Breaking Free From Patriarchal Rule: Cait West’s Escape from Spiritual Abuse

Welcome to the For The Love of The Matriarchy series where we’ll explore all the different aspects of women working to embrace agency and celebrating their worth. As we celebrate the power of women and their accomplishments, we’ll also look at the challenges women have faced in a patriarchal society (and still face) and what that means for their bodies and autonomy. 

Cait West is an author who grew up in an extreme patriarchal Christian community. She was taught from a young age that her sole purpose was to become a submissive wife and mother. This pervasive sense of having no agency or control over her own life, combined with the constant messaging that she was inherently sinful and unworthy, took a profound toll on Cait’s mental health, causing severe anxiety and depression from a very young age. Jen and Cait delve into how families can fall into toxic belief systems, and what recovery can look like.

Jen and Cait discuss:

  • The impact of being raised in a fundamentalist, patriarchal environment that severely restricts a woman’s autonomy, education, and life choices.
  • The healing power of finding community, sharing one’s story, and reclaiming agency after experiencing spiritual abuse and trauma.
  • The difficult but important choice of breaking free from oppressive systems, even when it means severing ties with your own family

If you’ve ever been a part of a toxic belief system, or felt the oppression of not having agency over your own life, Cait’s story will be a balm toward healing those wounds.

Kobe Campbell on Gently Excavating Our Trauma

We’re finishing up our For the Love of Wonderful You series intentionally with a deep breath and a gentle word of encouragement. In this episode, even though we are talking about trauma, critical inner voices, and the arduous process of grief, Jen and her guest unwind these topics in the most gentle and loving way. 

Kobe Campbell is an award-winning therapist who specializes in helping people process grief and trauma in a way that unearths true empowerment. Hidden beneath the clamor of everyday life, the voices of our inner critic lie in wait to echo our grief. These voices, though silent to others, can roar deafeningly within us — shaping our perceptions, beliefs, and actions. Kobe’s suggestions of journal “prompts” help guide our own trauma excavation process, and her gentle but challenging questions further that sometimes painful work, while steering us toward self compassion. 

Jen and Kobe touch on: 

  • The understanding that grief can take a lot of time to process; which can ultimately lead to wisdom and true empowerment
  • A working definition of trauma and that trauma is highly personal and contextual
  • How we can feel brave enough to examine the inner critical voice and discern where it’s coming from
  • Acknowledging the cultural pressure to live at an unsustainable pace that doesn’t allow space or time to heal

If you ever needed permission to grieve or drop the unrelenting pace of your life, then this is the invitation.

 

A’ja Wilson on How Authenticity Is Your Superpower

Women’s sports are having a major moment right now, with basketball superstars like A’ja Wilson leading the charge. Considered one of the best WNBA players to ever grace the court, A’ja is using her towering influence to encourage not only young black girls, but all women who have felt the need to change who they are to fit in. A’ja fought to be herself every step of the way in her journey of becoming a G.O.A.T. in the WNBA. 

In this uplifting conversation, A’ja Wilson opens up about the challenges she faced as a young black woman trying to be her authentic self. From an anecdote about confronting racism in 4th grade to the influential women who instilled self-love during her journey to the top, A’ja shares her playbook for empowerment with raw honesty. She discusses the motivation behind writing her new book “Dear Black Girls” and the importance of defining yourself instead of letting others do it for you.

If you’ve ever felt the need to shrink yourself to fit in or been made to feel “other,” A’ja’s wisdom will inspire you to embrace all that makes you beautifully unique.

 

A Glimpse Into the End of Life with Hospice Nurse Hadley Vlahos

As we close out our For the Love of Facing Your Fears series, we’re diving headfirst into a topic that we will all face at one point in our lives (hopefully later than sooner); our very own expiration dates. It’s one of humanity’s most universal yet daunting fears, and we’ve got a compassionate and experienced guide to walk us through the kinds of things we might wonder about, and the beautiful unexpected moments that can accompany our final days. Hadley Vlahos is a hospice nurse whose life experiences and work have provided her with profound insights into the final chapter of our lives. Hadley opens up about her personal journey through struggles and grief, her entry into nursing as a calling, and her perspectives on the beauty that can be found even in our final moments. Her book, “The In-Between: Unforgettable Encounters During Life’s Final Moments,” encapsulates powerful stories from the bedside of the dying, some of which she shares with us, including the tranquility of the in-between and the serendipitous moments bringing peace to those passing. With over 1.4 million followers captivated by her TikTok narratives, Hadley’s perspective takes the edge off the many worries we may have about the end-of-life process. Join us for a truly poignant exchange that affirms life’s beauty—and its beautiful conclusion.

 

Ashton Applewhite Unravels Harmful Attitudes Toward Aging

As we continue our series on facing our fears, we introduce a fear that many of us may not talk about comfortably, but in reality, we are all facing; the fact that we are aging. In case this is something that moves you into a state of deep denial, or perhaps you are employing a world of efforts (including for profit products and practices) to stave off the inevitable progression, or even if you are just taking it all in stride, we all are subject to what the world at large has to say about it and—mostly–it’s not positive. A pervasive ageist attitude infiltrates the media we consume, our own friend groups, and even what we tell ourselves consciously and subconsciously about aging. We come by it naturally, though–with deeply ingrained stereotypes and discriminatory practices that extend everywhere from the workplace to the bedroom. Our guest this week shares how she went from being an apprehensive boomer to becoming a pro-aging radical as she dismantles myths and debunks the portrayal of older people as societal burdens; with years of research under her belt, she dreams of an aging-friendly world. Ashton Applewhite is the author of “This Chair Rocks–A Manifesto Against Ageism,” and she makes it her life’s work to expose ageist behavior, and educate us all as to how we can stop giving aging a bad rap. Jen and Ashton take an eye-opening look at ageism as a form of bias as unacceptable as any other, and give us actionable steps to ignite “age pride,” keeping in mind that aging is an integral part of our life journey, not a condition to be cured or concealed. If you’re fretfully staring down the next decade of life with fear and denial, consider the possibility that being stressed about aging actually can cause the very things we fear about aging. Ashton sums it up like this; “If you learn about aging, you will be less afraid. That knowledge and information is going to confer all kinds of protection about aging as well as you possibly can.”

 

Tapping into Mental Strength to Overcome Fear ft. Amy Morin

We all have things that scare us. And it’s not because we’re doing life wrong; fear, in and of itself, is a normal emotion. So then what do we do with it? That’s really what this series, For the Love of Facing Your Fears, is all about. Today’s guest will be walking us through some strategies on facing our fears in a healthy way by showing us what habits mentally strong people employ in their lives. Amy Morin is a renowned psychotherapist, a bestselling author and she’s devoted her whole career to the exploration of what it means to be mentally strong. Her TEDx talk, “The Secret of Becoming Mentally Strong” has been lauded as one of the most impactful TEDx videos to date.  Amy’s personal journey of loss juxtaposes with Jen’s recent experience of starting over again after 26 years of marriage–and they both discuss how fear played into their lives during these periods of grief and loss. Amy gives actionable, easy to employ behaviors that can set us on the course toward conquering our fears–no matter how debilitating. 

 

Moving from Insider to Outsider: Derek Webb’s Peaceful Disruption

Isn’t it fun to be part of the in-crowd? Where you can connect with people who are of like minds and spirits, where everyone seems to be headed in the same direction? But what if you start having nagging questions as an insider that don’t seem to get resolved, and even worse, are met with disdain or fear from other members of your group? This can be a scary place for so many of us. For the purposes of our conversation today–we’re talking about when it happens in religious spaces. For years, singer/songwriter Derek Webb was very much on the “inside” of what was happening in Christendom as a top selling, award winning Christian artist, songwriter and worship leader. It took a few disruptions to his own life that sent him down the road to evaluating his faith, his beliefs and how he wanted to move forward with the new information he’d gained. Now, decidedly an “outsider” who tries to still take up space in the Christian zeitgeist to potentially model a different way of living, Derek has gone on to record solo albums and also work with artists that aren’t typical to Christian music–like drag queen Flamy Grant—with whom, incidentally, he attended the Gospel Music Dove Awards in 2023 (and who also had a number one Christian song pop up on the charts), with the intention of making people who are Christian and LGBTQ+IA feel less alone. In this episode, Jen and Derek compare their journeys as “peaceful disruptors,” what it cost them and what they gained in the process.

 

The Vagina Bible: Debunking Myths and Misinformation Around The Female Body Ft. Dr. Jen Gunter

Do you ever feel like you don’t have all the answers and information you need around your very own body? Are there beliefs or “facts” you might have learned that maybe aren’t actually centered around truth or science? Perhaps you’ve entered various seasons of your life as a female (menstruation, fertility, childbirth, hormone fluctuation, perimenopause, menopause) where you’ve felt like your concerns were dismissed or you weren’t given the tools, knowledge or treatment to help you navigate these season as well as you’d like. Whether you avidly seek knowledge about your body, or you’re bumping up against walls in what has been, historically, a lopsided research culture where male health has been more highly prioritized, we’ve got a guest today who is determined to correct that inequity with scientific and experiential information, research and active destigmatization. Dr. Jen Gunter is an obstetrician gynecologist and a bestselling author (The Vagina Bible, The Menopause Manifesto) who has made it her goal in life to “fix the internet” regarding information about women’s bodies and correcting the misinformation that runs rampant there; long held myths that cause fear, stress and even shame around our female physiology. Dr. Gunter debunks common misconceptions around our periods, our hymens (fyi, it’s not a “freshness” seal), synthetic hormones, menopause symptoms and more. Bottom line: you deserve to know about your body, and this conversation opens the door to finding true and accurate information that will help dismiss the fears you may have around all the seasons of your female health experience.  

 

Exploring Our Senses as a Pathway to a More Peaceful Life ft. Gretchen Rubin

How often do you stop and think about how well your sense of smell is working? Or how well you’re hearing? When was the last time you really thought about your vision and how it’s impacting the way you interact with the world? We’re grateful today for a friend of the show who’s returning to remind us that when we tune into our body and senses, we can start to shape our sensory world to best fit who we are. And when we are comfortable in that world, peace is more easily attained. Gretchen Rubin has been studying happiness and human nature for over a decade. Her book The Happiness Project spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list, and she’s been featured in numerous media outlets, including The New York Times, Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday, and Good Morning America. Her latest book, Life in Five Senses, is a thought-provoking exploration of how we experience the world around us through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. 

 

This Year, Every Little Thing Counts: Jen’s 2023 Recap

Wrapping up another amazing and somewhat wild year here on the For the Love Podcast. For this special episode, Jen is flying solo to share her thoughts on what 2023 meant to her, what pinnacles were met, what didn’t go so well, and the many things add to the gratefulness list. From celebrating long time friendships and new friendships, to milestones with her kids, to being in a relationship as a “girlfriend,” to going through perimenopause and becoming gluten free, Jen recounts the blessings and the challenges 2023 brought to the table. And she gives us a peek into the process of writing for her brand new book that you won’t want to miss. For those of you who are struggling to find things to be grateful about over the last year, we’re here for you too. If you’re sludging through the remainder of the year, digging out of it a spoonful of dirt at a time, we’re here to remind you to keep going. Everything you’re doing, every teeny little moment holds within it grace or hope or strength or outright joy, and every single moment matters. And you, our listener, matter to us. On our gratitude lists, you are at the top–and we look forward to more good, hard, and worthwhile stories to share with you. Thank you for making this show a vibrant hub and a soft place to land for us all.