Dec. 6, 2022

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (with Nicole Law)

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EPISODE 63                     

In this bonus episode to round off 2022, Nicole Law interviews me about my thoughts on emotionally healthy spirituality. I speak candidly about the pitfalls of approaching our spiritual life without attention to emotional health and what we can do to take steps towards a more integrated and human spirituality.

This conversation was originally published over 8 mini episodes on nourishthesoul podcast.

Share this episode via thisepisode page.

(00:00:31) - Introduction
(00:01:46) - 2022 Recap
(00:05:45) - Catch Me On Social Media
(00:07:15) - What is 'Emotionally Healthy Spirituality'
(00:17:28) - Some Examples On Emotionally Unhealthy Spirituality
(00:26:02) - Befriending Our Emotions
(00:30:45) - Spiritual Bypassing
(00:38:19) - Why Practice Emotionally Healthy Spirituality?
(00:47:55) - How To Practice Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
(00:52:17) - Why Is It So Difficult?
(00:54:51) - What Can We Do To Live In Our Deeper Layers?
(01:00:22) - Resources To Tap Into
(01:09:09) - An Invitation
(01:11:07) - Conclusion
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If we do this right in the sense of this emotionally healthy spirituality – you'll find that over five years, ten years, you really grow. You really change, evolve, blossom and bear fruit in the unique personhood that God created you to be. You should be more yourself and not less, and have more capacity to love, and not less.

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host, Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax, and listen on to Becoming Me.

Hello again, dear listeners. Okay, so a few months ago I was interviewed on the podcast Nourish the Soul by Nicole Law about – or on the topic of emotionally healthy spirituality. So, this interview was added over, I think, eight mini episodes on her podcast. And with her permission and blessing, I will be sharing the full conversation in one episode here because I think it's a great way to round off this year where we have talked about – or I, you know – I've covered topics on healing; inner-healing, inner-child healing, on interior life and leadership.

[00:01:46] 2022 RECAP
So, those are the two like big themes that has been the focus of 2022. And while I haven't had, you know, episodes where I talk specifically about emotionally healthy spirituality yet, this is actually the underlying, you know, theme – or one of the underlying themes for this entire podcast, right? Because I'm a person of faith myself and in my own journey and history, I went through a lot of – I guess you could say, you know – inauthenticity.

Not because I wanted to be inauthentic, but I didn't know how to be authentic. I was not in touch with myself, with my own needs. I was unaware of my shadows and the wounds that have really affected, you know, the capacity that I have in showing up in relationships with anybody – even with God. So, because of all that, while I took my faith very seriously, I, for many years, you know, invested in learning how to deepen my prayer life.

I went for retreats and spiritual direction. I was handicapped, right? And it took me this ongoing interior journey, and especially the times of failure and humiliation and heartbreak, to begin to realize that – well, God wanted to heal me – not just spiritually, but also to make me whole, right – humanly. Which means emotionally, and also to come into better relationship with the body that He has given me.

So, that's a big part of why the podcast – Becoming Me Podcast – says so much about, you know, getting to know ourselves more deeply, listening to ourselves, being in solitude, growing in wholeness. So, anyway, this is a rather – I enjoyed this interview. This is a, you know, very light-hearted interview. It was quite casual, but I touch on a lot of things that are a big part of my own life. And I think in the life of anyone who, A. has a relationship with God or wishes to build that relationship with God and B. may not be aware of how many things in their lives are actually working against them having a spiritually and emotionally healthy and mature, you know, relationship with God and with neighbour and with themselves.

So, I hope you enjoy this conversation with Nicole. And let me know – you know, send me a message on my Instagram, or drop me an email if you would like me to cover some of these topics, maybe in more depth, in a future season of the Becoming Me Podcast. Okay, so, I hope that you have a great time listening to this.

And in the meantime, while this podcast is on break, and you know, I'm not dropping new episodes – you can still find me on my Instagram. I have two accounts. One is specific to Becoming Me Podcast. But there's another one; my Handle is @animann – where I share, you know, my thoughts, my reflections on making this interior journey, specifically as a person whose faith is very important, right.

I've been always grappling with what does it mean to love the Trinitarian God, you know – to follow Christ in a way that doesn't wound others and myself. In a way that's not legalistic, in a way that allows me to become more and more the human being that God created me to be, right – fully alive.

And how that life can become a blessing to others. So, if that's something that you also are interested in, I invite you to follow me on my Instagram or find me on Facebook. And I also have videos – usually shorter videos, right, where I talk about these kinds of themes and topics, which I publish on a YouTube channel.

Okay, you can go to YouTube and search for "Ann Chats". So, these are just a couple of other places that you can find my content. Apart from this podcast, I hope you enjoy Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.

Nicole: Hi, and welcome back to another episode of Nourish the Soul with Nicole. So, it's been quite interesting that I've been on a few weeks hiatus, I think, from recording podcasts. And I think very timely indeed, to have my dear friend Ann, over here, right – for us to have a conversation on emotionally healthy spirituality.

Yeah, so, Ann is here. And I think, Ann could probably agree that me, maybe taking a break from podcast recording, is maybe one example of being emotionally healthy and understanding boundaries. But maybe Ann, you can like just take us through a little bit about like what exactly is emotionally healthy spirituality and why is it important to us?

Ann:Yeah, sure. Okay, Nicole. So, I remember we came up with this topic because we were talking about the possibility of doing a series on your podcast. And I told you that actually one of the things that I think it's the most important – at least for me, regarding faith – is this topic about emotionally healthy spirituality.

So, okay – so, spirituality, I think it's something that we – you and I were familiar with, right? I mean, your podcast is often about faith, and you know, about getting closer to God; about what it means to be a faithful Catholic and all that. And in my own history, I remember last time, always trying really hard – there's a lot of striving involved, right – for holiness.

We want to be more like Christ, we want to be more like the saints. But in the midst of all that, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that we are human, right? And I don't know about you, but there have been many times in the past when I go to confession, and then I'll get this remark from the priest and it's like, "Okay, Ann. You're human".

Have you ever gotten that? I don't know – it's like, "Ann, you're human".

Nicole:I have, yes.

Ann: Yeah. So, I'd be like, yeah? You know, I always think like yeah, I mean, duh. Yes, I'm human. But what has that got to do with anything, right? Aren't we called to be saints and aren't saints called to like, you know, surpass all human limits in charity and in heroism, in virtue, right?

So, we have this bar that's set so higffffh we think about, you know, striving. But what happens is when we see and look at our own lives – and we look at the people around us, even in church or in our families – sometimes, we notice that there's this dichotomy that even people who are very devout; trying very hard to, you know, to be spiritual or to be faithful, you know, even ourselves, for example –

– can sometimes bear very little spiritual fruit. In a sense of like our lives. We don't see that fruit of compassion or patience or forbearance. In fact, so often, we are very uptight. We are very judgmental. We become very resentful, you know? So, we're doing all these things. We're trying to check all the boxes and doing all the right things that we are taught about – what it means to be a faithful Catholic or to be spiritual.

Why is it that we're so 1. unhappy – okay, there's lack of joy, there's lack of inner peace. I think if we're very honest, a lot of us will say, "we also lack inner peace". And there's just, you know – there's just so many relationship kind of problems, right? All over the place. Right, I mean, not even with those who we're intimate with like family or friends, you know? Like in our ministries, in our communities, there's so much angst.

So often, we know of people burning out. It could be ourselves. How is this the abundant life that Christ said that He came to give? You know? So, some years back, I came across this term, "emotionally healthy spirituality" from – so, there's actually a book called "The Emotionally Healthy", I think, "Disciple"?

So, there's a series of books actually. Okay, so, there's the Emotionally Healthy Disciple, there's the Emotionally Healthy Leader, the Emotionally Healthy Church – and the guy behind it, this series of books, is a pastor. He's a Protestant pastor in New York called Pete Scazzero. And it's very fascinating because he shares – he came to this path because he was very emotionally unhealthy as a pastor, to the extent that not only a big chunk of his congregation kind of left, or I think was taken – his own wife –

– so, because protestant pastors, they can marry right – his own wife told him, "I'm leaving your congregation".

Nicole: Oh, gosh

Ann: "I can't abide by this because being the wife, she has front seat to the dichotomy. Other people may not know what's going on behind the scenes, right?

Nicole: Yeah. That's true.

Ann: He's the pastor. He speaks from the pulpit. But she lives with him.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann:And she's like, "I can't take this anymore – you know, this hypocrisy". Is like, it's not real. Whatever you're putting out there is not authentic. It's not real. So, for him, that was the wakeup call. That was the wakeup call that there's something really wrong with the way he was practicing his spirituality.

And what was very interesting is – if you do read his books – he actually adopts a lot of, actually Catholic spiritual practices into developing an emotionally healthy spirituality. Sort of like, one example is like a contemplative practice. You know, another one is a rule of life – which is very Benedictine. But it's talking about rhythm, honouring rhythms of life that human beings were created –

– with limits that we're meant to honour, and that we can be honest when, let's say we're already very, very tired. We really don't want to have to have another meeting or another, you know, we can't deal with another conversation. But then somebody comes and tells you, "Oh no, I need to talk to somebody".

Can I talk to you? What is the good Christian thing to do? You know, we believe – a lot of us think that, oh no, we must still give. But when we consistently push ourselves beyond the limits that God gives us – without honouring that, we're actually not honouring the design that God gives us, and there's a price to pay, right.

So there's a tagline from his books that we can't be spiritually mature while being emotionally immature.

Nicole: Wow. Wow.

Ann:Right? So, like that genuine spiritual maturity requires us to also mature emotionally as human beings. And that's a whole other dimension that is never covered, actually – rarely ever covered in what we usually call "faith formation".

Right, it is nothing to do with bible studies, scripture studies or theology studies or, you know – I mean, we touch a little bit more on it if we talk about, let's say spirituality, you know – maybe spiritual direction or retreats. But even then, it depends. It often really depends on the speaker or the director.

Sometimes, they may not be aware of that too – of this dimension. Yeah, so, that's kind of like, you know, what emotionally healthy spirituality is. I'll say it is spirituality that honours the value and the place of our God given emotions, our limits.

And also because our emotions are very linked with our bodies as well – with our biology. So, an emotionally healthy spirituality is also a very embodied kind of spirituality about, you know, the whole person. So, when I was thinking about how to explain why this is important – as in why this is important is, you know, in Deuteronomy, The Shema. The Shema, right – the Jewish people, they all know this by heart, this line: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one – right, He's one Lord. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might.

All your heart, all your soul, all your might. Some translations, say: all your strength. There, you see, right – it's your whole self. It's not just the mind, you know? I love that. And I think we often just gloss over what that means.

What does it mean to love God with our whole being – the human being that He created us as, with all our parts as one. So, that's what emotionally healthy spirituality is concerned with; growing closer to God as a whole human being.

Nicole: Well, thanks, Ann – I think, giving us like a very, like that very comprehensive understanding of what it is.

I really like what you were saying about how it's about like integration, right? Because I think a lot of us can identify with feeling very fragmented. Like, and also living double lives, like the dichotomy. I really understand. You know, because you are trying to project this image like, oh, I must always be, you know, super caring.

I must always check in with everyone, you know? I must have that same level, you know, of depth, you know, of conversation with every person, every day. And then after a while you realize, well, I think this is just not tenable in it. At the back of your mind, you just feel like, oh no, but the Lord says, right, I have to keep giving, you know? I have to keep trying, you know – even if I'm like right at, you know, my breaking point, I'm at the brink.

I still have to keep going. You know, so we think that, you know, we have to keep going, you know? And it's also very hard for us, I think, to draw those like boundaries, right? Because boundaries allow us to protect our peace, right? If not, we will be giving from something that, you know, is running dry already.

You keep saying like, you know, we have to go in like refill ourselves, right? Draw strength, you know, from the well and all that stuff. But then if it's like dry, it's very hard for us, I think, to like give of ourselves to one another. And also to be fully present because like we can be – as you were saying, integration, right?

So, your body can be there, right? Like, you physically are there, but like mentally and emotionally, you probably left the building. And I think that happens to like a lot of us because we get very exhausted. Like, whether it's from like just daily life, whether it's from, you know, just like serving, you know? Sometimes, it is actually through serving.

Sometimes you realize, hey, actually I think I need to take a break. I need to just stop for a while. You know, kind of re-evaluate what I'm doing, re-centre myself before I can come back again. And then we even have this feeling of guilt. You know, we feel like, oh, I'm feel very guilty, you know? Why am I taking a break?

You know, when I should be doing, you know, A, B, C, D – and you're realizing actually, we're not made for that. We're not made for busyness. He didn't ask us to. He didn't say, you know, I call you to be busy or whatever, right. Now, He didn't – I don't think He asked us to do that. And then He, as you were saying – He's asking us to like, really attain that fullness.

And then, you know, we can't be full if we keep like, you know, filling ourselves up with like, you know, things that are, you know, too much for us. We need to also like, understand those boundaries. So, like, I think, on that note also, maybe you could also give us a few more examples of what is emotionally unhealthy spirituality. It's something that we're very familiar with – yeah.

Ann:Yeah, yeah. It's very insidious. But actually it's very present, right? So, examples of being emotionally unhealthy in our spirituality would be when we ignore or repress our emotions in order to be holy, right? With quote-unquote – I'm doing an air-quote with "holy".

So, like you said, if we think, oh yeah, to be holy means to always be giving, to always be kind or we think that – we interpret it as, we must always say yes when there's a request coming our way. So, maybe we're very tired, already. I know we can feel, you know, anger bubbling up. We don't pause to acknowledge the anger because immediately we are probably thinking there might be a script in us.

And this is often a very common religious script that, oh, anger is not from God. Anger is sinful, anger is wrong. So, we kind of repress it and say, oh no, I must be holy. I must be kind. I must be generous.

So, we just keep pushing it down or ignoring, let's say these, you know, emotions that are trying to come up and, you know, tell us how we're feeling. You know, at some point it won't stay down, it will come up sideways. Mainly not with person A whom we are being nice to, maybe it'll come up, you know, with person B or the next person or the poor person who, you know, is the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

You know, it could usually be somebody at home, right? Yeah. So, ignoring, repressing our emotions in order to try to be holy. When we reject our human, physical and emotional limits in the name of service – so, you mentioned service, right? Yes. In the name of service or mission. That's always very, very sneaky because we think we, you know – again, what we hear is you need to give our lives for the mission and for service, for Christ.

And those are the words. But ow do we interpret that? All right. I can't really go deep into this, but I want to mention – but I want to say that everything that we're called to, even to be saints, you know, it's not something we can do with our own strength. It's something that God does for us.

He transforms us and through supernatural graces and the Holy Spirit, He gives us ability to do what we cannot do on our own human ability. Now, but the thing is though, most of us, we are not riding on the Holy Spirit or the grace that God has given us. We are using our human strength to try and push ourselves to achieve those so-called sanctified heights that we think the saints have.

That's a very, very big difference. I think, when it is Christ or when it is God who really gives us the divine graces to do so, we will always find that spiritual fruit, you know? And I think it's kind of like, for most of us, it's like – if you're going to use Olympics, know they kind of like – I like to use elite sporting events as an example.

Or you like dance, right? You dance. So, let's say, you know, you look at those, let's say, you know, elite dancers. You look at how incredible they are at their sport, at their art, right? And we could just be, you know, we're like just in kindergarten or like, you know, just learning the basic steps. But we're trying to imitate these elite athletes or elite dancers and, you know, we're going to harm ourselves because we don't actually have the muscle tone, the flexibility, the training, and even the mental strength to do what they do.

Right, it's similar, I think, with a spiritual life. We need to know what the basics are so that we don't harm ourself. And this whole journey – it requires the integration in order for us to really, truly so called be able to, you know, love selflessly – to really lay our lives down, but in a way that does not harm ourselves or others.

Because if it's not genuine, if it's not really emotionally healthy – I'll put it that way – it will harm ourself and others. And that's what I, you know – I was talking about; it will come outside ways. You may think you're trying to be, you know, you're being a good Christian, but actually you're just being a very repressed Christian, you know?

So, when we push ourselves or others beyond reason – so, another thing when we push ourselves and don't give ourselves a break, oftentimes without us really being conscious, we expect the same of others. And we get resentful if other people don't give us much because we know we are really punishing ourselves and sacrificing ourselves, right?

So, if we can't have compassion for ourselves, it's hard for us to really, genuinely have compassion for someone else. Yeah.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann:So, that's an example. Pushing, you know, beyond our natural limits, our human limits.

Nicole: Yeah. I really, resonate with the "pushing beyond the natural limits".

Because you keep trying to test it. You're like, ah, you know, I can always do a little bit more. I can, you know, write one more thing or know, be involved in another project. And then you, you reach a point where in other areas of your life where you are basically being like very unchristian, you know – like you're losing patience.

Ann: Mm-hmm.

Nicole: Because you know, you're so hyper focused on one thing, right? You're like, oh, you know, I got to do this well. And then through that I will glorify God. And then you realize, well actually it's, as you were saying, it comes out sideways. Like, you're trying to like stuff everything in there. But it's all just coming out and it's going to impact a lot of other people that you interact with.

And then the other point also that you mentioned about like repression. You know, trying to ignore some of the, supposedly, how they would label "negative feelings", right? To say, oh, you can't be angry.


Nicole: You know, all this stuff is not – you just got to keep it underneath, you know? But then inevitably it will manifest itself, right – in our interactions with others.

Ann:Yes. So, especially the negative emotions that you say. Anger, envy, jealousy –

Nicole: Yeah!

Ann:– lust. Okay, we immediately think of these things as like, sinful. But, you know, God created us with the capacities to feel emotion. There must be a reason for that design, you know? So, I had once, a very – I would say very, very enlightened special director.

I mean, he scandalized me at that time – that was many, many years ago. And I was confessing some struggle at that point with I think, lust. So, it was actually an example that came to mind. And he asked me, have you – can you talk to lust? I was like, huh? Talk to lust? Like, go to my lust? Like, what? It's so weird. I thought we're were supposed to like, just like ignore it or like, don't give it the time of day.

Ann: Don't listen. Yeah – it's sinful temptation, right? Kind of you know, you don't give it the time of day. He said, no. He said like, try talking to it. Ask it what is it trying to say to you? Where's it coming from? So, I mean, that was the first time I had this kind of conversation.

Nicole: Wow, that's strange.

Ann: Since then, I mean, in my own journey I realized, yeah, it's actually very normal.

Why? It could be – so, taking that particular example – it could be a manifestation because I have not been looking after my own needs. It could be – if it's a sensual thing, it could be, I have not been looking after my body and it's crying out for attention, and it's coming out in a, you know, in a certain way.

And it could be problematic, like the way it's coming out could be problematic. I mean, actually a lot of times that's how we end up sinning.

Nicole: Yeah!

Ann:You know, we talk the language. You know, really, like a lot of times that's how we end up sinning because we are not integrated, and we don't know how to listen to the red flags –

– watch the red flags or the warning bells. We wait too long and then in the end, you know, something gives, right?

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann:And then we grasp either, you know – out compulsion or whatever kind of thing to feed what is really lacking. And then if it's the wrong thing, the wrong place, the wrong time, it's sin.

You know, it's not loving. It harms ourselves and others. It's sinful, right? So, but what if we could, at a much earlier stage, learn to listen to our whole selves, including our bodies, including our emotions, and learn to discern? Because discern is actually, it's about listening. What is the Lord saying to us through my body, through my emotions?

You know, it could be saying, hey girl, this is not – I didn't create a robot.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann: You are not, you know, you're not actually where I want you to be. Because if you are, you know, if you're where I want you to be, you would be well – I mean, not like in all kinds of sense, but you know, there'll be inner a peace.

You know, you would know that there'll be fruits of the spirit, right? So, a lot of times a lack of emotional health in the way we practice spirituality actually makes it harder for us to really grow closer to God and to really love, our neighbour, right. So, one thing that often I hear – not just for myself, but like, let's say, people often tell me – like, you know, I'm told like I cannot be angry.

Anger isn't from God. Or that you cannot be angry with God because how can you be angry with God, you know, kind of thing. Oh, you cannot be angry with your parents because that is dishonouring God or dishonouring your parents. And because there are these kind of scripts, right – or angry with church, another one, right?

Like, you know, somehow there's something – there's an instinct, at least for those of us who want to try to be like, let's say we consider ourselves faithful Catholics – so, we feel guilty –

Nicole: Oh, yeah.

Ann: – when we're angry at God or parents or church, right –

Nicole: Yes.

Ann: – kind of a thing, right? Yeah?

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann: But you know, if you read the Psalms, the Psalms are full of angry language.

Nicole: Lots of anger.

Ann: Lots of angry, language, yeah – full of honesty.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann: Right, and really what I found is – God is not only is he not upset or not afraid of our anger, He welcomes it because he created us with the capacity. If we actually know how to respond to our anger, to listen or to befriend our difficult emotions, right?

Let's say our anger, or our envy or jealousy, for example – these are all such horrible emotions. We think of them as horrible emotions. We don't want them to be around. But if we befriend them, if we listen to them, we bring them into prayer, we bring them into our conversation with God – so often, it ends up being the doorway for some deeper thing to be revealed about our need, about ourself, and about how much God loves us actually. And how we have not been opening ourselves up to that love.

And that's why we're feeling all this anger, this envy, and you know? So, if we shut it down, we're never going to get to the other side where we experience God's love and how God's responding to it, and some revelation that he has waiting for us on the other side. But if we know how to befriend it, listen to it, listen to our bodies, sometimes take that break that we need, or maybe have a bit of distance from the people that we need a bit of distance from, you know – to give time for this process to happen.

It's like we force ourselves to love and forgive. You know, like when we can't. Who said that it's going to be instantaneous or who said that it's not a complicated process? Who, you know – who said that we don't need to train up our spiritual muscles over a long period of time.

You know, we just make all these assumptions to ourselves that it should be instantaneous. So, then because of that, we end up going against the design that God gave us when he created us. You know? And now neuroscience and biology has so much also – I think it's very fascinating – so much to share with us about how when we do not process our emotions or listen to our emotions – because our emotions are trying to tell us something about our reality.

You know, a lot of times our emotions are also trying to tell us through our – including our physiological reactions – that maybe we're not safe, let's say relationally, right? But we, because of different reasons, you know – we've learned to tune it out or we are not sensitive to it. We don't know how to listen to it.

And what happens when we chronically shut our emotions down and don't listen to our bodies – we actually, literally can become sick. A lot of diseases, high blood pressure, you know, diabetes – a lot of this are stress related.

Nicole: They are all connected.

Ann:Yeah, exactly. They're connected. So, it's like God created us in a very incredibly intricate way to tell us something about Him and about ourselves and the way we are meant to live, and the way we're meant to be in relationship.

So, why are we ignoring that? You know, like, I mean in the sense we want something good. We want to grow closer to Him, but we're ignoring the design that He gave us as creature. So, it's kind of like not using the map that actually He has given us, you know?

Nicole: Yeah, basically we're not using our own map. We're trying to do our own thing.

Yeah, and I actually really like what you were saying about befriending your negative emotions and befriending your anger. I never thought about it. Never thought about speaking to my anger, speaking to my envy. And actually kind of like, you know, befriending it. Because actually we just want to be like, no, I just don't want to – I want to avoid, you know? There's a lot of avoidance, I feel, of feeling the difficult feelings.


And I think that also brings us to like this very interesting term that I think a lot of us have seen online, and we've probably heard of it. Which is like "spiritual bypassing". And for me, the first thing that comes to mind is like, you know, when your friend is going through a difficult time, right?

You just plonk one bible verse and say, here you go. You know, you just saw this. You know, that's just about it. You know, you just have to suck it up and then get moving, you know? And that kind of thing. And when I realized that I maybe have been doing that, you know, sometimes, in the past, right?


Nicole: I realize I've not really actually honoured my friend's emotional wellbeing and where my friend was at that particular time.

Maybe he or she didn't need that particular, you know, verse or, you know. Because I feel like sometimes it may gloss over the actual, you know, the depth of that emotional experience when the person is going through. And instead of like, you know, really engaging with the difficulty and complexity of the emotion, right –

– we're just like, oh yeah. You know, why you so sad? You know, why you like that? You should be happy, right. You know, God has blessed you, you know, with A, B, C and things like that. Right, and I feel like, you know, we sometimes have a tendency to say that but, yeah. Like how do you also feel about this idea of like spiritual bypassing?

Ann:Yeah, yeah. You, you gave a good example. I mean, sometimes throwing on – like I say, know, using scripture as a band aid. Or ask people to pray it away, you know?

Nicole: Yeah. Pray it away. I've heard it so many times.

Ann: Yeah. So, this term – I was, you know, looking up where this term nature originated from. And actually it originated long time ago before you were born, certainly – in the eighties apparently, by a psychotherapist named John Welwood.

And he coined this term and he defined it as a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep, or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks. Interesting, right? So, using spirituality – spiritual ideas or practices. So, if your Catholic kind of like, you know, saying a prayer or rosary or, you know, go and spend an hour in adoration, for example.

Not that any of these things are bad, but to use them as, thinking that they can kind of like fix, you know – like, fix the emotional issues so then we don't have to deal with the unresolved emotional issues, or the psychological wounds that we have – that's spiritual bypassing. So, it's a different thing if let's say, you know, we go into prayer.

And then in prayer we feel, you know, we process, let's say our emotions with the Lord. And our time in prayer makes us more ready to take the concrete, practical step that we need to take to resolve the issue, right? Whether it's actually a relationship with someone or realizing that I need to take a step to do something to care of myself – there must be something practical that comes out of it. Then that would, that wouldn't be spiritual bypassing.

That would be, I would say, fruitful prayer. Because prayer is actually yielding, you know – bringing us into what we need to do. But a lot of times, people use prayer as a substitute. Right, I'm sure you've seen this also in your life as well.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann: I think we all have the tendency.

Yeah. I'll just pray and after I pray I should – somehow, it's like the problem shouldn't be there anymore. I shouldn't feel this way anymore. You know, God, take this feeling away from me. You know, take this emotion away from me, right. And then so I don't have to deal with it. It doesn't work that way.

That would be spiritual bypassing. And then before we know it, we are using spirituality, using our faith as a coping mechanism. It becomes another defence mechanism, maybe another coping mechanism, right? So, instead of helping us to mature as human beings, which spirituality, genuine spirituality actually does help us mature, become more fully human, right, more fully alive, deepen relationship with Christ.

Instead, that spirituality helps us to remain developmentally stunted and emotionally immature. You know, and unfortunately, we don't have to go very far. I think, from many of the people I know – apart from themselves struggling with this – there's always already somebody in their life that they know who is very pious or very religious – says all the right things can quote scripture, can quote church teaching or even studies theology. But it's like they use these things to control people, or they use these things, you know, to shut people up – to kind of like, make people feel that they're superior.

It may not be what they intend, but actually that's actually what happens, you know? And it's almost like all these things becomes a barrier from having to grow up emotionally – to learn actually how to relate to one another, to people, to how to love well, to love maturely, you know.

If we have scripture and the sacraments and all these pious practices, it's almost like they can substitute for that, you know? Yeah. But it's very sneaky. I think usually we don't realize when it's happening. We don't realize when it's happening because we hear it very often. It's like, oh yeah, I know we have a real-world problem – and then we say like, we pray.

Nicole: Oh, yeah. Exactly.

Ann: Right, and it's, yeah. And it's like, yeah, but hello? But let's be clear that prayer itself doesn't change things if we are not changed by prayer.

Nicole: Yes, yeah. We have to like allow prayers – you know, it's not just like, you know, that it's like this static thing.

It has to have some sort of like, you know, impact. It has to flow, right –


Nicole: – yeah, through that person.

Ann: Yes. Yeah. So, yeah, man, spiritual bypass.

Nicole: Yeah, I really like the – what you also mentioned about how sometimes we are very unconscious. Like, you know, you just like, you just feel like, you know, my inclination is just to, you know, bust out one verse or say something, or "everything is going to be right tomorrow – the day is going to be sunny.

But we don't know actually. Unless that person that we care about is also going to do the emotional work internally. Like, I mean, we can pray for that person. Like, we can hope, you know that, that person, you know, is able to kind of like, come out of this experience. But maybe that experience is also kind of like shaping that person in a way.

That person also has to do the difficult work, because I think that the idea of bypassing is, you know, like very easy, right? Everything is very simple, very black and white. Like, yeah, I know this is just the solution to your problem. I give you the solution – very easy. Right? But then there's actually a lot more like work that we have to do internally to identify some of these things.

Ann: Yeah. Yes. Yeah. And it's actually – it's part of a larger script that I think we've inherited. It's very prevalent in religious circles. So, it's not like it's anyone's fault. I think more – if anything, it's when people begin to become aware of this and then they come out of it – then real change can happen.

But it's like we are all kind of like born into it kind-of-a-thing, like when you join a religious community and stuff. But unless you already had done some of this interior work prior, and you're aware of these things – otherwise chances are, it's part of, you know, like the air that you breathe, it's part of the culture and you don't even realize when it's happening.

Nicole: Yeah, yeah. And I also like, like how you were mentioning how like it's actually also important to love well because like, we are always like called to love, love, love. But then like, how do we love? How do we love people well? Do we love, like, you know, the people that maybe we can't even, you know – we find hard to relate to?

This is a very relational thing because sometimes, you know, you were saying like, you know, when you serve, you know, in church or in a community, right? You're like very hyper focused on, you know, like, oh – fulfilling certain objectives, you know, reaching certain number of people. But then sometimes it comes at the price of actually, you know, developing those close, you know, and healthy relationships.

Like, you know, we can have different relationships, but they may not all necessarily be, you know, emotionally healthy, right? Because of the people involved. And also some of maybe the, you know, the struggles that we face. So, I was also wondering what at stake if we don't practice this emotionally healthy spirituality. So, what may happen to us, you know, as individuals, as community?

And also since you were also talking about serving like the wider church – so, like what thoughts you have on that?

Ann:Okay. Yeah. So, I'm going to share an anecdote from my own personal experience. I used to work full time in a parish, and so, you know, and it was a very vibrant parish. So, you know, vibrant is one of the words that usually people like, right?

Oh, a lot of things happening, you know, for mission and for evangelization. It translates to a lot of projects going on, a lot of activities happening. So, and with any parish usually – or any, I think, church kind of community – you know, you will have those few people that always get asked to do things right?

Because they're capable, they're reliable. And I see you nodding, and I think you're one of those people, right, Nicole? You get a lot of requests –

Nicole: Oh, yeah.

Ann:– you know, to join this committee, to head this project, to join this organization committee – and all that kind of a thing. So, when I was – so, me being staff, you know, and it was in a parish that was not the parish that I grew up in.

I didn't know a lot of the people when I first started. So, I'll take guidance from, you know, the priests or the parish priest, like, oh, go approach so and so, this person, that person. And so, as staff – and also with my own personal zeal of, you know, I really want to help evangelize and make disciples.

We want these things to be happening. I realize it's very easy for me to treat – to really see people as a means to an end. I need these volunteers. I need them because without them, we can't do all these things, right? It's very important. I want the right people. I want the capable ones.

I want people who can deliver. At some point – and this is linked to my own journey, I think, my own interior journey going with the Lord – but at some point, I started recognizing I don't check in with these people. Like, do I know how they're actually doing? Is it actually okay? Do they actually have enough capacity in their life to take on one more project – you know, one more thing?

And all these things are actually, big stuff. I mean like, we know it's loading on. And when I started, not just asking, but when I started taking a real interest in finding out how people actually are doing in their lives – apart from their involvement in church – I realized, Nicole, for many of them, things are not going well.

There are actually a lot of stuff that's not going well in their lives. It's just that it's not church related – so-called; it's not to do with their involvement in church maybe, right. There was a couple that, eventually the wife told me that they've been so busy in their own lives and then they're also very involved in ministry.

They're leaders of ministry and everything that they've stopped talking to each other about anything apart from ministry.

Nicole: Oh, wow.

Ann:Because there's just no time – apart from work, apart from their jobs.

Nicole: Yeah, right.

Ann:And everything's going on. You have all these ministry responsibilities. They haven't actually talked to each other about themselves.

Like, there's no room for their own relationship, their own marriage – to grow apart from working relationship. And I've since found that that's not rare. It's quite common actually, when, let's say both husband and wife are involved in, you know, in ministry. How is that – that's not quite okay. I think, you know, instinctively we know that can't be what God is asking us.

We know that the family is a very important, you know, foundational unit, right – for discipleship as well. So, if the marriage is not on solid ground, doesn't matter how involved husband and wife are in church, you know, it doesn't matter how many ministries involving, or they lead. But we don't look there. We don't see there. You know, we don't see that.

And if leaders – so, as like, say for me as staff – if I could choose to keep a blind eye, turn a blind eye on this because, you know, if I started looking there, I couldn't, in good conscious, keep loading these people up with work. And I realize that if I actually wanted to journey with them in a sense of like, help them maybe discern what is the Lord inviting them to, for a lot of them, it doesn't even occur to them that they can say no, because that's a script.

This is for God, this is for church, right? If father (the priest) asked me, surely, God is asking me, you know? It's like, for a lot of people that's not – they don't understand discernment, right. It's not like that. I recently had to tell a client – you know, because she actually said, maybe father knows better than me.

And I had to tell her, I said, well – I said, is father the steward of your life? He isn't, you know – actually. Is he aware of the issues that you're having at home? Is he aware of how burnt out you are? Of your health issues? He isn't. So, how would father know better than you?

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann:Right? You can’t shirk that responsibility. We cannot shirk that responsibility –

– whether it's father or leader or whoever else, you know, parent, whoever asked me to do this. That's actually sort of emotionally very immature. We're not taking ownership of the power and authority that God has given us over our own lives. Over our own bodies.

Right, so, what's at stake really, is like, actually we see a lot of dysfunctional relationships happening within our communities, within our families, right – in our church. You see a lot of people who are involved in many, many things, but they're actually being very inauthentic. Like, we're talking about – it's a persona that they're putting up, right?

Like you said, if people start thinking of you – like, you know, the more you get known, let's say, for being somebody in ministry or leader, it's like you feel you have to remain on that pedestal that people put you up on, you know. And it becomes very burdensome. It becomes very scary. But, you know, nobody can keep that up.

And if we don't take care of ourselves, we don't step off that pedestal and be human – I think God, in His mercy, at some point will let something knock us off it. It will be very painful – you know, when that happens, right? But a lot is at stake. I feel that we cannot just pay lip service to the gospel and talk about justice and compassion if we cannot practice justice in our relationships with one another.

And one way of it would be, is it just to load and overload someone who doesn't even have the capacity to make sure that their relationship, their most important relationships to themselves, their marriage, or their family, or their struggles at work – which for a lay person, that's a huge part of our witness –

– our jobs in the secular space. If people cannot turn up and be present there and witness in their families and in their work, is it just for us to just take them and use them for church? I know I'm using very strong words. I have very strong feelings about this because I went through it myself.

I will say I was a perpetrator myself. I mean, I was both a victim and a perpetrator. It's part of what I thought, what I believed. And I definitely used people to achieve ends for the church. And I thought it was legit (legitimate). I thought it was okay because this is for mission, you know? And then one day, it clicked because I also have heard and read some parts of let's say – JP II (Saint John Paul the Second), talking about the Theology of the Body. And it says that the only appropriate end, for a human being, is love – is to be loved as an end in and of him or herself.

Nicole: Yes!

Ann:And not to be used. Yes. And I was thinking, here I am using people. Here I am allowing myself to be used as an end – why? I'm actually not obeying God. You know? So, that – I realize that too is part of what, you know, we are talking about; emotionally healthy spirituality.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann: Learning to love and not use.

Nicole: Yeah, that's, that's really – I think that's a very important reminder, I think, for a lot of us. I think, because like there is that aspect of use, I think – in both ways. Using other people. Because you know that they're very talented, they've got lots of things to contribute and then you basically just like give them more things to do.

Or you also take on more things. Because you say – and I can really relate to what you're saying – oh, father told me this, you know. Or someone told me that I should do this thing. And then you just feel like, oh right, I need to do it. You know, because you know – greater glory and I'm going to glorify God, you know? I want to go all the way and things like that.

But then as you were saying, we're not being good stewards. We're not stewarding, you know? I guess we're not taking ownership, right? Because you always think, oh, it's an external, you know, person, you know, who's deciding how I'm going to go about doing this. And, you know, my extent of service. And I also do really relate to the point where you're saying that sometimes you feel that you have to continue to push forward, like, you know, to have this, you know, facade actually – because we are being inauthentic, right –

– when we are not acknowledging our weakness right, and our humanity. Because you know, you're just a robot or you're a robot creating content. You have a robot putting out, you know, one post after another post. And people ask you like, how do you manage to get another real out? You know, people don't even have time to like, you know, like breathe or eat lunch, right?

And you've got another real out. And that can't be coming from you, right? I mean, that can't be – that can't be coming from a good place, right? Because, you know, one person, you know, can't be doing all these things, right? Or one person, you know – even a group, people can't be doing everything at one time. So, I think it's really about, I think understanding our boundaries, you know, our limits.

I think that that also helps us to start on this like, journey of actually practicing like emotionally healthy spirituality. So, maybe we can talk about – a little bit about how we can do that. So, I think, one thing I really got from our conversation is the idea of boundaries because I think boundaries are nowadays very porous.

Sometimes, you don't know, like, you know, how much should I do? You know, or should I keep pushing myself? You know, should I keep giving of myself? Like, where is the, you know, where – how do I create these boundaries? Especially in the context of maybe some of us, for example, myself – I find it very hard to create the boundary. Because I feel, oh, you know, people are going to be unhappy with me, right?

Or they're going to be disappointed in me. Oh, I didn't fulfil certain obligations, or I didn't live up to expectations, right? And then you feel very guilty. And then after that there's this all-negative emotional turmoil that's going inside. And then the best part is that you still continue to portray to other people they you are perfectly fine.

But then inside right, you are like, well, it's like – it's a chaos, right? There's a lot of chaos and you're trying to find some sort of like outlet but then obviously it comes out in like not very good ways. Because you start to be, you know, you lose your patience. And you also, yourself, start to like question, is this really me?

And that's why we're not integrated already, right? Because if you start to doubt whether this is me, like why am I behaving like that, right? Or why am I doing these things? You know, this is not really me. Then I think maybe start to question. So, I think, for me, maybe my idea of how I can practice it is to be more gentle, I think, with myself, with others, right.

And to just like, kind of like acknowledge that there is going to be a little bit of this, you know – this need to be okay with weakness. Like we have to be okay with like, you know, not just keeping all these things, you know. Or being this sort of like preconceived idea of whether, you know, whether we're Christian, you know, or Catholic or whatever.

Like the person that we are, we are meant to be, right. So, I think, for me, it's like just trying to articulate – trying to be more comfortable, I think, with like – I don't know if we can use the word "asserting"? It's a good word? Like "assert your body". Like, I feel like I read this before. So, you know, assert your body. But maybe more of like creating them.

Identifying them, right. And seeing, you know, like how we can introduce them into various situations – for me. Like, that's how I see it. Or maybe you can share with also, Ann. Like, how do you like, think we can start to practice? Because I feel like it's a beginning process for some of us, like, we really don't even know how to like, you know, get moving, right – in terms of this area.

Ann:Mm-hmm. Actually, what I hear from what you're talking about actually also includes why is it so – what makes it difficult? So, for example, when you talk about boundaries, you may know conceptually that, that would help if you could create healthy boundaries and then kind of like – and keep them, right?

But you would know so that that's not, yeah – it's easier said than done. Why? Why is it so hard to know what are healthy boundaries? Or to draw them or to respect them even for ourselves or to, you know, to keep them, once you've drawn them? Sometimes, you need to remind people of it. And so, the things that you mentioned about, you know, disappointing people, letting people down, how will I be perceived.

You know, because, you know, sometimes maybe there's a fear, like, is this – maybe I wouldn't be seen as a good Christian, maybe I'm not spiritual enough. Or maybe, you know – and sometimes I wonder whether we actually also have those doubts about how God would perceive us – maybe God would be displeased with us.

Right? So, sometimes, you know, we say, oh, the most important relationship is with God. So, it's not so much what people see, how people see us, but how God sees us. Okay? So, how do we think God sees us? And then we know in theory, for those of us who have gone for many retreats and many talks, we know that we are God's beloved.

You know that God loves us. We know that in the sense of intellectually, but from day to day living, when we're not in praise and worship, when we're not, like, you know, in some retreat and having that wash over us – actually we don't live like that. We doubt. We doubt, right? We think that God is disappointed in us.

We think that, unless we meet certain standards, He will, you know, He'll be upset with us. So, doing the only, you know, like audience of one thing doesn't really help if we have issues with the audience of one, right? If our image of God is distorted. So, that's actually one of the things that hasn't happened together.

I don't know whether I can bring these two things together. Like, how do we begin to practice emotionally healthy spirituality and at the same time, why is it so difficult to do so? Because I think, I feel I need to answer the second question first. It's difficult because we're broken, right? It's difficult because we are wounded. Because the foundation – the human foundation of, you know, whatever this is that allows us to love and be loved well, right.

Not just deeply, not just passionately, but well, right. To love well – if that mechanism is broken, that foundation is broken, well, of course we can't do it. And that's why we struggle. That will go back into – this would be like, you know, like our wounding and let's say, our family of origins, other life experiences that has distorted our – I want to say apparatus, like our whole apparatus – our hearts, our bodies, the nervous system.

The way that we know how to attune emotionally to someone else, or even to ourselves. We can't do it. A lot of us, we can't do that anymore because of wounds that we sustain from very young. So, we have to relearn that, and that has to heal, right? So, that's also why it's hard. It's a bit of a vicious cycle. Until we begin healing, we're going to keep struggling.

We won't be able to put into practice even if we know what are good practices. We won't be able to do it. Okay, so, that's the why it's hard. So, then how – then knowing that it's hard, knowing that we're broken, that our apparatus is broken, can we begin? So, I feel like that's a whole – well, big dissertation. Well, potentially, okay.

Nicole: Yeah!

Ann: And it's a big part of what my work and my call is about. So, I have this term that I say in the podcast – in my podcast; Becoming Me Podcast – in episode four, very early on, I use this term "living from the inside out", right. I talk about the layers of life – like an avocado, there's the external layer, and then the inner layer of our emotions, thoughts, and physical feelings, and our core identity.

Most of us, we are just living on the external surface. Even our spiritual lives, we're just living on the external surface. It's a lot of doing, right? Even praying can be just doing – it's, I do my prayer, I check it off, you know?

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann:It doesn't go deeper and touch our emotions, our thoughts, and doesn't start to integrate those things.

And it doesn't then go into our core, which is for, you know, as a start – wounded. So, the question is what kind of practices can we put in place so that we can begin to live, not just on the surface, but to integrate with our deeper layers, and then with our core. Okay, so, I think number one on my list would be contemplative practice, actually.

Right, by not just contemplative prayer, but it's a, you know – it's a whole way of being. So, that would include slowing down. You can't practice contemplative prayer even if you don't slow down. If you don't be still – and not just, you know, once in a very, very long, long while when we go to retreat, right.

Ann:You know, when we are going at like –

Nicole: – 200 kilometres.

Ann:Yeah, like, you know, like, I don't know, 120, 130 kilometres an hour – it's very hard to suddenly stop. You can't. You need a long, you know, yeah – I think the breaking distance. So, the trick or the question is, how can we begin to live so that our normal pace of living becomes more sustainable and contemplative living?

You know, that pace can become part – more and more part of our normal living; slowing down, making space in our calendar. Not taking on more than we can so that we have this space to be – to be contemplative. To become mindful and attentive to what's going on within us. Right, because or else you would just be running around on the surface layer only. In order to go deep – to go inner inside, we need to be able to slow down and to connect with our inner selves.

So, any practice that can help us to connect with our inner selves – we don't have, you know, the opportunity or time to go into that today – but like to become more self-aware. That's one. Emotional healing – like inner child healing, attunement, you know – recognizing or learning about how we are wounded in our ability to relate.

And then what we can do maybe, to begin healing that, so that we can be better regulated. There's this term "emotional regulation". You know, a lot of times we're overwhelmed and everything. And then we are stressed, we're in fight or flight mode. Think of all the times that, you know – whether it's at work or anything, something – you end up being either very defensive or aggressive.

Nicole: Yeah, like extremes.

Ann:Like, we're hardly breathing, you know, and our hearts are racing. Yeah – our bodies are like constantly like in tension. We have back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, headache, you know, digestion issues. These are all things like symptoms that are telling us that we need to slow down and recalibrate – that something's not quite right.

And instead of just using faith as a band aid or a fix-all; like, it's okay – just pray. Pray, pray more, spend more hours in pray or go for daily mass – that will fix it. You know?

Nicole: Yeah, exactly. Like, you need to go more.

Ann: Sometimes, you know, people kind of just tell you, you know, like maybe you need to go for daily mass or maybe you need to – you need to pray. Yeah.

You know, and not saying that these things aren't important. But sometimes that's not – maybe that's not the solution. God is in all things. God isn't just present in the official holy places and official holy activities. When I say official – you know, a lot of churchy things, right? Sure He's there.

But He's in the world. And the whole point about our witness and the church's mission is to let the spirit of the gospel permeate the entire world, the entire temporal sphere; into culture, right, into commerce, into economics. How are we going to do that if we also are not embodied, like, you know – living our whole lives, like, you know, as a whole human being and connecting to God, you know, in that.

So, I don't whether, answer your question, but yeah. Contemplative practices, I'll say, just to have one kind of a thing to start off with.

Nicole: Yeah. I think, that's a really good reminder. I think because we all have like this, like, I don't know – it's a disease or something – of busyness, you know? Like continually, I think like loading ourselves with a lot of things to do. And then just like feeling like, oh, you know, the busyness is like a distraction, you know, from actually dealing, you know, with my emotional health, you know? Or trying to regulate my emotions. Because when I'm busy I can just kind of, I think about something else.

You know, my mind is, you know, completely focused on doing like, you know, set task and oh, that's all that – you know, that kind of like helps me, you know? But then like actually slowing down, then we actually kind of realized, oh wow, like there's this whole other area of my life, which, you know, I haven't thought about or I haven't really, you know, took the time to really process, you know. And a lot of other unprocessed things actually, I think in the past that start to kind of like come back again.

And then we wonder, hey, how come I'm going back into this pattern? You know, like we can break the pattern, but we have to make conscious choices in order to do so. If not, we are going to – it's going to be a cycle, right? Unless we extract ourselves out and look at things a bit more objectively, and that's only when we have space.

Right, mental, emotional space. So, we can't do that when we're like running around and like, you know, driving so fast we can see. Because the thing is just like going past the thing, right. And then we never really catch sight of like, you know, the intensity. And actually sometimes the severity of some of these things, right?

Because we just kind of like, as you were saying, we must get, you know, like, you know, we kind of suppress it and we don't really let it have its full expression, right? And we don't kind of like, you know, kind of manage that. But I think like, you know, a lot of these practices – definitely stuff I think that a lot of us can actively do and think about.

But maybe you could also like suggest also for us, maybe some resources, for those of us who are like trying to get started. I think this is a really good series to just like get us started on what it is, you know, like some of the issues that we face and how we go about it. But is there also some resources that you can share?

I think you actually mentioned a really good book at the start; by the pastor, right? Yeah. But is like, you know, like –

Ann:Yeah, yeah. Emotionally healthy spirituality. Yeah, I would say start with that. Emotionally healthy disciple. The Emotionally Healthy Disciple, I think. And I think in it, there is actually like, assessment you can take to see how emotionally healthy or unhealthy you are doing.

Nicole: Oh, a quiz!

Ann:Yes, yes. There's like a quiz. It's pretty good. It's kind of like a stock take. And it's very insightful. He knows what questions to ask So I say that, that one's very good. His wife Jerry actually also, does some of this work now. I think she has a podcast – I can't remember whether it's geared more for Women, but she does a lot of the also emotionally healthy, you know, like kind of a thing.

So, the whole Emotionally Healthy Spirituality series can check out by Pete Scazzero. Another one I'd say – okay, this one maybe a lot of your listeners will be familiar with already. Henri Nouwen, yeah, because although he doesn't use that language, right, but because he himself – not only was he trained as a psychologist, he's lived spirituality, I would say is very, actually emotionally healthy. In the sense that, okay, at least he's very, very emotionally aware and he includes all of that; the emotions, the struggles in the spirituality. He does not try and repress them or exclude them.

So, I think that's another, you know, person that a lot of the writings helps us to connect with the inner self. So he's very good for that. And then for – there are a couple of authors that I found helpful. They are Christian psychologists or Christian counsellors. One is Dr. Alison Cook. I don't know if you have heard of her.

Nicole: Oh, yeah. Yes!

Ann:Dr. Alison Cook and her book Boundaries for Your Soul. So, the one she's talking about boundaries, internal boundaries. So, when we think of boundaries, we often think about boundaries only external, with other people. But one of the reasons why we struggle with boundaries with other people is because we don't know how to have boundaries within ourselves.

Nicole: Yeah.

Ann:Like, what does that even mean, right? Boundaries within ourselves. Yeah, so, it's like if you're curious, you can yeah – read that book. It's quite good. There's another one called Try Softer by another different counsellor called, I think – not sure how to pronounce the name. A-U-N-D-I – Aundi, I think; Aundi Kolber.

K-O-B-L-E-R. So, Try Softer. Why try softer?

Nicole: You always try harder.

Ann: I think you can guess. Because we always try harder. Exactly. And actually the way to go forward sometimes is trying softer. And in her book, she talks a bit about – she explains about emotional attunement or the different kind of insecure attachments.

So, this is from the point of psychology. But it's very relevant because a lot of us, we actually have insecure attachment, not just with people but with God as well.

Nicole: Oh, that's true.

Ann:And we don't realize that. So, we can learn about what is a secure attachment and what are the different ways – different styles of insecure attachment.

Why is it that we end up having insecure attachments? So, that's got to do with also with our wounds, right? Our earlier wounds and all that. And how can we repair that so that we can actually learn to have secure attachment – even if we started of having insecure attachment. Right, so, these would help to build like, again, that, you know, that foundation for us to love and be loved.

Then I would say, actually, my podcast is kind of like – the podcast is coming from the point of – not so much an expert, but somebody who is living through all this and grappling through all this and sharing. I just share my journey and my insights and what I've learned from all these other experts, right?

So, some people like that because it's maybe more accessible. It's kind of like you get the view of someone making the journey and then I draw from all these different little things, you know? So, yeah. So, that could be a resource. And, maybe one more. I'm a – you can tell I love resources. For those who I want to learn a little bit more about the – a bit more technical – about exactly why we get wounded and how those wounds connect with even, let's say, our relationship with God.

There is a really, actually, very popular podcast called The Place We Find Ourselves by Adam Young. Yeah, so he's also a Christian counsellor and he's a really good teacher. He explains, for example, why our family of origin matters or affects us more than anything. He talks about how can you tell maybe that you actually may have experienced trauma – not necessarily like big trauma, but like complex trauma.

By looking at what you are experiencing today, you may be able to know and recognize that maybe there's something that needs mending, you know. And there's a lot of stuff. So, those who want to wait a little bit more in – that one will be a little bit more technical. Yeah, but I wouldn't necessarily start there, but you know – those who maybe want, already very curious and want to check it out can do that.

But otherwise, I'll say emotionally healthy spirituality is the easiest entry way. And Becoming Me Podcast – these two are the most kind of like, talk about these things, but not like from the very, you know, science thing yet.

Nicole: Thanks. Thanks Ann. Thanks for like, yeah, I think like taking us through, I think like all of the resources, I think like, there's so much, I think, out there.

And as you were saying, I think, also depends on like, everyone's like readiness level in terms of like the angle, you know, and sort of like, you know, like how much just I think they know about the topic. And I think we all kind of have like some fragmented knowledge of it. It's just that we need to have like a sort of like a deeper dive, or some of us want to go deeper into it and to understand it better.

Because I think, like from this, particular series, I think it's been quite clear that it's something that's very important, but that we may not place necessary importance on. Because we think that, oh no, this is two separate things in my life. You know, my faith is one thing, you know, and my emotional health is another thing.

But I think we have come to realize that it actually very much an integrated experience that we have to, kind of take into account.  And we need to kind of be more conscious and aware. I feel like the first step is really like awareness. You know, being aware of our emotions and kind of like, you know, honouring them and giving them space, you know, to express themselves.

Ann:Mm-hmm. Yeah. If I may help to end by – there was something that came to mind earlier when you were saying something and now I remembered it again. You know, you talked about how we want, we all want to serve, right? We want to serve, and we want to make a difference. But I think a lot of times we are very short-sighted. When we push ourselves in ways that know, go beyond, let's say, our limits and, you know, we're so focused on achieving something concrete about this event, or we keep doing that.

If you wait a few years – if you do that for a few years and then you look at your life and you ask, how have I grown? Like really, have I blossomed more into the human being, the person that God has created me to be?

Am I any closer to knowing the unique personal vocation that God created me for? Am I flourishing, right? Really as in – in spite of, let's say, setbacks and difficulties and whatever sufferings that we definitely will have – do I see the trend becoming more fully human and more fully alive?

My bet – when we are not able to practice emotional healthy spirituality, you'll find that you can do that for five years, even 10 years – you are, you haven't really moved much. If anything, people may not last that long and they burn out and then they go backwards. And then some of us will just stop altogether because it's too hard.

But if we do this right, in the sense of this emotionally healthy spirituality, you'll find that over five years, 10 years, you really grow. You really change, evolve, blossom, and bear fruit in the person, the unique personhood that God created you to be. You should be more yourself and not less, and have more capacity to love, and not less. Even if in the short term, it looks like you have to put on the brakes, draw boundaries, do less.

[01:09:09] AN INVITATION
So, I hope you enjoyed that conversation and instead of the usual praxis prompts I offer at the end of an episode, I think for this one, I'm just going to invite you to stay with what you've heard and maybe ponder, you know, what landed with you.

Did you see yourself or identify yourself in any of the experiences that I shared or spoke about? And if there is any that landed, I invite you to take some time at the close of this year before the new year to spend some time with your inner self, your inner child, and maybe make a small commitment.

Find one way that you can think of to be a little bit more emotionally healthy in 2023. Right, just one small thing, whether it's slowing down, whether it's practicing better boundaries or seeing what you can do to help yourself grow in ways that allow you to practice better boundaries. You know, just one thing – it could be part of your, your discernment, you know, for the new year.

I don't quite like the concept of new year resolutions because sometimes I think we get over ambitious and then we feel beholden to the commitment that we try to make. I want to make this a lot more gentle. So, just something that you can invite yourself that you would like to try, you know, to do one step towards greater emotional healthiness – emotionally healthy spirituality.

So, I wish you a wonderful December and a blessed Christmas and the Becoming Me Podcast will be back in February 2023 with new episodes. Until then, happy becoming.

[01:11:07] CONCLUSION

Thank you for listening to Becoming Me, where new episodes drop every first and third Wednesdays of the month. Remember, the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. 

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, Happy becoming!

Nicole LawProfile Photo

Nicole Law


Nicole Law is a Catholic podcaster with a love for storytelling. Her repertoire ranges from short prose and poetry to multiple podcasts to amplify His Glory. Focused on bringing His human face to others through real stories of struggle and hope, Nicole gently leads her audience into reflecting and looking inward to move forward. Join her in this wonderful journey to bring the reality of His presence to others on Spotify.