What's the F***ing Point episode 03: Laura Long on Radical Authenticity & Not Being an Asshole

LauraLong-WTFP

If you enjoy that feeling of vacillating between laughing out loud (LOLing? maybe even LOLLERSKATING?** Maybe?) and sinking into profound thoughts like 20 times within a single hour, episode 3 with Laura Long is for you. 

Laura is a therapist for women and couples in the Greenville, SC area, and chief badass (my words, not hers) at Your Badass Therapy Practice, where she helps other therapists shine their lights even brighter. 

On the episode, Laura and I talk about:

  • how she developed a sense of radical authenticity
  • the lens through which she interprets her faith / spirituality
  • why things like tarot and astrology kiiind of frighten her
  • the 'x factor' of what makes feeling tiny/insignificant a positive experience rather than a nihilistic, depressing one
  • her fascination with relationships
  • ...and how we're all still figuring this shit out as we go along
  • why we're both obsessed with the movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"
  • how she cultivated the culture and space to step back and watch her tribe thrive 

To listen to today's episode, you can stream or download from the embedded player below, or find and subscribe in your fave podcast listening app. (And just a note, Apple is being slow AF with getting my new podcast art updated in iTunes, so if you're finding the pod that way, you'll still see art for WholeYou, a former mini podcast venture I did.)

Thanks for listening, and if you dig, please share it with a friend and review the podcast on iTunes

About Laura Long (LMFT-S)

Laura Long is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist based near Greenville, South Carolina. She specialize in helping couples work through communication issues, sex and intimacy concerns, and those who are dealing with the aftermath of an affair. As the creator of Your Badass Therapy Practice, Laura helps therapists in private practice organize their business systems, streamline their marketing strategies, and fill their practices with the kind of clients they love working with. Laura is best known for her straight-up, no holds barred approach that often includes humor and…colorful language. You can connect with her through her mailing list (sign up at yourbadasstherapypractice.com), where she distills the secrets of successful entrepreneurs in a way that makes practice-building fun.

Mentioned on Today's Show:

**I CAN'T HELP MYSELF OKAY

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Valerie Martin

Valerie Martin, LMSW, is a Primary Therapist at The Ranch residential treatment center, where she works with eating disorders, addiction, trauma, and co-occurring mental health issues. Valerie focuses on a holistic treatment approach of mind + body integration, using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT), somatic and bioenergetic therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), psychodrama, 12-step, and shame resilience. She is also a Certified Sexual Addiction Therapist (CSAT) Candidate. Valerie received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communications and Master of Science degree in Clinical Social Work at the University of Texas in Austin. She is an active member of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, and emphasizes spiritual exploration in her work with clients.

the lasting impact of childhood emotional neglect

the lasting impact of childhood emotional neglect

At this point, hopefully most of us are on the same page that physical or sexual abuse of a child is wrong (read: as morally repugnant as it gets) and incredibly harmful to them long-term. If you're not yet familiar with the term "Adverse Childhood Experiences" (ACEs) or the landmark ACEs study done by CDC and Kaiser, taking a few minutes to explore these will help you understand the link between early childhood trauma and the majority of our societal and public health issues — like substance abuse, depression, and the cycles of poverty and violent crime, to name just a few.

While some people who enter into therapy know they have endured traumatic experiences (and might also know that these experiences are at the root of the other things they struggle with, like anxiety, an eating disorder, or relationship issues), many others have minimized their childhood experiences to an extent that they are not "connecting the dots" with how they are still being impacted by the things that happened (or should have happened and didn't) in their early years of life. 

The Risk of Overlooking Covert Trauma

Emotional abuse tends to be a particularly slippery issue. For instance, if someone is physically or sexually abused during childhood and doesn't know at the time that this was wrong and not "normal," often they learn this fairly early in adulthood. (Though due to the internalized shame of abuse, sometimes it takes increasing pain from dysfunctional coping behaviors before a person is ready to enter therapy for help.) Hopefully with this recognition, and the support of a skilled trauma therapist, the wounds they need to heal are fairly evident, and the path for healing, though not easy, is clear.

With emotional abuse and neglect, however, the experience is often more covert, and thus harder to identify as the root cause of whatever present-day issues someone is struggling with. Sure, some types of emotional abuse are more overt; but again, hopefully in these cases the person is aware that what was happening was not okay, and then has the opportunity to heal. But many times, the impact of more subtle forms of emotional abuse or neglect are like a rust that erodes a person's sense of self (healthy ego development) over time, until she takes on a world view that she is inadequate, does not matter, cannot trust others, will not be loved if others find out who she really is, and basically, better be able to figure things out on her own. She may not make the connection that the impact of a highly critical grandfather and workaholic mother is still impacting her beliefs about herself 25 years later. (And if no one ever helps her to make that connection and do the healing work, she will likely struggle with feeling like no amount of affirmations, anti-depressants, and cognitive behavioral therapy ever seems to help, so she must be right about herself that she's just fundamentally flawed.) 

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WholeYou Podcast #9: Fourth Chakra (Anahata)

WholeYou Podcast #9: Fourth Chakra (Anahata)

Want to deepen your relationships with others and with yourself? Check out Episode 9 of the WholeYou podcast!

You can listen to the show (stream or download) on the embedded SoundCloud box on this post, or find it on iTunes of your favorite podcast app. Thanks for listening! 

Fourth Chakra At a Glance:

  • Sanskrit Name: Anahata
  • Location: Heart area
  • Element: Air
  • Color: Green (also sometimes pink)
  • Issues: Love and self-love, relationships, intimacy
  • Goals: Balance, compassion, self-acceptance, connection
  • Basic Rights: To love and be loved

What we Discuss in Episode #9:

  • How to know if your fourth chakra is out of balance
  • Signs of a deficient and excessive fourth chakra
  • Love, self-love, relationships, and boundaries
  • Yoga poses, meditations, and pranayama to balance your heart chakra
  • Fourth chakra affirmations

Lauren and I are really appreciate you taking the time to listen and share your comments. If you like the show, subscribe on iTunes or your favorite podcast app, and please take 1 minute to leave us a review on iTunes  — it helps us to reach more people, and we'd be so grateful! 

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jonathan fields' 3 buckets to a good life: contribution, connection, & vitality {life balance 2.0}

jonathan-fields-3-buckets

In case you haven't figured it out already, I am a dork, and one of the ways my dork-ness manifests is my love for different frameworks of prioritizing values and living with mindfulness and intention.

One of the best I've learned in recent months is Jonathan Fields' "3 buckets" philosophy.

If you're not already familiar with Jonathan, he is the founder of Good Life Project, which he defines as "a movement. A set of shared values. A creed, and a community bundled with a voracious commitment to move beyond words and act." GLP consists of an annual live immersion event (Camp GLP), trainings, a web-based TV show, a podcast, and more.

One year I hope to attend Camp GLP, and in the meantime I love listening to the podcast, GLP Radio, where Jonathan hosts in-depth conversations with inspirational guests from all walks of life. I've also heard him interviewed on numerous other podcasts, including Jess Lively's (the queen of intention herself!) The Lively Show, where I first heard about the 3 buckets framework.

Basically, the idea is this:

In life, we all have 3 buckets. And they're not what you might think. (My first thought would be "mind, body, and spirit" of course! Not so, though these certainly fall within his framework.)

The 3 buckets are Vitality, Contribution, and Connection. And Jonathan proposes that, basically, we're only as good as our lowest bucket (cue British lady accent, "you ARE... the weakest link!"). So if you're pouring so much time, energy, and effort into a single area, there's a good chance the one or two of your other buckets are getting low — and until you get them back in shape, all your effort in the first area will have limited results.

Let's look at each of the 3 buckets:

1. Vitality

This is where most of the physical self-care fits, though would also include good mental health. The number one factor here, according to Jonathan, is getting good SLEEP. And then, certainly, quality nutrition, exercise, meditation, coping skills for stress, etc.

The right mix of activities and priorities will look a little different for each person, as is the case for the other two buckets.

2. Connection

As Bréne Brown famously says, humans are hard-wired for connection, love, and belonging. Some studies (like the classic Harlow monkeys) have even demonstrated that this sense of belonging is even more important in some ways than physiological needs.

If you feel a lack of connection with self, family, friends, or community, your Connection bucket is low, which can lead to feeling depressed, detached, and isolated. Jonathan also includes connection to nature and "source" (or however you refer to a sense of spirituality or "God") as important components of this bucket for many people.

Make sure not to underestimate the importance of that first component: connection with self. Without that, it's hard to be genuinely connected to others in a way that is authentic and invigorating rather than codependent and draining.

3. Contribution

This bucket is about the many ways in which we contribute to the world — through vocation, calling, purpose, creative ventures, volunteer work, and so on. The important thing to recognize with this bucket is that it can look very different from person to person, but without something filling it, feelings of emptiness and disconnection begin to loom and create a general sense of "blah" (in clinical terms). ;)

Depending on what your paying job is, some people feel a strong sense of contribution through their work. Others may choose a job that may not feel as "fulfilling" but get fulfillment in areas outside their work through contribution with family, friends, and organizations.

Overworking can certainly happen in any field, but people in helping professions often justify this because they view it as "noble" work (hello, martyr syndrome!) But just remember,  if you're pouring 110% into this part of your life, overworking to the point of sacrificing your Vitality or Connection buckets will prevent you from doing your best and most effective work.

What do you think of the idea of the 3 buckets? Where do you notice yourself pouring too much and too little? 

PS - I mention a couple of great podcasts in this post, and in my most recent email I sent out, I listed my 10 favorite current podcasts to listen to for personal and spiritual growth. If you weren't on my list to get it, sign up then shoot me an email at valerie at wakingupinwonder dot com and I'll get the list and descriptions right over to you! You'll also get 2 instant gifts when you sign up.

what pixar's 'inside out' teaches us about emotions, life, and relationships

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insideout

***Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen Inside Out and you don’t like spoilers, stop reading this! Also, drop whatever you’re doing right now and get yourself to a movie theater, STAT.***

This weekend after I saw Disney Pixar’s new film Inside Out, I was beaming. I was overjoyed about both the experience of the movie itself, and also thinking about how it serves as an entertaining mini emotional literacy course for people of all ages, in a culture desperately in need of that. If you’ve seen the movie, then on some level you’ve already been pondering the lessons below — but they are so important that I wanted to write a post to highlight some of the most important takeaways from my perspective as a therapist. I’m also including a little commentary about each one that can help you integrate the lessons from Inside Out into your day-to-day life and relationships. Who knew Pixar would be getting into the personal growth field?!

So-called “negative” emotions aren’t necessarily negative — and they each have an important role.

My clients all know that one of my pet peeves is when people refer to emotions like sadness, fear, guilt, and anger as “negative emotions.” If we’re labeling them as “negative,” then no wonder we want to do whatever it takes to get rid of or avoid them! But guess what happens when you try to avoid feeling, for instance, fear? You won’t do things that fall outside your comfort zone, you won’t take risks, and you end up keeping your life pretty small.

 
In fact, the things that we often do to try to avoid feeling difficult emotions often actually end up hurting us even more in the long run, creating a layer of suffering on top of the original pain. When I ask my new therapy clients about how they’ve dealt with grief and the losses in their life, the most common answer is “I haven’t” or “with my drinking/drugs/eating disorder.” Sadness, as Inside Out so beautifully illustrates, has very important purposes.
 

And of course, we can’t selectively numb. When you try to avoid or short-circuit emotions that uncomfortable, you end up muting the pleasant ones, too, and become a washed-out version of yourself. In the movie, all of Riley’s emotions wanted what was best for her, even the ones that we may have once labeled as "negative"! They each played an important role within her psyche and needed the balance of one another to be able to help Riley make the most effective choices for her overall wellbeing (yin and yang, people, yin and yang).

 
So give it a try: The next time you experience an emotion you might normally label as “negative,” see what it would be like instead to take an approach like, “I notice I’m feeling ______ and it feels like ____ in my body. I am capable of riding the wave of this feeling, and I might need to do ______ to take care of myself so I don’t get too overwhelmed by this.”

 

That said, we need to balance challenging experiences and feelings with uplifting ones, too.

When Joy got sucked up the tube out of headquarters, things got ugly for Riley. (It wasn’t until later that Joy realized it wasn’t just her that Riley needed back in order to be okay — she needed Sadness, too.) Without Joy, Riley felt no motivation or connection to others, and her other emotions could not effectively help her as they’d been able to when she had access to the full spectrum of feelings.

When I say “balance” above, I don’t mean that there is some state of “perfect emotional balance” that you need to achieve, because the fact is that life is unpredictable, and there’s no such thing as perfect or one-size-fits-all.

Frankly, the Positive Psychology movement (positive thinking! affirmations! Law of Attraction!) makes me a little nauseated. Oh, I would love for my clients to just be able to affirm their way to healing from sexual abuse or an eating disorder! But it’s almost insulting to think that if they “just thought more positively,” they wouldn’t feel the way they do. Real mental illness or trauma requires real healing.

I love how neuropsychologist Rick Hanson described his philosophy on this in a recent interview on The One You Feed Podcast:

I don’t believe in positive thinking. I believe in realistic thinking. I want to see the whole mosaic of reality. In Buddhism, the fundamental deep root of evil is ignorance or delusion… so the framework for is to recognize what’s actually true. And as part of that recognition, it’s true that we have a brain that is negatively biased, especially in terms of how we learn from our experiences. And it’s also true that, in terms of the mosaic of reality, there’s a lot of crap out there. Every life has difficult, hard, painful things, and many lives are saturated in hard and painful things — so it’s precisely out of that very clear-eyed, noble take on both the negativity bias in the brain, and the reality of the challenges we’ll all face in this life, that makes it so important to acknowledge the good facts as well as the bad facts… our brain is biased as a kind of well-intended universal learning disability to overlook the good facts, generally speaking, while we continually scan for the bad ones.

Dr. Hanson has a process he calls “Taking in the Good” in which you focus on allowing positive experiences (even as simple as a beautiful sunset) to really “sink in” and get installed in the brain a handful of times everyday, ultimately strengthening the brain's ability to hold onto not just the difficult stuff, but the pleasant stuff, too.

Our personality and responses are shaped by our experiences.

In Riley’s mind, each of her core memories connected to an “island of personality” associated with that memory, ultimately resulting in “what makes Riley Riley.” As an EMDR-trained therapist, I could totally geek out on this one… but suffice to say, this is a pretty scientifically accurate explanation. Our experiences truly do shape us: they shape our mind, which shapes our choices, which shape our relationships and our future experiences, and so on. Riley had a safe, stable family without any significant adverse experiences in her early years, so her core memories were positive and she was a fun-loving, resilient, well-adjusted kid.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a pain-free life, so even sans the San Francisco move, Riley would have had her comeuppance soon enough (after all, puberty is just around the corner). But just think if there had been a different scenario: if Riley’s home life were unpredictable and lonely, an angry alcoholic father, watching her parents fight and have difficulty making ends meet, attending a sub-par school with poor resources and burnt-out teachers, not having nearby safe green spaces to play in.

What kind of core memories do you think would have been “installed” then? Many sad or fearful memories, with fewer joyful ones (because without feeling safe, it’s hard to feel joyful). And these core experiences would have shaped the neural networks in her brain, and thus her personality, in a much different way.

Kids are powerless over their situation and totally dependent on the adults in their lives to meet their physical and emotional needs. And it’s far from a “fair” playing field out there. As adults, we are all responsible for their own choices. But considering the above, I urge you to think twice before judging someone else for behaving in a way that might seem irrational to you.

We are all a product of our environment, and we can only hope that people who were not blessed with safe, loving environments in their childhood will at some point choose to get help and healing (and, along the way, hopefully also have a couple guardian angels looking out for them, like a nurturing grandparent or a kind and attuned school nurse.)

Just as you bring your “stuff” to every relationship and interaction, so does everyone else.

Toward the end of the movie, we get a glimpse into the minds of many other characters, including (hilariously) a random dog and cat. And, not surprisingly, Riley is not the only one with a whole cast of characters in her mind — we all have them! This was one of the funniest parts in the movie, because in addition to great writing, it was just so flippin' *accurate*! We got to hear everyone's internal chatter, and from that perspective, their interactions make so much sense.

If we could only see our spouses or children or coworkers in this way! It’s important to remember that everyone’s got their own history and reasons for saying and doing the things they do (just like you do). When we’re mindful of this, I think we can access a little more compassion for others, even when their choices may not be in alignment with ours.

Again, this doesn’t excuse people for doing cruel things or not taking responsibility for their actions, but it’s just a reminder that we’re all coming into every interaction loaded with our own history, story and perspective on the world. And perhaps the relationships where you’ll learn the most about yourself are the ones where the other person's history and perspective are very different from your own.

Hats off to Disney Pixar for this kick-ass movie that will have a home in therapists’ offices across the world for years to come! I'd love to hear your thoughts about Inside Out in the comments. Also, if you enjoyed my ramblings, make sure you're signed up to receive updates from me (and you'll also get a free gift of my Mind + Body + Spirit Guided Meditation mp3)!