“We do not remember days, we remember moments. The richness of life lies in memories we have forgotten.” – Cesare Pavese.
In How to Do the Work, clinical psychologist, and creator of “the holistic psychologist“, Dr. Nicole LePer offers both a manifesto for SelfHealing as well as an essential guide to creating a more vibrant, authentic, and joyful life. Dr. LePera describes how adverse experiences and trauma in childhood live with us, resulting in whole-body dysfunction—activating harmful stress responses that keep us stuck engaging in patterns of codependency, emotional immaturity, and trauma bonds. Unless addressed, these self-sabotaging behaviors can quickly become cyclical, leaving people feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, and unwell.
Favorite Takeaways – How to Do the Work by Dr. Nicole LePer
The book offers a self-directed learning model that contains the information and prompts that will enable you to do the work of healing yourself each and every day. Truly comprehending your past, listening to it, witnessing it, learning from it, is a process that enables deep change. Change that lasts. It enables true transformation.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James Baldwin
Awakenings are not mystical experiences that are reserved only for monks, mystics, and poets. They are not only for “spiritual” people. They are for each and every one of us who wants to change—who aches to heal, to thrive, to shine. With your awareness awakened, anything is possible.
How to Do the Work is the testament of a revolutionary approach to mental, physical, and spiritual wellness called Holistic Psychology. It’s a movement of empowerment that’s committed to the daily practice of creating your own wellness by breaking negative patterns, healing from your past, and creating your conscious Self.
Holistic Psychology focuses on the mind, body, and soul in the service of rebalancing the body and nervous system and healing unresolved emotional wounds. This work gives you the power to transform yourself into the person you’ve always been at your core. It tells a new, exciting story, where physical and psychological symptoms are messages, not lifelong diagnoses that can only be managed.
The holistic methods—exercises that harness the power of the physical (with breathwork and bodywork), the psychological (by changing your relationship to your thoughts and past experiences), and the spiritual (by connecting to our authentic Self and to the greater collective)—are effective because the body, mind, and soul are connected. They work because they are both based in the science of epigenetics and the reality that we have far more impact over our mental wellness than we may think.
Healing is a conscious process that can be lived daily through changes in our habits and patterns.
State of unconsciousness
So many of us exist in a state of unconsciousness. We navigate through the world running on blind autopilot, carrying out automatic, habitual behaviors that don’t serve us or reflect who we fundamentally are and what we deeply desire. The practice of Holistic Psychology helps us reconnect to our inner guidance system, which conditioned patterns learned in early childhood have taught us to disconnect from. Holistic Psychology helps us find that intuitive voice, to trust it, and to let go of the “personality” that has been modeled and shaped by parent-figures, friends, teachers, and society at large, allowing us to bring consciousness to our unconscious selves.
“Hitting rock bottom is like a death, and for some of us, it can literally bring us close to death. Death, of course, enables rebirth”
To truly actualize change, you have to engage in the work of making new choices every day. In order to achieve mental wellness, you must begin by being an active daily participant in your own healing. There are no shortcuts, and no one else can do it for you. It can feel uncomfortable or even downright scary to become an active participant in your own healing. Ultimately, learning who you are and what you are capable of is not only empowering and transformative, but one of the most profound experiences we can have.
The basic tenets of Holistic Psychology are as follows.
- Healing is a daily event. You can’t “go somewhere” to be healed; you must go inward to be healed. This means a daily commitment to doing the work. You are responsible for your healing and will be an active participant in that process. Your level of activity is directly connected to your level of healing. Small and consistent choices are the path to deep transformation.”
- Though many things are beyond our control, others are within our control. Holistic Psychology harnesses the power of choice, because choice enables healing.
- Holistic tools are very practical and approachable. Change can and often still feels overwhelming. This is because the main function of your subconscious mind is to keep you safe, and it is threatened by change. We experience this “pull toward the familiar” in the different discomforts we often feel as we change. The practice of making consistent, small, daily choices through these push-and-pull resistances helps empower us to maintain change.
- Taking responsibility for your mental wellness, though intimidating, can be incredibly empowering. There is a palpable shift occurring in the collective, with many people becoming increasingly frustrated with the inequities and limitations of our health care system.
FUTURE SELF JOURNAL
Future Self Journaling (FSJ) is a daily practice aimed at helping you break out of your subconscious autopilot—or the daily conditioned habits that are keeping you stuck repeating your past. You can begin to move forward by consistently engaging in the following activities:
- Witnessing the ways you remain “stuck” in your past conditioning
- Setting a conscious daily intention to change
- Setting small, actionable steps that support daily choices aligned with a different future outcome
- Empowering these daily choices despite the universal experience and presence of mental resistance
HOMEOSTATIC IMPULSE – Change is Hard
The overwhelming pull of the subconscious mind makes it hard for us to change. We are not evolutionarily wired for change. When we do try to push ourselves out of our autopilot, we face resistance from our mind and body. This response has a name: the homeostatic impulse. The homeostatic impulse regulates our physiological functions from breathing to body temperature to heartbeat. And it all happens at the subconscious level, meaning that we do not actively initiate any of them; they are automatic. The goal of the homeostatic impulse is to create balance in the mind and body. When there’s dysregulation, the imbalances can be problematic and even self-betraying.
Identifying your wounding
Identifying your wounding is a fundamental step on the healing journey, and it’s rarely an easy one. This reckoning often unearths deep reservoirs of pain, sadness, and even anger that have long been suppressed so that you could, at least on a surface level, function and move on. As you dive deeper into this work, it is important to keep in mind that sometimes old scars will be opened and an outpouring of feelings will come with the process of healing wounds from childhood.
Just remember: this, too, can be a moment of witnessing. Begin to practice being kind to yourself and your loved ones, regardless of what comes up. How a parent-figure treated you as a child is not a reflection of who you are. Or even who they are. You do not need to be a reflection of their unprocessed trauma.
The Inner Child
The inner child is a petrified part of our psyche that formed when we were limited in our emotional coping abilities. This is why many of us act like children when we are threatened or upset. The reality is that many of us are stuck in this childlike state. We are emotionally illiterate because we are little children in adult bodies.
THE 7 INNER CHILD ARCHETYPES
Typically comes from codependent dynamics. Gains a sense of identity and self-worth through neglecting their own needs. Believes that the only way to receive love is to cater to others and ignore their own needs.
Feels seen, heard, and valued through success and achievement. Uses external validation as a way to cope with low self-worth. Believes that the only way to receive love is through achievement.
Keeps themselves small, unseen, and beneath their potential due to fear of criticism or shame about failure. Takes themselves out of the emotional game before it’s even played. Believes that the only way to receive love is to stay invisible.
Ferociously attempts to rescue those around them in an attempt to heal from their own vulnerability, especially in childhood. Views others as helpless, incapable, and dependent and derives their love and self-worth from being in a position of power. Believes that the only way to receive love is to help others by focusing on their wants and needs and helping them solve their problems.
The life of the party.
This is the always happy and cheerful comedic person who never shows pain, weakness, or vulnerability. It’s likely that this inner child was shamed for their emotional state. Believes that the only way to feel okay and receive love is to make sure that everyone around them is happy.
Drops everything and neglects all needs in the service of others. Was likely modeled self-sacrifice in childhood and engaged in deep codependency patterns, much as the caretaker did. Believes that the only way to receive love is to be both good and selfless.
The hero worshipper.
Needs to have a person or guru to follow. Likely emerges from an inner child wound made by a caretaker who was perceived as superhuman, without faults. Believes that the only way to receive love is to reject their own needs and desires and view others as a model to learn how to live.
Core beliefs are the many stories about ourselves, our relationships, our past, our future, and the innumerable other topics we construct based on our lived experiences.
“A belief is a practiced thought grounded in lived experience. Beliefs are built up over years of thought patterns and require both interior and exterior validation to thrive. Beliefs about ourselves (our personality, our weaknesses, our past, our future) are filters that are placed over the lens of how we view our world. The more we practice certain thoughts, the more our brain wires itself to default to these thought patterns. This is especially true if the thoughts activate our stress response and vagus nerve. This creates an internal turmoil that can easily become compulsive over time, which is the definition of the conditioned trauma reaction we know as emotional addiction. ”
Need for Validation
This is one reason why nearly every adult is desperate to be seen, heard, and externally validated. Our need for validation may manifest itself as codependency, chronic people-pleasing, and martyrdom; or, on the other side of the spectrum, it may manifest itself as anxiety, rage, and hostility. The more disconnected we are, the more depressed, lost, confused, stuck, and hopeless we feel. The more stuck and hopeless we feel, the more we project our emotions onto the people around us.
Setting Healthy Boundaries
Drawing a boundary with someone involves letting someone know what is and isn’t okay with you, and then having some sort of enforceable consequence if they cross that line, or if they cross it again. Boundaries are clear definitions of our personal limitations.
Use Objective Language
When you state your boundary, it is helpful to use objective language as much as possible. You want to focus on facts. “If a phone call occurs in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping, it will go unanswered.” It’s best to avoid “you” language as much as possible, as it can activate the defensiveness of the other person’s ego. Try to be confident and respectful, as hard as this may be. Remind yourself you are doing nothing wrong. You are respecting yourself and your relationship.
“Boundaries protect you. They keep you physically balanced. They help you connect to your intuitive Self and are critical to experiencing authentic love.”
Example of a boundary-setting template that can be adapted to fit your needs:
“I am making some changes so that [insert your intention for your new boundary] and hope you can understand that this is important to me. I imagine [insert your understanding of their behavior]. When you [insert problematic behavior], I often feel [insert your feelings], and I understand that is something you may not be aware of. In the future, [insert what you would or would not like to happen again]. If [insert original problematic behavior] happens again, I will [insert how you will respond differently to meet your own needs].”
“I am making some changes so that [ ], and I hope you can understand that this is important to me. I imagine [ ]. When you [ ], I often feel [ ], and I understand this is something you may not be aware of. In the future, [ ]. If [ ] happens again, I will [ ].”
Transitions are hard. No matter how perfect the situation is, you are still disrupting your homeostasis and at the minimum it feels uncomfortable. We are creatures of habit, and when we can’t engage in our usual patterns, we feel thrown off, vulnerable, even hostile to change. Anytime we are faced with an allostatic life event—a job change, a move, a death, a birth, a divorce—it forces us out of our safety zone and into the great unknown, a naturally disquieting place.
“Letting go of the fear of what others think, the conditioned state of judgment, and all the pain of our wounded inner child is all part of the joyful side of the reparenting process.”
Every time we make a choice that is outside of our default programming, our subconscious mind will attempt to pull us back to the familiar by creating mental resistance. Mental resistance can manifest as both mental and physical discomfort. It can take the form of cyclical thoughts, such as I can just do this later or I don’t need to do this at all, or physical symptoms, such as agitation, anxiety, or simply not feeling like “yourself.” This is your subconscious communicating to you that it is uncomfortable with the new territory of these proposed changes.
When we experience our parent-figures engage in supportive behaviors, we learn that it’s safe to express our needs and reach out to other people for help. Most parent-figures never learned how to meet their own needs, let alone another person’s, passing on their own unresolved traumas and conditioned coping strategies. Even well-intentioned parent-figures don’t always give us what serves us. Meeting all of someone’s varied and unique needs all the time is almost impossible.
The reparenting process looks different for everyone. Generally, we want to quiet our inner critic and embrace self-respect and compassion. With the help of the wise inner parent, you can learn how to validate your reality and feelings by witnessing them, rather than instinctually judging or ignoring them. Your wise inner parent cultivates acceptance while honoring the needs of your inner child—to be seen, heard, and valued for the authentic parts of yourself. You become the priority.
Every moment, we make a choice: we can live in the past, or we can look forward and envision a future that is different. Our tendency when we return to a system, regardless of how much work we do on our own, is to revert to old patterns. The temptation is to embrace the familiar subconscious conditioning. We can also decide to participate in the opening of an unfamiliar, uncertain door.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.