Becoming Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: Interview with Todd Malloy
Time to Rise — Ask the Author Series
Todd Malloy is a respected love, sex and relationship therapist. But the path to where he is today wasn’t a straight path, or an easy one to walk.
As one of the 29 authors in my new book, Time to Rise, Todd takes us on that journey, sharing the lessons he learned the hard way.
Dr. Andrea — So Todd, given your standing in your profession, what was the thought process that allowed you to be so vulnerable and share such a personal story with the public in Time to Rise?
Todd — I think it is really important for us therapists to let our patients know that we are human too. I want them to know that I’m not all academia and books, but that I too have needed to apply my studies to my own life, all while learning and growing.
In fact, in a therapeutic setting I will often say to my clients, “It’s okay to be human”. We believe that we are supposed to be something more, we have to be perfect. But that’s not real life. I know it’s a story that people project, but it’s far from reality.
And life is always going to be in transition. It’s not a fixed, straight line. There will be bumps in the road, and we will always be growing.
We are a part of universal order, and if you look at the natural processes of life, take an apple tree for example — just think about the process it has to go through.
A seed is planted in darkness. It goes deeper into that darkness before it sprouts enough to see light. Through that transformation under ground there is a tearing of the skin, before it twists and turns it way up and breaks ground. And we go through a similar process — this is the natural order of life.
Dr. Andrea — And you can apply this to your own story. In Time to Rise, your chapter is called Rise and Shine. You really paint a very vivid picture of what you had to overcome in terms of stereotypes.
Todd — I’m African-American and I was born in the 60’s, just before the absolving of Jim Crow. So that was the mindset at the time. And if you look at recent times, although it was wonderful to have President Obama in the White House, if you look at some of the negativity projected on his wife, Michelle, there are still issues and some things haven’t changed that much, still.
Then add that I’m being raised by a single mother, and from a societal perspective, that says I’m “not going to do well in life”.
If you take on those personas that people project onto you, it causes so much disillusion.
Dr. Andrea — In your experience, you didn’t let those projected stereotypes limit you, although you were very aware of them. So what do you think it is, at the very core of us, defines the person who is going to defy all of those stereotypes about where they came from and what’s possible?
Todd — You know, I look at this from a spiritual perspective. I think that there is something that was placed in all of us, before we were placed in the womb. I believe we all come here with a purpose, a destiny to tap into.
I think this has to be cultivated — perhaps through learning from mentors. My mother said something to me that I will never forget. “You are not defined by the six blocks that you live in.”
So when I looked at my environment, I realized that I could have been consumed by it. Even as a kid, I knew life had to be better than just what I was experiencing at that time.
Dr. Andrea — So if each of us has a gift, purpose, or experience that we are supposed to live, how do we tap into that?
Todd — We tap into it by understanding that there really is no such thing as failure. But each experience we have is a lesson. You can re-script these experiences to make them more empowering.
Dr. Andrea — But what is it that allows us to take difficulties and turn them into empowerment? What’s the trick?
Todd — It’s re-writing the stories that we tell ourselves about events, traumas, or things that are projected onto us. The bible says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.
Look at the story you have created about a certain situation, and assess if that is TRULY the only option. It that truly the only story that can be created from your experience. To make it more practical, I have my clients walk back through their story, slowly. This helps people to reclaim their power and take some control. It’s a process of reclaiming their voice.
Dr. Andrea — Something I’ve heard you say before, in previous interviews, is that we have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. For so many people who have experienced trauma, been judged or projected upon, they really are uncomfortable. So how do we get to that place of becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable? Tell me about that.
Todd — First and foremost, it goes back to recognizing that we are a part of the natural order of life. For example, think about the growing process, and how while you’re growing you are hurting. Remember your teenage years? You’re tired, your joints hurt, and you feel awkward. That’s the natural order of life.
It’s important to recognize that being comfortable in the uncomfortable doesn’t mean I will always be laughing and joking. It means that the pain won’t stop me.
Sure, I can complain and delay my process, but I’m still going to go through the pain. The key is not letting the pain keep you stuck. It’s recognizing that this too will pass.
Dr. Andrea — Here’s the challenge. When we are in pain, we don’t always take the most mature perspective on things. Sometimes we want to kick and scream and even cry. So for somebody who is dealing with tremendous physical or emotional pain — how could they get to the point of accepting that their pain is a part of their growth?
Todd — A way I start with some clients is to give their pain a voice. As a society we are taught to keep thoughts and feelings to yourself; children should be seen and not heard, and then if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all…
When a client is talking through their anger and trauma, what comes up gives us the tools to start shifting things, and even get a new perspective.
Dr. Andrea — I like that. It starts to paint a picture of our lives beyond the present pain. And can you tell us a little about what you explain in Time to Rise, about the twists and turns in your path?
Todd — So, for an example, I always knew I wanted to be a therapist. And yet, my first career was as an engineer. I took the safe path, and I listened to what society said I could be — at first.
Through the pain of my own journey to be what I wanted to be, I hit rock bottom before I started to get on track. I won’t ever forget this. In the early nineties, I was sat at my desk working on a phone design.
I asked myself, “If I design one more bell or whistle, what does it matter?”
And my Self replied, “I can’t do this anymore”.
This was the beginning of my transformation. And so there and then, I had to glean from my own story the resilience I had developed over the years. I had to cultivate the strength to push the rudder on my ship really hard, and correct the course of my life.
My son came out of the womb with a pencil in his hand! He is an artist. But I’ve noticed that as soon as he tries not to be an artist, life starts to go in a bad direction for him. Even though the younger generation are more open to being their authentic selves and following their own paths; our generation, who are not so open to this, are still influencing them.
Dr. Andrea — It’s pretty clear that when we go through a breakdown, really there is nowhere else to go but up. I know the power of having an inspiring image that pulls you through your darkest times, having had that experience myself. In your Time to Rise story, you share your idea of functioning as your greatest self. Can you explain more about what that means to you?
Todd — So a big part of it is learning how to give yourself a break! Too often we are focused on the negative; what we don’t have as opposed to what we have. This goes back to my days in corporate America. We know that each day we are supposed to build on what we have learned. We learn from mistakes, carry that knowledge into the next day, refining the process each time. And throughout this, we do grow, but we are not expected to be perfect.
If major corporations can make millions and billions of dollars with imperfect systems, then we can apply this to ourselves too. It allows us to take ourselves off the hook and acknowledge the learning process, and that we don’t need to be perfect.
These things are not failures, they are lessons learned.
If you would like to learn more about Todd, visit his counseling website at innerpeacecounselingcenter.com.
To get your copy of Time to Rise with our special free gifts, head here to see more, order your copy, and be inspired: www.timetorise.me
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If you’d like help writing, publishing, or promoting your book, or if you’d like to co-author a collaborative book, visit us online or call for a free consultation. Call +1 (707) 776–6310 or send an email to andrea@MakeYourMarkGlobal.com
Originally published at www.huffingtonpost.com on December 18, 2017.