In this episode, I talk to two of my best friends who are amazing mental health professionals (and sisters) and have been my lifelong friends. I love their compassion, intelligence, and kindness. We have shared in each other’s most joyous and heartbreaking experiences and rely on each other for support and deep, honest friendship for many decades.
I asked them to come to chat with me because as we have just reached the first anniversary of the pandemic so many of us are suffering and I thought was a time for a sincere and useful conversation about how to improve our mental health.
In this episode we discuss practical strategies for dealing with worries in a healthier manner, compartmentalizing worry and anxiety, emotional literacy, and learning how to communicate what we are thinking and feeling in order to better understand ourselves and to achieve more positive outcomes in our relationships.
I hope you enjoy this episode and find it beneficial and helpful. We are all in this mess together and sharing our stories and insights creates empathy, compassion, and connection.
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Hello everyone. And welcome to permission to heal. I am Marci Brockman, and I am so glad you're here today is a very special episode. I have two friends of mine here who happened to be, mental health practitioners. And since this is permission to heal, it seemed very fitting that they be guests on the show.
It's also the first time, the first episode that I've actually had two guests on simultaneously. So we'll see how, How'd this goes, hopefully you listeners can follow along. So we have Laura here who is a psychiatrist in private practice, and we have Marcia who is a psychologist in a combined sort of private practice group practice situation.
And I've known them both for a very long time. And I thought it would be a really cool idea to have them here. And chat about what we always talk about mental health and, taking good care of ourselves and showing ourselves compassion as we move through our lives to heal the trauma and experiences of the past.
So welcome ladies. I'm so glad you're here. Thank you. It's great to be here. Thank you very much for having us. My pleasure. I'm thrilled that you're here. So I usually begin the interviews with six fast questions in the actor studio vein of things. We always wonder, like now that we have two people, which one's going to go first, we could do an alphabetical thing.
We could do an age thing. The younger one goes first. I don't know. So both answer both or perhaps, in the interest of time, maybe whoever has it. I don't know, whatever we could alternate there. Six you each answer three. What else? Okay. Let's see how it goes. What five words would you use to describe yourself?
Ooh, I had an idea for that. What if we describe each other and said, is that easier? Oh yeah. You know each other. Why not? What five words would you use to describe the other one? Ooh, interesting. We're all in separate places. So no one's going to be throwing daggers at anyone else. We've also been friends a long time and we like each other, so I don't think.
I have three CS for Laura, very caring, very compassionate and very creative. Ooh. I agree with that. I am not as prepared as you are because I didn't know that they were going to perhaps say,
I would say loving, I would say. I'm looking for the word there's one, one word to encapsulate this, the spirit of what you're talking about, what I'm talking about, which is really the spirit of Marsha, which is some combination of fun and exciting and exuberance. Yes. And enthusiastic and passionate.
Maybe passionate is a good one for that. Yeah. Small interest, quarterly intelligent, I would say right back at ya. Lots of intelligence over there too. And there's lots and lots of words. Describe you. That's awesome. Okay, let's go to the next one. What's your favorite way to spend a day? I can take this one.
Okay. But if I had one day where a time stopped and everything stopped and it was no hassle and I was just going to be plunked in there, probably nothing beats a gorgeous like warm Lake or beach, body of water with beautiful, peaceful looking out opportunities and a fabulous book, possibly a tropical drink and some hydrating beverage and sunscreen and peace and quiet and no bugs.
Oh, no bugs. Definitely. That sounds perfect. Without hassles and annoyances and itchy creatures and just peaceful. Beautiful, no screaming children, no crotchety old folks, but yeah not for the perfect, maybe a handsome waiter. Interestingly, Marsha, I would say ditto when I first. I was thinking about that.
I was thinking a realistic day, like if I could do whatever I wanted tomorrow, but yes, absolutely. If you're going to talk about fantasy and realism being irrelevant, then absolutely everything you just said. Fabulous book, beautiful beach. I would add warm water. I don't know if you said that, but like the beach water has to be warm cocktail for sure.
I throw a massage in there somewhere. I wouldn't have thought to mention the no bugs thing, but certainly yes. Yeah. That's crucial for me. No mosquitoes. Yeah. Yes. Good answer. Okay. What's your favorite childhood memory? Sorry. I just made a face. You guys that are listening. Can't see it, but she just made a face.
These are hard questions. They seem so simple, but I can say that one of the things that I treasure from my childhood was that, although in my particular family, we had a relatively small. Nuclear family, but we were also close with our aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents. And so that lent itself to a lot of times where we all would, especially over the summer, we would all get together in somebodies house and.
Yeah. And really spend the weekend together or whatever, and sometimes that included swimming or, yeah. And you've talked about this a lot over the years. Yeah. It was really lovely to have access to all of those different family members. Especially I would say the cousins that were similar ages to my siblings and I had, we've, our cousins were similar ages and so we all got to play together in a way that we didn't.
Get to do in our regular home lives and I felt special. So I very much value that from my childhood, but I can't whittle that down to one specific memory. No, it's a recurring thing. So you're lucky that you've had that many of those experiences. That's wonderful. Wonderful.
So what is your favorite meal? This could be hormone, weather dependent, seasonal, dependent, I might say macaroni and cheese one day and a salad the next day, or actually I'd never say salad, but I might say sushi. I could say an ice cream sundae with no calories. Now that doesn't exist.
I can tell you my favorite course. I love soup. Okay. Yes, you have soup is my favorite soup is so wonderful. Any time of day or any time of year, like I would have soup for breakfast sometimes. Like I love soup. It's cozy. It's warm. It gives you a hug on the inside when you're hold. There's refreshing students throw in it's hot soup is just the best.
Awesome. My, my mom used to tell a story that for awhile, I guess I was probably around seven or eight years old. I would only eat chicken soup, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I would only eat chicken soup. And she called the pediatrician like really alarmed. Oh my God, my daughter's only getting chicken soup.
And she, and the doctor's yeah. And she's still eating. Eventually she'll get bored. Deal with it. You were only eating M and M's or something. It was chicken, soup noodles in it, or rice in it, or what sort of noodles and chicken and carrots, and, it's kind of everything. It's just in a bowl with liquid.
That's what I love about food. You can put proteins, you can put carbs, but lots of vegetables, you can put fruits, you can make it, anything goes in a soup. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Laura food and chocolate being a meal. Yeah, of course. Anything with chocolate. Okay. Anything with chocolate?
Just chocolate in general. Yeah. I go back and forth between milk chocolate and dark chocolate. And for me it's definitely dark. Yeah, it usually is for me too. But lately if you put caramel in it, there's some caramel. That is really cool. I agree. Okay. What one piece of advice would you like to give your younger self?
I'm not sure this would be the one probably wouldn't be, but one thing that I would like my younger self to know is to care less.
What other people think that's a huge one. My current self could stand to know that a little bit as well, but certainly a lot more now than I did when I was younger. Yeah, that's the thing with this kind of questions. If you could magically infuse the sophistication and wisdom that comes with greater years into your younger, it's a very different sort of experience than just like being you and having that piece of info.
Like one piece, like there's a person in my life who made it very challenging for me to have a decent relationship with side of my family. And if I could go back in time and treat that person with. Kid gloves and very differently, even though I would never have been able to, at that age, it would have made my life a lot easier and probably some other people's.
Yeah. So that's something, but I don't think if you could go and tell young marshal to do that, that she'd be any better able to do it then than she was in real life, yeah. Yeah. I would like to go back and tell the younger Marcy that it is not her job to make sure other people are okay. And that.
That she has to give herself compassion before she thinks about anybody else. Not that she should be selfish, but I grew up being a people pleaser and completely overlooking every one of my needs in order to make while specifically my mother, but most other people happy. Like I, if they came to me and said I had a problem, they had a problem.
Rather I took it upon myself and made it my responsibility to fix their problem.
And you can't fix anyone else. You can try, but it's not your responsibility to, you can offer suggestions, but ultimately they're their own people and can ignore you and walk away and that's it, especially when you're a kid, it is really not your job to fix the problem.
Totally not your job. Like I became my mom's therapist and that screwed my whole entire adolescence up. So yeah. I think another thing that I would add to that if I may is the part for myself, not for you, but similar. I had a similar thought to what you were just saying. And I think another piece of advice I might give my younger self probably more important than the first one is protect yourself on by which I mean it's okay to have needs.
It's okay to have. Opinions and stand up for yourself in a way and protect your right to autonomy and your right to you'll and your right to speak up for yourself and that kind of thing. I think that's kinda what I mean by protect yourself, which is similar, although slightly different from what you were saying.
Yeah. And I would incorporate that as well. Huge. Would have been life-changing, but then again, you talk butterfly effect. If I was able to go back and do that, and then I wouldn't be the me that's talking to you now, I would be someone else. Some certain nuance of my life of my personality would be shifted.
So let's not talk butterfly effect. Let's just ignore that and carry forward. What is the one thing you would most like to change about the way I can do that one? Go ahead. I would like people to, I'll say it politely care about. For other people. I would like. And a really, truly grand scale for people to care more about each other and be way less selfish than I have come to realize more lately than ever before that they really are.
I think people are inherently self interested, which to some extent is important for. Self protection and evolution of the species. But I also believe that people, especially nowadays just simply are too easily able to remove themselves from the experiences of other people. And just say, if it doesn't affect me, I don't care.
And that's in terms of. Politics that's in terms of COVID that's in terms of charity it's in terms of just everything even driving down the road, people are all too ready to cut each other off or, not let somebody else and anything from small things like that to just, wearing a mask and protecting so much less community mindedness than there's ever been before.
And measurable impact on the environment on people's mental health. I think that has actually been a lot of what I've been seeing in my practice lately is that a lot of people are just sparing at the state of the world. And what they generally are referring to with that is, is just feeling like people are not doing what they should be doing.
People are being responsible. People are causing larger problems in a way that really does affect everybody. Yeah. And that's quite disheartening. I absolutely agree. Marsha, you have something you want to add to that? No, I agree completely with all that. It is very disheartening. I also hear that a lot.
So you got a lot of people despairing, like how can so many people see the world so differently than I do? And how can so many people have beliefs that I just can't. Wrap my head around and they don't seem to care enough about other people's no it's really hard to see a rosy path forward when you look around and see these proportions.
So I think a lot of people are pretty stressed and pretty depressed as a result. Absolutely. That brings us now into what I want. Like the bulk of this conversation, the direction that the conversation will go in it is as mental health professionals as currently practicing Practitioners for lack of a better word.
That's probably the best word. Have you seen an uptick in mental illness or an uptick in anxiety and uptick in people who are seeking your professional assistance? Yes, certainly. Yes, definitely. I think there's just in general more and more people are reaching their breaking point.
I'm personally a believer that. Just about anybody can benefit from psychotherapy at some time at any that having a person to speak with outside of your immediate family, friends, partner, social circle, like somebody at career like away, who's impartial, but they're purely to help you and under understand is invaluable.
And if more people are deciding, you know what, now I'm really freaked out. I need to talk to somebody then I think overall it's probably a good thing, bad that we're in this situation, but terrific for reaching out, because I think it's getting gradually more and less stigmatized or more unstigmatized yeah, that was going to be my next question.
Do you think that the stigma against seeking mental health and maybe going on meds and all of that stuff, like finding different therapies to, to combat the different. Mental illnesses. So the different stresses, the different anxiety points. Do you see the stigma decreasing? I feel like that we're having so many more of these conversations and other podcasts that I listened to.
Other podcasts that my listeners listen to. I think that, there's a necessity, there's a need to have conversations like this, but I feel like there are. They're opening up so many more avenues for people to get help. I think from my perspective, it's a little hard to say that, to know that because I.
I'm coming at it from a mental health professionals lens, so I think, for me, that's Sigma has never been a part of my reality. It's obviously a part of the reality of people that come to me and I talked to them about it a lot, but once they're coming to me, they've already overcome it, certain amount of that, because they're willing to come to that, so there is a self-selected group of people. So whether I can say on a larger scale that the stigma has gone down, I don't know, in my. Bubble. And I do think it's important that we all acknowledge that we are all living in our own bubble. It seems like it, and I certainly hope that it's true.
And I agree with everything Marsha said earlier that I believe everybody can benefit from psychotherapy and in an ideal world, everybody would be engaged in psychotherapy. And I do think that. This has probably removed some of the stigma or at least pushed people over the threshold in some way, because this is an unprecedented event and situation in their lives that they can maybe say, I've been wanting this for a while, or some people maybe I've never even thought about doing this, but now it seems like an appropriate choice for me.
Yeah, I think that this pandemic to deal with this level of comprehensive. Societal community and individual stress and strife all at the same time, over this very long and prolonged period of time. I don't think anybody in February and March thought that we'd still be here in this position.
Now, I think we figured out by the spring time that it was going to be a long time. But I know I certainly didn't predict this. And I think that we all benefit from the fact that we have. This teleconferencing ability, not only to go to school, we see that with education because I'm a public school teacher.
We see that with the education and everyone who's parents knows that their kids are going to school and some sort of form of hybrid teleconferencing, zooms or Google meets or classroom stuff depending on where they are in the country or where they are in the world. And I think for safety sake, That a lot of medical practitioners, including mental health practitioners are doing tele-health as a way of seeing more patients and increasing the scope or the breadth of their practices.
I would imagine. I know my own therapist and I see each other as well, the phone, cause she doesn't have to use a computer. Which is pretty funny but my daughter, who's seeing several practitioners She does hers all through. Tele-health also. I think that's interesting. When your patients come to you with these kinds of issues how do you initially help them?
How do you figure out what it is that they're struggling with? I'm going to answer the second, the first part of your question first about what do you do when people are coming in stressed and obviously take this with an enormous grain of salt because obviously every person's problem is different situation is different.
Some people are coming in really nervous. Anxious. What does this mean for me, for my family? Are things ever going to get back to normal? And my family member is going to die, or my kid's going to be able to make it through school. Worries. What's going to happen? What if this happens?
What if my kid gets left out? What if my husband loses his job? All those kinds of concerns I would incorporate in the general category of generalized anxiety. What if this happens? What are the worries? And there are some specific strategies that are pretty helpful for worry, which I'd be happy to share if that was what you're absolutely.
Okay. So starting with that, I of course, people have depression or people have concerns about germs or other things that, those, the interventions are different, but starting with worries. I'll just say there's a few couple of things. A few things I like to recommend. One is this idea of asking yourself with everything you're worrying about, isn't this worry, productive or unproductive, right?
So if your worry is. Productive. That means thinking about it is likely to help you arrive at either feeling better or handling the problem or solving the problem. So if I am. Worrying, because I think I'm going to fail my test tomorrow because I haven't studied enough. And then that motivates me to study harder for my test and I do well.
That was a productive worry, Oh gosh, I gotta study for this test or I'm not going to do well. And that leads me to study that wasn't productive, where it makes sense. If I worry, what if in five years when my kid is applying to college, they have so many events are taking place between now and then.
And there's. Little to nothing you can do about that sort of future worry. Or what if, the roads are icy next week and someone gets in a car accident or something like that, thinking about it, worrying about it is not helpful at all, and it doesn't protect you and it doesn't make it less likely to happen.
So worry that you want to really practice deciding this is unproductive and trying to let it go. So that's step one, two. And of course the question would be well, okay. Easier said than done. How do you let it go? If we could let it go, there'd be no need for it. Mental health practitioners. And I'd say good point.
It's easier said than done. There are some strategies and ways you can try to let it go by either. So the other thing I was really going to recommend is one of the things to do to help yourself, let it go. And it's not exactly let it go, but it's minimized it's disruptive on your life. So my second main strategy for worry would be to schedule what I like to call and what professionals tend to call worry time.
So worry time, is he designated, let's say 30, 45 minutes in your day where you decided this is when I'm going to worry. All of my worries are schedule your worry and not only am I going to worry, but I'm going to worry hard and lustily and juicy really with every muscle of my body and every funnel out at once.
I am going to worry my butter off and feel tense and stressed and invite all these worries and douse myself in the words. Let them wash over me as much as they want. Ding ding, times up for worry time. And all those worries are now. Done for now. And should they come up in the future? You say, you will get your due tomorrow at worry time for now, leave me alone.
The other 23 and a half hours of the day are for me to sleep or do work or parent my child or whatever I might need to do. And that half hour is protected for worry time. And you really worry yourself into an exhausted stupor that you have no more energy for worrying anyway, during worry time, hopefully.
And then all the rest of the words just get pushed to the next thing. Is that sort of the opposite of meditation in a way you can say that we're not, I don't know if I'd say it's the opposite, but it is rather than directly trying to relax yourself, you try to stress yourself super out so that you're exhausted and the worries have gotten their due and now they can leave you alone.
But in some ways I would add that it is, it has some similarities to meditation in that you are actively focusing all of your energy on that one thing and allowing it in. Totally. Yeah. And that sense of mindfulness focus attention on one thing, whether it's your worries or your breath or letting go of them.
You're exactly right. I totally agree with that, Laura and I would add, I absolutely agree with everything that Marshall just said. And it just in, in line with your concept of permission to heal permission, to land, in some ways, what I like to tell my patients is that you can use that as like permission to worry.
That there are times when worrying is not. It's just not the right time for it, because it is actually interfering in your life or your functioning, and then set a time where you do have permission to worry. And that also, I agree with Marcia that helps. The other times would be worry-free because you know that you will have a time for it later.
Whereas just saying, don't worry about it is very ineffective in general because, and dismissive and disrespectful. And I think it's awful for yourself. If you just say, Oh, come on, you're being ridiculous. Don't worry. Those parts don't get hurt and they have a legitimate. Purpose to serve and a legitimate desire to protect you.
Anxiety is usually, and it's, until it gets over the top, it's protective. It keeps us, it gives us an alarm system. Something's not right here. Something's concerning, so we don't want it to go away. We just want it to be channeled in a healthier way. So getting worry time, as Laura was also saying, is this way of giving it its permission.
It's do, you're getting it all your attention. Some of the time, but it's not allowed to pervade your entire life. So what keeps you from perseverating over it or ruminating over it unnecessarily? Because you can train yourself I suppose to say, okay. So it's only between 10 and 10 30 tomorrow morning.
Right now. I'm not doing that right now. I'm feeding my kid or right now I'm going for a run or right now Working or whatever. Exactly. And I would have one more thing to make worry, time more effective is do it in a place where you don't do anything else. So not on your bed and not at your kitchen table and not at your desk.
You pick a random place in your living room where there's no furniture and drag a chair over there or something, and do worry times there because you don't want all these worries to be associated with one of them. Oh, that's an interesting tactic. You want it to be just your worry space and it's only for that purpose.
You can put that time to go away, that parking go away. You can put the chair back in a different place than the word space. It's it doesn't exist.
It's interesting. I never heard in all of the conversations that I've had and all of the research that I've done, I have never heard of this strategy. I think it's. Got some significant merit for some people rather. I will also say some people hated it. They get stupid and think it doesn't work at all.
So it might not work for you. Not everything works for everybody. I I gotta, you gotta try stuff and, see if it throws stuff to the walls. If it sticks, the general compartmentalizing worry, though. If that particular technique doesn't work for you finding maybe some different way to modify it, compartmentalizing worry is very helpful.
How, what do you mean? You're saying another way. I'd love to, if it doesn't, just finding some way to global to, in any way to remove worry from your present moment when it is actually hindering your productivity or your functioning or your parenting or your, whatever it is you need to be doing, you're driving, something that really does require your attention.
Being able to. Delay it until later in some form, even if that like really circumscribed being in a different place in a different time, a thing isn't effective or does it, it doesn't feel right for you. I think finding some other way to modify it rather than, just completely eliminating that possibility is.
No for me, what I've always found, what worked was not necessarily confining all that, although maybe it's really what I've been doing. I've always used writing, expressive, writing and journaling as a way of getting out all of those feelings. Somehow, I feel like when I put them on paper or even sometimes if I'm driving and voice, record them into.
The notepad on my function, on my phone or something just as a way of expressing it. As soon as I, I name it and I get it out there, I'm able to say, all right, now, I'm not going to deal with that. Now I've allowed it's space, and now I'm doing something else. So it's just calling it something else.
I think it's, I'm a big believer in putting things into words when you can. And whether that means finding somebody to talk to, or writing it down or sitting in front of a wall and just saying it out loud I find that especially helpful for problem solving. Because you can talk yourself through all of the options and all of that.
But it also, I think is good for worry. It's good for a lot of things because it forces you to name things and to hear yourself acknowledge things. That maybe are a little scary, a little Versive in some way. Things you don't want to acknowledge, it really does make you come face to face with them.
And once you do that can be a remarkable hurdle to get over that. Then things become much easier to cope with. Yeah, it was extraordinary while you were talking, it reminded me, that TV show grace and Frankie. It's lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin plays like this very granola, funny esoteric sort of character. And she has this habit of setting her iPhone up on propped it up on books or a little tripod saying, and she videotapes herself venting.
Explaining what she's worried about, explaining what she's thinking about, what she's ruminating over. And then she, through the process of creating the video, she figures out the problem or is able to circumvent the anxiety or whatever it is. And it's all the same, just using different, expressive, creative applications of it, yeah. If I could go back to something more, I was just saying before, and just add one more thing to it, because I think it's so important, this idea of naming it whatever it is that you're feeling that you're going through and putting words to it, I would just add to that. And this is a big tenet of dialectical behavior therapy, which is one of the kinds of therapy that I like to practice.
That's unbelievable is this idea that everything that you like, it's the same thing. It's It's the difference between, for example, saying to somebody you're being so annoying or you're such a jerk, instead of saying, I feel really annoyed when you walk away, when I'm trying to have a conversation with you.
Like that basic you are so much likely more likely to get a positive result when you keep it on describing saying what's going on with your words and your thoughts and how it's affecting you and what it's making you think of putting the phrase. I wonder if, or I'm thinking that, or I have the thought that in front of something gives it so much more space for the other person to like, how can you argue with how I feel?
I'm not telling you, the difference between you make me angry versus I'm noticing I'm feeling angry when you raise your voice, all of those sorts of descriptions and whatever. So big and so important. And I think using that for ourselves too, rather than I'm such a loser, or why can't I get over this pandemic or something like that.
If you can say to yourself, I'm having, I'm noticing myself having some negative thoughts toward myself, or I'm noticing myself feeling sad right now, or my throat feels tight. My, my chest feels constricted. My head is throbbing over here. Like putting words to any part of our experience makes it so much easier to deal with and also normalizes it and makes it more relatable to other people. And then the person that you're sharing that with, it's less apt to be on the defensive and much more apt to actually meet you where you are in that feeling. That's important. Recently I've come across like a whole bunch of people who are suffering with whatever they're suffering with and are, I don't know if it's a thing, I call it comparative suffering.
Like I shouldn't complain because someone else has it worse, even though I'm perfectly allowed to complain, I. Right now I'm quarantining, we're talking in December and I am quarantining because I was in contact with somebody who has COVID, but I am relatively asymptomatic. I have cold symptoms, but nothing I'd ever like seriously complain about, I've a headache in my I'm a little congested and somebody else might say you shouldn't complain because other people have it worse.
What do you say to patients when they do that? Or friends when they do that, I think that it's important that everybody deserves validation for their own experiences and their own emotions. And you can't compare yourself.
You can, of course, but I don't think it's healthy or adaptive to compare yourself to the suffering of others and therefore discount your right to have your own feelings and emotions. Yes, you're always going to be able to find it no matter how bad your lot in life, you're always going to be able to find somebody who has it worse.
Does that mean that your suffering is any less and especially if it's comparatively for you a very hard time, that is something that can be honored and respected. You don't have to use extreme language, no one has ever suffered more than that. Now this is the biggest problem anybody's ever had, going crazy with it.
But this is really hard for me. This was one of the hardest things I've had to deal with. This is something that's been like a real struggle. There should be no shame in that or guilt about saying such a thing, just because others have it worse. Exactly. That makes a lot of sense. Very articulately said.
And Laura's nodding. I agree with that for sure. And I was going to say examples verbatim, what Marcia just said, that you can always find somebody who's worse off. There will always be somebody who's worse off, but that doesn't mean that they are the only ones who are allowed to suffer. And more importantly, they're not the only ones that are suffering.
If you are suffering, scolding yourself for suffering or shaming yourself for suffering. First of all it doesn't alleviate your suffering. It doesn't do any good. And it compounds the problem because now you're suffering Andrew embarrassed about it, or you're suffering and you're, judging, conscious and judging yourself.
I forgot any better. And I think that validating is the word that Marshall used that I think is probably the most important one for that is that your feelings and experiences are valid no matter what they are. And you're not asking somebody who is worse off to be the one that helps you through it. For example, I have a friend who's homeless.
They're probably not the person that you should be complaining to, that you have a runny nose, mean you can acknowledge it within yourself. That is that it is something challenging or painful that you're going through and accept that about yourself and put it into perspective.
But still allow yourself the grace and space to feel what you feel. I had a colleague of mine who was complaining to me the other day that she didn't understand why her kid was so upset after some, something that was incidental, like an ice cream cone fell, or somebody took a toy or, something that, that we would as grownups deem as ridiculous.
But it was. Pivotally traumatic for her, for our five-year-olds. I don't know how old her kid is. And I was like, outlandishly upset, like how could you not have compassion for your kid who's suffering from his or her perspective? What advice would you give that parent?
Or go ahead. I think it's very important as a parent. Now we're shifting to talking about parenting in this particular example, but in general, as a, as a mental health it is important to. Okay. So if we're talking about children, it is really crucial to think about what is age appropriate and not expect a four or five-year-old child to live the life, or have the reactions or experiences of an adult, because we only get to the place where we know how to handle those types of things as an adult, by going through them as a child and by having those experiences validated.
It's funny. I never noticed how How permission to land permission to heal is such a good phrase for all of these things, because this is in this case, it's permission to feel right enough to help permission to feel what you feel. And it doesn't have to be proportionate to what you would feel as an adult.
If you're a child, you want it. Okay. Because you only have a limited life experience. If you're only for having your favorite toy taken away or losing your lovey or, the ice cream cone that you've been waiting for all day, that you were really good for all days, you could deserve this ice cream cone falling on the ground is catastrophic.
And that's, kids have those types of reactions, like I said before, so that they can learn over time with experience. I think people minimize the importance of experience in learning. You don't learn how to handle things as an adult, until you have had the experience, learning things as a child and being age appropriate in your reactions and in your understanding of people.
It was very important. So that your kid grows up emotionally literate and trusting his or herself and what's going on the inside. And another example of that is when parents say, Oh, stop being ridiculous and there's no monsters or, Oh, nothing bad is going to happen to you in the dark stop.
That's not validated, that nothing is gonna happen in the dark because you have had years of experience with dark. And because you have a year's experience with nighttime and you have learned. That about what about monsters being not real, but into a child, they can be very real and finding a way to reassure them.
Actually, there is no such thing as a monster, that kind of thing can be helpful, but being dismissive about it and we're moving, certainly not the way to handle it is dangerous and really can be catastrophic. And so now we're moving out from the child experience. I'm thinking more about from, an adult patient perspective, it goes back to what you were saying before, which I guess is how we got here that.
Whatever feelings you're having are valid and telling yourself not to have them or telling somebody else not to have them is damaging and fruitless. And it's getting through them and understanding them and working with them that is going to be repairative or restorative. It's not going to be telling them that they don't have a right to exist.
These thoughts or fears are absolutely by encouraging each other. To be, to create a safe space where we can be vulnerable with one another increases, empathy, and increases the sense of community and connectedness with others, which I think going back to what we were talking about earlier about wanting to change the world, I think is the very first step in that.
But if we can start listening to each other and really. Allow each other, the space to feel and communicate and talk and express each arm ourselves to each other. That's the first step towards figuring out how someone else might feel in a situation or, having the empathy to, to care about more than just our own little familial bubble.
One step at a time, baby steps are still steps. I say that all the time. It's true. Baby steps are still steps. My little micro goals are still goals. I'm not going to think about changing the universe until I can think about, changing the towels in the bathroom, the readers would want to know I feel like I'm like practical solutions more than today, but like how to put into practice a little bit of what Laura just said is again, similar to what we've already been talking, but just to make it simple in case there's a listener, who's thinking, Oh my gosh, I think I'd do that with my kids.
I don't want to do that. Absolutely. How do I do that? I would suggest starting phrases with things like, I understand that you feel blank. Your goal is that before you, I start telling them that it's crazy and it's dangerous. It's not dangerous and don't worry and all that stuff. If you can say just the one, that's the one I understand that you're upset that you spilled your ice cream cone.
I totally understand how scared you must feel thinking that there are monsters in your closet. I totally understand how disappointed. Of course you're disappointed. You've been looking forward to that ice cream and it fell on the floor. Anything like that, where you are saying it makes sense to me that you feel how you feel nothing to do.
Whether I agree, whether I feel that way completely irrelevant. I understand how you little person validation, how you feel from your perspective. That makes sense to me. And naming it like you just did, I think is also good. It's not just, I understand how you feel, but sometimes especially when the kid is really little, I understand that you feel disappointed that you feel scared and if it goes a little bit older, you can say, it seems to me that maybe what you're feeling is disappointed.
Am I right. Am I right? Yeah, exactly. And, and I would certainly understand if you were feeling disappointed and then that gives the kid room to say, yeah, but really I'm angry or we have a really, I'm scared that you're gonna be mad at me for dropping my, whatever kind of, as the kid gets a little older, you can give them a little bit more.
But the, I understand part I, 100% agree with what Marshall just said. That's a very good point. Yeah, it's, step-by-step teaching a child to be emotionally literate, to be able to explain how they're feeling in a way that makes sense to them so that they can communicate what's going on inside. I was reading an article.
I want to say Washington post, but I'm not a hundred percent sure about emotional literacy recently because it was probably not the Washington post. Now I'm thinking about it, but it so this person was doing a study and had a group of people write down on a piece of paper, all of the emotions they could think of.
Just in general, like you have a timeframe, here's a piece of paper and a pen, write down all of the emotions that you can think of. And there were some people who could write a zillion of them, and there were some people who didn't get past angry, sad, happy, or. I don't know, pissed off or something.
There was only like four things that they could think of and there was nothing else. It just reinforced for me the absolute importance of teaching children, teaching grownups, how to name the things that they're feeling.
Absolutely. It's unbelievably important English between emotions that can be misconstrued as each other and how to pick the sensations and the thoughts that go through your mind and all of the things that are associated with different motions. And when does it make sense to have a certain emotion? We have whatever emotions we have, but when are we misattributing a situation and maybe it could be.
See, seeing in a different way and then having a different emotion. But anyway, yeah, there's a whole lot of interesting stuff about like emotional literacy and about helping people to figure out the way that they feel and be able to express it because other people really can't guess. And can't tell and something that I see that I would add to that is that I think a lot of times people experience anger because it's easier and less uncomfortable to experience than pain or shame.
Yeah. A lot of time things manifest as anger when really what they mean is that they're hurt or that they're scared or that they're embarrassed or maybe scared. If you're angry, I'm trying to think of a good example. It's hard to a lot of times you're like you're angry at your parents.
Let's say for something that they did, in your childhood, but really what that may be is a less painful version of I'm really hurt that when I was little, you weren't there for me in that way or that you didn't give me what I needed, or, you let me down in some way and that's hurtful.
Anger is real too, and you can be angry as well, but there is something satisfying in some way about the feeling of outrage that makes it preferable to really allowing yourself to feel disappointed, hurt, ashamed, that kind of stuff. And I think a lot of the problems in the world come from people thinking that they're really angry when really they're hurt.
Yeah. I know for very long time, I was very angry at my mother and that anger really wasn't so much anger as just the little girl in me, feeling abandoned and unloved and unworthy and unseen. And that is way more painful than anger. I didn't know how to manifest it as anything else. Powerless, little tiny, little me had no idea how to deal with that.
So I was angry and still. Felt like I had to please her through the anger, because to me, the only way that I was valued was through my service to others, was through making her happier with me at the moment. So I might've wanted to push her off the second row, the roof of the house, but never would express it because I never felt safe enough.
So I would write about it. I've got a box of journals here, going back to the mid eighties, where I was writing all sorts of things. We're putting it into words in your journal was probably quite helpful to you. Oh, it was, I was pivotal because I didn't ever. I didn't ever channel it into unhealthy negative behaviors that other kids did.
I didn't go do drugs excessively, and I didn't go drink and I didn't go lie. And do all sorts of behaviors that would have been physically and emotionally detrimental to myself. Instead I drew and wrote, I turned myself into, I turned to express it through creativity. And then ultimately when I was single, after my divorce, that's how I.
Figured out that I was a painter because I started playing around with the paints just as a way of it. To me, it was it's meditative, like I might not sit in a Lotus position and say, Oh, I'm to meditate, but doing creative, things like that. And I think Laura, you're so creative. Also, you probably feel that also that, that the creativity that having that outlet, whether you're making Halloween costumes for some, for your kids or I'm painting something or.
We're writing a poem or something. It channels those feelings into something else and gives that cognitive center of my brain. Some rest. Where I'm not consciously aware that I'm processing, but I am. Yes. And I do have that experience. And I would say, Marsha, you probably, I would guess that you do that a little bit with music.
I think for you, music is an important part of your, and dancing is an important part of your sort of expressive. And, I think you don't identify as. Creative as much as you are. I think you're more creative than you think you are. I don't think of myself as like the visual. Visually creative kinesthetically, creative.
Yes, totally creative. I like to sing. I like to dance. I like to move around. I like to do that kind of stuff, but trying to draw a picture that looks like the thing. We all have talents in different things. Ladies, this has been a really wonderful conversation. I learned some stuff. I think the listeners learned some stuff.
And I think that your patients are extremely lucky to have you in their lives. Thank you so much. That's so sweet and we are extremely lucky to have you in our lives. We've been friends for a very long time. It's pretty awesome. And we will be forever. The permission to heal audience and listeners are so thrilled that you were here and maybe we'll have you back again.
That would be great. Thank you so much. Thank you.