Welcome to the Atheists in Recovery Podcast, where we talk about finding hope in recovery. And now your host, Dr. Adina Silvestri
Adina Silvestri 0:28
Hello Atheists in Recovery land and welcome to Episode 15 of the Atheists in Recovery podcast. And today’s episode is going to be all about relational recovery. I thought that this would be a good episode for us to have. Because being in relationships is hard. Whether you’re sober or not, but when you’re sober you have to get to know you’re sober self again. And for some of us, that could be a lot of work, and then also the relationships that you had, when you were in the throes of addiction. Those may not be the same relationships that you want to keep. And so Rebecca and I talk about exercises to get in touch with who we are and the practice of showing up in the world. And then also how we show up in the presence of others and what that looks like. For some of us we’ve never been truly honest with our thoughts and our feelings. And so having those conversations with yourself and then with others, is going to be it’s going to be a new way of thinking and an new way of living and so I hope you I hope you enjoy this episode. Okay, on to my guest, Rebecca, Rebecca is an LCSWR and a relationship therapist, mentor, creator of the Connectfulness method for restoring the connection to self others and the world. After years of witnessing clients and having deep conversations about life, love and legacy, she created the Connectfulness Practice Podcast,
Rebecca realized that all the big things we struggle with fear, imposter syndrome, and not-enoughness, you name it to come back to the same thing, disconnection. She created the Connectfulness method to bypass all the symptoms of disconnection and address the root cause allowing you to work towards wholeness in all areas of your life. She’s excited to help you create your own Connectfulness practice so you can integrate your whole life and bring your signature work to the world. Rebecca is licensed psychotherapist for 15 years and her practice is located in New Paltz, New York, one of those very difficult to pronounce upstate New York Cities.
Okay, here we go, Rebecca, welcome to the show.
Rebecca Wong 3:14
Thanks for having me Adina.
So I thought we would start with your spiritual background from childhood. So let’s, let’s start way in the beginning.
Sure. I grew up I guess in a, in a Jewish household, sort of.
It was a conservative family, but my paternal grandparents were both Holocaust survivors. So I’d say that it was more rich in
kind of the remembering of what my immediate family members had endured, as opposed to really rich in any kind of cultural or, or religious teachings. I went to Hebrew school and I probably learned how to sound out Hebrew, but I didn’t really learn What the words I was speaking meant I got butts foot. Again, it was mostly about sounding things out and performance. So it took a while for me to come into a spiritual place that really felt like it was mine.
There’s there’s been a lot of work around that throughout my life, but
I don’t I can’t really say I don’t know, the underpinnings of it. We’re kind of were given to me in my childhood, but not through a organized religion kind of setting, if that makes sense.
Yeah. And you said your family were Holocaust survivors?
Rebecca Wong: my paternal grandparents.
Adina Silvestri: And was that part of the discussion growing up?
Rebecca Wong: always.
Unknown Speaker 4:45
Yeah, I mean, it was. It was unbelievable. It was,
Rebecca Wong 4:49
you know, little little things from sitting in the lap of you know, some of the people that love you more than anything in the world and chasing numbers that are tattooed on their arms and Wondering what those are about his little children will wonder about freckles and body hair and all the other things that they come across. and beginning to hear a little stories from a really young age of things like you’re the reason that we’re alive. You know, we, we live to meet you things along lines. So that that became a container that I grew up within that, that remembering that loving that knowing that we were the reason me my sister, my family, those who came after the descendants of my ancestors were the reason for living.
Adina Silvestri: Hmm, yeah, I love that. And that definitely had an impact on your identity and Sure. Your formation of self.
Rebecca Wong: Yeah, I’m a therapist. I hold space
Adina Silvestri: Right, right. So let’s talk a little bit about your therapeutic work. So your work and also your podcast is called connected wellness. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about that
Rebecca Wong: I work from a relational framework. And I really believe that suffering just kind of is it’s part of life, and the rootstock. We all have rootstock, we all have something that we can send her back into. And that’s the source of our healing. And then my method that I bring to it is connected illness. And so the way that I see this is that in the face of really deep disconnection of wounds of traumas of everything that’s so harsh and happening all around us, that we have to try to do something different if we want to move forward. And I believe that the way to do that is by getting in touch with the rootstock, that stuff that grounds you the stuff that is you that’s truly only you. And so, doing this work connects you back to yourself and It’s that like micro and macro, it creates a shift in your relationships because it creates a shift within your relationship to yourself. And it starts to see to teach you how to come into and intend to how to attend to your relationships, all of them, the relationship with yourself, the relationship with others, the relationship with the world as a whole.
Adina Silvestri: Yeah, that’s great. I love that. And so, as you know, our our listeners are individuals that are in long term recovery or recovering. And so there’s that that that piece that they need to get familiar with again, and that relationship with with self and with others. How would you go about telling someone how to do that.
Rebecca Wong: I think
I come from a place of not telling people how to do it.
But I come from a place of helping guide people to tap into their own wisdom to what they already know. But because of generations upon generations of conditioning of what’s been passed down to us inherited family trauma, also inherited resilience. Just the makeup and the shape of the stories that we tell ourselves, we have gotten to a place where in many cases, all of us a lot of us are kind of going through the world
with a kind of like a willful blindness. Many times
it’s the it’s parts of ourselves that we have gone blind to, and so a lot of the work is about going within. It’s not about what to do. It’s about settling enough to sit with the discomfort to say With the pain to sit with the things that feel calm, which is all often just as hard
start finding our way back to ourself, and that can often be through holding a myriad of feelings all at the same time. And learning how to how to sit with that how to be in the presence of the self.
Adina Silvestri: Yeah, yeah. I love the part where you’re, we talked about settling in with the pain and sounds scary.
Yeah, at first it can be but you know, the alternative is to continue to be blind.
Right? Because it’s,
that pain is what you know, whatever kind of addiction we’re talking about, whether it’s an addiction to a chemical substance, or it’s an addictive behavior, or it’s addictive to love or relationships or sex or whatever we’re talking about. We’re talking about trying to find a way to cover that up, and to numb ourselves out from it. And so this is the alternative, the alternative is to sit with it, to be with it. And to have the courage to, to, in essence, sit with ourselves to see where our our own hurt and our pain and our wounds are and
enter them with love.
Perhaps love that we didn’t
otherwise experience or, you know, there’s a lot of other components and pieces that can come into that. But it’s learning to give ourselves the things that we need it and also to set the limits for ourselves that maybe we never set for us. In order to do that I often will teach my clients how to tap into their own wisdom to access that guidance.
Are you able to give a couple of examples of how you might do that?
Yeah, you know, there’s there’s a few that I have borrowed from other teachers one of my teachers is Dr. Clarissa Pinkel Estes. And she teaches this fabulous exercise where it’s, it’s sort of like a meditative state that you go into. And a dream like a dreamy kind of state. And in that place, you close your eyes, you put your feet on the floor, and you meet your hundred year old self. And then you ask him or her a series of questions like
What do you know at 100? That I don’t know now?
Or what would you have me do?
so that I may not miss out on the rest of my life.
And oftentimes, you know, even even if we just get small little answers, they can be incredibly profound. I know the first time I asked myself or my hundred year old saw some of these questions one of the answers I got that was so funny and so playful, was I needed to roll down who’s
coming from this like, you know,
hag like version of myself
Rebecca Wong: 12:23
which I really embrace
Rebecca Wong 12:27
the playfulness, you know like that,
what kind of messages that that that if we want to not miss out on the rest of our life, we have to be willing to get dirty we have to be willing to get messy we have to be willing to roll down more health.
That’s that’s the beginning of tapping into wisdom
and wisdom that comes from an inside of each of us. So that’s just an example of what came up for me one time but I’ve witnessed clients come up with amazingly profound answers to those types of questions as well.
Yeah, and in my practice, I do something so But I call it Yeah, let’s let’s talk to your wife self, let’s tap into your wise self. And what wisdom would your wise self give you? And some of the answers that that that people come up with are just amazing. Yeah, that
another thing that that I find to be pretty helpful
is to help guide people to
breathe more with their mouth open.
Rebecca Wong: 13:33
Rebecca Wong 13:35
we all tend to clench somewhere at our faces are one of the first place that we clench. And so when I’m sitting with someone, and I noticed that jock Lynch just to remind them, to open them, open their mouth, relax their jaw, and breathe with their mouth open. That seems to also begin to just unravel a little bit of that clench
Yeah, yeah, no, that’s great. I know even with myself, if I’m in a scared situation or an unsure situation, I have those shallow breaths. And it’s Yeah, it makes a big difference to take a big breath and a thoughtful breath. So I work with individuals that that have anxiety and depression along with an addiction. And part of the anxiety is fear of being seen. And I know that you address that in some of your work. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yeah, I think I mean, I think this goes back to the practice of connected wellness as well, which I believe often begins with what I call the practice of being seen. And that means that we have to be willing for us to see ourselves and understand kind of what that all the parts of us the parts we enjoy about ourselves the parts about ourselves that are sticky or difficult. The parts about like we have to be able to and unwilling to kind of ownership. I’m sorry, my let’s say that you just did
I apologize I could say it again if you want.
Adina Silvestri 15:33
Rebecca Wong 15:35
we have to be willing to own our stuff. And
but that’s a really important part in here. Because in order to to be seen by others and to be able to tolerate being seen by others, we have to have a good enough relationship with ourselves that we can
we can manage the stories that are coming up in our heads about what other other people may be thinking. Because we’re making those stories up, for the most part, we don’t know what others are really thinking or feeling about us. And you know, as, as Bernie Brown says that if we want to get in the arena, most of the stuff that that other people are going to throw back at us is all stuff that we have already seen within ourselves. So we have to be willing to rumble we have to be willing to do that deep work. And I think a lot of the ways that we do that are by just getting really responsible about our, you know, the places where we’re not happy with our stuff, where our stuff grates on us, and what I mean by responsible is that we slow things down, and we start looking for our ability to respond to whatever is triggering the stuff that we’re not feeling good about that we have an ability there.
Unless we put on those blinders again.
Yeah. And putting on the blinders is so much easier than dealing with the stuff.
Adina Silvestri 17:10
Rebecca Wong 17:12
And, you know, to be honest, and to be really fair, and
we’re taught from birth to put on blinders. So many of us are born into worlds where, you know, our mothers are pumped full of drugs before we’re even born. And those those drugs get into our systems we, we go through life being conditioned to be this way or that way and not to have all of our own thoughts or feelings.
And so that those internalized oppressions become part of what we’re working through here. In addition to all the other traumas,
we have to take off a lot of masks and get back down to the root of who we are.
Adina Silvestri: Yeah, and I love that That. So I’ve been there’s been a lot of Twitter chatter lately. And this is not a new concept. But but that individuals in recovery can’t work on themselves if they are also in a relationship. What would you say to somebody that is in that issue or in that in that space?
Rebecca Wong: I think we’re all in relationship, right? I mean, whether we’re in a romantic love relationship, or we’re in relationships with other people in our lives, our family or friends, or colleagues, ourselves, I don’t know if it’s possible to be human without relationship. And I don’t know if it’s possible to learn to recover outside of the context of relationship. I think recovery has a lot to do with relationship. My guess is what that chatter is really about. Maybe about kind of the codependent cycle that occurs in a lot of addictive relationships and that it’s not so much about the relationship but it’s about the way that
that the relationship may support the addiction.
Adina Silvestri: Yeah right. So say this is not a codependent relationship
Rebecca Wong: if there’s addiction there there probably is codependency.
Adina Silvestri: Yeah. And how would you suss that out?
Rebecca Wong: Um Well here’s the thing about codependency it’s it’s about how we show up. Are you familiar with the work of Pia Melody
Adina Silvestri 20:02
say that name again?
Rebecca Wong 20:03
Adina Silvestri: no.
Rebecca Wong: So Pia Melody talks a lot about codependence. And here’s the thing about codependency. There’s basically five symptoms. One is that we understand or codependents have difficulty experiencing appropriate levels of self esteem. codependence also have difficulty setting functional boundaries. codependence also have difficulty owning and expressing their own reality. And they also have difficulty taking care of their adult needs and wants and experience and difficulty experiencing and expressing their reality with moderation.
And I think this probably sums up most of us Right.
And the work is in learning to move from a state where we were all born dependent. And at some point in our growth process, we all become codependent. And the work of being in a healthy adult functional relationship is to learn how to be interdependent. And so we have to learn more about managing our self esteem, managing our boundaries, setting limits for ourselves, loving ourself and being moderate.
Adina Silvestri 21:39
Right, and expressing yourself, you can’t
Rebecca Wong 21:40
Adina Silvestri 21:42
you can’t make me happy. I need to find happiness and joy in my in myself,
Rebecca Wong 21:46
and you’re never going to be able to take care of my needs and wants if I can’t express them to you. And
if I fluctuate really far and all the ends of the spectrum, and I go from here to there really quick I have to I have to learn how to tune in and, and manage that. Because otherwise it’s really difficult for the people in my relationships to understand how I mean, they can’t do that part for me, I have to do that part for me. That’s my responsibility.
Adina Silvestri: Right. Right. And if you didn’t have that, that foundation growing up that what that healthy relationship looks like, there’s, there’s a little bit of work to do.
There’s a lot of work to do. But I believe I really believe in one of my other mentors is Terry Real. Pia was one of his mentors. And Terry Real teaches relational life therapy or relational life living. And this is a form of getting back into healthy relationship with yourself and others. And it’s really a form of what he calls relational recovery
Adina Silvestri 22:56
I like that.
Rebecca Wong 23:04
Can I talk for a minute about self esteem?
Adina Silvestri: Yes, please.
Rebecca Wong: So, the thing is when we’re when we’re kids, many of us are either disempowered or falsely empowered. And when we’re disempowered and we grow up as as adults shows up, and it looks like shame, you know, I’m no good, I can’t do anything, right. I hate myself. I might as well blah, blah, blah. When were falsely empowered, it looks like you’re no good. You can’t do anything, right. I’m gonna look down my nose at you. I might as well just do it all myself. Right. And what is shared by both of these ends of the spectrum is contempt. I have contempt towards myself, or I have contempt towards you. But it’s the same continuum. So I might jump around between the two because I’ve learned contempt really good. But if I get my end so this becomes kind of a foundational perspective, it becomes kind of how we learned to see the world. This is what we mean by moderation. This is where we will have to learn to flip something here. And I really believe that part of the way we flip this is by getting curious and learning to shift from contempt into compassion. So I have compassion for myself, I have compassion for others. Right, this is this is the place where healing begins. And you know, the other piece is that within self esteem, we can either have a form of healthy self esteem which is based on I know that I have an intrinsic value that was born into this world and I’m a good human, as we all are, or it can come from a place of I will find worth in myself when I achieve certain tasks, get certain degrees, buy certain house make a certain amount of money, date a certain part, right like so these are all now or how others think or see me, these are all things that are now outside of us. They don’t come from within. And so in a way, it’s another form of disempowerment or false empowerment. We have to get back to that intrinsic belief in order to have a healthy self esteem.
Adina Silvestri 25:29
Yeah, yeah, I love that. Okay. I thought that we could talk a little bit about sitting with feelings. So there is this crisis of our society of our society. Talk about loneliness. And I thought maybe we could just take a few minutes and talk about what that is. And you know, is it can you just be lonley or is it…can you inhabit solitude? You know, how does that how does that work? Because in a lot of the people that I see it’s, well, you know, I can’t just sit with this this is too hard. This feels too unbearable.
Rebecca Wong 26:16
Yeah, you know, I love talking about this and one of the reasons is I Dr. Estes’s book women who run with the wolves, which was published like 25 years ago, many may have read it. There’s one small little section in there where she talks about the ideology of the word alone.
And it used to mean all one.
So we have shifted it into this thing like I’m lonely. Right? When it used to mean I was connected to source long like a lot to be alone meant to be all one. If you’re all one, you’re part of source your your connected here. It has this I mean, that’s back to the root again. And now we’re in such a frazzled, disconnected state. And I really believe a lot of this is because we don’t sit with ourselves. We’re looking for that external validation instead of the internal knowing.
Adina Silvestri 27:24
Rebecca Wong 27:25
And so your question about how to get there
is in micro practices and small moments, and practicing taking three breaths, in and out, and just focusing on the directionality of your breath. It’s in walking and noticing your feet with each step that you take. It’s it’s little things that you do throughout your day, that bring you back into your awareness of your body. And you do a little bit today and a little bit more tomorrow. And you practice and you play with And you have a little fun with it and you infuse the Curiosity back in to that kind of awareness. Like, I’m starting to chatter right now. Okay, I’m chattering Can you sit with that? Can you sit with it for an extra second? What does that feel like? just bringing that sense of curiosity to it and figuring out what is the best way for you to be with yourself? Do you like to stare at a blank wall? Do you like to go for a walk in the forest? Do you like to walk at the beach and put your feet in the water? Do you like to draw? What’s the thing that makes you feel?
Adina Silvestri 28:35
Rebecca Wong 28:37
Look looking for those states of calmness? I think and learning how to tolerate them is a great beginning.
Yes, right. Yeah. I love that. Instead of trying to fill the void with substances or sex or whatever the thing might be just learning to sit with yourself. Notice what comes up.
Yeah notice what brings you calm you know that’s that’s the thing so often we try to sit with ourselves in places where we’re already dis regulated where we’re already feeling chaos we’re we’re sad we’re we’re grieving we’re we’re so happy that we don’t know how to contain it like there’s there’s so many different components there. But it’s what brings us calm like that’s, that’s an entry point. That I don’t think enough of us start with
just noticing that like, notice.
Noticing where you feel calm, noticing what that feels like in your body. noticing what doesn’t make you feel calm and then trying something else. Maybe it’s gardening, maybe it’s riding a bike, maybe it’s cooking dinner, maybe right. It could be a lot of different things. What brings you calm?
Adina Silvestri 29:55
Yes, yes. And I love the piece about noticing it in your body. That’s huge. That’s huge.
Rebecca Wong 30:02
But I think this is another component with anxiety and depression. I often think of anxiety as being like kind of focused on the future and depression on as being focused on the past. Either way, we’re in our heads, and the place where we’re not is like from the neck down. So we want to drop back into what’s happening in our body. When our toes feel like what is our belly feel like? What is our back feel like we want to come back into our body? Can we loosen up our shoulders?
Adina Silvestri 30:33
Yeah, no, that’s. That’s a great point. Thank you for that. Okay, well, as we wrap up, I just want to ask you one final question. If you could write a phrase on a billboard, for all to see what would it say?
Rebecca Wong 30:54
Lately, it would probably be be explicit with your words. Say what you mean and mean what you say
Adina Silvestri 31:04
Thank you for that Rebecca and what are some of the best ways to to reach you and see all the awesome work that you’re doing?
Rebecca Wong 31:14
So I have, I have a podcast, I have a therapy practice, I run, couples intensives and retreats. And the best way to find out about all of that is at my website, which is connectfulness.com. That’s CONNECTFULNESS.com And you can also find me on Facebook or Instagram at Connectfulness as well.
Adina Silvestri 31:38
Right, well thank you again for being on the show.
Rebecca Wong 31:40
Thank you for having me.
Adina Silvestri 31:43
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