Dr. Lynyetta Willis is a psychologist, speaker, family coach, and author. In this episode, I pick her brain about these pesky things that trip us up as parents: triggers, stress, and emotions.
She breaks down a detailed description of how you can tell the difference between a stressor and a trigger, and how that informs how you handle them long-term.
(You'll love (and relate) to the story she dives into to illustrate this point.)
We talk about what she recommends if you're looking to heal from your past (spoiler alert: it's NOT getting a Ph.D.).
She dives into her definition of Stable Misery: how to tell if you're in it and what to do about it.
And shares 3 questions to ask yourself to deepen your relationship with sensations and emotions.
Her advice is practical, she's extremely funny and down to earth, and every parent will relate to our conversation!
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Right. So it gives the other person more awareness and more context around why we're feeling a certain way or why we're responding or sometimes reacting a certain way. So that story in our head is a powerful thing. powerful thing that the more aware we can become of it, the more we can use it. this is my job. I I'm joined by Dr. Lynyetta Willis. Hi, how are you doing? Well. So excited to be here.Danielle Bettmann:
Hi, good. Okay, so I came across to you like a while ago. I don't even know if it was what it was exactly. It was a parenting Summit, where you were like a speaker and I came across something on triggers. And so I had saved you in my pocket as a good resource. And now I'm just excited that we've gotten the chance to connect. So before we dive into like all the questions of your backstory and your work, go ahead and introduce yourself to my listeners. So who are you? And who's in your family? Oh, yeah.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
So I am Dr. Lynyetta Willis. Hello, psychologists turned family empowerment coach, and I help frustrated families break free from what I like to call stable misery in their parenting as well as in their partnerships. So they can live with more joy. And who is in my family well in my house. Because family that can take a while. But in my house is myself. My husband Patrick and my two kiddos. They are nine and 13. Boy girl. Well, okay, 13 is a boy. nine year olds a little girl. Yeah.Danielle Bettmann:
Nice. Thanks. Okay. So have you ever felt like you're failing motherhood? No,Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
I got this nail down like perfect. I am amazing. I'm sorry. Was that supposed to be a prerequisite now?Danielle Bettmann:
You definitely be an exception to the rule.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Exception. Oh my gosh. No. Yes. So one story that that came up. And I when I hear that question is, this was a few years ago, when my son I was starting my business and trying to get everything together. And I was focused, I don't know if you've ever started a new project or started a business or something like that. But like, I was so focused, and I was doing all these webinars and these trainings on finding niches and all this stuff. And I was so into it. And one day, my son walked into my office and he was like, Hey, Mommy, and he asked me a question. And I've answered it. And then he left and then he did it a second time. And the third time, I must have given him like an annoyed look. Because he kept interrupting me. And he walks out and then he stops and he turns and he says, Mommy, I know how important work is to you. So I promise I won't bother you again. And I was like, seriously? Oh man. Like it was one of those things where, like, what is happening right now? Did I really just prioritize this? At the time it was a phantom business. It wasn't even like I had like droves of clients waiting for me like I mean, I was basically just serving myself at that point. And here I am, like being annoyed at my kid because I was on the road to the biggest breakthrough not. And so in that moment, I just I kind of got up and I was like, Babe, you are not bothering me. Like seriously. Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. But it it it hit me at a couple of things in that moment. Number one, it really made me say like crap, what are my priorities, you know? And then the other thing that it did it was one of those like, what am I teaching him? You know, I'm really big about living and leaving the legacies that we want our children you know, that will make us proud it's a smile you know, in the And there are days like, I did okay with that one, you know? And in that moment, it was like, What am I teaching my child about priorities and family and, you know, the difference between, you know, giving the fate our families, the best of us, not the rest of us, you know, and all that kind of stuff. And so it was really one of those moments there where I just felt like, crap and the realization that that wasn't that likely wasn't the first time I had done that. It was just the first time he called me out on it. Right, so yeah, definitely mom of the year moment on that one. Thanks for bringing that up. Danielle. Really? Oh, yeah,Danielle Bettmann:
I just love to, like poke at gaping wounds. Wow. But I've definitely done the same thing. I've been guilty and probably not even realizing it, you know, in the moment, either of having that consciousness, because yeah, we get too, into the flow of our own stuff in our own world, especially if it feels like this is the road to all the things I want for my field, is this business. And if I can just get this figured out, then all of our problems are solved. And like, it really does feel like that sense of urgency. And I resonate with that 100% With my business, too. So I know, I know, listeners will at least feel better knowing that someone with all of these accolades and all of the things that's been in a similar place of mom guilt,Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
yes, yes, I think it was some on some song, it was like more money, more problems, right. Like, sometimes it's like, the more responsibilities we have, it's like, for me, I know, I say, like, when I get this project done, when I finished creating this, when I do that, then I'll be I'll have more autopilot situation, I'll be able to give more time, you know, but realizing it's really important that we create whitespace for ourselves, as, as entrepreneurs, as people in general, right, like being able to have that space for ourselves. And being able to have that space for our families, and being able to tell our children, this is when like, this is when I'm working. And this is when I'm free, right? And like this is when the when the day is over, and really holding ourselves accountable to stick to that. Right? Or not to betray not not the kids ourselves, right? Because I know, I just wrote a post about self compassion and how I, I didn't have it for myself, and I ended up getting COVID and my jaw lock shut and like all this stuff started to me, you know, and realizing like, oh, yeah, whitespace, self compassion, all those things that I've been teaching about and learning about for over two decades, like, maybe I should apply that to myself, that probably be a good idea right now. Ya know. So saying, like, we need to be able to segment our lives in helpful ways so that we don't fall into those slippery slope traps where our businesses become our mistresses. We end up pushing back in ways that ultimately don't feel good to us, don't serve us don't serve our careers don't serve our families. And all of that. Yeah.Danielle Bettmann:
Oh, my gosh, and so hard to with the pandemic was working from home, and having so much less boundaries and structure to that work life balance or whatever that elusive thing is.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Right? Whatever that is, you figure that out, let me know. But it's my when I was in private practice, my office was like in another building across town. Now it's like through that door, right, like so. Right off my living room, you know, which does make and then we have this electronic leash, aka cell phone, that dings and pings and you know, and just yanks us every two seconds. Right? So that literally is sturb mode is powerful. Put us that people use the Do Not Disturb mode on your phone. It's your friend. IDanielle Bettmann:
need to do that. Absolutely. But yeah, there might be something that I need to know. There's nothing that important.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Even if your brain says there is it's like yeah, we got to do and it's an emergency. No, really. It's not like the world keeps spinning.Danielle Bettmann:
So true. Yes. I feel like we could probably talk about that alone. Yes, yes, but I want to hear more about you. So you have you have a whole you know, work life behind you. But how did you get started in this? Like, what was the beginning of your journey? So that we can can note like the whole backstory?Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Yeah, so my cheese, the whole backstory? All right in my head. How far back do I really want to go? All right. For me, I've always been and I know a lot of People in the in the wellness field probably relate to this, I was always the one that people came due to ask questions. Like even growing up in my household, I was often somewhat perintah FIDE as a child, like people would come to me and be like your aunt or your and I'm like, I'm five, what are we doing right now? Am I supposed to help with us? You know, so it was always that sense of like, asker she's got an answer, you know. And so after a while, I realized, like, Oh, I'm kind of good with this. And like many people, I experienced some traumas in my life, and realized that I at the time, I didn't call them traumas, I just knew there were things from my past that were impacting how I was showing up in present moments. So I did the responsible thing. And I said, Okay, I'm going to heal from this by going to get a PhD, and learning how to heal other people. And then I will vicariously learn the healing process and be healed. By their alert doesn't work that way, by the way, save you 1000s and 1000s of dollars, don't do that. But I did, I went and I learned and I got all this information, and, and then I got married, and realize that this stuff was still there. Regardless of how much intellectual information I had crammed into my head, I was still showing up. And I was still very triggered by things that my husband did and reacting, you know, and realizing like a lot of this is still past stuff that's creeping into my relationship and realizing like, not only is it not fair to my marriage, but it's not fair to me, you know, so I ended up for real for real, getting into a healing relationship with a, with a therapist, and just started going on the journey. And it really helped and deepened the healing work that I was able to do with my clients too. And at the time, in private practice, I was seeing couples and individuals and teens and tweens and all these different people. And I started to realize that not only is this healing journey important, but there's also some themes that I started to notice popping up in terms of what everybody tends to get caught up in. And it's funny, what tends to block us and catch us and trip us up are the same things that can help us to break free and move on from difficult experiences, which is often the case of paradox of life. So that's how I kind of got where I was, I kind of it was it was, it was really one of those situations where realizing, like get it, you know, people talk about getting into a moment where being stuck where you are, is more painful than the fear of moving on. And that's what I hit, like just being stuck and then realizing when I was pregnant, like oh, crap, now I'm going to influence little people. Depending on me, like, I've got to do something, you know, I don't want to pass all this stuff on to my kids. And, you know, so that I really started to that really was a huge impetus as well. That started me on my healing journey. And I just love working with people and helping people. So that was something that I realizing like I just love helping people to really embrace and go forth on their own journeys.Danielle Bettmann:
Yeah, love that. It's so so evident through your work if you just like look at three of your Instagram posts, like you know, you get that vibe already. Oh, yeah. But what did what did that healing journey start to look like either pre or post pregnancy? How did that become real for you?Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Yeah. Pre pregnancy. It's that's a really great question. So pre pregnancy I always say like as we get older, we learn in some ways how not to trip people up right like most of us have these ideas around social nuances and appropriate things to say and do and we realize like oh, I might be pushing a button maybe I should back up a little bit or you don't really want to go there you're stressed and overwhelmed. As I said, as we grow we get into those so the thing with kids they don't have that realization right so happening and they just tap dance all over stuff ages trip, they don't know, you know, and so, pre kids, I don't think I was I felt as much pressure but post kids realizing like, these are triggering the crap out of me, you know? And, and you you don't even know Right? And it's like, okay, I can either control and change them right to stop triggering mama. Or I can like really use what's coming up in me to realize what I need to do to heal or what in within me needs to be honored. I say well within you needs to be healed or honored, right? So they really in some ways became honestly became my teachers because we can look at our kids and how they set us off and either stress us out or trigger us, which are two different things by the way. We can look at that. And we can say, That's so frustrating, you need to stop, right? Or we can say, hmm, I just approached a laser beam situation with an atom bomb, maybe I need to look deeper into that find out how to defuse some of these atom bombs, as opposed to expecting my child to stop detonating them. You know, and that's a big reason why I created trigger to transform the group parenting program, because I realized there were a lot of parents who wanted to learn how to do that, like, how do I focus on like dismantling this bomb, as opposed to trying to get my kid to stop setting it off? You know, and just being kids. The other thing that that does is it gives us a situation where we can gain clarity on, okay, where does a boundary or limit need to be placed? As opposed to, like, you're just annoying me stop, right? Like, if I'm just triggered all the time, then then there needs to be a boundary 100% of the time. But if on Monday, it's cute. And then on Wednesday, it lights me up and makes me mad, like maybe there's something there that I really need to get in touch with, you know. So getting clear, is starting to get a handle on those triggers, actually is a very lucrative and fruitful pathway into becoming the parent that we really want to be because those things aren't, you know, in a way anymore.Danielle Bettmann:
So convicting? Yes. And what's the difference in your mind between triggers? And stress? Yeah.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
So in my trauma training, we always learned that stress is happens when our demands, the perception of the demands being placed on us, outweighs the coping resources that we have available to us to deal with those demands. All right, so and it's all perception, right? Like, so I could perceive one thing as a demand, and it's overwhelming, and you'd be like, This is the greatest thing ever, right? So that's what a stress is. And it happens in the present moment. So like, I come home, the house is a mess, I have to finish up this report, dinner's not ready, my kids pulling on me, my kids are fighting, they're like, all of these things are leading up. So the demands are going up, up, up, up, up, up, up, and the resources that I that I already came in, in the house with probably thin resources at that point. And they're getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller, right. So I'm stressed in that moment. And that can lead me to overreact in ways that I don't want because now I'm just going to rely on primitive things to try to deal with the situation yelling or whatever. Yeah, a trigger is the same thing. But it's, it's from the past. So there was a moment in our life, when the demands of a situation exceedingly outweighed the resources that we had to deal with it, whether it be you know, we were in an abusive or neglectful home, or we had a traumatic loss, or something like that, right. So when when it's a trigger, what ends up happening is something that let's say our child or a partner does in the present moment, it triggers a past memory, right. And then we react in the present moment, as if it's that past situation, and we don't often don't realize it. So a stressor is something that is present. But a trigger is coming from our past. Now the thing is, we can be over you can have both, I can walk in the house, be overwhelmed and super stressed about everything that's going on. And then my child say or do something that triggers me. Well, that's a serious atom bomb moment, because now I don't even have the resources to keep that stat triggering experience at bay. And I'm overwhelmed. And the and the benefit of knowing this because what ends up happening is the way it looks to the outside world, whether I'm stressed or triggered, it's going to probably look the same way. Like I can overreact all of this stuff. But the key in the importance of us knowing the difference is we can figure out how we address it. So if it's a trigger than I have something in me that needs to be healed. Right? And so I need to figure out what that is. And that's the prime way that I can defuse that trigger and keep it from continuing to impact my parenting continuing to impact my partnership. If it's a stressor, then I just I need to honor that and figure out in those moments, how can I decrease the demands or increase my coping resources to deal with this with the stressor that keeps coming up? Right, right. And so differentiating the two really gives us the power Hour in control, to be able to say, Okay, where do I need to dive deeper, like a really good example, just happened the other night, my daughter is a huge trigger for my husband a huge trigger. And, and he's very well aware of it. It comes from past stuff from from his childhood and things that went on in his home when he was younger. And so when my daughter blows up, she gets fiery. She triggers him, but stresses me. Right meaning for him, it brings up all this past stuff. So for him, there's this realization, I need to go back and I need to heal some of this past stuff. Because whether I'm stressed or not, this trigger is still going to be present and will still impact how I engage her because I'm not engaging her from the present. I'm engaging her from my past stuff, or my fear of the past repeating itself and my daughter, right, which is a whole difference, you know, response versus me, or I'm like, It's nine o'clock at night, I've been working all day, and my resources are depleted, and I just need you to stop, right? Now, there are different things that I can do, right? Like I can call for backup with my husband, or I can talk to her about how can we make sleepy time easier, but for my for my husband, it doesn't matter when she blows up, it's going to still bring up that same trigger for me. If she blows up, you know, in the morning, when I've had a full night's sleep and all that I'm going to respond differently, because I have more resources on board. Yeah. Is that clear?Danielle Bettmann:
No, I think that that really is a great example, to depict that analogy. And I think it's very descriptive to be able to resonate with a new awareness to being able to look back at yesterday or this past week and any situations that did go awry, and be able to look at them with a little bit of a new lens to say, what's really going on here. Because there is very often times that your child does the exact same thing at 10 o'clock on a Tuesday and six o'clock on a Thursday, and you react completely differently.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Exactly. And there's a good chance that that's probably a stressor, right? Like, it's just like, I'm just stressed and overwhelmed over it, right. But if it's like, it doesn't matter, if it's six o'clock, two o'clock, five o'clock, it doesn't matter, it still brings up the same sensations, you still tell yourself the same stories. And that's the other thing about triggers. Our responses to them are pretty consistent. You know, it's like what it brings up in our body, which is something else that I think we really need to focus on that we often don't like I was raised in an environment where feelings were, like horrible, like, like, I shouldn't say horrible, difficult feelings. Right? We're not helpful, right? And it was like, stop crying before I give you something to cry about, or what's there's nothing wrong. Stop it. Right. And so I grew up with this belief that feelings were evil. Hey, should be just pushed to the basement. And but what I ended up realizing through my own work and working with families is that they're really signposts, right? They're really signposts that just give us information on where we feel connected, where we feel disconnected, what within our life feel safe and what feels unsafe. What tends to send us in fight flight freeze, and what tends to send us into flow, right? It's so when we really look at them that way. Now, they're no longer these horrible evil things lurking in the night to come out and like pounce on us, right? But they're these things that we can look at and be like, Whoa, I'm feeling really triggered right now. Or I'm feeling really anxious, or I'm feeling afraid, or I'm really frustrated. Like in our house, we're really good at using words. Like I just told my daughter last night we were she gets the second wind right before bed. It's really frustrating. And a husband doesn't help sometimes, because sometimes they'll start chasing her. And I'm like, seriously, why did they do that? It was like, Whoa, sorry, really? You know what time it is, right? So she's like, second wind, and she's like, I'm gonna go, I'm gonna do this. I said, Honey, Mommy is tired. And therefore I'm getting frustrated. Right? And I just said that, and I spoke for those feelings. Now, that doesn't mean it's her responsibility. So, you know, I wasn't anything that I needed her. Well, there was some things that I would like for her to do, like stop bouncing off the walls, right. But it was really for me, me naming that, like, I'm getting frustrated. And what would be really helpful is if we could go in your room and do lay time right now. Right? And so stating like, this is what my feeling this is what I'm needing. Right? And again, it's not her responsibility. You know, it's not like you are making me frustrated, right? It's like my coping resources are kind of low almost non existent right now. So or at least my energy is a very good thing resources, my energy and my ability to access them in this moment is getting depleted. Alright, so I'm just gonna name that right. And then what ends up happening is my kids start doing it, you know, my daughter will be like, I'm frustrated right now. And yeah, great name Matt own, that they're not bad. They're just giving you insight into where you are. And then the next up is what you need. Hey, sorry,Danielle Bettmann:
I'm just going to interrupt with a quick story about a family that just graduated coaching. And I'm going to read their words, and then we'll get right back to this episode. So this family has a three, almost four year old at this time, mum said, our son had been really struggling with aggression and anger. And we couldn't seem to find ways to get through to him on our own, or even with the help of a counselor and a therapist that he was seeing for months, it just seemed to be getting worse and worse, and we needed to try something else. We were skeptical that who would really be able to help at this point. And we heard your approach and realize that it was just meeting with us and not him. And we realized that that was a bit different. But maybe it'd be a good different. But we also were a little concerned, like why just why can't we just figure this out ourselves is by admitting and seeking help from someone like a family coach, is that a sign that we're failures or something. But in reading about your program and your approach, we realized that, oh, we have a very strong willed kid. And we can't deal with him in the same way traditional discipline may work for some kids. But it doesn't work for our kid. But we don't know how to do anything else. So we knew we had to do something. And as it turned out, what we really needed to do was look in the mirror, more than anything else. We had to adjust what we were expecting out of him and ourselves. And this process really helped us do that it helped us realign a lot of our priorities and the way that we've handled things, not just with parenting, but with each other. And as a family. One of the biggest things we came to understand was the way that he was acting was a reflection of his way of communicating that he needed something and he didn't feel like his needs were being met. And we didn't understand that before. And diving into well, what are those needs that aren't being met. And it wasn't basic needs. It was obviously he was being fed and had a nice place to live and all of those things. But was he feeling like he was getting enough love and attention from us. And as soon as we started implementing some of these changes, he's become a different kid. And not only that, but the other thing was, he needs to be heard. He needs to feel like we are listening to him. And we understand what he thinks is important and how he feels is important. And that has gone so far. Just as being acknowledging how he feels and understanding and being parents that are like, well, we don't understand why he's acting that way. He should just know how to do this. Or he knows how to do this. Why is he being so difficult? Those shifts have been huge. And the other thing was having tools, like the comparison charts for encouragement and praise, or the step by step approach for when he's hitting, and we can be consistent, how important that was for us. For us, our first strong willed kid that has been so huge. And also just having the time set aside for to have these conversations we just wouldn't have done otherwise. We've mentioned this program to several friends. And they're like, Well, what's so great about this parenting coach you're going to, and the amazing thing has been that it has been 100% focused on us, and our behavior and what we can do to help our son be a happier, more successful little kid. And it's different. It's a different approach that I think most therapy and counseling takes when it comes to kids. And it has been exactly what we needed. The other types of therapies where we tried, it was hard because when they're at that toddler age, we don't want them to feel like it's their problem or something's wrong with them, especially when that's not necessarily what it is. It was just we needed to find different ways to approach the struggles that every child there has. And this approach just worked so much better for us. So if you want to hear more about this one on one coaching approach, go ahead and send me an message on Instagram DM me the word sanity, and I will share more info with you and we can chat more about whether it's a good fit for your family. Alright, back to the episode and I feel like it's a kind of a still a new concept like emotions are still a new concept all of us grownups are learning but the thought that emotions are felt in the body is a whole nother level. So what what can you give as like beginners taps for like awareness of being able to kind of link those and use them as you know helpful information.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Yeah, so the biggest thing that I often Interestingly enough, the offer that I have at the end, will, it's it will walk everybody through different processes to help do this. But one of the things is learning to access your emotions and your sensations when you are not overwhelmed. When when you're not triggered or stressed, okay? And the importance of that is, if we only start to notice them when we're triggered or stressed, and we're not used to doing it, our brain will do the just the opposite, right? Because our brain is trained that these sensations in these feelings are not good. They're not our friend, we need to push them away. Right? So the beginning is start noticing them. When you're just sitting down, like maybe set a timer on your clock and on your phone and just sit and think like, what am I feeling in my body right now? Where do I notice that? Right? And then the next step is starting to associate emotions with those sensations, right? So I have a sensation in my stomach. That it's, it's kind of like, light and airy and a little tickly. Right. And for me, if I associate a feeling with that, it's like in this like, I'm literally searching right now. It's like kind of like and take away. And what it is, it's like this, this feeling of like excitement and anticipation because I'm here and I'm talking to you. And this is fun, right? So I associate that feeling with like fun and excitement. And what are we going What are we going to talk about next? Did you know? So really just starting to learn? What are the sensations and you can even do this, like two days, just focusing on the sensation, I noticed in sensation here, I noticed the sensation there. And the next day add in? What is what meaning do I make of that sensation in this moment? Right? Like, I'm excited. I'm anxious, I'm exhausted, right? Like, what meaning do I make of that? And then, you know, you can move on to okay, what stories am I telling myself with regards to this? Right? Yeah, like, funny little feeling in my tummy. And I'm associating that with a feeling of excitement. And I'm telling myself the story that, hey, this is fun, you should do this more often. Right? And so the same thing happens with our kids, like last night when I was sitting with autumn and wouldn't go to bed and like, because my husband just ran around the house. Thanks, honey, you know, so that's where the feeling then was, my shoulders got really tight. So the sensation was in my shoulders, right? It's not good or bad. It's just a sensation was in my shoulders, right? And the feeling that I associated with that was frustration. Right. And the story that I told myself in that moment was, if this doesn't stop, and we don't start getting in bed, I think I'm just gonna lose my mind. Right? She's gonna literally gonna fall out of my ears onto the floor. That is where my mind will go. Alright, so like, and that story is gonna bet it's like a loop, it'll then go back and reinforce the sensations that I have and the feelings, right. So now I'm afraid my mind is gonna leak out of my ears. So now I might feel like in addition to my shoulders being hurt, now my stomach might start to cramp. And now I'm angry. And then I'm angry because I'm telling myself that Patrick doesn't care. He's not the one that does bedtime. So he doesn't give a flying flip. How excited and off the wall. She is at this point. Oh, so great, you know, and so now it's like this whole story, avalanche experience. But when you start just start small, just start with noticing, I would say this, start with whatever is easiest for you to access. If it's your body sensation, start there. If it's the the if the emotions start there, if it's the stories start there, right, but they all connect to each other. So start with the thing that it's the easiest for you to access above that, and then go from there. Yeah,Danielle Bettmann:
I had I had a similar incident where I was really conscious of that cycle, because I woke up in the middle of the night. And I thought to myself, like, what's going on with my body? Why am I awake? And I was like, my stomach gurgling. And I was like, Oh, okay. And then I was like, starting to think about it. And I realized, I think I think I have a bit of a son cake like maybe I'm starting to feel sick. And then I started telling myself the story of it was the hamburger. It's food poisoning. Oh, sure, have food poisoning. And then, of course, it got worse. And so then I was like up for the next half hour hour, wondering how the kids are going to start waking up with food poisoning. The guests we had over for dinner are going to have food poisoning. How am I going to show my face to them? It was a whole thing. And I started like reading and getting my mind off of it. And it started going away. Oddly enough, I did not have food poisoning.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Such a good example how we do that right? Yes, we do that and I Talk about the stories in our heads. You know, one of the things that I do when I'm working, especially with couples, I will literally start a process where I get them in the habit of starting every sentence with the story in my head is, right, because when you recognize what the story because we what we often do is we recognize the story in our heads, maybe, but we don't say it, but we speak from it. Right? So the story in our head is, oh, my God, I have food poisoning. Right? So instead of saying the story in my head is I have food poisoning, which often leads the other person to go, oh, well, let me give you 15 reasons why that may not be the case. Right? Or in the case of couples, it's like the story in my head, like with Patrick is, you don't really care how riled up you get her because I'm the one that does bedtime, and it doesn't matter to you? Right? If I were to say that to him, then he could be like, I hear you. And I'm sorry, that's not I really didn't think about it that deeply. The story in my head was, there's my kid, we're actually feeling connected in this moment. I'm excited and I want to run and play with her. I honestly wasn't thinking but now that I hear that, that it creates that story I can I can do something different. Right? So it gives the other person more awareness and more context around why we're feeling a certain way or why we're responding or sometimes reacting a certain way. So that story in our head is a powerful thing. powerful thing that the more aware we can become of it, the more we can use it.Danielle Bettmann:
Yes. And hopefully find something better but believable, right to replace it with.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Yeah, believable is important. Yes.Danielle Bettmann:
Like I'm the I'm the best parent there ever was and you know, things like that.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Right all parts within your life - whatever - we don't believe that- shenanigans!Danielle Bettmann:
Yep, your body will definitely let you know exactly. I'm actually working on a super related project to this concept. So I have to bring that up to where a colleague and I Sara Olsher, have created a kid's mental health subscription box. And box number four is four, five, and six are all about emotions. And box four has a tool where on one side, it has the emotion faces and names. And on the other side, it has the body and a dry erase marker and you help your child figure out their sensations. And then you either start with the sensations and then decide the emotion or start with the emotion and then depict the sensations that goes along with the book talking about emotions. But if that is something that you are still trying to learn as a grownup, that can be a tool that you can both use together to figure that out a little practically. So I am actually recording the parent training for that like later today. So it just that is reallyDr. Lynyetta Willis:
accurate up there. I was just about to say like, can you have an adult's version of that? Because I get it. And like for the kid, they'll be like, in my tummy, and the adults will just be doing the whole body like everywhere, everywhere. Call the thingsDanielle Bettmann:
totally therapeutic therapeutics. So there's a lot of benefits to that. Yeah.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Just like scribbling all over the body.Danielle Bettmann:
Yeah, I could totally see doing that. The kids just like slowly walking away.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
They could go to play in my room now. That sounds fantastic.Danielle Bettmann:
Oh, my God. Yeah, we should connect offline. I'll also hook you up with the info, please. But the other thing I wanted to circle back to or dial into a little bit is this concept of stable misery. Because I came across that word, and you use it a lot. And I you know, right off the bat, I'm sure listeners are like, what? So what is that to you? And why do families tend to stay in the state?Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Yeah, stable misery. I love that phrase. I've been using it for almost 20 years now. And it's that state, we often find ourselves in, you know, where the house isn't on fire. But we're not living in a crisis situation. But we're just genuinely feeling unfulfilled, or unhelpful, you know, and things just aren't going well. But when we feel stuck there, right, we're not really sure how to break free or how to get out. So it's stable, because we're there a lot, right, but it's miserable. And the reason why we tend to get stuck there is actually a brain thing. Right? Our brain actually prefers familiar over uncertainty. So the idea that when we fall into the stable misery patterns, often which we're mind us if something from the past like this is how you if you really look at some of the stable misery patterns that we fall into, especially in our families, we can often see some connections like, Oh, this is how my parents acted, or oh, this is where, you know, this reminds me of this relationship with this or that person, right? So realizing that our brain will always go to the familiar, even if the familiar leads us to feel miserable. Because uncertainty and possibility of joy isn't it's not always enough to pull us out and to do things differently. The other issue is, my brains off, they just start to fall into habits like that. One thing I often say is, if you are living in stable misery as a parent, or in your partnership, it's not a sign that you're broken, your kids broken or your partner's broken, but it is a sign that you probably have habits that need to be. Right. So we fall into these habits. And it really is a process like the way I conceptualize stable misery. It's an unhelpful habit that we can fall into with our families. And it actually takes intention. And a bit of experimentation, to pull out experiment, experiment is another word that I love. It's one of my buzz words, right? Always doing different experiments, to help us to lift us out of there, so that we can move closer to joy in a way that doesn't lead our nervous systems to feel unsafe or disconnected.Danielle Bettmann:
So if, if a family is listening to this, and they resonate with that, where they're like, yep, that's us. What, what would you say to them, to encourage them to let them know that it's possible and that it is worth that experimentation?Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Yeah. I mean, if you think about it from the perspective of worth, and value of experimenting, and breaking free, it's just Is this a place you want to live for the rest of your marriage, or the rest of the time your kids are at home? Probably not. If you're anything like me, you want to create a home where your kids actually want to come back for holiday break after they want to bring their kids your grandkids to visit? You know, so creating an environment now that feels good to you will help with that. Right. The other thing is, if you're in a partnership, realizing like, you know, do I want to retire with this person in this way, right, like realizing like, is it worth it to move forward? Or is it? Is it not bad enough? Where you're like, I can live like this for the next 5060 years? I'm fine. You know, so really just realizing, hey, I really want to, like is it is it worth it to me to move forward. The other thing that I often ask is, ask yourself, I would still tell people to do this little imaginative exercise where you close your eyes, and you sort of envision how your house is functioning, how your relationship is functioning, how your connection with your kids are functioning. And then when you have that really held in your mind really well, to now replace everyone in that image with your children. So now your child is you there with their partner, they have their own children, and they are living the exact same life that you are living now. If that makes you cringe or go, Oh, God, then that also might be another point that it's worth it to move, because that will likely happen. Right? Children, children learn what they live. So being able to say like, I want to shift how we're showing up as a couple, because it will impact how our children show up as a couple. You know, that could also be something to look towards. So it really is an individual conversation and insight that everyone has to come to like maybe it's not bad enough to move. And if it's if that's the case, on that, and good luck with that, you know, if you realize like, oh, okay, I really hadn't thought of it that way. And I'm realizing now maybe it is bad enough that we need to move, then yeah, start with really small experiments, small things that you can do, to shard start shifting the habits. Yeah.Danielle Bettmann:
So that's the main thing, and I'm sure you have heard more than plenty of times from families. I wish we would have done this sooner.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Mm hmm. Absolutely. Especially families like in that are getting the trigger trigger trigger to transform to this idea of I hear two things. One, wish I would have done this sooner and two. I wish this was around for kids, which sort of points into what you were saying right about your thing. Like, imagine if we were taught this in schools like all of this emotional intelligence and all of this stuff, and it's not too late. Like our brains. There's this thing called neuroplasticity, meaning our brain Beans can literally be rewired. They used to think it was like once the brain was formed, that was it. There's no change in it, you know, but we know now that that's not true, we can absolutely, literally change the way our brain functions, and therefore the way that we function in the world. So it's not too late. You can do it. Does it take energy? Yes. Does it take effort? Yes. Does it take more effort than getting a PhD? Or sitting down and reading the 50? parenting books that I know all of you have on your nightstand? Yes, yeah. It actually takes action, and experimentation and realization and all of these different things to actually move that needle. So that you, you start to see changes in the way that you're showing up in your life.Danielle Bettmann:
I love that phrase like, information is not transformation, like we just with the information is so prevalent, we have Google. So it gives us like a false sense of, you know, I'm making progress, I'm making changes. But really, it's just informationDr. Lynyetta Willis:
it is. And again, it goes I'm sorry, I'm a neuro nerd. So I always relate things back to the brain, it goes back to the brain, right. So all that information, all that parenting and partnership stuff you're taking in. All that is stored in your frontal lobe, when you are triggered or overwhelmed with stress, guess which part of your brain is the first part of your brain to shut down the frontal lobe, so you literally don't have access to all that book knowledge. So it's not a personal failure, when it's like, I just read what I was supposed to say and do in that situation. And then he came in, or she came in and did that thing. And then I forgot it went out the window, and I did what I did before. That's because you don't have the, it needs to, you know, people say you got to get it in your bones, right? Like, it really needs to be something that's integrated into different parts of your brain and your body so that you can access it, even when you're triggered. One of the things that I haven't triggered to transform is this model I created called the elemental living model. And I literally pair the four elements with different ways that we can respond, and specifically our parenting, but it works in partnerships, too. And it's based on this idea that when we're in those moments, we can't access new information as easily. So that book you just read, but what we can access are things that are sort of ingrained in the back of our minds. So if you live on planet Earth, you know how the elements work, air is air, water is water fires, fire earth is Earth, right? So you may not be able to access that one sentence that Dan Siegel or whatever said in the book, but you can access the idea that when my child is in fire, I should bring water, what does bringing water look like? Right? Like you can access those very rudimentary ideas. So in elemental living, we literally pair and it's individualized for everyone. Because what bringing water looks like for you, and what bringing water looks like, for me can be very different. But it's using all of the elements in a way where you can literally create your own parenting manual, so that you can access those habits in those shifts that you want to make in your relationship in a way that's helpful for you, and accessible to you when you need the most.Danielle Bettmann:
Yeah, that's exactly what they need. Yes. So smart. Like, you know, a thing or two.Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
I'm such a visual person, I get images before I get words, like, that's just always been my thoughts. So I see things in my mind's eye. And I'm like, What is that supposed to mean? You know, to add words to it later. Cool.Danielle Bettmann:
Yeah. I'm sure that there's a lot of people like that. So that's exactly why I can create the content that resonates with that type of person so readily available. That's so cool. So last, like, you know, if I give you a pedestal, and What haven't we covered that you like, always really feel like needs to be heard or needs to be said, when you have a group of listeners? What would you like to share with them that we haven't covered yet?Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
You know, it goes back to that sense that you're not broken. Right? You're not broken. And parenting, it really is a process. It's a process and a practice. It's not about being perfect. It's about realizing that the steps that you need to take to be the parent that you want to be, are not. You're not stuck in the patterns that you were raised with, like you can make those steps you can make those changes. It just requires some experimentation, some realization and awareness, a lot of what we talked about today, you know, around the bodies and the emotions and things like that. You can rewire your brain so if you are stuck in stable misery as a parent, as a partner, whatever, it is possible for you to break free. You can transform the legacies that you were handed down you were, I would say you're not leashed to your legacies, you can transform them in a way that can actually be fun. I hear that a lot to people who like, this is actually there's some fun to it doesn't all have to be drama, right? Just realizing that you can make those shifts, you can make those changes. All you have to do is say yes. And commit to it.Danielle Bettmann:
Yeah, that's so empowering. Oh, so good. So how can listeners connect with you share a little bit more of like that next step and your platforms?Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Yes, absolutely. So if you go to healingstablemisery.com, you can download a, I created everything that I talked about today. And right, I talked earlier about how there's five, well, I didn't say five. But there are there are five areas where if we transform those areas, they can either create a barrier, or a way forward. And so I outlined those five areas and every single day for five days, you'll get a gift that you can use a resource that you can use to actually start to transform those areas and do a lot of the work that we've been talking about today, for yourself, as a parent or as a partner. You'll also get access to my parenting triggers quiz, what's your parenting trigger score, that will give you some really good insight into how you are showing up as a parent, what you look like what you tend to do when you're triggered that sort of thing, because I realized we all have these habits, that we tend to fall into habit types that we tend to fall into. So you'll get access to that as well. So head on over, grab that resource and start transforming. You can do it.Danielle Bettmann:
Yes. Okay, I'll have that linked in the show notes. That's so relatable to you know, this conversation. So I think that that's a really smart next step. And then the last question I asked every guest is how are you the parent that your kids need?Dr. Lynyetta Willis:
Such a good question. How am I the parent that my kids need? Wow, the interesting thing about that question, and I know you didn't ask it for a dissertation. So I'll make that short. This short, is we tend to have like this negativity bias, right? That's what our brain does, our brain goes towards the negative. So what you're basically asking is, how am I an awesome mom, right? And so it takes a while for our brain to like, filter through and be like, how am I a mom and my kids need? You know, I think, ultimately, it comes down to the idea that I do believe that we all have power, even though it may not always seem that way. I do believe that we all are what I like to call Well, it's an acronym for whole enough loved and learning. Right? And whenever I'm fully present in the flow, I liked, I try my best to instill that in my kids, you are whole, you are enough. You are loved. And you're always 100% learning. Right and realizing that and and that allows me to approach them with curiosity. Right. And in so doing, allows me to shift some aspects of the legacy that I was handed some which were very great and wonderful, and others that I think I want to prune that a little bit. I can probably leave that where it is. Right. And so because I'm so mindful and because I'm so passionate about living and leaving legacies that make me proud, creating a type of home that my kids want to return to when they're older. I think they got a pretty good deal with me. I'm just saying. Yes. I'm gonna remind them of that. I'm gonna remind them of that when I picked them up. Everybody, that's your homework. Remind your kids. You got a good deal. anybody listening to this podcast? Your kids got a good deal.Danielle Bettmann:
Yes, that is exactly what I'm trying to say. Thank you. That's the only takeaway. Please embrace it. Yes. Yes, your kids are lucky to have you. And we are lucky to have you. Thank you so much for the time that you take to be able to share this with us and for creating all these free resources and just being you. We really really appreciate it and it is changing theDr. Lynyetta Willis:
world. Thank you and ditto Right back at ya. Can't wait for those boxesDanielle Bettmann:
Was this conversation not super practical? If you can't apply something from this conversation today, I would be surprised. I feel like it was so good. I had so much fun recording it and so grateful to share it. Definitely connect with Dr. Willis on Instagram. Go check out that have a free resource. And let me know if you are enjoying the podcast. leave a review on Apple podcasts, share it in your stories, tell a friend. It really does make a difference when parents are able to become conscious and aware that these resources and tools are out there and change is possible for their family. You are not stuck in what you were given. You can make a change. And if you're making a change you your kids have a good deal. So thank you for coming on this journey with me. I believe in you and I'm cheering you on.