In this episode of The Life Shift Podcast, my guest, Ryan Gottfredson, a leadership development author, researcher, and consultant, shares his journey to understanding his relationship with his parents, his emotional struggles, and how his lack of emotional support as a child has left him with difficulty building certain emotions. He also dives into how different therapy modalities can help rewire your brain to function more healthily.
In this episode of The Life Shift Podcast, my guest, Ryan Gottfredson, a leadership development author, researcher, and consultant, shares his journey to understanding his relationship with his parents, his emotional struggles, and how his lack of emotional support as a child has left him with difficulty building certain emotions. He also dives into how different therapy modalities can help rewire your brain to function more healthily.
“What we've discovered is that my parents, I mean, they were always married. They went to almost every basketball game I ever played, right? They were there for me physically. But what I discovered is they were not there for me emotionally for me, you know? So, two years ago, I would have been 37; I'm starting this therapy process, and right now, at 37, it hits me as all during my upbringing, I was emotionally neglected.”
Ryan shares how he connects with his younger self and how giving himself some much-needed love can enable healing. Ryan also talks about the benefits of EMDR for overcoming psychological trauma and the neuroscience of psychological trauma and its impact on the mind. Finally, he explores how uncovering trauma through therapy can be essential to healing.
Ryan Gottfredson, Ph.D., helps organizations vertically develop their leaders primarily through a focus on mindsets. Ryan is the Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-selling author of Success Mindsets: The Key to Unlocking Greater Success in Your Life, Work, & Leadership. And he is the author of the upcoming book, The Elevated Leader: Leveling Up Your Leadership Through Vertical Development. He is also a leadership professor at the College of Business and Economics at California State University-Fullerton.
00:06:17 The Benefits of EMDR For Overcoming Psychological Trauma
00:25:25 Using Heat Experiences for Growth and Development
00:34:52 Uncovering Trauma Through Therapy
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Hello, my friends Welcome to the life shift podcast. I am here with Ryan and we are connected through another podcast that we both were on called the Eternal Optimist. It's nice to have you here Ryan.
Yeah, thanks for having me. I am looking forward to our conversation today because just so the listeners know, I don't know which direction you're gonna go. So you're gonna surprise me and I think that's uh it's fun for me because I like to have these conversations as candid as possible. Uh just you know, as the listeners kind of know, I've said it before when I have guests fill out this short little form.
I really only ask you guys just a simple question, like a very, just tell me the little list amount of detail just so I can understand kind of where we're gonna go and prepare myself. So I'm excited to have this conversation today. So thank you for being here. Yeah, like I just said to you before we started is thanks for creating this space.
Thanks for having me on and hopefully we can talk about a few things that might be beneficial to some of your listeners. Yeah, well why don't we just get into it? So typically I like to have my guests kind of paint the picture of life or what life was like before we hit that life shift pivotal moment and then we can kinda just pick apart that that's those specific moments if there's one or two, but just give us kind of who you were and what you were doing and what brought you to that first moment. Yeah, So, and to just help people get to know me just a little bit better. So I'm a leadership professor at cal state Fullerton. And in my research I focus on personal and particularly leadership development. And, and so I have been a huge study er of essentially all my adult life of how do we get better, how do we move to a better place?
How do we, And here's the reason why is because so much out there on personal improvement focuses on the doings. Here are the things that you need to do. And I like that, that's good. But to me that seems surface, it seems shallow because I believe that development is about becoming not doing. And so as I'm gonna tell you a little bit about my jury journey, I and I imagine you see this maybe not necessarily articulating this way, but I'm sure that you see this with all of your guests is the moments that they talk about represent a shift in their being. And and to me, everybody goes through challenging things, right?
They go, everybody has bad things that happen to them, or life changing moments, but not everybody capitalizes on those in terms of changing their being. And and, you know, I would say there's some things in my life that I've experienced that didn't change my being, but kind of, the moment that I want to talk about is leading up to this is of course life is not linear and but but to a certain extent life was pretty good, right? So I got a stable job, I got a family, I got my wife, my two kids and and while there was some disruption in terms of the quality of my relationship with my wife and I wanted to improve that, I think maybe that was a way that opened the door, but in my academic research, what I was doing is I was deepening my study of this, how do we improve our being? And I came across a book and I'm curious if you have heard of it, it's called The Body Keeps The Score by vessel Vander Kolk, I have heard of it, I have not read it.
My my guest actually episode four, she highly recommended that and it's actually why she somewhat became a bio hacker in a way of her own body and she used that book along with other studies to basically cure her chronic PTSD through kind of that. So I have heard about it and other listeners have said, I heard Adrian talk about that and I bought the book immediately and did the work. So yes, I've heard about it, but I haven't read it, yeah, which is so for for those who haven't heard of it or haven't read it, it is a book about trauma and how psychological trauma impacts our body in our minds and how how these things function. And it is it is approachable, It is dense in terms of, wow, there's a lot of good stuff like I'm not sure there's a book that I've underlined more than that book. And and what was interesting is I'm reading this book and it's all making sense to me.
Okay, somebody who experiences psychological trauma. They have different body adaptations oftentimes that's most primarily in our body's nervous system. And and I'm reading this okay, this makes sense. But also at the same time while I'm reading this, what I'm thinking to myself is I don't have any trauma and and I get to the end of the book and towards the end of the book he walks through the research behind different therapy modalities and he comes across the therapy modality that's called E. M. D. R. It's eye movement, desensitization and reprocessing. And he starts to present some of the research findings on this and he said immediately said this is a new rather new form of therapy. And so there's not a ton of research out there, but the research that exists suggests that it may be the most effective therapy for helping people overcome the effects that psychological trauma has had on their bodies. And and so I read this and I'm thinking like E. M. D. R. The first initial stages of the development of E. M. D. R. Was like somebody holding their finger up in front of you moving it side to side and and the the the eye movements for whatever reason soften our inhibitions so that we are more able to step into past traumatic experiences and reprocess them more effectively. And so as I'm reading this I'm thinking this is kind of this sounds a little hocus pocus to me like like moving your finger back and forth later.
Come to learn that that it's not, they usually don't do a finger back and forth. It's uh they do taps on your shoulders or they'll have buzzers in your hands. Sometimes they do a day across the screen or I'll tell you a little I dumped into this or they do pings across your ears. And and for whatever reason that science doesn't really know that these bilateral movements allow somebody to step in and more effectively reprocess past trauma. So I'm reading this and I'm thinking man this sounds hocus pocus but also really cool.
I wonder if I could just try it out and just experience it, see what it's like. And so I reached out, I just hopped on google E. M. D. R. Therapist near me and I and hip pops up and so I reach out to the side and literally in my email and I'm sure she gets this all the time. Like I don't really have any trauma but I would love to experience am dark.
Do you think it could benefit me even if I don't have trauma and I'm sure she's thinking this this dude's got trauma because at the time I wasn't aware but now I know is 70% or more of all adults have experienced trauma to the degree that it disrupts their body's nervous system. I would say it's more, I mean based on just this podcast alone and having these conversations I would say it's more you know and that's okay. Yeah and that is okay because at the end of the day yeah and and at the end of the day the connection and I imagine will come back to this is for me and this is the most meaningful part of it is if we want to improve our being, how we do that is actually through healing, it's healing our body healing our body's nervous system from whatever has happened in the past. So so I reach out to to this trauma therapist and she said yeah I think everybody's got mental blocks.
This will help you work through any mental blocks and you know I'm sure I'll help you professionally if if that's something you want to do. I said okay let's do it. and so I started this process and this was about two years ago a little over two years ago and well I start doing this and it does feel a little like hocus pocus, she's like okay now close your eyes and I've got my headphones in and these these beeps are back going back and forth and how E. M. D. R. Works is it usually starts out by saying where's a place that you have a block in your life? And then let's do these little E. M. D. R. Sessions where you actually just sit, you think about that block, you think about the feelings, you think about like your body, your emotions and these pings are going back and forth in my ears and all of a sudden like it's like it's like you're stepping into a wormhole in a way.
It's like you start diving into other stuff that are tangentially related. And over a series of about three or four sessions we had dug from a recent kind of blocker or episode that I had had. That I was like I just didn't love the way that I handled this and we start diving down and down and we get deeper and deeper. And and and we discovered through this process for me there were two significant moments in my childhood that are representative of a bigger issue that I was completely unaware of. So uh maybe let me walk you through these two episodes. One of the episodes that came up uh through one of these sessions was a vivid memory and it's always stuck with me. But there's a vivid memory when I was about five or six years old of my parents having this huge argument, like they are yelling at each other, there's no hitting, there's no physical violence. Uh and I remember my dad pulling out a suitcase and starting to pack it with his clothes like he's gonna leave and I am I'm seeing this, like I even as I tell you this, I I know exactly where I'm at, I see this picture and and I am just hysterical what is going on? Am I losing a parent?
Like, I didn't fully appreciate it, but I knew that this was significant and and the thing that was interesting about this is we dug into this memory. What I came to realize is it wasn't that argument that is really what was what had stuck with me? What had stuck with me is while my parents did have this big episode, it was tumultuous for me, my parents never tried to comfort me after that experience. They kind of just went on living as though nothing had ever happened. Like I'm a child, five years old, emotionally distraught and they leave me alone, you know, and I imagine there they've got their own emotional needs that they're having to deal with, right? So that that that makes sense. So this is this comes up as a pretty significant episode that is that has shaped me another episode that popped up was similar, similar in nature. I have a I have a few half siblings that are ways older than me, and when I was 10, my sister, my half sister, she had two Children at the time, a two year old, a four year old and a two year old and her husband uh is he had had epileptic issues in the past and he had a seizure While he was getting his son out of the car. And for whatever reason, they think maybe he hit his throat on the car door or something, he vomited during a seizure and it got stuck in his throat and he wasn't able to breathe and effectively suffocated to that. and at the time I was 10, my brother in law I looked up to him, like a brother, like, he was, he was a brother to me, and I remember the day my parents came home and told me that he had, he had died, he had passed away, and I remember being so incredibly sad and I remember I pulled the blanket up over me, I'm sitting on the couch and I I Remember crying for probably two hours on the couch and my parents never came and tried to comfort me. And when my, when my therapist sees these two events, and she, she's just like, for her, a big wet red flag waves, and she's like, do you understand the connection between these two events?
I was like, well, I guess it's my parents struggled to help me navigate my emotions and, and so as we dug into this, what we had, what we've discovered is that my parents, I mean, they were they stayed married, they were always married. There was there, they were, they went to almost every basketball game I ever played, right. They were there for me physically. But what I discovered is they were not there for me emotionally and For me, you know? So two years ago, I would have been 37, I'm starting this therapy process and right now at 37, it hits me as all during my upbringing, I was emotionally neglected.
Like, I just read this book. The body keeps the score by, he's talking about, two primary forms of abuse, physical abuse and emotional neglect and all of the research suggests that emotional neglect is as bad if not worse in terms of its effects on on somebody than than physical abuse and oh my goodness, like, that was just my upbringing, that was my norm. I, I just expect everybody kind of had an upbringing like that.
I just was completely unaware that I had psychological trauma in my, in my background. and that was just a huge awakening moment. Were your parents in there, you know, I totally understand the emotional neglect component. We're your parents the type of parents that would award things that you've done, like, you did well in school, you want a basketball game where they were, there was there a lot of that, like, cheering and, and affection if you will in that way, like if you if you did something good, was it? Did you have any of that? No, not really. Right. So, so I never remember my dad like congratulating me on a good basketball game. I think that they neglect in the, in any kind of good, bad and different space, just present. Not necessarily bad. Right? Not it wasn't like a bad experience.
You just didn't have that that support on the emotional side. Yeah. And another example, like, I remember before I was five, I remember wrestling with my dad and thinking that was fun.
I never remember playing with my dad after the age of five. you know, to a certain degree, my mom was less inclined to play physically, but we would, I remember playing like games with her, like board games and things like that. But yeah, for, I mean, and I would say both of my parents are really good nice people, like people in the community really like them, respected them. They, you know, they were just, they were good people.
They just had didn't have the ability to emotionally support well. I mean, the body keeps the score right? And so your parents are a product of whatever came before that and, and their parents and kind of unfortunately moves through it. I was thinking, you know, as you were telling the story of kind of your the emotional neglect as a child and earlier you were talking about how you did a lot of research into leadership and more about that becoming and developing as people. I wonder how attached those really were right in the sense that your subconscious of some sort was was seeking that that wholeness in some way and how by helping someone else, maybe that subconscious is kind of fulfilled in a way, you know, like I don't know if you did you have connections in that. Yeah, yeah. And I think in a variety of different races so I do think I now am able to look back and I do think like I I grew up playing as I mentioned playing basketball and for me I was, I was very dedicated in practicing.
I became a pretty good basketball player. and I just, I now see, I think I was, I thought to become a better basketball player so that I can get the recognition of others and probably hopefully my parents, even though I never necessarily got that and I thought that was kind of why I was asking if your parents celebrated those more like checkmark type things that other people could see, but if they didn't, you know, it's a different story. I feel I did a lot of the same thing as well. I don't know that when my mom died, I was eight and my dad was like a weekend father.
He actually lived in Georgia and I lived in Massachusetts at the time. So he was even less than a weekend father because he had to make money and do the thing and it was the 80s, and and I don't think he had the tool kit, you know, of how to do it. And so when he was suddenly the only parent and had to uh, navigate the world of a child that has just lost his parent, I, I can relate to.
I think it was just like, we don't talk about it and things will be fine, you know, and it wasn't that he was doing this on purpose and you know, like to your point, your parents were good parents. It's just like sometimes they're just not equipped with it and it was probably a product of the time period as well, you know, in the sense that because we're around the same age and growing up, it was very much that boys shouldn't, you know, do X, y and z, boys shouldn't cry because that's, you know, a more feminine quality and you shouldn't have that. But nowadays, you know, like we're more aware that that, that men are full human beings and women are full human beings and, and anyone on any spectrum, our full human beings and they can do whatever they want, but you know, very much relate to not having that emotional support. And so I sought out, like I became a good student when my mom died before that I didn't care about school, A C was a okay for me, but after my mom died and a plus was always needed because two things I wanted the approval, right, kind of in that sense of like, but my dad would give me the approval at least in those areas, like that would be like, yeah, good for you. But I also wanted to prove to others that I wasn't I wasn't worthy of any kind of neglect or loss in my sense. It was I didn't want anyone else to leave. Like my mom left me not on purpose, but in my mind it was an empty spot, so I wasn't gonna allow that to happen. So, you know, that's kind of where that stems from, of like, did you get any check marks? But it sounds like they were just parents that were a product of the time period and they were probably own upbringing as well.
It's so interesting though, that that a book, like your pivotal moment is really probably picking up that book. So I was studying yeah, so it was kind of more of the research and the things, so one of my areas of expertise mindsets and one of the things that I've come to learn is that trauma when somebody experiences trauma, it the nerve body's nervous system adapts, such in such a way that it is designed to self protect the individual from more trauma and occurring and that makes sense and that those we develop self protective mindsets right? While self protective mindsets are beneficial because they keep us safe, they actually hold us back from more of a professional component. Let me give you an example. one of the things that one of the mindsets we can look at is the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset.
Now, when I could ask people, how do most people think about or make meaning of failure and I would say most people make meaning of failure as something to avoid because it's a signal about me, maybe it says that I'm a failure, but but that's people with a fixed mindset. People with a growth mindset, they don't see failure as an indication that they're a failure. They see failure as an opportunity to learn and grow one of those responses.
The fixed mindset response is a self protective way of thinking about failure. The growth mindset is more of a value creating way of thinking about failure. And so what I've learned is that when people experience trauma, they, their body's nervous system adapts to become more self protective and they're more inclined to take on the negative mindsets and here's what I love about what you said about kind of your your journey is you you were using words like, I wonder if this is like below your subconscious, like, and you're almost describing, there's a void that's there that you're trying to fill and you may not be aware of it, right? And and that's that's what's going on when we experienced psychological trauma is it is control, it is it is controlling how our brain operates and usually below the level of our consciousness. And while it might feel good and natural for us to fill a void, filling, that void may be the very thing that holds us back from the goals that we want to obtain or becoming the person that we want to become. Yeah. You know, part of a lot of this for me, I think back to therapy in general, uh and the idea of therapy and when it works and when it doesn't work in the sense that we have to have the awareness to be ready to accept that. And finding that, like, I'm sure in your research you found where someone can't like, what is that, that spot in between That shifts someone from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset when you were describing, it was very much that when someone's ready for therapy or when someone is ready to do the next step, like, have you found what can trigger the change in your research? No. Yeah. So, so there's there's two ways to think about it, but I think the best way to categorize this is to say heat experiences, right? So it is experiences Heat experiences can be external to us?
They can be an event that occurs to us. and or it could be internal that we create the heat experience internal to us. Now, the thing about heat experiences, if it if they're going to lead to growth and development, they need to be something that causes us to question our current kind of beliefs and outlook on life. and then investigate those and try out new thoughts, beliefs and ideals. so this is why I say a lot of people go through bad things, but they don't necessarily use it to question to introspect and question kind of the way in which they've thought about the world and how they perceive and how they interpret the world around them.
So, so there are experiences where people can benefit just by having those experiences. It does cause them to question. They do evaluate and they do try out different ways of viewing the world in the work that that I do it with leaders and helping them develop.
Oftentimes we're not relying upon an external heat experience. So we're trying to foster an internal heat experience. And one of the ways that we do this is by helping them to awaken to the quality of their current mindsets. So, and we do this for through a variety of different ways.
I've got a mindset assessment. Anybody could take that on my website at dot com or we'll talk we'll just simply kind of talk through it. What mindsets do we have? Where where do we exist along different mindset continuum in terms of being self protective to being value creating and and through that experience and having a framework that allows us to be more intentional about figuring out where am I currently at in terms of the quality of my mindset and where do I need to go to have better mindsets? And then how do I make that shift? And we could create different activities uh involved in doing that. Do you think though that you still have to have awareness? Because I I feel like Yes, Yes, so that's the key like Yeah, so it always starts with awareness and an external event can help open somebody up to stepping into that awareness or we could create an event like an assessment that opens the door for them to step into that awareness, but but I would definitely agree with you, awareness is the first step. and it's really I mean that's half the back getting somebody to to step into that door.
I venture to say it's it's even more than half because I think there are people also there are people that have like a fake awareness if you will because it's more performative and it's less becoming or being I think it's it's interesting to think about, you know, mindset and and and your journey and like was there a heat moment, internal or external that led you to be willing to take it beyond the academic research of that book, but to be like hocus pocus and I'm in for it because you know that a lot of people are gonna look at, a lot of people will look at like hypnotherapy, they'll look at at at things that they've never tried before and they'll see them as quote unquote hocus pocus, but at some point enough people have taken that leap and maybe it's a heat experience of some sort in your case to be like, you know what, this could be worth this try or like, you know, because there's a lot of things that are like sound mystical and magical and that will never try. So what was there something in your life that occurred that was like, okay, I'll call them up or her, I have never had trauma in my life, you know, in your email, well let me give you an example, I've got a distantly related family member that somebody was telling me about them and there there's a lot of things in their life that aren't going well and it was, they were telling me this story because they were, they thought I would find their, their reaction to a suggestion interesting. So they were apparently suggested, I think you should look into therapy and this person said, nope not doing it, like the only people that get therapy are like cuckoo nuts and I'm not a cuckoo nut, right? Or whatever it is. And you know, to a certain degree that's unfortunately that's a stance of ignorance, right? And I have had I have learned enough across the research that I've done to understand what therapy really is as it relates to psychological trauma and how it could be beneficial. so and maybe it's it'll it might be helpful or maybe some listeners might find this interesting is when we dive into the neuroscience behind psychological trauma and its impact on our body, we find that our body, if we experience psychological trauma will go through one of two neurological adaptations and and and sometimes it's even both to a certain degree or at different times. So to help understand this, what we need to understand is there's three main networks in our mind that are responsible for interpreting our world and getting our body to navigate our world. These three networks are our salience network, this is home of our emotions, this is our limbic system, There's the default mode network which is the non conscious programming of our body and then there's the central executive network which is the conscious programming of our body and what the research has found is that ideally these three brain networks are gonna work effectively together and when they do then we can we are effectively more emotionally intelligent, we could better get in touch with our own emotions and navigate those emotions and we could better get in touch with the emotions of others and navigate those emotions.
Well, when somebody experiences psychological trauma, one of the common adaptations is that our salience network, our emotional network becomes overactive and the default mode network cannot regulate that overactivity. In these cases, individuals become hypervigilant. When somebody is hypervigilant commonly, they'll struggle with anxiety and when people are hypervigilant and have anxiety, it is they over-prioritize their own emotions probably even too much. And when they're over-prioritizing their own emotions, they have a hard time prioritizing anybody else's emotions, right?
Knowing my mom, my mom was hypervigilant, she was a very anxious person. So that letter to be more concerned about her emotions than my emotions. The other neurological adaptation is the opposite.
Where the default mode network becomes overactive and it over regulates the limbic system the salience network. The emotions in this instance, when this occurs, we our bodies have a reduced capacity to get in touch with our emotions. You know, it's if you think about Spock from star trek, like this is that's an overregulated default mode network on those emotions. And the technical term for this is dissociation. And when I think about my dad, my dad was dissociated, right?
He didn't have the ability, he was like an even kill, he was the spot, he's an engineer. Like it was he didn't have the ability to connect with his emotions and because he can't connect with his emotions, he can't connect with my emotions. And what I've come to learn through my therapy journey is that my adaptation is more like my dad's where where I experienced dissociation. And so the whole purpose of therapy is to help these different brain work networks work more effectively together so that we don't have the, you know, the negative effects of either dissociation or hypervigilance. Does that make sense?
Yeah, totally makes sense. I just, it's, it's still curious to me if someone, like you say, you kind of tend to, or you tended to go more towards the dissociation. Like your father, Like, why would you do the ping pong in your ear? You know, like the what made you do that?
Like, I feel like I didn't get therapy for so long. And in mine, mine was interesting. My journey was so interesting for me because I look back on it and I used my mother's death as a crutch for any circumstance in my life. And I didn't realize it at the time, but it was like if something went bad in my life, that was my excuse when my mom died when I was a kid, so therefore I couldn't do X Y Z if something good went was because my mom died, that that good thing happened to me And it took me, like, I want to say like 20 years to really be ready to shed that whatever that was, I can't even say it's a victim mentality because I was like using it to my advantage as well and so you know like, but I I can't, I can't pinpoint what triggered me to take that leap and and make myself more vulnerable but damn if I'm glad I'm so glad that I did that because of what it uncovered for me in my trauma.
I mean like my trauma looks very clear on the surface, but that wasn't what had ruined the 20 years after, not ruined, but you know, Have really affected those 20 years. So I was just curious as to like why you would even go or is it that more your, your research your mind? Well, I think here's what I've seen with people is is there's some people, it's kind of like they ramp up to that and then there's other people where it's more of a stepping stone like walking upstairs, like it's you come to a hard places, like something has got to change and like I think often times, you know, we can almost call it, we can call it rock bottom given the circumstances like that more than an abrupt change and as you described kind of years, it just feels like you kind of ramped up into it and it was just like, oh that just kind of feels like the next logical step in my progression, Not like I have, Yeah, so and that those will play a role and and I think what I would say, as you say, that there are some dark moments there, the size of the heat experiences that you're having may not have been substantial, right, but they were significant at the same time, and I think that's that's the idea of the heat experiences, is they kind of put a crack in our facade to literally let the light in, right? And the problem is if a crack occurs were like, oh sh it I've got a crack and we don't, we just and it's like, I've got to cover this up so that nobody sees my crack and what we don't understand until we kind of pass through it, that crack let the light in, and that was maybe the most beautiful thing that could have happened to me. And I think people who get on this journey that it sounds like we are on, it's kind of like when you and when we talk to each other, it's like, I know that, you know, and I think, you know that I know, but there's a lot of people that we know probably even family members that it's like, they don't know yet, they don't get it, they're not there yet. and I don't know, you know, who knows if they'll ever get Yeah, I mean it's interesting to me because I, I talked to so many people that have had seemingly similar levels of heat experiences for going to use that term and some of them that same level or what appeared on the surface to be the same level, triggered one to do one thing and triggered the other to do something completely different and some in a more destructive manner and some and more positive manner and so interesting that we, as humans can experience something very similar and do so many different things with it when, and I'm gonna just say this and this is probably wrong. But in my mind, I always knew the way out growing up. Like I always knew what I was supposed to do and like this is how I'm going to be better from losing my mother. But I never did it because I needed something and I still haven't really uncovered what that was to get me to go to to therapy because I don't remember now, but I needed something that would snap me out of it to make me realize that maybe if I did that it would come true and maybe that's a fear of failure to on that weird spectrum. But, there's a, well yeah, and there's a quote, I need to look it up that, that reminds me of what you said and I don't know how to pronounce her name. Exactly right. But I think it's an ace nine and she said the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. And I think that that's kind of what we have to come to. Yeah. Yeah. But to your point, there are a lot of people and I always think the person that turns down therapy the hardest is probably the person that needs it the most most right. And that that's also, you know, a signal of this dissociation that that's there through your therapy journey. How do you or do you have a how do I word this? Do you have a different feeling towards your parents before, After during is there is there a different reconciliation, I guess with how they treated you now that you have the tools of therapy in your pocket? Yes. So, I mean, part of what I've learned is in some ways, I am I really struggle with that dissociation thing. Right? So, my therapist has told me multiple times.
Normally I see people get more angry at this than you. And, and it speaks to, I have, I have a harder time building even emotions of anger. Right? So, and so part of my therapy journey is to let more of these emotions in and figuring out ways ways to do so.
So, but I would say over the last two years since kind of this realization, I would say. So, both of my parents have passed away. So they passed away About 10 years ago, both of them both from cancer and about a year separated from each other. So I haven't been able to talk to them about any of this, but I would say, I do think that I in a psychological way, I do feel like I still have a relationship with them and I would say that my relationship over the last two years has definitely changed. and my, I would say, and initially went like, pretty far, I am cutting you off type thing. and that's where my therapist thought she would have seen more anger, but I'm just like, I mean, it was, I think it would be different if they were alive but I kind of cut them off and I'm now kind of gotten to the point where I feel like my relationship with them is much more healthy and what I am able to do is I'm able to say I love my parents, they were good in some ways, but they were also terrible in other ways and their influence has shaped me in both the positive and the negative and I feel like I could simultaneously hold the good and the bad and for me that's okay. I would say I do anticipate my relationship with my parents to continue to change, but that's kind of where I feel I'm at now.
I mean, it makes sense to me, you know, part of me is also through this journey I've learned, you know, we're all flawed and you know, when I did my episode, I didn't really tell my family that I was going to record my own personal episode until from my perspective, we've talked about it in pieces and what I found is I was just honest and my dad listened to it and we have a good relationship, you know, now we never had a bad relationship besides, you know, like being just a jerk teenager kind of moment. Uh but he listened to it and what it gave me was the ability to have a conversation about it after the fact and what I learned from that, and I think it also let me let go of some things is that he, I truly believe at this point that he was doing the best he knew how to do with what he knew and you know, he was mid thirties and it was suddenly his life had changed in the most drastic of ways, he had to say, the hardest thing that he'll ever have to say to any person when he sat me down and was like, your mom died, you know, like she said, she's never coming back, you know, and and I don't think I ever thought of those things. And so the reason I ask that question is because I can imagine that first moment when you were like, oh right, I do have child trauma. Like thank you therapist for really killing the mood today and now I hate my parents. You know, like I can imagine that, but I would imagine if I was in that situation, I would also wrestle with the fact that maybe they just didn't know, they just didn't know better. You know, intentionally. You brought this up, Yeah, you brought this up earlier because what, what I've also done in the last two years is tried to get to know my parents better. Right? So I tried to learn more about my dad's upbringing and his dad was a very disconnected individual from, from emotion, probably wasn't very supportive of of him.
I've learned that my mom was very likely physically abused and surely emotionally abused as a child. And and on my mom's side it goes back generations. I mean there's some pretty horrific stories on my mom's side of the family that apparently have come out. So I know I know that my parents environment shaped them and that is something they didn't have control over, but and that, so I'm okay sitting with that. But also now I'm in a position where I have a 10 year old and an eight year old and part of why I want to continue my therapy journey is because I want to, I want to try my best to break any cycle that has been passed down.
I'm not gonna be perfect. My, I mean I've already seen some things with my Children, but also at the same time, like with my 10 year old daughter, we've got her into equine therapy. as a way she, she's got her own block, She's got, you know, and things like that.
She's really good girl, doing great in school. But I just think, man, what if my parents would have had given me the opportunity to equine therapy as a 10 year old, I imagine I would have turned out a better person than what I what I was and maybe where I am, I don't know, but, but what I would go ahead, well maybe just, I haven't said this yet is I feel like I had done a lot of development from the time I became effectively an adult up until the time I was 37, like I thought I'd done a lot of development. I, I felt like a very different person in the last two years. I feel like I have grown more in the last two years through my therapy journey than all of that time before.
and that's, it's, I, I feel like I'm a very different person. I think my wife would, if you asked her, she would say, yeah, he's, he's a different person. Yeah. Since we're in a very similar age group, I'll be 42 next month and I felt I talked to a lot of people about this that are kind of in our age bracket that It sounds like a lot of the things that you accomplished before 37 were very much that societal checklist that didn't actually exist, but it was, you know, you have to do this and then this comes next and this equates to success in whatever whoever made that up that we all subscribe to, but it sounds like that. And then when you were able to crack open the more human experience, it's, it's really shaped your world in a, in a much more rich way, would you say? Yeah, yeah, I I like the way you're talking articulate, right? So some of the words that you said is it cracked open, right? We've already talked a little bit about that and the human experience and I, to me that's that's maybe been the biggest shift for me is like, do you feel more things now than you did before?
I'm assuming now that you're aware of that dissociation. Yes, for sure, and it's, you can't articulate, like if you haven't been through it, it's really hard to articulate the difference. Alright, It's and I think it's like going from like the way that I would say it's like I was living in a two dimensional world and now it feels like I live in a three dimensional world.
Yeah, it's like when, when Dorothy opened the door and she walked into Oz and everything was in color, you know like you're kind of, i it took me, I had little breaks along the way and like from eight years old to 16 was just I remember nothing about any portion of grieving and at 16 I was assigned an assignment in like a writing class of some sort and I wrote about it and I had my first like major breakdown and I feel like that was like that first crack that we talked about earlier, like I didn't know what to do with it, I didn't have anyone around me that knew how to do anything with it. Therapy wasn't a thing, it was like the nineties and that just wasn't what you do as a teenager, but you know that you can't describe it because unless you go through it right, you just don't know like what that pre version of you was like I was gonna ask and you kind of hinted at it about how this version of Ryan, how you've noticed changes in your parenting, like do you do you have notable changes to like how you approach things or is it more just kind of organic? Yeah, I think the easiest way kind of difference that it's made is I've well one is I started as a father different than where my dad started, right? It was, I was almost the opposite of my dad because I didn't get much from my dad, so I I always knew that I wanted to give to my kids, so I've I've been very involved in my kid's life, but I will say more from a physical standpoint than from an emotional standpoint, right? So I, I used to be more of like they're hurt or they're crying, rub dirt on it, toughen up and, and now I am, I'm just slower to get there.
I'm, I'm slower, I'm I'm more, I create greater space for them to just share their emotions and let them have their emotions. I'm not going to try to force them away from their big or they're strong emotions, but I will be there with them. I do a better job of being there with them in those emotions? Sure, I do think I can still do better in that regard.
So, I think that that's that's probably the biggest shift. there, I think there's other ways, but that's the, that's the biggest shift. So here's a question that just came up in my head, you mentioned that your parents passed away about 10 years ago or so, and that was a different version of you at the time when your parents passed, Do you think that how did you, how did you react to their passing?
Was it, was it more a dissociated version of you than it would be, say if they passed now. it was, no, it was, it was very dissociated you know, I'm a pretty logical person and I kind of saw the logic in it right? So uh people when cancer sucks but there is one benefit of cancer for the loved ones of the people experiencing cancer and that is you kind of know when they're gonna go and you have time to prepare. At least I did with my parents so so that I think that helped. But what I would say kind of is the response is oh I'm so sorry you lost your mom and was like yeah I am too, but her being gone is better than the condition that she was in.
She was miserable, like I I just hated seeing her and I think she's in a better place, like that's me logically talking through this And so I didn't do a great job of the grieving, I don't even know if I still have to be honest with you But but I think if it were to happen now I think I would have, I would now, I mean partly because of my greater tolerance for therapy if you will is I would I probably have someone help me walk through the grieving process knowing that I'm not good on it on my own. Yeah, I asked that again, all my questions are apparently are selfish and we're just doing therapy right now but uh my mom died suddenly and I didn't do a good job at grief was terrible at it, Like everything you could do wrong, I think in my mind, not that there's a right way to do it, but 20 plus years of it. And then in that time my grandmother became basically my mom figure in my life and we were very, very close and then she got cancer. And so I knew like you said, you know that there is a timeline now, you know that there is a more definitive one.
Not necessarily, but and I did everything right in my mind. I felt like I started the grief process before she died. I had the conversations, the ones that like are typically in the eulogy, right? We sat down face to face and we were like, these are all the things I want to say to you right now, these are all the things you've changed in my life, these are all the things that I would want to say, you know, at a eulogy, but I'm gonna say it now and when she died I took a couple weeks, I took some time off of work and I just did it and then it was done and then I felt like a completely different person. And so it's it's very, very weird to have that experience in which you can, you can experience both and be and realize how much you failed the first time or maybe I didn't, maybe that was my learning process, but then to come into something else and be so weirdly good at. It was just a very interesting experience. So that's kind of why I was curious, you know, kind of how, because I had no tools and maybe because you hadn't gone through therapy yet when your parents died, you didn't really have those tools either. You know? It's interesting to think about. Anyway. I'm so interested in this E M D R. Eye movement, the sensitization. I do. Yeah. So, and we've we kind of got to the point where we do it when there's something clear to work on.
Yeah, we uncover a block. So, like I had therapy yesterday and we uncovered a block and kind of dove into it and every time I do it, I walk away like that, I got a huge insight here. Alright, so one of the things that has come out, here's my insight from yesterday. One of the things that came out of my childhood is I learned at a very young age if I want my emotional needs met, I need to meet them myself, right? So I became a very independent person at a very young age and I'm that's I'm still that way.
I'm an incredibly independent person. that has some really great things about it has some really bad things about it, right? And one of the bad things about it as I'm married to my wife is it's really hard to be independent and like in tandem with somebody else. like it's almost like two batteries at times are kind of pushing against each other, or two magnets are pushing against each other. And, and so, but one of the things that I, as we stepped into this, where is this need for independence come from? And for whatever reason, what I discovered, it's, it's, I never want to feel trapped, like, so there's something there about being trapped for me. and, and it's, and I need to stay free and that that is shaped at a non conscious level, the career that I have today, Like I'm a professor and I'm a consultant, I don't have a boss, right?
I could do whatever I can research whatever I want, I could teach whatever I want, I can consult whatever I want. Like, I don't, I don't have anybody telling me what to do. And that's, that's partly because of this non conscious processing that I have to just not want to feel trapped. Now, where we're gonna start to go in our therapy in the next several weeks is let's even dive into where does this fear of feeling trapped or tied down or restrained come from? and you know, is there's something there that needs to be investigated and yeah, it's, it's so interesting.
All the different modalities of therapy and the things that can work for people in different ways. I would imagine that doesn't work for everyone. I would imagine that, you know, they're they're blocked in a way that doesn't allow them to do what they need to do and maybe something else works. And and what I love coming away from these conversations with is that how important a focus on mental health and therapy and how it needs to be more normalized in the sense that like we can't figure it all out ourselves. Like there are other people that can see things that we can't see, and that's why, like, I love having these conversations too because someone may be listening that is just doesn't realize that they were emotionally neglected as a child.
That doesn't realize that there are these options. There's this book, you know, like who knows, you know, I I appreciate you sharing that story. I know it can be hard to share that with who knows who, but I think that's a very valuable. So I appreciate it for sure. And I think as we think about what are some other ideas that might be valuable for listeners and let me share this, because to your point is not every therapy modality is gonna work for everybody and there's a variety of things that affect that like the therapist, the context in which therapy occurs etcetera. But but I do think it's helpful to recognize that there are different therapy modalities and in fact we could group therapy modalities into two different types. So there are what is called top down therapy modalities. These types of therapies are the ones where we start in our cognition, we dive down into our emotions and then into the feelings in our body, right? So cognitive behavioral therapy is just that we start in cognition, we dive into emotions and then into feelings. and top down therapies can be very beneficial.
There are also bottom up therapies where we start in our feelings, we move into emotions and then into cognition. E. M. D. R. Falls into the the bottom up category. There's another form of therapy, but my therapist uses in tandem with the M. D. R. And it's called Internal Family Systems Therapy that I've also found really helpful.
That's another bottom up approach. My belief is that both approaches simultaneously as best. But what research is indicating is that the bottom up approaches are more effective than the top down approaches.
They're more effective at re the rewiring in our mind that needs to occur for our brain to function uh in a more healthy manner. So making that distinction might be for some people. I mean it also goes along with the line that that the first therapist that you try might not be the therapist for you and that you want to be okay. It's kind of like that what you were talking about earlier that people like avoiding failure. Like just because a therapist doesn't work for you doesn't mean that therapy doesn't work for you. And so it's it's definitely worth anyone has tried it once and like that's not for me.
Try again try someone different. It took me five people to find the one that unlocked the thing that really made sense for everything. And when I talked to her and she told me that all the decisions that I made for Up to like 30 something years old were by the eight year old kid in me. Everything like unveiled itself. And I was like holy like why couldn't you have told me this 20 years ago? But you know, I needed to go through that journey and so I think it's important that people find the thing and the person that works best for them.
I'd like to end these conversations with kind of a question and I don't think it's fair to ask you my normal question. My normal question is if you could go back to that younger version of Ryan who's like hiding under that blanket, is there anything you could say to him? I don't know if you would is there anything you could say to him? Well what has been helpful I think for me is and this has been part of my the E. M. D. R. Process is stepping into and uncovering. and this is also internal family systems therapy is that that's a big part is going identifying these different parts of yourself and what I found is I've got a baby Ryan within me that I do a great job of keeping covered, keeping protective, and part of therapy is connecting with that kind of baby Ryan if you will, or younger version of me. but one of the things that I actually tried to do and I'm fairly conscientious about this is I try to hang out with the five year old version of myself and the 10 year old version of myself. Like I live in southern California.
I love going to the beach. I actually try to go to the beach by myself every once in a while because I'm bringing in five year old me and 10 year old me and we're hanging out. we're I'm spending time with them in a way my dad didn't spend time with me. and you know how, how helpful that has been.
I'm not sure I'd like to think it's been helpful, but it's been it's a different way of thinking about it and and giving myself, I think some love that I probably need. Yeah, and I think that's great. I I think I can see that that it moves you in a way that is appropriate and maybe the 55 years ago version of you wouldn't have had those thoughts and those, those why would I do that? I think there's value in that I think there's value in that hole where they have you write something like with your left hand or your opposite hand and, and think in that mindset there's there's something to all these modalities and these different approaches that find the one that works for you and uh and and help yourself heal right? And in whatever way that you need it and know that there's no one telling you that you need to be perfect, there's no need to be performative in any kind of way.
We're flawed humans and that's just how it is and we have, this is what we have to work with. So I appreciate you coming on and sharing your story and just having this conversation with me, it means a lot well, and again, thank you for creating the space for me to tell the story. You know, it, you know, it is therapeutic for me. So it surely means a lot. And I think if there's, you know, I'm just trying to think if there's anything I could add and I think just giving people ideas, the body keeps the score was a pivotal book for me.
, and I think it can be for everybody. I've probably in the last three years read maybe 20 books on related to directly related to therapy, and trauma and more in particular and, out of those books, I'm not sure, I would always recommend the body keeps the score to be the first book to read. So if somebody is not familiar with trauma, they want to dive into it and understand it more to me, the best book. Uh and the most approachable book is a book called What Happened to You by Bruce johnson and Oprah Winfrey.
I think it came out 2021. So it's a fairly new book, but I think that that's the most approachable and engaging book. It's like the body keeps the score is pretty thick. What happened to you is just not as thick and it's in my mind.
Yeah, there's a lot of storytelling in that. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. So, uh, I will add in and your contact information in the show notes. So anyone listening wants to reach out to you, hopefully that's okay because I'm gonna do it anyway, and you have some books that you've written that I can see behind you. So if you're watching the Youtube version of this, they will see that the whole time. But we'll keep those, we'll put those links in the show notes for everyone to check out more about what you do. probably now more connected to your personal journey than before. And have you did any of those books come out during this journey? yes, so my most recent book, the elevated leader, uh and the subtitle is level up your leadership through vertical development is I this process of healing our mind and our body is a unique form of development that in the psychological and space, and I'm trying to bring it into the business world. Space is called vertical development. And it's different than our typical developmental processes. And so the whole book is about introducing this concept of vertical development, which is a focus on elevating our being as opposed to just improving our doings. That's awesome. And we will share that in the show notes so they can check that out. And we'll have all those links there if you are listening to this episode now and you're enjoying what you're hearing please. Five star rating. Don't give me any other stars. I won't be happy about that. And any kind of review would be lovely on Apple podcasts. And until next week we will see you have a good one.