In this episode, Stephanie interviews Rachel Isabela, a first-generation American, about her journey of healing and personal growth. Rachel shares her experiences growing up with an emotionally absent father and the impact it had on her self-worth. She discusses her tumultuous marriage and the moment she made the decision to leave for the sake of her son. Rachel emphasizes the importance of self-awareness and forgiveness in her healing process. She also explores the effects of 80s parenting and the lack of emphasis on children’s emotional well-being. Rachel shares her approach to parenting and the changes she has made to prioritize communication and emotional awareness with her son.
Rachel is the top banana at Heal Sing Love where she helps fatherless daughters of physically or emotionally absent fathers create happier lives. Using her own experience as a fatherless daughter and her personal evolution towards healing, she teaches women to realize how powerful, loveable and worthy they actually are and always have been, no matter what they learned in childhood. She hosts two podcasts: Empowered Fatherless Daughters and GenX Ladies Say Anything.
Turning 40 and Forgiving an Emotionally Absent Father
In this episode of the Forty Drinks Podcast, host Stephanie interviews Rachel Isabela, a first-generation American who shares her journey of healing and personal growth. Rachel discusses her childhood, marked by the emotional absence of her father, and how this led to seeking validation from others and engaging in emotionally promiscuous behavior. She shares her experience of a tumultuous marriage and the moment she made the decision to leave for the sake of her young son. Rachel delves into the importance of self-awareness and the process of forgiving her father and herself. She also explores the impact of growing up in the 80s and the lack of emphasis on children’s emotional well-being. Rachel also discusses her approach to parenting and the changes she has made to prioritize communication and emotional awareness with her son.
Highlights from the episode include:
– Rachel’s realization at a young age that her father didn’t like her and the impact it had on her self-worth
– The red flags she ignored in her marriage and the emotional and psychological abuse she endured
– How a diagnosis of gallstones led to her decision to leave her marriage and prioritize her son’s well-being
– The importance of self-awareness in healing and personal growth
– Rachel’s perspective on parenting style in the 80s and the lack of emphasis on children’s emotional well-being
Resources mentioned in the episode:
– “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay
– “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman
– “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel van der Kolk
– “When The Body Says No” by Gabor Maté
What are emotionally absent parents?
Emotionally absent parents are those who may physically be present in a child’s life, but are unable to provide the emotional support, validation, and connection that children need for healthy development. This absence can manifest in various ways, such as a lack of attention, affection, or engagement with the child’s emotions and experiences. Children who grow up with emotionally absent parents often struggle with low self-esteem, a sense of unworthiness, and difficulty forming healthy relationships. They may seek validation and attention from others, leading to emotional promiscuity or seeking surrogate parental figures outside of the family. This can result in a range of challenges, including difficulties with setting boundaries, making healthy choices, and developing a strong sense of self. The impact of emotionally absent parents can also extend into adulthood, affecting romantic relationships, friendships, and overall emotional well-being.
In another episode, Annette Copeland talked about how her mother didn’t have the emotional skills to communicate her needs, which resulted in a home environment that was emotionally unstable and communicationally fraught. And, Elle Nagy’s mother once told her “women in our family don’t get depressed.” So Elle thought, oops, sorry, and carried on.
Rachel’s Special Gift for Listeners: 5 Simple Steps to Start Healing Your Heart
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Download Stephanie’s guide to the Ick to diagnose whether you or someone you love is suffering from this insidious midlife malaise. www.fortydrinks.com/ick
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The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications
Stephanie: Hi, Rachel. Thanks for being here with me today.
Rachel: Hey, Stephanie. It's good to be here.
Stephanie: You're joining me from the beautiful lands of Argentina. Is that right?
Rachel: Yes, I am.
Stephanie: Oh my goodness. I've never been there. Tell me just a tiny bit about Argentina. Why'd you go there?
Rachel: I came here because I married a man who was from Argentina. But my parents are from here, my parents and my grandparents and aunts and uncles, my whole family is from here. I'm actually a first generation American, my parents emigrated in the 70s to New York and then my sister and I were born there. So, yeah, my roots culturally are here.
Stephanie: Oh, okay. So it's actually not as big of a shift as I thought. I thought you were a born and bred New Yorker, which you are, but your roots are actually right where you are now.
Rachel: Exactly. Yeah.
Stephanie: Great. Okay. Well, today we want to talk a little bit about your transition, your "forty story" as I call them, but before we get to that, let's hear a little bit about how you got to that moment where you made the decision that things weren't working for you. With you, I think we have to go all the way back to sort of the preteen, the tween years.
Rachel: Okay. So my childhood was pretty good. I grew up with my mom and my dad and my older sister. Around the age of 12, I started telling my mom that my father didn't like me or that he didn't love me. I don't remember which one it was. I really couldn't elaborate more than that. I didn't have the vocabulary for it. I just felt that he didn't like me and I found out years later that I was right, um, but at the moment, my mother would say, you're being ridiculous, of course, he loves you, you're his daughter. And I was like, yeah, he loves me in a you're my daughter kind of way, but he doesn't like me. And, um, yeah, that was probably the separation between father and daughter. And what I noticed was that there wasn't any giving on his part, any chance that he could get to be away from the family, he would take. So when he wasn't at work, rather than being at home, he was on the soccer field as a coach to boys, he preferred boys, he would have liked to have had boys, but he got two daughters. So I would say that the origin of my problems came around the age of 12 when I felt the rejection of my dad, even though we lived in the sa me home. So it wasn't that he was ever physically absent, but he was emotionally absent, definitely.
Stephanie: How did you manage that or what did that bring out in you?
Rachel: What it first brought out in me was to look for surrogate fathers. The first surrogate father you could say that I had was my sixth grade teacher who was wonderful to me. And subsequently, I had two other teachers that I looked to in high school that, yeah, I was just trying to get the attention of a man. Thankfully, all three of these men were very good to me and very appropriate because that could have gone very badly. Thankfully, it didn't. And I would go to them with problems, I would go to them with concerns and they would give me kind of fatherly advice. I don't know that they understood that what I was dealing with was daddy issues, but they were very kind to me. And the other way that it manifested was in emotional promiscuity. And what that means is that I needed attention from people and so I would share any kind of sad story with people in order to get attention, some of them were made up, some of them were real, but maybe embellished. I didn't know how to get healthy attention. I didn't know the difference between being respected and being pitied. All I really wanted was to be seen and validated and heard, and that was how it came out in me. I know a lot of women with daddy issues were sexually promiscuous, but there's many ways that you can be, it's just sharing too much of yourself without the context being healthy or safe for you. So that's mainly how my unworthiness manifested: in looking for surrogate fathers and in being emotionally promiscuous.
Stephanie: Interesting. Ooh. That really is fortunate because this is a generation ago now that you were in that place. And it really is fortunate that the men that you looked to, the elders that you looked to were appropriate and that nothing went sideways there.
Rachel: I'm very thankful.
Stephanie: that's one of those moments as an adult, you go, Ooh, you know, thank goodness.
Rachel: Yeah, at the moment it didn't occur to me, but as an adult, I God. Thank God. My 15 year old self, my 14 year old self chose correctly. So yes.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. My goodness. Okay. So then in your mid twenties, you ended up getting married at 24. Tell me a little bit about that.
Rachel: So I met a man from Argentina, I was living in South Florida, and we got married very quickly, after just 10 months. He was the first man that gave me attention. He was the first man that made me feel like I was everything, the sun, the moon, the stars. It was the first time that I felt seen and validated and heard by a man, and so a lot of red flags were just ignored. I saw them for myself and I ignored them. My mother pointed some out to me and I ignored it because I, the, oh my God, the, the way he looked at me and the way he, desired me and wanted to spend time with me and the way, yeah, it was, it was feeling seen for the first time. It was incredibly seductive. It was like, like a balm finally you know, because when you grow up without your dad's attention, the basic thought that you have in your head that we all, I've interviewed women on this, and the basic thought is if my father didn't love me, who the hell will? Because of course, if the first man in your life... it's inconceivable in a way that someone who is not blood related to you would care to look at you or care to give you attention and ask you how your day was and all of those things. And so a lot of red flags were ignored, we got married very quickly and then we moved to Argentina because he had a son here, my stepson, and he needed to come back to Argentina. We were together for 10 years and the relationship got progressively worse as I was isolated from family and as I fell into a depression in Argentina when I first arrived because I could not work as a nurse. I was a nurse and when I came here, my license wasn't validated and I would have had to study all over again. So things got pretty bad, there was emotional and psychological abuse. And I was scared for what I might do to myself and I was scared for my son's future. I had a son, and when I left, I was 34, my son was four. That was when I chose to leave. I didn't want my kid to have any memory of the fighting, of the mean words, of his mother being treated the way she was being treated. I tell people all the time, I didn't even leave for myself. I didn't love myself. I mean, I loved my son enough to leave. My love for myself came later with the healing, with the work that I did. But when I left at 34, it was for my kid, it was to give him something better. Because I was just empty and drained and exhausted and I knew that if I stayed, I would end up hurting myself.
Stephanie: Oh, that's so sad. Can you tell me based on your background and coming from the background you did, what kind of red flags were you ignoring?
Rachel: I was ignoring the fact that he was jealous and possessive. I was ignoring the fact that for instance, I worked at night in a psychiatric ward in a part of a hospital, and a friend of mine, a colleague, would go outside sometimes to smoke and I worked the night shift, so this would be around midnight, he would go out for smoke, and he came in one time and he said, Rachel, your husband's outside. I don't know if he's making sure that you're here. Like he was checking to see if I was actually there. He didn't trust me at all. He really never had never any reason, to, I'm actually very trustworthy. I would say to him things like, I'm not going to cheat on you not because of you, but because of me, because I couldn't do that. I don't have enough of a poker face to carry on that kind of deception. It's something that my dad did, so I'm not going to do it to someone else. I wouldn't do it to another woman. And I have the emotional maturity to say, look, things aren't working, uh, there's someone at work that I kind of like or that I feel that I'm interested in, so either we go to therapy or we break up. I would say to him, I didn't cheat on anybody before you and I'm not going to cheat on anybody who might come after you. And in 10 years, he never ever got it. It was an insecurity in him that was just so profound that he never really understood that I was a perfectly trustworthy person and that chips away a lot at I guess how you look at yourself as a person to know that you wouldn't do something, but to constantly be accused, yeah, the red flags were the jealousy. The fact that I would say I need some space and then he would follow me and he wouldn't allow that space. The fact that he did not allow any emotional boundaries to be put up.
Stephanie: And were those the same things that your mom was seeing?
Rachel: Yes. Yeah. Yeah, but you know when you're in love you become really stupid. It doesn't matter what someone, it's amazing. People want to save you from yourself. And you're, it's like, you're determined to go through the pain and have your own aha moment about it. And it doesn't matter what anyone says. Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. I've sauntered by a bunch of red flags myself. So I'm aware.
Stephanie: Okay. So you spent 10 years with your husband, your first husband, and you had a baby
Stephanie: and at 34, what happened that you said, okay, I got to leave, this is it. What was it that got you to the place that you were able to make that decision for yourself and your son?
Rachel: What happened was that 11 months before I left, I developed gallstones or they were found. Apparently they can grow for years inside you. And I've always believed in your biography will become your biology, the mind body connection. I'm a huge fan of Louise Hay, I had her book, I did Reiki, and this was physical manifestation of my pain and I couldn't believe it. And so it took me another 11 months to leave, but when I got that diagnosis I looked up in Louise Hay's book what it meant to have gallstones and it said bitter thoughts about the past. I thought, this is my dad. This is my dad showing up in my body. I need to forgive my dad. I need to forgive my husband and I need to leave. So that happened. And then the last 11 months were just such a depressive time, where I was trying to find the strength because I had left my country for this man and create a family. I had left my nursing license. I had left my nursing job. I had left everything that I knew. And so it's very easy to constantly say, well, just try a little more. It wasn't like we were living in the same town I had sacrificed and given up a lot.
Rachel: And I had a four year old boy and I didn't know how this would affect him. I didn't know if I would ever be able to come back to the United States because he would have to give his approval. Once you have a kid with someone in another country... yeah, heads up.
Stephanie: You're tethered.
Rachel: Yeah. Make sure you know what you're doing. I was really scared to be on my own. I had no self esteem. I didn't believe I was capable of anything. I think one of the last things that happened was cause my ex husband never hit me, but the insults were getting worse, which was a red flag, and his anger at my wanting to break up really scared me. And one day just to get away, I locked myself in the bathroom and he started banging on the door and my little boy was in the house. And I guess that was just a real breaking point for me that my kid would see that, that I would have to cower in bathroom. So, I called my mom and I told her about this huge fight, she also lives in Argentina. She was living where I live now in the town where I live now and I was living with my ex husband about 10 hours away by bus. And she said, well, you know, a long weekend is coming up. There was a national holiday. She said, why don't you and the kid come for the weekend and we'll talk and we'll straighten things out and then you can go back. She sent me the two tickets with the return ticket.
Stephanie: Mm hmm. Mm
Rachel: What her idea was to try to convince me to stay once I got there. Once I got here, and that's what happened. I was walking around town and I felt like, Oh, there's no one behind me because for a long time I would walk around in another town, in another city from where he lives, and I would be looking over my shoulder. I was sure that he was there. I was sure that he was following me because he had followed me so many times. And so basically I, I came here for the long weekend. We stayed Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Saturday night. I called him. I said, I'm not coming back. So send me my stuff, put my stuff in suitcases and boxes and the kids. And I mean, I already had the kid with me, which was the most important thing. I don't really know how he handled it from there. I wasn't there to see it. I got a lot of very abusive emails that I kept in case I ever needed to show them to a judge.
Rachel: and that's how I left.
Stephanie: So once you, with your mom's help, left, how did you then start to rebuild your life? And how did you even know to start working on yourself or working on healing?
Rachel: Well, what's interesting is that I'd always really been into personal growth and self help and all that stuff, but it took a real backseat when I married this man because he was not into it at all. He was very, very different and I needed to re-find that part of myself and with the Louise Hay aspect of it, the Reiki and the energy, knowing that my gallstones were like telling me you need to leave, I knew that I didn't want to ever manifest this kind of man again. And I knew that I had played a part. I was self aware enough, I guess, to say, well, he didn't do this on his own. If he dealt out the abuse, I was obviously accepting it. So then I started going back into like, what was the original pain? I got to the pain of my dad and the unworthiness. So I had to work on forgiving that. And then my ex husband and then myself for having not loved myself well, for having accepted a lot of things in my marriage that had I loved myself well, I never would have accepted. I think I was able to do the work because I had a kernel of self awareness to look inward to say, what made you accept this? And if I have another man in my life, what kind of man do I want, not just for me, but for my boy? I wasn't going to say, oh, this was all random. I knew that it had happened for something.
Stephanie: Right. It wasn't just bad luck.
Rachel: I didn't want, any more gallstones. I mean, I couldn't get any gallstones because my gallbladder was removed, but I didn't want anything else coming up in my body. I didn't want to manifest another man like this. I wanted to be okay. I wanted to accept and let it go. And yeah, forgive, accept let go.
Stephanie: Okay. Let's pause for one moment. I want to back up two steps. Louise Hay, for those who are not familiar with her is, or was, the head of Hay House Publishing, which was a small independent publisher that published lots of self help and personal growth books. I think the early Wayne Dyer books were published through her. Can you remind me the name of the book you're citing it's on my shelf and I can see the cover. I just can't come up with the title.
Rachel: You Can Heal Your Life.
Stephanie: That's what it is. Thank you. And so this is a really cool book, because if you're having issues with certain parts of your body inside or out, whether it's a joint or a bone or a skin or, an organ, you can look into the book and it goes sort of item by item in your body and says, if you're having issues here, it could potentially be from thought patterns or emotional patterns having to do with this or anger over that or stuckness here. It's a very holistic way of thinking about issues that are happening with your body.
Rachel: Yeah, it's trying to give you the responsibility of what you create in your life and also what you heal in your life because people like to say, I have this cancer because of God, and that doctor is going to save me, that medicine. But where are you in the equation?
My grandmother, who has since passed away. She had a very hoarse throat. People often thought she sounded like a man on the phone and it got progressively worse as she aged. And I would say to her, you need to start talking. She had two daughters with whom she had really bad relationships and there was things that she just couldn't say. Her husband, my grandfather died when there was a lot of things unsolved in their marriage and I would say to her, you are choking on your words. And she would just like, Oh, you know, like, Oh, that's just so cute and adorable. She got every kind of test on stuff, everything, like she got tubes put down, the endoscopies and all that stuff. And they didn't find anything. I told her they're never going to find anything. Just start talking. Yeah, I think she was just choking on her words, on everything that wasn't said.
Stephanie: Yeah. yeah. I just finished a book recently and of course, right now the title has gone out of my head. It was something that one of my previous guests had recommended, but the whole mind body connection and that there really is a lot of emerging science around the connection between what we think and how we feel, not just on a day to day basis, but at a true at a cellular level at a body depth level.
Rachel: You Can Heal Your Life is from kind of another generation, even though people still obviously use it and it's revered. The newest book that is being like the newer generation is a book called The Body Keeps The Score.
Stephanie: That's the one. That's the one I was thinking of.
Rachel: Yeah, that's like the newer generation of basically her exact theory that your biography will become your biology. But I don't remember the doctor's name, think it's doctor who wrote that book.
Stephanie: The Body Keeps The Score is by Bessel van der Kolk This is the one I just read: When The Body Says No
Rachel: Gabor Maté, I think he's Hungarian he's fantastic.
Stephanie: Oh, okay, well, I just finished his book and it's
very much the same kind of stuff. Somebody who had described it to me said, a lot of what we think of as hereditary diseases are actually hereditary patterns of dealing with stressors or dealing with generational emotional or familial trauma issues, that are then manifesting in our bodies in similar ways. It's a little bit of a, you know, blow your mind kind of thing, but then read these books and you're like, ugh, crap.
Rachel: Well, one of the things that I so love about our generation that I mentioned on my podcast before is that I think we're the first generation to try to heal generational trauma because at some point we realized, you know, isn't there a better way of doing this? And then the millennials got even better at it. And the Gen Zers, Gen Z kids are like 20 years old saying, I need to heal my generational trauma. And you're like, Oh, thank God. Yes. Do that now at 20, not at 45.
Stephanie: Right, and they're setting boundaries at work and they're doing keep themselves healthy. Yes. Doing a lot of that, that those of us, in our forties and fifties, waited until we were 35 40 or 45 to really step into that. My hope is that the generations behind us will get smarter, and that's part of what this podcast is about, right, telling the stories of, can look like this, it can feel like this, and here's how we got through it and got out the other side. And so hopefully use this as a tool to find your own way out if your story looks anything like this.
Rachel: Love it.
Stephanie: Alright, let's go back to your story. You had this kernel of self-awareness and you used that to reignite your interest in personal growth and personal development. You told me that you've spent the last 10 years working on this. So one of the things that I want to go all the way back to is you said when you were 12, you told your mom, I don't think my dad likes me. And then you said later, I found out that was true. How did you find that out?
Rachel: I found that out because I read The Five Love Languages. I actually didn't read it, I was listening to it. I was cleaning the house and it was a short audio book and so I put it on because I kept hearing people talk about it. I thought, what is this party that I'm not aware of?
Stephanie: Another great book by the way.
Rachel: Yeah. And I listened to it and I thought, oh my God, my dad did not do any of these. And I immediately, because I'm self aware, I immediately was like, Oh, come on, you know, you can't be that mean, I'm sure he did some of them. And I looked at all five of them and I thought, no, there was not one of those that he ever did on a like consistent, everyday, weekly basis. And the 12 year old in me felt vindicated because when you're 12 years old and you tell your mom, dad doesn't love me, there's a part of me that says, you're crazy. There's a part of the way your mother looks at you, kind of rolling her eyes that makes you feel crazy, but I knew it. I had no other way of elaborating on what I was saying, but it was in the way he looked at me, it was in his rejection, it was on the fact that he didn't spend time with us and he wanted to be on the soccer field. I just, I knew it. I read The Five Love Languages like three years ago, it was probably during lockdown. So it wasn't long ago and that was an interesting day because I remember coming to this realization, that my father didn't love me, and thinking I should be heartbroken by this, and then I realized I'm not, it's just like an acceptance of what I knew. And I knew then that I had moved really far away from my anger towards him and into indifference, which to me is a much better place to be in. It's sad that I would feel indifferent. I don't wish him any harm. I think he's perfect the way he is for whatever his growth level is at this point in his life, but I was kind of looking around like, should I be crying? Should I be calling my mom and sobbing to her like, oh my God. None of that came up. It was just this kind of mature acceptance of, all right, I knew it. Um, so that's when I knew that had stepped into a healthy amount of indifference. And the confirmation was just, that's, that's all it was, it wasn't a realization. It was just confirmation of what I already knew.
Stephanie: Were you ever able to have a conversation with him about it?
Rachel: No. He reached out to me, oh my gosh, I stopped talking to him in 1999. So I was 21, almost 22 and we didn't speak for 20 years. And in 2020 he reached out in an email and shocked the hell out of me.
Rachel: so he said something like maybe it's time to heal the old wounds of the past. I want you to know that I've forgiven myself. And I was like, what? You've forgiven yourself? Oh, that's so nice. I didn't receive anything.
Stephanie: Right. No apology?
Rachel: None. He will not apologize because he says that a parent is not supposed to apologize to their child. So, I sent him, like, audios of, well, this is where I stand, this is what I think, explained myself very calmly, and he just basically grabbed his ball and went home. And that caused a few weeks of, uh, I was just, what was I? I was sad for a while because I realized that he had not moved an inch, that he was the exact same person that he had been 20 years before. And I would say to my mom and to my best friend, how are you the same person? I am not the same person I was last year. And I guess in my small bubble of personal growth, everybody is working on themselves, so the idea that you could go 20 years and not advance is insane to me. It is inconceivable that you are living life and you are not growing. I couldn't get over it. It took me a few weeks to come to realize after 20 years, that is the shitty email I got from my dad. That's what was. And realized it's not going to happen this lifetime. We're not going to ever make up because there is a lack of growth on his part, or his emotional bandwidth is extremely limited.
Rachel: That was very sad to me. Yeah. The Five Love Languages wasn't sad. it was a confirmation, but seeing how he was for the first time after 20 years and realizing, holy hell. That was very sad to me.
Stephanie: Yeah. Oof.
Stephanie: Another thing you mentioned to me when we first connected was, you said so many of us are codependent because we grew up in a time when the feelings of the adult were more Important than the feelings of the child.
Stephanie: Do you feel like you've been codependent in your life?
Rachel: I think I was more codependent with my mother. I think that, yeah, children of the eighties, man, the adults, boomers who were raising children in the eighties, were very much in their ego. It was very much children were not their own people, they were extensions of the parent. And so, yeah, I just spent too many years worrying about my mother's feelings because she made her feelings important and I didn't consider my own feelings and I think that also led to the man that I chose to marry where I ignored my own intuition or my own feelings. Thankfully, my mother is capable of growth and she's capable of realizing that, you know, there were mistakes that were made and, and she is capable of constantly having talks about what might hurt me or what her behavior was like towards me as a kid, something that I can't do with my dad. I am able to do it with her. So the codependence, I think it went from growing up and it led to, yeah, some of the problems in my marriage as well.
Stephanie: Can you for me and for those listening tell me what codependence means to you? What does that look like?
Rachel: I heard somebody say this the other day: codependence is when one person needs another person and the other person needs to be needed. And so that is what happened with my mom. I needed my mom rather than building on my own self esteem, and my mother for whatever reason she needed to be needed. She needed her daughter to go to her for advice constantly and you know, she likes to give her opinion and thinks very highly of her opinion. So I heard a psychologist the other day say that that's what codependence is. One person needs another person and the other person needs to be needed. And so it's all really unhealthy.
Stephanie: Nice definition
Rachel: Yeah. And very easy to understand.
Stephanie: Very easy to understand. Okay. All right. And we can see just with your story about when you were 34 and leaving your marriage. I mean, it was your mom who sort of helped you with that. So not only was she helping you, but she was probably also, just freewheeling here, but probably also fulfilling a need in herself.
Rachel: Maybe, I never looked at it that way. But I also know that a mother is only as happy as her saddest child. So, for her to know that her daughter was struggling and in an abusive relationship, she probably just thought, you know, come here with the kid, stay in my home, whatever you need. Just get out of that place now because of how unhealthy it is. Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. That's so interesting, your insight about kids of the 80s, because I am certainly one of those. What other insights have you come up with about growing up at the 80s and sort of how they affect our growth and our development? I know it's something you've sort of rolled around with previously.
Rachel: Yeah, so, the movie, The Never Ending Story, which I'd seen a million times and I could like recite it by heart, I recently saw it just a few months ago after years of not seeing it. And the first three minutes of Bastian talking to his dad left my jaw on the floor. I was like, that is what's wrong with us. That is that's wrong with us. This is a very kind father who is clueless as to what his little boy needs. So it starts out with Bastion saying I had another dream, Dad, about Mom, mom has obviously died, and the dad says, I understand son, but we need to move on with things. So that's nice. Then the dad says, um, I'm very disappointed that you didn't try out for the swim team. Maybe the kid didn't want to try out for the swim team. He says you're old enough to get your head out of the clouds and back on the earth where you belong, to stop daydreaming and to start facing your problems. But there's never any indication as to how to do that. How do you tell an 11 year old start facing your problems? I just told you I had another dream about mom and you told me that we need to get on with things.
Stephanie: Right. That was my problem. Right.
Rachel: That's my problem, I'm having dreams about Mom. I miss my mother. I am grieving, I'm 11 years old. He says, Bastion, we all have responsibilities and we can't let mom's death be an excuse for not getting the old job done. I was like, excuse? Again, this is a loving, kind of father who is aware that his child is, you know, doodling in his math book and stuff like that. And I thought, so even if you were a good, decent parent, you were fucking up. I don't know we can curse here. Should I say that again?
Stephanie: We can, you can, it's fine.
Rachel: Okay. I thought that's amazing - even the kind people, so imagine if you didn't have a loving, kind parent, if your boomer parent was harsher than that, or stricter than that, or meaner than that, um, Cause even with the kind ones, they did not know about emotional wellbeing. My child is fed. He has a warm bed. He gets good grades at school. He says no sir, yes ma'am. He is polite to his teachers and that makes me a good parent. There was no awareness of what emotional wellbeing is and how to cultivate it. And what I'm proud of in our generation is that we try to do that with our kids. I mean, I do that, my sister does that. The women that I know that are our age are very aware of their kids emotional well being.
Stephanie: Interesting. And yet is it Gen X parents or millennial parents or maybe both? And this is just such a cliche, but the whole generation of everybody gets an award, everybody gets a ribbon, how does that become the response,the feedback from where we came from?
Rachel: I don't really agree with that either. I don't think there's anything wrong with one kid standing out above all others. And I think you can get a participation certificate and then the VIP would get the trophy. I don't think everybody needs to get a trophy. I think that people have gone too far in the other direction where they are now trying to protect their kids from any kind of conflict and they're going too far because kids are not developing any kind of resilience or emotional intelligence or maturity because mom and dad are solving everything in this fear of, God forbid my child get his feelings hurt. So I think there could be a really nice combination of old school and new school where we incorporate the emotional well being of children, obviously, but we don't protect them from any kind of conflict because they will be completely unprepared for the world. And in the world, there are people that are smarter and better than them, and who're going to work harder, and so I don't think the trophy should be given to everybody. I do think you should be able to see, wow, that person did better than me maybe I should step up my game or something, and not have that hurt your poor little feelings.
Stephanie: It's so interesting. I'm not a parent, so I only am ever talking about these things from the sideline. Right, from what I see and what I hear and friends and family and things like that. I certainly am no expert, but it's just so interesting. It does feel like when we were kids in the late seventies and early eighties, things were definitely at one end of an extreme and I feel like in the last 10 or 15 years, things are at the other end of the extreme.
Rachel: In trying to correct that, I think we went a little too far.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. What are the kinds of things that you're doing with your son, who's probably what, like 15 now?
Rachel: Yeah, he's 15.
Stephanie: So what kinds of things are you doing in order to, not remedy, but what things did you learn from your childhood that you're now bringing to the table as a parent?
Rachel: Well, there's a lot of communication, the good and the bad, you know, if I'm upset with something, I'll say it directly. I'm not passive aggressive. I'm just pretty direct. There is a lot of talking about emotions so that he knows how to identify them correctly and trying to not just identify them but know what to do or how to self soothe. Mostly that, mostly the changes that I've made are in the communication because in my family, we did not communicate and emotional wellbeing being wasn't really taken into consideration. When my kid was four and I left his dad, a few months later, he needed a psychologist because it was starting to hit him, the reality that his family had broken up and he immediately went to a psychologist, when he needed it. So I'm not afraid of that. I believe in that. Those are the changes that I've made.
Stephanie: And were those things that you learned yourself in the last 10 years or so?
Rachel: Yeah. And when you look at your life or you look at your relationships and you're lucky enough to have a kernel of self awareness, then the idea of, well, if this isn't what I want, then what do I do want? Well, then you start creating from that point. I want to have a communication with my son that I didn't have with my parents. I want my son to be emotionally aware in a way that I was not and be emotionally mature at a younger age than I was. I think the self awareness is key. If you can't identify what the problem is in your own life, then you're not going to get anywhere. You need the kernel of self awareness to make changes.
Stephanie: Yeah.The first step is awareness. I want to go back to something else you said as well. One of the tools a mentor gave me was a question to be applied in appropriate circumstances and that is what about me makes that okay? So when you find yourself in a situation, when you find yourself in a relationship that you're not being treated well, or wherever you're not enjoying the way you're being treated, or you're not feeling like it's, it's a good thing, whether it's these red flags that some of us go trotting by, to your point, you said earlier that kernel of self awareness, these things like your marriage, they didn't come out of nowhere, they weren't big surprises or big accidents, that we usually do have some level of involvement in creating the situation that we find ourselves in. And so to have to apply that question, what is it about me that makes that okay, is really actually quite humbling.
Rachel: Well, that's the part that's hardest to look at. That's the part that no one wants to look at. I would be in Facebook groups where women would say something like, my shit of an ex husband he was abusive for 25 years and everybody in the comment section would be saying things like, you poor thing you're better than that, he doesn't deserve you, and then I was the bitch that would put the comment, did you stay for 25 years? And not. And again, I also stayed, but this woman needs to be slapped across the head a little bit. Like, what did you do? How did you contribute to your own pain and what part of you is hurting, what part of you is broken? Because obviously the reason why I chose to stay in a marriage that was abusive is because I did not love myself well. I did not know that I deserved to be treated better, I did not know my own worth, so when I say something like that to somebody and it's shocking, my life is fine, no one's abusing me. You can either choose to get mad at me for having said something so horrific, or you can actually look at the question and be like, Oh. It's the quintessential story of not being able to claim that you're an alcoholic until you actually go into a room and say to everybody, my name is so and so and I am an alcoholic. You are claiming the problem for yourself. If before then you say things like, oh, I'm a social drinker or I just have a little problem,
Stephanie: Or I can stop whenever I want. Yeah.
Rachel: when you walk into a room full of people and you are humble enough to say I am so and so and I'm an alcoholic, that is when you claim the problem. That is the kernel self awareness that you need.
Stephanie: Yeah. When I was examining that question recently, it was, what part of you is underdeveloped or undeveloped, right? So it doesn't necessarily need to be a failing. It doesn't need to be something broken. But like there's a muscle that didn't get developed when I was a tween and a teen and now my right calf didn't develop correctly, and so now I walk with a limp. And so why do walk with a limp? Well, what do I have to do? I need to strengthen that right calf in be able to walk strong and proud.
Rachel: That's what it is. You said, what do I have to do? It isn't about placing blame. It isn't about, well, this is my mother's fault. It's just, what do I have to do? If I wasn't taught self love, maybe my mother didn't have self love. Maybe her mother didn't. You know, you can just spend too much time, like our time is limited people, let's go.
Rachel: We spend so much time trying to see who was to blame because our ego needs that. When you just let it go and say, what are the steps I need to take? What do I need to do? I didn't want to develop self love. I want to develop self love. How do I develop self love? It's easy. Just what do I want? How do I do it? And that's it. And stop spending time on, it's because this person did it.
Stephanie: Right. That will only ever work as a starting point. As the statement that begins the thesis, and then you have to do all the work below it in order to move from it. Yeah. Yeah.
Rachel: Well part of self awareness is also about letting go of your ego. So, as long as you're in your ego pointing the finger to the person who caused it, you are stepping outside of your self awareness. If you can stay in your self awareness and forget about the blame that you're longing to put on somebody because it makes you feel better. Just stay in your self awareness so that you can hear another person's perspective so that you can say, I guess I was wrong about that, I guess there's stuff I need to learn. Staying in self awareness is really, really helpful.
Stephanie: And from practical point of view, how do you stay in self awareness? How do you get out of the ego? Are there any things that you've learned along the way that help you to, you know, I'm thinking of when we used to wear rubber bands on our wrists and snap the rubber band when you're biting your nails or, you know, whatever. In a practical way, what does it mean to stay in self awareness or step out of your ego?
Rachel: I don't know how I do it. I really don't. I wish I could. I think that maybe when you're into personal development for as long as I have been, you can just get to a place where, Yeah, I don't know. If someone wants to learn how I would say to get a life coach, because what the life coach will do is they're going to interrupt whatever pattern you have that is egoic and that is looking outside and saying, you know, my mother, my father, my, whatever, um, how I stay in self awareness? I don't know.
Stephanie: Hmm. Okay. That's okay. But you actually said something. No, no, don't apologize. Don't apologize. These are just conversations. You actually said something there that was, I think, very important. So we start with awareness, right? If you're becoming aware of a situation, a feeling, whatever, interrupt the pattern. How do you interrupt the pattern? That's what you said, which I actually think is quite profound, right? Because as soon as you can become aware of it, and then you can see it in your life, in your world, however it's manifesting for you, do you know what the triggers are? Do you know what the reactions to the triggers are? And how do you interrupt that pattern? You may not consciously know how you do it, but that's a great description of what you're actually doing is interrupting patterns that aren't serving you.
Rachel: Well, because one of the most difficult things to do is to escape your own perspective because we all live in our own little world and we're all right in our own little world and everyone else is wrong and our ego is protecting us and maintaining that dialogue in our head. So you need someone else maybe to come in and say, are you sure this is what, think of it this way, what if this is a possibility? And to just introduce a new pattern, a new thought. A new perspective, because if you're stuck and you no longer want to be, then self awareness is what you need to get to. Self awareness gets you unstuck.
Stephanie: Yep. Yep. Yep. And to your point, you said life coach and there are all kinds of coaches and self help books and groups and people. And I think a lot of times you do need someone to help you, at least at the beginning stages, because you're right, a lot of it is stuff that's just ingrained inside of you, whether it's patterns that you're repeating or muscles that you haven't developed yet, so having someone else to work through, and frankly, it could be a friend, it doesn't have to be a paid offering necessarily. But it's gotta be the right friend, who's gonna push you in that healthy way, who's gonna allow you the space to process what you need to process. But that's a great point is that a lot of times at the beginning, you do need something outside of yourself and outside of your world to help you create some new thoughts, create some new ideas. Even if they don't end up being the thoughts and ideas that 10 years from now, you're still living or working, they may have been the step ones and step twos in your world.
Rachel: Oh, hopefully if you, if you dedicate yourself to personal growth, you're not going to be the same person in 10 years that you are today. I'm not the person was at 24 when I married that man. I am not now the person I was at 34 when I left him. So hopefully that's always changing. Yeah.
Stephanie: yeah, yeah. yeah. That's another one of the things that I'm picking up from these conversations is that once you open the door here, you don't typically reach done, right? You're not done growth. But it becomes something that once you come out of whatever situation that you're unhappy with, or you'renot content with, the growth isn't necessarily as large, as constant, as huge as maybe it is at the start, but once you've started evolving as a person, most times we'll find you want to keep going.
Rachel: Of course. Yeah, when start seeing changes in your life and in the people that you attract into your life and your relationships, you're a lot more cautious about who you spend your time with. You're really good about putting up boundaries. Oh, yeah, life gets better. When you're aware of what you're doing. Being aware of what you're doing makes your life better than just being like a piece of flotsam and jetsam that just flows through life being taken here and there and not making any decision on their own. Yeah.
Stephanie: Yeah. So tell me how life is better for you today.
Rachel: Life is better because my relationships are better. With my best friend, with my mother, with my son, I'd have to say that. My relationship with myself is really good, which a lot of people don't see as important. When someone says like, what's working in your life, they might say, you know, job or relationships or whatever. How is your relationship with yourself? My relationship with myself is good and my personal growth is good and my loved ones are good. I'm happy with who I am. Yeah.
Stephanie: Wonderful. Well, Rachel, I'm so happy that you were able to join me today and that you were so generous with your story and sharing everything that you've been through and how you came through it and came out the other side. So thank you so much for joining me today.
Rachel: Thank you, Stephanie. I loved being here.