Self-Help Guru Kara Loewentheil weighs in on why the holidays sometimes bring out the worst in us

It Girl life coach Kara Loewentheil—host of the iTunes Top Rated Unf*ck Your Brain podcast (downloaded over 5M times!)—is interviewed on the latest episode of BUST’s Poptarts podcast, and weighs in on why so many of us regress into our worst teenage selves while visiting family over the holidays.

Listen to the episode at bust.com/poptarts

Highlights from BUST’s Poptarts Podcast’s exclusive interview with Loewentheil:

Loewentheil on why returning home can be so triggering, and what we can do about it:

“I think the thing to understand about why that happens is that you have a neural circuit from back in the day that was very strong,” Loewentheil says, “because you spent six to eight years thinking about how you hated your parents and they ruined your life from 12 to 18, right? We know that our brains get queued by certain kinds of triggers. Like there are studies showing that if you listen to a certain piece of music while you’re studying, you’ll recall that information better when you’re studying again. And this is the same thing. You go home, you’re around your nuclear family. Sometimes you’re in your childhood bedroom. And then you have those triggers that fire up your old thoughts. Number one, it’s important to understand that’s what’s happening—it’s not that your family is causing you to always feel terrible around them. It’s more like a memory or habit, like if you went skating after a long time, your body remembers how to do it.”

“In terms of preparing,” she continues, “I think that a lot of our pain and suffering as humans comes from just wanting reality to be different than what it is, and in relationships, it’s wanting people to be different from what they are. We all persist in doing that with people who we have known for literal decades, right? So we get ready to go home and we’re like, ‘Well, I just hope both of my parents have had total personality transplants since last time I saw them!’ Or, ‘I hope my brother has a totally different way of talking.’ We want them to be totally different people and then we’re all bent out of shape when they’re not. Meanwhile, we’re not usually totally different either.”

“The tool I like to teach around the holidays is called ‘Of course they did,’” says Loewentheil. “You just go home expecting your family to be the way they always are. If you stop emotionally resisting the fact that people are going to be exactly who they have always been, you would be amazed at how freeing that is, just to be in that space of being, like, ‘Oh, of course.’ They are going to be the way they usually are, and I’m going to have these thoughts and feelings that I usually do. We’re all going to be the way we usually are. Let’s just accept that reality. Once you accept that, then you can actually start changing the way you usually think and deciding ahead of time how you want to think and feel. Once you decide that, you can practice ahead of time.”

To hear more from this wide-ranging discussion with Kara Loewentheil in which she dishes the dirt on leaving her law practice to become a seven-figure-earning feminist life coach, visit bust.com/poptarts.

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