Were you subtly conditioned to please others at the expense of yourself? I loved talking with my friend, Dr. Monique Gadson, on today's episode of the podcast. We met through an IG Live prayer session! She's since become the best sort of real-life friend—someone whose wisdom, empathy, and realness breathes life into weary souls.
If you've struggled with depression or felt overlooked—even as you constantly show up for others—please lean in close. Dr. Monique is candid about her own journey through depression and how she lost herself in all the voices around her. In a powerful turn of events, Monique began to bring mental health directly to the center of the church, where she's practiced as a counselor for decades.
We cover so much in today's episode, including:
If you are struggling with depression, find resources for support on my website.
Thanks to our sponsors:
Organifi —Go to www.organifi.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off your order today!
This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp —Go to www.betterhelp.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 10% off your first month!
Download Abide Sleep and Pray Meditation and text my promo code BESTOFYOU to 22433 today to get 25% off!
Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- Finding Hope in A Dark Place: Facing Loneliness, Depression, and Anxiety with the Power of Grace, by Clarence Shuler and Dr. Monique Gadson
- Learn more about The Cocktail of Codependency, Freeze/Fawn Response, and Spiritual Bypassing in The Best of You, by Dr. Alison Cook
- To learn more about Unburdening and the Internal Family Systems model, check out my book with Kimberly Miller, Boundaries for Your Soul
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
- Galatians 1:10 "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."
- Ephesians 5:27 "and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."
- Romans 12:15 "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn."
- Mark 12:31 "The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.”
- Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
Episode 33 The Best of You Podcast 15th Dec 2022
With Dr. Alison Cook and Dr. Monique Smith Gadson
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Alison: Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison, and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started, as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, and welcome back to this episode of The Best of You podcast. I know this is one so many of you have been waiting for. Where we talk about this idea of people-pleasing. And I don't really like that word because it's a little bit negative. Because I think for a lot of us pleasing others comes out of a very empathetic place, a genuinely kind place.
And it's really hard for so many of us to discern the difference between pleasing others out of self-betrayal or even out of a way that isn't healthy for them or for the relationship, and a way of just genuinely being aware of needs around us and wanting to meet them.
So that's what I'm hoping to flesh out today with my dear friend and colleague, and just an amazing woman who is a therapist, a professor. She hosts a podcast called — And The Church Said. She's a coach consultant, and she's the co-author of a new book that we'll talk about a little bit later called — Finding Hope in Dark Places, Dr. Monique Gadson.
Thank you so much for joining me today for this conversation, Monique. I'm so grateful to have this conversation with you specifically.
Monique: Thank you Alison, for inviting me to be here with you. This is such an honor, it's such a privilege, I'm just so grateful. Grateful for you, grateful for who you are, so thank you.
Alison: We met on social media and you're one of those people. Right now I'm on a hiatus from social media and I'm noticing the ways in which not having that noise in my life is healthy. But there are some things I miss, and you are one of those people. There are a few people I've met I wouldn't have met otherwise, if it hadn't been for social media. So it reminds me of the good. So thank you for being one of those people.
I came across your Feed on social media. You're so genuine. I found you on your Live just praying one night when I really needed to connect in that way, and I joined you virtually for that prayer, and just being a reminder of the goodness. And then we've connected offline and just so grateful for you and your voice.
Monique: Thank you, and likewise. Likewise, I appreciate you being the safe person that you are. Well, I listen to your podcast. So when I listen to your guests and those who have met you, who talk about your genuineness, and your warmth, and your just inviting spirit, I appreciate you. I appreciate you for being that type of person that restores my faith in people. So I appreciate that for you.
Alison: Thank you, that means a lot to me. I wanted to start, today, Monique, with an early history. When do you first remember learning that you could shift your own behavior to please someone else? And how did that begin to take shape in your life?
Monique: Yes, so, one of my earliest remembrances is probably growing up a PK, a pastor's kid for those who may not be familiar there. I grew up a pastor's kid. So I was born in March, my dad was installed in his first pastorate in April.
So all my life, practically, that's all I've known as being a PK. Even when he left to be with the Lord four years ago, he was still pastoring. So that's just been the duration of his life, that's what I've known. And I think how that started is you would hear these messages about PKs.
And it's, "Well, you know how PKs are." And I would think like, "Well, how are PKs?" And then I would hear that stigma, "They're wild, rebellious and all of the things." And I'm thinking like, "Well, I mean, we get in trouble, yes. We get punished, yes. We got the spankings, yes."
But I'm like, "We're not just this picture that was painted." And there was something within that made me want to say, "No, that's not who PKs are." And, in addition to that, I do believe the messaging of my parents, "Yes, you are the pastor's kid, people are going to look at you." This, that and the other. And you're like, "Well, okay."
And, so, just early on there was this sense of there is a way you have to be. There is a way you have to perform to please other people. To not live out this perception that people might have of you.
So I really believe that's probably where it started. I love your book and your practice, I love all the things that you do. All the work that you've put forth. But when you talk about that cocktail, I think you called it once, with the childhood wounds, the cultural conditioning, and even those church messages. And I was thinking like, "My goodness, bam, I sit right there in the midst of all of those things."
All of those are true factors that I say to my clients, sometimes, "You put all of the ingredients in the slow cooker and with the right temperature, and over time, this is what it creates." And, so, I believe that that's probably a bit of where it started, when I have to really sit and think about it.
Alison: Yes, it makes sense. Yes, that cocktail of co-dependency. I appreciate that, that there was, especially, as a PK, there was this extra layer of, "Don't bring shame on the family." I can imagine.
You told me a story, Monique, about watching, was it your brother get in trouble or what? Can you tell me that story? That was such an enlightening and a window into that unspoken pressure in a way.
Monique: Yes, there was a time when my oldest brother, well, my father had called for him to come to do something for him. And, so, his mind was there like, "Let me go see what Dad wants."
And there was an older lady who, basically, just raked him over the coals saying, "He walked past her and he did not speak to her." And he was trying to be apologetic, and he said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean any harm, and just hello, how are you?" And tried to keep it moving.
But she just would not let it go. And, so, then some kind of way my mom either saw what was going on or she went to my mom, and I mean, she raked my mom over the coals. And it was this, "Well, if anybody's children should be mannerable and speaking to people, it should be the pastor's children."
And, so, that just wasn't a pretty encounter, whatsoever. And I can remember thinking, "Because you thought he didn't speak to you?"
I could get it if he did say something and say something disrespectful. But the fact that he, and it was an honest overlook, it wasn't intentional. So, yes, that's what you're remembering, I've share it with you. Well, I'm sitting here thinking about it, even right now, and I just feel like I'm right there in that moment in time, just even bringing it back up.
But, yes, so those types of things, you just feel like you're hyper vigilant. Now, you're walking around like you're in a pageant. Like, "Hello, Hi." And you're trying to speak to everybody, waving at everyone, just to make sure that you are doing what is expected of you and you're not the cause. Because that's what you're thinking, as a kid, of someone that then is taking your mom and taking her out to pasture, it was like, "Okay."
Alison: How old do you think you were when you watched all this?
Monique: Oh, my gosh, I probably was-
Alison: Like elementary school?
Monique: Yes, eight, nine-ish.
Alison: And you think about, there's a reason we remember. These memories are etched in our minds for a reason. There's a reason that something in you was like, "Oh, my goodness, I never want to make my mom feel that way. I never want to be in trouble like my brother is."
I love, and then you're just, almost, compulsively, I would imagine, making sure you're saying Hi to every person to avoid the pain of that moment. And this is what, kind of, in this series, where I want to go back to these early memories.
Because that is where we pick up this conditioning, in so many ways, that then we carry with us. We leave the house, we get out in the world, we're in college, and we're still operating in these ways that we've learned. So how did you begin to notice that when you left the home, as a young woman?
Monique: Yes, I don't know that I ever had words for it. But I can just remember in college, in those early years of college, and, well, even adolescence, this, who am I? Like you're, literally, haunted by that question.
Now, I do know that some of that is developmental. If we think about human development, Erikson Stages, and some of that is just to be. But I do believe that it was exasperated for me because there was this sense of trying to attune to what is within.
But that being smothered or just crowded out by all of the other voices, of who you are supposed to be and what it is that you are supposed to do. So I truly believe that it was from that compass where I followed the path. So then you get in college, and you're thinking, "Oh, okay, well, this seems like the thing I'm supposed to do."
Monique: And not really checking in to say like, "Okay, but is this true to who you are? Does it feel like this is what you are supposed to do? What resonates with your soul?" I had no inner needle, if you will. Or I should say I had the inner needle, but it would be drawn more to those voices and all of that conditioning that had, in essence, I guess taught me how to suppress me and what I desired.
Alison: Yes, and, so, how did that play out for you? How did you begin to notice that all of this effort? It's almost like I hear you saying you were so attuned to everyone around you.
Alison: And I get that picture, you used the metaphor, the pageant queen, I love that. You're so attuned to making everybody else around you happy, pleased, that you didn't know how to attune inwardly. You didn't know how to attune to yourself. And how did you begin to become aware that that was a problem?
Monique: I think depression. When I first started suffering from depression. I just remember feeling so heavy, like I had this burden on my back or just feeling that there was this persistent sadness that I couldn't explain, it just would not go anywhere. And I just really struggled with like, "What's wrong with me?"
And at that time, when I was in college, I went to the counseling center on campus and had spoken with a therapist there. Which was, even looking back, just it was a divinely ordered step for me to take. Because in the African American community, therapy just was not a thing. And add that layer of being a Christian in the African American community, and in the church, that definitely wasn't a thing that was talked about, or promoted, or affirmed even for that matter.
So I just have to look back and believe that that was a divinely inspired step to take. But once I started talking about it, I think that, at least, it gave me an outlet to be able to say some things. And I said these things clumsily because, again, I didn't have the words.
And you know, as a therapist, people are going to bring us fragments, and we're just putting them down, and trying to piece things together. And I know that's how I brought things, it was just fragmented.
It was just trying to figure out like, "What is wrong with me? What is going on? Why don't I feel like living and why do I feel, not happy?" And all of the things. So I think that that's how it initially had begun to manifest, was through depression, and also there was a lot of anxiety.
Alison: Yes, thank you for sharing that, Monique, so bravely. I just can sense, in my spirit, others listening who feel that weight that you're describing and don't know how to put words to it.
They just know they feel depressed. They don't know how to turn inwardly. They don't even know what they need. And I just appreciate the courage in what you just shared. And, especially, I can imagine you and I are probably roughly the same age. But when you add that overlay of everything you described. Being a PK, being in culturally, and even that time period.
I know when I was in college, it still was on the early end. For you and I, it was not like everybody was going to a therapist. It wasn't as common even as it is now, and even now there's still stigma to it. So I just appreciate what you're saying, almost. I can imagine there was a certain amount of desperation to go, because it so wasn't a part of what you were taught was how to reach out for help.
Monique: Yes, it was, literally, fear because once I started thinking, "Why am I even living?"
"Is there even any point to life?" When I started feeling that. I went, "Wait, something has to happen, I need to do something." And that was all at that moment I thought to do, so, yes.
Alison: That is so brave. I just put myself in your shoes and thank you for sharing that, again, because I know it's real. I know people feel that way and there's a desperation, and somehow you picked up a phone or walked into an office and it helped, and that's what I'm curious about.
I imagine it there was still a lot of work left to be done, but in that moment of giving voice, even cobbled together words, to another human. That, that was helpful to you at that time, is that right?
Monique: Absolutely, it was. And I don't even believe that there was resolve. I didn't stay in it that long and it wasn't because I did not desire. The person that I worked with was a college campus's therapist in training.
Alison: Yes, I've been one of those. It's scary, and I'm sure you have too. It's like, "How am I going to help this person?"
Monique: Oh, yes, exactly. But I think that what happened that person, eventually, had finished their term or whatever. And, so, I just was like, "Okay, well, I don't want to have to retail this to someone else."
And, again, for the purpose at that moment, there was relief and that was the biggest thing. That there was a sense of relief and release for that matter during that. And that probably was the beginning of my journey toward considering therapy, embracing therapy. And, now that I mentioned it, probably, one of the earlier footprints to even becoming a therapist myself.
Monique: And I've never really even considered that moment in time. I always fast-forward the timeline of my life and say, "I think it was at this point." But now that I'm sitting here saying this aloud, I do believe that that probably was a footprint even there, at that point, of my developmental timeline, too.
Alison: Do you think maybe just that seed planted of, "What this person just did for me was so meaningful." And that a seed was planted maybe for yourself? That's interesting.
Monique: Absolutely, yes.
Alison: I love what you're saying and I just want to pause on it. Again for those who are listening who are feeling this weight, even right now, and we're going into Christmas. And sometimes I say to people, "Almost, the pressure of the joy can make the weight feel heavier."
And, so, what I love about what you're saying is, this was probably a counselor in training, someone young, it's a college counseling center. It probably wasn't in hindsight; it didn't solve all of the things.
But there was relief, there was something, there was a glimpse, and that's, sometimes, all we need. You just took a step and you connected with another human, and there was relief and it set a lot of things in motion.
So I really just appreciate your honesty about how dark it was. It makes me understand a little more, and we're going to come to this book that you just helped co-author. Just the empathy that you have for others who are in that dark place.
Monique: Absolutely. And who are not only in that dark place, but who are in church and who are in that dark place and feel as though this is, again, "Not what I'm supposed to do."
It's interesting that you even talk about this joy of the season, and I just remember thinking something. I can't remember if it were a podcast I heard recently on that word joy. And just even once I did a word study on it and one of the ways it was defined is just sheer delight.
Monique: And I thought to myself like, "Wow, that feels a little less heavy than the exuberance that we so often associate with joy." And which is a portion of it, but this sheer delight. And I thought to myself like, "Wow, that feels a little less heavy. That feels a little doable."
And, so, even one day, last week I spoke with a client, going through a very tough time, and we were recounting the Thanksgiving holiday. And for her even just the struggle, and I said, "All you need to do is look at the smiles on your children's faces."
And I asked her some other things and she said, "Well, I do have a roof over my head." Yes, stay there. Just stay right there. Don't feel, like you're saying, just the pressure to have to say, "Oh, and for all of these deep things I'm grateful for, when I'm in the midst of this very difficult time."
Just find the sheer delight, the little things, and I'm hopeful that that does help people not feel so burdened. Again, and this is the thing we have to do during this time. We have to conjure up this energy to be all of these things. When that might not match what's really going on in the inside.
Alison: That's a really good word, it takes the pressure off of this idea of joy as the absence of suffering. When really it might just be a sheer delight in something really small. I've heard this saying, "Shared sorrow is half the sorrow. Shared joy is twice the joy." And there's something about the being with, even in a small thing. Even that moment with you, with your client, like, "I do have a roof over my head."
Alison: And sharing that with you. There's holiness in that moment.
Alison: That right there, that is a moment, I mean, it brings tears to my eyes. Because it is the holiness of our work, is that, "I am with you as you dig deep and find genuine gratitude, genuine-" Whatever the word is that joy does, it feels so... "And I do have a roof over my head and you're helping me see that. I'm not trying to conjure this up all by myself." That's beautiful.
Alison: Monique, how did your becoming a mom impact your own journey; toward healing, toward connecting more deeply to yourself? There's such a paradox, I think, when we become parents it becomes very sacrificial.
Alison: That in fact, we show up for our kids better when we've learned to show up a little bit more for ourselves. And, so, how did becoming a mom impact your own journey toward becoming more of who you really are? Becoming more authentic while you're also caring for your children?
Monique: Yes, woo, you talk about those 20s and, so, I had become a mom. So I'm just coming out of college, a few years after college I'm married and shortly a year after that I'm a mom and it's like, "Okay."
So there were some things I had already resolved that I wanted to do a little differently, as a parent. And some of the things we had talked about, some of our values and beliefs. And, so, those things were not necessarily so hard to implement as becoming a parent.
So, again, here we are, all of these messages; the conditioning, and the church messages, and childhood even. Because our stuff, definitely, it's going to show its head when we become a parent, for certain. So there was a struggle.
Oh, my God, there was a struggle even becoming a mom and doing what I feel like I'm being led to do as I'm studying this young person. I was a stay-at-home mom, so at the time just because of the way life was, I wasn't working at the time, anyway. And, so, we were just like, "It's going to really cost more for you to work and daycare at that time. And we were like, "Let's just see her through the first few years. Okay, let's do this."
So, I mean, even that was a thing where this is what we felt. But then there were others like, "Well, what did you go to college for?" And I'm going, "Oh, my God, there's an expiration date on a college degree?" I'm like, "Well, okay."
I mean, so that was a message that would be in my ear. And then, another message like, "Yes, you're doing that and you need to do this too." And it's just like by the time these things collide in your mind, you're just kind of like, "Oh, my God." Then you're back to, "What do I do?"
And, so, yes, that is a struggle trying to get through there and tease through what is everybody else's voice? What is everybody else's expectation? And trying to unbury me and figuring out like, "Okay, how has God fashioned me to be a mom of this child?
He gave me this child to carry." And you're going to know some things about this child before anybody else will know about this child.
So trying to get to that place definitely was a struggle. Definitely was a big time struggle. And also it made me realize I needed to heal or, at least, start some serious work toward healing. In order to try to raise her to be a young woman that God had created her to be.
Monique: I could see early on, how if I did not get myself together, how I would be a hindrance to her and for her. And, by no means, have I done that perfectly. That was, and it still is, a messy journey, and anybody that parents know that, and both of my girls are young adults now.
So even in this phase of life, it still is a thing that requires of me to be aware. To continually do my work as I try to guide and come alongside them as young adults. I don't want to give the impression that we spend a certain amount of time, we check a few boxes, and we read a couple of books. We journal a few pages and we're done, we're over this people-pleasing thing.
There are places that we continue to struggle. I continue to struggle with that in life. Interestingly enough, even in my therapy, my current-day therapy, just recounting some things in terms of trying to be a good mom, even now.
And my therapist shared with me some places where those were some experiences, where you tried to please your girls more than parent them. And I was thinking like, "Are you serious?" So it was even interesting how that theme still even pops up in parent thing.
Alison: What I love about what you're saying, first of all, for those who are listening is there is good enough.
Alison: So you're still learning things now, so am I. I'm shocked parenting young adulthood is a whole next level thing. And whole new layers of our own stuff come to the surface, and, yet, there's good enough. And, so, here you are back when she's a baby or new mom, realizing, "I've got to do some more work on myself."
Alison: Can you give me an example where you realized that? How did you have the self-awareness to know, at that moment, "This is my stuff that I've got to work through?"
Monique: Mh-hmm. Well, I think for me, one of the first things I had become aware of was just generational stuff, too. I can remember some conversations with my grandmother and I would just say like "Grandma, I don't think that's going to work."
But, again, the piece of me that did not want to be, again, we got to be perceived as disrespectful or I know more than you know kind of a thing. So it would be those encounters where you are thinking like, "Okay, I hear what you're saying, I just don't know that that, necessarily, is going to work with me in this situation."
So I was able to identify some generational things. Which that was some insight that the Lord had just given me, looking back, I didn't know that then, had given me generational insight early on in my life, too. Again, I wouldn't have been able to put language to it.
Monique: But when I look back, like you say, those things that I can remember, I remember for a reason and those were indicators of some generational stuff. That I was thinking, "Oh, man, we might need to turn some corners with some things."
So that was one way. And I think the other, for me, not only that fawn response, that people-pleasing, one of my, well, I would say my go-to, if you will, trauma response is the freeze, the numb, and I get stuck in indecisiveness.
Monique: And I just really could not make up my mind what I wanted to do. "I feel like this is what I'm supposed to do." But all of those, again, other messages and the sweet mothers and grandmothers at church, "And you need to."
"And you make sure." And you're like, "Oh, okay." And I want people to understand that I'm not saying that these things are not good, and these things were not words of wisdom. What I am saying is that when you are already struggling with trying to do what everyone else expects you to do.
It just becomes another layer that you have to try to navigate and, again, work your way through. To say, "Which of these things are good but maybe not, necessarily, what I'm going to implement? And what things to affirm what I, myself, want and wanted." So it was hard trying to kind of...
I remember that, I don't know if it was a movie or a show and I'm probably really dating myself, but that Journey to the Center of the Earth or something show way back when, or whatever it was called. I almost have that picture in my mind and it was like this journey to our core.
Monique: It was almost like you're going to all these galaxies. You're having to go through this layer, and that layer, and that layer and it feels like that, trying to get to the core of who you are. It felt as though I just had to journey to even find out what resonates with me.
Alison: I love that, the journey to the center. And I'm imagining you, and I relate to it so much, Monique, that all the voices amp up at these pivotal moments of which parenting is one. And it's often well-intended, and that's what's hard.
And then, again, if you're an empathetic person, everyone is being well-intended, and whether it's family members, it's generational stuff, and these are people you respect, and that noise can get so loud. And if you already struggle to connect to your own inner compass, your God-given barometer inside.
I really appreciate that you brought in that freeze response. That sort of a deer in the headlights, "Oh, my gosh, I-don't-know-what-to-do immobility because I can't figure out how to manage all these voices around me. I can't even find the voice inside me.
I'm no longer even trying to please others, I'm just inert and I've got this precious little baby that God has given me." I love how you said that, "Has given me, and I have to be able to show up, at the end of the day, for this." I mean, that is intense, I love how you just zoomed in on.
I know every mom listening is going, "Ah-huh, yes." And the voices get so loud around that time because so many women do struggle with knowing, "How do I need to show up for my child and myself?" And it's going to look a little bit differently. And, so, how do we help each other in a better way? Because we're trying to help but it isn't always helpful. Our help is not always helpful.[00:31:59] < Music >
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So again, you have another moment of like, "Somehow, by the grace of God, I understand here that the best way to be a mom is I've got to do more of this work to really zoom in on my own center." You find probably another layer of relief there. And at some point in this makes you then also go back to become a therapist.
So tell me a little bit about that. You've got two girls, you're trying to find your own mom voice, and not only going into being a therapist, but going into being a therapist in a church setting. So tell me a little bit about that. How did you know that you wanted to go into that, make that move?
Monique: Whew, yes, I think my spiritual life took a turn. I was at a funeral for, I did not know the young lady. I was there more in support for my brother. It was one of his dear friends who had passed and died in a car accident, and her middle name happened to be Monique.
Monique: Now, and I didn't know that until I got there and I was just like, "Wow, okay." But it was there that I just had this, what I termed as God experience young girl, very young girl. She was in college when she passed. And I just remember having this moment of like, "What if this were your funeral?"
And, "What would people say?"
Or, "Would you yourself feel that you have done what you were placed on this earth to do?"
Monique: And I, literally, left that funeral thinking, "No, I have not." And I just, earnestly, sought the Lord in prayer and just other spiritual disciplines like journaling. These things that were things that I've always just done, again, divinely-ordered looking back. But I had that conversation. I just begged the Lord to show me some things, and my goodness did He ever.
And a lot of what I saw and what He shared with me, I thank God at that time there was a spiritual mother, a mentor, who after we had gotten married, we spent a little bit of time living in Mississippi. And, so, this lady I met there, in that short amount of time that I was there, which is real interesting too.
I would share these things with her and she would tell me just how she felt the Lord was leading me in that time. And what I recognized is, how did I say it before, one of the first times like really hearing Him speak directly to me, to me, not necessarily through other people.
And basically saying, "I want you to counsel. I want you to go and train as a therapist and to do this in the church." In the Black church clear. And I thought, "Okay, all right, this is cute and funny because I'm new to this. I, definitely, am not hearing correctly because Black churches don't do this type of thing. Black people don't do this thing."
So I struggled again and wrestled with trusting that my voice and the voice of the Lord were intimate in that moment. That they were one and the same. So after confirmation that this is indeed the voice of the Lord, "I am speaking to you, you are hearing me correctly."
And I'm thinking, "Oh, my God, okay." And, so, I started the journey then to prepare to be a counselor. Now I believe looking back one of the reasons why to do that in the church setting, for one, again, and we're talking umpteen years ago. So I know things have progressed, thank the Lord. People, as you were saying, are a little bit more accepting to counseling. It's almost become a little trendy thing to do. So significant progress has been made, yes, still have a long way to go.
Monique: Still have a very long way to go. Because even in the church setting, again, we're getting better with allowing people to express their grief, their limitations, the heart of life.
I think we're getting better. But I also still believe that we don't allow adequate time and space. I just don't believe that we do.
And, so, that became my call. My life's work, is to take these experiences that I had throughout my life and figure, "How can we correct these experiences, especially in the church setting, so that people can walk in liberty sooner." That they can understand that, again, I think in this day and time we give a little space for a person to say, "This is hard."
But it's not long that that comes followed with this spiritual cheer, "You can do it. You can do all things through Christ." Truth, yes, but again, when we're in certain places in life, doesn't that feel heavy? Doesn't that feel...
Maybe I know this but what I need to hear someone say to me is, "I understand you're depressed and I'm wondering is it because you've done everything that everyone else has wanted you to do? And you are sad, or you are feeling heavy because you have gone overlooked for so long?"
Do we open up that space and are we okay with stepping into that miry, murky place with someone and not feel so compelled to have to spiritually hurry them along. Because you and I very well know that spiritual bypass and A, is a very real thing and B, that that emotional work may take a little bit longer than sometimes we are willing to give that space and that time for.
Alison: What a beautiful picture of taking all of that empathy, that you both needed. I'm thinking back to your college years when you had the heavy weight and the depression, and found relief from a therapist. And a PK, someone who grew up in the church and loves the church, and in that moment God's voice and your voice.
I love how you said, that coming together and it's like, "Okay, now you're going to go take that place of holding space for witnessing, for being with others' pain. For not fixing, or bypassing, or slapping Bible verses on." Just being with, right into the church setting
Alison: That is just such a beautiful picture. We talk about spiritual bypassing, it really is this way of putting clichés, pat answers on things. Instead of really walking into the pain of others and just being with others in what they're experiencing. And just that picture of you in a church setting is really powerful to me. Do you think that whole issue is more elevated in a Black church?
Monique: Yes, and I am speaking from my experience. So growing up in that life, still in that Black church life, and also having been a counselor in that setting. I feel like it gives me a bit of an edge to be able to say, "Yes, to that." I do.
And from what I have heard, over time, wish I had the insight back then to have collected some data. But I can remember what people would share with me. Kind of when you talk about these clichés, we get those things sometimes from the pulpit. Which I've actually done a presentation on about how some of the messages from the pulpit hinder our mental health and emotional health, especially, in the African American church setting.
How there is this historical reference; we talk about how our people have endured and how our people had to just keep it moving. Even under the most distressing of circumstances, extenuating of circumstances, they prevailed, they made it, and you come from that, you're cut from that cloth, you should be able to do that too. They didn't have time to sit on somebody's couch to process their feelings. They had to keep it moving and you should be able to do that too.
So I think that some of that is embedded in that historical context, generationally. And then we want to talk about cultural trauma versus that generational trauma, it's just been transmitted, from generation to generation.
And I want to say to people it is an act of resistance to feel. It's an act of resistance to feel because if your ancestors, your enslaved loved ones, were told, "Shut up, boy." Or, you can't show any kind of emotions when your families are being ripped apart, all of these things. Then do we not owe it to our ancestors to cry out. To even carry some of that, that was never expressed by them, we can bellow those things out.
Alison: Wow, oh, that's powerful. That just gave me chills.
Monique: I think about the night before my father's funeral. A lot of his first cousins had come to the funeral home when we had the family visitation time or whatever. And I've known some of them just over the years, it was a lot of them. But it was just interesting to me that they shared with me, that night, that my grandmother, so my father's mom, was the one that their parents... So we're talking my grandmother's siblings would be their parents.
Monique: So their fathers and their mothers, they chose to put their money together to send my grandmother to school. They felt she was the smartest one.
And, so, they put their money together, they worked to put her through school. And I told them I had never ever heard that before. But what I did know is that education was super-duper important to my grandmother, and to her children, and thereby to her grandchildren.
So I say that to say, that if we say things like for us to obtain an education or to have the right to vote. We should do this because our ancestors could not, or they fought for this, then, I would say the same thing about our emotional healing.
Alison: Yes, okay, I get what you're saying. Yes, that makes a lot of sense and there's a whole another layer. And I remember talking about this with you. You so kindly read The Best of You and endorsed it.
And I remember I wanted to know from you, because in that cocktail of co-dependency, and the cultural conditioning, and the messages we get from culture, as women, "To stay small." And there is just a generational... we couldn't vote. There were lots of things we couldn't do.
My mom couldn't get a credit card, literally, and my mom is a brilliant woman, college educated, couldn't get a credit card if my dad didn't co-sign it with her. You know what I mean? That was not that long ago, these kinds of things.
But I remember when I was talking with you, Monique, and I'm so aware that as a White woman there's one thing. And then you add the layer of being a Black woman in a country where there are so many more layers of the different cultural messages. Both from the dominant culture and also from your own about how you're supposed to resist.
Monique: And, so, when you think about that, even when you talk about people of color, and I am sensitive to that, there are many people of color that can possibly resonate. I tend to have to say even when we talk about this people-pleasing, this fawning, I have to step out from underneath that label. And I have to say, "I am a Black woman." Because I get lost even in the label of people of color.
Alison: Can you tell me more about that?
Monique: Yes, I just think that Black women's, our experiences are so unique.
Monique: So very unique, and I think that because of the uniqueness of those experiences. That expectation of, "You are going to put it on your back. You're going to carry the weight of-." And that's kind of like a fill in the blank. So the women had to do that. When their men were stripped away for from them. And I'm also thinking of, I don't know if you would've, recently, have seen The Black Panther?
Alison: Oh, yes. Wakanda?
Monique: And, so, I'm even thinking about some of the themes I felt in that movie. When the queen had to talk about her husband, and just the absence of the Black man. So there is this expectation that the Black woman has to do these things. We have to protect, and we have to provide, we have to do. So that can be lost when, sometimes, we talk about this people of color label.
So I have to step out from underneath that and say, "But as a Black woman, this is my experience. This is what I am having to tease through, and discern, and embody." Definitely it is going to tell us a whole lot of stuff even before our mind catches up with it, right?
Monique: So, yes, we have some very unique experiences in terms of that expectation. That expecting to do what others need and want for us to do.
Alison: If I'm hearing you right, it's like what comes with that is an extra layer of pressure to do things in a certain way. And you are coming in and saying, "What if part of the resistance, part of honoring the strength is to honor the lament, is to honor the weight, and get healthy and heal."
I just want to pause and just say, man, what a beautiful. Again, to circle back to, then, you stepping into the church to bring all of that light into all of that healing right there. It's just a beautiful picture to me. It's a picture, to me, I think we can all learn from.
Alison: Why shouldn't we be bringing the healing into the church? Versus going to church and then go into therapy. I just think that is a brilliant, beautiful way that you began to use your voice, that was so hard-earned. So hard earned.
Monique: I mean, if you think about just even the people-pleasing, if you will, even of the bridegroom. The Scriptures will teach us that we are nourished, we are cherished, we are going to be presented without spots and without blemish. This is the work of Jesus. So are we pleasing people by trying to hide our blemishes, and our spots, and our wrinkles?
Can we free even those of us who, you know I love the church and are in the church to say, "I'm blemished, spotted, I'm wrinkled." So I tend to think of that on a systemic level. How even systemically do we find ourselves in this fawning, this pleasing? And Galatians 1:10 clearly states, "Are we going to please God or are we going to please man?" And I think that's interesting, that's black/white. And I think that there are places where it's clear.
But there's a whole lot of nuance, as you very well know, that we have to have to deal with, and we have to live within. And I think that we have to be careful that we are not communicating to people, "That to do this is pleasing to God." When it can really just be you're pleasing men.
Alison: Man, that's so nuanced. And it actually makes me think of this idea of there is a way in which we can, almost in an unhealthy way, use the fawn response or pleasing with God,
Monique: Yes, Ma'am.
Alison: Because we're trying to, and I love what you're saying, it's when we're trying to cover over the blemishes to please God., which is not what God wants. God wants the honest, real, person that we are.
And, so, that trickles into our relationship with God, to our relationships with the church. Versus really showing up and it requires so much safety, Monique, and you and I have talked about this, but to be able to show up with our blemishes. I feel like there is so much tenderness even in this conversation because we're going to fumble, but to show up. I picture like, "This is who I am."
Alison: And the problem is folks will hurt us when we do that. And, so, it's tricky, we have to create this safety so that people feel like they can. And, again, it gets back to what I think is so beautiful about what you did, is bring the counseling right into the church setting, to begin to model what that looks like for folks.
I want to just touch on your new book, you co-authored with Clarence Shuler, it's called Finding Hope. It just so flows right out of what we're talking about. Finding Hope in a Dark Place: Facing Loneliness, Depression, and Anxiety with the Power of Grace. And one of the things that really, when I read it, stood out to me, and it's a lot of what we're talking about, was the friendship.
Alison: The way that just it wasn't even therapy, it was just the way that you showed up for your friend who was struggling with depression.
Alison: And, so, in the book, he's telling his story of struggling. And you come along as his expert, his friend, who's an expert to give language to some of the experience of depressions. Suicidal ideas, shown anxiety, from a more clinical background.
But really you can tell it was your friendship, that just brought so much hope to him. And it was just such a beautiful picture of, it's like what you said, the little joys. Here is a friend who just sent me a text and said, "Are you doing okay?" And that gave him some relief. It was just a really beautiful picture.
So I wanted to just hear a little bit more, from you, on your experience, again, of using this hard-earned voice. That you have to go to the journey, to the center of the earth to find it. And then here you are coming alongside so beautifully in this book. What was that like for you?
Monique: It was hard, very hard. Very hard to speak into that because it goes back to, "Okay, is it enough?"
"Is it too much?"
"How do I get this right?" I want to please him and his publisher. Because when he came to me with that idea, I'm like, "What?" And he was like, "Yes." They just really felt like this would be really great to have the voice of a therapist. And he was like, "I'm thinking I know the one to get."
And I was like, "Oh, my God." So that was very difficult to find my voice, I'd given him some submissions and he was like, "Is this all you've got?"
And I'm like, "Oh, God, so I'm not pleasing."
But then he's like, "No, Monique, say the thing, say it." And I'm going, "Okay."
And, so, I didn't want to be accused of saying too much or now it's more about me. So it was hard for me to figure out how to strike that balance. But, thankfully, yes he was just real gracious and just like, "Monique, just do your thing, that's what I need you to do."
And I said, "Okay." So it was a beautiful experience once I finally found my flow, if you will. I hope that people do understand, like you were saying, that it's not so much based on me being a therapist, but what the power of relationship can do.
And I like how we're almost rounding out with that. Where we've opened up but not even shared about just you, and what people say about you. Being in relationship with you, relating with you, and it's a powerful thing. I know, I have benefited from being in relationship with you. You have given me corrective emotional experiences on various levels and I just won't even name those, but you have.
So when we think about this context of just in relationship. Thinking about this grace that is sufficient, that the Scripture tells us. But when we find it in those dark places, it is when we name like I did with Clarence. Like, "You have to be disappointed." And he wanted to skirt around it and deny, "No, I'm just mad."
I'm like, "You know what, for Black men, usually, they're going to be mad before they're going to be depressed." So that can be and most people are going to misconstrue that, "Another angry, Black man."
No, maybe it's another depressed Black man.
Monique: So being able to name that and to be able to say, "There is grace in that place." If the Scripture tells us, "Where we are weak is where He is made strong". So it is right there at that point of intersection where grace is found.
Monique: So I just believe that it is imperative, again, going back to church, we are many members but we are one. If we are going to be able to rejoice when others rejoice, weep when they weep. Shoulder life with people, shoulder to shoulder life with people, or even at times bear the infirmities of those who are weak. Those who are strong at that moment.
And that's my emphasis at that moment because we're going to have our day. We're going to have our day. We have to be able to name ours, in order for us to name it in others even when they're trying not to.
Alison: Yes, that's good.
Monique: And I think that that's where grace is found. I think that that's where grace is found. And, so, I just believe that if we're going to be healthy individuals, if we're going to be a healthy society.
If we're going to be a healthy church, we have got to name what we are feeling. We have to allow other people to do it and we have to allow them the space to do it, and also provide adequate support and tools to help them to navigate their way through those dark times.
Alison: Yes, it's a beautiful book. But just that friendship, what you just said, and the way that you helped them name what was happening was really powerful, and I learned a lot about friendship. I've thought about it. I'm like, "Oh, so much of it is just naming. I see you, I see what's happening, this makes sense. Your experience is valid. I'm with you in this."
We don't have to fix it; we are just coming alongside. And it's been an honor for me that you invited me in, Monique, because a little bit into our friendship to say, "Yes, I get it. I see it." It's meant so much to me and I've learned so much from you through that book, about, "Oh, this is how we do it, just for our friends." I know, I feel so much pressure. "I got to fix the problem."
"I got to give them the solution."
"I've got to give them the nugget of wisdom that'll change their life."
And it's really all I have to do is be like, "I see it. I get it, that's right. I hear you, that's valid. How're you doing?" It's just really showing up. And that to bring this full circle, I think, I started this off saying, sometimes, it's hard for me to know what's the difference between genuine kindness. Genuine, just showing up for others and pleasing, and that is getting at it.
It's when I've done, and I love how you say this, it's when I've done enough work in my own self. That it's like, "Oh, I know that and I can come with you and name that." Not because I'm trying to get something from you or feel like I'm the best friend here or whatever.
It's because I've done the work in myself and now I have the ability and the capacity to take that God-given empathy, and that God-given kindness to say, "Oh yes, this is real and I'm with you in this." And there's a with-ness in that and it's powerful and I'm beginning to understand that difference.
Alison: But your friendship with Clarence and the way that was modeled in the book was really instructive to me. It was really powerful and really helped me, I think about it a lot and how I show up for other people.
Alison: It was subtle, it was a nuanced, but it was very powerful.
Monique: Yes, oh, thank you for saying that. That means a lot coming from you. It's just easy, and I know you know this, in my final comment. It's easy for us to get lost in other people if we don't know, like you say, who we are enough, we're not aware enough.
We're not going to ever have a 100% that glorification is going to take place on the other side. But at least do we know even what our limits are? What we lack? What we might be trying to get from other people? If we are not aware of that, then, we so easily are going to fall into that.
So, yes, it is so important for us to do that intrapersonal work. So that we can then be able to love the Lord our God with everything that we have, and then love our neighbor as thyself. And I think that right there is the cornerstone.
Alison: That's right. There's a term in IFS, in Internal Family Systems that I kind of like it, but they call you have to have a critical mass of self.
Alison: And what they mean by that is just enough. Nobody is ever going to be really there, but just enough of that self-led, and we would say the Holy Spirit-led self.
The spirit-led place versus the, "I'm trying to please, fawn, cope, survive, get you to like me, whatever the things are that go along with people-pleasing. There is enough self of a spirit-led self, "No, I'm showing up for this person out of the best of me."
Monique: That is right.
Alison: What would you say, Monique, to that young girl, now, who watched you know her brother and her mother, and learned how to just wave, and smile, and nod. What would you say to her now?
Monique: Oh, my God, oh, without crying, "That is going to be okay. It's going to be okay. That, literally, all things do work together for good even the things that are not good things can work together for good." I think that's what I would say. "Just hold on, hang on, even when you don't want to. Hang on, all things will work together. They will work together for a good."
Alison: That's beautiful, thank you. I want everyone who's struggling to hear that, that's a word, that's a hard-earned word. What would you say to those who are listening, who struggle with pleasing others and have a hard time really feeling that joy of being God's beloved child?
Monique: Yes, that you're worth it. You are worth the hard work. You are worth telling others to hold on. You are worth saying, "No." You are worth saying, "Let me think about that and get back to you." So, in other words, you are worth creating that space to do whatever work you need to do.
To be able to hear not only your own voice, not only your own beat to your heart. But also how God is speaking to that voice within and how He is also attempting to slow down that beat of our heart, when it's anxious. Or to even speed it up when it's slowly beating because we're lethargic, you're worth creating that space.
Alison: That's beautiful. What is bringing out the best of you right now?
Monique: Oh, my goodness, the fact that God has graced me, favored me with relationships, again, such as you, that have allowed me to show up as Monique. Not who people think Monique should be or expect her to be, but who Monique is, that brings out the best of me, have that safety to just be, that's it.
Alison: I love that. And what needs or desires are you working to protect in your life right now?
Monique: You have said it, repeatedly, and I know people can't see us, but I'm over here shaking my head, profusely, that hard-earned voice and that wisdom.
So many times we can be made to doubt, and to wonder, and to maybe feel like, "You are selfish" or whatever else the case may be. But that hard-earned voice and the wisdom, that is what I'm working hard to protect and I surely encourage all others to do the same.
Alison: Yes, we need your voice, it matters. And, especially, the hard-earned voice that has been through the fire, it's powerful, it's holy.
How can people connect with you, Monique? Your work, your podcast, your resources, your services?
Monique: Yes, they can reach out to me via my website. It's drmoniquesmith, not to my father, gadson.com. It's G-A-D-S-O-N, I know many people spell my last name many different ways, but it's G-A-D-S-O-N.
I'm like you, I have that kind of love/hate relationship with social media, oh, my God. But I try to hang out on Instagram every now and again @drmoniquesmithgadson. And every now and again I might send a tweet, and I may show up on Facebook as well.
But go to the website is the main way and Instagram, probably, would be the main way. The podcast is, And The Church Said, and that's another story too. In terms of just voice and just following what the Lord is saying to do and how I've even had to learn that maybe it's a tool of healing.
Alison: Hmm, that's beautiful, thank you. I so appreciate the time you gave us today and I'm so grateful for you.
Monique: Thank you so much for having me, Alison. I appreciate you.[01:06:55] < Outro >
Alison: Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out.
I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others and you stay true to your God-given self.[01:07:34] < Music >