Nobody is broken, just disconnected: Interview with Dr. Gayle Friend
Time to Rise — Ask the Author Series
Dr. Gayle Friend is one of the contributing authors to my book, Time to Rise. With the chapter title — Life’s not all rainbows and orgasms — you get a sense of where we are headed with this interview.
Gayle is a Doctor of Human Sexuality, an intimacy expert, author and keynote speaker. On a typical day, she is helping others with their relationships. But in Time to Rise, she shares an experience with a relationship of her own.
Dr. Andrea — I have to commend you for sharing such a personal story. You really brought it; your heart and your vulnerability. And with the whole world, no less!
Dr. Gayle — I have to admit — this was a little gut wrenching to write!
Dr. Andrea — I’d love to start with an area you are an expert in. I want to talk about the effect that our childhood trauma or drama has on our intimate relationships.
Dr. Gayle — So here’s my experience of that. From the outside looking in, our family was an average, middle-class one. We lived in a nice neighborhood, had nice cars. There was love. But there was also a sense of disconnect.
I have a brother and a sister, and I’m sure their perspectives will be different from mine. We all have different experiences and perspectives, every one of us. But for me, my experience was that I wasn’t really feeling the love in my family. I didn’t feel it in my body and soul.
When we are little kids, we don’t have the language or the understanding to process what’s going on. So what happens is that our young minds make up a story about what’s going on. It could be, “I’m not loveable”, or “I’m not good enough”, as a typical example.
So my story from early childhood was that I wasn’t loveable, and I didn’t matter. Nothing I could do was good enough.
And I craved that feeling of love. I knew it was there, but I didn’t feel it. So as I grew up I ended up turning to sex as a substitute for that feeling. It was at least a connection, even if it wasn’t love.
Dr. Andrea — So when did you realize that this wasn’t ‘it’ — was it the emptiness after sex, or something else?
Dr. Gayle — Well I didn’t really have one of those ‘ah-ha’ moments around this. It took up my late teens and early adulthood, and even some of my middle-age years. It was more like turning up a light on a dimmer switch — then all of a sudden, “Oh, this is what love is!”
This was a hindsight revelation for me.
Dr. Andrea — And you had been through a marriage and a divorce in that time, too. So when you did look back, what did you recognize?
Dr. Gayle — I understood that my first husband and I, although we both had big hearts, did not know how to love. Not at all. We had both carried so many childhood wounds through to our relationship, we hadn’t worked on ourselves, and we just didn’t know how to love one another.
Dr. Andrea — And when did you get the realization that you deserve love?
Dr. Gayle — Again, it was like the dimmer switch analogy. It was slow to happen. I had bursts of it at different times too.
I guess the first time was at the end of my first marriage when things were really falling apart. I was in a deep depression at the time. I noticed that neither of us could love because we were both protecting our hearts so closely. So again, I could feel that love was there somehow, but I couldn’t access it.
I got to a point where my resilience stepped in, and I knew then that I had to step out to find it. I promised myself to never accept feeling unloved in a relationship again, and I made a vow to find love.
But I didn’t know how to start, or what I was going to do about it! I just knew I was never going to have what I’d had again. And that was when a girlfriend of mine brought me a book, A Woman’s Worth, by Marianne Williamson. Now that was an “ah-ha” for me! Every single word of that book resonated for me. And then I was like, “okay, I am worthy”.
That was the start for me — the understanding that I had ‘worth’ inside of me already.
Dr. Andrea — I know that one of your mottos is that “intimacy is the gateway to great sex” — as intimacy is where the baggage is, the stuff that gets in the way. Was this what was missing for you and your first husband?
Dr. Gayle — Oh yes! A really big thing I’ve learnt over the years is that in order to be intimate with a partner, you have to have intimacy with yourself first. You have to know yourself, and be in touch with your vulnerable side.
When you know your own baggage and work through it, you’re not projecting it onto the other person. I didn’t intimately know myself back then.
And it’s intimacy with your mind too. For example, knowing what your limiting beliefs are. Even being able to challenge them.
Dr. Andrea — And in your work, how do you help clients work through their limiting beliefs? If someone grew up not feeling loved, or good enough, where do you start the work?
Dr. Gayle — It goes back to what I was saying about the childhood stories we create. For example, if a parent swats our hand for some reason, perhaps we have misbehaved, we are too young to take that perspective. So instead, the story may be, “I must be really bad”.
As we go through life and we come up against similar experiences, that feeling, that old story, gets reinforced. And it’s every little hurt that happens — it doesn’t have to be big drama or trauma. So when I work on this with clients, I don’t even need to know the full story. What we are working with is how the experience made them feel.
The stories are cemented into our psyche with emotion. And if there is no emotion associated with our story, then it is just a mental picture. So we go into what the emotions are, and I use a number of different modalities to work on this. Forgiveness is a big part here. Forgiveness of self, as well as the other person involved in the story. We might use letter writing, for example, to help change the emotion around the story.
Dr. Andrea — I like that you are working at the emotional level. As we can all justify the actions of others in our past on an intellectual level, but not really feel the change — emotions do tend to get stuck there, especially with our inner child. I really think this is critical.
So, I’d love to talk about the relationship that came next, after your divorce.
Dr. Gayle — So this was an interesting place for me. I was still using sex as a vehicle to love, and I hadn’t really woken up to what I was doing yet. I didn’t really feel I had gotten my bearings after the divorce.
I had sworn off men, but when I met this new guy, my girls talked me into seeing him. They were 9 and 11 years at the time — so I asked if they liked him, and should I see him. They were so keen. And if they hadn’t been, I wouldn’t now be with the guy that I’ve been with for 17 years!
At the time I was new to my spiritual journey, and I hadn’t got to looking at all my deep wounds and starting to work through them. So the relationship, while it started out great — lots of laughter and really good sex — later started to slide. Because I hadn’t worked on my baggage yet, I still didn’t have that intimacy, and I started to feel lonely again, like I had in my marriage.
And I had promised myself I was never going to feel lonely in a relationship again — so then panic set in! I started pushing and blaming. I put it all on him, and he did the same in return. We were both protecting ourselves.
Dr. Andrea — And you told me that you had gone to therapy together. Can you tell us about that?
Dr. Gayle — Therapy was after I hit my rock bottom. I was feeling loneliness and anxiety. I felt like I was doing everything I could, so why was this happening? I really started to panic.
This was where I really came face to face with myself. I couldn’t ignore any longer that the only common denominator through all my struggles, was me.
All of a sudden, all that blaming I did, came back and hit me like a truck. I didn’t feel like life was worth living anymore. I had nothing to give or to live for, or so I thought. I started planning to end my life in a hotel; I wrote the notes and planned the location — a safe place where my family wouldn’t find me.
Dr. Andrea — What saved you from going there?
Dr. Gayle — Source. I was standing there, looking at the hotel, feeling nothing. Complete numbness. Something I had never felt before, and have never felt since. So I stood there and I literally heard a voice, saying, “go home”. And I saw a vision of my daughters. So home I went. I don’t remember the drive, I was still numb and it was all very surreal.
Dr. Andrea — How did you rebuild your life after this?
Dr. Gayle — Well, I got home, and it was okay. Something had told me to stay here. So I spoke with my husband, and I started doing the counseling. I was getting a stack of books delivered every week, learning more and more about spirituality.
Dr. Andrea — Have you heard the voice since?
Dr. Gayle — Oh, absolutely. It’s very present now, and it grew as I got stronger and healthier. Mediation helps and is a very freaky experience for me now. I get visions and downloads all the time.
Dr. Andrea — And today, how does this experience show up in your work? You have told me that you frequently work with people who tell you they feel ‘broken’. I know that feeling. Is that really common, and how do you approach that?
Dr. Gayle — Yes I do, really often. And I’ve felt that way too.
In the past, when clients said that to me, I’d want to jump in with compassion. I’d want to reassure them that they do not need fixing, therapy is just a ‘tweak’ to get them back on track.
But over time I started to wonder if I was actually doing them a disservice by saying that. Even though I still know they are not really broken. So I started reframing that.
I ask them now to think about taming wild horses. You know how that process of taming them to be ridden is referred to as “breaking their spirits”.
And don’t we do that with our kids? Kids are in their essence and full of energy, and as busy parents that drives us mad. So we start telling them to calm down, stop being that way, and perhaps even asking them, “who do you think you are?”
What we don’t realize is that we are breaking the child’s spirit. And that happens in sports too, when coaches just smash the spirits out of kids. Of course, we internalize these messages, and then we start to smash our own spirit down.
In society in general, we do have this disconnect, because we don’t honor our exuberance, our spirit. So when people are telling me they feel ‘broken’, I get them to look at it a different way. I explain that they are not broken, their connection to their spirit has been. But not broken as in shattered glass, more like a bad Internet connection, which you can get back.
Overall, it is my belief that in life, we are all just doing the best we can. We all have wounds that came from previous generations, and blame does absolutely nothing for anybody. So instead, we need to learn to feel the emotions and work through what needs addressing for each of us.
If you would like to learn more about Dr. Gayle Friend, visit her website here http://www.drgaylefriend.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: http://www.timetorise.me/
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Originally published at makeyourmarkglobal.com on January 22, 2018.