Ashley: I am very excited today. I have Poonam Bhuchar joining me. She is a lawyer and author of Safe from the Pain out of the darkness into a life that’s free. Happy and good. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Poonam: Thank you for having me, Ashley. I’m so excited to be on. Thank you for the opportunity.
A: Can you tell us about your book?
P: Sure. I basically wrote this book because I spent decades of my life carrying emotional pain and not addressing it. When I look back at my life and how I overcame a lot of those emotional traumas, I came up with this safe method on how to process emotional pain. I wanted to share it with the world because I wanted people to be able to get the help that they needed. Now I view my book as a movie, right? Some people like it, a movie that they watch in other people don’t. So it resonates with some people, it may not resonate with others. For me, the purpose of writing the book was I used to struggle with the fact that even if I went to therapy I’d get an appointment once every 10 days and maybe for an hour and by the time I warmed up, it would be time for my session to be over with. I really couldn’t figure out a way to move forward. And a lot of the times I found that I wasn’t really being truthful with the therapist. So the therapist can’t really help me when I’m not being truthful about everything that’s happened in my life. I felt that really the healing starts with us and our journey from within. I wanted to put pen to paper as to my method of working through emotional trauma or at least beginning to address it so that we could move forward in life.
A: I love that it gives people an opportunity to connect with your story and maybe relate to it. Cause like you said, it can be really challenging or feel very intimidating when you’re sitting down and doing that traditional talk therapy of being vulnerable and trusting that person in the moment. And then it does become one of those things that, you know, all of a sudden you do start to warm up and then your 50 minutes is up and. Then it does become a bit of a setback to regain where you had left off the following week.
P: Right. And I think part of the thing is, at least for me was right. We go to therapy a lot of the times because we are feeling fearful, insecure, confused, and many of us worry about how the therapist is gonna judge us right. Does the therapist judge us as well? So we may withhold information and until we really work through it. I’m not saying that my method alone fixes everything, but I think this in conjunction with therapy or other forms of healing do make it more effective because you are being truthful with yourself.
LEARNING THE SAFE METHOD
A: I love the fact that mental health and therapy and all of those kind of topics are becoming. More mainstream and there’s way less stigma about saying: “I need help. I’m vulnerable. I’ve experienced a trauma”, but I do like the fact that it isn’t a one mold fits all. So whether it’s you’re reading other people’s stories and finding common ground and feeling safe and to go to a talk therapy or that you’re looking for. The wide variety of therapies that are out there. Now I know that you mentioned the safe method. Do you mind telling us as per your book, what that acronym stands for?
P: Sure. So safe. I refer to being emotionally safe. The S stands for stop and accept that. You’re in pain. The A stands for accept responsibility for where you are. And the F I refer to three different types of forgiveness, forgiveness of the person you perceive that’s hurt you. Forgiveness of the fact that you feel the universe has dealt you a crappy set of cards, and most importantly, forgiveness of ones self and E I refer to embrace yourself and embrace your journey. So the embrace yourself is we’re all very happy to accept the good things about us and the accolades that we get. But part of self-acceptance is your flaws and the mistakes that you’ve made. It’s important to embrace that in order to be able to understand who you are and what you want, and be able to go on and manifest the life that you want.
A: I think that would really be the hardest step because we are so hard on ourself. And for whatever reason, self acceptance or self forgiveness can be so challenging.
P: It was one of the most difficult things for me, because as you said, we are hard on ourselves. We have a lot of negative talk in our heads that can sometimes take over our whole being. It is one of the hardest things to do. But I think for me, when I went through those methods, when I look back at it, that was the process. When you stop and you actually accept that you are in pain, That’s the first step to healing because you’re not running on the hamster wheel. You’re not pretending it didn’t happen. You’re not acting really busy. You’re actually taking the time out to spend with yourself and accept that you are in pain. And personally, I spent three or four decades denying that I was in pain pain from sexual assault, divorce, financial loss. Loss of my health and I just kept going, cuz I didn’t wanna accept it. Ultimately there is scientific proof that when you don’t accept, you are in pain or your emotional pain, it takes on physical manifestations in your life.
ACCEPTING YOU’RE IN PAIN
A: That’s a very important point to highlight for people if they are. Sort of in the thick of it is that all of this isn’t a speedy process that it isn’t, that something traumatic happens and, you know, six months later, you’re all perfect. It really can take a considerable amount of time to do that work, to get to a place where you feel like you’re on the other side of it a little bit more.
P: Right. I think that’s one of the things Ashley, that a lot of us fail to recognize, right? We recognize that to work out and stay fit, you have to put in effort. To Excel in your job, you have to put in effort. To ride a bike, you have to put in effort. But for some reason, the most important thing in our lives, which is ourselves; we tend to ignore. I don’t mean: be selfish. But what I do mean is that our wellbeing is the pivot of all the relationships in our life, right? Whether it’s family relationships or personal relationships or work relationships. And if we are not wholesome or we are not, well, then we perceive those other relationships from that negative standpoint of view.
A: Well in, in some ways too, it kind of always leads back to childhood where we convince ourselves about different things, whether we perceive it to be true with the mental capacity that we have at that moment. And then we do kind of repeat those behaviors or continue that message forward until we’re at a place where we feel that we can work through it.
P: I a hundred percent agree. You take that baggage or perception with you throughout your life. Until each of us does our homework with ourselves. I think we are gonna continue to create what I like to call generational trauma. If I don’t fix what is happening in my life, it is gonna impact my kids.
A: Which is such a terrible feeling because as parents we never want to do that, but it can be so ingrained in us that it’s like, we don’t even realize that we’re doing it.
P: Right. Absolutely. When we start to create that relationship with ourselves and as I call it honeymooning with ourselves in no perverse way, but that’s when we actually start to understand ourselves, start to understand our triggers and start to work through those things. Whereas if we continue on this hamster wheel, pretending nothing’s happening, we actually do end up hurting and impacting unknowingly. A lot of people around us.
A: Does your book focus on specific types of trauma?
P: No. So the first half of the, my book discusses. As my kids say 10% of my trauma in my life. I was very hesitant to put a lot of it down, but in order for me to be raw and share my true story and help people, I needed to be vulnerable. So the first half of the book discusses that the second half of the book discusses the safe method. There’s a chapter on each of the S A F and E and how I worked through it and what it took me to recognize working through it. It took a lot of journaling. It took a lot of time. It took a lot of effort. It meant that I spent a lot of time alone with myself, trying to figure things out and it covers all kinds of trauma. So I’ve basically I’ve spoken about this at events. I’m in the midst of putting together workshops and things like that. And one of the things, one of the feedbacks that I always get is that people like that, it’s not just for women. It’s for women, men, and young adults, anybody that is suffering any kind of emotional trauma, no matter how small or how big, if the method resonates with you you can use it in your day to day life.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE TRAUMA OF TOXIC MASCULINITY
A: Well, and I love that it’s for all people, because as much as we do tend to have these discussions about emotional intelligence with women, I feel like in a lot of cases, men, aren’t given the same space to be vulnerable and to have these conversations and to admit that they’ve been through trauma as well.
P: Well, I think it’s time to acknowledge that, right? A lot of men, especially in my generation, grew up with, you know, don’t cry, don’t show your emotions, pull up your socks. And if we deal with 50% of the female population healing, doesn’t take place until the men are given the same space as well.
A: Yeah, absolutely. I really do hope with the next generation that toxic masculinity is sort of being, put to bed and that it really is that all humans, we do have similar feelings and that it can’t be just that we justify men being angry and women being everything, but angry.
P: Right. And women being over dramatic
A: Yes. And all of these other toxic stereotypes that we put on each other and really let ourselves get vulnerable and get real and get authentic with how we’re thinking and feeling about things.
P: I a hundred percent agree. I think if each of us in my ideal world, if each of us work on each other, we’d have very few judgments about one another and let each other live in peace
A: absolutely. If we’ll just get out of our own ways.
A: Now you grew up and became a lawyer. How did you find becoming a lawyer helped you reclaim some of your power back and helped with your healing?
P: It’s really weird. It wasn’t until I wrote the book that it actually clicked with me why I became a lawyer. I always knew at the age of 13, I wanted to be a lawyer. I thought it was because my parents watched a lot of Perry, Mason movies, and we used to watch ’em with them and I used to love them. But as I started to write the book, I started to realize that things that I got involved in charitable stuff, always fighting for the underdog. I started to realize. That perhaps really subconsciously I wanted to be a lawyer because I didn’t have a voice when I was younger and this was my way of having a voice. I often find that when I’m helping people resolve their problems or I’m helping people find a solution that in essence, I’m helping myself. Because I didn’t have a voice and I worked to have a voice and now I can be a voice for other people.
A: I love that. It’s very beautiful,
P: Thank you
DEPRESSION COMES IN MANY FORMS
A: Now for people that are in the thick of their trauma, that maybe haven’t started practicing the safe method. What are. The tips or some of the therapies that you would recommend people consider?
P: I think the first one is to be honest with yourself and recognize that you’re in pain and pain can. Come in all different forms, right? So pain can be you’re crying. Pain can be you’re upset, you’re angry. There are triggers. That there’s a pattern of being angry. There’s a pattern of crying. Pain can be you’re addicted to something. Pain can be abuse in a different form. I think it’s important. For somebody that does feel that inner turmoil where they know that something’s not right, but they don’t wanna look at it. I think it’s important for everybody to sit down with themselves and just. Say out loud. I acknowledge I’m in pain because it’s very empowering versus hiding away from the pain. The pain’s gonna catch up with you. That pain is gonna reach its destination, whether it’s through an outburst or whether it’s through physical manifestations, it is gonna reach. It’s gonna come out of you and bust. In some shape or form, and it’s better that we acknowledge it and we become empowered and accept that we are in pain so that we can then take the steps to do something about it.
A: We really do, whether we feel like it or not. We really do have the power to work through it and reclaim some of that healing back.
P: What’s happened has happened. You can’t change that, but you can change how you live your life and how you live with the things that have happened to you and how you move forward.
A: What would you point out or highlight to somebody if they have maybe wanted to dismiss the idea that they are even experiencing trauma? I feel like a lot of the times we have this idea that our pain is less than somebody else’s or we kind of justify our pain. What are some things that people can actually recognize are maybe a symptom of having stress or emotional pain in their life?
P: So, I mean, I was a one at denying that I was in pain. A because to me, depression didn’t look like the life that I had. Right. You growing up, you have a vision of what depression should look like, or perhaps the kind of people that are depressed. You don’t think that somebody that from the outside pretty much has everything. is allowed to be depressed. I think one of the most important things in accepting it for me was it was too late. I started to have physical manifestations in my life of health issues. I had strokes, I had other health issues that literally brought me to my knees for a while. I tell everybody that before you get to that, just take 15 minutes a day, make it a routine, put it in your calendar, get up 15 minutes earlier and just spend that time with yourself. You will feel when you are off, you will feel when something’s not right. When it’s not right, give yourself the permission to address it. It’s when we don’t give ourselves that time. When we just jump in the car, go from a to B and the excuse is, oh, I’ve got young kids, I’ve got this, but we make time for all the other things that we need to. I say, if for now, everyone takes even in the beginning five to 10 minutes for themselves and just sits with themselves, whether that’s with a cup of coffee in the morning, no interruptions. You’ll get to know yourself. You’ll get to know whether something’s right or something doesn’t feel right. And then you delve in and you start to acknowledge that. Yes. You know what, something’s not right. And I need to accept it and figure out how to fix.
A: Acceptance is such a major part.
LEARNING SIMPLE SELF CARE
A: What does self care look like for you today?
P: Self care for me is getting up in the morning. Meditating. It can be as simple as making sure I take my medication on time. It’s journaling when I need to, it’s taking the time out to do the things that make me happy as well as make everybody else happy. So I will schedule one or two times a week. Something that is just for me, whether it’s going to see a friend or it’s going to an art exhibition. Or it’s doing a podcast or it’s, working on my workbook. It’s scheduling things that make me happy that make me a better individual for the people around me.
A: I think that that is such an important thing to do because we don’t as moms or as women. Sometimes it’s easy to block all of our time off for everybody else. Like you’ll almost see it in the movies or TV where they have that gigantic calendar and post it notes everywhere and often. We forget to add ourselves to the calendar, add our post-it note that I think it is really important to remember that it’s okay, it’s not selfish to take time for yourself. Whether that’s, you know, doing an exercise class, whether it’s watching your favorite show, whether it’s getting out in nature, it is so important to give yourself the freedom to. Be your own person.
P: What you say is so apt, because I will tell you as ironic as it is when I was married. I had it ingrained in me that it was very selfish for me to take time out for myself. Right. I was either serving my husband or my kids, or, you know, everyone else, but me and. It really did take a toll on me. Ironically, after I got divorced, I realized that I need to take one day out a week, whether that’s to go meet my girlfriends or do whatever I need to do to spend that time and give me that adult conversation and have the freedom to do what I want. I found, I felt really guilty in the beginning doing it, even though my kids were in bed sleeping, but I felt really guilty leaving them with a babysitter and going out and doing this. I will tell you I really do believe it’s it made me a better parent.
A: I definitely relate to that. It’s like we tell ourselves we should and should in a lot of ways, sets us up for failure. It’s we should be planning the next activity for the kids, or we should be watching them sleep and, you know, doing all of the things. And most of the time, our kids are so much happier when we’re happy. Or if we leave them with a babysitter, we leave them with a family friend. They get to create that memory, or they are so stoked and excited about what they are doing, that it really doesn’t even factor into them what right. We’re not doing.
P: And it makes them forge relationships with other people as well. It’s healthy, but I think a lot of us have this definition of what a good mom is right. She has to spend 100% of her time with her kids and dedicate her entire life to the kids. I actually, now that my kids have gone to college, I actually am thankful that I have a life outside of my kids, because I know so many people who were so involved in their kids’ lives, that when the kids left, they don’t know what to do with themselves.
LIVE FOR YOURSELF TOO, NOT JUST THE KIDS
A: Absolutely. I think as mothers, we almost forget about that, that parenthood is really such a small window of time in the traditional hands on. We have to be responsible for everything mindset that it really goes so fast that all of a sudden, like my daughter’s 15 and it’s all of a sudden, she’s like back off, leave me alone. I want my own life. Yeah. That it does become a okay. Well, what do I do with myself? And I can just imagine the empty nesters of the really. Strong helicopter parents, that they would suffer from trauma and depression just in losing that role.
P: Yeah. Because that’s what you’ve streamlined your life to be. It’s really funny, but just yesterday I heard a statistic that’s so crazy. My kids are 19 and 21, so I got a really big jolt, but it was that by the time your kid is 18 years old, you would’ve spent 93% of your time with your child. Meaning that’s the most amount of time you are ever gonna spend with your child. I’m like, oh, so the next 25, 30 years, I’ve only got 7% of that left with my kids. This is crazy.
A: It’s like mind boggling and heartbreaking all at the same time. It is. Because we really do have to sort of mentally be able to prepare ourselves , for that shift when we become grandparents or we become that, weekly phone call or whatever that is. We really do have to know who we are and continue to fall in love with ourselves.
P: Yeah. And I think it’s healthy for the kids too. I became an empty nester. Last year, August, I dealt with my pain in a different way using my safe method. I dealt with my pain and I’ve gotten on with my life. I’m busy doing a million different things and I miss my kids every single day, but it’s a much healthier relationship. I don’t need them sitting by my side to have a healthy relationship
A: I know the people with small children won’t necessarily understand this, but it’s that freedom of them not needing us also does open the door to this next beautiful chapter where it’s like, we can look back and be so thankful that we’ve raised functional young adults, but it’s that fun of like, I could go shopping with my daughter now. It’s almost like friends where you’re building that relationship where I don’t have to be like, hold my hand in the store. Where are you? Constant fear. It really can be that relaxing, getting to know them on a deeper, different level.
P: I agree. Each phase has its joys and miseries there is something very nice about them getting older.
A: And really understanding that the teen years, or maybe the early adults hood, that there is some misery that it’s almost like repeating in some ways the toddler phase, just watching them develop. In certain ways. Cause I don’t know, but you,
P: I like that analogy. The tantrums they just happened
A: The teenage tantrums. Oh my gosh. Now you have referenced that you are divorced. I’m divorced as well for somebody who is. Maybe in the thick of that, are there some things in hindsight that you would recommend to families so that their divorce does go more smoothly or doesn’t create a toxic generational trauma?
P: Yeah. I mean, this is a very funny conversation in this certain way, cuz I actually do some family law a lot less than I used to. But I was just advising a client this morning and I was just like, listen: “when the kids are younger, whether you like it or not, you both have to be on the same page with your kids, right?” Whether you are apart or together and if you don’t learn to communicate, as the kids are growing up, then the kids do suffer. The kids become pawns in that divorce. I have seen people. Kids teenagers as they get older, resent their parents for making it such a hostile environment that they want nothing to do with their parents. And then what’s the point of anything? In terms of all the work that you do for the kids and pay for their college and everything. If you don’t have that relationship with the kids, was that animosity worth it? So I say at the time of the divorce, as hard as it. As angry as you may be, don’t let that color or cloud the kid’s judgment of the other parent. The first thing that I did by no means did I do everything perfectly when I got divorced, I really didn’t. I was stressed out. I was miserable. But one of the things that I did do correctly was I recognized very quickly that I can’t be there for my kids emotionally when I can’t figure out my own emotions. So I did put them in therapy immediately. So they had a neutral and safe space to talk about what they were feeling, not talk about it to me. I mean, they were free to talk to me about anything, but I couldn’t help them process that pain because I hadn’t processed my own pain. So I think a lot of parents when they are getting divorced, lose sight of the fact that it’s not just you going through it, your kids have emotions and I don’t care how young they are. They do have emotions and they need a safe space to be able to empty out those emotions. I find that a lot of parents are afraid to do it because don’t wanna be judged or they don’t wanna hear the horrible things the kids have to say about their parents, but I think it’s important for the kids to have the freedom, to say that.
KIDS NEED A SAFE NEUTRAL SPACE TO SHARE EMOTIONS
A: I really like that. I think it’s, as far as kids go, it’s, don’t always go to the problem for the solution when the parents are going through it, they’re not necessarily gonna be clear minded enough to really have that conversation. Or if your kids are really, really little, you just may not have the tools to actually meet them mentally, where they are to be able to create that safe space in the moment. So it’s maybe looking for a play therapy or a horse therapy or something that they can connect with.
P: Right. Right. I agree.
A: because I know when you don’t deal with it, or if you never get on the same page and you parallel parent, instead of co-parent, then it’s like, when your teenager gets to that certain age, then it’s also that they play you against each other and kind of create this game of, well, you don’t talk to dad so I can tell you whatever, because I know that I’m never gonna get caught anyways.
P: A hundred, a hundred percent, no, they will find the loophole wherever they can and take advantage of it.
A: So it’s definitely, it’s dealing with it when they’re little so that it doesn’t come back in multiple ways to kind of bite you in the end
P: I have actually a very funny story about what my daughter did, when I got divorced, my daughter was five and my son was gonna turn seven, but she used to go to Montessori school in which they had to have the parents sign. These checklists of these to-do lists that they had to do every month. It was like helping around the house and various other things. So I used to sign my sons and I remember when my daughter used to go, I used to say, Hey, did you get that slip that needs to be signed? So she says to me, oh, we don’t have to do it anymore. And I believed her and. I go to parent teacher conference and the teacher’s showing me all these signed slips of the work that she did. I was just sitting there and I’m like, who signed these? And it was her dad that signed it and he thought that she was doing the work at home and, you know, she would do little bits and pieces at his house. He thought that she did everything and just signed it. That was a time that he and I were not communicating very well. . She took full advantage. She got away with eight months of this.
A: On one hand, it’s like, you can’t really blame her. And that’s awesome that she had the initiative, I guess, to kind of find the loophole, but it is really those things that kids can create those windows and really manipulate the system.
P: I think that’s why it’s so important for the kids to have the freedom, to say what they want. I know, you know, in my house to a certain degree, the kids have had that freedom and there was some tough years in between, but you know, now we’re all good and healthy. I think everybody has to have that freedom of expression and be able to work through their emotional pain so that we create healthy kids emotionally as well. And get rid of this so-called generational trauma.
A: Because unfortunately we can tell them at the end of the day, do this, do that. But if we mirror a different behavior, they’re gonna follow our actions, not necessarily our words. So it is really important that we’re aware of what behaviors we’re teaching them.
P: I think it’s so important because what’s that phrase action speak louder than words. It really, yes, really is true.
A: It definitely is. It’s funny that your daughter pulled that with the homework. My daughter pulled it with Instagram, where she had let her dad sign her up for an Instagram account. And then didn’t tell me, and I think year and a half before she was posting something that a little kid in her school ratted her out for that I found out about the secret Instagram. So they really will, even when you’re like, my kid would never it’s really, they definitely will.
FIGHTING DIVORCED PARENTS CREATES LOOPHOLES
P: If there are two parents fighting, those loopholes become bigger and bigger. That’s why it’s important to make sure that even if you are going through a divorce, you learn to communicate.
A: Yeah. Because it’s a family is forever. Whether you love your ex or you hate them, they are still gonna be your family for better or worse until the day that you all die.
P: I as whether I like that or not. I agree.
A: You had talked about the different workshops that you are planning on doing. Will that be online or will that be in person or both?
P: Both. I’m open to doing it both. I’ve been asked by some nonprofits and I’ve been asked by people individually. I have done some one on one life coaching and I will continue to do so, but the workshops, I can do both ways online and I can do them in person. I obviously prefer in person, but I can do them online too.
A: I think it’s nice to have the flexibility, especially too. If you are looking at connecting with people in different parts of the world.
P: Yeah, no, absolutely.
A: Thank you so much for having this conversation with me today. If people are looking for you online, where can they find you?
P: So Ashley, thank you for having me on, it’s been an absolute pleasure to speak to you and have this conversation. My book. Sold on Amazon [currently on sale]. I also did the audible on Amazon. It can be found on bonds and noble. It’s also on Kindle. If anybody wants to connect with me, you can do so through my website, which is www.emotionallysafe.com.