You may be living in the past without even realizing it.
Throughout each of our lives, we go through situations that are hard and traumatic, whether it’s losing a loved one, experiencing abuse, or facing rejection. Often, these challenging times are etched into our psyche. They inform everything we do, from the jobs we accept to the relationships we create.
Our past is important — we can learn valuable lessons, develop strength of character, and experience growth. But our past is not our future. No matter what you’ve experienced, your past does not have to determine the course of your life.
Are you letting it? Do memories keep haunting your present? Do you feel stuck in a negative thought loop of limiting beliefs that keep you from pursuing your full potential?
First of all, you aren’t alone. We have all let our past influence us in some way or another, but the important thing is that we realize it does not have to control us. We can break those cycles of negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, and painful memories and create a brighter, better future for ourselves.
And today, I’ve got the perfect guest to walk us through that process. Please welcome Dr. Nicole LePera back to The School of Greatness!
In this episode, we discuss the importance of knowing the five main archetypes of human behavior and how they affect our lives as adults. We also take a dive deep into the power of thoughts and how to heal them. Lastly, Dr. Nicole shares her insights on beliefs and how one can transform them into something empowering.
So if you’re ready to create a better life for yourself, let’s dive in!
Dr. Nicole LePera is a Holistic Psychologist who believes that mental wellness is for everyone. She evolved her more traditional training from Cornell University and The New School to one that acknowledges the connection between the mind and body. Dr. Nicole founded the Mindful Healing Center in Center City, Philadelphia, where she works with individuals, couples, and families. She takes gut health, sleep, movement, cellular health, belief, and mindfulness into account for treatment plans.
Dr. Nicole views mental and physical struggles from a whole-person perspective and works to identify the underlying physical and emotional causes of pain. She understands that balance is an integral part of wellness, and she empowers individuals to heal themselves, supporting them on their wellness journeys.
Dr. Nicole created the SelfHealers Circle to allow people to go on their journeys and create who they want to become. Dr. Nicole lives in Los Angeles, California, and loves anywhere that involves the stillness (and quiet) of nature.
I was honored to have her return to The School of Greatness! I’ve interviewed her twice before, on Episode #844 and Episode #932, and each time I’m blown away by her wisdom. Today, I’m excited to share more of her insights on healing your painful memories, thoughts, and beliefs to create a better future with you all!
By the time that we’re adults, we have already developed mechanisms that helped us cope with painful memories and experiences as children. These mechanisms allowed us to deal with things that are too overwhelming, such as the feelings of wanting to be seen, heard, and acknowledged. Unfortunately, these coping mechanisms only worked like an onion, burying all these painful memories in one layer after another.
Eventually, these painful memories and feelings would resurface through negative thoughts and self-doubts. These nagging thoughts make us feel that what we offer isn’t enough to the world. Dr. Nicole calls these critical voices our “inner child archetypes.” One of the most popular is the Overachiever Archetype, which she describes as holding oneself to unachievable standards.
“This consistent need to achieve doesn’t only apply to achievements in school or at work. It can also be in relationships, which is usually manifested by not wanting to disappoint the [people] we love. It’s just there, ready to judge if one hasn’t lived up to that expectation at any moment.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
But aside from the Overachiever Archetype, Dr. Nicole also mentioned other different kinds of archetypes. There’s the Caretaker, the Yes Person, the Hero Worshipper, and the Life of the Party Archetype, among many others. According to her, these archetypes are patterns conditioned around our painful experiences as children.
Another thing Dr. Nicole mentioned is that some of us might see ourselves falling under one archetype, but others can also see the evidence of different archetypes within themselves. She even shared a personal experience on how her predominant archetype manifests now that she’s an adult.
“My inner archetype is I’m an Overachiever, so I usually get agitated and stressed with one negative review about my work. But my archetype also taught me how to deal with it. I disassociate. I distract myself. I do all of the things I know so I’ll be able to continue with my life.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
The thing is, the type of archetype we have ultimately affects how we are as adults and what we bring to our relationships. It also determines how we connect with other people outside ourselves. It could even be the reason why some of us stay in toxic and bad relationships, or why some of us put ourselves in harmful situations. Dr. Nicole said that our archetype provides us with a sense of familiarity because we know that it’s a scarier place to be without it.
“Our subconscious works on the familiarity principle because according to our subconscious, the path that we’ve walked once is more knowable than the path that’s unknown to us. … So even if it means a toxic or a bad relationship, that is all the definition of love or connection we’ve ever had. That’s the only definition we could give to ourselves on what a relationship should be. It’s not necessarily authentic, healthy, and safe, but because it’s all we know, we base our relationships on these earliest patterns. It’s true even when they aren’t the exact relationships we’re seeking or that would fulfill us.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
To heal and regain freedom from these painful memories, Dr. Nicole emphasized the importance of awareness.
She believes that getting to know and acknowledging that you have harmful patterns resulting from past experiences is the beginning of the healing process.
“As children, we weren’t given such a choice, and we just started wearing these masks because our full self isn’t being expressed. But as adults, we can now show up and make new choices so we can learn a new way of being. Once that we’re aware of our archetypes, cultivating new responses is ultimately the next step. This part of the process can allow me to show a new part of myself that allows me to cultivate my full self-expression overtime.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
Dr. Nicole also pointed out that as adults, we are now able to offer an alternate narrative as opposed to the thinking of “I’m broken” or “I’m unlovable” or “There’s something wrong with me.” This leads to the next stage of healing which is called reparenting. But how does someone, as an adult, learn to re-parent themselves? Does it mean connecting to our five-year-old self? Is it a daily practice of connecting to something within ourselves? Dr. Nicole explained it perfectly:
“We carry our inner child with us in many different ways. How our physical needs are identified and met in adulthood is typically a reflection of how they were once met in childhood. Even the way we tend to our emotions in adulthood is a direct reflection of how we were tended to as kids or the coping tools were even available to us at one time in one place. Because of this, we usually end up being very disconnected from our own needs, whether physically or emotionally.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
To start with reparenting, Dr. Nicole talked about the importance of making space for ourselves and other people. She believes that the space we set is a helpful tool to enable ourselves to reflect and set our own boundaries so we can depersonalize our experience.
I believe in this too! It’s our responsibility to create the boundaries that we need so that we can understand ourselves better. In this way, we can also have the energy and the emotional maturity to manage opportunities, stress, or overwhelming problems.
Dr. Nicole further explained why space matters in the work of reparenting:
“To do the work of reparenting, we need to witness ourselves in adulthood. We need to acknowledge our physical needs, our emotional climate, and our ability to create new habits. The last aspect is the focus of what reparenting is creating new habits and patterns in any of these areas — physical, emotional, or spiritual — to better serve you.” – Dr. Nicole Lepera
Again, it’s only by acknowledging our patterns and working on changing them that we can heal our painful experiences.
There are moments in our lives that we tell ourselves, “I’m not enough, I’ll never have this, I suck, I’m not worthy, or I’m not deserving.” These types of thoughts might lead someone to a depressive state. However, for Dr. Nicole, thoughts are just one of the factors that contribute to the feelings of depression. As a holistic psychologist, she acknowledges other things may contribute to this.
“The issue with depression and anxiety, and a lot of the things is that they’re messengers of something deeper. With depression, there’s also something physiological at play. It could be some gut issues that are causing actual inflammation in the brain, resulting in those symptoms of depression. There might also be some nervous system activation getting stuck in our parasympathetic system that results in that hypoenergetic arousal. Thus, it’s thoughts and the physiology that maps on to thinking those thoughts for a very long time.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
What Dr. Nicole is trying to tell us is that changing our thoughts should be accompanied by other approaches so that we can avoid getting into this depressive or stressed state of mind. We could be changing our thoughts, but if we’re having alcohol at the same time or eating candy and processed foods all day and in a stressful environment physically, then it may not help us to shift our feelings and emotions on the right path. Healing requires a holistic approach to know the root of what’s causing someone to feel stress or depression.
Dr. Nicole pointed out another helpful way in dealing with stress and difficult thoughts. The good thing is it’s something that our bodies naturally allow us to do!
“As simple as this sounds, the way our body breathes can be helpful. If we can cultivate our full deep breath, very calming breath, there are chances that our body will be in that state of relaxation. … Remember that if you’re living in an over-activated nervous system, such as when you’re having a panic attack, all you need to do is begin to harness intentional breathing to direct your breath down into your belly. If you’re in that shallow, stressed-out, activated state or almost feel like you’re not here, then cultivate that chest base breathing.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
Your environment and breathwork can help bring our minds from a depressive state to a positive one. But why is it that we put so much emphasis on the importance of healing our thoughts?
Dr. Nicole and I talked about a study wherein crystals in frozen water are photographed to be changing depending on the thoughts directed at them. If the words or thoughts are positive, these crystals would turn out to be complex, brilliant, and beautiful. On the other hand, if negative words or thoughts are directed against them, the crystal would turn out dark and dead-looking.
“What that study did was to show the frequency of different emotions, and it’s beautiful because what I see is evidence of how impactful the things that we can’t see are.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
And that’s exactly how our thoughts are! We can’t see them, but they have a profound impact on us, on the structure of our brain, our body, and how we feel when we think of a certain thing or environment. That’s why we need to heal our thoughts, and the good news is, the power lies within our control.
Our beliefs are powerful. They can either help us achieve greatness inside ourselves, or they can hold us back from reaching our full potential. Dr. Nicole explained how powerful beliefs are in shaping our futures.
“We’re coloring our experience with beliefs about everything — our self, others, the world and our place in it, our past, our future. Beliefs began as a practice thought, usually based on a lived experience that we begin to repeat over time. The more we accumulate similar experiences in our life, the more it kind of sets in and becomes ingrained. It becomes our way of thinking.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
Now, the thing with beliefs is that they can trigger painful memories during moments or instances when someone does something you think is against your belief system. In cases like this, it’s important to be self-aware. Dr. Nicole explained that this awareness should include all of the unconscious activations that are happening within you, like your heart rate. You’ll also probably start to react in the way you did back at the time when the painful memory happened. But she said that these moments are important and formative.
“These moments go back to the feelings of the inner child. We have these really big reactions, and it’s important in those moments to honor the feelings that we’re having because so many of us have repressed, suppressed, or done all of the things to make it more tolerable. … We need to feel what happened to us so we can release it. Then we can create change. We can create safety.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
I think that the way Dr. Nicole frames the approach of dealing with those moments that we feel someone is going against our belief system is so powerful. Instead of thinking that a belief is holding us back, we should use it as a way to create awareness. From there, we can start integrating new habits so we can react differently to them. It might even happen that when a similar scenario or event happens in the future, it won’t affect us not that much anymore. We could eliminate the feeling of trauma or tightness and instead feel peace within ourselves.
“I believe in the neuroplasticity of our brain and our body, too. We can reteach ourselves, minds, and bodies what safety is. Whether it’s through writing, breathing, or taking ourselves out to create that space, we need to know that it’s possible. And to strengthen such belief, we need to back it up with emotion. This is why so many mantra work or affirmations don’t work because many of us just say words, yet our whole system doesn’t follow. We have to follow the thought with belief and we need to know that it doesn’t happen overnight.” – Dr. Nicole LePera
Dr. Nicole provided such a great explanation! To have empowering beliefs, it’s important to wrap them around feelings. By doing so, we can feel safe when a similar situation happens the next time. We can also keep practicing those coping mechanisms of breathwork, body safety, boundaries, space, whatever it may be. So when it happens again, we’ll be able to say, “I’m okay,” because we’ve created that new belief and we backed it with emotion.
Today’s message is massive, guys! Knowing that we can recognize our patterns and heal ourselves from our painful past experiences is a beautiful reminder of our power to recreate ourselves and have the life we’ve always wanted.
What you’ve heard from this episode is only a part of Dr. Nicole’s book entitled, How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Yourself. If you’re on your journey to personal growth or just wanting to become a better partner or a person, this is a book you wouldn’t surely want to miss! You can also learn more about what Dr. Nicole does through her website, Youtube, and her social media accounts on Instagram and Facebook.
If you got value out of this, or if this inspired you or helped you in any way, then please tag Dr. Nicole LaPera, @the.holistic.psychologist, and me, @lewishowes, on Instagram with your key takeaways. Please also go to Apple Podcasts, give it a five-star rating, and don’t forget to subscribe!
Before I end, I’m gonna leave you with this quote from Nate Brown who said, “We cannot selectively numb emotions. When we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” Just like what Dr. Nicole shared with us, the best way to handle these painful emotions is to acknowledge and work through them.
I hope that this episode gave you some tools and strategies to support you, your emotions, and improve your mindset in life. If you’re ready to create a greater and brighter future ahead of you, make sure to watch Episode 1,083 with Dr. Nicole LePera on The School of Greatness!