In this episode, I speak with Lori Gottlieb, a licensed psychotherapist, as she delves into the complexities of trauma healing and mental health...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/navigating-trauma-and-mental-health-with-lori-gottlieb-a-psychotherapists-perspective/#show-notes
In this episode, I speak with Lori Gottlieb, a licensed psychotherapist, as she delves into the complexities of trauma healing and mental health. In this podcast, Lori will share her professional insights and strategies for navigating the healing process, understanding the impact of trauma on our lives, and finding a path towards growth and recovery. Through interviews with experts in the field and real-life stories, Lori will provide a holistic understanding of trauma and mental health, and offer practical tools to help listeners on their own healing journey. Whether you are a survivor of trauma, a therapist, or simply interested in understanding the subject, this podcast is for you.
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Michael: Hey, what's up Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well wherever you are in the world today. Very excited be back with you with another episode with Lori Gottlieb, who is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk To Someone. My friend, how are you today? Welcome to the show!
Lori: I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me.
Michael: Yeah, it's an absolute pleasure. You know, one of the things that I just kind of wanna jump off with, and I know it's something that you talk about nearly and dearly to your heart, is just that you, yourself, as a therapist, seek therapy. And one of the things over the course of my life that I've discovered to hold true is the fact that what I feel and believe to be true is that when the therapist often talks about having therapists it makes me as a patient/client feel much more comfort. And I've been thinking about this a lot leading up to our conversation today, and what I'm curious about, why is it that we still live in this world where there's so much stigma around therapy, so much stigma on the conversation of seeking help and talking to someone?
Lori: Yeah. I love what you said about how it gives you comfort to know that your therapist seeks therapy because I think that a lot of people might have the opposite reaction, like, well, you're the therapist, shouldn't you have it all figured out? As a life is figureoutable and there's what you get to a place and that you're done. You know, and that's why maybe you should talk to someone that's why I follow the lives of four very different patients or clients but I'm the fifth patient in the book. And so, you see me working with clients, but it was so important to me to include this other part of me seeking my own therapy and me being one of the patients. And I say at the beginning of the book that I think that my greatest credential is that I'm a card-carrying member of the human race, that I know what it's like to be a person in the world. And so, I think that it's so important that we find our shared humanity in that way, that we all struggle if you're human, you struggle big, small, you know, whatever it looks like. And we need to connect, we need to talk to someone.
Michael: Here's what I think about, like as I went through my healing journey, so growing up, massive childhood trauma, obesity, homelessness, I was a drug addict when I was 12 years old. You know, one of the things that was really important for me was when I finally found a therapist that I actually took seriously and let's be clear, ‘cuz for a long time I would just go give this dude money and I would just say bullshit to him the whole time, right? And so, I made this declaration myself. I'm gonna take this very seriously. I'm actually gonna ask for help and when I go ask for help, I'm actually gonna follow through on doing the thing I said I was going to do. But it seemed like the relation that was built on the lead up to that moment of like sitting down for the first time and being like, all right, I'm actually gonna take this mask off, we're gonna have this hard conversation, was because I had actually interviewed my therapist prior with a list of questions I had asked a whole bunch of people because what I had come to realize is, when I was dealing with people who had not had similar experiences as me, I just couldn't connect. Do you find that that holds true for people? Is that something that others should be taking into consideration, like when seeking therapy, is that something you take into consideration for yourself and the people you work with?
Lori: I don't know that your therapist has to have had the exact situation that you've had or the exact experience that you've had, but I think that they need to be able to have the skill to understand you. So, maybe my struggle looks different from your struggle, but the fact that I know what it's like to struggle helps me to understand you, but I need to learn more about you. And I think that that's a really important part of therapy is I like what you said about originally you were going to therapy and you weren't really doing therapy because you weren't showing the truth of who you were. And we can't help you if you don't show the truth of who you are. And I think the irony of that is that so many people hide the truth of who they are from their therapists because of shame, because they think they won't be liked for all kinds of reasons and the reality is that when you show me your authentic self, I immediately connect with you, I immediately like you. I remember when I was training a clinical supervisor once said to me, you know, there's something likable in everyone, it's your job to find it. And I thought, yeah, well not everyone. I don't know if that's really gonna be the case, you know? And you're just thinking like, what happens if I get a client that I don't like? I have never found a client that I haven't liked if they showed up authentically and showed me the truth of who they were, they became so relatable to me. I felt so much compassion, and I don't mean pity; there's a big difference between pity and compassion. I felt like I get you human to human. I see you. I hear you. I understand you. And so, I think that it's important when we think about what therapy can do for us that we realize that we have a job when we go to therapy. It's not just, I'm gonna go in, I'm gonna entertain my therapist. It's not, I'm gonna go in, I'm gonna download the problem of the week, and then I'm gonna leave and I'm not gonna think about my therapy. I'm gonna go in there and I'm going to, like you said, take off the mask and I'm going to reveal who I am so that I can understand myself and how I navigate through the world differently.
Michael: And that is the most terrifying thing that we do, you know what?
Lori: And yet the therapy room is the safest place in the world to do that, that's what's so funny so many people hide things from their therapists or they don't even talk about something that's going on in the therapy room like, that thing that you said last week, I felt hurt by that. We're so afraid to say that to our therapist, or I feel like you didn't really understand that, you know, it's like this is the one place where you can get practice doing the scary thing, taking those risk.
Michael: Yeah. And it is scary and so much of it I believe is ingrained and embedded in us, in youth, we're groomed into it. You know, I mean, even from school as a child, people are always like, don't speak your mind. Be quiet. Sit in the back of the room. Raise your hand. Do what we tell you to do. Don't be a critical thinker. And when it comes to facing conflict, make sure you stuff that shit down, ‘cuz this is not the place to do it and the next thing you know, you find at 26 years old, it doesn't serve you anymore and everything around you is a complete disaster and you're stuck in this place, which is where I was, where I was like, oh, I have no idea how to communicate emotions. I have no idea how to like step into, this is how I feel, this is how I am inside, and share it and convey it with the world.
Lori: Right. And it's not just in school that we get that message often we get that message in our families. Don't see the truth of what's not working in our family. So, we call those people the identified patients, the IP in the family. So, the person who speaks the truth in the family is often said, you know, something's wrong with you, you're crazy, what are you talking about? They're gaslit, they're the problem, Oh, you're too sensitive, you're difficult. What are you talking about? That's not what's happening, right? So, we learn, oh, I can't talk about the fact that all this yelling is going on in the house. I can't talk about the fact that my parents treat each other this way or treat me this way. I can't talk about the fact that, my sibling is on drugs. I can't talk about the fact that, you know, this family secret exists that I know about, but I can't say that I know it. And so, we get talked out of it, and so in order to cope, we say, okay, I'm not allowed to talk about this. But then we become adults and we forget that we're free, we forget that now actually, we can talk about these things and the only way that we can free ourselves is to talk about these things. And I see this culturally too, like a difference I see between men and women when they come in for therapy. So, you know, there's this cultural thing around men and vulnerability and emotions that they're taught very young, both in their families and in the culture.
So, men will come in and they'll say something like, you know, I've never told anyone this before, and then I'm waiting for the thing and it's something that like women would talk about at lunch, you know, right? But for them, really, they have never told a soul and it feels so vulnerable to them. Women will come in and they'll say, you know, I've never told anyone this before, except for my mother, my sister, my best friend, so they've told maybe 1, 2, 3 people, but it feels like they haven't told anyone. And so, I see this in couples too, if I'm seeing a heterosexual couple and I see all kinds of couples, but let's say I'm seeing a man and a woman and the woman says to the man, you know, I feel like you're not opening up to me, I feel like there's this distance between us, I feel like we're not really connected. I want you to open up to me. And so there they are, sitting on my couch and he opens up to her and maybe a tear comes out of his eyes and maybe he really starts crying and maybe he gets really vulnerable, inevitably, she'll look at me like a deer in headlights like, oh my gosh, what do I do? I don't feel safe when he doesn't open up to me, but I don't feel safe when he's crying in front of me either. So where does that come from? What are we teaching men about vulnerability?
Michael: Yeah, and we're indoctrinated as a man, I can speak to this, you know, from the youngest age, and that's from sports, media, music, our friends, our peer groups, societal structures, the fact that we don't really have a rite of passage in manhood in America and even more so it's reinforced if you come from a background like mine where I was literally told, if you cry, I'll hit you harder. We learned to turn that off. You become this emotional recluse. Like Lori what's crazy is at one point I was probably like 22 years old and one of my friends died and I just emotionally could not process it, could not shut a tear, could not think through it. And then my mother died from an OD and then my grandmother died all within the course of a very short span of time. And I remember sitting in my car, I was driving home one night, windows down on the highway, and I was like, am I a sociopath? So, like what is happening right now? And I had come to realize as I've gone deeper into this work, deep into therapy, group therapy, gestalt therapy, all the things, right? I was like, oh, no, no, it's an emotional response, it's an autonomic response to the stressors of life to keep me safe. And the hardest thing, and I've said this before that I've ever had to do, was like learn how to cry. And then in that process, not judging myself. And it's funny because like even sometimes I'll be at the movies or a commercial or a song will come on and I'm crying and I'm like, maybe I'm happy crying, maybe I'm sad crying, maybe it's everything in between. And I think that the fear not only men, but even you start to see it in women now too, or however you identify, is there is this big fear about being emotionally vulnerable with people. And I'm wondering like as we're in this and we're moving towards this place in society where you have this weird juxtaposition, right? Where it's like you have all these people who will portray this idea of vulnerability perhaps in this toxic way, they have these other people who seek the place to be able to share vulnerability in this secure, safe space. And the overlap seems to be that most people don't know how to do one or the other, right? They don't know how to be vulnerable. They don't know how to cry, how to feel safe in that. What are some things that you've seen in your practice and your experience that can help people be able to step into a place of safety, especially around emotions like sadness or hurt or loss, or grief?
Lori: Yeah. Well, first of all, I so relate to what you were saying about the messages that people get around crying and especially men, but you know, just in general during COVID, the first week of Covid, my father died not of Covid, but it was not expected to happen at that time and he had been sick, but we thought he would last through the summer. And my son, who is a teenager, was that was his best friend, my father was his best friend, they were so close his whole life, and everybody said to my son, be strong. You know, like, instead of being like, oh, you must be so sad about this, it was just like, oh, be strong, or it won't feel this way, you know, instead of just letting him, feel his feelings over the death of this person that he was so close with his entire life, and that's something. And I think that what we see in our culture right now is this kind of fake vulnerability.
So, on Instagram and on social media, people say things like, I'm gonna be so vulnerable with you guys and share this thing, and that's fine that you're sharing this thing. I think it, it does normalize that you know, we can talk about our emotions. But I think then people are just getting a lot of likes from people they don't know. And I think the true vulnerability is when you can sit face to face with someone in your life that you have a relationship with someone who matters to you and open up about your experience and just be yourself, be your authentic self and say the hard thing, even say the hard thing about what's going on in the relationship that's vulnerability. And that's what's really gonna help you flex those muscles. And people, you're right, they don't know how to do that because no one has taught them, they haven't seen it modeled for them. And we as parents, so you know, obviously as a parent, I think a lot about this. How do I model for my son what it means to sit with someone in their feelings instead of trying to fix it, solve it, get rid of it, and or talk them out of it. So many parents try to talk their kids out of their feelings because we get so uncomfortable with their discomfort. Your kid comes home and says, you know, like, oh my gosh, this thing happened in school today, this person was mean to me, or this person didn't sit with me at lunch. And we say, hey, you know, here's what you should do or that kid is terrible. Right? Instead of like, oh, that's really hard, tell me more. Those three words, even for adults to say to somebody, your friend, your partner, your family member, tell me more. We don't know how to listen. So, we say to our kids, oh, let's go get ice cream. You know? Or the kid says, I'm really scared about this, oh, don't be scared about that, that's nothing to worry about but they are worried about that. Let's talk about the fact they're worried. Let them learn that they can sit with an uncomfortable feeling and survive it, and it'll be okay, and you can be present for them without taking over the stage. And so, you know, how do we listen?
So, often what happens is, and I'm talking about now, you know, with kids or adults, when someone comes to us with something, so often we listen in the way that we would want to be listened to. If we would want someone to fix it for us, we try to fix it for them. If we would want someone to just agree with them without giving any feedback, we do that too. And so, there's a difference between idiot compassion and wise compassion. Idiot compassion is what we often do with our friends like we say, you know, your friend comes to you and says like, listen to what my boss, my partner, my mother, my father, you know, whatever somebody did. And we say, yeah, they're wrong, you're right. And we never really just listen to them and we just validate or agree with them, even though there might be a pattern, it's kind of like if a fight breaks out in every bar you're going to, maybe it's you. We don't say that to our friends. We don't say, well, maybe you got broken up with because you went through that person's phone again. We don't say any of that. Or maybe this is happening because maybe you're drinking too much. We don't say.
In therapy, what you get is wise compassion, where we hold up a mirror to you and help you to see something about your role in the situation that maybe you haven't been willing or able to see. So, what you can do when somebody comes to you outside of therapy and they, they come to you with something, instead of offering idiot compassion, you might say, how can I be helpful to you right now? Do you wanna just vent? Do you want a hug? Do you want my true thoughts about this right now? Do you want me to help come up with ideas about what you can do and let them tell you what they want? And remember, it's not just one conversation so right now they might just want a vet, the thing just happened, but they might because you were such a good listener. Come back to you in two days and say, Hey, you know that conversation we had the other day? I'm really curious to know what you think about it, I've been kind of sleeping on it and I want some feedback on it.
Michael: Yeah. And that's so true, I've seen that play out in my life too. I mean, historically I've put myself in a position of like being the fixer, right? People would come to me with problems. I would try to solve them, and then really, you're just making shit worse. And it wasn't until I just, I started asking this question, I was like, what do you actually need from me? That was the question I started to ask, and it's shocking to me how often it's just like, just sit there and shut up. Like, it's totally fine. I just need this space and there's something about holding that space for someone, but I fear that unfortunately, and this is, I don't know how true this is, but this is my feelings towards it unless you're professionally trained, like you mentioned, there's no modeling for even having the space to ask that conversation or hold that question in the conversation. And so, what I'm wondering is for people who may sit and hear this and like, cool, I want to be the person to listen and support, or I want to be vulnerable on the other side and have that conversation, but we've not really been given these tools like what are some things that people can start to use immediately because what came to mind as you said that as I thought to myself, you know, you rewind my life a decade plus, that kind of step into vulnerability or holding space for someone would make me feel shame or guilt about taking up their emotional energy. And I think that probably holds true for a lot of people.
Lori: Yeah. I think if you're someone who really wants to try being more vulnerable with someone in your life, you can start the conversation by saying, hey, this is really hard for me. I don't have a lot of practice doing this, and what I want right now is for you to just listen. So, they know from the beginning, this is what I want right now. Do you think you can do that? Ask them. Do you think you can do that? Can you just listen, I wanna share this with you. This is really hard for me. Most people will say, yeah, I can just listen. Right? And that's where you can start. And it usually brings people much closer together. Oh, I didn't know that about you. Wow. Thank you for telling me. And most people feel really honored that you are willing to open up to them, that you trust them, you have that much trust in that person and in their ability to be there for you and for this relationship. So you wanna choose your audience well.
I always say that to people, don't try this with someone who always breaks your boundaries. Don't try this with someone who will always like put the criticism in there no matter what, no matter what you ask. Do this with someone you really trust and start there. If on the other side of it you want to learn how to be a better listener, again, just ask them that question at the beginning. Hey, I really wanna be here for you. How can I be here for you right now.
Michael: Drilling down into this a little bit more thinking of it from the perspective of a relationship, right? Generally speaking, when intimate relationship with someone will often view them as, this is the person who I am closest to in my life. And I will say this from my own perspective, when in a relationship and with someone, I want to be able to step into deep vulnerability with them in a healthy to reciprocate compassion, grace, all the things that we need. And I know from past experience, it's very much different for me now, but in the past, I would always have this feeling or this sensation, just massive flooding of guilt around this idea that and I'll put it in the context of being a man, and this may apply to women as well, feeling like if I share this thing of great darkness or vulnerability, they will see me as weak, they will see me as not strong as being not fit or suitable to be their partner and I know that happens for many people. And so, I'm wondering for folks who are like, I wanna share an intimate detail of my life with my partner, maybe we've been together five years or 15 years and it's something I've never told them and I know that I need to tell them ‘cuz it keeps me awake at night and I can't sleep and it's driving me crazy, I'm pull my fucking hair out. How do they do that?
Lori: I think that's such a paradox that people are worried that they'll come across as weak by sharing something vulnerable, and it takes so much strength and courage and bravery to do that. So, the people who are actually able to share those things are very, very strong. And I think that we need to make sure that that's the message that's getting out there. I mean, think about how much strength it takes to show up, to be present, to be authentic, that's so hard. It's so much easier. You know, when we talk about weak, and I don't really like to categorize people as sort of strong or weak, I think it's about fear. And I think that people who are more afraid are people who are going to keep things to themselves, are going to kind of live a very limited constricted life because they're so afraid of living fully because of the inherent risk of living fully. If you want to live fully, you are going to risk getting hurt. If you're going to love fully, you are going to risk getting hurt. But the thing about love, and I'm gonna talk about all kinds of love, you know, platonic love, romantic love is that sure love can hurt us, but love can also heal us. And if you don't show up, you'll never see how love can heal you.
Michael: Hmm. That's powerful. How does love heal you?
Lori: I think that love shows us that we can connect with another human being and just by being ourselves and that we are enough, that we are inherently lovable, that we are flawed, that we have moments of, we have heroic moments, we have our, not our finest moments, all of it, the whole spectrum of who we are, of our whole humanity, and we are still inherently lovable, that is so healing, that makes you walk through the world so differently than worrying about, am I lovable? Am I worthy? You know, all of those things, just knowing that you are lovable and people say, oh, you have to love yourself first. And I always sort of have trouble with that because what I see is that it's both that you have to show up as somebody who believes that you're lovable, but you also need to see it in practice in the world. Both of those things I think need to happen.
Michael: Yeah, there's definitely a parallel tract, right? And as you're going through, it's interesting me ‘cuz it's like a mirror and I've been thinking about this a lot lately. Like you bring into the world what you are and if you are hate and despair, you will find hate and despair. If you are love and peace, you'll find love and peace. And I'm with you, I do think that it is a parallel track, but I think that at the beginning of it, and this is also I'll just speak from first person, as I discovered at 27 years old, that I had never loved myself. We're talking 12 years ago now because of the implications of all the abuse that I went through, because of all the experiences of my life. The singular hardest thing that I had to do was recognize that you have to build love in yourself, and I think that a lot of people find that feels insurmountable, that to your point, they feel unworthy, they feel unlovable, they feel like they don't matter in the world. What are some things that people can start doing? What are things even that for yourself in your personal life that you've done to love yourself and that maybe other people can take into consideration?
Lori: I keep thinking about you as the 27-year-old because you know, we have this saying, tell me how you were loved or show me how you loved now, and I can tell you how you were loved as a child.
Lori: And I think we see that we know not just as a therapist, but you can see that with your partners, right? Like when you meet someone and you say, oh wow, they really interpreted that comment that way. Oh, this is historical, you know, we always say if it's hysterical, it's historical, meaning that if you're having a reaction that feels bigger than what's happening right now in the present in the room, there are probably some ghosts in the room, there are probably some people in the room from your past that are sitting in the room with you that made you go from zero to 60 really fast. And so, it's really important when we talk about loving ourselves, that we understand the way that we were loved as children is not necessarily an accurate view of how lovable we are, that the way we were loved as children is more about the person who loved us that way and couldn't love us in a certain way. It was more about them than it was about us. So, we believe the story, we all have stories that, that carry us through our lives. And what I do as a therapist is I feel like, and you know, I have a writing background too, so I feel like what I do is I work as an editor and I help people to edit the faulty narratives that they're carrying around about themselves. I'm not lovable. I can't trust anyone. Nothing will ever work out for me, whatever those stories are. Or sometimes people have these stories that they use to cope when they were younger like, I'm better than everyone else which is also not true. So that's not self-love, that's narcissism. So where did we get these stories? And we have to understand that if you had a really critical parent, it wasn't because something was wrong with you, it was because something was wrong with them and something was wrong with their parent. This is the generational trauma that we talk about, and the person who finally comes to therapy and says, I don't want to not only treat myself this way, but I don't wanna pass this down, even if you don't have your own children, like I don't wanna pass this down to, you know, whoever I'm in contact with. This is not okay. Something is wrong with this story. Not something is wrong with me. Something is wrong with the story that I was told. I was told a faulty narrative and I believed it because I was a child and I didn't know any better. But now I can really look at this critically and say, wait, how true is this? And am I doing something to perpetuate this story? Am I choosing people who are going to like, keep that story going? Right? Do I choose critical people, angry people, damaged people and damaged I don't mean that in a pejorative way. I mean, people who haven't done the work to kind of see what story are they carrying around and what are they inflicting on other people. So, I think that the first thing we can do is to examine our stories. You know, where did I get this message that I'm not lovable, that something's wrong with me, that I'm defective, that I'm not normal, whatever that means. Every single one of us is quote unquote normal, we're just human. But what are these maladaptive ways of being in relationship that kind of perpetuate the story where we choose people who are going to hurt us in exactly the same way, that we were hurt when we were younger. I always say that, you know that that's called repetition compulsion. But I always say that we do that where we say I'm gonna find someone who's going to treat me differently from the person who hurt me when I was younger. And then we go out in the world and we find these people who are like really good partners first, potentially. But we go on a first date or a second date, we're like, yeah, no chemistry because we're not used to being treated well. So, our unconscious is, yeah, I don't recognize that, that's not familiar. So, our unconscious is looking for quote unquote home. Home is the familiar of what we did when what we had when we were younger. And so instead, then we go and we go out on this date, or we meet someone somewhere, we say, oh, that person, Hey, you look familiar. Come closer. And what's familiar about them is that unconscious. Oh, they're gonna hurt me, but we don't know that in that moment. So, then we get into relationship with them and we're like, wow, I didn't realize that they were like addicted to this thing. Right? Or I didn't realize that they have anger issues, I didn't realize that they can be really kind of passive, aggressively insulting, or they're very jealous of my success. Right. They try to shut down my joy. Oh, I that feels really familiar. And then like, you know, all men are like that, all women are like that, you know, all women are crazy, all men are controlling. And it's like, no, no, no, no, no you're choosing people who are like that person who raised you with that model. So, we have to do the work, that's where the work comes in therapy is, you know, and then maybe you should talk to someone in my book, there's a woman just like that, and she has this idea that the problem is out there the problem is with other people and it's not about who she's choosing. And we come to realize, hey, it is about who you're choosing and wow, when you start really repairing your relationship with yourself and setting boundaries with your parents and understanding more about what was them and what was you. Now, when you go on that date with someone who's healthy, you're like, oh, I'm interested in that person.
Michael: Yeah, it's phenomenal. And you'll find out in my experience that it also does not have that like rocket ship to space feeling. Right. And that's what I always tell people when I'm coaching them. If they ask me about dating, I'm like, be very cautious if your adrenaline's pumping the first time you hang out with somebody, there might be an indicator there, something is familiar. And I remember my own journey at one point, I said, this was a fucking crazy moment for me, Oh my God, I'm dating my mother. And then, that was because of how toxic and volatile the relationship was mentally and emotionally. And I think one of the things that I had to do was to pause and look at it, reflect and get really into myself and understand like causation and correlation like why am I attracted to people who don't treat me right? And then why do I reciprocate that so that we feel like we're even, and there's always the last word, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then you do a little bit of the work and you show up and you have some conversations like this and you learn about what you want, what your boundaries are, how to respect yourself first and foremost. And then you find that you are so removed from those people that you can spot them a mile away. And again, to your point, it's not like damaged i.e., they're hurt or broken ‘cuz we all have shit happen, it's just, you can really tell once you start doing the work who has done it because you vibrate on that same frequency with people.
One of the things that, that I notice about just speaking in the context of dating and relationships is, it feels like very often what we try to do is satiate this need or desire for community, connection, fulfillment through other people. How do you navigate that, right? When you're in this journey and you're going through this healing process, and maybe you've been single for a long time, or you're in a new relationship and you wanna connect, but you've worked through so many demons and you don't wanna repeat the patterns. What are the things that people need to be like aware of on the lookout for, and making sure to continue in their day-to-day lives to, to make sure that what happened in the past does not continue?
Lori: I think it's about checking in with yourself and taking things more slowly. I think that when we rush into things, what happens is we're not really being aware of the process of what's happening now. Of course, like when you meet someone and you're really excited about them, you're gonna move faster than you would with someone that you're not as excited about. But I also think that you can step back and you can say to the person, and boundaries are so important that you need to know what you need and you need to communicate that. And if the person can't respect your boundary, well that's information for you, it's like, Hey, I really like you. I'm really excited about this. I wanna take this a little bit slower, right? We're moving a little bit fast for me, and I just I really wanna see you, maybe we don't see each other every night, can we see each other, you know, three times a week, four times a week instead of seven times a week? And you know, for right now, things like I need to be able to have space for my friends too, like you don't wanna just give up the rest of your life, the things that keep you stable and sturdy and grounded. I need to do my hobby. I need some alone time. I need my friends. I need to stay focused on my work, right? All of those things. And I really wanna get to know you. And someone who is at that level of real adult, adult mature relationship say, I totally get that, what works for you? What works for me? Let's talk about it. The person who's like, well, I don't understand, you know, maybe that's a good thing to happen very early on in a relationship is if you say, Hey, this is important to me, this is what I need to talk about, can we talk about this? And they're not willing to do that, well, you just dodged a bullet.
Michael: Yeah, for sure. And I think one of the things that's really fascinating is those people are probably doing the same things. Like they want to focus on their career or their hobbies or their friends, we all have had that friend, or maybe have been that friend in our life where you get in a relationship and then you ghost all of your people and it's like, wait a second, hold on. We were here too. Like don't forget about us. Don't forget that you're allowed to have all of it. I think, unfortunately, so black and white about everything where they're like, it has to be this or this and I'm like, but it can be both, it can be, and you can have it all. And I wanna encourage people to seek that but again, I think it comes down to clarity. And most people will be like, I don't really know what I want. And we've talked this about this idea about really understanding, but here's an interesting question. How do you more so know that the clarity that you have about the person that you wanna be is actually accurate and correct versus what you think it should be?
Lori: I think that you have to use your feelings like a compass. So, if you are really, you know, excited about someone, but you feel anxious a lot, this is a good time to say what is the anxiety about is the anxiety about me getting more vulnerable with this person or me showing up in a relationship? Or is the anxiety about something that there's sort of a red flag here or a yellow flag or whatever it might be, that I just don't wanna look at because it's too inconvenient to look at it because this is making me really happy. And if I look at this, I might not end up pursuing this relationship. So, what is the anxiety about use it like a compass if you're feeling sad, you know, like what is that about? If you're angry, is somebody breaking a boundary that you have that maybe you haven't even stated yet, that maybe you need to stay like, oh, that person showed up without calling me first. And, oh, that felt a little bit invasive. I didn't like that. Or the person made plans without asking me, you know, what was happening and I didn't like that. So, use those feelings. Don't just push them down and say, oh, I'm probably being difficult or too sensitive, or I don't wanna look at that ‘cause it's inconvenient. Really think, oh, this is a gift, this feeling and now I just wanna look at it and see what is it telling me so I can head in the right direction.
Michael: Let's say you're heading in the right direction, things are going well, everything is good, and then something happens. A lot of people will jump ship first time something happens. Right. And I know a big part of the conversations you've had previously are about things like infidelity or lying or things of this nature. How do you navigate when you get your feelings hurt in a relationship? One my trauma responses previously till I really, really started getting into understanding who I was, was just to abandon and because I'm hyper independent, I was alone as a kid. I had to figure out how to navigate the streets at a young age, and I was like, if you can't give me everything that I need at all times, because you have to be a perfect person that I'm getting out of here, right? Obviously, that doesn't work, that is not a great way to navigate the world. But if you are in this situation where you've been doing work, you're healing, you're really getting in tune with yourself, you're putting up boundaries, you're learning to love yourself, we're taking all these pieces of the puzzle, Lori, we're putting them on the table, it's starting to form the image, we're getting an idea of it and then maybe a gusta win blows it apart into chunks. How do you start to put it back together so that you can maybe salvage it or continue on, or even on the opposite, like know whether or not it's a relationship that you should continue to be it?
Lori: That's such a great question. This is what I call cancel culture in relationships where one thing happens and the person's like, you're canceled. I'm outta here. Right. I see this so much, especially I think with younger people because you know, they kind of have this feeling like you said, like, well, you didn't meet all my needs, or you didn't read my mind, or you did this thing that really hurt me and you're canceled, that's unacceptable. Now there are certain things, of course, right, but I think generally what I'm seeing is this like, you know, just really like easy way of getting out of relationships without even thinking about the fact that your partner will hurt you a hundred percent, hundred percent. This person who loves you and this person that you love, will in the course of your relationship hurt you. Not intentionally, sometimes intentionally, hopefully not intentionally, you know, they might be upset and they might say something and apologize for it. Hopefully that doesn't happen often, and it's an anomaly. But we heard each other, we hurt the people we love, it just happens. The question is, how do you repair? So, there's rupture, when there's a rupture in the relationship. Rupture's always gonna happen and then how do you repair it? What is the repair? And so, I think it's really important, instead of canceling the person that you have a conversation about it, hey, what just happened there that really hurt me? Or I don't understand that. Right. Can we talk about this? That is gonna give you the information that you need. And you can also again go, I keep talking about boundaries. Boundaries are really important and I wanna say something about a misconception that people have about boundaries.
People think that when you set a boundary, you say to the other person, you can't yell at me in, or you can't criticize me, or you can't, whatever it is. I don't like when you talk about my appearance. So, please don't do that. Don't yell at me. I don't like that. You can't yell at me, right? And then if the person does that, they've broken your boundary. A boundary is not what they're gonna do, a boundary is what you are going to do in response to how they handle your request. A boundary is simply a request. So, if you say, you know, to your mother, don't talk about my appearance, or you say to your partner, don't yell at me, or whatever, it's say, I don't like it when you yell at me. If you yell at me, I'm going to leave the conversation and then we can talk about this another time. If you yell at me a lot, I don't know if I'll be able to stay in the relationship. So you're gonna have to do some work on that if you're not able to really control that, if I'm gonna stay in the relationship.
You know, with your mother, if you criticize the fact that I took this job over that job, if you criticize my choice of partner by appearance, whatever it is. If you say that I'm difficult or sensitive, I'm gonna end the conversation, we'll talk another time, right? If this keeps happening and I'm come to visit, I'm not gonna come to visit because I don't really trust that it's gonna be a happy visit, that we're gonna have a good time together. It's what you are gonna do, not what the other person's gonna do. What are you gonna do in response to your request?
So, the first time something happens in a new relationship and people are like, wow, I wasn't expecting that from this person that I trust and I'm falling in love with, that's a time for what we call repair. Talk to them. Hey, that was really surprising to me. I wasn't expecting that. Can we talk about what happened? Can we talk about how that felt to me? Can we talk about what happened for you? Let's talk about what's okay in our relationship, what's not okay in our relationship? If that conversation goes well, great. That's a great sign. And you know, again, it doesn't mean like you know that you're gonna stay in this relationship or the relationship's gonna work out. It means that's information; I can have these kinds of conversations with this person it went really well. Now let's see what happens next time, let's see if they heard what I said. Let's see if they understood that I don't really want that to happen again in that way.
Michael: Yeah. And what's interesting about boundaries, ‘cuz it is a misconception and people think that a boundary is about them, but it's really about you and the following through of that is, I think what not only protects yourself, but keeps you in control, right? I don't mean control of the other person, I mean control of your emotional response, control of the chaos that could potentially ensue because, you know, I remember times where somebody would like cross a boundary, I’d be freak out, like burn the house down and you're like, dude, wait a second. Hold on, pause. This is really a you thing, not a them thing. And you need to come back and reassess and figure out what's going on. And I love what you said about repairing it because I think most things are repairable like you just have to have clarity and you have to want to repair them, and you want to, you have to want to do the work mutually, you know? And I think that a lot of people feel like, forgiveness has to come into play in this way where we have and must forgive people for their misgivings or the things that happen in our life. And I'm curious about your opinion of this, ‘cuz sometimes it's weird. There's a juxtaposition that I see will occur when I share this publicly, I don't necessarily know that you have to forgive people as much as you have to forgive the experience or the moment, or vice versa. I don't know. It depends on context. Right. But what role does forgiveness play in not only these kinds of relationships and dating and intimacy, but with your family or people who have hurt you, or traumatic experiences? Like where does forgiveness come into the play here?
Lori: Yeah, I so wanna talk about this. This is a big theme in maybe you should talk to someone and also, I have a podcast called The Dear Therapist Podcast. And this comes up so much where people feel like, you know, this person who mistreated me, parents, former partner or whatever, you know, they want for sibling, they want forgiveness, and I actually don't forgive them. And I think it's so damaging, it's like trauma on top of trauma. You're layering a new trauma on top of the original trauma when you tell somebody they have to forgive someone who hurt them in this way. So, maybe you should talk to someone, there's this mom and she's estranged from her adult children and she keeps wanting their forgiveness. And I said to her, they don't need to forgive you, you need to forgive yourself, they don't need to forgive you. And the kids, it's like, you know, I call that forced forgiveness, that if you tell someone you have to forgive this person, or it'll set you free if you forgive them. For some people that might be true, but for others it's absolutely not and to force someone to impose forced forgiveness on someone is just re-traumatizing that. So, I say you can have compassion, you can say, I understand that my parent had limitations, that my parent wasn't able to be the kind of parent that I deserved and needed and should have had because they didn't know how because they had whatever happened in their life. I can have compassion for them, but I don't actually forgive them. And that can be so liberating in and of itself that I can see why this happened, it wasn't about me, it was about them. And I have compassion for them, but I don't forgive that. I don't forgive what happened. And that helps you actually to move forward.
People think if you don't forgive that, you're gonna be stuck in the past. No. It allows you to say, I see this with clarity now. I deserved the better. I don't forgive that experience. I have compassion for that person who was so limited and unable to and had their own mental health issues. But I can move forward now because now I feel so empowered to move forward.
Michael: Yeah, a hundred percent. And I think that's one of the most important things. I think, unfortunately, there are some acts that are unforgivable, and I think that is the nature of the human experience. But when you recognize a truth, hurt people hurt people, and healed people, heal people, the really beautiful thing that happens is you can just go, okay I accept it, right? That doesn't mean it feels good, that doesn't mean you like it, it just means that it's fact. And we try to hide from it, run from it, and stuff it down, and I'm just like, just acknowledge it, it's true, it's there. The cuts, the scars, the burns on my body from childhood. I go, they're there. I can't hide from them. I can't push them down. But I can accept them and with grace for myself, give myself freedom from it, not take culpability, look at the experiences of my parents and go, Holy shit, their childhoods were so fucking bad. No wonder mine was like this. Okay, cool. What do I do to end this? And change the narrative.
Lori: Right. And it involves a lot of grieving. People forget about that, they think, oh, well, you know, it happened, it's the past. There's so much grieving to be done. You have to grieve what you didn't get. I always say to people that you have to let go of the hope for a better childhood in order to have a better adulthood, meaning you can't get a redo, but in letting go of the hope for a different childhood, for a better childhood, that's the grief work, so you can now have a better adulthood.
Michael: Yes. I wish I get that tattoo to my face and people could just read it as I walk down the street because it's so important. One of the greatest lessons that I've learned in this journey, and I would love to go deeper, we have so much more conversation we're probably not gonna get to in the next couple of minutes. So in light of that, before I ask you my last question, can you please tell everyone where they can find you and learn more about you?
Lori: Sure. They can find me at my website, which is lorigottlieb.com, they can find me on Instagram, they can find me on Twitter, they can find me on Facebook, they can check out my book, it's called, Maybe You Should Talk To Someone, they can listen to my podcast it's called The Dear Therapist Podcast. Where we do actual sessions with people and then we give them homework and they have a week to do that homework and then they report back to us and you hear it all in one episode. So, you can see how people can grow and shift and change even from one therapy session. And then I have a column in the Atlantic called Dear Therapist and I have a TED Talk that's called How Changing Your Story Can Change Your Life. And I hope that all of these resources are helpful to people as they go through their own journey.
Michael: Brilliant. And of course, we'll put all those links in the show notes. Lori, my friend, my last question, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Lori: Hmm. It means to be human in all of the ways that we're human and it means to be kind to myself. You know, so often people, you know, when I'm like, I'm giving a talk and I'm on a stage, and I'll say to people, you know, raise your hand who is the person that you talk to most in the course of your life? Is it your partner? Lots of hands go up. Is it your parent? Is it your best friend? Is it your sibling? So many hands. The person that we talk to most in the course of our lives is ourselves, and what we say to ourselves isn't always kind or true or useful. And those three criteria are so important. Is it kind? Is it true and is it useful? And not only to ourselves, but to others. I think when we have self-compassion, we have more compassion for others, but people don't realize that they have this voice in their head that is so critical and so they think that they're broken.
So, what does it mean to be unbroken? It means realize you are not broken, but there is this radio station playing in your head that is really abusive and you don't even realize it. I had this client who didn't realize it. I would hear these critical things come out all the time, and I said, listen, I want you to go home and I want you to write down everything that voice does. I want you to listen for the voice consciously and write down everything you say to yourself over the course of a week and come back next week and we'll talk about it. And she was very skeptical and she came back the next week, she takes out her phone where she had written everything down and she started to cry and she said, I am such a bully to myself, I had no idea. And there were things like she was typing an email and she had made a typo in the email and her voice in her head said, you're so stupid. Now, first of all, she's not stupid, right? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it useful? None of those things.
Second of all, if a friend had made that same typo, would she have thought her friend was stupid? Absolutely not. She saw her reflection in a mirror. She was walking by a store. She saw her reflection in a mirror. She said, you look terrible today. She did not look terrible. If anybody else had seen her, they'd think she just looks adorable the way she always looks, right? So, these are the voices in our heads, so how do we be unbroken? How do I practice that in my own life? Is it kind? Is it true? Is it useful? If it's not, change the radio station that's programming from earlier in your life, from the culture, from your family, from somewhere else, get that out of there. Be a good. Listen to the radio station you wanna listen to.
Michael: Yeah, absolutely love it my friend. Thank you so much for being here.
Unbroken Nation. Thank you for listening.
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Tell a friend.
And Until Next Time
My Friends, Be Unbroken.
I'll See Ya.
Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.
Lori Gottlieb is a psychotherapist and New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, which has sold over one million copies and is currently being adapted as a television series. In addition to her clinical practice, she is co-host of the popular “Dear Therapists” podcast produced by Katie Couric and writes The Atlantic’s “Dear Therapist” advice column. She is a sought-after expert in media such as The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, CNN, and NPR’s “Fresh Air” and her 2019 TED Talk was one of the Top 10 Most Watched of the Year. She is the creator of the Maybe You Should Talk To Someone Workbook: A Toolkit for Editing Your Story and Changing Your Life and the Maybe You Should Talk To Someone Journal: 52 Weekly Sessions to Transform Your Life. Learn more at LoriGottlieb.com or by following her on Instagram @lorigottlieb_author and Twitter @LoriGottlieb1.
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