VIC 38 | Shifting Human Behavior

Dr. Willis challenges us to explore the stories we tell ourselves.

Dr. Lynyetta Willis, a trauma survivor, shares her inspiring insights of personal transformation in five key areas she calls “PATHS”: Perspective, Awareness, Tools, Healing, and Self-Empowerment.

What narratives have shaped our lives, and how can we shift our perspective?

Finally, Dr. Willis drops a profound truth bomb: trauma will always teach you. It might be painful, but trauma serves a purpose and delivers a lesson.

Join us in this episode to explore the incredible resilience and wisdom that trauma can bestow upon us.

Watch the episode here

Listen to the podcast here

What You Will Learn

In this episode with Dr. Lynyetta Willis, you will gain an understanding of personal transformation and the role of trauma in shaping human behavior.

Key takeaways include:

  • Understanding the 5 PATHS framework: Perspective, Awareness, Tools, Healing, and Self-Empowerment, as a means of personal transformation.
  • Insights into how trauma, including intergenerational trauma, influences our lives and can be a source of profound lessons and resilience.
  • Strategies for shifting narratives and perspectives that have been shaped by past experiences.
  • The importance of self-awareness and emotional intelligence in overcoming personal challenges and enhancing relationships.
  • Practical tools and techniques for healing from trauma and empowering oneself for a better future.

Some Questions We Ask

  • What narratives have shaped our lives, and how can we shift our perspective?
  • What was the moment for you where you had that epiphany, “This is not how I want to do my life. This isn’t working for me?”
  • What are the three things that you would identify as mission-critical for you to change the script?
  • How do we become more aware of who we are so that we can shift that and experiment with different ways of being?
  • How can we find the message in the mess? Where is the opportunity for growth?

Transcript of the Episode: Dr. Lynyetta Willis On The 5 PATHS Of Shifting Human Behavior

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I am to have Dr. Lynyetta Willis with us. This has been months in the making, and both of our teams on both sides are like, “Is this going to happen? Is this not happening?” Here we are. We are both thrilled to be together and to share her story with you. Many people deal with intergenerational trauma and drama, and we generally almost always have an origin story to pull forward. I want her to share her origin story with you but I also want to tee up. This woman is an incredibly accomplished speaker, author, mom, wife, survivor, thriver, and all the things. In some ways, we have been connected. We just didn’t know it. Dr. Lynyetta Willis, thank you for joining us.

I’m so excited this is happening. I woke up, and I was like, “We’re going to do this.” Thank you for having me. This whole topic around intergenerational traumas and dramas and how alcoholism interweaves itself is one that is near and dear to my heart. As a psychologist and now a family coach, I work with a lot of families, especially parents, who want to raise themselves and their children differently than they were raised. I often meet and journey alongside a lot of people. Alcoholism was a part of their childhood narrative. It was something present in my family. I’ve lost a number of family members to alcoholism and other substance abuse addictions.

I’m a trauma survivor and a sexual abuse survivor. I have a lot of different traumas peppered throughout my history. When I was in college, I was in a relationship, as we tend to do. Looking back, this person helped to bring forth from me the insecurities, the baggage, and all of the negative core beliefs that I had inside of myself that I had been suppressing because that’s what I learned to do. Emotions were a liability in my family growing up or things like, “Stop crying before I give you something to cry about. What’s wrong? Suck it up.” It’s those old but “goody” tunes.

In that relationship, I got a front-row seat to the parts of me that were extremely wounded. That relationship was emotionally and sexually abusive. It was so abusive. To cope with that, I started using alcohol as a way to self-soothe and feel more connected to myself, which was a myth because, in reality, I was more disconnected, “If I wasn’t feeling pain if I wasn’t feeling horrible about myself. If I wasn’t feeling, then I must be connected to my truest self.” It’s the opposite. I was shoving the emotional children into the basement. That’s all I was doing with that but they were always there when I woke up in the morning.

That’s a funny thing about that.

Nothing likes being shoved into a basement, including emotions. They find it uncomfortable, and they don’t stay there very long. College is one of those places where if you have unhealthy behaviors related to substances, they can be extremely normalized in college, especially if you connect with the right people. Looking back, I found myself in situations where I would black out. What was interesting was that I didn’t drink alone. It was always social. I would always say, “I don’t have a problem because I’m a social drinker. I’m not the one who goes into my room and sneaks shots or has a water bottle filled with vodka. It’s not a problem because I’m a social drinker,” but looking back, I’m like, “Seriously?”

It’s only in retrospect that we understand the lies that we’re telling ourselves.

I would talk to ACOAs. I had two clients. One, I saw individually, and one, in a couple. They perfectly created or helped me to see this triangle that often happens within ACOAs. One person described herself as a doormat, and there was this dad who described himself as either domineering or distancing. I was like, “That perfectly describes it. We’re doormats, domineering, or distancing.”

Those are the three realms. That has captured what we tend to do, how we tend to exist, and how we tend to engage ourselves and others as ACOAs. In that relationship, I was the doormat. I still remember how my friends would come and say, “Can the baby bird come out of the cage to play?” It was a joke but looking back, I’m like, “That was bad.” That’s what they would say. All the signs were there but I didn’t see them.

I can relate to this because I framed things in terms of fright, flight, freeze, or fawn. I froze. In my family, I blended into the wall as much as I possibly could so I could stay out of the fray. It’s the same thing. I drank in college, not like you’re describing but I did later on. It’s waking up to that as a coping mechanism and realizing, “That is not how I want to do my life.” What was the moment for you where you had that epiphany, “This is not how I want to do my life. This isn’t working for me?”

The first thing was I got out of the relationship. After two years, I got out of the relationship, and it led me to have a hard look at myself in terms of, “How did that happen? How did I get there?” I did what I’m sure is a perfectly normal thing to do. I didn’t jump into therapy. I decided to get a PhD and learn my way into healing because that’s effective and works well. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t. I decided to learn my way, “I’m going to learn what’s wrong with me.”

I say that partially in jest because it did help me to get an intellectual understanding of what was going on. That did help to pull me out because I hadn’t gotten to the point where alcohol was my consistent frenemy. It wasn’t at that point where I felt that my functioning was so impaired by it, or I was always chasing it. It was more so something I did when I felt disempowered, sad, and those types of things. When I got out of the relationship and started to do some self-reflection, alcohol was one of the first things that I said, “This isn’t healthy.”

Ironically enough though, because I was in that doormat space in that relationship, part of my use of alcohol was one way that I gained control because he controlled so much. One of the things he would say is, “I don’t drink. I don’t want the person I’m with to drink.” I remember saying, “This is the one thing that I’m holding onto. You can’t have this.” Looking back, I could have chosen anything else but that was the thing that I held onto. Part of it was, in a very twisted way, a way for me to maintain a sense of control in that. When I left that relationship and started doing a lot of self-reflection, I realized, “This is not healthy. If I keep going down this road, I know where I’m going to end up.”

That is one of the blessings. I talk about the blessings and burdens of intergenerational traumas. If we use it as the teacher that it can be, then we can look at those who came before us as a foreshadowing of where we’re headed if we stay on certain paths. I was able to do that. I was able to see, “That’s my future right there. If I keep going down this path, I’m going to decline. Thank you. No.” In those ways, that was also extremely helpful for me to turn around and say, “This isn’t the person that I want to be for myself and my then-future children.” I didn’t have children at that time. It was still a bumpy road, and it still wasn’t easy. I had to create rules for myself around drinking and things of that nature.

My journey has been that awakening again and again. It takes a little elevation, awaken, another elevation, and then awaken. It is this recurring unfolding. You talk about the inner revolution. Your story, my story, and so many stories at this point are about that. I do think that we’re at a delta moment relative to a spiritual revolution. I’m curious to know from your perspective. You’re learning your way into understanding yourself by getting a PhD, which I love because I got a Master’s degree. Did you have a sense about what was all this going to be in service of?

I was aware that I did want to have children. I knew enough to know that if things don’t change, I’m going to end up passing down the same thought patterns and the same beliefs to my children. I had an experience that I talk about often with my sister around hitting. We were in my grandmother’s kitchen. I have a sister. She’s twenty years younger than me. At this time, she’s two. She did something that made me so angry.

I remember standing at my grandmother’s sink, and she was sitting on the counter in her high chair. I turned, looked at her, and said, “Don’t make me come over there. I’m so angry I could smack you.” My sister was my heart. I was the cool big sister. I would come home from college, and she would beam. I looked at her face drop. I realized I threatened a two-year-old but I also recognized that my two-year-old self had heard the same thing. I knew exactly where it came from.

It was in that moment and little seeding moments throughout that process that I realized I could make a shift. I can make a change. It won’t be easy because our nervous systems are wired to seek the familiar, what we understand, and the predictable but it is possible. That’s what I work with a lot of people on. You can shift these things. You don’t have to repeat the same dramas. I use that word in terms of a play. You’re on stage. We repeat the same acts over and over again generation after generation. You can change those patterns and dramas in the script. It’s not the easiest thing you will ever do but it’s worth it.

VIC 38 | Shifting Human Behavior
Shifting Human Behavior: Change won’t be easy because our nervous systems are wired to seek the familiar, what we understand, and the predictable, but it is possible.

Speak to 2 or 3 things that helped you change the script. I’m a big believer in patterns of thought and behavior. We have so much information, research, and science around our brains, how they work, and learning how to override the system. I’m super curious. From your perspective, what are the three things that you would identify as mission-critical for you to change the script?

Years ago, I sat and asked myself that question. I’ve been in this field for over twenty years. I’ve worked with a lot of people and seen transformations happen countless times. I sat down and asked the question, “What are the core things that have helped me and my clients to shift out of these unconscious habits and patterns?” Here’s a little caveat. When I talk about those unconscious habits and patterns, a phrase that I’ve coined that I use a lot is stable misery. We find ourselves falling into that pit of stable misery where things are stable, familiar, and predictable, which our brain loves, but we’re miserable, unhappy, and unfulfilled.

Especially with ACOAs that I’ve worked with and even in my experience, it’s a very common place to end up. When you’ve grown up in a house where your dad was an angry and raging drunk, as my drill sergeant dad Kyle described his dad, the idea of shifting and being different could cost you your life, at least that’s what he told himself when he was younger, “Even if it’s miserable, I’m still breathing.”

The stakes are very high. What I realized was there are five areas. If we focus and shift the habits and how we show up in those five areas, we can truly transform how we engage ourselves and those we love. The five areas stand for PATHS. You can go to and download this because I know sometimes people start talking about stuff and writing.

Thanks for that. That’s great.

The P stands for Perspective. I’ll stick with Kyle. The first thing we have to change is our minds. We have to get clear on the stories we’re telling ourselves. Kyle’s kids called him the drill sergeant, “The drill sergeant is home.” Kyle didn’t drink but his dad did. He came to me with his wife. They came for couples’ work. They would call him the drill sergeant. It was a joke but not really. When we dialed in, he realized that one of the stories he had in his head from childhood was, “I’m out of control. I can’t control anything.”

Getting clear on those stories or narratives that we’re telling ourselves is so important because if we don’t get clear on them, they continue to run our lives. I describe the stories as we’re on a leash, and it’s a dog. It yanks us and pulls us every which way. It’s a dog. If you know the dog’s name and you’re confident, you can call the dog, “Lassie, sit.” Once you get that sense of, “That’s a core belief or story I have,” then you can start to notice when that part of you is activated and comes up in you. That’s the first thing. What are the stories that are coming up? I’m out of control with his story. He would dominate and try to control everything in his life.

Getting clear on those stories or narratives that we're telling ourselves is so important because if we don't get clear on them, they continue to run our lives. Click To Tweet

The A stands for Awareness. I always say awareness is our superpower. We’re learning to lean into our emotions. That was hard for Kyle because difficult emotions are a liability. I had another client. Let’s call her Sarah. She learned to bury her emotions deep to the point where she was more the doormat and she would take on other people’s emotions. She would take responsibility for other people’s emotions. She would try to figure out, “What do you need?”

I remember when she came in, and we were figuring out goals. She said, “What do you think? If you had to make your perfect ideal mother, what would she need? What would her life look like?” I’m looking at her like, “Are you serious?” That’s where it was. She was so disconnected from her emotions and body sensations. She was so used to becoming who she needed to be. Even in that space, for her, it was like, “Who do you think I should be?”

She didn’t even understand what she was doing at that moment when she was asking you if she was externally motivated.

“That’s a great question. Who do I need to become? Tell me, and I’ll do it.” I’m like, “I’m sure you will. You are fantastic at that.” What that ended up doing and what she realized was in so doing, she was minimizing her needs. She was such an amazing and loving mother but she didn’t have good boundaries with her kids. She had such a deep need for approval and acceptance that she did feel like a doormat because if her kids got upset, she would do anything she could to not, “What do you need?” That was where the tension was coming in with her.

A is leaning into those difficult feelings and realizing you don’t have to open up the door all the way. You can do it little by little or bit by bit but our emotions and our body sensations are not the enemy. They’re sideposts. They give us information about what we need and what’s going on in our environment. I often encourage people little activities. Find a time in your day, usually in transitions. It’s the easiest.

When you get to work, when you get off from work, before bed, or while you’re cooking dinner, stop and say, “What am I feeling? What emotion? What body sensation? What do I need?” It could be something simple like, “I need to pee. I need water.” It doesn’t have to be, “I need self-actualization. I need spiritual enlightenment.” We don’t have to go there. We’re talking about Maslow’s hierarchy here. Start at the rock bottom or basic needs. Start to lean into that.

The third one is T, which stands for Tools. I always say that in a relationship, you’re always using a tool. The question is never, “Am I using a tool? Is this tool helpful or unhelpful?” It’s getting clear on what tools are you using in your relationship to survive. Kyle’s tools were domination and distancing. He would either be angry coming at you, or he would pull away and ignore you. What tools are you using to get through? That’s not in a judgment sense. What tools are most helpful for you?

For Sarah, it was seeking approval, “What do you need? Am I okay?” She was making sure that she was safe and that everyone’s needs were met in the environment so that she could be safe. It’s getting clear on what tools are you using. These tools often weave into your stable misery pattern. What pattern are you using to keep you in that stable misery?

It’s figuring that out and then asking yourself, “What tools can I experiment with instead?” I love the word experiment. It’s my favorite word in the English language. When we look at stuff, it’s like, “What tools can I shift to? How can I shift my mindset? That sounds like hard work. That’s a lot but can I experiment with one new story? If I walk around with a new story, playing, and experimenting with this new tool, that feels easier. It feels better.”

I love the languaging.

That’s shifting the tools that you use. H stands for Healing and Honoring. You have to heal your triggers and honor your stressors. Your triggers are those things from your past that are impacting your present moment, and this happens a lot in relationships, whereas a stressor is something going on in your present moment that is impacting how you’re showing up, “I didn’t eat enough. I didn’t get lunch. I’m overwhelmed at work,” and things like that.

You have to heal your triggers and honor your stressors. Click To Tweet

Healing involves figuring out what those things are. The beautiful thing about stressors and triggers is they flow from the same bucket, meaning some people think, “I have to heal everything from my past to be a good mom or a good dad.” Can you start with reducing some of your stressors? What are some stressors? If you have less stress, or if you take a little bit of that edge off, then you have more bandwidth and capacity to deal with those other things that are going on in your life. You have more capacity to experiment with different tools to monitor those thoughts and allow some of those emotions and body sensations to be actualized. Start there.

The S stands for Self-Empowerment. I always ask people, “Where do you feel most powerless in your relationship?” I often say, “Choose one experience.” It’s like, “It was bedtime. We were trying to put the kids to bed. My partner was screaming at me to put the laundry in the dryer. All these things were happening. I felt the most powerless at that moment when my kid was screaming at me to stay in the room, and my partner was screaming at me to put on the laundry. I wanted to burst. I couldn’t handle it.”

Ask yourself, “Where do you feel most powerless in that dynamic?” If we assume to play again with this idea, experiment with the sense that we always have power at the moment. It’s somewhere. Sometimes it’s hard to see but it’s there. In those moments, especially outside of those moments when you can reflect and prepare for the next time, ask yourself. The key question is, “Where is my power when I’m in that place?” Once you can start to identify that, then the drill sergeant, the doormat parts, and all those different aspects of you don’t need to be because the reason why those parts of us get actualized and come out is because we feel powerless or in trouble.

We’re in that fight, flight, or freeze place. We’re heading toward those places, “I have to turn on the drill sergeant. I have to bring out the doormat.” If we can find our power or find ways to gain some semblance of control over those experiences, then when we’re in those experiences, we can respond versus react from those places we know don’t work. We’re not constantly pulling on the tools that we’re aware are not going to help and are only going to hurt our family and our situation.

In the experimenting and evolution of my inner work, I think about how when we’re little kids, we only have so many choices. We have a little choice box. When life shows up, and we feel like we’re in survival mode, we pick something, whether it’s anger, blending into the wall, or whatever that is. Somewhere in our 30s, generally, we start to realize, “Those things that I chose when I was a kid don’t work anymore.”

What you’re speaking to is that realization, “That doesn’t work anymore.” It’s not good, bad, right or wrong. It’s what works and what doesn’t work because it takes the emotional charge away from it and the judgment around it. I like how you think about this in terms of experimentation. It’s that observation. You’re observing yourself. It’s a bit like the Viktor Frankl moments. You’re in a situation. It’s the awareness piece. Pause. Take a breath. In that pause, a decision can be made about the next step forward.

One of the things that are also in perspective that I didn’t mention is vision. We often think about visioning as this very woo-woo thing but there’s research to support it. When we create a vision for something we want, our subconscious brain automatically starts putting things together to move us closer to what it is and make choices that move us closer.

One of the first things I always encourage people to do is to make a vision of how they want to be, whether it be in a relationship or even in one moment, “At bedtime, this is who I want to become. This is what I feel. These are the tools that I use.” When you’re in that moment or afterward when you reflect on it, ask yourself, “Did that tool move me closer to or farther away from my vision?”

That gives you a benchmark or a North Star to lean in. This thing that I’m saying to my partner is, “Is this something that’s going to move me closer to or further away from ultimately where we want to be?” It’s starting to recognize that and use that, “How helpful is this going to be in this moment?” My husband and I say that a lot. We will be having a moment, argument, or something, and then eventually, one of us will say, “How was that helpful?” We will recognize it and be like, “That wasn’t helpful.”

“That’s not working.”

“That could not further us toward what we’re ultimately seeking here.” I often encourage couples. When you find yourself, especially in the early moments of arguments, stop and ask, “What’s our end game? Where are we ultimately trying to get to in this discussion? Let’s keep that in mind.” It’s being able to have something that you’re actively moving toward that you can come back and be like, “We’re on Mount Everest but we’re trying to get to the corner store down the street. How do we get off Mount Everest to the corner store down the street?”

In this space of redesigning ourselves, this is a thought I have about coupling up. I believe that we couple up to work our shit out. We attract the person that we need to work our shit out with. We don’t always get somebody who wants to work their stuff out, which is another choice point but my personal journey has been upleveling each relationship to get to a point where I found the person who would work their stuff out with me, and I could work my stuff out with them.

That’s a fascinating thing to be able to suspend our patterns of thinking and behavior enough to think about, “Who do I want to be in an intimate and loving relationship?” Who do you want to be in an intimate and loving relationship? For our audience, if you have grown up with intergenerational trauma and drama, this gives you another way to think about it. You can suspend the patterns of thinking and behavior, rethink, and experiment as you say, which I love that way of framing, “How do I go from these patterns of thought and behavior to the ones that are truly an expression of the best version of who I am?”

I love what you said about being in relationships. They help propel us forward and grow. The relationships are like classrooms in college. Sometimes you’re in the favorite class that you love. You get up, and you’re excited to go to it every week. It’s the best thing ever. Sometimes you get Astrophysics at 5:00 AM, and you’re like, “This sucks. Why did I sign up for this?” Those tend to be the earlier. I love Astrophysics but Calculus or anything with an Excel sheet, I’m out.

It’s funny. The relationship I was describing that I was in earlier or the abusive relationship was a classroom. I’m thinking of this because I was talking to a dermatologist about how sometimes, you put on acne cream, and it doesn’t clean up your face immediately. Sometimes what it does is it brings all the dirt, the grime, and everything to the surface. It doesn’t look pretty. It looks icky, and it feels uncomfortable.

Sometimes, especially early in our life when we’re less aware, those are the types of relationships we get in, the ones that bring out all the dirt, the grime, and the ickiness. They’re not pretty, and they don’t feel good. They’re itchy, painful, and all of these things. We look in the mirror, and we’re like, “Oh.” It’s those types of relationships. There’s still room for growth there.

I realized how much garbage I had buried like untrue beliefs and things that were not serving me. They didn’t serve me and my relationships. They didn’t serve me and how I treated myself. It’s not that I wouldn’t have learned those lessons. They would have been learned in different ways or maybe less meaningful ways. They might have taken me a little bit longer to learn but it’s that crash course in that summer or that Maymester course you take in college, “I’m going to teach you 9 weeks of information in 3 weeks.” That’s more of what I was engaged in.

I had a traumatology professor once say to me, “The thing about trauma is it will always teach you. You may not feel like it’s worth what you paid for it but you will always learn something if you’re willing.” I’ve always hung onto that because that is so true. You can learn and grow. I find with ACOAs that is so hard because the stakes feel so high. It’s like, “I can learn that I need to not take responsibility for everyone’s stuff. I need to get out of these codependent patterns and stop enabling the way my mom did.”

VIC 38 | Shifting Human Behavior
Shifting Human Behavior: “The thing about trauma is it will always teach you. You may not feel like it’s worth what you paid for it but you will always learn something if you’re willing.”

It’s all of these different things but they’re still a part of you that might be saying, “That means somebody will die. That means that our family secrets will get out, and we will be shamed. That means that people get in trouble.” All of these things are still there. It might take a little bit longer, and that’s not bad. It’s also realizing that these thoughts that we have and the way that we are are not something that should be shamed. They’re something that should be explored and understood. They’re there for a reason. They served a purpose, and they were very helpful even though they may not feel that and they may not need to help us in that way now.

As you’re saying this, what I’m thinking about is those moments in my life where I have been dropped to my knees. Witnessing my son’s arrest was one of those earth-shattering moments in my life. I came out of it, getting cracked wide open, and that was the only way I could have gotten cracked that wide open because I loved him so deeply. In that moment, getting cracked wide open gave me the gift to be able to explore, experiment with, find the next level of myself, and do my work. I can bless that experience. I can bless his addiction because it led me to my life’s work. I don’t know any other way that would have gotten my attention more viscerally than that moment.

That moment in the kitchen with my sister was one of those moments where had that not happened the way that it did, I’m not sure I would have felt the pain and the shame, frankly, that I felt at that moment. It took that for me to say, “I don’t ever want to feel this way again. I don’t ever want to make her or another child, present or in the future, feel that way again. How do I order some of that?”

It is in those moments that call us to our higher selves. That’s a blessing for me that I think about. A way to serve us is to entertain the notion no matter what’s going on in your life, “What are the gifts, opportunities, and blessings that are embedded in this moment, even as potentially horrific as it might be?”

That’s a Viktor Frankl moment there too, being able to say, “How can we find the message in the mess? Where is the opportunity for growth? Where is my power in this place? How can I use this so that it doesn’t feel wasted and that it feels like an opportunity for me to move forward for myself?” One of the things that my husband and I have agreed to do is we have been talking to our children in age-appropriate ways about alcohol and addiction since they were young. They’re 11 and almost 15 now.

We talk to them, “This thing is called genetic code. This is how it impacts people. Do you remember Aunt so-and-so? That’s what happened to them.” They understand cirrhotic livers, addiction, and how they can impact them. I’m not naive. My kids are like, “Alcohol is gross,” but there might come a time when they’re like, “Cool.” I want them to understand that there could be a very fun reality to alcohol but there’s also a very dark reality to it, “I need you to understand it so that you’re aware and that you can make decisions with that awareness.” We were talking before we started about secrecy.

Silence kills.

I talk about the four-horsemen mindset that we often see. The four horsemen are pain, blame, shame, and avoidance, the way that I use it. I always say that avoidance is the most insidious horseman because that’s the secrecy, “What happens in this house stays in this house. Grandpa died of alcohol addiction or drug overdose but we’re going to say it was cancer,” and all these different things. We don’t communicate that type of stuff to our kids. They’re not aware of it, and then they’re more likely to repeat patterns. We very well could have been like, “FYI.”

VIC 38 | Shifting Human Behavior
Shifting Human Behavior: The four horsemen are pain, blame, shame, and avoidance.

It’s not that it’s our fault if they give us that information but sometimes, information can help. It’s being able to own and not hold secret the things that we know out of shame, embarrassment, or the sense that, “What happens in this house stays in this house. I don’t know why but that’s what I was told. We will keep it that way.” If we share that with our children, then we can set them up to at least have more forethought before they start going down certain paths that maybe we have gone down, and they weren’t so helpful.

One of the major things that are mission-critical, and Brené Brown talks about this, is to teach our kids to ask for help because alcohol and drugs are the symptoms of something that has taken place that we might not want to talk about. If we learn to ask for help from appropriate people, which is learning how to trust well, then that is a massive skillset. I know that in the people that I work with. Their ability to ask for help does change their trajectory and opens a doorway to healing and wholeness that you can’t get when you’re isolated.

I’m so glad you said that. My husband and I were both raised with spankings, beatings, corporal punishment, or whatever you want to call it. I remember that when I was pregnant with my son, I realized we had never had that discussion about how we were going to raise him. My husband was like, “We’re going to use spankings because I was spanked, and I turned out fine.” I was like, “You must plan to have a child with another woman because we’re not spanking this one. Is there something you want to tell me?” Ultimately, we decided that was not how we were going to go. He was told that was how we were going to go.

One of the reasons I said it was there were times in my life when I needed an adult. The situation was too big and too much but the first thing I thought was, “I can’t tell the people in my life who are most salient and closest to me because I’ll get in trouble. When my kids get older, if they find themselves in a situation that they can’t handle, or they feel scared or in over their heads, I want their first thought to be, ‘Where’s the phone? I have to call my mom and dad.’ I do not want their first thought to be, ‘Dear God, how do I hide this from my mom and dad because I don’t want to get in trouble?'”

Talking about visions, that is an ultimate vision that I try to hold every single time. I’m not perfect at it but when I engage them, when I’m talking to them, or when we’re talking about consequences, I’m not saying, “There are no consequences. Let them do whatever they want.” We need boundaries and guardrails 100% but as we talk about that, play with that, and experiment with that in our home, I always keep that in my head, “I want to move you closer to a point where you will always think, ‘Where’s the phone? I have to call my mom and dad.'” Being able to do that is about teaching children to ask for help and to feel safe enough to come to us or other people to ask for help as opposed to their nervous system immediately going into fight, flight, or freeze mode and trying to hide.

It’s so interesting to me. We talk about kids. I’m in the world of executive coaching and business consulting. Quite frankly, they’re little children housed in a big person’s body. All the things that we’re talking about here relate to helping my executives and my leaders learn how to feel, be aware, ask for help, be present, recognize that they have a choice in how they respond to stress, rethink the patterns of thought and behavior, and create patterns of thought and behavior that serve them as adults, parents, and leaders in this world. In so many respects, I think about this through the lens of adulting and teaching people how to be human-centric, love themselves, and love others in a way that is soul-honoring.

I love that you said that. I have this program called Triggered to Transformed® that I work parents through. One of my parents was like, “I work in a corporation. You need to bring this in. We all need this seriously. This needs to be ground zero for us.” I say the same thing about our government. I’m watching TV, and I’m like, “They’re all children.” I see these grown men and women as little babies in these long ties and oversized jackets.

We’re all children, especially when we get into that triggered place. We go back to the default. We go back to what worked on a very basic level, “What do we need to survive in this moment? The lion is hunting. Do we need to get into the cave? Do we need to pull out the spear? Do we need to make like a tree? What needs to happen in this moment so that we are not dinner?”

In so many ways, we’re at this critical moment in history that is about us waking up and as adults understanding what’s going on. We’re just running patterns of thought and behavior. At some point, we need to wake up and rewire those patterns of thought and behaviors that serve us at a higher level. We walk through these different doors and windows to make these things happen but you, I, and so many other people are on this path of waking up.

One of the things I often say to people is, “You, nor your child, nor your partner, nor your family are broken. You just have habits that need to be.”

I hate that terminology of broken. People are not broken.

They just use tools and habits. The thing about habits is they’re beautiful, amazing, and so important. If we had to focus and think about every little thing we did before we did it, we wouldn’t make it out of bed. It would be 5:00 before we got our first foot on the ground. Our bodies and our brains are amazing things. Being able to automatically do things is great. It’s beautiful. We need that. To your point, we also have a need to become aware of those habits and those behaviors that aren’t so helpful. Where do we tend to go immediately? I do believe that it’s our soul’s work to come here and to play. This is a big playground. We die. We’re going to go back to wherever and be like, “It was a playground. Those were the swings. That was the slide.”

I love your humor about this too. In the world that we’re living in, things seem to be so serious and dire. We’re steeped in that. People talk about how these are the chrysalis moments, and we all need chrysalis moments. We all need those diamond moments where the pressure gets so intense. We’re trying to get out of the chrysalis. The struggle is the revelation of the butterfly.

In so many ways, I think about that in my life. I think about those metaphors as you’ve been telling your story too. I realized we’re coming up against our time. We could probably do this for at least another hour or so. It’s not a problem. I would love to continue this conversation with you. I would rather not wait 4, 5, or 6 months again. I do think this is super rich. I appreciate your energy and the vibrance that you bring to the table. We’re different generations and all the things but we’re still speaking the same language. How do people get ahold of you if they want to reach out and touch your energy and your wisdom?

The best place to go is to go ahead and jump on my email list. Grab the PATHS roadmap that I outlined for you. It’s called You can go there and grab that. You will get an email, and then you can reply to that or let me know how you’re doing. The other thing is you go to This is for the parents in the room.

There’s a quiz there that helps you figure out what your parenting type is and who you tend to become during those triggered moments. It goes back to, “What are the habits we have? How do we become more aware of who we are so that we can shift that and experiment and play with different ways of being?” If you go to that website, you can also take that quiz. and are the two areas that I would suggest people go to grab me.

I want to say deep gratitude for who you are in the world and the work that you’re doing. Thank you for joining me. Our audience has reaped the benefits of our time together.

Thank you.

You’re very welcome. Take care.

Important Links