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How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self

How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self PDF

Author: Dr. Nicole LePera

Publisher: Harper Wave


Publish Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN-10: 006301209X

Pages: 320

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Poets and mystics always seem to have their transcendental awakenings somewhere divine—on a mountaintop, while staring off into the open sea, by a babbling brook, next to a burning bush. Mine happened in a log cabin in the middle of the woods, where I found myself sobbing uncontrollably into a bowl of oatmeal.

I was in upstate New York with my partner, Lolly, on what was supposed to be a vacation, a retreat from the stress of city life in Philadelphia. As I ate my breakfast, I pored through the pages of another psychologist’s book, my version of a “beach read.” The topic? Emotionally unavailable mothers. As I read it—for professional enrichment, or so I believed—the words activated an unexpected, and confusing, emotional response. “You’re burnt out,” my partner, Lolly, offered. “You need to take a step back. Try to relax.”

I brushed her off. I didn’t believe that I was in any way unique in my general feelings and experiences. I heard similar complaints from so many of my clients and friends. Who doesn’t get out of bed in the morning dreading the day ahead? Who doesn’t feel distracted at work? Who doesn’t feel distanced from the people they love? Who in the world can honestly say that they aren’t living each day for their vacation? Isn’t this just what happens when you get older?

I had recently “celebrated” my thirtieth birthday and thought to myself, Is this it? Even though I’d already checked off so many of the boxes that I’d dreamed of since I was a child—living in a city of my choosing, running my own private therapy practice, finding a loving partner—I still felt like there was something essential in my being that was lost or missing or had never been there in the first place. After years of being in relationships yet feeling emotionally alone, I had finally met a person who felt right because she was so different from me. Whereas I was hesitant and often disengaged, Lolly was passionate and headstrong. She often challenged me in ways that I felt were exciting. I should have been happy, or, at the very least, content. Instead I felt outside myself, detached, emotionless. I felt nothing.

On top of it all, I was experiencing physical issues that had become so acute that I could no longer ignore them. There was the brain fog, which would cloud me so thoroughly that I sometimes not only forgot words or phrases but entered a complete state of blankness. This was particularly upsetting, especially during the few times when it happened in session with clients. Persistent gut issues, which had plagued me for years, now made me feel heavy and constantly weighed down. Then one day I fainted out of the blue—full-on passed out at a friend’s house, which terrified everyone.

Sitting in the rocking chair with my bowl of oatmeal in such a serene setting, I suddenly felt how hollowed out my life had become. I was energetically drained, in the clutches of existential despair, frustrated by my clients’ inability
to make progress, angered at my own limitations in the pursuit of their care and my own, and deeply constricted by a free floating sluggishness and dissatisfaction that made me question the point of everything. Back at home in the hustle and bustle of city life, I could mask these troubling feelings by channeling all of these energies into action: cleaning the kitchen, walking the dog, making endless plans. Moving, moving, moving. If you didn’t look too closely you might admire my type A efficiency. But dig in just a little bit, and you’d realize that I was moving my body to distract myself from some deeply rooted unresolved feelings. In the middle of the woods, without a thing to do but read about the lasting effects of childhood trauma, I could no longer escape myself. The book exposed so many of the feelings about my mother and my family that I had long repressed. It was like looking into a mirror. There I was, naked, no distractions, and very uncomfortable with what I saw.

When I did look more honestly at myself overall, it was hard not to notice that many of the issues I was having closely mirrored those I saw in my mother’s own struggles; in particular my mother’s own relationship with her body and emotions. I watched her struggle in many ways with near constant physical pain in her knees and back, and frequent anxiety and worry. As I grew up there were, of course, many ways I was different from my mom. I was physically active, making it a priority to take care of my body by exercising and eating healthy. In my twenties, I even became a vegetarian after befriending a cow at an animal sanctuary, making it impossible for me to imagine eating any animal ever again. Sure, the bulk of my diet revolved around hyperprocessed fake meat and vegan junk food (vegan Philly cheesesteaks were a particular favorite), but at least I cared about what I put into my body. With the exception of alcohol, which I still overindulged in, I sometimes took that caring to an extreme, restricting myself and eating joylessly.

I always thought that I was nothing like my mom, but as these emotional and now physical issues erupted, spilling into all aspects of my life, I realized it was time to start questioning things. And that realization sent me sobbing into a pile of hot mush. Contained in this sad, somewhat pathetic picture was a message. This outpouring of emotion was so unusual, so outside the realm of my typical personality, that I couldn’t ignore this soul signal. Something was screaming out for me to pay attention, and there was nothing for me to hide behind in the middle of the woods. It was time to come face-to-face with my suffering, my pain, my trauma, and ultimately my true Self.

Today I call that incident my dark night of the soul, my rock bottom. 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, and I emerged determined to figure out what was wrong. That painful moment brought the light in, revealing so much of myself that I buried. Suddenly, clarity hit: I need to find change. I had no idea that this insight would lead to a physical, psychological, and spiritual awakening and eventually become an international movement.

Initially, I focused on what I felt was most pressing: my body. I assessed myself physically: How was I sick, and where was this sickness manifesting? I knew intuitively that the way back would start with nutrition and movement. I enlisted Lolly, who I call my Energizer Bunny of self-improvement, to help keep me on the path to honestly dealing with how I was mistreating my vessel. She kicked me out of bed in the morning, shoved dumbbells into my hands, and forced us to consciously move our bodies several times a day. We dug into nutrition research and found that many of our ideas about what was “healthy” were debatable. We began a morning ritual incorporating breathwork and meditation—again, every day. Though I participated somewhat begrudgingly at first and there were missed days, tears, sore muscles, aching souls, and threats of quitting, after many months a routine took hold. I began to crave this newroutine, and I felt stronger physically and mentally than I had in my entire life. As my body began to heal, I began to question so many other truths that I had once felt were self-evident. I learned new ways of thinking about mental wellness. I realized that a disconnect among mind, body, and soul can manifest as sickness and dysregulation. I discovered that our genes are not destiny and
that in order to change, we have to become consciously aware of our thought patterns and habits, which have been shaped by the people we care for, and have been cared for by, the most. I discovered a new, wider definition of trauma, one that takes into account the profound spiritual effects that stress and adverse experiences in childhood have on the body’s nervous system. I realized that I had unresolved traumas from my childhood that continued to affect me every single day.

The more I learned, the more I integrated what I was learning into the new daily choices I was consistently making. Over time, I adapted to those changes and began to transform. Once my physiology began to heal, I went deeper, harnessing some of the insights I’d learned in my diverse range of clinical experience and applying them to the knowledge I was building about the integration of the whole person—our physical, psychological, and spiritual Selves. I met my inner child, learned how to reparent her, examined the trauma bonds that were holding me hostage, learned how to set boundaries, and began to engage with the world with an emotional maturity that I had never before known was possible, as it had been an entirely unknown state to me. I realized that this inner work didn’t stop inside me but extended beyond myself into each and every relationship and into the greater community at large. This revelatory understanding of mind-body-soul wellness is encapsulated in the pages that follow, which set forth the basic tenets of Holistic Psychology.

I write to you today from a place of continued healing. My symptoms of anxiety and panic have largely disappeared. I no longer relate to the world from a reactive place, and I am able to access more awareness and compassion. I feel connected to and present with my loved ones—and I am able to set boundaries with those who are not active participants in my journey. I am conscious for the first time in my adult life. I didn’t see it when I hit rock bottom. I didn’t see it a year later. Today I know that I would not be here writing this book if I had not accessed the depths of my despair.

I launched The Holistic Psychologist in 2018 after deciding that I wanted to share the tools I’d discovered with others. I had to share. Soon after I began sharing my story on Instagram, letters of trauma, healing, and emotional resilience began pouring into my inbox. My messages of holistic healing had resonated in the collective mind, crossing age and cultural lines. Today more than three million people follow my account and have taken on the identity of #SelfHealers—active participants in their mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. Supporting this community has become my life’s work. I honored the one-year anniversary of The Holistic Psychologist by hosting a West Coast inner child meditation to thank my community for their support and to give an opportunity to connect in real life and celebrate our shared journeys. Days before, I googled “Venice Beach locations” and haphazardly picked a meetup spot. I offered free tickets on Instagram and crossed my fingers that signed up. I couldn’t believe it

Title Page
A Note on Doing the Work
Preface: Dark Night of the Soul
Introduction: A Primer on Holistic Psychology
1: You Are Your Own Best Healer
2: The Conscious Self: Becoming Aware
3: A New Theory of Trauma
4: Trauma Body
5: Mind-Body Healing Practices
6: The Power of Belief
7: Meet Your Inner Child
8: Ego Stories
9: Trauma Bonds
10: Boundaries
11: Reparenting
12: Emotional Maturity
13: Interdependence
Epilogue: The Pizza Box
Glossary of Holistic Psychology Terms
Suggested Further Readings
About the Author
About the Publisher

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