Claire Brown | Embracing Fear With Curiosity | Episode 4


As counterintuitive as it sounds, does embracing our fear help us to show more kindness and compassion?  In this episode of the podcast I am joined by The Rev. Claire Brown as we discuss her thoughts on befriending and being curious about our fear as a way to show self-compassion and empower ourselves.

Meet The Rev. Claire Brown

The Rev. Claire Brown is an Episcopal priest, writer, facilitator, and spiritual director. Claire is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, and is the co-editor of Keep Watch with Me: An Advent Reader for Peacemakers and co-author of New Directions for Holy Questions: Progressive Christian Theology for Families. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, the School of Theology at Sewanee, the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, and Still Harbor. Find Claire at revclairebrown.com. She lives in Athens, Tennessee with her spouse and two young children. She is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Athens, TN.

How Do We Embrace Fear In Our Lives?

For many of us over the last 2 years, we have all experienced fear as a result of the COVID pandemic.  As Claire put it, “fear has been driving the bus…”.   And it has impacted us at different levels depending on our own life situations.  Parents worried about their young children who can’t be vaccinated, people with chronic illnesses, and all the other people that are most vulnerable have been especially affected with the fear the virus has brought us.

As a leader in the Church world, Claire speaks about how much of this has been uncharted territory for those in leadership. After all, at the core of what it means to be “Church” is the absolute necessity of having community.   It has been about finding the balance between the need for keeping people safe and at the same time helping meet people’s spiritual needs and the need for contact with other people.

Claire tells of a person in her care that has advanced lung cancer. So for that person, getting COVID feels like a death sentence. She also sees folks who have children that are suffering in isolation. Then there are the people that fear losing their community and the church life they love so much. At its core is the fear of loneliness.

Through all these conversations, Claire is trying to stay focused on what fear may be communicating to us. After all, fear does serve a biological function in that it serves to protect us.  But when we allow fear to drive everything we do, essentially our amygdala takes over. 

Essentially, a step toward embracing our fears comes from allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.  It means acknowledging our own fear and the fear of others, because to be confrontive.

Taking A Curious Approach

“Staying curious about what fear is communicating is really important”

In those times when we are feeling fearful of others, one solution seems to be in taking a curious approach. In other words, acknowledging the fear we are feeling  and what it is communicating to us about ourselves and our community.

Find Ways to Have Reparative Moments

We need to build in reparative moments as we move through our fears.  For example, having a good laugh or a good cry are ways we can repair the damage of fear. Movement,  exercise, and breath work are also ways to repair the fear and grief we are experiencing.  

By building in these practices within the activities of our communities, we give people ways to heal from the fear they are experiencing. Being outdoors for activities helps us reconnect on many different levels.

“By building in small reparative moments of joy, laughter, and rest are the ways in which we build our capacity to stay open and curious”. 

Finding New Paths and Possibilities 

So many of us are fearful of losing our past ways of doing things. We see this kind of fear all around us. And with the COVID pandemic, we fear that things will never be like they were. With the isolation and distance we have had, we fear the change that it brings.  Claire says,  “We are out of step with old patterns that used to serve us, and still trying to build new ones”.  

Hope comes through when we think about the new possibilities of reconnecting and repairing those things that have brought us hurt and fear. By acknowledging our fears and allowing ourselves to be mindful and vulnerable, we can find healing and hope. When we curious about our fear and the fear of others, we can find new paths and possibilities in our relationships.\

Being Curious is The Key To Embracing Our Fear

In relationships we can get into patterns of criticism and defensiveness.  The way to counter act this is by learning to be curious about what is happening for the other person instead of simply defending our own point of view. When we understand the “backstory” of others, and get furious about that,  it gives us room to have kindness and compassion.

Doing this takes practice. Being curious is not a natural thing for us to do when we are fearful. But when we can be mindful enough to be curious, it opens up pathways for healing that we might have missed if we stay in our fear.

Parting of The Red Sea

Claire shares the metaphor of Moses parting the Red Sea and the connection it has with our fears. She talks about some of the incredible artwork we have seen of creatures behind this wall of water.  She says about fear, “We are going to carve out this space, that still feels quite treacherous, but yet it is still enough of a path for us to walk on. That curiosity has this power to split open the possibilities and make a pathway for us to walk on together.”

Conclusion

Ultimately our fear can be very informative.  As Claire mentions in this episode, our fear can protect us.  But at the same time it can cause us to be separated from others. When we get curious about what our fear is telling us, it can be the path to finding connection and hope.  And it can also be the path for kindness and compassion.

Claire (00:00):
Whether that's, whether that's geographically objectively true, or part of the story in that narrative, there's this image that he walks the people through and I've seen some really incredible artwork that tries to imagine what it would be like to walk through. And maybe you could look up and see this wall of water and creatures behind it, or some like that. Yeah. But almost the sense of we're going to carve out this space that still feels quite treacherous. And yet it's a, it is enough of a path for us to walk on,
Gordon (00:40):
To the kindness and passion podcast, where we will explore the intersection of psychology science and spirituality. My name is Gordon brewer and I'm a licensed psychotherapist and mental health provider. I have spent my career helping people learn how to better manage their emotions and find more meaning in their lives and connection in their relationships. Join me as we think and talk about the ways we can find happiness and be content in our lives, through the practices of kindness and compassion. We will talk with other experts in the fields of psychology, science and religion. I'm so glad you're with me on this journey as we learn how to be at peace with ourselves and others.
Gordon(01:36):
Hello everyone. And welcome to this fourth episode of the kindness and compassion podcast. I'm Gordon Ru glad you've joined me in this journey. Glad you're listening to the podcast and hope you'll take time to follow us or subscribe to the podcast wherever you might be listening to it. So I'm, I'm excited for you to get to hear from my guest today. And, um, that is the Reverend Claire brown and Claire and I delve into this whole topic of fear. And how do we embrace our fear and how do we get curious about our fear? And I think that you'll find this probably an in interesting conversation, you know, kind of the convention is, is that when we're faced with fear, you know, kind of the old adages is you've gotta conquer your fears. Well, we wanted to challenge you to maybe take a little bit different approach to that of learning, how to embrace your fear versus conquering your fears.
Gordon(02:36):
Because I think as we've all learned over this last two or three years with the COVID pandemic, is that there's a lot of fear out there and, um, not only fear around the virus itself and how it can impact us and those we love, but also there's been a lot of fear just politically and just within our society, um, on, on any number of fronts, either P politics, um, the black lives matter movement, uh, with the advent of George Floyd's, um, untimely death and murder. Um, and just all of that has created a, created a lot of fear within our society. And so Claire and I kind of tackle this, this topic, and I will say that it's from kind of the perspective of our, both of us, our clergy people within the Episcopal church. And so we have a little bit of bias in that direction.
Gordon (03:37):
And so I just want to be transparent around that. That doesn't mean that that's the only path to discovering how to live a life of kindness and compassion, but that's the context to, through which I know Claire and how we have, um, kind of entered into this conversation. So, um, I invite you to listen in as Claire and I talk about embracing our fear and how to be curious about our fear, but before we get to that, one of the things that I would like to invite you to do is to check out our Patreon page for those of you out there that are listening to the podcast. And if you'd like to support what we're trying to do here with the podcast, that is a great way for you to do it. And if you will go over to kindness and compassion.com/patreon, or you can just go to kindness and compassion.com and you'll see a, a, a, a up in the menu, a place for you to click, to get to our Patreon page. And that's just a way for you to show the love, give us your support, uh, through just a donation. We have, uh, three, three different membership levels. And I think they're set at $5 a month to $15 a month or $25 a month. So hopefully for, for people that's affordable and we appreciate the support to be able to continue to do this work and this project that has started with the kindness and compassion podcast. So, uh, without further ado, here's my conversation with the Reverend Claire brown.
Gordon (05:22):
Well, hello, everyone. And welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast. And I'm so glad and excited to have my first guest. Well, no, that's not quite true. I had another guest, but this is my first guest outside the therapy realm to join me brown. The Reverend CLA Claire brown is joining me today. Hi Claire.
Claire (05:47):
Hi Gordon. Thanks so much for having me
Gordon (05:49):
Well, I'm, I've been looking forward to this and as I've gotten to know Claire over the last few years, um, she is just one of those people that, to me, exudes kindness and compassion, um, and not to put you on the spot, Claire, but, and I know we've had a lot of deep conversations just with our mutual work within the Episcopal church and been particularly the diocese of east Tennessee. But Claire is the rector, which is, uh, an Episcopal term for pastor, I guess, to some degree of St. Paul's church in Athens, Tennessee, but Claire, why don't you begin by just telling folks a little bit about yourself and how you've landed, where you've landed?
Claire (06:31):
Sure. Well, um, it's a, it's a delight to answer that question with you, because of course you were part of the commission on ministry when I was discerning a call to priesthood. So, um, you have a, a not insignificant role in the story of how I landed, where I landed. Um, yeah, so I'm in Athens, Tennessee, which is a small town, uh, in a rural county between Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee in, and I, um, moved here and started this call not quite a year ago. And before that was serving as an associate priest in a parish in Chattanooga. And I also do some writing and some facilitation, and, um, got into all this work wrestling with a call that really emerged in childhood, um, to be somebody who asks big God questions and helps others do the same. Um, it took me many years of searching to find a home in the Episcopal church, a tradition that seemed to make enough room for the big questions I was carrying and also enough room for me as, um, a woman with a call. Um,
Gordon (07:44):
Right.
Claire(07:46):
And I should say too, I'm married to Austin sory. Who's the, uh, interim executive director of, um, statewide organizing and community empowerment in Knoxville, Tennessee. And we have two little boys, five and two who we are trying to raise to be agents of kindness and compassion in this world.
Gordon (08:08):
Right, right. Uh, yeah, I, I love, uh, yeah. It's, as I said earlier, I've love getting to know Claire and, uh, learning, learning more about her and just what she he's doing as a, as a mom, a priest, uh, you know, just a, an agent in the world of trying to spread kindness and compassion. And one, one of the things that Claire and I had kind of chatted about via email before we started, uh, this particular episode was the topic we wanted to discuss. One of the, what came up was just, and I think this is a great topic is how do we embrace fear within our lives? And, um, because I think one of the things about kindness and compassion, at least in a way that I think about it, is that an opposite of that maybe a go-to opposite of that would be anger. And I think about fear as being kind of the driver of anger. And so Claire share with folks kind of what you've been thinking about around in embracing fear and how it relates.
Claire (09:18):
Yeah. So when I think about my relationship to fear in the last couple of years, it's deeply tied to the COVID 19 pandemic. Um, I have found myself, uh, in very odd position that you are too, and others are too of being a convener of people in physical space in a time when we have not known how to do that, um, without fear. And so, um, thinking back to the beginning of the pandemic, um, I was in, and a situation of being a support in leadership in a congregation that we knew had, uh, potentially been exposed to the virus. And this was a, you know, we have to take back our, our goggles of what we know in 2022 that we didn't know then, right. But we were trying to do risk assessment with very little data and be spiritual, peaceful, loving pastoral leaders in unknown territory, um, when fear was really driving the bus for all of us.
Claire (10:35):
Um, and so that's just been a, a really alive question for me in the last two years, is, are we making our decisions out of care for each other or out of fear of the unknown? Um, and are we making decisions with the most vulnerable folks in mind, remembering that our levels of fear around this virus vary for really good reasons. Um, those of us who are caretakers of children who can't yet be vaccinated, have a different fear calculus, right? Um, those of us who live with chronic illness have a different set of concerns to consider. And those of us whose, uh, call and livelihood is to go into hospital rooms and nursing homes to go into gatherings of people and speak with them and lay hands on them and feed them the sacrament have to ask a different set of questions. So it, it's an evolving one too, for me. Um, as we learn more and as we consider where we're headed, um, and in some ways it feels like a learning lab for the kind of fear that leaders in unknown places have to grapple with all the time.
Gordon (12:05):
Right. Right. Yeah. That's a, it's, it's a, it's a tough place. And we, I think when I, when I think about fear kind of the go to maybe is to think about confronting the fear in other words, being able to just push it away or somehow, or know negate the fear, but I like this idea of being able to embrace it and accept it and that we can, we can actually, you know, it's a place of vulnerability, number one, in that, and in, and in my, and in my view at least is that vulnerability is the thing that finds us together. And that we, you know, just to going back in time in ancient history, the reason the human race survived is that people recognize their vulnerability and they gathered together. And so that was that, that's the thing that is a struggle and that being able to be kind of people that are fear.
Gordon (13:16):
Um, and I think another thing that I struggle with is how do you be kind, how are you, how can we be kind to people that have different ideas about what is safe and unsafe? Mm. And that sort of thing. And just, uh, and that's a, you know, get us again. One of my, the purposes of this podcast is wanting to kind of end that polarization. So in, in your, in your work, just in the community and in your congregation and all of that, how have you dealt with kind of differing opinions and being able to yeah. And, and even deal with people that have vastly different ideas about how to handle things.
Claire (14:04):
Ooh, that's a great question. So not perfectly is the first answer. Yeah. That's coming to mind, You know, I think staying curious about what fear is communicating is really important. Um, I hear from folks who are afraid of being infected, um, someone very dear to me that I, that I'm trying to hold, uh, has advanced lung cancer for that person getting COVID is, feels like a death sentence.
Gordon(14:46):
Right.
Claire (14:47):
On the other hand, I've got folks who are seeing their children suffering in isolation. I see folks who are worried that, um, we are losing sight of our call, or we are being excluders and those are based in fear too.
Claire (15:09):
Um, I think one of the things that I find myself talking out with my vestry in Sunday school weaving into sermons and conversations is actually probably scooting a little out of my lane into your Gordon and talking about, um, that in our psychological wellness fear is really important. It's a fear, a fear that protects it's a hardwired biological resource for us. Right. Right. And that, I think part of, well, I would say part of our call in for instance, Christ's teachings about forgiveness and turning the other cheek, uh, his teachings about the be attitudes is a call not to let our a amygdala impulse run the show.
Gordon(16:03):
Right.
Claire (16:04):
And so to stay curious about the fears that drive us, um, whether it's a fear of illness or a fear of losing our community, whether it's a fear of loss of an institution or decline, um, or a, a fear of our own loneliness and the space that has emerged for us to maybe have to confront our own selves in periods of isolation, staying really curious, so that we say, what is this communicating? And is that communication of our fear, this, this bio impulse, the yeah. The racing heart and the sweaty hands, and the, I need to take off and run is what that's actually communicating, something that we hold onto, or is it something that we filter through that and gospel of love and courage.
Gordon (17:02):
Right, right. Yeah. And it's a, you know, you know, what comes to mind for me, uh, immediately as you're describing that is just the, the practice of mindfulness and then being able to be mindful as a community, not only as individuals, but as a community of being able to say, you know, yes, we're afraid this is fearful stuff. And, but I think they, you know, the kinda the, again, using that, that language of the good news is, is that we're not alone in this and that. And I think that, you know, fear drives a lot of what people do, but also not only fear, but the fear of loneliness and being disconnected is what drives most of the not to get too, too far over into the psychological lane. But the, at least in my view, I think that any addiction, whether it be substances, sex, gambling, whatever the addiction is, is driven by a sense of loneliness.
Gordon (18:14):
And I think that people use substances and, and other things in their life to numb that feeling of loneliness, as opposed to learning, to sit with it and being able to kind of, um, you know, sit with a discomfort of those things. And, you know, when we're uncomfortable, I, you know, I'm just remind, uh, I think of this metaphor of when, um, you know, with your kids when, when they are afraid or when they are uncomfortable in some way, the go to is to, is to, is to wrap your arms around them, to cuddle 'em, to hold them and to give some sort of reassurance. And so I think at least in my mind, that's how we try to, um, practice kindness and compassion in, in our communities. Yeah.
Claire (19:12):
One of the things I've been mindful of, um, speaking of mindfulness. Yeah. Noticing, staying curious about, um, is how to, in my, in my work, in my personal life, in my family build in, um, reparative moments, um, I read a book toward the beginning of the pandemic that was super helpful for me. Um, and it was appropriately titled burnout. Um, and it talked about the ways that you can complete the physiological stress cycle. Um, and it's, it's things that I thought, well, of course I knew that I just hadn't connected the dots, you know, having a huge laugh is actually a, it, it has physiological impact on your stress, uh, letting yourself cry it out, move movement and exercise, uh, looking at all these sorts of very concrete practices, uh, breath work, and finding to weave that in again, in preaching in Sunday school, in, uh, we had our, rather than doing a week long vacation Bible school at the church, we did weekend Bible school and invited the adults and made it really intergenerational.
Claire (20:27):
And we did a lot of body movement going for a walk in the park was one of our set activities, um, trying to figure out how can we in, in whatever our daily call and life is, build in smaller moments of repair of joy of rest, um, because that helps build our capacity to stay open and curious, um, to stay connected to ourself and others. Um, yeah. And, and, uh, and, and also recognizing that at this point, many of us are out of, um, we're out of step with old patterns that used to serve and still trying to build new ones. So trying to, to weave that in, um, I have a lot more kitchen dance parties with my children than I used to cause we need, we just need to, to schedule it almost. Right.
Gordon (21:27):
Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. So yeah, the, you know, the, the, the one word that you have said as we've been talking that I think is key to being able to, um, embrace our fears is the word curious. And, um, you know, I just think about in my work with couples, you know, kind of, again, not to go too far down the therapy path here, but, um, one of the patterns that couples will get into, um, is patterns of criticism and defensiveness with each other. Sure. And one of the, one of the ways to, to counteract that is we find ourselves going on the defensive and we find ourselves kind of putting up that fear if you will, is to really begin to get curious about the other person. And so I think that's one, one kind of good take home point here with just thinking about how do we handle the fear that we experience that not only throughout the pandemic that we've gone through, um, but also just in dealing with each other through a lens of kindness and compassion is, is we have to first get curious about what's going on with other people.
Claire (22:49):
Mm, yeah. Yeah. Well, in that curiosity when it's not, uh, when it's, uh, pure, I guess when it comes from an earnest place, even if that's takes a lot of discipline for us to stay there. Right. Um, and is not a natural posture, it's still worthwhile, even if you gotta work on it, right. Maybe more worthwhile, it seems to carve out some space. Um, for some reason, when, when you were speaking Gordon, the image that came to mind was, um, this is so bizarre, but I'm gonna go with it was Moses parting, the red sea,
Claire (23:28):
And this idea of this powerful ocean, whether that's, whether that's geographically objectively true, or part of the story in that narrative, there's this image that he walks the people through. And I've seen some really incredible artwork that tries to imagine what it would be like to walk through. And maybe you could look up and see this wall of water and creatures behind it or something like that. Yeah. But almost the sense of we're gonna carve out this space that still feels quite treacherous. And yet it's, it is enough of a path for us to walk on. Yes. And that curiosity has this power to split open something that feels hopeless and overwhelming and impasable, and make a pathway that we could walk through together.
Gordon (24:23):
Oh, wow. I love that. I love that. Yeah. I love that metaphor. And that's, you know, that's, uh, as we, as we like to say in church, we church folks like to say that'll preach. Yeah. So, well, Claire, I wanna be respectful of your time. And I'm so glad we got this spend this time together, and I'm, I'm sure we'll have further conversations hopefully on this podcast, in the, in the future, if folks want to reach out to you, um, I guess, first of all, tell them about your books and some of the things that you're doing with your podcast and, and that sort of thing, and how they can get in touch with you.
Claire (25:06):
Sure, sure. So, um, I'm the co-author of two books. One came out a few years ago and it's called keep watch with me an advent reader for peacemakers. So it's for the liturgical season of advent, which is actually all about walking through the darkness for trust that God's light is on the other side. Um, and that was, uh, a collaborative work with, uh, lots of different contributors and spiritual practices and prayers all through. So, um, I, I'm still coming back to it every year and receiving the wise words from others that were part of that. And then this year, um, I, co-authored a book, um, called new directions for holy questions, progressive Christian theology for families. And, um, it's a book of big God questions and making space for wondering, and having hard talks, um, with kids about God, um, all through a progressive faith that is, um, committed to L G B T affirming. Um, and anti-racism while also being Orthodox and Christian. So yes. Um, folks can find out more about those or my facilitation work, um, or reach out, um, about spiritual direction or other things that I've got going on at rev, Claire brown
Gordon (26:31):
All right. And we'll have, uh, links in the show notes and show summary for folks to find that easily, the books and, uh, how to get in touch with Claire. So Claire, any, any quick closing thoughts that you have,
Claire 1 (26:45):
Uh, stay curious and stay open. Your fear is not your enemy.
Gordon (26:51):
Yes. I love that. So thanks Claire. We'll be talking again. I'm sure.
Claire(26:55):
Thanks cord.
Gordon (27:10):
Well, such a huge thanks to Claire for being on the podcast. I was so excited when she responded and, and decided to join me on this, uh, this journey. Uh, you know, this, this whole cast is really an experiment and I'm really doing it out of a place of kindness and compassion, not to sound too cheesy, but that's really, my hope is that that this podcast will give people things to think about and how they can kinda live into more kindness and compassion in their lives. Um, certainly with, uh, some of the guests you'll hear from me are, you know, through my church connections. And, um, but I'm hoping to, to get a well rounded viewpoint around kindness and compassion from any number of faith, traditions, psychology traditions, or those folks that are in science and, and that sort of thing. So you're are gonna be hearing hopefully a diversity of messages around this topic.
Gordon (28:09):
Uh, but you know, I, I think for me, the take homes that I got from Claire is that the importance of being curious about those things that bring us fear rather than trying to necessarily run from it or eradicate, uh, of just getting curious and mindful about those things that, that cause us fear. And, and I've seen it in my own work over and over again, that when we, when two people that maybe are in conflict can begin to get curious about the other person's story or their back story. So to speak it change the way we think about those people, because I think a lot of times we just deal with each other superficially. And I think the key to kindness and compassion is to be able to be willing, to be vulnerable and to take a deeper dive within our relationships and in our conversations with each other in interactions.
Gordon (29:04):
So thanks again, folks for being with me, um, and joining and listening into the podcast. As I mentioned, uh, take time to follow us wherever you might be listening to the podcast or subscribe, however, however they list it wherever you listen to that. I know apple podcast recently changed it from subscribe to follow. And I, I know on Spotify and Amazon and other places like that, where the podcast is located, you can just simply follow us. And, uh, thanks again for joining us and also be sure and go to the website, kindness and compassion.com, um, getting some resources together on the website for ways for people to begin to explore this topic and be able to have some resources in doing that. And you can sign up for our email list. I'm gonna start sending out regular emails, um, with just some resources and for people to connect and, and learn more about this whole topic of kindness and compassion.
Gordon (30:07):
And if you like what you're hearing, I'd love for you to be a patron and you can go over to our Paton page. And again, if you go to kindness and compassion.com up on the menu, there's a, a link there for you to a patron, or you can simply go to kindness and compassion.com/patron. Um, and, um, thanks again for being with me on this journey and looking forward to my future episodes. I've got an upcoming interview with, um, Mallory Duff and, um, McDuff, excuse me, Mallory Mallory, McDo. And we talked about her book on our last best act. And it's a, it's an interesting topic it's around, uh, just death and dying and how we can express kindness and compassion through that. Um, you know, for some that might be kind of a morbid topic, but I think given what we've been through over the last two years, last two or three years with COVID death has touched us in many different ways. And so, um, looking forward to you, hearing from Mallory in the next episode, take care folks and glad you're with me on this journey.
Gordon (31:23):
You have been listening to the kindness and compassion podcast with Gordon brewer, part of the psych craft network of podcast. Please visit us@kindnessandcompassion.com for more information, resources, and tools to help you in your journey. Be sure to follow us wherever you and to your podcasts. And if you haven't done so already be sure to sign up, to get the free kindness and compassion practices guide. Again, you can find that@kindnessandcompassion.com, the information in this podcast is intended to be accurate and authoritative concerning the subject matter covered. It is given what the understanding that neither the hosts guests or producers are rendering clinical medical, mental health, or legal advice. If you need a professional, you should find the right person for that.

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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.

 

Kayla Tapia | Gratitude As A Practice For Ending Anxiety | Episode 2

Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

In this episode Kayla Tapia joins the podcast, who is a colleague of Gordon’s in the mental health field.  Gordon and Kayla talk about using gratitude as a practice to show kindness and compassion in the world.  They also talk about how there are parts of our brains that have a way of looking for danger. But when we practice gratitude it helps calm those fears and help to use the higher parts of our brains.Kayla also talks about ways she has incorporated gratitude practices in her life to be more grounded and less anxious about the world.

About Kayla

Kayla tapiaKayla Pennington Tapia is a counselor and therapist in private practice in Johnson City, TN.  She is a native of the Appalachian region and is passionate about helping people find new ways to work through their “stuck” places.  

 

 

 

“In my work, I will place an emphasis on emotional exploration, as I believe all emotions serve a purpose – to motivate us, to guide us, and to alert us that something just isn’t right. Rather than fighting or ignoring emotions, we can lean into them and listen to the messages they are trying to send through mindfulness and compassion.

I will offer a space of safety, support, and acceptance, free from any judgment. It takes strength and courage to heal, and I would be honored to stand with you through your journey of self-discovery and transformation”

Kayla is in private practice with The Journey For Healing Arts located in Johnson City, TN.

Habits for The New Year

Most of us have started the New Year by trying to establish some new habits and practices. One in particular is the practice of gratitude. By practicing gratitude it keeps us grounded and staying away from this false belief that we need and want more material things in life. The push to get more and/or be more can create a lot of anxiety for folks.

A simple practice is to begin each day by finding 3 things we are grateful for and sharing that with others. By doing this it keeps us grounded in the present and makes us more aware of what we have rather than what we don’t have.  Finding what is going right rather than what is going wrong.  This helps keep anxiety at bay.

Gratitude Allows Us To Be Kind To Ourselves and Others

When we look at the definition of gratitude one source defines it this way: “To show and return kindness.”  So at the very core of gratitude is this stance of being kind. By showing appreciation of others we engage a different part of our brain.  It is the part of our brain that controls our emotions, the prefrontal cortex.  It is also the part of our brain that is the “thinking” part of our brain.

Our Brains Are Wired To Protect Us

Kayla spoke in the podcast about having a “negativity bias” hardwired into us.  It is in the part of the brain called the amygdala. It is there to protect us and keep us safe.  It is always looking for bad things that could potentially happen to us. Again, it is there to keep us safe.  But if we let this part of our brains dominate it leads to an attitude of negativity and fear.  

Gratitude practices help us to train our prefrontal cortex to be more in control.  It forces us to look for the good in things. An example of this to think about a time when you mighty have gotten a performance review. It could be a wonderful review with a lot of positives. But instead of looking at the 98 good aspects of the review, we hone in on the 1 or 2 negatives. Gratitude helps us look at the bigger picture and focus on the positives.

Connecting Through Gratitude

We also have a propensity to connect with the negative in others. If we are not careful, we can let others’ lack of gratitude hold us back from seeing the positive in things.  We do need to give voice to the negative times. But healing comes from community building and connecting around those positive things and show gratitude for people differences

Kayla and Gordon discussed the impact of the “Black Lives Matter” movement over this past year. Certainly we need to call out at times the wrongs of society and in others.  But healing comes when we can be aware of the needs of others.  In particular, show gratitude for other people’s points of view and the lens for which they see the world.

It is important to recognize and show appreciation of other people’s differences. We need diversity in order to have a healthy society.  We see this in ecosystems.  The more biodiversity an ecosystem has, the stronger and healthier it is.  It is the same for humankind.  And the more we can appreciate people’s differences it’s an act of gratitude and kindness.

Seeking Gratitude Experiences

It is important to seek out experiences that put us outside of our comfort zone with others.  It’s how we can begin to discover gratitude for differences.  We can appreciate other people’s cultural differences, it helps us to feel a connection with them.  It is a way to be actively grateful.

An example of this is a tradition with the Maori people of New Zealand. They have a greeting that for most westerners comes across aggressive and frightening. The Haka is, though, a dance and ceremony originally intended to be a war dance to intimidate opponents. But it has evolved to now have a different meaning. It is a ceremony of respect and honor. 

Here’s and example:  https://youtu.be/MW3BMJFe2pY

Gratitude is a way of learning to let go of fear and getting to know people and why they see the world as they do.  Gratitude for the differences and learning to have compassion for all that is different.

Practices of Gratitude

  • Finding a few things that you are grateful for and reflecting on that everyday. 
  • Focusing on what we have rather than not have
  • Start a gratitude journal
  • Sending thank you notes everyday; writing it out in long-hand
  • Being intentional about expressing gratitude
  • When we have gratitude for others, be intentional about sharing that thought about them.

Other Gratitude Resources:

Mindful.org

Greater Good Science Center

 

Kayla (00:00):
And when we can get really grounded in what we feel grateful for in this moment, at least for me, it helps so much. Um, and so it, it's almost so popular that it's cliche now, but the idea of just every morning, um, finding three things that I'm grateful for. And, um, part of that too, I think has been a lot of times, there are people in my life who are involved in that. And so to also be able to share with them, mm-hmm when they come up to be able to send them a message that just, Hey, you know, I'm really grateful that you're in my life.
Speaker 2 (00:41):
Welcome
Gordon (00:42):
To the kindness and compassion podcast, where we will explore the intersection of psychology science and spirituality. My name is Gordon brewer and I'm a licensed psychotherapist and mental health provider. I have spent my career helping people learn how to better manage their remote and find more meaning in their lives and connection in their relationships. Join me as we think and talk about the ways we can find happiness and be content in our lives, through the practices of kindness and compassion. We will talk with other experts in the fields of psychology side and religion. I'm so glad you're with me on this journey as we learn how to be at peace with ourselves and others.
Gordon (01:39):
Well, hello everyone. And welcome to this second episode of the kindness and compassion podcast. Hello folks, I'm Gordon brewer. Glad you've joined me on this journey and glad you're with me and listening in, uh, hope you're finding this, uh, podcast. That's giving you a lot of food for thought, and that's my hope. You know, when I started this project, this new podcast, uh, in January, I really started working on it in earnest back in November of 2021. Uh, but I had originally planned on having a co-host with me on the podcast and that person is Kayla Tapia. She's another therapist, um, licensed therapist and practice here in our region. In fact, Kayla had worked with me in my practice for a while and I got to know Kayla back, um, when she was doing her internships with us and was in graduate school. And then later joined my practice for a while.
Gordon (02:40):
And now she's moved on to greener pastors with of practice. But Kayla was one of these people that was soon as I got to know her and got to really have a lot of deep conversations with. I knew that she was the kind of person that, um, I had in mind in interviewing for this particular podcast. Kayla is such a gentle soul and she is also extremely smart. And so this, um, this particular episode is our conversation around gratitude and, uh, Kayla, um, had, um, when we, I had a conversation with her about a week ago and she really, uh, kudos to her. She set some good boundaries for herself and that she realized after we got started in working on this, she wasn't gonna be able to devote the time to it that she had hoped to. And so, uh, that's another, uh, good, uh, that's a demonstration of self compassion and self kindness, and being able to set boundaries for yourself.
Gordon (03:44):
But anyway, I still wanted you to hear from Kayla and I'm sure Kayla's gonna be joining me for other episodes because she's exactly the kind of person that I hope to have on this podcast. And just having these meaningful conversations, uh, around the practices of kindness and compassion and why it matters in people's lives. I know in my own life, just as I shared in the first episode, I've had just a lot of ups and downs, which we all potentially do. Not that I'm not, I'm not unique in that way at, um, all of us have trials and just different things in life that can become hard. And I think our way forward, at least as I've learned along the way is through the practices of kindness and compassion, kindness, and compassion to others, not only that, but also kindness and, and for ourself and learning how to take care of ourselves well, but also be able to, to take care of others in the same way. So anyway, looking forward to you, hearing my conversation with Kayla and this particular topic that we're tackling in this episode is on gratitude, and we're why that's important for kindness and compassion.
Gordon (05:18):
Hey, Kayla, how are you? Hey, I'm doing great. How about, yeah, I'm doing okay. Um, we're, we're excited to get this podcast going and in these first episodes, we're just gonna be reflecting on some of our thoughts about some different aspects of kindness and compassion. And so in today's episode, we're gonna be talking about gratitude and how we might practice that in early lives. And just our thoughts about how that makes an impact with our practices of kindness and compassion. So, Kayla, I know that you had mentioned you're started with this, this new year as we're coming out and recording this in 2022, that you'd started a new practice, a gratitude practice.
Kayla (06:04):
I did, I feel like in so many ways last year, I lost touch with that a little bit. Um, and so when I was reflecting on the new year, that was something that felt really important to bring back, um, because it made me think about all the ways that gratitude keeps us grounded. I mean, even just in terms of, of materialism mm-hmm , um, you know, it sort of keeps us on this spiral of wanting more and meeting more and, and when we can get really grounded and what we feel grateful for in this moment, at least for me, it helps so much. Um, and so it, it's almost so popular that it's cliche now, but the idea of just every morning, um, finding three things that I'm grateful for. And, um, part of that too, I think has been a lot of times, there are people in my life who are involved in that. And so to also be able to share with them, mm-hmm, when they come up to be able to send them a message that just, Hey, you know, I'm really grateful that you're in my life and you did X, Y, Z thing. Um, right. So that's been part of what that has been for me.
Gordon (07:18):
Yeah, yeah. Uh, yeah. And as I think about gratitude, I think one of the things that, um, if, for lack of a better, one of the selling points for, for gratitude is, is that I think it does keep us grounded in the present. Um, it keeps us, keeps us aware of, um, what we have rather than what we don't have. Um, I is a big, is a big part of it. And I think one of the things is, is that, um, I know you and I work with a lot of folks that have a lot of, uh, struggle with anxiety. And, and certainly in the times we're living now, particularly during this COVID pandemic and just the world in gen genuine in general, excuse me. Um, there is a lot of anxiety out there. There's a lot of, um, a lot of a sense of what ifs.
Gordon (08:15):
And when I think about gratitude, I always think about finding, finding in our lives, what is going right rather than what is going wrong, um, of really kinda looking at, at it in that way, and also looking for that and others, as opposed to trying to always kind of point out and be critical of others with, with what, what they're doing or how they're, how they're going through life. So I think this, these practices of gratitude, um, go a long way with this, just again, this whole topic of kindness and compassion, because I think gratitude can allow us to be, um, kind to ourselves number one, uh, but also, uh, express that to other people in many ways. Mm-hmm,
Kayla (09:08):
absolutely. And, and, you know, sometimes I feel like there are so many words that we just, you use so commonplace that we almost take for granted what their definition is. We just have this idea in our mind. So sometimes I'll, I'll kind of Google, just the meanings of certain words. And I did that with gratitude actually. And a part of it is, um, readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness. Mm. And fundamentally, I do think that's a huge piece of it is that we are recognizing the way that other people and the world have shown us kindness. And, and, and that allows us the space to, to give it back. Um, and you know, also something that I'm thinking, um, while you were just speaking is, is kind of our, um, hard wiring. We have this negative negativity bias hardwired into us, um, sort of this evolutionary trait that long, long time ago, it kept us really safe if we were always scanning for danger.
Kayla (10:20):
And so the people who could do that better and more effectively, those are the people who lived and passed down those traits. So now we find ourselves just kind of always looking for the bad, which keeps us safe, but I think also can lead to a lot of anxiety, a lot of mental, um, health struggles, um, and a gratitude practice sort of does the opposite. It trains our mind to look for the good instead of the bad, and it sort of rewires those connections. So the at, yeah, I'm seeing the bad still, but, but let me proactively search for the good things, the things that are going right. Which I think is a huge piece of what you were just saying too.
Gordon (11:09):
Right, right. Yeah. Uh, and, and the, um, you know, the science behind it really is makes a lot of sense. I mean, there, as you were, as you were saying this, I was just thinking about, uh, I have in my, in my office in a resource notebook, um, a prick, a picture of the brain, and there's a part of our brain called the, a amygdala that is it's whole it's whole purpose is to keep us alive and keep us safe. It's that part of our, our brain that controls our breathing, our heart rate, all of those kinds of things. Uh, it also controls that fight or flight, uh, instinct that we have that fight or flight mechanism. And a lot of times we can, that part of our brain can at, can hijack the other, the rest of our brain, particularly our prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of our brain, but also the emotional part of our brain that allows us to, to, um, feel some of the softer emotions. And so gratitude really engages that prefrontal cortex so that it has the ability to kind of override that part of our brain that is constantly there, you know, the danger danger will Robinson kind of part of our brain, um, is, um, can take over for of people. And so there is, there is some science that, that supports the fact that gratitude practices help us engage that part of, of our brain and, and, and make it, um, make it easier to navigate the world that we're in.
Kayla (12:51):
Mm-hmm . Yeah. And, you know, a part of that GRA, um, negativity bias too. I think we can all connect to it because it is that part of us that really grasps onto and CLS to the bad things. Um, mm-hmm so if you think about, um, I don't know, like a performance review at work or something like that, it's like, you can have 98 positive checks and one, one small thing that somebody has said, okay, you have room for improvement here. And it's like, all the 98 things go out the window and you really hyper focus on that one thing. Right. Um, which is not fun for anyone. And so I think being really connected, um, to, to the bigger picture of that helps
Gordon (13:46):
A lot. Right. Yeah. I think too, just being, you know, um, another thing I'm reminded of is just thinking I've, uh, by both of us have been, um, studiers of people and that we're fascinated by people and human behavior and all of that sort of thing. But we, um, one of the things that I've always found fascinating is, is, and I don't know if it's more of a cultural thing here where we're located in a, in Appalachia, uh, Kayla and I both live in Northeast Tennessee. And, uh, it's very much, uh, very much influenced by an Appalachian culture. Uh, but seeing two people get together and commiserate over the negative things, you know, um, , you know, and, and, uh, so at some level people will connect around the negative parts of things rather than the, the positive parts of life. And I think when we can become aware of that, we can, we can make a choice to, to connect to the positive rather than the, the negative.
Gordon (14:50):
And, uh, there's a, if you think about it, maybe even in your own life, um, when, when we have been in conversations with people over something that was troubling or something we didn't, we felt, you know, um, I I'm reminded of, of this past year in one of the things that was an important awareness for our whole society, but the whole black, black lives matter movement that occurred. Um, one of the phenomenon of that is that there was a lot of focus on what we were getting wrong. So there's, there are times when we need to do that. And I think we, we need to call attention to those things, but the solidarity and the connection over the people that were getting it right and were, were giving voice to those things and being embracing of, of our diversity and of our, our differences, um, and being grateful of the differences that we have as human beings had a whole different feel to it. And there was that there was that air of kindness and compassion that was coming out through that. And so that, that for me instills a lot of hope.
Kayla (16:07):
Mm-hmm when you say that too, I think of community building mm-hmm, the first thing that comes to mind for me is that, um, it, it, when I think we are focusing, um, on both, I think both are important. Like, you know, we can build absolutely and should build community around what's going wrong. Like that's how we come good advocates, but I think too, we can connect so much over what's going. Right. Um, and having that gratitude. Um, I'm not sure if that's making sense the way that
Gordon (16:48):
I'm saying it. It is. And I think the, you know, having gratitude for a sense of diversity, um, again, to get to kinda going down the science track, you know, in, when you look at EC, uh, ecosystems and that sort of thing, the ones that are the healthiest are the ones that are most diverse. And so I think it's the same for us as human beings. And so I think being able to be grateful for another person's difference, another person's, um, different cultural view, views, different ways of seeing the world, all of those kinds of things, very much tie into gratitude practices.
Kayla (17:33):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, and it tears down, maybe some of that fear of difference that we have, if we can think of it in that way, um, and sort of start looking for the things that we have in common with other people.
Gordon (17:54):
Right. Um, right. Yeah. And I think, uh, uh, you know, one of the challenges I would give, um, people, uh, that are listening to the podcast would be to, to seek out experiences where you get to experience, um, something that feels maybe a little outside your comfort zone, and then being able to practice some gratitude around that, of what it teaches you and what you can appreciate, um, you know, uh, to not to go too far off on a, on a rabbit trail here. But I, and remember, as a, as a kid, um, I grew up, I grew up in a, my dad was a pastor, and so I grew up going to church and that sort of thing. And there was a certain way in which we did church and, and the, the view at that, at least in my NA naivete, uh, a time was that that's the, that's the correct way to do this and that you must do it this way.
Gordon (18:56):
And then I can remember visiting a black church. Of course, you know, I grew up white, Southern Baptist, um, um, not gonna judge that at this point, but, uh, uh, anyway, going into a black church one time and, and experiencing the difference of that and the excitement of that and all of that, um, you know, probably at the time looking back, I wasn't as appreciative and didn't have as much gratitude for that. But now when I look back at that, man, that's, that was just such a rich experience for me in my life to be able to experience that. And then even now, when I think of going into, uh, different settings where, whether it be, you know, it doesn't necessarily have to be religious, but going into maybe, um, seeing a, a, another one that comes to mind for me came, is watching, um, the Maori people.
Gordon (19:55):
I don't know if you've ever seen New Zealand doing the haw, um, if you've ever seen that well, YouTube it, um, and when you, when you, uh, the thing about it is, is that when you first see it, it feels very, um, very intimidating to watch that sort of ceremony go on. But when you understand the backstory behind that, of when they do that, they do it at funerals now, and they do it in situations where they are showing respect for people and what it was. Uh, it was a thing that was misinterpreted by a lot of people when they would come to New Zealand and, and, and face some of the indigenous people. And we'll probably, I'll try to have a link here in the show notes for a, a, a YouTube video of, of a haka ceremony being, being done. And, um, but once I learned the context and had gratitude for what it meant, it took on a whole new meaning and that now whenever I see one or, or witness that, um, it just fills me with a lot of emotion. And so, um, yeah, so didn't mean to get too much off on a rabbit trail, but I just thought those, that was a story that came to mind for me and just thinking about gratitude.
Kayla (21:17):
Well, I love it. And I think it helps me put into words better what I was trying to say earlier, which is that we are sort of wired to be scared of what's different. Um, you know, there is that sort of innate us, them, uh, mentality that's wired into us and, and it comes from a space of, of fear of the unknown, which none of us like that. Um, but I think when we can let go of that fear a little bit and start to under stand and start to, um, ask questions and, and really get to know people in the context and, and, and see their different perspectives and their different experiences as an opportunity for us to learn and connect. Um, it, it makes our relationship so much more rich and meaningful because I can absolutely think of times in my life where I was just surrounded by people who thought believe, acted, everything exactly as I did.
Kayla (22:23):
And, you know, I think there was an intentional piece to that because it felt safe and comfortable. I was never cha, um, it also, wasn't meaningful though. And now what I find is that every day in my life, um, through the work that I do, and also, I try to be very intentional about cultivating it in my personal life. I see people who are so extraordinarily different and have such different experiences and such different viewpoints. Um, and it, it does help me tap into, um, a strong sense of compassion of really understanding the background and where somebody is coming from. And it just teaches me every day, you know? Yeah. keeps me, it keeps me active and connected and, and it does challenge me in all the places I need to be challenged.
Gordon (23:17):
Right, right. Yeah. So as you think about, um, maybe, you know, one of the things that I hope that we'll be able to do with this particular episode is put into the shows summary in the show notes, some, some resources around practicing gratitude. What are some practices that come to mind for you that people can start maybe doing to, to kind of dip their toe in the water around gratitude?
Kayla (23:45):
Yeah. I mean, the one that I described is so easy, um, to start and, and I think maintain, which is just finding a few things every day, um, to reflect on what you're grateful for. Um, a big piece, I think of, of making any habits stick is having a consistency in when you're doing it and how you're doing it. Mm-hmm . And so, you know, if it's the last thing you do before you go to bed, you, you just know to expect, that's the last thing I'm gonna do. Um, if it's a part of your morning routine, you just know that that's when it's gonna happen. Mm-hmm . And I think that simple change makes it really easy to keep up. Um, um, and another thing I think is, I think you kind of mentioned it earlier, is this idea of, of really trying, um, to be intentional about focusing on what we have instead of what we don't have mm-hmm um, and, um, those are the two really simple things that come to mind for me. Do you have, do you have
Gordon (24:48):
Other stuff? Yeah, there was, um, you know, I know there, there are some folks that, uh, keep God gratitude journal where they, um, actually write down, you know, and, um, every, as you're you were saying things that they're grateful for. And another, another idea that I absolutely love, which I think would be a pretty momentous task, at least from my view, as I heard about someone, sometime that would write a thank you note to somebody every single day, and they would mail it to them. And it was just people that maybe they knew, or maybe people that they didn't know. Um, of course, I've got this image in my mind of Jimmy fouling doing his thank you notes on on, on his program. But, um, um, with James playing the music in the background that came to mind as I was thinking about that, but, you know, I think any of those things that we can do that are intentional, that are our habits that we, um, go out of our way to do.
Gordon (25:53):
And I think the, the other thing too, there there's something to be said for actually writing things out in long hand mm-hmm because our brain processes that information and those things differently, we, we tend to retain it more or if we write it down in long hand, rather than type it out on the screen. Uh, and so I would, I would encourage people to do that. And, uh, again, we'll try to have some links and, and that sort of thing here in the, in the show summary and the show notes to give the point people to other resources around this.
Kayla (26:28):
Yeah. I, I, I just, I wanted to add, um, that I think that's a really important, um, aspect of, of this new practice that I've started. And I really hope that I keep up is that in the past, um, you know, it's not new to me to, to maybe think of three things each day that I'm grateful for, but I think the new thing that feels really especially meaningful to me right now is that if a person comes up in that gratitude BLIS and that gratitude reflection, I let them know mm-hmm , and, and that feels highly connective for me. And it, it really does, I think, allow me, uh, I'm not just keeping it to myself, I'm grateful for them. And I'm, I'm allowing them to hear and feel that appreciation and know how meaningful they are in my life, which, which has added a whole nother layer to it. I think for me,
Gordon (27:21):
Yes, yes, absolutely. Well, Kayla, I'm grateful for you. I'm glad that we're doing this together. And, um, I'm looking forward to our future episodes here. We are at just episode number two, but it's the place that we start. And so I want to invite everybody to, uh, be sure and follow us and subscribe to the podcast wherever you might be listening to us. And also if you'll go to kindness and compassion.com, um, there'll be a place there for you to sign up for our email list. And, and probably by the time you hear this, there'll be some freebies that you can get from us, some PDFs and some guides, and that, that sort of thing. Uh, that's just our gift to you for signing up for that email list. And thank you so much folks for being with us on this journey.
Gordon (28:25):
Well, folks, I hope you enjoyed listing in on my conversation with Kayla, and I'm so grateful for her, uh, as I mentioned in that particular episode and just, um, the thoughts that she's bringing to this and her life experience around gratitude and do, do check out the show notes and the summary we'll have a few links in there to other resources. Uh, one, uh, as I've been doing some research for this podcast, a few, um, things I'll I'll point out to you are just kind of make mention of, there are a few websites that I've discovered. Um, one is the, uh, mindful old.org website, I think is our excellent website on just has a lot of great resources on mindfulness and gratitude and those kinds of practices. And the other one is the, and it's produced by Berkeley it's, uh, Berkeley university, UC Berkeley, and it's the greater good science center.
Gordon (29:27):
And I came across, uh, their website and their resources. They have, um, they have a podcast called the science of happiness, which has been on my regular listen list. And, um, just a great resource to, to point out to folks and we'll have have links here in the show summary and show notes. And also I mentioned the, uh, the video for the Hawke dance, uh, which is a traditional, um, dance that it's a, really a, an honorary kind of dance that the Malory people. And so I invite you to go over, to take, uh, a look at that. And there's a link to some YouTube videos here in the show notes and show summary as well. So, well, take care folks. And, uh, again, thanks for joining me for this podcast and this journey and this new venture of mine, uh, be sure and go over to kindness and compassion com and subscribe to our newsletter.
Gordon (30:23):
And, um, when you do that, you'll be getting a lot of, uh, freebies and resources just around the practices of self care and kindness and compassion, and just, uh, resources that we're putting together. As we kind of, uh, as I like to say, we're building the plane as we at, uh, maybe that's a bad metaphor, but anyway, that's what we're doing here and be sure and, uh, follow us and subscribe to the podcast wherever you might be listening to it. And so looking forward to you being with me and future episodes and be sure, and drop me an email or reach out to me. Um, you, if you might be interested in being part of this, this, uh, project with me, if, if there's content you would be interested in contributing as far as being on the podcast and us having a conversation or other resources that you know, that you think might be interesting to people love to hear about out those.
Gordon (31:23):
And again, if you'll go to kindness and compassion.com and go to the contact page there, you can get information about how to contact me and, uh, also apply to be on the podcast. So take care folks, and, um, looking forward to being with you in the next episode, you have been listening to the kindness and compassion podcast with Gordon brewer, part of the psych craft network of podcast. Please visit us@kindnessandcompassion.com for more information, resources, and tools to help you in your journey. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you haven't done so already be sure to sign up, to get the free kindness and compassion practices guide. Again, you can find that@kindnessandcompassion.com, the information in this podcast is intended to be accurate and authoritative concerning the subject matter cover. It is given what the understanding that neither the hosts guests or producers are rendering clinical medical, mental health, or legal advice. If you need a professional, you should find the right person for that.

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About Gordon

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.

 

Why Kindness and Compassion | Episode 1

Why Kindness and Compassion
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

The last few years have been tough for most everyone. We have (and are still) enduring a pandemic that has changed everything.  We are not only battling the COVID virus, but we are feeling the pinch of supply chain problems and rising prices, political divide and unrest.  People are living with a lot of fear and uncertainty.

 In my own life’s journey has been no exception. It’s been hard.  In addition to the whole COVID pandemic, I have gone through the death of my dad (just prior to COVID) and a whole list of problems for my wife who is fighting cancer and had some major surgeries.  She is disabled and requires round the clock care. 

I won’t sugar coat it… it’s been tough! Despite all this I have seen and experienced glimmers of hope.  It is through kindness and compassion that I have so far made it through.  Through my own therapy and the support of my community, we are making it through.

Sharing in People’s Lives

I have spent the last 20 years of my career as a psychotherapist and clergy person working with 100’s of people who are struggling and hurting.  And one of the realities of the whole COVID pandemic is that it has brought to light the mental health struggles of so many.   My own practice is overflowing and full.

The solution to all of this is simple but complicated… As a human race we need to learn how to better show kindness and compassion to one another. And not that this podcast will give definitive answers to how we do that, but hopefully be food for thought and instill some hope and motivation to at least change ourselves.  After all that is the only people we can change,,, it has to start with me.

The Dream of Hope

The idea for starting this podcast has been percolating in my mind for several years.  My motivation is that I have seen first hand people be changed and transformed by learning and practicing kindness and compassion.  Not only kindness and compassion for others, but kindness and compassion for themselves.

In this podcast I want to share ideas, stories and the science behind the practices of kindness and compassion. You will not only hear from me and some of my experiences in working with people in therapy, but you will hear from other experts and leaders in the fields of psychology, sociology, neuroscience and religion.

It’s All In The Brain

Here is what I know… All of us at various times in our lives struggle with emotional and physical hardships.  For some it is more traumatic than others.  And our brains have a physiological reaction to things that are hard.  There  is a part of our brains called the amygdala  that takes over and creates a “fight or flight” response. It’s part of the lower brain underneath the cerebellum.. It’s sole purpose is to keep us alive and safe.  And sometimes, it can take over so much, that people live with anxiety and are fearful much of the time.

 Learning New Ways of Being

The good news is that through the practices of Kindness and Compassion, we can re-train our brains to be more mindful and aware of when we are acting out of fear rather than compassion or kindness.  I have seen it over and over in my work with clients and others.  

By learning to act out of kindness and compassion, people are transformed.  The are living in less fear and are much more mindful. When people are able to do this, they are changed.  And it is my belief that when people are changed in this way, they also change the world.

I am excited that you are with me on this journey!  Take time to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media.

(00:05):
Welcome to the kindness and compassion podcast, where we will explore the intersection of psychology science and spirituality. My name is Gordon brewer and I'm a licensed psychotherapist and mental health provider. I have spent my career helping people learn how to better manage their emotions and find more meaning in their lives and connection in their relationships. Join me as we think and talk about the ways we can find happiness and be content in our lives, through the practices of kindness. And we will talk with other experts in the fields of psychology, science, and religion. I'm so glad you're with me on this journey as we learn how to be at peace with ourselves and others.
(01:02):
Well, hello everyone. And welcome again to the kindness and compassion podcast. I'm Gordon brewer, and I'm so excited for you to join me in this first episode ever of this podcast, the kindness and compassion podcast. And this has been a, kind of a, a dream of mine or saw an inspiration of mine over the last several years as I'm recording this first episode here in January of 2022 we're still in the midst of a COVID pandemic. And depending on when you're listening to it to this, hopefully if you're listening to this first episode later on, we're out of it more, but it's certainly affected and has been kind of a catalyst for me wanting to start this podcast. I have another podcast called the practice of therapy and it's really geared more towards therapists and a specific niche is just helping therapists and private practice on the business side of things.
(02:09):
But my inspiration for starting this podcast has really come over, I guess, really kind of gelled and come together over the last several years. The idea of having a second podcast that was not necessarily related specifically to therapy kind of hit me as I was out on some of my morning walks. Part of my daily routine is to get out on walks and walk on our green belt here, where I'm located in east Tennessee and listening to other podcasts and really just trying to really kind of make sense of the world. Certainly what we've gone through over the last several years has had an effect on all of us and part of my own story and my own journey is, is that I've had a few other hardships besides COVID in that. I experienced the death of my father back in 2019, and then here more recently and kind of ongoing as just working through the, the struggles of having a spouse that is disabled and she is a survivor of breast cancer and has had just a lot of health issues.
(03:26):
And you know, how do I respond to that? And how is that plate into what my values are. And also just drawing on some of my spiritual beliefs or spiritual practices as well. A little bit about me, if this is, if you haven't read up on me on the website, kindness and compassion.com I'm, as I said, my name is Gordon brewer. I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I have a private us in Kingsport, Tennessee where I have a group practice with five other therapists that are part of my group. But also in addition to my work and as a therapist and counselor, as I'm also a clergy person in the Episcopal church. And for those of you that might not be familiar with the epi church, the Episcopal church has been around a long time, and it is really kind of what has become of the Anglican or the church of England in the United States.
(04:31):
If you go back in history. So we are a Protestant denomination, we're a Christian and I am a deacon in the Episcopal church. So in, in that tradition, it's I considered a clergy person. Sometimes I wear a funny collar, but as I tell my clients or the people I work with in my therapy practice I don't like to catch people off guard with that. So but anyway, it certainly informs a big part of who I am in this whole journey. And just thinking about what I wanted to kind of my, why behind starting this podcast, as we've all experienced, particularly those of us living in the United States, we've gone through a lot of political unrest. And I think a big culmination of what has happened to us as a country happened about a year ago from when I'm recording this and where we saw some insurgent storm, the capital, and just the fear around all of that.
(05:35):
And one of the things that I've noticed not only in I practice, but just in general, is, is that right now, at least in my lifetime, we're living in a very fearful time. And a big part of the fear, I think is fear of each other. You know, one of the things about COVID is that it made us to be, even though we didn't necessarily see people as bad people or see others as bad, we really had to be careful about who we are around. And so it made us kind of have this, this sense of fear of people. And I think with the kind of the political divide that has happened and over this past year, but really longer than that ever since probably in 2016 when we elected a new president I think a lot of the fear just got kind of escalated.
(06:30):
I don't wanna be too political here, here, but I think one of the things about the former residents tenure is that it just kind of exacerbated the fear that we have of each other and some of our suspicions of people that are different than ourselves, and also maybe have different views and life experiences. So one of the things about starting this podcast is that I wanted to kinda give voice to a way for us to communicate with each other through kindness and compassion, to be able to kind of end some of the polarization that's happening in the world. I think that a lot of we are that way is that we have to kind of get into a little bit of brain science here. We've kinda let what I refer to as the lower part of our brain take over kind of the higher part of our brain.
(07:32):
So let me explain what I mean in our brains. When you look at the anatomy of a, a human brain, we have what, what we refer to as the cerebral cortex or the prefrontal cortex are the big part of our brain. And the fact that we've got a really big one of those is humans is what distinguishes us from all other animals. We've got a larges cerebellum, if you will. But part of the structure of the brain is, is that where the brain stem comes into the bottom of the brain, there's a whole other set of the brain, which is really kind of the lower part of the brain. And in particular, there's a part small part here. It's only, only just about the size of the end of your thumb, really. And it's called the Amy amygdala and that part of our brain, the its whole purpose is to keep us alive and help us survive.
(08:28):
It's what controls all the stuff that we don't really think about. It controls, you know, our breathing, our heart rate, it controls our eyes blinking to some degree controls when we get hungry or we're not hungry, all of those kinds of things, those autonomic functions are controlled in that area of the brain. But the one thing that it also does for us is it creates what we refer to as the fight or flight response when I'm working with my clients, my therapy clients, the way I like to explain it to 'em is, is if we were to imagine sitting in our room and all of a sudden a snake were to crawl out into the room, we would jump and we would be frightened and wouldn't really have to think about it. It would just that a amygdala would kick in and it's there to keep us alive to help us to be, to survive.
(09:27):
And it, it actually, it actually operates or actually is triggered 10 times faster than any other part of our brain. So where I'm going with this is, is that I think over this past year, and just for people in general, particularly people that have gone through a lot of trauma and a lot of hard things in their life, that part of their brain is really active. It's, it's almost too well. And so when we can understand that and when we can begin to be what I refer to as mindful about that, we can begin to slow things down enough to where we can begin to practice kindness and compassion. So kindness is something we do. It's the way I think about it. Kindness is something that we, we act on. There's if you listen to the trailer of this, I kind of told this story of a guy being in a grocery store and actually full disclosure.
(10:36):
That's story was a little bit about me and an experience I had. And so it was, it went like this. I was standing in line at the grocery store and I was actually in a, in a big hurry. And so I tried to pick the shortest line and there was a man, an older gentleman who was in line in front of me. And actually he was trying to use his food stamp up card that wasn't working to buy just a handful of groceries. And I was irritated that he couldn't get his card to work. And the clerk was, you could see kind of the, kind of the di the difficulty she was having, and just really trying to help this man and out of exasperation. And I won't, I'll be honest. It wasn't necessarily out of kindness, but out of exasperation, I said, well, how much does he need to buy those groceries?
(11:25):
Because there wasn't wasn't much there and it, and it came to about $25 or so. And so I said, let me just buy his groceries. And he and the man looked at me kind of engine. He kind of protested a little bit that I wanted to buy his groceries for him. And I said, no, it's, it's on me. Let me, let me just help you out this, this one time. And so I, I went ahead and pulled my credit card out and paid for his groceries. And really, if I'm quite honest about this, it was just because I was in a hurry and I didn't want to be troubled with him fumbling with his card that wasn't working and, and all of that sort of thing. But, but after I did that, the way the man looked at me and just said, you know, thank you.
(12:12):
You don't know what a difference this has made for me, my, my heart, my attitude, and all of that was changed. I actually began to feel compassion for the man that maybe I didn't have there in the beginning. So what I was able to do in that moment, if we look at the science of it was to slow my brain down enough to just act out of kindness. And when I did that, it created a change for me internally. And so it was out of an experience like that, that I thought about what are, who are the other people that have had experiences like that, where their lives have really been changed, maybe in just a small way through the practices of kindness and compassion. And so that's, what I hope to do in this podcast is to create for people ways to begin to practice kindness and compassion in the, their lives, to be able to go out into the world and make a difference maybe in just small ways.
(13:22):
So here's my big dream is that I want to be able to start interviewing people leaders, just in either leaders in religion or the faith communities, also people that are psychotherapist or science or familiar with psychology. Also just science in general, to talk about this topic, to be able to better understand, to be how teach people, how to be more mindful about what they're doing to have better control over their emotions and their lives, to be able to have better and more meaningful relationships. And as I've learned through my work over the last 20 years as a therapist, when people are able to do that, not only show kindness and compassion to others, but show kindness and compassion to themselves, things begin to change for people. People begin to be more content in life. They begin to find greater sense of happiness and their lives seem to go much better overall.
(14:30):
And so needless to say, all of that sounds easy on the surface, but it's a complicated thing because we are human beings. We live in a very complicated and sometimes fearful fearful world. And so my hope is, is that as you listen to this podcast and listen to the people that I hope to have as guests on the podcast, you're gonna be able to experience some kindness and compassion in a different way that will transform your life. That will make you see your life through a differently ends. And by doing that just one person at a time, I think we can change our world. At least that's my hope. That's my big audacious dream, if you will, to, to be able to accomplish through this podcast. So here's, here's my challenge to you. I'd love for you to reach to me and you can just email me at hello, kindness and compassion.com.
(15:38):
And also if you'll go over to that website, address kindness and compassion.com, you'll see a form there for, so you can sign up for the newsletter that I'm gonna be putting out. That's just gonna be filled with just, you know, resources and things that people can do to begin to practice kindness and compassion in their lives. And to be able to find, I guess greater emotional intelligence is one, one term I'd like to throw out there for you. And again, that's gonna be something that this podcast is about is gonna be about how, how people can learn greater emotional intelligence. In other words, how they manage their own emotions and also the emotions of what other people hand to them through the resources that you hear through the pod podcast. And then just through interviews that I planned to do in our next episode, after this one, I want you to listen in to a conversation I had with a colleague of mine, Kayla Tapia, and Kayla and I had had originally planned to kind of co-host this podcast, but life being as it is, and Kayla doing some great boundary setting for herself.
(16:58):
She's not gonna join me right away, but I did want you to listen into kind of our first conversations, one on what is kindness and compassion. And number two is on what is gratitude because one big practice, this of kindness and compassion comes out of practicing gratitude. And so where we have a conversation about that, and I want you to listen in on that, just from the perspective of two psychotherapists or two people in the mental health field just thinking about those that particular topics. So be sure and check out those, those other, other two episodes here at the beginning, I'm doing just some prerecorded episodes so that you'll have some content to listen to as you follow and subscribe to us wherever you might be listening to your podcast. And that's the purpose of this introductory first one.
(17:57):
Also just a as I've already given to you a little bit of is just talking about my, why behind the podcast. Also, if you're listening to the podcast and you feel like you would have something to add to this topic, either as an expert, either in the fields of psychology, religion, or science or whatever, I'd love to have you as a guest. And you can go to our about page on kindness@kindnessandcompassion.com and can fill out the application there to be a guest on the podcast. Also, if you have just had a life experience or a story to tell about times when you've practiced kindness and compassion, or even experienced kindness and compassion I'd love to hear those stories and love to have you on the podcast to tell those stories. So again, you can go to that go to that same go to the about page on kindness and compassion.com.
(19:03):
And you'll see a link there for to be a podcast guest. And that'll put you through to a Google forum to, to fill that out, to sign up and see if you see if this is something that we can have you do on the podcast. So anyway, glad you're joining me on this journey. I've got just so many stories to tell and looking forward to having people, the guests that getting lined up for the podcast, be sure and take time to follow us wherever you might be listening to it. And also share it with your friends. If you think think you might have some friends that would be interested in learning more about this topic and how to practice it in their life. Have 'em have 'em come over and listen to us. So anyway, take care folks. And I'm so glad you're with me on this journey, do take time to follow and subscribe to the podcast.
(20:03):
Whichever way you do that on the applications. You're listening to your podcast and go over to kindness and compassion.com and check it out. And you can always email me@helloatkindnessandcompassion.com, take care folks, and look forward to being with you in our future episodes. I'm so excited about this, a podcast in case you can't tell, take care, you have been listening to the kindness and compassion podcast with Gordon brewer, part of the psych craft network of podcast. Please visit us@kindnessandcompassion.com for more information, resources, and tools to help you in your journey. Be sure to follow us wherever you listen to your podcasts. And if you haven't done so already be sure to sign up, to get the free kindness and compassion practices guide. Again, you can find that@kindnessandcompassion.com, the information in this podcast is intended to be accurate and authoritative concerning the subject matter cover. It is given with the understanding that neither the hosts guests or producers are rendering clinical medical, mental health, or legal advice. If you need a professional, you should find for that.

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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.

 

The Case for Kindness and Compassion

Listen to the trailer…

So what makes people happy? Advertisers would want us to think that having the right “stuff” is what would make us happy. It’s what fills the airways.  And it goes without saying that, we all know that money can’t buy us happiness, but it can make us more comfortable. In fact, we all know stories of people that are incredibly rich people, money wise, but  are incredibly miserable emotionally and spiritually.  So what really makes us happy as human beings?

Over the years there have been numerous studies into what actually makes people happy.  Most of those studies indicate that true happiness comes from within.  The external stuff can make us more comfortable (more money and things), but that is not what really makes us happy.

In my work as a psychotherapist over the last 20 years, I have seen and worked with a lot of people that were suffering and unhappy.  Those struggling with various mental illnesses and broken relationships. At the core of most of the problems that people have in life comes down to being disconnected.  Being disconnected from themselves and others. It’s an issue of loneliness and fear. The bottom line to what makes us happy in life is when we feel safe and secure along with feeling connected to others at a deeper level.    

Kindness Brings Compassion

How do we “fix” this problem of disconnection?  Needless to say it can be complicated.  Nonetheless, when people begin practicing kindness and compassion in their lives, things seem to get better.  Kindness to themselves and the toxic messages that play in their heads.  Also practicing kindness to others and being able to forgive past hurts.  Through both of these, kindness to self and kindness to others, people can begin to experience compassion.

One way of thinking about kindness and compassion is in this way:

Kindness is an action.  It is also a choice in how we treat others. It means treating others with dignity and respect along with acknowledging their struggles. And we can show kindness to others without necessarily having compassion for them. 

Compassion is a feeling or an emotion. It is somewhat connected to empathy and forgiveness. It is being emotionally moved by other people’s suffering or hardships. And sometimes when we practice or show kindness, compassion follows.

The Pursuit of Meaning

Viktor Frankl (1905-1997), the famed neuroscientist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, devoted his life to understanding the importance of “meaning”.  His book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” is a classic in self-help psychology. In it he tells the story of how he survived the Holocaust by finding personal meaning in that experience despite all the extreme suffering and evil he encountered.

Frankl’s research showed a strong relationship between “meaninglessness” and criminal behaviors, depression, anxiety and addictions.  And when people do not have meaning in their lives, they will substitute the pursuit of hedonistic pleasure, materialism, power, hatred, and compulsive behaviors. 

Frankl recommends that we find meaning in our lives through three different actions:  through deeds of kindness or service to others, through the experience of values through some kind of medium (beauty through art, love through a relationship, etc.) or in the meaning that can come out of suffering. Frankl believed that joy came as a byproduct of finding meaning in life.

The Kindness & Compassion podcast is here to help people find ways to practice kindness and compassion in their everyday lives.  And also a way to explore the intersections of science, psychology and spirituality that can bring a deeper meaning in life.

Kindness and Compassion Is A Practice

Kindness and compassion is something we have to develop and practice. And through its practice we can find more meaningful and happy lives.  It is my hope that in this podcast and the content of this website you can find your path to a more meaningful and fulfilling life.  It is the ultimate pursuit of happiness. 

 

L. Gordon Brewer, Jr., LMFT – is a Licensed Therapist,  consultant, podcaster and author.    He is in private practice and owner of Kingsport Counseling Associates, located in Kingsport, TN.  Gordon has worked in the human services fields for over 30 years.  He is a clergy person in the Episcopal Church.  Gordon has devoted himself to helping others find meaning and healing in their lives.

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