As we round up the relationships theme here on the show, I wanted to re-air one of my most downloaded episodes of all time. It’s an interview with my friend and colleague, Britt Frank, on healing from traumatic romantic relationships.
Britt Frank, MSW, LSCSW, SEP is a trauma therapist, teacher, and speaker who specializes in the “Science of Stuck.” Her work empowers people to understand the inner mechanisms of their brains and bodies. When we know how things work, the capacity for CHOICE is restored and life can and does change.
In this episode you’ll hear:
- What is a narcissist and how does someone know they may be in a relationship with someone who is a narcissist? (7:16)
- Britt’s goal is “dismantling the mental health myths that keep us feeling STUCK and SICK”. She shares what she means by that. (14:17)
- Dealing with trauma: Some signs or patterns which signal someone should deal with their trauma. (14:45)
- Why someone may get physically addicted to their narcissist and experience withdrawals. (23:10)
- How someone can begin to heal from a narcissistic relationship. (27:45)
- Mother wounds and grieving our childhoods (the things we didn’t get) or other parts of our lives. (33:06)
- How COVID has affected Britt’s work, including the collective processing of COVID trauma. (40:11)
You know how I love a good personal development book, right? I’ve compiled a list of book recommendations, as mentioned in past episodes. Check out these amazing book recommendations here. Happy reading!
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Britt Frank, MSW, LSCSW, SEP is a trauma therapist, teacher, and speaker who specializes in the “Science of Stuck.”
Britt's work empowers people to understand the inner mechanisms of their brains and bodies. When we know how things work, the capacity for CHOICE is restored and life can and does change. She received her undergraduate from Duke University and her Master's from the University of Kansas, where she is now an award-winning adjunct professor. Britt is also a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner and Level 1 trained in Internal Family Systems.
Whether she’s leading a workshop, teaching a class, or working individually with private clients, Britt’s goal is to educate, empower, and equip people to transform even their most persistent and long-standing patterns of thinking and doing. She received her undergraduate from Duke University and her MSW from The University of Kansas, where she is now an award-winning adjunct professor.
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If your life isn't working the way you want it to be working and you're not thriving and happy and you know full octane doing your thing, you probably have some trauma and that doesn't have to be a forever life sentence. It's not a mental illness, not that there's anything wrong with that, but trauma is an injury. I tell people it's like your brain gets sucker punched by life. And it heals.
You're listening to Make Some Noise Podcast episode number 456 with guest Britt Frank.
Welcome to Make Some Noise Podcast, your guide for strategies, tools and insight to empower yourself. I'm your host, Andrea Owen in global speaker, entrepreneur, life coach since 2007, and author of three books that have been translated into 18 languages and are available in 22 countries. Each week, I'll bring you a guest or a lesson that will help you maximize unshakable confidence, master resilience and make some noise in your life. You ready? Let's go.
Everyone, welcome to another episode of the podcast. I am so glad that you're here. We're rounding out the, we're headed towards the end. We can smell the barn, if you know that expression. Not a lot of people know that expression. DM me on Instagram, if you know that expression. We're getting towards the end of the relationships theme on the podcast and I had a bit of a scheduling snafu with a guest and I am going to bring you an archived episode. But before you turn it off before you're like, oh, I probably already listened to it. It's Britt Frank and I think this was the first episode that I had her on, I believe, and it's one of my most listened to episodes so it's a good one. It's about narcissistic relationships. You know, if you've been in a relationship with someone who was a narcissist, I mean, even if they were just like a complete a-hole and had issues, and you had some trauma from that relationship, then I think this is definitely for you. Again, one of the most downloaded episodes, and Britt is one of the most smartest people, most smartest… Let me start that over. The irony. One of the smartest people I know and I as I'm recording this, I haven't met her yet but coming up on this weekend, we're both speaking at the Sun Valley wellness festival in Sun Valley, Idaho, and I get to meet her in person for the first time. She's been on several times. And we talk about you know, what is a narcissist and dealing with trauma, some patterns that you might see in your relationship or in your life that might point you to that needing to get the support. Let's see she talks a little bit about the mother wound and grieving your childhood, the things that you might not have gotten from your childhood, and we also talk about processing COVID trauma so this was recorded in 2020. Yeah, and it was still a little bit new back then. So I think you'll love it even if you've listened to it before. I think it's good to hear again.
And there's still a handful of spots open for the Daring Way retreat. Speaking of healing from your trauma, it's all about shame, resilience and if you would like more info, go to AndreaOwen.com/retreat. All of the information is there as well as a spot to sign up. And if you aren't super sure, and you need to jump on the phone with me, there's a place to do that too. Scroll all the way down to the FAQs and you can schedule a chat with me.
All right, everyone. Let me tell you a little bit about Britt. For those of you that don't know who she is. Britt Frank is a trauma therapist, teacher and speaker who specializes in the science of stuck. Brett's work empowers people to understand the inner mechanisms of their brains and bodies. When we know how things work, the capacity for choices restored and life can and does change. She received her undergraduate from Duke University and her Master's from the University of Kansas, where she is now an award winning Adjunct Professor. Britt is also a somatic experience practitioner and level one trained internal family systems. So without further ado, here is Britt.
Britt, thank you so much for being here.
Hi, Andrea. I'm so happy to be here.
I am excited because my friend, our mutual friend Nicole Whiting, I was asking around for… I don't think I told you this. So I specifically asked, I said, who do you know out there who are the experts who help women heal from narcissists. She texts me back, she's like Britt Frank, you need to have her on. So it's one of those things that I haven't had anybody on specifically to talk about this, but I have personal experience in this and it's just something that's been on my radar, I think I think more and more people are talking about it. And I want to kind of start with, let's start with the term narcissist because I think it gets thrown around so much. It even has become like a name calling type of thing, like people are no longer assholes they're narcissists. So can you can you tell us what exactly that is, maybe even from a clinical standpoint? And in maybe how does someone know that they might be in a relationship with someone or from their past?
I am so glad that you're talking about this and really, the clinical world has not caught up. You don't I mean, I didn't learn about this in grad school or in post grad training or even in trauma training. I learned this because I lived it and then I had to learn it and then there are very few people in the clinical world actually doing this work. So I'm so so glad it's getting picked up in mainstream. That said, like you said, the word gets totally tossed around.
So what is a narcissist? First let's talk about narcissism is a quality that we all have. Everyone has shades of narcissism. You do I do, and it's just a self-protection mechanism where we focus on our image at the expense of what's real. And I think we all do that to a degree. Now, a spectrum of narcissism has super like low-end people who just don't give a shit and they're like, this is me, take it, whatever. The high, high end is really what we're talking about when we're talking about narcissists, you know, the malignant, I will say, it's just kind of dark, it feels really evil when you're in it. People who are so high up the spectrum, that they are choosing really to not be human anymore. It's an addiction. High-level narcissism is an addiction to self-protection by any means necessary.
Interesting, okay. It's fascinating, because when I talk about it, you know, and mostly if I'm talking about my, I have an ex-husband and an ex-boyfriend that I had to back to back and they had qualities and it was, you know, if you look at where I was in my life, it was all a perfect storm. But when I talk about those relationships, I'm careful when I say, I don't know if they were like clinical narcissists, but they definitely had narcissistic tendencies.
So clinical narcissists, I got into it on Instagram this last week about that, you know, well narcissists have to be diagnosed by a licensed clinician, well, I am a licensed clinician, and I can tell you narcissists don't seek treatment.
I was gonna say like, I don't think…
They don't go to therapy. Occasionally, but really, narcissism is the only issue where the symptoms show up in the friends and family, not the person who has the thing. Like there's no other thing. If I'm depressed, you're not going to all of a sudden be laying on your couch. But narcissism is the only clinical issue where symptoms are presented in the stuff for friends and family. Narcissists can be clinically diagnosed and it's super rare. So I will stand toe to toe with anyone who says they have to be diagnosed by a clinician if you think you were involved with the narcissist we don't have to split hairs over the words. If it was bad, and you were in chaos and crazy making and so confused about what was real and who you are and where you are. We'll just call that, yes, you are in a relationship with a narcissist.
I think, I think why one of the reasons that I am a little bit hesitant to label like, let's just talk about my ex-husband for a second, is because it was sort of in and out. Like he wasn't always acting like that. Like, there were periods of time where we were normal, and he was pretty much normal but when it was bad, it was bad, like so much gaslighting. I didn't know which way was up. I was beginning to think that I was going crazy, but he was telling me that I am crazy and then he would push me to the brink of mental breakdowns, and then would use that as proof that I was crazy. And it got really bad towards the end, he was living a double life and was having an affair and also lying to his girlfriend about still being married to me and then she got pregnant and it fell apart and even worse from that, believe it or not, so. But yeah, again, like we had periods of time where it was normal. And we had like, what I would consider a normal and even healthy relationship.
So, welcome to the club, Andrea, we have…you have to go through that, you know, I live this too, and it's some next level fuckery. So this is why I think of narcissism as an addiction and not as a personality disorder. Now the clinical world, which is always 10 to 20 years behind anyway, the clinical world will classify it as a personality disorder, I do not. Narcissism actually functions like an addiction, which is why with you, you actually did experience periods of relative peace relative calm, like any addiction. When the use quote unquote, amplifies the insanity amplifies. But people don't, you know, drug user, and I'm a recovering drug addict to people don't use drugs at the same level at the same severity, you know, constantly it ebbs and flows. So what I'm hearing you say is that there were periods of high use and periods of lower use. So I will classify narcissism as an addiction 100%.
That is fascinating. And I've never heard of it being talked about that way. But it makes so much sense. And some of the puzzle pieces are falling together. And it's interesting, so I just hired a new therapist a few months ago and part of the reason is to heal from the trauma from that relationship, which I feel like I didn't totally, I did some EMDR before and that was really helpful, but I came to realize when COVID hit, you know, I think a lot of people’s shit came to the surface.
I've been very busy.
Yes, I'm sure. I was gonna ask about that towards the end here. But I hired her and one of the things that I that I noticed is that and that I admitted to her, and I was I had a lot of shame around admitting it is that I did, I was gaslighting him as well. And I learned how to do it from him. And I felt like I remember at the time, thinking that that was my only measure of power and control was to do it back. And now that you say that it's an addiction, I'm like, I can totally see that. Where it was, it felt like the only shred of power to quote unquote, kind of get on top of the relationship was to do it back to him, which I felt terrible about. It feels shitty, you know, because that's not who I am. And especially even in retrospect, I'm like, I look back and I'm like, oh my god, I can't believe I behaved like that.
It is a mess. And we also want to differentiate between kind of reacting to abuse in crazy ways and perpetrating it. So when in my relationships with high level narcissist, and I had multiple I did some really like fucked up stuff, like really bad that I you know, I've worked through no shame, whatever. But a lot of that was in response to the abuse, the covert, the overt, the gaslighting. So there's a degree to which reactive abuse is not quite the same. But you know, again, it's an addiction, addiction as definitely, to define it, so we're all talking about the same thing is anything that a person uses, it could be a substance, it could be a behavior, it could be anything to avoid their reality. They need increasing amounts of the thing, they continue to do the thing despite negative consequences. That's the definition of an addiction. That's narcissism.
Reactive abuse. That's a term I've never heard before, either. And that's interesting, and also makes a lot of sense. Okay. We're only like five minutes in and I've already learned so much. Next question. Well, you say, because I think and I think I either pulled this from your website or from another interview that you did that I heard, where you say that your goal is dismantling the health system myths that keep us feeling stuck and sick. So can you can you tell us about that?
Yeah, I'm a big advocate of the mental health system is imperfect. It's what we have. So my disclaimer is we need it for people who don't haves access to resources. We need the DSM, which is the diagnostic manual, whatever. But by and large the mental health system does not recognize trauma, and it absolutely does not recognize the devastation that happens with narcissistic abuse.It's not talked about, you won't hear it in classrooms, you won't hear it in continuing ed, it's a very, very new subset. I mean, narcissism isn't new, but being able to see it and work with it in the field is incredibly new.
And so, you know, one of the myths is for partners is that you're crazy, or that, you know, I thought I had a personality disorder, because I went so you know, off, you know, my rocker when I was in these relationships, but you know, like, we were saying a trauma response, or which is the same as reacting to abuse, is not and mental illness. And currently, the mental health world will look at your symptoms, throw a diagnosis on you, medicate you and then boom. And there's nothing wrong with medication, but if we don't take trauma into account, we're gonna all as partners self-diagnose, and that's not right, that is an accurate
There’s a lot to unpack in that. So what is like… Do you have a sort of, like dream of how you would like the mental health system to be or do we not have enough hours?
My mental health system dream is that every practitioner would understand trauma, would understand the impact of trauma, would know how… You can be a licensed therapist and not know anything about trauma. You can be a licensed therapist and not understand that trauma impacts not just your thinking minds, but your body and physical symptoms can be caused by trauma. So if the mental health world we're all you know, trauma trains, we'd have a lot of really wonderful, healthy people running around.
So what is the sign for people that they should deal with their trauma? In other words, are there patterns or indicators that they should look for?
And a lot of people have trouble with the word trauma. You know, it's kind of like the word narcissism trauma gets tossed around a lot. So trauma to most people, they think that's, you know, assault, that's war, that systemic abuse, those are the high-level high-level things. And yes, of course, those are all traumatic things. But trauma by definition, or at least the definition I use, is anything that's less than nurturing. That's the definition that they use at the Meadows of Wickenburg, which is like the mothership for everything I talk about.
I’ve been there, actually.
Oh my gosh, isn't it amazing? I love the metal.
It's beautiful. I wasn't a patient. I was… So my I was dating someone who lied about having cancer to cover up his drug addiction and his family sent him there and I was pregnant with his child and ended up there for a week for family week. And that actually kicked off, and I started to understand my own love addiction and codependence. And anyway, we ended up not working out he was the second narcissist I dated and but that was my that was my experience at The Meadows and Wickenburg. Yeah, it's a great place.
Oh, that's so we need to just, we need like hours Andrea to talk. So trauma is anything less than nurturing, which means it doesn't mean that everything is going to traumatize us nor does it mean that we all experienced trauma in the same degree. But it does mean that the things that were quick to brush off anything. You know, a surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, you know, all those medical things, but being abandoned finding out your partner had an affair of betrayal, trauma, there's a million types of trauma, and people who have it relatively, quote unquote, good, they minimize it. It's like, well, I don't really have trauma, you know, but you know, to answer your question all the way around full circle, if your life isn't working the way you want it to be working, and you're not thriving and happy and you know, full octane doing your thing, you probably have some trauma. And that doesn't have to be a forever life sentence. It's not a mental illness, not that there's anything wrong with that, but trauma is an injury. I tell people, it's like your brain gets sucker punched by life, and it heals.
I love that answered. So it sounds like you know, we all have these traumatic things that happen to us, but we don't necessarily carry the wound with us over time. Sometimes, right?
Sometimes we do and oh my god, it's every single thing that traumatized me I carried I would not be functional in the slightest, but you can always trace, right? I mean, there's just too many things, especially in a pandemic. But you know, what I can do with people is look at their, what are they experiencing? Were in their life is it in their sex life, their relationship life, is it in their career. Are they under functioning, are they over functioning. I can usually trace back the general flavor of what the trauma was by what the symptoms are.
Interesting. Can you give an example of by maybe even in your own personal life of what those symptoms are that that you were able to trace back.
Yeah. And I'm like you, I'm gonna love that. Yeah, I won't say I am a love addict parts of me had an extreme love addiction it back in my untreated trauma days. So a lot of times I would end up in relationships with really, really toxic people, because I had no sense of self. And if you trace that all back that's kind of falls under the mother wounds category. I always thought I had dad issues and I do, but really, you know, failure to bond adequately with mom can turn into a whole host of relationship and eating disorder kinds of things, among other things.
Yeah, I think we have the same life Britt, okay. Like, I like I'm making that face over here, you know, the emoji with like, the teeth showing and it’s like uuuhh. And it's like, oh, that's me, too. So what I heard when you said that is, you know, to go back and trace back the way the language I would use is, where do you get the most triggered in your everyday life? Is it, you know, in your romantic relationships, is it more, you know, sexual things, is it trying to have hard conversations, is it you know, body stuff, parenting, at work, you know, with your male boss, with your female boss, like, that's how that's one of the things I tell people.
And also, I am, and this is, you know, and I haven't been like this the whole time, I have to, you know, take some accountability for it. Like the whole industry of personal development and toxic positivity is rampant. And I over the last handful of years. So in 2014, I went to San Antonio, Texas to get certified and Brené Browns work and shame resilience and that was a huge eye opener to me, more specifically, in terms of negative self-talk, you know, and I've talked about that and thought about it for so long. But I kept thinking, like, why is this so pervasive with my clients, and I realized, I'm like, well, I'm putting a band aid over a gaping wound, and it's really what's underneath it is shame. And so that's what opened my eyes to that.
But then also, as the years have gone on, and looking at the personal development, industry as a whole, and, and being trauma informed. Like we just aren't enough, and I'm a huge advocate for life coaches, it's unregulated, and I have I have my feelings about that, too. And, and I do just, even if more of us were trauma informed, I think we would, I think that there's a lot of, I want to be careful with my words. I think that it's an industry that can teach people unknowingly to cause harm, and that is something that we need to be more informed about.
And that's true for the mental health, you know, the licensed mental health people too. You know, I've seen more accurate trauma information and definitely more accurate information about narcissism from life coaches than from therapists. So I think the problems are the same in both arenas and the capacity to do good is the same in both arenas. It's just don't be a dick and try to find someone who's trauma informed.
Exactly. Yeah and that's, that's something that I've been much more cognizant about and just to be a better service to people and in their hearts in their lives. And okay, so what about… Let me let me circle back to narcissists, again, and you say that people get physically addicted to their narcissist and experience withdrawals, so talk to us about that.
Yes. Oh, Lord, yes. Imagine being a heroin addict and you're, you know, injecting heroin every single day, you're going to expect at some point you're going to have to withdraw. Being the partner of a narcissist is like injecting heroin every day and not knowing and thinking that you're taking vitamin C. So you know, happens in our brains when we're in these relationships, is we have these reward chemicals because the narcissist aren't always awful, they alternate being wonderful and kind and empathetic and present and available with being avoidant and dismissive and detached and cruel and abusive. So when you alternate that, that's called intermittent reinforcement, you know, fancy light up word. But basically, that's what Las Vegas thrives on. The payout you don't know when you're going to get it, so that keeps you at the machine over and over and over again, hoping for the payout. That is a reaction that happens in your brain and once you stop, you're going to withdraw. It's going to be like a phys… I mean, I've withdrawn off of hard drugs and I've withdrawn off of narcissists I thought it was harder withdrawing off the narcissist physically.
Oh my gosh, my heart hurt a little bit when you explained that. So it's like that explains the breakup get back together over and over again cycle in many relationships.
It's like quitting smoking, you know? I'm gonna quit because this is bad for me. And then what do you do? I mean, I was a smoker forever, you give up because the withdrawal really, really sucks. You know, there's a period where your brain will start to heal and that's about 21 days from the point of no contact with a narcissist or no ingesting if it's a chemical, but it takes 21 days to get over the mountain. And that is a long, that is a long 21 days to be in withdrawal.
I have lived that.
Right? No, it's a drug withdrawal. I mean, imagine a heroin addict not knowing why am I puking, why am I sweating, why am I shaking. And that's what happens with partners, because they don't know there's a physiological physical addiction thing on top of all the emotional attachment stuff. So knowing that you are in physical withdrawal is the first piece and being able to even make it through those 21 days.
That's fascinating. I remember there was one point in my second abusive relationship where, I don't think he had gone away to rehab yet, I think that we were in one of those cycles where it had gotten really bad and he was using again, and I was starting to get privy to everything that was actually going on and started to understand what was really happening. And I was sitting in my car at a stoplight and I, I said out loud, there was nobody else in the car, and I said out loud to myself, ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ And it was like a moment of clarity of like, I don't know if it was my higher self or what just saying like, what girl like what this is, this is madness. And I went back to him. But I remember, like, there was these points where, you know, that must have been a time where I was I had to spend a few days away from him and was like starting to have clarity and then but I went back and it very much felt like an addiction. Which is madness and at that point is complicated because when you start to realize… Because when you're in denial, like when you're deep in it, there's like that little a little bit of oblivion, like bliss. But then when you start to get some clarity, it's like that's a real ass kicker. In my experience, it was.
It's awful. I mean, the only thing worse than not knowing what was going on was knowing what was going on and not being able to get out.
Not being able to quit.
And it takes an average of seven times to leave an abusive relationship. I mean, they have done that research. And so it took me more than seven tries, as you know, a little slow to catch up. But there was so much that I didn't know. I mean, if I had Instagram, back in the day, when I was going through it, I probably would have gotten out faster. But I didn't even know what it was. I didn't even have the words to describe it until after I was already out. And then the holy shit what the hell just happened?
Well, okay, so you talk about the 21 days. So can you tell us a little bit more about how someone can begin to heal from that type of relationship.
So, the physical withdrawal the first week, you know, I tell people you're going to feel like you're dying, not metaphorically, you're going to physically feel and emotionally feel like the lights have gone out. It is going to be the darkest black hole well of shit. You know, if you're into I really love like, sacred feminine and in Greek mythology, it's like this is your trip to the underworld, this is your dive into Hades, remind yourself that's what's going on. You're gonna have to tell yourself over and over again, this is this is withdrawal. I'm not crazy. Don't believe anything you think the first seven days and as much as you can surround yourself with people that can remind you don't believe anything you think for the next seven days. Because you're breaking trauma bonds, you're breaking physiological addiction cycles, you know, if we don't have time to get into inner children, but you're gonna feel abandoned and you know, like you've been left out in the wild to be devoured by bears. These are all very real things that happen in those first few weeks. So you know, burrow in, dig in, get support. It would be like preparing to come off of any hard drug.
Oh, yeah, my armpits tingle lrike just thinking about that. I think it's such a long process to like, in my experience, it's ebbed and flowed like it's… I've come lifetime's away from it but every once in a while there's still or if I'm doing work on something else in my life, I feel like I'll circle back to that.
Oh, yeah, it's part of the story. And that's the fun thing about grief is you don't get over it. It just becomes woven into the fabric of your life story. And occasionally those threads get yanked like oh, hi, there's nothing there. It's not the focal point, but it's always there.
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And I would love actually to kind of circle over and talk about grieving our childhoods and more specifically, like the things that we didn't get because I heard you on and I didn't get a chance to listen to the whole thing, but I heard you on another podcast where you were talking about healing from the I can't remember you said like unsympathetic mother or something like that. Can you can you talk about um, you don't have to get that specific with that, but just other parts of our lives that have a direct relation to our childhood.
Yeah, and the problem here is a lot of people had relatively, you know, uneventful childhoods. And so having a good quote, good enough mother is really, really detrimental, because most people… I mean, it's, it feels really wrong to look at our moms as anything other than divine martyrs sent from heaven to nurture us into life. And people really struggle with shame and guilt. And the point is not to blame moms like that's the biggest pushback I get is, well, you're a mom, but I'm not a mom-blamer it's, you know, most mothers have really good intentions but intentions don't negate impact. So you may have had the most sweet, wonderful mother in the world but let's say she was really sick the first five years of your life and in the hospital, it's not her fault, but you're still gonna have attachment trauma. And so what we want to do is separate her intentions from what was it like for you as a daughter growing up with a human. You know, all mothers are human. No, humans are perfect therefore, all daughters and sons, but we're talking about daughters here are gonna get mother wounded and have injuries and that's okay.
And it's not about blaming Mom, it's about healing our wounds. And it's really important to look at it like that. Otherwise, if you are a mom, you're gonna spin oh my god, I'm screwing up my kids, or you're gonna feel guilty. But every single person born of woman has a mother wound because all mothers are human. To different degrees, right? We all have it to varying degrees. And when people say, well, I had a great mom. I'm like, okay, great, how's your relationship with food? How's your relationship with sex? How's your relationship with intimacy? And we'll go from there. Yay, mom wound.
Because you'll eventually, you know, kind of unravel the sweater and get there.
Right, which is really hard but grieving childhood is necessary to become a fully functional emotional adults. And most people don't want to do that work because one, it requires acknowledging what was less than awesome, two you have to get past all the shame and the guilt, and then three is the fear of what does that mean, for me to really leave childhood behind? That means I don't ever get to expect unconditional love as an adult ever again. That's another podcast episode.
I know, just I just say, like, pack in there as well. And I was I was saying this on another podcast episode, I was talking to a friend of mine, and was saying that my current therapist introduced the word abandonment depression to me, I don't know if you're familiar with that term?
And she talks about, you know, how what she sees in her patients commonly is around middle age where we get to this place where we're, you know, we're admitting to the things that we didn't get, or realizing the things that we didn't get and, and having to come to terms with that. And you know, it really, again, a lot of things to unpack, one of them is that when we… I have found in my experience is that when we admit and say like, here's the things that happened that we didn't get, in some ways we are letting go, that things can never be different. And I think that sometimes it can be less painful to hold on, you know, to like, maybe my parents will change now, even though they're in their, you know, 70s or something like that. And to actually admit that, like, okay, things went that way, if my parents don't seem to be changing, maybe they will. But it's not likely and you just, that there's so much grief in that.
And there's freedom in surrendering to the futility and this is true with narcissistic relationships, and with grieving childhood, you know, surrendering to the futility that this will ever be something different, actually has freedom, that's a really unpleasant path to walk but that path does eventually end and you get to walk back out into the sun. The other one of maybe it'll be different, maybe it'll be different. That is a circular path that goes nowhere. And so, you know, like you said, starting with admitting this is what this is, this is never going to be any different, frees you up to do grief work, because you can't grieve until you know that a loss has occurred. And if you're hanging on to that, maybe this time, you haven't gotten to grieve yet.
Yeah, you know, as a mom, myself, my kids, my son just turned 13 and my daughter is about to be 11 next week, and I have gone down that path of like, oh my god, I'm going to screw them up and like trying to kind of do this, like dog and pony show. And I, you know, speaking of surrender, I finally just surrendered, you know, as I sort of walked into my own, you know, family of origin therapy, I’m like, they're gonna end up in therapy, talking about me they are, and all I can do is my best. And also I started asking them, like, how can I show up better for you? I'm not like P.S., I'm not saying I'm gonna do it. I mean, all the clothes I want, that's what my daughter would say. But just I want to have an open conversation for them to be able to say, like, I don't like it when you use that tone with me, or, you know, like, because I'm not perfect and sometimes I royally fuck up and do things that my own mother did to me that hurt me and replay patterns and they're just, they're gonna end up in therapy talking about me, like, going.
I have an Instagram post actually, for this week, where it's not messing up your kids that messes up the kids, it's failure to acknowledge that you're messing up your kids that messes up your kids. So all parents are gonna screw up the kids because we're all human right? But that's not what causes damage. What causes damage are parents who refuse to acknowledge their own humaneness. That's where the kids end up with all kinds of, you know, carried trauma and carried shame and all of that. But if you're just doing normal human being, and you bang up against stuff, hey, I did that imperfectly, or saying, God forbid, I'm sorry, to a kid. Those things are easy to repair.
Yeah, God, I found that to be complicated. You know, I've had clients who shared with me over the last decade or so that they got up the courage to write their parent a letter and say, like, this was my experience. And then it's met with, you know, and we work on that, like, you know, you can only have control of how you show up and right if they show, you know, if they responded this way, but we don't know. But you know, when the parent gets defensive and says like, that's not how I remember it and just dismissing their experience like that can be incredibly heartbreaking and really traumatizing old wounds, and I get why people would avoid that conversation.
I mean, it's painful. It's so painful. You know, I remember and I'll say this here, telling my mother, you know, hey, I experienced, you know, I think I experienced sexual abuse as a kid. And the first response I got was, that's impossible, I was a good mom. That didn't happen.
Oh my god. Hmm.
So acknowledgement and validation is medicine for any type of wounding that as a parent you're inflicting on your kids. I mean, it's magic, what validation can do.
And listening. And taking responsibility I think. It's just parenting has been one of the things for me, that has been my biggest teacher. Turn the mirror on me in so many ways. Oh, my gosh. Okay, I want to ask about 2020. And just civil unrest that we're experiencing, and how has how has COVID affected your work? I mean, beyond not being able to see clients in person.
So okay, so this one is also heavy, but a different heavy. So I had COVID so I got to have five weeks of oh, that's what this is. So we are in the middle of this incredibly traumatizing circumstance, but you don't actually have the symptoms of trauma until the thing is over. So right now everyone's in survival mode and we have yet to even see what is post COVID trauma look and feel like. I know, for me, like you said earlier, you're being forced to be at home all the time has brought up everyone's shit so I don't think I've ever been this busy in my career. Because all of a sudden, we have time to think and when you have time and space to think all the unhealed content comes up. And something like COVID is going to trigger all of those parenting wounds, right? Because we don't know when the end is coming. We don't know if we're going to be getting sick, or how we're going to stay safe and keep our children safe. And so it's going to be traumatic in and of itself, but you throw on some, you know, undealt, with early childhood wounding, and everything's gonna get triggered, everything is gonna get triggered. And that's really what we're seeing now. Is trauma on top of trauma. COVID trauma on top of early childhood on address trauma. Yay.
Oh, my gosh, what I'm curious, and I don't know how much you can share, like, have you seen a pattern, if anything with the people that are coming to you now as opposed to even last year?
So I think I can say that generically as a composite. You know, everyone has their own issues. But by and large, if I was going to sum up, kind of what is the heart cry of this year is I want my mom, is the hard cry. No, literally. But that's the vibe. That's the feeling in the air is where's my mom, things are scary. I don't and I don't care how old they are. I have clients, you know, I've seen clients as young as two and as old as 80 and I want my mom is the prevailing thing.
Now, if you don't have any parental woundings, you can cope with that. But that's, that's what's happening. And there's a lot of parent wounding stuff that is surprising the hell out of people who can't who think they're coming in, because they're stressed out about homeschooling, or they think I'm stressed out, because my partner is here in my face all the time. But you know, when things are scary kids want their mom.
Yeah, that's interesting. And I don't know how related this is, but it just popped into my mind. I was listening to NPR last night, and they were they were talking about, they were interviewing a bunch of GenZ, young adults and young Americans, I should say, and, you know, it's their first election that they're going to be able to vote. And they were talking, you know, to all different all different people and different beliefs and things like that. But this one young woman said, what was interesting to me, and I had never truly thought about that and she said, you know, we're the first generation to be voting now, who has never known a life before 9/11. And, you know, we were born and then, you know, for a lot of them, it was a pretty bad recession. And then, you know, and wow, like, they, I guess I never really thought of, you know, I was born 1975, where we had a long run of patriotism. Yay. You know, I was in my 20s when 9/11 happened. And so it was fascinating to me how that part and then also, and I'm curious about your take on this, and what I see is, you know, baby boomers, and Gen Xers are making a sweeping generalization here. They grew up where it was, and my parents actually were even the generation before them, which was nicknamed the silent generation where you didn't talk about your problems like fuck your feelings, like that whole thing. And I feel like the pendulum has swung like way the other way and where GenZ are very in touch with their feelings and also like I see a little bit of over identification at times where… What is your take on that?
Oh, boy. Okay, so I'm with you, that there's a degree to which focusing on our stuff can be detrimental. So over identifying, and people get a lot, you know, I get a lot of pushback when I talk about diagnoses and a lot of them are incorrect, a lot of times we identify with our quote unquote disorders as a way of bypassing the pain that caused them. I'm gonna say that again, because it's important, and it's a mouthful. So I would have been diagnosed with what they would have called borderline personality disorder back in the day when I was in my 20s. And I've since learned it's complex trauma and da da da da da. But for a long time I held on to this is my diagnosis, this is just who I am, this is my disease, therefore I don't have to look at all the pain and all the awfulness that created the disorder in the first place. So not for everyone, and not every time. I'm gonna have DMS filled with, but we can over identify with our disorders as a way of bypassing pain, which is absolutely something that happens.
You know, I have college kids and teenagers who will be like, and I have this and this and this, and I have panic disorder and agoraphobia, and you know, blah, blah, blah. And it's like, well, how are you, how about let's talk about that thing that happened? Nope, nope, this is my disorder and they come in with their notepad and their little mini DSM guides and we absolutely use over identification as another coping skill, another bypassing avenue, which is really ironic that we use our very own diagnoses to avoid the things that created them.
And probably in some ways to avoid having, you know, taking responsibility or taking any kind of accountability for behaviors.
I did that I was like, nope, I'm a victim and I don't have to deal with my shit, because poor me, and then…
Oh I did too. Like seeking sympathy 100%. Who's on my team?
Why not? Right? Look how sick I am. I'm the best worst. I'm so jacked up the best for me. We have tshirts that say I’m the best worst.
I’m the best worst. I love that. I appreciate you saying that. Because like, as someone who grew up a little bit with, you know, the mentality of you know, suck it up, buttercup, like, just keep on keepin on. I worry sometimes that I'm like, am I just not being compassionate enough? But I can see both sides.
Absolutely. And it's like you said it's levels. You always want to validate pain. I don't always validate when people want to stick to the terminology or the diagnosis, but it's like, okay, forget the words and the diagnoses, you seem like you're in a lot of pain, let's start there. That's always a good place to start.
Personally, I have been emotionally manipulated by someone else and so I tend to not trust people's emotions sometimes. And I'm like, are you…is there an ulterior motive here? Are you trying to manipulate me? And so I have to be careful of that, too. So that's a whole other conversation for another time.
Well, boundaries are healthy. A person with healthy boundaries, and all their attachment stuff dealt with can be in the presence of someone having huge feelings and not absorb it. So even if they're trying to manipulate you, if you've got your attachment shields up, it won't matter. You're uncomfortable.
Mm hmm. I have I have had I had to learn to get to that place, especially in the second relationship that I was in and yeah, it's possible to heal and to move on and to get that clarity. And I am so glad that I had you on this went by so fast. Oh, my God, we’ve covered so many things. and I, I don't want to let you go before I just give you the opportunity… Was there something like kind of on the tip of your tongue or in the back of your mind that you wanted to say that we might have skipped?
Yeah, because we did all the here's you have trauma, you have mommy issues. It's COVID. I also I really want to say that healing in you know, with access to resources, the willingness to commit to the change process, healing is absolutely possible. And if one of those things is impossible, there are levels of healing that are available. Our brains are absolute magnificent things, they are designed to heal, they are wired to heal. Healing is possible. Had said that.
100%. Alright, so people can find out more about you at TheGreenHouseKC.com. We'll put those links in the show notes is there. I know you said that you're active on Instagram. Is that where you want people to go to find you?
That's the best place I'm @BrittFrank and Britt has two T’s.
@BrittFrank on Instagram, everybody. And again, all the important links are in the show notes. Thank you so much for being here. This has been so interesting. And I took some notes over here and wrote some things down that I'm going to Google and over identify my heart out.
Thank you so much.
Thank you, everyone for being here. You know, I am so grateful for your time I know how valuable it is. And I'm just honored that you choose to spend it here with me and my guests. And remember, it's our life's journey to make ourselves better humans and our life's responsibility to make the world a better place. Bye for now.
Hey everyone. Thanks again for listening to the show and just quick reminder that if your company needs a speaker or a trainer, I might be the right person for you. I speak and do keynotes on confidence and resilience for mixed audiences as well as do trainings on the daring way, which is the methodology based on the research of Dr. Brené. Brown. So if you think it might be a good fit, hit me up at support@AndreaOwen.com or head over to my speaking page AndreaOwen.com/speaking.