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Hello and welcome to How to Fail with Elizabeth Day, the podcast that celebrates the things that haven't gone right. This is a podcast about learning from our mistakes and understanding that why we fail ultimately makes us stronger, because learning how to fail in life actually means learning how to succeed better. I'm your host, author and journalist, Elizabeth Day, and every week I'll be asking a new interviewee what they've learned from failure. I first came across the work of Dr Nicole Opera in 2019 when I started following her as the holistic psychologist on Instagram.


I'd seen something she'd posted about boundaries and possible ways of saying no to an invitation you didn't want. And it honestly changed my mindset. The more I saw of her content, the more I was blown away by her apparent ability to crawl into my head and give me the advice I most needed at the time in an accessible, easy to digest format. There was also free. I didn't know who she was. I just knew she had important things to say as time went on.


More and more people realize this too. And I felt a bit like that person who really loved an indie band before they had a massive number one hit. She now has over three point three million followers on Instagram counts. Hilary Swank among her devotees and has developed a new theory of psychology, as outlined in her debut book, How to Do the Work. The work in this instance is a holistic approach to mental health, which encourages us to look for connections between our body and mind and empowers us to believe that often we have the tools for our own healing.


L'Opera was born and raised in Philadelphia and received conventional training in clinical psychology at Cornell University and the New School of Social Research. But she was increasingly frustrated by what she saw as the disassociation between mind and body in some traditional modes of therapy. This inspired her to come up with her own philosophy. Now, laborer's work challenges the status quo, which I imagine is sometimes a lonely place to be. But the hundreds of thousands of people who have signed up as members of her self-help circle credit her with transforming their lives.


Awakenings are not mystical experiences that are reserved only for monks, mystics and poets, the para writes. They are not only for spiritual people, they are for each and every one of us who wants to change, who aches, to heal, to thrive, to shine. Dr Nicole Aparo, welcome to How to Fail. Elizabeth, thank you so much for having me. It is such a pleasure. And you know this and I know this, but I want to show the listeners that I was such a huge admirer of your work that when I found myself in L.A. in the summer of twenty nineteen, I signed up to a free inner child, Venice Beach meditation that you were offering.


And I went along and it was such a beautiful experience. I went with my cousin. It was incredible. And afterwards there was this line of people waiting to speak to you. And you mentioned that episode's an opening to your book about how significant it was for you because you'd seen how far you came. What was that experience like for you? I'm actually having a little bit of an experience right now here and you and share that. I'm having some chills and having the feels that day for me was wild, was overwhelming, was affirmative.


It really was everything in so many different ways. And I do mention it in the book because for me, even standing on that beach, whether or not there was one human in front of me or really no one understanding what it was for me was in my truth, in this truth of this new model of healing that for the first time. And at that point, 35 plus years, I had finally been able to see and maintain change in my life.


So for me, let alone the fact that there are thousands of humans out there listening to that truth, so much was wrapped up in that moment, like I said, because I think a lot of things will talk about you meeting my work around. The concept of boundaries for me was so foundational in my own healing journey. And like I said, so much of the work I had done in my own self, healing really was encompassed in that day on the beach.


So hearing you were there is just so cool for me. Oh, it was amazing. And that post about how to say no stays with me still. And you actually quote bits of it in the book and you talk about how you started practicing first of professional emails because that's far easier kind of communicating on a professional basis. Tell us some examples of how we can say no with. Overexplaining ourselves, absolutely no, I think is one of the hardest words, probably in the language for most of us, definitely for us.


If you come from a history, as I talk often about, of codependency or of outsourcing, of showing up, as many of us do as the helper, the caretaker, the fixer in our life. So anyone listening who resonates with those sort of titles or that sort of function typically across most of their relationships, I know speaking as one of those people know, is one of the most difficult words. So for me, like I suggest in the book and like you're offering here, saying no to the people that I was closest with to my partner, right to my closest friends, to my family, will actually talk a bit about probably my relationship with my family and say, you know, in that context for me was I mean, when I say downright fear inducing, I mean that I was so fearful of what that no honestly would mean for those relationships.


There are some statements in the book and I highly recommend everyone buys it because it's on page 193. Here are some statements that you can use to establish a boundary with a single sentence. I wish I could, but now is a good time. This isn't doable for me. While I thanks for the invite though. That isn't something I can do right now or I will have to get back to you on that.


And they are so beautiful in their simplicity. I have found them really helpful because they still maintain a niceness. You're not being rude there, but you're not overexplaining yourself in a defensive manner.


And I've just found those statements very, very helpful in my own life. So thank you for that.


I'm really happy to hear that, Elizabeth. And I also like I love the idea that you bring up niceness. You're not this big over you. But I think that's so important because I think a lot of us do confuse this idea of boundaries or limits. And we throw that the mere act of placing a boundary, a limit or even entertaining the idea of no, we do a lot of us group that into the category of not nice. And so therefore, very understandably, we try to avoid it.


So thank you for offering that boundaries aren't necessarily, you know, a matter of being nice. I actually believe that having limits is the nicest thing we can do for our loved ones, because for many of us, it's within those limits that we begin to feel safe to show up authentically. And authentic love is what I'm most interested in teaching us, myself included, how to cultivate that, because I think a lot of us have had relationships, many of us have many.


But what is the nature of those relationships? Am I only the helper to this person or am I able to safely show up in my authenticity?


Where does the guilt come from that so many of us experience when we don't do things that we think we should do?


So the idea that a friend will say, can we meet up and I might have a free evening and so I've got no good excuse in my own hand to say no.


And OK, time for me has been a great release in that respect because there's been no way that we can meet up. But why do we feel so guilty?


Why do we have these Schudson I had a lot of us are should come from. You'll hear me talk about this concept a lot conditioning. They come from things that were modeled to us, whether it was direct statements. Some of us can think back. And we did come from families or caregivers or have heard things where directly we were told how to show up or what's nice or not nice just to use those simple examples in relationships. For others, it's more indirect.


It becomes the pattern that we relate or the relationship pattern that we assume from a very early age. Many of us who become the helper, who can't say no to the friend because we have no logical reason to say no likely was the little child. Right, who was doing some of those similar patterns or who is living some of those similar patterns? And if you listen to my work, I believe that so much of how we're functioning in our adult life.


And so for many of us, this is decades after that childhood period. Yet we're still showing up in those same patterned ways, though, for a lot of us, that looks like the show in our mind or the meanings. Right, that we're applying to what it means to show up for a friend versus not show up for a friend. And for many of us, we can see this pattern not only in our childhood, but likely from our caretakers or those with whom we were raised on or around.


They have a lot of the similar patterning in them as well.


And can you just describe to us the foundational idea behind self healing? There was a line again in your book about the idea that genetics are not destiny that I found so compelling. And I am super interested in the field of epigenetics, and I think it all. Coincides with what you are trying to teach us, so in 50 words or less? No, I'm kidding, but can you outline the art of self healing as you see it?


So I had not known in my own personal life and in my own training, epigenetics was not the medical model, if you will, that I was taught, what I was taught and what I was living, as many of us have been, is the genetic determinism model, which really just means I'm going to put all of this very simply. Obviously, that's much more complicated science. But for our purposes, the genes that I was given at birth through the genetics, my mom, my father, that's my lot in life.


Those are the genetic cards, if you will, that I was dealt, meaning I have very little control over that medical condition or the psychological condition or just those habits. We are a family who shy versus we are a family who's outgoing. All of those things that we see in our family, we used to believe that they were determined by our genetics and we didn't have much choice or much ability to change that. We now know that there is the science of epigenetics which honors the genes that all of us were born with DNA, if you will.


Absolutely. But it now allows us to create change because what it now understands is that we have genes and our genes are either expressed or repressed, meaning we either get that thing or we don't get that condition based on our environment, based on the daily choices that we're making. So when I learned this for myself, though, just as someone else share personally, I am someone who's known anxiety since I was a little girl scared of the world. Every bump in the night was probably the robber that was coming to harm my family.


That never left me for a very long time. Elizabeth, I believed I would always I would grow and die to be that anxious adult because I believed I saw those patterns in my mom and my sister in particular. And like many of us, I didn't believe I could change my conversation. My story would be one of managing how can I tolerate my anxiety just enough to live the life I want? And what I came to realize is that that's not the whole story, that while I might see these patterns and those around me again, because I was raised around them, a lot of these were modeled to me, I can create change.


So what self healing is for me is empowering us as humans to that reality to we might be struggling in many different ways in our lives. However, we do have much more control than we believe and it starts small.


That was so eloquently expressed.


And epigenetics has a particular interest for me because I am someone who has had fertility issues and therefore I have had to look at possible alternatives to becoming a parent from the straightforward biological one. So that includes things like considering egg donation. And I always remember a friend of mine saying, you know, it's not just genetics. You can pass on a degree of epigenetics that will have a massive impact on the child that you carry and that you raise. And I find that a very liberating concept that I think is often denied.


Women, particularly, who have fertility issues, that concept of a degree of I don't want to say ownership, but I suppose empowerment over your own narrative.


Yeah, I think that's so beautiful and that empowerment is the word I revisit so often because I understand to a large extent, especially in our childhood, we do back control. Right. We don't necessarily have a say over where to whom we're born. And to a large extent in our Dalwood, there are things that are outside of our control, namely everything that's not us in so many ways. So empowerment is really the work of self healing. How can I empower myself regardless of the circumstance I might find myself in, however challenging it may be?


And how can I learn how to tolerate or cope in a way that's different? Because a lot of us, the way we're coping is the second half of the issue. So we've learned tools, many of us in our childhood that don't serve us, that don't allow us to either a bit connect it to our emotions or be released, then we become stuck in them. So we need to update as we age as well.


I actually want to get straight into your feelings because they are such good ones and I know that they're going to lead us down. So many interesting avenues of conversation. And your first failure is as a partner. Tell us what you mean by that.


Yeah, absolutely. And I term this as a failure when asked about my failures. And I do see societally how many of us do carry that idea that the end of a relationship does signify, especially if that relationship. Right. Has that marriage stamp over it does signify some version of a failing in terms of the self, the partnership, etc.. And a lot. Out of people, I see struggle to end relationships, especially when, again, they carry that stamp of marriage to avoid that level of failure.


What I came to realize is I was married. I was married in my late 20s. And over the course of our relationship, we moved cities. And the reason why I bring that up is it was in the moving of cities that jostled my status quo just enough at that time to begin to look at myself in a different way. And what I mean when I say that is we are so patterned, Elizabeth, as humans and it takes something like you brought up covid-19.


For many of us, that's the biggest pattern. Interrupt. We're all stuck living in now for a very extended period of time, though, transitions general one right from school to a new city or a new job. For a lot of us, it's in those moments, even if it's a transition that we desire or the right, that we orchestrate it on our own. Oh, I want to move to the city because I want to in those transitions can challenge us.


And the language I use is because it replaced out of that status quo that us as humans love that autopilot that we love to live in. So for me, the time when I moved right in the middle of a relationship allowed me to slightly begin to look at the nature of myself in that relationship in particular. And I say it very intentionally in that way, because at that time I wasn't really sure you wouldn't have heard me concept or term that relationship as a trauma bond like I now do.


What I understood, though, at that time or what I began to understand over that year or two is I was settling into the uncomfortable reality that this might not be. The relationship for me was that there was something that was out of alignment at that time. And so for me, as someone who historically showed up in relationships, regardless, I learned, Elizabeth, how to wear all of the masks to keep everyone in my life as happy or as conflict free or so I desired as possible.


And what I began to realize in that very difficult year, and I do talk about it a bit more in depth in the book, was that and I wouldn't have been able to, like I said, say why or say what wasn't exactly working. I just had the first ping. I had that ping, the intuition that was finally breaking through and up to the surface that I was able to step into that truth, that that relationship, regardless of how difficult that truth might now be for my partner, who I had to let know.


Right. That this relationship was no longer in alignment, how difficult that truth would be now to enter into the process of divorce. Right. And separating our lives. I knew enough at that point and was beginning to develop enough confidence in myself and that intuitive thing to take that step and to have what was probably one of the most difficult conversations of my life with my ex at that time and asked her for a divorce to end that relationship is so extraordinary hearing you speak, because I am also divorced.


And the way you've expressed that is exactly how I feel. It's exactly what I feel happened. And it was almost like I could no longer deny this authentic self that I barely inhabited. But there was a shadow of it and it was just this inescapable thing. And if you'd asked me, was I in love with my ex husband when we got married, I would have said absolutely. But now, looking back on it, I think I just have a completely different conception of what love is.


So can you tell us a bit about that, about how trauma bond can affect how you perceive love trauma bonds become, as far as I see it, our relationship patterns.


What do I mean when I say that? So like I said at that time, I wouldn't have said, oh, this is a trauma bond and I need to remove myself. I just had that kind of amorphous pain that I'm really glad you're resonating with. What I now know is we are so impacted by our earliest experiences, especially being the interpersonal creatures that we are as humans. We are, as many of us now know or have heard, possibly we are wired to connect.


We quite literally need other humans from at the very bare minimum when we're infants to keep us alive. We are the one mammal that needs to be cared for by at least one other person who cares? A caregiver, if not a whole group. Right. So we have needs in childhood. We are completely dependent and we need relationships in particular to make sure we continue to get our needs met. So when we are born, we are actually geared to learn how to do life here on this planet.


Our brain is open, it's receptive, and it's actually firing in a particular pattern. Some listeners might have heard of something called theta waves. Really. It just makes us into a. And what we're doing and I say this really kind of in a silly way, but it's true, we're learning how to do life as a human, from how to care right. For our physical body. And it's ever changing needs to how to begin to even try to make sense of this world of emotions like this whole energetic hormonal world that our feelings as humans.


And if you listen to me long enough, I believe that there is something else, an indescribable thing that is attributed to making me Elizabeth. And you you whether we want to call it essence or soul or spirit, there's just something else. And I think a lot of us as a collective are beginning to wake up to that experience that, hey, I'm unique and no one else is like me. And there's just something else that makes me, me and you, you.


And again, from that earliest stage, we begin to exist in the world in these very patterned ways. What is modeled to us typically is the way we'll go about meeting our physical, emotional and spiritual needs. How we begin to show up in relationships becomes very patterned from that very early time in childhood. And then, unfortunately, so many of us we don't update. We become we live from that subconscious autopilot that you'll hear me talk on and on about where all of those habits and patterns live, many of which are preventing us from being connected to ourself or to others in a much more authentic way.


So you reference in the book the fact that your mother was emotionally repressed and basically had this cycle where there would be an enormous explosion and it would all come out and it was a sort of cycle of emotional reaction and withdrawal. Do you think you sort that out in your first marriage or do you think you were the person who showed up like that in that relationship?


I believe that both of us, I think, as I think in all relationships, we are all co creating, you'll hear me use that word a lot. There was something inherently comfortable for me. So my ex-wife, very similar to my mom. We bonded very much over anxiety. I viewed my mom as someone who was very anxious that we never spoke about it, though I understood that way of being allowing me to feel closer. So I had that level of closeness with my ex as well as I dealt with my own feelings the same way I always dealt with them, which for me was by that point in time, by the time I was in my twenties, I was very disconnected from myself.


I was very distanced from myself. So the more distance or the closer we are to ourself is how far or close we can be to someone else. So in my relationship, that approach withdrawal, essentially that distance, that comfortable distance was something that attracted me because to me that's what a relationship felt like. That was what a bond felt like, because that's all I knew.


And when you sat down to have that conversation that you described as the hottest conversation of your life, and again, I can hugely relate. How did you communicate what you were feeling and how did you take it?


So was it that that was a very drawn out? It wasn't just one communication. So over probably the better part of a full year. It was many different conversations, none of which were eloquent on my part, most of which were in behavioral reactivity. What I mean when I say that I wasn't sitting here speaking to her as I am, you write very calm, very grounded, very, you know, sharing of my emotions in that way. I was reacting.


I was either very distanced from her or like my mom explosive. Right. When things got to a point, I would scream, I would yell, I would tell her that she's the problem, not knowing the part in the role that I was playing. So those type of conversations evolved over the better part of a year. Some of them were much calmer, even though very difficult, where we did start to really talk about the logistics of possibly being a part of beginning to spend time apart.


She would go to New York, I would be in Philly. So there was many it was an evolution, I should say, of conversations, if I'm honest. It was the hardest thing in the world to say it directly. I knew for some time and I danced around. I hoped she would be the one ultimately to end it with me, as I think a lot of us do. I didn't want to be the one to very directly say, you know, this isn't working.


So if I'm honest, I held on, I waited. I think I did the thing a lot of us do. I pushed, I pushed, I pushed. I hope that if I pushed hard enough, you would leave me. And obviously, when that didn't happen, I finally had to a bit more directly, you know, speak the words that I did indeed want to end the relationship. So it wasn't a one time thing. It was a gradual evolution that was messy in a lot of a lot of ways.


And that was not as direct as it could have been because it was difficult. And if I'm honest, I didn't have the words and I didn't know how to speak those difficult truths. I'm still learning. So to go back to a question you asked earlier a bit in terms of trauma, bond versus authentic love, I'm still practicing how to evolve into authentic love. What I do believe is part of it are hard conversations.


And what are you like in your relationship now?


So in terms of my relationship now, interestingly enough, when I met my current partner, Lollie, her and I did start out as a trauma bond. There was a lot of that push pull, a lot of that reactivity that I was used to, and then that distance that I was comfortable with in the middle of our relationship or the beginnings of it, we both kind of at the same time, though, somewhat separately, went through a dark night of the soul, our own awakening, both, you know, promising ourselves to work toward it to better and to evolve individually as well as the whole space for the relationship itself.


So that was a very long way of me leading into what I like about it is I'm growing, I'm learning, I'm learning. I'm able to admit that I still fully don't know how to hold space to authentically love another and to authentically continue to show up. As myself, though, I'm learning and I love that. I love having a partner who is walking that journey with me. Both of us able to acknowledge that all of the frequent times still, you know, that we are reactive and we are living from that old self and continue to hold the compassion for growth toward a future that's not only individually different for each of us, though, as a couple, that we can also evolve into a new space.


I don't know if you relate to this, but when I got divorced, one of the things that it taught me was that people who had previously been very close to me had perceptions and judgments of what I was doing that were not always favorable. And I had to be OK with the fact that they didn't get it and they thought negative. For me, and it was a very important lesson for me as someone who up to that point had been an inveterate people pleaser and who had relied so much on the good opinion of others, that there exists my own personal truth.


And if I'm at peace with that, that's all I need.


And I found that very helpful. Did you have any sense of that?


I wouldn't say as much for or around the divorce. People in my life were very supportive of my family as well. Around that, however, overwhelmingly. Yes, especially if we dive into the next two failings, because that idea of being misunderstood really does map on to the next two areas where I made a choice that one might define as a failing, though that was very much part of those two processes for me, was hearing the different peanut gallery, the very well intentioned loved ones who quote unquote knew me to the people who maybe didn't know me, but were gazing upon me from afar with their own degrees of misunderstanding or different ideas or expectations for the choices I was making.


So like I said, with the divorce and the ending of that relationship, I didn't feel super challenged in that way, though, as we progress this conversation. Absolutely.


Well, that's progress, because your second failure is your failure as a psychologist when you chose to step away from the traditional field that you studied for and create a practice for yourself, which is super interesting, given that I think actually all of your failures are about choosing to step away from something when you realized it wasn't right for you. But that must have been incredibly hard because you put so much time and effort into studying this traditional model. So tell us about that.


My first failing around that, honestly, this happened was more of an internal process when as I began to engage with this new model of self healing personally, as I discovered epigenetics, as I discovered a pathway to create some lifestyle changes in my world. And as the result of doing so, I began to feel I began to feel this anxiety. All I knew began to finally the symptoms of it began to go away. I felt more grounded in my body, more clear.


I felt like I was finally for the first time, getting better while yay! And you I like. Wow, it's incredible. Nicole so great. There was another part of me inside that was really struggling, if I'm honest with that truth, because of the way I was getting better and the way I was getting better wasn't with this old model, wasn't we're just going to an office and speaking my problems the way that I was being trained. Right.


To provide the services for those that were struggling. I was doing other things to get better, not things right. That were taught to me as the route of healing. So for me, it wasn't easy. It wasn't a light bulb switch. You know, listeners might think, well, you found something that worked. Go run for it, go, you know, promote that. Absolutely not. There was that shedding for me of that old model of whether it's, you know, wellness or lack thereof internally.


And then once I was getting more and more comfortable with that being my truth, I was looking for an outlet because I still had a very traditional practice, a very full time, very successful practice, where I was seeing clients week after week and the decision that I made to go online to create the account of the holistic psychologist where I would begin to speak. This new truth was difficult for me, knowing, right, that this is a truth that I would want to start sharing with my clients as well.


So I then began to be, you know, share holistic models of healing in the room with the clients that I was working with. Again, further shedding that role of traditional psychologists. And there was just so many layers of that onion, to put it that way, because there was such a part of me that whether or not it was connected to my own journey with anxiety, like I said, I just thought I had it. And, you know, this is how I can manage it, really challenging that to challenging the way I was working and really coming into that place where it wasn't resonating, where I did decide that working holistically was more in alignment and doing so meant shedding all of that layer of my identity, my identity as the clinical psychologist, as the person who believed that wellness work in this one way.


Oftentimes I have a whole chapter in the book about belief because shedding belief and changing belief is difficult, because for many of us it is ingrained in who we are as so many things.


I want to ask you about that. The first one is you mentioned there that you started doing some things that were working for you. What was the first thing that you did that was different from the traditional model of clinical psychology that was working for you?


I came to realize, though, when I really took a look at my health, I should mention this. It was the result of some physical symptoms. I've had digestion issues my whole life. I had sleep issues my whole life. I felt that brain fogginess or cloudiness not really sharp my whole life. I had been living with all of these different physical body symptoms, all of which, again, I fall, and the people that I love, my family, my mom, my dad, they all had similar things going on.


So lo and behold, I assumed it was just the result of the genetics, you know, the way that I was born. However, at a time those symptoms got scary because I started to faint. I started to lose consciousness. I started to not only kind of just my mind would trail off. I would actually forget my sentence completely. Most alarmingly, when I was in session with clients, which is typically where I was able to be really present in my own life, I realized I was really not present, though.


When I was with clients, I was really, really present in there. So when these symptoms started trickling in to the treatment room, I got scared, to be honest. So I bring that up because symptoms were physical. I started with my physical body. I was convinced at that point that something had to be wrong in my body. So I thought to create balance, to create healing. And what I was learning at the time that we have core needs.


Our body needs nutrients. So, OK, what am I eating? I took a conscious look, a present look at what I was putting in my body and how it made my body feel. All of our bodies need to sleep. So I got really honest about what my sleep habits were. And the truth was I didn't sleep much. Even though I laid in bed for many hours. I was tossing, I was turning. I never woke up feeling refreshed.


So my body was the first place I walked. However, I intentionally mentioned a word consciously. I learned how to be the foundation, really, with how to be conscious in my body, how to be present to what is actually going on, to how food actually makes it feel. And not to be checked out, because what I came to realize is I was so disconnected or dissociate it. You'll hear me use that word a lot from my physical body that I had no idea what its needs were and I didn't know how to make it feel better.


So for me, that was the foundation of my journey, teaching myself how to be present in my body, which is a practice in and of itself, and then learning how to be present to my body and its signals so that I can begin to make those changes so that my body can begin to feel better.


And you mentioned earlier that when you chose to take this route and it was a gradual and difficult process because you were challenging what you've been taught to believe. And it strikes me that you were dismantling beliefs that you've been given in order to construct your own self belief in a way. Can you describe to us the difference between self belief and ego? Because you write so eloquently about ego and the damage that it does to us?


Absolutely. That ego is another one of those things that are constructed there. It's very much a pattern that we live since childhood. And the simplest way I define what ego is, is it's the story of us. Right. Any narration that you hear in your mind as a lot of us do, we have thoughts going through our head all day long. A lot of us tell ourselves narratively the story of us. I'm this. I'm that. I feel this way.


When that happens, we now our day from that first person perspective, we reflect that out in our relationships. Right. If you're the helper, that's some some version of the story of who you are. I'm of the belief that most of us are telling ourselves very limited stories about who we are and how this happened to me and my creation of change in that model. Right. That genetic determinism that I don't have a choice model. I actually did one of my narratives.


One of my belief narratives was how out of control I was, how I couldn't affect change, how certain things were just not available to me. I call it my narrative around limitations, all of the things that maybe someone else could do that I couldn't it for whatever the reason. And so what self belief became for me is understanding the narrative that were modeled for me that I accumulated as a result of my lived experience and learning how to expand that and how to expand and how to speak from not what was told to me or what was reflected back at me, given what happened to me.


But what's inside of me.


Why, thank you. And as you were stepping away from this thriving practice that you built up in Philadelphia and from this traditional field that you had spent much of your adult life studying for, you must have attracted criticism or people you just didn't understand.


What was that like for you here through that misunderstanding? And I talk about this often begins to come in. So when I look at it online and when I saw people beginning to build platforms and use them, like I said, I had no expectation of who would be listening or how many whom's for me, it was really an exercise in speaking my truth because I am that co-dependent. Like a lot of authority, we've been talking about filtering my truth through everyone else, trying to keep everyone else.


As happy as possible, so this was me making a step forward and speaking my truth because it's my truth, when I began to do that in the beginning, I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn't scared. I was afraid of what will a just other humans think as they hear me talking about myself, something I'm not typically used to talking about in that way, let alone my healing journey. Specifically, how would my colleagues, what are they going to think?


Right. What are clients going to think. Possible clients. Right. That are hearing me talk about this? Am I going to scare everyone away? And that was very much a part of it. Still remains, though, much less so now. An early part of the journey was that fear. How will my truth be received? If I'm honest, it was more overwhelmingly positive, especially from practitioners. There were so many practitioners that were messaging me from all around the world saying either, oh, my gosh, yes, I've learned this in my practice, that I'm working now differently myself and or I thought so.


Right. And I want to begin to explore using these tools either personally and or professionally. So the support for me from other practitioners was there in the beginning. I was really helpful because they countered. It gave me another feeling of empowerment outside of that fear, because I knew if there's one other two other people that are brave enough or curious enough to reach out to me, there has to be more. And in the past two years that I've now been on Instagram, the support from other practitioners in particular is so much so that one of my future offerings that I'm hoping to put out into the world is a membership for practitioners specifically.


I would again be lying if I were to say that there aren't criticisms out there in terms of the field. There are they do exist. I'm able more now to stand confidently in what I know to be true as opposed to shaking or shifting or changing as I used to do.


I understand that one of the criticisms is that people have said we can't just hope to self heal clinical conditions, and that simplifies things too much. My understanding of your work is that you're not saying that. You're saying the conventional therapy might work for some people, but it might also not work in the way that others need it to. And this is a necessary offering. So it's not an exclusionary thing where it has to be one way or the other.


Is that right?


Absolutely. I think with self healing is for me, is empowering the self to find whatever tools and however many tools, even if when it does include outside support, knowing that we do possess the tools to be, as I say, our own healer. So for a lot of us, actually some version of outside support be in the form of a therapist, traditional or not, is part of the journey. It's actually part of my journey. I will probably dive into this at the next failure, my own recent experience in therapy.


So yeah, I do see a lot of times that my work is misunderstood and misrepresented to me and at the exclusion. Never set foot in the therapist's office? Absolutely not. For many of us, that is part of the journey, like I said, were interpersonal creatures. That's why the community of self healers on Instagram and all of the free social media exist, as well as the self healer circle, because we do heal in communities. So for some humans, it's the support that they're finding in those circles that is part of their healing journey for sure.


So it's definitely not an exclusion at all.


One of the things that really struck me when I saw you on Venice Beach and I really wanted to me, but then there was such a long queue that I couldn't stay. So then I sent you a very timid Instagram DMM and you're very sweet, replied. But I felt I saw a fellow introverted soul in the sense that you strike me as someone who's incredibly sensitive in the best ways. I think it's such a beautiful thing to be open about your vulnerability, and it's the source of all human connection.


But when you are sensitive to that level, I mean, I find it almost excruciating dealing with criticism.


And I wonder if you have any strategies to help people who similarly suffer from that affliction.


Absolutely. I mean, I'm the first person to attest to I hate disappointing people. I don't like even if I don't know you. I don't like you having a negative reaction to myself, my ideas, my being, you know, whatever it may be that you're absolutely right, Elizabeth, at my core is I think it's difficult for all of us humans, though. Yes. I'm very much a big seller, which is a big reason why I dissociate it, because those big feelings were present for me from the moment I came here and I had limited little to no support emotionally, again, because my mother was dealing with her own internal world, which was overwhelming to her.


She simply did not have the tools. No one in my family did. So the way I coped with that is I checked out. I made it safe for myself, I removed myself on my spaceship that I call it, from those big feelings, what I now do now as the practice, because I understand that I actually don't have control over how someone perceives me or how someone the meaning that someone assigns to my words. Even I have learned all of the ways, like we just spoke about, that words can be misinterpreted or meanings can be assigned.


I know I do it in my own life. So of course other people do it. So that is the way that I'm able to now create a little separation and allow others to have whatever opinions or experiences they might have of myself or my work or whatever it might be, allowing them to have that as their reality without having to argue it or fight it or defend it and holding space for my own. Because what I do is I call it I depersonalised.


I understand that we're both in the same moment, even to humans reacting to things. Right. That are subjective, that are us painting our past experience over top of what's happening now. So, yes, while I might be the projection point, someone might be saying something negative about me or my ideas or my work. I try to hold space for the possibility that it might not actually be about me at all, though the meaning that's being assigned to what I'm saying or doing in that moment.


OK, that's so interesting. And I've been thinking recently that for me there's a real difference between criticism and feedback. Criticism is judgmental and comes with personal baggage and can be quite mean.


Feedback is necessary, but for me it needs to come from someone that I love and trust and that I know knows my intentions and has my best interests at heart.


I love that distinction and I'll be the first to admit, yes, that is what it is. If you learn who are the people that are giving me feedback, do they know me or do they know enough of about me in this context? Can I listen? I'll be the first person to admit how hard that is. I wanted to knock Lollie out when she was giving me very kind, compassionate, objective perspectives. Right of myself, namely around my family and our dynamic.


I didn't want to hear it. If I'm honest. I want to knock her out, though. Over time I started to realize right and separate myself and just objectively practice hearing what she had to say instead of reacting. And what I came to realize is that it was coming from a loving place and that there was some objective reality in the things that she was pointing out. So that's an example of possibly loving feedback, though I share. That example was a bit to acknowledge that even that isn't easy.


It's not easy to take that even from a loved one who you may be in your soul or your heart do know that they want what's best when you hear it. It's painful.


And you a lot of us can become very reactive at first practice hearing, not reacting. I need that on a T-shirt right now.


Raise can.


Before I get onto your final failure, though, the fact that you chose to go your own way and you built up this immense following on Instagram is deeply impressive. And I wanted to ask you just something very practical, which is how do you go about creating your Instagram content? Because it's so good. And if anyone hasn't seen it, I want you to stop. This is the focus right now and go look at the account, holistic psychologist, because you managed to condense such new and sophisticated, unhelpful ideas into a few even a single Instagram slide.


What's the process that you go through to get to that?


Well, thank you. I definitely appreciate hearing that. I think one of the reasons, honestly, why the account took off, not only because it's so universally resonating, I believe, because a lot of us might have heard the concepts that I talk about, though not in a practical way. So hearing that the way that the material is being communicated is understandable, Elizabeth, really is everything because we can't action, right? We can't create change around which we don't understand.


And like I said, I'm not the bearer of any new information. All of the things I talk about have been spoken about in one way or another over the centuries, millennia at this point. Right. However, I think a lot of us haven't been able to really understand and operationalize. And so the how really is practice. I mean, I've been reading and learning, and just because of my own curiosity about the field of psychology, the mind, again, as long as I can remember, those were the books I read.


Even now I'm an avid reader. And the more you read, understand and live, I think living is the way that we gain understanding to something. Presenting the material gets easier because you just you know, it you know, in a different way. No, in your bones. And like I said, you know it because you're living it. So for me, I believe it's the fact that I'm living this journey right alongside everyone as I'm often sharing and speaking about that.


Give me that more intimate relation. The ship, if you will, with the material, which I do think that affects the way that it's communicated and I tried to do the same in the book, there is science backing a lot of the material in the book. And again, I know that's an area where it can start to feel a little more conceptual, a little less practical. So in writing the book, I was really conscious and intentional around making sure that it was understandable.


Also acknowledging that a lot of the audience is international, right. With different languages of origin and native languages, etc. So making sure that all of this is presented in a way that we can understand. And like I said, I think it's mainly my lived experience. I know the material because I live it and I still live it and I won't stop living it.


I mean, I think you did a great job in the book. It's one of those books that I wish I had read as I was embarking on my 20s, because it really does encompass everything that I would have needed to know and has taken me a small lifetime sort of figure out. And and I haven't done so anywhere near as well as you have. But it is definitely one of those books that I think is going to be so useful, so many people, but particularly people who are navigating their 20s.


Let's move on to your final failure, which is a big one. Is that a failure as a daughter, sister and aunt, when you chose to step away from your co-dependent family relationship patterns for your own healing? So tell us about that experience.


Yes, I was alluding to this big one with my relationship with my past wife being a premonition of this. Like I said, at that point, I had a pain. I had an inclination that that relationship was out of alignment. I continued to evolve. I continue my journey. I was telling the title of psychologist. I was beginning to work more holistically. And in doing that, I was continuing to create change in my life and I was becoming more grounded in my body, more connected to how my body feels while I'm going about my day in particular, while I'm relating to others.


So very naturally, as I was becoming more and more of a conscious witness to myself, I was then by extension becoming a conscious witness to myself in relationship. And lo and behold, what was I beginning to see? What I was beginning to see, where those patterns that I was telling you that while it was pointing out. Right. And so what it was for me is around my family and around contact with my family when my sister called, do I feel a pressure to call her back?


The answer was always yes. What do I talk about? In my family? The answer was some version of my mom's health. A lot revolved around my mom and what was going on with her chronic health conditions. I noticed how being with my family in the days leading up to it, I would get increasingly more agitated in spending time with my family. My anxiety was at a high. That agitation starts to leak out. I would become reactive and then on the other end of that visit, I would feel that that reaction would come into my relationship.


So I watch that pattern long enough. And when I came to realize is the way that I was functioning in that family unit was codependent. What is codependent mean means little boundary between self and other, where we fulfill our own needs, usually via the relationship with another. So for what that looked like in my life, outsourcing, what does my family need? What does my sister need in this moment? She needs to pick up the phone and listen to mom or maybe Mommy's going to be there at this appointment, right.


Everyone else and what they need. And as I witnessed that pattern, I began to realize how much I need it or lacked and therefore need it. The word that we kind of started this conversation with, which was boundaries, how much I needed to begin to put up limits, how I couldn't be ever available to the latest crisis in my family, because if I'm honest, there was a crisis, big or small every day, whether it was something that was going on at my mom's health or an angry neighbor, the lawn cutters not coming.


I mean, every moment there was something. It was always something was a narrative in my family. And I began to see how real that was and how real my participation. And that always something was, how I got the phone call, how I felt pressure to make the things better in the home. And so I realized again, very painstakingly over a year plus of evolution about how important limits were. I began to experiment with putting limits up, becoming less available for the calls at all hours of the day, or not able to take off work to be present to the weekly doctor's appointments or whatever it was.


And I started to hear the kick back in my family. This is where you're talking about earlier. I got to hear how my decisions were being received by others, how my presence was required to be at this meal, even though my best interest was at four to be somewhere else. And after many, many attempts at trying to find the space and put up the limits. I again, came to a very, very difficult decision, which was that for me, cutting off contact with my family for at that point a period of time that I did not know how foreseeable it would end or not end.


All I knew at that point now, much more confidently than I knew with my ex-wife, was that I needed to do this for me. And the reason I say I failed at being a daughter, a sister, an aunt is because I did hear a kickback from those people. And there was a very real part of me that felt like I was feeling like I was disappointing this family that I needed to show up for that forward in time. We stayed out of contact for almost the better part of two years.


My family and I myself, over that period of time, continuing to heal, continuing to utilize boundaries and practice, showing up authentically in all of my relationships here that left me with a pool of relationships that were a little more comfortable to do that in. I was actually creating change that was outside of my family. And then I came to the place in my journey, obviously telling a very long story very quickly where I decided I was open. I felt confident in myself at this point to maintain my boundaries, to open up the door to communication with my family and see what was on the other side of it.


At this point that I had no idea what they had been doing for two years. How devastating or not devastating write me asking for that space was or was it? I had no idea what I was walking back into. However, I knew two things. I knew that I was interested in seeing if we could change relationship. I was at this point, I'd seen a lot of my relationships evolve. And the second thing was I was feeling confident in myself.


I knew that I could open the door. I could try right. I could see I can negotiate new relationships with my family because I knew that's what I was about to do. I knew I couldn't go back to those old relationships, those old patterns, even though I knew that the pull the urge to do that would be very strong. However, like I said now, I felt confident. I felt confident that I could show up very consciously, attending to myself, checking in with my own feelings about it and finding a way toward a new relationship.


So at that point, we re establish contact. It turns out they had been in their own individual and family therapies over the course of those two years. I agreed to join them in a whole handful of family therapy sessions where we, with the help of a therapist involved, helped open the door to some of these conversations, mainly around boundaries, new boundaries and how we would evolve the relationships outside of therapy. And of course, now we're outside of therapy and we're finding our way forward.


That's an extraordinary story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I wonder if during those two years was there a point where you felt selfish? And I used that word deliberately because because it comes with so much baggage. Did you feel that and does it matter?


I felt incredibly selfish and I was affirmed that I was selfish. I was told especially in the beginning before I cut off contact in those moments where I was attempting to be a little less available, usually in a fit of anger, a shriek I was actually labeled is that you're so selfish. How could you do this to me or to us with language that I actually heard? And that co-dependent part of me, believe them, did feel like I was being selfish.


I think collectively, even quite universally, I think a lot of us do have that belief that taking care of the self is selfish. So absolutely that being selfish and concerned about being selfish, Elisabeth kept me in those relationships for as long as they did. And then, of course, that concern followed with me through it, imagining them, and especially as holidays, the first year would come and go, wondering what they're like. Selfish is definitely a word.


I revisit it frequently.


And do you think it's an integral part of this for anyone listening who is in a co-dependent or unhealthy relationship of any form, whether it be a family relationship, a friendship, a romantic interlude?


Do you think that you have to communicate what you're doing or can you just withdraw yourself from that dynamic?


Communication can be helpful because it can offer should they desire to take it as an explanation for what the other will say? Right. So what I mean when I say that is if you were to say hey, and in the book, I actually give some dialogue, some scripts with how to communicate it. I find it's very helpful if you do desire to communicate it, to communicate a Y, usually the Y can be something as simple as I care about this or this relationship and I'd like to see it have a future.


So I'm going to have to make some changes. That could be the simple why. And then of course. If you want to go as far as the outline, what changes you're going to make in the relationship that can offer the person, like I said, an explanation. So when they see or experience you differently now in the future, they may choose. And this is why I'm intentionally wording it this way, because their mind is going to make up a narrative.


So if you didn't say anything, the narrative that their mind comes up with is going to be what it is for that, that you don't love them, you don't care. You're selfish, whatever it is. Right. So if you do offer the real reason, your why and what it is you're going to do differently moving forward, you can offer again that person, should they choose to take it as a reason that from you another way that they can understand what's for them.


At minimum, it's going to be a violation of their expectation. They've developed an expectation of you, I mean, depending on how long you've been in relationship with this human, for a lot of us, if it's our sibling or our caregiver, a lifetime, a lot of expectations have accumulated. So at the bare minimum, when we start to behave differently in our relationships, there's a bit of surprise, a bit of, oh, that's not what you normally do right now.


The person's interested or possibly reacting poorly. So that's going to be something that comes along with change for all of us. So, of course, if you then give them an explanation, that could go a long way as helping them to create a bit of space to allow you to now begin to practice showing up differently.


And what about friendship? I get a lot of people contacting me about friendships because we live in a culture that gives us a lot of templates for breaking up romantically. But when you want a friendship to end, what's the best way of doing that, do you think? Sorry, I'm treating you now as my own personal guru, but what do you think?


It's incredibly difficult. And this. Absolutely. And you're right, we're not instructed. I mean, from childhood. Let me go as far to say as a lot of us aren't really instructed, taught or modelled, even how to make friends. Right. Because we're being taught by people who might struggle themselves socially or in relationships again, let alone keep friends, let alone end friendships. This is all really difficult. I also see quite universally we have this idea that the longer that tenure, that years of relationship means something and they might and they also might not, meaning a lot of us have these relationships possibly from childhood that we're holding on to because we've been in them for twenty years without really evaluating how those relationships make us feel in our current life.


And so ending relationships is part of it. Sometimes it happens naturally to people, change dreft life circumstances, pull them in two different directions and other times it doesn't. Other times it's one person pursuing or attempting to hold on to a relationship and ending friendship is definitely part of it. Communication, again, is a great tip. The sooner you become aware that a relationship isn't working for you, the better. The more quickly you can communicate that and create change, the more likely that that relationship can change and can withstand into a future.


And like I said, communicating, having a person that can hear you on the other side or at least hold space for you and what your reality is will go a long way in creating that change in the relationship. Unfortunately, some of us get to the realization that we do have to end a relationship. And again, it's contextual whether or not it warrants the conversation or whether or not it's a natural drift that can naturally just occur. And of course, if it's a conversation, it's not to say that they're going to be easy or that there won't be surprise from the other person, because a lot of times that is part of it and it's incredibly difficult.


I just wanted to mention the inner child because that's how we started this conversation.


And I know that there will be some people listening. I mean, I was with this person until relatively recently who when any mention of an inner child is made, feels a kind of internal cringe like, oh, my gosh, don't make me get a skipping rope and wear my hair in pigtails to connect with my own child.


And what I want to say is you've made me realise that it isn't that that there is a way of connecting with your inner child, which is effectively about reparenting yourself. And that can be something as practical as making a small promise to yourself every day and keeping to that whether it is and it's an example used in the book, drinking glass, also water. When you wake up, that is a way of trusting yourself and building up that trust, isn't it?


Absolutely. Self trust. I call it self betrayal. The lack there of self trust is really present in a lot of our lives. So many of us aren't showing up consistently for ourselves on a daily basis. Maybe we don't know how. Maybe you're like me. You're not connected enough in your body to even know it's physical. No, if it does feel well or unwell and or how to change it, how to create wellness, if it does it, a lot of us might either be so disconnected from our emotions or simply overwhelmed by them.


That part of inner child work means learning a new relationship with our emotional beings. Our emotions are here to stay. They are actually their signs. They help us navigate life when we're balanced and they're working flexibly, meaning it's not natural to be stuck in one feeling all of the time as many of us are likely. We're stuck right at that subconscious level, repeating habits and patterns that are keeping us stuck in those emotional experiences as humans. The ability to tolerate stress, right, means how do I live in a body, feel it, fall out, feel it, become active, eat it, feel stressed, feel angry, feel sad, and then have that feeling go away.


That's what emotional resilience is. Many of us. The process of reparenting, again, is relearning or teaching ourselves for the first time emotional regulation skills. It's learning. Inner child work is learning how to that idea. I was smiling when I heard you say putting pigtails and skipping around because, yes, I think a lot of us visualize that or maybe see children doing that and assign them like, oh, as the that's that's a little kid does that.


I and I do in the book make an argument as far as say that that's actually the ability put it this way to do that, to enter that state of pure awareness where I'm gleeful just because I'm jumping a jump rope in the sunshine, that's actually a function of our brain that's being fully present. That's being and a concept that some listeners might be familiar with. FWO So a lot of times we permit childish. Right. This idea of being playful, though I make and argue in the book that play is being present is being in that slow state.


So for an adult, maybe it's not jumping rope, right? Maybe it's you're in a low state of creation and you're putting something out into the world, though I agree with you and I love that you ask that because I do think a lot of us cringe when we hear inner child or do aside. Oh, that's immature. Like, I don't have time for that to be in that free space. And again, I make an argument in the book that that's actually an incredibly important nervous system state to teach our body how to safely enter it.


And it translates, like I said, to many other things outside of just playing on a jump rope, in my opinion, to how we show up in the world to the act of creation that is just us being us.


And you give a lovely example as well in your own life in the book of dancing and being told that you weren't good at dancing and feeling like really internalize that. And there's this moment where you dance on a beach in L.A. that brought such joy to me to read. I have a similar thing with singing. I feel I was told I was a terrible singer and I just haven't done that. Therefore for years. I don't do something I'm not good at, quote unquote.


And actually my partner heard me singing the car very kind of quietly and he said to me, You've got a really good voice.


It was so lovely. Even if it's not true, it's enabled me just to sing more and it's brought me a lot of joy. So I thank you for sharing that.


Absolutely. I shared a lot of us have that. And in the book I reference how that how I expressed that before I understood what it was and what that looked like to me. I hated seeing people are dancing in public. When Instagram came and there would be people doing dance challenges, my insides constricted Elizabeth thinking, oh, no one better tag me and I'm not doing that. Who do they think? Right. So that's how I first was like, OK, something I didn't know what it was.


I didn't yet know that connected to me being that child. Right. Who had the big belly and dance class tucked in the back because I implicitly wasn't right. I didn't know all of that at the time. All I knew was I couldn't stand other people dancing. And then obviously, if I peeled back my layers and I really explored and understood that, I saw that that's what it was related to. And again, I get chills every time I read that part of the book as well.


It's as if I'm living that and I catch myself many moments now dancing around, playing around. And it just it's so empowering.


So you need to get a text on account. That's the next phase of evolution.


Oh, Nicole, I can't thank you enough for what has been a mind expanding conversation that I know is going to help and resonate with so many people who listen to this. And I would love if I might end on a quote of yours, which is to experience authentic relationships. You need to work on being one with your own authenticity.


And I think that everything you have said really guides us to that point. And I'm such a huge believer in authenticity, through vulnerability and through openness. And you have been so generous sharing your openness and vulnerability with us. So thank you so, so much for coming on. How to Fail, of course.


Elizabeth, thank you so much for having me. For being interested. Having this conversation with me for all of your support along the way and for your community, thank you.


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