In this episode, I will have a conversation with Angela Legh and talk about the incredible cost of avoiding our feelings. Born in SF Haight Ashbury in the mid-1960s, Angela Legh had an angelic mother and an alcoholic father. Her father taught her to...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e205-the-incredible-cost-of-avoiding-our-feelings-with-angela-legh-cptsd-healing-podcast/#show-notes
In this episode, I will have a conversation with Angela Legh and talk about the incredible cost of avoiding our feelings.
Born in SF Haight Ashbury in the mid-1960s, Angela Legh had an angelic mother and an alcoholic father. Her father taught her to be a victim, and her mother taught her about love. Angela grew up to marry an emotionally abusive man. The marriage lasted for 32 years because Angela did not value herself enough to leave. It took a terrible wildfire to awaken Angela to the possibility of a different life. Angela has stepped out of victimhood and now writes children's fairy tales that plant seeds of emotional resilience in kids.
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Michael: Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world today. I'm very excited to be back with you with another episode with my guest Angela Legh who is the epitome of from survivor to thriver. Angela, my friend, how are you today? What is going on in your world?
Angela: So much is going on in my world. I am doing fabulous, thank you and so pleased to be here with you, talking to you, my newest friend. Actually, I'm working on a project where I'll be building curriculum for homeschoolers that they can use to help empower children into emotional well-being.
Michael: I love that, that's so beautiful. And I know a big part of your journey is kind of getting into that place. Before we kind of dive into those things, so can you tell us a little bit about who you are your background and how you got to where you are today?
Angela: That's a whole podcast in itself. So I am an author of children's fairy tales, these stories are crafted so that kids can walk away from the books with a sense of self-worth and emotional well-being. And my mission with the books is too, if I can impact child suicide because if suicide is the second leading cause of death for kids and I breaks my heart, I want them to have the tools.
Michael: Yeah, that's really powerful. You know, it's something that I think is just about enough in the world that we live in. And I know that you've been through quite a journey yourself and I love if you spend some time, talking about your background, and your experience that has led you to where you are today.
Angela: Okay, I can do that. So, if you can imagine, I was born in the Haight-Ashbury of San Francisco, and it was a colorful time and place because the summer of love, I was there even though I was two or three. So I got to see, you know, all these iconic singers, as they hung out on their doorsteps. It was a magical young life, but also I had a raging alcoholic father, and my mom worked full-time because she had to support the family. So, we were left alone with Dad and basically, my memories of Dad are that he was a monster. You know, I know that he physically, sexually and emotionally abused us and my subconscious buried a lot of that so I can't like talk about any specific times but what I walked away from, in fact, when my mom divorced my dad and I was 10 years old, it was an awakening, it was a release, it was freedom to know that we were now safe from this monster in our life. I grew up and I married a man who was also from an injured background and basically his comfort zone was conflict anger and yelling, for me with my background that was very difficult for me to deal with because I had this raging Dad and I decided that anger was a terrible thing to be angry, it was terrible for to my young mind. And so, I repressed anger and had really, no sense of value, no self-love, and the repression of emotions, coupled with a lack of inner value is a marker for her, not having a great life for making choices that are self-harming. And so I got into this marriage, I was emotionally abused in this marriage. So I say for, 50 some years of my life I've been bullied by men and I know that I played a part in the marriage because I brought to it, this rejection of anger and he embraced anger and so that created a very toxic atmosphere. Most people, most women, who experienced the things that I've experienced would label it; with a label of kind of behavior and I don't like using labels. But I can tell you that I was gas lighted and I was blamed for everything in my marriage. So every five years or so, I thought about leaving, but I couldn't hurt him.
So I put his needs of being loved ahead of my need to not be yelled, accused and turned upside now mentally. And so, what I was doing was not valuing myself enough. I probably would still be in that marriage if a wildfire had not destroyed our home and that happened in Northern California in 2017 and went to bed, that night, woke up to Mayhem and had to get out within 10 minutes, the fire caught our house, 10 minutes after we left and within another minutes our entire house was gone. It was like flattened and everything inside, of course gone too. And for most people having a crisis like that because a fire will rip the rug out from underneath you, you know, your whole world turns upside down, especially if a whole community is affected by a fire. What it did for me was put me into a dark night of the soul where I questioned everything, I questioned why was I allowing myself to be in the situation that made me miserable? What is life about, is it about sacrificing my values and my needs for someone else's? Or is it about me choosing my needs? And I had all these thoughts, I ended up leaving the marriage and that was the first step in my inner healing because what I say is, when you are inside the blame, anger and the vitriol it's really hard to be able to think from expanded perspectives of what's going on. At least, for me, I was in victim and I would point the finger saying he did this, he did this, he did this, and all of that is true; he did do that. But now that I'm out of that marriage, I can look at it and say, okay, well what role did I play? How did I play into that? And I can say, I chose to stay in that marriage, that's my responsibility and I chose his needs before mine, and that's my responsibility. And so what I understand now is that when we can step out of the pointing the finger and the blame situation and we can say, okay, two of us were in this and we each played a role what was my role and where's my responsibility? That is when we can create change because if we're in victim and we're pointing the finger and blaming, we're saying they are responsible and we don't have any ability to create change in that situation.
Michael: Yeah. Thank you for sharing that such a powerful story, when you told me that story the first time you and I connected I sat there and I had to just kind of have a moment of pause and digest it because I thought to myself, these really interesting moments in life, in which you're faced with making a decision about the future. And those start with the present moment choice, even though it doesn't feel like that because I think sometimes it gets lost or misconstrued that the decisions we make now, impact our tomorrow. And sometimes that choice when I think is so interesting about life, sometimes that choice is right there because it has no other reason to be there, other than the universe is tired of you, ignoring yourself. And that's what I heard in your story and I don't know if that's necessarily right or wrong, but I've had that experience also where you look at life through the scope of all the circumstances in the world have finally come to fruition in a way where now I have no other option but to stop ignoring what I know I need to do. And so, while the catalyst for some people, maybe a wildfire for other people, it's losing your job or unfortunately, someone in your life and there's all these moments that you have a decision, a choice to make but what's fascinating to me that caused the pause in your story for me where I had to like take this moment was thinking about this idea that you instead of taking and continuing to blame, you thought about well, how do I move through this? Why does blaming other people disempower has and how do we overcome that?
Angela: So anytime we are pointing the finger and blaming, we are putting all the responsibility upon the other person and when they hold responsibility, they're the only ones who can create change. When we can say in what way did I play a role in this situation? And then we take responsibility for whatever the role maybe even if it is only being the victim and we could say, okay, well, I was his victim and that's the role I took, then we can say, ok, I don't choose to be a victim anymore, and we can create the change. But anytime we're putting the responsibility on someone else they are the only ones who can make a change and most coaches will tell you, we can't expect change in our lives, by expecting someone else to change, we must change ourselves.
Michael: Yeah, it's so empowering, right? I think that often people miss the mark on the fact that they are handing their power, their agency, their ability to other people. But even in noticing it though, I think often the thing that can occurs that people will still get stuck in this narrative of like – I deserve this, like this is what I am able to have in my life, this is what I get and they're still that threshold in which they haven't overcome. Do you think that there is some type of systematize way or pragmatic or practical way that you can really overcome shifting from this disempowerment around having other people have your power into taking it back for yourself?
Angela: I do and part of what I teach is perspectives and it is in the perspectives that we hold that we create what is around us. So, if I believe that my house is going to be broken into and only thieves live around me and this is the world that I live in, that's kind of what I attract to me. And so it is our beliefs and our perspectives that create our reality and many adults have been told at some point in their lives, by their parents, by their teachers, by their boss, whoever it is through some kind of criticism they gained a perspective about themselves that holds them back. And so, what I teach is, what is in the Talmud, we don't see the world as it is we see it as we are and lots of people have heard that. When we apply it to ourselves it kind of makes sense, I'm looking through this lens at the world but it's really powerful to apply to the people who criticize us, to understand that they are looking at the world through their lens and what they say, says more about who they are than it ever said about us and that's a really powerful tool that I use. I use NLP practice of putting yourself back in that situation in your imagination and re-experiencing this criticism and then having your adult self show up and pick this child you up, hold you, and tell you the truth about who you are because often people will tell us what they believe us to be but it's their truth, it's not ours. So, being able to shift your perspectives to let go of some of those filters that were given to us by others and say, you know, one, I'm not five years old anymore and two, in my case it would have been my dad saying I'm not worth the dirt under his feet when I was maybe four years old. I can look at that situation as an adult and I can say, okay, he was a raging drunk and he was drunk when he said it and I was a four year old little girl here because no adult in their right mind would say that to a child. So what he said, said more about who he was in that moment, then it said about me. And being able to reframe and kind of let go of that, I don't have any value idea that was planted in me when I was young, it's a powerful tool to use.
Michael: Yeah, and there's freedom in that when you recognize what you just said and I'll never forget the moment that I realized basically, what I had fallen into by accident was I'm not a child anymore. And in that it gave me this sense of personal freedom to look at and evaluate the behaviors of the adults in my childhood and recognize that they were still acting as if they were a child, even though they're doing these incredibly abusive and painful things they had not yet taken personal responsibility. And part of me, like – as an adult recognizes that and sees that and says, oh, wait a second, I'm not culpable, it's not my responsibility for the things that those people did to me, those narratives that shape me, those ideas, those concepts has belief systems that turn into identity, that's all bullshit because they're handing me that I've had no say in it and the truth is I'm not four years old anymore or 10 or 12. And so, to an extent, it becomes this reconciliation because you look at your life, through the scope of understanding, wow, this actually isn't on me and I don't have to carry that and with that comes freedom. I think one of the things that people get so caught up in in this, however, is this idea that narrative that programming, that conditioning, that identity and belief, that is not theirs natively, is their burden to carry and they find themselves trapped like I did at one point having this identity crisis of going, wait a second, am I actually the person that they told me I need that I am or am I the person that I'm choosing to be? And so in that, what I'm really curious about Angela, especially getting this place where you make this gigantic shift you cross this huge chasm of stepping into personal responsibility self-love, trust, compassion, empathy, all of those things that are required to get to where you are now, what was that process like for you? Because I know that there are people listening right now, who are in this place of, they're coming through the other side, or in the beginning, and the crux of this and trying to figure out who they are?
Angela: Well, it starts with often, it starts with hiring a coach who can help you, shift your perspectives, or look at things in a different light or learn how to experience your feelings and that's how I did it. You know, first after the fire I went to a psychologist for probably a year, but at the same time, I hired an energy coach, who is very skilled in moving energy, and she helped me shift more than the psychologist did, she helped me shift my perceptions and moving the energy so that when you talk about carrying a feeling it's like energy, we put in a backpack and it's weak, lug it around and it drags us down and so I was able to empty the backpack in that way. In those processes, I learned many tools that I now share freely because it's important for humanity to be able to shift some of these ideas that we have about how we are held in the space of being a victim?
Michael: You know, it's funny when I reflect on kind of my experience of starting this process of healing. I have thought to myself many times over, I wish I would have hired a coach before I hired a therapist. And in the reason that I say that and it's not that there's not huge validity in therapy I've had that conversation before it's just simply that I didn't have tools, I didn't have literally what you're talking about right now in terms of having the ability to reframe thought process, to understand energy to look at experiences and really, to step into the emotional capacity. I think one of the short-sighted aspects of therapy, and my personal experience is evaluating emotions only from the negative and it took me a long time to find a therapist who didn't operate that way, but when I was with coaches, it was always about why don't you talk about where you're at right now? Like, in this present moment and again it's going to be different, it's a different experience for everyone, I know somebody's going to email me, stop right now, there are therapy is for everyone, go do it, I don't care who you are. My point is this, just very simply we need guidance, when you haven't been given tools and you don't have a road map, the most important thing I believe that you can do is go find the person that has that.
Angela: Well, what I was just going to say is I would never take anything away from therapist, they serve a purpose. In fact, my my stepdaughter is a psychologist so there you go, but I know that I was served more through the coaching, then I was through the therapy I went through. Now, it's that true for everybody? No, it just was true for me. And so if you've been in therapy and you don't feel like you're gaining traction, maybe it's time to think about, do I get a coach? This is all about what serves you best.
Michael: Yeah. Again that comes to that idea of personal power and making a decision for yourself. And I think one of the hardest parts about this is and this was my experience I was just numb, you know what I mean? And I think many people are just so numb because of all the experiences of their family and that almost feels to me like this weird trickle-down effect. What is the cost of being in families where have these people who are numb?
Angela: So, you know, my father numbed, his feelings with alcohol and, just from today's little discussion everybody has an idea of what the cost of that was because not only me, but my sister's, my mother, the people that he worked with there were all kinds of reverberations because of his choice to numb his feelings. And I didn't really understand this, for most of my life I just saw my dad as a monster someone I wanted to not have anything to do with, and it was his sister who as I was leaving her house one day. She said, you know, Jimmy was so sensitive, he was too sensitive for this world and that opened up in me a huge understanding that he was escaping his feelings because he couldn't deal with them. So, he chose a method that turned out to be harmful for him and his family and that's part of it, because there are no tools he was given for dealing with emotions. So that started the whole connecting the dots thing for me and then I looked at my behavior, when I decided that anger was bad and that meant that, I repressed my own anger, and there was a time, if you asked me, did I have any enemies or how mad was would I get? I'd be like, I don't get mad, I just don't get mad, you know, I'm nice, I don't get mad but that was me in denial of a part of myself. And so looking at my own behavior and then seeing my ex husband's behavior, what I realized is here are three different generations of people and we are all either grabbing onto or pushing away a feeling and the net result of those is that the feeling stayed with us. It's almost like a magnet when we push a feeling away we magnetized it to us and it sticks to us and that's why people who try to numb their feelings through alcohol, or drugs, have to do more and more and more because they think that they're in freedom, they think that they are finding ways to feel good but what they're doing is avoiding the pain and that's one aspect of it. The other aspect are the people who actually grab onto and kind of make that feeling who they are, I'm an angry person, I'm an angry man and in both cases, that magnetizes the feelings to us and so we're stuck carrying that feeling around; when we can be neutral and when we can kind of be a witness to our own feelings that is when the energy can flow and it just moves away.
Michael: So my consciousness here is that, right? And in real time, I go great sounds wonderful, and then, I go, well, wait a second, I'm consumed once I step into a motion by that emotion, but like I understand the idea that we get looped into things and there's, you know, this fact that most emotions last for 90 seconds, and you can change in your energy, to be able to navigate those but I think that what happens to most people and my experience was like – I could not get to this place where I was okay with this thought of neutrality. So how do you get there so that you can experience, you're feeling, so that you can experience your emotions, what does it take to make that a reality?
Angela: Well, and I'm going to be really vulnerable and honest with you. I still have emotions that grabbed hold of me and even though I teach this method, sometimes I forget to use it for myself and so any listeners give yourself grace, it's okay; this is a process and it will eventually all get it in the end but for right now we're working towards it. And so what I say is you feel the feeling and that just might be noticing it, oh my gosh, I feel sad, mad, happy, whatever, you notice the feeling and you pay attention it's an awareness process, where, okay, where is the feeling? What does it feel like? And then you acknowledge the feeling that step 2 and that's as easy as saying, oh I am feeling and named it. Then the easy and the hard part is to allow the feeling and for your listeners what I want to say is this is not allowing the situation that brought up the feeling, it is not accepting the situation and it's not allowing it. It is allowing yourself to feel, what you feel about the situation. And so you just say, oh, it's okay for me to feel this way, as we practice that more and more than we get to the point where our feelings just flow, and they don't stick to us. So there's another tool that I teach that is a grounding cord, so you imagine a cord coming from the base of your spine and going down to the center of the earth and this is like a two-step grounding cord because outside there's a coil that runs around the cord and it brings it down to the center of the earth. And you send your thoughts that aren't serving you down the center of the cord. You send your emotions that aren't serving you down the coil part and that sheds the energy from your space.
Michael: When you're in that and you're trying to step into that deeper is there a place in this where you have to give yourself grace with those emotions?
Angela: Ah, so beautifully said, thank you. That is absolutely what week because we are so fast to criticize ourselves and we are so quick to say I'm doing it wrong but the thing is, we weren't taught this stuff and so all of our efforts move us in the direction we want need to go and giving our self grace is the best way to get better at it because if we beat ourselves up about not doing it, right then, we're not going to improve as quickly as we could. If we give ourself grace and say, okay, well, this is a learning process, next time I'll do it better that just makes it easier for us to move forward with the process.
Michael: Yeah, and I don't know about you but I've never been good at anything the first time I did it. You know, honestly, I'm still like man, I've done some things a million times in my life, I'm still not proficient, right? And in this I think that the way that grace applies probably more so than anything and this is my life in real time is just being like, okay cool, now you understand something about yourself that you didn't understand before this moment. And I think that, I just feel like it's a continuation of that like unfortunately, like Ad nauseam, it's going to be the experience of life until you die that's because today is not the same as yesterday and tomorrow will be different from today.
Angela: We will always face challenges and so when we unfortunately, schools have taught us that there's failure and there's doing good and somewhere in between and that's kind of the structure that schools raised us. You know, Thomas Edison took a thousand times to create the correct combination of things that created a light bulb. I don't know, reporter ask him; how does it feel to fail a thousand times? And he said, no, I didn't fail, it took 1000 steps for me to get to this place and the sooner we can walk away from the idea of the I failed at this and embrace that, okay, this was a step on my journey. Then the better off well, the more self-love will have that to me what a measure of self-love is not the self-care you do for yourself, it's how you think about yourself what you say about yourself and how you behave to yourself.
Michael: Yeah, it's kind of like one of my mentors, Tony Robbins says; like you only ever tolerate what you allow yourself to tolerate. And I think that's so powerful and profound because some of those allow ourselves to tolerate being insufferable to ourselves, to being unkind ourselves, to being mean to ourselves and I would challenge that narrative and say, well, what if you didn't? What if you gave yourself, space, grace, love, hope, compassion, empathy and sympathy sometimes when you actually need it, not because it's just there and available to you, right? And so, it going through this process has a consummate reminder, like – you are doing something you've never done before every single moment of every single day of your existence. You have nothing to support the reality that in this moment you've never done, we have never had this conversation before.
Angela: We never did, and I am so struck to one of the characters in my book is young pink-haired fairy, she's adorable, her name is Shabona and her ability to do magic was cursed by someone else and so she basically fails every time she tries to do magic, but sometimes her failures actually make things work out and so somewhere in there is a mess.
Michael: Yeah, and I think that's so true about life because it's indicative of the reality, right? You know, John Maxwell word an amazing book, one of my favorite books of all time, called Failing Forward and it's just simply about this understanding like – if you can take those failures because you're going to have them; if you think you're never going to make a mistake, then you're not trying, you're literally not trying. And so if you can take those failures and acknowledge them and sit in them and just simply say, all right, cool, got it, learn something, you will be so much better off in life because you'll be taking these things that would once hinder you and use them as fuel to continue to propel you forward. One of the things that I'd love to shift gears up the books, a little bit as talk about the concept and where these ideas came from and really I would love to talk about tapping into the courage of putting that out there and the vulnerability that it took to make your books or reality?
Angela: Oh, thank you, Michael. I started writing fairy tales for a friend's daughter, she was 6 years old and I just thought, hey, I'm going to entertain her with a couple of stories, except one of them kept growing and it kept expanding and about six months into writing I realize, oh my gosh, that things I learned in my life are being built into this story. And one of the books, these rates that suck the life out of you and that was kind of an allegory for my marriage and in that particular book love is the answer and I can speak to this, I know that when I was in my marriage, unconditionally, loving him was not possible, but he has grown since I left and I think part of it is the fact that I can unconditionally loved him from a far and I just couldn't do it when I was there. So there's all these little bits of my life that ended up in these books and I realized first, I thought, oh, okay, I'm writing these books so that young girls can value themselves and not make the kind of poor decisions that I made in my life and they can choose into relationships that are supportive and respectful. And then later on I realize no it's not just for girls, it's for all kids and because there are young men who choose into relationships that are horrible for them that in the end they're teaching them lesson, life lessons, but if they already have that self-love they don't need to go through that lesson to gain their self love. So these books I wrote them with the idea that these kids can come to a place of emotional wellness, emotional well-being, through reading these stories that actually engage them and they like, they want to know what comes next. And then I realize, I can't do this without including the parents and so right before book, one came out I wrote up this whole parent’s guide to give the tools to the parents because the parents need the tools in order to create the space of wellness for their kids. So each book has a parent's guide that talks about the different themes included in the books and different perspectives that they can bring to their kids, that are more empowering than perhaps the normal perspective we take in that situation.
Michael: And that's beautiful, because just like – you talk about perspective is so much factor and all the things that happen in our life. And I love that you're writing the books and I love that you have the shift in understanding that they were also for little boys to because, I know a ton of men who have gone through and myself included in this gone through toxic relationships, gone through trying to find love, gone through self sabotage the same thing, this is what I was trying to tell people like – we are all going through the same thing, we're on same highway we're just in a different lane so you might be going at one speed, I'm going through another but ultimately, we're all trying to figure this out together. And so I think that's really both beautiful and admirable. Before I ask you, my last question, Angela, can you tell everyone where they can find you and find out more about the books?
Angela: Yes. I have a website, angelalegh.com and on that site, I have the books links obviously, but I also have some tools for parents, there is a free downloadable guide, five steps to happiness, there's a free downloadable guide about soothing, anxiety and depression in children, and there's a teen suicide prevention guide. I'm currently working on just a guide of different tools you use for emotional resilience and all of those will be free downloads on my website.
Michael: Awesome, that's amazing and thank you for that. And of course we will put all that information in the show notes and the links. Angela, my friend, my last question for you is, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Angela: To me to be unbroken, is to have enough self love that you don't need to seek it outside of yourself.
Michael: Very beautiful, very poignant.
Thank you, my friend.
Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening.
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Born in SF Haight Ashbury in the mid-1960s, Angela Legh had an angelic mother and an alcoholic father. Her father taught her how to be a victim and her mother taught her about love. Angela grew up to marry an emotionally abusive man. The marriage lasted for 32 years because Angela did not value herself enough to leave. It took a terrible wildfire to awaken Angela to the possibility of a different life. Angela has stepped out of victimhood and now writes children's fairy tales that plant seeds of emotional resilience in kids.