Episode 66

Published on:

19th Mar 2024

Conscious Healing at Work with Ashish Kothari and Susan Schmitt Winchester

Do you find yourself getting upset at work over small things? Your past experiences might be influencing you. 

The cycle of reacting to workplace scenarios with heightened emotions like frustration or anxiety is a sign of being caught in an unconscious pattern. This can affect your professional relationships and personal well-being, creating a barrier to success and satisfaction in your career.

Conscious healing at work is a great way to deal with this. It helps you understand and control these feelings, and we’ll explore this further in this episode of the HAPPINESS SQUAD Podcast with Ashish Kothari and Susan Schmitt Winchester.

Susan Schmitt Winchester is the Senior HR Advisor for Applied Materials and the former Senior Vice President and CHRO of the same company. With over 36 years in corporate HR, she specializes in creating inclusive cultures and driving company performance. 

Susan is also the CEO and Founder of Healing at Work and the author of "Healing at Work: A Guide to Using Career Conflicts to Overcome Your Past and Build the Future You Deserve." 

A fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources, she serves on several HR boards and committees, including the HR Policy Association and the University of Michigan's College of Engineering Leadership Advisory Board.

Things you will learn from this episode:

  • The Journey of Self-Discovery and Self-Acceptance in Professional Environments
  • Understanding ASDP (Adult Survivor of a Damaged Past) and Its Impact in the Workplace
  • The Role of Childhood Experiences in Shaping Adult Coping Mechanisms
  • Transforming from an Unconscious Wounded Career Path to a Conscious Healing Career Path

Take the first step towards a better work life. Explore conscious healing and see the difference.



Hardwired for Happiness: 9 Proven Practices to Overcome Stress and Live Your Best Life.https://www.amazon.com/Hardwired-Happiness-Proven-Practices-Overcome/dp/1544534655


Ashish Kothari: Hi, Susan. Welcome to the show. Such a pleasure to have you with us.

Susan Winchester: Hi, Ashish. It's nice to be with you. Thank you so much for inviting me.

Ashish Kothari: The pleasure is all ours. You have such an amazing background and a rich life. We're not going to be in any dearth of stories and helpful tips for those who are looking to flourish individually or create flourishing at work.

talk about your experience in:

At that moment, you realized you could have a very different experience through your career. So tell us about that. Let's jump right in there.

Susan Winchester: Sure. So just to set the stage for who I am, I feel like my middle name is human resources because I've been in the corporate world for 36 years, and 16 of those years I've been privileged to be in the chief HR officer role for two well-known public companies.

I probably have done just about every job in the HR organization, both inside the U.S. and outside. It's been an amazing career. I could not be happier that I've been able to work for so many great companies like Applied Materials, Rockwell Automation, the Kellogg company.

I've worked in lots of industries, including at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and did some management consulting. I've had an unbelievable set of experiences and have been surrounded by teachers, leaders, advisors, mentors. I've learned a unique way of looking at the world through the lens of HR.


The team I was joining in had a reputation, they called themselves the pirates. They were incredibly talented, very aggressive, and took no prisoners. They had a strong personality and persona within the company, consisting of nine men from different parts of the world.

My predecessor wasn't in the role very long and left under unclear circumstances. She actually died of a heart attack not long after she left. I had never been in a big HR partner role like I was stepping into.

I remember my very first meeting with this group. It was a four-hour meeting, and the president was asking for feedback and updates. Towards the end, he asked if there were any other updates. I said I had some important HR things to share.

One of the men stood up, looked at me directly, slammed his notebook shut, and walked out of the room before I could talk. I was crushed, and another one of his colleagues followed him. I felt small. For 30 of my 36 years in my career, my accomplishments were fueled by my own limiting belief about myself that I wasn't good enough.

So here I am, stepping into this group of leaders who had no time for me. The next 11 months of my life were really tough. I cried a lot, drank a lot of chardonnay to take the edge off the anxiety, and felt like nothing I did would prove that I was valuable.

I was working with an executive coach at the time and told her I was leaving. She suggested before resigning, to ensure I didn't have any behavior patterns fueling my current situation. She had me do an exercise that was life-changing.

She asked me to think of the nine men and pick out the four who were the hardest on me. Then, she asked me to imagine what animal they would see me as. I realized they saw me as a little golden retriever puppy dog, wanting them to pat me on the head and tell me I was doing great.

Then, she had me describe each of them as an animal. One was a grizzly bear, one a wolf with long fangs, one a gorilla, and the other a hyena, circling me, ready to go in for the kill.

It was a moment where I realized I was creating this whole thing. My neediness for them to validate me, my unconscious belief that it was others' job, particularly men in authority, to determine my value.

My job was to be as perfect and people-pleasing as possible to get that validation. When she helped me realize this insight, that I was creating an energy force pushing them away, it was life-changing.

It helped me realize that my reactions, triggered responses, and feeling poorly about myself were all my property. I had to stop looking to them to validate me. I could not be successful as a vice president of HR if I was constantly giving away all my power.

That was a major turning point on my journey to realize that I own this, it's my accountability. I ended up working with these guys for four and a half more years and am still friends with many of them to this day.

Ashish Kothari: And if you were to describe them now from your eyes, what animals would they represent now, Susan? And how would they see you?

Susan Winchester: That's a really good question. I think they would see me in a very different form of an animal, a stronger animal.

One of the things I worked hard on was not trying to change my personality, because part of my nature is to value relationships and want people to know I do good work. But I needed to take on a stronger energy.

So I don’t know if they would agree with lioness, but I actually started to practice stepping in when I felt nervous and worried about them judging me. I would imagine myself as a lioness. I don't know if they would pick that, but that would be my desired outcome.

As for them, the grizzly bear and I became very good friends. He was more like a cuddly koala bear. The wolf was probably always going to be a wolf, that's just his temperament and personality. He doesn't care what anybody thinks about him. He just says and does what he wants.

The hyena, I took on pretty directly on something, so he would not be a hyena anymore. He would still be a strong animal, but not one that would be going on the attack. Maybe more of an animal that's strong but not necessarily out there trying to attack everything.

And the gorilla still shows up in this world as a gorilla. He still intimidates a lot of people, but he doesn't intimidate me anymore. When you start to take back your own power and work on your relationship with yourself, you become much more aware as a leader, and the size of the monster starts to get much smaller.

Ashish Kothari: Now, I love that you're at first with such wonder and sharing. Thank you. Not a lot of people feel comfortable right away dipping into feeling not enough and that being the driving fuel.

The second piece, which is so powerful in what you just said, Susan, is this notion of we see the world as we are. It isn't so much that they changed who they were, maybe you start seeing them slightly differently, but the bigger shift, even as you reflected back, was you going from a puppy golden retriever that needs to be petted and accepted, to a lioness who is comfortable, fierce, loving, and provides the predominant hunting.

Susan Winchester: That's right. Kill. Yep.

Ashish Kothari: I love that you picked the lioness because that's also something that is so powerful about a lioness. The same is true for the grizzly bear mama. You notice that it was your relationship, your own image that then starts to change. As we were describing this, I'm reminded of the Lion King. We don't have to play the roles and think one over the other. We can all coexist in the unique roles and be friends. That's where the transformation happens.

Susan Winchester: That's beautiful. I love how you said that.

Ashish Kothari: So now talk to us a little bit, you lived for 30 years feeling not enough. Share a little bit about where that comes from. That's underneath so much of your bestselling book, "Healing at Work." So talk to me a little bit about how that whole 30 years inspired you to write it and share some of the key insights there for our viewers and listeners.

her unusual experience around:

Ashish Kothari: I felt it too. It’s so beautiful. I think that is so present with you.

Susan Winchester: Thank you. I get chills when I talk about it because it's really powerful. But I had this opportunity to discover this purpose. Shortly after that, I was on the management team of the company I was working for and in a union negotiation with several of our manufacturing facilities.

life. So I started writing in:

Later on, Martha Finney helped me a lot to express myself. And we had a great partnership with the book. I just started writing some stories, some things that had happened when I was growing up. And so it was sort of over several years where I just felt like I was supposed to write down some stories.

I had done a presentation for a group in Singapore that I was working with and they'd asked me to talk about my career and I thought, well, that's going to be really boring. So I positioned it as my career went through the lens of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And as I was doing this presentation, I mean, I had a hundred people in the room, you could have heard a pin drop. And what I realized when I was putting it together was actually the bad experiences were the most helpful and educational to me to understand how I can continue to grow as a leader.

In fact, I had learned so many more things through the terrible things that happened personally and professionally that I thought it was really a message I needed to get out about the importance of going through difficult times and leveraging it for better leadership.And one of my mentors at the time said, that's what you should write about.

So I sat down in:

The things that have happened on this journey, I know God has been touching because a woman that I had written a chapter for in an HR book called HR directions, Martha Finney, I looked at her LinkedIn profile one Friday. She and I had worked together like three years before that. So she pinged me and she said we should connect and wanted to know what I was up to.

And I said I wrote this manuscript. I don't really know what to do with it. Well, she's a professional writer. She's published, written probably 30 books and very uncharacteristic of Martha. Cause she's very good at what she does. She said, I want you to send me your manuscript. And I offered to pay her cause I thought, but she said just send it to her so I sent it to her.

The Sunday morning after, she would get up at like three o'clock in the morning when she was living in Santa Fe.

That's when she liked to do her creative work and she wrote me this long email and she said, “I've been in Florida for the last three months in self seclusion at an Airbnb processing my very difficult childhood and I feel like God has been preparing me to work with you.”

And I got tears when she wrote that it was so powerful. And later that day, in the evening, I can't remember when she wrote me a note. She said all I want to know is how do you go from that background to that career? And are you open to some new ideas of positioning it?

king together since August of:

And together, she and I are just night and day as you could possibly imagine in terms of personalities. But it was, it was like magic and we spent about another two and a half years recreating Healing at Work and really getting into the science of neural plasticity and how we can actually change the neural pathways in our brain to have different thoughts.

is time. And then on March of:

And I was really afraid because I'm very vulnerable, both in the book or in my keynote or in any of the courses I've created. I'm very open about things that I've experienced. And I was really worried about professional judgment and personal judgment from my family.

And Martha recommended I meet with this woman named Celine Dacosta. And I spent a 90 minute one on one session with her. And in that session, she's my personal coach now, I love her.

In that 90 minute session, what she helped me realize and why healing at work was finally published is that my purpose for writing the book, my “why” was way bigger than my fear. And it was like, it was like somebody put armor on me and I just thought I'm opening myself up to the world because it's supposed to happen. And that's how the book ended up getting published.

Otherwise, you know, there'd be no healing at work. It was the combination of Martha and the coaching and what we created. And then Celine's guidance that got me to a place where I was comfortable, putting it out into the world.

Ashish Kothari: Thank you for sharing that, Susan. There are a couple of things that really come up with me. Susan, as you shared your story behind the premise of the book and those two events, they resonate so deeply.

In my own journey around this work, I've experienced both of those magical moments. One, you talked about in your conversation was the “why”. In the work that I do, I talk about moving From Fear to Freedom, which was the original title of my book, not Hardwired for Happiness.

I love that original title, From Fear to Freedom. I always say the fear will always win. What you need is the gravitational pull of the why, the purpose, to pull you out of that gravitational pull of fear. You need something that's stronger.

And I love that echoed in what you just said. Your “why” of why you had to write this book was way bigger than the fear of being judged.

I have a similar story about how the universe magically works to really bring the right people into your pathway and you into theirs. We have a course called Rewire, which is all about building habits around these nine Hardwired for Happiness practices.

We know what it takes to be happy, we know how to live well, but we don't practice it. In one of my Vipassana meditations, a 10-day silent meditation, I had this insight that I needed to create a course around habit formation. In fact, I got all 36 practices in one meditation.

After I got back, we were going to create it. I wrote all of them, did all the research. Three weeks before I was going to record it, I was talking to a friend about the book because he has a podcast and wanted me to speak on it. I shared with him the premise and what we were doing.

I wanted to connect him to somebody because I thought they would really enjoy each other. He had no idea I was creating this course based on the science of habit formation. He connects me to this woman, Junie Felix. Junie teaches Tiny Habits with BJ Fogg at Stanford.

Susan Winchester: Are you kidding? Oh my gosh.

Ashish Kothari: And she agreed to actually edit all of our scripts for the Rewire program three weeks before I was going to go record it.

Susan Winchester: That's amazing. That is really magical.

Ashish Kothari: So it's a little bit of that story of what you just shared, your co-author saying her whole life has been preparing her for this, and you all partnering up.

Friends, there are no happenstances, no accidents. I think if we allow ourselves to tune into so much that's happening around us and let the universe flow through us around living into our purpose, we don't have to fight our way through the world.

Susan Winchester: That is so beautifully said. The challenge that I certainly have, and I know many people have, is just slowing down long enough to listen to what a soul-inspired path looks like, as Celine would say.

The download that you got was your soul attracting that because of your desire to make a difference for people. All that knowledge came from, whatever you want to call it, I call it God or the universal role of knowledge that just downloaded to you. That's just so amazing.

And I agree, it's just slowing down long enough to connect with what the opportunities and possibilities could be. We're like magnets. When we put our intentions out there, it's amazing what starts to happen. That's how you and I met through the amazing Chantel.

Unbelievable. It was coincidental. I went to an event where she was, and we sat by each other and really connected.

Ashish Kothari: Yeah, attraction fields. In fact, friends, I will try to put this in the show notes. I'm going to put in a link to this article published four weeks ago in Popular Mechanics.

It's by a quantum physicist and a quantum biologist who are showing that this notion of a universal consciousness and each of us being manifestations of that universal consciousness, something you might hear in Buddhist texts.

They explain how quantum physics and quantum biology are starting now to prove that that very well might be the dominant hypothesis. It's an unbelievable article and it talks about how at the core of it, this whole notion of energy fields and particles and how we are all both particles and energy doesn't just show up in super cold temperatures.

We see it every day. In fact, that's at the heart of photosynthesis around how plants take light and that energy and are able to convert it into food. It's an unbelievable article for those who think, hey, what is the CHRO and this guy talking about? It's not all spiritual; science is discovering what people in spiritual worlds have known forever.

Susan Winchester: You are so right. I agree. I can't wait to read the article. Sounds fascinating.

Ashish Kothari: So I'll link that, but let's come back to your work. I was really intrigued by your talk about ASDPs, and how they show up in our work and our lives. So without telling everybody what ASDP is, I'll have them hear it directly from you.

Susan Winchester: So when Martha and I were writing the book, what we discovered through the research was really surprising to both of us. There have been some amazing researchers, like CDC and Kaiser Permanente, who did a very interesting study back in the late nineties.

They asked 17,000 people in the U.S., and I checked, and I know that at least some other countries have replicated the research. They asked these 17,000 people about a list of 10 things that can happen to a person before the age of 18, what they call the ACEs or adverse childhood experiences.

These are 10 pretty serious things like physical, emotional, sexual abuse, neglect, violence in the home, addiction, etc. They asked these people how many of these ACEs they experienced. They discovered that nearly two-thirds of that population said they had experienced at least one of those ACEs.

Growing up in a dysfunctional childhood or difficult childhood is way more common than I realized. I never thought about my childhood as dysfunctional. I minimized it, rationalized it, and stuck it away until I had a great therapist who said I needed some work on healing trauma.

When Martha and I were writing the book, we realized that those of us from dysfunctional childhoods learn different things about ourselves. We have certain beliefs about ourselves and about other people that aren't always necessarily positive. To manage our environments and try to create as much safety as possible, we adapt different strategies, behavior strategies.

My strategy, due to my dad's unpredictable rage, was people-pleasing and perfectionism. Many of us are in that category, but other people adapt different strategies. Some use anger as a way of managing a sense of safety for themselves. Others hide or try to stay under the radar or just try not to be noticed.

When Martha and I were doing this work, we found it fascinating that so many of us grew up with these challenging childhoods. We wondered what we could call ourselves. We did a little research and found there's really no name for the large number of people in this category.

There is ACOA, Adult Children of Alcoholics, which is a fabulous support group. I was a part of that for many years, but it was very focused on growing up with addiction.

So we decided to create our own acronym, ASDP, which stands for Adult Survivor of a Damaged Past.

The 'A' for adult is about realizing that when we go into our jobs today, our careers, our professional environments, we think we're going in as our fullest functioning adult selves. But often, things happening in the workplace trigger us, and we go into all of our old strategies that we used when we were little, like overachieving or people-pleasing, etc. It's recognizing that we are adults and that we can understand the impact of our past, but it doesn't have to control how we behave in our present and future.

The 'S' for Survivor is acknowledging that people can go through a lot of really terrible things. To me, that word is a word of resilience. Being an ASDP, you've got a lot of superpowers. We are really good at reading rooms, seeing around corners, and being prepared for chaos.

The 'D' for damage is about coming from a dysfunctional or damaged past, but it's also the fact that many of us are carrying deep within our hearts, damaged beliefs about ourselves that are causing a lot of pain and misery.

The 'P' for past is about recognizing that these things happened in the past, but they don't need to continue to guide us. We need to become aware of the impact of our past to break free of living what I call the unconscious wounded career path, which is a really distrustful place to be where I was for really 30 years. So that is ASDP, our own acronym we created it.

Ashish Kothari: I love it. And in fact, Susan, it's not most, it’s not just some, it's all of us. All of us, no matter how well-intentioned our parents are, have experienced moments growing up where either our parents, or someone else, may have impacted us.

Think about a moment growing up, or if you have children, think about a time you might have raised your voice to a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-year-old. I remember doing that with my son. He's about to put his finger into the power socket, and I'm like, "Don't do that!"

Now imagine for a moment, from his psyche, you are the sole provider, protector, and a giant in size. Imagine the effect of that. We take that on when we are tired or upset at work, and your child comes to you and you're like, "Just let me be." They might internalize it as, "I'm not wanted," or there is something else going on.

We all go through these human experiences. We don't have to be defined by it if we become aware of the experience and hold it with compassion versus judgment for ourselves and our parents. Recognize and become aware of your own way of coping with it.

I love Karen Horney's work, which we use a lot in our work: Move against, move away, move towards. They come from prior experiences and our coping mechanisms. It's not that one is better than the other, but it's about being choiceful about where you want to be. Past is the past. Don't let that define you.

Susan Winchester: To build on your point, you may not have experienced a big trauma, but maybe some of the smaller ones, micro traumas, can equal a big T trauma. That was one of the interesting things I learned.

You maybe didn't experience any of those 10 ACEs, but you probably still have some underlying beliefs about yourself. If for some reason you ended up with no limiting beliefs holding you back, you're probably leading some of us who are, and you're working with us.

Whether you can put your finger on a specific adverse childhood experience or not, knowing the concepts that you and I are talking about today can be invaluable to anybody. While they talked about 10 ACEs, there are so many other things that can happen to people, like bullying, poverty, discrimination, and all those micro traumas as well.

Ashish Kothari: Suffering in life, what people go through, and intergenerational trauma, as discussed by one of my deep teachers and mentors, Amy Fox and Thomas Hubel, is significant. How do we heal collective trauma?

Susan, I firmly believe 100 percent of people are ASDP, but there will be enough people who will say that's not them. Give us some tips on what might be the signs that someone is working with or they themselves are an ASDP and how does it show up?

Susan Winchester: That's a really good and important question.

The first place I would start is if you're experiencing a lot of negative emotion in the workplace because of things other people are doing, things they're not doing, things they're saying or not saying, and you're going home at the end of the day and replaying the day, beating yourself up or ruminating over what you should have done or could have done.

Painful emotions emerge, like fear, anxiety, and a constant state of hyper vigilance. Someone recently told me they feel crushing emotion from their experience every night. If you're experiencing more feelings of painful or misery emotions, like anxiety, stress, worry, or fear, that's a clue.

Another clue is paying attention to the stories you're telling yourself when things are triggering you at work. If you and I are in a meeting and you interrupt me, I would take that to mean that you didn't think what I had to say was important or smart.

We tell ourselves a lot of stories in our head, which then become our reactions and behaviors. If you find yourself overperforming, exhausted because you're trying to please everybody, or feeling like what you're doing is never enough, those are symptoms that you're probably in this group of us, the ASDPs.

The broken belief I had about myself when I was little was that everybody else got to decide my value, especially men in authority or masculine women, and my job at work was to be as people-pleasing and perfect as possible to earn that validation. If you're having thoughts like this, then you're definitely an ASDP.

One of my favorite quotes Martha and I have in the book is "damage is not doomed." I felt like a hamster on a wheel, going to work, exhausting myself, wearing myself out, beating myself up, drinking chardonnay, and doing it all again the next day.

Fortunately, I had a big wake-up call thanks to a spiritual awakening, where I realized alcohol no longer had a place in my life. This April, I will celebrate 20 years of sobriety. If you're using unhealthy self-soothing habits like gambling, drinking, food, shopping, social media, or alcohol, that's another clue. Those are some of the tips.

Ashish Kothari: I love that. I love that. You know, we have a rewire program running. In fact, just at 11 o'clock today, 11 mountains. It's 2 40. Now. Yeah. The topic that we were discussing was numbing versus nurturing strategies to coping with stress.

Susan Winchester: Perfect. I should have had a course. I would have benefited from that course.

Ashish Kothari: It's beautiful. The other one that I am just curious about is the other sign that I think exists, you tell me if you agree with it, is that there's so many people who have this fear of actually disconnecting.

At vacation, in the evenings, and they have all kinds of rationale for it. They’re like, I have to have the phone next to me and the first thing I check in the morning is the phone. Why? “Well, because what if somebody needs me.” That for me is a core symptom of ASDP. But hey, nobody needs you more than your family.

Susan Winchester:

You know what, it's one of the reasons why I'm doing this work. Part of my “why” was that I was so focused on work that I worked all the time and when I wasn't at work, I was home from work, worried about work. The outcome for me, one of the biggest costs that I paid for not being aware of this, was unconsciously neglecting my own sons when they were growing up.

I was not there for them emotionally. I get choked up every time I talk about it because I'm so grateful that we have good relationships now, but it breaks my heart that my oldest son was parenting my youngest son.

My ex-husband did the best he could, but I'm the mom and I was not emotionally aware or conscious of anybody else's needs but my desperate need to be validated.

Being completely connected to and constantly on for work takes all of your focus and energy and love away from all the things that you should be focused on. And that is not a way to live a career.

Ashish Kothari: Constantly hustling for your worth out there.

Susan Winchester: Hustling, that's a good word. Yeah.

Ashish Kothari: Right. I'm so glad of your relationship, and that's the beauty of this. You talked about adult survivors of a damaged past. Every moment that we are alive is an opportunity to heal, to repair, to renew. Yes, you missed that time, but hey, you're still alive.

Susan Winchester: Well, and we've got a really good relationship because they both have done some good work as well, but I'm very blessed that we do because it would have been easy for them to write me off.

I've spent a lot of time talking about what I call the unconscious wounded career path, the path of being completely disconnected from your experiences when you were little to how you were showing up at work.

One other symptom to know if this is affecting you is that your reactions to things at work seem much bigger than the moment. We make them very big and that while damage is not doomed. That's part of the message.

The other phrase I like to say is the rest of your life is yours because what we can learn how to do is step off that unconscious wounded path of interacting with people, having conflict, which we call bumper car moments, and getting triggered emotionally and going into these spirals down.

There are lots of habits that I can be embedding in the work that I'm doing. But what I do is I teach people how to step off that unconscious wounded career path onto the conscious healing career path.

In that, there is a method to be able to do that. There are practices that you can do to learn how to self-regulate, to learn how to understand what's going on. So I want to make sure people hear there's a lot of hope here.

Ashish Kothari: That's where I want to go to next. So we've talked a lot about the unconscious biases, the unconscious actions we take and that ASDP. It's important to be aware of it because till you know there's a problem, what we are going to talk about now is irrelevant because you're not open to it.

So if you are at this point going like, “wow, this is so me,” or “I might have some of this.” Talk to us a little bit about what's the opposite. What is the conscious healing career path and how do you show up differently here?

Susan Winchester: The conscious healing career path is about becoming aware of the connection between what you believe about yourself from the past, understanding the behavior strategies you used in the past, and starting to look at how those are affecting you in your professional experience or career.

In my longer course, my six-week self-study course, I teach people, I have exercises to walk through moments at work when they get triggered, what's coming up for them. What is there a limiting belief that's affecting you here? How's it connected to what happened to you when you were little and ready to understand that there is a connection.

I believe that a lot of things happen when we're young and that having trauma in our past absolutely affects our career experiences. It's just helping people to make that connection. People have to understand the pain before they're interested in finding the support for how to do it differently.

What I have found is that we get most triggered emotionally at work in interaction with other people. When there's some kind of conflict, something happens. Most of us want to avoid conflict at all costs, but I believe that conflict is a huge catalyst to healing.

It's in those moments of discord where we can actually learn how to understand what we're doing, why we're reacting this way, what's causing us to feel dysregulated, what's going on. Then there are methods to process the emotion.

Dr. Ed Tronick and Dr. Claudia Gold have an amazing book called The Power of Discord. They really talk about those moments of discord with other people, those conflicts, but Martha and I love to call it bumper car crashes. Like we just had a bumper car crash are actually opportunities for reconnection with other people and reconnection with ourselves.

But before we can begin even doing that, though, we have to pay attention to the emotion that's going on inside of our bodies. The book, The Body Keeps the Score, talks about all the things we've experienced. We probably don't have time to get into all the brain science around what's going on in our brain, or the emotional part of our brain has no memory of time.

So if something's happening today in the workplace and it triggers an old emotion from your childhood, your brain thinks you are right back to where you were when you were little and you go right into fight, flight, or freeze.

Yes, the opportunity. And so that's what happens at work a lot. We see a lot of fight, flight, freeze, and fawn, fawn, people pleasing, that's me. We see a lot of fighting. We see a lot of people hiding. We see all these behaviors. And so there are practices using sound, movement, and breath to process the emotion, to feel the emotion, and to become regulated again.

So you've got to, in order to create choice about how you're going to respond, you've got to process that emotion and there's lots of techniques to do that.

Ashish Kothari: I think we should go there next, because it is such a powerful and important element. So connect with this. Think about the reactive structures through which we show up at work, those moments of triggers when we say the trigger is out there, that person triggers me, that situation triggers me, that dynamic interaction triggers me.

Note that the trigger is actually you. All that the other is providing is a stimulus. The journey is from within: to recognize, discover, and make a shift. And it's not easy to do it unless you actually work on regulating your emotions and downregulating from a fight, flight, freeze, amygdala hijack moment to one which is grounded.

So, Susan, what tips would you have, maybe give two, three ways in which if you find yourself in a triggered state, heart racing, blood rushing, recognizing that I'm getting clammy hands or tight back or whatever it is, your version of when you notice you're triggered, what are some ways you invite people to downregulate? To come back to a place where they can consciously choose.

Susan Winchester: For me, it's an elephant on my chest. So a couple of things, one, and I learned this from Celine Dacosta, the amazing Celine is to recognize that when you're getting triggered by somebody else, rather than focusing your judgment and anger on them, to think of them as a gift because they are a gift that is helping you look at and realize that you have some unresolved emotion that needs processing.

This totally changed my world when she taught me this. We immediately go into blaming them, judging them, etc. But actually, now when somebody triggers me, I think to myself, okay, this is an opportunity to look inward about what's the gift here. That's the first tip.

Second tip, and also there's another great book by Debbie Ford called The Dark Side of the Light Chasers, that's really good, which helps us understand other people and their impact on us. So that's the first step, thinking of the person as a gift. Secondly, it's really important to process out whatever emotion is going on, it could be, if I'm upset and I'm feeling sad, I may just need to go into a room and cry.

Ashish Kothari: Don't hold it in.

Susan Winchester: Don't hold it. Feel the feelings. Feel the emotions. And there's lots of techniques for doing this. Another good technique is expressing yelling or screaming. Or one time I was singing really loudly, but just sound movement of breath, sound activity.

I call it creating choice. You can't get out of that emotional state until you create choice by taking care of your own emotions and coming back into state of regulation.

So first of all, they're a gift. Second step is creating choice. Third step is really thinking about, what do I want to do in this moment to elevate my actions rather than going into my old strategies. What can I do to really elevate how I show up in this moment? And it really depends on the moment what makes sense to elevate your action.

I can think of a situation one time where I was really triggered by a friend and I decided that the way I was going to elevate my action was first to recognize it was a gift. Secondly, to realize I had to process some emotion because it was really pushing on some things that I was being abandoned.

But then I got to the point where I could elevate my action and say, “you know, I'm going to be okay. I hope this relationship continues, but if it decides to go a different way, then I'm okay with that.” Rather than getting into a fight with the person. That's really key.

And then finally, what's really key is when we do something differently, when we slow down this process, and we process that emotion and we elevate our action, we've got to celebrate. Because the act of celebrating, this is all the research on positive psychology, is actually an act of integrating this new way of responding and thinking into our neural pathways, into our identity.

And so it's pretty, I call it the rapid power reclaim, RPR, the method that I teach, is really straightforward, and there are ways to do and use breath in a meeting. If you're getting really emotionally triggered, there are lots of breathing techniques that can calm you down, so that you can practice all different ways to create that choice by processing and managing your emotions, sound, movement, and breath.

Ashish Kothari: I love the RPR, rapid power of reclaim. It's beautiful. And celebration is the heart of the rewire, every micro practice. Celebration, is how we remind our brain to go for that dopamine and actually form those neural pathways.

So, recognizing how does the person who is triggering you or the situation or the obstacle, how can it be a gift? It doesn't change the thing, but it might just give you a choice to recognize. There are no rights and wrongs and goods and bads, processing out the emotion.

Friends, I think you've heard it on our podcast before, emotion is energy in motion. So unless you let the energy pass through you, whatever way it is, maybe it is crying, tears rolling down, maybe it is just yelling it out. If you don't pass it, there is very little because that's what's going to hold you.

Really looking to you talked about elevating my action or what's my big intention here. What is the bigger picture that we are going for? And I love this notion of making that choice and celebrating. I love it. So, a very structured approach, RPR, rapid power of reclaim.

Now, Susan, we've talked a lot about what individuals can do to shift from this ASDP to more of a conscious healing part. But it feels like, till now, our conversation's a lot around the individual.

So talk to us, you've been in senior HR roles at three or four of these really big companies. Once you awoke to this different way of being and recognizing the power, talk to me a little bit about how you started to integrate some things into organizations that can actually support people in their own healing journey, rather than a source of harm.

Susan Winchester: So it's an excellent question, which is what's the organizational system around all of us showing up in the workplace. What I've been blessed to be able to do with great support from my current company is to be able to share my keynote.

I've talked to employees all over the world, many different global teams, sharing with them the concepts of healing at work and how it shows up at work. The impact has been profound because the leaders, the executives who've really created the opportunity for me to do this with their teams, have shared that they EQ of the entire leadership team.

Understanding the principles of healing at work. Another senior executive talked about how he made connections in the keynote about his own leadership behavior that he'd never made before. I've had the privilege of doing that with many hundreds of people.

In fact, last week, I think the group I talked to was like 4,000 people calling in for the. So in several different countries, the other thing that I got permission to do is, with my courses, to be able to offer my course to anybody in the company, of course, at no charge.

And then also that anybody that wanted my book, I'd give away my book. And so that was how I started to create the momentum in my current company by educating in particular leaders and leadership teams and then their teams around these practices. It's just been a phenomenal journey.

Ashish Kothari: Well, listen, Susan, I am so grateful. Thank you. I know you and I could go on and on about this. And maybe we have you back for a round two, but I so appreciate you spending time with us, sharing your insights.

We leave all the places where people can find the book and the course, but a deep gratitude from me. Thank you for spending your valuable time with us and our listeners.

Susan Winchester: Thank you. I loved it. I can keep talking to you for hours. It's just been such a privilege. Thank you so much.

Ashish Kothari: Wonderful.

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About the Podcast

The Happiness Squad
Welcome to Happiness Squad.

This is the podcast dedicated to helping you unlock your full potential by mastering the art and science of happiness.

We bring on the best leading experts on these topics to help you unlock your true potential and live with more joy, health, love, and meaning in your life.

Your host is no other than Ashish Kothari who is on a mission to provide you with an unfair advantage to be the masters of your experience and leaders in your industry.

Get ready to be moved, challenged, and enlightened on this podcast. It may change your life.

Thanks for being here and joining the squad!
Learn more: https://happinesssquad.com/

About your hosts

Ashish Kothari

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Ashish Kothari is the founder and CEO of Happiness Squad, a company focused on democratizing happiness and touching a billion+ lives over the next 20 years and helping them live with more joy, health, love, and meaning.

Prior to founding Happiness Squad and writing his best-selling book “Hardwired for happiness”, Ashish spent 25 years in consulting, including the last 17 at McKinsey and Co, a premier management consulting firm, helping thousands of clients and their organizations achieve breakthrough performance by building new mindsets and capabilities.

Ashish is a trained ontological coach and a lifelong student of human thriving.

Ashish Kothari

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Anil Ramjiani is an experienced senior leader at Nike, Inc., most recently as the Commercial Director managing key athlete partnerships and business with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, and Marcus Rashford.

Anil's passion is grounded in empowering people, unlocking potential, and driving performance. He has worked in consulting and corporate across the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia acquiring over 20 years of experience in strategy, brand, and general management at IBM, Adidas, and Nike.

He created the podcast and platform Live. Breathe. Believe., to enable reflection, motivation, and inspiration for his peers. #Knowyoutobeyou!