The following is an unedited transcript of episode 135 of The Path to Authenticity, with podcaster, therapist, and life coach, Rachel Astarte. She is the author of Celebrating Solitude. Learn more about Rachel at racheastartetherapy.com.
Tom Gentry: Rachel. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me. How are you?
Rachel Astarte: I’m doing well, Tom, and thank you for having me.
Tom: You’re welcome. It’s my pleasure. So, tell the listener what you do for a living.
Rachel: I am a holistic psychotherapist and a transformational life coach and author, and an educator.
Tom: And now I think I read that you also have an MFA in creative writing. Is that right?
Rachel: That is right. That was the first master’s I got because I’m addicted to being a student and yeah, so I do have a, an MFA in creative writing. I used to teach writing. I still do, but now I incorporate it with a little more therapeutic and coaching background as well.
Tom: So then would it be journaling, or maybe autobiography in the interest of personal growth, that sort of stuff.
Rachel: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That I have a workshop that’s actually coming up a virtual workshop. That’s coming up at the end of July on the 31st, which is called, write yourself open it’s four words, write yourself open. And that incorporates a guided meditation, journaling and group discussion processing and integrating the gifts you received on your, in your meditation.
Tom: Wow, that’s really cool. Where are you from?
Rachel: I’m originally from well, I was born in DeKalb, Illinois, and I was there for about six weeks. My father was a, an adjunct professor at the time. And so, he got the next possible job, which was in a Western New York in Brockport. So, he taught at SUNY Brockport for the duration of his career. So, I grew up in upstate New York, mostly, and then as sin and I actually graduated from SUNY Brockport with a BA in theater. And then I hightailed it down to Manhattan as soon as I could. And lived there for the better part of 22 years, I took a couple years off to go to Boston for my master’s in creative writing. And I took a year off also to live in New Mexico for a while. So, actually it was right outside of Albuquerque, but I worked in Santa Fe. I ran a small publishing company there.
Tom: Wow. So now where are you? Are you back in Manhattan?
Rachel: Well, no, I’m very close though. I’m in Rockland County about half an hour outside New York. Yeah. I love New York.
Tom: So, you operate a private practice there?
Rachel: I do. And right now, it’s completely virtual. I see patients only online or by phone.
Tom: So, I know the licensing is different in every state. In terms of how you function virtually, but do you see clients from outside of New York state as well? Or are you limited to news?
Rachel: That’s a great question. I do. I see clients all over the world and those who are out of my therapeutic jurisdiction, we end up doing life coaching, transformational, life coaching, which doesn’t have those restrictions.
Tom: That makes sense. Okay. So, you have a BA in theater, you have an MFA in creative writing. Or a therapist. How did all these things happen? How did you go from the arts to becoming a psychotherapist?
Rachel: It’s not that big of a leap. I grew up, as you said in the arts my parents are both artists. My father was a writer. My mother is an actor and writer, and both of them are teachers or were teachers. My father is no longer with us, but my mom is at 82. She’s still doing theater and still writing plays and selling them. She’s awesome. And but I grew up in a household where psychology was very important. I mean, Carl Young was practically required reading in our household. So, in order to be an artist, you need to know who you are, and you need to clear the cobwebs out of your life in order to be the vessel for whatever your creativity is. As I had mentioned it, did theater, I did film. I still do voiceovers, but I don’t, I’m not doing much theater anymore, but I’m still writing. And what I found was as wonderful. It is, it’s all about communication. Yeah. That’s what art is about. And so is they’re happy. So, it was really important to me to reach as many people as I could. And I thought, okay, it’s great. I’m doing some theater. I’m writing these books and screenplays, but I’m not reaching the people on a level that I want to. And so, the next step for me was to get certified as a transformational life coach, which was amazing and really helpful. But again, I still felt like I wasn’t getting to the heart of what I felt like I could be doing with clients. And so, I went back and got my master’s in marriage and family therapy. And then pursued, getting my license in New York so I could start to work with people one-on-one and I work with a lot of creative people, writers, dancers artists of various kinds of fine artists. And it’s amazing how easy it is to bridge the two, because it’s pretty much the same language of going deep into yourself and coming up with the work that you come up with, whether you’re coming up with the work as a human being out in the world, or you’re coming up with a work as an artist, as a writer, as a, whatever you are, it’s really important to do that in our work.
Tom: Hmm. So how did you reach the conclusion that they were so similar? Was there some sort of life event where you needed someone’s help? Where is that how you transitioned into it?
Rachel: I started young in analysis when I was 19. Right. So, I started to get really interested in. Archetypes and symbolism and that kind of thing again, that was part of the way I was raised. So, it was already geared to pick up on that. But as I started writing and as I started performing, I realized there are levels of depth that I’m not able to access until I do some of this work myself or continue to do this work. And I went through a very bad depression in my early to mid-twenties. Twenties were really hard for me. I don’t know it is for a lot of people, but I would not want to go back there. It was really icky, but I started to experiment with different spiritual practices and even religious practices and try to find myself that way. And that was extremely helpful. What that did was helped me inform how I want to do therapy because I’m not the kind of person that works well with a therapist who sits there and just says, and reflects back everything I’m saying, but we’re not getting anywhere. I, I needed to be in a communicative, engaged place with a therapist, and those were hard to find. So, I said, well, I should do that. I should bring, mind and spirit and body together because that’s what we are. We’re all three of those things.
Tom: Yeah. So, you encountered some sort of dry practitioners.
Rachel: It sounds like I had the worst luck picking therapists. There are a couple of gems that I had in my life, so it wasn’t a hundred percent terrible, but I mean, I remember when I was in New York city, I went to see a therapist. Was eating her lunch during our session, like a nasty, messy sandwich and stuff. And she couldn’t remember anything about me anytime I went in there and then one time she double booked, and I was sitting in the waiting room, and I didn’t realize that she, she didn’t even tell me it was just traumatic. Actually. It made me not want to see a therapist anymore. But luckily that changed, and the times changed, and I realized there’s a certain kind of therapy that works best for me. And I began to realize, as I practiced that I wasn’t alone in that there are a lot of people who come to me after having been in therapy for many years saying I felt fine. It was good therapy, but I just don’t feel like they were hearing me or seeing me as a human being.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. I’m a big proponent of therapy. I entered the world of self-improvement from recovery from. A substance use disorder with alcohol. Yeah. And I’ve always embraced it. I felt like it’s a, we all need help and it’s a tool. Why would I not avail myself of that? And at this point it’s been more than two decades. So, I’ve had a number of different therapists myself, and they all helped me in different ways at different times. But the last one I chose my current therapist; I waited a while and just kind of kept my eyes open and trusted my intuition because I knew I needed someone different than I had before. And when I finally met her and I met her at a course in miracles, he also teaches a course in miracles. I just knew. I could be completely transparent with her, and she would get me. Yep. And not label me or not tell me what was wrong with me. Exactly. Cause I guess by that point in my life, I had realized that although I’ve had issues that I’ve needed to address, there’s nothing wrong with me. There’s never been anything wrong with absolutely.
Rachel: What a wonderful place to start with that. I was going to ask you, what was it about this therapist that felt like, okay, I can drop into this work.
Tom: Well, do you know much about the course of miracles, or I do. Okay. So, one of the first things sort of an initiation into a course in miracles is beginning to understand the jargon. And the first thing that really opened my eyes to how I was living in my life and how I was engaging in relationships was the idea of a holy relationship versus a special relationship. And so that, and then also the idea that what we think is bothering us, isn’t, is never really what’s bothering us.
It’s always something from the past that we’re projecting onto the present. And I began to realize how I was doing that in my intimate relationships. And I was in one where I was like, recalibrating in that way. And I needed a lot of support, and I just knew that she was the person who. I could walk through this with, and she would get me, and she would help me understand it. And, in general, we’re so terrible at romantic relationships in our culture. But so many people are so quick to give you their opinions and advice and tell you what’s wrong with someone you love, or especially as a relationship is developing. And I knew where I was. I knew that I love this woman and I just, I needed somebody who was going to get it. And I, she did, she did, I had shared a little bit in the groups that I was in with her, where she was teaching the course and she heard me, she heard me, and she validated me and my feelings. And it just clicked with me one day. This is the person I need to do.
Rachel: That’s what we need. Yeah. We need to be validated.
Tom: Yeah. And one of the things I’ve learned more and more in my work and in my self-worth is that, really what this is all about is loving someone. We need, we love people into health, right. That’s really what it is. It’s just doing it in different ways. We don’t think of it that way, but that’s really what we need. We need to be loved and validated and heard and cheered on and seen, seen, and heard and loved. That’s it, it seems so simple, right? Yeah, it does. It does. But I mean, if you say that to someone who just is starting counseling, I mean, they’re going to look at you, like you have three heads, right?
Rachel: Well, there’s one thing about saying it and there’s one thing about feeling it in your body. And I would assume that it wasn’t just what this therapist said to you, but how you received it in your body that it felt if it felt right. Right.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. And I think we that’s another thing in our culture. We could do better with that, to be attuned to what’s happening in our body and how it affects our experience.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s really interesting how I had to go through my own evolution to come to this conclusion. That it was about loving someone that love is the salve. And I think what that is and why I was at this place when I met this woman, her name’s Donna Marks she’s in two different episodes. The first one I think is episode 16. And I talk a lot about my experience with her, but I think in order to go there with another human being, to give them love and to really be present for them, we have to be in touch with our own wounds and not be still bleeding all over the right.
Tom: That’s the hard part. Then there’s a lot of focus in the helping professions about not being codependent or not getting too emotionally involved with the kid’s client, but. If you’re in touch with your wounds, then you can experience enough of theirs to empathize in a way where you can really show up for them. And also, some of the most beautiful experiences that I’ve had have been around clients coming to me with very similar wounds.
Rachel: Yeah. It’s not funny how that happens.
Tom: It’s God.
Tom: Yeah, because there’s one kid in particular who he was emotionally abused by his older brother as was I, and I mean, I know what it feels like to look up to an older brother and want to be like him and want nothing more than anything than to have his love and to love him back. And then instead get treated like garbage. So, it’s like, there’s this intense love and hatred all at once. And it’s extremely confusing for a kid to go through. You’re pulled in different directions and, meanwhile, you got somebody talking you down, so of course you’re going to think there’s something wrong with me.
That’s why I’m this way. Right. So, I could say to him, yeah. I get how confusing that is. And there’s, there were probably times when you wanted to bash his head in with a baseball bat and other times when you just wish that he would, I mean, it’s not just anybody could have done that could have shown up for that kid and that way,
Rachel: right. Because you’ve experienced it.
Tom: Right. Right. And it wasn’t that, I didn’t over reveal. I didn’t get too emotionally involved, but I felt for him. And that is palpable. That is like you were talking about, I felt something with the therapist that, that is a client can pick up on that. Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s where the connection really takes hold.
Rachel: Yeah. There’s something in psychology called being, it’s called the person of the therapist. This is an important part of therapy. Who are you in a session, if you are anything other than who you really are, they’re going to pick up on that. If you’re just, oh, I’m the person behind the desk taking notes, but I’m a different person entirely when I’m not. A patient. Well, they’re going to realize that there’s a lack of authenticity there in the kind of human being you are, because we’re just human beings. As, as Ramdas said, we’re all just walking each other home, we all suffer. And so, when we look at that and you talked beautifully a moment ago about empathy, to be aware that suffering is part of the human condition and do what we can to help each other through it, walking each other home, that’s so important. And if you’re hiding behind a persona of the therapist, that energy is going to be picked up by your client.
Tom: Hm. Well, and usually when you’re hiding behind that persona, there’s ego involved. There’s like evidence of a power differential or I’m better than, I’m healthier than you. So, which really, we’re, none of us are any different, you know, I’m being, w everybody ends up in the chair for some reason,
Rachel: if they’re lucky.
Tom: Right, right. Well, in that, but the humility that part of it is really important. One of the things that I have always felt and expressed to clients when I felt like they needed to hear it from me is that this is a privilege to do what I’m doing. It’s an honor to do this, to get to be at the place in someone’s life, where they’re in such pain, that they’re compelled to change. What, what’s a bigger privilege than that.
Rachel: Exactly. And even that is a loving thing to say to somebody who’s sitting there, maybe not sure of why they’re there or why they need to be there. And certainly, as we all know, there’s a great stigma still against therapy and getting assistance. You have to be crazy to need a therapist. No, you don’t. No, you don’t. So, so by, by even making that statement, that is an act of a lot of loving acceptance to say, this is a privilege and the way I put it with my patients is this is sacred space for me. And ideally for you,
Tom: man, is it ever, so tell me about your book, celebrating solitude. How did you arrive at the place in life where you saw fit to write a book about solitude?
Rachel: Yeah, well, it started, and I write about this in the introduction to the book, but I was living in New York city. I had just come back from my third trip to India, and I had been working with an NGO and I realized that in India, I guess I was 37 at the time that I came back. And the time I went in India, 37 is very old for a woman, especially if you’re single, like there’s no hope for you. You know? And so obviously I was not going to meet any partners in India. But when I came home back to New York city, it occurred to me. Well, maybe, and of course the bio clock is ticking, and do I want to have a child and dah dah? And I’m thinking, well, what if I’m just going to be alone the rest of my life? This is really going to be a drag because society expects women and men to partner up and to procreate or do whatever that they do, but even if you don’t have children, it’s very strange, it’s almost suspect that one might end up alone and maybe even choose to be alone. So, at that age, I said, you know what, if I don’t meet the right person for me, I have to be okay with being alone the rest of my life. So how would I counsel myself in this? How would I learn to not see being alone? Now this is just how the book got started. It’s not what the whole book is about, but how do I counsel myself to be okay with a life of solitude, a life of solitude, then I.
Well, not, everybody’s going to be in your position, Rachel, maybe you do meet someone, but does that mean having time for yourself is any less important? And the answer was no, and that’s how the book really fleshed out. Was it started with the idea of getting comfortable with solitude and then it grew into how can I use solitude? How can we use solitude to actually make us better people for when we do interact with others in the world? So, it’s not about hermit-dom, it’s not about isolating and it’s not about introversion, which I’m a massive introvert, but I would call myself an extroverted introvert. Right. So, I like my people, but I can’t stay out in, in, at parties or in public too long. I like to have a good time and I like to go home and read. And I think a lot of people are like that, but so this isn’t even about just, social anxiety or anything like that. This is about making a conscious choice to be with yourself, to learn who you are. I mean, the subtitle of the book is how to discover an honor, your highest self-that’s the main purpose of the book.
Tom: Hmm. Well, I’d say on like you quite introverted, but also with my people, I can be very extroverted and honestly, the healthier that I’ve become in my adult life, the more secure I’ve become in myself, the better I know myself, the more I project my personality, outwork, even among people, I don’t know. It just, I’m more comfortable just being who I am and living it. In an authentic way. Yeah. Yeah. And one of the things that I try to do is not do anything on Sundays and it’s not because I’m not for religious reasons or anything like that. I guess, commitment to self-love of self, but I’m on the computer all the time. I’m on the phone all the time, their social media, all that stuff. Yeah. To maybe just read or watch a movie limit the social media stuff, but not fire up the laptop, not spend hours on the phone, just be with myself. Yeah. It’s like, I need it. I get stir crazy. If I am constantly going. And as much as I love to have conversations like these, I like to talk on the phone, but if I don’t stop, then I just like, I get, like, I want to jump out of my skin or something.
Rachel: Exactly. It’s recharging of your batteries and in the book, that’s what the whole thing is about, why would we have a solitude practice? So, for you, it’s your Sunday. I even go in the book saying, even once a day, two minutes, two minutes to breathe and drop into your body and just be, or, hopefully a little longer, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, two hours, if you have it, a lot of us don’t, and I love that Sunday ritual that you have. I use Sundays myself. I do not turn the computer on I’m on the computer all day long, obviously with my practice and so. And the other part is not making any plans for me. So, if my friends say, yeah, what are you doing on Sunday? I don’t know. I’ll let you know. Then I’ll see how I feel on Sunday. Cause I don’t know. And I want to be able to make, but like we don’t get the freedom to say, we make plans all the time and what happens when that plan comes up and you just, your soul just isn’t into it. Right. But we have this obligation that we said we would go or do the thing. And so, for me, Sundays, I make zero plans with anybody. And I say, I will let you know on Sunday and maybe I’ll see you. Maybe I won’t,
Tom: I try to do that too for the tomorrow’s Father’s Day and I have a son, so I have plans. We’re going to have lunch, but other, if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have made any plans other than. Laying by the pool now. And also, I do have a daily practice as well. And sometimes some days I get more time than others, but I try to get up early somewhere between five and six, hopefully. And I don’t walk my dog right away. I usually, I do. I don’t know if you know about the Tibetan yoga, the five rites. I think they call it’s five different poses. And I usually do at least one of those, sometimes all of those, depending on how my body feels. And I usually, I pray in child’s pose and sometimes I’ll just remain there and then I try to read something. Cause I feel like feeding our brains at the beginning of the day with something positive and it doesn’t have to be something inspirational or spiritual. It could just be good writing. And then some journaling, most days I do that. And if I’m doing that, like I’m ready to go into the day. I feel like I’m grounded in myself. Yeah. Beautiful. Because for years I would sleep. As long as I could jump out of bed, get in the shower, rush through that rush, getting ready, rushed to work. And then the next thing you know, I mean, it just didn’t feel good. And I had to do it for a while to realize, man, I don’t like this. I don’t like this. And I’ve had a couple jobs. Well, fortunately I’ve gotten to the place where. I know, maybe 15 years ago, I took this job that involved a commute, and I just said, listen, I’ll do it, but I’m not going to be there at nine o’clock every morning. I’m not going to sit through traffic. That’d be on the phone beginning at eight, if that’s what you want me to do, but I’m not going to leave. I’m not going to be on the interstate for an hour and a half. So, I can get there at a specific time. I’ll leave a little later as, so it only takes 20 or 30, and quality of life, but you know, having boundaries and choosing to prioritize quality of life. So many of us just kind of coast through life and don’t do any of that stuff.
Rachel: Right. And that’s also what society expects of us. Just get up, brush your teeth. They do shower and then wonder many years down the line. Why do I feel depressed? So, what you just described is a perfect example of a solitude practice, and, and it can be different. That’s the other part of it. That’s so important. The only requirement, if you want to call it a requirement besides ideally doing it every day for yourself, so that you can give back to others, it’s really important to point out. The important part is that you do something that gives you joy, that rejuvenates you. So, some people that could be just quietly knitting for half an hour, and just being with yourself or doing something that you love, that doesn’t involve screens that doesn’t involve flipping about on Facebook or whatever. It’s about, dropping into yourself and doing it could be a hike. It could be like you said, journaling meditation. I have my morning rituals as well. I do my Kundalini practice and my meditation. Exercise and start my day with that before anything else. That’s what I was going to ask you. What happens to you? And maybe you don’t know this because you’ve been doing your ritual for a while, but if you could imagine not doing it, what would that be like for you?
Tom: I probably would be resentful because I would feel like my time belonged to somebody else. I think for me, it’s a matter of giving myself time for myself at the beginning of every day. And one thing that I learned, another sort of boundary that I’ve had with employers is, I had an, a guy I was doing some contract work for a few years ago. And he would kind of tease me about like casually rolling in at quarter after whatever, or, like not at a specific time and, he would make a crack about, Tom, Tom, a fashionably late, or something like that. And meanwhile, there was no agreement that I was going to be there at a certain time or no need also. And finally, I just pointed out. I just said, I don’t like to rush in the mornings. I don’t want to rush. So, I would rather be happy. Okay. Well, it’s not about what I needed to point out to him. This isn’t about a lack of respect for you. This isn’t about me not showing up on time, because when you know, that’s not what it is, this is about me taking care of myself. And oh, by the way, part of the reason I was there was to help teach him how to take care of himself.
Tom: It’s like, so maybe you try it too, dude, maybe feel a little bit better and you wouldn’t be ready to strangle people all the time, precisely. But you’re right. These societal expectations that were indoctrinated to believe are required of us. It’s a, it’s like, when you hear people talk about the idea that our lives are scripted for us, and our destiny is already written. I think that’s what they’re talking about. If you just marched the way you’re supposed to, then that’s, what’s going to happen. But I’ve really started to challenge all those things over the last decade, especially, the waking up on a Saturday morning, a little later than usual, and feeling guilty about it after a while. Like why, why should I’m an adult. I take care of my day-to-day needs, right? And this whole idea that people work nine to five and you design your life accordingly. That is a social construct designed to benefit someone who is not me.
Rachel: Thank you. Thank you exactly. And we don’t have to do that. No. And well, you know what I have to eat. Yeah, you do, but you don’t have to do it. And you know what, I’m going to say this, and I’m sure you’ve heard this before. And people talk about it enough. The pandemic actually shifted a lot of that for us, because whether we liked it or not, we had to work from home. And I will tell you I left corporate America in 2005. I was a senior copywriter at a multi-billion-dollar music company. And I couldn’t stand that my time was being decided by my superiors. Like I would save up my vacation days, but then not be allowed to use them. Or I had to be like you were saying, I had to be in at a certain hour.
And it was a good company, they were pretty lax about it. But the point was, I was like, I don’t want somebody else to tell me how I can live. And so, I left corporate America in 2005. And before I left though, I was a huge advocate for what about working remotely two, three days a week. And they thought I was crazy, you know? Oh yeah. That means, that’s like skipping school, right? You’re not getting, if you get to work from home, you’re not going to work. Was this, we don’t want you to, rock the boat. So, so what happened with the pandemic is that we all had to adjust. We all had to realize that it is possible to be functional. Those of us who had the kind of jobs that could be done from home, that this isn’t so bad. Now, some people can’t wait to get back to the office and that’s fine. Not everybody’s the same, but those people who are on the fence or who might’ve woken up to the fact, and I certainly counseled people in my practice. They had anxiety leaving the office. And now they’re having anxiety going back to the office because they’ve become accustomed to doing things on their time, getting their work done. Yes. But how lovely to be able to take their laptop to, the weekend cottage house with their family and still get some work done and also be present with their family, and it’s a whole different world that I really, really pray is not going to fall back into that box again of this is how you need to, you go to school, you get a degree, you get a job, you work that thing and then you retire and then you die. That’s a stupid timeline for human beings. In my opinion, I don’t even know what retirement is. You know what I mean?
Tom: Well, yeah. And I think the people who’ve really struggled with this are the ones who were really rigid in their. Like, I want to get things back to normal. Well, normal wasn’t all that great
Rachel: Exactly. Exactly.
Tom: And I can’t tell you how many times in my adult life I’ve thought, oh my God, I spent two hours in the car every single day. I don’t want to do that. This sucks. And so much of our society in terms of the type of work we do and the proximity from our jobs, if you’re going into the office, you’re losing a lot of time at home that has nothing to do with the eight hours that you’re in the, I mean, it just it’s not like it was when this nine to five idea took whole it’s just different.
Yeah. I think the people who’ve really struggled with. Are not open to what the idea of what we’re talking about. And one thing I’ve observed, I have clients who I was coaching prior to the pandemic during the pandemic who a lot of the conversations that we had prior to the pandemic were about interpersonal relationships in the office setting and managing the anxiety that they had around all that stuff in her office, politics, all that. And then all of a sudden, they’re working from home for three months and wake up one morning and realize, wow, I’m pretty happy. Right. I don’t have to do all that. I’ve been choosing to do all that. We have much more agency over our lives than a lot of this pretend we do.
Rachel: Yes. And I think that’s. Part of the work of therapy is to understand how powerful you really are. And you’re not the stories that were told to you, like in your case by elders your brother or anyone else, or authority figures in school, you’re bigger than that, and so are they, but they don’t know it, which is why hurt people, hurt people.
Tom: yeah. I mean, I, a part of doing this podcast was, I, that I had this contract work I was doing, whereas the program director at this little facility, and it was like a three-month agreement that ended up lasting closer to three years. And when it naturally came to a close, I just thought I’m not going out and getting another job. Yeah, I just, I’m not going to delay what I want for my life again. Yeah. Beautiful. Because I would take these jobs that were well, I’ll, I’ll do that in five years for now. I need to make this money and provide and do it when there has always been another way, there was always another one. Right. But if you don’t have the courage to step into it, and that’s where the authenticity thing comes in, because what I learned was when I showed up for myself and was true to myself, then the universe met me there.
Rachel: Yeah. And do you know, why do you know why that is?
Tom: Tell me why that is Rachel.
Rachel: because you are the universe. We are the universe. There is no separation between us. The universe is not something separate from us. We are the universe. So, what we create for ourselves is what we will receive. And that’s the truth about manifestation? Not that if I put good vibey out there by the, the, the great universe being is going to reward me for thinking good thoughts.
That’s crap. The truth is when we live with that authenticity, that is what is presented to us. Right. I didn’t mean, I didn’t mean to cut you off.
Tom: No, no, no. It’s okay. That’s good. But I needed to be reminded of that because that’s one of the things that I love about the course is that it reminds us that we have divinity within, we are not separate from God. We are not. That’s what part of God’s part of us all part of one big whole. And if we live that out in life and treat others as if we re the truth, we’re connected, then we’re going to be a lot nicer. We’re going to be a lot happier. We’re going to be alive. It’s just, everything’s easier. But we get into these, this conflict sort of orientation, attack.
Rachel: Yep. And that, that living as your true self or living as your highest self is infectious, right? When you’re not interacting with someone based on your projections and your wounds, as you were talking about earlier, you are seeing people and meeting people where they are and understanding that we are all going through whatever we’re going through, whatever lessons we need to learn in this life, then. Other people that we interact with are inspired by our example to do the same, you know?
Tom: Absolutely. So, one thing I want to go back to, so I went through a divorce in 2013 and then the divorce happened. It was finalized in 2013. Then I’ve had one serious relationship after that, the lasted about two years. And then since then has really, when that kind of growth of mine, the family of origin stuff, the co-dependency stuff, that’s when I really have started to address it and change and show up differently in relationships. But after divorcing, and then of course, when you divorce, you think, man, I’m never going to do that again. And then getting into the next relationship, which the person seemed completely different, looked completely different, was different, but I was the same. And in a lot of the nuances of the relationship were the same and oh my God, here I am. Again, I did it again, even though I had no intention to going through that and then realizing, okay, I really do need to. And it, and I had done this before at a different time of life, taken a couple years without being in a relationship and getting to know myself and all that, but I knew I needed to do it again. And then I started to ask myself because for me, it’s always, it was always about that permanent relationship from the time that I was 14, probably. I was probably too intense for a lot of the girls who I was involved with as a kid, because I was looking at, okay, I work, this is going to, we’re going to be high school. Sweethearts is going to be, we’re going to end up together forever. There was never any, let’s be playful, have fun, get to know each other, see where it goes.
It was never like that. And then even after divorce, I carried that attitude into the next relationship. And then after that, it hit me. Well, maybe that’s not what I need. Maybe that’s not what God wants for me. Maybe I’m supposed to have a series of two to five-year relationships throughout, who knows you don’t know.
Rachel: And that’s, you just brought up a really important point, which we have actually been talking about this whole time, which is we have to find for ourselves what is right. And if we don’t have the societal expectation of what a relationship should look like or what your path in life should look like, how free are you then to just experience what you are given? You don’t have to label it. You don’t have to say, well, I’m a person who I’m a sexual or I’m this. Or, I don’t get it. I get into friendships, but I don’t like, I don’t do romantic relationships. Maybe you have a period like that. I mean, I’ve been married a few times. And so, and I know how painful that is. And I also have a son, and there’s that aspect too. Right. As a parent, we want to say, okay, what kind of modeling am I doing for my child? And I’ve talked to my son about this. I tend to talk about my son a lot in podcasts, but it helps to illustrate that he’s 11. Right. So, I we’ve talked about, I said, I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to model for you what a healthy relationship looks like. Right. And that I wasn’t able to give you that. And I said, I hope you have a better experience than I have. And his response was very sweet. It was like, it didn’t really phase him, because he’s seeing me happy. And he’s seeing, I mean, his father has since remarried and so he’s seeing different kinds of relationships. So, he’s able to make a decision for himself about what sits right with him. I mean, he’s 11, so he’s, it’s too early for him to be, really seriously contemplating long-term relationships. But at the same time, he understood that he didn’t feel like anything was lacking for him because I’m present, which I might not have been if I were in an unhealthy relationship.
Tom: Well, I know for me, that was a big thing. What am I modeling for him? And ultimately, I don’t want to model that you stay in a relationship where you’re profoundly unhappy. Right. And oh, by the way, I’m doing that for you. I mean, that’s a lot to put on a kid. Oh yeah. But and also what we experience as kids that becomes our normal and what feels comfortable and adult life. And so, you’re modeling for him options. He’s seeing different ways that relationships can play out that any of those are okay. So, I should just do what’s best for me. Rather thing what’s relationships that we do that I did. And I think as a society, we do this a lot. Okay. You and I, me, we have chemistry. We decide we want to make a go of that. Right. So, so then we take on this attitude. Okay, well we’re together forever, right? We’re together forever. And that means if I have any thought that is a contrary to that, I’m going to be afraid to tell you about it because we’re together forever and you’re the same way. And then the next thing, we’re not in reality, we’re not in reality to get. And what I, they have come to decide that I want for myself is, the kind of stuff that I’ve heard in the course that, okay, I love you. I will always love you. I will always love you as much as I do now, but the shape of that love might change. And what I really want, if I really love you, then what that means is I want what’s best for you, whether that includes me or not. And if you’re going to risk, if you’re going to really love me, then you need to be capable of reciprocating that, so that’s what I want to me. That’s the only hope for actually having a relationship with any depth and longevity is to understand that we’re here. This is precious. We’re going to commit to this and do everything we can. But also, not judge each other. If we realize a year from now that one or the other of us, that this is what I wanted, but it’s really not what I want anymore. And I can’t be myself anymore in this. I want to do that to somebody.
Rachel: Exactly, exactly. And I think you really illustrated that beautifully because we go into this thing and then there’s expectations, when, oh, okay. So now we’re calling it, this, we’re putting the relationship in this box and we’re holding it up against other relationships, to say, do we fit with like, do we look like other couples? And that’s a terrible mistake to, to say, wait a minute. Let’s just really look at, let’s really look at what we want as individuals let’s find out what that’s about and be there for each other in that way. You know what I mean? So, it’s so w yeah, so, so we don’t have to kind of force ourselves into that box and that allows the relationship to be fluid, because now you’re still looking at each other.
I mean, at the beginning of a relationship, you’re looking at an individual, you’re looking at an individual. And as you said, you’re attracted, you find something in common and connecting, but you’re connecting with a separate human being. Right. And that feels great. Like, I see something of myself in you, you see something of yourself in me, that’s beautiful weight run. And we run into trouble when we start to try to say, well, now that we’re in this relationship, I expect you to behave a certain way, which is how a boyfriend or a girlfriend, or a wife, or a husband, or whatever it is, would be right. And then we run into trouble because now you’ve stripped that person of their identity. And you’ve asked them to put on the persona of partner capital P, right?
Tom: The bottom line with all of this is if you’re not secure in yourself, all this stuff sounds crazy and you’re not capable of doing it right. If I’m not okay. And I need somebody else to make me okay. And for me, the, where I was coming from when I got into the relationship with the woman who became my now ex-wife, I was at a place where, I was always so over committed to whoever that I just got to a point where I thought, well, I just need to find someone who won’t leave and who will be as committed. As I am and man, that shit pretty low. Yeah. Right. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way against my ex-wife. I mean, she’s a great partner for somebody, right. Just not me. No, I knew she wouldn’t leave. I knew she loved me beyond the shadow of a doubt, and I loved her, and I acted from a place of love from beginning to end of the, that relationship. But I wasn’t thinking about what I really wanted. Yes. I was coming from a place of need and that’ll never work. Right.
Rachel: That’s your codependency.
Tom: Right, right. Oh man. We could go on like this forever. I’m so glad you came on the podcast.
Rachel: So happy to be here. We’re covering a lot of ground.
Tom: We are. And I’m trying to think of the name of the platform where we met.
Rachel: I know it’s honestly,
Tom: pod, pod something. Was it pod match? No, not pod match, but it’s one of these places where it’s designed for podcasters to find guests. And I actually have gotten on there because I want to be on other podcasts. Not because I’ve, I mean, I, what I say and what I do is follow my curiosity with this. And I feel like that has served me pretty well. And so, I saw you on there and thought this is someone I want to talk. No, that’s normally not why I’m on there.
Rachel: I would absolutely love to have you on my podcast on self-talk. That would be wonderful.
Tom: So, tell me about your podcast.
Rachel: Yeah. So, it’s called self-talk with Rachel. It started out I’d been doing it for two years, a little over two years. And it started out being just me talking about certain subjects that often came up in therapy so that my patients would have something to listen to in between sessions and topics like negative self-talk or working with depression or working with anxiety or how to deal with the shadow union shadow. Sometimes there were some meditations I would do with people guided meditations. Then now I’ve switched not exclusively, but lately to doing interviews. And the whole purpose of the podcast is to help people do basically what we’re talking about, which is to get a better sense of who they are and understand they’re not alone and how important their choices are.
How do we read through all the stuff, all the obstacles that are in their way so that they can be their true self. So, everything we talk about is the cell and yeah, be, it’d be lovely to have you as a guest,
Tom: be more than happy to self-talk is such an important topic. And the healthier I’ve become over the years, the more aware I’ve become of the things that I say to myself and the more I have been intentional about treating myself with kindness. Yes. Because usually that, that self-talk. It’s pretty negative and I don’t know. I’m sure affirmations come up. That’s something, the idea of affirmations comes up a lot in my world. And for me, that always seemed like I thought about Stuart Smalley.
Rachel: Oh yes.
Tom: I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. Gosh, darn it.
Rachel: People like me,
Tom: it’s funny, you know what a great character. Yeah. But you know, it didn’t seem appealing to me, but what really got through to me was the idea of a mantra. And the first one that I really started to employ it was, I don’t know. I have a couple little books that were Yogananda books, and I can’t remember which one it’s from, but it was this, it was every day. And in every way, I’m getting better and better.
Tom: and say that 50 times and tell me you don’t feel better.
Tom: And I’ve actually done it talking to guys about it and done it in a group. Okay. Let’s just do this. Let’s just do it and do it until we’d lose count of how many times, we’ve said it. And then let’s talk about how we feel afterwards and then the response, oh my God. It really does make a huge difference to do that. And I’ve done it in a couple situation where, difficulty would arrive. Okay, let’s stop. And let’s just do this for a little while. And it makes such a difference. It really does. And I look at it like neuropathways. So, if I had, had the older brother beat me up telling me I was not good enough, or I wasn’t this, or I wasn’t that. What happens is eventually we don’t need that voice anymore. We just take responsibility for it ourselves and start saying those things to ourselves.
Tom: And I look at it like if there are two paths, just like the Robert Frost poem, and one of them is trodden all the time. Then that’s going to be a clear path. And if that’s the one that says, you’re a piece of shit, then that’s going to be the easiest path for your thoughts. But we have to fight that. So that’s, to me where the mantra or the affirmation comes into practice that and to repeat it and to it, then it becomes easier for us to think good things about ourselves rather than the negative it’s. Operative on many levels. Right.
Rachel: Tom is, there’s something to be said about repeating the mantras and letting the, letting their message move you. And there’s that then I am in, I don’t know if you encounter this, but I certainly do in my practice that they’ll say, all right, I got the tools. I logically know, my brother was wounded. He didn’t mean to hurt me, my mom, whoever it was, who injured me, I get it. But I still don’t believe that I don’t, I’m just not getting it. Like I can say the mantra all day long, but when it comes time to putting it into practice, I have no self-esteem. I have, I have no feelings of groundedness. I don’t understand who I am because it all keeps flooding back. And I can’t be saying the mantra all day long. So, what do I do? And so, part of that is, is being able to understand in your body, having a corrective experience, an actual experience of healing that wound, then those mantras are even more powerful. I mean, those are beautiful mantras, right? And there, there are many of them, so the idea is that when we can really work with the painful memories, whether that’s through inner child work or just discussion or role play or whatever works for the person it’s so much better and easier to gain control over those negative memories from the past those voices that you were talking about. Yeah. When we are children, we look to our caregivers and those older than us, those we look up to, to love us, support us care about us. As we said, from the beginning of the podcast, when we don’t have their voices in our head anymore, because we’ve grown up and moved out of the house, those become the voices in our head and then silly us. We think those are our voices, but they’re not. They’re coming from other wounded people who didn’t know how to love you properly. Right? And so, we need to really discern that. So, part of the work like in therapy for example, is to hack through all this and say how you know, let’s get you back to your true self, your true nature, and then there’s room for all the forgiveness of the other people who hurt you. But you have to be able to believe in, in what that mantra is saying, or else it just becomes a string of words sometimes, especially if there’s resistance around it.
Tom: Yeah. Well, for me what comes to mind is you talk about this is I resisted, experiencing my emotions. I was, and I develop that muscle as a little kid to protect myself while all that stuff was happening. And, at some point in life, you get to a place where it’s not serving you anymore, that you actually need to feel it. And especially as guys like we’re encouraged to never ever do that.
And for me, the reason why these mantras were able to take hold was because what I was also doing is I stopped. To the best of my ability, little by little avoiding my emotional experience. And when I felt pain. I stopped trying to distract myself. I, what I did is what my therapist describes as sitting in the feeling until you get back to neutral. And then, there were times that, usually for me, there’s a point I’ll get to where all experience a certain level of frustration. When I realize there are tears that need to be shed, and I will set aside time to do that and do it, and you know what? I didn’t have to do that many times. I really didn’t, but I needed to do it. And once I did it. Then it’s like emotionally, I was, it was all the garbage was cleared away so that the mantras would work. I think that’s what was part of it for me that I had to clear away the darkness, you know?
Tom: And one of the blessings that I think I have is that this stuff has always fascinated me. The, I’ve always been wanted to know how I tick, and some guys, some people just have absolutely no interest in this stuff, but I really like how you talked about how creativity relates to all this, that creativity is really just an expression of ourselves, a clear expression of ourselves, and that we need to know who we are to be able to really do that.
Rachel: Yeah. Great.
Tom: And I know for me, I write too. So that’s I feel like one of the things I love about writing is that when I put pen to paper, things, thoughts, different things come out that I wouldn’t have arrived at, had I not put pen to paper. Exactly. And it really is a useful tool to help us know who we are.
Rachel: Just the act of writing is very meditative. When you’re not trying to censor yourself, you’re just putting down what you’re feeling. And then you get into this groove with your mind and your spirit and your body at the same time. That’s what makes writing so powerful. Right. So, then you’ve got the thought, whatever it is, you’re feeling in the ethers, going through your mind and being channeled into your hand, moving across the page. What a beautiful dance that is.
Tom: And when I met my best with that is when I’m writing, not necessarily intentionally writing to make you feel something, but that’s, what’s coming out a lot of emotion in it that is going to elicit an emotional response. I feel like that’s part of who I am as a writer. And I like that because I think we all need to feel more. We need to be more in touch with who we are emotional.
Rachel: Absolutely. Absolutely. That’s what it’s all about. We are, thinking, feeling, acting, doing, being people. Yeah.
Tom: All right. So, looking back on your life. When was the time when the younger, Rachel needed some support or advice the most, when would she have needed it the most from you? And what would you go back and say to her?
Rachel: Wow. Well, I have to pick I wish I could drop into several points during my life. I think I would drop into myself around the age of 12, because it was, big transitional time for children as you’re moving into adolescents. And I think that was a really pivotal time for me, right on the cusp of being the free-spirited child and having to go through all these physical and emotional changes. I would love to sit down with her and tell her how beautiful and wonderful she is and not to let go of her joy. In life and to trust her instincts, trust her intuition all the time. Like, let your gut be your guide, because it will always steer you in the right direction. And I think that might’ve steered me clear of a few wrong turns. I might’ve made in my life after that, but you know what we learned from the anyway, but I would love to tell her keep on keeping on, you got this. Yeah. And, I mean, I think if I could have, if I would have had the self-esteem to not doubt myself and just followed my heart and that’s a big part of why I wanted to do this podcast, because I feel like if we’re doing that.
Tom: We’re going to be at our best, we’re going to be happier. And I feel like so many of us just kind of sell out on ourselves and very early in life. And then we never kind of reorient back to the heart, a lot of us don’t and then to me, it’s no big surprise all the disillusionment and the people detached from reality storm in the Capitol. And of course, of course they’re miserable. Like why wouldn’t they, why wouldn’t they act out?
Rachel: They’re not detached from reality; they’re detached from themselves. And that has become their reality.
Tom: Such a great point.
Rachel: Yeah. It’s what we were just talking about. What is going on inside of you is what you will see in the world around you, if you’re suspicious and hateful and afraid, and you’ve been told your whole life that you’re no good, guess what, that’s, how you’re going to see the world, you know? And so, we even have to extend our love and compassion to those people, even if we can’t help them, because we can’t, that’s the whole point. And you know this in the work that you do, you can’t change somebody right there. The people are going to have all of us, have to make the shifts that we need to make. We have to take responsibility for our own lives. That’s the only way it works, can’t pop a pill.
Tom: Yeah. Well, I think a lot of what I do is making the argument to someone as to why they should want to change, helping them see why they should want to change and then, steer them or walk with them home. Like you were talking.
Rachel: Yeah. Yeah. And even that act is just so beautiful because it means so, and that goes a long way. Yeah.
Tom: Well, this has been fantastic.
Rachel: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. I had a wonderful time.