And the person who encouraged me very lovingly, and very sternly to start beginning to go on this journey. But also, the person I did it for. She asked me to do it. She’s taught me to do it, but I also am doing it for her.
And that feels, when you’re describing this internal belonging, but I’ve been searching for that belonging elsewhere in places that were harming me. And now I found it with her, and I found it largely, through reconnecting with her, through my relationship to sex magic and sexuality. And that also then helped me feel so at home here, that I have been able to find external spaces of belonging. People that really see me, really know me, really accept me for all of who I am. And that’s so compelling. And I feel a brand new and unique kind of grateful for that whole experience, in this moment. That’s big. That feels huge. So, thank you for asking me to talk about it today, and for talking with me about it.
Cause I do feel, I think the most important thing, it’s equally important that I got to have this journey of coming home to myself. I think very often, as women, we are compelled to contextualize our own journeys as only being worth it, according to what we can give away. And no, it’s worth it just to have it. I don’t need to give anything that I’ve learned away or be selfless in it. Women can keep their experiences for themselves. But there is beauty in the generosity, and the storytelling of, no, this has happened for me, it can happen for you. And obviously, if I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be a coach. That’s why I do what I do for a living. And I do believe that what you’re displaying, that I have found in my relationship with my connection, with my body is possible for everyone that I work with.
I had a client once telling me he was, are you sure I’m not just a special case? I can’t come home to myself in this way. And I was, if that was true, if I believed that there was anyone out there who was a special case and that this didn’t, if I really did not actually believe that this was possible for every person, I would be such an asshole for taking your money. If I thought maybe you just couldn’t crack the code, but other people possibly could. No, I don’t believe that, this is possible. It’s a long process. It’s a beautiful process. It’s an arduous process. But, that I think is the biggest thing that I could hope, and have seen, in the last year of people reading my book, or following on social media. Is this recognition of, I see something in your journey that I think might be possible for me. And this has given me enough hope to begin, to get curious enough, to start fighting for that for myself, or to just begin.
Sarah: That’s what I hope listeners may take away from this. As well as anything they just naturally feel they resonate with. But this curiosity, and this permission slip that we never needed from anyone outside of ourselves. But sometimes it does. Honestly, sometimes it does feel good to see it in someone else, and it does make us go, Oh, I have to go on this journey of reconnecting to my body and really coming home to it in a way that you receive the messages, versus that dissociative pattern that maybe was taught or learned, or however, we pick that up in our programming, and our patterning of life. And instead, relearning, or unlearning to rebirth this relationship to myself. So, I’d love to also end with, if this has peaked curiosity and interest in somebody who feels they maybe have a similar journey. Or are just feeling they want to reconnect to their own magic, their own truth within them, and that powerful creation energy as well. Where do they start? Can they find resources from you? Can they do something on their own? Where do we get started?
Jamie: Well, I do think that anybody could get started on their own. Because, again, everybody’s got a body that’s constantly trying to speak to them. But it is a hard process for a lot of people to know where to begin, and how to hear. And when they do hear, what to do with the information they’re hearing. So, what I will say, simply about that is, that question has actually been such an enormous, and beautiful, and strange burden that I feel really grateful for. But also I recognize it’s a burden for the last three years of me doing this work professionally. My waitlist at one point had ballooned to about 700 people, and that is not sustainable. In the peak of the book coming out, it exploded. And so, what I’m getting ready to begin work on actually, starting at the end of this month, is an online course, that people can enroll in, on their own time. It’ll be much more financially accessible because it’s passive content. You can do payment plans, and you don’t have to wait for me. And it’s not at that moment, my time and my energy. So it’s a much more accessible price point. It’s a more accessible format, and it can be accessible to way more people than I can take on at one time.
I’m actually going to be starting the development of that, finally. It feels like a finally, but it also feels I needed to learn a lot, doing one on one client work, for three years. Before I believed in myself to be, Oh yeah, I can totally create a course. But now I feel really confident that I have enough material to at least, create something that feels like a one-on-one. This is where you start. This is the beginning of what connecting with the person of your body actually looks like. And beginning to believe that they are actually your friend. So let’s learn about what has lied to you to make you believe otherwise. And let’s learn about how to unlearn that, and let’s learn about what to learn now instead, and letting it be a process. So, I gonna be working on that for a few months right now, at this point. My ideal launch time for that would be in November of this year. Probably be somewhere in October to November. So, if people want to just follow me on social media, I’m sure I will post about that a bunch.
And there’s also, to build up to that, I’m going to be cultivating some more online community, just beyond social media, through email that I’m not good at, but I’m going to try and get good at. So, there’s a spot on my website as well, that used to be the section for the waitlist, which is now functioning as a section for a newsletter. So people follow me, either sign up for that, or follow me on social media and equally, be alerted to what’s going on, when it’s happening, and what that process looks like as it’s developing. Because I’ve got the ability to onboard one more round of new clients. About 20 people at a time, before this course launch, happens. And I’m really eager to get that thing created because, for many years now, I haven’t known how to answer that question on how to functionally, and instinctually tell people where to begin, without working with them for four to six months at a time. Because, this is something I talked about with my clients a lot too. Is if anyone tries to tell you that coming home to your body is a simpler process than this, they’re lying to you. And probably trying to sell you something just for the sake of trying to sell it to you. I don’t think they’re actually interested.
Sarah: like masturbate.
Jamie: Yes. It’s three steps. Three step process. Follow it. And so, there’s a lot with that. That it’s a complicated question to answer, because I care so deeply about it being answered well. And because most things that are true, are more nuanced than being able to answer succinctly. So, that’s why the courses need to happen, and it’s going to happen. So yes, people want to follow me on social media, they will know about what my best answer is about where to begin by the end of this year.
Sarah: Thank you so much for sharing that. I’m excited for that to be birthed into the world. You guys, Jamie’s over on Instagram @iamJamieleefinch. The bench will also, of course, link that in the show notes. Jamie, thank you so much for just sharing your heart and your story today. I appreciate you coming on to the show.
Jamie: Thank you, Sarah. This has been great.
Okay. So full disclosure being part of Soul Fire Productions is the most magical fantastical thing because it feels like a little soul tribe family of other podcast hosts. Where we have collaborated, and we get to mastermind and it brings so much joy to my life. And I am somebody who thrives on that community. So I want to introduce you to a few more of the podcast hosts inside of this network. Today, I’m going to introduce you to the most fabulous, witches. Their names are Leah Knauer and Rachel Laforest of Basic Witches. These ladies are next level. It is so much fun to be a fly on the wall during their conversations. And you can ride along during their episodes with Leah and Rachel, as they share their deep thoughts, deep breathing, and deep belly laughs. And open up with celebrity guests and professionals in the spiritual world that they have on as guests. They ask the basic questions so you don’t have to. Astrology.com loves them, and I think you will too. So give this fiery Gemini and Scorpio duo a listen, anywhere podcasts can be found. And as the Basic Witches say, ‘Pecs, Oh, Hex Oh’.
Thanks so much for tuning in today’s conversation with Jamie. I have some very exciting news. My new monthly membership called, Empath Leaders is now open. The doors have swung, and I am inviting you to join me. This is an ongoing monthly membership that is flexible. You can cancel if it ever becomes not a fit for you. And it’s really healing for the healers of the world, because your impacts will only grow, as far as you grow yourself. And I know what it feels like to have taken up a bijillion courses, and be on a self-development path for a long time now. But it still feels like you’re getting in your own damn way. Because the truth is, you can listen to all the podcasts. You can do all of the things, you could enroll in all of the courses, and you can still, it is possible, you can still feel stuck. So, if you’re, I once was, and maybe you’ve created some tangible success, or have fits of clarity within your purpose, and in your leadership role as an empath, or highly sensitive on this planet. But then, you hit these major plateaus. I get it. And I know it can make you want to scream. I know it can make you go, what am I doing wrong? Why can’t I just have the impact that I desire, on the world? And the truth is, that you can. And you really truly can have it all. But we don’t create true change in the conscious mind. The subconscious is where all of our programmings resides. And our inner child will always have something to say every time we want to go to the next level and have even more impact on the world.
This monthly membership is for the empath leaders of the world. It is more about, self-growth, less about worrying about other people’s opinions. It is more about community, and less going alone. More inclusion, less comparison, more pleasure, less burnout. And most importantly, more embodied feminine leadership and less trying to fit into masculine molds. If this feels like a perfect fit for you and a container of support that you want to be in. Join me over and 25 women that are already inside of the empath leaders, that joined about a month ago, when I opened doors for just 24 hours. They jumped in fast. We’ve already got material and content that you can listen to. That is pre-recorded, the second you join. We also have three calls per month that you’ll be invited to participate on live, as well as there’ll be recordings too.
And those three calls have three different themes. The first is a healing session that we go through as a group. So you can do the inner work that does affect your outer world. The second is a group coaching call. This is where you can ask me anything about life or business. And finally, we have a breathwork session that is completely transformative, and allows you to get into your body versus numb out or disconnect, that we so often fall into the trap of. You also get 10 to 50% off all of my Uncensored Empath programs, and a Facebook group that is so delightful. Again, it’s already been open for a month, for those who jumped in super early. Members are loving it, and I hope to see you inside this container, The Empath Leaders Membership. The link to join is in the show notes. Thank you all so much for listening and I’ll see you next week for another episode of the Uncensored Empath podcast.
Book: You Are Your Own
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July 28, 2020
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