In This Time of Uncertainty

In This Time of Uncertainty

I almost didn’t write this post. I mean, here we are in the middle of a pandemic, when you might expect a pervasive mood of doom and gloom. Instead, I see people thinking positive, reaching out to help each other. People establishing their own self-care routines, finding creative ways to be ok. Why not just savor the moment?

Apparently, I am not the kind of person to leave well enough alone. I prefer to turn over all the interesting rocks to see what’s under them.

In this case, it turns out that SAMHSA, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, has some expertise in Disaster Recovery. They’ve even created a template that might show us how this can be expected to go. I think the pandemic qualifies as a disaster, so this could be expected to follow the pattern. An incredibly long lasting disaster. Unprecedented, in fact. So we don’t really know how it’s going to play out. But the Phases of Disaster chart suggests a potential path.

Phases of Disaster

SAMHSA’s website explores each stage a bit, but they’re talking about disasters with a fairly limited duration – a hurricane, for example. Hurricane season might last for months, but the hurricane itself is a discreet event. Hurricane Katrina, for example, led to flooding that lasted much longer, but the floods were still short compared to Covid 19.

Pre-Disaster >> Impact >> Heroic >> Honeymoon >> Disillusionment >> Reconstruction.

SAMSHA describes the Heroic phase as “characterized by a high level of activity with a low level of productivity. During this phase, there is a sense of altruism, and many community members exhibit adrenaline-induced rescue behavior…” Right now, it seems like we all want to help. I’ve felt this myself. A fierce urge to DO SOMETHING that will make a difference. Whether it’s making masks, delivering food, or opening your hotel to healthcare professionals, like Ty Warner, owner of the Four Seasons hotel in NYC, has done, we want to make things better.

SAMHSA describes the Honeymoon phase as “…characterized by a dramatic shift in emotion. During the honeymoon phase, disaster assistance is readily available. Community bonding occurs. Optimism exists that everything will return to normal quickly….” . I see people creating community, inviting each other to virtual tea parties, teaching each other skills and offering free classes. People are thinking positive, hoping to build a better future in the space that has been razed by the virus. This Honeymoon phase is short lived. But we may be teaching ourselves how to hold space for each other. I have some hope that our new skills and understanding will help us get through the Disillusionment phase.

In the Disillusionment phase “…optimism turns to discouragement and stress continues to take a toll…” I can imagine this too easily. People will be sad and angry. Ok, despairing and furious. There will not be enough resources, and what there is won’t be fairly distributed. Racial disparities will be glaringly obvious to all but the most willfully obtuse. My imagination, fueled by fear, pictures a disturbingly dystopian future. This is why I paused – do we really need to think about this? Now?

But of course we do. There’s no need to imagine the worst, but If we don’t understand what’s happening, then we’re likely to misinterpret it. We might think that all our efforts at being helpful and building community have failed and the whole world is terrible. But if we know it’s a perfectly normal development in the process, we can keep working through it. Maybe we can prepare ourselves for the next phases.

Of course, I don’t really know. This is my first disaster. I was around for the tornado that went through Louisville, Ky in the late 70’s. But I didn’t experience personal losses or the need for recovery. I want to go find some people who have survived major disasters and ask them 100 questions.

I might do that, but this is a time for uncertainty. There is no template to tell us definitively how this will go, and no way of knowing exactly how each of us will experience it.

As a trauma expert and a coach, there are a few things I believe that I can rely on. Here are my top four.

  • Whatever you’re thinking or feeling right now is normal. Whatever you’re thinking and feeling about this over the next year or two is probably going to be normal too.
  • We’re going to have a lot of feelings we don’t like and will want them to go away. We will try to avoid the feelings in countless ways that aren’t actually helpful.
  • We will not want to face the damage and pain that Covid 19 is going to cause. We will minimize and deny, we’ll try to bargain it away. We will want it to already be over.
  • We will get through this We can get through this with less suffering if we can sit with the discomfort, if we can face this with a nonjudgmental curiosity, acknowledging all our feelings, and if we can be compassionate with ourselves and each other.
What Do We Need Now?

What Do We Need Now?

At the beginning of the pandemic, I worried that people would freak out. I thought we would all need new kinds of support and special self-care. But that’s not what I’m seeing. Turns out that the first principal of coaching really is true: “People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.” 

On social media, I see people doing amazing things to reach out to each other. They check in with each other and offer help when possible. People are sharing tips and resources and support in unprecedented ways. They’re creating on-line networks of support – like the “My Friends Do Awesome Things – Let’s Learn from Them” page. Membership rapidly grew to 2500 users who offer opportunities to learn everything from languages, ballet, and quilting to how to install a bidet. 

In my coaching practice, people continue to work toward their goals. Ok, the circumstances around them are different. They may have to accommodate trying to work from home, home-schooling kids, self-isolation, or risking their well-being to provide essential services. But they continue to move steadfastly toward their goals. 

I don’t mean things are smooth or necessarily pleasant. These are challenging times, (isn’t that a nice understatement) and I imagine most of us are riding an emotional roller coaster at times. Last night, I had a moment of sadness/rage that came with an urge to knock over furniture and yell “Fuck” loudly. I do not usually feel that way. But, just like waves in the ocean, the feeling rose up and passed. 

I’m not saying that we aren’t having a hard time. Good grief, of course we are. And I’m not saying that we’re all coping beautifully all the time. Some of us are still in denial. Some of us feel overwhelmed with grief. But in these times, it is OK to not be OK. We can re-define what “I’m OK” means.

One thing that’s been helpful for me is carving out the time and (mental) space to breathe and center myself. Of course, that’s not new, I always need that time and space. Sometimes, in that space, I think I can faintly discern some of the pathway in front of me. 

What has been most helpful for you? What do you need right now?

Welcome to Fausta’s Place to Ponder

Welcome to Fausta’s Place to Ponder


 This video post is an introduction to the work I’m doing with Compassionate Professionals and the concept behind the work at Fausta’s Place to Ponder.  

Schedule a free 30 minute consultation.


Hi!  Welcome to Fausta’s Place to Ponder.  I’m Fausta Luchini, a holistic life coach, and I work with therapists, healers, first responders – any compassionate professionals.   I work with people wha are trying to make the world a better place.  Sometimes, that’s overwhelming.

Maybe you’ve heard the Mr Rodgers quote: 

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,

“Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.” 

But what if you are the helper?

If people come to you because they are in pain, emotional or physical pain, or trying to overcome barriers in their life,  it affects you.  Whether you’re a nurse in the ER,  a social worker for children who’ve been abused, a surgeon, or an immigration attorney, when you’re bombarded with problems, surrounded by people needing attention- it can be overwhelming.   It’s easy to lose your balance, to feel like you can’t keep up.  We hardly ever have all the resources our clients need.

Because you’re the professional, you hold it together at work, but what happens when you leave work?  Are you doing paperwork and worrying at home on the week-ends?  Do you wake up at 3 a.m. thinking about the client who’s about to get evicted, the child who’s not going home to her mom, or the patient that was not doing so well?   Having trouble staying focused?  Maybe you’re feeling more pessimistic – like you’re just waiting for  the next bad thing to happen?   You can  start to wonder if you’re even making a difference.

But you don’t want to give up – you love your job.  You care about your patients, your clients. You don’t want to leave  – you just want to do the work you love without feeling like you’re drowning in other people’s pain.  Without losing your self.

That’s where I come in.   At Fausta’s Place to Ponder, I help you take a step back, reconnect with yourself, and figure out what needs to happen for you so you can keep making the world a better place.  Feeling overwhelmed doesn’t mean you can’t do it, it doesn’t mean you’re doing a bad job, it just means you’re being called to re-connect with yourself and your own wisdom, to explore other resources, and to let your new energy and wisdom shine, at work and in your life.

I want to be clear – I’m not talking about helping you work harder, or more efficiently. It’s not about being more productive or accomplishing more.  It’s about supporting you to bring your unique gifts to the work you do, to your clients and patients.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, feeling numb, or struggling to give your clients the quality of care you want them to have, message me.  Let’s talk about how we can work together so you have a life that lets you shine.

Your Own Place to Ponder

Your Own Place to Ponder

When stress is unrelenting, you can’t think.

You probably know what stress feels like. Your breathing gets shallow.  Your heart rate speeds up. You may feel hot. These are some of the signs that your body is ready to respond to danger. It’s the classic fight/flight/freeze response and it’s a basic biological fact. 

We don’t often talk about the next part of this. When your body is poised to deal with danger, your frontal cortex – the part of your brain that thinks things through, that uses logic to weigh the pros and cons and make decisions – that part pretty much shuts down. And that makes sense. Of course it does – it doesn’t want to distract you from reacting to the danger.

When you say, “I was in such a panic, I couldn’t think straight,” that is literally true. When you’re sensing danger, it’s not the time to get philosophical, and your brain knows it.  

Calming Your Brain

Fortunately, there’s a very simple way to change that. By focusing on your breathing, you can re-engage the frontal cortex so you can think clearly again.  It doesn’t have to be deep breaths, although they can help, but just noticing your breath, as you breathe in and breathe out, can make a big difference. You can add a smile – or even just a half-smile. Both of those steps let your brain know that you’re safe, you’re not going to die right now, and it’s ok to start thinking again.

When the stress you’re experiencing comes in waves, when it is unrelenting, you may find yourself feeling constantly tense and on high alert. That can cause a new level of problems, from high blood pressure to burn-out.  You need a lot more than a few breaths. You need time and space to look at your thoughts and feelings, to be able to share them, to challenge them, and to reconnect with your most resourceful self. In fact, you need a place to ponder.

Ponder –  to spend time thinking carefully and seriously about a problem, a difficult question, or something that has happened; to contemplate

Defining Your Place to Ponder

When your work involves trauma, finding your very own place to ponder is essential. Maybe there’s an actual place where you feel relaxed. Maybe you need to be around a particular person, or people. Maybe you just need the time to breathe for a little while. What you need may not be exactly the same as anyone else, but it’s important to find that time and space. When your work involves trauma, it’s essential.

Using R.E.A.L., with me as your coach, we begin there. The Discovery process guides you to really look at who you are and where you stand right now. In Reconnect, we help you bring your life into alignment with your inner self. Next, we Explore the range of tools available to use to maintain your balance and alignment. We determine if you need to Add skills to your toolbox.  Finally, we help you bring your new-found sense of who you are to Let your life shine.

Second Hand Trauma

Second Hand Trauma

I first became aware of the impact of secondhand trauma back in the mid-90s. I was working as a therapist in a Community Mental Health Center and a lot of my clients were survivors of sexual abuse. So I was already learning about the effects of trauma when there was a dramatic increase in the crime rate. Suddenly, people in the neighborhood were getting shot – and killed.

I began to see first-hand how one person’s death impacted their family and the people around them – their church family, the people they went to school with or worked with, everyone who knew them. Each shooting was a trauma that rippled out and affected the whole community. The ripples touched the staff at our center too – often, when someone got killed, we knew them. Sometimes they were our client, or maybe we knew their mama or their brother and sister or even the person who sat next to them back in third grade. We were connected to them.

One of my former clients was killed, a woman I’d worked with for a long time. After that, I started getting the newspaper at home – first thing in the morning, I’d check the neighborhood section and the obits to see if anyone I knew had been killed.

Stories from those days stuck with me. I remember a teenager in one my groups – we were talking about feeling safe, and she said, “Well, I feel safe in my neighborhood, I mean, you hear gunshots at night, but that’s everywhere.” And I thought, no. No, I don’t hear gunshots in my neighborhood at night, and I felt this deep sadness and a tinge of guilt. I remember a little boy, maybe eight years old, telling me, “Oh, no, my mama won’t let me play outside – it’s not safe.” And I thought about how it would feel to not be able to let your child play in the yard.

But I didn’t even realize it was affecting me til I was at the park one day. It was a beautiful day, and I was walking on a path near a creek and there were some other people around, but not too many. There were these three teenagers – two boys and a girl, and they had a big goofy looking dog with them. Just ordinary looking white kids in jeans, hanging out. And I was suddenly overwhelmed with the feeling that something bad was going to happen. I didn’t know if it was going to happen to them, or if they were going to do something terrible – was that girl going to be ok? Did she really know those guys? Or maybe it was the dog – maybe they were going to do something to the dog? My heart was pounding, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and I wanted to go warn the kids to go home where it was safe – and I held it together just enough to know that was crazy and to NOT go say something to them.

I left instead. Went and sat in my car til I could breathe again, and drove straight home. But that was when I knew that the things that were happening to people at work – people I cared about – were touching me on some deep level. It took that panic attack to make me realize that other people’s trauma was becoming my trauma too.

That was the beginning of my own journey – my own efforts to figure out how to manage my feelings – how to hold my own space – so I could be there for the people who were actually going through the trauma. I’ve wandered down all kinds of roads, taken wrong turns, lost my maps, and started over. I’ve collected tool kits and self-care techniques, used mindfulness strategies and listened to TED talks. That’s not to say that I’ve got all the answers, but I know the questions really well. Kind of like in The Wizard of Oz, I’ve met amazing people along the way, and sometimes I’ve been scared and felt overwhelmed. But these days, I usually remember that my ruby slippers will always take me home.

So I know what it’s like to be a compassionate professional and in the middle of it – when it feels like there’s trauma all around you and you can’t think straight. You can feel like you’re losing your self. And you wonder if you can even keep doing the work you love. That’s when I can help. I can help you take a step back and find space to breathe. Help you reconnect with yourself and figure out what you need to be ok, how to keep your own balance and find your own strength. You’ll learn how to manage your own feelings and hold the space you need for yourself. You’ll be able to bring your gifts and talents to the people who need you, able to have a life that lets you shine.

A Life that Lets You Shine

A Life that Lets You Shine


At the core of the work I do here are my beliefs about people.  Our beliefs – or our rules – about how the world works are how we make sense of our lives, right?  If I believe that people are innately trustworthy and kind, my life will probably look different than if I believe that people are inherently untrustworthy and mean.

Of course, neither of those extremes are accurate – people are not all one way or another.  So most of us develop some more nuanced beliefs that try to explain how people are.  Which brings me back to what I believe, and why I talk about having a life that lets us shine.

I believe that we all have a deep, unshakeable part of ourselves that is quintessentially who we are.  We talk about a “true self.”  We can call it “wise mind,” the combination of rational and emotional aspects of ourselves, plus intuition and instinct and a bit of something else.  It is the part of us that really knows what we need or what the right thing to do is (for ourselves.)   It is the part of us that is most truly who we are.

When we’re babies, that part of us is unclouded.  We shine.  When we’re unhappy, every one knows it, and when we feel better, our smile lights up the room.  There’s no hiding what we’re feeling, and nothing between our inner self and the outer expression of it.

That can’t last, of course.  We have to learn to moderate our expression of feelings, resist our impulses and act in ways that will effectively get our needs met.   That’s a long, hard process and none of us master it completely.

As we learn those skills, we learn what parts of ourselves aren’t acceptable.  We learn what parts of ourselves need to be blocked or shut down.  And the more of our Self that we start to consider unacceptable, the more we shut down, the less our inner light can shine.

And this process doesn’t stop when we’re grown.  Every relationship we have, every job, everything we read or watch on the Internet is teaching us what parts of ourselves are deemed acceptable and which ones need to be hidden.  Over time, we can even hide those parts from ourselves.

Think about the complex relationship we have with food and weight and our bodies.   The standards that leave many men believing that anger is the only “manly” emotion.  Or women who are taught they’re “too much” – too loud, too big, too demanding.

All of those things can block our light and keep us from shining.

When you work with people who experience trauma, there are lots of opportunities to shine, and there are lots of reasons to shut down.  When you feel like you’re losing your self, sinking in other people’s suffering, you aren’t able to let your light shine.  You need some solid ground to stand on for yourself.

Does that make sense?

I remember a time, many years ago, which I was just beginning to recognize how my clients’ trauma was impacting me.  I was at the park on a beautiful, sunshine-y day,  smiling at other people – couples holding hands, a woman with a baby stroller, small children feeding the ducks.  As I walked deeper into the park, I saw three teenagers with a dog.   And I felt an overwhelming anxiety.

For absolutely no reason, I had a sense that something terrible was going to happen to them.  Or maybe they were going to do something terrible.  I didn’t know what, maybe something was going to happen to the dog.  I had an urge to go yell at them to go home, quickly!

Fortunately, I knew that wasn’t really the thing to do, but I felt so anxious and helpless.  All my pleasure in my walk drained away and I ended up leaving quickly.

Once I was able to calm myself, I could see that my experiences at work were changing how I saw the world.  I realized that I needed to do something to manage what I was thinking and feeling if I wanted to enjoy my own life.  That started me on a fascinating journey that has taken me in all kinds of different directions – but that’s a story for a different day.

One thing I’ve learned is the importance of figuring out what keeps us from being able to show up in the world as our own beautiful, shining selves.

The picture at the top of the page is a painting by my dear friend, Jeanne Tessier, who was a Ky artist.  For me, the picture has always represented what it might look like if we were able to unblock our light, take down the barriers to letting our light shine.  I invite you to join me in figuring out what that would look like for you.


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