Emilie Frenette-Caron

Conversations on Trauma and Awakening: Emilie Frenette-Caron

Interviewed by Gabriella Evans
“I think if we can turn to ourselves and give ourselves love and the permission to be ourselves, we will experience greater freedom.”

A dancer at heart, Emilie Frenette-Caron is a multifaceted human. In her role as a yoga teacher, she offers sequences that are creative and organic, yet rooted in alignment. Via the tools of yoga and meditation, she aspires to connect with others and guide them in bettering their physical and mental strength as well as cultivating a greater sense of presence and community connection. With her background in fashion design and her years of observing life in movement, she has created Lavish Lands – a clothing brand that fulfills both the criteria of comfort and style and aim's to support the wearer with movement and confidence.

Who are you, in three words? 

Condensing information is not my forte. I think I would say: a woman, multicultural or mixed in my genes (the exact word I am looking for is escaping me right now) and curious. 

How would those who are close to you describe you? 

Probably as generous, distracted and funny.

What are your current resources? When you think about feeling safe in your body, what helps you with that? 

Lots of different somatic practices support me with safety and grounded-ness. I practice yoga, I dance and I strive to meditate morning and night – though that doesn’t always happen. When I don’t meditate or when I do less yoga than I’d like to, I find that I feel a lot more scattered throughout the day. I also practice gratitude. I think over time these practices have shifted my mindset and cultivated greater presence. 

How else have these practices impacted your life? 

They have simply become habits now, but reflecting back I can see how these things have expanded my resilience. I used to have to really force the gratitude practice for example. Now I find that even when I’ve had a bad day I can still easily find lots to be grateful for. I can find silver-linings more quickly.

How would you define trauma? 

I thought the definition was clear in my mind until you asked me this question. I know that it is related to pain and it is related to things that happened in the past – but then there is also inter-generational trauma that can impact us. I guess it is a reaction to something in the past that was deeply impactful. The word encompasses a lot and is also subjective. I see trauma as being pervasive in our world. I think we all face trauma at some point or another, and we have had a hard time in our society accepting that reality. We have been taught not to feel sorry for ourselves, so I think a lot of trauma doesn’t have a chance to be released. If we don’t listen to our emotions, they stay inside of us and impact our bodies. With PTSD these reactions can be very intense and obvious, but there are subtler forms of it also that might be going on unconsciously and causing our systems harm. 

I am really interested in exploring the mind-body connection that you’re hinting at. 

I am reading The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk right now. I have come to be aware of how the aftermath of traumatic things can absolutely be held in our bodies. Trauma can definitely affect how we hold ourselves and how we move through the world. Like mind, like body.

You also brought up the inter-generational piece of trauma. What comes up when you reflect on that?

In just the last few years I have come to learn about how trauma can be passed down through the generations. I’ve worked with some of my own negative thought patterns related to my looks. I have thankfully debunked most of the negative thoughts and learned that they may largely be connected to the racism and history of racism in our society. I grew up without representation. In the village where I lived there was one Asian family, two Haitians kids and then there was me. It was otherwise completely white. I am adopted and both of my parents are white, so I have often had the feeling of not belonging. I am still struggling with trying to figure out how much of the shyness or the difference that I feel is a personality trait, how much of it is because I grew up with no references for what I looked like, and how much of it is related to the Black history of slavery and mistreatment. I think about how our history interjects with my life and I wonder if a big part of feeling like I don’t belong – and of being hard on myself or feeling like I need to prove myself – is related to this history. My parents are incredibly kind and I was raised in a pretty balanced way with a lot of love. In digging deeper, I really think the intergenerational piece of trauma has impacted me when it comes to not feeling worthy and feeling like I’ve had to fight to be part of the group.  

Where are you at in your journey at this point in time as far as the acceptance-of-self piece and your sense of belonging, given this disturbing history and what was passed down through the generations? 

I find is comes in waves. There are times when I have felt like I belonged more and times when I have felt like I belonged less. Being as shy as I was growing up, and having experienced some rejection, I look back in surprise sometimes that I was even able to keep some good, supportive friends from my childhood. I am not someone with a lot of “fight;” I tend to be more the type that avoids conflict. So looking back I can see that I often adjusted my energy to the wavelengths of others, sometimes so much so that I lost myself. I think this tendency to people-please is definitely related to wanting to belong and feeling lost. I see that I still have that tendency, but now – within the group of people who I love and who love me – I feel like I do have a sense of belonging, which is an incredibly grounding factor in my life. Within myself, it is a long journey I think. The patterns of negativity are embedded deeply. I have a sense of urgency to find meaning, to find my place and to figure out what I can give to the world. 

How else has trauma contributed to your personal suffering? 

I have realized that I hold a fear of rejection, which feeds off of the not-belonging piece. As we talk about this though, there is another voice that comes up that says, “who am I to even feel this way?” Part of me feels that it is silly to even feel this trauma. So there is a layer of shame on top of all of it. I really don’t like to be pitied and I have a strong sense of independence. I tend to want to do everything myself, so it’s hard to name these things. Within me, for example, I am coming to terms with accepting myself as a cute woman who does have value. My self-image and body-image have shifted tremendously over time. I know I have a body that is strong, but there is still an ongoing struggle inside when it comes to self-love. During the times I feel unstable or lacking in confidence when it comes to self-talk, I thankfully have gained the skills to be able to come back to some sense of balance.

What helps you come back to balance? 

I think through time with my process of self-discovery I have simply learned to be more present. The breath and awareness of my breath have allowed for greater acceptance in the moments I need it most. Being able to remind myself that everything is temporary helps too.

How has trauma served your evolution or awakening?

I have ADD and can become really distracted. Having missed a lot of appointments and often misplaced or lost things in the past (which still happens sometimes and can still be annoying), I have come to accept on a certain level that these things just happen. I have also been able to create systems that help me in these moments, and I’ve learned not to panic. I can stay calm longer than others might in these same situations. 

Tying this thread back to my childhood, because I was a really shy kid and would often sit alone and watch others, I think my powers of observation became heightened. I learned how to tune into other peoples’ energy and adapt to what was needed in different situations. I can use this to my advantage now, but being sensitive to others and being so adaptable has also worked against me. There are times when I have found myself, especially in the contexts of racism or sexism, trying to make other people comfortable. 

I remember this time in Australia when I was renting a room from a really kind woman. I was feeling like I hadn’t done enough around the house so I cleaned her home one day. When she came home and saw this she was incredibly surprised and grateful and told me I shouldn’t have. Her dad happened to be with her that day too though and he said something like, “I bet you are used to this kind of work. You look like someone who knows how to clean and who is meant for hard work.” I was so shell-shocked that I couldn’t process his comment and just ended up laughing. His daughter was thankfully reactive to him and told him what he said was not appropriate, but I found myself lost for words, wanting to brush it off just to make him comfortable. 

Knowing the patterns of how the body can go into a fear response and knowing that I am more vulnerable in our society, I find I now have a little more space to breathe in those situations. I am coming to know my worth.

I am wondering how the creative mediums you mentioned – dance, yoga, writing – are related to trauma, if they are? 

I have always been a creative person; it’s a quality that is tied to my curiosity. I also think this creative energy has always been a resource for me. In the times when I have felt pain, I have often express it creatively, whether through art, writing or movement. I find I can be the most honest when I am in my creativity. With my yoga practice for example, especially because I have been consistent with it, there is a lot of truth that comes through. This happens most often when I am alone. It can be harder to access this if I’m in a class or a group with the external validation layer there. With drawing and writing I have felt a lot of freedom to release things also. 

What would you like to offer to those who are stuck in suffering? 

First, a hug and an offering of, “it’s going to be okay.” If I had a magic wand I would want to allow those who are suffering to believe in themselves more and be a little more connected with the quality of patience. I am often impatient myself, and when I am struggling, that is what I need most. Patience and the trust that it is going to be okay. I really like to help people through yoga, so that would be part of my offering also. 

Is there any thread of this conversation that feels unfinished or open that you would like to circle back around to?

I think it all comes down to self-care. By caring for ourselves, we are doing what is needed to create healing. It is something I try to live by, and it is also really hard. That’s the thing! We have to accept that it is all a process and embrace the journey instead of fixating on the destination. I think if we can turn to ourselves and give ourselves love and the permission to be ourselves, we will experience greater freedom.