A highlight from Change: Dr. L. Carol Scott on Thriving in Unhealthy Environments through Self-Care
Hi, podcast listeners. Welcome to the A World of Difference podcast. We have so many guests on this show making a difference in our lives, making a difference all around the world with the expertise that they bring. And yet so many of you are reaching out to me saying, you want more? It's not enough. Just what we're putting on these podcast episodes for you. And so I am here to extend a very warm welcome to you to our Difference Maker community where you can join for as little as $5 a month to get all this extra content out the gate. You're going to get 30 plus minisodes of exclusive content not available for the regular podcast listeners and an exclusive minisode every month. And you'll get exclusive voting power to help us pick podcast topics and more. And that's at our Changers tier. There's three different main tiers and then an extra larger tier. But whatever tier that you join at, you will be included in this extra content. And I know that many of you are wanting to go a little bit deeper. And so even though it gets a little wild in there sometimes because of how deep we go, I want you to join us there. This extra content is very special. It means a great deal to me to be a part of this community with you. And I would love to just exchange ideas or perspectives that you have around these different episodes. And that's the place where we do it. So please show up to our Difference Maker community. Give us $5 out of your pocket every month. And I think that you'll have a lot of fun in there because we do. And I would love for you to join us. So go to patreon .com slash welcome to the A World of Difference podcast. I'm Lori Adams Brown, and this is a podcast for those who are different and want to make a difference. Today on the show, we have Dr. L. Carol Scott. She's going to be talking to us today as a trauma -informed developmental psychologist, a TEDx speaker, a coach, and a No. 1 international bestselling author. Carol brings the SASS self -aware success strategies to help you get along better in the adult playgrounds where you play. I know many of us are concerned about some of the situations and systems in workplaces and faith -based spaces where people who have been survivors of abuse or even potentially, you know, grown up in homes or faith -based spaces where abuse was happening and maybe even covered up really may not have had the tools to address those issues in our adult lives and in the workplace. And it can cause all kinds of situations that are as small as just a regular conflict or as large as actually experiencing abuse oneself in one's work environment or especially in the faith -based spaces. As many of you know, I experienced abuse in a workplace environment, which was a faith -based space, a megachurch. And systems the that were happening there, we could have used a lot more conversation and tools, especially from the one who was abusing us, so we could recognize some of those things a lot earlier and learn to be self -aware about what was happening in terms of the gaslighting many of us were experiencing and abuse that we also endured. So from a psychological perspective of someone who's trauma -informed, I felt like it would be helpful to learn from some different experts. So we're going to be having different people on the podcast to help us speak into these issues around mental health and wellness going forward. We're going to take just a few opportunities this summer to dig into that here and there as different podcast guests come on the show. But as we talk about this, and some of this might, you know, be triggering, so trigger warning to any of you who this conversation is too much right now, just feel free to stop the podcast now or take it in chunks, because we will be dealing with, you know, the topic of how to be aware in your own self and your own body around issues of abuse that might be taking place toward you or around you that you're observing as a bystander. And so, yeah, listener discretion advised from this point forward about this interview. And so hopefully this conversation today will help us all be a little more self -aware about some strategies we can use to help ourselves flourish and help all human beings flourish. So a very warm welcome today to Dr. L. Carol Scott. Hello, Dr. Scott, thank you so much for joining us today. I am so thrilled to be here, Lori. Thank you for having me. Well, we love talking to people that do all kinds of amazing things and write things and make differences around the world and bring their differences to the table. So it's wonderful to have you and get to know you a little bit better today and the work that you've done. So for those who haven't met you before or you're new to them, why don't you give us a little bit about your own background and how you became interested in this field of work that you do? Okay, I'd love to do that. I call myself a trauma -informed developmental psychologist. And what that means is that I understand how children grow up from birth to adulthood, human development overall, but particularly I specialize in the birth to seven age range. And about how that period of our lives in particular makes us who we are as adults interacting with other adults, our relationships with each other as adults, and the unique ways in which we express our difference in the world is something that is created in those first seven years of our lives. It's a significant period of time, isn't it? And number one puts a lot of responsibility on parents and villages that are raising children together. But it also is important for us to know as adults that things that may have happened in our childhood can still be impacting us as adults, well, you know, to midlife and beyond. And there's a lot for people to unpack there, right? So, um, you might say not just can be influencing, but absolutely are. Yeah, absolutely are. No, yes. Yeah. Well, this is exciting as a topic to talk about today, because I know there are many people, especially during the COVID pandemic, I talked with therapists all the time that are professional therapists working in our community here where I live in Silicon Valley and actually was speaking to someone earlier today, and she said, if you came out of that whole COVID period of time, especially a year and a half of online school, and you aren't talking to a therapist, maybe you should because we've all collectively as a planet dealt with something really difficult. And so but your website really mentions that you specialize in resilience and change. So can you explain what that means and and sort of why that's important? Yes, sure, absolutely. So we, as young children, really have the opportunity to try out natural instincts for social and emotional connection with other people. And depending on what kind of response we get from the adults who are our caregivers and our educators, we may come into our adulthood with a great deal of interpersonal capacity for really healthy relationships that are fun and joyful and enriching and don't drive us nuts. And if we get other kinds of responses or if we have if we participate in a cultural trauma, which I think the quarantine times of the pandemic were, those can shape us as well. So absolutely kids, kids who went through that period, young kids who went through that period, have a very big bunch of baggage probably to unpack, depending on the health of their grown ups. So, you know, what I really want people to know, though, is no matter how hard it got. So in the world of adverse childhood experiences, if you have seen the list of the 10 really adverse things that impact children's development in a negative way, so much so that they create physical health conditions, heart problems, cancer, diseases like diabetes in your childhood, you can still have resilience and overcome that and have an adult life that is rich. And that's really my key messages. You're not stuck with what you grew up with. There is recovery. There is change. Such a good message. Yeah, you can't control what happened to you, but you can give yourself the gift of doing that deep work and, you know, working toward flourishing for yourself and for those that you get to interact with. And it's brave work. It's courageous work. And it takes people to walk alongside us. So what are some of the common challenges, though, that you feel like people might face when they're trying to make these changes in their lives? And how do you help them overcome those? Goodwin, and this this isn't a universal in terms of childhood across cultures, and I just want to be clear about that, that different different cultures, different countries in the world have different values about children, different beliefs about children's competence, different resources to support children and young families. And so it isn't always the same. But I work primarily with families in the U .S. where what I see a lot of is we blow toddlerhood pretty badly. We're not good with toddlers. We're not good with people who are independent and want to tell us all about what they think, what they want and how they're feeling. And we tend to give them messages. We indulge that their emotions are overwhelming. What they want is wrong and they don't they're not understandable. They can't be understood. And that is a very frustrating set of messages for someone whose whole goal every moment of its waking day is to communicate. This is who I am. This is what I'm about. Look at me, see me for who I am. And we're just like, I'm sorry, what? And so that place of not having growing up to be an adult who is not self -confident and relaxed how about I'm feeling and the fact that it may be different from how you're feeling, what I want and being OK with asking for it, even if I get told no. Or God forbid I get told yes. And what it is that I'm thinking, what my opinions are, what I understand the world to be, my stories about life and myself and you. And if I can't be comfortable and feel safe expressing that that's who I am uniquely me, I'm a single point on the map, one datum, you know, then I can't hardly let you be that either. And that is the fundamental place where a lot of relationships go awry is that I don't really know who I am. I don't really know how to express all of myself in an authentic way. And so I can't believe that you're also that you're authentic because you're in the same stick that I'm in probably. And so we from the beginning don't feel seen and don't feel like we can communicate ourselves. Yeah, it's good. I'm sure in the work that you do, you get to see people transform and overcome all kinds of things. And so do you have any story that's really, you know, been meaningful to you about somebody's successful, you know, overcoming of obstacles in their own lives? And I'd be curious to know, were there any key factors that related to how they overcame with your help? I, what is called to mind immediately is a woman I know who really heard that message of who you were when you were 15 months old and first were out walking around and taking in the world and expressing yourself as you. That person really was told that she wasn't OK. That person came away with the message that it's not OK to be who I am. And I and and she came to a place of saying, I will do that, I will be myself. And if it means that I have to separate myself from some people that I've been close to for a long time in my life, then I'm going to do that until I can be myself with them, until I can speak in my voice. And so she basically just sort of covered up the page in her address book that had all of her family members on it and just did not interact with them for a while. Until she felt that she could go there and say, this is who I am. And it wouldn't matter how they reacted to it. That was the most amazing transformation I've seen. And it was a difficult one. And here's the resilience news story. She was able to reconnect with those family members and build really positive relationships with them before a couple of them died, before her parents were gone. And so she is back in relationship with those people. But she couldn't do it as long as she wasn't being anybody. In particular, yeah, that's whatever she thought would please them. And so it's such hard work and such difficult choices, but that's the work with a capital T and a capital W, isn't it? Yes, and it's worth it, you know, we're social beings. Yeah, it's absolutely so worth it. We do need support and it's hard to find when you're making a whole different change. You know, I think about people I've known who've been in a cult, for example, and then when they don't toe the line or they leave, they get shunned and they lose people. But they have to do that deep, hard work of saying, what is it about me? You know, how was I gaslit? And like, you know, it's hard to come out of it when you don't have the support while you're doing the work. And that can be really hard. Do you have any tips for people who are having to, for example, cut off family members who are maybe abusive in various ways, physically or sexually or, you know, all kinds of abuse that could happen in a family or coming out of a cult and, you know, making those changes while you need people? Have you had to walk through that with anyone else or anything similar? And if so, what advice would you give them on how to find new relationships that support them? I think that's such a wonderful perspective to take on this, because sometimes that that walk gets really hard. I think that I've moved through places in my life like that where what I had to do was simply walk away from connections that had proven to be, if not in a classic sense, toxic, then hurtful to me and unsupportive of my well -being, my joy, my productivity in life. And I actually I was involved in a spiritual community for a while where the charismatic leader, I wouldn't have called it a cult, but it had a charismatic leader for sure. And she and I really replicated some dynamics of my birth family, some of the trauma dynamics of my birth family, some of the painful interactions. And so I had to get to the point where I could see it. It was a healing for me to get to the point where I could see, oh, I see what this is. I've done this before. I've done this dance before and this is here to teach me. This is like a new lens on something I'm familiar with. And so it took a friend. I think it's so helpful to build relationships with the people who see you and who can be compassionately honoring of your humanity when you're completely falling apart. Those kind of connections are so vital when facing something difficult. And it was a good friend who just was a mirror for me and said, you can walk away from this. You're you're a grown up now. You're not the child who can't leave. You can you can go take care of yourself and you're strong enough to do that. And so I did. And that's not the only experience that I have with people becoming connected to someone who is amazing, a charismatic person who is amazing. It's easy to do and it's easiest to do if we don't know who we are. If I don't have a strong sense of myself as someone who has her own ideas and her thoughts and her opinions, feelings and emotions that are unique to me and a set of things that I'm looking for in the world, things that I want that make me what I feel, what I think and what I want makes me a unique package. Ain't nobody else like that. And if everybody knew that with safety and with comfort and could relax into that, we would be a whole different kind of world. I believe we would. And yeah, I mean, we're sort of always talking about here on this podcast is our differences are beautiful and wonderful. And if we were all the same, how boring. You know, it's springtime here where I live in Silicon Valley and I love seeing all the diversity of just flowers in my neighborhood. And you can see one rose on a rose bush and it's slightly unique from every other rose on the same rose bush with the same color. And that beautiful diversity in the creation around us, it, you know, brings on wonder to my brain and my body and in humanity as well. And and it's hard. You know, I have three teenagers and the teenagers can be particularly challenging in human development where especially like eighth grade, you know, I have two 15 year old twins. They were 14 last year. And eighth grade in particular feels like this time where you just want to belong. You want to be like everybody else. Like you want to be unique, but you don't at the same time. And so, yeah, I think when you get in environments like especially a spiritually abusive one or a toxic one in that way, that can really do a lot of damage to us. It could take a while to get out because you might have some good feelings in that group while at the same time you don't feel free to be yourself. And so thank God you had a friend that helped you know that it's OK to walk away and find a healthy space. Thank you for sharing that very vulnerably. And you know, here's the thing with we if if in my community of choice for spiritual nurture, however, I define that I go to a Bible church or I go to a temple or I go to a center for spiritual living or, you know, someplace that seems obscure to mainstream Christians, it doesn't really matter as long as I am accepted and loved there as a unique individual, a unique incarnation of spirit, a unique manifestation of God's creativity, however kind of language you put to it. I am a pinpoint of creation. I am one data point of creation and I am as changing and as different as the roses on the bushes and the, you know, the cycles and the seasons of this planet. We're all in a creative process that is about change and movement. And so here we are. We're doing it. We are and it's beautiful and it's it's something to celebrate. And the more we let the rose bushes be themselves and not try to make them tulips or carnations, the more they get to be who they are. Right. And that's just that's really nice. But you've written quite a bit. You've written something called the resilient mindset. Give us a little bit of overview of what you're talking about. Is that right? The resilient mindset. Is that the name of one of your books? No, it is an article. Maybe. Are you just talking about possibly maybe that's what it is. Yes. But you talk about resilience. Right. How can people have more of a resilient mindset when it seems like it's just one hit after another? It's COVID. It's family issues. It's your grades in school. You know, your best friend broke up with you as a friend or I mean, like, how do you stay resilient when it just feels like there's a tsunami wave after wave after wave hitting you? It feels to me like the two keys are it sounds almost I'm trying to say it, but gratitude is one of them. And the other is to recognize that in addition to having adverse experiences in our life, we have positive ones. And it's easiest to talk about our adverse experiences. We get a lot of attention. That's another dynamic that's not necessarily healthy in relationships that we give each other attention for complaining about the hard stuff, complaining about how difficult everything is, complaining about the things that have gone, quote, wrong. And we also have moments of utter bliss and joy and great things happen. And somebody passes you, a stranger passes you in the mall and says, my God, your hair looks great. I mean, you just you have the positive experiences, too. We just don't tend to perseverate on them. We don't talk them to death like we do all the things that are a problem right now. I am in oh, gosh, I think I'm about nine weeks now into healing a broken femur. That's right. Yeah. Which is like a big bone for anybody to break. But for an old lady in my my stage of life is like, that's a really big deal to break my femur. And I thought, you know, I still think I'm thirty five in my mind. So I thought I got this. You know, I'm going back to my full time RV lifestyle. I'm going to be driving. I'm going to be rolling out the hose and the power cord and doing all the things. I'm nuts. I'm absolutely nuts. And I can sit here and complain about all the pain and all the ways hard and the fact that I probably threw myself back into this too quickly. Or I can tell you about all the marvelous things that have happened because and through the pain and the disruption to my life and my plans about how things should go have been left by the roadside like a hundred times over the past nine weeks. And that's OK, because there's still great stuff happening. There's still positive experiences for me to blend with the adverse ones. And that's resilience right there. So good. It is true that our brains can hold the hard and the good all at once. I think there's circles in life or people in life that forces to choose to only live in one. But the reality is life happens. And acts of God happen that are out of our control. There's and there's mistakes we make and we mess up our own lives like we do things, too. And so but just to jump over it and not sit in the pain for a little bit to learn the lesson doesn't it doesn't heal our femur, but it also doesn't heal our minds and souls. I have a metaphor. I'm studying in my religious, spiritual tradition and philosophy, which is religious science or the Centers for Spiritual Living. I'm studying about, you know, if if the divine, whatever we think of as the unifying principle, the God stuff of the universe, if that is omnipresent, everywhere present, then everything that happens is God is being created in the moment as a divine thing. And so I've developed this metaphor for myself that my life is like being a really clever, hardworking little beetle who's tending two square meters of bark on the side of a big tree in an endless, infinite forest. And I beetle around my little two square meters of bark all day long, very happily, making it the best little square bark any beetle could tend and making good things happen for the tree because of my little big bark. And sometimes there's giant storms that pound me with rain and knock me off my little square and the winds blow and leaves fly by and I get hit. And I think it's a bad thing. I think it's terrible. But what I don't understand is the forest needs the rain.