On Today's Episode: I am joined by my friend and guest, Gloria Zhang, a registered psychotherapist and the host of the Inner Child Podcast. One of life's most challenging aspects is forming healthy bonds and relationships with others...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e381-gloria-zhang-finding-love-after-toxiccodependent-relationships-and-trauma/#show-notes
On Today's Episode:
I am joined by my friend and guest, Gloria Zhang, a registered psychotherapist and the host of the Inner Child Podcast.
One of life's most challenging aspects is forming healthy bonds and relationships with others. Remember, it is important to recognize the difference between trauma bonding and codependency.
You must watch this episode if you or a loved one has suffered trauma or is in a codependent relationship if your family is struggling because of trauma and unhealthy patterns in your relationships.
Learn how to heal and overcome childhood trauma, narcissistic abuse, ptsd, cptsd, higher ACE scores, anxiety, depression, and mental health issues and illness. Learn tools that therapists, trauma coaches, mindset leaders, neuroscientists, and researchers use to help people heal and recover from mental health problems. Discover real and practical advice and guidance for how to understand and overcome childhood trauma, abuse, and narc abuse mental trauma. Heal your body and mind, stop limiting beliefs, end self-sabotage, and become the HERO of your own story.
Download the first three chapters of the Award-Winning Book Think Unbroken: Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma: https://book.thinkunbroken.com/
Join the Think Unbroken Trauma Transformation Course: https://coaching.thinkunbroken.com/
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Learn More about Gloria Zhang at: https://bygloriazhang.com/
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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 friend, Gloria Zhang, who is a registered psychotherapist and the host of the Inner Child Podcast. Gloria, my friend, it is an honor to have you here today. How are you, my friend?
Gloria: I'm good. Thanks so much, Michael. Isn't he awesome. Michael was the best, in case you guys didn't know.
Michael: Oh, well, thank you. I appreciate that. For those who do not know, you tell us a little bit about your backstory and how you got to where you are today.
Gloria: Oh gosh. Backstory time. So, I'm not even gonna go into the whole immigrant parent’s thing, also I'm Asian Canadian. So usually, people want me to go the angle of what it was like growing up, you know, being the only Asian kid in an all-white school but honestly, Michael, when I look back on my childhood, the thing that stood out to me the most was me seven years old, trying to do my homework in this tiny apartment we lived in and just hearing my parents going out it and screaming at each other at the top of their lungs and I would, you know, plug in my headphones, try to drown up the sounds and just focus on my work. You know, so much of me growing up was just looking at broken relationships around me. It wasn't just my parents who I honestly, if you were to ask me this from the bottom of my heart, I don't think we're the right fit for each other, but it was also in my relatives. I had literally people go to jail because of what happened to their relationships and their marriages. They were alcoholics in my family, there was gambling problems, there were assaults. And I was just this kid who had such a messed-up idea of what healthy relationships in marriage was supposed to be that I ended up becoming this crazy hyper hopeless romantic. I'm sure a lot of girls are growing up listening to, you know, the pop songs and the Disney movies. But I remember saying this to myself when I was eight years old, I was so convinced that I was gonna grow up and meet my prince and shining armor and he was gonna come and, you know, save me from this really fucked up family dynamic that I had grown up in and not having a single example of what a great relationship between two people, can be that's a very raw look at what kind of kid I was growing up. If you can see behind me, I'm still a bit of a hopeless romantic, but honestly it didn't turn out the way I hoped it would because I became an overachiever as so many of my clients. And, you know, people listening to this podcast, turning on this huge ego part of myself to try to prove myself different. And even though I knew everything in the book, I was a very successful therapist, I went to school for psychology. I was still getting into those same relationship traps, I was literally stuck in 10 years of toxic relationships, you know, codependency. I was dating people that were alcoholics, I was repeating the exact same patterns as everyone I saw was doing growing up, even though I had all of the knowledge, right? So, something was really messed up there. And it wasn't until I discovered inner child work, that my life completely changed, I was able to rework all of my narratives around relationship and I actually ended up meeting my soulmate, we've been together a while now we have a house together. So, yeah, I have a happy ending to my story, but now I help other high achievers who grew up in very messed up childhoods, find their ways out of toxic relationships and find healthy ones. So that's a bit of a long-winded answer but that's how I got to where I am today.
Michael: It's powerful. You know, I think about those moments of childhood in my own journey and having that, and I'm sure many of the Unbroken Nation as having those similar experiences and finding the understanding of the baseline of relationships being volatile, and then moving towards that. You know, I think about this concept and idea that we often use about being able to thrive in chaos. And I'm like, well, that's kind of nonsensical when you really think about it. And we run from it, we hide from it, we try to do everything to avoid being in those kinds of relationships. And I think even subconsciously to an extent where, like, I know this isn't right, but I don't remove myself from it. And I think part of that is cuz you just witness these family systems and dynamics of people just being like, we hate each other, but we're not gonna do anything about it. So, as your child, you're going through this, you're in this experience, you're in your room, headphones on, witnessing these things, like what is going through your head?
Gloria: Such a good question. You know, the chaos part of it has a lot to do with how it really messed up my nervous system having to witness that as a kid. Right. And I know a bit about your story, Michael, I know it was the same for you where the chaos and the absolute roller coaster just becomes your norm. You know, when I was a kid and I didn't understand any of these ideas, right. When you're a kid, all you want is just for mom and dad to get along and to be happy. There were days I would literally like beg to God, or I didn't even have these concepts as a kid. I would beg to the world that mom and dad could just get along and be happy and I would just play this fantasy over and over again in my head about us becoming this big, happy family together where no one was yelling at each other. And I would just clinging onto that fantasy, into that hope. Right? Until I would go to bed at night, it really was that simple but as a kid that's all you don't understand that maybe the way mom, dad is treating mom isn't right, all you know is that these two people are the only people who are providing for you. They were the only two people that you're connected with. And even if they are, you know, violent and abusive, you're still attached to them as a child who holds onto that dream of what a family is supposed to look like, that's honestly what it was like.
Michael: I remember these moments of like there was this movie that I hate to this day called Annie, which I'm sure most people are familiar with because it was like, you watch this, this little girl and I like, I love the fact that like, it's this happy ending thing, but like you watch this little girl get rescued effectively. And I think that is such a fucking misnomer in the truth of the childhood experience, because I don't know anybody personally that ever got rescued. And so, you're in this thing where much like you, I would sit and be like, okay, God, spirit, universe, somebody, please save me from this and you find that it doesn't happen. And then what happens is you coping mechanisms, right? What was kind of this transition for you as a kid where suddenly you're like, wait a second, I'm moving into this space of high achiever. I'm moving into this space of like, and I don't wanna put words in your mouth, but for me it was avoidance. So, I'm like drugs and alcohol, but for other people they're like, and I know many of these people, I coach many of them, they go I'm high performer. How do you end up there?
Gloria: Yeah, high achieving is a form of avoidance. So, that's totally spot on. You know, for people like us who were shifted and molded into that high performer category usually something happens along the way where combined with all of the messed-up relationship stuff you witnessed, you probably had parental figures who only validated certain parts of you. And it's usually the parts of your personality that have flourished into that high achiever. So, in my situation, I was only shown love when I got an A plus on my tests at school. Right. And if I came home with a 95%, the response was always, well, what happened to the other 5%? You know, it’s like everything was molding me to become this people pleaser, where I just wanted to impress my parents and almost to distract them from their own marriage problems by saying, Hey, look at me, stop fighting for a sec, look, I got eight plus on this test. Aren't you proud of me? Aren't you proud of me? Aren't you proud of me was probably the mantra I grew up with up until I was, you know, 18 years old. And it was the only way that I could feel like I had some sense of control and that's how we become overachiever. Right? It can feel totally like an addiction, but it's taking us away from what it is that we truly want and it's to be accepted and to have love for who you actually are, not the things that you achieve and accomplish.
Michael: Yeah. And I think the downside of that is unfortunately, I can only speak for myself, but as a child, there's a 0% chance I would understand what you just said. And so, we go to those things because they give us some semblance of identity. Right. You're in it and you're like, this is who I am. So even if it means for five seconds, I get admiration, I'm going to kill myself to get that, right? I think it's like that struggle of, you know, when you get ahead of dopamine, the reward is best when earned. And I think one of the hard parts about this context is the earning it is this insurmountable battle that on the one rare occasion that you get it, it's like your fucking brain explodes and you're like, this is the greatest day of my life when in actuality it's not, and that's something you should be experiencing frequently. So, when you have these moments and you're like, okay, aren't you proud of me? And you get that, yes. I would assume occasionally not putting words into your mouth. What was your response to that?
Gloria: It's like a slot machine, right? One of these times I'll get it right. You know, I'll just keep pulling at the lever and, you know, I love the whole idea of bread crumbing and relationships and all of this inner work. It's like when you've been starving for a meal for so long, all of a sudden that tiny piece of breadcrumb feels like a five-star meal that feels like a Michelin restaurant meal. And when you finally get that hit of Dopamine, as you were saying, when you finally get, you know, the smile or a hug from your mom and your dad, it feels like, like the biggest moment in your entire life. And it's not right, because emotional needs are actual needs. You know, I hear clients at the beginning of our journey sometimes say things like, oh, you know, it would've been nice if my mom hugged me, would've been nice if they smiled at me and it's like, no, no, no, this is not something that would've just been a cherry on top. These are actual fundamental needs, it's on par with food on your table and a roof over your head. I'm not even gonna go into the research into how meeting those developmental emotional milestones literally affects the way that your brain develops. It affects your executive functioning skills, but these are actual needs that were neglected in you as a kid as they were for me and for you as well, Michael.
Michael: I often hear people say, well, my parents did the best that they could. And to an extent I go, yeah, sure, that's fair. Okay. Fine. But then what I have seen happen again and again and again, is that we allow what in that context we determine to be quote unquote the best to be the barrier minimum, entry level to creating any and all other relationships that we get in from that moment. So now you're going through this process, you’re like, all right, I'm gonna go and buy, I'm gonna play the fucking slot machine, we're gonna see what happens. And now you're stepping into it, I want to trace this into, as you're going through this process of adulthood and falling into these toxic relationships, like what was your mindset in these? Are you aware? Are you not aware? Are you kind of both? Like, where are you in these moments of like, wait a second, something feels like my relationships with my parents here.
Gloria: Yeah, totally. I wanna speak to what you said just now of the bare minimum. So, when you look at emotional attunement in kids, which is how often you have to get it, right when reading your kids emotional needs, you actually only have to get it right 30% of the time, that is what bare minimum is for a kid to turn out to be securely attached. So, if something went wrong, it means that for you and your parents, it was way less, like less than 30% of the time they got it right. So, you know, maybe they were doing their best, but it still wasn't enough, that's just the reality of how it is. Oh boy, this is a can of worms with adult relationships. You know, some people who've never heard of this work before they're almost shocked when I tell them that your romantic relationships as an adult have everything to do with the way that you grew up. So, your caregivers, they kind of become the blueprint, right? They're your first interactions ever with human beings on earth, and so that kind of becomes the blueprint to how you understand other relationships, but have you ever had, you know, for those listening, maybe you've been in a bad situation with a situation or a relationship and you just realize you have this sudden epiphany that the person you're dating. Sure, reminds you a lot, like your mom or your dad. Right. And you know, it's not like we're intentionally going out there and choosing partners that remind us of their mom and dad, it sounds kind of incestual, but it's not it's because we are drawn towards what is familiar. And honestly, that could be as simple as the way that someone looks at you, when you say something and they kind of roll their eyes at you, or they put you down, or they diminish your opinions on things, little things that even though they might hurt you, they ring kind of a bell in the back of your brain saying, oh, this is familiar, right? Oh, we know what this is all about. And we actually develop attraction towards people like that, which is kind of messed up, but it's kind of how it works.
Michael: Yeah. And in that, what did you notice about that experience for yourself? Because what I found myself, I had this moment where I was in this relationship with someone, I was like 24 years old and it was so incredibly, emotionally volatile and it just, one day it just kind of hit me. It was like a smack to the face. I was, oh shit, I'm dating my mom.
Gloria: There it is. Right. I hear that all the time. My case I was dating my dad and the pattern I'm not sure what the pattern was in that relationship for you but one of my patterns was I was always drawn towards people who couldn't choose me. Right. So, they were either in another relationship, they were emotionally unavailable, they were more of an avoidance or narcissistic type of person. And I couldn't even talk to anyone about this, cuz I was a high achiever, I was, you know, super successful in my career, my business. And so, you know, if anyone knew I sucked those relationships, it just felt like this huge shameful thing to me, but I literally dated this guy for over a year. And at the end of that year still refused to call me his girlfriend. And it was the same time that a lot of other things were happening. I just felt like everyone was just slamming their door in my face and it was like, wow, like this is my dad, right? Like my dad, who I always felt like I just couldn't quite get enough love and affection from who I was just never good enough for. And I ended up finding relationships where I could not be good enough for my partners. And it was just a cycle. So, yeah, you dated your mom, I dated my dad.
Michael: In that one of the things that I'm curious about is, you know, there are people who, right now they're starting to maybe and even just listening to this for the first time, have this moment of clarity and think, oh wow, maybe there is some symbiosis between this experience in childhood and this person I'm in a relationship with. For me, like having a moment of recognition about this was kind of like literally an epiphany. It was like a holy shit moment, but how can somebody note was that the same for you? I'm trying to like draw a path for people to create a foundational understanding of being able to recognize whether or not they may be in a similar situation as what we used to be it.
Gloria: Yeah, totally. Well, for those starting off who might just be learning about this for the first time, there's always one tip that I find very helpful to share with folks and it's to look at the relationship you're currently in, or look at past relationships and to actually identify how is it that the other person makes me feel, right? How do I actually feel when I'm around this person? And I've gotten a range of different answers of, I feel unimportant to all these people I date, I never feel like I get enough attention, I never feel like I'm enough or I feel like I'm too much, I feel like I can't commit to them. Right? There's always some common denominator of the way that you actually feel in that relationship. And then to tie that feeling with someone from your past, who also made you feel the same way, and I can almost guarantee you, there's gonna be a clear connection that comes up for you. That it's probably mom or dad or someone who raised you or someone from your past, that was a very important relationship for you.
Michael: And when you're in that, I think that can be super unsettling for people. I think predominantly if it's the first time you've come to that realization and you're like, for me, I was like, oh my God, this is like the worst moment of my life cause I was like, what is happening right now? And you kind of actually kind of realize, like you're also playing a factor and a role in that and I think that there's a level of reconciliation that has to happen. And so, you know, one of the things that you mentioned is you're like, all right, I'm in this place, I'm super successful, I'm a high performer and I'm gonna make this a personal statement. I resonate with that tremendously because that's where I was, super successful, high performer relationships, disaster. And I'm like, same as you hopeless, romantic, seeking, hoping, praying somebody be that, fix that thing to fill my cup. How do you like reconcile the fact that like here I am super successful, but this one thing that maybe probably should matter more is a complete wreck?
Gloria: Yeah. Oh gosh. I'm getting flashbacks to years ago but you know, I will tell you something about this. One thing I think is really important to mention is being good at relationships it's not this, you know, elusive, random thing that only happens to lucky people. And I think that when we grow up with all of these very dysfunctional examples, it's really easy to believe that. It's easy to believe this scarcity, you know, these are false narratives that there are so few good people out there, or there's no one out there for me and we kind of get stuck in these narratives and it can make relationships feel very random. Like it's not possible for you, but it's just a skill like everything else. Like if you're an entrepreneur you didn't just build a business by like guesswork, right? Like you actually had to implement skills and pull it together. But becoming securely attached is also a skill too, these are things that we can actually learn when it comes to regulating your triggers and relationships, managing the connection, finding the right people. But you know what, Michael, I think what I'll say to that is taking responsibility in your choices in these relationships is probably the first step. I mean, I know you know this, but to those people listening, I mean, I was at a point where I was just blaming everyone else. Right. I was thinking, well, this guy sucks, that person sucks. Right. And I was always putting the blame on them like they were the toxic ones, not me, not me. I'm over here, you know, crushing it. I'm a boss, babe. Right? You know, like I was avoiding personal responsibility. But the fact was, there was only one comment denominator in all these relationships. It was me, right? Like I was choosing to go on these dates with people. I was the one choosing to stay for 12 fricking months with someone that didn't wanna call me his girlfriend. You know, at that point there, I couldn't even blame him anymore, it was just, I was the one that was allowing it to happen. Damn that gutted me, right? To realize that, wow, maybe I have a part to play in this as well. I saw a smile on your face, maybe you felt that way before too. So, I think taking radical responsibility for your journey and what you want and what you truly deserve in relationships has to come first before we're even ready to talk about the strategic and the healing piece.
Michael: Yeah. And I'm smiling because I'm like, yeah, take fucking responsibility for your life. And it's hard because it's so much of the causation and correlation where you find yourself effectively building a life that you had already once lived because it's comfortable. I mean, what's more comfortable than known experiences and until you're willing to face the other side of that, and the discomfort in this context is like, empathy and compassion and grace and love and acceptance and being claimed, right? Like what's more scary than that I've never had that before, so I'm going to shy away from it. But even in that moment of like, for lack of a better term, this coming to Jesus experience where you're like, oh shit, wait a second, this is on me. I feel that one of two things typically happens. One being people go, all right, well, this is just acceptance. This is what I deserve. This is what I'll continue to have. Sand's a rock bottom potentially. Right. And the other being like, I'm gonna destroy myself. I deserve this. I'm a piece of shit. How do you step through that space?
Gloria: Oh, that's such a good nuance question. I've never heard anyone ask it quite like that before, because you're totally right. I think, you know, as the high achiever we we're so good at polarizing things and either going this way or the other way. Right. So, I really believe it's about finding that middle balance. I mean, the reason intimate relationships are so hard for, you know, people like me are we feel safe in our professional life because that's where we've established our authority, but we don't feel safe with this relationship stuff, cuz it's totally new to us. But when it comes to taking responsibility and not having it go through this downward spiral. Now one half, I think it's really important to be in a community or work with someone that can show you what it's like on the other side because, how do you if I've never seen what a healthy relationship looks like, I have no point of reference to even get there. So, you know, whether it's therapy or working with a coach or even reading a book, I think having some sort of external guidance is always very helpful when you're going somewhere that you've never been to before. But combining that radical responsibility with compassion and self-compassion, I think is the sweet spot.
So, it's not only this, oh, it's all my fault. Right? Like I made all these choices, like I'm the toxic one, but we have to pair that with the understanding of why we have made those choices. I wasn't a bad person for choosing these people. It was because that's all I've ever known. I didn't know any better, I thought I was dating people that on paper would've been good matches for me, but I was not in connection with my body. I didn't know what my type should be based on my attachment style. Right? And so, I was just repeating wounds. And so, when we do make mistakes, I think it's super important to take responsibility for our own options, but also pair that with that unconditional self-compassion as well so that we're not just beating ourselves up.
Michael: In the context of high achievers, how much is failure in these intimate relationships in conjunction with the need to have massive control?
Gloria: Oh, my gosh. Huge. Right? And the control piece is probably why these relationships are not working out. You know, our hustle game is good, right? We got to where we are by working hard and pushing forward, but working hard and pushing forward in intimate relationships, you know, doesn't quite work the same way because it opens up our blind spots, it opens up our vulnerability. And so, you know, what happens when we try to control the outcome of relationship? Usually nothing good comes of it. Right. The other person feels like we're trying to control them, they feel like we're, we've got this hidden agenda like we're trying to speed things up to get that commitment or to move things forward. It really is about finding ways of letting go of that control but still feeling safe in a relationship setting. It is a bit of an art.
Michael: Yeah. So how do you do that?
Gloria: Well, there are different philosophies out there around dating. With my work, I focus more on that trauma informed approach and what that really looks like is building that foundation of safety within yourself so that you're not looking for in other people. That's where I think a lot of folks get tripped up on is they look to relationships as a way to fill this gaping void in their lives. Right. It's almost like they're trying to make up for mommy or daddy not being there, they're looking at relationships as this external source of validation, but the thing is, relationships can never rescue you from what kind of light you have now. Relationships are just like money, they simply magnify what's already here. Right? And it's the same thing money won't solve your problems it will simply amplify and magnify what you already have, same thing with relationships. And so, if you don't feel internally sound, if you don't have this sense of overflow and abundance, between you and your inner child, you, as you as a person, then you're not gonna be coming at relationships from the right place, from the right energy. And that's when the controlling aspects really start to come out. And so that's where I start first is getting you to the place where you're going to relationships for the right reasons so that there is no need for control. You know, a lot of people think with relationship coaching, that it's all about finding the one, right?
Gloria, I'm gonna give you this money, go and find me my husband or my wife and that's it. But that's completely missing the point. It's almost like, you know, in business coaching if someone just helps you build one business and then that's it like what happens when it goes to shit? Right? Most of us move through multiple businesses throughout our lives, but we're actually helping you change the place that you operate from. So, it's not just about one relationship and putting your entire, you know, hopes, hinging your entire life on one person, but it's that you can get to the point where it just feels easy for you. If this one doesn't work out, no problem. I've done it before, I know how to create another healthy relationship again, and the next one will be better and the next one will be even better until I eventually get it right. Same thing with career in business, right? It's not about finding the one and putting all of our eggs and hopes on that one thing. But knowing that we are safe in having all different kinds of relationships because the happiness at the most core sense comes from you, no one else can feel happy for you except for you. And so, we really try to have you approach things from the right reason so that you're set for life. I want a bit of a tangent there, but hopefully that right answers.
Michael: Depth is everything. You know, one of the thoughts that came to mind is, you know, and I don't know if this was true for you. And so, I'm curious, but I was only able to discover what you're laying out when I was by myself when I was not in a relationship when I was single and even in that, in these long gaps of learning and growing and changing and healing even finding myself again in a relationship where I was like, oh shit, wait a second, some of these things hold true to the thing I was trying to move myself away from and then having to make the hard decision of saying, actually I have to walk away from this. And that being, I think, a part of this journey, you know, I always think about this idea that, life is about failing forward, like making these mistakes, learning, growing, coming back, iterating, taking samples, doing again, because now you have more data, you have a better understanding. And I'm not even gonna argue but I'm just gonna say it. I think people have come from traumatic backgrounds, have a vastly more difficult experience in stepping into secure attachment style relationships because, whereas my thought is as a child, you are learning, you're bringing this in, you're soaking it in, if you're in a healthy family system, now you have something modeled for that whereas if you're not, well, guess what? Shit you're fucking 28 years old, 36, 40 years old. You're learning in real time; the consequences are so much higher and yet people will find themselves stuck in I'm just gonna stay in this. And so, whereas when I have found myself going, all right, actually, this is wrong, this is a mistake. I fucked up whatever it might be. I go, okay, what do we need to do to change to fix this, give it effort, try to push forth and through, into what's next whereas most people for lack of a better term, they'll just back down. Let’s say someone's in a relationship right now, they recognize the tendencies of being unhealthy, it being insecure, anxious, attachment styles, being all of these things that they don't want. What do they do?
Gloria: I love everything that you said just now, Michael, about how sometimes we still stay as a seven-year-old emotionally in these relationships. Right. You know, I get this question quite a lot. I mean, let's just face it. It's hard, you know, relationships open up these different parts of us greater and more deeply than any other types of relationships. So, I totally get how difficult it is this idea of suddenly making these changes and going into this completely unknown territory. But the perspective I like to share is yes, it is hard. Learning how to be healthy in relationships, learning how to choose people that are right for you. But what you're doing right now, isn't that also really hard, like how hard do you think it is for you right now to be living a life where you don't feel heard by people where you don't feel like you can succeed in your relationships where you might possibly be, you know, 30, 40 years down the line and be still stuck in these same types of toxic dynamics over and over again. That's hard too. Right? But it's a different kind of hard because you're so used to it. And I truly believe that sometimes we do have to hit those rock bottoms for us to realize that the pain of being stuck, where we are is heck of a lot greater than the pain it might take to pull ourselves out of these situations. I think sometimes we need those wake-up calls to really help us realize, oh crap, I might think that changing is hard but maybe me staying here exactly where I am, being exactly where I am 20 years from now, that's gonna be pretty hard too.
Michael: You talked about in your own journey, this aspect of recognizing a decade in that it wasn't until you started doing this inner child work, that you started to create the space, to be able to move into something healthy and safe and secure. What's the correlation there?
Gloria: With inner child healing?
Gloria: I have a lot of thoughts on this topic. Some people find it kind of strange coming for me. So, I'm originally, I'm a registered psychotherapist eventually became a coach. And I have honestly found in a lot of my own training as a mental health practitioner. There's been so much emphasis on the CBT, and these eight-week programs and these, you know, two session programs, I've done it all, Michael and nothing has hit me the way it did in those inner most deeper layers as looking at attachment and inner child work, that's just been my honest experience. You know, I would go to certain sessions and they would say, oh, you just have anxiety, right? Let's just give you this medication to treat your anxiety, then you'll be fine in relationships. And in other types of modalities, I would go to, you know, dating, gurus and learn about how to dress properly on dates, right? Like that was the fucking problem, but I wasn't wearing a dress and that was the reason why I was attracting the wrong people. Right. And everything was just so surface layer. You know, this was why I was so drawn to your work as well, Michael, because you really get it that it has everything to do with the way we are wired and we are wired in our childhood.
You know, it's crazy that I didn't even learn about that in my therapy school. But when I first went to my first inner child coach, it was actually a guy, believe it or not. And we actually had nothing in common, he was like, a forties something white man, he was like a skateboard champion in, you know, like in Canada so random, we had nothing in common other than the fact that he had a very messed up childhood and he was now in a happy relationship. I saw those two things, put it together I thought that's where I was, you're where I wanna be like, let's work together. And he helped me look at the way that my parents raised me to be and how I literally took that blueprint and just extrapolated that onto all of these people I was dating and it was like, oh my God, it was like breakthrough after breakthrough of seeing all these connections, but also things that I could actually do differently by reparenting myself, giving myself the needs that weren't met in me as a kid and not looking towards other people to fill that cup for me, but it was almost like unlocking the superpower like, oh wow, I can actually fill my own cup. It was like tapping into this inner reservoir that I didn't even know was there. And I just ended up feeling so abundant and so full. When I parted ways with my coach, two years later, I just felt like a totally different person, I don't think I would've been able to get there if I hadn't gotten into those deeper layers of the inner child work.
Michael: Yeah. And it's a scary place. Right? And I think people don't understand how much you will discover about yourself. And I mean, ultimately when I wrote my second book, Eight Steps to Healing your Inner Child, I mean, it's pretty simple, it's pretty foundationally straightforward book. It's not as in depth as some of the other things I've written, but it's just like, if you're willing to look at these things, like just nakedly unabashedly, honestly, you're gonna find some shit out about yourself. You know what I'm saying? And you're gonna end up in this place where you're like, fuck, like, this is who I am not necessarily only because of my wiring, my programming, you know, sometimes it's grooming and me enmesh meant, but also, it's the choices that you're making, it's the decisions that you make. And unfortunately, there's a reconciliation that you're going to have to have with the truth of who you are and understanding radical responsibility in terms of making better decisions. I think one of the difficult things for me, there's a space in which you have to evaluate the value that you have and what you are worth and there's conversation about worthiness here. And I like kind of attribute this to the same as being an entrepreneur or business owner, or even just working a career, like getting paid, what you're worth. You know, there are people who just undervalue themselves so drastically and I’m like fuck that get what you're worth in relationships and career in life, in everything, because you can, and you deserve it, but like, I can't force feed that to you. You have to be able to create that in yourself and more so you have to be able to, and this is my thought about it continuously do incredibly uncomfortable things to build the confidence, to own that. How much of that feels true in this journey for you?
Gloria: Oh my gosh. A hundred percent. It's almost like with fitness coaching, I can't do your pushups for you. You know, you really do have to be at a point where you are ready to face the music because as beautiful as this healing journey is it can be quite painful. I don't think we can sugarcoat it and say, oh, it's all just gonna be, you know, rainbows and fairies and butterflies, but it really is the shadow work where you are taking the most honest, good hard look at yourself and the parts of you that feel really icky and shameful and uncomfortable. And it's, you know, bringing all of that out on the table and looking at it and being okay with it. Takes a lot of courage for sure. And it can take some people a little bit of time before they're ready to get to that place, but only you can truly acknowledge when you are ready. There's never gonna be an external time where all the lights are green at the same time but I believe that readiness is an internal process and it's an internal choice that you are going to make this happen, not dictated by everything around you. So, I fully believe that.
Michael: Yeah. And I think a big part of it is just making the decision to do it. And not being caught up in the weighing the back and forth of whether or not your life is gonna get better by getting a coach, because it is, I promise you therapy, it is yes. Going to the conference, it is like all of those things matter. One of the things I'm really curious about in your journey as you were going through this process, as you're healing, as you're getting into this place where you're like, wow, I can have a healthy relationship. What do you think is the greatest discovery you had about who you are?
Gloria: Oh, wow. I love these questions. Oh gosh. You know, I talk a lot about the sacred union relationship. And I think I'll speak about this in terms of being in a healthy relationship, because when you're around certain people, they just bring out different parts of you. And I found it really important to be able to balance the me and the we, right? You know, I'm at a point where I'm very happy being off on my own. I'm an introvert, I need a lot of alone time and I'm very happy with who I am as a person like I feel strong, I feel confident, I feel feminine, I feel all of these complex things, but I feel I'm at my best self when I'm also with my partner. And it's not because you know of him that I'm depending on him to bring up these qualities in me but it's because I have intentionally chosen someone who I've discovered does bring out these best qualities in me. So, something I've learned bet myself is I can be my best self when I'm by myself, but also with the people that I have chosen to, to keep and to bring into my life. It's a bit of a nuanced subject, right? We could talk more about, you know, who is the true self really, but for the first time in my life, I feel completely myself when I'm just me and when I'm with other people, and that's been a huge game changer for me, someone who is a recovered people, pleaser, who was a human chameleon and I would, you know, shape, shift myself based on who I was around. But I've learned that it's okay to be exactly who I am and that not everybody deserves all of me. Right? Some people are just never gonna be safe to be around, no matter how badly you want them to be your person. Some people are just never gonna be that and you have to be okay with protecting your own dignity and stepping away and trusting that there are tons of people of, you know, 50% of the population is securely attached by the way. Right. There are plenty of people out there who are happy to know you exactly as who you are.
Michael: That's beautiful. And that's a real true sign of this healing process and what life can look like. I bet if I asked you that question 12 years ago, it'd be very different. This has been an amazing conversation, Gloria, before I ask you my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you?
Gloria: Yes, of course. So, I actually have an episode with Michael on my podcast coming out in June but you can check out the Inner Child Podcast that's literally what it's called, it's called the inner child podcast on all streaming platforms. I've got a couple of freebees and things like that on my own page, I'm mostly active on Instagram @bygloriazhang. You're welcome to check me out there.
Michael: And of course, we'll put all the links in the show notes for you, Unbroken Nation. If you go to thinkunbrokenpodcast.com. My last question for you, my friend, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Gloria: Oh yes. You know, I think so many people listening can relate to just feeling like you're too broken to have any, you know, I felt that way with my relationships, I thought I was too used too broken for anyone to ever want me. And honestly, to be unbroken, I feel starts with believing that you're not broken because I don't believe that anyone truly is broken. I think we might be lost, but it's about realizing that all the pieces are actually right here and it's up to us to put it together. What happened to you wasn't your fault, but it's still your responsibility to do the cleaning up work. And yeah, for me, unbroken was just realizing that everything is right here, it's just waiting for me to, to rise to the occasion and piece it back together.
Michael: Brilliantly said, thank you so much for being here, my friend. Unbroken Nation. Thank you so much for listening.
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Gloria Zhang helps High Achievers break patterns of toxic relationships and attract the love of their lives through Inner Child Healing. Gloria is a Registered Psychotherapist and Inner Child Coach based out of Canada, and host of Top 100 mental health show The Inner Child Podcast. Her work on anxiety, childhood trauma, and relationships has been featured in articles such as Toronto Star.