My guest is Psychotherapist Kasey Crown. Her work is about balancing science with the spiritual. She has served to facilitate healing for individuals, couples, groups working on trauma and helping them transform emotionally. I loved this conversation because Kasey shares such practical practices for complicated human challenges. Let’s face it we all are fighting big and small fights and Kasey offers wonderful tools to navigate whatever situations are in front of us. You have to love a therapist that unless they can really help you won’t work with you. Wife, mother of 3 daughters and a woman who battled her own challenges to the ground isn’t just talking it but she herself truly understands.
Listen to the episode here:
- What is Anxiety? [00:02:51]
- Pros of Being Afraid [00:10:27]
- The Proper Approach [00:29:10]
- A Neutral Baseline [00:39:18]
- Figuring You Out [00:48:20]
- Dissecting the Mind [00:55:04]
- The Pillars of Practice [00:58:14]
- Teenage Independence [01:37:29]
Kasey Crown – Strategies for Mental & Emotional Challenges
My guest is Kasey Crown. She does a beautiful job of combining science, spirituality, and therapy. In this modern-day, it’s not one or the other. It’s identifying what are the issues, what is the spiritual approach to it, and then what is the practice. We talked about even being able to heal and rewire your brain and nervous system. I learned a ton, we shared a lot, and I hope you enjoy the conversation.
Thank you for coming up here. People have all the answers like, “We’ll meditate. We’ll bring modern practices in with old spiritual practices.” Then I’m like, “How do you do that in your own life when you have three daughters?” I’m interested to know not only the practice and some of the suggestions, but also like, “When it shows up for me, this is how I do it,” then you go, “That makes sense.”
Sometimes it’s not even getting all the way there, it’s getting halfway there from where we were. Maybe you could back me up on how you ended up on this journey. You went on a trip in 2005 to India, which was probably impactful. I’d love to know how you, a girl from Chicago, ended up here living in Ojai.
I grew up in Chicago. Without going into too much detail about my childhood, like many of us, it was complicated. By the time I was in my early 20s, I had been abusing drugs and alcohol. I had been struggling with severe chronic anxiety for a number of years.
What does that look like? I say that selfishly because I’ve learned to always suppress everything. Coming from sports, suck it up, whatever those things were. The reason I ask is I have one daughter in particular who’s younger, so sometimes I’m like, “They have an inept vernacular because it’s all been around them.” It’s like, “You’re anxious.” “You’re ADHD.” “You’re this.”
It’s all the diagnosing.
What I’m curious about is for you at that time because I know it’s real. How was it showing up?
Anxiety is the hyperarousal of the nervous system. It was showing up in the form of panic attacks and the inability to downregulate, to be present, and to calm myself down. Most of that was internal so I wasn’t chaotic necessarily in my behavior. I was making some high-risk choices like self-medicating and things like that.
Is that getting relief from that feeling?
Yeah. Similar to sports, sometimes it matches the energy of the hyperarousal. You’re almost like going into communion with it and powering through it. Exercises and high-intensity sports can be helpful to regulate the nervous system. I definitely did not have the language for understanding what was going on. It wasn’t like I had this moment of realization, “I need to transform my life.” I crashed and burned my way into treatment.
I got an education first, which is part of the reason why I teach. I find having psychoeducation, having an understanding about how our relationships, our adverse experiences, and our traumatic experiences impact our nervous system and our brain and make it difficult for us to cope with certain realities. That’s an important part of the healing process. Going to therapy and talking to a therapist is not as effective when we don’t understand what the endgame is, how it is repairing the nervous system and the brain, etc.
For me, that’s so fascinating because we think, “I just have to forgive my mom and I’ll get over it.” There’s hard wiring or there were patterns that were developed physiologically that you’re constantly having these reactions. I don’t want to say it’s a newer way, but it definitely feels like a more 360-degree way. How did you have the confidence to go, “But we’re also not dealing with our circuitry board because we’re still having this constant reaction.”
I will admit that I was ten years into my healing process before I started studying the brain. I had been to two treatment centers, therapy for years. I had gone to graduate school at this point.
You had anxiety and when you go to a treatment center, is it 30 days? Is it 60 days?
Yeah, it’s your typical drug and alcohol inpatient treatment center. We know so much more now than we did years ago when I went to treatment. I’m sure the models have shifted and changed. I hope they have. Certainly, I got a lot out of it. I did change the course of my life. It was spiritual interventions that inspired me down a path of healing. I’m beginning to study yoga, meditation, and traditional wisdom, and studying with a couple of different spiritual teachers. I began to look at life through a different lens.
I got into studying the brain and studying interpersonal neurobiology later, after graduate school in my postgraduate work. At that time, I was like, “I’ve been doing this work for a decade already and I still have anxiety. What is this about and why can’t I regulate this to the degree that I wish to in order to thrive?”
What ways did it hold you back for you, your personal experience?
It’s more of how I was feeling. I powered through it a lot. I started my practice and I functioned. It’s not like my functioning was impaired at that point. It was earlier on, but not at that point. For me, it was limiting in that it created a consistent feeling of self-doubt. That’s something that we all grapple with in the human experience. It’s reasonable to have self-doubt. It emerges with clients all the time. In my work, I can relate to the experience. I’m sure you know, you were a professional athlete, you are now on a show, on a podcast. When you first started your show, you probably had to get over some fears, I imagine.
[bctt tweet=”Science doesn’t know everything. We’re still dealing with the mystery of consciousness itself.”]
It’s almost like how imposter syndrome shows up. It’s interesting because we have certain biological things that serve us. For example, you have someone who overeats. We understand what this is connected to because when food was scarce or what have you, it’s like, “Eat it when you can.” Biologically, that doesn’t serve us. Hyper awareness and certain things that biologically have been good for us in our modern living kick our ass in a way. It’s interesting to talk about the nervous system because a part of that being a little bit activated is good.
It’s super useful.
It’s like, “I have a presentation and I’m going to be on my game. I’m going to remember everything and be hyper-alert.” When it shows up, it’s like, “I understand that this has a place. It just doesn’t have a place at this level or in this situation right now.” I question myself constantly because I attempt to want to do a good job or take advantage of the time that is sitting in front of me right before I have to feel like, “I don’t know if I can do this. I hope I can do this.” It’s uncomfortable but it makes me a little stronger or more alert. Let’s go back to you. You have a practice, you’re helping people. It always amazes me that the people that go through hardship, the best people I’ve ever had work on me, like for injuries, all had some radical injury, whatever modality they got into.
The wounded healer.
I always appreciate that. You start thinking, “But we’re not getting to some of the source,” which then leads you to study the brain and the nervous system. What does your practice look like then versus what happens after?
To continue on that thread around the brain and the nervous system, what you’re speaking to is super important, which is that fear is useful. There’s a point at which from a clinical standpoint, there’s something we call the window of tolerance, which was defined by Dan Siegel. When you exit that window of tolerance and you’re so hyperaroused that your ability to stay in the present moment is impaired and do the thing that it is that you’re trying to do, that’s when it becomes unuseful. That’s when the fear is wreaking havoc on your life, your choices, etc.
That was important for me to learn. When I started studying the nervous system and the brain, I began to realize that I was constantly exiting my window of tolerance and I was having a difficult time downregulating and staying in the present moment. Even though I had already been meditating and practicing all of these mindfulness tools for years, the quality of my meditations became different when I realized that what I was doing while meditating was rewiring the neural pathways of my brain. I was actually doing something.
The intention, too. Not just like, “I’m here meditating,” but this idea of laying new cable, if you will.
We’re not accustomed to being educated about the brain and the nervous system in our therapeutic contexts, unfortunately. I find all of that to be so important because we can use all these spiritual psychological tools but they have a biological impact. If we are able to develop some understanding around what that biological impact is, we have greater agency in directing the flow of our energy and attention toward that outcome. I’m sure you know as an athlete, where you direct your attention is where energy flows.
It feels like your practice is this idea that sometimes we think of spiritual as something within us, greater than us, and connecting to each other, to nature, to all these things. There is the hard science of who we are. It’s funny because we think of intention and all these things but also, we can work with our hard selves or this idea of old therapy simultaneously.
Science and spirit are not disconnected. There was a period of time where they were and now, we’re living in a world where scientists are becoming spiritual in many ways, which is fun to watch. It’s because science doesn’t know everything. We’re still dealing with the mystery of consciousness itself. There are so many things that we can’t possibly understand about consciousness and energy flow. There are miracles every day in so many ways.
When I think about spirituality, I try to frame it from an energetic standpoint because I come from the interpersonal neurobiology theory that consciousness is energy. When I think of spirit, I think of the highest frequency of energy that there is. For many people, that is love. There are other expanded states of consciousness or high frequencies of energy, things like joy, connection, gratitude. When I think of spirit, I think of expansion. What is it that creates vitality, energy, and creativity in our being and allows us to embody the best version of ourselves, be of service, and show up in the world in meaningful ways?
When I think of trauma, I think of contraction, I think of the shadow. I think of what it is that’s in the way of our capacity to access expanded states of consciousness and connect them in the first place? When I can identify what’s in the way and what are the barriers, as a trauma therapist, I know where my work lies when I can find those barriers to entry. Also, once we do access those states, what are the practices? We need to integrate them because integrating them is a different story than accessing them.
It’s not like a one-off. It’s like, “How do I build a pathway to that place?”
“How do I rewire the brain? How do I embody these qualities so that they become a part of who I am, as opposed to something that I connect to every once in a while, but don’t experience as a part of me?”
You know so much more about it than I do. I want you to lead in some of this but in some of it, I know I have a lot of questions. You have three daughters and maybe they haven’t hit some of the layered and complicated elements of being teenagers and things like that that parents will go through. I have a friend who has a daughter who’s going through something and there isn’t a trauma. There wasn’t a sexual trauma. There is a divorce, there are telephones, and there is social media.
I want to get into this because a lot of people are either going through it or living with somebody going through it. The people who are living are probably supposed to be guides and they don’t know what to do at all. You’ll have a leg up not only because your kids are younger and you got the warning shot, but also you have tools. You’re a professional.
I know there’s a lot of parents out there where their kids are anxious. They’re on telephones and they communicate with their peers in a different way than any of us grew up. What’s a starting point? You have a kid who’s having real issues. If someone were to come and see you and it was almost that vague feeling, how do you start to even attack that?
In a couple of ways. First of all, parenting is so hard. I have all sorts of tools and they don’t always work as a parent. It is where my growing edge lies. There’s a lot of novelty there. I have never done it before, it’s the first. I empathize with all parents learning how to parent as they parent. It is a process. The other piece is, the collective nervous system of humanity is in a state of hyperarousal. We are in an intense place in our human history.
It’s combative. It’s interesting, I try to look at it through the lens of everybody else, like my lens and their lens. If you think about it from a kid’s point of view, adults are acting badly. They’re yelling at each other, nobody’s listening, nobody’s having conversations, nobody’s having a healthy disagreement. It’s an all-or-nothing, zero-sum game. It’s, “Either you believe everything I do or you’re out.” There are all kinds of interesting things.
Imagine growing up in that. It is a soup.
It’s scary because you’re not allowed to misstep either as a young person. I think about how many crappy things I said or did that were private, my neighbor and a couple of girls at school. These kids have to grow up with constant scrutiny. If you misstep, you’re going to get it.
Without question, it’s a different world. I don’t work personally with children. I prefer to work with a brain that is more fully developed because my skill lies in repairing injury and helping move people into harmony from that vantage point, surprisingly. My work would be with the parent and around their process. What does it feel like to be so out of control of your child’s experience?
Oftentimes, where parents go when their children are in distress or when they don’t even speak the same language as their child because they’re growing up in such a different paradigm than we did, you can feel powerless, helpless, and out of control as a parent. I’d be wanting to look at how that is manifesting in the parent and how is the parent dealing with their trauma and addressing their challenges. Also, how was language around the repairing of their injury coming into conversations at the dinner table or at the home because children respond well to modeling.
If we’re not doing our work, our children are not likely to do the work either. I supervise clinical associates that are getting licensed. I had supervision with my interns and one of my associates was telling me about a similar scenario that you’re describing. The parent in the situation wanted a 1, 2, 3 punch, like, “Give me the formula for getting control of this situation.” We’re seeing some control issues with the parent right out of the gates, so we have to educate the parent about these issues that our children have, they took time to develop.
Like integration, healing, and growth requires practice, so too does trauma. When you say a child doesn’t have a major traumatic experience, these kids are growing up chronically exposed to adverse experiences at some level. They’re chronically exposed to a world where they’re afraid of climate crisis, where they’re afraid of war, where they’re afraid of getting sick and dying or someone they love might get sick and die of a pandemic disease.
When we think that we’re taking care of them, we don’t understand how loud that message might be for them.
There are certain things you can do as a parent. Talk about it and limit media in your house. There are things you can do to talk about it.
The problem is if your kid has a phone, it’s coming. The thing is, that level of control over your children, you lose it sooner than when I was growing up. There was a book called Hold On to Your Kids. Do you remember this book?
It was like, “By the time your kid is 12, their friends will influence them more than you.” It’s happening sooner. For a lot of us, we understand the phones are not going anywhere and you can’t get rid of it. As kids get older, I have seen this with my daughters, they do make the space, this earlier 12, 13, 14, this zone in here.
Which is the crazy zone anyways. It’s a hard age.
I try to think, “Oh, hormones.” I try to remember what it was like for me and everybody. I picked my daughter up and I’m like, “Here’s your food.” I did all that stuff and it’s misery. You go, “I won’t take it personally.” For parents, a couple of things that I won’t move on from is when you get dealt with your kids going through something and it’s showing up. I know people whose kids are cutting themselves, they’re stealing , or they’re suicidal.
You said something important. First of all, you can’t avoid something. Stuff’s going to happen and stuff’s coming. I went through something with one of my girls and it completely flipped me upside down. I got literal-minded and I started going through my files of years and days of parenting. That’s not the point. The point is how do we get ourselves help and also the right information so we then can support, help, and love them, and that’s it.
Going back over, “I said this, they said this, and that happened then I dropped them off at this time,” all that stuff is not important. It’s natural for us as parents to try to figure that out. It’s almost like we’re banging into a wall over and over. The other thing that’s hard is to find the right help. I know you don’t deal with kids. For example, treatment centers are not always so great. It’s like going into jail and becoming a better criminal.
They understand a lot more about a lot of other things that other people go through. They have titles for that and labels and they think maybe that’s forever. Sometimes that may not be the best thing. A lot of times when parents are looking for help, they don’t know where to get good help for their kid. It’s scary because sometimes you can almost make it worse because kids can also be like, “I’m X, Y, and Z,” versus, “I’m going through a rough patch and I need some tools.”
This is why I emphasize the importance of the parents doing their own work. If we are doing our work, then we have language and we have tools to share with them. We can meet them in their pain in a different way with a different quality of consciousness and with a different set of tools to offer. Certainly, there are circumstances under which a situation has devolved to the point where a child is harming themselves or has suicidal ideation, or what have you. Those are scary situations for any family. I empathize greatly with any parent that’s going through that.
It’s also more popular.
I understand what you’re saying.
It’s like that ridiculous show, 13 Reasons Why.
I didn’t see that.
I didn’t either, but I know about it and I have kids. That’s become an option. These are now options that are mainstream for kids.
Kids are influenceable because they’re developing. They’re also experiencing a tremendous amount of insecurity and there’s attention-seeking behavior. I’m not suggesting that they aren’t also in a tremendous amount of pain.
I’m not downplaying it. I’m just talking about the scenario.
I wish I could give you a clear answer in terms of where to direct those parents.
What about the type of help or therapy? What are some names or things where you feel like they’re dealing with it on a more holistic and whole instead of, “Let’s sit down on the couch and you tell me how you feel.”
First of all, in any kind of family system, therapy is important because oftentimes the parent sees the child in distress and puts the child in therapy, and doesn’t realize how interconnected the child’s challenges are to their family system and the way things are going at home. That’s not to say that parents wanted to blame themselves. There are lots of children that are challenging from the get-go and there are all sorts of reasons why kids have mental health issues.
When I was in my clinical training in community mental health, time and time again, parents would drop off their kids and I’d be working with a child who I was listening to and thinking, “The parents need therapy. The parents need to come in here and get some help. This child is reacting to a dynamic that’s at play in the family system.” If the family doesn’t have tools, it is the responsibility of the parents. I am saying this as somebody who’s growing edge at parenting. I am not doing this perfectly at all. I’m sure I’m effing up my kids in ways. We’re the parents and we are responsible.
I went to treatment in my early 20s. At that point, one of the greatest gifts I got was from a spiritual teacher by the name of Caroline Myss, who said to me, “Wake up. Nobody’s going to change your life, except for you. Stop focusing on other people changing. You’re not a victim. Get it together.” It was a harsh intervention. What was so useful about it was that I recognized at that point, “I’m an adult, I have agency, and now I’m accountable.”
[bctt tweet=”To love your children, show up for them, and provide for them is service. You are giving back.”]
What you’re describing with teenagers is they’re in this challenging gray zone, where they’re not yet fully accountable to transform their own consciousness and do the work. It is a family systems issue most of the time. Parents need to drop some of what they’re doing, not all of it, and get in therapy with their kids and do it together. Access is also important to consider. Not every family has access to therapy, access to treatment.
What do they do?
That’s part of what’s unfortunate about our system. We need a makeover so that more people have access to better treatment. Unfortunately, that’s something that we’re up against right now. There are books. Dan Siegel has written a bunch of books. I don’t know if you know who he is. He’s one of my mentors and he’s amazing.
Let’s say someone’s reading and they go, “I don’t have the finances or the access or time or anything,” or, “I’m a divorcee and the other partner won’t go.” What are some books that you think, whether you’re in it or not, are great things to read? There’s been some stuff that I’ve read. You hear it and you go, “It doesn’t matter where you are in your life. That’s a helpful reminder or thought.”
There are probably lots of great books. Definitely start with Dan Siegel. He has a bunch. I read so much about trauma and spiritual growth, but not as many parenting books. Those can be used as parenting books as well. Dan writes specifically about the developing brain and the developing mind. There’s a number of books that are useful and probably some resources in those books as well.
I went through something with one of my daughters and they’re all great learning lessons. We’re the adults, we’re the parents, we need to act like that. Simultaneously, it’s weird taking all that accountability and remembering also that it may not be your fault. Because sometimes we’re so afraid of the appearance of it like, “How does this reflect on me?” There’s some weird stuff that when you can admit to yourself, like, “What am I reacting to or I might be reacting to? I’m scared because this might be my fault. What does this look like? Are they going through this?” I want to say to parents that it’s dual. Show up as an adult and be totally accountable, but it doesn’t have to be your fault.
I’m so glad you brought that up. That’s so important in so many different areas because we do have a tendency to sometimes be almost over accountable. That can be harmful when you’re going into over responsibility and it induces a lot of shame, and shame is a paralyzing agent.
It keeps you from that expansive, from that creativity, that high frequency, all that stuff. It doesn’t help you get to the place where you want to get.
When you’re crippled by shame and worried about having done something within your family system that might have impacted your child negatively, that shame isn’t useful. Recognizing that we’re human, nobody knows how to parent, we’re all doing the best we can, and we’re learning as we go that children come in with all sorts of unique lessons that they have to learn. This is where the spiritual perspective can be useful as well, which is that we come into these bodies and we’re here to evolve, grow, and learn a bunch of lessons, and that includes your children.
Sometimes your child has to go through something like you’ve had to go through something in your life that’s been challenging and painful. It is so hard to watch your children suffer. There’s no question. We want to stop it and we want to fix it. The most important thing we can do is keep them safe. If we can keep them safe, get them through it, and let them know they’re loved because the primary medicine is making sure they know they’re loved and nothing is wrong with them. Even if they’re struggling, if we can give them those messages and also give them permission to have their own human experience, then it alleviates some of the burdens we might be feeling as parents. We see our children as these souls that are here to evolve and grow and have their own unique lesson plan.
That is helpful. It’s also interesting when you realize that sometimes your kids go through phases and you’re like, “You’re different than me. Even some of your values, maybe I’m not feeling lined up with. I love you.” Give yourself that permission because you think, “This is it. I’m going to have kids, I’m going to learn from the things I’ve seen that look good to me, and I’m going to do it differently.” That alone, that showing up, that trying is going to make it all work out.
When it all goes in different ways, you go, “But I thought all I had to do was love them, keep a clean house, tell them I believe in them, and read books to them, then it’s all going to be cool.” You realize we don’t know. It’s so funny how we can accept that for other people. If I have a friend going through something with a kid and I can see it from 30,000 feet, I’ll look at the parents, look at the kid, and be like, “It’s all going to be okay. It’s going to work out. It’s going to be bumpy for a minute.”
Looking at all the characteristics and thinking these people are going to work this out, I cannot do that without objectivity. I am not objective when it comes to my own children. I’m getting better, but it’s useful sometimes trying to back up and almost look at my life and my family the way I was able to see that goodness and the other things that were going on in other people’s lives. The fact that they were even willing to say, “I don’t know. I’m confused. I’m looking for some information,” I thought, “They’re going to figure it out. They’re going to get there.”
By the way, it’s hard to have that objectivity when it’s yourself. That’s why therapists go to therapy. Everybody needs a reflection. Whether that’s coming from a healer or a partner or whomever, we all need somebody to help us identify our blind spots. We have blind spots with our own families. We have blind spots with our own personal development that we might have greater insight around when we’re looking at somebody else because we’re more neutral. When you’re not neutral about something, it is difficult to be clear. We tend not to be as neutral about our children because there are too many states.
We’re passionate. We love them. For you personally, do you have any tools that you use to try to get to some weird baseline of when you’re surveying yourself, your relationship with your husband, your kids? That check-in that you go, “How’s everything going? How’s my working relationship?” Do you have any tools that you use as much as you can to at least set up that neutral baseline?
Yeah, I teach workshops on this topic. There are tools that I offer to others that I practice personally. Probably the most significant tool in my toolbox is looking at things through a spiritual lens. It’s trying to hold that perspective that every experience that we’re going through has meaning and we can make meaning of it in a way that is useful.
There are terrible things that happen in life but if we survive them, which is not always the case, and we’re able to reflect on them and we’re not in an acute state of trauma, that’s a different kind of toolkit that I would pull out, then the question that we’re asking is, “What’s the lesson? For what purpose did this experience happen in my life? How can I use that as a catalyst to become more connected to myself, more connected to my community, to others, to be a more loving vessel, to have a more expanded state of consciousness?” Almost always when I’m challenged by something, it gives me pause. I don’t power through it. I just go, “Whoa.”
You’re driving in the car, you got the 3, 6, and 9-year-old, and you’ve had a long three days. Let’s say it’s Thursday. You’re tired and you haven’t connected well with your husband. Sometimes you have effortless flow and sometimes it feels like everything you say to each other, you’re a little bit stepping on each other’s toes in the dance. One kid is tired, one’s complaining about something, and two are fighting. What do you do? Is the pause within yourself? Where is the pause?
That example wouldn’t necessarily be what I was referring to, but I’ll take it.
I’m not just giving you like, “We’re going through this thing.”
I’m giving more in terms of monumental but with the minutiae of everyday life.
These are the ones that kick your ass. That’s the thing, sometimes the big stuff is more infrequent and it levels you in a heavier way. That also can pause you because you’re like, “We got to deal with this.” I’m curious if you have tools yourself.
First, I would look for a pattern.
Do you ever see red?
With my children, yes. I get irritated. I like my peace and quiet, and I don’t get that. I like to have a sense of humor, so some of it is humor. Not everything has to be so serious. Not every challenge needs to be unpacked, worked through, and processed.
Do you think most don’t?
I feel like we’ve gotten a little too precious sometimes. It’s like, “You’re tired,” or you feel safe with me and you’re being an asshole. I’m oversimplifying it, but sometimes there are the bigger ones. If things keep showing up, then that’s like, “This kid’s been doing this for a couple of weeks.” The reason I’m bringing it up is I want to encourage people. Sometimes life is crazy. When you are dealing with lots of people in a house and everybody’s in a different rhythm, different phase, going through their own thing, sometimes it’s kooky.
It’s important to be like, “I’m feeling stressed. I feel the stress of the kookiness. Now, what do I want to do? I’m going to make a little more space from the edge of red. Also, can I have fun with it?” I’m in a long relationship. I’ve been with my husband for over 25 years, so you do learn because nobody wants to be miserable. I’ve also learned to laugh at my own weirdness. You’ll say something or react a certain way and you can see it in their face that they think you’re nutsy and you’re like, “Nuts, right?” What I’m saying is the scale of how important or serious it is. It’s reminding people that not everything’s a problem because then you’ll be clearer or able to see those subtle things. What I have found, and I’d love to know what you think, is sometimes the big things are more quiet.
Because they give you pause and they settle things down?
No. When any of my kids have a real thing, it was so quiet and all of a sudden, I’m like, “Why didn’t I see that? Why didn’t I recognize that? Why didn’t I have the space in my day-to-day life to pick that up?” A lot of times, you don’t and then they go, “By the way, for the last year, I’ve been feeling like this,” or, “I was going through that,” or, “I was doing this.” You’re like, “How did I not see that?” Maybe the ability to roll through the little silly day-to-day will give you a greater capacity to recognize, “That kid has got something going on. Let me check in with them.” “My partner’s been a little quiet. Let me see how well they are feeling.”
You’re touching on a couple of different things, one of which is that we do need to not take ourselves so seriously. Living in a house with a bunch of people with a lot of different feelings and things going on can be chaotic at times. You do have to be flexible, adaptable, and roll with it. Not everything needs to be unpacked and processed, and all of the things.
We definitely have ways in our house of getting some of that energy out. My kids are young so they’ll still let us be super weird. We’ll crank the music and have a dance party. If people are fighting, we’ll redirect into something equally as crazy that brings us into a state of laughter and playfulness. That’s one strategy.
There’s plenty of space in our lives for moods, chaos, and things like that to unfold in the family, and that’s fine. When you’re noticing a pattern, when it feels like somebody is struggling, I can understand potentially feeling some guilt about missing it, especially if it’s in your child or your partner but also, we’re so busy. As human beings, we live in a world that is so much more fast-paced and so much more active. Our attention is being hijacked left and right by so many different things.
That presence is a signal, which is the primary tool in the healing process. Presence is vital to the healing process. It needs to be engaged within the family system, like, “We need to sit down and we need a family dinner. We don’t need a dinner where kids are eating here, at the counter, and we’re going here. We need to gather our thoughts, check-in with each other, and sit with each other.” That can be a way to address some of the more subtle things that are going on in the house. We’ve been going and going, and we now have one person in the family that’s giving us a signal that we’re all probably needing to pause. Sometimes it takes one person to demonstrate some distress or pattern of distress for all of us to go, “We have to pause here.”
It is interesting what you’re saying. I never thought about this before. The 3-year-old could be representing what everyone is experiencing and that’s so amazing. It’s an important reminder. I know you’re training other people, when someone comes to you, why do they come to you? What does that look like as a starting process of you trying to figure out where they’re at and how to get them lining up the brain, the spirit, the nervous system? What does that look like?
For ten years, I was in private practice and people would find me through word of mouth. I built a psychotherapy practice. Most of my clients came in weekly and we unpacked whatever was present. Usually, they showed up with some presenting problem. They have anxiety or they want to get a divorce or any number of potential challenges that they’re faced with. We go through a journey together of exploring and healing core wounds, developmental traumas from their childhood that might be impairing their ability to thrive in the present.
I still have a small private practice but I’ve moved more into consulting because there is a part of me that feels like traditional psychotherapy is ineffective. What I want to see people doing is taking responsibility for their own healing where possible. I divide my consulting practice into two camps. There are people that come to me in acute crises and acute states of trauma. Those get a different kind of attention. Then there are people that come to me that want to heal, want to grow, and they’re struggling, but they’re not in a major crisis.
They’re looking for a gearshift but they don’t know how to get it.
They might be experiencing some distress, but it’s different from post-traumatic stress experiences. I especially want to work short-term with those clients. I want to educate them, tell them what I know to be true about the brain and the nervous system, and give them some spiritual tools, mindfulness practices, and books. I tend to support them for a period of time but resource them as much as possible.
Can you give me a little bit of what those tools look like? Just a few examples of the tools in those buckets.
I encourage a lot of reading or audio listening. My website has a whole bunch of resources of that nature. I tend to identify specific readings for certain clients based on what they’re struggling with. Depending on the person, how the trauma or the stress is manifesting itself in their lives, I might recommend energy healing, bodywork, and those kinds of things. Oftentimes, I recommend those kinds of resources to clients that have more access and resources to diversify their healing processes or practices. For my pro bono clients that maybe can’t afford that, I’ll help them find group programs, community offerings, and things like that that might be useful to them.
Generally, I want to diversify a person’s practice. You can do a lot on your own without a lot of resources at home. You can do a lot of reading. Now, everything is available to you through your phone. You can listen to meditations or you can do yoga practices. There’s so much we have access to at home. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that everybody has had to develop this skill of learning how to use technology in all these different ways. Because of that, we have access to more resources within the home. There are so many free resources online.
I also invite certain clients to workshops if I think that they would benefit from a workshop. I usually work with them personally, indirectly for a period of time. If they’re doing the work and it’s exciting for both of us, then we keep it going. If I find that that client is not doing the work and that they just want me to indulge them, then I might clip their wings and set them free. It’s not meant to lack compassion, that statement, but I want to work with people that are invested in healing and doing the work.
Sometimes you see this with people trying to get healthy or trying to get past feeling depressed or anxious, or whatever they’re feeling. You think about it and you go, “Is there chemistry keeping them?” Their brain, their nervous system. Is this combination, this cocktail, keeping them from getting to the place where they can heal?
Sometimes. If I suspect that that is the case after I assess the client, then I might work with them directly for a period of time. I have clinical associates that take on long-term psychotherapy clients that that client might need weekly, regular, slow processing over a period of time to start to rewire, integrate, and things like that. They might not be ready for more short-term work. They might need something long-term.
Can you rewire by going to what people think is therapy and talking?
Yes. It depends on the relationship between therapist and client. If the relationship is reparative and there is growth happening, then yes.
[bctt tweet=”Nobody knows how to parent, we’re all doing the best we can, and we’re learning as we go.”]
Do you mean if the therapist can also safely push the person a little bit?
Yeah, can appropriately reflect and can challenge the client to grow. A lot of times there’s a re-parenting process that goes on in a therapeutic relationship where the therapist provides a nurturing that the client might not have experienced in their developmental years. There needs to be some core maternal or paternal repair.
What happens to the brain or the nervous system? What’s happening in there if all things are in the green and it’s in the right dynamic?
It can be extraordinarily repaired. I have clients who are incredible. They’re different people than they were when I met them a decade ago because they consistently did the work and showed up. It wasn’t always fireworks in the room, but just the practice. Healing is a practice that requires consistency and presence. Therapy is a practice of presence. It’s an opportunity to be in a space.
Even if you’re reflecting on your past when you’re in the therapeutic environment, I personally tend to start with where people are at. When a client comes to me, I’m not like, “Tell me about your whole childhood.” Yes, I’ll do an intake but I want to know, “Right now, what are you feeling? What’s happening right now in your relationships? How is your life? How are you showing up in your reality now?” Then we’ll follow threads to the past. I’m not just going to go digging through your past. That’s not useful.
Not all history is worth revisiting. It’s not necessary. Sometimes you think clients focus on a particular area of their past thinking it had such a big impact on them, and then you start to bring them back into the present moment. Therapy that is reparative needs to happen in the present moment. You need to have a radical presence in the room and resonance with your client, something called coherence where you’re starting to resonate with a client. You’re able to co-regulate your nervous systems and start to empathize.
Do you mean almost like a sinking up?
From an energetic standpoint, yes. You experience a resonance with your client, and then your ability to intuit what’s happening for them becomes much sharper and clearer. You’re able to help identify blind spots that the client might not be aware of. That’s where the reflection becomes powerful. If the reflection is like, “That’s exactly what it is. That’s exactly what I’m feeling,” then it’s a reparative moment for the client. The client might be able to integrate that, let go of an old story, change a pattern, etc.
Some patterns take longer to repair, some new experience, a spontaneous evolution around if it clicks, if you have an a-ha moment. I’m sure you’ve had an a-ha moment in your life where all of a sudden, your perspective on something completely shifts and you realize, “I’ve been hanging on to that for so long. Now it’s over.”
Can it happen that fast?
It can. Spontaneous evolution can happen quickly in certain circumstances. Of course, there’s a lot of healing that can take time. I’m a product of that, years and years of learning to regulate my nervous system.
The things that caused you suffering in your early 20s, those stories or situations that led up to that, as a grown-up with a family, do you ever relate back to that in moments? Or are you completely liberated from the stuff that got you into the pain in your 20s?
It’s so funny, the same healer that I was talking about, Caroline, says, “You know you’ve integrated and you know you’ve grown…” I’m botching this quote, it’s not verbatim, but it’s when you’re sick of your story, when you’re not interested in telling it anymore, or when you’re neutral to it. You tell it but there’s no victim energy around it like, “This thing happened to me.” It’s just information and it comes up in an appropriate circumstance. You’re not using it to try to get connection and attention.
She always talks about how people try to connect through their wounds often. Oftentimes, I am liberated from a lot of that. I’m in a constant state of growth. I’m always evolving, learning, and healing. I don’t overprocess things. There’s a lot going on in the world. My nervous system is feeling all of the existential anxiety that everybody else’s nervous system is feeling. I’m looking at, “How do I remain hopeful?”
My job is to help people heal and to give them hope. We live in a world where there’s a lot of pain and suffering collectively that’s going on. It’s almost like I’m going through the same things as my clients at some level, those clients that are struggling with what’s happening in the world. That’s where my growth lies. It’s returning to the present moment and remembering what’s happening here and now.
I teach from a curriculum that I created and we also teach from this framework at WellSoul. We call it the five pillars of practice. We essentially teach these five pillars and with each pillar, there are a number of different experiential practices that we teach within the workshop. The first one is presence and we call it embodied presence. There’s presence where you’re actively listening to someone, and then there’s presence where you’re attuned to your embodied experience as you are in the space with the person.
We are often cut off at the neck and dissociated from our embodied experience. That’s a hypoaroused coping strategy or response to trauma. As a result, we want to learn how to embody in the present moment. That resonance that I was talking about that you might have with a therapist, if you’re not resonating, if your bodies aren’t syncing up in some way within the therapeutic context, then maybe your therapist isn’t embodied. Maybe it’s not a great fit.
Embodiment is the key. You want to get in the here and now and you want to get in the here and now in your body because your body is the vessel through which consciousness flows. It is how we receive energy and information and how we interpret it. Emotions are one of the first signals about what’s going on. Then we have cognitions and things like that, where we shape our narratives and stuff.
The first signal comes through the physical body, so we want to pay attention to the body. Presence is key. Trauma brings us into the past and it sends us into the future constantly worrying with anxiety and fear. That’s what a lot of this existential anxiety is about. It’s like, “What’s going to happen next?” When you bring your energy and attention to the present moment, that’s one way that you can start to go, “What is happening here and now, and that you can attend to the present moment?”
The second pillar of practice is what we call wise intention. You talked about intentionality earlier. There’s this Lao Tzu quote, “Be careful where you’re headed or you may end up where you’re going.” So many of us live without intention. We just get out of bed and go through the motions and all of this stuff. When I have a client, especially a new client that comes into the space, I want to hear about the presenting problem. I want to know what’s causing them distress, but more importantly, I’m curious about, “Where are we going? What is your desired outcome?”
I am somebody that does not want to heal people for themselves alone. If you’re only in my office so that you can feel better, I probably don’t want to work with you. It’s not meant to lack compassion but part of what we know is that we’re all connected and we’re all accountable to each other. The most radical forms of healing are you’re able to see a person’s healing when they’re showing up in service, they’re not indulging in their own story anymore, and it’s not all about them. Now it’s about, “How do I serve the collective? How do I serve the whole? How do I participate in a reciprocal relationship with my environment?”
It’s almost like your purpose when you start to view yourself not as like, “What can I eat? What can I buy? What money can I get?” But like, “Why am I what am I doing here? How am I supposed to contribute?” That book, The Courage to Be Disliked, talks about Alfred Adler. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. I don’t want to get off the pillars. I want to go back to them. It’s the master supposedly and the student, and the student goes every day, “I have another question.” It’s this back-and-forth conversation, and then you realize you don’t know who’s who.
It’s how it should be.
Freud was like, “Your mom, your dad, all this stuff.” Adler was like, “It’s your lifestyle,” even though that’s a modern-day word. You go through all this stuff in this book, The Courage to Be Disliked. In the end, what they say is, “No matter what, you probably won’t feel good.” I don’t want to use the word happy, peace, joy. I’m not interested in being happy, quite frankly. Peace works good for me. Peace all day long. I don’t even need to laugh out loud. That stillness, I notice the birds, and I can hear my kid breathing, it’s like, “I’m good.” We only feel that good when we’re in service to others and that’s the end of the story.
To elaborate on that, when we’re in service from a frequency of love, not from a frequency of guilt.
They say that’s the worst.
Serving from guilt is not a productive form of service.
He says that in the book. Somebody told me this story. He was a priest and somebody came and needed to talk to him. He said, “I was tired.” This is a famous person. “All I wanted to do was watch my shows and I was done for the day but because I felt bad, I said, ‘Come in.’” He goes, “The worst thing you could do is that service out of that guilt.” That was Anthony De Mello.
I’ve done plenty of serving from a place of guilt in different ways growing up. It’s reasonable. If you’re a sensitive, empathic person, then you’re going to feel the suffering that’s going on around you and in the world, and feel a sense of responsibility and sometimes more responsibility than is yours to bear. I can relate to that. I have had to do a lot of work around shifting into trusting that I can love myself and show up in service from that frequency. That’s enough. I don’t have to martyr myself in order to be of service. I’ve had to learn that through my practice and in all sorts of ways.
Kids teach you a lot about, “No.” They teach you a lot about learning how to be like, “Oh.” There’s something powerful about when you start getting those extra people in your life that you’re responsible for that you learn to say to people, “No.” The other thing is I’ve done a lot of things in service and I muscle everything.
Like you’re not present with that meaning?
At least what got me there. Once I’m always in a situation, I’m locked in. It’s interesting, some people will be more of a martyr-y and I’m not empathetic, but it was like, “That’s the right thing to do.” I intellectualize. “That’s the right thing to do so you’re going to do that.” I don’t know if that’s so great either. It’s recognizing and being like, “Today, I’m a little tired and I don’t feel like it. Ultimately, this is what I want to do because it feels like the right thing to do and I want to do the right thing.” There have been times where I’m like, “Check this off the list and let’s get on with it.” There’s a reasonable balance.
You have to remember that you’re a mom of three girls. That’s a major act of service. To love your children, show up for them, and provide for them is service. You are giving back. You are trying to provide the container, the foundation, and the support to bring good citizens of the world up and send them out. We need to expand our understanding of what service means because being a parent is a major act of service. You’re probably not going to get an award for it and nobody should do service to get an award anyway, but it is service. We don’t need recognition for our service. You’re acting from love when you’re parenting and that’s important.
Sometimes, as a parent, when you have those real conversations with yourself of, “But I chose this,” that’s where maybe it gets confusing. How could it be service?
We choose everything.
It can get confusing as a person where you go, “I want to be of service to my family,” but sometimes a lot of us are like, “It’s my duty.”
It is our responsibility of bringing children into the world to show up, but responsibility and service don’t have to necessarily be separated.
Sometimes that gets confusing.
If you zoom out and if one of the highest forms of spiritual evolution in the human experience is showing up in service, then there is a recognition in your process and in your growth that you are accountable to your environment and to the people in it. Engaging and reciprocity are important. Reciprocity being the keyword, we all need to give and we also need to make space to receive. We want to be in relationships with our environment that are reciprocal.
I had a healer tell me that I work with a few years ago, “If there’s no reciprocity, you’re done. It’s over.” It was so enlightening for me. I started to look at where I was in relationship to people where I was in a constant give and not necessarily creating the space or even holding that person accountable to show up. Even if the exchange is currency, there are all sorts of forms of currency.
I always say that all relationships are give and take, except for a parent to a child. I never asked myself, “What do I get from this deal?” Everyone else, with your partner or whoever, even if you have a friend that when you see him, they’re living true to their life, do you think that inspires me? That’s what you’re getting. You always should do give and take.
The interesting thing is there are some of us, like me, where sometimes it’s hard to take because I don’t want to deal with the intimacy. I don’t want to owe anybody. I’ve had to look at that. When I have forthcoming conversations with people about what I need or want, I’m like, “Understand, this is intimacy. I don’t have this with many people.”
There’s a flipside of like, “I’m just going to give and not take because I don’t want to owe you and I don’t want to be intimate.” Taking is also taking in. It’s intimate. Giving is pushing out. There are so many ways it shows up funky that if you don’t pay attention or be honest with yourself, you can get out of whack.
That’s an interesting observation that you have for yourself. You’re not alone in feeling that way. That’s another way we contract.
That’s controlly and weird.
It comes from a reasonable place. It’s probably because you’ve had experiences where your energy was drained from feeling a responsibility to show up for something or someone. Those are circumstances in which there isn’t a balance. Reciprocity needs to be looked at from the perspective of love, the exchange of mutual regard, love, respect, honor, and things like that. That includes our relationship with the earth and there are all sorts of ways we can be in relationship to the earth differently. The lesson of reciprocity is one of the things that the human family is trying to learn.
[bctt tweet=”Healing is a practice that requires consistency and presence.”]
It’s beautiful when you find that fluidity with certain people where nobody keeps score, but somehow there’s an equal distribution or fairness or fluidity.
The third is one of the toughest, which is focused attention. We have embodied present. We’ve got to get present. We have to be intentional. How do we want to show up in our relationships? Who do we want to be in this world? Then we have focused attention. It is about sustaining our attention on our intention. As we sustain our attention on the present moment, for example, all sorts of things emerge in us. We are so programmed to distract ourselves from the discomfort of the present moment. We are comfort junkies. We want to either be comfortable or be distracted. We are going to do everything we can to avoid sustaining presence.
Focused attention is about the practice of sustaining presence and following the emotion, following the cognition about all things. We want to learn to sustain our attention and we can do that through meditation practices. We teach a mapping exercise where we map our emotions, cognitions, and all of that stuff so that we can follow the thread of what’s present for us. We teach that tool.
To a lot of people, do you think that becomes a fun investigative thing once they get used to like, “I feel bumpy. I don’t like when I’m thinking about that.” When they get into the part of like, “Where’s this going to go?”
Yeah, that’s why I love starting my workshops with a bunch of psychoeducation about how we’re all essentially traumatized by some developmental experience, whether it was some subtle chronic thing we were exposed to or it was some big event. Everybody realizes every human being has maladaptive coping strategies and we live in such shame about these things.
The reason why psychoeducation is so amazing is that it destigmatizes things in a way that allows people to go, “I can finally look at this because now I know that there’s a reasonable explanation for why I am the way I am. I don’t have to beat myself up for it. I don’t have to hate myself or judge myself.” We digress a little bit but my point is, understanding those things makes it easier to focus our attention and sustain our attention on them. It’s no longer just me. I’m not the only one. “Everybody in this room is insecure, and trying to prove their worth through some avenue and has control issues.” When I start to educate people about the neurobiology of trauma and that rigidity and control are one of the symptoms of that, everyone’s like, “I can totally relate to that.”
The best is when you learn a little bit about this and then you observe yourself and you go, “Ho ho.” We have a joke at my house. I wipe down the counters and I’m like, “It looks like I’m trying to stay out of fight or flight. I’m going to control this 1×2 foot space.”
Buzzing around the kitchen.
I’m like, “Let me tidy up.” It’s like, “Who’s freaking out?” My daughters have a good laugh. My one daughter is like, “You’re crazy.” I talk a lot about visual clarity, visual space in order because I have a lot of details I’m dealing with day-to-day like a lot of people, but it’s coming from a lot of different places and I’m trying to also execute. I like to not have a lot of visual noise. I tell my girls, “I’m not saying it’s right. I’m telling you that this helps me.” We used to teach girls about neutral space like, “Do what you want to your room.” They had a playroom area. I said, “The common areas, at least at the end of every day, can we make them back to neutral?” Of course, I had kid’s books, toys, and all that. I did all that, but not stuff is everywhere.
You don’t want chaos.
I used to say, “I’m not saying I’m right. I’m just telling you it starts to close in on me a little bit when there’s stuff everywhere.” They have their good laugh. There is something interesting about what you’re saying where people can be aware and instead of being afraid or trying to push it away, being like, “Maybe I should check-in and see what’s going on.”
You start to learn how to be present with it and keep your attention on it. It’s uncomfortable. You learn not to get comfortable with being uncomfortable because that’s part of the healing process.
It gets easier. I will say this and people can say whatever they want. I don’t care. If you are female too, you might want to also understand where you are in time and space with your hormones and your cycles. Because sometimes you could be like, “I’m having a thunderstorm in my head and I hate everyone in my house.” Take it easy. Where are you? Sometimes you could just do a couple of mathematical things and be like, “Ha ha. I have a little less.”
Forgive yourself a little bit.
That’s what I mean. Be like, “I’m low this time of the month. I’m a little lower in estrogen. The feel-good, let it ride hormone is not as much right now.” If you’re partners with somebody, you wouldn’t be like, “You’re getting your period,” because that’s probably not going to be productive.
Certainly don’t say that while they’re having their period.
My husband used to be like, “What’s the date?” I’m like, “This is my real feeling.”
You want to be questioned when you’re having a feeling.
Sometimes I would say, “No, it’s my real feeling.” Other times, I’d be like, “I’m going to look at that.” It’s all of that. Focused attention is being able to stay sustained in the present. It’s almost like a practice for the practice.
The hardest part of the practice right there is staying with it because the more we stay present, the more energy and information emerges. The more energy and information emerges, the more clarity we have. The more clarity we have, the more capacity we have to make choices. I’m going to tell you about neutral awareness next, which is the fourth pillar.
That sounds like my language.
We were talking about reciprocity and children. You mentioned something about thinking that children aren’t necessarily giving, but they are and they need to.
Meaning, the expectation for them to give.
You want to set that expectation in the home that they have a responsibility to the collective. Part of our role as parents is to teach them to be good citizens of the home. If you’re a good citizen of the home, then you’ll probably be a good citizen of the world. What does it look like to be a good citizen of the home? How do we honor each other?
It’s like, “When you leave your things all over the living room, it makes me frustrated and I feel taken advantage of. It doesn’t feel balanced and fair.” You want them to understand the impact that their choices are having. If children don’t understand the impact of their choice, then they’ll just be indulged and selfish. Children are selfish and indulgent anyway, but that’s important modeling around reciprocity.
Do you think they’ll be good citizens outside the home before they’ll be good citizens in the home?
Sometimes, but sometimes you can plant those seeds. When you’re focusing your attention, oftentimes, you’re going into the emotional experience, you’re present with it, you’re following the thread. Sometimes that can feel a little stormy. Maybe you’re getting into the center of the storm to start to understand it and experience it. Then when you move into neutral awareness, the goal is to zoom out. Take a bird’s eye view perspective of what’s happening. Neutral awareness is like a growth mindset, “What is this teaching me?” If you are a spiritualist, it’s like, “What is my soul attempting to learn from this experience?”
When I use the word neutrality, I don’t like it to be mistaken for being neutral in the face of injustice or something like that, which oftentimes, neutrality does get misunderstood that way. When you talk about it from a healing perspective and from a spiritual perspective, this capacity to zoom out, which is in almost all of the wisdom traditions, this ability to get neutral. In Buddhism, it’s called witness consciousness. It’s super important because when we’re in the center of an emotional storm, we don’t have a lot of perspective. We don’t necessarily have the tools to move through it as effectively. Although being present with it is one of the tools that we need.
It’s almost like, “Get present so you understand what you’re navigating, but back up and figure out how you want to navigate it.”
You’re still present through all those.
You have a better sense of humor even about your stuff when you get to back up. When you’re not shameful or feel guilty or weird about the stuff and you get mucky-muck and you go, “I’m in the muck. Look at that.” “Look I responded to this and look I feel about that,” but then you back up. Somehow, not only can you articulate better and further away, but you could even say to your partner like, “Let me tell you what I thought about today or what I did,” and then correct it. I also feel like it gives you enough healthy distance that you also can present it not only to yourself but maybe to someone that you trust because there’s something helpful with that.
It is a more objective stance to take. It takes the right and the wrong out of it. Neutrality is all about recognizing that there is no right and there is no wrong, there is no good and there is no bad. There just is. It allows us to be in acceptance of what is. It allows us to let go of our attachments to certain things. It’s an important spiritual piece of wisdom to integrate.
Being in acceptance of what is does not mean you find something acceptable. Sometimes people think that some of those spiritual concepts are hard to grasp for that reason. The reality is we need to be able to step out and say, “This is happening so we have to be in acceptance of it.” When we’re able to do that and we’re not living in judgment of it, then we have more capacity to discern what our choices are around it.
I had a teacher that used to say, “How you respond to the issue is the issue.” It’s not the issue itself. It’s like, “Are you judging it? Are you making it wrong? Are you making it bad?” It’s like, “Let’s look at how I’m responding to this issue.” Neutrality helps us to do that from a more objective space. The fifth pillar is purposeful action. This is where you can come back down into the physical. You’ve zoomed out, you can discern, and you have choices.
Now you have a plan. It’s hard to make a change. Let’s say you’re confronting someone with an uncomfortable conversation. “I’m going to go down, I’m going to get back in there, and I’m going to show up differently.”
You can make the same choice. When we talk about purposeful action, my partner and I are always telling our clients and students, “You can make the same choice from two different frequencies. You can make the same exact choice. You can make it from a place of love or you can make it from a place of competition, judgment, anger, resentment. It may end up being the same exact choice but the outcome you will get from making that choice will be different if the frequency is love, forgiveness, acceptance.”
We live in a world of paradox and it’s a polarizing world. We are pulled into this constant state of feeling that you have to judge something as right or wrong in terms of what these children are growing up with. No discourse, it’s just binaries. Part of the spiritual practice of purposeful action is recognizing that we do have choices in a world of opposing views. Those choices can be challenging, so we want to do these other steps to get present, be intentional, and work through our stuff, which focused attention allows us to do so that we can get neutral. So that when we are making that choice, we’re making a choice from a place of purpose, from a place of love.
Even if we don’t get the desired outcome, part of purposeful action is letting go of our attachment to the outcome. It’s like, “I’m going to make the best possible choice that I have at this moment from a place and a frequency of love inside of myself.” That might mean setting a boundary. That might be saying no to someone. That might be a hard choice. It might be leaving a marriage. It might be quitting a job. It might piss a lot of people off. We have to learn, and then you go back to the pillars. “I got to be present with this. This is painful.”
It’s so constant what you’re saying. I know Byron Katie. What’s interesting for me is it was one of the first times I ever saw somebody who could talk about things that were so uncomfortable and be like, “Here we are.”
This is selfishly I’m always trying to manage. I’m analytical and I probably used to use pressing into things as a reaction to my fear. I wouldn’t run away or recoil. I’d lean into it, but not always in the best way. It was like, “I’m uncomfortable. Get in there,” kind of thing. How do you do this without becoming detached? It’s an interesting movement of like, “I’m passionate. These children, I love them. My friendships, I care. I do this thing.”
I’m going to try my best to pull back and decide who I am trying to be. Who am I trying to show up as? What would I like this outcome to be? Meaning, I don’t need to be the winner. I don’t need to be right, like the truth, whatever the truth is at that moment. Also, not become detached because I’m not a person who gets highly emotional, except probably my kids have been the ones who taught me. I’m always fighting how I emotionally stay engaged and involved and have this level of perspective all the time. It’s such a dance.
You’re bringing up an important point. We have different coping strategies. Your coping strategy has been a little more dissociative. My coping strategy has been more hyperarousal. I feel everything. We’re going to approach those coping strategies with slightly different interventions. For you, I would be supporting you to engage in practices of embodiment to get you connected to your physical body. Even though you’re a professional athlete, there’s a way in which you’ve conditioned yourself, programmed yourself, or have been programmed. It’s a mind game for you to stay in the head. You’ve learned to override some of them it sounds like.
I used to always observe everything from even above and be like, “What’s happening?”
For you, I would be encouraging embodiment practices, things that are going to get you into your body. Breathwork, holotropic breathwork, and things like that. We can talk more about that. For me, I’d be doing other things to try to downregulate. What you’re speaking to though is detaching from a sense of connection to the thing or the person, your issue, whatever it might be. Is that what you’re describing?
More of navigating something and you take that step back.
You’re saying when you zoom out to neutral?
[bctt tweet=”Reciprocity needs to be looked at from the perspective of love.”]
Yeah. The highest ideas have that surrender and that acceptance. Katie said to me once, “The good news is she’s either going to do it or she’s not. The bad news is she’s either going to do it or she’s not.” I was like, “Oh my gosh.”
Some things you are supposed to detach from.
It’s a weird thing. When I feel like I’m at my best and most loving is when I’m in this acceptance, which almost has neutrality to it. Since I fight that naturally, I’m hypersensitive that I don’t want to get too far.
I get what you’re saying. What you’re describing is that kind of neutrality is okay. It’s like, “When am I avoiding it?” The difference between avoidance, detachment, and letting go of control and allowing whatever is going to happen to happen. It is scary and it’s super important.
I want to bring this up because sometimes, whether it’s from your coping mechanisms or mind, people have to realize you might get to a place, especially as a lover to someone or parent, where you’re saying, “I’m here. I’m in it.” I’m not putting crazy expectations like, “We’re going to be together forever.” I’m just like, “I’m here and I’ll give you my best today. I’m not in charge of you. You’re in charge of you.” Not the kids in that same way. There’s this neutralness that because I know I’m fighting that naturally, I’m always like, “Is this too neutral?”
You’re not fighting that, you’re fighting disconnection. That is the healthiest state of consciousness to be in based on what you’re describing, at least the examples that you’re giving me.
Katie is the one that brought it to light for me a few years back, so I’ve done some practices of doing the work a little bit. It’s fricking scary.
Letting go is a powerful tool. I can see what you’re describing, which doesn’t sound concerning to me in the way that you’re detaching.
I don’t want to say more masculine. It’s funny because my husband is so heartfelt. It’s an interesting balance. It was like, “What’s the information? What’s the solution? What’s the thing?” All that stuff. I’ve learned to get on with that. I was curious from your point of view because I feel that you must have had many of these experiences when you’re talking about going into these relationships with a client. I would imagine that your first pillar brings you all that intuitive information from them. They’re telling you because you are connected.
I also am feeling their energy and everything in the room because that’s what I do. I’m an empath, so I feel it all.
I was thinking to myself, “Part of why that relationship works is because there becomes a shorthand between the two of you where you’re sensing and understanding them. It’s all happening.” We have that in our relationships, too, where you go, “I know what’s going on.”
Intuition becomes sharpened through practice. If you’re in a relationship and you’re consistently experiencing coherence and co-regulating your nervous systems and experiencing resonance with one another, then what you’re going to do is become more and more intuitive about your partner. You’re going to be able to read them well and recognize when a signal means something and they might not even be aware of it. Sometimes that’s where that reflection becomes important. Our partnerships are super important to provide those reflections.
It is amazing how much someone can tell you when they walk up. They don’t have to say one thing and you’re like, “Oh.”
You are more embodied than you’re describing. I can feel that.
I’m perceptive because that was a survival thing. The other thing that’s been interesting, and I’m curious what you would say, is when you have teenagers, you’re also trying to respect their independence. There’s an unusual fine line of keeping your finger on the pulse, but also giving them that healthy space so they don’t feel like you’re crowding them. It’s a little trickier to dial into them, even if it’s just to see if you can feel how they’re feeling. Plus, they don’t always know how they’re feeling so they’re feeling all kinds of things.
You’re not trying to take anything personal. You don’t want to go up and down on that journey either, where you’re like, “Leave me alone.” It’s an unusual time. Sometimes for a lot of parents who were fumbling through doing the best they can, it’s this interesting thing of, “I want to give you some autonomy. I want to be here for you. I don’t know what signal is going on. In fact, it’s going to maybe throw me into chaos so I can’t.”
I had a daughter say to me once that she thought there was neutrality to me and I said, “I was doing my best to be here for everybody when you’re all going down your little holes.” It’s an interesting part. as a parent, where you’re trying to calibrate. “I’m leaning in. I respect your own person. You’re going through changes.”
I remember being a teenager. I don’t have teenagers myself so I don’t want to speak out of turn. I have worked with teenagers in clinical work, but it’s been a while. What I know intuitively is that everything is a dance. You’re always going to be checking in with what’s too much and what’s not enough in many areas of your life. The one thing that I would do is talk to your kids. The ritual is checking in. Instead of trying to read them because they can be tricky to read when they’re teenagers because everything’s going on, Constantly be like, “Let’s do check-in. How are you feeling? What do you need? I want to show up for you.” “Here’s what I’m sensing,” or, “I’m not sensing anything and I want to make sure I’m not missing something. What do you need?” Half the time, they’re probably going to be like, “Whatever mom.” Then there will be a day where they’re like, “I need something.”
Those car rides to and from any place are gold because all of a sudden, “Here it comes.” It’s important.
My daughter is super into her daydreams. When we’re in the car, she wants me to play music and doesn’t want me to talk to her because she’s in a daydream. If I take a phone call or something like that, she’s like, “Mom, I’m in a good daydream. You’re interrupting.” One time, we were driving down to LA and I was cracking up. She was telling me all about her daydream, which was she was in a singing competition and all of her friends were there. It’s funny.
You have all this information. Not everyone’s going to be able to get to you. Do you do anything like Tela?
Yeah, a lot of my work is over Zoom right now.
I mean programs or if somebody can’t get to you directly.
Do you mean digital content or something of that nature?
That’s being worked on.
Maybe you’ll have 2 or 3 days’ little courses or things like that.
Yeah. I also teach classes through the Garrison Institute in New York. I don’t have anything on the calendar right now, but I am about to put some things on. That’s a great resource. They also have other classes that are amazing and some of my colleagues are incredible. I teach WellSoul mostly in Ojai. I do pro bono work, too, so I keep a good balance. I do private consulting for groups and organizations and then for individuals, couples, and families.
For workplaces and spaces, I was thinking about that. It must be amazing to get in there, too. Imagine if people had the ability to have their work environment as well as their home environment, at least when you’re trying, you’re making the attempt. When you’re showing up, your kids appreciate it. The greatest thing I could have ever done, especially for one of my daughters, was to say, “I’ll take a look at that.” When she’ll go, “Da da da,” I was like, “Let me take a look at that.” I don’t get defensive. I don’t make it a legal conversation like, “Can you give me examples?”
Have some humility about your human experience.
I had a friend say, “Sometimes we’re in these situations where we don’t get out as quick as we’d like. It takes longer if we’re maybe going through a rough patch.” If you are willing to try to get new tools, whatever those are, then you’re halfway there. Your kids will respond because they will feel heard and seen, and see that you too are willing. They’re not getting dropped off in the problem. It’s powerful. Is there anything that scares you or keeps you up at night?
Mostly the climate. The planet more so probably than anything else. Wanting us to do better and do right by this environment that provides so much nourishment to all of us. Something I’m working with in my own process is how to feel like I’m doing enough, but still do more and also remain hopeful and all of those things. That’s the primary fear.
I want to add because you brought up something so important about demonstrating for your children. Your humanity is to apologize to your children. I don’t know about your upbringing, but I grew up in an environment where parents were right and you were wrong no matter what the circumstance. If a parent was acting out of alignment, there was no apology.
Children need to see us apologize and take responsibility. Also, they’re incredibly forgiving and that is an incredibly reparative tool. If you want to help your children evolve, grow, and repair, apologize. I find myself apologizing to my kids way too often because I might lose my temper or get frustrated or whatever it might be. I do notice that it can be hard and it can taste bitter coming out sometimes.
It is a practice that gets easier.
It’s so important for them to not think that you’re always right and witness you demonstrate accountability, your humanity, and all of that stuff. Apologizing is one way to do that.
It doesn’t mean that you’re not perfectly well-intended and you’re still not smart and have some other good ideas as a parent. It just means you blew it.
You blew it at that moment. It doesn’t matter.
If you wanted to invite someone, whether it’s in the practice of their relationship with the planet or with their family members or with themselves, if you had a call to action or an invitation in those spaces, what would it be?
My call to action would be to pay attention to what’s going on around us. I know that people are ready for the pandemic to be over and to move on with their lives, but it’s not over for a reason. If anything has taught us about the interconnectedness of humanity, it is this virus. We’ve talked about it one crisis after the next in our human family, whether it’s climate-based or war, or whatever it might be. To not try to bury your head in the sand can feel so overwhelming that sometimes it feels like, “If I start to turn towards this and give it my attention, I might completely fall apart.”
My encouragement is, in small doses to whatever capacity you have for staying within that window of tolerance that we talked about, do a little bit of your own work. Read something about what’s going on in the world. I have lots of resources on my website, in the book section. You can go there. Educate yourself and take some accountability for your little corner of the planet. That would be my call to action.
Kasey, can you direct people to you and all the places that they can find you?
My website is KaseyCrown.com. That’s probably the best place to get in touch with me. Or WellSoulWorkshops.com and Garrison Institute as well. Hopefully, I’ll be posting some more classes soon. I look forward to connecting with whoever reads this that might be interested in doing some of this work.
I appreciate your work and this point of view because of the idea of trying to improve ourselves or heal ourselves without feeling shame but having actionable steps and tools. For me, talking about our feelings or, “My parents did this to me,” or whatever, at some point, it’s like, “What are we going to do?” Love is a much easier tone in which to try to look at ourselves and I appreciate that you’re putting that out there. Thank you and thank you for your time.
Thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure. I’m grateful to be here. Thanks.
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- Kasey Crown
- Dan Siegel
- Caroline Myss
- The Courage to Be Disliked
- Byron Katie
- Garrison Institute
About Kasey Crown
Kasey Hendriks Crown, MA, LMFT, is a transpersonal psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, consultant, wellness educator and activist. Her work challenges old mental health paradigms and suggests instead that true well-being lies in our ability to balance scientific and spiritual perspectives. For more than a decade, she has served as a facilitator of the healing process for adult individuals, couples, and groups, working to upend trauma, transform emotional injury, repair relationship,s and unlock vital wisdom to connect people with who they truly are. Kasey’s intuitive and balanced approach to healing has attracted the attention of some of the country’s most influential leaders across various disciplines. She is frequently contacted to consult in individual, group, and organizational crisis situations.