CNM 040: Ways To Love Yourself More – with Dr. Natalie Jones, LPCC, PSYD

In this episode we’re back at it, talking to psychologist Dr. Natalie Jones about how she helps clients who are dealing with the side effects of growing up in an emotionally abusive family.

Here’s the interview…

Interview with Dr. Natalie Jones

Brian: Dr. Jones, welcome to the show. I’m so glad you’re able to join us today.

Natalie: Thank you so much for having me on. I’m glad to be on the show.

Brian: Thank you. I know from our previous conversation that you work with a lot of clients that come from unhealthy, sometimes downright abusive relationships. So I’m wondering…

Question: When somebody sits down with you and they realize that their problems are stemming from a lack of self-love, where do you start with that person in order to help them?

Natalie: A lot of times I start with a simple exercise that can also can be very intimidating for a lot of people. I help them define what love is for them. Love is such a small word but has a big meaning, and often has various meanings for folks. We talk about what love means to them, what it actually looks like, and how that would look in real life or real-time. Then we talk about the components of a healthy, loving relationship, which often means communication, trust, respect, and validation.

Again, respect is one of those small words that has a very big meaning. We talk about how that person is able to give so much of themselves to somebody else. What would it look like if they were to turn those things around and start pouring that into themselves? So, if you were to start loving yourself, trusting yourself, communicating with yourself, being mindful, figuring out what’s going on with you, being kind and compassionate to yourself, forgiving yourself for a lot of the wrongs or mistakes that you may have made, what would that look like? We talk about steps to start doing those things. What does respecting yourself look like for you?

A lot of times it starts with the inner child because – believe it or not – a lot of people carry old wounds from when they were children or teenagers; they feel like they were wrong or they weren’t loved. So, we do a lot of inner child work where I have them speak to that person that they were at that age – what would be some of the things that you could say to that person now to let them know that they are loved and it’s not their fault.

(For more on the inner child, check out CNM Episode 4: Inner Child Healing – with Dr. Nicholas Jenner.)

Brian: Okay. I’m curious, you said that a lot of people have different versions of what they think love is.

Question: What are some common things you hear people say when they talk about what love is?

Natalie: Believe it or not, the number one thing I usually hear people say is, “I don’t know.”

When I ask them, “What’s love?” They say, “I don’t know,” or they may say, “It’s caring about someone or putting someone ahead of yourself.” They may offer various things like, “In spite of what someone else has done, or what someone else is going through, or their past, I’m still willing to look over that and care about that person anyway.”

These are some of the various things I hear. But the number one thing – and usually it will take people a moment to say – is, “I don’t know.”

Brian: Okay. So, you help define what love is and then you work to let them apply that to themselves, often going back and talking to their inner child in a way that it may not have been talked to.

Question: What do you typically see as a result of that? Is that effective for your clients?

Natalie: It’s definitely effective because I think people have this fantasy idea of what love is. They don’t know how to put it into words or what it actually looks like for them.

The fantasy would be something that you see in movies like The Notebook or something like that fantasy type of love. Maybe they don’t even have that; they’re just kind of grasping for something, meaning any type of relationship because they’ve never had that, they’ve never seen that, it’s never been modeled to them. That’s why we start there.

And yes, it does typically tend to be effective once people have a clear idea of what it is they actually want. That’s the simplest way I could put it – like you’re coming to me for a healthy, loving relationship. What does that look like for you in real-time?

Brian: You made a great statement during our last conversation. You said that you ask your clients, “Are you investing in that person or are you investing in the fantasy of what you want to happen in the future?” (Where your partner someday says, “You’ve proven it to me, I’m going to start validating you now.”)

Questions: How frequently are your clients investing in the fantasy versus the actual person? How do you get them to recognize and accept this so that they can work on it?

Natalie: My clients that come to me are 100% invested in fantasy. That’s why their relationships are very tumultuous or unhealthy, because they are so invested in rewriting a story. A lot of times they come from abusive homes, or they’ve had previous abusive relationships, or they came from places where they were neglected, not validated, felt unloved or uncared for in some way.

A lot of my clients will try and repeat history, meaning they will get a partner with the same unhealthy characteristics, and they’ll try to be in that relationship or they’ll try to chase that person and relationship so that it can have a different meaning, so the person will one day wake up and say, “Aha, you are the perfect person, you are the person that I knew you would be. You’ve done everything for me, and you’re worthy of love, you’re worthy of kindness. Now, I’m ready to be with you. You’ve proven yourself, you’ve shown yourself to be true. Now, I’m going to be this white knight in shining armor and be the person that you thought I could be.” A lot of times, people are invested in the fantasy.

You see another phenomenon happen when they get a partner who actually is healthy and loving and they are able to have intimacy and things like that. They’re emotionally healthy and stable. Then they get with someone who’s had nothing but a string of dysfunctional relationships, but they don’t know what to do with that. It’s like a fish out of water because it’s like, “Who is this person? What am I supposed to do with this person? I’m not used to that.” When you’ve been in a series of dysfunctional relationships, especially since childhood, your brain becomes wired for those certain types of relationships. When you’re approached with something different, a lot of people who have been abused, or had a history of dysfunctional relationships, just don’t know how to handle that. They may need skills or training to work with that.

Brian: It reminds me of the whole concept that some girls don’t like nice guys, they want a bad boy.

Natalie: Yeah.

Question: Is that because that’s what they’re used to, and that’s the only thing they know how to work with?

Natalie: Right. I work with prisoners as well, so I work with the “baddest” of the bad boys.

You have to think about today’s culture. It’s very different from yesterday’s culture – the 40s, 50s, and 60s for example. Right now, we’re talking about today’s culture where people want stuff right now. They don’t want to wait, they want to drive by and get it, and they want to have it right now. They want to push a button, and they want it at their door in ten minutes.

The same thing is also true, a lot of times, with relationships. They want that excitement, they want that charm, they want that love, that infatuation, and that whirlwind romance. People want that right now. Whereas, if you look at traditional healthy relationships, most healthy relationships take a lot of work, they take time, you have to get to know somebody, and sometimes it’s boring. Not to say that you can’t have some excitement as a couple, but you’re not really going to be getting caught up in drama or excitement like you would with a bad boy, where everyday you don’t know what to expect. With a healthy relationship, you’re going to know what to expect; there’s some monotony involved. That’s why you hear phrases like, “Oh, girls want bad guys,” or whatever.

Brian: That’s fascinating. I’m going to keep moving on to some other things that I think are good for this conversation.

There were several things that you mentioned that are necessary to start practicing self-love better, and having supportive people in your life is one of them.

Question: How would you advise someone, especially someone who might feel like they’re isolated, to get the kind of support that they need to start turning the ship, if you will?

Natalie: Chances are that there are supportive people in your life. For someone who’s not used to loving themselves or not used to being emotionally invested in themselves, there’s a good chance that you would probably turn people like that (supportive people) away.

But I always encourage my clients to think about someone who’s been there for you, and who’s cared for you, and been able to talk with you, be unselfish with you, and has been unconditional. There’s probably someone like that in your life already. Whether that be a friend, a family member, people that maybe you have even discarded to be in unhealthy relationships that you’re in – think about those people and try to reach out and make connection with them.

Alternatively, there are a lot of support groups out there for you. If you’re a person that likes to be in codependent relationships, there are CoDa support groups. There are also love addiction support groups, and you can find other things that are also very supportive and even self-exploratory when you’re trying to get to know yourself and love yourself. At meetup.com you join with people who are in similar professions or have similar hobbies as you, and you can explore whatever your interests are.

I’m also a big advocate for therapy – not just when things are bad or they go sour – but to have a regular, on-going relationship with a therapist. That way, when things do go bad or sour, you already have that support in place.

Support comes in different ways. Different people are going to have different meanings and different types of relationship dynamics. There are going to be some people that you can’t necessarily have a deep friendship with, but maybe there’s someone at your office that you can just have some conversation with and keep it light. Then maybe you can cook out with your next door neighbor when you’re at home. Maybe you have another deep friendship or someone that you can develop a friendship with outside of those examples.

Realize that support comes in different forms and types of dynamics. It doesn’t always have to be a deep, caring relationship. Some of the other relationships may be lighter – I don’t want to say superficial, but maybe just not as deep – it can also be just as supportive, especially if they’re consistent and you know that person’s going to be there for you in certain areas.

Brian: Thank you for the suggestions. Something else you mentioned that’s important is self-exploration.

Question: What are some things that people can do to “date themselves,” as you put it, and why is that important for self-love?

Natalie: Yeah. Self-exploration is very important because it allows you to get to know yourself. A lot of times when I’m working with clients, they will come in and say, “I don’t know who I am. I have been entrenched or invested myself so deeply in this relationship. I don’t even know who I am anymore. This relationship was my identity.” It’s important to develop your own identity and not make your relationships – that could be your relationships with people, your job,  money, food, or other things – be your identity, but maybe be a part of who you are.

When you’re starting to date yourself, a lot of people will feel like a fish out of water because they won’t know how to spend time alone, caring for themselves or doing something they enjoy. It’s going to feel very awkward for them in the beginning and they may not like it, which is totally normal and it’s something that you should push through. Again, I would encourage someone to have a therapist when doing that. A therapist can help you address some of the feelings that come up for you.

Another thing I would encourage you doing is writing out how you feel, what’s going on. Part of that is being mindful; what’s causing these feelings to come up? How am I feeling right now? What do I do typically when these feelings come up? Is that working for me or is that unhealthy for me? Journaling about that and about your growth and your progress.

Beyond that, try different things. The internet is at your fingertips, there are lots of activities and websites where you can find different activities to explore who you are and what you love to do. Or, you can ask people that know you what you would like to do. A lot of times, people that know you will say, “Hey, remember when you used to do x, y, and z? You used to be so good at that. Remember when we used to do x, y, and z? It will be so fun.”

You can do wine and paint night, you can start knitting or doing some sort of hobby. Also, maybe you want to start looking into taking little adventures with yourself. You could take little vacations, even if they’re just local, there’s something about getting out of your environment and just doing something on your own to foster independence and adventure on your own.

Brian: Thank you for that. You mentioned finding a therapist to help you with some of these things.

Questions: What type of therapy do you practice? What do you believe is the best modality for changing the negative voices that we have inside of our heads?

Natalie: I do a lot of different types of therapy. It really depends on my clients and what they respond to. I like to use a combination of person-centered therapy or Rogerian-type therapy where people know what they want. I’m just here as a guide to help them achieve what their goals are, and I accept them unconditionally and positively. That means there’s not going to be a judgment from me. I also like the technique I talked about in the beginning, that would be something like narrative therapy. Mindfulness-based treatment is also something that I use as well as cognitive behavioral therapy, which is where we start thinking about your thoughts and feelings and how they shape your behavior. Those are things I like to use, just to name a few.

I also like to do a lot of internal voice work, and that is basically looking at that running dialogue that you have in your mind. A lot of times, when I talk about the internal voice, I compare it to watching a basketball game with commentators talking all throughout the game. That’s what your internal voice is; it’s in your mind and it’s constantly running a script about your day, your life, the people, the events that happen. We talk about where that voice comes from, and how it shapes how you think about yourself, the people and the world around you. Those are just a few of the things I do. Nonviolent communication is also something that I use. So there are lots of different modalities there.

Brian: You touched on mindfulness for a second. I want to ask you a question about that because it’s been a buzzword for quite a while, and I’ve actually found a lot of value in it.

Question: What do you think mindfulness has to do with self-love?

Natalie: It’s bringing it back to you. A lot of times, when people have trouble with self-love, they’re busy trying to please others, but mindfulness brings it back to you. It brings both the awareness and the attention back to you. You’re focusing on what’s going on with you, and you’re staying in the moment as opposed to anxiety where you’re too busy worrying about what’s going to happen in the future. Whereas, people who are depressed are typically focusing on the past. But mindfulness stays in the present moment. It causes you to be focused on you. You could focus on you emotionally, physically, psychologically, and it brings it to you right here and right now. It causes you to understand what’s going on with you; why am I doing that? What caused that? How can I change that?

Brian: Excellent. Just a few more questions before we get ready to wrap up here. We’ve been talking a lot about self-love, naturally, and I’ve found that self-love seems to be a pre-requisite for being able to set a boundary, which is something that a lot of folks have trouble with.

Question: At what point, in your opinion, will someone know when they’ve built up enough fortitude to really be able to set and enforce a boundary with a partner or someone in their family?

Natalie: I would encourage people to work on that in therapy. As you work on yourself in therapy, your relationships are automatically going to work themselves out if you’re truly doing the work. What that means is that as you start to work on yourself and make yourself emotionally well, you’re also going to expect that or need that from your relationships around you as the time goes on. You will start to notice a difference when you do the work and you’re starting to think to yourself, ‘I’m not happy the way things are going. I don’t like the way things are going.’ That’s usually how it starts, people start feeling like, ‘I’m not happy. I’m not happy.’ That’s usually the beginning if you’re looking at the stages of change model; you know that there’s a problem and you don’t like it.

Then there comes a point where, ‘Okay, I don’t like this. This needs to change because it’s causing me to feel out of my element or starting to disrupt me emotionally and I don’t like how it’s making me feel. This is going to have to change.’ That’s when you know that you are strong enough to start enforcing boundaries, when you know that something or someone has to change; if you don’t like it, it’s impacting you, and again, you have that awareness now that this just isn’t working for you anymore.

Again, with therapy or even some great self-help books, you can start to enforce boundaries. A lot of times, that comes with saying, “No,” or saying, “Don’t do that,” or, “You’re impacting me in a negative way,” when you start to feel uncomfortable, when you start to feel that somebody else is making you uncomfortable. That’s what that’s all about.

Brian: Thank you. I ask every guest this question…

Question: What is your biggest piece of advice for a codependent person?

Natalie: There are so many. But one thing I will say is there are going to be people in your life that love you and that care about you. People that are not in the relationship bubble that you’re in, with the person that you’re in. They’re going to say things to you, they’re going to give you feedback. These are probably people that have known you all your life, or people that you have a deep friendship with.

A lot of times, when people who love us say things to us about our relationship that don’t fit with that fantasy, or don’t fit with that idea that we have, we typically tend to dismiss them or become angry with them. What I’m inviting people to do is just to remember that these people know you, and they care about you, they don’t want to hurt you.

If you have people in your corner that want the best for you, please listen to what they say and give them the opportunity to say that to you, and just try to approach that with an open mind. Because sometimes our relationship is a bubble that we often can’t see; someone from the outside can see so much clearer than we can.

Brian: That’s really good. I know denial can be a really, really tough thing.

Question: If somebody wanted to find you or speak with you, or just learn more about your work, where could they find out more?

Natalie: They can always go to my website, drnataliejones.com. All my social media links and everything are up there.

Brian: Great.

Question: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this conversation before we wrap up?

Natalie: I so appreciate you having me on. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I’m glad to speak with your audience about something that’s very near and dear to my heart. To everyone out there listening, I hope that you can achieve the kind of relationship you want, need, and deserve.

Brian: Thank you so much, Dr. Jones. This has been wonderful. It’s great getting the input from somebody that’s been in your shoes, who’s had the opportunity to help other people with these very specific things. Thanks for the expertise you’ve brought.

Natalie: Thank you.

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

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