Michelle P. Maidenberg is a renowned clinician and mental health advocate. Operating a private practice in Harrison, NY, she also serves as the Co-Founder and Clinical Director of “Thru My Eyes,” a nonprofit organization that offers a deeply compassionate service. This initiative is dedicated to providing free, professionally guided video recording sessions to individuals battling chronic and severe medical conditions. Through these heartfelt interviews, “Thru My Eyes” helps these individuals document their personal stories, insights, and messages for their families and loved ones, leaving a lasting legacy of hope and inspiration.
As an adjuct faculty member at NYU, the author of several books, and as a Tedx speaker, Michelle shares her expertise and insights with as and, together, we’re going to explore how technology can be used to improve our mental and physical well-being.
In this episode, you will hear:
- Living authentically and aligning to your values.
- Leaving a legacy and the “Thru My Eyes” nonprofit organization.
- Evaluating your values and how you are living them each day.
- Tapping into your sense of purpose.
- What mindfulness is and how it impacts mental and physical health.
- The impact of intergenerational trauma and stopping the cycle.
Michelle P. Maidenberg, Ph.D.,MPH, LCSW-R,CGP, maintains a private practice in Harrison, NY. She is also the Co-Founder and Clinical Director of “Thru My Eyes”, a nonprofit 501c3 organization that offers free clinically-guided videotaping to chronically medically ill individuals who want to leave video legacies for their children and loved ones.
Michelle is adjunct faculty at New York University (NYU) teaching a graduate course in Mindfulness Practice. She is a member of the American Red Cross Crisis Team. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Westchester Trauma Network (WTN) in Westchester NY.
Michelle is the author of the book “Free Your Child From Overeating” 53 Mind-Body Strategies For Lifelong Health” and new book “Ace Your Life: Unleash Your Best Self and Live the Life You Want” is available at: Thriftbooks, Barnes and Noble, Walmart Target, and Amazon. Note that all paperbacks come with a free ebook. Listen to Michelle’s TED TALK: Circumventing Emotional Avoidance. Michelle writes the Psychology Today Blog: Being Your Best Self and is a contributing editor of the journal GROUP. She does weekly guided meditations on her YouTube channel. She is dedicated and invested in health and mental health advocacy.
Connect with Dr. Michelle Maidenberg:
Psychology Today Blogger: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/contributors/michelle-p-maidenberg-phd-mph-lcsw-r-cgp
TedxTalk: Circumventing Emotional Avoidance
Latest Book – Ace Your Life: https://michellemaidenberg.com/ace-your-life-book/
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Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 0:00
because we do identify with the core values, I don’t ask what is your core value? Because people don’t usually know what I’m talking about. Right? But But I will ask them questions like, what is important to you?
What is the if there was one message that you had to get across to your family or children? What would that be? How would you want them to live their life? Right? What was the most important lesson that you’ve learned, that you want to convey to your family? So those kinds of questions when you get to the essence of a person, and what’s important to them, you get to their value. So I, again, because I do this work, I’m able to extrapolate from a person what their core value is based on the questions. And I use that in the realm of the interview.
Welcome to the healthier tech podcast, the show about building a healthier relationship with modern technology. Now, here are your hosts, R blank and Stephanie Warner.
R Blank 0:59
So Steph, are you living your authentic life?
Stephanie Warner 1:03
Well, ah, you know, I tried to, I think we all try to today’s guest is going to give us a little bit more information and guidance and resources to for us all to tap in and hone in on our core values. So we can live our best lives and be our best selves. What about you are how do you how’d you feel about today’s interview? Oh,
R Blank 1:26
this interview is fantastic. Yeah, Dr. Madan Berg that everyone’s about to hear from her practice spans up a lot of different subject matter areas, as you’re about to hear, we didn’t even get to nearly all of them today, her journey in her insight, I found particularly relevant to at least some of the challenges that I’m going through her journey and the work that she’s doing, I think is very motivational, very inspiring. And, you know, I, to answer my own question, it’s funny, you know, I don’t know how I don’t know how much seeking the authentic life had been important to me prior to my 40s that as a as a thought construct was, wasn’t really something that I I really, it’s not that I was trying to be inauthentic. It’s just that that wasn’t the way I was framing my goals or my values. And as I’ve gotten a bit older, I feel like it has been and so you know, that’s why what we’re about to cover with Michelle, I think resonates so much with me. So I’m looking forward to this.
Stephanie Warner 2:30
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s let’s get into it.
R Blank 2:33
Let’s get into it. Today, we’re going to explore how technology can be used to improve our mental and physical well being Michelle Pete Ladenburg is renowned clinician and mental health advocate. She maintains a private practice in Harrison, New York, and is the co founder and clinical director of through my eyes, a nonprofit organisation that offers free, clinically guided videotaping to chronically medically ill individuals. She is also an adjunct faculty member at NYU, a member of the American Red Cross crisis team, and serves on the board of directors of the Westchester trauma network. She is the author of several books, including free your child from overeating, and aistear life, and has given a TED talk on circumventing emotional avoidance. Join us as Michelle shares her experience and insights on how technology can help us live healthier lives. Welcome, Michelle, to the healthier tech podcast.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 3:29
All right. Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
R Blank 3:32
Ya know, thank you for for taking the time out of your day. Sounds like you got a lot going on your schedule. Appreciate it. Yeah, so
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 3:38
I wear many hats. But everything I’m passionate about, so it’s all good.
R Blank 3:42
So to kick us off, I really liked the name of your TED Talk, which is, I didn’t I’ve listened to a couple of your interviews. I didn’t watch that talk. But it’s called circumventing emotional avoidance. Which to me, because I like wordplay sounded like avoiding avoidance. So tell us tell me about this concept.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 4:05
Well, we don’t realise how our minds are wired. I really, I love the new kind of research and understanding on neurobiology because it really gives us a sense, instead of like self blame, and really getting shameful, and getting into regret and all these really self deprecating thoughts and feelings, we understand how we’re wired biologically. And it gives us perspective on we’re not to blame for the way we think and feel and act sometimes and again, I’m not again absolving anyone from being accountable for their, you know, behaviours, because that’s really where you know where it’s at. But it’s really understanding that our minds are wired, to avoid discomfort and also to again to keep us safe. So avoiding danger and discomfort and it perpetually perpetually sometimes, you know, to in an unhealthy way, you know, keeps us in that realm. So it’s really leaning into and like you said, avoiding avoiding. Yes, the discomfort, it’s it’s learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. And we’re not going to readily just kind of jump into it, we have to really do it in a really segmented, you know, way so that we are open to it, and we don’t get resistant, and then kind of back in the opposite direction. And that’s what typically happens. So even if it’s even if it’s changing habits, or whatever it is, right, we want to change a habit, we’re automatically going to feel uncomfortable. A because it’s unfamiliar. And our body and our mind is, is naturally going to resist it. You know, for many, many reasons. You know whether, whether it’s because we were socialised. Whether it’s the way we’re raised, whether it’s because of again, you know, unfamiliarity, whether it’s fear, I mean, there’s so many things that come up for us. So we’re inclined to really resist all the time. So, yeah,
R Blank 6:01
there’s a lot there. I mean, there’s more I want to get to, but there’s a lot. That’s what you just said. So because you started by saying, you know, we’re so many of us feel regret. But at the same time, you said, we’re wired to avoid sense of discomfort. How do you drive those two statements? Because regret is pretty uncomfortable. Yeah.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 6:22
Yes. Well, regret is also very purposeful, right? Because we learn from our experiences, okay. Hopefully, hopefully, hopefully. Sometimes you actually repeat patterns of behaviour because it’s familiar and comfortable. When I say comfortable, right? I’m saying that quotation marks.
R Blank 6:41
Oh, I see. So, okay. It’s like, habituated, that’s right.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 6:47
The comfort comes patterns, it comes from familiarity it comes from, and again, it’s sometimes we’re on autopilot, we don’t even realise it, we just like naturally fall into patterns of behaviour, because it’s something we’re used to. It’s natural to us, you know, so like, I’ll give you a personal example. Anger is actually a very comfortable feeling for me, for other people. Anger is like a plague. Right? They avoid anger, like the plague me, Oh, I like anger makes me feel strong and powerful. Oh, yeah. And, and I grew up in, you know, in a home, and I won’t go through my whole history, but I grew up where we could scream, yell, and whatever, right. And then we could walk away, and then the next minute, and everything’s forgotten, you know, so it’s not threatening to me, anger is not threatening. For other people. They were taught to avoid conflict at any costs, right? As soon as the guns conflict with their sibling, or whatever parents come bashed it, you know, which, again, takes away from learning coping skills from learning, again, negotiation skills, such valuable skills, think about it, right. So it has to, it has to do so I recognise that about myself. And sometimes I like it so much, you know, right, it feels so powerful. But it’s in authentic power, when I started in the wrong way, right? So I have to be careful with that. I have to be like, oh, you know, I feel really reasonable right now. And I can really lash out and get my needs met by lashing out, by the way, because people then take me really seriously, right. But that’s not how I want to be. That’s not who I am. That’s not my authentic self. And it really is not aligned with my values. So you know, that’s an example. So we really, again, we have to understand, like, even though it’s familiar, and it’s comfortable, it may not serve us well.
R Blank 8:32
So how do you how do you step through, right? Because there’s a lot of variables there that you have to try it off. There’s what you’re trying to do. There’s what you’re habituated to do, there’s what you want to do, there’s who you want to be when you’re working with a client or a patient, or teaching a class? What’s the process by which you help these people sort of explore those variables?
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 8:53
That’s a great question. And I’ll use an example from yesterday because it is it was so poignant. So it was a person, but guess what he he is in a very, very unhappy marriage. Okay. And it’s a long marriage. And he talked about, you know, some, I’m gonna say activity that’s going on, you know, that is not in line with loyalty. Okay. Now, he then talked about the struggle of staying in them of leaving the marriage because of loyalty. Interesting, right.
R Blank 9:33
Yeah, right. So his core
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 9:35
value is loyalty. Okay, so we talked about what’s keeping him in the manager. What kept him in the manage all this time, is loyalty, right? And also his perception of family that’s attached to loyalty, right? So and again, there’s conflicting values because there’s loyalty on the one end that’s a really core value of has and then there’s also living a fulfilling kind and wife, right? So those two are in opposition to one another. And those two are very formative values for him. So that was one number two, okay, which was really critical. I said to him, and I kind of, like held him accountable. I go, wow. Like you’ve been talking to me the whole time about loyalty and how critical that is to you. Hmm. But you’re not really living your life in a way that’s really in accordance to that value. So it’s been compromised. So I’m not sure I know that’s important to you. But are you really living authentically? Yeah. And he, he said to, you know, he’s been in therapy with other practitioners in the past. And the first thing he said to me, was, I’m gonna be talking for 15 minutes, I want you to talk for the rest, because every time I go to therapists, all they do is they’re like, yes, me, and they’re supportive. And I don’t need that I need somebody who’s really gonna hold me to the fire. And I was like, Oh, you got the right person? And I did. And I said to him, you need to realise you just talked about loyalty at least five times it came up, but you’re not living in your authentic life. And he was dumbfounded. He didn’t know. He said, Wow, I didn’t even realise that. I said, yeah. So little bit of a disparity here, you really need to be thinking about how do you want to live the rest of your life? Right? How do you want to really align with that value, so that you’re really feeling like you’re living an authentic life? And I said, I really want you to think about that. And, you know, he, like I said, it, he paused. So much, so much, so that he asked me for another session this week. So I’m seeing him tonight again.
Stephanie Warner 11:51
I bet he’s had a lot of time to sit in, you know, not a lot of time, but he’s done a lot of reflecting. Because I know for myself when I’ve had those huge epiphanies, with through therapy, that it’s, it’s, you can’t help but think about it. And I wanted to ask, I understand you co founded through my eyes, and I was wondering if you could tell our listeners, what that is, and what inspired you to co found it.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 12:16
Thank you, it’s, it’s like, it’s my baby, and I like have such a connection to it. So interestingly enough, and I’m gonna say this, it’s important. So it’s the mission, which, you know, you spoke up before, I’m not going to repeat it. But it’s really like, it’s like legacies of living legacies for families, where somebody, unfortunately, is really going through a chronic medical condition. And unfortunately, most people, it’s the end of life for them, because of the various disease and etc. and I filmed, you know, people of all different ages, but a lot of young, you know, individuals with children, you know, and some with young children. But every time I do a video, and every time I interview, you know, there’s such gratitude that they’re able to leave this legacy, I came up with a about a 200, you know, question here, which they then extrapolate based on the topics that they’re interested in, they extrapolate which questions they want to respond to. So it’s customised for each person based on you know, again, what they want to convey to their families. It’s, it’s helpful, because it’s left, like I said, it’s left and it’s forever, right, it’s enduring. And it goes through the course of their lives developmentally, from when their, you know, their childhood, to their career, to their family, to even their, if they want to talk about their illness, like they have access to talk about that, you know, friendships, a message that they want to send to their family or children during developmental milestones. What would you say to your child when they’re graduating? You know, what would you say their child’s you know, when they get into their first relationship? You know, these are things that are so critical for people who are at end of life, you know, they really want they’re leaving impressions, and they want to leave life lessons to people they love. So this has been a really incredible process for me. I’ve done over 300 videotapes over the years. So what I’ve come up against, and this is really, I hope, there’s somebody out there honestly, what I’ve come up against is that the structure by which it was in the past was we used to go to people’s homes, this was pre COVID. Actually, we just go to people’s homes, we serve a videographer and offered face to face. What I’ve done over the years, and this has been incredible is I’ve offered it you know, and it was for free. Of course. It’s now we offer it nationally across the United States. It’s offered to people of all different races, religions, socioeconomic status, people are able to record despite, you know, their ability to you know, to afford being videotaped, and also people don’t have access even to the Wi Fi at I’ve videotape this a woman, the other, you know, a couple months ago, she had seven children and she was literally in the middle of rural America had didn’t even have access to Wi Fi that she actually had to record at her doctor’s office, she asked permission to record there, she would never have access otherwise. So the problem that we’re having now is I really want to make up a new platform, because the way that was structured before, the nonprofit would die with me, so to speak, because we relied on fundraisers. So I did come up with a platform, but it takes funding, because we need to mark it, we need to mark it. Again, I have no ego in this at all, I’m willing to partnership, I’m willing to give board seats, whatever it takes. And the amount of money that it needs, relatively speaking is really minimal, I have to tell you relative to other nonprofits, and the structure that we came up with is we’re going to actually charge a very minimal fee, which is like 299, we came up with that fee. And that’s going to defer the class of people who cannot afford it. So it’s also giving back, which is a lovely, I feel it’s a lovely structure for people who are recording, they know that they’re giving back to others who can’t. So anybody who’s interested literally reach out to me, I beg, I really, really want want to continue this, it’s been so important for people I have to tell you and the other piece that I also added, which is so critical, is I have researchers from Portland, Oregon, from NYU, from all over universities who are willing to do research to identify what it is important for people to talk about when they’re at their end of life. So it’s going to be so critical for palliative care, which is another really important piece because I’m, you know, I’m an academic, and I really want to contribute to the field and to the practice, you know, to palliative care, and to help people.
R Blank 16:51
So what what is there? Is there a personal drive for you behind the mission four through my eyes? Where did I mean, because you seem very passionate about and I’m wondering what led you to focus on this specific aspect?
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 17:08
Thank you for asking that. Yeah. So I am a little bit of a I used to be a little bit of a gym rat. Now, now I work at home but still work out. There was a woman Her name was didi. And she was 36 years old, beautiful woman that I used to be with at the gym every day. And we used to sit by the mirror when I used to get dressed for work. We used to talk and she had her second bout of breast cancer. And a nine year old daughter and she had she actually gave birth to her daughter after she had her first bout of breast cancer. Her daughter, she considered her daughter a miracle, because she was not because of the fertility issues after the chemo and radiation. She wasn’t again, the doctor said she cannot have children. She ended up getting pregnant and having this beautiful daughter the second bout of breast cancer and I knew she was nine years old. And she approached me because she knew again, you know my profession. And she said to me, Listen, I want a videotape for my daughter. And I don’t know, I don’t know what to explore on their videotape. I don’t know how to videotape, I don’t know what to do. And I said to don’t even worry about it. I said, I’m going to take care of this for you. And I called Sloan Kettering, which is a hospital that serves cancer patients. They offered it a you had to ask for it. Be you had to do it at the hospital. And it was very expensive. And a bunch of us chipped in at the gym, you know, but she had to do it. Again, literally, she spoke to the camera did not have any questions, you know. And she asked me, she said she consulted with me, what should I speak about? What should I talk about my daughter’s nine, you know, etc. So that’s where I kind of came up with this idea. I’m like, somebody who’s going through that A should not be speaking into a camera. It’s so impersonal. They should not be at a hospital, they should be in the comfort of where they ever they want to be, you know, for that matter. And the third thing is they shouldn’t have to incur such an expense because there’s so much expense, obviously during illness. And I just thought it was absolutely egregious. And I was so enraged about the whole thing. I did research and there was literally nothing available. Which was fascinating to me and very disappointing. And then I decided like I have to do this, you know, I’d have to do and she was alive. She was still alive when this came to fruition, which was so satisfying to me. And the other thing she asked me I’ll never forget this, but she was a stay at home mom. She never, ever had babysitters or didn’t know anything about like childcare and I couldn’t work I had I always had childcare. So she said to me, the one thing I need from you, I need the videotaping and I need to have childcare arrangements, and I did I set up for her to do and I was so happy to do that for her too. I actually interviewed people for her and set that up before she died but she died and she was the most This inspiring person I mean till the very end, and I’m not even kidding till the very end, she would come for boxing classes. And I said to her one day, I said, How do you? I mean, she had such a positive attitude. She was literally her hair was falling out, she was getting sicker and sicker. You could see her, you know that her skin changed because of jaundice. I said, How do you stay so positive? And she said to me, she said, I decided I could either live out the rest of my life miserable and better, or I could be happy and positive and embrace every single moment of my life, rest of my life. And that’s what I’m choosing to do. And I was just like, wow,
R Blank 20:37
wow, that is a Yeah, you know that. This just popped in my head. I hadn’t thought about this in a long time. I don’t know if you might have seen this. But back in I think it was the early 90s. There was a movie with with Michael Keaton called My Life where it so yeah, he’s, he’s a young, his wife is pregnant, and he discovers he has cancer. And the part that triggered for me here was I remembered he was making all of these videotapes to teach his future child who’d be born after he died. And I remember there was the one you always want to shave up and down, never side to side, you know, things like that.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 21:15
Most people from experience just so you know, most people tend to write they don’t videotape. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Which is interesting. Because I’ve, I’ve asked people, you know, because again, this is what I’m interested in. And for some reason, they tend to write, but telling their history with video and also audio, obviously, pretty magical, you know, from the voice of the person is incredible. Yeah. And I’ve subsequently I’ve, my, my, my grandparents, all four of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. I videotape them. You know, I videotaped a very, very one of my closest friends who died of lung cancer. I videotaped her and I gave it as a gift to her family. It was a surprise when she passed. So it’s been it’s been like such an incredible process. And with my grandfather, just just to let you know, he would never talk about the war ever. He was very, very charming. His entire family literally was wiped down in gas chambers. And I mean, just such atrocities. He would never mention it because he had such extreme PTSD. And the day that I videotaped, it was so crazy. He had like a little bit of dementia and Parkinson’s like the onset, the day that I got there, completely lucid, and was talking about stories about the war that I’ve never heard in my entire life. And we never would have heard them if I didn’t record him. So just like incredible. Yeah.
R Blank 22:41
So earlier, when we were talking about avoiding avoidance, we got to a discussion on the importance of finding your core values. And I’m wondering if there is a connection between core values and the work that you are doing through through my eyes?
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 23:01
Oh, most definitely.
R Blank 23:02
Yeah, yeah. So what is that? Yeah, so
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 23:04
So my whole work, I mean, all of my work is really encompasses, you know, values, like I’m a very value based therapist, and I actually have a chapter in my book that speaks of values and how to identify your values. It is such a critical piece of the work that I do, and it is so essential in terms of enhancement and personal growth and any realm, by the way, whether it’s in person personally, in relationships, if it’s in your career, if it’s within your family, you know, relationships, and I could go on and on. It is, and I love it, because my clients, even my younger ones, like my teenage clients, and my, you know, they use the word like, they throw around my lingo. And I’m like, like, I love it, I’m like, you get it, you get it, you know. So my core values are kindness, and thoughtfulness, and, you know, service to others. And I live that I try, I try to live it I don’t always live in, of course, because I’m a human being. And, you know, I’m imperfect, but I try my best. And the work that I do, and the things and I approach my life is really with with those core values, and I evaluate those values on a daily basis. At the end of my day, I literally take the time, and I stop, and I say to myself, I go across my values, and I said, Did I lean into effectively or lean out of them? And what do I want to lean into an elite? What do I want to lean into more effectively tomorrow? The reason why I really stress that that’s a really important skill. And also exercise to do is it is so it is so less demeaning, and so much more empowering to us as human beings. Because when we see ourselves let’s say, I use parenting as an example if let’s say I didn’t lean into my parenting value as much as I wanted to because you know, I was irritable and whatever the case was, so I was a little bit aggressive in my approach more than I wanted to be, I don’t say to myself, I’m a horrible mother. Because that’s what we say, right? We put ourselves down, we feel awful about ourselves that affects our confidence and affects our approach to parenting. I say, you know, what, I didn’t quite lean into my parenting values, which is a really I need to do a better job tomorrow. And I know I have the ability to do that. And then I could be proud of myself, like, what a great mother I am. That that’s so important to me that I’m considering this, and then I’m going to make it refer concerted effort and a conscious effort and a mindful effort to do it tomorrow.
R Blank 25:38
I like that framing. And I, I see how the work that the through my eyes does helps you with, with your core values helps you express it live live them, I guess the the question I was more aiming at is, right, because you formulate the questionnaire that helps guide the subject. And, and, you know, when when you talk about core values in a TED talk, or to your students or whatever, you’re, you’re helping them live their life and improve their life and, but with with someone who’s a subject of one of these videos, I’m wondering if a focus on core values, helps them sort of encapsulate or frame or summarise their life in a more meaningful way for the the intended recipient of the message.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 26:27
So and you know, what’s beautiful about? Because we do identify with the core values, I don’t ask what is your core value? Because people don’t usually know what I’m talking about. Right? But But I will ask them questions like, what is important to you? What is the if there was one message that you had to get across to your family? Or children? What would that be? How would you want them to live their life? Right? What was the most important lesson that you’ve learned, that you want to convey to your family? So those kinds of questions when you get to the essence of a person, and what’s important to them, you get to their value. So I again, because I do this work, I’m able to extrapolate from a person, what their core value is based on the questions. And I use that in the realm of the interview. You know, and again, it comes from all different angles. And it’s interesting, what tends to happen, what I find is people will repeat the same sentiment. So I’ll give you an example. One, one that I hear quite often is parents saying that they want their the siblings, right, their children to get along to have really connected relationships, that’s like a sentiment, right? What value is that family? Right? It’s core family values. So the beauty of that is a it makes the person feel so understood by me, while I’m interviewing them, because I get them, I get what’s critically important to them. And the connection that I make with them, is so lovely, and wonderful. And, and they feel like you know, loved again, you know what I mean, in the little that somebody could love them, you know, the other second, the other thing, which is so important is it allows them to be their authentic self. So they can really be expressive, and speak from a really deep place, and a vulnerable place. Because you really want them again, to be able to feel comfortable, especially because they’re talking about things that are some obviously, sometimes so painful, and so deep, and so emotional. So and that’s all I want to do is make them feel comfortable, so that they could really get out of a videotaping that what they really want what they intended to. And that that’s everything to me.
R Blank 28:38
So in that sense, it’s it’s also a form of therapy for them as well as,
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 28:44
and the third thing, which is the most critical part of it is, and I believe research will show this when we when we’re able to do our research is what makes people feel validated. And again, everyone wants to feel validated and affirmed. That’s like what we strive for as human beings, right? If we if we, if we kind of leave this earth, feeling validated and affirmed, we believe with contentment, and satisfaction, which is I always strive for my clients to feel that way. They, they they’re able to really tap into something, a message or something that they convey that is important to them. And for them. That is that’s what’s therapeutic. Right. Like I was able to share what I needed to on I wanted to and it’s a sense of purpose. Right? That is what it’s tapping into their sense of purpose. Yeah,
Stephanie Warner 29:35
I love that because I’ve I’ve have interviewed people in my family, some of the seniors in my family, and you know, the idea is always like we’re like excited but once you get to it, it’s like it becomes this. It can be a little forced and generic like they get in front of the video or the the audio equipment and they’re like so then one day A, I did this, you know, so I can see how asking it’s focusing on the core values and asking having these strategic questions can help them achieve the goal that they would like to impart. And so and then the person on the receiving end, or the families on the receiving and get to really understand who this person was. And I think that’s, I think that’s absolutely just wonderful. Yeah, yes. And you can eat when somebody digs into that can really go deep like they want to you others who see it, will, will feel it and will know. And I think that’s I think the work that you’re doing is absolutely amazing. I also, just shifting a little bit, I know that you teach a graduate course, in mindfulness practice at NYU. And I wanted to know, what does mindfulness mean to you? And what’s the importance of mindfulness practice and promoting mental and physical health?
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Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 31:01
I’m always impressed by these questions. So, again, I love teaching this course, because it’s graduate students. It’s how to integrate mindfulness and clinical practice. So they use it with their clients, which is great. It’s wonderful. And and they always inevitably say to me, Oh, my goodness, every practitioner in every field of practice should be taking this course, you know, whether it’s doctors, nurses, and I said, Yeah, you’re 100%. Right. We could all use it. So people have misconceptions about what mindfulness is, I find that all the time, you know, again, we hear all these words thrown out to us, mindfulness, meditation, practice guided meditations, you know, being in the present moment, again, all these terminology, and we don’t know what they mean. By the way, it’s a 15 week course. Okay, and it’s a two hour. And it’s a two hour class. So we’re talking about three credits, okay? Could you imagine, that’s how much I talk about mindfulness,
Stephanie Warner 32:03
you get the opportunity to go really deep and explain
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 32:07
surface level job. So it’s talking about mindfulness, it’s talking about how to apply it, it’s talking about different client populations, and etc. So it’s, it’s so multifaceted. And I also use a lot of extra experiential exercises. I have my students, you know, what I’m teaching them to? Do I have them do you know, and can you give
Stephanie Warner 32:28
us an example? I’m super curious, and how that would translate how mindfulness translates into that clinical experience.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 32:34
Yeah. So I’ll give you two examples, which are like, students alone. And that’s why so yeah, I do a lot I do. I use video, I use all different mediums. I mean, because I really believe in tapping into different styles of learning. That’s really important to me. And I feel like, unfortunately, in the education process, we don’t do that enough. Right. That’s a whole other discussion. But anyway, so one thing that I do I use a lot of creative types of exercises, and also ones that force people to be uncomfortable. Okay. Yes, because part of part of it is really being with and noticing everything. Okay. So one exercise that I do is something that I did in my graduate programme, which was very, very uncomfortable, is I’ll have them sit face to face, putting their knees up against each other, it’s called the eyes on, I had to do it for a half hour in my in my practice, okay, all you have to do is literally stare into the other person’s eyes. Okay, for half hour, I did that
Stephanie Warner 33:40
half an hour. That’s, that’s, I’ve done it for tab done in similar exercise for about 10 minutes. And it was, so for my graduate
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 33:48
students, I first, first of all, I make sure that it’s not what somebody they know, personally, and that they’re connected to, because I think that’s important. And the second is, I won’t have them do for half hour because that that’s pretty loose, you know, it’s pretty good.
Stephanie Warner 34:04
Just to happen.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 34:06
Also, I’m also very cognitive because I’ll say, you know, for some people, it could be also very triggering, because of various reasons, you know, so I’m, again, I’m very sensitive to, you know, to kind of all of that, but I’ll have them do it for about seven to 10 minutes. Yeah. And it is such a discussion and a process afterwards. I also use so I’ll do a glitter jar with them when I teach them about adolescence and childhood and teen working with teens. And by the way, I do this with adults so it’s not only for kids, but I literally come in with like all these supplies like these plastic jars, and I’ll bring in glitter you know, I’ll bring in I forgot what it’s called. It’s a certain kind of powder. I can’t think of what it’s called right mica powder, sorry, Mica Powder. Again, all different colours and schemes and etc. And we build literally these these glitter jars. So basically, we want to leave room between the thinking and doing Right, in terms of being mindful about someone’s behaviour and habit, so what I’ll have them do is, you know, it’s a glitter jar. So it let’s say, I’m just using this as an example or, you know, so they would turn it around, and it takes about depending on using mica powder or glitter, it takes about two minutes to five minutes till it actually falls. And we talk about what that would be like to let’s say, You’re activated and a rage of anger, or let’s say you’re anxious, like, what would it be like to sit with that, so I’ll do a guided meditation with them, and listening those feelings. And then I’ll have them sit with it without, you know, necessarily speaking or, you know, just really sitting with the visceral feelings in their bodies. So we do all different, there was a videotape that I showed also, like, I’ll give you another example, which is I love. There’s all different videotapes, that kind of get us into the realm of challenging our thinking about ourselves in terms of our self compassion and self love, and our level of attractiveness, particularly, and I have a bunch of videos that I use that really get people very emotional and tapped into how they feel about themselves. And one of them is an example it was used internationally, it was fascinating. So there was basically these columns when people walked into, I don’t know where they were walking into, but one said, you know, and it was in different countries. So, so fascinating how people also reacted based on you know, where they were coming kind of coming from, from whatever country it was, one said, moderately beautiful, or something like that, and once said, beautiful, and when people were entering, it was so interesting, whether they chose to go to the right or to the left, they had to decide. And people like were like, they were approaching, and then they stopped. And then they were approaching, and then some of them went into beautiful, some of them didn’t. And then they got to process after why they did what they did. Yeah, I mean, I have these fascinating videos, like, for me to better now. And so it’s all of these different exercises that cause us to really challenge ourselves on a deep level.
R Blank 37:05
So as, as I started by saying there’s, you do an awful lot, and there’s actually a whole lot of things that I I’ve been wanting to ask you about. We’re running a little long. So one that I definitely wanted to pull out, is I heard you in another interview, speak about intergenerational trauma. And I again, I don’t know how central This is to the work that you do. But I did hear you speaking about it. And I wanted to ask you about it, because it’s a term I’ve been hearing about more and more, and I was hoping that maybe you could give a working definition for it. And, and and how an understanding of this type of trauma can be a value in for us and in therapy?
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 37:51
Yeah, great. Again, great question. So I am I am, you know, I am a an example of intergenerational trauma, I have to say, because of my grant, my four grandparents, and they were all like I said, you know, in the Holocaust, and went through extreme trauma, and I see it with my, you know, my parents, my aunts, my uncles, etc. So it gets basically, the trauma gets passed down from generation to generation. If it’s not fully processed, if it’s not fully, you know, understood and integrated in a way that’s healthy and helpful and adaptive, it turns out to be maladaptive, unfortunately.
R Blank 38:35
So is that what do you mean by quality, just harm? An example. I’ll
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 38:38
give an example. It could be all different types of trauma, by the way, right. I mean, there’s, there’s racial, you know, there’s trauma due to racism, there’s trauma due to, I mean, there’s all different types of trauma that we experience, there’s sexual trauma. I mean, that could go I could give so many examples, but, you know, you kind of get the gist of it. So if we don’t work, and I’ll give you example, with my grandfather, one of the things that came out from the interview with my grandfather, which I never heard before, is when he emigrated to the United States. He was having horrible dreams and horrible with nightmares, like, literally these horrible, horrible limos and he went to over to he went to his rabbi, and he consulted with the rabbi. And he said, I don’t know what to do. I keep on thinking about my mother. And I’m traumatised by it. Like I can’t work, I can’t think I can’t. And the rabbi said to him, it’s over. Just stop thinking about it. You just need to move on. And when he said that, to me, I’ll never forget it ever. I had tears streaming down my eyes. And I had such a visceral reaction to that. Because I was thinking about I couldn’t get it out of my mind, how he was sitting and repressing these feelings for all these years, and you know how it came out. Unfortunately, my grandfather was a lovely human being, but he had so much aggression, in very, very harmful way. Very harmful ways. He, I mean, I love him to death, but he was he was emotionally and verbally abusive he was. And, and it trickled down. It did it trickled down to, you know, his family. And I see very fundamentally how that trickled down. And it did have an impact on me too. And I feel like I stopped the cycle, because I continue to go to therapy, I continue to explore. And I know for myself, and I can say this very fully and openly. Anger, like I said before, is a very, very comfortable feeling for me. And I have to really keep myself in check with my anger. That’s like a big, huge challenge for me. Because it’s, you know, it’s what I grew up with, it’s what I saw, it’s what I knew, right? And my neural pathways, my neural pathways, again, our neural pathways get, you know, integrated in a way where this becomes part of the way we think, you know, we feel we behave, etc. And until we change those neural pathways, which we could do with mindfulness, which we could do with good trauma, you know, treatments, which we could do with all of these, you know, mechanisms. And by the way, mindfulness, just to go back to what we said about mindfulness. There’s studies now and I teach this, you know, in terms of the neurobiology, there are studies that mindfulness changes the structure of our brain, we see it on MRIs, it changes the structure of brain this is actually a conclusion. fascinate, because we have neuroplasticity in our brains, our brains are plastic, it can actually change. Yeah, no, continue. That’s all I was gonna say about it. And again, I could, I could be here all day, I promise you I can talk for like 10 hours straight, I can talk
Stephanie Warner 41:48
for 10 hours straight. There’s so there’s, there’s so much and
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 41:54
I’m so happy to be on again. I’m just saying you know, cuz, ya know that that
Stephanie Warner 41:58
topic is really it is I’ve heard that term a few times, and I’ve heard it in it used in maybe not the same term, but in reference to race, and passing down some of the trauma that comes with being, you know, treated a certain way, because you’re a different race, and then passing that down generationally. And, you know, your, your example is really powerful. And I it’s, it’s a topic, I definitely would love us to come back to and talk to talk to you about it a little bit more. In another interview, perhaps. But we have taken a lot of your time. And we can do we can we can talk I’m sure for hours. But I did want to touch on one thing before we do exit the the interview, which is your new book, ace, ace your life, unleash your best self and live the life you want. And it’s now available, can you give us a little overview of the book and how it can help our readers achieve their goals. And thank you and show us that beautiful cover as well.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 43:06
It’s beautiful. Yeah, it is. He stands for acceptance, compassion, and empowerment. Okay. And what I do in the book is I start out by talking about our brain. And I talk about the neurobiology and how it’s formed, and what drives us etc. And that’s really critical psychoeducation to have every person I think in this universe needs. The second chapter is on our values. Again, I also talked about specifically how you can establish what those are. And then in the three, I break it up into three parts, which is acceptance and compassion, empowerment. The first chapter on each, I talk about the barriers to each, and then I talk about how to integrate it, which is very important because there’s a lot working against us, in this society, in our culture, in our families, and across the board, I could go on and on. This is a way to live your life, literally. And I use this with kids, I use this with teams I use with adolescents, I use this with adults across the board. This has saved my life. And I really mean it. It’s changed my life. It saved my life. And I see I can give you so many examples of how I’ve used it with, you know, clients, patients I’ve worked with. And I mean, literally from here to here, you know, where they’re really living authentically. And, and I say to them, I am so proud of you. Literally just yesterday I was with this woman, she’s college age. When I started talking with her. She couldn’t even speak to strangers. I’m not even kidding. She couldn’t ask strangers questions. She was so socially anxious yawns and it was it was really wreaking havoc in her life on so many different levels in so many realms where she also had like a difficult relation with her brother and she couldn’t assert herself and she was miserable in her own home. It was just anyway now. I mean, I was floored. by what she was telling me, she’s in an internship, she’s in a Graduate Programme. She’s asserting herself with her supervisor. She’s doing things like, I couldn’t even imagine that you’d be able to do. I mean, just incredible. And she said to me, you know, we did like, you know, again, we reevaluate her values, because she’s at a spot where, like, maybe you want to tweak those a little bit. And she said, she’s like, I can’t even believe where I’m at. Like, she said, talking to strangers. Oh, my goodness, that’s so easy. I was like, Do you believe yourself? Like, do you hear yourself? You know, so it’s just, it’s really, it’s so wonderful to see people thrive and really living authentically.
R Blank 45:38
Yeah, I know that it’s really I mean, I can only imagine what it’s like to be able to have that type of impact on people. And I really, I really appreciate you taking the time out of your incredibly busy schedule to come join us here. On the podcast today, the again, this is Michelle maiden Berg. Her URL, which will be in the show notes is Michelle maiden berg.com. And we’ll spell that out in the show notes. Her most recent book is Ace Your Life unleash your best self and live the life you want, which you can learn about on her website. Her TED talk is circumventing emotional avoidance which you can also find on her website, and Michelle are there other places you would like our listeners to connect with you?
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 46:21
I do a weekly in case you’re interested, I do a weekly guided meditation that I offer on YouTube. People love those on all at all different topics. I also I’m also a Psychology Today, blogger. So I write tonnes of articles on many, many, many different topics that, you know, I try. I try to publish one at least once a month, sometimes more than that, but and it’s on so many different topics. So, you know, there’s hundreds and hundreds of articles I’ve already written. So if you look on my website, you could get you know, get a hold of those articles, too.
R Blank 46:53
Excellent. Well, thank you again, so much. This has been a really enjoyable and educating interview.
Dr. Michelle Maidenberg 46:59
Yeah, absolutely. So nice meeting both of you.
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Transcribed by https://otter.ai