The Barriers to Feeling Better with Dr. Victoria Dalton, PsyD
Speaker 1: (Singing).
Rebecca: Hello, this is Rebecca Fleetwood Hassain host of the Badass Women's Council podcast. We're here for reflection and connection for the bad- ass high- achieving woman like you. So thanks for being here. And since you're here, you might as well just hit the subscribe button. I mean, don't be silly. You don't want to miss a minute of any of the episodes coming up. Today on the show we have Dr. Victoria Dalton and she's been on the show before. In fact, she is our most downloaded episode still to date. I found Vicky because she was my therapist and I chose her because her bio read that she was direct and genuine and nothing can be further from the truth. Today on the show, Vicky, which she's now given me permission to call her Vicky, this is so fascinating because we recorded this episode actually months ago. And it's coming out the same week that we've got a little bit of a thing in the news about women being called doctor. So isn't God interesting about the timing? Always just being right. And we talk a little bit about that in our introduction as well. But today's episode, Vicky's going to talk about feeling better because most everyone that comes to her looking for therapy describes it as I just want to feel better. So this is a two part series. In today's episode, we're going to talk about what are the barriers to feeling better. And then next week we'll talk about solutions. I think this is really fascinating because one of the barriers that we discuss is just describing what better is. What does it feel like? How will I know? And I've found this to be really true when I'm working with clients. I actually sent out a survey recently, as I was doing some research for a book I'm writing. And I ask people to describe what a thriving, great life was. And I gave them some prompts and some thoughts. But in the margins and in the notes people wrote, this is hard. I haven't thought about this before. So this is really striking a chord that in order to have a great life, we need to define it for ourselves. I can't wait for you to dig into this episode. Here we go.
Speaker 1: (Singing).
Rebecca: Hello, Dr. Dalton.
Dr. Dalton: Hello.
Rebecca: How are you today?
Dr. Dalton: I am great. Thank you.
Rebecca: So we just had an interesting conversation. I read an article actually at four o'clock this morning. So it's very relevant to me that said that when someone sees a woman who is a doctor, they more likely to call her by her first name than if they see a male doctor. They will most always call him Dr. So- and- so.
Dr. Dalton: I would say that there is probably some real accuracy with that. But I would question whether the woman has given them permission, or if it's an assumption.
Rebecca: That was the whole stream on Twitter. Was that the doctor who posted said," Look, once you get to know me great." But she was referencing that I think it was a manufacturing or a drug rep or someone was trying to get an appointment with her and her colleague. And they happened to compare notes. And his said Dr. So- and- so and hers said Vicky or her first name. And she was like it's so fascinating how often that happens. She said," Once we get to know each other, great call me Vicky, but why did you assume that that was okay for me and not him?" Which I thought was fascinating. I'd never thought about it. So I wanted to make sure I introduced you officially as Dr. Victoria Dalton.
Dr. Dalton: Thank you. But you may call me Vicky.
Rebecca: Thank you for that permission, because that just feels super weird at this point in our relationship. So I'm so glad you're back.
Dr. Dalton: Yeah.
Rebecca: You may not know this, but you are still the most downloaded episode and that was over a year ago.
Dr. Dalton: Wow. Wow. That's great to know. That it resonated.
Rebecca: crosstalk Still tapped into what you've got. So I'm excited that you're back.
Dr. Dalton: Thank you.
Rebecca: No pressure. Maybe I should have shared-
Dr. Dalton: No doubt.
Rebecca: The look on your face is like Oh great. We're going to talk about what you do in your work as a therapist is most people you say come into your office to feel better.
Dr. Dalton: Yeah. That's probably... They will come in with all sorts of descriptions. They will come in with all sorts of reasons, but fundamentally what they're wanting to do, feel, whatever is better. And then we have to break that down to more sort of tangible meaning and focus on what are the barriers, why they aren't better. What's in their way? What do they need to achieve? What do they need to do some work and movement on?
Rebecca: So we're going to do two parts, two episodes. In the first one, we are going to cover more about the barriers. And then in the second episode, we'll look at some solutions and some things that they can adopt. So with this idea of barriers, one of them then is just that, to describe what feeling better really is and isn't. Is that fair?
Dr. Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. I will ask a question pretty early on, usually in the intake session. And they often look at me like I've grown a second head or maybe they're questioning their choice to come in and see me. Because I will ask the question like," Okay, so you say you're depressed. How do you know you're depressed? How do you know you're anxious? Tell me what do you mean by that?" And they'll kind of look at me like I have to define it for you?
Rebecca: crosstalk Don't you know? You're the expert. Right?
Dr. Dalton: crosstalk Like this question. And I'm like break it down for me. Define it for me. How do you know? Because that's the other side of the coin is how will we know when you're better. They'll either be the absence of those things or the improvement of those things. But yeah, I'll ask them pretty frequently. Tell me how you know you're depressed. And a lot of times we'll break it down to behaviors. But a lot of times it comes back to feelings and emotions, internal sensations. And it's interesting because people don't speak that way and don't think that way. They just know they're not doing well. Or perhaps they're coming in because they know they're the common denominator in the patterns that are happening to them. And that's some really great clientele when they're like, okay.
Rebecca: Because they've been paying attention.
Dr. Dalton: Yeah. This is happening to me over and over. And I'm the common thread. So I must need to make some changes. That's pretty exciting.
Rebecca: Because that's awareness. Right?
Dr. Dalton: crosstalk Mm- hmm(affirmative). Yeah.
Rebecca: So talk just a moment before we go into some of those barriers specifically, sometimes they don't say," I want to feel better," but they'll say" I want to be happy."
Dr. Dalton: Yeah. It's a really common... And I get way they would and: Our culture kind of promotes happiness. But that's such a nebulous, hard to define, fleeting, I think they're thinking twirling on the side of the mountain, I want to feel this way all the time. And we all should have and will want and need moments of awe, moments of that joy. But I don't know how we define happiness. That's such an individual kind of a thing. And so we break it down to something more meaningful and more tangible. What are those barriers to feeling better?
Rebecca: And I love that you're asking them about what is it specifically? I just created this download called during the decade and it walks people through some exercises. And what was so profound for me when I did it and why I created it for others is when I sat down one day and thought about 10 years from now, it wasn't about a strategic plan. It wasn't about where I wanted my business to be or the specifics. I started to journal around the day to day. How do I feel? Where am I? Who am I with? What am I doing? And started to craft this idea of what would feel great in my life 10 years from now. And the things that bubbled up were so fun to dream about, but they were the day- to- day things. I was sitting on my screened in porch. Well, I don't currently have a screened in porch. My husband had just made me coffee. I don't currently have a husband. But it was day to day dreams and thoughts about what would feel good 10 years from now. So is what you're saying is just to get more specific to define what better, good, happy is in your life?
Dr. Dalton: I would say that's probably a pretty good way of sort of encapsulating it. I mean, because by definition, you're going to go backwards and talk why you aren't in those situations and we do need to break some of that down. But if you don't have sort of a meaningful, workable vision or goal, how do you know you're making progress? How do you know what direction you're heading and how does it feel like you're heading in any direction? So I like the idea of sort of breaking it down to goals and those future pieces and then evaluating, are you doing anything currently that's moving you in that direction.
Rebecca: crosstalk That's going to get me there. Right?
Dr. Dalton: Right.
Rebecca: And I think this is important for our audience which is just predominantly career women. We have the mindset of strategic planning, goal sheets instead of sometimes letting ourselves think about what's day to day life look like. Because we have the mindset of, well, when I get caught up, I'll care about myself. Right now, I've got to close the sales gap and I've got a board meeting to prepare for. I don't really have time to think about what better for me looks like. But that's an important part of this process. Right?
Dr. Dalton: I would say it'd have to be because your happiness: Those moments of awe and joy that people are looking for, you can only have them in the present. You can only have them in the here and now. You won't experience tomorrow or yesterday. So if you aren't taking some time along that journey...and I'm not dismissing the fact that you do have to prep for the board week meeting or that you don't blow those things off. It's about incorporating even just moments of the time to invest in you or your thoughts or your feelings to find laughter in things that are happening around you. Because let's face it. This world is funny. Or people in it are pretty humorous, whether they mean to or not, they are. And so finding those moments build towards some of that sort of energizing, rejuvenating, helping you focus, bring more to the table when you are at that board meeting,
Rebecca: Be more aware and awake of just what's happening in the moment to moment and day to day.
Dr. Dalton: Absolutely.
Rebecca: What are some other barriers? Some things that keep people either stuck or from feeling their version of better?
Dr. Dalton: I would have to say some of the most common sort of themes involve internal doubts, fears and uncertainties. Certainly about the future, but even about their own current, whether that's performance or their current life status. Sometimes it is past things that have undermined that confidence. Sometimes it is a fear of what's coming and an uncertainty about your skill set or ability to manage whatever is coming or maybe even what's happening in the here and now. I mean, truthfully for a lot of my clients, I mean there is at times genuine chemical issues at play like with anxiety and depression and inherited sort of risk. And so learning how to manage that as well. But I would say some of the barriers to sort of happiness also involve recognizing your own role in it. I'll have a lot of who kind of come in and this is my circumstance or this is what's happened to me. And that's legitimate. That's true. But if they continue to see the world as sort of external forces acting upon them, that's pretty defeating and intimidating and you feel pretty small. So I'd sort of take the route of ownership and accountability, not fault and blame because those are shame- based kind of thinking. But sort of focusing on what role do you play or what significance or influence can you have in your current situation or even perhaps understanding of the past, what role did you play from the past standpoint? Because that's where we can envision change. That's where we can affect the behaviors and therefore really the thought patterns.
Rebecca: That ties so directly into the work I'm doing with clients on the difference between striving and thriving. Striving is if you're waiting for the next promotion or the next successful project to make you feel better to find your success. That's fleeting and that comes and goes and it's external. But thriving is, do I know who I am, the role that I play here at work, the impact that I have, the benefits that I provide to the work? If you can see it internally, then you take that wherever you go. You take it to the next job. You can even take it into retirement, but you have a better sense of, I know how to feel good in my work because I know that my unique gifts and talents are contributing in a meaningful way.
Dr. Dalton: Yeah. I could see how that would fit in. And I'd even take it a step, I mean, this may be a little bit counter to your philosophy, but the idea even if you were in a sort of more externally motivated type of peace: How do you give yourself permission to really stay in the moment and enjoy it when the moment happens when what you've been working towards is achieved? So often we're at risk for what's next or having this sense of, I thought it would be more. I thought I would feel more. They don't know how to even experience the happiness, the joy, that sense of being better, feeling better when it's happening to them.
Rebecca: Yeah. And coming from the sales world, the worst day of the year typically is the first day of the new fiscal year. Because even if you've nailed all of your goals and you were getting that big glass award, you start over with a new sales goal and whatever your pipeline is. Or you finish the project and now there's a new project. And if you don't enjoy the aspect of achieving it, then you can't take that confidence of how you achieved it into the next fiscal year or into the next project. You have to have that sense of not only was that amazing, but I'm still that bad ass person that did that. And now I'm going to take that courage and that confidence and those skills and bring it into this next project. Instead of standing there, looking at this big zero or whatever the number is that you think now I got to climb this damn mountain again.
Yeah. I like that you use the word skills. Because I do think that that's somethings that a lot of my clients have struggled with anxiety or depression or just some of the deeper doubts or insecurities. They sort of that they aren't coming in with zero skills. And that's something that anxiety and doubt makes you sort of pull back from. It's like you rewrite history. It's an interesting thing that happens for a lot of clients is that they describe somehow their successes are external. That this happened. The universe aligned just right. Or maybe like a sales product. Well, maybe I was in the right market at the right time, kind of a thing. And then on the flip side, if something doesn't go well, somehow that's internal. I failed, I did it wrong. Yes, the market might have taken a downturn, but I didn't.
Rebecca: Oh, fascinating.
Dr. Dalton: It's like they rewrite history when you're in that kind of a mindset to where your successes are external, but your failures or struggles are internal to yourself. And you really can't have it both ways. You really can only have one philosophy. You either have to be sort of internally driven or externally driven. You can't have it both.
Rebecca: crosstalk That's fascinating.
Dr. Dalton: And it's sort of interesting when it... And that's almost always the way that it aligns, at least for people coming in and seeking support, right? Maybe there's a whole segment of the world out there who does it differently. But most people who struggle with those thoughts have that sense of external is where the success happens.
Rebecca: That aligns with my experience with high achieving women. I'm working with presidents of organizations, right? I'm working with these people who are doing amazing things at a high level. And one of the first exercises I have them go through is let's list your unique gifts and talents and skills and abilities. Let's get really clear on what those are. So you know how to use them intentionally. And the first time I say it, there's just this long pause and a lot of slow blinking. And you can see just feel them thinking. And then they'll say things like," Well, I'm a good mom." I'm like, well, you should keep doing that. And that's a role that you play. I'm good marketing person. That's also a role you play. Keep doing that. But what makes you good at those things? And to get them to drill down into some specific skills-
Dr. Dalton: crosstalk Skills.
Rebecca: And abilities takes a little effort. And then later they'll say, well, we've diminished ourselves so much trying to fit in sometimes. It's like I don't want to sound egotistical. Or I don't want people to think I'm all that. But getting clear on that stuff is important.
And it may also be the place that you can identify where you want to work on some things, or maybe you were successful more in the past on something identifying that mindset. But again the idea of the self fulfilling prophecy, that so many things play out in our world. That: If we have this sense of I'm going to do well, I am capable of, I can, I have the skills that sort of internal self-talk, especially if you actually mean it, you behave in that manner and you move forward. And that's not to say that you don't run across barriers or struggles or difficulties. You just come at it with a mindset that you can handle this. And now you're in problem-solving mode as opposed to catastrophizing. There's in our world, refer to a lot of that as cognitive distortions. That we have a mindset that is kind of distorted, but it feels real to us. And we have to learn how to identify that we're doing it and then challenge it. And so the concepts of like fortune telling that I know what this outcome is going to be.
Rebecca: Say more about that. Maybe give an example.
Dr. Dalton: So if you're going into this meeting and you're anticipating, and you feel like you can tell the future this is what's going to happen. It's going to go poorly. This person is going to attack me for this piece or this number. I won't have the data. And when you're spinning in this process of catastrophizing, this is going to be awful. This is how it's going to play out. I know it's going to be bad. You're at risk for interpreting when you go into that meeting the first piece of difficulty or criticism into here we go, I knew that's what was going to happen. And not only earlier when you were catastrophizing about it and predicting it was going to happen, you aren't in problem solving mode then, and you sure as heck aren't going to get into that in the middle of the crisis type of a time. And so, as opposed to, you didn't drop 20 IQ points just because you're walking into this meeting with fear, you have that skill set, you have that ability and you come into it with some ideas and some problem solving and planning and you can change the outcome. Especially if you can actually be prepared for it. The idea of thinking about negative possibilities, isn't the problem. The problem is recognizing that you yourself do have skills to handle it that include problem solving. And if you yourself don't, seeking it out.
Rebecca: Somebody does.
Dr. Dalton: Someone does. And I don't think we have to do this alone. And I think as women, we have a little bit more of a risk or perception that we have to. And yet our natural set is data collection, is observations. We are really good at that kind of stuff. And we are collaborative I feel like by nature. And yet in a lot of business settings that feels weaker. It feels like we have to have the answers. We have to have the knowledge, when in fact, most of the time, our bosses just want stuff to get done and get done well.
Rebecca: Right. Doesn't matter who and how just get it done. So if I'm summarizing some of the barriers that happen between where people are in their desire to feel better or to feel good, or to be happy, what I'm hearing you say is largely it's our thoughts, our perceptions, it's that fortune telling that you talked about and being more aware of how those thoughts and feelings and perceptions are driving some of our behaviors. And then secondly, what you just said about we feel like we have to do it all, that we're alone in this thing. Would you say that's a fair capture of what we've covered in this first section around barriers? What did we leave out? Or what did I get wrong?
Dr. Dalton: I guess the other pieces would also sort of be when we go backwards that external versus internal thing. That we look back at successes as some sort of, I don't know, the stars must have been aligned right, some sort of external thing. And the failures were all on us and inherent flaws. And my fundamental philosophy that I preach day to day is that you can only have one of those philosophies that you really operate your life on. And you can't pick and choose whether it's based on success or failures.
Rebecca: That's big. That's good. That's good. All right. So in the next episode, we're going to cover the kind of framework or solutions or things that we can do differently that get us to that point of feeling better.
Dr. Dalton: Okay. Sounds good.
Speaker 1: (Singing).
Rebecca: Thanks so much for being here. Next week we'll talk about the solutions to feeling better. Okay. It's holiday season, and you need a gift for some of those bad asses in your life. If you go to badasswomenscouncil. com, click on the shop button, grab yourself a little something. Happy holidays. This is Rebecca Fleetwood Hassain. Thanks so much for being here. We'd love to stay connected. We can do that if you jump into the online community at badasswomenscouncil. community. We've got lots of cool people in there already. And if you come in, it'll just be cooler.
Speaker 1: (Singing).