Ep#29 The Uncaged Path: How to Set Sacred Boundaries with Phuong-Thao Nguyen
In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome Phuong-Thao Nguyen, a trauma resolution guide, embodiment coach, and boundaries expert. Through The Uncaged Path, she works with women of color and first- and second-generation immigrant women who have been disconnected from themselves due to personal histories of trauma and systemic trauma. She helps these women reconnect back to their worthiness, bodies, and aliveness while reclaiming their nos, boundaries, and healthy aggression as a superpower through a mind-body approach so they can live an uncaged life.
Phuong-Thao speaks to us about her inspiring journey to reclaim her voice, having grown up in a traditional Vietnamese household and initially seeking success the way most of society told her to do so: by graduating from college, getting married, and a house before age 30. She explains how listening to her gut, even before her brain could catch up, led her to free herself from a marriage that stifled her growth and create an amazing community for other women of color to learn to set boundaries and trust in the wisdom of their body.
What did you get to celebrate about yourself today?
Phuong-Thao: I’m basking in pleasure and radiating inside-out. I feel so alive, even in the pandemic.
How would you describe your medicine?
Phuong-Thao: I support women in moving from this place of survival to thriving where they embody self-trust, acceptance, and compassion—where they’re most connected to themselves and they know the language of who they are, their needs, their desires, their preferences, and their bodies. They reclaim their voice and the aliveness and space for rest, joy, and pleasure. That’s where living life happens—where you know who you are and you’re so rooted in yourself.
What is your ancestral lineage and how has that influenced your medicine today?
Phuong-Thao: Growing up in the Vietnamese culture, I learned to dim myself, to silence my voice. I learned that I didn’t matter as much because Vietnamese culture is steeped in patriarchy. I had to discover my own worth because I gave my power away. As a child, I internalized the shame of feeling that I couldn’t live for myself. The Universe has a beautiful way of teaching me the same lessons until I woke the hell up. That’s what led me to walk The Uncaged Path and unleash the parts of me that I denied and repressed. This was actually only two years ago, when I was married and moved to France with the hope that my relationship would get better based on society’s standards. In reality, I was so unhappy and disconnected from myself because I was on a path that was created for me instead of by me. Moving to a new country only amplified what I was running away from, which was the truth that my body knew before my mind knew. One night, I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t have needs, that I didn’t matter. I found myself literally on my knees on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night, crying uncontrollably. I just couldn’t stop. Then, I caught my breath. I heard my gut tell me, “It’s time to move on. This marriage is over.” It took about nine months for my heart to align with my gut, when we finally filed for divorce. Finally, I could thrive and be my fullest self. All of this led to the work that I’m doing today.
How did you deal with other people’s opinions when you chose you?
Phuong-Thao: I set boundaries once that big decision was made. After the divorce was finalized, I was rooted and didn’t really care what other people said because I was so happy.
How can we discern whether our shame is righteous or toxic?
Phuong-Thao: The difference between healthy and toxic shame is that healthy shame focuses on someone’s actions while still being met with love and care, while toxic shame focuses on the individual as bad.
Why does toxic shame take place so often in communities of color?
Phuong-Thao: It’s the unresolved traumas. If we still hold onto our old stories or those experiences that we haven’t processed or moved through, they continue on in us. We need to surround ourselves with people who have done the work and can show us that there is another way where we can be in community and work through this conflict together.
What are some of the common themes you’ve been experiencing as you’ve created these uncaged boundaries for women of color?
Phuong-Thao: In this community, the common theme is the difficulty of saying “no” to the people who are closest to us—number one: the family. No matter a woman’s age, socioeconomic status, or ethnicity, they have the shared experience of growing up where saying “yes” was the polite thing to do and they were met with shame for saying “no”. So, the magic in this program is not just from flipping the script at the mind level and introducing different narratives, but also working with their bodies very slowly, and getting to know the small steps they need to take to get to where they want to go. Also, I work with women one-on-one, but one woman told me that it wasn’t until she was part of our group, hearing the stories of other women, that she was inspired to take action in the way someone else already was.
How have you learned to stay grounded in your work as a leader in this space?
Phuong-Thao: Grounding myself is part of my daily practice throughout the day. In-between sessions, I go outside to reset. I take a walk, even for just ten minutes before I hop onto my next session with a client. Reconnecting with Nature, with Mother Earth has been such a grounding experience for me because it helps remind me that I don’t need to hold it or carry it all; that I can let it all flow.
What is a ritual or a practice that you can invite people to embody in their own lives so that they can start reclaiming their sacred boundaries today?
Phuong-Thao: Ask yourself, “What is my capacity today? What can I actually do today?” That might be foreign at first, but once you tune into what your capacity is for the day and make informed decisions from that place, you begin to open portals—access to possibilities—that you can just walk into instead of forcing yourself through and draining yourself.
If you, as a future ancestor, could speak to yourself back in Paris when you were crying uncontrollably on the floor, completely lost, what would you say?
Phuong-Thao: Trust in the wisdom of your body. It’s okay if it doesn’t make sense in your mind; because your body knows before your mind does.
Conclusion: We don’t know what we don’t know, but if we’re given the opportunity to show up, and we listen to our gut in spite of our mind in the present moment, that’s when healing and transformation happens.
Action Integration: Remind yourself to take a break throughout the day, particularly when you’re working. Take a walk outside and reconnect with Mother Nature, letting it all go and embracing the weightlessness of flow.
Learn more about Phuong-Thao and her offerings:
Visit her website: www.theuncagedpath.com
Follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/theuncagedpath