Veronica Roth said, “Change, like healing, takes time.” And Leonard Cohen said, “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Today, I chatted with Dr. Shefali, an expert in family dynamics and personal development. Dr. Shefali’s groundbreaking approach to mindful living and parenting has taken her books to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and been featured on Oprah and so many other major platforms. Her blend of clinical psychology and Eastern mindfulness sets her apart as a leader in the field of mindfulness psychology. Recently, she’s written a new book called A Radical Awakening: Turn Pain Into Power, Embrace Your Truth, Live Free.
In this episode, we discuss how to awaken yourself and break free from your past, the difference between victim consciousness and victimhood (which was mind-blowing!), why hitting rock-bottom can be a good thing, how to get to the root of what’s causing issues in your relationships, what you need to know about the boundaries you’re setting, and so much more.
I’m such a big fan of Dr. Shefali, but before the episode starts, I want to give a quick trigger warning that we do discuss different forms of sexual abuse and healing from those experiences.
Dr. Shefali received her doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University. Specializing in the integration of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy, she brings together the best of both worlds for her clients. She is an expert in family dynamics and personal development, teaching courses around the globe. She has written four books, three of which are New York Times best-sellers, including her two landmark books The Conscious Parent and The Awakened Family.
As an acclaimed author, international speaker, clinical psychologist, and wisdom teacher, Dr. Shefali teaches workshops and courses both online and in-person around the world. Her online courses have helped hundreds of adults and families around the world. They cover topics like anger, anxiety, purpose, meaning, relationships, and conscious health. In addition, she regularly teaches group-meditation classes virtually and in person as well.
Dr. Shefali also founded the Conscious Parenting Method Certification Program — a highly tailored and formatted coaching program replete with specific strategies and techniques to train coaches to help parents help their children unfold to their fullest potential.
Now, let’s jump into my conversation with Dr. Shefali!
If we want to radically awaken, we have to first name toxicity for what it is — and understand that certain cultural norms like objectification and oppression in parts of the world are not okay. Dr. Shefali outlines many cultural standards in her new book including beauty, what it means to be youthful, relationships, and even motherhood. She believes step one is developing a deeper understanding of these projections in the world, which will empower you to progress to step two and heal.
“Step number two, when you radically awaken, is when you take ownership for how you are part of that co-creation. When you talk about victimhood, we are victims. However, being and living in victim consciousness is where we get stuck. If the man I’m with physically abuses me, that is called physical abuse, we should not be afraid to muddy the waters — abuse is abuse. If you’ve been a victim, speak up, empower your children to say ‘I’ve been a victim.’ That’s very different [from] living and being in victim consciousness. Victim consciousness is when you hold on to the perpetration and you now perpetrate yourself and you keep the power with the other person. Not healing and not moving on, blaming the one who took your power away — and we don’t realize that we give them our power even more when we blame the other. We stay tethered to them. True empowerment is to take all power back, including blame.” – Dr. Shefali
These are powerful distinctions. I appreciate what she says about being empowered to call the abuse for what it is, while not allowing the act to continue to hold us in that state of consciousness. Thankfully, people like Dr. Shefali are providing the tools and safe spaces for anyone who’s experienced trauma to not let it define them any longer.
There are usually two pathways to start to heal our trauma, and Dr. Shefali explains why hitting rock-bottom can be a blessing in disguise.
It’s not easy to recognize traumas of the past — we put them away and not think about them. I know from my experience that I focused on accomplishing and achieving and being significant and being seen because I didn’t feel seen as a kid. There are two pathways to dealing with trauma — one is voluntarily and the other involuntarily. Very few people do it voluntarily, and Dr. Shefali explains the difference between the two.
“[Voluntary is a desire to] undo my patterns. I went on a spiritual quest when I was 21 [which is] very unusual. I was fascinated by self-work, [and] I knew that was my path. I entered it without any trauma.” – Dr. Shefali
The involuntary way is how most people enter into the deeper work required, though. Usually, an event occurs that’s traumatic, and we feel we’re going to break down.
“You have to really hit rock-bottom. What does that mean? As a therapist, I want rock-bottom for me. It’s not amazing, but it’s not terrible. Hitting rock-bottom is [when we no longer hold onto] our ego or false self. All the ways we were pretending don’t work anymore. That’s why I call it ‘the gift of rock-bottom’ because when you get to that place, most people freak out, but therapists [know] this is your portal because you’re finally without your defenses. The athlete doesn’t work anymore. The comedian doesn’t work, the charmer doesn’t work anymore. The pretty girl doesn’t work — nothing’s working. How amazing. Now you get to go deep to figure out who you are without those roles.” – Dr. Shefali
One of the most difficult parts of this process is giving ourselves the space to tell people organically and not feel compelled that we ‘have to’ tell anyone within specific time frames. We owe it to ourselves to focus on our process and not allow the outside world to dictate how fast we move or who we share this journey with.
Of course, this becomes challenging when we’re in committed relationships, and Dr. Shefali provides some insights into how we can reframe old patterns in disagreements.
Being in an intimate relationship where the other person is yelling or screaming because they are angry or blaming can become challenging. How should you respond when they are yelling at you?
“At first, you’re going to respond in the typical way, which is to fight back. When you begin to see that this is the dance, at some point, somebody has to stop the pattern and go, ‘Oh, we have been here before.’ Somebody has to break the pattern, then the other one has to fall because they have to dance alone. The most beautiful gift we can give our partners is to say, ‘I see that you’re hurting. I know you want to make it about me, but I can’t play this game right now.” – Dr. Shefali
This is a powerful lesson to understand — we can’t become part of somebody else’s drama. It’s incredibly difficult, and you’ll need to decide whether you can keep growing with this person. These aren’t questions that can be answered immediately, and if we truly want to grow with our partners, we must be willing to walk the journey for years as they do their own internal work.
If you are listening or watching right now and you’ve realized you’re having an awakening, perhaps that you’ve never felt safe — maybe you still don’t. Dr. Shefali offers us practical steps to optimize our awakening as we move forward.
“This is a powerhouse moment, and now they have to take themselves straight to a therapist. [There is nothing else more important] because you have to uncover the patterns now. Meditation is huge. I’ve been meditating since I was 21, which gives me the wisdom to understand the cravings of the ego. That’s why I teach East-meets-West psychology and spirituality because both together were beautiful in my life, but I needed both.” – Dr. Shefali
It’s okay to know you can’t do this on your own — you don’t have to figure it out alone. Allow someone to support you and coach you through it.
Just like an athlete would become his or her best self to win the world series — they wouldn’t do it on their own. It’s important to recognize how beneficial help is when we consider how many areas in life we naturally accept it — we wouldn’t write a book without an editor and we don’t go to school without teachers.
“We don’t do [inner work] because the very thing that blocks us from doing it is the very thing that blocks us from thinking we need to do inner work to go and get help. It’s the ego that I’m perfect. Everyone thinks they’re perfect yet, everyone I have met has been broken in such a significant way.” – Dr. Shefali
By reaching out to a professional, we will heal and use our experience to move forward without allowing our hidden traumas to negatively affect our present. We can also learn how to set appropriate boundaries in our newfound awareness.
After years of self-work and her own rock bottom two years prior, Dr. Shefali has learned to set boundaries by understanding that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to what doesn’t align with who she authentically is. She’s intentional about who she keeps in her life, and she’s no longer driven by a desire to please or not hurt people — this is a skill we can all master.
“It can only come after arduous self-knowledge — you have to know who you are. I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out ‘Who am I? Why am I here? What makes me the most joyous being in this one body? How am I going to make this life the most liberated, abundant, buoyant life?’ It’s up to me. I [have] to create it, I [have to] curate it. It’s very intentional now, but I say ‘no’ a lot, which I never used to do. I used to say ‘yes.’” – Dr. Shefali
Just because she’s curating her life and saying ‘no’ to things that don’t align with her authentic self doesn’t mean she doesn’t have conflict. She offers some advice on how to discern negative responses.
“When it’s a stranger, you know it’s projection. When it’s a deeply held relationship, I will clean it up. I love to do that [with] somebody who I honor, then I’m in a relationship. If I’m not in a relationship, I’ve learned to let it go. They can project whatever they want and they have a right to project, but if there’s no inroad to their consciousness, you’ve got to walk away. You got to disengage.” – Dr. Shefali
When someone’s throwing their anger projections onto you, they’re trying to give you a gift of trash and you can either receive and take the gift or say, ‘No, thanks!’
We can empower ourselves not to blame them. Instead of expecting them to be different, we can simply walk away.
Guys, this episode is jam-packed with so much valuable information that I couldn’t fit everything into this post. To get the full benefit of Dr. Shefali’s wisdom, listen to the full episode for detailed information, and don’t forget to share with a friend who might be going through a tough time right now.
Head over to Dr. Shefali’s website at www.drshefali.com, where you can find out more details about her practice, her new book A Radical Awakening, and much more. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram.
If you enjoyed this conversation, please make sure to spread the message of greatness and inspire someone else in your life. It would be really great if you could also tag Dr. Shefali, @doctorshefali, and me, @lewis howes, on Instagram with a screenshot of this episode and your greatest takeaways from it.
I want to acknowledge Dr. Shefali for constantly evolving herself and growing, shedding, and creating information for us to awaken ourselves and heal our pain. I know this is challenging work, and the fact that she is in service to support and help people in their healing journey is such a gift. I acknowledge her for being that gift to so many people.
I love to finish off each episode by asking my guest what their definition of greatness is:
“Daring to be real and authentic.” – Dr. Shefali
If you’d like to listen to our previous conversation about conscious parenting, you can head over to episode 526 and listen to her wisdom on that subject as well.
I want to leave you with this quote from Brittany Burgunder who said, “Hold yourself back or heal yourself back together. You decide.” If no one has told you lately — remember that you are loved, you are worthy, and you matter. I’m so grateful for you, and you know what time it is, it’s time to go out there and do something great.