“Disconnection is symptomatic of modern life, but not necessary.” This is a beautiful quote from our guest in this episode, Dr. Stacy Berman, and it calls for a number of reflections on the ways we connect in this chaotic world—even if sometimes, all we want is to do the opposite. But through our quest for connection, how much of ourselves do we really show to be liked and to be involved? Are the methods we’re using to connect disconnect us instead? In today’s conversation, Whitney Lauritsen talks to Dr. Stacy to explore these questions. They discuss removing the mask as we interact with ourselves and the world. They also talk about shifting self-perception and breaking out patterns of negative self-talk through finding our neutral space and using compassionate inquiry. Admittedly, it can be quite challenging to express our authentic selves in this hyper-connected world, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t. Because your authentic self is what beautiful really feels like. Don’t miss out on this conversation.
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Removing The Mask And Shifting Self-Perception With Dr. Stacy Berman
On Stacy Berman’s website, she has this great phrase that I thought was a lovely point to start, which is, “Disconnection is symptomatic of modern life but not necessary.” Something that I have been thinking a lot about, Stacy, is I have noticed within myself a yearning to feel connected, not only to myself or to people that I know personally, intimately, my close circle of friends and family, but I want to have more connection with the rest of the world as much as possible.
That is what led me to get so involved in social media and do things like podcasts, video projects and ways that I can reach other people. The downside is that a lot of those methods of trying to connect with others have led me to feel more disconnected because of the way that a lot of those platforms are set up. They have brought up within us so much comparison and seeing things about ourselves that we might not have seen or not spend so much time online.
Mainly, the comparison trap leads us to compare ourselves constantly, but we are also comparing ourselves to our past selves. We have photos from the past on social media that we might refer back to or other people might see and bring up to us. The disconnection is a bit heartbreaking for me because we are all yearning for more connection, yet the way that so many of us have found ourselves online is simultaneously leading us down almost like a maze.
We are all trying to find the part of the maze that feels like we have completed something and we felt successful, but we find ourselves constantly hitting dead ends. It is like, “I thought I was on my way towards a certain point, but I hit another dead end and I have to turn around and try over and over again.” That is the first time that visual has come to mind for me. That also ties into a lot of your work where you are supporting people in shifting their self-perception. I am excited to dive into this from a lot of different levels.
I am very much looking forward to it as well. Self-perception is such an integral part of how we interact with ourselves, the world, people, God, spirit, universe or whatever you want to call that. Buddha says, “Your mind makes the world.” I am not quoting Buddha exactly, but before your mind creates the world, the world creates your mind.
Your brain develops in relationship to things around you like your caregivers, friends, family, culture, society and media. Those things are shaping your self-perception. We can take a look outside or on any social media. If we do not like what we see on social media in general, that is an input that is affecting our nervous system and the way we interact with ourselves and the world. Self-perception is a very important tool to work on if you do want to feel that connection.
I am curious how you perceive social media on that note, given that it can lead us to get into some of these mental traps. Do you find yourself falling into the comparison trap based on all of the work that you have been doing which feels very rooted in being present and tuned into yourself? Do you still feel the pull of the comparison trap when you go online?
I am lucky because I grew up without a phone, but I do remember that comparison trap as a teenager and a young adult. On social media, the curtains have been pulled where I know this is fake. We all know it is fake, whether or not they are beautiful. That is all subjective anyway, but we also know that there are filters. We know this is not true. In a lot of ways, I was blessed because I was not raised with the social media thing being a thing. I did not have that to contend with. Also, I am old enough for all the work I have done to not fall into that trap.
However, I do find it interesting that I have had an eating disorder. I do not think you ever not have it. You just get better at dealing with it. I have also had body dysmorphia issues. Some time ago, I do Muay Thai and I was having a conversation with my coach. He was showing me that one of the women in the gym was doing this exercise. I was watching her and then he asked me something about her body type. He was like, “You guys are the same body type.” I was like, “Really?” He is like, “You do not think you are?” I was like, “In my head, I am much, much bigger than her.” He was like, “You guys are the same size.” It is so interesting to see that comparison. That has happened to me.
The thing for me is it does not have an emotional charge on me anymore. If I gain 5 pounds, then I am like, “I have gained 5pounds.” I do not even weigh myself, so I do not know. If I gained 5 pounds, I’ll say, “I want to work out. I do not want to eat pizza so much,” whatever it is, but it is not emotionally charged in the same way as it used to be.
I can relate to that too. I find myself thinking almost another comparison here as like, “I would love to get to a point where I do not feel that emotional charge.” It is an evolution because I do not know if we ever fully heal from something like an eating disorder. I see it evolving and shedding some layers, but there is always that scar there, a reminder for me and a lot of others. I used to think that having an eating disorder was rare and then social media has me wondering, “Who does not have an eating disorder?” That is one side of social media. It is interesting because it simultaneously reminds me that I am not alone, but then it skews perceptions of things like that.
Also, the conversations have shifted. When I used to talk about my disordered eating many years ago on YouTube, it was seen as a rare thing. Now, I feel like every woman is talking about it on one level or another. It comes up a lot and there is so much awareness. That is exciting, but I also sometimes find it more confusing because I am thinking, “Is it an eating disorder if everybody has gone through it? If we are all struggling with it, where does the word disorder even fit in anymore?” Sometimes that makes it hard, especially if you feel it like your identity. When I think about the stages that I have gone through in life, my disordered eating feels like a very prominent place in my past.
Sometimes when I hear other people talking about something like, “Everybody goes through this,” I think, “Was that as big of a landmark if it is so common or is this rite of passage? What if many of us are going through this thinking that we are alone and something is wrong with us?” It is slowly being revealed that a lot of these things are perhaps even universal and we are having the nuances of our experiences with that.In the end, an eating disorder is a coping strategy. Click To Tweet
When we look at any “disorder,” I am putting them in air quotes because no one is disordered, these are symptoms of deeper things that we need to work on, but it is not a disorder. We can look at eating disorders but also at other types of coping strategies because, in the end, the eating disorder is a coping strategy. It is a way to either soothe us, control things or make us feel better in some way. If I lose 5 pounds, then I am more worthy in some way. It is not a disorder.
As I look at it, it is a signal that your body is, in some way, either feeling like it is not safe, not enough or not worthy and then, instead of following the trajectory of what a normal eating disorder is, whether it is overeating, under-eating or somewhere in between, then we could start addressing the real root of it, which is there is a part of you that does not feel like it is worthy. How do we get that part of you to start feeling like it is worthy then? That is how I look at this.
Back to your point, it is universal. If we look at any person on this earth, I have never met, seen, or read about anyone who does not have something. It may not translate as an eating disorder, but it can come out in so many different ways. The root of that is the same. You are scared. You do not feel like you are enough, worthy, smart enough, or too much. That root and whatever that thing are universal. It is just the different ways that it comes out for us.
I love the way that you phrase that. It reminded me of something else that you said, which was that a lot of us have this idea that we will feel better when X happens. This idea of, “I will feel better when I lose weight, when I have reached this level of perceived success or when I have this amount of money.” I want to go back to your point on that instead of summarizing it because you had a beautiful way of talking about how we are not ever going to get there if we are always focused on the future. Remind me of how you phrased that.
From a nervous system perspective, if we are always putting the goalpost here like, “I will feel better when I am a size X, when I lose this amount of weight or when I make this much amount of money,” what we are doing is we are training our nervous system to always scan for what is wrong in an attempt to get to perceive what is right. Except what we have done is train our brain to constantly look for what is wrong. Even if we get to this size, weight or level of income, our nervous system is still designed to keep looking for what is wrong because we have not readjusted it at all. We are always putting the goalpost beyond where we are. We never feel happy, satisfied or successful.
A lot of the work that I like to do, especially around body image things, is how do we get ourselves at least to a neutral place, if not to a place of positivity about our bodies? That body-positive or body-neutral idea does not preclude doing work if we want to do work. Starting from a neutral or positive place will then redesign and rewire the nervous system to experience the success that we get if we do get to whatever size, weight or level of income that we want. It is important. One of the components of when I am working with everything is, “What are the things that we can be grateful for that are working and positive to us so that we are training the nervous system to feel it right here, right now, without having to become anything else?”
It sounds like a wonderful place to be. I find myself thinking that I have spent so much of my life not feeling that neutrality. I have been feeling so much of that negativity, especially around the body. I had this flashback to my younger self and a lot of the ideas about my body in my head. Sometimes that makes me feel so sad, not just for myself but for others, because there are a lot of people that have experienced so much in childhood that has kept them in that negative state of mind about themselves.
Getting to a place of neutrality sounds wonderful. Baby positivity feels so far away that there is a yearning to get neutral. That is how I feel about my body. I have never thought about it that way, but the phrase “body neutrality” has felt appealing to me because sometimes, even positivity, I negatively associate with it.
For the female gender, there have been a lot of mixed messages about our bodies. Positive is also not very clear. That seems to differ. What we believe to be positive may not even feel right for our bodies because positivity tends to be emphasized on certain body weight, size or shape. That is also changing. Culturally, there are different messages around what looks good. If you associate it with good being positive, then that starts to feel very confusing.
If what society’s viewpoint on what is a good body, if that does not match up to what you are physically able to achieve if you can never be a certain size because your bone structure is getting in your way or your genetics, no matter what you do, or your age and all these different factors that might truly prohibit you within the reasonable measure to get to that size, neutrality starts to feel like the goal more than positivity.
I have worked with a bunch of people where getting to neutral is that. It does not take up so much space in the day. I read a statistic where it said, “Women will body monitor themselves every 30 seconds.” We will check our hair. “Is somebody looking at me?” We will pull in our stomachs and think about the amount of bandwidth that it takes, whereas if we can get to neutral, that frees up so much space to do the things that are meaningful and important.
I also wanted to share with you because you were sharing about getting to body neutral that I do The Naked Photoshoot. That is so interesting because it is often uncomfortable to get naked. Not a lot of my clients do it, but I have had some strangers come and do it. As you can imagine, it would be quite uncomfortable to get naked in front of people, but the beautiful thing is within 45 minutes to 1 hour, it will be one woman at a time for the photoshoots. They come in and there will usually be some uncomfortableness with even taking off robes, feeling very shy and wanting to cover.
Having women go through the process of feeling that covering or if they feel ashamed, they feel that shame. It is there. The story we are making up, “I feel shame because of my body,” can be examined. The feeling of shame is valid because it is there. Feel that shame, feel that wanting to hide or feel whatever it is that you are feeling. Through the process, eventually, the women get much more comfortable. There was this one woman in the very first photoshoot I ever did. She was in her 50s when we did the photoshoot. I asked her, “Show me what your beautiful looks like.” She broke out in tears and said, “I have never thought of myself as beautiful.”
It was a moment of recognition and acknowledgment that she had never had that thought about herself. The beautiful thing is you are aware of that, feel the emotions around not feeling beautiful and are able to release it. From that position, we started, “Maybe you do not know what beautiful looks like. Why don’t we explore that?” We start putting our bodies in different positions. “Does this feel it? Does it feel like this? How does it feel?”It's not a disorder; it's a signal. Click To Tweet
Within this process, you go from feeling shame, wanting to hide, anxiety or whatever it is to emotional release, which creates more space in the system and then into, “I may not know what my beautiful looks like, but here I am. I am going to explore it. Maybe I do not get there today, but now I have created neural pathways and my brain knows, ‘What does it look like?’ We have taught it something.” That is not to say for everyone to do naked photoshoots unless they are called to do it, but some steps can be taken that allow us to authentically feel the feelings that our bodies hold without repressing, denying, avoiding or distracting from them.
That creates more space and bandwidth to start recreating, “What do we want to feel like? What do we want to believe about ourselves?” This is not talking therapy. I am doing it with my body. I am teaching my body and showing my body how to do this. I love doing those photoshoots because it is such a profound experience for me as the person who has created them.
I have done them too. I have been naked in front of the camera with everyone and the participants. It is such a beautiful process. Also, this connection when we do these photoshoots, there is a sense of sisterhood that you do not know you are going to get when you go in, but by the time you are naked in front of 6 or 7 other women, crying, laughing and everyone is like, “You are so beautiful,” you leave there having the sense of sisterhood.
It is interesting to hear you talk about this because I resonated with the naked photoshoots when exploring your website. There is something so majestic about a black and white photoshoot, the lighting and the way that the body is represented in new ways because photos have been interesting for us as humans, especially in the past number of years. There are so many people, especially women, that are feeling over-sexualized through photos whenever their skin is being shown. For me, that has been confusing. There is also confusion about how you show yourself in an image. I am at a point where I am not even sure how I want to show up in front of the camera anymore, which has been an odd thing for me, given that I have done so much on camera.
Video is very different for me. I feel very comfortable with that, but in a still photo, I have noticed a lot of discomforts. What I am realizing at this moment is I feel confused about what it means for me to show up on camera, and how I do it for myself versus for other people. That goes back to the social media side of it. My thought process is getting here because I have done a few artistic nude photoshoots many years ago. I did one that was similar to the shoot that you have done or the photos I saw on your website. It was interesting because it was a male photographer. I did a lot of research on him to see, “Am I comfortable being naked around this man? What is he going to do with these images?”
The reason I decided to do this shoot is that he was doing it as a very artistic exploration of the body, not like, “You are a naked woman. I am going to capitalize on your nakedness and objectify you.” It was neat the way that he was looking at the body, almost as if it was a landscape of mountains. The photos he took of me were like the curves of a certain part and the angles he put me on. I remember it was a cool experience versus I have done photoshoots where I felt like I was being used as an object to look sexy.
That was a bit conflicting because I did a year-long process of doing a photoshoot almost every month with a different photographer. I remember how it was such an interesting exploration of myself and how I looked, but I felt confused about why I was doing it. I have noticed that a lot over many years on social media, I was feeling confused about photos of myself and how other people take photos of themselves. I wonder how many people feel unsure. We want to show up as ourselves, but we also have a lot of pressure to show up in a particular way. Going back to body monitoring, specifically women or people who identify as women feel a lot of pressure because it is all about perception.
It is like, “I want to show up to control the way someone perceives me. I am going to do certain angles, put makeup on, do my hair or wear my clothes a certain way. I might use filters to adjust myself. I might edit myself through a program like Photoshop to adjust the way I look so that I can control other people’s perceptions of me and simultaneously adjust myself to look the way I want to look, which may not be the reality of how I look.” That is very complex.
The interesting part and this relates to the photoshoots and to a lot of the work I do, is that wanting to filter this out in terms of how you are going to be perceived is the narrative. In the photoshoots, work and healing work, we get away from the narrative. I do not give a crap how you want to show up. Not that I do not care how you want to show up in the world, but I do want you to show up in the world as you, not as your condition to mask yourself.
When I say, “I do not give a crap about how you show up,” it is that part. I want to take those masks off and move them off to the side. There are moments when the protection and the masks are useful, but in general, when we begin to identify with those masks, it becomes problematic. “I need to be XYZ size to be loved.” That is not true at all. We have created a condition where we think this is us and that is not the truth. This is us inside of here. This essence is us. That is a lot of the work, whether it is photoshoots or healing stuff. It’s like, “Who are you behind all of those masks and all of those parts that want to determine how other people see you?”
Those are the ones that are useful in some capacities, but when you think that is who you are, that is when I am going to choke you out with lots of love. Sometimes peoples need some tough love, but that is the work. It is not those masks and perceptions that we are trying to control or we are using to protect ourselves. That is not us. That is protection or a mask. Let’s get to who we are underneath all of that. That is that connection we are talking about. It is like, “I touched myself now. Not all of these masks are protecting me.”
I am so glad that you circled back to connection. This is very timely as I have been exploring this a lot on my own but also the show, how I am in the process of doing a lot of unmasking and it feels very uncomfortable at times. I have wanted to do this so much because I know that the only reason I am putting on a mask is for other people, which has felt so out of alignment. I have done a lot of that because it is about coping and survival. I have been taught that to make money and be successful, I need to show up differently than who I am. That requires a mask or I need to shape myself to become that mask.
This is where some of the disordered eating starts to come into play. I mostly struggled when I was in high school and college. That was a very different stage of my life where a lot of people are trying to figure out who they are at that age. The way we mask as teenagers and early twenties is very different from later in life. As I moved into my working career outside of college, there was a constant, “You got to be this to get that and do it this way to succeed.” I have always found myself feeling incredibly frustrated by that. I do not want to change who I am at the core, but it feels like everybody on the outside is saying, “Change. Be this type of person so that you can get the relationship that you want.”
I date men. If you want to be with a man, he wants this, so you have got to look like this. We look at this era that we are in with dating, where it is all photos and the pressure that everyone feels if they are on these sites to show up, “I want to curate the images that I put on my dating profile to attract this type of person.” We are both showing up as our masked selves, so how do we even know if we are going to connect on that deep level that all of us yearn for? The frustration I felt is that the masked are not only forcing us to be someone who we are not, but we are getting in our way because how can we connect if everybody is walking around wearing masks?We're always just putting the goalpost beyond where we are right now, and we never actually feel happy or satisfied or successful. Click To Tweet
That is exactly the work. As you were sharing, I keep talking about this narrative that we attach things to, but we get to the root of things. Let me explain that a little bit. When we are kids, outside of food and home, we have two primary needs. We have a connection. We need to be connected to our caregivers in a very real way. If we do not have caregivers, we are most likely not going to survive. That means they protect us physically, emotionally and psychologically. We have authenticity. We have these two needs. We need to be authentic and maintain this connection.
However, as children, most of us get the message that we need to be a certain way to maintain this connection. Sometimes it is because the household is abusive or neglectful, but other times, it might be like mom might say, “Big girls do not do that,” or something along those lines, so then we get the message that if we want to cry but we want mom’s connection and mom to love us, we cannot cry because then mom is going to withdraw her love. That may not be true. Mom most likely will not withdraw her love, but our little brains pick that up and we become those people who people-please or think we have to be a certain way to receive love or be successful.
When we are looking at these things, what we should be working towards is to understand where that little part of us took that role. Was it when you were four? If it was when you were 4, then what does that 4-year-old need? When that 4-year-old has the impulse to be a certain way about a certain person, most likely, that 4-year-old feels scared because they do not want to lose their mom or dad’s love. It is very simple when we understand where these feelings or narratives start from.
When we think of these masks that we all have to take on, although they are playing out in our adult lives, we recognize, “That is because when I was four years old and my mom got angry at me because I broke the toy. I realized that if I break this, I have to be perfect or else mom is going to be angry. I am going to be scared because she does not love me. It is not necessarily true, but that is how I perceived it because I am only four.”
Does not that make you want to go back in time and hug your four-year-old self? That is how I feel. Whenever I think about these things, I realize how crucial it is for children to have self-aware adults in their lives. For the reader thinking, “We cannot go back in time for ourselves, but how can we be present for other children in our lives, whether they are our own or part of our family or friends?” I do not have kids, but many of my friends do. I have this desire to show up, be present for them, so loving and positive.
I find myself even thinking about every little thing because children are so sensitive. They do take in much more than we even realize. It is a wonderful opportunity whenever I interact with a child to notice the human sensitivity that I also think we become so tough as adults. We have all these layers that a lot of us hide, that deep, sensitive soul within us that, as kids, we did not hide because we had not trained ourselves to do that quite yet.
We cannot go back and redo our childhood, but we can start working with our inner child, which does change how that part reacts and, therefore, how we as adults show up.
I would love to hear more about that because I do not know if I have ever done any formal inner child work. I hear a lot about it. I understand it, but I do not fully know what that process is like because I have not done it myself. When you talk about it in that way, what does that look like for an adult who wants to do that work?
One of the ways that we get to that inner child is through a process called Compassionate Inquiry, which is a technique that was developed by Gabor Maté. I did professional training with him and his method is very good at getting to that inner child. Other methods help you deal with the inner child stuff, but his is a great process to get to it. How would one do that, for example, if I was working with someone and they came and their intention is, “I want to explore my body dysmorphia?” That is a clear intention. I would ask, “What was the most recent thing that happened?” “This morning I looked in the mirror and I noticed that I had gained a little weight. I got so disgusted with myself.”
It is a process. I am giving me the answers. I would let the person that I am working with come up with what their feeling. “Where in your body do you sense that disgust?” “I sense it in my belly.” “Can we be with that for a moment or two?” Maybe yes, maybe no, depending on what they say but let’s say they say yes. I might ask them, “When was the first time this sense of disgust came up for you?” Almost always, 95% of the time, they’re like, “I remember being at home hanging out with my brother. He pinched my belly and made a mooing sound.”
We are at the inner child. “This sense of disgust was created in relation to this experience you had as a child. How old were you?” “I was five years old.” “What would a five-year-old feel at that time?” “I felt scared because my brother was picking on me and my parents were not there to comfort me.” “What does that mean then? If that child is scared, what would you do for a five-year-old child?” “If a five-year-old child was scared, I would offer them a hug and say, ‘It is okay.’” Mostly, it is not going to be a verbal thing because the five-year-old is not responding to, “It is okay. You are a beautiful child.” They are going to respond to the holding, hugging and being with them.
I made that up in my head, but that is the trajectory of how it would go. We start with an intention, get to a recent thing that happened, connect with the emotion, trace that emotion back to its origin and then once we get to the origin, inevitably, we are at the inner child. We work with that emotion based on what that inner child is feeling, whether it is fear, shame, anger or whatever it is. That is a profound process. It allows me, as the person working with someone and the person going through the process, to see how the emotion has been present the whole time.
We are using emotion to create a narrative around it. It is like, “I felt ashamed. When I became a teenager, I was ashamed because of my body and then when I got older, I was ashamed because I did not have the job I wanted. As I grew up, I was ashamed because my relationship failed.” Those are all stories, but the underlying emotion is the driver. That is back to our minds shaping the world. Our feeling of shame is shaping what is happening on the outside and the narrative that we are telling ourselves.
It is so powerful to think of it that way. Interestingly, I do not feel like a lot of people talk about this. It sounds clear as a way of doing this healing, but the way that you are discussing this feels a bit foreign. Not in the sense that I have not heard it before but that I do not hear it enough, regularly and people talking about their sense of self in that way. As a society, it is a bit lost on us that what we are seeing is based on a lot of these core experiences and what we are experiencing in the world. Many people assume that their perception is the right perception like, “My belief system is the only way. This is the right way. If you are not with me, you are against me.”Show me what your beautiful looks like. Click To Tweet
That is also worth talking about with you too. I am curious how you feel given this time that we are in where we have war developing and so many different opinions about what has gone on during the pandemic, but on a day-to-day basis, there is always some controversy in the news, whether it is in Hollywood, sports or politics. If you open up any website about the news, social media or turn on the TV, there is going to be the sense of, “Did this person do something right or wrong? Are you with them? Do you agree with them?”
I feel that way when I open up TikTok where I spend a lot of time. It is so frequently about taking sides. That makes me feel uncomfortable. I do not like taking sides. Sometimes I wonder, is that my coping mechanism? “Do not take sides. It is safer to be in the gray area.” A part of me does not want to take sides because I am seeking connection. To me, the gray area feels like the safest place to get a connection because I do not want it to be us versus them. In the current state of things, do you perceive it as the lack of unity? That is what I see.
I do believe that there is a lack of unity. The big thing is a lack of communication. It seems as if everyone is yelling at each other and nothing ever happens. No points are ever taken in of you are yelling them at me, even if you are 100% right. Once you yell at me, my nervous system is like, “Let’s go.” It is this inability to listen without judgment. One of the things that you talked about and I want to point it out for your readers and you too is in that process that I took you through with intention, one of the steps in there is, “What happened?” When I asked somebody what happened, I asked for the facts.
They might say, “I walked in. I said this to this person and they judged me.” I was like, “That is a perception. What did they say?” They said, “Can you put that cup in the sink?” That is the fact. That is not a perception. We can make the distinction with what are the facts and where are your perceptions? The other part of that is also separating perception from feeling. This person walked in and they told me to put the mug in the sink. I felt judged. Judged is not a feeling. It is a perception. What was the feeling that was present? Usually, people have a hard time distinguishing between perception and feeling like, “I feel alone and abandoned.” Abandoned is also not a feeling. You might feel scared, grief or shame, but abandoned is a perception.
We can start sussing out like, “What are the facts that happened? What are you making it mean with your judgment? How did that make you feel?” What you will notice is whatever you perceive to happen is usually the worst-case scenario for you. It means if you felt like you were being judged but the person wanted the dishes done or had friends over and did not want to have mugs everywhere. There are lots of other possibilities, but our minds pick the one that is the most painful for us that is also based on childhood stuff.
It is interesting to watch this on social media because people are not responding to the facts of what is going on. They are responding to what they perceive is going on and they are getting angry. The anger might be valid, but why they are getting angry is not related to what is going on. It is related to all the baggage that has led them to this point. That is another moment that I would like to share and point out.
Ninety-five percent of the time, where you are emotionally charged by something, that has baggage to it. Meaning it is coming from your childhood somewhere. That is a good way to start observing the self. I will give you an example. This was before COVID when this happened. We were going to Canada. I was going to go camping with my friend. My partner was going to do a motorcycle ride and then we were going to meet up.
Before that, we were all going to take the car together. He was like, “I started motorcycling. I will ride my bike and meet you guys.” My nervous system automatically went into, “You are abandoning me.” He is not abandoning me, but my little girl self was like, “You do not want to ride in the car with us? Do you want a motorcycle ride? You are abandoning me.” This consciously is not true, but my little girl self, who has all the baggage, reacted in a way that she was scared.
Her perception was that he was abandoning me and then I shut down. I can tell when I shut down because that is an automated nervous system response that I have, I know, “That is something from a long time ago that has nothing to do with today because all he said was, “I want to ride my motorcycle.” I created this whole story of him abandoning me.
It is interesting too because how do we connect if everybody is perceiving things differently? There is also the difference between you connecting with your partner, who hopefully you would be able to say, “My inner child is saying this. Let’s talk it out.” What if it is in a professional setting or with a stranger? You are not going to say, “Let’s do some inner child work or talk about what is going on with our nervous system.” I would love to have that conversation with a stranger, but likely they would be weirded out if I said that. How do we connect with somebody if we do not have the opportunity to talk through our perceptions?
In that instance, both parties need to be willing. That is the first part of it in any negotiation or conflict resolution. Both parties have to be willing to listen and understand. You may not agree, but if you can listen, understand and see what the facts are and what you are making it mean, then we can start getting to a resolution. As long as both parties are not willing, you are not going to get anywhere. If you are not willing to separate the facts that happened from your perception, then we are not going to get anywhere, but there is a process to it.
One of the first steps is, “What are the facts here? What are you making it mean? What is that feeling?” You then can start seeing, “This happened. I made it mean that you are judging me. I am angry and yelling at you. You are getting defensive and you are yelling at me. The only thing that happened was I walked in and asked you to put your mug in the sink. Why are we yelling at each other?”
It has to be two willing parties. We have to break down those different components. I have not ever seen it done on social media. In a work setting, that can be done. That is the best in a work scenario when there is difficulty to have a third-party mediator. Them to reflect and mirror back what they are hearing and seeing is very helpful, but I have never seen that happen on social media.
That is a good point because that might help frame social media’s place in our lives. Social media has become so dominant that people rely on it to connect and find out what is going on. Another great example is Facebook and Instagram. Many people will catch up with their friends by looking at what their friends are posting. It is a shortcut like, “I do not have to call you. I can go check in with you on your life based on what pictures and videos you are posting.” There are so many layers happening there. First of all, it is your perception about what this person is doing, but that person is also, in a way, whether they are aware of it or not, controlling the narrative by what they share.Show up in the world as you, not as your conditioned masked self. Click To Tweet
We hear so much about the highlight reel. A lot of us are aware that social media is generally a highlight reel. It is only showing a very limited or controlled view of what is going on in someone’s life, but it has become so prevalent in our lives over the past number of years that most people do not even step back to reality to take that in like, “I cannot possibly connect with someone by my perception of what they are posting online.” We have been a bit conditioned to do that. I certainly have, even though I think about this every single day. I still find myself going on and I am like, “I wonder what so-and-so is doing.” I log into Facebook, see what their posts are, and then say, “I know what is going on with their life.”
My brain still does that. I have to be very conscious, step out and go, “I am not seeing the full picture. I should call them or get together with them if I want to know what is happening in their life.” It makes me uncomfortable about social media. The same thing is true when you are using it for business as I do. I feel deeply uncomfortable because of that very thing. I do not want to wear the mask, but if I take off the mask, I do not even know what to post anymore.
Here’s a great example on Instagram. I posted one for the show. It has very structured quotes that are very different from my personal account. I posted a photo for the first time in a month or so, which felt like a huge span of time on social media like, “You have not posted for a month. Are you okay?” I feel this pressure that I need to update my friends and my connections on Instagram.
I put up this post and thought at that moment that I was being authentic, but when I stepped back and looked at it, I am like, “I took a photo, took a few different versions and then picked which one I was going to post. I adjusted the lighting slightly to look a little brighter and more vibrant, then I went through, crafted out the caption, and edited it a little bit. This still feels like a mask. I feel so uncomfortable.” If this is the way we connect, I still have to do it because if I do not do it, am I connected? Do you resonate with that? Do you struggle with these things on social? What is your relationship with social media?
In the past, I was fed up with social media. Since then, I have posted ten times. It is the same thing where I am like, “I should start posting things again.” Then I am like, “Why?” It is not any better to keep posting. You get comments and that could be fun, but it is very temporary. It does not mean anything. Here is another thing that I find that is interesting with social media. A lot of the work I do is around body stuff and to help perception. I have worked with a lot of women and some men even to shift the image they have of their bodies.
I have seen a lot of the people that I have worked with post pictures of themselves like body positive things like, “This is me. I love it.” They are embracing themselves, which is beautiful and then when it comes to me, though, it is an uncomfortable place because I am like, “What am I doing this for? Am I doing it because I am celebrating myself? Am I doing it for attention? Am I doing it because if I put this picture out, I know that there will be people who will like it strictly because of what I look like?” It is very uncomfortable for me in that way, even though so much of the work I do is helping people embrace who they are.
Even for me, it is weird like, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this? What is the underlying drive?” In essence, for me, one of my things is trying to get validation. As a younger person, it was because of my body and how I looked and then also based on the degrees and certificates that I have. It is the seeking of validation undercurrent. Even if I say, “This is to celebrate myself,” there is also that little part of me seeking validation, which is a mask. I am like, “I am not going to post that because that is feeding into my coping strategy and my defense.” That is where I am with that.
Also, to get back to your point of the connection, the thing that was coming up for me is when you are making friends, becoming friends or in long-term friendships, what creates the bond is partly the good stuff. We love hanging out, laughing and doing all that stuff, but also, it’s that sharing of those intimacies that you would not share with everyone else. That is what creates that deep sense of trust and bonding. When I can share the ugliest, scariest or most insecure parts of myself with you and you say, “I love you and you are welcome here. It does not matter,” that is what creates the intimacy, connection and those friendships.
If you are only seeing the highlight reel on social media, you are never getting that. While it gives a somewhat of a sense of connection, it is not the real connection that we as humans and I would argue that lots of other animals want. We want that deep sense of, “I know I can trust you because I have shared my most intimate details with you and you have still accepted me with unconditional love.” That is not what you are getting on social media.
I am so glad that we have talked about that because I am constantly processing that. Hearing the way that you reflected on some of the things I have said in your experiences is such a great reminder. It is tough. It is also important to keep in mind that social media is a little bit different for each person, depending on why they are using it. What makes it hard for me and likely you too, Stacy, is there is so much pressure to use it from a business standpoint, but my business is deeply connected to my personal life and heart. I do not see a disconnect between who I am personally and professionally. I want it to be the same person.
It has not always been. That is part of the transition I am at. I used to feel like two separate people online. It was like the personal Whitney and then the professional Whitney. I am like, “I do not want to live my life that way.” There is that new TV show called Severance on Apple TV. I do not know if you have heard of this, but the whole concept is about people that get an operation so that they do not remember their business life. I have only watched one episode of it, but I am intrigued because the concept is they want to be able to fully separate their work from their personal life.
Do we want that or do we deep down not want that? I am curious what you think, Stacy. Do you think people want to feel disconnected at all in their life? Do we want to numb ourselves? Do we want to create different personas? Do we want to wear masks or do you think people deep down all want to feel authentic, whole and themselves all of the time?
I believe that people want to feel authentic all of the time. If there is a time when they want to disconnect from work, it is because it is related to who they think they need to be. That creates distress in the body. It could also be an indication that you are in the wrong job, which is valid. That is a good signal, then. If people listened more to who they are and how they want to be, that life would incorporate all of it.
It would not be like, “This is why I have to be at work, but this is who I am.” You want to be who you are all the time and that is going to be much more fulfilling. Can you imagine if you are doing 8 hours a day, 5 days a week of something that is not in line with who you are, you are spending most of your life not connecting with yourself and connecting with whatever masks you have to put on to be that role? That sounds like a horrendous life.Judged is not a feeling; it's a perception. Click To Tweet
It is certainly not that simple. It is also important to note that not everybody does have a fulfilling job because there are so many circumstances. It is sad because it is also not an individual issue as much as it is a systemic issue. Unfortunately, at least in the United States, with capitalism being the way it is, some people need to do things to make ends meet. It is not always going to be about fulfilling yourself. It truly comes down to survival. I do not want to brush over that. I used to and I have been working on not assuming that everybody can do what they love all of the time.
Would it not be nice if more jobs encouraged that? What if there was more work centered around our skills and purpose? It needs to start in these corporations that are connecting more to the humanity of somebody and not just using them as a cog in the wheel. That is a whole other conversation, but I am glad that we touched upon it.
I do agree with you that not everyone can live their purpose and some people are working to survive. In those instances, there is hope. I do not know how realistic it is, but the hope is that there is something that they can get out of it, whether it is a sense of pride in something that they do, even if it is not what they want to be doing like, “I am doing something.” There is at least something that can be gleaned from it, some sense of self-respect.
I worked at the Gap for $7 an hour when I was a kid. I have done all those things. I hated it. I am not going to sugarcoat it, but the days that I remember it being better were when I could say, “I woke up and did that. I feel like I respect myself for doing that well.” I do not want to minimize any of the struggles people have, but there are things also that we can glean no matter what the circumstances might be.
It is tough, but our minds are shaping how we see the world. Can we take control over perceptions about everything that we do like the work that we are doing? We could perhaps choose to view it as unpleasant, unbearable and unfulfilling or can we find that glimmer of hope, even if it is a small piece of our work? Could we focus on that and see how that shifts the experience, at least the temporary?
That is such a beautiful message that you share in your work. You share so much in what you are doing, Stacy. I am so grateful that you came on to share some perspectives and tips for people. I would love to share with them what is the next step? If somebody wants to explore more about what you do, where did they go after reading this episode? Where does that lead them into connecting with you deeper?
They can always visit my website, which is StacyBerman.com. On Instagram, that is @StacyBermanPhD. You could read about the work that I do. I have some cool things in the making. There will be other possibilities for connecting with me in the future, but those are the primary ways.
Stacy, there are so many wonderful things that you have said. I loved this conversation. Your viewpoints are so nourishing to me. I feel uplifted and all these ideas are in my head. You have brought out a lot with me and I hope for the reader as well. Thank you for taking the time and doing the work that you do, Stacy.
Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure.
About Stacy Berman
Many people got to know Stacy Berman by getting their asses handed to them at one of her Stacy’s Bootcamp sessions in Central Park. A pioneer in the fitness industry, Stacy created the first all year outdoor bootcamp in NYC back in 1999. Called a “NYC fitness icon” by Forbes Magazine, Stacy trail-blazed the way for the global boutique fitness craze we see today.
It was during her rise in the fitness arena and her own that Stacy realized spiritual and mental healing is not only as imperative as physical wellness, but that they are irrevocably intertwined.
This began her work in psychoneuroimmunology. Stacy now holds a PhD in Natural Medicine, is a Shaman of the Hopi tradition, works with Plant Medicine, is a movement and somatic specialist, sex expert, a Reiki Master, trained in Bioresonance Analysis of Health, ACMOS Method, and Compassionate Inquiry practitioner. Stacy has studied under Dr. Pillai, Dr. Joe Dispenza, Dr. Amit Goswami, Dr. Gabor Mate’, MD, Dr. Baskaran Pillai, Dr. Thomas Sculz, MD and Dr. Bruce Lipton. Stacy has over twenty six years of experience in the health, healing and wellness industry where she worked with a broad spectrum of people from celebrity Chef Bobby Flay to triathletes to business people.
Stacy is presently writing a book on Body Mapping and Character Armor, that combines over twenty years in the health and wellness industries with scientific research to reveal how our thoughts and feelings are reflected in our body posture and movement. She is a presently in production for for a network TV show highlighting her work as a doctor and healer. Stacy is truly a forerunner in the mind – body holistic health movement with tens of thousands of hours of real life experience.
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