Ep 249: Julie Hall – Leading with Self Compassion
How can you better prepare yourself to chase your dreams?
As we enter the penultimate episode of Chasing Dreams, I try to make sure that I’m bringing you the best guests I can. In this episode, I get to chat with experienced licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Connecticut, Julie Hall - who also happens to be my cousin. I know her well and wasn’t wrong with bringing her on the second to the last episode of the show to share her knowledge and expertise.
As a young girl, Julie’s dad was a mechanical engineer. He would do a lot of drawing which inspired her to become an architect. But life happened and her path changed. She went to college for engineering but pretty quickly knew that this path wasn’t where she wanted to land. So after college, she got a job in corporate as a programmer. She then moved into product management on the web side.
Working in different sectors in corporate, having experience in government, non-profits, and start-up, Julie has had vast experience when it comes to working with different types of people in different types of companies. This was her path for more than ten years.
During her marriage, she and her husband were having a difficult time getting pregnant. And during one of her regular check-ups with her doctor, this doctor slips her a card for a therapist. Being in shock and not knowing how to feel, Julie felt so offended. They were already dealing with issues of her physical body, but she felt the doctor wanted to tell her that there was also something wrong with her mentally.
But, despite what she felt, Julie took the card and made an appointment with the therapist. During this session, she had a cleansing experience. She came out of the session and felt so powerful. She didn’t know that an experience like that existed. That for her, started the journey for her in her career as a therapist.
Through that process, she really decided that she wanted to be on the other side and help people the best way she could. After a few years, she began her private practice as a therapist and Julie cannot be any happier with the path she took.
Julie Hall is an experienced licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Connecticut. She specialises in supporting individuals, families and couples navigating issues of self-worth, life transitions and/or trauma. Julie draws upon compassion and curiosity to foster a safe environment for clients to explore their lived experiences. She desires for her clients to feel seen, known and valued. Julie also explores family systems with clients as a tool in self understanding, strength and empowerment to ultimately foster healthy growth and change.
“When we don’t see ourselves in therapy (or as therapists), we don’t think it’s for us.“ #chasingdreams
WHY MENTAL HEALTH AND THERAPY ISN’T TALKED ABOUT ENOUGH
Although we as a society have achieved a lot when it comes to talking about and raising awareness around mental health, the fact is that there are still hundreds of thousands of people who are afraid to talk about their own mental health struggles.
As far as the immigrant experience, Julie shares her thoughts around mental health. There is this image of success, image of having the job, the family, and the house. When we start talking about the challenges we are experiencing, these challenges really impact the “image” that we want to uphold.
We don’t talk about the tough things. But what it does is that it perpetuates the experience. It’s almost like you failed at something you didn’t know you were testing for.
We have our five senses - sight, smell, taste, feel and hear. Then we have our sixth sense - the meaning-making sense. It’s how we make meaning of the world around us.
THE BIG THINGS AFFECTING YOUNG PEOPLE TODAY
Julie works primarily with teens, adults and families navigating identity issues, communication, conflict resolution, life transitions, poor coping behaviours.
Across the board, young teens, adults, and kids are experiencing a serious amount of pressure to achieve. The level of competition that they have to navigate as far as even getting into schools, the extra curricular activities that they have to uphold on top of their academics - these are all factors that come into play.
With all of this pressure put on young children, their mental and emotional well-being are affected. Because of this, kids today are missing unorganised recreation.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND TECHNOLOGY
In addition to the fierce competition kids are experiencing, social media and technology play a huge part in people’s mental health.
This is the age where social media and technology is everywhere. Anyone and everyone is on social media and kids nowadays are all glued to their screens. Kids nowadays are missing the “play.” Instead of playing games in the park, or simple outdoor games, they play video games.
Social media impacts our body image greatly. We are caught in the comparison trap and we have lower self-esteem when we see others on social media seemingly doing “better” than us. This has a huge impact on our sense of self, particularly the younger generation who are more impressionable to these things.and/or trauma.
“Kids nowadays are missing the “play and unorganised recreation.” #chasingdreams
DOING OUR OWN WORK
Our earliest relationships are with our family of origin. So, for at least a session or two, in Julie’s work with clients, she draws in to their family of origin. The three things she focuses on are:
- Drawing out relational patterns that we have experienced generationally
- How was love given and received
- What did conflict look like?
- What did communication look like?
- Narratives - the stories we tell ourselves about the world around us and about ourselves.
- These are shaped with our experience from our family of origin.
- It’s important for the caretakers to understand their own stuff to stop these negative narratives.
- Trauma - “Trauma is anything that happened to us that was either too much too fast, too much too long, or not enough, where we didn’t receive adequate support and care.”
- Trauma can impact our narratives and our patterns.
In Julie’s sessions, she looks at patterns, narratives, and trauma for two purposes:
- To operate from this place of consciousness
- To have awareness from something we’ve carried with us so long
- To put words to our narratives, patterns, and trauma
- By putting words to it, it helps us move towards a place of self-compassion
- To have the power to choose.
- Now that you have awareness and consciousness, you can decide which values are important or what don’t serve you well.
Given this, it is so important for each of us to do our own inner work. It’s important to check ourselves and see what is serving us, what isn’t, and what we can carry forward to the next generation.
“Our earliest relationships are with our family of origin.” #chasingdreams
Journaling is not a fad. It actually needs to be started earlier so that we can really become one with ourselves. Journaling is a powerful tool for us to better understand ourselves, our emotions, and our thoughts. We often don’t make time to know ourselves and date ourselves and journaling is a key factor to attain that. It’s about recognising what’s serving you well and what’s not.
“It’s about recognising what’s serving me well and what’s not.” #chasingdreams
“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to sit with it.”
DISCOVERY OF ONESELF
A lot of us feel regret, sadness, or unfulfilment one or two times in our life. Julie shares tips and tools you can use to come to your own epiphany and change the direction of your life.
- Emotion-focused therapy:
- Recognising your triggers
- A trigger is anything happening outside of you and when that thing happens, sends a signal to your brain that you are under some kind of threat.
- Generally, a threat is any perceived or real threat to our feelings of safety, love, and belonging. Whenever we focus on those, we move into our threat-response behaviour.
- Threat response
- A threat-response behaviour is like a fight or flight response. It looks different for each person. These behaviours are developed by our bodies to keep us safe.
- What you can do is to start to name your triggers - what are the experiences that happen outside of you that make you respond?
- Pain story
- Your pain story is basically an “I am” statement. It can be different for each one. But they are basically your inner critic telling you that you’re not good enough, or smart enough, or don’t have enough.
- Foster an environment that is safe enough to sit with the pain story.
- Ask yourself how you can speak back to the pain story. This then opens up a place where you can drop some of your threat responses and show up as your most authentic self.
- It’s about putting words to the pain story, recognising its origin, and from a more empowered place, telling yourself that these stories are not true.
“A trigger is anything happening outside of you and when that thing happens, sends a signal to your brain that you are under some kind of threat.”
“Foster an environment that is safe enough to sit with the pain story.”
“Ask yourself how you can speak back to the pain story. This then opens up a place where you can drop some of your threat responses and show up as your most authentic self.”
“It’s about putting words to the pain story, recognising its origin, and from a more empowered place, telling yourself that these stories are not true.”
When we talk about trauma, people think of an accident or a significantly life-altering event. A lot of people think that this doesn’t apply to them just because they haven’t experienced anything life-altering.
Complex trauma is imagining our younger selves and our adult selves living in the same body, experiencing life as it is and as it was. So, we all to some degree have that experience where our younger selves can show up in our adult bodies. Our younger self asks us, “are we okay? Are we safe? Is this like that time where we felt we weren’t good enough?”
That younger self can show up in our adult bodies. So the inner work is separating what IS and what WAS.
GOING TO THERAPY AND SEEKING HELP
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. But a lot of us are afraid to ask for help. We let things fester and it comes up in the form of anxiety and depression. We need to normalise talking about how you are doing and not in a superficial number.
It’s not about fixing what’s wrong but being able to have the support that we need. Our threat response behaviours are defensive moves. Whatever those moves are, we shouldn’t shame them because they are there to keep us safe. However, they keep us disconnected from ourselves and from the people in our lives. So, in a therapy session, we try to bring back that lived experience through vulnerability.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to see if you are showing up with your fists up:
- Are you happy with where you’re at?
- Are you operating from these places of defenses?
- Are you showing up with your fists up or with a blanket over my head?
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to show up as your most authentic self. With your fists up, you won’t be able to show up as your most authentic self. Additionally, regardless of what age you’re at, you have to take care of yourself and your mental health. Even though you have people in your life who want the best for you, it is still YOU who makes the biggest decisions and actions to improve your life.
“It’s not about fixing what’s wrong but being able to have the support that we need.” #chasingdreams
ONE COMMON MISTAKE THAT PEOPLE MAKE
One common mistake is when we try to motivate ourselves through self-judgement, self-criticism, or through shame. We are too hard on ourselves.
How often are you hard on yourself when you make a mistake? How often do you tell yourself that you’re not good enough? We all go through this. No one is above that.
Research has shown that being hard on yourself is not effective. So, instead of being hard on yourself, practice being compassionate and kind to yourself.
GUEST RECOMMENDATION: ONE action for a dream chaser to take –
Practicing self-compassion is one of the most powerful places to operate from. Self-compassion is being kind to yourself and reframing your questions in your head from a place of judgement to a place of curiosity. This allows us to get more curious about our lived experience. It is looking at our lived experience through a lens of kindness. Self-compassion drives sustainable change.
OUTLINE OF THE EPISODE
- [03:50 ] Young Julie
- [05:32 ] Julie’s professional journey
- [08:08 ] Julie’s cleansing/epiphany moment
- [10:46 ] Seeing ourselves in therapy
- [11:39 ] Why we don’t talk about mental health enough
- [14:10 ] The big things affecting young people today
- [15:30 ] Effects of social media on the youth
- [18:20 ] Being comfortable with yourself
- [18:52 ] Family of origin
- [19:15 ] Finding patterns
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