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Episode 534
The Doctor's Farmacy

How To Find The Gifts In Unpleasant Feelings

Open the Podcasts app and search for The Doctor’s Farmacy. If you’re viewing this site on your phone, you can just tap on the

Tap the subscribe button and new shows will be added to your library.

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Many of us will try anything to get away from hard feelings. Food, shopping, alcohol, screens… There is an endless list of distractions and addictions we use to try to avoid our emotions.

But the keyword here is “try,” and as much as we might resist the tough feelings, it never really works. 

Today on The Doctor’s Farmacy, I’m thrilled to talk about the power of sitting with unpleasant feelings with my guest Dr. Joan Rosenberg.

Dr. Rosenberg and I get right into the messiness of human emotion, as she explains the physiology of unpleasant feelings. It’s important to realize that our biological stress response works the same for a made-up event in our minds as a real one that has actually occurred. 

Avoiding hard emotions only makes them louder. We discuss how expressing our thoughts and feelings, whether it’s through journaling or conversation, helps us metabolize them and move forward. Dr. Rosenberg breaks down the importance of speaking up and why it’s the key to confidence and authenticity.

Grief, trauma, and anxiety are some of the other important topics that we touch on throughout this episode. I share some of my personal experiences in processing life’s most difficult experiences and Dr. Rosenberg explains which practices support the healing process.

To feel is to be human. We can all learn how to make the process easier on ourselves with the help of Dr. Rosenberg. 

This episode is brought to you by BiOptimizers, InsideTracker, and Cozy Earth.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Here are more details from our interview (audio version / Apple Subscriber version):

  1. Why we avoid unpleasant feelings and the physiology of these feelings
    (5:28)
  2. How blocking feelings leads to soulful depression
    (11:25)
  3. The importance of naming our feeling experiences
    (15:01)
  4. Ninety seconds to a life you love
    (18:25)
  5. Dealing with lingering feelings and disappointment
    (26:11)
  6. Identifying disguised grief
    (36:11)
  7. Five categories of grieving
    (38:48)
  8. Extracting good that may have resulted from difficult life experiences
    (45:31)
  9. Building emotional strength and speaking truth with love
    (47:36)
  10. Why it’s vital to stop harsh self-criticism and take in compliments
    (1:09:52)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Dr. Joan Rosenberg

Bestselling author, consultant, master clinician, and media host, Dr. Joan Rosenberg is a cutting-edge psychologist who is known as an innovative thinker, acclaimed speaker, and trainer. As a three-time TEDx speaker and member of the Association of Transformational Leaders, she has been recognized for her thought leadership and influence on personal development.

A California-licensed psychologist, Dr. Rosenberg speaks on how to build confidence, emotional strength, resilience; achieving emotional, conversational, and relationship mastery; integrating neuroscience and psychotherapy, and suicide prevention. She is the author of 90 Seconds to a Life You Love: How to Master Your Difficult Feelings to Cultivate Lasting Confidence, Resilience, and Authenticity.

Get a copy of Dr. Rosenberg’s book, 90 Seconds to a Life You Love: How to Master Your Difficult Feelings to Cultivate Lasting Confidence, Resilience, and Authenticity, here and download her powerful, free tools to help you create a life of your design here.

Transcript

Introduction:

Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The idea here is that what doesn’t get emotionalized often gets physicalized. It ends up in our body as a problem, a dis-ease or a disease as opposed to something that is worked through on an emotional level. So we have bodily symptoms. We might have increased anxiety. We might feel more vulnerable.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Welcome to Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And if you’ve ever had any unpleasant feelings, which I know you all have because we’re human, then this podcast you should pay attention to because it’s with a woman who’s been studying unpleasant feelings her whole life, Dr. Joan Rosenberg. She’s a best-selling author. She’s a psychologist at Corporate Wellness Consultant, a media expert, is known globally as an acclaimed speaker and trainer on communication, confidence, resilience, authenticity, and grief. She’s a three-time TEDx speaker, member of the Association of Transformational Leaders, and has been recognized for innovative emotional mastery and confidence building approach and for her thought leadership and global influence in personal development.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

She served as a mental health and media consultant for documentaries, print, radio, TV, and more. She’s a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. To learn more about her work, you can go to drjoanrosenberg.com and follow her on Instagram. And her latest book, 90 Seconds to a Life You Love, that sounds really too good to be true, we’re going to get into that, How to Master Your Difficult Feelings and Cultivate Lasting Confidence, Resilience, and Authenticity, which sounds like a great promise. I want to get to how we’re going to get to the promise of 90 seconds to happiness, but first we’re going to unpack something that I think is central to being human, which is unpleasant feelings and our incredible drive to not have them…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… and our really poor ability to deal with them and their inhibition of our total free and authentic experience of life. So, how do these set of unpleasant feelings that you talk about, these eight unpleasant feelings; sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, embarrassment, disappointment, frustration, and vulnerability… We had a brief conversation about this before the podcast. We’re going to get into why that set of a different labor of unpleasant feelings. How do those block us from really being happy, from being successful, and why do we try to avoid those feelings at all costs?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Great questions. Thank you. To start with, the reason we avoid them is because they feel so uncomfortable. They’re unpleasant. They’re uncomfortable. Many people think that when an unpleasant feeling starts, something like sadness, then it’s never going to stop, or it’s going to be too intense and it’s going to overwhelm. Or if I start to experience it, I’m going to lose control. Right? So there’s all sorts of reasons that people want to avoid them. But the reality is that our unpleasant feelings actually exist to protect us. It’s sort of a signal. It’s like, “Hey, back away from this, this doesn’t feel good.” And so there’s survival aspects to it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So it’s our ego, survival aspect, it’s operating unconsciously to protect us from harm which we-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes. And I was-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… think is coming at us.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. Right. I would say in some cases it goes beyond ego, it could be actual survival, literal survival kinds of things.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

For sure. For sure.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Somebody’s a threat, domestic violence situation, whatever it might be, then there’s literal threat.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Sure. I mean I always define stress as a real or an imagined threat.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So your body or your ego. So it could be a tiger chasing you, which is a real threat to your body, or you could think your partner’s cheating on you, but they’re not, and that could be eliciting the same biological response as if a tiger’s chasing you because you are putting meaning on that belief or that thought that creates the unpleasant feeling and the actual physiology.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

What was so amazing about your work is you talk about almost the physiology of unpleasant feelings, that it’s a visceral phenomena that happens in your body. It’s always preceded by thought, but the way we experience it is as a physical sensation first.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct. Correct.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

But, actually, the thought happens so quickly that triggers the feeling. I don’t know if you agree with me on this, but I think always thoughts precede feelings. The meaning making machines that we are causes us to believe certain things about our experience, but then cause us to have those feelings. It can happen at an nanosecond, but it still operates from those unconscious patterns.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

What the literature talks about is a bottom-up response in a top-down response. So the thought preceding would be a top-down response. I have the thought, again, nanosecond, so quickly, and then I’m having the reaction. In other situations, my understanding is that our bodily sensations, in essence, travel faster than our thoughts. Think of putting our hand on a hot stove when we’re pulling it away immediately, then part of that is that we’re reacting in an unconscious or unconscious manner to something that feels unsafe. So that’s traveling faster than us going, “Oh, that’s hot.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Sure.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So there’s what’s known as a bottom-up response, where the body is responding first or that sensing ability is responding first, and then we think about what’s taken place.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It seems like it’s true in this face of acute physical danger, but in emotional danger, it’s got to be the thought that precedes it, because there’s no external stimulus that’s burning your hand, it’s a thought, isn’t it?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes, in this case, it’s thought. I mean, yes, but it’s having an awareness that it can go both directions.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So we have these feeling, why does it interrupt our ability to be happy and successful? Why are they so problematic for us? Because we’re all experiencing these things all the time but you’re saying they really block us from having the life that we want.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Well, yes. Well, it’s not the feelings that block us, it’s our blocking of the feelings that blocks us.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Okay.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So if we can experience and move through them, we’re probably going to do pretty well in life. But if we make any attempt to distract, to ignore, to disconnect, or to block, then the blocking of those feelings is actually what’s going to create a problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Interesting. So basically, in our culture where nobody blocks their feelings through drugs or caffeine or alcohol or sex or food or…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Porn.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… porn or social media, nobody does any of that stuff, right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So we’re all totally fine. But in the world where people are, I mean, it’s so crazy, Joan, we are so unwilling to feel what we have to feel. I spent a month in Vermont by myself. I peeled away everything, computer, phone, technology, even books. I had a few more spiritual books that I brought with me, but just me and my journal and being with no distractions and input. You get to feel a lot of feelings that come up. You get to see a lot of things. And it’s such a rare thing for us to do in our culture. It’s so, in a way, frowned upon. But it actually is such a therapeutic thing to actually be able to meet yourself, meet your feelings in a way that you can start to unpack it and learn who you are and your responses. Your work really helps to call out why it’s important that we actually allow ourselves to feel those uncomfortable feelings, what happens if we don’t allow ourselves to feel those feelings and what is actually the gift in those unpleasant feelings. So can you talk about that?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Absolutely. Let me take it both directions. When we get at engaged in the blocking, then what ends up happening is that, in my mind, we start ourselves down a path of what I call soulful depression. Not real depression. It looks and smells and sounds like real depression, but it’s not real depression. So soulful depression is a disconnection from the self. I’ve disconnected me from me. So your month to be with you brings you on the other side, right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

But what does that path look like? The first things that happened are you start to experience bodily symptoms. The idea here is that what doesn’t get emotionalized often gets physicalized. It ends up in our body as a problem, a dis-ease or a disease, as opposed to something that is worked through on an emotional level. So, we have bodily symptoms. We might have increased anxiety. We might feel more vulnerable, the downside of the vulnerability. We might feel like we are losing control. And if that process continues over time, then what we start to experience is kind of a cutoff from ourselves. And when that starts to happen, we start to feel numb. We feel less alive. We feel more depressed. We feel disconnected. Some people might feel dead inside. In the mental health system, that’s when we start to see people cutting or engaging in self-injurious kind of behaviors. Now, the addiction’s are already occurring higher up on that chain around the anxiety piece. And-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And that’s all addiction is often as a response to some and the not feeling the feelings that we’re actually having.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Exactly. Exactly. In fact, I think of addictions as diseases of isolation, but we’re also cut off from ourselves in [crosstalk 00:09:25]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Well, that’s it. I mean isolation either actual isolation or isolation from our soul.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. Right. We take it further down in terms of the downside of disconnected from our feelings. Then now we’re hitting isolation, we’re hitting despair, we’re hitting suicidality, we’re hitting that kind of stuff, and soulful depression.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. Interesting.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The difference is what I call trying not to know what we know as opposed to knowing what we know. So the upside is knowing what we know. So we stay aware of and in touch with our experience. We’re connected, well connected. So your month away is a potentially well-connected experience.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It was amazing.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. And then the upside is increased confidence, sense that I can pursue what I want. Because I’m more are well connected to me, I’m more well connected to other people. I’m more resilient. I mean, the whole upside is there in terms of how we then move through life. Again, it’s not that we’re not going to face difficult circumstances, we still will, but we have the sense that we can actually handle it and move through it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

That’s powerful. So really what you’re talking about is learning to actually sit with, be with, feel the feelings.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And not run from them, hide from them, suppress them, block them, ignore them, medicate them,, feed them.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Criticize them, doubt them, have feelings about feelings about them. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And we judge ourself for our feelings.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

We do. Yes, we do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

No, I shouldn’t feel this. I shouldn’t feel sad. I shouldn’t feel helpless. Then it be-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And as soon as you do that, you’re disconnecting.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

You’re disconnecting. But you also say the converse, which is that research shows that naming our feelings, labeling our feelings, talking about our feelings verbally actually changes our brain.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It does. It actually helps us regulate our experience much better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So talk about that because I know so many people are like… The relationship I’ve been in, for example, woman I was with, I could tell she was going through so much, but she wouldn’t verbalize it. She’s like, “I can deal with it. I can deal with it.” It would come out sideways. And I was like, “Wow, that’s fascinating.” We often are unable to verbalize, but then when we do, when we actually are able to say the truth and talk about what we feel, not in a blame way or a judgey way, but just authentically what we’re feeling, it’s like a magic trick, it kind of evaporates the-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It does. Actually, my point of view on that is that when we’re able to express, whether we’re journaling or doing something like that, and through talking, that’s how feelings get metabolized.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

We experience them. We express them. Those are the ways they get metabolized.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I’m a doctor, so I’m going to bring this back to the body. So not expressing your feelings is being like constipated.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes. I’ll go with that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

How we just block that. We fill up with all this stuff and it makes us sick. And letting it out actually makes us feel better.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah. So we’re always looking for flow in life.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

But what is interesting, what you say is that the science is saying this isn’t just a psychological phenomenon, this is a neural pathway phenomena.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah. Yeah. So when we express ourselves, what ends up happening is our capacity to think through what we’re experiencing… Actually, Dan Siegel talks about this, and he talks about if we think, generally speaking and I know this is a gross generalization, that the emotions and experience are in the right hemisphere of the brain and our words or our language is in the left, then when we put language to our experience, we integrate the brain. And an integrated brain is a healthier brain. The idea here is that when we have an opportunity to put thought and words to the feeling that we’re experiencing, we actually end up feeling calmer. We are more centered. We are less impulsive. We’re more in control.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I literally see this happen all the time. I’m very committed to my friends and people I’m in a relationship with telling the truth, and myself telling the truth, even if it’s hard or you think it’s hard. Because if it’s, “I went to the grocery store and bought a banana,” that’s easy truth. But if you’re having an unpleasant feeling, you’re scared, or you’re angry, or you’re-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Disappointed.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… disappointed, and you express it, it’s uncomfortable because you don’t know how it’s going to be received. You don’t know how you’re going to be held by the person sharing it. But if you can be with someone who has the ability to be in their own feelings and to sit in their own feelings and not freak out and actually that person gets to share what they’re feeling, it’s transmuted so quickly, and from the weight of the experience that they’re having, it becomes light and different.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah, absolutely true. Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s kind of a magic trick. So, coming back to your work, which is this is a very provocative title of your book, right? 90 Seconds to a Life You Love. I mean, I’m like, “10 days, three weeks, a month,” like, “Okay, I got that. I’ve written 10 days… The Ultra Simple Diet was seven days, but 90 seconds?” How does 90 seconds work and how do you handle unpleasant feelings in a way that actually leads to the promise of your book, which is How to Master Your Difficult Feelings to Cultivate Confidence, Resilience and Authenticity in 90 seconds?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I’m going to push you on that because I’m like-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

That’s fine. [inaudible 00:15:10].

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… “What a minute.”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Okay, can I defer to the editor on this one?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I know.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No, no, let’s talk about both sides of that. So the truth is that the subtitle, the second part, the promise, is really the key to the book. So as much as the 90 seconds is important, to me that’s the method, but the most important part of that promise is really on your ability to handle the eight feelings. So the eight-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

To master the difficult feelings.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah, so the eight feelings to me is where the real magic of the whole process is. So what’s the deal with the 90 seconds? I talk about it as a formula so that it’s easy for people to remember. And so, the formula is one choice, eight feelings, 90 seconds.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

One choice, eight feelings, 90 seconds.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. So the one choice is that what I’m asking people to do is to lean into awareness as opposed to avoidance. What does awareness look like? It looks like being as aware of and in touch with as much of your moment to moment experience as possible at any given time, that we just stay present to it. Again, if we use your example of being in Vermont, that you chose into an experience of being present.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And the best doorway to that is feelings get represented in physiology in our body. And so, you can actually check in with your body and say, “Do I feel tight in my chest? Is my stomach in knots? Am I sweaty? Do I have chaotic thoughts? What is actually happening in my body?”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes, all of that is true. But let me do the flip side to walk us through if I can. Then the other part of that I don’t want people to do is to avoid, and you talked about all these different ways we can avoid, and I think in the book I talk about 35 different ways to avoid.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

For sure. I was just on a roll [inaudible 00:16:55] didn’t finish.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah, you are, so we’ve already covered that. So the awareness is a choice to lean into, and you want to be as aware of and in touch with as much of that moment to moment experience. The eight feelings we’ve named, but there’s sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, vulnerability, embarrassment, disappointment, and frustration. So why those eight? Well, it’s because they’re the most common, everyday spontaneous reactions to things not turning out the way we want or the way we believe we need them to be.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Uh-huh (affirmative).

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So it’s the everydayness of them.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So our attachment to the outcomes of our experience is what causes the suffering?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Also, I think there’s a guy that said that before. His name is Buddha.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. It sounded familiar. And then to the 90 seconds part, when I was started out in my professional career, my big question was, what made it so difficult for people to experience and move through these unpleasant feelings? It’s like, as bad as our thoughts can be, I found that when people couldn’t handle unpleasant feelings, they didn’t feel capable of moving through life.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Interesting.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So for me, it was really understanding that. So again, the neuroscience research starts to come out more so in the late nineties and the early 2000s. There’s like three or four things to this. The first is that we’re one interconnected whole. We know that. The brain’s always feeding the body, the body’s always feeding the brain, information back and forth, back and forth. So we got to keep in mind that we’re that interconnected whole.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

There’s a book I wrote about it, The UltraMind Solution over there.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

There you go. The second is-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s called the body-mind effect, which kind of flip it upside down from the mind-body effect. And it’s sort of what you’re talking about.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. Exactly. So the second part then is that most of us come to know what we’re feeling through bodily sensation. My easiest example is thinking of embarrassment. You might see the redness in my face, I’m going to feel the heat of the flush, right? So the heat is the bodily sensation. But we feel that in all sorts of different ways. Each one of us feels it differently and to a different intensity, that whole idea. And then the third part then is, okay, then how do I get people to lean into this? So I would always-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

To move to it as opposed to away the feelings.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. Right. So part of what I would always be saying to people is, “Ride the wave. Ride the wave.” What I didn’t understand is I was telling them to ride the bodily sensation waves. And so, the key then to leaning into a feeling is, again, understanding that most of us are going to experience in the body first. And in this case, it’s a short-lived wave. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor talks about it as that when a feeling gets triggered, there’s a rush of biochemicals into the bloodstream that activate the bodily sensations and then flush out of the bloodstream in roughly 90 seconds. So there’s the 90 seconds.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So then what I was able to tell people is that the key is to lean into riding those short-lived bodily sensation waves over and over every day, or whenever you experience the feeling, the unpleasantness in particular, but throughout the rest of your life. And what I realized, Mark, is that it’s not that we don’t want to feel the whole range of our feelings. We do. I think we want the whole expanse because that’s when we feel the most alive. But what we don’t want is to tolerate or have to experience the discomfort of knowing the feeling through the bodily sensation. So everybody’s trying to back away from the bodily sensations.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

That’s true. A friend of mine recently said to me, he says, “I’ve gotten really good at being unhappy.” I mean, not that she’s always unhappy, but that when she’s unhappy, she’s learned that this is something that actually is not necessarily bad but, actually, it’s a moment or 90 seconds. I’m just obviously reflecting on my own experience because that’s all we have, and sadness can be many seconds or it can be longer. A couple of years ago I split it with my wife. We so loved each other so much. There were more external reasons why we split. And it was sad for a long time, like a long time, months and months and months. So that wasn’t 90 second-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No, it’s not 90.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… and I felt it in my body.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Absolutely. So what’s the deal with the lingering part?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah. I think there’s three or four different things to that. One is you have established neural tracts of being with her, right? So those established tracks of getting up in the morning, sharing coffee, whatever it is that you would do on a regular basis, you still have those established neural tracks. So when you’re recognizing you’re in a new or a novel experience, you have the contrast of still dealing with that established neural pathway, if you will. So that memory hasn’t gone away. It’s not until you establish enough new other memories or new other ways of being and that’s repeated enough that that part of it seems to then diminish. You stop reflecting in the same way or-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Well, what about disappointment? I have a fairly large dose of disappointment about my father.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Okay.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I’ve come to accept who he was and I understand why he was the way he was, from his trauma and his family and my grandmother who was mentally not great because she accidentally killed her sister when she was three or four years old, pushed her on a swing, and was the black sheep of the family. I get all that and have compassion for him, but the disappointment of not having a father who actually showed up for me, I think I’m okay, but I definitely it’s like-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Still [crosstalk 00:22:45].

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I was on a trip and it was this father and son there, and I was like, “Oh wow, that’s different. God, I wish I had that. I have disappointment around that.” It didn’t bother me to feel that, but it was more than 90 seconds. It’s more of an ongoing experience of life for me. I’ve just come to terms with that fact and I’ve come to accept it and accept his behaviors were out of integrity that I would’ve wanted to have in a father. But I still love him. I was there at his death bed and I don’t have any residual stuff around it. I just feel like… Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The grief is still there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The grief comes and goes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah,

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah. So then a couple other things around that and that gets us to kind of my idea-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I mean, I don’t want to do therapy with you right here right now.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No, no, no, it’s okay.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

But it’s like fine, I’m happy to share-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No, it’s fine.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… as a way to reflect on what you’re saying because I think people are listening are going to have the same thoughts and stuff.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

There are a couple things with that as well. That takes us to what I would call disguised grief. But before I get there-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yes.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

… let’s talk about lingering feelings. So the-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So grief and disappointment are not the same.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No, actually, I think of disappointment as part of grief.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Okay.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

But with lingering feelings, I think there are three major ways that it happens, one… or three in addition to what I was just talking about in terms of I still have those old neural pathways, I haven’t built new experiences to replace that. But the other things, it’s thought suppression. I’m just not going to think about it. It’s actually paradoxical. You can not think about something-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Don’t think of a pink elephant.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Exactly. You have to think about it in an effort to not think about it. It doesn’t work, right? So, the effort to suppress thoughts is one thing that makes feelings feel like they linger. The second thing that makes it feel like it lingers is that we repeat the memory over and over or we repeat the thought over and over. A breakup is classic.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah, you [crosstalk 00:24:45].

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Where is he? What’s he doing? We’d usually be doing this at this time, right? All-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I remember we broke up and I walked to a grocery shopping, and she loved artichokes. I only walked in, it was maybe a month after we broke up, I walked into the grocery store, I saw artichokes and I started crying over artichokes.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. So when the memories get activated or we keep cycling over that same memory, we’re going to bring up everything that’s associated with the memory. So the feelings are going to be there. But then it feels like the feeling is lingering longer than 90 seconds. It feels like it’s linger. How, depending on how much you recycle those thoughts.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I’ve seen people saying that for 50 years.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Like my mother.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Okay. So then it feels like 50 years when it’s actually not. And then the third is harsh self-criticism. I really think harsh self-criticism actually activates those unpleasant feelings underneath, and the harsher we are to ourselves, the more we recycle mean stuff, trash talk, then the more we’re going to stay feeling like we’re lingering in those unpleasant feelings.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s your inner (beep) you’re talking about.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

If I would say that to myself, yes. Which I do my best not to but.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

But yeah, we all have that inner (beep), how do you clear that out? That brings me to a different sort of tack on what your work is because after studying it and reflecting on it, I was like, “Okay.” Well, I get that we don’t like to feel our feelings and I get we do everything to suppress them and I get that feeling our feelings and talking about them and actually metabolizing them in the right way can lead to more freedom and authenticity and confidence-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Confidence. Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

But then there’s the question, as a functional medicine doctor I’m always thinking, “What’s the root cause? What’s the root cause? What’s up stream?” You’re a psychologist, I’m a doctor, I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist, but I want to hear your perspective, in my own experience, if I have some kind of triggered emotion, then usually as a result of me telling a story about something, making meaning out of something, and that meaning I’m making is usually because of some earlier conditioned experience I had as a child.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Agree.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And so whether it’s a trauma, like if it’s incest or if it’s abuse or whatever it was, and I’ve experienced a lot of that, I know that those are conditioned responses based on those old meanings that I made out of those experiences.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

The one I always used to say, and it’s taken me a long time to heal this, is when I was seven, my mother got remarried and we went to Canada, moved in with him. He was a very traumatized man by his mother. Now as an adult I have compassion for what he went through and I understand it, but he didn’t know how to feel things, he didn’t know how to express emotion, and he was a rageaholic. And he was a clean freak, and my mother said, “Mark, go take this soup and flush it down the toilet.” Because we didn’t have garbage incinerator like garbage disposals like we do now in the sink. I did that and I came out of the bathroom, he’s like, “Did you wash your hands?” And I’m like, “No, I just flushed the toilet with the soup.” He went into a rage, threw me across the room, beat me, and I learned it wasn’t safe to tell the truth. So I made meaning that if I told the truth I would get a annihilated, which was actually true in that moment with him. But it wasn’t universally true.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So Joan, I told you something that was my truth, you wouldn’t beat me and throw me across the room. You’d probably really-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Empathize.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… listen and empathize and it would be a very different experience. But my whole life I was dealing with… struggling with, actually, being afraid of being hurt by telling the truth. And so, that was very deep. I had to really do a lot of work to clear out that trauma. And so, all these feelings that you’re talking about, these eight feelings, are often the result, in my thinking, of something happened to us when we were younger, some maybe past lives, who knows, just the lineage of our family-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Sure, generational trauma.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… generational trauma. Now from a scientific perspective, we really understand this through the doorway of science, through epigenetics and how literally thoughts, feelings, emotions, traumas get imprinted on our genes through the epigenome, which is like the piano player over the keys of our piano, which is our DNA. And so we can literally see these trans-generational traumas show up. If you’re a grandchild of a concentration camp survivor, their trauma is imprinted in your DNA.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct. Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Well, how do we deal with that because it’s not 90 seconds to deal with that?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No, it’s not. But your capacity to handle the 90 seconds or capacity to handle any given unpleasant feeling on a day-to-day basis is going to make it easier for you to deal with the kind of trauma you’re talking about, because now I can lay into it-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Essentially learning to withstand the heat of the emotion-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… it allows you to stay in the game and actually do the work.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Is that what you’re saying?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes, absolutely. Because now you can step into that kind of trauma and start to make sense of it. In my mind, there really is a way to make sense of it. If I make this relevant to COVID for a moment, what I watched happen is that over, especially the first full year and also the protracted nature of it made it more difficult, but when everybody was kind of quieted at home, what ended up happening is because we didn’t have all the same distractions, all the stuff that people didn’t deal with, they were quiet-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

You’re stuck at home.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

… and they were still, and now all that stuff was starting to come up.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Imagine how great it would’ve been if there was no Netflix, we’ve all been like really having to sit with our feelings.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And many people recognized it and chose in and started to deal with stuff that they had never dealt with before.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah, I see that.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right? So when we get quiet, that stuff gets to surface. But in this case, if you know how to handle feelings, then you can lean into and then make sense of the experience. And, again, that takes me to what in the book I describe as disguised grief.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. So talk about this disguised grief, because it sounds like that’s a real big part of your work and helping to understand how to get deeper than just the 90 seconds to really the root cause of why we feel these things.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. I think of disguised grief as the gap between what we wanted, what we desired, what we dreamed of, and if you will, what really happened. There’s this big gap and-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Between our expectations and reality.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. Right. Exactly. When I think about grief, I actually think of grief as being comprised of at least four feelings, so of the eight, they’re sadness, helplessness, anger, and disappointment. We can experience them individually, or we can experience them collectively. I might feel helpless and disappointed, or I might feel angry and disappointed. All of it’s grief.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

I think there’s two major ways to identify disguised grief ,and all of us have it. One way to understand it is if you’re using what I call grief signal words. So grief signal words sound like cynicism, pessimism, sarcasm, resentment, bitterness, holding grudges, longstanding anger, longstanding hurt.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Wow, that’s a list.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It gets much longer, but just so you have an idea. So if there’s bitterness, resentment, and grudges, you’ve got disguised grief. Right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Wow. That’s a big statement. A lot of people have that. A lot of people project their unpleasant emotions as being sourced outside of themselves.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

As you did this to me, it’s victim, right? Resentment, those are all victim…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Revenge is also to me a grief signal word, “I want to get revenge.” And what’s underneath that, those four feelings.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Grief.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah. Jealousy, disguised grief.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. How is jealousy disguised grief?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Or envy. It’s I want something that’s over there. I don’t get to have it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Oh, yeah. So you’re grieving from what happened, right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So that’s one way of beginning to understand that there’s sadness, helplessness, anger, and disappointment underneath that. The second way for me is I talk about five categories of grieving, and the first is grieving over what we got and didn’t deserve. So the rageaholic, annihilation that you just described earlier. So think of grieving over what you got and didn’t deserve is the bad stuff. It’s the abuse, it’s the chaos, all those kinds of things, the cruelty, hostility, all that kind of stuff, that we went through these difficult life experiences. So that’s one part. The second category is grieving over what we deserve and didn’t get. It’s the good stuff. The praise, the support, the nurturance, the consistent showing up at baseball games or track meets or, “That’s great progress on what you did. I know you didn’t hit the goal, but it’s great progress.” Right? So it’s grieving over that. And then it’s grieving over what never was. So think of it as the facts and circumstances of your early life and the opportunities that basically didn’t get to get realized, grieving over what is not now, depending on where you are now. And then the last one is grieving over what may never be. That’s what I call grief over lost potentials.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah, that’s beautiful. Those are all very human experience,. And I think we’ve all had those. I certainly have. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just reframed life in a very different way, which is life is not there to meet my expectations. That’s just not what this whole game is about. And the more I focus on my expectations and my needs and my wants, my desires, my preferences, the more suffering I have and the more dissatisfied I am and the more disappointed I am and the more all those unpleasant feelings happen that you talk about. I’m like, “Well, I have a choice, right? I have a choice to meet what is or to fight with what is.”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

We’ve had Byron Katie on the podcast and she talks about loving what is, and it’s such a beautiful practice because then, yes, you still have to deal with all the generational trauma, your trauma, all the things that actually cause us to make meaning of the world in a way that doesn’t serve us or make us feel like we have an authentic, confident, beautiful life. But is there another state that’s beyond all that where we come to actually not hold on to those things that we are grieving about?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Absolutely. To me-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I always dreamed of having a happy family and lots of kids and a family compound. It didn’t work out that way. I’m 62, not married, and my kids are all over the place, alcoholic first wife, which was all based on my choices, based on my trauma, and it didn’t end up like that. I can grieve that, I can be unhappy with it, or I can embrace what I have now, which is a freedom that I wouldn’t have if I had all that, right? I’m trying to just reframe my life story in a way that is taking away some of those beliefs and expectations that caused me so much suffering.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. So for me, there is a process to go through that, so I’m not going to leave somebody in that kind of disguised grief state and go, “Oh, I’ve got this. I’m great. Okay, I’m left with it permanently.” I don’t believe that at all. In fact, when I think about psychotherapy, if somebody stays in it and really does the work, to me, psychotherapy is a grieving process. It’s actually making our way through the disguised grief.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Interesting.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So that’s how I look. To me, there’s an arc to it. So now somebody’s at that point, to what you’re describing, they’re starting to deal with these difficult life experiences. The thing is you start there. When you deal with feelings, my experience as a psychologist and doing years and years of psychotherapy is that the memories just surface, they’ve just come right to the surface, and now they’re available for making sense of. The thought here is that you want to make sense of any difficult life experience you’ve had. You want to make sense of the impact and meaning it had for you across time. In essence, who did you become…

Dr. Mark Hyman:

As a result of that experience.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah, exactly. Or if it happened multiple, then it’s like, “Okay, then let’s make sense of that. Who did you become because of that?” I think of looking at it at the time it happened, as you aged, and who you are now. The reality is is when you start to make sense of that and understand the impact and a meaning it had for you, then some of the pain start to fall away.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Can we get an example of what that would be like with a client of yours or a patient or somebody who just is suffering?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The first person that comes to mind is somebody who also grew up in an alcoholic household. She both witnessed and experienced abuse. And what she began to recognize as we started to work through the process of what that was like for her, she recognized how impulsive she became into her adulthood, the poor decisions she would make, how she would stay in experiences or situations that were not good for her because she wasn’t assessing danger and safety well, and that she stayed longer than she needed to be. And also wouldn’t speak up. So the process of making her way through that and understanding the impact that that had on her, she could begin to have a sense of choice. It’s like, “Oh, wait a minute, I’m better now at reading safety and danger. That’s not good for me, I’m not going there.” Right? And then the rest of it starts to unfold in a similar manner.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So what you’re saying, just to summarize a little bit, is that we all have these unpleasant feelings, we all try to avoid them, but by actually sitting with them and actually metabolizing them and breathing through them and letting them move through you, it brings you to a different set of choice points around how to be with your experience.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And then it’s actually the beginning of the process of healing. It’s not the healing in of itself, just, “Oh, I’m good with these feelings,” it’s actually both.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

I would actually say both.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Both.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Because when somebody is cut off from themselves, they don’t feel comfortable in their own skin. So the process of actually first being able to be present to your own feeling state, my observation over time, Mark, is that there’s a natural, organic lift in the sense of wellbeing just by reconnecting to your feelings.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So true. I mean, I felt so high when I got out of that month in Vermont. It was really quite amazing.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So I would say layers of healing. Then that will eventually be able to take you to the deeper work. Then what you want to do is eventually extract the good from it. And so it’s like, “I know this is painful or it was horrible. It affected me in these ways. But now that I’ve made sense of it or I understand the impact and meaning it had on me with what choices do I want to make, was there any good that came from it?” Somebody who grows up in an alcoholic household or an abusive household often becomes really good at school or extracurricular activities. It keeps them out of the house. So the trajectory of their lives moves into achievement in a bunch of other things that are actually really good for them. But that came out of a bad experience, right? So there is some good sometimes that you can extract from difficult life experiences. And then that’s your choice point because now you can forgive and now you can forge new stories of who you want to be.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Let’s move from the conversation around the metabolizing the unpleasant feelings to the promise really of your book, which is the second part of the title, right, which is actually becoming more authentic and more confident, and more resilient. How does that happen? Talk us through that process and why you wrote the book because you really trying to answer why is so hard people to handle their unpleasant feelings and how do we develop a confidence in life to actually meet it fully and be empowered and be authentically who we are, right? Because that’s really the end game at the end of the day.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Absolutely. Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So how do your book help with building all the emotional strength and helping anxiety and confidence and all the things that allows us to create the life that we want?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The emotional strength part is for me two things, and it’s going to keep on coming back to the eight feelings. The foundational piece for me of confidence is your ability to handle the eight unpleasant feelings. It’s the foundation of it. My definition of confidence is it’s the deep sense that you can handle the emotional outcome of whatever you face or whatever you pursue. So the eight feelings are critical here.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So it’s emotional resilience and agility, right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes. Yeah. But that’s only a piece of it. For me, there’s two aspects to emotional strength, two key aspects. One is I can handle the eight unpleasant feelings. The second is I can acknowledge my needs and limitations and ask for help. Most people see asking for help as weakness or a burden. I see it as a critical piece of emotional strength. Because when I can turn to you and say, “Hey, I can’t sort through this,” and you can say, “Well, wait, let me give you a resource,” now, all of a sudden I’m going to have more confidence because I can do that. So that’s one. If the foundation of the book were not the eight unpleasant feelings, Mark, then the foundation of the book would be one’s ability to speak with ease.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Ooh.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So speaking up is really the critical piece.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Okay. This is a whole nother rabbit hole because in our culture, we do not learn at all how to talk about our feelings or emotions or thoughts in ways that are safe. We usually resort to blame, victimhood, anger, judgment in the expression of our feelings. You made me do this, and you do that. There’s this a whole negative subtext that we have around how we tend to express our feelings. But you’re talking about a very different way. Can you kind of unpack that?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah, well, yes. My whole was I started out as a really shy, introverted kid. [inaudible 00:44:31] the idea of wall flowers. I was Velcroed to the wall.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Ah, you were a Velcro flower.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And I’d look over at my peers and go like, “They’re so confident, how does one develop confidence?” So for me, the big lifelong question was, how does someone develop confidence? Which is really going to the subtext of the book. But what I realized is the speaking up piece. So we’ve got the foundation of the eight feelings, the speaking up piece is absolutely next. But as a caveat here, because it needs to be positive, kind, and well-intended. Just because you can speak doesn’t mean-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Doesn’t mean you vomit on somebody else.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah, exactly. No can do. Uh-uh (negative). Right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right. Say that again. So it’s kind…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Positive, kind-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Positive.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

… and well-intended.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Well intended.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yep.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So it’s basically speaking truth with love.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Bingo. Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Stevie Wonder has a great song about this. He says, “Change your words into truth and then change that truth into love. And maybe our children’s grandchildren and their great-grandchildren will tell… ” I mean you can heal all the lineages by speaking truth with love.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes. And actually I often equate truth and love, that truth is love.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It is. But-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

But it needs to be delivered in a well-intended way.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The kindness and good intention is really critical. So-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

What if people are so stuck in their stories? Because I think this is where we get so identified with our trauma, our past, all the things that have happened to us that we often are unable to actually see through that and we get stuck. A lot of people-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

You mean stuck in terms of being mean? Or stuck-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

You get stuck in victim and blame and judgment and fear and panic. So many people are traumatized. I mean, sexual trauma affects one in four women, probably more. I mean I was a victim of sexual trauma twice as a child. It’s not uncommon.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It’s very common.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And then there’s the emotional abuse and the physical abuse and you add all that up, it’s like, “Who isn’t touched by that?”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct. Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Actually I’ve got a friend who’s like… She’s so awesome. She’s like 30 years old. She just seems so great and she’s always just good. And I’m like, “Well what’s this story with you? How are you like this?” And she’s like, “My parents. They were just so loving and awesome and great.” I’m like, “Wow, you’re one in seven billion.”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Someone has to be willing to take responsibility. You’ve got to be willing to take blame out of the picture. You don’t get to blame. You got to go inward to look for the answers.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

You can’t be righteous…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… like, “It’s your fault.”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No. No, it doesn’t go outside. It’s like, “This happened to me. Let’s make sense of it.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Gabor Mate says trauma isn’t the thing that happened to us, it’s the meaning we make from the things that happened to us.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And it explains how two people can have the same objective trauma, let’s say sexual abuse, and have two profoundly different responses. One can become a 600-pound person and other can be CEO of the world. It’s like, “Wow, how does that work?”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So if somebody really wants to do the work, I would say, “Take blame out of the picture, then you take the victimhood away.” Right? So if blames gone, then you’re no longer the victim. Then it’s an experience you went through. You make sense of the experience and you make different choices based on the meaning.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

But if you think you’ve been wronged…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

You’ve been wrong, then you’re left with sadness, helplessness, anger, and disappointment.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And what if somebody actually has wronged you?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And many people have been wronged. It doesn’t take that away. It’s still part of your life experience. It’s not about going back and writing the wrong necessarily. It’s what did this mean to you? What was the impact? Who did you become because of it? And now how do you want to be based on what you’re now aware of?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. So you don’t have to become a victim of the objective act.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Of the experience. Yes. Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It affected you. In no way am I diminishing the painful impact or the profoundly painful impact.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

When I was young, I traveled a lot and I went to Nepal. I was part of a medical expedition there up in the mountains and public health project. We came back down after the expedition and we went to this part of Nepal outside of Kathmandu called Boudhanath, which is where all the Tibetan refugees had come from China. It was a beautiful a place, and I met someone who met someone… Long story short, I ended up sitting with this Tibetan doctor because I was very interested in Eastern medicine and Tibetan medicine. I got to spend with the day with him while he saw patients with the translator. It was fascinating. I was in medical school at the time. Talked to him about his life, and he said he’d been in a Chinese gulag for 22 years. Tortured, beaten, deprived of anything that was familiar to him from his being a Tibetan monk, right? He was a Tibetan monk, because all doctors in Tibet are monks, unless they’re modern doctors, but all historically. I said, “What was the hardest bit for you of that 22 years?” She goes, “Well, it was those times I thought I would lose compassion for my Chinese jailers.”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Powerful.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And I’m like, “Whoa, okay then. I got to rethink everything.” Because if that was your hardest moment in 22 years of being in a Chinese gulag, which you can imagine isn’t a very nice place, where you’re stripped of everything that you care about and love and means something to you, and you come out kind and compassionate and loving, wow. Victor Frankel said that, right? “Between stimulus and response, there’s a choice.”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

“And in that choice, lies of freedom.”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct. Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And he was in a concentration camp. You could be a victim in a concentration camp-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

100%.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

They took everything of mine. They took my career, they took my house, they killed my family. They blah, blah, blah. And you could certainly become a victim justifiably, and I don’t think anybody would argue with you about that.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Nope.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

But he chose a very different response to the same stimulus as everybody else. And it’s in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s really a powerful and very confronting perspective about how to think about your life because, all of a sudden, you can’t be a victim because the only way you can become a victim is if you give your power to somebody else to affect how you feel.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. And that you’re lost thinking that that is the effect of how you feel or that that causes the way you feel.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah, that the external stimulus is the cause of your experience.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s the meaning we make of the experience. Right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

When we’re fully responsible for our own experience, then we have that greatest choice, that sense of freedom.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So Joan, how do people get to believe that they’re the author of their own experience? And how do they get to that place because it’s a hard place to get to where you step out of being at the effect of the world and being empowered in your world?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Again, I do think that there’s a pathway. First place, I’d say start with the unpleasant feelings. Start to lean in as opposed to leaning away so that you can know what as opposed to try not to know what you know. That’s the first. The second for me is learning to speak up. We started go down that hole for a moment, but speaking with ease and-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

How do you get to that? How do you do that?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Well, for me it’s-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s a skill, right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Well, it is a skill. Communication is a skill, both sides of it. Listening is a skill as well as speaking and communicating is a skill. But the thing that I really want people to understand is that most people think of their difficulty speaking up that it’s a speaking problem. Difficulty speaking up is not a speaking problem. Your difficulty speaking up is a difficulty with unpleasant feeling problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right. Because if you tell the truth, you don’t have control over what happens next.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And that person could scream at you, yell at you, leave you, hit you, laugh at you, hug you, cry with you…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… kiss you. You don’t know what’s going to happen, right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Exactly. So it’s your willingness, then, to be present not only to your eight unpleasant feelings, your own eight difficult feelings. It’s being comfortable or being willing to be in the discomfort of your own emotional discomfort. Think the eight difficult feelings and the discomfort of someone else’s emotional discomfort, their eight difficult feelings simultaneously.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right. The unwillingness to speak up is not because you don’t want to feel what you’re feeling. You don’t want to feel what the other person’s feeling.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. You have to contain it. You have to listen to it and contain it and respond, and they have to respond to it too.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Which is what I learned. It’s like, if I said the truth, I would get beaten and hit and thrown across the room, and so I wasn’t.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. By that one person.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right. And I turned that into-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Everybody.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… a universal-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Of course.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

… Thing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It really wasn’t.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Which is what we do when we’re young. We go, “Oh, wait a minute, I’ll just decide this.” Because I’ll make that decision, and then I’ll operate off that decision for the rest of my life. But the trouble is it’s often a sample of one.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right. So how do you get to a place where you can speak up? How do you teach people to speak up.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Again, the first part of it is understanding that it’s actually not a speaking problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s an [crosstalk 00:54:10].

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

You’ve got to be willing to lean into the unpleasant feelings. Period. End of story. Mark, most people think that you have to be confident then you speak. It doesn’t work that way. Or if I branch off for a moment, you have to be confident and then take the action or go take a risk. It doesn’t work that way. My experience, especially with speaking, is that it’s as you speak and through speaking, that’s when you develop the confidence.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). It’s a skill.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. But it comes after you speak, it doesn’t come before you speak.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So you don’t have to feel confident to speak, you get confident by speaking.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Bingo. Yes, absolutely true. And the same is true for taking actions. You don’t get confident and then you go take the action. You take the action and because of wherever it went and you dealt with it, you get confident.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. It’s interesting, sometimes people feel like they have to feel into the acting, but you can act into the feeling.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes. Yes. And then the other part of it here for me is what I also realized is that when you speak… Again, many people go into, “Well, I know myself pretty well, and then I speak.” The truth is you actually come to know yourself better as you speak or through speaking, because some things will start to pop out of your mouth that you didn’t realize you even believed or you knew.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Here’s a challenge. If I’m willing to speak, do you have to have a person in front of you who’s willing to listen? Is that a necessary requirement in order to be able to speak and tell the truth? I’ve experienced with people who I can tell the truth, but it creates a lot of drama or a lot of chaos. And maybe the truth is I just don’t want to sit with the unpleasant feelings of what that is, right? But part of the healing of speaking the truth is being heard and seen in it.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Correct. Right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Not just being retraumatized by it.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No. In the ideal, I would say start with somebody who cares about you. There’s also something I call a preemptive bid in situations like you’re describing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Which is?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Which is that you actually talk about the obstacle to talking before you talk about the topic.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yes, I’ve done that. I always start like, “This is a hard thing for me to talk about. This is my [inaudible 00:56:37] conversation. Can you listen and show up for me and hear me and not react?”

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. Or I can say, “I wanted to bring this to you, but my concern is you’re going to ridicule it or laugh at it or diminish what my experience is, and I’ve been reluctant to talk about it because of that.” The moment you preemptively call out that obstacle, the response from the other person usually is, “Oh, no, no, okay, no, I won’t do that.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. Right.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And if they do, you’ve already identified that, “Well, this is exactly why I was concerned about talking to you about it.” So the preemptive bid can make a difference in terms of-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

That’s good.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

… people starting to speak up.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Speaking the truth is important.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It’s critical. I actually think it’s the super glue to confidence. And it’s also the key to authenticity.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. For sure.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And speaking is our first line of defense, so it contributes to confidence because now I can say, “No.” or “That’s too much work.” or “Gee, boss, I want to raise.” or “You know what, I love you.” It’s the thing that opens the world up to us. Mark, I actually thought about handling the book differently in terms of the title much later. What I realized is that when we can handle our unpleasant feelings or difficult feelings, it’s emotionally liberating.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Totally.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

When we can speak, it’s limitless opportunity.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. It’s powerful. Very powerful. So if you want to speak the truth and it’s a challenging conversation, what’s your advice for helping people face those difficult conversations and do them in a way that creates an outcome that is healing rather than retraumatizing?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Well, again, you have to pay attention to, to your point, who’s doing the listening. I would try maybe a couple times, but if people really won’t listen, then you may have to work out the issue for yourself and not get it resolved with the other person. So it’s being aware that some people are capable of leaning into that and some people are not. You’re going to have to be the judge of it. But if somebody will listen, then for me is you approach with love. “I care about you. I love you. I want this to work out,” whatever it is, because now it’s a compliment, right? And it’s because now I want more connection or better connection or more closeness. And so, that allows me to lean into it better. So you start with love. If you need to, you be preemptive about talking about the obstacle, and then you go into the topic. But full responsibility. You’re not doing, “You did,” whatever. It’s, “I was affected by this behavior, I was affected… whatever it might be at that point in terms of following up.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I mean, it’s true, but you’re also speaking the truth, but also on how to cultivate to that skill. Also, I think it’s important for us to be able to learn how to listen.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Not have your narrative going and your arguments in your head and your inner debate constantly challenging everything they’re saying and actually really listen. So how do you get that? That seems really hard for people.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

There’s six behaviors I talk about. The easiest thing to remember is feelings first.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Feelings first.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Feelings first. So that when you’re in conversation with somebody else, if you can respond to what you hear the feelings are, or the feeling tone, that would be the first thing I’d have you respond to. “Wow, I heard how hard that was for you or-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

So as a listener to respond to the feeling tone in the other person’s words.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. First. It’s the first thing you do. That’s, to me, the key for somebody to feel like they’re being understood and heard.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

That’s Psychology 101.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

You know what? I’ve spent more than three decades teaching graduate students how to do therapy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Oh boy.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

This is the essential skill.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. Right.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Hands down.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Identify accurately another person’s feeling state.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right. And just say it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

One of the things, it seems like, in order to do all these things, to sit with unpleasant feelings, to deal with your unprocessed grief-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Grief.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… actually to speak the truth, that you need to really believe in yourself. How do we develop that capacity to believe in ourselves?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Again, what I will say is that just going through that process creates some of that belief, that when you are more true to your own genuine feeling experience and you’re connected to it and you begin to speak it, you’re being more congruent. Again, that experience of congruence is going to start to lift you up. That’s when all the strength comes in. So when our actions match our words, and our words and actions match our thoughts and feelings, there’s a state of congruence. That congruence is emotional strength. That congruence is confidence. That congruence is what contributes to our belief in ourselves. And then now we’re living much more authentically in the world.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

That really is sort of the backdoor to happiness.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes. The way I think about is it’s inner peace. And when we’re settled into our own skin, we feel that inner peace.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. Man, it’s a hard one for people to get to, so many obstacles. Our culture doesn’t support it. Our entire environment that we live in doesn’t support it, and you’re bucking upstream, but it’s really the key essence of actually being a fully embodied human. If we don’t do that work, we’ll never get there.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

True.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I don’t think age matters. I’ve seen people who are 30 there, and I’ve seen people who are 90 who are not there. It’s just fascinating to see that it’s available all the time if we-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It is.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… walk through that door that you’ve opened for people. It’s really amazing.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah. I mean, that’s the thing for me because it’s I know and I’ve had the chance for decades now to see the effect of the work, and the arc is the same for everybody. People’s worlds open up. If they’re willing to lean in with the first one, then the rest of it starts to open up.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah, certainly true for me. I’ve had to sit with a lot of uncomfortable feelings and feel them and then tell the truth. The more I do that, it’s the more free I am, the more happy I am, the more magic happens in my life, the more possibility opens up, the less I’m attached to anything in particular happening this way or that way.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

That’s great.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s really pretty awesome. It took me long to get here.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It’s a journey.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah, it’s like the crucible and all the gauntlets and the suffering and pain and the tears, but it’s worth it. I mean, for those listening out there, it’s really worth it to take heed to what we’re seeing because Joan’s work is really unusual in that it sort of cracks open the key to us dealing with all the stuff that we like to avoid in a way that allows us to get free.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

At the end of the day, I think that’s what our souls came here to do, is to get free. And if we want, it’s available to us. I just thank you so much for your work, Joan, and what you’re doing. Are there any final thoughts about how we cultivate confidence, resilience, and authenticity? What are the little nuggets?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

I’d like to add two because if I leave these two out, then it really… There’s a lot to say about both, but if I leave them out, then I’m leaving out to me what are really essential keys. One of them is to stop harsh self-criticism. As much as we think it’s not a big deal, to me, there’s nothing equal about a feeling that’s unpleasant, like sadness-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

How do you stop that? Because it’s nice to say, but…

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Well, here’s the interesting thing. I look at our self-criticism as a thought hijack of unpleasant feelings. We don’t control that we feel are what we feel. We can manage it once it’s in our awareness. We do, however, control what we think and how we think. And so what I watch is people hijack an emotional experience by starting to trash talk themselves. Again, simple example, I was doing an interview with somebody, it was via the internet. I couldn’t hear him, he could not hear me. I’m watching him play on the keyboard, right? And then I’m watching him crawl under the desk, playing with the chords, seeing-

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Trying to get to work.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right, trying to get to work. Minutes are passing, I’m fine. And, all of a sudden, I hear him say, “I’m so embarrassed.” But without missing a beat, he goes, “I’m so stupid. I’m such an idiot.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Wow.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So the, “I’m so stupid. I’m such an idiot,” is the thought hijack the embarrassment.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. The embarrassment is just what it is.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It is what it is.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And I will tell you, the harsh self-criticism doesn’t go away. That’s what lingers.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

I want people to understand that that’s a thought hijack. So how do you work with that?

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Once you catch yourself into all this negative self talk, you go, “All right, what happened before this? What was unpleasant that was harder for me to bear, feel, or know?” And then you go right back to that. It’s probably going to be an unpleasant feeling. Could be sadness, could be disappointment, could be embarrassment, whatever it is. How many people go from, “I failed at something.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:

I’m a failure.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

But they’re disappointed, to “I’m a failure.” Right? They’re not equal.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. No, they’re not.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So the harsh self-criticism piece is one of them. The other one that’s super important is taking in compliments.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. It’s hard for people.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It is hard for people.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Tell me about that. Why is it hard?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Well, we’re told, we’re trained, we’re socialized not to take them in. You’ll get a big head, right? You won’t be able to even walk in the door. Right? Or people won’t like you. I mean, there’s endless, whatever are the religion or faith tells us that we should or should on it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

We should be humble.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Right? The interesting thing for me is I think humility is actually telling the truth about ourselves.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Wow. Humility is telling the truth about ourselves.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Whatever it is.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Whatever it is.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Even if it’s [crosstalk 01:07:20].

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Good stuff. Yeah. Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

That’s a flip.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Wow.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

It’s arrogant to think that we should diminish ourselves.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

The compliment piece for me is that when people don’t take them in… or I should say in the positive, when people do take them in, they have a chance to uplevel their sense of self and update their self-image. So if I didn’t see myself a certain way, and I’m now I’m telling people, whatever the skill is or however I’m coming across, “Wow. That’s so great.” And I get that consistently, then it’s like, “I have new information for myself.” Because those compliments are not coming out of some vacuum or out of the blue, they’re coming out of an experience of you or with you.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Right.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

So it’s actually a mirror reflection back to you. So compliments are a reflection of you back to you. Super important to take in.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And our criticisms?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

No. Constructive criticism is.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

External criticisms, yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Constructive criticism is. Ill-intended criticism is not.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

It’s not. Yeah, yeah, that’s fair, that’s fair. So navigating your way out of our self-criticism and learning to take compliments are key elements to actually building confidence and-

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

Belief in yourself.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

… believing in yourself. Yeah. I tend to be very forward with my compliments of people because I just see who they are and all just share. And some people just love it and other people squirm. They’re just like, “I can’t. Stop. I just can’t. Don’t do that.” I’m like, “Wow, that’s interesting.” So what’s the origin of the resistance to being complimented?

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

I think what it does is it also activates an experience of vulnerability.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Uh-huh (affirmative). Okay.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

I think people actually do more than not… I think that they actually know more of the truth about themselves. So when they get complimented, it’s like they know that it’s the truth, but they think it’s going to be bad form to show that they know it’s the truth.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Yeah.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

And I think there’s a vulnerability there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Well, also, it’s like being seen is hard for people. So they don’t want to be seen, they want to hide in their little holes. I’ve had the experience with people and it’s like, “Wow, what’s going on in there under the hood that makes it hard for you to be seen?” Because maybe you don’t like yourself or maybe you have self-criticism or whatever, all the things we’re talking about. So amazing. Wow, we could talk for hours. This is fantastic.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

Joan, you’re great, your work is fantastic. For everybody listening, I encourage you to get Joan’s book, 90 Seconds to a Life You Love: How to Master Your Difficult Feelings to Cultivate Lasting Confidence, Resilience, and Authenticity. Check it out at 90secondsbook.com. There’s a bonus gift if you’re listening, drjoanrosenberg.com/gift. Thank you for what you do in the world. Thank you for helping illuminate the darkness and helping us get free.

Dr. Joan Rosenberg:

I’m honored. Thank you, Mark.

Dr. Mark Hyman:

And if you love this podcast and you know anybody or maybe you have had unpleasant feelings, why don’t you share with them. I bet they get some out of it. How have you dealt with your unpleasant feelings? Would love to know and healed. And if you’re struggling, we’d also like to know that. Subscribe wherever you get your podcast, and we’ll see you next week on the Doctor’s Farmacy.

Closing:

Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their Find A Practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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