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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
It really is. We see it with, um, with clients. We see it with even us as therapists who, you know, mm-hmm,
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.
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.
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Yeah. And, and as a recovering perfectionist
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
And if we wanna go to this new place of focusing on gratitude, it's kind of like recreating a new path mm-hmm
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.
Yeah. Um, the probably the fastest way is email. I love email. I tend to write long ones though in response mm-hmm
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,
Absolutely. Thank you for having me on.
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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.