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Podcast Ep. 7: Growing up between cultures, healing trauma, and cultivating self-compassion with Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD

In this episode

Justin talks to Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD about her calling to the psychological field, exploring emotional trauma, and how to show compassion to others and ourselves. They dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress.



About our guest

Nadia Torres-Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

Show notes

  • 00:06 - Learn more about Max's incredible story and how it inspired the creation of MaxLove Project!
  • 09:00 - Religions and cultures all over the world have their own Creation Stories, but Nadia is specifically referring to the Christian version.
  • 12:22 - Note from Justin: "I misremembered the source of this quote. It wasn't a psychologist, but a performance coach, Peter Crone."
  • 14:46 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 15:34 - Social IQ is a lot like common sense, "street smarts," or tact and can include conversational skills, listening skills, understanding how other people tick, and more.
  • 17:33 - Merriam-Webster defines decompensation as a "loss of physiological or psychological compensation."
  • 28:21 - Justin and Nadia met at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
  • 28:48 - "The psychodynamic perspective encompasses a number of theories that explain both normal and pathological personality development in terms of the dynamics of the mind. Such dynamics include motivational factors, affects, unconscious mental processes, conflict, and defense mechanisms."
  • 30:00 - The Goldilocks Approach to parenting suggests that "finding the right balance when raising children will help them develop healthy yet realistic self-esteem and avoid mental health difficulties as young adults."
  • 30:05 - "Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners."
  • 36:02 - You can take Dr. Torres-Eaton's workshop, Flourish: Knowing When You Need Help on The Family Thrive app!
  • 41:54 - Interpersonal style refers to how we communicate with others.
  • 43:21 - The Dalai Lama wrote, "According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive — it's not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."
  • 45:40 - Keep up with or reach out to Dr. Torres-Eaton here.
  • 50:10 - Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate.
  • 52:08 - To listen to Amanda Gorman's reading at President Biden's inauguration, click here.
  • 52:18 - This quote is from one of Amanda Gorman's tweets.

Justin: Audra and I met Dr. Torres-Eaton when she was a clinical psychologist at the Children's Hospital where our son Max was being treated for a brain tumor. We hit it off pretty quickly because she was so kind and welcoming and we were frazzled parents of a child in treatment for a life-threatening health condition.

When we started developing programs for MaxLove Project, we just knew that we wanted to work with her. We ended up writing grants, developing programs, and now creating workshops and content together. We consider her not just an expert clinical psychologist, but a real friend.

Today, Nadia Torres Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

We dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress. So, without further ado, here's my wonderful conversation with Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton.

I am particularly interested in how you even got started as a psychologist. Like when did you first know this is it, this is what I want to do?


Nadia: It was in undergrad. I knew that I was interested in psychology. But before that I was, I loved to read. I love literature. I thought I was going to be an English lit major. I had taken, I was like one of those nerdy kids that did AP courses all throughout high school, I had a really high GPA...


Justin: I had no idea English literature, ok.


Nadia: Yeah, yeah, English lit. Well, well here's the interesting thing about English literature. A lot of that, a lot of the skills that you need for analyzing literature are very applicable to analyzing people, but it's live, right, rather than you're going back in time and reading in a book and kind of, you know, just taking a look at patterns, repetition, symbolism, or things of that nature. It's not that different when you look at it like that.


Justin: So you were analyzing these characters long, long before you ever analyzed actual people.


Nadia: That's right, yeah, yeah. And so I was, yeah, I was in school and I remember having a hard time with some of the literature classes like Old English lit stuff that was much more complicated and it was harder for me to analyze because there's so much more history that you have to get into to understand the meaning behind all the words and symbolism. And so I found that that was not as fun for me to do it that far back, and I realized, “Oh, this is harder, like I enjoy it as a fun activity, but not so much to write a paper and spend hours and hours researching this.”


Justin: You're not gonna spend seven years on a PhD.


Nadia: Yeah. So, so once I took psychology classes that felt so natural and it felt so easy and I think it really matched my natural skill set. So that's why I was drawn to it, aside from the fact that my mother had cancer when I was young and she, she was only 38 years old when she passed away.

I was 17 and it was, it happened so fast, you know. She, she was sick. Everybody said that it was stress-related. I mean, she went to multiple doctors about that and it was a strange diagnosis for somebody that was so young. She had colon cancer. So I don't think they ever even considered that to be a possibility until it was too late.

And so from the moment of her diagnosis to the moment that she passed away, it was about three-and-a-half months. Like it just, it just happened so fast. And I remember just thinking about, you know, just all of the things that you have to do to cope, and I'm the oldest in my family.

I, my parents, my mom was born in Texas but raised in Mexico like they were the kind of family that went back and forth and my father is from El Salvador. And so I feel like I had always sort of grown up with multiple cultures and multiple perspectives and multiple points of view, and that things weren't exactly the same. And you know, context made a difference, and so I think, like again, naturally I had a lot of these skills built-in.

So when I came to these psychology classes and they're talking about, “You know you have to understand, like, where this person is coming from.” Like I've been doing that my whole life. Like this is, this felt, like, just so natural and easy and I was acing the classes. You know, because it was so easy for me that I just realized at that point, I think I'm supposed to do this because it's, it's not that complicated or hard for me.


Justin: What I'm hearing is you were attracted to what came to you as a really natural sort of ability to dig deeper into the human condition.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: And another thing I'm hearing is that your childhood, coming from different cultural perspectives, shifting cultural perspectives that you were able to kind of see, maybe behind the veneer, or like the facade because you're now able to see how one perspective is not the only perspective.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: You, as a child had access to multiple perspectives, and so you could kind of see behind or kind of around the corner. One of the things that I've heard from people who grow up in a multicultural context is that that's the advantage they have. But the disadvantage is often they feel like they don't feel at home in any particular culture. Did that happen for you?


Nadia: Yeah, yeah that did happen. I mean, I had one protective factor, maybe that helped with that, and that I see it as a double-edged sword. On one hand, my family was also very religious and so that kind of unified things and I felt a part of that community. And in that Latin religious community, the cultural pieces are kind of pushed aside to merge into the religious point of view, you know?


Justin: Yes.


Nadia: Double-edged sword side of that, is it can be very strict, you know, and having had so many different perspectives and growing up in mainstream America and also like being very drawn to reading. Like I love to read, you know, so sure I had cultural perspective, I had this religious perspective but also was an avid reader. So again, there was another layer of like but things aren't exactly the way they're saying it here either.


Justin: Do you mind if I ask a few more questions along this, this, this path here?


Nadia: No, not at all.


Justin: I'm really interested. Yeah, so the idea that things aren't the way that people automatically say they are. And so yeah, this would come from multiple perspectives within the literature, just...you know, exposing yourself to all these different viewpoints. I can imagine growing up in this really religious context that particularly getting into psychology would maybe cause some tension. Maybe the tension was internal? Maybe it was also external, but could you talk about that?


Nadia: It was absolutely both. I was very outspoken about those things and it was not always well received. And sometimes I, especially if you think about Latin culture. You're, you're supposed to, I mean, I do, I respect my elders, you know, like you, you respect your elders, you don't talk back. You're supposed to be very aware of hierarchy. You know?

And, but my mind has always worked really fast. It's always been that way and I just had a lot of questions. So I do remember being 13 years old and having a bit of a tiff with the church pastor because I was saying, he was talking about the Creation Story. And again, you know I had already, I already loved to read. I didn't quite understand this yet, but I felt like it was a story, not necessarily exactly the way…


Justin: The actual facts.


Nadia: Yeah, you know? And, and so, I was trying to ask him questions about, just about dinosaurs and just talking about these other facts we have, right?


Justin: Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.


Nadia: Yeah. And that was not well-received. That was like, he was constantly just like redirecting me, redirecting me. And finally, I just was like, I just really like flat out, “I'm really confused. Are you saying that in this point of view, in this religious point of view, just dinosaurs don't exist?” And I was very pointed about it, which they did not like.


Justin: Did that flow over into your family life?


Nadia: Yeah, it did. I mean, I pretty much figured out that I had to go along with this in order to get along with everybody because this was important. And I saw, I saw the religious peace a little bit differently than they did.

So one thing I didn't mention to you is, my father was a very complicated, he's still alive. He's a very complicated man, but we don't have a relationship. And I don't feel upset or bothered by it. I think it's, it's for the best, but he was an alcoholic and he was abusive at times and religion, it was like something that helped him harness that energy and redirect him, but he sort of traded one abusive thing for another and now he was kind of obsessed with that. And so it was an unpleasant religious experience.


Justin: Yeah.


Nadia: In terms of that part for me, but for them, I think they saw it as like a tool that helped him behave better, and I understood that as a kid I like I understood that that's what it was.


Justin: Wow, that’s complex for a kid to understand. That's, that's, that feels to me like, wow. You had to make some social-psychological calculations at a young age to really understand what was going on.


Nadia: Yeah, I again I. That's why I think psychology has come so naturally to me because I understand people do things, not necessarily because it's the right thing, or because they have problems like, in and of themselves.

Everybody is trying to be a better version at, to some degree. They're not always successful, and I think I understood that, like, he had a lot of limitations and that this was something he needed. And my mother was somebody who she, like, really helped him and tried to protect him in some ways from his, the negative side of him. And when she passed away he really decompensated because his tools weren't in place.


Justin: I heard this quote from a [performance coach] a while ago and it's stuck with me. And it was about our parents and our parents, parents and then ourselves as parents. And it was: “If they could have done better, they would have done better.”

And it was about like blaming is, is not the right way to approach this, right? If they could have done better, and same for us as parents, if we could have done better we would have done better. But then the other thing that this psychologist added was, “but in this moment we have the opportunity to do better.”


Nadia: That’s right.


Justin: Yeah, yeah.


Nadia: No, no, no, I agree with you. I think that that's that's exactly—I don't hold any resentment towards him. I do remember as a kid-kid, like before 13 years of age, being annoyed with him and being mad at my mom. But as an adult and certainly, I would say definitely in the last 10 years, I'm, or since my 30s, I'm 44. I'll be 45 this year, so it's been a while.


Justin: Me too, me too.


Nadia: We’re in good company. So I, I just see him as just a troubled person, but not necessarily like that I'm the person to help him, or that I'm the person that needs to rescue him. Like he has to do his work on his own. And I think to me ultimately, that's what psychology is about, is it's that you come to the realization that it takes work to be the best version of you.

You know it's not given. It's not about the environment. The environment could be crappy. It could be awesome. You could still be, you know, have feelings of low self-worth and anger and frustration. But you have to make a conscious decision to work towards being the better version of you.


Justin: Wow, I love it and I just have this realization that we just went straight into the deep end like we did not wait till…


Nadia: Sorry.


Justin: Oh no, I love it, and I'm hoping that all of these podcasts that we do, parents will get something out of them, like right from the beginning, right until the end, like we're not going to mess around, we're going to dive right into stuff.

So before I so, I do have a list of topics and so the first thing was just, you know, talk about you and your background. But before we move on, I just have this one other thought if you wanted to talk about it. I know that you and I have talked about Gabor Maté before and you said something to the effect of you learned that you had to go along to get along. And he has this thing about in childhood how we have to give up our authenticity for attachment. And it's this, you know this, this game that we have to play of, like how much of our real authentic self do we need to give up in order to stay connected with these people who have our lives in their hands, you know? So I'm just wondering, so what you think about this, like as a child having to give up authenticity for attachment and then in adulthood rediscovering that authenticity?


Nadia: Yeah, I think, I think that's absolutely true. I, I think that if you have a high social IQ then it's much easier to recognize that and know what you're doing and why you're doing it. And the less, the less you tap into that social IQ, it's not that people don't have it. I think everybody has, you know, some form of it, but you decide how much of it you're going to access.

The less you focus on that, I think the harder it is to know that you are sacrificing. But I think that goes along with those nonverbal social skills that we all develop in terms of figuring out like what it is that you have to do to keep things as stable as possible, right? 'Cause that's what everybody is trying to do. Like I, I don't want to be out on the street. I don't, I don't want to have to fight with my parents all the time. I don't want to lose my privileges. Like they're putting some pressure and you're sort of doing that give and take as well.

And I think you, you figure it out at some point and hopefully sooner rather than later, you figure out like yeah, maybe I didn't say everything I wanted to say. And certainly in Latin culture, by the time you have to talk and do that stuff, it's fighting words because most of the time you're encouraged to just let things be. Unless it's really severe, and so it's not necessarily part of the culture to bring things up and say, “Hey, I'm, I'm feeling pretty dissatisfied about this. I really want to renegotiate my relationship with you. I don't think it's going well right now. What do you think?” You know, that just doesn't happen naturally. Like you'd have to get some pretty direct instruction to be able to do that.


Justin: Oh wow, yeah.


Nadia: Because my mother passed away at such a young age and my father was around for a little bit. But then I told you he kind of continued to decompensate and then he...


Justin: Nadia real quick. So for the listeners, can you define decompensate?


Nadia: Sure, yeah, yeah. So like all of the things that you would expect from somebody to be like a normal functioning person—like, you know, going to work, paying the bills, you know, doing the parenting things, managing the things at home. As long as my mother was alive, I think he knew what, what his role was, but once she passed away, he started to flounder and so one of the things that he did was he put a lot of pressure on me to take over and to, and to do exactly what my mother was doing as a way to help him stay on track.

And I did do that for quite a bit, but in that process he, when I say decompensate, he started making choices. I mean, of course he's an adult, he’s a parent, he can do whatever he wants, but now they weren't necessarily in the best interest of the family because there wasn't anybody to hold him accountable that way. He started to engage in more selfish acts, and they got more and more elaborate. So and I'll just tell, I'll just cut to the chase to the final straw, which was he got married, but didn't tell anybody that he got married. And he went down to Mexico and got married to a person. And I found out about it through a newspaper article that he brought home and there was a picture of him getting married.

It was like a telenovela. It was really crazy and he would disappear, now it made sense like why he would disappear for extended periods of time. And I was alone like managing these kids by myself and so at that point when I saw that and I won't get into more details 'cause there's a lot more, but I ended up at that point, I just made a conscious choice to become the guardian for my sisters and my brother. So I did become a parent in essence.


Justin: That's right.


Nadia: We have a huge age gap, so they're my, my sister that's younger than me is, she's eight years younger. My other sister is 10 years younger and my brother was, is 12 years younger. So my mom died when he was five years old and he's 32 now. So I feel like I've done the gamut in terms of raising them and going through all of the difficult parts in high school.

You know they got through college and they're fully functioning adults. Everybody's great. I'm really happy for them. But I did, but I feel like I'm, I'm also on the other end too, of like, I know what it's like to do the transition from, you know, having teenagers, that transition into young adulthood and becoming that parent that steps back and allows them to do their own thing. Like it's been a long journey.

So when you ask me what is it about families like I, I think I have quite a bit of experience. And maybe, you know, I know what it's like to be a single parent. I also got married in the middle of that process, so I, you know, my husband at times, you know, stepped in and shared some of that responsibility for my brother 'cause he was the youngest. But it, it was, it was a lot.


Justin: Oh my gosh, that's right. You, you've told me a little bit about that story. But wow, just to get all of the details that, that feels, that feels really intense at age 17 and 18, to just, for this massive responsibility for these other human beings to be thrust upon you. Oh, that feels heavy.


Nadia: You know, it's, I, I'm glad you're saying that because at the, at the time I just felt like we just have to forge forward and I want to keep my family together. I value family and that was really important to me and they wanted to stick with me. So that was interesting as well because they could see that he was not responding like an appropriate parent and it wasn't good for them.

So we stuck it out and like at the 20-year mark after she passed away, 'cause I feel like my life is sort of like, there was this life before she died and there was a life after she died and then and then something shifted when I got married. So there's like three parts to the way I see how my life has been. But at about 20 years after she passed away I remember waking up that day and thinking, “It's been 20 years like, oh my gosh, I've lived longer without my mother than I did with her.”

The significance of that was really profound to me in that moment, like and all of a sudden I had this flash of like everything I've been through and I realized, “I think I've been seeing myself as a victim like this was the sad thing that happened.” And you know, it was hard. But on that 20th anniversary, I woke up and I realized 20 years ago I got the opportunity to be really fiercely independent. And to, you know, take each step and move forward and support my family and I'm like and I wouldn't have had that level of opportunity had they all been around, you know? And I was like I'm, this is cool, like this is good. I did good.


Justin: Would it be too much to say that at that 20th-year realization that you were able to see in a way, this thing that happened to you when you were 17, was a gift?


Nadia: I, I do, I do think that it was a gift. As you can tell I love to psychoanalyze and I do it to myself as well. I reflected on a lot of things that happened. When I went to court, my father’s side of the family basically cut us out. They changed their phone numbers. They, you know, they just didn't want anything to do with us and, and it was me in particular because they felt like I was being very disrespectful and it was totally against culture and totally against the religious side of the culture to get the courts involved, you know?

And my mom's side of the family, they had their own complications and their own limitations. And they all live in New Mexico now and, and at the time they, they were living there. And so my grandfather, my mom's dad, had asked me to move in with them and that he would help us out. But I really felt like, I don't know why I can't explain it, but I really felt like I've always had this value of freedom. And I don't think I thought of it this way in the moment at that time, but I just felt like I would have, I wouldn't have had the freedom. And so I decided to forge that path on my own, and I think at that 20th mark I was able to see how none of these family influences, not that I don't believe in family. Of course, I love family, and I still, I had a great relationship with my grandfather nonetheless, but I didn't have all of those influences or the interpersonal challenging dynamics that my parents had with their family. None of that was there.

Like I genuinely got a chance to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. Be a good sister. Go to school, enjoy my freedom, you know? And sure was it financially stressful at times? It was, but I was, we were never without. Like things were, maybe they, I barely made ends meet, but we could still move forward and it was good enough and I felt like that life was better than the one I had before. Which sounds weird, but that's what happened.


Justin: Wow, it's powerful, yeah. The reason the word gift came up is because in childhood cancer parent circles many of us will kind of quietly say like this diagnosis, the treatment, the whole journey, painful, you know, we would never wish this on our child in a million years. We would do anything to take it from them, but it's been a gift, like in a way it's been a gift. And you know I'm saying this on a podcast, but oftentimes we will say it to each other like I would never tell anybody else this. I would never say, you know, no one else would understand, but other childhood cancer parents understand.

And so when I heard you talk about this, I was like, oh, wow, it's, I mean it is really these like traumatic events in our lives when enough time is passed and if we have been able to respond in some internally authentic and true way, then we can look back and like thank you. Wow, what a gift.


Nadia: I think if you are able to adapt, right? And you allow the creativity to flow. You can adapt. You have social IQ. I do think some you know at least average intelligence is necessary to do all of the problem-solving, right? I think when you, when that combination of things happens together, that's the magic. And I think we are able to change and transform our lives for the better.

I grew up with a father that yelled and was very denigrating. And my siblings and I, I don't remember ever using a cuss word to yell or to be mad, no matter how frustrated I was during that time. They used to call me Mom-ster. So you can tell like.


Justin: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.


Nadia: Sometimes you know that there was tension between us because they were confused, right? Like they're like, are you my mom? Are you my sister? And they were like I found out they called me Momster. They're like it's for mom and sister and I'm like no, I know exactly what you mean.


Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. Oh my gosh, oh what a story, Nadia thanks. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I just feel really fortunate to have got a window into all that you've been through and then this amazing traumatic event that has turned into a gift. It's, it's really, really cool. Thank you.

So I do want to shift to your professional life. So yeah, I mean what we just discussed gives me at least a really clear and deep understanding for what led you into psychology. And then why you are such a natural. And then what you and I met, because at the time you were a clinical psychologist, out of Children's Hospital where our son was being treated for a brain tumor. And so it's really clear, like your, your love for children, your love for families like it—yeah, it all makes total sense. So let's talk about this professional aspect.

I have to ask, do most mental-emotional health problems come from childhood? Is it just like we're all essentially working through childhood stuff?


Nadia: Yeah, I think that. Probably the psychodynamic perspective and theory of psychology. The psychodynamic part is the traditional stuff that we think of as Freud. You know, people complain about him and they don't like him. And you know, they get annoyed by him or whatever. But he probably wrote the most complete theory that we have out there about our psyche, and like how we become the people that we become. And there hasn't been anything else that has been able to trump it.

And so to some degree, yes, I would say like the majority of the things that we're dealing with today come from our early childhood experiences. Our interpretation of that. Some of it is temperament. Some of it is, sure, the environments that we were growing up in. The dynamics between the relationships between the parent and the child that maybe the parent didn't quite understand the temperament of the child, and you know, was more harsh when they needed to be softer or were too soft when they needed to be harsher, you know?


Justin: The Goldilocks problem with parenting, right?


Nadia: Yes, and that's why there's, you know, all the, all the information on attachment theory and like what helps us develop our ability to attach to people, to our parents to, you know, all of that is connected to what we call “good-enough parenting.” Like it doesn't have to be perfect. You know you need to be present, but it just has to be good enough. And so think of it, more like 80-20. 80% of the time the thing that's stressing you out right now is rooted in something that happened to you in the past, and 20% of the stress is from the present.


Justin: So then I'm getting a picture of parents, myself included, where we're getting triggered and stressed, and we've got 80% of it is just from our childhood. The way you know, all the random stuff that happens in being a kid and just the intensity of being a kid and being dependent on these other people.

I mean, human beings, we’re not crocodiles where we hatch out of an egg, we're ready to go. Instead for a good chunk of our life. For you know, probably in the olden days they would like, send kids away to work. You know, maybe when they were eight or 10 or but still, that's, that's many years where kids are just not able to take care of themselves in any way. So that's an intense experience. You're totally at the mercy of your parents, so it makes sense. We bring a lot of baggage from our childhood.

So how can parents and I know this is a big question. But if we can maybe distill it down to a few points, you know we have so much stuff from our childhood. How do we keep from passing it on?


Nadia: I think the key is to constantly be willing to explore and be willing to go there with yourself and say, “Ok, where is—I'm really angry right now—where is this really coming from? Where is the source?” If you can find the source, and sometimes it's hard, I mean the majority of us, we have a tendency to want to avoid unpleasant feelings, right?


Justin: Ok. I have a theory coming up that I've played around with, the vast majority of all issues in adulthood come from avoidance. Like you know, like, addiction is basically just major avoidance, right?


Nadia: Yeah.


Justin: So what I hear you saying is like, stop avoiding.


Nadia: Yes. Yeah, yeah, you stop avoiding like, be willing to go there. I think that the discomfort is that when we were young and we had these uncomfortable feelings, we didn't understand them. We didn't know what they meant. We didn't know why they were happening.

And so as, as you continue to age, there's a desire to, you know, avoid them because you don't want to go back to that feeling of like I have no idea why this is here or what to do with it, and that sounds scary because once again, like, it's a regression. Really, that's what's happening. We don't notice that your mind actually can't, doesn't tell time it does. It actually doesn't notice the difference. It's why some people say I'm in my 50s, but I feel like I'm still a 30 year old.


Justin: Or for, I know I've heard people say, “I feel totally different when I go back home and I'm around, my brother or mom or it's, it's like I'm a different person,” you know.


Nadia: Yes, exactly like people fall right back into old patterns and dynamics and they don't even notice that it's happening and it is challenging for people to, to really see the, you know, just how uncomfortable there they feel in the moment. So all they notice is, “I'm uncomfortable. I don't know what to do with it, I'm just going to avoid it.”


Justin: So if a parent's listening to this and they're saying, “Oh wow, you know I'm kind of recognizing that I do that, that, that I do have some avoiding behaviors.” What's, what's the next step? How can I stop avoiding?


Nadia: Building tolerance to sitting with discomfort is going to be key, and I would never expect people to like go full-blown dive, you know head, first into here are all my triggers and here's everything that I'm going there like that's really painful.

At least, I wouldn't do that without some support, right? So sometimes people find community. Sometimes it's a support group. Sometimes it's they’re, you know, exercise group like they haven't, you know sometimes it's a neighborhood group or you know, they could actually say, “I'm gonna go to a therapist, and, and talk to someone about these old feelings that keep coming up. And I think I have a pattern of getting myself into trouble.”

And so maybe if you could pay attention to some of your patterns, it might make it easier for you to recognize the areas that you've been avoiding, even if you don't know exactly what it is. But there's a pattern that gets you into trouble. Then you could say, “Ok, I need a little bit of help 'cause I thought I could do this on my own. And it's not working out.”


Justin: Do you find that there are particular mental-emotional health issues that present in parents more than nonparents, or is it pretty much the same for all adults?


Nadia: I think it's pretty much the same… The difference is that parents have the added stressors of keeping their kids alive, right, like and keeping things going and taking care of their needs, especially kids that are, I mean, kids are needy. It's just a normal part of life they need your attention.


Justin: They are biologically designed that way, right? They come out of the womb completely helpless.


Nadia: Yes. Completely helpless and the first five years actually are the most stressful of the parenting time. Like it's the most stressful because those first five years, the child is the most needy, right?

And so it can create a lot of tension between parents and, or like a lot of feelings of concern about whether they are being good enough parents or feeling triggered and you know, maybe there are some people that they were so needy themselves, that to have a child that is needier than them that could put so much more extra stress on them you know, just because of that alone.

So, I think that everybody basically has the same technically the same issues, but the parents might feel it in a more intense way because they don't have necessarily the same outlets to manage it, right? 'Cause, how do you get away? Your kiddo is at home waiting for you.


Justin: It used to be that you could at least go to work and now you can't do that anymore.


Nadia: For sure, yeah.


Justin: So it's, it's heightened in parenthood. These stressors are, are just heightened so, you did an amazing job with a workshop for The Family Thrive called “Knowing When We Need Help, Learning How to Identify When Parental Stress and Exhaustion Become More than We Can Handle on Our Own.”

Ok, so that was a long subtitle, but that explains it. So all of these stressors are heightened. We're like just hanging on. How do we know when we've gone from basically coping to ok, now we need more help. So that's what this is about, we’ll get into some of the details. Let's start with, why do you think this workshop is important for parents?


Nadia: I think the workshop is really important for parents, because I think everybody is going to benefit from learning about their coping style and what they're doing, especially if they do have stressors already, like current stressors. Stressors in and of themselves are not necessarily a bad thing, right? Like they’re, they help us grow. We just, I just told you my story and they do help us. They're not necessarily all doom and gloom.

The issue isn't the stressor but how many stressors we're handling all at one time. What is happening to us in our ability to face the world? Can we still be, can we still maintain our happy-go-lucky functioning? And if you can't maintain the happy-go-lucky because the stressor is big, can you be neutral? Can you say you know I'm working toward something, I'm just staying on track, but once it starts to shift, then it's difficult for parents to be the best version of themselves, to take care of their kids, to take care of themselves, to stay happily married if they're married, or to find joy and feel like life is fulfilling. Otherwise, it's very easy to be so worried about the future or fantasize about the past and the way things were before this, whatever major stressor is.


Justin: One of the things that I got from working on this workshop with you was that it seems like the main point is that there, there's a tipping point. You know? There's a point where like stresses are coming at us, maybe we're not at our A-game, you know, but we can kind of get through the day and we have some support systems. And you know, we have some coping behaviors and we're doing ok.

And then there comes a point when it tips and we need more help. We need to see a therapist. We need to see a professional to help us get back to the other side, but can you talk a little bit about this tipping point? What should parents be thinking about?


Nadia: Yeah, so some of the things that we would notice right away, probably the thing that is most common is irritability. If you start to notice that you're upset way more often, you know like you're quick to react, you're quick, like you feel short-fused. That's a key indicator that something is very wrong.


Justin: Right and I, so as a parent who in the past certainly well no, I'll still sometimes have, have a fuse, so I’ll have the tendency to say, “Well, it's just that the outside world is just so crazy. I mean, you know, look at what's going on.” And so when you know I'm experiencing more irritability, I might have a tendency to say, “Well, yeah, look at, you know, things are crazy. We got COVID, we got this, we got that.” But what I hear you saying is that if you're experiencing more irritability than normal, that blaming the outside circumstances, ooh, might just be another way of avoiding.


Nadia: Yeah, that's right.


Justin: Yeah, alright, so a parent. Here's, here's, this says yeah, you know it's like things have been tough and I've been snapping and I've been acting in ways that aren't normal for me. Maybe I do need to talk with somebody, well first, when The Family Thrive platform is up and live you'll be able to take the workshop and you'll be able to go through all this on your own. And there are some great tools in there that Nadia has for us to see. You know, have we passed the tipping point or are we getting close?

But let's say even before I take the workshop I'm hearing this, and I know something's off. What do I look for when I start to search for a therapist and I say, you know, I just want to talk with somebody and just see where things are. What do I look for? It feels kind of like the Wild West. Like, I mean I can, you know if I'm part of an HMO, maybe send me to somebody, but like, how do I know I'm going to the right person for me?


Nadia: I would recommend trying more than one therapist if you're not getting a recommendation from somebody that says, “I think this is a good person for you.” And the reason I'm saying that is because it's a little bit like finding the perfect pair of shoes, you know? Like you might say, “Ok, this is the size and this is the color, but you don't like the style.”

You know so it has to be a great fit. Like all of those pieces, they have to match your interpersonal style. Or even if they don't exactly match your interpersonal style, but they have enough of the key components to make you feel comfortable.

Sometimes people say that they, you know, I'm Latina. I speak Spanish fluently, so I've had a few people reach out to me that are bilingual, bicultural, they speak English. They have a similar background that I do and they can switch just as we've always could switch. We might slip into Spanish and then it comes back into English in that, that was important to them because they're like I've never actually met with a therapist that was of my same background. This is really cool for me.

So it just depends on what it is that you need. And I know we have the added challenge right now because of COVID. Psychology is very impacted. So I think that the ratio of therapist to clients is heavy, right? And so, and there's even fewer bilingual-bicultural people available to serve the community and, but it doesn't mean that you can't find a great therapist because there are social workers and marriage, family therapies, or licensed professional therapists. All of them have something great to offer and they're skilled at helping you explore what's going on with you.


Justin: Awesome, that's great advice. So this last question before we get into our big three questions that we ask everybody, is what is edgy for you in your own mental and emotional health journey? Like what is new and challenging that you're working on for yourself?


Nadia: Yes, I think that's a great question and I'm glad you asked because I genuinely, you know, my whole life and just and I have always been interested in being the best version of me and working on the better version of me. And I feel like I've done a really great job in not only managing my emotional health and wellbeing in terms of my relationship with my spouse, my relationship with my siblings, my relationship with myself, but I'm also drawn to yoga and Buddhist and like Eastern philosophies, and I think we've talked about that before. And so I feel like I'm now at this place that is discussed in the Buddhist philosophy about, you know, showing compassion to the world.

And so what's edgy for me right now has been really working through how I manage my reaction to the socio-political, you know, stage that, that, that has been unfolding. You know and interacting with people that have very different opinions than I do from a socio-political standpoint. And recognizing that it's sometimes, it's easy for people to want to shame, when you think that their point of view, it does is not right or incorrect or whatever.

But remember what I said initially: everybody is trying to work through their chaos. Everybody is trying to be their best version, even within their limitations within those limitations. And so when I take that perspective, I can apply it to that and say, “Ok, maybe there's some confusion. Maybe they need help. Maybe they're confused about why they're drawn to a certain point of view, like saying negative things about immigrants, or people of color or whatever, whatever that political stance is.”

And I found myself that when I'm working on compassion—the stronger my compassion is for me because I understand my humanity, my shortcomings where I've come from and all of the chaos that I've had to work through with effort to be this person then I can show compassion towards somebody else. Maybe they haven't had the opportunity to do that same level of work. It doesn't mean they are less worthy of the compassion you know, they're just stuck.

And so that's, that's my edge right now is to continue to foster that and, and continue to be open and work through that and show the compassion and be patient. Just as I would with a child that had a misconception about something. Not because I think they are less than, but I want to show that same level of love and understanding and kindness and softness when we're talking. That's what I mean.


Justin: Wow. A lot in your share just now impacted me. But the one thing that sticks out right away was the way you said when you are working on love and compassion for yourself. Like with this kind of internal love and compassion then you are more easily able to bring it out to others.

That's yeah, that feels really powerful because it feels daunting to me to generate love and compassion for people that I see as just totally wrong-headed and destructive and you know all these other things. And then what you said shifts it a little bit for me of like, well, can I start to work on loving and giving compassion to parts of me that I am not accepting? And then if I can do this internal work then that's going to come out externally.


Nadia: That's right, yeah. I mean, that's the key 100% just to make if you, if, if people could remember this in, you know of all the things that we've talked about, I think it's: you cannot give something to anybody else that you are not able to give to yourself first, like that, it's just impossible. Absolutely impossible.


Justin: Ooh. That, that feels like some deep wisdom for parents, like of course, as parents we, you know, it's, it's kind of automatic. I've never met a parent who won't consciously explicitly say I love my kids and I want to love my kids and I want to be the best parent for my kids. But then we find ourselves slipping into patterns that if we yell or we’re short or irritable or whatever the case is, and so what you're saying is, “Hey, you know you got to look inward. There is something about you internally that you're not allowing, that you're angry about, that you're resisting inside. And so if this internal work can be done, it's going to just automatically flow and change your relationship with your kids.” I love that, I love that.


Nadia: Yes.


Justin: Well before we move on to our final three questions real quick, how can parents find you and learn more about your work?


Nadia: I have a website www.holisticmentalhealth.life and I'm actually going to be starting a blog where I just talk a little bit about these, like little wisdom things like, what did I just shared with you, like it's impossible to share, you know compassion towards others when you haven't been working on that for yourself.

And I thought maybe there's a way for me to start sharing just little tidbits like that. So people can join and I'll put a little, like a little button so people can add themselves to the list, to the email list, and get the blog. So I can share that soon. I'll let you know when once that's up and running and that's basically it for now and then just the stuff that you and I do together whenever we work together.


Justin: So parents will be able to take your workshop on The Daily Thrive, which is the subscriber-only platform for The Family Thrive. And then you and I, we've also talked about doing some articles and some other things. And so yeah, you'll be able to catch Dr. Torres-Eaton on The Daily Thrive as well. And then of course, at the website holisticmentalhealth.life.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: Alright, so the final three questions. These are my favorite. I love asking everybody. So the first thing is: if you could put a big post-it note on every parent’s fridge tomorrow morning, they wake up, it's the first thing they see when they go into the kitchen. What would it say?


Nadia: I think it would say “Be gentle with yourself.” That's the key. Be kind to yourself 'cause that takes work. Takes work, but it's, it's a lot of work you know and I, it's easy for me to say, “Oh yeah, just be kind to other people, but…”


Justin: Yeah no, it's gotta start inside.


Nadia: It's gotta start inside.


Justin: Ok, so the last quote that changed the way you think or feel.


Nadia: Oh, you know I've been really fascinated recently with Amanda Gorman.


Justin: Oh my gosh, yeah, right radiant. That's the word. That's the word that comes up just radiant, yeah.


Nadia: I just I, you know, listening to her in that inauguration. I had like tears running down my face and I was thinking about something in that moment because I do a lot of meditation and I, often in my meditations I've been asking a question to the universe, like, “Why aren’t we hearing from philosophers and poets as much as before. Like where are they?”

And I, I feel like it says something about the culture when they're not standing out as much. It means like people are so stuck in their chaos that there are no dreamers. And it seems weird to me, you know, and so there's a, there's something that she, that she wrote and she posted and I and, and can I read it to you?


Justin: Absolutely ok.


Nadia: So it says: “Self love is revolutionary. We cannot fight for others when we're fighting a war inside ourselves. Compassion is a power that we first bestow ourselves and then give away through our actions to people, to our planet. When we recognize this, that is when love becomes our legacy.”


Justin: Wow, I'm detecting a theme here. This is what we've been talking about. and of course she puts it in the most beautiful way. Oh, about, that was very nourishing. Thank you, thank you for that.

Alright, so the last question is about kids and I ask this question every podcast because for parents it gets exhausting and we can say, “Oh my god, kids, you know?” And so let's just end the podcast by celebrating kids. So what's your favorite thing about kids?


Nadia: I think their resilience and their desire for play and having fun. I'm always in awe of kids, like they're so quick to be creative and not feel self-conscious about not having the right answer. And I, you know, I'm not sure when, where or when we lost that or, or why we see it as a negative and I've been even working on that, like as a theme for myself to have like just allowing creativity to flow. You know, because I feel inspired by kids who are just like, “I'm just going to try it. Let's see what happens.” You know? And not and not do things with fear. That's what I love about kids.


Justin: I love that yes, if we all can just cultivate that in ourselves, yeah, beautiful.

Nadia, thank you so much. This was really fantastic and I can't wait to have you back on.


Nadia: Awesome, thank you so much for having me. Thank you, Justin.


Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends, and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Podcast Ep. 7: Growing up between cultures, healing trauma, and cultivating self-compassion with Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD

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Podcast Ep. 7: Growing up between cultures, healing trauma, and cultivating self-compassion with Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD

Join Justin as he chats with Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD about how exploring deep emotions can help us create stronger, healthier bonds with our families

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In this episode

Justin talks to Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD about her calling to the psychological field, exploring emotional trauma, and how to show compassion to others and ourselves. They dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress.



About our guest

Nadia Torres-Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

Show notes

  • 00:06 - Learn more about Max's incredible story and how it inspired the creation of MaxLove Project!
  • 09:00 - Religions and cultures all over the world have their own Creation Stories, but Nadia is specifically referring to the Christian version.
  • 12:22 - Note from Justin: "I misremembered the source of this quote. It wasn't a psychologist, but a performance coach, Peter Crone."
  • 14:46 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 15:34 - Social IQ is a lot like common sense, "street smarts," or tact and can include conversational skills, listening skills, understanding how other people tick, and more.
  • 17:33 - Merriam-Webster defines decompensation as a "loss of physiological or psychological compensation."
  • 28:21 - Justin and Nadia met at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
  • 28:48 - "The psychodynamic perspective encompasses a number of theories that explain both normal and pathological personality development in terms of the dynamics of the mind. Such dynamics include motivational factors, affects, unconscious mental processes, conflict, and defense mechanisms."
  • 30:00 - The Goldilocks Approach to parenting suggests that "finding the right balance when raising children will help them develop healthy yet realistic self-esteem and avoid mental health difficulties as young adults."
  • 30:05 - "Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners."
  • 36:02 - You can take Dr. Torres-Eaton's workshop, Flourish: Knowing When You Need Help on The Family Thrive app!
  • 41:54 - Interpersonal style refers to how we communicate with others.
  • 43:21 - The Dalai Lama wrote, "According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive — it's not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."
  • 45:40 - Keep up with or reach out to Dr. Torres-Eaton here.
  • 50:10 - Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate.
  • 52:08 - To listen to Amanda Gorman's reading at President Biden's inauguration, click here.
  • 52:18 - This quote is from one of Amanda Gorman's tweets.

In this episode

Justin talks to Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD about her calling to the psychological field, exploring emotional trauma, and how to show compassion to others and ourselves. They dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress.



About our guest

Nadia Torres-Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

Show notes

  • 00:06 - Learn more about Max's incredible story and how it inspired the creation of MaxLove Project!
  • 09:00 - Religions and cultures all over the world have their own Creation Stories, but Nadia is specifically referring to the Christian version.
  • 12:22 - Note from Justin: "I misremembered the source of this quote. It wasn't a psychologist, but a performance coach, Peter Crone."
  • 14:46 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 15:34 - Social IQ is a lot like common sense, "street smarts," or tact and can include conversational skills, listening skills, understanding how other people tick, and more.
  • 17:33 - Merriam-Webster defines decompensation as a "loss of physiological or psychological compensation."
  • 28:21 - Justin and Nadia met at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
  • 28:48 - "The psychodynamic perspective encompasses a number of theories that explain both normal and pathological personality development in terms of the dynamics of the mind. Such dynamics include motivational factors, affects, unconscious mental processes, conflict, and defense mechanisms."
  • 30:00 - The Goldilocks Approach to parenting suggests that "finding the right balance when raising children will help them develop healthy yet realistic self-esteem and avoid mental health difficulties as young adults."
  • 30:05 - "Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners."
  • 36:02 - You can take Dr. Torres-Eaton's workshop, Flourish: Knowing When You Need Help on The Family Thrive app!
  • 41:54 - Interpersonal style refers to how we communicate with others.
  • 43:21 - The Dalai Lama wrote, "According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive — it's not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."
  • 45:40 - Keep up with or reach out to Dr. Torres-Eaton here.
  • 50:10 - Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate.
  • 52:08 - To listen to Amanda Gorman's reading at President Biden's inauguration, click here.
  • 52:18 - This quote is from one of Amanda Gorman's tweets.

In this episode

Justin talks to Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD about her calling to the psychological field, exploring emotional trauma, and how to show compassion to others and ourselves. They dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress.



About our guest

Nadia Torres-Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

Show notes

  • 00:06 - Learn more about Max's incredible story and how it inspired the creation of MaxLove Project!
  • 09:00 - Religions and cultures all over the world have their own Creation Stories, but Nadia is specifically referring to the Christian version.
  • 12:22 - Note from Justin: "I misremembered the source of this quote. It wasn't a psychologist, but a performance coach, Peter Crone."
  • 14:46 - Dr. Gabor Maté is a Canadian-Hungarian addiction expert, speaker and best-selling author who developed the psychological method of Compassionate Inquiry.
  • 15:34 - Social IQ is a lot like common sense, "street smarts," or tact and can include conversational skills, listening skills, understanding how other people tick, and more.
  • 17:33 - Merriam-Webster defines decompensation as a "loss of physiological or psychological compensation."
  • 28:21 - Justin and Nadia met at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).
  • 28:48 - "The psychodynamic perspective encompasses a number of theories that explain both normal and pathological personality development in terms of the dynamics of the mind. Such dynamics include motivational factors, affects, unconscious mental processes, conflict, and defense mechanisms."
  • 30:00 - The Goldilocks Approach to parenting suggests that "finding the right balance when raising children will help them develop healthy yet realistic self-esteem and avoid mental health difficulties as young adults."
  • 30:05 - "Attachment theory is focused on the relationships and bonds between people, particularly long-term relationships, including those between a parent and child and between romantic partners."
  • 36:02 - You can take Dr. Torres-Eaton's workshop, Flourish: Knowing When You Need Help on The Family Thrive app!
  • 41:54 - Interpersonal style refers to how we communicate with others.
  • 43:21 - The Dalai Lama wrote, "According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive — it's not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."
  • 45:40 - Keep up with or reach out to Dr. Torres-Eaton here.
  • 50:10 - Amanda Gorman is an American poet best known for her book “The Hill We Climb” and is the first National Youth Poet Laureate.
  • 52:08 - To listen to Amanda Gorman's reading at President Biden's inauguration, click here.
  • 52:18 - This quote is from one of Amanda Gorman's tweets.

Enjoying this? Subscribe to The Family Thrive for more healthy recipes, video classes, and more.

Justin: Audra and I met Dr. Torres-Eaton when she was a clinical psychologist at the Children's Hospital where our son Max was being treated for a brain tumor. We hit it off pretty quickly because she was so kind and welcoming and we were frazzled parents of a child in treatment for a life-threatening health condition.

When we started developing programs for MaxLove Project, we just knew that we wanted to work with her. We ended up writing grants, developing programs, and now creating workshops and content together. We consider her not just an expert clinical psychologist, but a real friend.

Today, Nadia Torres Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

We dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress. So, without further ado, here's my wonderful conversation with Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton.

I am particularly interested in how you even got started as a psychologist. Like when did you first know this is it, this is what I want to do?


Nadia: It was in undergrad. I knew that I was interested in psychology. But before that I was, I loved to read. I love literature. I thought I was going to be an English lit major. I had taken, I was like one of those nerdy kids that did AP courses all throughout high school, I had a really high GPA...


Justin: I had no idea English literature, ok.


Nadia: Yeah, yeah, English lit. Well, well here's the interesting thing about English literature. A lot of that, a lot of the skills that you need for analyzing literature are very applicable to analyzing people, but it's live, right, rather than you're going back in time and reading in a book and kind of, you know, just taking a look at patterns, repetition, symbolism, or things of that nature. It's not that different when you look at it like that.


Justin: So you were analyzing these characters long, long before you ever analyzed actual people.


Nadia: That's right, yeah, yeah. And so I was, yeah, I was in school and I remember having a hard time with some of the literature classes like Old English lit stuff that was much more complicated and it was harder for me to analyze because there's so much more history that you have to get into to understand the meaning behind all the words and symbolism. And so I found that that was not as fun for me to do it that far back, and I realized, “Oh, this is harder, like I enjoy it as a fun activity, but not so much to write a paper and spend hours and hours researching this.”


Justin: You're not gonna spend seven years on a PhD.


Nadia: Yeah. So, so once I took psychology classes that felt so natural and it felt so easy and I think it really matched my natural skill set. So that's why I was drawn to it, aside from the fact that my mother had cancer when I was young and she, she was only 38 years old when she passed away.

I was 17 and it was, it happened so fast, you know. She, she was sick. Everybody said that it was stress-related. I mean, she went to multiple doctors about that and it was a strange diagnosis for somebody that was so young. She had colon cancer. So I don't think they ever even considered that to be a possibility until it was too late.

And so from the moment of her diagnosis to the moment that she passed away, it was about three-and-a-half months. Like it just, it just happened so fast. And I remember just thinking about, you know, just all of the things that you have to do to cope, and I'm the oldest in my family.

I, my parents, my mom was born in Texas but raised in Mexico like they were the kind of family that went back and forth and my father is from El Salvador. And so I feel like I had always sort of grown up with multiple cultures and multiple perspectives and multiple points of view, and that things weren't exactly the same. And you know, context made a difference, and so I think, like again, naturally I had a lot of these skills built-in.

So when I came to these psychology classes and they're talking about, “You know you have to understand, like, where this person is coming from.” Like I've been doing that my whole life. Like this is, this felt, like, just so natural and easy and I was acing the classes. You know, because it was so easy for me that I just realized at that point, I think I'm supposed to do this because it's, it's not that complicated or hard for me.


Justin: What I'm hearing is you were attracted to what came to you as a really natural sort of ability to dig deeper into the human condition.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: And another thing I'm hearing is that your childhood, coming from different cultural perspectives, shifting cultural perspectives that you were able to kind of see, maybe behind the veneer, or like the facade because you're now able to see how one perspective is not the only perspective.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: You, as a child had access to multiple perspectives, and so you could kind of see behind or kind of around the corner. One of the things that I've heard from people who grow up in a multicultural context is that that's the advantage they have. But the disadvantage is often they feel like they don't feel at home in any particular culture. Did that happen for you?


Nadia: Yeah, yeah that did happen. I mean, I had one protective factor, maybe that helped with that, and that I see it as a double-edged sword. On one hand, my family was also very religious and so that kind of unified things and I felt a part of that community. And in that Latin religious community, the cultural pieces are kind of pushed aside to merge into the religious point of view, you know?


Justin: Yes.


Nadia: Double-edged sword side of that, is it can be very strict, you know, and having had so many different perspectives and growing up in mainstream America and also like being very drawn to reading. Like I love to read, you know, so sure I had cultural perspective, I had this religious perspective but also was an avid reader. So again, there was another layer of like but things aren't exactly the way they're saying it here either.


Justin: Do you mind if I ask a few more questions along this, this, this path here?


Nadia: No, not at all.


Justin: I'm really interested. Yeah, so the idea that things aren't the way that people automatically say they are. And so yeah, this would come from multiple perspectives within the literature, just...you know, exposing yourself to all these different viewpoints. I can imagine growing up in this really religious context that particularly getting into psychology would maybe cause some tension. Maybe the tension was internal? Maybe it was also external, but could you talk about that?


Nadia: It was absolutely both. I was very outspoken about those things and it was not always well received. And sometimes I, especially if you think about Latin culture. You're, you're supposed to, I mean, I do, I respect my elders, you know, like you, you respect your elders, you don't talk back. You're supposed to be very aware of hierarchy. You know?

And, but my mind has always worked really fast. It's always been that way and I just had a lot of questions. So I do remember being 13 years old and having a bit of a tiff with the church pastor because I was saying, he was talking about the Creation Story. And again, you know I had already, I already loved to read. I didn't quite understand this yet, but I felt like it was a story, not necessarily exactly the way…


Justin: The actual facts.


Nadia: Yeah, you know? And, and so, I was trying to ask him questions about, just about dinosaurs and just talking about these other facts we have, right?


Justin: Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.


Nadia: Yeah. And that was not well-received. That was like, he was constantly just like redirecting me, redirecting me. And finally, I just was like, I just really like flat out, “I'm really confused. Are you saying that in this point of view, in this religious point of view, just dinosaurs don't exist?” And I was very pointed about it, which they did not like.


Justin: Did that flow over into your family life?


Nadia: Yeah, it did. I mean, I pretty much figured out that I had to go along with this in order to get along with everybody because this was important. And I saw, I saw the religious peace a little bit differently than they did.

So one thing I didn't mention to you is, my father was a very complicated, he's still alive. He's a very complicated man, but we don't have a relationship. And I don't feel upset or bothered by it. I think it's, it's for the best, but he was an alcoholic and he was abusive at times and religion, it was like something that helped him harness that energy and redirect him, but he sort of traded one abusive thing for another and now he was kind of obsessed with that. And so it was an unpleasant religious experience.


Justin: Yeah.


Nadia: In terms of that part for me, but for them, I think they saw it as like a tool that helped him behave better, and I understood that as a kid I like I understood that that's what it was.


Justin: Wow, that’s complex for a kid to understand. That's, that's, that feels to me like, wow. You had to make some social-psychological calculations at a young age to really understand what was going on.


Nadia: Yeah, I again I. That's why I think psychology has come so naturally to me because I understand people do things, not necessarily because it's the right thing, or because they have problems like, in and of themselves.

Everybody is trying to be a better version at, to some degree. They're not always successful, and I think I understood that, like, he had a lot of limitations and that this was something he needed. And my mother was somebody who she, like, really helped him and tried to protect him in some ways from his, the negative side of him. And when she passed away he really decompensated because his tools weren't in place.


Justin: I heard this quote from a [performance coach] a while ago and it's stuck with me. And it was about our parents and our parents, parents and then ourselves as parents. And it was: “If they could have done better, they would have done better.”

And it was about like blaming is, is not the right way to approach this, right? If they could have done better, and same for us as parents, if we could have done better we would have done better. But then the other thing that this psychologist added was, “but in this moment we have the opportunity to do better.”


Nadia: That’s right.


Justin: Yeah, yeah.


Nadia: No, no, no, I agree with you. I think that that's that's exactly—I don't hold any resentment towards him. I do remember as a kid-kid, like before 13 years of age, being annoyed with him and being mad at my mom. But as an adult and certainly, I would say definitely in the last 10 years, I'm, or since my 30s, I'm 44. I'll be 45 this year, so it's been a while.


Justin: Me too, me too.


Nadia: We’re in good company. So I, I just see him as just a troubled person, but not necessarily like that I'm the person to help him, or that I'm the person that needs to rescue him. Like he has to do his work on his own. And I think to me ultimately, that's what psychology is about, is it's that you come to the realization that it takes work to be the best version of you.

You know it's not given. It's not about the environment. The environment could be crappy. It could be awesome. You could still be, you know, have feelings of low self-worth and anger and frustration. But you have to make a conscious decision to work towards being the better version of you.


Justin: Wow, I love it and I just have this realization that we just went straight into the deep end like we did not wait till…


Nadia: Sorry.


Justin: Oh no, I love it, and I'm hoping that all of these podcasts that we do, parents will get something out of them, like right from the beginning, right until the end, like we're not going to mess around, we're going to dive right into stuff.

So before I so, I do have a list of topics and so the first thing was just, you know, talk about you and your background. But before we move on, I just have this one other thought if you wanted to talk about it. I know that you and I have talked about Gabor Maté before and you said something to the effect of you learned that you had to go along to get along. And he has this thing about in childhood how we have to give up our authenticity for attachment. And it's this, you know this, this game that we have to play of, like how much of our real authentic self do we need to give up in order to stay connected with these people who have our lives in their hands, you know? So I'm just wondering, so what you think about this, like as a child having to give up authenticity for attachment and then in adulthood rediscovering that authenticity?


Nadia: Yeah, I think, I think that's absolutely true. I, I think that if you have a high social IQ then it's much easier to recognize that and know what you're doing and why you're doing it. And the less, the less you tap into that social IQ, it's not that people don't have it. I think everybody has, you know, some form of it, but you decide how much of it you're going to access.

The less you focus on that, I think the harder it is to know that you are sacrificing. But I think that goes along with those nonverbal social skills that we all develop in terms of figuring out like what it is that you have to do to keep things as stable as possible, right? 'Cause that's what everybody is trying to do. Like I, I don't want to be out on the street. I don't, I don't want to have to fight with my parents all the time. I don't want to lose my privileges. Like they're putting some pressure and you're sort of doing that give and take as well.

And I think you, you figure it out at some point and hopefully sooner rather than later, you figure out like yeah, maybe I didn't say everything I wanted to say. And certainly in Latin culture, by the time you have to talk and do that stuff, it's fighting words because most of the time you're encouraged to just let things be. Unless it's really severe, and so it's not necessarily part of the culture to bring things up and say, “Hey, I'm, I'm feeling pretty dissatisfied about this. I really want to renegotiate my relationship with you. I don't think it's going well right now. What do you think?” You know, that just doesn't happen naturally. Like you'd have to get some pretty direct instruction to be able to do that.


Justin: Oh wow, yeah.


Nadia: Because my mother passed away at such a young age and my father was around for a little bit. But then I told you he kind of continued to decompensate and then he...


Justin: Nadia real quick. So for the listeners, can you define decompensate?


Nadia: Sure, yeah, yeah. So like all of the things that you would expect from somebody to be like a normal functioning person—like, you know, going to work, paying the bills, you know, doing the parenting things, managing the things at home. As long as my mother was alive, I think he knew what, what his role was, but once she passed away, he started to flounder and so one of the things that he did was he put a lot of pressure on me to take over and to, and to do exactly what my mother was doing as a way to help him stay on track.

And I did do that for quite a bit, but in that process he, when I say decompensate, he started making choices. I mean, of course he's an adult, he’s a parent, he can do whatever he wants, but now they weren't necessarily in the best interest of the family because there wasn't anybody to hold him accountable that way. He started to engage in more selfish acts, and they got more and more elaborate. So and I'll just tell, I'll just cut to the chase to the final straw, which was he got married, but didn't tell anybody that he got married. And he went down to Mexico and got married to a person. And I found out about it through a newspaper article that he brought home and there was a picture of him getting married.

It was like a telenovela. It was really crazy and he would disappear, now it made sense like why he would disappear for extended periods of time. And I was alone like managing these kids by myself and so at that point when I saw that and I won't get into more details 'cause there's a lot more, but I ended up at that point, I just made a conscious choice to become the guardian for my sisters and my brother. So I did become a parent in essence.


Justin: That's right.


Nadia: We have a huge age gap, so they're my, my sister that's younger than me is, she's eight years younger. My other sister is 10 years younger and my brother was, is 12 years younger. So my mom died when he was five years old and he's 32 now. So I feel like I've done the gamut in terms of raising them and going through all of the difficult parts in high school.

You know they got through college and they're fully functioning adults. Everybody's great. I'm really happy for them. But I did, but I feel like I'm, I'm also on the other end too, of like, I know what it's like to do the transition from, you know, having teenagers, that transition into young adulthood and becoming that parent that steps back and allows them to do their own thing. Like it's been a long journey.

So when you ask me what is it about families like I, I think I have quite a bit of experience. And maybe, you know, I know what it's like to be a single parent. I also got married in the middle of that process, so I, you know, my husband at times, you know, stepped in and shared some of that responsibility for my brother 'cause he was the youngest. But it, it was, it was a lot.


Justin: Oh my gosh, that's right. You, you've told me a little bit about that story. But wow, just to get all of the details that, that feels, that feels really intense at age 17 and 18, to just, for this massive responsibility for these other human beings to be thrust upon you. Oh, that feels heavy.


Nadia: You know, it's, I, I'm glad you're saying that because at the, at the time I just felt like we just have to forge forward and I want to keep my family together. I value family and that was really important to me and they wanted to stick with me. So that was interesting as well because they could see that he was not responding like an appropriate parent and it wasn't good for them.

So we stuck it out and like at the 20-year mark after she passed away, 'cause I feel like my life is sort of like, there was this life before she died and there was a life after she died and then and then something shifted when I got married. So there's like three parts to the way I see how my life has been. But at about 20 years after she passed away I remember waking up that day and thinking, “It's been 20 years like, oh my gosh, I've lived longer without my mother than I did with her.”

The significance of that was really profound to me in that moment, like and all of a sudden I had this flash of like everything I've been through and I realized, “I think I've been seeing myself as a victim like this was the sad thing that happened.” And you know, it was hard. But on that 20th anniversary, I woke up and I realized 20 years ago I got the opportunity to be really fiercely independent. And to, you know, take each step and move forward and support my family and I'm like and I wouldn't have had that level of opportunity had they all been around, you know? And I was like I'm, this is cool, like this is good. I did good.


Justin: Would it be too much to say that at that 20th-year realization that you were able to see in a way, this thing that happened to you when you were 17, was a gift?


Nadia: I, I do, I do think that it was a gift. As you can tell I love to psychoanalyze and I do it to myself as well. I reflected on a lot of things that happened. When I went to court, my father’s side of the family basically cut us out. They changed their phone numbers. They, you know, they just didn't want anything to do with us and, and it was me in particular because they felt like I was being very disrespectful and it was totally against culture and totally against the religious side of the culture to get the courts involved, you know?

And my mom's side of the family, they had their own complications and their own limitations. And they all live in New Mexico now and, and at the time they, they were living there. And so my grandfather, my mom's dad, had asked me to move in with them and that he would help us out. But I really felt like, I don't know why I can't explain it, but I really felt like I've always had this value of freedom. And I don't think I thought of it this way in the moment at that time, but I just felt like I would have, I wouldn't have had the freedom. And so I decided to forge that path on my own, and I think at that 20th mark I was able to see how none of these family influences, not that I don't believe in family. Of course, I love family, and I still, I had a great relationship with my grandfather nonetheless, but I didn't have all of those influences or the interpersonal challenging dynamics that my parents had with their family. None of that was there.

Like I genuinely got a chance to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. Be a good sister. Go to school, enjoy my freedom, you know? And sure was it financially stressful at times? It was, but I was, we were never without. Like things were, maybe they, I barely made ends meet, but we could still move forward and it was good enough and I felt like that life was better than the one I had before. Which sounds weird, but that's what happened.


Justin: Wow, it's powerful, yeah. The reason the word gift came up is because in childhood cancer parent circles many of us will kind of quietly say like this diagnosis, the treatment, the whole journey, painful, you know, we would never wish this on our child in a million years. We would do anything to take it from them, but it's been a gift, like in a way it's been a gift. And you know I'm saying this on a podcast, but oftentimes we will say it to each other like I would never tell anybody else this. I would never say, you know, no one else would understand, but other childhood cancer parents understand.

And so when I heard you talk about this, I was like, oh, wow, it's, I mean it is really these like traumatic events in our lives when enough time is passed and if we have been able to respond in some internally authentic and true way, then we can look back and like thank you. Wow, what a gift.


Nadia: I think if you are able to adapt, right? And you allow the creativity to flow. You can adapt. You have social IQ. I do think some you know at least average intelligence is necessary to do all of the problem-solving, right? I think when you, when that combination of things happens together, that's the magic. And I think we are able to change and transform our lives for the better.

I grew up with a father that yelled and was very denigrating. And my siblings and I, I don't remember ever using a cuss word to yell or to be mad, no matter how frustrated I was during that time. They used to call me Mom-ster. So you can tell like.


Justin: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.


Nadia: Sometimes you know that there was tension between us because they were confused, right? Like they're like, are you my mom? Are you my sister? And they were like I found out they called me Momster. They're like it's for mom and sister and I'm like no, I know exactly what you mean.


Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. Oh my gosh, oh what a story, Nadia thanks. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I just feel really fortunate to have got a window into all that you've been through and then this amazing traumatic event that has turned into a gift. It's, it's really, really cool. Thank you.

So I do want to shift to your professional life. So yeah, I mean what we just discussed gives me at least a really clear and deep understanding for what led you into psychology. And then why you are such a natural. And then what you and I met, because at the time you were a clinical psychologist, out of Children's Hospital where our son was being treated for a brain tumor. And so it's really clear, like your, your love for children, your love for families like it—yeah, it all makes total sense. So let's talk about this professional aspect.

I have to ask, do most mental-emotional health problems come from childhood? Is it just like we're all essentially working through childhood stuff?


Nadia: Yeah, I think that. Probably the psychodynamic perspective and theory of psychology. The psychodynamic part is the traditional stuff that we think of as Freud. You know, people complain about him and they don't like him. And you know, they get annoyed by him or whatever. But he probably wrote the most complete theory that we have out there about our psyche, and like how we become the people that we become. And there hasn't been anything else that has been able to trump it.

And so to some degree, yes, I would say like the majority of the things that we're dealing with today come from our early childhood experiences. Our interpretation of that. Some of it is temperament. Some of it is, sure, the environments that we were growing up in. The dynamics between the relationships between the parent and the child that maybe the parent didn't quite understand the temperament of the child, and you know, was more harsh when they needed to be softer or were too soft when they needed to be harsher, you know?


Justin: The Goldilocks problem with parenting, right?


Nadia: Yes, and that's why there's, you know, all the, all the information on attachment theory and like what helps us develop our ability to attach to people, to our parents to, you know, all of that is connected to what we call “good-enough parenting.” Like it doesn't have to be perfect. You know you need to be present, but it just has to be good enough. And so think of it, more like 80-20. 80% of the time the thing that's stressing you out right now is rooted in something that happened to you in the past, and 20% of the stress is from the present.


Justin: So then I'm getting a picture of parents, myself included, where we're getting triggered and stressed, and we've got 80% of it is just from our childhood. The way you know, all the random stuff that happens in being a kid and just the intensity of being a kid and being dependent on these other people.

I mean, human beings, we’re not crocodiles where we hatch out of an egg, we're ready to go. Instead for a good chunk of our life. For you know, probably in the olden days they would like, send kids away to work. You know, maybe when they were eight or 10 or but still, that's, that's many years where kids are just not able to take care of themselves in any way. So that's an intense experience. You're totally at the mercy of your parents, so it makes sense. We bring a lot of baggage from our childhood.

So how can parents and I know this is a big question. But if we can maybe distill it down to a few points, you know we have so much stuff from our childhood. How do we keep from passing it on?


Nadia: I think the key is to constantly be willing to explore and be willing to go there with yourself and say, “Ok, where is—I'm really angry right now—where is this really coming from? Where is the source?” If you can find the source, and sometimes it's hard, I mean the majority of us, we have a tendency to want to avoid unpleasant feelings, right?


Justin: Ok. I have a theory coming up that I've played around with, the vast majority of all issues in adulthood come from avoidance. Like you know, like, addiction is basically just major avoidance, right?


Nadia: Yeah.


Justin: So what I hear you saying is like, stop avoiding.


Nadia: Yes. Yeah, yeah, you stop avoiding like, be willing to go there. I think that the discomfort is that when we were young and we had these uncomfortable feelings, we didn't understand them. We didn't know what they meant. We didn't know why they were happening.

And so as, as you continue to age, there's a desire to, you know, avoid them because you don't want to go back to that feeling of like I have no idea why this is here or what to do with it, and that sounds scary because once again, like, it's a regression. Really, that's what's happening. We don't notice that your mind actually can't, doesn't tell time it does. It actually doesn't notice the difference. It's why some people say I'm in my 50s, but I feel like I'm still a 30 year old.


Justin: Or for, I know I've heard people say, “I feel totally different when I go back home and I'm around, my brother or mom or it's, it's like I'm a different person,” you know.


Nadia: Yes, exactly like people fall right back into old patterns and dynamics and they don't even notice that it's happening and it is challenging for people to, to really see the, you know, just how uncomfortable there they feel in the moment. So all they notice is, “I'm uncomfortable. I don't know what to do with it, I'm just going to avoid it.”


Justin: So if a parent's listening to this and they're saying, “Oh wow, you know I'm kind of recognizing that I do that, that, that I do have some avoiding behaviors.” What's, what's the next step? How can I stop avoiding?


Nadia: Building tolerance to sitting with discomfort is going to be key, and I would never expect people to like go full-blown dive, you know head, first into here are all my triggers and here's everything that I'm going there like that's really painful.

At least, I wouldn't do that without some support, right? So sometimes people find community. Sometimes it's a support group. Sometimes it's they’re, you know, exercise group like they haven't, you know sometimes it's a neighborhood group or you know, they could actually say, “I'm gonna go to a therapist, and, and talk to someone about these old feelings that keep coming up. And I think I have a pattern of getting myself into trouble.”

And so maybe if you could pay attention to some of your patterns, it might make it easier for you to recognize the areas that you've been avoiding, even if you don't know exactly what it is. But there's a pattern that gets you into trouble. Then you could say, “Ok, I need a little bit of help 'cause I thought I could do this on my own. And it's not working out.”


Justin: Do you find that there are particular mental-emotional health issues that present in parents more than nonparents, or is it pretty much the same for all adults?


Nadia: I think it's pretty much the same… The difference is that parents have the added stressors of keeping their kids alive, right, like and keeping things going and taking care of their needs, especially kids that are, I mean, kids are needy. It's just a normal part of life they need your attention.


Justin: They are biologically designed that way, right? They come out of the womb completely helpless.


Nadia: Yes. Completely helpless and the first five years actually are the most stressful of the parenting time. Like it's the most stressful because those first five years, the child is the most needy, right?

And so it can create a lot of tension between parents and, or like a lot of feelings of concern about whether they are being good enough parents or feeling triggered and you know, maybe there are some people that they were so needy themselves, that to have a child that is needier than them that could put so much more extra stress on them you know, just because of that alone.

So, I think that everybody basically has the same technically the same issues, but the parents might feel it in a more intense way because they don't have necessarily the same outlets to manage it, right? 'Cause, how do you get away? Your kiddo is at home waiting for you.


Justin: It used to be that you could at least go to work and now you can't do that anymore.


Nadia: For sure, yeah.


Justin: So it's, it's heightened in parenthood. These stressors are, are just heightened so, you did an amazing job with a workshop for The Family Thrive called “Knowing When We Need Help, Learning How to Identify When Parental Stress and Exhaustion Become More than We Can Handle on Our Own.”

Ok, so that was a long subtitle, but that explains it. So all of these stressors are heightened. We're like just hanging on. How do we know when we've gone from basically coping to ok, now we need more help. So that's what this is about, we’ll get into some of the details. Let's start with, why do you think this workshop is important for parents?


Nadia: I think the workshop is really important for parents, because I think everybody is going to benefit from learning about their coping style and what they're doing, especially if they do have stressors already, like current stressors. Stressors in and of themselves are not necessarily a bad thing, right? Like they’re, they help us grow. We just, I just told you my story and they do help us. They're not necessarily all doom and gloom.

The issue isn't the stressor but how many stressors we're handling all at one time. What is happening to us in our ability to face the world? Can we still be, can we still maintain our happy-go-lucky functioning? And if you can't maintain the happy-go-lucky because the stressor is big, can you be neutral? Can you say you know I'm working toward something, I'm just staying on track, but once it starts to shift, then it's difficult for parents to be the best version of themselves, to take care of their kids, to take care of themselves, to stay happily married if they're married, or to find joy and feel like life is fulfilling. Otherwise, it's very easy to be so worried about the future or fantasize about the past and the way things were before this, whatever major stressor is.


Justin: One of the things that I got from working on this workshop with you was that it seems like the main point is that there, there's a tipping point. You know? There's a point where like stresses are coming at us, maybe we're not at our A-game, you know, but we can kind of get through the day and we have some support systems. And you know, we have some coping behaviors and we're doing ok.

And then there comes a point when it tips and we need more help. We need to see a therapist. We need to see a professional to help us get back to the other side, but can you talk a little bit about this tipping point? What should parents be thinking about?


Nadia: Yeah, so some of the things that we would notice right away, probably the thing that is most common is irritability. If you start to notice that you're upset way more often, you know like you're quick to react, you're quick, like you feel short-fused. That's a key indicator that something is very wrong.


Justin: Right and I, so as a parent who in the past certainly well no, I'll still sometimes have, have a fuse, so I’ll have the tendency to say, “Well, it's just that the outside world is just so crazy. I mean, you know, look at what's going on.” And so when you know I'm experiencing more irritability, I might have a tendency to say, “Well, yeah, look at, you know, things are crazy. We got COVID, we got this, we got that.” But what I hear you saying is that if you're experiencing more irritability than normal, that blaming the outside circumstances, ooh, might just be another way of avoiding.


Nadia: Yeah, that's right.


Justin: Yeah, alright, so a parent. Here's, here's, this says yeah, you know it's like things have been tough and I've been snapping and I've been acting in ways that aren't normal for me. Maybe I do need to talk with somebody, well first, when The Family Thrive platform is up and live you'll be able to take the workshop and you'll be able to go through all this on your own. And there are some great tools in there that Nadia has for us to see. You know, have we passed the tipping point or are we getting close?

But let's say even before I take the workshop I'm hearing this, and I know something's off. What do I look for when I start to search for a therapist and I say, you know, I just want to talk with somebody and just see where things are. What do I look for? It feels kind of like the Wild West. Like, I mean I can, you know if I'm part of an HMO, maybe send me to somebody, but like, how do I know I'm going to the right person for me?


Nadia: I would recommend trying more than one therapist if you're not getting a recommendation from somebody that says, “I think this is a good person for you.” And the reason I'm saying that is because it's a little bit like finding the perfect pair of shoes, you know? Like you might say, “Ok, this is the size and this is the color, but you don't like the style.”

You know so it has to be a great fit. Like all of those pieces, they have to match your interpersonal style. Or even if they don't exactly match your interpersonal style, but they have enough of the key components to make you feel comfortable.

Sometimes people say that they, you know, I'm Latina. I speak Spanish fluently, so I've had a few people reach out to me that are bilingual, bicultural, they speak English. They have a similar background that I do and they can switch just as we've always could switch. We might slip into Spanish and then it comes back into English in that, that was important to them because they're like I've never actually met with a therapist that was of my same background. This is really cool for me.

So it just depends on what it is that you need. And I know we have the added challenge right now because of COVID. Psychology is very impacted. So I think that the ratio of therapist to clients is heavy, right? And so, and there's even fewer bilingual-bicultural people available to serve the community and, but it doesn't mean that you can't find a great therapist because there are social workers and marriage, family therapies, or licensed professional therapists. All of them have something great to offer and they're skilled at helping you explore what's going on with you.


Justin: Awesome, that's great advice. So this last question before we get into our big three questions that we ask everybody, is what is edgy for you in your own mental and emotional health journey? Like what is new and challenging that you're working on for yourself?


Nadia: Yes, I think that's a great question and I'm glad you asked because I genuinely, you know, my whole life and just and I have always been interested in being the best version of me and working on the better version of me. And I feel like I've done a really great job in not only managing my emotional health and wellbeing in terms of my relationship with my spouse, my relationship with my siblings, my relationship with myself, but I'm also drawn to yoga and Buddhist and like Eastern philosophies, and I think we've talked about that before. And so I feel like I'm now at this place that is discussed in the Buddhist philosophy about, you know, showing compassion to the world.

And so what's edgy for me right now has been really working through how I manage my reaction to the socio-political, you know, stage that, that, that has been unfolding. You know and interacting with people that have very different opinions than I do from a socio-political standpoint. And recognizing that it's sometimes, it's easy for people to want to shame, when you think that their point of view, it does is not right or incorrect or whatever.

But remember what I said initially: everybody is trying to work through their chaos. Everybody is trying to be their best version, even within their limitations within those limitations. And so when I take that perspective, I can apply it to that and say, “Ok, maybe there's some confusion. Maybe they need help. Maybe they're confused about why they're drawn to a certain point of view, like saying negative things about immigrants, or people of color or whatever, whatever that political stance is.”

And I found myself that when I'm working on compassion—the stronger my compassion is for me because I understand my humanity, my shortcomings where I've come from and all of the chaos that I've had to work through with effort to be this person then I can show compassion towards somebody else. Maybe they haven't had the opportunity to do that same level of work. It doesn't mean they are less worthy of the compassion you know, they're just stuck.

And so that's, that's my edge right now is to continue to foster that and, and continue to be open and work through that and show the compassion and be patient. Just as I would with a child that had a misconception about something. Not because I think they are less than, but I want to show that same level of love and understanding and kindness and softness when we're talking. That's what I mean.


Justin: Wow. A lot in your share just now impacted me. But the one thing that sticks out right away was the way you said when you are working on love and compassion for yourself. Like with this kind of internal love and compassion then you are more easily able to bring it out to others.

That's yeah, that feels really powerful because it feels daunting to me to generate love and compassion for people that I see as just totally wrong-headed and destructive and you know all these other things. And then what you said shifts it a little bit for me of like, well, can I start to work on loving and giving compassion to parts of me that I am not accepting? And then if I can do this internal work then that's going to come out externally.


Nadia: That's right, yeah. I mean, that's the key 100% just to make if you, if, if people could remember this in, you know of all the things that we've talked about, I think it's: you cannot give something to anybody else that you are not able to give to yourself first, like that, it's just impossible. Absolutely impossible.


Justin: Ooh. That, that feels like some deep wisdom for parents, like of course, as parents we, you know, it's, it's kind of automatic. I've never met a parent who won't consciously explicitly say I love my kids and I want to love my kids and I want to be the best parent for my kids. But then we find ourselves slipping into patterns that if we yell or we’re short or irritable or whatever the case is, and so what you're saying is, “Hey, you know you got to look inward. There is something about you internally that you're not allowing, that you're angry about, that you're resisting inside. And so if this internal work can be done, it's going to just automatically flow and change your relationship with your kids.” I love that, I love that.


Nadia: Yes.


Justin: Well before we move on to our final three questions real quick, how can parents find you and learn more about your work?


Nadia: I have a website www.holisticmentalhealth.life and I'm actually going to be starting a blog where I just talk a little bit about these, like little wisdom things like, what did I just shared with you, like it's impossible to share, you know compassion towards others when you haven't been working on that for yourself.

And I thought maybe there's a way for me to start sharing just little tidbits like that. So people can join and I'll put a little, like a little button so people can add themselves to the list, to the email list, and get the blog. So I can share that soon. I'll let you know when once that's up and running and that's basically it for now and then just the stuff that you and I do together whenever we work together.


Justin: So parents will be able to take your workshop on The Daily Thrive, which is the subscriber-only platform for The Family Thrive. And then you and I, we've also talked about doing some articles and some other things. And so yeah, you'll be able to catch Dr. Torres-Eaton on The Daily Thrive as well. And then of course, at the website holisticmentalhealth.life.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: Alright, so the final three questions. These are my favorite. I love asking everybody. So the first thing is: if you could put a big post-it note on every parent’s fridge tomorrow morning, they wake up, it's the first thing they see when they go into the kitchen. What would it say?


Nadia: I think it would say “Be gentle with yourself.” That's the key. Be kind to yourself 'cause that takes work. Takes work, but it's, it's a lot of work you know and I, it's easy for me to say, “Oh yeah, just be kind to other people, but…”


Justin: Yeah no, it's gotta start inside.


Nadia: It's gotta start inside.


Justin: Ok, so the last quote that changed the way you think or feel.


Nadia: Oh, you know I've been really fascinated recently with Amanda Gorman.


Justin: Oh my gosh, yeah, right radiant. That's the word. That's the word that comes up just radiant, yeah.


Nadia: I just I, you know, listening to her in that inauguration. I had like tears running down my face and I was thinking about something in that moment because I do a lot of meditation and I, often in my meditations I've been asking a question to the universe, like, “Why aren’t we hearing from philosophers and poets as much as before. Like where are they?”

And I, I feel like it says something about the culture when they're not standing out as much. It means like people are so stuck in their chaos that there are no dreamers. And it seems weird to me, you know, and so there's a, there's something that she, that she wrote and she posted and I and, and can I read it to you?


Justin: Absolutely ok.


Nadia: So it says: “Self love is revolutionary. We cannot fight for others when we're fighting a war inside ourselves. Compassion is a power that we first bestow ourselves and then give away through our actions to people, to our planet. When we recognize this, that is when love becomes our legacy.”


Justin: Wow, I'm detecting a theme here. This is what we've been talking about. and of course she puts it in the most beautiful way. Oh, about, that was very nourishing. Thank you, thank you for that.

Alright, so the last question is about kids and I ask this question every podcast because for parents it gets exhausting and we can say, “Oh my god, kids, you know?” And so let's just end the podcast by celebrating kids. So what's your favorite thing about kids?


Nadia: I think their resilience and their desire for play and having fun. I'm always in awe of kids, like they're so quick to be creative and not feel self-conscious about not having the right answer. And I, you know, I'm not sure when, where or when we lost that or, or why we see it as a negative and I've been even working on that, like as a theme for myself to have like just allowing creativity to flow. You know, because I feel inspired by kids who are just like, “I'm just going to try it. Let's see what happens.” You know? And not and not do things with fear. That's what I love about kids.


Justin: I love that yes, if we all can just cultivate that in ourselves, yeah, beautiful.

Nadia, thank you so much. This was really fantastic and I can't wait to have you back on.


Nadia: Awesome, thank you so much for having me. Thank you, Justin.


Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends, and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Justin: Audra and I met Dr. Torres-Eaton when she was a clinical psychologist at the Children's Hospital where our son Max was being treated for a brain tumor. We hit it off pretty quickly because she was so kind and welcoming and we were frazzled parents of a child in treatment for a life-threatening health condition.

When we started developing programs for MaxLove Project, we just knew that we wanted to work with her. We ended up writing grants, developing programs, and now creating workshops and content together. We consider her not just an expert clinical psychologist, but a real friend.

Today, Nadia Torres Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

We dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress. So, without further ado, here's my wonderful conversation with Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton.

I am particularly interested in how you even got started as a psychologist. Like when did you first know this is it, this is what I want to do?


Nadia: It was in undergrad. I knew that I was interested in psychology. But before that I was, I loved to read. I love literature. I thought I was going to be an English lit major. I had taken, I was like one of those nerdy kids that did AP courses all throughout high school, I had a really high GPA...


Justin: I had no idea English literature, ok.


Nadia: Yeah, yeah, English lit. Well, well here's the interesting thing about English literature. A lot of that, a lot of the skills that you need for analyzing literature are very applicable to analyzing people, but it's live, right, rather than you're going back in time and reading in a book and kind of, you know, just taking a look at patterns, repetition, symbolism, or things of that nature. It's not that different when you look at it like that.


Justin: So you were analyzing these characters long, long before you ever analyzed actual people.


Nadia: That's right, yeah, yeah. And so I was, yeah, I was in school and I remember having a hard time with some of the literature classes like Old English lit stuff that was much more complicated and it was harder for me to analyze because there's so much more history that you have to get into to understand the meaning behind all the words and symbolism. And so I found that that was not as fun for me to do it that far back, and I realized, “Oh, this is harder, like I enjoy it as a fun activity, but not so much to write a paper and spend hours and hours researching this.”


Justin: You're not gonna spend seven years on a PhD.


Nadia: Yeah. So, so once I took psychology classes that felt so natural and it felt so easy and I think it really matched my natural skill set. So that's why I was drawn to it, aside from the fact that my mother had cancer when I was young and she, she was only 38 years old when she passed away.

I was 17 and it was, it happened so fast, you know. She, she was sick. Everybody said that it was stress-related. I mean, she went to multiple doctors about that and it was a strange diagnosis for somebody that was so young. She had colon cancer. So I don't think they ever even considered that to be a possibility until it was too late.

And so from the moment of her diagnosis to the moment that she passed away, it was about three-and-a-half months. Like it just, it just happened so fast. And I remember just thinking about, you know, just all of the things that you have to do to cope, and I'm the oldest in my family.

I, my parents, my mom was born in Texas but raised in Mexico like they were the kind of family that went back and forth and my father is from El Salvador. And so I feel like I had always sort of grown up with multiple cultures and multiple perspectives and multiple points of view, and that things weren't exactly the same. And you know, context made a difference, and so I think, like again, naturally I had a lot of these skills built-in.

So when I came to these psychology classes and they're talking about, “You know you have to understand, like, where this person is coming from.” Like I've been doing that my whole life. Like this is, this felt, like, just so natural and easy and I was acing the classes. You know, because it was so easy for me that I just realized at that point, I think I'm supposed to do this because it's, it's not that complicated or hard for me.


Justin: What I'm hearing is you were attracted to what came to you as a really natural sort of ability to dig deeper into the human condition.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: And another thing I'm hearing is that your childhood, coming from different cultural perspectives, shifting cultural perspectives that you were able to kind of see, maybe behind the veneer, or like the facade because you're now able to see how one perspective is not the only perspective.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: You, as a child had access to multiple perspectives, and so you could kind of see behind or kind of around the corner. One of the things that I've heard from people who grow up in a multicultural context is that that's the advantage they have. But the disadvantage is often they feel like they don't feel at home in any particular culture. Did that happen for you?


Nadia: Yeah, yeah that did happen. I mean, I had one protective factor, maybe that helped with that, and that I see it as a double-edged sword. On one hand, my family was also very religious and so that kind of unified things and I felt a part of that community. And in that Latin religious community, the cultural pieces are kind of pushed aside to merge into the religious point of view, you know?


Justin: Yes.


Nadia: Double-edged sword side of that, is it can be very strict, you know, and having had so many different perspectives and growing up in mainstream America and also like being very drawn to reading. Like I love to read, you know, so sure I had cultural perspective, I had this religious perspective but also was an avid reader. So again, there was another layer of like but things aren't exactly the way they're saying it here either.


Justin: Do you mind if I ask a few more questions along this, this, this path here?


Nadia: No, not at all.


Justin: I'm really interested. Yeah, so the idea that things aren't the way that people automatically say they are. And so yeah, this would come from multiple perspectives within the literature, just...you know, exposing yourself to all these different viewpoints. I can imagine growing up in this really religious context that particularly getting into psychology would maybe cause some tension. Maybe the tension was internal? Maybe it was also external, but could you talk about that?


Nadia: It was absolutely both. I was very outspoken about those things and it was not always well received. And sometimes I, especially if you think about Latin culture. You're, you're supposed to, I mean, I do, I respect my elders, you know, like you, you respect your elders, you don't talk back. You're supposed to be very aware of hierarchy. You know?

And, but my mind has always worked really fast. It's always been that way and I just had a lot of questions. So I do remember being 13 years old and having a bit of a tiff with the church pastor because I was saying, he was talking about the Creation Story. And again, you know I had already, I already loved to read. I didn't quite understand this yet, but I felt like it was a story, not necessarily exactly the way…


Justin: The actual facts.


Nadia: Yeah, you know? And, and so, I was trying to ask him questions about, just about dinosaurs and just talking about these other facts we have, right?


Justin: Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.


Nadia: Yeah. And that was not well-received. That was like, he was constantly just like redirecting me, redirecting me. And finally, I just was like, I just really like flat out, “I'm really confused. Are you saying that in this point of view, in this religious point of view, just dinosaurs don't exist?” And I was very pointed about it, which they did not like.


Justin: Did that flow over into your family life?


Nadia: Yeah, it did. I mean, I pretty much figured out that I had to go along with this in order to get along with everybody because this was important. And I saw, I saw the religious peace a little bit differently than they did.

So one thing I didn't mention to you is, my father was a very complicated, he's still alive. He's a very complicated man, but we don't have a relationship. And I don't feel upset or bothered by it. I think it's, it's for the best, but he was an alcoholic and he was abusive at times and religion, it was like something that helped him harness that energy and redirect him, but he sort of traded one abusive thing for another and now he was kind of obsessed with that. And so it was an unpleasant religious experience.


Justin: Yeah.


Nadia: In terms of that part for me, but for them, I think they saw it as like a tool that helped him behave better, and I understood that as a kid I like I understood that that's what it was.


Justin: Wow, that’s complex for a kid to understand. That's, that's, that feels to me like, wow. You had to make some social-psychological calculations at a young age to really understand what was going on.


Nadia: Yeah, I again I. That's why I think psychology has come so naturally to me because I understand people do things, not necessarily because it's the right thing, or because they have problems like, in and of themselves.

Everybody is trying to be a better version at, to some degree. They're not always successful, and I think I understood that, like, he had a lot of limitations and that this was something he needed. And my mother was somebody who she, like, really helped him and tried to protect him in some ways from his, the negative side of him. And when she passed away he really decompensated because his tools weren't in place.


Justin: I heard this quote from a [performance coach] a while ago and it's stuck with me. And it was about our parents and our parents, parents and then ourselves as parents. And it was: “If they could have done better, they would have done better.”

And it was about like blaming is, is not the right way to approach this, right? If they could have done better, and same for us as parents, if we could have done better we would have done better. But then the other thing that this psychologist added was, “but in this moment we have the opportunity to do better.”


Nadia: That’s right.


Justin: Yeah, yeah.


Nadia: No, no, no, I agree with you. I think that that's that's exactly—I don't hold any resentment towards him. I do remember as a kid-kid, like before 13 years of age, being annoyed with him and being mad at my mom. But as an adult and certainly, I would say definitely in the last 10 years, I'm, or since my 30s, I'm 44. I'll be 45 this year, so it's been a while.


Justin: Me too, me too.


Nadia: We’re in good company. So I, I just see him as just a troubled person, but not necessarily like that I'm the person to help him, or that I'm the person that needs to rescue him. Like he has to do his work on his own. And I think to me ultimately, that's what psychology is about, is it's that you come to the realization that it takes work to be the best version of you.

You know it's not given. It's not about the environment. The environment could be crappy. It could be awesome. You could still be, you know, have feelings of low self-worth and anger and frustration. But you have to make a conscious decision to work towards being the better version of you.


Justin: Wow, I love it and I just have this realization that we just went straight into the deep end like we did not wait till…


Nadia: Sorry.


Justin: Oh no, I love it, and I'm hoping that all of these podcasts that we do, parents will get something out of them, like right from the beginning, right until the end, like we're not going to mess around, we're going to dive right into stuff.

So before I so, I do have a list of topics and so the first thing was just, you know, talk about you and your background. But before we move on, I just have this one other thought if you wanted to talk about it. I know that you and I have talked about Gabor Maté before and you said something to the effect of you learned that you had to go along to get along. And he has this thing about in childhood how we have to give up our authenticity for attachment. And it's this, you know this, this game that we have to play of, like how much of our real authentic self do we need to give up in order to stay connected with these people who have our lives in their hands, you know? So I'm just wondering, so what you think about this, like as a child having to give up authenticity for attachment and then in adulthood rediscovering that authenticity?


Nadia: Yeah, I think, I think that's absolutely true. I, I think that if you have a high social IQ then it's much easier to recognize that and know what you're doing and why you're doing it. And the less, the less you tap into that social IQ, it's not that people don't have it. I think everybody has, you know, some form of it, but you decide how much of it you're going to access.

The less you focus on that, I think the harder it is to know that you are sacrificing. But I think that goes along with those nonverbal social skills that we all develop in terms of figuring out like what it is that you have to do to keep things as stable as possible, right? 'Cause that's what everybody is trying to do. Like I, I don't want to be out on the street. I don't, I don't want to have to fight with my parents all the time. I don't want to lose my privileges. Like they're putting some pressure and you're sort of doing that give and take as well.

And I think you, you figure it out at some point and hopefully sooner rather than later, you figure out like yeah, maybe I didn't say everything I wanted to say. And certainly in Latin culture, by the time you have to talk and do that stuff, it's fighting words because most of the time you're encouraged to just let things be. Unless it's really severe, and so it's not necessarily part of the culture to bring things up and say, “Hey, I'm, I'm feeling pretty dissatisfied about this. I really want to renegotiate my relationship with you. I don't think it's going well right now. What do you think?” You know, that just doesn't happen naturally. Like you'd have to get some pretty direct instruction to be able to do that.


Justin: Oh wow, yeah.


Nadia: Because my mother passed away at such a young age and my father was around for a little bit. But then I told you he kind of continued to decompensate and then he...


Justin: Nadia real quick. So for the listeners, can you define decompensate?


Nadia: Sure, yeah, yeah. So like all of the things that you would expect from somebody to be like a normal functioning person—like, you know, going to work, paying the bills, you know, doing the parenting things, managing the things at home. As long as my mother was alive, I think he knew what, what his role was, but once she passed away, he started to flounder and so one of the things that he did was he put a lot of pressure on me to take over and to, and to do exactly what my mother was doing as a way to help him stay on track.

And I did do that for quite a bit, but in that process he, when I say decompensate, he started making choices. I mean, of course he's an adult, he’s a parent, he can do whatever he wants, but now they weren't necessarily in the best interest of the family because there wasn't anybody to hold him accountable that way. He started to engage in more selfish acts, and they got more and more elaborate. So and I'll just tell, I'll just cut to the chase to the final straw, which was he got married, but didn't tell anybody that he got married. And he went down to Mexico and got married to a person. And I found out about it through a newspaper article that he brought home and there was a picture of him getting married.

It was like a telenovela. It was really crazy and he would disappear, now it made sense like why he would disappear for extended periods of time. And I was alone like managing these kids by myself and so at that point when I saw that and I won't get into more details 'cause there's a lot more, but I ended up at that point, I just made a conscious choice to become the guardian for my sisters and my brother. So I did become a parent in essence.


Justin: That's right.


Nadia: We have a huge age gap, so they're my, my sister that's younger than me is, she's eight years younger. My other sister is 10 years younger and my brother was, is 12 years younger. So my mom died when he was five years old and he's 32 now. So I feel like I've done the gamut in terms of raising them and going through all of the difficult parts in high school.

You know they got through college and they're fully functioning adults. Everybody's great. I'm really happy for them. But I did, but I feel like I'm, I'm also on the other end too, of like, I know what it's like to do the transition from, you know, having teenagers, that transition into young adulthood and becoming that parent that steps back and allows them to do their own thing. Like it's been a long journey.

So when you ask me what is it about families like I, I think I have quite a bit of experience. And maybe, you know, I know what it's like to be a single parent. I also got married in the middle of that process, so I, you know, my husband at times, you know, stepped in and shared some of that responsibility for my brother 'cause he was the youngest. But it, it was, it was a lot.


Justin: Oh my gosh, that's right. You, you've told me a little bit about that story. But wow, just to get all of the details that, that feels, that feels really intense at age 17 and 18, to just, for this massive responsibility for these other human beings to be thrust upon you. Oh, that feels heavy.


Nadia: You know, it's, I, I'm glad you're saying that because at the, at the time I just felt like we just have to forge forward and I want to keep my family together. I value family and that was really important to me and they wanted to stick with me. So that was interesting as well because they could see that he was not responding like an appropriate parent and it wasn't good for them.

So we stuck it out and like at the 20-year mark after she passed away, 'cause I feel like my life is sort of like, there was this life before she died and there was a life after she died and then and then something shifted when I got married. So there's like three parts to the way I see how my life has been. But at about 20 years after she passed away I remember waking up that day and thinking, “It's been 20 years like, oh my gosh, I've lived longer without my mother than I did with her.”

The significance of that was really profound to me in that moment, like and all of a sudden I had this flash of like everything I've been through and I realized, “I think I've been seeing myself as a victim like this was the sad thing that happened.” And you know, it was hard. But on that 20th anniversary, I woke up and I realized 20 years ago I got the opportunity to be really fiercely independent. And to, you know, take each step and move forward and support my family and I'm like and I wouldn't have had that level of opportunity had they all been around, you know? And I was like I'm, this is cool, like this is good. I did good.


Justin: Would it be too much to say that at that 20th-year realization that you were able to see in a way, this thing that happened to you when you were 17, was a gift?


Nadia: I, I do, I do think that it was a gift. As you can tell I love to psychoanalyze and I do it to myself as well. I reflected on a lot of things that happened. When I went to court, my father’s side of the family basically cut us out. They changed their phone numbers. They, you know, they just didn't want anything to do with us and, and it was me in particular because they felt like I was being very disrespectful and it was totally against culture and totally against the religious side of the culture to get the courts involved, you know?

And my mom's side of the family, they had their own complications and their own limitations. And they all live in New Mexico now and, and at the time they, they were living there. And so my grandfather, my mom's dad, had asked me to move in with them and that he would help us out. But I really felt like, I don't know why I can't explain it, but I really felt like I've always had this value of freedom. And I don't think I thought of it this way in the moment at that time, but I just felt like I would have, I wouldn't have had the freedom. And so I decided to forge that path on my own, and I think at that 20th mark I was able to see how none of these family influences, not that I don't believe in family. Of course, I love family, and I still, I had a great relationship with my grandfather nonetheless, but I didn't have all of those influences or the interpersonal challenging dynamics that my parents had with their family. None of that was there.

Like I genuinely got a chance to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. Be a good sister. Go to school, enjoy my freedom, you know? And sure was it financially stressful at times? It was, but I was, we were never without. Like things were, maybe they, I barely made ends meet, but we could still move forward and it was good enough and I felt like that life was better than the one I had before. Which sounds weird, but that's what happened.


Justin: Wow, it's powerful, yeah. The reason the word gift came up is because in childhood cancer parent circles many of us will kind of quietly say like this diagnosis, the treatment, the whole journey, painful, you know, we would never wish this on our child in a million years. We would do anything to take it from them, but it's been a gift, like in a way it's been a gift. And you know I'm saying this on a podcast, but oftentimes we will say it to each other like I would never tell anybody else this. I would never say, you know, no one else would understand, but other childhood cancer parents understand.

And so when I heard you talk about this, I was like, oh, wow, it's, I mean it is really these like traumatic events in our lives when enough time is passed and if we have been able to respond in some internally authentic and true way, then we can look back and like thank you. Wow, what a gift.


Nadia: I think if you are able to adapt, right? And you allow the creativity to flow. You can adapt. You have social IQ. I do think some you know at least average intelligence is necessary to do all of the problem-solving, right? I think when you, when that combination of things happens together, that's the magic. And I think we are able to change and transform our lives for the better.

I grew up with a father that yelled and was very denigrating. And my siblings and I, I don't remember ever using a cuss word to yell or to be mad, no matter how frustrated I was during that time. They used to call me Mom-ster. So you can tell like.


Justin: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.


Nadia: Sometimes you know that there was tension between us because they were confused, right? Like they're like, are you my mom? Are you my sister? And they were like I found out they called me Momster. They're like it's for mom and sister and I'm like no, I know exactly what you mean.


Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. Oh my gosh, oh what a story, Nadia thanks. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I just feel really fortunate to have got a window into all that you've been through and then this amazing traumatic event that has turned into a gift. It's, it's really, really cool. Thank you.

So I do want to shift to your professional life. So yeah, I mean what we just discussed gives me at least a really clear and deep understanding for what led you into psychology. And then why you are such a natural. And then what you and I met, because at the time you were a clinical psychologist, out of Children's Hospital where our son was being treated for a brain tumor. And so it's really clear, like your, your love for children, your love for families like it—yeah, it all makes total sense. So let's talk about this professional aspect.

I have to ask, do most mental-emotional health problems come from childhood? Is it just like we're all essentially working through childhood stuff?


Nadia: Yeah, I think that. Probably the psychodynamic perspective and theory of psychology. The psychodynamic part is the traditional stuff that we think of as Freud. You know, people complain about him and they don't like him. And you know, they get annoyed by him or whatever. But he probably wrote the most complete theory that we have out there about our psyche, and like how we become the people that we become. And there hasn't been anything else that has been able to trump it.

And so to some degree, yes, I would say like the majority of the things that we're dealing with today come from our early childhood experiences. Our interpretation of that. Some of it is temperament. Some of it is, sure, the environments that we were growing up in. The dynamics between the relationships between the parent and the child that maybe the parent didn't quite understand the temperament of the child, and you know, was more harsh when they needed to be softer or were too soft when they needed to be harsher, you know?


Justin: The Goldilocks problem with parenting, right?


Nadia: Yes, and that's why there's, you know, all the, all the information on attachment theory and like what helps us develop our ability to attach to people, to our parents to, you know, all of that is connected to what we call “good-enough parenting.” Like it doesn't have to be perfect. You know you need to be present, but it just has to be good enough. And so think of it, more like 80-20. 80% of the time the thing that's stressing you out right now is rooted in something that happened to you in the past, and 20% of the stress is from the present.


Justin: So then I'm getting a picture of parents, myself included, where we're getting triggered and stressed, and we've got 80% of it is just from our childhood. The way you know, all the random stuff that happens in being a kid and just the intensity of being a kid and being dependent on these other people.

I mean, human beings, we’re not crocodiles where we hatch out of an egg, we're ready to go. Instead for a good chunk of our life. For you know, probably in the olden days they would like, send kids away to work. You know, maybe when they were eight or 10 or but still, that's, that's many years where kids are just not able to take care of themselves in any way. So that's an intense experience. You're totally at the mercy of your parents, so it makes sense. We bring a lot of baggage from our childhood.

So how can parents and I know this is a big question. But if we can maybe distill it down to a few points, you know we have so much stuff from our childhood. How do we keep from passing it on?


Nadia: I think the key is to constantly be willing to explore and be willing to go there with yourself and say, “Ok, where is—I'm really angry right now—where is this really coming from? Where is the source?” If you can find the source, and sometimes it's hard, I mean the majority of us, we have a tendency to want to avoid unpleasant feelings, right?


Justin: Ok. I have a theory coming up that I've played around with, the vast majority of all issues in adulthood come from avoidance. Like you know, like, addiction is basically just major avoidance, right?


Nadia: Yeah.


Justin: So what I hear you saying is like, stop avoiding.


Nadia: Yes. Yeah, yeah, you stop avoiding like, be willing to go there. I think that the discomfort is that when we were young and we had these uncomfortable feelings, we didn't understand them. We didn't know what they meant. We didn't know why they were happening.

And so as, as you continue to age, there's a desire to, you know, avoid them because you don't want to go back to that feeling of like I have no idea why this is here or what to do with it, and that sounds scary because once again, like, it's a regression. Really, that's what's happening. We don't notice that your mind actually can't, doesn't tell time it does. It actually doesn't notice the difference. It's why some people say I'm in my 50s, but I feel like I'm still a 30 year old.


Justin: Or for, I know I've heard people say, “I feel totally different when I go back home and I'm around, my brother or mom or it's, it's like I'm a different person,” you know.


Nadia: Yes, exactly like people fall right back into old patterns and dynamics and they don't even notice that it's happening and it is challenging for people to, to really see the, you know, just how uncomfortable there they feel in the moment. So all they notice is, “I'm uncomfortable. I don't know what to do with it, I'm just going to avoid it.”


Justin: So if a parent's listening to this and they're saying, “Oh wow, you know I'm kind of recognizing that I do that, that, that I do have some avoiding behaviors.” What's, what's the next step? How can I stop avoiding?


Nadia: Building tolerance to sitting with discomfort is going to be key, and I would never expect people to like go full-blown dive, you know head, first into here are all my triggers and here's everything that I'm going there like that's really painful.

At least, I wouldn't do that without some support, right? So sometimes people find community. Sometimes it's a support group. Sometimes it's they’re, you know, exercise group like they haven't, you know sometimes it's a neighborhood group or you know, they could actually say, “I'm gonna go to a therapist, and, and talk to someone about these old feelings that keep coming up. And I think I have a pattern of getting myself into trouble.”

And so maybe if you could pay attention to some of your patterns, it might make it easier for you to recognize the areas that you've been avoiding, even if you don't know exactly what it is. But there's a pattern that gets you into trouble. Then you could say, “Ok, I need a little bit of help 'cause I thought I could do this on my own. And it's not working out.”


Justin: Do you find that there are particular mental-emotional health issues that present in parents more than nonparents, or is it pretty much the same for all adults?


Nadia: I think it's pretty much the same… The difference is that parents have the added stressors of keeping their kids alive, right, like and keeping things going and taking care of their needs, especially kids that are, I mean, kids are needy. It's just a normal part of life they need your attention.


Justin: They are biologically designed that way, right? They come out of the womb completely helpless.


Nadia: Yes. Completely helpless and the first five years actually are the most stressful of the parenting time. Like it's the most stressful because those first five years, the child is the most needy, right?

And so it can create a lot of tension between parents and, or like a lot of feelings of concern about whether they are being good enough parents or feeling triggered and you know, maybe there are some people that they were so needy themselves, that to have a child that is needier than them that could put so much more extra stress on them you know, just because of that alone.

So, I think that everybody basically has the same technically the same issues, but the parents might feel it in a more intense way because they don't have necessarily the same outlets to manage it, right? 'Cause, how do you get away? Your kiddo is at home waiting for you.


Justin: It used to be that you could at least go to work and now you can't do that anymore.


Nadia: For sure, yeah.


Justin: So it's, it's heightened in parenthood. These stressors are, are just heightened so, you did an amazing job with a workshop for The Family Thrive called “Knowing When We Need Help, Learning How to Identify When Parental Stress and Exhaustion Become More than We Can Handle on Our Own.”

Ok, so that was a long subtitle, but that explains it. So all of these stressors are heightened. We're like just hanging on. How do we know when we've gone from basically coping to ok, now we need more help. So that's what this is about, we’ll get into some of the details. Let's start with, why do you think this workshop is important for parents?


Nadia: I think the workshop is really important for parents, because I think everybody is going to benefit from learning about their coping style and what they're doing, especially if they do have stressors already, like current stressors. Stressors in and of themselves are not necessarily a bad thing, right? Like they’re, they help us grow. We just, I just told you my story and they do help us. They're not necessarily all doom and gloom.

The issue isn't the stressor but how many stressors we're handling all at one time. What is happening to us in our ability to face the world? Can we still be, can we still maintain our happy-go-lucky functioning? And if you can't maintain the happy-go-lucky because the stressor is big, can you be neutral? Can you say you know I'm working toward something, I'm just staying on track, but once it starts to shift, then it's difficult for parents to be the best version of themselves, to take care of their kids, to take care of themselves, to stay happily married if they're married, or to find joy and feel like life is fulfilling. Otherwise, it's very easy to be so worried about the future or fantasize about the past and the way things were before this, whatever major stressor is.


Justin: One of the things that I got from working on this workshop with you was that it seems like the main point is that there, there's a tipping point. You know? There's a point where like stresses are coming at us, maybe we're not at our A-game, you know, but we can kind of get through the day and we have some support systems. And you know, we have some coping behaviors and we're doing ok.

And then there comes a point when it tips and we need more help. We need to see a therapist. We need to see a professional to help us get back to the other side, but can you talk a little bit about this tipping point? What should parents be thinking about?


Nadia: Yeah, so some of the things that we would notice right away, probably the thing that is most common is irritability. If you start to notice that you're upset way more often, you know like you're quick to react, you're quick, like you feel short-fused. That's a key indicator that something is very wrong.


Justin: Right and I, so as a parent who in the past certainly well no, I'll still sometimes have, have a fuse, so I’ll have the tendency to say, “Well, it's just that the outside world is just so crazy. I mean, you know, look at what's going on.” And so when you know I'm experiencing more irritability, I might have a tendency to say, “Well, yeah, look at, you know, things are crazy. We got COVID, we got this, we got that.” But what I hear you saying is that if you're experiencing more irritability than normal, that blaming the outside circumstances, ooh, might just be another way of avoiding.


Nadia: Yeah, that's right.


Justin: Yeah, alright, so a parent. Here's, here's, this says yeah, you know it's like things have been tough and I've been snapping and I've been acting in ways that aren't normal for me. Maybe I do need to talk with somebody, well first, when The Family Thrive platform is up and live you'll be able to take the workshop and you'll be able to go through all this on your own. And there are some great tools in there that Nadia has for us to see. You know, have we passed the tipping point or are we getting close?

But let's say even before I take the workshop I'm hearing this, and I know something's off. What do I look for when I start to search for a therapist and I say, you know, I just want to talk with somebody and just see where things are. What do I look for? It feels kind of like the Wild West. Like, I mean I can, you know if I'm part of an HMO, maybe send me to somebody, but like, how do I know I'm going to the right person for me?


Nadia: I would recommend trying more than one therapist if you're not getting a recommendation from somebody that says, “I think this is a good person for you.” And the reason I'm saying that is because it's a little bit like finding the perfect pair of shoes, you know? Like you might say, “Ok, this is the size and this is the color, but you don't like the style.”

You know so it has to be a great fit. Like all of those pieces, they have to match your interpersonal style. Or even if they don't exactly match your interpersonal style, but they have enough of the key components to make you feel comfortable.

Sometimes people say that they, you know, I'm Latina. I speak Spanish fluently, so I've had a few people reach out to me that are bilingual, bicultural, they speak English. They have a similar background that I do and they can switch just as we've always could switch. We might slip into Spanish and then it comes back into English in that, that was important to them because they're like I've never actually met with a therapist that was of my same background. This is really cool for me.

So it just depends on what it is that you need. And I know we have the added challenge right now because of COVID. Psychology is very impacted. So I think that the ratio of therapist to clients is heavy, right? And so, and there's even fewer bilingual-bicultural people available to serve the community and, but it doesn't mean that you can't find a great therapist because there are social workers and marriage, family therapies, or licensed professional therapists. All of them have something great to offer and they're skilled at helping you explore what's going on with you.


Justin: Awesome, that's great advice. So this last question before we get into our big three questions that we ask everybody, is what is edgy for you in your own mental and emotional health journey? Like what is new and challenging that you're working on for yourself?


Nadia: Yes, I think that's a great question and I'm glad you asked because I genuinely, you know, my whole life and just and I have always been interested in being the best version of me and working on the better version of me. And I feel like I've done a really great job in not only managing my emotional health and wellbeing in terms of my relationship with my spouse, my relationship with my siblings, my relationship with myself, but I'm also drawn to yoga and Buddhist and like Eastern philosophies, and I think we've talked about that before. And so I feel like I'm now at this place that is discussed in the Buddhist philosophy about, you know, showing compassion to the world.

And so what's edgy for me right now has been really working through how I manage my reaction to the socio-political, you know, stage that, that, that has been unfolding. You know and interacting with people that have very different opinions than I do from a socio-political standpoint. And recognizing that it's sometimes, it's easy for people to want to shame, when you think that their point of view, it does is not right or incorrect or whatever.

But remember what I said initially: everybody is trying to work through their chaos. Everybody is trying to be their best version, even within their limitations within those limitations. And so when I take that perspective, I can apply it to that and say, “Ok, maybe there's some confusion. Maybe they need help. Maybe they're confused about why they're drawn to a certain point of view, like saying negative things about immigrants, or people of color or whatever, whatever that political stance is.”

And I found myself that when I'm working on compassion—the stronger my compassion is for me because I understand my humanity, my shortcomings where I've come from and all of the chaos that I've had to work through with effort to be this person then I can show compassion towards somebody else. Maybe they haven't had the opportunity to do that same level of work. It doesn't mean they are less worthy of the compassion you know, they're just stuck.

And so that's, that's my edge right now is to continue to foster that and, and continue to be open and work through that and show the compassion and be patient. Just as I would with a child that had a misconception about something. Not because I think they are less than, but I want to show that same level of love and understanding and kindness and softness when we're talking. That's what I mean.


Justin: Wow. A lot in your share just now impacted me. But the one thing that sticks out right away was the way you said when you are working on love and compassion for yourself. Like with this kind of internal love and compassion then you are more easily able to bring it out to others.

That's yeah, that feels really powerful because it feels daunting to me to generate love and compassion for people that I see as just totally wrong-headed and destructive and you know all these other things. And then what you said shifts it a little bit for me of like, well, can I start to work on loving and giving compassion to parts of me that I am not accepting? And then if I can do this internal work then that's going to come out externally.


Nadia: That's right, yeah. I mean, that's the key 100% just to make if you, if, if people could remember this in, you know of all the things that we've talked about, I think it's: you cannot give something to anybody else that you are not able to give to yourself first, like that, it's just impossible. Absolutely impossible.


Justin: Ooh. That, that feels like some deep wisdom for parents, like of course, as parents we, you know, it's, it's kind of automatic. I've never met a parent who won't consciously explicitly say I love my kids and I want to love my kids and I want to be the best parent for my kids. But then we find ourselves slipping into patterns that if we yell or we’re short or irritable or whatever the case is, and so what you're saying is, “Hey, you know you got to look inward. There is something about you internally that you're not allowing, that you're angry about, that you're resisting inside. And so if this internal work can be done, it's going to just automatically flow and change your relationship with your kids.” I love that, I love that.


Nadia: Yes.


Justin: Well before we move on to our final three questions real quick, how can parents find you and learn more about your work?


Nadia: I have a website www.holisticmentalhealth.life and I'm actually going to be starting a blog where I just talk a little bit about these, like little wisdom things like, what did I just shared with you, like it's impossible to share, you know compassion towards others when you haven't been working on that for yourself.

And I thought maybe there's a way for me to start sharing just little tidbits like that. So people can join and I'll put a little, like a little button so people can add themselves to the list, to the email list, and get the blog. So I can share that soon. I'll let you know when once that's up and running and that's basically it for now and then just the stuff that you and I do together whenever we work together.


Justin: So parents will be able to take your workshop on The Daily Thrive, which is the subscriber-only platform for The Family Thrive. And then you and I, we've also talked about doing some articles and some other things. And so yeah, you'll be able to catch Dr. Torres-Eaton on The Daily Thrive as well. And then of course, at the website holisticmentalhealth.life.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: Alright, so the final three questions. These are my favorite. I love asking everybody. So the first thing is: if you could put a big post-it note on every parent’s fridge tomorrow morning, they wake up, it's the first thing they see when they go into the kitchen. What would it say?


Nadia: I think it would say “Be gentle with yourself.” That's the key. Be kind to yourself 'cause that takes work. Takes work, but it's, it's a lot of work you know and I, it's easy for me to say, “Oh yeah, just be kind to other people, but…”


Justin: Yeah no, it's gotta start inside.


Nadia: It's gotta start inside.


Justin: Ok, so the last quote that changed the way you think or feel.


Nadia: Oh, you know I've been really fascinated recently with Amanda Gorman.


Justin: Oh my gosh, yeah, right radiant. That's the word. That's the word that comes up just radiant, yeah.


Nadia: I just I, you know, listening to her in that inauguration. I had like tears running down my face and I was thinking about something in that moment because I do a lot of meditation and I, often in my meditations I've been asking a question to the universe, like, “Why aren’t we hearing from philosophers and poets as much as before. Like where are they?”

And I, I feel like it says something about the culture when they're not standing out as much. It means like people are so stuck in their chaos that there are no dreamers. And it seems weird to me, you know, and so there's a, there's something that she, that she wrote and she posted and I and, and can I read it to you?


Justin: Absolutely ok.


Nadia: So it says: “Self love is revolutionary. We cannot fight for others when we're fighting a war inside ourselves. Compassion is a power that we first bestow ourselves and then give away through our actions to people, to our planet. When we recognize this, that is when love becomes our legacy.”


Justin: Wow, I'm detecting a theme here. This is what we've been talking about. and of course she puts it in the most beautiful way. Oh, about, that was very nourishing. Thank you, thank you for that.

Alright, so the last question is about kids and I ask this question every podcast because for parents it gets exhausting and we can say, “Oh my god, kids, you know?” And so let's just end the podcast by celebrating kids. So what's your favorite thing about kids?


Nadia: I think their resilience and their desire for play and having fun. I'm always in awe of kids, like they're so quick to be creative and not feel self-conscious about not having the right answer. And I, you know, I'm not sure when, where or when we lost that or, or why we see it as a negative and I've been even working on that, like as a theme for myself to have like just allowing creativity to flow. You know, because I feel inspired by kids who are just like, “I'm just going to try it. Let's see what happens.” You know? And not and not do things with fear. That's what I love about kids.


Justin: I love that yes, if we all can just cultivate that in ourselves, yeah, beautiful.

Nadia, thank you so much. This was really fantastic and I can't wait to have you back on.


Nadia: Awesome, thank you so much for having me. Thank you, Justin.


Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends, and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

Justin: Audra and I met Dr. Torres-Eaton when she was a clinical psychologist at the Children's Hospital where our son Max was being treated for a brain tumor. We hit it off pretty quickly because she was so kind and welcoming and we were frazzled parents of a child in treatment for a life-threatening health condition.

When we started developing programs for MaxLove Project, we just knew that we wanted to work with her. We ended up writing grants, developing programs, and now creating workshops and content together. We consider her not just an expert clinical psychologist, but a real friend.

Today, Nadia Torres Eaton is a bilingual-bicultural psychologist who is board certified in Clinical Psychology. She earned her Clinical-Community Psychology Doctorate from the University of Laverne in 2006 and has been in clinical practice for 13 years. While she has a subspecialty of pediatric psychology, she recently transitioned into full-time practice where she brings a transpersonal and holistic approach to mental health.

We dive deep in this podcast talking about childhood trauma, how parents can keep from passing their own childhood emotional wounds onto their kids, and how parents can start taking care of their own stress. So, without further ado, here's my wonderful conversation with Dr. Nadia Torres-Eaton.

I am particularly interested in how you even got started as a psychologist. Like when did you first know this is it, this is what I want to do?


Nadia: It was in undergrad. I knew that I was interested in psychology. But before that I was, I loved to read. I love literature. I thought I was going to be an English lit major. I had taken, I was like one of those nerdy kids that did AP courses all throughout high school, I had a really high GPA...


Justin: I had no idea English literature, ok.


Nadia: Yeah, yeah, English lit. Well, well here's the interesting thing about English literature. A lot of that, a lot of the skills that you need for analyzing literature are very applicable to analyzing people, but it's live, right, rather than you're going back in time and reading in a book and kind of, you know, just taking a look at patterns, repetition, symbolism, or things of that nature. It's not that different when you look at it like that.


Justin: So you were analyzing these characters long, long before you ever analyzed actual people.


Nadia: That's right, yeah, yeah. And so I was, yeah, I was in school and I remember having a hard time with some of the literature classes like Old English lit stuff that was much more complicated and it was harder for me to analyze because there's so much more history that you have to get into to understand the meaning behind all the words and symbolism. And so I found that that was not as fun for me to do it that far back, and I realized, “Oh, this is harder, like I enjoy it as a fun activity, but not so much to write a paper and spend hours and hours researching this.”


Justin: You're not gonna spend seven years on a PhD.


Nadia: Yeah. So, so once I took psychology classes that felt so natural and it felt so easy and I think it really matched my natural skill set. So that's why I was drawn to it, aside from the fact that my mother had cancer when I was young and she, she was only 38 years old when she passed away.

I was 17 and it was, it happened so fast, you know. She, she was sick. Everybody said that it was stress-related. I mean, she went to multiple doctors about that and it was a strange diagnosis for somebody that was so young. She had colon cancer. So I don't think they ever even considered that to be a possibility until it was too late.

And so from the moment of her diagnosis to the moment that she passed away, it was about three-and-a-half months. Like it just, it just happened so fast. And I remember just thinking about, you know, just all of the things that you have to do to cope, and I'm the oldest in my family.

I, my parents, my mom was born in Texas but raised in Mexico like they were the kind of family that went back and forth and my father is from El Salvador. And so I feel like I had always sort of grown up with multiple cultures and multiple perspectives and multiple points of view, and that things weren't exactly the same. And you know, context made a difference, and so I think, like again, naturally I had a lot of these skills built-in.

So when I came to these psychology classes and they're talking about, “You know you have to understand, like, where this person is coming from.” Like I've been doing that my whole life. Like this is, this felt, like, just so natural and easy and I was acing the classes. You know, because it was so easy for me that I just realized at that point, I think I'm supposed to do this because it's, it's not that complicated or hard for me.


Justin: What I'm hearing is you were attracted to what came to you as a really natural sort of ability to dig deeper into the human condition.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: And another thing I'm hearing is that your childhood, coming from different cultural perspectives, shifting cultural perspectives that you were able to kind of see, maybe behind the veneer, or like the facade because you're now able to see how one perspective is not the only perspective.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: You, as a child had access to multiple perspectives, and so you could kind of see behind or kind of around the corner. One of the things that I've heard from people who grow up in a multicultural context is that that's the advantage they have. But the disadvantage is often they feel like they don't feel at home in any particular culture. Did that happen for you?


Nadia: Yeah, yeah that did happen. I mean, I had one protective factor, maybe that helped with that, and that I see it as a double-edged sword. On one hand, my family was also very religious and so that kind of unified things and I felt a part of that community. And in that Latin religious community, the cultural pieces are kind of pushed aside to merge into the religious point of view, you know?


Justin: Yes.


Nadia: Double-edged sword side of that, is it can be very strict, you know, and having had so many different perspectives and growing up in mainstream America and also like being very drawn to reading. Like I love to read, you know, so sure I had cultural perspective, I had this religious perspective but also was an avid reader. So again, there was another layer of like but things aren't exactly the way they're saying it here either.


Justin: Do you mind if I ask a few more questions along this, this, this path here?


Nadia: No, not at all.


Justin: I'm really interested. Yeah, so the idea that things aren't the way that people automatically say they are. And so yeah, this would come from multiple perspectives within the literature, just...you know, exposing yourself to all these different viewpoints. I can imagine growing up in this really religious context that particularly getting into psychology would maybe cause some tension. Maybe the tension was internal? Maybe it was also external, but could you talk about that?


Nadia: It was absolutely both. I was very outspoken about those things and it was not always well received. And sometimes I, especially if you think about Latin culture. You're, you're supposed to, I mean, I do, I respect my elders, you know, like you, you respect your elders, you don't talk back. You're supposed to be very aware of hierarchy. You know?

And, but my mind has always worked really fast. It's always been that way and I just had a lot of questions. So I do remember being 13 years old and having a bit of a tiff with the church pastor because I was saying, he was talking about the Creation Story. And again, you know I had already, I already loved to read. I didn't quite understand this yet, but I felt like it was a story, not necessarily exactly the way…


Justin: The actual facts.


Nadia: Yeah, you know? And, and so, I was trying to ask him questions about, just about dinosaurs and just talking about these other facts we have, right?


Justin: Dinosaurs in the Garden of Eden.


Nadia: Yeah. And that was not well-received. That was like, he was constantly just like redirecting me, redirecting me. And finally, I just was like, I just really like flat out, “I'm really confused. Are you saying that in this point of view, in this religious point of view, just dinosaurs don't exist?” And I was very pointed about it, which they did not like.


Justin: Did that flow over into your family life?


Nadia: Yeah, it did. I mean, I pretty much figured out that I had to go along with this in order to get along with everybody because this was important. And I saw, I saw the religious peace a little bit differently than they did.

So one thing I didn't mention to you is, my father was a very complicated, he's still alive. He's a very complicated man, but we don't have a relationship. And I don't feel upset or bothered by it. I think it's, it's for the best, but he was an alcoholic and he was abusive at times and religion, it was like something that helped him harness that energy and redirect him, but he sort of traded one abusive thing for another and now he was kind of obsessed with that. And so it was an unpleasant religious experience.


Justin: Yeah.


Nadia: In terms of that part for me, but for them, I think they saw it as like a tool that helped him behave better, and I understood that as a kid I like I understood that that's what it was.


Justin: Wow, that’s complex for a kid to understand. That's, that's, that feels to me like, wow. You had to make some social-psychological calculations at a young age to really understand what was going on.


Nadia: Yeah, I again I. That's why I think psychology has come so naturally to me because I understand people do things, not necessarily because it's the right thing, or because they have problems like, in and of themselves.

Everybody is trying to be a better version at, to some degree. They're not always successful, and I think I understood that, like, he had a lot of limitations and that this was something he needed. And my mother was somebody who she, like, really helped him and tried to protect him in some ways from his, the negative side of him. And when she passed away he really decompensated because his tools weren't in place.


Justin: I heard this quote from a [performance coach] a while ago and it's stuck with me. And it was about our parents and our parents, parents and then ourselves as parents. And it was: “If they could have done better, they would have done better.”

And it was about like blaming is, is not the right way to approach this, right? If they could have done better, and same for us as parents, if we could have done better we would have done better. But then the other thing that this psychologist added was, “but in this moment we have the opportunity to do better.”


Nadia: That’s right.


Justin: Yeah, yeah.


Nadia: No, no, no, I agree with you. I think that that's that's exactly—I don't hold any resentment towards him. I do remember as a kid-kid, like before 13 years of age, being annoyed with him and being mad at my mom. But as an adult and certainly, I would say definitely in the last 10 years, I'm, or since my 30s, I'm 44. I'll be 45 this year, so it's been a while.


Justin: Me too, me too.


Nadia: We’re in good company. So I, I just see him as just a troubled person, but not necessarily like that I'm the person to help him, or that I'm the person that needs to rescue him. Like he has to do his work on his own. And I think to me ultimately, that's what psychology is about, is it's that you come to the realization that it takes work to be the best version of you.

You know it's not given. It's not about the environment. The environment could be crappy. It could be awesome. You could still be, you know, have feelings of low self-worth and anger and frustration. But you have to make a conscious decision to work towards being the better version of you.


Justin: Wow, I love it and I just have this realization that we just went straight into the deep end like we did not wait till…


Nadia: Sorry.


Justin: Oh no, I love it, and I'm hoping that all of these podcasts that we do, parents will get something out of them, like right from the beginning, right until the end, like we're not going to mess around, we're going to dive right into stuff.

So before I so, I do have a list of topics and so the first thing was just, you know, talk about you and your background. But before we move on, I just have this one other thought if you wanted to talk about it. I know that you and I have talked about Gabor Maté before and you said something to the effect of you learned that you had to go along to get along. And he has this thing about in childhood how we have to give up our authenticity for attachment. And it's this, you know this, this game that we have to play of, like how much of our real authentic self do we need to give up in order to stay connected with these people who have our lives in their hands, you know? So I'm just wondering, so what you think about this, like as a child having to give up authenticity for attachment and then in adulthood rediscovering that authenticity?


Nadia: Yeah, I think, I think that's absolutely true. I, I think that if you have a high social IQ then it's much easier to recognize that and know what you're doing and why you're doing it. And the less, the less you tap into that social IQ, it's not that people don't have it. I think everybody has, you know, some form of it, but you decide how much of it you're going to access.

The less you focus on that, I think the harder it is to know that you are sacrificing. But I think that goes along with those nonverbal social skills that we all develop in terms of figuring out like what it is that you have to do to keep things as stable as possible, right? 'Cause that's what everybody is trying to do. Like I, I don't want to be out on the street. I don't, I don't want to have to fight with my parents all the time. I don't want to lose my privileges. Like they're putting some pressure and you're sort of doing that give and take as well.

And I think you, you figure it out at some point and hopefully sooner rather than later, you figure out like yeah, maybe I didn't say everything I wanted to say. And certainly in Latin culture, by the time you have to talk and do that stuff, it's fighting words because most of the time you're encouraged to just let things be. Unless it's really severe, and so it's not necessarily part of the culture to bring things up and say, “Hey, I'm, I'm feeling pretty dissatisfied about this. I really want to renegotiate my relationship with you. I don't think it's going well right now. What do you think?” You know, that just doesn't happen naturally. Like you'd have to get some pretty direct instruction to be able to do that.


Justin: Oh wow, yeah.


Nadia: Because my mother passed away at such a young age and my father was around for a little bit. But then I told you he kind of continued to decompensate and then he...


Justin: Nadia real quick. So for the listeners, can you define decompensate?


Nadia: Sure, yeah, yeah. So like all of the things that you would expect from somebody to be like a normal functioning person—like, you know, going to work, paying the bills, you know, doing the parenting things, managing the things at home. As long as my mother was alive, I think he knew what, what his role was, but once she passed away, he started to flounder and so one of the things that he did was he put a lot of pressure on me to take over and to, and to do exactly what my mother was doing as a way to help him stay on track.

And I did do that for quite a bit, but in that process he, when I say decompensate, he started making choices. I mean, of course he's an adult, he’s a parent, he can do whatever he wants, but now they weren't necessarily in the best interest of the family because there wasn't anybody to hold him accountable that way. He started to engage in more selfish acts, and they got more and more elaborate. So and I'll just tell, I'll just cut to the chase to the final straw, which was he got married, but didn't tell anybody that he got married. And he went down to Mexico and got married to a person. And I found out about it through a newspaper article that he brought home and there was a picture of him getting married.

It was like a telenovela. It was really crazy and he would disappear, now it made sense like why he would disappear for extended periods of time. And I was alone like managing these kids by myself and so at that point when I saw that and I won't get into more details 'cause there's a lot more, but I ended up at that point, I just made a conscious choice to become the guardian for my sisters and my brother. So I did become a parent in essence.


Justin: That's right.


Nadia: We have a huge age gap, so they're my, my sister that's younger than me is, she's eight years younger. My other sister is 10 years younger and my brother was, is 12 years younger. So my mom died when he was five years old and he's 32 now. So I feel like I've done the gamut in terms of raising them and going through all of the difficult parts in high school.

You know they got through college and they're fully functioning adults. Everybody's great. I'm really happy for them. But I did, but I feel like I'm, I'm also on the other end too, of like, I know what it's like to do the transition from, you know, having teenagers, that transition into young adulthood and becoming that parent that steps back and allows them to do their own thing. Like it's been a long journey.

So when you ask me what is it about families like I, I think I have quite a bit of experience. And maybe, you know, I know what it's like to be a single parent. I also got married in the middle of that process, so I, you know, my husband at times, you know, stepped in and shared some of that responsibility for my brother 'cause he was the youngest. But it, it was, it was a lot.


Justin: Oh my gosh, that's right. You, you've told me a little bit about that story. But wow, just to get all of the details that, that feels, that feels really intense at age 17 and 18, to just, for this massive responsibility for these other human beings to be thrust upon you. Oh, that feels heavy.


Nadia: You know, it's, I, I'm glad you're saying that because at the, at the time I just felt like we just have to forge forward and I want to keep my family together. I value family and that was really important to me and they wanted to stick with me. So that was interesting as well because they could see that he was not responding like an appropriate parent and it wasn't good for them.

So we stuck it out and like at the 20-year mark after she passed away, 'cause I feel like my life is sort of like, there was this life before she died and there was a life after she died and then and then something shifted when I got married. So there's like three parts to the way I see how my life has been. But at about 20 years after she passed away I remember waking up that day and thinking, “It's been 20 years like, oh my gosh, I've lived longer without my mother than I did with her.”

The significance of that was really profound to me in that moment, like and all of a sudden I had this flash of like everything I've been through and I realized, “I think I've been seeing myself as a victim like this was the sad thing that happened.” And you know, it was hard. But on that 20th anniversary, I woke up and I realized 20 years ago I got the opportunity to be really fiercely independent. And to, you know, take each step and move forward and support my family and I'm like and I wouldn't have had that level of opportunity had they all been around, you know? And I was like I'm, this is cool, like this is good. I did good.


Justin: Would it be too much to say that at that 20th-year realization that you were able to see in a way, this thing that happened to you when you were 17, was a gift?


Nadia: I, I do, I do think that it was a gift. As you can tell I love to psychoanalyze and I do it to myself as well. I reflected on a lot of things that happened. When I went to court, my father’s side of the family basically cut us out. They changed their phone numbers. They, you know, they just didn't want anything to do with us and, and it was me in particular because they felt like I was being very disrespectful and it was totally against culture and totally against the religious side of the culture to get the courts involved, you know?

And my mom's side of the family, they had their own complications and their own limitations. And they all live in New Mexico now and, and at the time they, they were living there. And so my grandfather, my mom's dad, had asked me to move in with them and that he would help us out. But I really felt like, I don't know why I can't explain it, but I really felt like I've always had this value of freedom. And I don't think I thought of it this way in the moment at that time, but I just felt like I would have, I wouldn't have had the freedom. And so I decided to forge that path on my own, and I think at that 20th mark I was able to see how none of these family influences, not that I don't believe in family. Of course, I love family, and I still, I had a great relationship with my grandfather nonetheless, but I didn't have all of those influences or the interpersonal challenging dynamics that my parents had with their family. None of that was there.

Like I genuinely got a chance to be a good person for the sake of being a good person. Be a good sister. Go to school, enjoy my freedom, you know? And sure was it financially stressful at times? It was, but I was, we were never without. Like things were, maybe they, I barely made ends meet, but we could still move forward and it was good enough and I felt like that life was better than the one I had before. Which sounds weird, but that's what happened.


Justin: Wow, it's powerful, yeah. The reason the word gift came up is because in childhood cancer parent circles many of us will kind of quietly say like this diagnosis, the treatment, the whole journey, painful, you know, we would never wish this on our child in a million years. We would do anything to take it from them, but it's been a gift, like in a way it's been a gift. And you know I'm saying this on a podcast, but oftentimes we will say it to each other like I would never tell anybody else this. I would never say, you know, no one else would understand, but other childhood cancer parents understand.

And so when I heard you talk about this, I was like, oh, wow, it's, I mean it is really these like traumatic events in our lives when enough time is passed and if we have been able to respond in some internally authentic and true way, then we can look back and like thank you. Wow, what a gift.


Nadia: I think if you are able to adapt, right? And you allow the creativity to flow. You can adapt. You have social IQ. I do think some you know at least average intelligence is necessary to do all of the problem-solving, right? I think when you, when that combination of things happens together, that's the magic. And I think we are able to change and transform our lives for the better.

I grew up with a father that yelled and was very denigrating. And my siblings and I, I don't remember ever using a cuss word to yell or to be mad, no matter how frustrated I was during that time. They used to call me Mom-ster. So you can tell like.


Justin: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.


Nadia: Sometimes you know that there was tension between us because they were confused, right? Like they're like, are you my mom? Are you my sister? And they were like I found out they called me Momster. They're like it's for mom and sister and I'm like no, I know exactly what you mean.


Justin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. Oh my gosh, oh what a story, Nadia thanks. Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I just feel really fortunate to have got a window into all that you've been through and then this amazing traumatic event that has turned into a gift. It's, it's really, really cool. Thank you.

So I do want to shift to your professional life. So yeah, I mean what we just discussed gives me at least a really clear and deep understanding for what led you into psychology. And then why you are such a natural. And then what you and I met, because at the time you were a clinical psychologist, out of Children's Hospital where our son was being treated for a brain tumor. And so it's really clear, like your, your love for children, your love for families like it—yeah, it all makes total sense. So let's talk about this professional aspect.

I have to ask, do most mental-emotional health problems come from childhood? Is it just like we're all essentially working through childhood stuff?


Nadia: Yeah, I think that. Probably the psychodynamic perspective and theory of psychology. The psychodynamic part is the traditional stuff that we think of as Freud. You know, people complain about him and they don't like him. And you know, they get annoyed by him or whatever. But he probably wrote the most complete theory that we have out there about our psyche, and like how we become the people that we become. And there hasn't been anything else that has been able to trump it.

And so to some degree, yes, I would say like the majority of the things that we're dealing with today come from our early childhood experiences. Our interpretation of that. Some of it is temperament. Some of it is, sure, the environments that we were growing up in. The dynamics between the relationships between the parent and the child that maybe the parent didn't quite understand the temperament of the child, and you know, was more harsh when they needed to be softer or were too soft when they needed to be harsher, you know?


Justin: The Goldilocks problem with parenting, right?


Nadia: Yes, and that's why there's, you know, all the, all the information on attachment theory and like what helps us develop our ability to attach to people, to our parents to, you know, all of that is connected to what we call “good-enough parenting.” Like it doesn't have to be perfect. You know you need to be present, but it just has to be good enough. And so think of it, more like 80-20. 80% of the time the thing that's stressing you out right now is rooted in something that happened to you in the past, and 20% of the stress is from the present.


Justin: So then I'm getting a picture of parents, myself included, where we're getting triggered and stressed, and we've got 80% of it is just from our childhood. The way you know, all the random stuff that happens in being a kid and just the intensity of being a kid and being dependent on these other people.

I mean, human beings, we’re not crocodiles where we hatch out of an egg, we're ready to go. Instead for a good chunk of our life. For you know, probably in the olden days they would like, send kids away to work. You know, maybe when they were eight or 10 or but still, that's, that's many years where kids are just not able to take care of themselves in any way. So that's an intense experience. You're totally at the mercy of your parents, so it makes sense. We bring a lot of baggage from our childhood.

So how can parents and I know this is a big question. But if we can maybe distill it down to a few points, you know we have so much stuff from our childhood. How do we keep from passing it on?


Nadia: I think the key is to constantly be willing to explore and be willing to go there with yourself and say, “Ok, where is—I'm really angry right now—where is this really coming from? Where is the source?” If you can find the source, and sometimes it's hard, I mean the majority of us, we have a tendency to want to avoid unpleasant feelings, right?


Justin: Ok. I have a theory coming up that I've played around with, the vast majority of all issues in adulthood come from avoidance. Like you know, like, addiction is basically just major avoidance, right?


Nadia: Yeah.


Justin: So what I hear you saying is like, stop avoiding.


Nadia: Yes. Yeah, yeah, you stop avoiding like, be willing to go there. I think that the discomfort is that when we were young and we had these uncomfortable feelings, we didn't understand them. We didn't know what they meant. We didn't know why they were happening.

And so as, as you continue to age, there's a desire to, you know, avoid them because you don't want to go back to that feeling of like I have no idea why this is here or what to do with it, and that sounds scary because once again, like, it's a regression. Really, that's what's happening. We don't notice that your mind actually can't, doesn't tell time it does. It actually doesn't notice the difference. It's why some people say I'm in my 50s, but I feel like I'm still a 30 year old.


Justin: Or for, I know I've heard people say, “I feel totally different when I go back home and I'm around, my brother or mom or it's, it's like I'm a different person,” you know.


Nadia: Yes, exactly like people fall right back into old patterns and dynamics and they don't even notice that it's happening and it is challenging for people to, to really see the, you know, just how uncomfortable there they feel in the moment. So all they notice is, “I'm uncomfortable. I don't know what to do with it, I'm just going to avoid it.”


Justin: So if a parent's listening to this and they're saying, “Oh wow, you know I'm kind of recognizing that I do that, that, that I do have some avoiding behaviors.” What's, what's the next step? How can I stop avoiding?


Nadia: Building tolerance to sitting with discomfort is going to be key, and I would never expect people to like go full-blown dive, you know head, first into here are all my triggers and here's everything that I'm going there like that's really painful.

At least, I wouldn't do that without some support, right? So sometimes people find community. Sometimes it's a support group. Sometimes it's they’re, you know, exercise group like they haven't, you know sometimes it's a neighborhood group or you know, they could actually say, “I'm gonna go to a therapist, and, and talk to someone about these old feelings that keep coming up. And I think I have a pattern of getting myself into trouble.”

And so maybe if you could pay attention to some of your patterns, it might make it easier for you to recognize the areas that you've been avoiding, even if you don't know exactly what it is. But there's a pattern that gets you into trouble. Then you could say, “Ok, I need a little bit of help 'cause I thought I could do this on my own. And it's not working out.”


Justin: Do you find that there are particular mental-emotional health issues that present in parents more than nonparents, or is it pretty much the same for all adults?


Nadia: I think it's pretty much the same… The difference is that parents have the added stressors of keeping their kids alive, right, like and keeping things going and taking care of their needs, especially kids that are, I mean, kids are needy. It's just a normal part of life they need your attention.


Justin: They are biologically designed that way, right? They come out of the womb completely helpless.


Nadia: Yes. Completely helpless and the first five years actually are the most stressful of the parenting time. Like it's the most stressful because those first five years, the child is the most needy, right?

And so it can create a lot of tension between parents and, or like a lot of feelings of concern about whether they are being good enough parents or feeling triggered and you know, maybe there are some people that they were so needy themselves, that to have a child that is needier than them that could put so much more extra stress on them you know, just because of that alone.

So, I think that everybody basically has the same technically the same issues, but the parents might feel it in a more intense way because they don't have necessarily the same outlets to manage it, right? 'Cause, how do you get away? Your kiddo is at home waiting for you.


Justin: It used to be that you could at least go to work and now you can't do that anymore.


Nadia: For sure, yeah.


Justin: So it's, it's heightened in parenthood. These stressors are, are just heightened so, you did an amazing job with a workshop for The Family Thrive called “Knowing When We Need Help, Learning How to Identify When Parental Stress and Exhaustion Become More than We Can Handle on Our Own.”

Ok, so that was a long subtitle, but that explains it. So all of these stressors are heightened. We're like just hanging on. How do we know when we've gone from basically coping to ok, now we need more help. So that's what this is about, we’ll get into some of the details. Let's start with, why do you think this workshop is important for parents?


Nadia: I think the workshop is really important for parents, because I think everybody is going to benefit from learning about their coping style and what they're doing, especially if they do have stressors already, like current stressors. Stressors in and of themselves are not necessarily a bad thing, right? Like they’re, they help us grow. We just, I just told you my story and they do help us. They're not necessarily all doom and gloom.

The issue isn't the stressor but how many stressors we're handling all at one time. What is happening to us in our ability to face the world? Can we still be, can we still maintain our happy-go-lucky functioning? And if you can't maintain the happy-go-lucky because the stressor is big, can you be neutral? Can you say you know I'm working toward something, I'm just staying on track, but once it starts to shift, then it's difficult for parents to be the best version of themselves, to take care of their kids, to take care of themselves, to stay happily married if they're married, or to find joy and feel like life is fulfilling. Otherwise, it's very easy to be so worried about the future or fantasize about the past and the way things were before this, whatever major stressor is.


Justin: One of the things that I got from working on this workshop with you was that it seems like the main point is that there, there's a tipping point. You know? There's a point where like stresses are coming at us, maybe we're not at our A-game, you know, but we can kind of get through the day and we have some support systems. And you know, we have some coping behaviors and we're doing ok.

And then there comes a point when it tips and we need more help. We need to see a therapist. We need to see a professional to help us get back to the other side, but can you talk a little bit about this tipping point? What should parents be thinking about?


Nadia: Yeah, so some of the things that we would notice right away, probably the thing that is most common is irritability. If you start to notice that you're upset way more often, you know like you're quick to react, you're quick, like you feel short-fused. That's a key indicator that something is very wrong.


Justin: Right and I, so as a parent who in the past certainly well no, I'll still sometimes have, have a fuse, so I’ll have the tendency to say, “Well, it's just that the outside world is just so crazy. I mean, you know, look at what's going on.” And so when you know I'm experiencing more irritability, I might have a tendency to say, “Well, yeah, look at, you know, things are crazy. We got COVID, we got this, we got that.” But what I hear you saying is that if you're experiencing more irritability than normal, that blaming the outside circumstances, ooh, might just be another way of avoiding.


Nadia: Yeah, that's right.


Justin: Yeah, alright, so a parent. Here's, here's, this says yeah, you know it's like things have been tough and I've been snapping and I've been acting in ways that aren't normal for me. Maybe I do need to talk with somebody, well first, when The Family Thrive platform is up and live you'll be able to take the workshop and you'll be able to go through all this on your own. And there are some great tools in there that Nadia has for us to see. You know, have we passed the tipping point or are we getting close?

But let's say even before I take the workshop I'm hearing this, and I know something's off. What do I look for when I start to search for a therapist and I say, you know, I just want to talk with somebody and just see where things are. What do I look for? It feels kind of like the Wild West. Like, I mean I can, you know if I'm part of an HMO, maybe send me to somebody, but like, how do I know I'm going to the right person for me?


Nadia: I would recommend trying more than one therapist if you're not getting a recommendation from somebody that says, “I think this is a good person for you.” And the reason I'm saying that is because it's a little bit like finding the perfect pair of shoes, you know? Like you might say, “Ok, this is the size and this is the color, but you don't like the style.”

You know so it has to be a great fit. Like all of those pieces, they have to match your interpersonal style. Or even if they don't exactly match your interpersonal style, but they have enough of the key components to make you feel comfortable.

Sometimes people say that they, you know, I'm Latina. I speak Spanish fluently, so I've had a few people reach out to me that are bilingual, bicultural, they speak English. They have a similar background that I do and they can switch just as we've always could switch. We might slip into Spanish and then it comes back into English in that, that was important to them because they're like I've never actually met with a therapist that was of my same background. This is really cool for me.

So it just depends on what it is that you need. And I know we have the added challenge right now because of COVID. Psychology is very impacted. So I think that the ratio of therapist to clients is heavy, right? And so, and there's even fewer bilingual-bicultural people available to serve the community and, but it doesn't mean that you can't find a great therapist because there are social workers and marriage, family therapies, or licensed professional therapists. All of them have something great to offer and they're skilled at helping you explore what's going on with you.


Justin: Awesome, that's great advice. So this last question before we get into our big three questions that we ask everybody, is what is edgy for you in your own mental and emotional health journey? Like what is new and challenging that you're working on for yourself?


Nadia: Yes, I think that's a great question and I'm glad you asked because I genuinely, you know, my whole life and just and I have always been interested in being the best version of me and working on the better version of me. And I feel like I've done a really great job in not only managing my emotional health and wellbeing in terms of my relationship with my spouse, my relationship with my siblings, my relationship with myself, but I'm also drawn to yoga and Buddhist and like Eastern philosophies, and I think we've talked about that before. And so I feel like I'm now at this place that is discussed in the Buddhist philosophy about, you know, showing compassion to the world.

And so what's edgy for me right now has been really working through how I manage my reaction to the socio-political, you know, stage that, that, that has been unfolding. You know and interacting with people that have very different opinions than I do from a socio-political standpoint. And recognizing that it's sometimes, it's easy for people to want to shame, when you think that their point of view, it does is not right or incorrect or whatever.

But remember what I said initially: everybody is trying to work through their chaos. Everybody is trying to be their best version, even within their limitations within those limitations. And so when I take that perspective, I can apply it to that and say, “Ok, maybe there's some confusion. Maybe they need help. Maybe they're confused about why they're drawn to a certain point of view, like saying negative things about immigrants, or people of color or whatever, whatever that political stance is.”

And I found myself that when I'm working on compassion—the stronger my compassion is for me because I understand my humanity, my shortcomings where I've come from and all of the chaos that I've had to work through with effort to be this person then I can show compassion towards somebody else. Maybe they haven't had the opportunity to do that same level of work. It doesn't mean they are less worthy of the compassion you know, they're just stuck.

And so that's, that's my edge right now is to continue to foster that and, and continue to be open and work through that and show the compassion and be patient. Just as I would with a child that had a misconception about something. Not because I think they are less than, but I want to show that same level of love and understanding and kindness and softness when we're talking. That's what I mean.


Justin: Wow. A lot in your share just now impacted me. But the one thing that sticks out right away was the way you said when you are working on love and compassion for yourself. Like with this kind of internal love and compassion then you are more easily able to bring it out to others.

That's yeah, that feels really powerful because it feels daunting to me to generate love and compassion for people that I see as just totally wrong-headed and destructive and you know all these other things. And then what you said shifts it a little bit for me of like, well, can I start to work on loving and giving compassion to parts of me that I am not accepting? And then if I can do this internal work then that's going to come out externally.


Nadia: That's right, yeah. I mean, that's the key 100% just to make if you, if, if people could remember this in, you know of all the things that we've talked about, I think it's: you cannot give something to anybody else that you are not able to give to yourself first, like that, it's just impossible. Absolutely impossible.


Justin: Ooh. That, that feels like some deep wisdom for parents, like of course, as parents we, you know, it's, it's kind of automatic. I've never met a parent who won't consciously explicitly say I love my kids and I want to love my kids and I want to be the best parent for my kids. But then we find ourselves slipping into patterns that if we yell or we’re short or irritable or whatever the case is, and so what you're saying is, “Hey, you know you got to look inward. There is something about you internally that you're not allowing, that you're angry about, that you're resisting inside. And so if this internal work can be done, it's going to just automatically flow and change your relationship with your kids.” I love that, I love that.


Nadia: Yes.


Justin: Well before we move on to our final three questions real quick, how can parents find you and learn more about your work?


Nadia: I have a website www.holisticmentalhealth.life and I'm actually going to be starting a blog where I just talk a little bit about these, like little wisdom things like, what did I just shared with you, like it's impossible to share, you know compassion towards others when you haven't been working on that for yourself.

And I thought maybe there's a way for me to start sharing just little tidbits like that. So people can join and I'll put a little, like a little button so people can add themselves to the list, to the email list, and get the blog. So I can share that soon. I'll let you know when once that's up and running and that's basically it for now and then just the stuff that you and I do together whenever we work together.


Justin: So parents will be able to take your workshop on The Daily Thrive, which is the subscriber-only platform for The Family Thrive. And then you and I, we've also talked about doing some articles and some other things. And so yeah, you'll be able to catch Dr. Torres-Eaton on The Daily Thrive as well. And then of course, at the website holisticmentalhealth.life.


Nadia: That's right.


Justin: Alright, so the final three questions. These are my favorite. I love asking everybody. So the first thing is: if you could put a big post-it note on every parent’s fridge tomorrow morning, they wake up, it's the first thing they see when they go into the kitchen. What would it say?


Nadia: I think it would say “Be gentle with yourself.” That's the key. Be kind to yourself 'cause that takes work. Takes work, but it's, it's a lot of work you know and I, it's easy for me to say, “Oh yeah, just be kind to other people, but…”


Justin: Yeah no, it's gotta start inside.


Nadia: It's gotta start inside.


Justin: Ok, so the last quote that changed the way you think or feel.


Nadia: Oh, you know I've been really fascinated recently with Amanda Gorman.


Justin: Oh my gosh, yeah, right radiant. That's the word. That's the word that comes up just radiant, yeah.


Nadia: I just I, you know, listening to her in that inauguration. I had like tears running down my face and I was thinking about something in that moment because I do a lot of meditation and I, often in my meditations I've been asking a question to the universe, like, “Why aren’t we hearing from philosophers and poets as much as before. Like where are they?”

And I, I feel like it says something about the culture when they're not standing out as much. It means like people are so stuck in their chaos that there are no dreamers. And it seems weird to me, you know, and so there's a, there's something that she, that she wrote and she posted and I and, and can I read it to you?


Justin: Absolutely ok.


Nadia: So it says: “Self love is revolutionary. We cannot fight for others when we're fighting a war inside ourselves. Compassion is a power that we first bestow ourselves and then give away through our actions to people, to our planet. When we recognize this, that is when love becomes our legacy.”


Justin: Wow, I'm detecting a theme here. This is what we've been talking about. and of course she puts it in the most beautiful way. Oh, about, that was very nourishing. Thank you, thank you for that.

Alright, so the last question is about kids and I ask this question every podcast because for parents it gets exhausting and we can say, “Oh my god, kids, you know?” And so let's just end the podcast by celebrating kids. So what's your favorite thing about kids?


Nadia: I think their resilience and their desire for play and having fun. I'm always in awe of kids, like they're so quick to be creative and not feel self-conscious about not having the right answer. And I, you know, I'm not sure when, where or when we lost that or, or why we see it as a negative and I've been even working on that, like as a theme for myself to have like just allowing creativity to flow. You know, because I feel inspired by kids who are just like, “I'm just going to try it. Let's see what happens.” You know? And not and not do things with fear. That's what I love about kids.


Justin: I love that yes, if we all can just cultivate that in ourselves, yeah, beautiful.

Nadia, thank you so much. This was really fantastic and I can't wait to have you back on.


Nadia: Awesome, thank you so much for having me. Thank you, Justin.


Justin: Hey, thanks for listening to The Family Thrive podcast. If you like what you heard, please subscribe, tell two friends, and head on over to Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts and give us a review. We're so grateful you've chosen to join us on this Family Thrive journey.

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