In this I talk with one of my favorite people in the mental health space, The Doodle Doc Trish Philipps. I spent a long time trying to reconcile with my inner child, and in that, I discovered a huge wealth of compassion and self-love, I even wrote a...
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Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well. Wherever you are in the world. I don't know about you, but I'm super excited to be here today and I'm joined by a great friend, Dr. Trish Phillips also known as “The Doodle Doc” Dr. Trish, my friend. How are you today? I'm so excited to have you here.
Dr. Trish: Oh, I'm just wonderful! Thank you so much for having me.
Michael: It's literally all my pleasure, I have been a fan of yours for a while, so I'm a little bit fanboying out over here. For those who may not know you, can you just tell quickly who you are?
Dr. Trish: Yeah, sure. I'm based in Southern, California. I am a therapist. I've been doing trauma work for probably 25 years with all sorts of different people specializing in dissociation and also I started just a few years back doing a little bit of doodling in describing some kind of harder concepts to describe with words alone with little doodle people. And so that's on Instagram and that’s thedoodledoc are part of it.
Michael: Yeah! And I love your Instagram. We were talking briefly before we started rolling here, that I think that there is a cause to have that style of conversation for all types of this mental health journey. I'm very curious. Where did that come from? How do you start that? And if you haven't, guys go and check out thedoodledoc on Instagram, you'll see exactly what we're talking about. But where does that come from? How did you begin that?
Dr. Trish: Okay, so let's see. It started back. I want to say probably like 2015. Actually, I got my Doctorate around 2012. I started my doctoral journey, and so I just made a decision to only study things that were deeply personal to me and they're very meaningful to me, and I knew that that would translate to my clients very well to my life very well. And so I started to really deeply study interpersonal, neurobiology, and the connection piece and the importance of deep relational connection and understanding the brain function of it and all of that. And so part of that journey was studying with someone in Portland and she's just a master at this, and I would go to her house and on the very last day that I was at one of these retreats, we're doing what she calls like a rest time. So we were talking like an after-lunch little nap, kind of thing. And I was sitting there and I just have this vision of a lot of these concepts are very wordy, very heady and they touched inside like this, this child place that they made a lot of sense, but not with the words with the implicit. So they touched on a very deep level, and I thought, how can I bring that forward in a way that is beyond the words that will tap into the inner child within us all and I thought, you know, I think it's at that time it was like, through a graphic novel, I thought, you know, maybe like a graphic novel style and I kind of tricked myself up for a few more years, and I ended up starting to try to draw and then I started connecting with my son who then came back from college. He went to college in New York and L. A and he came back from college and it was a bumpy transition for him coming back but he's an artist. And so this was like a connecting piece between him and me at that point. And so he would kind of say; ‘Mom just do this, you know, just try this.’ ‘Do do it like this
And so he showed me all these like looks at, they do it with stick figures and I'm like, okay, let me try. And I just started doing these little doodles and then putting the words with them and just had a very big response from people who started telling me you know you're it's like you're speaking to my inner child like I didn't understand that concept until I saw it in the figurine.
Michael: Yeah, they're very beautiful and profound and more so. I think that as I just kind of sit and I'll look at them, and I understand my journey now being well over a decade into this, thinking like, oh, where was this when I was trying to understand these concepts and ideas? I mean, I would literally be a civilian in rooms full of doctorates, trying to understand things like dissociation, and the impact of trauma and the whole nine and thinking to myself, man, if you could have summarized that in a sentence for me ten years ago, gosh how helpful that would have been? You're doing that, and I think there's something to be said about the simplification of this, often we are faced with looking at this and studies, and research, and looking at all the variables and it's overwhelming, it's cumbersome, and for the average person, a layman, dare I say myself, I sit here and I look and I dive into white papers and I go okay, now I need somebody to translate what I think, I might actually understand thus, look at what you have done, and I think about the impetus of the idea of, wow, that's powerful because I don't have to overthink something that's already so incredibly complicated.
Dr. Trish: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I really totally relate to that because when I was up at those seminars, I would sit there and I've listened to this completely brilliant woman, described the brain, and at one point, I remember, I just burst out laughing in this group of, you know, therapist and professionals. I just burst out laughing and she started laughing too. And I said to her, she's like, are, you know, is everything, okay? and I said, I don't think I just understood anything you said and so and her partner was there and she said, you know, I rarely understand what she says and we all just started laughing and it really normalized, the experience of a lot of this material that we try to understand, to understand ourselves, to understand our relationships, takes a different form. It takes something that is very sensory, it's very embodied, we need a different way to try to comprehend it that's been on the logical.
Michael: And in something about it feels dare I say safe, like, I look at what you create and I go, man, let me put it this way. I spent a long time trying to connect with the idea that it's okay to have an inner child as an adult human being, and I think that what you do is you give permission to people to step into that without shame or guilt, because it's cute and it's quirky, but also, the message is so, like, hmm spot-on. You read some of these and, you know, you see, it's okay, it's okay, it's whatever that thing, maybe. How do we help people step further into understanding that there is a part of this process involving re-parenting and becoming comfortable with the fact that you do have this inner part of you, these wounds use childhood trauma experiences that need compassion, and care, and hope, and joy and love but also you are an adult, so you have to find that balance? Like, how do you step into that conversation?
Dr. Trish: Right. It is a balance and a lot of times adults have a really hard time because we seemed to hit this threshold where there's now this message that we have to be adults, whatever that means, right? And it's like there's a lot of social messages, there's a lot of family messages, you know, we have to do things and that's true too. We have to do grown-up things, but there's still that wounded child inside there, still, that hurt inside that pain, that gets tapped into from these adult things that we do. So you know, an argument with a partner, something going on at work, you know someone cuts you off on the freeway, all of these little things can be just tapped into and to tell the adult person that, you know, these reactions that you're having are coming from this place inside that now, needs that healing that needs you to turn towards and attend to this child inside, that we can turn to her, and attentive, like you said, there can be a tremendous shame. I work with a lot of people, that's the very same thing but I'm a, I'm an adult, I have my own children, you know, I've been married for 20 years, you know. I'm a CEO of a company. Why would I go ahead and do inner child work? This doesn't make any sense to me, that was so long ago, and what that is, is that's the cutoff, that's the protector part. The adult protector part that is saying cut that off because it's so painful. Let that go, it's so painful. And so what I like to do and what I hope that the Doodles do is to decrease the shame and to normalize that everybody who was raised by people has something, some kind of no one comes out of childhood unscathed, no one, there's not my own children. There's not a person in the world that comes through childhood unscathed because there's no perfect parent and they're really it would really do us no good if there was because this is how we learn to through the rupture and the repair. And so really, it's normalizing that you know we all have this and when you start to feel it that you know it is okay to turn that compassion back inside that warmth back inside.
Michael: I love that. What I'm really curious about right now is, how much of that experience that we have as adults in this place, in which we say, I don't want to tap into that shame guilt, fear, whatever, that word, maybe is in direct correlation with dissociation, because as I think about my experience and finally, making that decision to walk over that threshold, it was very much acknowledging, like oh, I'm just so shaded, I have been in fight-or-flight response because I grew up babe and cortisol, the person who has a score of 10 looking at this as a survival mechanism to be alive. And now that I'm through that, I can now look back at it retrospectively and go, Oh, of course, that makes sense, but how much of that is true to be on par that it is, in fact of a symptom of dissociation to be scared or fearful of the idea of the inner child?
Dr. Trish: Right. It is very much so. You're right on there because when we are children and something happens very much the attachment style of the parenting, and what happens with these relationships that were in, were often thrown into that sympathetic arousal state of fight or flight, and so, in fight or flight, we can either stay in an anxious angry state or we can go into the freeze that dissociative, the completely, cutting off of the pain of it and so they're the protection, part comes with, you know, I can't look at that because it would be too painful and I have to keep going, I have to survive. So at first, it's always like, wow, look at what you have done to survive this situation. Look at all that you have done to make it through this situation and to really work with the fear of bringing it back forward. It's like, what is the fearful part of you really afraid of now as an adult if we start to feel into the body? Because with dissociation, we have to go into the sensory place. We have to go into the body to find the implicit there might not be a narrative story that would come forward with it, but there might be like a fluttering of the heart, there might be like a clenching inside or, you know, some nauseous feeling in the stomach and that might start forward first and then breaking through that dissociation, as you said.
Michael: Yeah. And that's so true. And I think about the greatest growth in my journey being in that moment in which I started to reassociate got my brain and body back together, primarily through bodywork, right? And like getting comfortable with the idea of gentle touch and not and non-sexual gentle touch and being a human being who just could simply exist within this framework of this system that I exist in. And in that process, one of the things that I noticed that was really profound was journaling had the same effect on me, and in that, I found that if I could take these thoughts ideas, and concepts and just make them exist then I could start to see change and then I combated not combated that, excuse me, I combine that with other pieces of tools and puzzles and routines that are just kind of stuck with daily. What I noticed in that process of what I would call showing up for myself every day doing the work, doing the hard thing, studying learning, understanding is effective, I was re-parenting myself because I grew up like a latchkey kid as you can be, not to mention obviously growing up in a traumatic household, and I had no structure at all, especially around this idea of love, care, health, compassion, all these things. Can you talk about – (A), what is re-parenting? And (B) the impact that it has when you are on this journey.
Dr. Trish: Yeah. So, re-parenting, I mean, first, we start with parenting. So, we were parented, and how do we get the idea of how we speak to ourselves? How we treat ourselves is from our parents. So like the very example that you said is like that was very it sounds like there was a lot of absent absence there, you know, there was a lot missing. And so growing up that you just have to keep going, right? And then, as you start to do the work, you have to bring those things back in and you said, a very key thing, is what makes children feel safe is routine and you said that. And so it's like what we start doing as we can find and start to you know, really see if the way I like to look at it is who are your most important people and how do you treat them? So you think about like, you know, a maybe a loved one maybe you know, maybe a partner, maybe a dear friend, maybe a child that you have. How do you treat them and you muster up that you no sense of kindness, of warmth, of gentle, attending to you nurture that relationship? And so as you can see that and when I work with people and say you know look at what you do for this other person, can we muster up a little bit of that for yourself? And what would that look like? And building the routine of what that would look like and it doesn't have to be huge things, it doesn't have to be those great big monumental things, it could be, let me go get a glass of water, a cup of tea, let me pick up a journal and just start noting, what I feel throughout the day. Let me take myself outside into nature or just a walk around the city block if you live in the city. You know, noticing yourself. So there's an accurate acronym I use that if you know you wouldn't mind me sharing its face, okay? It's based on “PAUSE” and so for myself, it's very much, a loving kindness, like learning how to attend to the self and to the inner world inside. So for PAUSE like the “P” starts with, I always start with breathing, so when we take three deep breaths, we actually, can we regulate our nervous system? And so we start with just taking those three deep breaths and then that kind of dis regulates us and brings us out a sympathetic. It's hard to be in sympathetic arousal and be conscious of our breath at the same time. So that P; breath, right there stops whatever's going on just for a moment, that's all we need. And then the “A” is to attend inside, and I always, I'm putting my hand on my heart because I always remind myself, put my hand on my heart, I attend inside. So what does that mean? It means like, what part of me is feeling agitated, is getting activated. What part of me is needing my attention. And so, I can tell that by, like what I said before, you know, maybe I have a headache, maybe on my heart is beating fast, maybe I'm something in my stomach, and then we go into the “U” and that's the unfolding, untangling a little bit more. And I asked, what are you needing? So once I find that part, okay, I'm a little bit fearful, you know, maybe I'm a little bit nervous, so what are you needing? Just to sit here for a minute just to, you know, maybe drink some tea, maybe calm down a little bit, maybe write something on the journal. So that's the unfolding, being, and untangling what I need. And then going into the “S” And that's the soothing and actually doing those things telling myself, okay, I'm okay, you know, I'm enough, you know we're going to be okay, we're safe, and then the “E” is the exhale, and just letting it all go. And so with that pause, I can actually do that pretty quickly now, and that's what I teach with my courses, and that's what I teach with my clients is to be able to really, to attendance I'm. What part of me is activated? What is it type 2? And then what soothing will help?
Michael: Yeah, I absolutely love that in, and for me, breathing has played hands down, such a phenomenal role. It's actually the first thing that I teach my clients when I coach is because if we can get the parasympathetic nervous system firing, ‘Man, that's a huge leap forward.’ I want to challenge something here if you don't mind. Oh, I want to talk to you, I've never done this before in the podcast, but I'm super curious about what you have to say. I'm going to talk to you from Voice of 24-year-old Michael. Well, Dr. Phillips that all sounds good, but I'm just going to man up and get over it. Does it make any sense to me? I'm a man, I don't need to tap into my feelings, I'm strong, I'm independent, I already survived all that shit. This doesn't make sense to me, but my life has also been a disaster, everything around me is burning down. I seem to have burned my own house down, not to mention destroying everything in my path, but I'm fine. Now, I'm going to talk as I am right now heading into 40 years old, when you are in this place and you're just starting this journey and it feels like everything has told you that somehow, you made it through, you don't need help, you don't need guidance, but, you know, something is wrong. How do you step into that place of seeking help guidance healing without hitting absolute rock bottom?
Dr. Trish: That's a rough one, that's a rough one because I think you know, our teachers our pain points, and so a lot of times there is a lot of, hitting rock bottom, that actually sends ups there, but also I think that rock bottom is determined by each person, right? So it's like so 24, year-old Michael, I would just say, you know, that's all true. I mean, look at you. Look at you are here, you are here we can have both, we can have a survivor and we can have complete crap of our lives. You know, both are true at the same time and so I would actually work with the survivor first and be like bravo, you know, bravo and then slowly go into, but you know what? You're still kind of curious, you're still kind of curious about this, so I'm wondering about that. What makes you a little bit curious as something is one of those things that you know, really are your life's really hard right now. One of those things that maybe you would want work on or change, you know, it's not taking that survivor away, not taking that protector away because that protector, we'll just, you know, that protector would leave my office and say I'm done because if I said, oh no, you seriously need to be here. I wouldn't want anybody telling me that right, you know, no way. It's like we need to join.
Michael: I think there's so much validity in the idea that you can have both and I want people to recognize that you can, you can be the survivor and you probably are, you've been through hell and back and here you are, but you can also move into what's next without judgment, without shame, without guilt. I think what we get caught up on so often, is this idea that we have to do it all alone and, you know, as well as I do like that's not true. But how do we work on reshaping that narrative for survivors to get to a place where they can acknowledge that it is, okay to seek, help to seek guidance, to seek coaching, compassion, therapists, whatever that thing maybe?
Dr. Trish: Yeah, yeah. So it's like, what is hurting and what was the message about needing to do it alone? You know, why was that message so strong and why is it still so strong? You know, there's, I know that there's a big societal message of like independence and all of that, but there's also probably a family message that came forward flight, you know, of Mana, step into it and stop whining and you're an adult now, and all of that. And so, it really is to be able to. Can we suffer into that message, can we add a little bit of like, you know, it's really okay for you to have a better life. It's really okay for you to want to treat yourself better, you know. It really is okay for that.
Michael: Yeah. And I think man or woman or however you identify, you are entirely allowed to have the life that you want to have. And I'm curious as you've seen this work and you're in this so often, I often think about the idea that it's not only conceptual, like this process requires doing actual work, that people often talk about do the work and we don't really ever define what the work I'm doing quotations. What the “work” is? And so my question for you is, how do you do the work, and what is the work look like to move into this place where you start to cross that threshold?
Dr. Trish: Yeah, so I would say that you know, I was like to use this analogy of the flashlight and very often there's a lot of like, outward blame, a lot of, you know, this happened to me that happened to me and so it's like the flashlight gets pointed out and when we point the flashlight outwards, we just get around a circle of what is wrong, right? And so we need to like start to turn that flash work, light back towards ourselves, and then have that light kind of shine inside to see what's going on inside. So, I consider the work inner work, so when I would say, if the work has slipped out with me, it would be inner work, it would be looking at parts work, it would be looking at what are my reactions? What is reactivating me? What's triggering me? What's causing me distress in my life? And then going inside and looking at that inner world and saying where is this coming from? What is it reminding me of doing some journaling, you know, talking to a therapist, talking to a coach, you know, doing whatever else other things, you've mentioned, bodywork, which is wonderful, you know, anything that will feel like it's helpful to you and that moment.
Michael: Or someone listening right now, who is likely highly impacted by dissociation? Can't tell up from down, the brain is 10 miles from the body and they're hearing this, this sounds incredibly foreign, this might as well be rocket science. How if you are in that position and you're just like, I don't understand feelings, emotions, I don't feel like I'm in my body, whatever that thing might be. How do you even start to get back into it, so that you can name that, so you can talk about it, so you can recognize, maybe I do need therapy or a coach or to read that book or whatever that thing is?
Dr. Trish: Yeah, yeah. So first off, if someone out there is highly dissociated, then I just want to say that they've connected with you because they're listening to your podcast. And so you prefer if you somehow provided a sense of safety in their system, they're hearing something that hasn't gotten them to click off. So that's the first thing is noticing that if there's dissociation, what is keeping me here, right now? There's something that's safe right here, right now, and the next step would be to start to connect the mind and the body, so with dissociation, there's a, there's a complete disconnect, so I work with people who really don't even feel their bodies, you know, can smack into a wall, get bruises and not even know where the birds came from, you know, that really dissociated from their body. And so it's really to be able to start to notice is like, if that's me if what Michael just said, gosh, you know what, I totally relate to that, you know, just to start to notice, it's like, how much am I with myself? How much am I really with myself and start to check in with that? And I like to have people use maybe like, even a graph or take like a day planner and start to note their time in their day, like oh, okay, this is what I felt, this is, you know, a noted, and then you can even do it like a 1 to 10 scale, this is how I felt, you know, to really start to concretely get back inside, but if someone is dissociated in there listening, there's something that they're listening to and there's some sense of being connected to it. So it's going beyond the dissociation, it's going into a place where they can hear something feel safe.
Michael: And that's that's being present, right? And also but no one's ever said that to me before and that just made me I'll gooey inside. So thank you for that, you know, my number one goal with this podcast and everything I do the book, the speaking, the tours, all of it is, can we give someone something to create a change in their life?
Dr. Trish: Yeah. Like one little thing and change, I mean, what is change really? You know. Yeah, we can look outside and we see other people's change, and we might think that's what I have to do, but I really look at changes, you know? I feel like if someone feels more connected to themselves, more comfortable inside of their own skin, wow! that's huge.
Michael: Yeah. And I think about it often as this idea when we look at the outside world and all these parameters being laid around as of the person that we should be, how do you live your life by your own self defined narrative and more so how do you step into that, to the point where it becomes true of who you are? And my biggest goal, when I started this healing journey, I thought about this, like, if I can just put my feet on the ground and be good with who I am, then that is far removed from everything that was set up in my journey by people who were not me. Dr.Phillips, this is incredible. I could talk to you literally all night and it is night here as we are recording, but before I ask you, my last question, can you tell everybody where they can find you?
Dr. Trish: Absolutely. Yeah, so on Instagram, I am thedoodledoc and my website is thedoodledoc.com and I do help people with inner parenting and connecting the inner child. I like to think of it as a bridge, bridging the inner parent to the inner child and it's a journey, like you said, it's a journey, it's not a one-and-done thing. I'm still on the journey, you're on the journey, I'm grateful to know you and be on this journey with you, because, you know, I just want people to know that they're not alone. There can be so much, like, we've discussed shame of feeling like I feel like a child in an adult body and it's like, no there, you know, you're not alone with that and it's okay, we can do that. So those are the places you can find me and yeah.
Michael: Yeah. I love it. And I could not say that in any better way than you just could. When I created this concept called the six principles of healing trauma, one of them is in this together meaning that this is about us, this is about you not being alone, this is about community and it's about how do we build sovereignty together both independently and as a collective and the words that you just said they resonate so true because there's no question that if you're having this experience that it is okay for you to seek help and not be alone in it. Dr. Phillips, my last question here for you is, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Dr. Trish: Hmm. Oh, that's such a good question. I always tell people that they're not broken. And you know, I feel like we often felt very splintered and felt like there was something wrong with us and I think to truly embrace the concept of, you know, we are not broken. We are just on a pathway to integration to finding ways that we can be more solid with ourselves, more comfortable with ourselves, more kind to ourselves, more compassionate to those to ourselves. I think we're not broken, so I just, I love your little handle there if you've got your shirt on, Think Unbroken. It's so wonderful.
Michael: Yeah. It's everything in and I got goosebumps because I'm just like, that's so true, that's what this is about. How do you get to that place? And that's so much of our journey. Dr. Trish Philipps, it's an absolute pleasure thank you so much for being here.
Unbroken Nation, please go check out her work. I promise you it's incredible. One of my favorites, if not favorite mental health, Instagram accounts on planet earth.
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And until next time.
My friend, Be Unbroken.
I'll see you.
I'm Dr. Trish Phillips and I draw psychology concepts as The Doodle Doc
Calling on over 20 years of Clinical Private Practice specializing in developmental trauma, attachment wounds and dissociation. With advanced training in Interpersonal Neurobiology, Dissociative Disorders, and Mindfulness, I offer emotional education through Doodles.
As a coach, I help people re-connect with their inner child and their inner world to unlock the deeper wisdom within.
As an Emotions Teacher the Doodles help me explore and explain concepts that are often difficult to understand with words alone.
The little Doodle people speak to an implicit place inside us all... a place beyond words.