ERP 399: What’s Going On When We Rely On Others For Our Happiness — An Interview With Deb Blum

By Posted in - Podcast November 21st, 2023 0 Comments

Entrusting our happiness to others implies depending on external validation or circumstances to feel content, fulfilled, or complete. Instead of finding intrinsic sources of joy and fulfillment within ourselves, we place the responsibility for our happiness on external influences. This reliance on external factors, especially in relationships, may result in emotional vulnerability and fragile self-esteem.

In this episode, we explore the complexities of self-discovery and healing within relationships, delving into the significance of inner child work and its impact on our emotional well-being. We discuss the challenges of embracing vulnerability, acknowledging our shadows, and breaking free from the patterns that hinder personal growth. The conversation highlights the role of self-love and acceptance in fostering healthier connections with ourselves and others, emphasizing the importance of authenticity and genuine expression in our journey toward fulfillment.

Deb Blum is a visionary leader and the founder of The Whole Soul Way, a transformational program dedicated to empowering women on their journey toward self-discovery and authentic expression. Through her step-by-step process, Deb helps self-led, do-it-all women break free from fear, conditioning, and external expectations, enabling them to express themselves fully, therefore creating more success, emotionally fulfilling relationships, happiness, and inner peace without losing their edge or disrupting the lives they’ve worked so hard to create.

In this episode

5:59 Introducing Deb Blum and her transformative program dedicated to empowering women through self-discovery.

11:17 Unveiling unconscious behaviors: Exploring tendencies to criticize, blame, or project onto others.

19:02 Deb Blum recounts how the pressure of motherhood and a desire for control brought projecting tendencies to light, leading to insights about her expectations and relationship dynamics.

28:41 Navigating identity attachments: Embracing the complexity of the human condition.

33:20 Unveiling the energy dynamics of repression and embracing the multifaceted human experience.

46:03 Nurturing wholeness through reparenting: The transformative journey.

51:48 The significance of overcoming defensiveness and creating space for genuine dialogue.

57:07 Support and resources.

Your Check List of Actions to Take

  • Dedicate time to identify and explore aspects of yourself that are usually hidden or denied, acknowledging both positive and challenging traits.
  • Practice self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness and understanding, especially when confronting difficult emotions or experiences.
  • Challenge yourself to embrace vulnerability by sharing authentic feelings and thoughts with trusted individuals, fostering deeper connections.
  • In challenging conversations, replace defensiveness with a simple “Tell me more,” creating space for understanding and reducing reactive responses.
  • Engage in the process of reparenting your inner child, offering love, support, and understanding to heal past wounds and foster emotional well-being.
  • Establish a mindful journaling practice to give voice to emotions and experiences, allowing for self-reflection and increased self-awareness.
  • Develop a toolbox of self-regulation techniques, such as breathing exercises or grounding activities, to manage intense emotions and promote emotional balance.
  • Engage in a structured program or process, like the Wholesome Way, to tangibly learn and embody self-love, self-acceptance, and authenticity over time.

Mentioned

The Whole Soul Way (*program sales page)

Out of the Shadows: A Shadow Work Starter Kit (*free resources)

Do-It-All Inner Power Animal Quiz (*quiz)

ERP 174: How to Experience More Love in Your Relationship With Byron Katie

Shifting Criticism For Connected Communication

Connect with Deb Blum

Websites: thewholesoulway.com

Facebook: facebook.com/DebBlumOfficial

YouTube: youtube.com/debblumnow

Instagram: instagram.com/debblum

TikTok: tiktok.com/@deb.blum

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/debblum

Connect with Dr. Jessica Higgins

Facebook: facebook.com/EmpoweredRelationship 

Instagram: instagram.com/drjessicahiggins 

Podcast: drjessicahiggins.com/podcasts/

Pinterest: pinterest.com/EmpowerRelation 

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/drjessicahiggins 

Twitter: @DrJessHiggins 

Website: drjessicahiggins.com  

Email: [email protected]

About Today’s Show

Deb, thank you so much for joining us today.

Thank you for having me. I’m really excited!

Yes, I am too! I love your zest and enthusiasm, and just so much of what you offer to support people in deepening in their understanding of themselves and all that’s getting expressed. I just am excited. Especially as we look at relationship more specifically, the tendency, I think one of the things we wanted to talk about is the tendency to look outward, to look to the other for happiness or to source the thing that we’re wanting, maybe consciously or unconsciously. So we’re going to dive into that. 

But before we do, would you like to share a little bit about you? For just people who are getting to know you, what would you like us to know? 

Well, I mean, maybe a little bit about my story and how I learned this. Because I didn’t think it was true, and I was really mad when I found out that that was true. So I would say I went through a bit of a midlife crisis. I was about 39 years old, and my kids were in elementary school, and I genuinely did not know what was going on in my life. I was really in this place of, I’d just say, I used to be really happy, and then I didn’t feel happy anymore, and I didn’t feel good inside. Even though I, on the outside, still projected an image of everything being together, I was sort of falling apart inside. Because I didn’t have any context to understand what was going on, I did what I think most people do, is I blamed someone. The person I chose to blame, not really chose, but the person I did blame was my husband. I genuinely believed that he was the problem; he is not doing the things that he should be doing, and he’s not being as romantic as he should be, and I don’t feel close to him, and I don’t know how to get close to him. I genuinely believed that he needed to change in order for us to get that closeness. 

I remember, I wanted to get a divorce. I thought that that was the only solution, was that I needed a different person. Fortunately, my husband kind of fought for us, which I wrote a whole blog post about this. On the one hand, that was really sweet and nice. But on the other hand, I was almost mad that he was fighting, because then I felt guilty, like: Oh, I guess I have to make this work. I just was determined that the only answer was to leave. So I had to go change my mind on that, and then commit to him again. 

And we went to therapy. In that therapy, fortunately, I had a therapist who fully got that most of this was actually my trauma. She didn’t necessarily come right out in the beginning and tell me. But over time, she guided us to realize that we needed to do a lot of inner work, and that the problem wasn’t really the other person per se; maybe there were elements of it. But there was a lot that was internal. For me, I really needed to learn, and it’s been a long lesson for me. I mean, it’s probably 13 years later, and I still feel like I am learning these lessons about that. I’m like a master projector, which if anyone doesn’t know what that means, basically, I’m the person who I feel something inside, but I don’t actually know I feel it, and it shows up in the way that I act toward my husband. So then when I see what’s happening with my behavior with him, that’s how I know that something is going on inside of me. Now I’m much better, I can access it much more. But for a really long time, that was my only way of seeing what my own experience was. So if I was being critical of him, I knew it was because something was going on inside of me about that. 

It’s kind of an interesting thing, because a lot of people have really good access to their own feelings, and they might beat themselves up or they might be critical of themselves. But I think someone who tends to project is still doing that. It’s just that, I don’t know, for me, it was my way that I protected myself. So more and more, I have access to my own feelings. So I would say that’s probably the reason why I got into doing things the way that I did, was because I feel like a lot of people don’t understand that. They don’t get that that happens.

Well, especially when it’s out of the field of awareness, the unconscious or subconscious tendencies. I love that you’re describing and have the awareness that often this is a protective strategy. So it’s not as though we’re walking around trying to deflect or project, put things on other people or see them through a lens that is filtered through our own discontent, that’s making that lens distorted or even cloudy or incorrect even. So that we’re not necessarily choosing and setting out to do these things. But it’s giving indicators, if we’re willing to look at that, get curious about it, turn towards it. I love what you’re describing, because you had somebody that was skillful that could support and create safety to be able to start to wonder. “Okay, so when your husband does this or doesn’t do X, Y, and Z, what’s that like for you? Tell me what’s happening for you.” So there is content that you’re responding to, and can we pivot and can we really get curious about you? Because it sounds like you are even, in this day and age, in this moment, recognizing that tendency is still there. I just have so much more path and tools and resources, and I trust the process that I know what to do, even if I catch it after. Even if I don’t catch it ahead of time, that I can still work with it. Is that right? 

100%. I think what you said, of course, so I now know that it’s a protective measure for me. It was a coping mechanism and a defense strategy. But a lot of people don’t know, and they really are critical of themselves for being critical of other people. I know for me, it was really actually painful to do that. I know that people might think: Oh, it must be less painful to be mad at another person or judging another person than to be judging yourself. But it was actually really painful for me, and even the numbness that I felt of not being able to feel my own feelings, that was really painful. I know that seems odd too, to have numbness feel painful. But it was. I felt like when I was having my midlife awakening, that was actually the time when something was cracked, I really believed my kids cracked me open. Because with my kids, I learned to be fully authentic with them. I was really my whole true self. I realized that with other people, I was wearing masks and using coping mechanisms. I could see the contrast, but I didn’t understand the contrast. So I started to get these cracks in my armor, and it was the cracks in my armor that made me see this as some form of discontent. That discontent was the catalyst for me to be able to say that, well, at the time, I needed divorce. But then the next thing was, I need help. I invite people to reach out to somebody before they get to that place, it would be better. But then, yes. 

So for me, now I can watch myself do it, and sometimes I do. I mean, I would say it’s 50-50 still for me. Even with as much awareness as I have, I will still sometimes say something to my husband and then be like: “Oh, that’s me, what’s going on?” So now I know how to go in, and I’m actually pretty efficient with it now. I mean, within like one journaling page, I’m usually like: “Oh yeah. Oh yeah, that’s exactly what’s going on with me.” Then I come in and I can soothe myself and heal and come to more wholeness, and not have that be impacting my marriage in the same way that it was previously.

Okay. So you’re really validating that for people who do have a similar tendency to criticize, blame, project, is that it’s a double-edged sword. Because not only is there the discontent and disconnect with self, that there’s an upset around that; not having that contact, numbness, or vacancy, or just living in the head, Type A, perfectionism, controlling, all these things. And you’re saying, at some point, one might be able to say: “Oh gosh, I said that. Oh wow, I did that!” And then feel badly about it. So it’s not like I’m feeling all these things and I get to be with that, that that’s painful. But it’s like, it’s painful, and then it’s also like I’m contending with. Is that right, am I hearing you?

Yeah. I even remember one time, I just remember one time recently even, just being like, why can’t I stop doing this? I want to not be like this. But it’s no different than the person that I know who might say the same thing, that why can’t I stop criticizing myself, or why can’t I stop anything that’s hard? I don’t want to be that way. I am feeling really that the work that I do on myself and the work that I do in the world is that I want us to be love. I want us to be the love we are, and I want us to remove all the barriers to love. So then when I don’t act loving toward my husband, it’s this dissonance that I have of like: “I genuinely know I am love, why am I not acting like love right now?” I don’t mean to say that in an airy, fairy, love and light kind of way. I just genuinely believe, underneath all of our layers of protection, we are love. So it bums me out that I’m not being the love that I know myself to be, because something happened that made me feel like I had to protect and defend myself. Then when that happened, it translated into some type of outward projection. 

I mean, fortunately, what I do believe is that the more work that we do on it, the more that I heal, the less I do it. Now I would say that it’s like once every few months, not like once a day or five times a day or something. That I really notice it the majority of the time, and now I notice most of the time, I’m actually acting from the place that I want to be acting in. But it does catch me off-guard sometimes, and then I’m really surprised. But I know now, and I also don’t criticize myself for it. Because I also recognize it’s just another part of my unconscious mind that I didn’t have awareness of, and then it came up. Now all of a sudden, I get to see that, and I get to work with it, and then I get to heal it. So I become more whole. I think wholeness and love are synonymous too, I think they’re just different words for the same thing. 

Well, it’s really important what you’re describing, in my opinion. Because as we develop, often, many of us are living in environments, whether or not it’s our family of origin or our schooling or various places that we get certain messages, that we learn we have to cut off certain parts of ourselves or fracture certain parts of ourselves. So one of the ways that I’m hearing what you’re describing is an integration, is a welcoming, is a real understanding of the deeper access. It’s almost like, there’s that part of, like you’re saying, the protective adaptive, I think adaptive. It’s like that was a good move at some point. But it actually is separating, and we’re cutting off certain parts of ourselves, and we can feel, to your point, that disconnect or that dissonance. So when we do a level of work, we can start to feel that more clearly. I feel like for myself, I can feel the big difference between if I’m in my head and I’m worrying, versus when I’m really in contact with something that I desire and I want, and I can feel clear about that. They’re very different energies.

Okay, so coming back to your story. I would imagine, for most people, we have certain ways and we utilize them. But when things get stressful enough, or the circumstances get challenging or demanding enough, that it can put a pressure cooker on things, and then it comes to a certain place or threshold. Was that true for you? You had some of these projecting tendencies, but it wasn’t until a certain time in your life, like you said, 39, that this became something more glaring?

Yeah, I didn’t even really know that I did do it. I was a person like anyone would say. I was kind, generous, loving, compassionate, and I really was that way. I felt like it was having children, and I think it was a combination of the pressure of having children, and also the contrast of seeing my authenticity with them and then my masks that I wore in other places. But I think that I put such tremendous pressure on myself to be the perfect mom, and to do it a certain way and to be always present with them. And what I think happened was, I had this idea in my head of how it was supposed to be, and then my husband didn’t share the same views on everything. Now I can see, well, of course, he’s his own person, and I want more than anything for us to be our own people and to grow together and to blossom into whoever we’re supposed to be, every day. But at the time, that is not what I wanted. I grew up with that if I could control my surroundings, then I felt safe. So I wanted to control my surroundings. But I couldn’t control him; he didn’t do as I said. He did a lot of what I said, and he agreed with a lot of things. But I wanted him to agree with everything, and I wanted him to also know how to be romantic and how to say the right things and how to hold space for me. 

I wanted all these things, but I couldn’t even articulate them. I can only articulate them now to you in retrospect. But I used to say, I wanted him to be more romantic, and I wanted him to be a better listener and communicator. But one day, I realized that what I really wanted, but it took time, what I really wanted was to feel seen and known deeply. But I wasn’t showing him who I was, and I didn’t allow myself to be known. But I wanted that so deeply, and I also wanted emotional depth. But I used to joke that we were the blind leading the blind. Because I was so mad at him for not being able to help us to find the emotional depth that I wanted. Because I was at a complete loss for finding it, and I was actually mad at him that he didn’t have the skills to do it. It turned out we just had to learn together. I felt so at a loss, and that goes back to the projection, that if I can’t handle it, if I can’t figure it out myself, well, then you’re the problem, you didn’t know how to do it. 

Right. Well, and for some, with the projection too, it’s almost these disowned feelings or disowned parts that we’re looking or placing on another. To your point, in your story, it’s so well-described, and to your point, these were such longings, and yet you didn’t have contact or weren’t consciously in connection with those parts in yourself. So it was difficult to ask specifically or clearly, or reveal to him so he could respond. 

So talk to us a little bit. So you’re telling us a little bit about the story, and you, through the support of a skillful guide and a therapist, were able to lean into that journey. Is there more you want to say about what was really important for you in recognizing the projection? Because that’s a hard thing. Even as we’re talking about it, when we’re not aware that we’re doing it, how to bring awareness to the thing that we’re doing that we’re not aware of? That’s hard. So if we have a therapist or someone who can hold a mirror, or someone like yourself that can walk us through a process, that we can slow it down and really unpack or excavate or really look at, what would you like to say about just the learnings here around projection?

Well, I do remember the first time that I really got the concept of projection was around materialism. I mean, I don’t even know how my husband tolerated the things that we did in therapy. Because we would go in, and most of the time, she did individual therapy. She was a transpersonal therapist, and so she was just magical. We would go in and she would do therapy on each of us individually, and the other one would watch. Because we were just that not ready for couples’ therapy. 

So I remember one time, or many times, I would go in with a complaint. I would actually go in and be like: “Well, this is my issue, he’s materialistic, or whatever.” She went through this process that I later found out was Byron Katie’s The Work, which I loved it for awakening me. There’s so much more now that I understand is available, and there’s a lot more. I think there are other ways to do the work that aren’t quite as structured, and maybe sometimes for some people, hard to deal with. But for me, she had done that with me probably 20 times before, before I got it. That day, I had that moment, like my eyes opened wide and I was like: “Wait a second, this is about me and my materialism?” I was like, what are you talking about? That moment was the moment that I started to connect the two, that what I say about him might be true for him. I’m not denying that there are things that are true for him. But it doesn’t really matter if it’s true for him, I need to first understand what my relationship is with that characteristic, in order to clear those lenses, like you said, so that they’re not a distorted lens. Then at that point, even if it is true for him, it’s really not my business. It’s only my business what I do inside of me, and that doesn’t mean that there aren’t certain characteristics I might have a boundary around. But I’m just saying, for me, it’s like, I need to do my stuff around it. 

And what I realized is that just because, say, for materialism, it doesn’t mean I’m materialistic per se. That’s one of the complicated things that I had to learn was that this isn’t a binary kind of a thing. Or this isn’t just like, you see this in someone else, and therefore it’s in you. I always say it’s something, definitely it’s probably a disowned part, exiled part. But also, it’s a part of me that I have a complicated relationship with, that’s what I always say. It’s a part of me I have a complicated relationship with, and I need to understand it better. 

So for example, materialism, I had multiple things I had to look at it with. I wanted to look from many angles, and that’s why I really value self-inquiry so much. Because what I had to realize was, this wasn’t necessarily: I’m materialistic, and period. That’s the thing. It was like, well, what happened? What did I learn about materialism? Why do I feel that I’m afraid for my husband to be materialistic? Am I afraid that he’s judged for that? What am I afraid of? But also, I say that it’s a part that I have a relationship with that’s complicated, but I didn’t actually exile it, or whatever. It’s like, some people will just say, well, I’m just not materialistic. Later on, it might come out in other ways, because it could come out on the other side of things like, you’re never spending any money and you’re never doing anything. So then I would say to that person, well, look at that materialistic relationship that you said that you’re not. The question is, maybe you’re not materialistic now. But you might have been, maybe in a prior lifetime, I don’t know. Maybe your family was, and it’s got some DNA thing going on. Maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s that you don’t think you’re materialistic, but what if you were in a certain situation? Like, what if you came into billions of dollars, would you become materialistic then? Are you only materialistic because you don’t actually have the money to do it? 

So that’s where I go with it. I had to start to unpack these things and start to have a more intimate relationship with them, and say that anything that is in me, anything that I’m seeing in the outside world, literally, I’m everything. I’m everything. So if I’m everything, then I’ve got to be it in some way. What do I want my relationship to be with it? I’ve just decided I want my relationship to be welcoming of everything, even the “ugliest” things that are out there. Because I’m like, uh-huh. You say anything to me now, I’m like: “Hmm, I guess it’s possible. Let me see. I don’t know, maybe I am really mean. Yeah, I actually had been mean before.” Instead of, before, you’d say I was mean, and I was like, no! My cherished self was like, no, no, no, there’s no meanness in me. I was in denial anyplace I had ever been mean. Now I’m like, yeah. There’s very few things that you could say to me that would make me actually just get all triggered now, because I kind of figured I probably am. 

Well, I love what you’re saying. If I can just respond, that one of the things that you’re speaking to in this moment, how I’m reading this is, so often we are attached to a certain value, a certain stance or perspective that we feel defined by, or is so deeply connected to who we are. Whether or not that’s been done or developed in a process of real diligence and discernment and questioning, or whether or not it’s come from some family or culture or something that we didn’t even question. It’s just, this is what I do. So it sounds like through your process, and it started with Byron Katie’s Work, and I will put a link too; she was on the show at one point. Just the kind of format to be able to wonder and question. 

Because I think, often, and this happens in relationship, I feel for myself, that if we’re feeling a certain challenge, our brain, we might go to: “This is what I want, or this is this thing that I think will be the resolution, or we need to go do this.” People, partners get really attached to that solution or that outcome, and they think that that’s the only path to getting it. And/or, as you’re saying, so defined by certain characteristics that it’s so threatening when confronted with material that doesn’t seem to fit with that. So it sounds like what you’re really inviting, and this might relate to the shadow work that you describe, that if we can really look at, have this inquiry, look at the complexities, understand the nuances, that there’s an experience in that, that we become less associated, less identified with those things. Is that right? 

Exactly. So it’s really interesting, because I, fortunately, went through this journey, not really knowing the things that I do know now about it. So there’s so much more education around this. Not to say that shadow work or inner child work wasn’t around before, it’s certainly been around for a really, really long time. But it’s become more mainstream. So I wasn’t afraid of this process. But a lot of people are afraid of the shadow work process, because they think maybe you’re saying that you’re going to become these things. Like, if I look at the part that I’ve been trying never to be, I’m trying not to be a disrespectful, mean, jerky person. But if I look at those parts and I start to explore them, you’re telling me I might become them, or I might be that way. What I would say is, it’s actually the opposite of that, which is, it’s more likely to come out sideways when we don’t look at it. So for me, it’s like looking at it as a space of acceptance. To me, it’s acceptance of the human condition. It’s acceptance of all of the human condition, and really, just life is like, it’s got darkness and light, or it’s got these characteristics that we collectively have decided are bad and characteristics we collectively decided are good, and these ways that. 

I know for me, I grew up and it was like, you want to be respectful to elders, and you need to be kind, and you need to be patient and loving. Our family was very much conflict-avoidant and people-pleasing, and so those were the ways that you needed to be. But I was a little bit of a black sheep in that way, and I had this feisty rebel side. So I always felt this push/pull in there about it, like, I’m supposed to be this way. But inside of me, I feel like I have this big feisty energy. So I kind of think that that was to my advantage, in some ways, because the rebellious part of me, I think, broke free, to say I want to be heard too. But my family was very much about right and wrong, good and bad. Because of that, I took a whole bunch of parts of myself and banished them into the shadows, because I was like, those are not to be seen. And I needed to show this, project this image of myself. But like you said, this wasn’t a conscious process. This just happened. This happened unbeknownst to me, and I would have told you, that’s just who I am. I’m just that way, that’s who I am.

Well, and it sounds as though you’re saying, and I would agree, that when we’re not aware, consciously, of how we push these aspects, different emotions, or feelings or experiences out of what’s deemed okay, that we reject them and we think they’re gone. But what you’re saying is, it actually takes a tremendous amount of energy to cut that off, and to continue to contain, and we’re not actually successful. That it is a part of the human experience, it’s a part of the full range, and when it comes out sideways, that’s when it’s actually more problematic. That we can actually enter into understanding and welcoming it with acceptance, and we get to still choose how we want to relate. But we can see its existence.

Yes, it’s wild. Because the key thing, first of all, is it’s there. And what I noticed is that for most people, it does come out sideways, and it either comes out toward themselves. So people will sometimes never be mean; they’re really not mean. But they’re mean to themselves. They might not be mean to anyone else, but they beat themselves up constantly. So it’s going to come out in some way, until we bring it to our conscious awareness. And when we bring it to our awareness and we see it, and the way that I like to do it is through teaching people the concept of projection. Because I always feel like even if you don’t act on your judgment of another person, you find the place where you judge is a great place to find something in you that you can now explore.

What’s the inner narrative? What are you thinking? 

Yeah, exactly. Once we do that, my feeling on it is that as I explore all of these pieces, if I were to think about it like this, this is where our inner child comes in, from my perspective, which is, I look at every one of those little pieces. 

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“A feeling, a behavior, an aspect of humanity, anything, whatever, is just a part of me that wants a voice, just like a child would want a voice; they just want to be heard. I say, you all get your say, you just don’t get your way.”

Like, you might come up, and I might have this voice that comes up. I don’t know, maybe it’s like anger about something, and it’s like, that person shouldn’t do that. I get to listen to that and look at it, and I get to say: I don’t need to reject you. You can exist, and I want to understand what you have to tell me. I might not do what you say to do in this moment. But I want to hear you.

And there’s value and wisdom. And if I listen, there’s components that I want to integrate, and that I want to use. It doesn’t mean that you get the full mic. 

Exactly, you don’t get the full mic, but you do get to have a voice in it, and each time I listen. Also, I teach something that’s called The Dialogue Quadrant, which really is about like, most of these voices in our head, they’re so jumbled together, and we don’t know which ones are guiding us in positive ways and which ones are trying to take us down old patterns. So I teach people how to separate those voices, to find the different categories of the voices, so that they know that am I listening to a protector part, which would be like my ego part, my ego defense mechanism, my defenses, my coping strategies? Or am I listening to my highest self? Or is this my inner child that’s begging to be held and felt and experienced?

So now, from my point of view, it’s like, okay, I have these thoughts. Instead of being like, that’s a bad thought, get out of here. I’m like, oh! I would say, even with my husband, I go as far now as to say something like: “There’s a part of me right now that just wants to punch you, I’m so angry. But there’s another part of me that’s just so scared. I don’t know why I’m scared, and I can’t even find my fear. But I feel afraid, I don’t know what to do.” I can do more, or I’ll do it in journaling. But no, I don’t even have judgment to it. One of the reasons why people like working with me, I think, is because when they come into me, I create the space for acceptance that they don’t yet have, and they sort of borrow that from me until they can develop that level of acceptance for themselves. 

Yes, it’s like saying or speaking the unspeakable. Or I’ve never said this to anyone before, or I’ve never even given myself space to even process this more. So it’s incredibly important because I feel, and maybe you would agree, that when we reject certain parts. Well, I’ll personalize it. Well, I’ll say what I was going to say, and then I’ll give a story. That when we reject certain parts, thinking that it’s bad or wrong, if we start to listen and we start to hear, if I imagine there’s a part there, like, what’s this part wanting, what is it saying, can I understand what the message is? That is so incredibly valuable. 

I’m recognizing some of my deeper work with my husband is not only this, but as we’re talking, this is one thing that’s coming up for me. In instances or interactions where we were experiencing a disagreement or something that had us in disconnect, and I could feel inside myself the thing that I thought was unlovable about what was true for me, or the thing that I was scared to say, or thought he would absolutely, it just was the really uncomfortable thing that was real. When I could give room and space for that, and actually bring it and acknowledge it, that was the very thing that would shift. That it was the very thing that I either could have my own back, not abandon myself. Or it was the thing that he could see and have compassion to, like: “Oh! Oh, I get it. I see that that’s the thing that’s fueling a lot of this, and I can see it and it makes sense.” And when you talk about feeling seen and known, we can have a lot more compassion for one another when we can show these parts that are vulnerable or painful or struggling.

Yes, thank you for sharing that. It’s a beautiful illumination of what it is, that I think we’re so afraid to share the underlying feelings, fears, and needs, because we got taught not to have feelings, fears. Not everybody, but I know I got taught to not have feelings, fears, and needs, basically to act tough and have that veneer. So I do think it’s frightening. When I’m in those places, I know it can be frightening to reveal that. It’s like, whoa! Yet, that is absolutely where the connection is, that’s where the closeness is. I say, a lot of times, for a long time, I wasn’t able to reveal that to my husband. I didn’t actually feel safe enough. It’s not that he was dangerous. I just didn’t feel safe enough internally. So in the beginning, it was revealing it to myself. It was revealing it in my journal. I think of journaling as an act of listening to ourselves. I actually invite the listeners. 

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“If you are a journaler, I would invite the actual intentionality around when you journal, that you imagine that you are listening to yourself. So when you feel not seen and heard, begin to see and hear yourself through journaling. So you don’t journal in journal.”

Yeah, and I’m sure you have a whole way that you invite this process. I know for a lot of people, when the word journaling gets prompted, people’s association is like an account of the day or things that happened. That’s not what you’re talking about. No, you’re giving voice to the emotions or experience or feelings, or like you’re saying, there could be a myriad of things here. We’re giving voice to the thing that we maybe haven’t been able to, or don’t feel safe to, or don’t know how to. That that is so incredibly therapeutic. 

Yes, it’s so interesting that you say that. Because I probably do take for granted that I know how to journal, and that I’m not a beginner at journaling anymore. Another thing that I think people are afraid of is, I’ve heard this from so many people, that all they did in the past was they journaled venting, and their journals are just filled with so much pain, and they didn’t know how to do anything with it. I would say, when I think about my program, it’s kind of funny. Because when you think about mindfulness and meditation, a lot of people just say: “I can’t do that, that’s just too hard for me. I can’t sit in silence or whatever.” And we all know that if you meditate that, that’s part of it. Everybody feels that way. It can feel daunting. I think of self-inquiry as a meditative process, though it’s a mindfulness process, if it’s done in a way where you’re guided. 

That’s what my program does, is it guides people through questions to help you to do that inquiry. While also, I think a kind of taming the voice in there that’s telling you that it’s too scary, don’t do this, this is bad, what I would say your inner protector voices. By doing that, we start to invite those other more vulnerable, quieter, tender parts to have a space to talk. But not in a way, I invite people to do some venting, it’s actually not a bad thing. But in the end, it’s how do we take that venting, and then sort of pull it into context and help a person to understand what’s going on inside of them? Not just sit in the mucky mess, where it’s like a quagmire of jumbled thoughts, feelings, and past and memories. We have to start to tease them apart, and when we do that, I think we get to see all those parts, and then not need to reject them. 

Here’s the thing, and I know you know this. But it’s like, when we reject parts, it takes energy. As you said before, it takes a lot of energy. But also, it’s kind of the anti-love. It’s anti-love. Every time that we find a part, and we say to that part, I tell people, you don’t have to accept it in the beginning, you just have to include it. You just have to include it. You just have to be willing to, I think your words were, allow it to exist. Just it exists. It’s like, okay, you’re here. It’s sort of like, all right, I might not want to be your friend, but we’re stuck here together. So let’s make the best of the situation, let’s get to know each other. I picture, for some reason, the vision that comes up from mind is like two people that got stuck in an elevator, and they don’t like each other. And after a while, they’re like, all right, so tell me more about yourself. And then, by the time they’re done, they’re best friends, because they had to. That’s what I feel like happens. It’s like, I don’t want to be here, I don’t want you to be here, and I don’t want to be here with you. Then we start to include them in our existence, and when we do that, the thing about it is that integration process that you talked about.

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“Integration, wholeness, it feels good. It feels good, and it’s incremental. If you integrate one little piece in you, it actually starts to feel better, and you incrementally integrate more and more of those parts, it feels better.”

They all have a place, and they can work together, and the strength that comes from that diversity of different perspectives and voices and needs and wants and desires that can help in this wholeness. There’s a participating in a way that makes us more solidified in this integration. 

I know we’re winding down, but I don’t want to miss. You mentioned your children and how much they helped open up, and the cracks that were starting to emerge. But it sounds like that experience, and I’m projecting here, imagining that as you were nurturing and mothering them, that you may be were feeling your own dissonance, like you said the word around how you are with yourself. Do you want to say a little bit more about that? Because I think that’s really important. I know you also talk about re-parenting, and it might be too much to even speak to here as we’re towards the end of our time. But I don’t want to miss that. 

No, I don’t think it is too much. Because really, I was really lucky that when I learned about inner child and re-parenting, I was parenting young enough children that I was able to get the benefit of it. I would actually be with my children. It’s funny, I didn’t think I knew about inner child work before I went into the therapy with my husband, but I actually must have. Because I think I had already started to do a little bit of inner child work, which might have been what started to create these cracks in my armor too. But I would sit with my kids on the couch, and we would snuggle, and I would say to myself: “I have a third child. Me. I’m the third child.” So I would hold my boys and we would snuggle in, and I could feel this feeling of it nurturing me. I would even say, however I talk to my kids is how I’m talking to my inner child, and how I talk to my inner child is how I’m talking to my kids. So clean it up.

Yes. Even for some, I’ve had clients that had been very confronted with the love and the nurturing, and how they want to show up for their child or children, and the grief of what they didn’t get. Because it can feel really confronting to be in the role of the parent now and think I didn’t get this, or I couldn’t have my mother or father show up for me, and also the grief. Do you want to say something about that? 

Yeah, well, mine took a little while for that to come out, because I had a lot of thawing to do first. I don’t know whether that was a good thing or not, I didn’t really go there for that much. But I know a lot of people who feel a lot of grief, and I also know a lot of women who feel a lot of grief about how they’ve parented their own children. Because they didn’t get the things that they needed as a child, and so it took them a lot longer to get to the place where they realized it. 

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“I do wanted to say one thing, which is, I don’t ever think it’s too late, and I think we can repair at any point in our lives. I even believe that when we repair, we do create shifts in future generations. But I really believe we create changes in the people who are in our life in that moment.”

So I did my share of things I didn’t love, as a mom. I feel like as I’ve healed and grown, my kids have healed.

I couldn’t agree with you more. I would even add, when we look at intergenerational trauma, on some level, that that offers healing to previous generations that came before and the traumas. That we’re helping repair a legacy or a lineage, and it’s incredible. I think when we heal, we heal others for sure. I just also want to acknowledge that you described, and I don’t know if I just interpreted this, but that as a mother, really wanting to make welcome for your children, the full range of experience. That was part of also what you were recognizing in your own self, like how perhaps I’m not making welcome my full experience, and that was notable.

Yes, and I will say that that is a true thing I wanted, and I also didn’t. It was almost as if I really couldn’t welcome their range of emotion until I welcomed it in me. So I did definitely find that they pushed my edges a lot. So they would bring in a motion that I was like, wooh! I learned a couple of things that just helped me to know how, like I knew when I came up against an edge for myself. Instead of doing the shutting down that I maybe previously did, shutting down of things like, I don’t know, making everyone happy or fixing the problem or whatever I would do, being busy. Like, say my kids did do something, they brought something to me, I learned to say words like, tell me more. Because I could then regulate myself a little bit while they started talking, and then I could kind of hope, I could be present with you. Because otherwise, my reaction might have been to go into other strategies. 

So once I replaced those strategies with Tell me more, and I’m telling you, Tell me more was the magical phrase for me. Not just with my kids, with everybody. If anyone triggered me, I’ll be like, okay. If I say Tell me more, I’m going to get a moment; they can start talking. A lot of times, I found out that my first reaction, my assumption that I made was wrong. So when I say Tell me more, I’m going to give you an example. One time my son came to me, and he said to me he wants to go to a party. Now, he was about 16 or 17 years old, and I was like, oh no, he’s starting to go to parties? Immediately went to drinking, dah, dah, dah. So I had this reaction, and I really wanted to say no. That’s what I wanted to say. I took a breath, and I said Tell me more, and I kept breathing. He’s like: “Oh, it’s so and so’s birthday party, and it’s going to be up at the, I don’t remember what it was, but paintball or something.” I’m like, oh my God, I just went down this whole path in my head that we were getting into drinking and partying and all this stuff, and I made up a story that wasn’t even right. So Tell me more is magical. 

Yes, I can echo, echo, echo that! Especially in relationship, that if my first reaction is to get defensive, or if I can say a version of Tell me more, can you say more about that, that it does, I so agree with you, it buys me some space, so that I can ground and regulate and catch my breath, and just try to orient a bit. Then secondly, I also get to hear, to your point, where, I guess in this case, my husband is coming from. I would say most often, for most people, whatever complaint or issue is being laid, we were talking about protection, it’s more about the person. So if we cannot take that first bite and we can stay with them, it’s going to be so much more revealing of like, this is the thing they want me to pay attention to, this is the thing they want me to see. Rather than the first layer of the complaint.

Oh my God, totally. It really brings full circle, that from a relational perspective, that is the real key. I say to my husband, sometimes I actually say to him, you can’t believe me! Like, you can’t believe my strong veneer. I’m not as strong as you think I am. Or if I react to you, don’t believe me. It’s just my first reaction. I feel like that’s the key is for all of us to realize, underneath whatever we say and do are wounded child parts that just want to be heard. If we can just stay with it for a moment, soothe ourselves, regulate ourselves, and get grounded, we can actually be present. Then, I really believe that we can heal each other by hearing and witnessing and just holding space for one another. That we don’t need to do anything, we just have to be willing to do what we need to do to stay present in ourselves, not make it about ourselves, and genuinely listen to the pain of the person in front of us. I think that’s the magic. 

I agree. I mean, as the therapist the two of you had, welcomed and allowed space for that to happen. So she gave focus to each of you, and I’m sure you were both hearing things that you hadn’t fully gotten, because there was enough space to really deepen into those core emotions, core feelings. And the work that you’re doing is helping people get a slow moment to understand the inner workings and what’s alive that gives awareness to, so that we are in a better position to advocate for ourselves with whomever we’re interfacing with. As we talk about relationship here on this podcast, that we can be in a place to reveal more, so that understanding can occur. It’s all so related. So thank you so much for what you’re doing, and just even speaking into how important this is for our well-being, and our relationship with ourselves and our relationships with others.

Thank you, and thank you also for what you’re doing. Because I really feel like the whole relational piece, it’s much more complicated in many ways. I really feel like I do the inner relationship, and that is complex. But then you start putting other people into it, and it’s a whole nother game. But I believe everyone, at the end of the day, that’s what matters for most of us. 

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“I don’t think most of us get to the end of our lives and worry about much, except for connections, relationships, love. How do we treat people? How did we get treated? That’s what we care about.”

And our wholeness. And did we live in alignment and congruency, did we express ourselves? So both, yes.

Well, can I say one thing about that? This is the challenge, though, is that a lot of people, one of the things that I feel like I’m seeing right now that I really want to integrate is the number of people who I feel like are expressing themselves and showing up as their true selves in many scenarios, but they’re not in their romantic relationship. That is the source, I think it’s a tremendous source of suffering for people. 

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“The bravest work we can do is to show up as that true person that we are. Reveal ourselves. I really believe that the other person is longing for that from us, even if they reject it upfront. I always tell people, you can’t take the first rejection. Of course they’re going to feel that way, because it’s the first time they’re seeing that this coming out. But at the end of the day, I truly believe that’s what relationships are about, is for us to grow into the full expression of ourselves.”

That if one person isn’t brave enough to start doing it, then we just sit in that place, where I’m revealing myself to my friends, and I’m revealing myself in my business, or I’m revealing myself to myself. But I’m like no, in your marriage, in your long-term partnership.

Yes. Because it’s creating intimacy and knowing and connection in other realms, but not in this deeply important, often our most important person. 

Well, how do people get in touch with what you’re teaching and your courses and your guidance? What would you like to direct people towards?

Well, maybe the most fun place for people to go is to get my Out of the Shadows Starter Kit, which is at TheWholeSoulWay.com/Shadows. But if you go to the TheWholeSoulWay.com, you’ll also just get to my website, get to my program page, and any other places you want to go. I’m on TikTok and Facebook, and so people could find me there under Deb Blum. 

Oh, that’s so great. So I’ll make sure to have the link for the Shadow Kit. Is that what it’s called? 

Yes, it’s The Shadow Work Starter Kit. 

Okay, Shadow Work Starter Kit. Yes, I’ll put the link on today’s show notes for people to have easy access. Then on your website, there’s so much more than they can find, and you’re also on all the social media channels you mentioned. On your website, it sounds like you offer a lot to support people in doing this work. Do you want to say any more about, in addition to the starter kit that they can access for free, but can you say a little bit more about how you’re serving people?

Oh, thank you. So I had been a coach for many, many years. Then at one point, I really saw everything coalesce, and I created a program called The Whole Soul way. The Whole Soul way is, and has been, a six-month guided process that I’ve been guiding women through in live cohorts. But I am just right now moving to a DIY model, a Do It Yourself model, where then people can get the type of support that they need after. It’s hard, because people love the cohorts. But they’re cost-prohibitive for some people, and I want more people to have access to the program. The program is all videos and guided experiential lessons. It’s really, really cool. It’s kind of set up to be six months. It’s six steps, plus a nervous system bonus module. People go through what I think is a very methodical process to learn how to re-parent our inner child, go into those shadows and find them in a gentle, loving, kind way, not in this kind of hardcore way. 

Ultimately, I know we talk about self-love and self-acceptance, and they’re so cliché, and even authenticity. But the reason why they become those cliché words, I think, is because people kind of don’t know what to make of them. I feel like what I do in my process is make them very tangible without using those words. People learn a very tangible process, and they’re learning how to love themselves, accept themselves, and live more authentically. But we’re actually going through something that they’re embodying. Not just intellectually learning, but they’re embodying it. So at the end of it, it’s very hard, because people go through and they want to like rush through. I’m like, listen, this is why it’s a six-month program. It’s so you can get it deep in your bones and then live this way for the rest of your life. Because it’s not like at the end, they’re done. At the end of the six months, you’re not done. It’s what you’ve learned, it’s like, I’m going to live this way. It’s a different way of living now.

Yeah, it’s like accessing the things that are tailored, getting really acquainted with the things that for each individual and their experience, and then helping them develop the practice that’s embodied, somatic, but also whole body. That’s just something that they can take in their lives and continue to now live from. It’s huge and wonderful. 

It’s really, really huge. Almost everybody that comes in, they have relational stuff that’s going on. And their relationships do improve because they start to be able to come in and be more vulnerable and show up in a new way, without all the guarding and all of the self-protection.

Yeah, wonderful! Well, thank you so much for being here and sharing so, so much with us. I’ll make sure, again, to have all the links on today’s show notes. 

Great, thank you. It’s been wonderful, so fun.

Signing Off

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Dr. Jessica Higgins ~ Relationship and Transformational Coaching