New York, NY – When humans experience psychological trauma, their brains take on copious amounts of stress – leading to serious, and often long-term, negative consequences. Modern medicine and therapy were meant to heal the unhealthy thoughts that invade our minds — but what happens when Western medicine isn’t enough? Therapists Gillian Ashdown and Julian Morales have been asking this question their whole lives and forged a new approach to healing.
The two first met at a kickboxing class Gillian was instructing in 2013. Both of them say they left the class feeling empowered but did not meet again until six years later in 2019. Gillian and Julian reunited in another fitness class but this time, connected over coffee afterwards. That’s when they shared their passions in the fight for basic human rights, particularly the oppressions of LGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities. From there, the Divine Chaos Movement (DCM) was founded.
“We brainstormed intensely for many months and finally came up with a process in which we could use our professional training careers to help us reach our goal of working towards community healing,” Gillian said. “We created a movement program which includes a physical workout, but also offers alternative healing modalities that people can do for free on their own or with our support. We believe healing is an intrinsic right and we are here to help facilitate.”
Personal experiences have also played a part in creating DCM. Gillian experienced emotionally abusive relationships in the past and says she had countless friends who experienced similar abuses. According to the American Psychological Association, 21-60% of people who experience domestic violence/intimate partner violence lose their job as a result of the abuse, rendering them feeling helpless to leave. Although Gillian went through years of therapy to heal from her traumatic past, she said there seemed to be no relief in sight. She was searching for something more.
We believe healing is an intrinsic right and we are here to help facilitate.”Therapist Gillian Ashdown
“While I believe conventional Western therapy can be very beneficial, it has some pretty serious limitations,” Gillian said. “I learned that martial arts was an incredible outlet for my rage against my abusers that gave me confidence, physical well-being, and a community of friends.”
Thus, the Divine Chaos Movement was founded to provide shelter and trauma recovery for those escaping violence and domestic abuse. Gillian and Julian created a program inspired by practices such as yoga, pilates, and martial arts to unearth body liberation and emotional healing.
According to Gillian, while shelters are a good resource of immediate relief for survivors and the first stages of healing happen, they are not a place for people to live their best lives. Through proceeds from their fitness programs, DCM hopes to create a shelter-farm for long-term stay, including accommodations for pets, a way of healing through alternative methods of therapy, cultivating their own food, and self-sustaining work skills. Gillian partnered with Pathway for Victims, a national domestic violence movement for men, women, and children.
I learned that martial arts was an incredible outlet for my rage against my abusers that gave me confidence, physical well-being, and a community of friends.”Gillian Ashdown, on self-empowerment
Currently, Gillian and Julian are located in Mexico where they offer their fitness classes and services. They are starting a Patreon account in the near future for anyone interested in subscribing to their workout programs, support services, one-on-one counseling, and much more. The Patreon will offer tiered subscriptions, and all proceeds will go towards building the shelter-farm. For now, their efforts are focused on raising money online on their GoFundMe, which will provide the funds to start the “Movement Program.” For clients affiliated with Pathway for Victims, all services will be free of charge.
Two locations are in the works — one farm and one secret shelter — through proceeds from their Patreon account and possible investments. “Women can reach out to me directly of course with the information provided if they are seeking support right now. It’s hard in times of COVID because we can do so little in person but I can provide resources and help them create plans of action to better their lives and the lives of their children,” says Gillian.