Born into the world as an emotionally sensitive being, I felt the weight of the pain in the world very deeply, very early in life. I also knew that some people experienced more stress, adverse life experiences, and injustice than others, and that some people had more resources and support to cope with their pain. While these inequities are relevant to people of all gender identities, I was particularly struck by the effects on women. I noticed countless incredible and inspiring women who had become so understandably overwhelmed by life’s pain that they were truly suffering ~ haunted by feeling broken, anxious, worthless, incapable, and alone, and continually bombarded by gender stereotypes and impossible societal expectations like:
many were not only coping with the effects of various forms of mistreatment and trauma that disproportionately affect women, but also blaming themselves. All of these experiences fueled the fears, self-doubt, and inner critics that plagued them. It seemed like an epidemic in need of a comprehensive solution and I felt compelled to be a part of it.
At the same time, I also was heartened and inspired to witness so many women live through hardship, and somehow find empowerment, build resilience, and feel fulfilled. Even with immense pain and sorrow, living life with purpose and meaning was still possible. Experiencing joy, awe, and gratitude that was shaped by life’s pain but not controlled or dominated by it, was also possible. Recognizing pain as a part of our shared humanity, as an opportunity for reconnection with ourselves and others, was also possible
I wanted to understand how women could experience similar forms of life pain and end up on different trajectories with different outcomes. I wanted to know how to experience extraordinary pain without extraordinary suffering.
I was drawn to the study of psychology because I wanted to be a part of the force in the world that helped women meet life’s inevitable hardships and pain without the suffering.
Since I believed (and still do) that everyone has this capacity, regardless of who they are or what they have been through, I wanted to be able to understand the core ingredients of healing and resilience so that I could share that information with others.
Over the course of several decades, through a combination of reflecting on observations from my personal and professional experiences, deepening my knowledge of scientific research, and learning complementary and alternative healing methods, answering this question of how to cultivate resilience seemed to boil down to a key nugget:
It may sound simple, but responding to life’s pain in ways that don’t create suffering can be really challenging, because as women, it often involves breaking free from learning and conditioning that has been instilled in us throughout our lifespans. We continue to receive harmful messages from society, our families of origin, friends and other loved ones that can be hard to resist when we don’t have a solid sense of ourselves and what we need and want in life. And even when we do have a clear sense of our purpose, passions, and what matters to us most, we can struggle to know how to live a life guided by our desires and values and to believe we deserve this alignment. Often, we need various circles of support to lean on to facilitate our healing process and concrete, actionable guidance regarding the kinds of tools and approaches that are most likely to help.
Psychology and therapy can offer a powerful combination of support and change that facilitates profound healing. I am deeply grateful for my education and training as a psychologist because there are many evidence-based tools I not only share with others, but also use in my own life. However, I don’t think this traditional paradigm is always sufficient. When it is used in isolation, many women can feel disappointed by the results and see themselves as the problem, rather than the approach. They may believe that the habits and thought patterns that don’t serve them are too ingrained and hard-wired to be changed. They may think that deeper change is not possible and resign themselves to living their lives as they currently are.
To complement and enhance what I could offer women from the perspective of psychological science, I sought out (and continue to seek out) advanced trainings in a diverse range of Eastern and Western healing modalities like Ayurveda, yoga, and meditation. I wanted to be able to offer a truly holistic and integrative approach to change. Since every tool has its strengths and limitations, I have found that they can have a powerfully synergistic effect when used together.
I believe that change takes time and is not linear. I believe there are more approaches to healing than there are human beings in the world. I also believe that deeper transformation can occur when someone is walking alongside us and meeting us with attunement, empathy, acceptance and compassion. It is often through this partnership that we can access and live out our capacities for resilience, because we weren’t meant to walk this journey alone. I want women to be active participants in this partnership and to feel empowered to choose strategies that resonate with them so that they can cultivate personalized plans for change that honor their values and the realities of their lives.
With these values at its core, I created an approach that blends science-informed knowledge from psychology with wisdom from holistic and integrative healing.
but more often than not have been discouraged from and punished for accessing their true power and vitality. By taking steps toward growth and healing, we are actively repatterning what we have been taught to believe about ourselves as women. We are flipping the script that self-care is selfish and indulgent, asserting ourselves is aggressive, and hurting other people’s feelings should be avoided at all costs.