Jessica Tappana | When Life Gets Heavy… | K&C 12


In this episode, Gordon talks with Jessica Tappana, LCSW about what we can do when faced with hard and heavy things in life. Jessica opens the show by speaking about how spring can be a heavy time for many of us. In general, the world needs more kindness and compassion; however, we only have so much energy in the day. We can choose to be upset about something or find ways to be compassionate about them. Then, Jessica dives into her passion for DBT and how it has helped Jessica learn more about mindfulness. Tune in as we chat about texting gratitude to others, avoiding negativity bias, and teaching our children about kindness.

Meet Jessica Tappana

Jessica Tappana is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who works with teens and adults from all walks of life who have been through something that feels overwhelming. Her goal is to help people stop dwelling on negative thoughts and start helping them get back to living life.

“I received a bachelor degree in Social Work from the University of Missouri and then spent a couple of years gaining experience in the field of mental health. I returned to school and earned my Masters of Social Work from the University of New England with a clinical focus in 2012. My mental health experience has ranged from working at Fulton State Hospital to a school with students who had significant emotional and behavioral needs. Everywhere I have worked, I have brought a focus on evidence based counseling practices and a commitment to helping people face and overcome the greatest stressors of their lives.”

You can find Jessica at:  aspirecounselingmo.com/jessica-tappana-msw-lcsw

Find Ways To Look At Situations With Compassion

There’s so much heaviness in the world. When spring comes around, many of us can feel it. People are tired people, and everyone has gone through this rough winter. It’s so easy to focus on that heaviness. We talk about self-care all the time; we’re all doing our best—the world in general needs more kindness and compassion. We only have so much emotional and mental energy in the day. There are many things you can choose to be upset about. Instead, you need to find ways to look at situations with as much compassion as possible.

How DBT Helps With Mindfulness and Re-Centering

DBT stands for dialectical behavior therapy, which was developed in 1993. When Jessica was first introduced to the practice, she was amazed. DBT helped Jessica learn about living in the moment and mindfulness. Plus, DBT is excellent for looking at and normalizing having big feelings. We all have triggers in our lives that will make us feel stressed. DBT is all about having those big feelings and coming back to mindfulness, deep breathing, and re-centering.

Texting Gratitude To Others & Sending Kindness Into The World

Jessica had a client with suicidal thoughts. These thoughts are much more common than we acknowledge or talk about. When the client had suicidal thoughts, they decided to text three people. The client would send texts about gratitude. Then, they would get lovely messages in return. If Jessica has a bad day, she will send something kind to another person. We tend to get focused on what we need from other people. Well, there is something to say about sending kindness into the world.

Ways To Stop Dwelling On Your Negative Thinking

We have a negativity bias. If twenty good things happen throughout the day and one bad thing, our brain tends to focus on the bad thing. Focusing on kindness and compassion will remind our brains that positive people are in our lives. If we can bring joy to others, it could completely change their day. You have no way of knowing how other people are feeling. Plus, being kind to other people will help your brain focus on something positive. Overall, express gratitude for bringing you out of your negativity.

Teaching Your Children About Kindness and Compassion

Kindness is one of Jessica’s core values. As Jessica raises children, she thinks about how to raise kind children. She always asks her children what they did today that was kind. Yes, it matters that they are doing well in school. However, Jessica wants her children to be kind and decent human beings at the end of the day. All of Jessica’s family members talk about what kind things they did today. Unfortunately, our brains can focus on negativity far too often. So, thinking about being kind and talking about kindness will help us focus on positivity and compassion.

Conclusion

Ultimately kindness is an intentional act.  And we can live into kindness by being more self-aware and mindful about our own triggers to things.   By being positive and looking for the good in things, we can call live into a life treats ourselves and others with kindness and compassion.

Gordon (00:00):
Hello, everyone. And welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast. And I'm, I'm so happy for you to get to know one of my good friends, one of my dear friends, Jessica Tepa and Jessica is another therapist and she is based in Missouri. So welcome Jessica to the podcast.
Jessica (00:19):
Thank you so much. I'm so excited to be here and, um, I love what you're doing and just excited to be part of it.
Gordon (00:27):
Yes, yes. Thanks. And you know, when I, as I've said in previous episodes, I, you know, as I was conceptualizing putting this podcast together, Jessica was kind of on the front end of that and just, uh, Jessica and I are in a mastermind group together and I was sharing with them, their idea, and I got a lot of encouragement from her and the other members of, of the group, uh, to move forward with this. So Jessica's kind of been part of this to some degree on the, from the beginning stages, but, um, Jessica tell folks a little more about you and what you do. And, uh, then we'll jump into just talking about some of the things we were thinking about before we started recording.
Jessica (01:13):
Yeah. Um, I wear a lot of different hats. I am a, um, therapist, as you said, I own a group practice with about, uh, 10 clinicians now in Missouri. And, um, I have been doing that for, well, my daughter turns five next week and I hope it kind of on my mater leave, did a lot of the groundwork for it, with her. And so about five years, I also have another business where we help therapists around the country get their websites. So they show up on Google. And then, um, I would say my most important roles probably are that of mother and wife, um, at home.
Gordon (01:50):
Yes. Yes. It's, uh, I know that I get, uh, I'm privileged to get, to hear a lot of good family stories from Jessica and what's going on with their kids and that sort of thing. But you know, one of the things we were talking about is we, um, got ready to record today is just, um, as we're recording this where there's a lot of heaviness in the world, um, we're dealing with, um, the invasion of Ukraine from Russia. Um, that's on the front of burner. I think we're kind of moving out of the COVID pandemic to some degree. Um, you know, there's still pockets of it. And I know you guys were hit particularly hard there in Missouri with just a lot of people, not being vaccinated and, and all of that sort of thing. And then just, um, day to day life. Um, and so Jessica, as you, as you thought about this today, and I, I know you said there was something happening, happening there locally for you guys. So what's, what's been on your mind just around this topic.
Jessica (02:55):
Yeah, it does feel like there's so much heaviness in the world. And for some reason I feel like most Springs, we feel it in our practice, the therapists all are just saying like, we're just like, people are tired. People have gone through this, you know, rough winter, every winter feels rough. I think in its own way. I know we're getting snow again in a couple of days here, even though it's, you know, supposed to be nicer weather, that's just Missouri weather for you. Mm-hmm . Um, and so it feels like there's always this heaviness, but now, you know, yes. With, with COVID think goodness, our numbers are the best they've been in ages and are good. Um, but, but people have lost and people have had sickness and people have had all these changes to their life. And then with the things in Ukraine and yeah, there, there was an accident very near my house this morning that, um, you just think about all these, all these people affected by all of these things and, and there, and there is a heaviness and it's so easy to focus on that heaviness.
Jessica (03:52):
It really is. We see it with, um, with clients. We see it with even us as therapists who, you know, mm-hmm, , hopefully we all PR we talk about self-care all the time. We're all doing our best we can to, to practice self-care. Um, I see it with my children when I pick them up from school, they talk about, you know, the roughest parts of their day. And so, um, so yeah, I think the across the board, the world's needing a little bit more kindness. We need to be compassionate with, with how we hold each other. Um, I know, you know, I think I, my husband and I approach like road rage very differently. we we'll be, we'll be driving, you know, across the state to visit my sister and somebody will be driving very erratically and unsafely and he's, and he'll, you know, have some choice words because that's very annoying.
Jessica (04:36):
And my response is, well for all, you know, they just found out that their loved one is in the hospital, potentially not going to make it through the day. And they're going to say goodbye. And it, it, it's kind of this thing where he is like, oh, oh, what can I say to that? Where we have this, this interaction between us, where I'm like, yes, we can get super dysregulated about the person that cut us off, because that is really frustrating at the same time. I'm like I only have so much emotional and mental energy in a day. And there's so much that I can choose to be upset about or not choose just because it's that big that it's going to affect me. That I'm like, if we, I, I often feel like I almost need, it's not one. I almost need to like, find those ways to view situations as compassionately as I can and look for the, and even though, you know, chances are in that situation and like the, the bad driver I'm probably completely wrong and he probably is just a jerk, but I'm never gonna see him again. And so if I can let go of my negative emotion by assuming the best about him, then, um, for me and my own personal distress, it goes down.
Gordon (05:39):
Yes, yes. And I know, I know for you, Jessica, part of your specialty is working with folks. You use the term emotionally dysregulated. And so, uh, for folks that might not be therapists and all of that sort of thing, you wanna talk about maybe a little bit about what that looks like, because I think this, this really leads into, as folks have heard on this podcast previously, just thinking about, um, mindfulness and being able to manage our own emotions well is important. So talk a little bit more about kind of the work you do as far as your specialty and that sort of thing.
Jessica (06:19):
Yeah. So I like to say I was D B T born and raised as a therapist. So DBT stands for dialectical behavior therapy, which was, uh, developed in 1993 to work with, uh, or the book the main book was published, um, then, um, by Marshall and Ahan and was developed for people with really extreme emotions, really big feelings. I like to think of it. And mm-hmm, , you know, for research purposes, she had to put some labels on. So she started it looking at people who were chronically suicidal, who thought about, um, taking measures to in their life prematurely or who had chronic self harm or what we call borderline personality disorder. Um, but when I was first introduced to this back in 2008,
Jessica (07:03):
Um, I was amazed. I was like, these are like, it, it taught mindfulness. And I'm like, this is a fantastic thing. I didn't know all of my anxiety wasn't related to, you know, wasn't related to this. And so even I started, you know, using these pieces components of what I learned professionally to help, to help live in the moment to help use, to use skills and how I went about my day. And so, um, so I think that everything I learned there, um, what I learned is we all have some level of emotional dysregulation or big, big responses to feelings or big swings in our mood. We all handle them differently. Um, but really I think that these approaches, these ways of looking and normalizing, having big feelings applies to all of us. And so much of my career was spent working with people who did chronically self harm, or that maybe had, um, had behave, you know, had such strong emotions that it came out as aggression or these kinds of really extreme behaviors.
Jessica (07:59):
Um, and as I've gone through my career, I've worked then with people with maybe less obvious emotion, emotion, emotional dysregulation mm-hmm . But what I found is that, um, that we all have it to some degree, we all have these things, these triggers in our life that cause us to feel much more distressed than they may make someone else next to us feel, um, or maybe more of an emotional response than we want to or think we quote unquote should have. Um, and so by when I talked about emotional dysregulation, yes, I could mean, you know, those really big things that lead someone to aggression, but it also could just be, you know, this morning, um, I saw that, you know, I was notified that there was a crash. I don't know who it was, probably nobody I know, but I had this big response personally of like, that was triggering for me. I became dysregulated and had to do some mindfulness, some deep breathing and kind of reentering that mm-hmm um, that, yeah. You know, get myself back to my wise mind back to my center so that I could, um, go about my day and be less impacted.
Gordon (08:59):
Yes. Yes. And I think it, you, you know, one of the things about that is, is that, um, when I think about just any of us being emotionally dysregulated or in any sort of emotional distress, we come, we become very self focused and it's like, our world just gets really small at that point. So Jessica, you were sharing with me earlier, a story just about working with a, a client that was just really struggling with suicidal thoughts and, and that sort of thing. And being able to incorporate some kindness and compassion kind of practices with them really made kind of a difference for them. You don't wanna say more? Tell, tell us more about that or tell us that story rather.
Jessica (09:45):
Yeah, I think it was a huge turning point. So I had a client once who had a history of having these, um, suicidal thoughts, these thoughts about, you know, is life really worth living and all the things that come after that, which by the way, um, for anybody out there who kind of, hasn't given a thought, I think that those thoughts are much more common than we as a society often acknowledge or talk about. I think that, that, that, that many, many, many people have those have those moments, but this client had had maybe more of those moments or more intense than a lot of people. And, um, and the loved ones in their life. Hadn't always really known how to respond or hadn't responded in a way that felt very helpful. And so we, um, with most of my clients, again, I think this stuff is very common that people have these moments.
Jessica (10:30):
I'm always talking about, what's your plan gonna be? How are you going to, how are you going to handle it when these thoughts do pop up? And so this client came up with this idea that they would text three people each time they had these intense thoughts. And, um, instead of saying, I need help or what I need from them, they did that outer focus. And instead it said, I appreciate this about you. Thank you for helping you with this yesterday. You, I hope you know, how amazing you are in X, Y, Z way. And what they found is, you know, not everybody responded, not everybody responded quickly. It didn't always, but they immediately felt like they had done something to help other people that was good for them. And the really incredible thing was often the response. Eventually whenever somebody checked their messages was a nice message back.
Jessica (11:17):
That was, they, you know, the kindness that they received just by trying to spread kindness to the world in their own moment of distress, mm-hmm was empowering. And I so often think about that and I've shared that and how other clients do it. Um, and even, I, you know, if I've had a bad day been like, I'm gonna follow my client's examples, they're genius, mm-hmm , and we'll send, you know, just a kind word out to another person, because like you said, we have this tendency to get very focused on, on what we need. And sometimes we even look to other people for that validation and, and it's great when we can find it. But, um, but there's something to be said for, for sending kindness into the world, in our own, in our own moments that can often that kindness can often multiply in how it returns. And I think, um, I don't know. I was, I thought that was such a great idea, but it was such a different approach and such an effective approach to changing their own mood and getting the support they needed, um, in a little bit different way.
Gordon (12:14):
Right, right. Yeah. I think it's, uh, it's, it's absolutely. Um, one, one to me, one of the core practices of kindness and compassion is, is gratitude of being able to look at what you have rather than you don't have. And then I think what, in, in this example of being able to show gratitude to others, um, it, it is just a kind and compassionate thing to do, and that it has this, this ability to allow us to connect and also be more, um, more, again, to same, same words, kind of grounded in the present, as opposed to getting totally inwardly focused and, and bogged down into something that has a lot of anxiety with it, or a lot of depression with it. And all of that sort of thing, which at least in my view, when we get into a state of depression, we are really very past focused and with anxiety we're very future focused. And so being able to stay grounded in the present is, um, is a much better place to be and much more manageable.
Jessica (13:28):
Absolutely. Yeah. I think that, um, that we have this negativity bias. We have this tendency to focus on, you know, 20 good things happening today, but one bad thing happens. Our brain will latch onto that bad thing and ruminate about it. And so when we're focused on being kind and compassionate and supporting other people and expressing our gratitude, it's this, it's, it's also just a reminder to our brains that like there are positive people in our life. There are things that we, that, that bring us joy. And, um, and you know, if we can bring that joy to somebody else, if you're sending out these nice kind messages, you don't know what somebody else is going through, you don't know if they might be having the same heaviness and you have no way of knowing that. And so you're one little bright spot in kindness that you throw out there may turn their day around, but even if it doesn't even if they never respond to you, it has helped your brain refocus on something positive and notice that there is that there are good things out there and that you can contribute in a positive way to the, to, to the world by saying thank you by expressing that you care by, um, by showing that gratitude.
Jessica (14:36):
And I think that, um, if it can bring you out of the swirling thoughts about whether it's the pastor or the future, and instead get you in this moment here right now, what are you grateful for? What, what, um, what connections do you have with other human beings? I think that that can be just incredibly powerful for turning a rough moment around.
Gordon (14:56):
Yeah, because I think as, as we've all experienced over the last two years with having to be isolated because of COVID, it gets very lonely. And I think that is, um, one, one thing, maybe one silver, silver lining to the whole COVID pandemic is, is that it, it allowed people kind of permission if, if you will, to be able to express kind of the mental health struggles that they've had. And that it's, it was okay to do that because we all have experienced at, at different levels over the last couple of years.
Jessica (15:36):
Yeah. In, in a way it was like this thing that we're all in together. And I know that it cause a lot of divisiveness and different ways and stuff too, but, but it was this, this thing that we're in together. And hopefully we, as a society are moving more towards talking more openly about mental health and acknowledging that, that everybody, um, that everybody, I think, struggles at different points and maybe some of us in very different ways from one another. But, um, but, but mental health is, you know, just like physical health. We all have ailments and, um, mm-hmm and sometimes they need more to treat 'em than others, but, um, right.
Gordon (16:12):
It's real. Yeah, it is. So, uh, another thing you were sharing with me before we started recording was just, uh, kind of a practice that you and your kids and your family have been doing around kindness. You wanna say, talk about that.
Jessica (16:27):
Yeah. So with kindness being kind of one of my own core values, I mean, I'm, I maybe take it, you know, um, I, I just, I want, I, I want it out there in the world as I raise children. That's something that I think about and how do you raise kind kind children. And sometimes it's talking to people like you that have some Sage advice and some ideas and some tips that, that you've done. But one thought that I had a couple weeks ago, I was just sitting there. My son, there were some things that we talked about that like, he could have done differently at school that we wish he'd maybe done differently at school mm-hmm . And, and he, I just saw his little face and it was just, he, you know, he wants to do his best. He's trying, he's eight, he's human.
Jessica (17:10):
And, and I just saw that heaviness in his face. And so I just looked at him, I'm like, okay, here's what I wanna now, what did you do today? That was kind. And he goes, oh, I don't know. I just sat there for a minute. And he goes, oh, well, I did this. I helped this friend with this thing. And I, and it was like this, this moment. And again, this click of him thinking about ways that he was kind, he suddenly realized that he had contributed something positive to the world that day, too. Um, and often, you know, I ask about how he does in school and all these other things. And they matter, I, I want him to do well in school. I want him to follow all the rules, but at the end of the day, what I really want is for him to be a kind decent human being, who, um, who has some sense of self in the world.
Jessica (17:55):
Mm-hmm , and that's what that, that, that's what that did. And so we went around the table and we asked every member of our family to share what was something kind. They did that day. And then often, often that leads onto the conversation about what kindness other people have done for us, but it's been, um, it's become our new tradition now for several weeks. And one night I was distracted or stressed or some, I don't know. I didn't ask the question in my four year old daughter looks at me, she's like, mommy, are you gonna ask us the kind thing
Jessica (18:25):
Loved it? Like that that's become our new dinner tradition. My dad always asked us growing up, what was the highlight of our day? Yes. And that was, again, it accomplished the same thing of getting us to focus on what was the best part. And so I love that question. What, what is the highlight of your day? And I think this is like, my version of it is like, what was something kind? What was something you did? And, and, you know, you put out in the world to help build us each up and by golly, I think about before I sit down to dinner, what I'm gonna say now, cuz I'm not getting away without answering the question myself.
Gordon (18:57):
Right, right. Again, I think, you know, it kind of comes kind of fur full circus back a circle back to, um, just thinking about gratitude practices of really finding, figuring out what's going, right. Whether rather than looking at what's going wrong in really being kind of a, a positive, more of a positive influence with people and our family and our kids and that sort of thing, because it, it is, we've got, we do have, as you mentioned, this negativity bias that's built in and it, and I think it, you know, physiologically, it comes from that survival instinct. That's kind of hardwired into our amygdala of, of looking for what is wrong or looking for danger. And I think we can, when we, when we focus in on that too much, that aspect, um, it really help, it really prevents us from having the opportunity to find more kindness and compassion. Cause if we're looking for danger all the time, that's a different state of being a different state of being, uh, of, of looking at the world.
Jessica (20:11):
Yeah. And, and as a recovering perfectionist , I will say that, you know, there are a lot of times where I like the negativity bias. I like that. I am able to see the things that need perfecting in myself. You know, that it's not inherently bad and it's not inherently bad that I can see the potential dangers in the world and, and respond to them. So this is something that, you know, has evolved through, you know, that, that is part of our biology for a reason. Cause it can save us mm-hmm but it does. It, it, this thing that helps us in some areas of our life hurts us so much. Mm-hmm in our mental health and in our relationships, um, it, it really can, and we've gotta find ways, I think sometimes to slow down and, and retrain our brain to not just, I don't wanna say like sometimes it's almost obsessive the way that it thinks latches on and just yes.
Jessica (21:03):
Holds on to that negative when there is so much positive in the world and, and for every one person that's a jerk to you. There are probably three people that are nice to you in really small ways. It's just, it might be something like the person who hands you, your coffee telling you, they hope they ha that you have a nice day, you know, might not be the big, the, the big flashy things. Um, but yeah, I think we can find these little ways in our life to focus on the gratitude we have for the, for the kindness we receive and looking for the little ways that we can build our own, um, sense of self our own, um, our own self-confidence even mm-hmm by, by being kind to other people. I think that, um, I think that if we can find the ways to be kind and to, and to put good out into the world, it can, it can help us by, you know, more than more than we ever dreamed of.
Jessica (21:57):
I think I've seen that with asking this question of my kids. I've gotta say, I learned so much about their friends by asking my kids what they did kind, um, that day I've learned that, uh, I've learned who of their friends needs comforting. Sometimes I've learned who of their friends comfort comforts them. Um, but it's been fun to see how, like, I know my daughter said, you know, there was one friend that was sad and on the playground. And so she went over and gave them a hug and asked if they needed a teacher. And like that friend I've noticed gradually over the last couple weeks, she's playing more with. And so here she had, you know, invested in helping someone else and out of it, she's gotten a closer friendship that yeah. Um, that she clearly values. And I'm like how often in the world is that the way it works? That, yeah, not, not, not saying, not saying people are always nice to you when you're nice to them. I wish that was the case. But I do think if we can, if we can get ourselves unstuck from focusing on the negative sometimes, um, yeah. Big things can happen.
Gordon (22:53):
Yeah. I totally totally agree. And I think it's, uh, something you said, uh, little little bit earlier, you know, just about how, how to retrain our brains. I think it really does take some intentional work in that we do have to be focused on thinking about the world in a different way because, um, you know, I think that's where really where, where change comes is, is that we get a new perspective in being able to see the world in a different way. I have, I have in my office, um, with, um, the work I do with clients and folks have, might have seen this. It's, uh, it's an optical illusion where you it's a picture of a woman, but it's, if you look at it one way, it's a young woman and you look at it another way. It's an old woman. And what I do with that a lot of times is in working with couples is I'll hold the picture up.
Gordon (23:48):
And I say, okay, what do you see an old woman or a young woman? And what I love is when they see different, the different things. And, and so then I work with 'em okay, let me help you see the old woman, if you're seeing the young woman or help you see the old, uh, the, the young woman, if you see the old woman first. And it's like, when you, when they, when it, you know, becomes clear, oh, that's it kind of thing. Um, my whole point in doing that exercise is that that a lot of times we get so focused in, on the way we see the world or the way we're seeing things is that we miss a whole other possibility of seeing things. And it's that the truth of the matter is that picture is not a picture of either or, but it's both a, and so being able to see kind of both perspectives is, is really neat. So yeah, as, as people know, I love metaphors, so I, that's one of the things that kind of stuck out for me. So yeah. So actually, Yeah, go, go ahead, Jessica, what were you gonna say?
Jessica (24:56):
Or I was just thinking, it reminded me of another metaphor I like to use similar, like with how hard it can be to switch that perspective. I like to think of like, if I have a path through woods that I've gone 20,000 times down, and now I'm trying to find this new path that leads to somewhere better, maybe a lake that at first it's really thick. And the first time I go through it, I might, you know, like I have to stop, you know, out some leaves or whatever to clear a new path. Um, but that it's there. I'm gonna meet some resistance from nature to get to this better place. And so similarly, like in our brains, we it's created clear paths to this negative thinking to focusing on the negative. And when we're stressed, like our brain goes the path of least resistance, which is straight to that desperation to that negativity.
Jessica (25:40):
And if we wanna go to this new place of focusing on gratitude, it's kind of like recreating a new path mm-hmm and our brain is still gonna be like, but the path of least resistance is going to the negative. And so you have to over and over again, purposefully, turn your brain, turn your mind to this new way of thinking. Mm-hmm this new perspective. Um, and it's gonna be hard and it's gonna be to get that new path to be more well worn, more automatic for you. It, it takes time, but, but it's doable. It just, yeah.
Gordon (26:10):
Yeah. I love, I love that metaphor. That's a, that's a great one, cuz I love to hike and it's uh, you know, creating new paths in our brain is the same, same thing, the new pathways in our brain. And that's a great metaphor, you know, it's gonna be tough at first, but once you start practicing it and going that way with it, a path really begins gets to be much easier. So I love that. So well, Jessica, what I, I wanna be respectful of our time and tell folks how they can get in touch with you if they wanna connect with you or, um, learn more about you.
Jessica (26:48):
Yeah. Um, the probably the fastest way is email. I love email. I tend to write long ones though in response mm-hmm so anybody would be, uh, welcome to email me at Jessica at aspire, a S P I E counseling Mo Mo for missouri.com.
Gordon (27:04):
All right. And we'll have links in the show summary and show notes for you to connect with Jessica. Well, Jessica, so glad you joined me for this podcast. Um, Jessica's been on my other podcast a few other times, uh, and it's more business related, but, uh, Jessica I'll be seeing you here soon. I'm sure,
Jessica (27:23):
Absolutely. Thank you for having me on.
Gordon (27:25):
Yes.

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About

L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

Katelyn Printz | When We Change Our Mind About Things | K&C 11


In this episode, Katelyn Printz joins us to talk about the process she went through in changing her mind about some things. Katelyn shares her story about growing up with some fairly narrow conservative Christian views.  As an undergraduate in college, Katlyn’s eyes were opened up to various ways of thinking, allowing her to reconsider some of the opinions she had as a child. Katelyn speaks about the importance of allowing your faith to be a continuous process as you grow and learn. Tune in as we chat about the many ways to love and worship and why it’s critical to have kindness and compassion for yourself and others as they make changes to their faith and beliefs. 

Meet Katelyn Printz

Katelyn Printz
Katelyn Printz

Katelyn is a middle school teacher who has spent the past 5 years teaching science and Bible/Theology classes. She grew up in and attended seminary in a very conservation denomination that did not look fondly on her wrestling with big questions around racism, LGBTQ theology, women in leadership, ect. This led to many months of study and deconstruction of old beliefs. Her process eventually brought her to the Episcopal Church. Leaving her childhood church community has resulted in many difficult conversations with family and friends who disagree with where she has landed. The process of reckoning with hard questions and being pressed towards hard conversations has pushed her to spend lots of time thinking about how to disagree with compassion and kindness.  Katelyn lives in Kingsport, TN with her old rescue dog, Buddy. 

Rethinking Conservative Christian Views

Katelyn grew up in a very conservative Christian denomination; views were narrow in what was permissible or not permissible. She found a lot of safety knowing where the boundary lines were for right and wrong. However, Katlyn was always curious and had a lot of questions about her ethics and morals. However, she was afraid to be as straightforward about all her questions. Katlyn went to a Christian university, where she was exposed to liturgical-style things for the first time. At university, Katlyn realized that there are Christian people who think differently than the minimal perspective that she grew up with. 

Permitting Yourself To Be Patient When It Comes To Faith

Before Katelyn has a conversation with someone else, she has had to learn how to permit herself not to understand something fully. She permits herself to wrestle with her thoughts and allows faith to be a continuous process. You don’t need to have airtight boxes when it comes to faith; this can be a challenging idea to understand. Many people struggle to give themselves grace and compassion. Remember to be patient with yourself as you read and learn. It can be exhausting to undo the beliefs that you have held since childhood. Overall, give yourself permission to have a conversation and say, “I don’t know.” 

There Are Many Ways To Love and Worship God

Katelyn was working at a bush hospital in Kenya during college. She enjoyed watching people love and worship God in a way that was just very different from her own. At a Kenyan church, there is a lot of exuberant, joyful dancing. Plus, there is a lot more openness to the supernatural. The activity of angelic or demonic forces is just more prominent in Kenya versus the United States. Watching other people worship with such explosive joy was very beautiful, especially when compared to a formal religious ceremony in America.

Working on Kindness and Compassion With Yourself and With Others 

Katelyn is working on showing herself kindness and compassion. There are still a lot of aspects of her theology that she is rethinking. Have compassion for yourself; you don’t need everything figured out. Plus, you don’t need to act like you know exactly what you’re doing. Also, Katelyn makes sure to have kindness and compassion for the people around her. Find the humanity in every person. It’s critical to be kind about accepting change and how slow or fast others are willing to change. Lastly, Katelyn knows when to pull back. If she has an unhealthy conversation, she knows when to stop engaging. 

Conclusion

Ultimately, kindness and compassion comes to fruition by being curious about people.  As Katelyn points out, when we allow ourselves to get curious rather than defensive, we can have a discourse that is based on compassion.  We might not always agree with another’s point of view, but we can still be curious.  And you never know… it might just lead to changing you mind about some things…

 

Gordon (00:00):
Hello, everyone. And welcome again to the podcast. And I'm so glad for you to get to know Caitlin prince Caitlin. Welcome to the podcast.
Katelyn (00:08):
Thank you. B, I'm really excited to be here.
Gordon (00:11):
Yes, yes. And I've gotten to know Caitlin over the last few years, really again, through, through my church context and just conversations we've had about theology and just, um, a lot of the different changes in life that come along and in getting to know Caitlin, I know that she's been on this pretty fascinating journey just with changing her mind about things and changing kind of her view of things, particularly theological, but, um, Caitlin welcome and tell, tell folks a little bit more about yourself and how you've landed, where you've landed.
Katelyn (00:50):
Okay. Well, I grew up in a very conservative, um, Christian denomination, um, very, I guess, narrow in what was viewed as, um, permissible or not permissible. And I just soaked it all up. I think I was a little, um, I rule follower and I found a lot of safety in knowing where the boundary lines were and what was right and what was wrong or what I thought was right and wrong. Mm-hmm, based on how it was taught to me. And so I think in my early years, the very black and white way of looking at things really, um, fit the way my brain was wired. Mm-hmm
Gordon (01:39):

Katelyn (01:40):
And, but I've also always been very curious. And so I had a lot of questions and there were aspects of the black and white contrast, I think, to sing right versus wrong, or, um, complicating questions about God that I think have always bothered me and also made me feel a little on the fringes, I suppose, of that, um, church community, um, because my questions maybe introduced, uh, doubt or uncertainty about the strength of my faith. And so I was very curious, but afraid to be as straightforward about all the questions that I had, um, as maybe I, I could have been, I, um, went to a Christian university where I was actually exposed to, uh, liturgical style things for the first time. And that's where I was first introduced to some authors that I now spent more time with. like held Evans and Peter ends and stuff like that.
Katelyn (02:48):
And that started, uh, helping me realize that there are beautiful Christian people who think differently than the very, um, limited perspective. I guess I had known up to that point. I really loved theology and I wanted to do something in the field of theology, but my church upbringing top that women could not be ordained or hold any kind of position of leadership. And so after I finished college, I did go to seminary, but not with the ordained. I just wanted to learn and study more, um, and maybe be involved in a church in some capacity. But at that time I didn't believe that, uh, being ordained was something that was possible for me. Mm-hmm
Gordon (03:41):
were, what were some of the things maybe that, um, through your readings and education that really kind of caused to begin to change your mind or get curious?
Katelyn (03:58):
Hmm. Um, to be honest, it started with beliefs around, um, racism and white privilege. So even when I was still very deep in the conservative world, I started reading, um, Austin chaning brown was the first book I read. I'm still here. Mm-hmm . And that kind of started me down this path of, wait a second. Maybe, maybe my denomination has missed the vote on some things. And if we've missed the vote on how we, um, have cared for and loved people of color, are there other people in the margins that we have, um, rejected or hurt in the way that we have
Gordon (04:51):
Mm-hmm um,
Katelyn (04:52):
Moved in the world, I guess. And that led to questions around, um, sexuality was next, I think . Yeah. Um, but then mixed in all of those things was just wrestling with this idea of God as a very wrathful and vengeful, um, punishing entity who is very exacting in this, like, um, there was a lot of talk about grace, but I didn't really understand how that grace applied because it was very, uh, conditional, I guess it felt like mm-hmm um, and yeah, a lot of questions around God's WRA and, um, my denomination taught predestination. And so I really struggled with this concept of certain people being chosen to go to heaven and others being chosen to go to hell like that was something I wrestled with for a long time. Just not feeling like it was consistent with the loving pieces of God that we see in scripture though.
Gordon (06:00):
Right?
Katelyn (06:01):
Yeah.
Gordon (06:02):
Yeah. So as, as your, as your theology and it might be helpful for us to maybe tell folks that are listening, you know, when, when, when we speak of theology, what comes to mind for you? Because I think that's at least in my mind that has a lot to do with why people believe what they believe
Katelyn (06:23):
Mm-hmm um, well, I guess being a language nerd, I just think of like, very literally like the study of God and mm-hmm I think I found the path originally to be very narrow of like, this is the very specific way in which you must study and know about God mm-hmm , but I think now I'm starting to see that that's a much wider and broader path than I ever thought in the beginning.
Gordon (06:58):
Right, right. Mm-hmm yeah. So yeah. So I, if you were to describe your theology now, what is that, what is that like?
Katelyn (07:10):
I think now the question I tried to ask is does this look or sound like love, um, and kind of work from there, I've really come to realize that there was talk of grace before. Um, but I don't think I really wrestled with the expansiveness of it and the welcomingness or hospitality of God and the way that his people can mirror that. I suppose.
Gordon (07:47):
Mm-hmm mm-hmm yeah. So yeah. You know, one of the things that I know that, uh, you had shared with me, Caitlin, is, is that part of the, part of this journey for you has been, you know, really maybe confront is too strong of a word, but really having to have conversations and interactions with people that maybe, you know, whether it's family members or, or for, you know, people that you grew up with or went to church with mm-hmm and being able to have that discourse. And so how, how has that been working for you and how have you been able to do that?
Katelyn (08:30):
Well, it's tricky and I don't necessarily think I have it figured out or that I've done it right each time
Gordon (08:37):
Mm-hmm .
Katelyn (08:38):
Um, but I think foundational to, before I could go into a conversation with someone else was really learning how to grant myself permission, to not understand something fully permission, to wrestle and to allow faith, to be a continuous process of trying to draw near to God. And it not meaning that I have my airtight boxes of this means this, and this means that mm-hmm . Um, and I think, honestly, that was the hardest part, um, because I had been trained at the graduate level in mm-hmm the theological doctrine in my previous denomination. It was, I just struggled so much to give myself grace and compassion in this whole, like, I know that I don't believe that , but I don't know what I do believe instead right. Like it's not, but what is it? Um, mm-hmm and that was really difficult for me to sit with and to be patient with myself as I read and got tired of reading and then had to take a break because it's exhausting to really, uh, undo a lot of things that turn out to be kind of central to your identity and your formation as a child.
Gordon (10:09):
Right. Right.
Katelyn (10:11):
So that's the hardest part I think. And what I'm still working on when it came to O conversation with other people like my parents or family members, who've watched me kind of go through this changing of my mind. Um, I think I've also had to work on, um, what that passage just says, like always being ready to have an answer for the hope that's in you or whatever. Mm-hmm . I was always told that as a kid and I always would play it in my mind as like, well, whenever you're sharing what you think about something, you need to be able to be very winsome and very clear and just lay it all out there in a like properly defensive way so that it makes sense to the other person mm-hmm um, because that's how you are a faithful witness for Christ mm-hmm
Gordon (11:05):

Katelyn (11:07):
And rethinking my beliefs on things made that aspect very difficult. And so also trying to give myself permission to have conversations and then say, I don't know, mm-hmm or to say when things are getting uncomfortable or maybe a little tense to be like, I really love you, and I understand where you're coming from, but I'm not ready to talk about this any further mm-hmm yeah,
Gordon (11:41):
Yeah, yeah. That's a, yeah. And that's a, I think a, a struggle for a lot of people is, is that being able to, in many ways, by doing that in the way that you described is really kind of an act of kindness and compassion, not only towards yourself, but also to the other person, cuz I think a lot of times we can get into heated these discourse where things mm-hmm, just get more and more emotionally flooded and then, then we're not doing, then it becomes no discourse at all. It's just two people yelling at each other kinda thing. Mm-hmm yeah. And so that's a, that's a, I think an important, important piece and it's been a, been kind of a theme that's come out in other episodes of this POS podcaster, just being able to slow things down enough to respond to each other rather than just react to mm-hmm yeah.
Katelyn (12:37):
I've tried to kind of in myself and in the person that I'm talking to try to tease out, is this curiosity or is this defensiveness mm-hmm because I think when we're both coming from a place of curiosity, the conversation becomes more about relationship with each other. It becomes more about, uh, wanting to know and understand the other person better it less about wanting to be right, or to be agreed with, but more about mutual understanding of the other person. Even if you don't walk away with a, um, a feeling of agreement I suppose.
Gordon (13:19):
Right, right. Yeah. Well, I, to change gears a little bit, Caitlin, one of the things that I know just about your, your background is that you spent quite some time working as a missionary or mission kind of the mission field, so to speak, how, how did that impact your life and how did that really kind of change your theology to some degree?
Katelyn (13:47):
Well, so I was working at a Bush hospital in Kenya, in the summers, in between my college years. And then once again, after college and it was a, a Christian organization, um, I really think that it, this was before like I really started deconstructing or had left my previous sound this before all of that. But I think the biggest thing I took away from it was watching people love and worship God in a way that was just very different from mine. So Kenyan church is this like exuberant, joyful dancing, extremely long, like the whole day experience. Um, mm-hmm and there's a lot more, I guess, openness in their mind to the supernatural. So like the mm-hmm activity of, um, angelic or demonic forces was just more prominent or talked about more than I think it is in the us. And so to kind of think about faith in that sense and to wash, watch others worship with such joy, um, just like explosive joy was, uh, was very beautiful coming from a tradition that is much more formal Um-huh
Gordon (15:26):

Katelyn (15:27):
Yeah. And very like we sit in our chairs and we sing kind of softly
Gordon (15:33):
Mm-hmm
Katelyn (15:35):
Yeah,
Gordon (15:36):
Yeah. It's uh, I've I've heard it referred to as, uh, the, the happy clappy versus the frozen chosen. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, yeah. Yes. So yeah. It's well, it's, it's been nice and as be in being, uh, CA's friend and just being connected with her to see, to see your growth in this and what you're discovering about yourself and just how you live into that live into all of this with kindness and compassion and yeah. So what, what sort of maybe kind of, um, closing thoughts do you have just about, about that? Um, you know, how are you, how do you see yourself living into kindness and compassion through this, these changes you're going through with changing theology thing, changing beliefs and, and all of that.
Katelyn (16:28):
Mm-hmm, , I'm still working on showing myself kindness and compassion as there's still a lot of, um, aspects of my theology that I am still rethinking or, you know, I have a stack of books, a mile high, but I'm, , mm-hmm, working through them very slowly. And so just having compassion with myself for not having to have everything figured out and to be willing to, uh, welcome others into that piece and not try to act like I, um, I know exactly what I'm doing cause I don't mm-hmm
Gordon (17:05):
. Yeah.
Katelyn (17:07):
And then I guess for, uh, dear friends around me, just having kindness and compassion around their, um, the rate at which they themselves want to change or are accepting my change. I, I find myself frustrated sometimes and I have to remind myself that, you know, just a few months ago, that's exactly where I was or what I was thinking. Mm-hmm I, I don't know, just finding the humanity in knowing the person's story and my relationship with them and understanding exactly the fear and the need for certainty and control. That's just so prevalent and mm-hmm, kinda under probably undergirding a lot of these conversations about what is faith
Gordon (18:07):
Mm-hmm .
Katelyn (18:09):
Yeah. And then knowing when to pull back and be like, this is not a, a beneficial or a healthy conversation right now. I love them still, but I, we cannot, I don't, I don't want to engage in it in an angry or hurtful
Gordon (18:30):
Mm-hmm
Katelyn (18:31):
Of course.
Gordon (18:32):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that. And I think it's, um, I think it's, for all of us, it's an ongoing, it's an ongoing kind of thing, ongoing journey and struggle to really kind of, to, to wrestle with these, these deeper issues. Um, I'm always, always reminded in, in thinking about people that go through kind of changes in their, their belief system or whatever is, um, uh, J Jacob wrestling with the angel, which is an image out the Bible. And I always think of it as Jacob wrestling with God, which might, might not be literally cardiac, but that's how kind interpret that that particular scripture in the Bible is, is that I think God wants us to wrestle with these things. And I think to be able to, to know ourselves better and also know each other better is, is our wider communities to be able to, to talk about these things and understand 'em and, uh, you're exactly right.
Gordon (19:33):
There are no clear black and white answers and that's where we get, I think can get into the weeds. Mm-hmm is, um, another way I think about it is that we, we tend to want to think of is in, in terms of either, or it's either this mm-hmm or it's that mm-hmm , but most of the time it's not either, or, but both, and that there's this kind of, this, this melding of ideas that is somehow another greater than the whole, so mm-hmm yeah, yeah. So, well, Caitlin, I'm so glad, um, I wanna be respectful of your time and I'm so glad you joined me in this conversation and this is, uh, this is exactly the kind of meaty stuff I love talking about in this podcast. So, uh, tell, and, and we'll have some more information, uh, in the show notes about if you wanna maybe somehow or another contact Caitlin or talk to her, I'm sure she'd be, uh, not, not to put words in your mouth. I'm sure you'd be O open for that. Somebody would like have conversation like this and we'll have her information in the show notes and the show numbers for people. So, but Caitlin, thanks for joining me in this episode.
Katelyn (20:49):
Yeah. Thank you, Gordon. And thank you for your role in helping me rethink some things.
Gordon (20:55):
You're welcome. You're welcome. Mm-hmm .

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About

L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

Uriah Gilford | Kindness & Compassion In Practical Ways | K&C 10

In this episode Gordon talks with Uriah Guilford, MFT, a marriage and family therapist from Northern California, about how kindness and compassion has impacted his life inside the therapy room and outside.  They talk about ways  in which we can all experience “compassion fatigue” and the need to shift to be more other focused on a bigger scale.

Uriah shares a personal story about a mission trip to Mexico with his oldest daughter and what realizations came through serving others. We also talk about how acknowledgement and validation is very profound and healing and how that takes place in therapy.

Meet Uriah Guilford

Uriah Guilford MFTUriah is a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist with over 17 years of counseling experience.

He has a direct, but gentle approach, using insight and humor to motivate people to make positive changes.

He believes in focusing on people’s strengths and having specific goals in counseling to work towards, making as much progress as possible in the shortest time possible.

He is also married and has two wonderful daughters. You can read more of his personal story HERE.

Uriah helps young people ages 16-25 overcome anxiety, depression and other life challenges. He focuses on providing life skills and tools to increase emotional intelligence, handle anger & stress effectively and have satisfying relationships with friends and family members.

He works with families to improve communication and connection, as well as offering parent coaching, which can make a huge difference in creating a happy family.

In addition to these focuses, Uriah also works with men in their 30’s and 40’s, helping them to succeed at work and thrive at home.

Some of my most valuable experience came from the 6 years that I spent working in residential treatment centers for adolescents. I did everything with the teens, from cooking for them, going hiking and playing basketball to doing individual, family and group therapy with them. They taught me some amazing lessons about strength and courage in the face of adversity and how to be the kind of therapist that they really needed.

Uriah’s journey is to help teenagers and young adults to cope with and overcome the challenges they face. He is a practicing therapist for over 20 years and has recently shifted to be more in a role of supporting other therapists on his team.

Compassion Fatigue & Burnout

Over the last several years, a lot of us have experienced “compassion fatigue” on many different levels.  In that we can experience vicarious trauma from the news in the world and seeing the suffering of others.  Burnout on the other hand is when we feel overwhelmed with our work and our vocation feels stressful. Uriah and Gordon discuss ways in which they have overcome this.  Ultimately, when we turn our focus outward and put our energy into helping others in practical ways, we can experience something different.

Experiencing Compassion Through Mission Work

Uriah shares a story about a mission trip that he took with his oldest daughter to Mexico. Doing something for someone on a different scale was eye opening and life changing for him. By doing the job of the framing of the front door for a single mom of four kids that had escaped a domestic violence situation brought a new sense of purpose and was very impactful in forming a new perspective of how he wanted to serve others going forward.

Gordon also shares being on a mission trip to Honduras and how that brought on an overwhelming sense of compassion. Both Uriah and Gordon agree that it is impossible to forget a feeling of obligation to do more and how these were transformational experiences.

Taking Concrete Action

Uriah’s Wish for the world is to see a lot more people taking concrete actions and choosing a life kindness and compassion. With the ongoing mental health crisis, his mission is to help other therapist avoid burnout. We need more therapist to be thriving to be able to help our communities. Find out more about Uriah and his work at – productivetherapist.com and guilfordfamilycounseling.com

Conclusion

We all have the potential for experiencing kindness and compassion in very small and practical ways.  Self-care and care of others goes hand in hand.  When we take care of ourselves and do those things that nurture and allows us to be vulnerable with others, we can experience compassion for ourselves and others.   Its where kindness and compassion is found day in and day out.  Take care of yourself and others.

 

Gordon (00:00):
Hello folks, and welcome again to the podcast. And I'm glad for you to get to know my good friend, Uriah, Gilford, uh, Uriah. And I have known each other about a year now, but he's another therapist and, uh, has been with me along the journey as I was kind of planning this podcast. And so, um, I knew he would be a good one to be here and tell some of his stories of kindness and compassion. So welcome your eye.
Uriah (00:26):
Thank you so much for having me Gordon. Always a pleasure.
Gordon (00:29):
Yeah. So a as you think about, um, practices of kindness and compassion, and we've talked about this a little bit along the way, um, what, what comes to for you just in your work as a therapist and how it's impacted people's lives?
Uriah (00:48):
Yeah. So I've been a practicing therapist for over 20 years, and I think I, I probably will start introducing myself as a retired therapist because I did stop providing direct services, but for just a little over 20 years, I was a licensed marriage and family therapist. Well, actually the 20 years covers pre-licensed time. Um, and certainly that if you had asked me two years ago, that would be my primary answer would be, this is my role. This is my position as a therapist. And I work with teenagers and families and provide compassion and kindness in, in that sort of context of helping families heal and grow and connect with each other. Um, and then I think that's changed somewhat since I'm no longer an acting therapist and I'm more in a role of supporting the therapist that are on my team. And, um, so yeah, it's kind of, it's kind of shifting mm-hmm but one thing that I was thinking about in preparing for this conversation was that even though I've been a licensed therapist for so long, I think living day to day and being others focused and giving kindness and compassion to others, um, as a primary sort of, you know, um, position has always been a challenge for me, to be honest.
Uriah (02:00):
And so I was thrilled to have this conversation with you and, um, I think I like I'm developing as a, a person, um, to be more others focused, even though I've been a therapist for so long. Does that make sense?
Gordon (02:11):
Yeah, it does. It does. Um, and that, that makes sense because I think, um, you know, we can, we can sit in a therapy room with people and, you know, I think most of us that are in this field are kind of naturally empathetic, but there can become a little bit of burnout in just almost a little bit of compassion. Fatigue is maybe one thing that comes to mind. Um, and so I think, you know, being self aware of that is an important piece, definitely for a lot of us. So
Uriah (02:47):
I had several walls of compassion, fatigue over my career.
Gordon (02:50):
Oh yeah.
Uriah (02:50):
Working with, uh, primarily teenage boys who were not excited about being in the counseling room and hitting some walls with that. But that, that was my specialty and I, I loved it for sure.
Gordon (03:01):
Yeah. Yeah. Well, I know one of the things we talked about before we started recording is you had kinda some stories that, uh, where you've, where kindness and compassion you've had kind of that intersection with kindness and compassion in different settings, both in the therapy room and outside the therapy. Right.
Uriah (03:20):
Definitely. I had an experience last year where my oldest daughter and I went to, um, Mexico on a house building trip with our church and, um, down there in this particular part of Mexico, there's an orphanage. Um, that's doing really great work. There's a, a women's shelter. And then there's also this, um, you know, project of building houses for the women that are coming out of the women's shelter. And, um, this is not the kind of thing that I've ever done before. So it was new experience for myself mm-hmm and for my daughter. And I just knew I had a sense that this would be good for both of us, for our relationship. And then also kind of getting ourselves out of our normal context and, and doing something for somebody else on a different scale. And it was, it was a really neat experience.
Uriah (04:04):
It was a great group. And I had part of the, part of what I was doing was, um, you know, I don't, I'm not a person with a ton of construction experience, so , I was kind of following, you know, the directions and, and, and trying to figure out what I was doing. And on one day towards the end of the, a house build, um, I was sort of tasked with, um, framing the front door of this house and something I've never done before. So I was like, okay, I can do this. I can figure this out. And I spent a really long time getting it just right, the, the framing of the front door of this house. And this is a house that we were building for, uh, a single her with four kids who had come out of a domestic violence situation, very, very poor.
Uriah (04:46):
And, um, we, we found out that she was in a very unsafe situation for a period of time and was able to escape that. And there was a good possibility that the house that they'd lived in, um, over the last couple years may not have had a locking door, probably didn't have a, a locking door to keep her and her family safe. Mm-hmm . So I spent all this time on this door. I was like, I don't know why I care about this so much, but I'm doing this mm-hmm . And then as we were kind of meeting as a team, um, the next day we were talking about our experiences and, um, I was talking about how meaningful it was for me to, to do this part of the project for this family. And I had like this, uh, in the moment I had this connection between realizing that over the last number of years, I've been a therapist and I've been in the room trying to help families.
Uriah (05:32):
Some that were not in the same situation, but in very difficult situations and trying to bring my empathy and compassion to them and help them in their, their journey. I always felt limited because there was only so much I could do, you know, in 50 minutes in a therapy session. And this was a totally different experience where I was able to do something very practical, very concrete that, um, to me, felt like making a difference. Mm-hmm like I'm doing something that's impacting somebody else's life. Um, and it's in a different sort of arena. And I, I was sharing this with the team that we, you know, we were there with and I just started crying. Yeah. Cause it hit me so hard and right. Um, it made me realize that I want to put myself in positions where I can do that more. Mm-hmm that was pretty, pretty neat experience.
Gordon (06:18):
Yeah. Yeah. I think for anybody that's done anything like that, I, I, I don't know if we shared, um, with each other yet your I, but I used to do, do a lot of mission trips to Honduras and would do similar things. In fact, I got started going down there doing a, went on a habit that for humanity trip and building, you know, building houses and doing the, the hard labor and that kind of thing. And being in a, being in a place where people are in many ways, living in abject poverty, uh, by our standards anyway, mm-hmm and, and really being confronted with, um, maybe a little bit of, um, privileged guilt, you know? Sure. Seeing, seeing folks that were really struggling and, um, you know, living just day to day existence that was, would by our, by our standards would be very harsh and, um, so different in living through that.
Gordon (07:21):
And it's, it's, it's one of those things where I think you, when, when you experience something like that, the there's an overwhelming sense of compassion. Mm-hmm um, um, and I think, um, to, to be able to, to share that and to be able to know that, okay, we're providing a dry place for this person to sleep, which is just huge. Um, it, it is just CRA it is, it just it's, it changes our, for me, it was transformational and it really, um, really kind of set me on a whole trajectory that I find myself in now just by going and being with those people.
Uriah (08:05):
That's amazing. I love that. It, it seems like it's impossible for most people to go into a situation like that and not have an overwhelming feeling of compassion. Um, I think most people would, and a lot of us haven't seen true, like abject poverty um, one of the other things we did was we went, and this is part of, there's a group there that has sort of a, a ministry that goes to this particular, you're the largest dump in the area. And they go and they bring water and, and burritos and food, um, on a regular basis because there's these people that are living there in the dump, um, surrounded by burning to crash. I like it was the most, I don't know what the word, I can't even think of the word. It was like, um, impossible to forget experience to, to see, and to see these people living in this kind of conditions. And, um, for sure, like you said before, um, little bit of a privileged guilt and also realizing, oh my gosh, I have so much in my life. My family has so much mm-hmm, , I feel like there's an obligation to, to do more, to show up and, and, and give more time, money, et cetera. Right. So that, that definitely made a mark on me, for sure. In, in the best way. Yeah.
Gordon (09:14):
You know, in, in your work as a therapist, um, changed, kinda changed courses here just a little bit. What, what sort of impact have you seen where people have been, maybe been affected by kindness and it's changed them?
Uriah (09:33):
Yeah, that's a good question. I, I think about the families that I worked with over the years, um, I'm primarily a family therapist. That's how I kind of still identify, even though I'm retired, Uhhuh . Um, and I think about the experience that the, these parents would have when they were searching for help, struggling with their teenager, struggling with their relationship with their teenager, and maybe some acting out behaviors or just, you know, depression, anxiety, those kinds of things, and not knowing what to do. And, um, I always felt so good about providing the services that I did and when the parents would find me, find my website and then connect with me, we would be able to talk on the phone. And just in a short conversation, I would be able to express, you know, that I understand to some degree what they're going through and that I actually have some skills and some resources and, and a, and a way to provide help that will get them from where they are to where they wanna be.
Uriah (10:29):
Mm-hmm um, I was always so pleased with the relief that they would feel just after like 15, 20 minute phone call, like, oh my goodness. I feel, I think I found somebody that's, that's going to help me in my family. Mm-hmm so, yeah, that, that comes to mind for sure. And, and that has always been, felt like a privilege to do that. And now, and now in my practice, I have other therapists that are providing those same services. Mm-hmm and so we can, we're doing that on a larger, on a larger scale, but that always just made me feel so good.
Gordon (10:58):
Right. Right. Well, I think, uh, you know, my experience in similar similar situations, I think when people come in for therapy or counseling, um, when they, when they get to tell about themselves and it not be met with judgment or not be met with this or shame or any of that sort of thing, it has a way of just kind of transforming people, um, um, just in the, in the therapy room. Absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I'm reminded of a story. I'll tell a little story here as well. Just a with a, with a client I was working with several years ago and it was a, it was a man and he, um, it long, long story short is that he had been abused, sexually abused as a, as a child, as a, as a pre, you know, young teen. And he had never really talked about that and never really shared that. And it had affected him so much that he just lived with his ongoing, terrible depression, and he had had some shock therapy and, you know, just some, you know, really kind of, kind of the pulled out all the stops with their, with the treatment of the depression. But when he was finally able to talk about that, mm um, it was such a sense of relief for him. And then also be met with compassion and not disdain or the, all the internal shame that he was feeling mm-hmm was, was acknowledged and validated,
Uriah (12:37):
You know? Yeah. That's amazing. And that can happen in so many contexts, not just therapy, obviously anytime there's a human to human connection where some, one, one person expresses their vulnerability and what's, you know, shares something about what's really going on with them. And then the other person on the other side, doesn't respond with judgment or criticism. Like you're saying, um, that's a profound thing because I think we all think that everybody, if, if people really knew what I was going through or what I'm dealing with and they would, mm-hmm, certainly not want to know me. Talk to me, be close to me. Um, so having that sort of the, the term that comes to mind from grad school is corrective emotional experience, right?
Gordon (13:15):
Yes. Yes.
Uriah (13:16):
Uhhuh is really meaningful. Yeah.
Gordon (13:18):
Yeah. Yeah. So it, to, to kind of pull things together for us, you right. As you think about, um, just this whole topic of kindness and compassion, um, what, what sort of changes would you hope for in the world?
Uriah (13:36):
Hmm. That's a good question. Do you ask that one to everyone?
Gordon (13:38):
I like that. No. No, just you,
Uriah (13:40):
You should you should definitely ask that more. Yeah. Yeah. What sort of changes? Well, I mean, obviously when, when you look around the world and everything that's going on, uh, we, we need a lot more people taking concrete action and choosing to live a life of kindness and compassion. Um, and so I'm trying to do more, more on, on my side and with my family. And, uh, we're going back to Mexico this year. Mm-hmm, both, my kids are going and my oldest wants to go back the plan wasn't for her to go, but she was so excited that she wanted to go back. Yeah. Um, and, and honestly, I, I think the other thing that comes to mind when you ask that question is my current mission is helping therapists avoid burnout. Um, and we, and I'm doing that by providing virtual administrative support to therapists across the us, through my business called productive therapist. Sorry to give a little plug here, but, um, yeah, it's okay. That's, that's really me meaningful in the sense that I think obviously there's an ongoing mental health crisis in the world mm-hmm and in the United States, of course. And, um, we need more therapists to, um, be thriving and doing, doing the, the best work that they can do, um, to help our communities, you know, both locally and, and globally. So, yeah,
Gordon (14:57):
Yeah, yeah. I couldn't agree more. I think it's, um, you know, I think the more that we can teach people how to deal with their own own emotions and their own struggles, because I think, um, uh, as we know, just from the brain science what's happening in the brain is that that's that part of our brain called the Amy amygdala that takes over, which is really kind of fear based. And it's there for a good reason. It helps us survive, but when we can teach people how to kind of maybe better control that part themselves, they're much better equipped to show kindness and compassion and, and, and live with other people in a better way.
Uriah (15:41):
Absolutely. Yeah,
Gordon (15:43):
Yeah. Yeah. So you, right. Tell folks how they can get in touch with you if they wanna find out more about you.
Uriah (15:50):
Yeah. Probably the best place is productive therapist.com. That's kind of home for all of my, uh, current current passions. And then, uh, Gilford family counseling.com is, is where my, my group practice, uh, lives. Yeah.
Gordon (16:03):
Yes. So we'll have all this in the show notes and the show summary. And so thanks Uriah for being on this podcast and letting folks hear from
Uriah (16:13):
You. Thanks so much for having me Gordon.

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About

L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

Jane Carter | Kindness and Compassion In The Face Of Anger | K&C 9

Photo by Max LaRochelle on Unsplash

In this episode Gordon talks with Jane Carter, LPC a therapist and private practice business coach about how we handle anger in the context of kindness and compassion. We explore how being “polite” does not always equate to being kind. In fact, sometimes politeness can be a form of anger turned inward. We also explore how expressing our anger in healthy ways can lead to greater emotional intimacy and be an act of kindness and compassion. We also look at how we can confront injustices as an act of kindness and compassion.

Meet Jane Carter

 

Jane Carter, LPC

Jane Carter, LPC is a counselor and business coach from Asheville, NC. Jane has spent the last several years in private practice as a counselor and has recently begun focusing more on business coaching, not only for therapists but other businesses as well. Her website is: JaneCarterCoaching.com

Jane says, “As a therapist, business coach, and life coach, I love helping people navigate the path to achieving their goals for a meaningful life. I apply these principles in my own life in the mountains of Asheville, NC, where I’m an outdoorswoman, world-traveler, dog-mama, food-and-wine lover, reader, and coffee-shop connoisseur. (I’m also known for making up great puns on the fly).”

How do we handle anger in a genuine way without turning into a jerk?

One concept that is important to understand is the difference between anger and rage. Anger is actually a useful emotion in that it is a signal for when something is not right or amiss. Anger serves to protect us from harm. Rage on the other hand is when anger runs unchecked and does harm to others. Anger can be a “check engine” light and being able to say, something is not right here. It indicates that a boundary is being violated. Jane says, “anger is a tool that God has given us to protect ourselves and also let us know when things are just not right”.

Anger as Change Agent

Anger can be a very good motivator for change. Jane gives the example of John Lewis and the civil rights movement. How we respond with love even when people are greeted with anger and disdain. The key is to be able to look beyond our own fear and see the humanity of others. That even though we might not agree with the other we see the hurt and fear of others.

It is possible to be angry with someone without it being an end to the relationship. Jane mentions that sometimes we get angry because we care about the other person. She says, “indifference is not love”. Anger has a way of signaling us that something is not right in the relationship. And we do ourselves a disservice by pretending that everything is okay.

The key to handling anger with kindness is slowing things down and being curious about what is happening with the other person.

“Legit Beef”

Jane shares listening to a radio show where people would call in and talk about what they were angry about. And the radio host would commemorate by saying “that’s legit beef” or “that’s not legit beef”. There are times when anger comes because of “legit beef”. And in some of those situations, anger is the appropriate emotion. So don’t talk yourself out of your “legit beef”, but instead allow yourself to be curious about that.

“Bless Their Hearts”

Jane tells a story about walking down the road and a truck coming by really fast and close to her. Jane shares that her first reaction was to yell and curse at the guy driving the truck. And then almost instinctively, when she recognized her own anger, was to say “bless his heart” (it’s a southern saying…). And the challenge then becomes, can we truly mean “bless their heart” as an act of compassion. That whatever the other person is experiencing, we can have compassion for them. The key to showing kindness and compassion when faced with anger is to be able to continue to see the other person as a child of God worthy of our love and kindness. We slow things down and take a minute to acknowledge the other’s humanity.

Acknowledge and Embrace Your Anger

Jane reminds us that when dealing with anger we shouldn’t try to always get rid of the anger, but to acknowledge it and learn to slow things down enough to get curious with what is happening. Then be able to say what we need in that moment and be able to connect to the other person’s humanity.

Jane shares that we don’t always succeed in dealing with our anger well, but the key again is being able to acknowledge the anger and slow things down.

Another key to dealing with anger is recognizing the dichotomy of being angry with someone and still being engaged with them. Again, it is possible to have a mixture of emotions, in other words, “both and” instead of just “either or”. The key to being able to do this well is in treating people with kindness and the work of reconciliation. We might not always see things in the same way, but we can stay engaged and be willing to listen and hear the other person’s point of view.

“Rage shames, but anger is a tool of connection”

We can share our anger with another and this has the potential of creating emotional intimacy. To share how we have been hurt or feel afraid is an act of vulnerability. And this is what creates connection and intimacy.

Jane reminds us too, that we shouldn’t turn our anger inward or try to shut it down. That is a form of inward rage and is self serving. Jane said, “that some of the kindest moments from friends has been when they have been willing to confront me”. It was an invitation to intimacy and closeness for them to be able to share what was bothering them.

“Inward rage is people pleasing. Outer rage is people shaming.”

In many ways being able to share our anger with others is an act of kindness that requires a lot of courage. When we share our anger in healthy ways it gives us the ability to connect at a much deeper level. It also is healing and reconciling.

However, in situations where it is really not safe to share your anger, it can be useful to hold back. People that have grown up in traumatic situations, such as abusive relationships, turning anger inward becomes a survival tool. But this is not sustainable and a person really should work through this with the help of a professional.

Being Polite Isn’t Always Kind

Being polite is not always the kind thing to do. There are times when we need to call things out and speak truth to things that are not right. In many ways, this was what Jesus taught and was the point of his ministry.

“Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”
Jane speaks of her ongoing work of reconciliation around racism. Jane reminds us that being polite has been used by white people to maintain oppression. In that we need to speak truth to injustice and that is not always pretty. And when we are willing to disrupt things, that is an act of tough love. It is an invitation to compassion.

Moral Injury

When we dehumanize others, we not only hurt them, but we hurt ourselves. We have learned this from veterans who have been in war situations where they have had to harm others. Their harm to others creates a moral injury to themselves. It goes against their core values of seeing others as human beings.

Boundaries

Jane talks about Brene Brown’s work and the importance of boundaries. Jane says that when we have good boundaries with ourselves and others, it is an act of compassion. It takes away the fear and allows us to have more freedom and autonomy. “I can have the space to have more compassion because I can say no”.

Conclusion

As counterintuitive as it sounds, the emotion of anger can be a tool for showing kindness and compassion. Anger is a signal within ourselves that something is amiss. When we are hurt or afraid we experience anger. But anger can also be a prompt for us to call out things that are not right. In that when boundaries are crossed, anger can help us to confront what is wrong. And when we handle and express our anger in healthy ways, it is a way to connect and reconcile with others. It is an act of kindness and compassion to be vulnerable enough to name what is wrong and allow people to come close.

Gordon (00:00):
Well, hello everyone. And welcome again to the podcast. And I'm so glad and thrilled for you all to get to hear from my good friend and colleague Jane Carter. Jane, welcome to the podcast.
Jane (00:14):
Thank you. I'm so happy to be here, Gordon.
Gordon (00:16):
Yes. Uh, Jane and I have known each other for a good, good bit of time now. And we've had all these divergent, uh, our, our paths have crossed in many interesting ways. First, I guess, kind of per professionally, just, uh, we had got Jane had hosted a conference in Asheville, North Carolina, the brew, your practice, uh, conference or workshop or whatever we, we, we call that thing. Uh, but also I, we found out through our conversations that we are, are both Episcopalian and, um, have a lot of church crossover as well. So Jane, I'm gonna stop talking about you and let you tell a little bit more about yourself and of your work as a therapist and a coach and all of that sort of thing.
Jane (01:05):
Yeah. Okay. Um, gosh, where to start. I'll, I'll try to be brief cuz I'm a rambler, but um, I, I love living in the mountains. Um, I love where I am. I love that you're nearby mm-hmm and that've gotten to intersect in all of these ways. Um, okay. A little bit about myself. Um, I'm a therapist in private practice. I've been doing therapy for 20 years, almost 21 years. Um, but I've been also a first of private practice coach and then I expanded to other solopreneurs, um, to work with in my coaching business. Um, gosh, six or seven years ago. It was not long before I met you. Mm-hmm and in my counseling practice, I always said that I specialized in working with stressed out people pleasers, uh, probably because I am, I have been one I'm one in recovery and our ideal client tends to be some version of ourselves. Um, but it's funny. I find that the same thing often happens in my coaching practice. Um, I have have a lot of coaching clients who are starting their small business or they're in their small business and they're also needing to learn how to do boundaries really well, um, and find the fun in things and, and they might be working on their own people pleasing. So it's, it's been really fascinating to see how much overlap there is between my two practices. Um, right. I joke that I make my coaching clients cry too.
Gordon (02:39):
Yes. Yes. Well, yeah. And, and I, Jane and I are of the same mold. I'm a, I'm the quintessential people pleaser I'm uh, you know, I'm curious, I, I think we talked about this before Jane, but I'm an engram two. Is that where you are?
Jane (02:58):
Are you, I'm a nine
Gordon (02:59):
You're a nine. Interesting. You're interesting. So I'll probably have to do a whole episode on the engram because that'll make, make, make more sense to people, us talking about that. But yeah. So one, one of the things that I know E even I struggle with at times is, um, which is, is I, I think something that we is is, is a struggle probably for a lot of people, is that when we're feeling angry or just downright pissed off about something, but we don't show it externally and we put on this nice face mm-hmm something happens. You wanna say more about that?
Jane (03:40):
Uh, it comes sideways, huh? Anger always goes somewhere
Gordon (03:47):
Mm-hmm .
Jane (03:48):
And, and anything that I'm saying here, I'm saying it to myself as much as to anyone who's listening, by the way, , these are all things that, you know, first I learned in therapy, and then I've continued to talk about it. Um, you know, you and I both grew up Southern and Christian mm-hmm and, you know, I think part of just learning and growing is just even understanding my own context that, oh, culturally I was raised to be really polite and to sh that sh that anger not okay. And that it wasn't feminine, but also it wasn't Christian mm-hmm . Um, so a lot of my development and I think probably for a lot of us has been learning, oh, wait a second. What does it mean to be able to name anger and own it and have it be healthy and not turn into a jerk, you know, mean like, that doesn't mean that the pendulum has to swing in the other direction. Yeah. Um, and, and what does that even look like? So, I mean, if I were gonna sum up everything, I wanna say, even it would just be, you know, anger is healthy and there there's a difference between anger and rage
Gordon (05:01):
Mm-hmm
Jane (05:01):
, but anger itself, it's just a feeling and it's often there to help. It's often there to, to, you know, I, I talk about it as a tool that God has given us. Mm-hmm to tell us, Hey, something's not right here.
Gordon (05:15):
Right, right. Yeah. When I, and I just thinking about the work that I do with my clients, um, know anger comes up a lot, you know, um, mm-hmm, , you know, so many, uh, you know, for those of us that are in kind of therapy practices, you know, the whole, whole term anger management comes into play mm-hmm , which I've never liked that term really, but I think of anger as, um, kind of a superficial emotion in that it it's what we see on the surface, but the thing about anger is that it it's there to protect us. Right. Um, yeah. And so, you know, an animal or the cave man got backed into the corner by the saber tooth tire, in order for them to survive that situation, they had to get angry. And so in that sense, anger, anger serves to protect us. But I think about anger as being driven by hurt and fear underneath mm-hmm . And so when we get hurt, we get angry agree when we get fearful, we get angry. And so, yeah. So curious what your thoughts on that as well? Just thinking about it.
Jane (06:26):
Yeah. So yes, I agree that sometimes anger really is hurt or fear coming, coming out in a certain way. And there are a lot of people, I think, especially, um, like in toxic rescue or in certain households where the only acceptable emotion is anger. So everything get filtered through that.
Gordon (06:46):
Mm-hmm
Jane (06:47):
Um, but I, I really appreciate it. I went to a, an anger workshop, um, by John Harold Lee, who's just fantastic. He wrote a great book called the anger solution and he said, and sometimes anger is anger and that's okay, too. Mm-hmm
Gordon (07:00):

Jane (07:01):
Mm-hmm and it really, uh, it, it takes kind of checking in with ourselves of like, okay, well, what, yeah. I'm feeling this. So can I slow down the process sort of when you were talking to Brian Cole, who's a mutual friend of ours. Mm-hmm um, and he was talking about slowing it down so that we aren't reactive, you know, when we slow it down, it gives us the chance to go, okay, I'm noticing that I'm feeling anger. Where is this coming from? Is this fear, is this sadness, is this pure anger? And sometimes anger is anger. Um, because it's teach it's, it's kind of indicating to us, it's like a little check, like saying either something needs to change or there's a boundary being violated here. Mm-hmm . And one of the gifts of anger is that it tells us where our boundaries are. Cause we may not know until we go, wait a second, this isn't okay.
Gordon (08:00):
Yes. Yeah.
Jane (08:01):
You know, and, and in that sense, our boundaries are what help kind of define us and define, okay, where do I end? And where does the other person begin? And so anger is a gift and that it tells me, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. My boundary is being violated. And this is part of me. My anger is part of me. Mm-hmm
Gordon (08:19):
Mm-hmm
Jane (08:20):
and can I listen to it without getting reactive?
Gordon (08:24):
Right, right. Yes. I, you know, I want, you know, one of the things that I think a lot of us have experienced over the last few years with, with COVID with, uh, the black lives matter movement mm-hmm , um, you know, and, and hear more recently that war in Ukraine. Yeah. Those are all, um, potential, well, anger, anger, inducing kinds of, of events, you know, with, with the COVID, you know, what, regardless of how you, what you think about vaccines and all of that sort of thing, and people wearing mask and not wearing mask and all of that brings up a lot of anger for folks. And then, then when, when confronted with, at least for me confronted with some racial justice that we've, we've, we've really kind of called out, it's been there all along mm-hmm , mm-hmm, , there's this, this underlying racism.
Gordon (09:23):
Sure. Particularly for, for those of us in the south, I say, and, and it's, it's universal throughout the country in the United States, but I think for, for almost there's this underlying anger, and then more recently with the, the war in Ukraine and what we see the, uh, Russian leaders, Putin, and all of them doing to innocent people, all of that is anger producing. And so what do we do with that? I mean, how do we, how do we respond? And I'm wondering this too, and I'm just kind of thinking out loud here. Sure. Jane, is that, um, are there times when it's not appropriate to be kind and compassionate and are there times when we need to be angry? Yeah, yeah.
Jane (10:14):
Yeah. Oh, that's a great question. And I, I think it depends on how you define kindness. Um, I think it's really important that we delineate between being nice or polite versus being kind mm-hmm
Gordon (10:31):

Jane (10:32):
And sometimes kindness is not polite. Sometimes kindness isn't even nice. Um, some you, I was listening, speaking of, you know, racial injustice, I was, I was listening to an interview that John Lewis did with Krista Tippet on, on being, um, this was maybe a couple years before he died. Um, and you know, , he was talking about during the civil rights movement, which by the way, the, the whole civil rights movement started because of anger. Mm-hmm,
Gordon (11:05):

Jane (11:06):
Righteous, anger saying something needs to change. So again, Mo anger can be a really good motivator. It can, it can be a good thing, but they didn't succumb to hatred or rage mm-hmm . And again, rage is a very different thing. Rage is the, the behaviors we do to avoid having to feel our anger, um, and, and rage. This is a little side note, rage can come out and, and this is all, um, what I learned from John Lee, who is wonderful. It can be that explosive thing, but it can also be inward rage where stuff, everything mm-hmm , or it can be passive aggression, or, you know, in the south, we love to do the kinda, well, I wouldn't do that, but when you do whatever you wanna do, like it can come across.
Jane (11:53):
So John Lewis was talking about how they worked so hard to connect with love and kindness for these people who were just, I mean, trying to kill them mm-hmm or attack them and, and kindness. It, what I thought as I was listening to him is that kindness is not passivity. Kindness does not have the, a nature of being passive mm-hmm kindness is active. They had to train for months, EV you know, with people, with white people, pretending to be the people that were gonna beat them up later, they had to train and dis you know, how am I gonna respond with love, even when this person hates me, when they're beating me up, when they're dragging me along the street. Um, and, and that, that was such an active
Gordon (12:46):
Mm-hmm
Jane (12:47):
Stance where they said, okay, yeah, of course they felt angry. And of course you can be angry at someone who is perpetrating injustice against you. And yet, if can you have the active discipline to practice going, okay. And this person was a baby once mm-hmm they were taught this, or, you know, maybe they were made to feel unimportant and this makes them feel important. Or, you know, what's the larger context of this. And can I connect with, I love for them as a human, even as I am furious at them and rightfully so.
Gordon (13:21):
Yeah. Yeah. And we see that all the time's,
Jane (13:24):
I'm not angry. I'm not angry. It's fine. That's not, it's not that passivity.
Gordon (13:29):
Right. Right. Yeah. And, and it's a, you know, I, I know in my work with couples, um, , you know, it's, it's very possible to be totally angry with someone mm-hmm , but at the same time, still committed to the relationship and committed to, to loving the person. And, uh, and, and that, that sort of thing. Yeah. Yeah.
Jane (13:51):
In fact, if you were, uh, emotionally detached and, uh, was the word I'm looking for, um, and, uh, oh gosh. It's, it's just evading me. Um, yeah. Indifferent indifference is not love mm-hmm
Gordon (14:07):
Right.
Jane (14:07):
You know, like sometimes people feel angry because they love the, I mean, oh gosh, that could go into bad territory. Mm-hmm they feel strongly about what's happening because they love the other person. I don't mean to say, oh, he, you know, there's, this is not like a justifying abuse type thing, you know? Oh, he's angry. Cause he loves me. Um, not okay. You know, kindness is not codependency.
Gordon (14:29):
right. To be clear, right. Yes, yes. Right. That makes sense. Yeah. Yeah.
Jane (14:34):
Again, you know, if I'm, if I'm in a couple and, or I'm working with a couple and, and someone's having a strong response again, can we slow it down enough to bring curiosity to that and say, you know, okay, well, what, what is this about? Where is it coming from? Um, is this legit anger or is this tied to something else? Um, this is
Gordon (14:56):
Mm-hmm
Jane (14:57):
You're gonna think I'm so weird. Gordon. I was, I was in the car with a friend and we were listening to her fatal favorite satellite radio show where people would call in and the, the, the radio guy would, what your beef is.
Gordon (15:12):
People say,
Jane (15:14):
My friend did da da, and then she, no, no, no. They would say whatever they were angry about Uhhuh and he, and his cohost would either say that is legit beef, or that's not legit beef
Gordon (15:24):
yeah. It
Jane (15:25):
Was the funniest show. I don't even know what it was called. Yeah. But I, I have this shorthand with some of my clients well, where I'll be like, that's legit beef. Like, don't talk yourself outta your anger quite yet. and doesn't say that I'm like, I'm the whitest person in the world. I'm like quoting this person, But you know, but where I'm like, this is legit beef. Yeah. And don't talk yourself outta your legit beef again. Can you bring curiosity to that and say, okay, well, what was the wrong? And mm-hmm can I, first of all, can I just take the time to kind of, if I need to cool off, if I need to just be in that anger state and just feel what I'm feeling mm-hmm , you know, maybe discharge some of that energy first. So that then I don't just get rid to the anger by raging.
Gordon (16:14):
Yes. That make sense. Yes. Uhhuh. Yes. So, yeah. So I I'm thinking that this might bring up, can
Jane (16:20):
I, can I take the time to connect with their humanity?
Gordon (16:23):
Yes. Yes. I I'm. I'm thinking that as you're saying this, there might be some people that are thinking, okay, what, how can I be kind with my anger? Um, yeah. And what would that look like? Yeah. Yeah.
Jane (16:39):
Um, so it's funny. I, I'm gonna tell you a little story of, as I was preparing or, you know, just thinking about this conversation. Mm-hmm I was taking some, uh, some audio notes and in my phone and, and walking along the street and this huge truck, like room, movie, it was a 25 mile per hour zone. And they just flew by me really closely. And I yelled out, I was like, slow the ass down you. I was just so mad. I was raging, but I was terrified, you know, and I was just really annoyed cause on this one stretch of road that always happens, especially with the guys in the big trucks. So I'm, I'm re-listing to my audio notes about kindness and compassion
Gordon (17:22):

Jane (17:25):
And I'm like, like yelling cuss words to this guy who couldn't hear me obviously. And then, and I started laughing and then I was like, well, bless his heart. And cause you know, in the south we have a saying, you can say anything about anyone, as long as you say, bless her heart or bless
Gordon (17:42):
Her heart. Right, right.
Jane (17:45):
And, and I thought about it though, even in that moment, I was like, I kind of chuckled that. I, I instinctively like, it doesn't even cross my mind. I instinctively go bless his heart and it's almost become passive aggressive thing. Like I'll, you know, I'll just say that. So I don't have to say a bad thing. Um, but then I thought, you know, okay, along the lines of John Lewis, like that's kind of what they were doing. Could I sincerely say, bless his heart. I'm really angry at this person who almost ran over me and can I bless him? Can I say a little prayer that whatever he's dealing with gets healed or whatever makes him need to do that
Gordon (18:24):
Right. Is
Jane (18:25):
Healed, you know, can I take a minute to acknowledge his humanity? Know that if he walked into my counseling office tomorrow, I would immediately feel compassion for him and, and have a totally different stance. Like how can I help you? How can I be here for you? Like you are a human being. And, and so I think what helped, you know, in terms of like feeling the anger, I think again, don't just get rid of the anger or say that it's unacceptable. Can we acknowledge our anger and slow it down enough to go, okay, mm-hmm what do I need to be able to then connect to that? Person's humanity. Yes.
Gordon (19:02):
You
Jane (19:02):
Know, even this is so hard, but like, am I praying for Putin?
Gordon (19:09):
Mm-hmm
Jane (19:09):
not really, I'm pissed at him. I'm angry right now. Right, right. Um, and can I get curious about what kind of childhood did he have mm-hmm right. And that, that doesn't mean that it's an excuse, but it means everyone has humanity. Everyone is a child of God. Mm-hmm Can I even just a little bit connect with that? Some days I may not be able to
Gordon (19:35):
Mm-hmm
Jane (19:35):
but I'm, I'm at least supposed to have a practice of trying to do that.
Gordon (19:39):
Right, right. Yeah. You know, one, one of the things that I think, um, some people struggle with is, um, this dichotomy of emotions that comes out for us and that we think of, okay, if I'm, if I'm angry at someone or I'm angry at something, then I can't, I can't also embrace that. Or I can't also, um, you know, still stay engaged with that person or that right. That thing. And the, and the truth of the matter is the, we are capable of doing not either or, but both. And absolutely. Yeah. And so, and I think part of the thing is, is that, um, where kindness comes in, I think is when we are angry at someone that we also stay engaged with them, even though we're, we're expressing our anger. Yes. And, and, and, and we do that in a kind way where we're not belittling them as a person, but really yeah. You know, that, that, that old cliche, I, you know, I don't, I hate the sin, not the center kind of thing. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That,
Jane (20:50):
Yeah. But it's true. I mean, cliches are cliches for a reason. Right.
Gordon (20:54):
Mm-hmm right.
Jane (20:55):
So, I mean, I love the, um, I love the nonviolent communication model. Mm-hmm because it's basically a, a really good formula for practicing. How do I acknowledge anger or any other emotion or offense or whatever, and, and offer the opportunity for reconciliation without shaming, the other person, or indicating that they are less than worthy mm-hmm of love and belonging, which is shame, right? Like shame, rage, shame. Anger is actually a tool of connection. Mm-hmm , mm-hmm, says, Hey, I'm, I'm gonna let you, like, if I decide to share my anger, I'm actually inviting intimacy with that person. I'm saying, I'm letting you know, this affected me and that we need to repair.
Gordon (21:41):
Yeah.
Jane (21:42):
If I do inward rage, which is the people pleasing, I'm just gonna shove my feelings down and be really polite. Um, I am now I'm serving myself, first of all, I'm serving my own fear and self protection. Mm-hmm , I'm not serving the other person in that case. Right, right. Um, but I'm also robbing them of the chance to be disrupted in a way that we could be closer or that they can. I mean, the, some of the kindest moments from friends have been when they've been willing to confront me about ways that I haven't been a good friend. Yes. And I appreciated it so much more that they were willing to let me feel that pain than just disengaging.
Gordon (22:27):
Right,
Jane (22:27):
Right,
Gordon (22:28):
Right. Oh, I,
Jane (22:29):
Yeah. But outer rage, you know, inward rage is people pleasing. Right. Outer rage. If I blast that person to smithereens and shame them, that's not helping anyone.
Gordon (22:43):
Right.
Jane (22:43):
Certainly not creating intimacy.
Gordon (22:45):
Right. Right. Oh, I love that. I, I, I you've really helped kinda re you frame something in that. Yeah. I hadn't really thought about, um, being angry with someone in a, in a healthy way really is an act of intimacy and vulnerability and that you're, yeah. You're opening yourself up and sharing with them. Um, you're, you're internal world and, and that's a scary thing. And I think that's one reason. So many people do tend to be people pleasers is that they, yeah. They, they don't want to get that vulnerable with others.
Jane (23:23):
Sure. And, and, you know, I, I really recognize that people pleasing is often a, a survival, excuse me, for survival tools from trauma mm-hmm because if you grow up in a setting where that's not safe, where you really do need to hide away the anger, because you will get hurt in a big way or rejected or traumatized, um, you know, a lot of people develop it, develop it as a survival skill, and it's harder to unlearn later. It's really scary to set that down. And yet we need that for intimacy mm-hmm
Gordon (23:58):
.
Jane (23:59):
And, and even, you know, when I think about, you know, we've had a lot of very, very interesting political situations in my family,
Gordon (24:08):
Uhhuh.
Jane (24:09):
It's funny, my mom, and, uh, we've had a couple of moments where we were just outright kinda lost our minds and were yelling about stuff. I'm, uh, I'll say I actually am like, mom, it's actually great that we can yell at each other cuz growing up, I was such a people pleaser that I didn't. And I'm like, aren't you glad I can do anger? You can do anger. Now we can do
Gordon (24:31):
Anger together for, for
Jane (24:33):
Recovering Southern Christian women.
Gordon (24:35):
and she's
Jane (24:36):
Like, yes, it's wonderful.
Gordon (24:37):

Jane (24:38):
But you know, five minutes later we'll be like snuggling on the couch with each other. It's like, you know, I love you. I know. And I love you love me, you know that it's like, isn't it great that we love each other enough that we know we can have a political fight and not hate each other or lose respect for each other. Yes. And I, I really see that as a gift. Yes. Um, but all that to say, like if I, so, so back to like on an individual level, there's a intimacy on a, on a general level when things are happening in the world that truly are wrong or unjust
Gordon (25:13):
Mm-hmm
Jane (25:14):
it is so hard to discern or let me, lemme rephrase. It's hard for me not to be polite. Mm-hmm and I might be in a room full of people who are all on the same page where I'm like, no, no, no, what you're saying is wrong, this is not okay.
Gordon (25:30):
Mm-hmm
Jane (25:31):
and if I, especially as someone who claims to be a follower of Christ, like am I, they think they might think I'm being kinder by being quiet mm-hmm right. But kindness might actually be me being willing to disrupt and say, no, no, no, that's wrong. That's not okay. And I'm angry. And I might not get invited to as many cocktail parties in the south, but mm-hmm
Gordon (25:59):
Yes.
Jane (25:59):
But I I'm okay. Being Debbie downer and saying that's, that's not okay. And, and I'm, I would say maybe 50% of the time I'm that brave. I'm still working on it, but mm-hmm I don't, I don't know who said it, but they, um, I love the quote. Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflicted and
Gordon (26:22):
Say that again, Jane. Cause we say that again, Jane, we froze,
Jane (26:26):
Froze up. So I don't know who said it, but it was it's the idea. Jesus came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Gordon (26:33):
Mm.
Jane (26:34):
And Jesus, wasn't always polite. And, and I think sometimes, but, and yet, and yet Jesus was very loving
Gordon (26:43):
Mm-hmm mm-hmm
Jane (26:45):
right. I mean, to the core. So, And, and you know, part of my own journey of trying to learn more about racial injustice and I still have such a far way to go, but is even realizing that politeness often a tool of oppression. Right. And that I've been really polite and sometimes I'm still too polite.
Gordon (27:10):
Mm-hmm
Jane (27:10):
because I'd rather be self-protective than speak up and, and speaking up is actually, you know, to the only way to fight oppression is to speak it and just say, no, this is wrong.
Gordon (27:25):
Right.
Jane (27:26):
And so politeness can really preserve, you know, we white people really don't like to be uncomfortable.
Gordon (27:33):
No, that's right. That's right.
Jane (27:36):
Yeah. You know, there are people trying to outlaw that in schools right now, like don't, you dare make white people uncomfortable, but this is a, that's a whole rabbit trail I could go down. But, but all that to say, right, right. Is that, that being disrupted is often a sign of love. It's it's creating space for others to be loved who have been treated unjustly mm-hmm
Gordon (27:55):
.
Jane (27:56):
Um, and when others are willing to disrupt us, it's actually love, it's tough love, but it's
Gordon (28:00):
Love. Yeah. Yes. It's really a it's it's a, you, you know, as I think about it in that context, it's really an invitation to begin to, to show some compassion for others.
Jane (28:14):
Yeah,
Gordon (28:14):
Yeah. Yeah. And if
Jane (28:17):
I love, I love how you put that Gordon. And when we invite others, to be more compassionate, that in itself is an act of kind. I mm-hmm because there there's a, um, I wanna say the phrase is moral injury. I could be getting that wrong.
Gordon (28:33):
Yes. Uhhuh mm-hmm
Jane (28:34):
that when we are not being compassionate, when we are not seeing others as worthy of love and belonging or, or if we're dehumanizing people, not only are they, they harmed, but we are harmed, we are killing a part of our souls.
Gordon (28:48):
Yes, yes, absolutely.
Jane (28:50):
And so if someone is willing to call me out for not being compassionate or for being degrading to humanity, the humanity of someone else, they're actually helping me too. Yes. But of course, with the other person.
Gordon (29:04):
Right. And my, of just, uh, having worked with, um, with some veterans and that sort of thing yet, just that, that moral injury phenomenon is something you see with, with veterans that where they've been their in war and they're having to harm other people when it just goes against their, you know, with they, what they feel and believe totally internally. So, I mean, that's just, again, that's a whole rabbit trail. We could go down. Sure. We're just talking about that time. Well,
Jane (29:36):
You know, bring it, I mean, Episcopalians gotta keep, bring it back. And if, you know, I've been taught that if I, even if I hate someone, if I see them as less than human mm-hmm, I might as well have killed them. Like, it's that that's the as murder, right. Uhhuh mm-hmm We it's the same. I mean, you know yeah. In the same way a veterans cert I'm not in the same way, but you know, a veteran is harmed if they have had to kill someone, even if they're doing it to try to protect others. Right. Um, we are also injured when we are hardening our hearts in that way. Yes. And, uh, it is hard. This is difficult.
Gordon (30:16):
Yes. This is. And I, again,
Jane (30:17):
I don't wanna claim to have solved it. Like this is a lifelong,
Gordon (30:21):
Right.
Jane (30:23):
But can I, again, can I kind of okay. Bless your heart. yeah. Drew a sense of the word.
Gordon (30:28):
Yeah.
Jane (30:29):
Can I be really angry at someone? And even if I hate them sometimes can I reconnect with, and this is a human being.
Gordon (30:37):
Yes. Yes. And to me that's the, when we can do that and we might not do it well, we might, might be really messy and not, might not be a hundred percent when we do that. But I think when we do that, that is when we, we practice kindness and compassion towards others.
Jane (30:56):
And I I'll bring it back too, to the idea of boundaries. Mm-hmm cause something that I loved, I, I think I'm capable of being on a podcast and not talking about bene brown, but , it's just built up, but I loved, she pointed out that boundaries are the best way to have compassion that the most boundary people are the most compassionate people Uhhuh . So when we have clear boundaries, when we know where do I end and where do you begin? Or when do I speak up about something being wrong or hurtful? Um, it's kind of like, like if you take a, a dog to the dog park, you know, if there wasn't a fence, if there was just a field next to a road, people would either be so tense that their dog was gonna run into the road, you know, and, and, and hold the dog really close, or they'd be, you know, maybe accidentally letting the dog get hit by a car in the road.
Jane (31:54):
Once you have a fence, which is a boundary, the dogs can run free and be happy and playful and be themselves mm-hmm and be, be doggy, you know, and right. And so when we have really clear boundaries, when we really pay attention to what's my anger telling me about where my boundaries need to be, again, it, it allows us the freedom to be able to have room for compassion. You know, I'm not afraid that you're gonna run over me now, um, or that you're gonna cling to me or, or that you're gonna run, run, run away way away, away. Right. Like,
Gordon (32:28):
Right, right.
Jane (32:30):
I, I can have the space to be more compassionate because I know I can say no to someone.
Gordon (32:35):
Right, right. Oh man. I love this stuff. I love this stuff. And you know, I, I've gotta be respectful of your time. Uh, Jim, but, uh, yes, I know. I know, but we, this, this will end up being a really, really long episode, but , but, but that's that's okay. So tell folks how they can get in touch with you and if they wanna have more. And, and, and I promise folks, Jane will be back on this podcast because she's the, oh, thank you. Exactly. The kind of, she she's my people. And so she's gonna be back here. So, um, Jane tell folks how they can get in touch with you and connect with you if they'd like to,
Jane (33:17):
Um, the easiest way to reach me is, uh, you can email me at Jane Jane Carter, coaching.com, or my website is Jane Carter, coaching.com. I'm on Instagram at Jane Carter coaching. Uh, it's mostly business related stuff. Mm-hmm , but I love to hear from people. And obviously I love good conversations.
Gordon (33:34):
Yes, yes. And, and Jane, uh, we we'll have all this in the show notes and the show, so summary for people so they can connect and find you. Um, so yeah, so we'll do this again.
Jane (33:47):
Awesome. This is Gordon. You.

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About

L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

Jenn Fredette | Showing Kindness & Compassion When We Don’t Understand | K&C 8

In this episode Gordon talks with Jenn Fredette, LPC, MA, MDiv, about being vulnerable, being human and coping with people we just don’t agree with.  Jenn shares her experience of having come from a very conservative religious background (“cult”) and the ways in which she has grown and healed since then.  Jenn and Gordon also talk about how being present with and for people is an act of kindness and compassion.

Meet Jenn Fredette

Jenn Fredette, LPC, MA, MDiv

Jenn’s journey with others is to develop a deep understanding of themselves and the world around them.  She is passionate about connecting the curious and brave with therapeutic guides who can lead the way into the wild adventure of self-knowledge.

As a former minister, practicing psychotherapist, adjunct graduate professor, and host of “A Thinker’s Guide to…Podcast”, Jenn brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in translating the profound into everyday language. Learn more at therapyforthinkers.com or follow her on Instagram at @athinkersguide.

Growing Up With Limits

Jenn shares some of her experience in growing up in what she refers to as a religious cult.  She talks about how she was taught in very subtle ways how to think.  In particular, that the outside world was evil and that her community was the only conclave of “the good ones”.

Also in growing up, Jenn was taught that showing “kindness” was in convincing  others to see things the way that her community did. “If you will just come and agree with me, then your life will be better”.  In other words, converting them.  It was a viewpoint of getting people to think in a certain way without allowing them to have their own viewpoint.

Seeing Things From the Other’s Perspective

In many ways it is tough to be able to see things from another’s perspective, especially if we don’t agree with them.  Jenn shares some of her experience when she was working in community mental health and was a new counselor.  Her supervisor at the time said, “Jenn always treat people with kindness and compassion, and at the same time, don’t take anyone’s ‘shit’”.  In other words, it is important to set clear and healthy boundaries with people.

Jenn and Gordon reflect on the current war happening in Ukraine and how difficult it is to understand why Putin and Russia are doing what they are doing.  Jenn reminds us that even though we need to stand up to the abuse and bad behavior of others, we need to be mindful of the opposition’s humanity. We don’t need to demonize the other.

Our Internal Struggles

Jenn also calls into question some of her own internal struggle with how we show compassion for people that are much different from ourselves.  She is very honest about the fact that it is easy for her to show compassion for the refugees from Ukraine since they look so much like her.  And at the same time she struggles with the fact that when similar things were happening in Syria, a few years back, the level of compassion was not quite as intense. And this was because it was a different culture with different looking people.  She finds this internal struggle troubling. The important thing though is to simply acknowledge this internal struggle and continue to work on it.

Jenn brings up the metaphor of David and Goliath story and how we want to identify with the David of the story; the underdog.  But what is sometimes difficult is to recognize when we are actually in the role of Goliath.  When we are in fact the giant that is oppressing those that are less powerful, we need to be aware.  In order to live into kindness and compassion we need to be mindful of these times and situations.

Story of Kindness

Jenn shares a story that happened recently for her, when her husband got sick and had to go to the hospital. Jenn was stuck at home with their newborn baby and was feeling very much isolated and concerned.  Even though they had recently moved to a new home and new community, she found out that she did have some support.

A friend offered to come and stay with the baby while she went to the hospital.  And what was so kind for Jenn was the fact that the friend recognized Jenn’s nervousness about leaving her baby with a new person.  The friend called on the way to her house to find out what she needed to know about their baby, so that Jenn could leave for the hospital right away.  And even though this was a small thing, Jenn experienced it as incredibly kind.  Her friend anticipates what it might have been like for Jenn.

Getting Curious With Others

Ultimately, one of the best ways to show kindness and compassion with others is to simply get curious about how others see the world and what their lens of the world is like.  It is also important to try and anticipate the needs of others and respond based on those needs.

Being Present With People

Gordon tells the story of what it means to simply be present with people.  It was a story about a college professor who was visiting at the death of a friend and going to the funeral home.  The professor talked about simply sitting with the widow of the person who had died without really saying anything. Then when he left, he simply said, “When you need me you know where I am”.  The widow said that of all that was said during her husband’s funeral, that was the most helpful.

Again, simply being with and present with others is one of the best ways to show kindness and compassion.

Conclusion

Throughout the ups and downs of life we will all encounter people and situations that we find difficult to understand or agree with.  The key though to overcoming and dealing with these times is to do our best to put ourselves in the other’s shoes.  And at the same time, it is okay to set boundaries and limits to bad behavior; “not take any shit”.  We can still always show kindness do our best to be present with others.

Gordon (00:17):
Well, hello folks, and welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast. And I'm so thrilled for you all to get to know Jen Fredette and Jen is somebody I've known for a little while now, and she connected with me through my other podcast, uh, the practice of therapy podcast, which is geared more towards clinicians, but welcome Jen.
Jenn (00:38):
Thanks Gordon. I'm so delighted to feedback sitting here with you.
Gordon (00:42):
Yes. And, and when I was said, when I was conceptualizing this, this podcast, the kindness and compassion podcast, Jen was exactly the kind of person I had in mind as having a guest, uh, for this podcast. Jen is, um, is a wonderful, wonderful storyteller. And, um, she has a podcast asked a thinker's guide too. That's the name of her podcast and I, I, I've probably benched to listen to it twice now, Jen.
Jenn (01:14):
Oh, good. Thank you.
Gordon (01:16):
So it's just, yeah, so it's just so, um, so vulnerable and just really, uh, I love what she did with that, but Jen is a star with everyone. Why don't you tell folks a little bit more about yourself and how you kinda landed where you've landed in life?
Jenn (01:32):
That's such a complicated question, Gordon. Um, so I think at least where I live now in the DC Metro area. So often we identify ourselves by what we do, like pre COVID. You can go to a party, people like, so what do you do? What do you do? What do you do? Um, and so I'm a psychotherapist and in some ways it's what I do, but in a lot of ways, it's who I am too, that I love having this job and this life that allows me to be very curious to ask the questions that are in polite in most settings, and to really try to get down deeper to what it means to be human. What does it mean to be alive? And, and what does it just mean to like, go about to this world that has gotten, I don't know if it's actually gotten more chaotic or we're just more conscious of how chaotic it is to be alive? Um, yeah, it's kind of a rambling question, but I think I got here cuz I'm curious.
Gordon (02:34):
Yeah. Yeah. That's uh, that's good. So yeah. Um, what, one of the things I know that Jen and I were talking about, um, uh, before we started recording and just, you know, know which I do with most folks is just think about, okay, what do we want to talk about on the podcast today? And Jen, you hit on just to think a topic that is so important for all of us is how, how do you show kindness and compassion to people that you just do not agree with? And so love to hear your thoughts on that.
Jenn (03:09):
Yeah. So, so interesting. You asked me this question, like where do I come from? It's like, oh, okay. Like, this is a good leadway to add to my answer are there. So I grew up very, very, very conservatively, um, in what I think really does meet the criteria for religious cult. As I often joke, maybe defend, like it wasn't a cool, sexy cult. Like there was no Kool-Aid there weren't like lots of, um, weird outfits to where, but it certainly was really focused on in subtle and non subtle ways, controlling what you thought about the world and really pictured the world as enemy and us as sort of like an enclave of like the good ones. And so when I think about, oh, what does it mean to, um, show kindness to others in a lot of ways growing up, what was modeled for me is you show kindness for those of you.
Jenn (04:09):
Listen, I'm like doing quotation marks. You show kindness by trying to convince people to think the way that you think that there's a sense, like if we would just agree and if you just come and realize that I'm right, therefore like that's a way for me to like, educate you, enlighten you and what I, I don't live in that very conservative mindset anymore. But what has been interesting to me as I've gone through life is that comes up again. And again, like there is a sense of I'm being, if I help you think just the way I'm thinking, as opposed to, Hey, let me share my viewpoint and we can disagree. And actually there can be something really lovely about that. And also perhaps you might find ways I might find ways to try to live in your shoes and I'll never feel it as deeply as maybe you do. And can I, can I try it out? I don't, it's kind of a rambling answer. Does that make sense?
Gordon (05:09):
Yeah, it does. And I think, um, you know, I know in other episodes of this podcast, we've talked about being able to take the time to be able to see, see things from another's perspective. And, and that's hard to do a lot of times, um, you know, we were talking about, um, you know, as we're recording this episode where in the throws of this war going on in the Ukraine and just thinking about Putin and how he's treating this and that sort of thing, it's very hard to see it the way he sees it. Yes. Yeah. Yeah. And so those are, those are tough, tough things that I think we have to, to deal with internally. And how do we treat that with kindness and compassion?
Jenn (06:02):
Yeah. Well, and it's good. And I don't know if we swear on this podcast, so I'll modify a little
Gordon (06:09):
Bit, you use, use, use whatever language is appropriate for you. Okay.
Jenn (06:14):
Um, so what I word community mental health. Um, I had an amazing supervisor Elise in one of my very first supervision. She said, Jen, here is the goal. You don't have to do this perfectly. You're still new. You're still learning. This is like the core thing I want you to focus on. I want you to treat everyone kindly, but take no one to shit. I was like, oh, OK. Like I don't like, how do I do that? And watching like this piece play out with Ukraine and the way Putin and his government, like, I don't know if it's all of the Russian people really, but how Putin's playing this out, that there is a sense of treating somebody with kindness, um, trying to step into where they might be coming from doesn't mean that you allow them, uh, in this case to commit war crimes against you, but to, to be abusive, to be malicious, to be violent, to be, um, inhumane.
Jenn (07:20):
Like that's not, I think what being kind, at least to me means being kind is perhaps reminding yourself of their humanity, even in the midst of all of this. And it can be very easy to demonize the other. Um, and the fact is Putin is a human, um, he's making decisions that are really hard for me to comprehend. And one of the things I was sharing with you before we started recording that, one of the things that I keep noticing within myself is my own visceral compassion, pain heartbreak, as I watch what is happening with the refugees from the Ukraine and something I've been asking myself a lot is like, okay, like, yes, of course this is an appropriate thing to have compassion and kindness for. And do I feel this way? Have I felt this way, watching the Syrian refugees look for a place to live, uh, what happens with Palestine and Israel, uh, with Palestine particularly, and how Israel is, um, often an aggressor, like, do I pay attention to this and show up with kindness and compassion when people don't look like me when I can't not necessarily have that same, um, instinctual, like, but those are my people.
Jenn (08:47):
Um, and that's also, what's hard about Putin a little bit is Putin also in some ways, looks like a lot of people, uh, who, who I can, I don't know that I can identify with, but, um, feel familiar when we talk about like American politics and sort of the elite. Yeah. Is that this is a very like geopolitical, but yeah.
Gordon (09:11):
Yeah. Well, I think it's a, it it's um,
Gordon (09:16):
Yeah, I think you're exactly right, is that, and, and I'm reminded of being, and as you, as you are learning, being a parent now, um, particularly as our kids grow up, there are times when you have to absolutely be firm inside a boundary and, and hold accountable, um, their actions. And as you said, not take any shit over over stuff. Um, but it can be done with kindness and compassion. Um, you know, um, and that's a, I think a hard, I think maybe a dichotomy, um, that is hard to maybe get our, our heads around sometimes.
Jenn (10:01):
Yeah. Yeah. It's hard because I think it's easier, at least for me, it's easier to go to the black and white of like, this is clearly the bad guy. These are clearly, um, the good guys and in a lot of cases, the David and Goliath, um, I think what I've been trying to pay attention to in myself is like, all right. Yeah. I'm rooting for the David in this story right now, but what about the times when I might more clearly identify with the Goliath and do I still find space in myself to root for the David and to, I mean, a lot of, I think what I'm talking about I think is, oh, like where's my own racism showing up. Yeah. Like where are those places that my unconscious biases sometimes conscious biases prevent me from really being able to feel into what the other is feeling. Yeah. And on top of that also, that is not always the healthiest thing to do to be consistently feeling and like having such a permeable, um, kind of take in other people's stuff. Like then where's that line too.
Gordon (11:15):
Right. Right. Yeah. And that's, uh, that, that's where the whole practice of mindfulness comes in and being able to be, um, learning how to self-regulate if you, if you will. So, so Jen with, I know that you're a very good storyteller and I'm gonna put you on the spot a little bit. Can you tell us a story of this and compassion?
Jenn (11:42):
Oh, you know, I can, um, I was telling you before we got on, um, that we've done a podcast before and I'm normally more prepared and try to plan for things and it just didn't get to do that in part, because the stomach flu has like raged through our household. Um, and so the baby got the stomach flu first, um, and was like shocked and like, didn't understand what was going on. And I had the experience of getting and vomited on and like, so it's not minding, like, it was not like, I, I don't necessarily wanna repeat it anytime soon. Uh, but that was just an interesting, like, oh, this is what parents mean when they're like, yeah. When it's your kid, it's just not as gross. So the baby got it. And we're like, okay, like, that's scary. We took her to the pediatrician.
Jenn (12:31):
Pediatrician was really like kind and, um, comforting. But two days later, my husband got very, very, very ill like ill enough that he ended up going to the hospital. Cause we weren't sure if it was a really bad case of food poisoning. And we live in an area where we don't have family nearby. We actually moved to our current house like six months before the, a pandemic. So we haven't like established a lot of like close, like neighborly connections. Um, cuz we've all been afraid of giving each other a deadly virus. And so my husband was in the hospital. I was so like, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I have this young child, who's not vaccinated, but I wanna go see him. But the hospital, probably not the place to be bringing a young child and potentially exposed to all of this stuff.
Jenn (13:20):
And I realized, I was like, oh, but we actually do kind of have the community. And so I was able to call on some of my husband's work colleagues. Some of my friends and people really showed up and like we was able to hand off the baby and, and just go to the hospital so I could sit and be with my husband. And so all of that, like maybe sounds like that's kindness and it certainly is. But the kindest thing that happened in the midst of all of that was our friend Trudy came over and she called me 15 minutes before she got to the house. She said, Jen, I know that you're probably gonna wanna leave right when I get there. So tell me what I need to know about the baby. Tell me what, like where all the things I want you to be able, just to leave as soon as I get there.
Jenn (14:13):
Wow. And her being able to hold to that in mind and to think, and actually put herself in my place. Not just that she was showing up and doing an extremely nice, like, um, like thing that I really needed and like meant a lot. But that call in the midst of it was like, oh, okay. Like, yeah, I really can just leave. This is, is putting herself in my shoes. Yeah. Um, and she arrived, she handed me a Le Croix. I handed her the baby. I was able to leave in just a few minutes and having that little bit of extra space was so meaningful.
Gordon (14:53):
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And that's, uh, yeah, that, and I think you, you hit on kind of a theme here that I think is, is worth it's worth worthwhile for us to kind of bullet point it or draw a circle around it or put a star next to it. And that is the importance of being able to think about others through the lens that they might see the world, you know, the words being able to just be able to, okay. I wonder how they see things or just getting curious, uh, um, with folks is, um, I think I, one of the, one of the best ways to show kindness and compassion, I mean yeah. As you, as you experienced, I mean, she really had thought about, okay, what's it like for Jen and what does she, what would she need at this point? Yeah. Yeah.
Jenn (15:51):
And like tried it out and I might have been like, no, it's fine. Like when you come, like I'll go over it. And I think that would've been fine for her. Um, but it, I think that's where sometimes people get tripped up, especially like in moments of crisis. Like people want to show up and do the thing, but they don't NEC like, what do you do? Like, what do you say? Um, I hear this a lot. Actually, when I sit with clients who have someone in their life, who's going through some sort of loss, a job loss, the loss of somebody close to them, who's actively dying. Things like that. Like, well, what am I supposed to do? It's like, well, there's probably some concrete things you can do, but let's think about what you imagine the other person might need. And are there ways for you to meet some of that need?
Jenn (16:39):
And sometimes where people go is like, well, they need for their husband not to be dying or they need to have a brand new job or they need to have like the solution. And that's often actually not what I think people need, people need somebody who can show up and, and really see what's happening and be present like that. I think almost always matters at least on an individual level. And when you have that community, who's gonna show up and see where you are and be present some of those other bigger piece of like, how do you find a new job? Or how do you grieve the loss of somebody you deeply love like that unfolds over time.
Gordon (17:22):
Yes. Um, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I love that. I'm reminded of, uh, uh, a story that I heard when I was an undergraduate at Mars hill. Um, and I had a psychology, uh, professor that also happened to be a clergy person. Um, he was, uh, he was a Baptist minister, but he had a, his PhD in psychology and he told, and I was taking a, a, an introduction to counseling course. Hmm. Uh, as an undergraduate. And I remember a story that he told about that, um, about having a, a parishioner or church member who had had a husband to die. And it was, it was a, it was an unexpected death. And he was talking about going to the funeral home to visit with the family and getting to the funeral home and everybody saying all the usual stuff. And he just went over and he said, I just sat down next to the widow.
Gordon (18:23):
And I just put my arm around her and just sat there with her, didn't say anything. And then, and just got up when it was time for me to leave. And I just said, you know, where I am when you, when you need me, you know, where I am and then left. And he, he came back later and said, you know, she mentioned to him that, of all the things that people said and did during that moment, that was the one that meant the most to her. He was just simply present with her and, and didn't necessarily try to fix anything or try to tell, say the exact right words or any of that sort of thing, but just be present. Yeah. You know? Yeah.
Jenn (19:03):
That's hard. I think we often feel better when we can do. And, and I, I think that is a component. Like it's not just always presence, but I think most people tend to, um, fall more heavily on like, let me do all of the things for you, as opposed to let me slow down. I'll just come and sit. And also what's beautiful in that story is like, he sat with her for a time. But when it was time to give space, he was like, I'm here. Like when you need me, like, I'm here for you. Yeah. There was a, almost like a continuing presence even when he left.
Gordon (19:47):
Right. Right. Yeah. Yeah. So I know we've got probably tons of stories we could tell. And, uh, I really, um, folks that, that are listening really encourage you to go over and, and listen to Jen's podcast. I was telling her before we started, um, I, I've probably B listened to it at least twice. Now, just as you can tell, just listening to Jen, she's just a very calming soul. And so Jen, I tell folks how they can get in touch with you and if they wanna somehow or another connect.
Jenn (20:22):
Yeah. So if you're interested in the podcast, I'd suggest you go over to my private practice website therapy for thinkers. You can tell, I get out there. I think it's linked there and it's on like apple podcasts and all of that. Um, you can also check me out on Instagram. Um, most of my Instagram is focusing on helping psychotherapists market, their practice with depth, with compassion. Um, so some of you might be interested in that some of you may not be. Yeah. Um, but my handle is outta thinker guide, um, on Instagram.
Gordon (20:56):
Yes. Yes. She's got some great stuff. So, well, Jen, uh, ho hopefully we'll have you back on this podcast and, and, uh, uh, I in, she's a great person to get to know. So thanks Jen for being here.
Jenn (21:10):
Thanks for having me.

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About

L. Gordon Brewer Jr., LMFT |Podcast Host – Gordon has spent his career in helping professions as a licensed therapist, counselor, trainer, and clergy person.  He has worked with 100’s of people in teaching them the how to better manage their emotions through self-care and the practices of kindness and compassion.  Follow us on Instagram and Facebook .  And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

 

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