April 2, 2024

Elise Loehnen – Confronting Our Cultural Shadows

Thomas is joined by the author of the New York Times bestseller, On Our Best Behavior, and the host of the podcast “Pulling the Thread”, Elise Loehnen. They discuss what she calls the ‘cultural shadow’ of women – the ideas and behaviors that women have been socialized and conditioned to reject – and how women can embrace their complicated totality instead of repressing their authentic selves.

Elise’s recent book examines women’s social conditioning through the lens of the “seven deadly sins”. She and Thomas explore the trap of “goodness” for women and how the standards imposed on them lead to harmful repression, inequality, and resentment. Elise stresses that people of all genders are harmed by unfair standards that are propagated through social power structures, and posits that we can free ourselves from these constricting gender roles by reframing our thinking and integrating our shadows instead of projecting them onto others.

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“Women are conditioned for goodness, and men are conditioned for power, which is equally, I’d say, maybe even more insidious and harmful.”

- Elise Loehnen

Guest Information

Elise Loehnen

Elise Loehnen is a New York Times bestselling author and the host of the podcast, Pulling the Thread, where she interviews cultural luminaries about the big questions of today. She’s the author of the New York Times bestselling On Our Best Behavior: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to be Good. She has also co-written 12 books, including five New York Times Best Sellers. Previously, she was the chief content officer of goop. While there, Elise co-hosted The goop Podcast and The goop Lab on Netflix, and led the brand’s content strategy and programming. For the podcast, she interviewed 100’s of thought leaders, doctors, and experts.

Prior to goop, she was the editorial projects director of Conde Nast Traveler. Before Traveler, she was the editor at large and deputy editor of Lucky Magazine, where she also served as the on-air spokesperson, appearing regularly on shows like Today, E!, Good Morning America, and The Early Show. She has a B.A. from Yale and majored in English and Fine Arts. These days, she serves on two boards (Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and Skinfix), advises a beauty bio-tech start-up (Arcaea), and spends her time writing, reading, and fundraising for causes and politicians focused on environmental action, social justice, women and children’s health, and a more equitable world.

Learn more at eliseloehnen.com and eliseloehnen.substack.com.

Notes & Resources

Key points from this episode include:

  • How women are conditioned for goodness, and men are conditioned for power, and how harmful this is for both
  • The amount of time we spend worrying about our bodies, and how this robs us of pleasure and aliveness
  • How women are conditioned to subjugate their wants to other people’s needs and the resentment experienced by women who dare not to do that
  • That anger directs us to an area of need, and how stating our needs can help us avoid conflict
  • The difficulty in allowing ourselves to experience feelings that we perceive as bad and that threaten our identity

Episode Transcript

Thomas Hübl: Hello and welcome. My name is Thomas Hübl and this is Point of Relation, my podcast. And I have the pleasure to sit here with Elise Loehnen. Elise, very warm welcome.

Elise Loehnen: Thank you.

Thomas: Today we are turning it around. I was already multiple times on your podcast, and so today I have the pleasure to host you. And first of all, thank you for being here with us. And always when we come together, I feel this very fast resonance, like a click, and then we’re kind of on a journey together. And so I deeply enjoy talking to you. And so today we’ll see how it’s the other way around. So let’s explore.

Elise: My greatest pleasure to be here. You know I’m your number one fan, and likewise, I always feel that moment with you, which is so affirming.

Thomas: That’s right. That’s right. And so I’m curious, because you’re leading edge at the moment, what’s the coolest thing ever? I call it the coolest thing ever. But for you at the moment, where is your fire? Where do you feel your inspirational range is talking to you? What are the topics that you’re dealing with at the moment that spark your inspiration, your fire? And then let’s take it from there.

Elise: Yeah. I probably feel sparked by the same thing as everyone who’s listening, and which I know is one of the Gordian knots that you are trying to untie in your work, which is how do we keep finding ourselves here again and again and again? And where I’m leaning and what I want to talk about and read about is getting people really comfortable with their shadow. And I see a Jungian therapist, and I’ve been one of those people that’s like, maybe I need to go and do a PhD in depth psychology because I love it so much. And really the book that I just wrote is about the cultural shadow of women. I didn’t quite know that that’s what it was until I wrote it, but it’s everything that women have been conditioned and programmed to believe is bad, and what we try to distance ourselves from and disown and project onto each other.

And so that’s where my curiosity goes, to this, I don’t know if it’s a lessening ability or we’ve never had the ability to sort of hold ourselves as whole and complete people, the good and the bad, and to just let that be what it is and to let all of those feelings come up rather than repressing them and projecting them all over the place. So that’s what I’m interested in. And as a writer and a podcaster, how can I make people comfortable enough and calm enough and curious enough to look and to say, okay, what does it look like to look at my whole family line? And who had to die so that I could be here? Which is so dark, I know, but this is the reality of what it is to be human, right? And how can I hold that and not let it destroy my idea of me?

And so that’s what I’m really quite interested in because I sense it in myself, how uncomfortable it makes me to even think about it and to look at anything in my own history or my family’s history that fills me with shame. But we’ve got it. We’ve all got it. It’s in all of us. And so that’s cultural, it’s social, it’s anthropological, but I mean, this is what your work is all about. I don’t know how we move forward without this repetitive compulsion to repeat all these cycles until we can stop and actually look at ourselves in the mirror and the way that we’re participating in this.

Thomas: Oh, that’s very beautiful. Yes.

Elise: Oh, thank you.

Thomas: Yes, yes, yes. And so maybe tell us a little bit, your book and your own research and maybe your own experience, what is it that needed to be suppressed for you as a woman, for women, as you said before? What is the cultural shadow? How does it appear to you? What did you learn also through writing your book? What can we pay attention to? How does it show up? What are the symptoms? What’s the healing?

Elise: Yeah. Well, I think, like you, I’ll start there. I think the healing is group healing and I think it’s cultural healing. So my book, it’s called On Our Best Behavior, and the subtitle is The Seven Deadly Sins and the Price Women Pay to Be Good. It’s ultimately a secular book. I’m a spiritual person, an unaffiliated spiritual person, but it’s not a take down of the church per se, but it’s the way that culture is created and then whispered into our ears. And so I live in Los Angeles now, but I grew up in Montana, which is a rural state. My father’s Jewish, my mother’s, she calls herself a recovering Catholic. I grew up in a largely secular household. We went to Jewish services, but it was mainly to stay connected to my father’s past.

And my parents are progressive feminist people. And yet what I saw in myself as I turned 40 was that I was a completely performative child and desperate for affirmation that I was good enough. And I had never outgrown that as a woman. And I was chasing some invisible finish line that was this certainty of, you’re good, you’ve done well. You’re thin enough, you’re smart enough, you’re a good enough mother, you’re a good enough partner. I mean, I’m being kind by even saying, good enough, good, you’re a good mother, a good partner. And the quest for this, despite all that I had achieved, was proving really futile, and it was killing me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I still struggle to breathe.

And I knew I wasn’t alone because I had done enough therapy where I was trying to sort of locate this in my family of origin and blame my mother for this and blame my father for this. And then just at a certain point, I could see what I was up to. And I was like, I’m making this up. My mom never silenced me. My mom never told me not to show up fully in the world. I can’t put this on her. This is bigger. This is culture. And that might seem like an incredibly obvious statement, but I think we’ve been, particularly in the west, inculcated in this extreme idea of individualism and that everything is personal. Everything comes down to our own identity and our own family of origin. And as a parent, I can tell you it’s impossible to parent against culture. Culture is so much more powerful.

And so that was why I wanted to write the book to really understand what is this in me that is insisting to me and to other women that a good woman needs no rest, has no wants, desires or appetites, has no need for affirmation or praise or attention, has no sexual drive and is never angry about any of it, to remind people. And the sins were not in the Bible, that’s how invented they really are. Their sloth, pride, envy, greed, gluttony, lust and anger. And originally before they became the sins, there was an eighth thought that they came out of the Egyptian desert in the fourth century, the same man who’s credited as an early father of the Enneagram, and the eighth was sadness. And then sadness was dropped when Pope Gregory in the sixth century turned them into the cardinal vices and assigned them all to Mary Magdalene in the same homily where he called her a penitent prostitute.

And so as I did the research, I didn’t know any of this when I started writing this book, but it was this aha for me of, oh, I understand. I understand how these stories get started in our culture and that are lies. Mary Magdalene was not a prostitute, and her reputation was cleared only a couple decades ago, but I understood how these stories get started and then seep and then inform who we are. Women are conditioned for goodness, and men are conditioned for power, which is equally, I’d say, maybe even more insidious and harmful. I include a chapter on sadness, which is primarily about men and what’s happened to men who we sever from their feelings when they’re young.

Thomas: And so as you speak about it, how would you say this lives in you? How do you experience that? Because I think listening to experience, maybe many listeners will resonate and more so maybe with how you uncover this in yourself or in your own lineage, in your own family system, how did that conditioning get whispered into your ears?

Elise: Yeah, so it’s interesting. Originally I had pitched this as a work of nonfiction where I was going to diagnose the culture and do the research and explore these ideas. And at a certain point, I was going to introduce myself so the people understood what lenses I was looking through at this. And then at some point my editor was like, “You have to write yourself into this more. You have to show the reader how you relate to each of these and bring the reader through.” Which was, as you can imagine, my first instinct was like, oh, I don’t know if I have all of these. Well, writing this book was a deep act of therapy as I started to look at all the ways that these sins are in me. And it’s interesting when I meet readers, a lot of them have the same feedback that they’ll get to the greed chapter and they’ll say, “Oh, I don’t really have all this money stuff. I don’t have issues.” And then they read it and they’re sort of knocked on their butts.

This messaging is so insidious and so specific to women. So some of them are so obvious, like gluttony for women, and this idea that a good woman has a good quote, unquote, a good body one that’s under control and conforms to society standards of thinness, vanity, and anything that is large or out of control suggests that you have no willpower, lazy, gluttonous, out of control mean, and we talk to ourselves like this all the time. I was good last night so I can be bad tomorrow or vice versa. The way that we talk to each other about our own bodies and each other’s is very moralizing, good and bad. And this is throughout our whole medical industry, that sentence stands out as one where it’s completely still acceptable to discriminate against people based on appearance and size.

And people who are larger earn less. I mean, it’s rampant. And if you talk to most people, they say, “Yeah, that’s right.” This is one of the phobias that we’ll look back on and say, wow, do you remember when we were so blatantly fat phobic and that was completely acceptable? And we’re still in that one. And for women, it’s just so acute, and I think more and more for men, but this idea of restricting and permitting and back and forth, most of us spend most of our energy thinking about our bodies in a way that is not the way that we want people to be thinking about their bodies as in being embodied and letting your body talk to you. Instead, it’s this constant discipline control relationship that I think ruins so many of our access to pleasure and aliveness and being in touch with ourselves and honoring our hunger.

So that one was so obvious. And then some of them are far deeper. I write about envy as really the gateway to the other sins because to quote Lori Gottlieb, who’s a psychotherapist who wrote this book called Maybe You Should Talk To Someone. She made the small, it’s a one line in her book, but it’s one of those lines that changed my life where she said that she always tells her clients to pay attention to their envy because it shows them what they want. And I read that line, I don’t know, 10 years ago, eight years ago, and my first response was, I don’t have any envy, ew, ew. I would never. Which of course is full of information for me, I’m well versed enough to know, oh, pay attention to this.

And then Thomas, I was like, well, what do I want? And I could not tell you. I have been in sort of auto drive again doing what I think I’m supposed to do and I think connected to the divine in some ways or being led, but also not necessarily feeling like I had allowed myself to actually look at what I wanted.

And then I was thinking about that comment, and I was looking at our culture at the time, and it was 2016, and you hear women often say things like… I don’t know if it’s as common of a speech pattern among men, like, I just don’t like her. She rubs me the wrong way. There’s something about her. Who does she think she is? She just sort of grates my hide. And I realized, I was like, oh, I understand. When a woman has something that we want for ourselves or is doing something that we want to do, and we can’t identify it because we’re so conditioned to repress that wanting, we’re so conditioned to subjugate our wants to other people’s needs, to really never contemplate it. And so we then take all that repressed bad feeling and project it on the person who’s making us feel bad, and we deprecate them.

And so that’s how I needed to reverse engineer to, oh, I do want to write my own book, instead of judging and criticizing other women’s books as it’s really not that good. And she kind of annoys me and who does she think she is? I had to recognize in that moment, oh, she’s pushing on a dream I have for myself, and this is my soul in some subverted way saying, pay attention to this. This is full of information for you. And so I just started observing my friends, observing women, and I was like, oh my God, this is huge for us. This is the source of so much female on female hate when we really should be on side with each other, but we’re envious. We’re scared to let our wanting come up because we’re so also conditioned to slap each other down and shoot each other out of the sky.

All the sins start Venn diagramming. So envy and pride are very related. Pride is about sort of what we do to visible women in our culture and how we applaud them on the ascent, and then they hit a certain level of visibility and then we destroy them and put them back in their place and say, oh, they’re famous. Who cares? But really it’s a playbook for all of us, and we see this across industries. And then of course the chapter on greed, which is about scarcity and how real and perceived that is for women, that there’s not enough that if she has it, I can’t have it too, that there’s only room for one, that her success is a direct threat to my opportunity. Rather than seeing it as, oh, look what’s possible. She did that. I can do it. I’m going to just study her. I’m going to ask her for advice. I’m going to follow some of her steps, take what works, abandon the rest. But this is big for women, whereas men do not seem to have the same conditioning around scarcity at all.

So that one was big. And it’s also so intergenerational for women. I wrote a New York Times op-ed about this, and it’s in the book a little bit, but about how difficult the relationship between mothers and daughters, particularly women who are my age or older because of what our moms did or did not sacrifice so that we could show up in the world or choose not to. But it’s such a complicated world for men, I’d say it’s hard and insidious as well. But there’s this idea of course, that you’re supposed to sort of dunk on your dad and you’re supposed to separate and you’re supposed to go out and be more dominant and more powerful and more successful. Whereas for girls and women, there’s this idea that to abandon your mother, particularly if your mother couldn’t be who she wanted to be in the world is disloyal. It feels bad. And everything that you do feels like an indictment in some ways of the choices your own mother made. And that’s with us. That’s a big, big legacy for women.

But to go to your work and envy, I think, because every time I give a talk about the book to a group of women, women only want to talk about the envy chapter. I mean, not exclusively, but it has to go there because there’s so much bad feeling between women. And we paper it over with hashtags and women supporting women and girl power. And the reality is that most of the women who I have met on this book tour and in conversation are just so hurt, so wounded by women who they feel like have tried to destroy them or not stood beside them. And we’re trying to paper it over because we don’t want to talk about it and it feels like it plays into old stories about caddy women. But until we talk about it, I think it will haunt us. I don’t know, maybe we’ll outgrow it and it will be in the distant past, but it feels so pervasive that I want some Thomas Huebl action on this.

Thomas: That’s sweet. Yes. So first of all, I love this. I mean, you said so many things now. I want to just highlight two things you said. I love the part where you speak about envy is a gateway to the suppressed parts of us. I think if you can just practice that and re-own the projection of envy and find out what we really want and what our envy tells us, instead of just putting a moral bandaid on top of it, and I shouldn’t be envious and it’s not good, but to really allow the suppressed parts to come up and learn to work with it, I think that in itself is a huge change. So I just want to underline, I think that there is a lot of very positive work that can be done to come back to one’s own flourishing and to one’s own power and creativity. And I think there’s so much good stuff in it.

And the other part that you said I think that is also worth highlighting is that when there’s trauma in the game, usually we find a certain amount of top down control or oppression of nature. And you describe this as the relationship to our body, that the mental idea of our body becomes the oppressor of what actually is supposed to be a natural sense, a natural regulation in my nervous system. And if that doesn’t fully work, I have all kinds of top-down disciplines and ideas and adaptations and ways of socialization rule my body. But that’s already a sign that I’m not naturally resting in my body and that my nervous system is not regulated so that I feel moment to moment to moment what I need. And I think that’s a very powerful thing is that here that shows us also the gateway out of the dilemma is reowning our regulated nervous system and reowning our body perception and seeing the preciousness in living in this body, really, and expanding in it or healing the body because there’s a lot of trauma often, also why we don’t feel ourselves. So that’s very powerful.

So I wanted just to highlight this two. And then you spoke about scarcity, which is another big topic, but there’s so much healing just in this two. That’s great.

Elise: Thomas, I mean, and then of course for listeners, I have two cats who decided to have a cat fight next to me, I don’t know if it picked up on the microphone. But it’s interesting, it’s a male cat and a female cat, and they have a lot of aggression. And just thinking about you talking about letting the way that we suppress and repress our natural feelings and conditioning, our way out of that. The chapter on anger too is about how girls, specifically, how boys and girls naturally have a lot of aggression. Humans have a lot of aggression, right? This is part of who we are. And from a very young age, girls see and hear, girls don’t push, girls don’t yell. Girls are so much better behaved and then they’re rewarded for it, and they look around and they see how other girls are behaving. And then this becomes how we describe the nature of girls, well-behaved, compliant, obedient, whereas boys are shoving each other off the play structure.

But the aggression has to come out. And so it comes out for girls, and this is the work of so many different developmental psychologists, like Odd Girl Out is a fantastic read, Rachel Simmons, etc. But it comes out in covert ways, alliance building, whisper networks, backstabbing all the things again that then become attributed to women as who we are naturally. And it’s like, no, that’s how we’re socialized. That’s the only avenue that we have to express our pain, our boundaries, our frustration, our rage, is in these covert ways. And I mean, not alone. For me, this was a huge and a very difficult chapter for me to write because I would long insist I’m not angry and I’m not pissed, but I was impatient, frustrated, resentful, all the low grade anger, but I would higher mind it. I’m so good, Thomas, at rationalizing how I feel instead of… And this is a work in progress. Let me just say this whole book, none of this is resolved for me.

But now instead of justifying, rationalizing, it’s like what would it feel like? I mean, I can feel it in my belly. What does it feel like for me to let this happen? And what is it telling me and how can I become skilled at expressing it without burning down all my relationships or blaming or projecting or making other people responsible for my rage, but how can I not bury it either?

Thomas: Yeah, that’s very strong. And so what kind of changes did you notice as you uncover your own anger? What are the changes in your experience that you’ll notice? Because you said, I’m impatient or I’m not angry, I’m frustrated, but I’m not really angry and I don’t have rage. And then more and more you discovered, of course everyone has. So where is it? And so that happened, but what do you notice the more you become familiar with your anger and your rage or your aggression, what are the things that you notice changed in your sense of self, in your behavior, in your relationships, in your boundaries and anything? Did you notice anything? I’m sure, but maybe you can describe it a bit. What are the things that changed through doing this work?

Elise: So one was as I was researching and I was rereading Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, and he just has this small line where he says, I’m angry because I am needing, fill in the blank. And for me that was a major unlock because when I find myself becoming upset and then I force myself to say, okay, what is the need? Again, I don’t know that any of us are really good at thinking on this level, I wasn’t. What is the need? What’s the boundary? What’s happening here? Not just on the surface, why am I angry? But what am I needing here? So instead of being mad at my husband, because I come home from a work trip and the house has exploded, it’s I’m angry because I am needing to feel like there are two of us who can take care of this house and that I don’t walk into a second full-time job every time. Maybe that wasn’t the most expertly stated, but that’s a pretty standard example, right? Instead of just coming home and being pissed and angry.

But somehow when you state the need, it’s something that both parties can look at and say, oh, I understand why that’s a totally valid need, and I understand that we can both relate to that need without this becoming something where you’re unloading all of your anger on me. So that became like, that’s something I still practice, but a more positive way than me just being irritated. Because the thing about anger, which I think is so scary, I mean, so much of this is about fear and fear of loss of belonging, fear of rejection, fear of being ostracized or abandoned, fear of loss of safety and security. And I think so many women, I mean we are not kind to angry women in this culture. You’re kind of allowed to be angry on behalf of other people sometimes, but we are so horribly hard on angry women.

And so to have anger suggests that you might lose your relationships. If you insist on change someone might say, nah, no, bye. And so this is old, this is patterning too. But for me it’s been these baby steps into a more helpful, less resentful expression. And I’m just starting small and starting exactly where I am to practice. Public anger is a totally different thing. I don’t know actually, what do you think about public anger when it feels unprocessed? I say righteous indignation changes the world, and there has to be that don’t tread on me, don’t tread on these people. That’s important. But I don’t know, it’s one of those things I’m not quite sure. The way that it’s carried out currently in our culture is so again, blaming, projection, disowning, that it’s hard for anyone to not immediately be defended to that. But I also really want people to let their anger come up.

Thomas: Yeah, that’s a big question. I just want to first highlight again a few things that you said because I think they’re very important. And then I will refer a bit to what you just asked. I like the framing of two different levels of anger. And one I believe contains also what you just said about the needs. So we need to discern if there is anger that covers fear. Anger is an escalation of our nervous system that is in the fight flight and often when people are scared they become aggressive. But that’s one form of anger. The other form of anger is the autonomy movement. We see those in kids when kids want to eat by themselves and the parents don’t give them the fork or the spoon, so that the child gets saying, “I want to eat. I can do it.” And that anger is fantastic.

It’s like agency. I can do it. I’m mature enough. So it’s a maturation process. And I think for many of us, we hit where that autonomy movement couldn’t fully express itself or finish so that it becomes a choice, that it becomes agency. And I think that relates also to what you just said about public anger. There’s a difference between agency to step in for somebody or something or to protect somebody, that’s the anger actually became strength, decisiveness, taking responsibility, stepping in, courage. There are many qualities. I think if that’s how we appear, then it’s not so polarizing, then it can set clear boundaries. But it’s not a projective anger, that is the younger parts of us have this projective anger, and many people I think are partly expressing their own unfulfilled or unlived development. So it’s a bit immature and that creates immediately side effects.

And then it’s exactly what you said, there’s all kinds of projections that are not relevant for the stepping in for this cause. And we see a lot of that in our society. And I think that’s why it becomes often such a mess. That’s not anger expression only, that’s anger expression with all kinds of side effects that are parts of a non integrated maturation process. And I think that’s different from getting up and standing in for anti-racism or standing in for protecting certain parts of our population because they don’t have the protection that they need or there’s something going on. We need to get up and do that. But that’s a different power. I think, that’s strength. And often it releases a lot of unlived aggression. I mean, it’s a complex topic.

Elise: It’s so big. No, but it’s one of those, we have these catchall words and there are so many flavors and so many expressions of it that I wish that… I know that there are a lot of moves in culture for us to be more literate or expand our vocabularies, but these words become so condensed. And I think that’s important because my book is about this idea of goodness and what a trap it is for women. And I’m not talking about the spiritual value of goodness, which is in each of us, baked into who we are, an essential part of our nature. I do believe that most people are good and they might be swimming in shadow, but I don’t think that good is something that leaves any of us. But the book is about the culturally conditioned, the way that it’s adjudicated by priests or professors or parents, these ideas, these cultural ideas of goodness.

I was just reading James Hillman’s book, Kinds Of Power, which is a really interesting read, particularly for anyone involved in business because I think men are so conditioned for power in the dominant way. But he talks about all of its flavors in a really beautiful sort of take back of that word, which is we’re all powerful as well. But anger, I wanted a masterclass on anger from you, on all the emotions.

Thomas: Okay, so maybe that’s a good idea. Maybe we have another conversation about it. And yeah, that’s a great idea. And I was going to say one other thing too as a response to what you said before, in our groups, I often ask, so how beautiful are you when you need something?

So I call this the beauty of needs, and it’s amazing how many of us don’t feel beautiful at all when we need something. All kinds of other things come up, when I I’m needy I feel ashamed, I feel young, I feel afraid, I feel whatever. I feel ugly. Some people say sometimes 100 people raise their hand and they say, I don’t feel beautiful at all. But I think given what you just said with the anger and the need, I think also the quality of shame, that we feel ashamed to ask because so often that wasn’t appreciated and couldn’t be contained and that we don’t feel beautiful or we don’t feel our dignity when we need something. So that’s also an interesting exploration, I thought.

Elise: Oh, that’s so deep. I was just interviewing Anne Lamott and she has a new book. I mean she has written so many beautiful books, but she has a new book about love and how unbearable love is to sort of take in, and she was telling the story about her mom, and this just goes to our cultural conditioning and sort of how her mom would always take the broken egg or the sort of stale piece of cake or the piece of cake that was discarded. And then she just watched her mom do this. This is familiar, I think to most of us. And I feel this way in my family all the time where I’m like, I would never take food from my children until they are satisfied. My husband doesn’t hold back in the same way. He’ll totally eat half their fries.

But I’m standing there and I’m sort of angry at him for interfering with their needs being wholly and completely met. And I also, all I want to do is slam half those fries too. But it’s hard to acknowledge that to myself or expect that it can be recognized. I’m speaking for myself and I guess Ann Lamott, of waiting for someone to notice and say, why are you having the broken egg? Let me have the broken egg. Let me have the dregs from the pan, not you, because we can’t, it’s so hard to say I would like a nice portion or I’m going to serve myself first. And that’s so foreign, I think, and so deep. I think most of us haven’t even thought about it, right? It’s just conditioned that all you want in a way is for someone to say, no, no, no, you sit let me serve you.

And even that makes me feel uncomfortable to think about. It’s like, I don’t know if people remember this movie, but The Breakup with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston and she puts on this dinner party and he’s playing video games and she sort of asks him for help and he’s like, “Oh, let me finish my round.” And he’s being a jerk. And then he finally comes in and she’s essentially done and there’s a fight and he’s like, “I don’t understand. Just why don’t you just wait, I told you.” And she was like, “I want you to do the dishes.” And I don’t know why that stuck in my mind for, I don’t know, 15 years. But she was like, “I want you to want to do the dishes.” And I think that’s what so many of us are waiting for, that nobody really wants to do the dishes, but that there’s this hope that someone wants to serve you in the same way that you serve the family. And you can’t say it. You can’t say that directly because I don’t know that we even admit it to ourselves.

Thomas: Yeah, that’s the point. I think I was going to say that the beauty is that you’re having this exploration and that we are willing to go back into stages of our development where that started to get compromised. If you look at our development, there are stages in our development that are very animalistic, that are very, I don’t know, the lion hunts a deer or something and eats it. So that quality of wanting something and taking it is often hurt. So it couldn’t get integrated into a mature self. And so if we never ask that question, we actually never harvest that power. And then we externalize it so I’m waiting that you recognize it versus, as you said before with the envy, oh, I see what I’m waiting for is what’s waiting here. And once I am more familiar it, I’m more at home in my own base, then people will serve whenever it’s time and then it will come naturally because it’s integrated in the system so the world will respond to that.

And I think that’s a great process that you inquire into that and that you surface how that lives in you and you allow yourself to have those questions. That’s actually fantastic shadow work that you do. That’s great.

Elise: Yeah. And what’s been powerful about it is that when you let it actually come up and instead of stopping it or ignoring it or bypassing it or numbing, but let’s just go back to envy when you sort of let it come up and say, “Oh, I’m envious. I want that.” It’s quite quick. It feels like it’s going to kill you on theory. To me, it’s so hard to accept that, which maybe that sounds insane, but I’m sure some people can relate to that. It feels like I can’t possibly allow this bad feeling and survive and what is this? It’s so threatening to my self-identity as this good person that when you let it come up and you allow it to be expressed and to be present with all that wanting and that envy, I’ve found now that I’m more in the practice, it can be resolved very quickly for me. And that once I actually am like, “Oh, I want that. I’m jealous. I want that.” That it doesn’t persecute me in the same way. I can actually see it. I can see a part of myself.

I mean, it is shadow work, that I refuse to look at and I can let it come up from my unconscious and give me all this information. Then it starts to be really fun because you start to say, “Oh, okay, this seems like something I want.” So let me sit with this. What in this is something that I? It might be as you are examining your own envy, I just did this with my mom who was rageful at another woman who was wearing shorts that my mom perceived as being too short for a woman her age. And where we landed was that my mom feels terrible about her legs and she has all this shame and that this woman would sort of put her 75 year-old legs on display. It’s so difficult for my mom. But we talked about it and she was like, “Oh, I feel so much better. I just would see this woman and just be so mad.” I mean, silly example, but you can start to actually interrogate it with yourself or with a friend and suddenly you have tons of information that is quite, I think, powerful.

Thomas: Very.

Elise: Because you can release it or do something about it.

Thomas: Very. And in the process of letting it come up, all the difficulties are all the conditioning layers, the layers of your conditioning that come up when it comes up. So they are very precious information. They tell you exactly, oh, when I am envious then this and this will happen and this and this, I don’t know, then I’m [inaudible 00:47:57] in this person. And we think as long as the shadow is active, we think of it often as permanent. When I let that come up, I will be an envious person for the rest of my life versus I’m letting something come up for me to be able to integrate its power and then it’s going to move because it’s going to be much more liberate, it’s going to be fluid, but as long as it’s shadow, it’s shows up as, oh, I will be a hateful person for the rest of my life and that’s terrible. Versus, oh, emotions move so everything that seems like that’s going to be like that is already a big signpost that it needs to be examined because otherwise just we are fluid beings.

We are not like that, but when we are like that, then it’s frozen or stuck information that needs to be examined anyway. So I love what you said and then it’s actually a very revealing process.

Elise: Yeah. It’s very revealing because you really get into the nitty gritty of what exactly does that mean? You start to learn all sorts of interesting things about yourself that you don’t have access to when you just won’t even acknowledge that it’s in your field or that maybe this is your dharma or maybe this is your soul. I mean, because what’s so essential, and I think that we know this, we talk about how desperately we need empowered women leading us or co-leading a culture that’s balanced between the masculine and the feminine where every man has let his feminine come up and every woman has let her masculine come up. And right now the model for more women sort of empower in culture is masculine mostly. So you have women who are pushing into their masculine more, which I don’t know if that’s exactly what we need, different conversation. But what you find is that when you start to sort of answer that knock, that wanting, that call, we’re all unique.

I mean, you know this better than anyone. We’re all uniquely gifted. We’re all uniquely abled. There is some sort of daemon or soul imprint that is going to push you, it’s going to drive you crazy to be expressed. And we need women expressing, and we need men who are able to express fully too, in all the softer ways that are part of what it is to be a whole man.

Thomas: That’s beautiful. What a lovely conversation. And we jumped into the water and I don’t know, every moment was really interesting and exciting and alive. And I love to listen to your own exploration, it feels so authentic. It feels very vitalizing. And I think you’re sharing something very, very precious here with us that I love to be part of. Every time you speak, I feel magnetized and really it animates your experience. And I think many people can take a lot out of that. And as you said, once I need to define myself as, I’m a good person. I’m that person. I’m a lovely person. That definition itself already shows us that something is a bit fixated. That I’m a present human being and I have access to a whole range of inner experiences. So I’m not just walking on the right side of the street, but I can walk on the right and the left side of the street. So that’s beautiful.

And I think if everyone who listens just examines, and maybe we did some of it already obviously, but that we examine just a few points that you addressed that’s already deep work. I think a lot of the transformation can happen just by looking at what you shared with us. So I see our time and if there’s anything you want to leave us with, please and otherwise, I think that’s a very lovely way to come to a closing.

Elise: Yeah. Thank you. It’s been such a pleasure. I love being in conversation with you. Someday we’re going to do something and I hope you stay well and safe.

Thomas: Thank you so much. And I would love to continue the conversations just from what we surfaced today. We could take some of the nuggets and get deeper into anger, shadow work or so. So let’s see what’s the next opportunity for us to come together?

Elise: Amazing. All right. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Thomas: And thank you. And be blessed.

Elise: All right, you too. Bye Thomas.