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Episode 90: Communication and Breaking the Cycle of Judgment with Dr. Betsy Chung

Brief summary of show:

How do we break the cycle of judgment?

Can we transform the way we communicate, even if it differs from how we were raised?

Why do we, as adults, care so deeply about what our parents and elders think – even all these years later?

These are the questions we’re answering in this episode with Dr. Betsy Chung.

Dr. Betsy Chung is a clinical psychologist in southern California. She has over 10 years experience as a mental health clinician. She specializes in helping people achieve self-esteem and healthy relationships by helping them make sense of their life experiences.

In addition to providing psychotherapy in private practice, Dr. Chung maintains a professional social media account on Instagram under the handle: LoveAlways.DrBetsy, and contributes her expertise to various media outlets including "Tyla on TikTok", and "Share Care, Inc." and has been featured in magazines like "Cosmopolitan", "The Candidly" and "Women's Health" magazine.

Listen in as we talk about:

  • [2:50] Why adults seek the approval of their parents and elders

  • [5:30] Tips to help our kids not take on our own trauma as parents

  • [12:05] Why parents judge each other and how to separate our own perceptions

  • [22:20] Two important things for adults to be able to do

  • [27:45] Setting our kids up to make their own decisions

  • [29:55] Feelings flipchart

Notes from Natalie:

Connect with Dr. Betsy Chung

Connect with Me

View Transcript for this Episode

[00:00:00] Natalie: Betsy, this is a topic I've really been looking forward to because I have a lot of women in particular, and I'm sure men too, but for some reason, women tell me this, that they are still seeking the approval of their elders or their parents. And I know this is something you specialize in, you spend a lot of time on, why do we do that?

And let's get into some ways that we can get over that. If we can

[00:00:24] Dr. Betsy Chung: go. Yeah, definitely. Um, like you said, one of my favorite topics, um, what I, what I like to do usually when it comes to talking about our adult difficulties is I like going back to childhood because I really feel like I, I believe that.

Everything like we are all products of the way that we were raised. And this isn't just saying that it's all the parent's fault or anything like that, but you know, those were our earliest relationships. And so, you know, if you really think about it, when we're born as little infants, we are completely helpless and power.

So we need to rely on our parents to take care of us and feed us and help us with survival. And so infants, all humans, we're born with this internal system that helps us, you know, that warns us when there's something that is threatening to our lives. So if you think about it as infants, our. Our and our primary caregivers, they are actually our survival source, right?

Like, infants can't feed themselves, they can't, you know, walk and take care of themselves. They can't do anything. So for, for infants, they need to be able to be close to their caregivers in order to feel safe and secure. And so when they feel any kind of a separation or maybe even, um, Rejection or, or abandonment or anything like that.

It triggers these very uncomfortable feelings and it causes us as little, you know, even as little kids, to try to seek a way to survive. Mm-hmm. . So basically, you know, like approval seeking for little kids is very, very important because when parents show love, show affection, when they praise their children, those are all signs to a child.

You're doing the right thing that you're, you're, you know that your mom and your dad love you and will continue to be there for you. Um, and so, you know, when a child feels that kind of affection from their parents, they feel safe, and then over time they're able to kind of do that for themselves and then they grow up to be adults that don't need to seek the approval of other people because they trust enough in themselves.

However, when children grow, Um, being raised by parents, and this is a lot related to, um, emotional maturity of parents. Um, you know, how emotional, emotionally intelligent a parent is, um, meaning that, do these parents understand their emotions and how their emotions impact the way they act and how they interact with their children.

So, for example, if you have a little kid who, let's say, you know, Hanging out at home at the end. And then at the end of the day, mom comes home very tired from work if mom can't separate her own tiredness from how she treats her child. Meaning if the child, let's say, is excited for mom to come home and mom's exhausted and you know, and, and she just wants a minute, but she doesn't know how to communicate that to the child, and, and mom says like, leave me alone.

Don't touch me. the child, they're gonna take that as a source of rejection. Mm-hmm. , you know, like, mom, mom's mad at me. I don't know why mom is mad at me. So, you know, that feels really uncomfortable for them. So it makes them really want to do something in order to repair that relationship with their parents in order to get to that.

That feeling of security again. So really when we talk about parental approval, we're, we're really talking about how secure do I feel in my relationship with my parents and how authentic and vulnerable can I be, you know, in, in gaining this, uh, you know, in and I guess like being myself in order to gain this, this love and security.

Yeah, from my.

[00:04:26] Natalie: I have so many thoughts about everything you just said, and one is that as a parent, I, I wanna talk about how we can heal ourselves, but I also wanna talk, because I often think about with three kids, I don't wanna do that to them. I don't ever want them to feel like they have to seek my approval.

As an adult, I've done the best I can to get them into adulthood, so, What I'm hearing you say is that communication and understanding, I've had a bad day. This is not about you, for instance, I just need to sit and have a couple minutes to myself and then I wanna spend time with you. Like communication is really key.

So give me some more tips as parents that we can work with our kids to be sure we're not developing that for them later in their.

[00:05:12] Dr. Betsy Chung: Sure. Yeah, I think that it's really real. I mean, just even what you're saying right now, to be able to recognize that there's a difference between our intentions and what our children.

you know, take in mm-hmm. and, and being able to kind of recognize that is so, so important because we might not be communicating very accurately what we're actually feeling. Mm-hmm. . And so for parents to be able to even be aware and maybe sometimes even walking away from an incident and, and maybe even feeling bad, right?

It's like, oh God, I just, I, I just, I, I think that I just said something really mean to my child right now, and I didn't mean. And to be able to go back and have a talk with your child and say like, Hey, you know, I don't, I don't like the way that that. You know, how did that make you feel? I'm worried that, you know, you feel like you did something wrong.

You didn't do anything wrong. I was tired, and I'm sorry, I shouldn't have spoken to you that way. Right? Because children, they're always watching and they're always trying to make sense of the world. So if the parents don't provide them with an explanation of what's going on and don't provide them with language or even space to, to kind of trial and error in communicating the way that they feel, then children start to kind of make their own sense of what's going on, and that almost becomes their truth.

So if you kind of think about, even, even this, this example of, um, you know, a a, a child that might get the wrong message from their parents, that might become their truth. . Mm-hmm. , right? Is that like, I can't bother people. I don't know when it's okay to approach somebody. Um, so in their adulthood, you know, if they're in a relationship, um, they might not wanna bother their partners.

You know, I don't wanna burden my partners. I don't wanna upset my partners if I need something. So I'm just gonna try to figure out how to meet. On my own, you know, so there's just so many messages that we wanna make sure that, you know, of course there's no such thing as a perfect parent. Literally no such thing as a perfect parent.

You can take even the most educated, you know, um, educated child therapist, you know, and there's. There's no such thing as a parent that's not gonna make mistakes, especially that they also don't have control over what their children are exposed to. Mm-hmm. . And so being able as a parent to also be able to trust that, you know, it's okay to make mistakes.

But self-reflect, you know, think about how you're coming off to your kids. Think about the kinds of messages that you might be sending them, and it's okay to correct those messages. Yeah. You know, so I think that that's, that's really huge. Um, along with that, I guess another tip is it's okay to apologize to your children.

I feel like, you know, Something that can be hard for some parents, especially in certain cultures. For me, for instance, I grew up in a very traditional Chinese background, and so it was really all about, you know, the, the parents or the authorities, they're the ones that are going to work taking care of the children.

They're more wise, and while there is some truth to that, you know, it's the, the, the, I think the, the, the part of that that can be hard sometimes for children is. , there's this belief then that that adults are superior to children, that adults needs are superior to children. That adults never make mistakes.

They're perfect. And so when adults show up imperfectly, and you know, for the children, they don't see that as imperfect. They see that as. , right? Like that's normal to be treated that way. That's normal for people to speak to me in a certain way when they're tired versus being able to kind of recognize like, oh, you know, like I don't, I don't like the way that I was talked to in that situation.

And so no wonder I feel the way that I do. Yeah, like it's, it's more validating when parents are able to apologize and acknowledge mistakes that they make to their children.

[00:09:27] Natalie: Well, I think it's a, an incredible, um, gift to be able to tell your kids, I don't, I don't like the way that happened or I apologize, and that is not easy for, for a lot of people.

But let's, let's, uh, turn it now to talking about us as adults and maybe we're just realizing because of the. Our kids are reacting, or maybe we're just realizing because you feel judged by a parent for a decis