Tami Simon: Welcome to Insights at the Edge, produced by Sounds True. My name’s Tami Simon, I’m the founder of Sounds True, and I’d love to take a moment to introduce you to the new Sounds True Foundation. The Sounds True Foundation is dedicated to creating a wiser and kinder world by making transformational education widely available. We want everyone to have access to transformational tools, such as mindfulness, emotional awareness, and self-compassion, regardless of financial, social, or physical challenges. The Sounds True Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to providing these transformational tools to communities in need, including at-risk youth, prisoners, veterans, and those in developing countries. If you’d like to learn more or feel inspired to become a supporter, please visit soundstruefoundation.org.
You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today my guest is Amy B. Scher. Amy is an energy therapist, an expert in mind-body healing, and the bestselling author of How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can. She’s worked with organizations such as the Department of Psychiatry at Stanford University, and New York Presbyterian Hospital. With Sounds True, Amy has brought her depth of experience in the field of energy, psychology, and self-healing to create a new book—a book that she refers to as her favorite book—on How to Heal Yourself from Depression When No One Else Can. Amy and I talk about how symptoms are messenger, and how important it is to listen to what our symptoms might be telling us. We also talk about how a critical part of self-healing is a willingness to explore how our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions might be contributing to our health or our lack of health; and in so doing, how we discover important ways that we can mobilize our agency and our self-healing capacities. Here’s an illuminating and practical conversation with Amy Scher:
It’s a delight to be with you, Amy. Welcome to Insights at the Edge.
Amy Scher: Thank you so much. It’s my honor to be here.
TS: Amy, your first book was called How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can. And as a way for you to introduce yourself to listeners, share a little bit what was going on in your life that you needed self-healing, and how did you heal yourself when nothing or anything outside of you could?
AS: So I came to self-healing I think the way many people come to self-healing, which was as a last resort. And now from where I am, I think, oh my goodness, if I would have turned inward or looked inward or done that work sooner, how would my healing journey in my life have been different? And I basically came to self-healing because as my book title suggests, nothing else worked for me, no one else could help heal me. I started off with, in my early 20s, with headaches, nausea, some very nondescript symptoms that nobody could quite figure out. I was told, probably hormones, or maybe what I was eating, and what I was eating in my early 20s wasn’t a diet I am proud of now. But needless to say, over the next few years, I started to develop some severe neurological issues. I started having problems walking. I was diagnosed with neuropathy, which is nerve damage. That’s most often associated with people who have diabetes, and I certainly did not have diabetes.
And it was revealed not until about seven years into all of these symptoms—and by this time, I had been bedridden for part of it, I was on disability, I had some very, very severe symptom—I had chronic Lyme disease. At some point, I was bitten by a tiny tick and I was unaware of it, and the bacteria from the tick infiltrated my entire system. And by the time I was accurately diagnosed and diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease, my body had deteriorated so badly that nobody knew what to do with me.
And I tried the standard treatments. I was on antibiotic therapy for a year. I tried a therapy called hyperbaric oxygen therapy. I went to the Mayo Clinic. I did all of the things that everybody told me to do to try to heal, and nothing really worked. In 2007, I flew across the world to receive an experimental stem cell transplant to save my life. It was a huge, huge risk. But my loving parents said, “If you’re going, we’re going too,” and we all set off to India for this cure that I hoped would be a miracle cure. And when I left, my doctor basically said, “I wish you the best of luck, but I hope this doesn’t kill you.” It was a very experimental, non-FDA approved treatment. And we went off to India, and like the miracle I wanted, I recovered. And even though I arrived to India in a wheelchair, I left walking. And in fact, I almost missed my flight on the way home, so I left running through the airport in Delhi. And I got home and I was ready to go back to my life, and that’s much of what I did.
About a year later, I started to develop symptoms again. And as you can imagine, I was completely heartbroken that after all of these great lengths to heal, I was starting to—my health was essentially starting to unravel again. And it was at that time, I sat heartbroken and quiet and asked myself what I was doing wrong. How did I get back to this place again? Now, I wasn’t in a wheelchair again, it wasn’t as severe as it was, but I felt really, really deep inside that I could be headed back to that place. And it was at that time that I started to uncover all of these pieces about what happens when we cure the physical body or we force a cure in the physical body, but we don’t change our inner landscape. And that opened me up to a whole world of how our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions directly affect the physical body.
And from that point, I turned in a new direction for my healing. And I essentially started to work with not just my physical body, but the me that was actually at the core of who I was and what my body was doing. And that was the pivotal point that created the path towards self-healing for me, and that is the work that has now been translated into, I think, 16 languages, and is being shared all over the world. And it wasn’t a journey that I meant to—it wasn’t a path that I ever thought that I would follow, but that was the one that was there that led me to my ultimate, permanent, and complete healing.
TS: Now, let me ask you a question, Amy, and it’s a bit challenging and I’m sure you have quite a bit to say about it. So here it’s a year later, and you ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong?” And you start investigating thoughts, beliefs, emotions. And I know some people who have suffered from illnesses or who currently suffer from a disease of some kind, they bristle when they think, “Look, it’s not about the fact that the sick person is doing something wrong! You’re blaming the person who has an illness when they’re suffering.” And I’m curious how you address that when you work with people, when they come in and there’s this thought, “Oh, it’s my thoughts, beliefs, actions. I’m doing something wrong. It’s my fault.”
AS: Right. Thank you for asking that, because if anybody bristled when they first came to that realization, it was me. I had had actually doctors and people say before, “Are you under stress?” And I was even mad at them for that. “Could it be your relationship? Could it be . . .?” And I’m a Virgo. I’m also a perfectionist. Those two things probably go together. There is nothing worse for me in the world—I’m also Jewish and have this inherited Jewish guilt, although I’ve worked on it so much. But there is nothing worse for me, or there was nothing worse for me, than something being my fault. So I completely understand the resistance to that. In fact, I spent so much of my life not wanting anything to be my fault that what changed that was one day I thought just—I was going to play Devil’s Advocate. What if it was my fault? What if it was? What if I did unconsciously, in some way, play some part in the manifestation of my illness?
And you know what I thought at that point? Who cares? What if I did? What does that say about me? Nothing except that I’m human. And when I surrendered to the idea that in some way, shape, or form, I could have contributed to where I was, that’s when I was able to heal because I stopped resisting and bristling against the thing that could help me. And that’s what I tell my clients: now, it is certainly not consciously your fault in any way. It is not even about fault. It is about the question, “If I somehow unconsciously participated in this, or even consciously, who cares? Who cares? Because if I participated in this, then I am a participant in my healing.” And that is where I found true freedom—not in being told it wasn’t my fault, but in not caring even if it might have been my fault in some way, shape, or form.
TS: Now, in being a participant in your healing, finding that place of agency, healing myself when no one else can, what did you discover from your own experience were the most important principles that really mattered for you?
AS: For me, I really discovered that some of the patterns I had in my life were crushing my spirit. And when a spirit is crushed, it has a direct effect on the physical body. And interestingly enough, some of these patterns directly come back to my fear of it being my fault. I was a people pleaser. I didn’t like anybody to be upset. I was a perfectionist. I wanted everything to be OK, I wanted everything to be perfect. I had completely irrational expectations of myself. I had fear. I lived in deep fear of being who I really was. I had no fears about heights, I had no fears about small spaces. When I hear teachers and leaders talk about fear, I sometimes feel like there’s a missing piece that we’re not talking about, which is the greatest fear that we have is the fear of being who we really are. And because many of us have that fear, we start to contract ourselves, we start to contract who we are. We start to contract our bodies, our energy systems, our emotions. And all of those things really directly affected my body.
And that really—there was another piece of it that really played into all of that, which was that because I wanted everybody to be happy, because I wanted everything to be perfect, because I wanted to be loved for who I was but I felt like at times I couldn’t share that or show that, I constantly ditched and dodged my emotions. I was not good at feeling how I really felt. And for me, this was the perfect—hopefully, I can say it—the perfect shitstorm that created so much stress on my nervous system and my immune system that I became a participant in my own illness. And when I started to work on those things at a deep level, using energy therapy techniques to release the stress, the trauma, these beliefs, the pressures, that’s when I became a true participant in my healing.
TS: Can you share more about these energy techniques? I know you’re an energy therapist, and that you’re part of a new pioneering field—I think it’s pioneering—called energy psychology. When you talk about the energy techniques that you use that really matter, what are you referring to?
AS: So there are all types of energy therapy techniques. And energy therapy is ancient, essentially. I mean, many of us know energy therapy and learning about and working with the energy, the subtle energy system in the body from acupuncture, Ayurveda. Reiki is another way to work on the body’s energy system. The term “energy psychology” means a group of techniques that address the relationship between the energy system, just like those other modalities do, but between the energy system and emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. So it’s really working with our emotional landscape in correlation or in connection with the energy system to heal the body, mind, and spirit.
TS: Now, you mentioned this openness you developed to seeing, could I be contributing to what’s going on with these physical symptoms either at a conscious or a subconscious level? And what I want to talk about is the subconscious level, and how do we access what’s going on at the subconscious level because obviously it’s subconscious?
AS: Absolutely. Which is the hardest thing, right, because how do we address what we can’t access? How do we address what we don’t even know is going on? And I think I actually had hints about what was going on, even if I didn’t put it together as far as, “this is causing this.” I somehow feel that I realized at some deep level that there were things going on in my body or in parts of me that were not conducive to well-being in my life. But the way that we—and the good thing is, we can access the subconscious mind, and I teach this in the book. I teach in the book about techniques where we access the subconscious mind to find out exactly what beliefs, emotions, and behaviors and thoughts are stuck.
So, muscle testing is one of them. I also, for people who don’t resonate with muscle testing, actually just go through in the book, what the most common subconscious blocks are that I’ve seen now over a decade of working with people in their healing. So there is a way to access the subconscious mind in order to find out what stuck for you as an individual, but also, I’ve really been able to identify patterns that many, many, I would say, most people have when they’re experiencing depression on any level, anxiety on any level, chronic illness on any level. And these are things that people will probably recognize when I talk about, like the belief, “I don’t matter,” or “If I express my true self, I’ll be unlovable,” or “I have to be perfect to be healthy.” So these are things, these are patterns that I’ve identified over many years, that when I say them, people may not realize that “Oh, that’s what I’ve been doing,” but it’s like a small nod from inside like, “Oh, I could see that.” And that’s the way we start to bring out some of this subconscious stuff is even just the recognition that it could be there.
TS: OK. So let’s say someone’s listening, and they’re thinking to themselves, “Yes, it’s probably true underneath it all. I don’t think I really matter. I’m not sure I do. I’m not sure I do. Maybe I don’t really matter. Maybe—I probably don’t really matter.” Something like that. They resonated with that. OK. What’s next, Amy?
AS: The great thing is what’s next is way easier than getting to that place of realizing what’s stuck, because when you realize what’s stuck, you have the ability to change that. And through the techniques that I teach, some of which I developed on my own, we use techniques that actually work to release the energy of that from the body. One of the techniques that I use for something like a belief “I don’t matter” is a technique called the Sweep Technique, like sweeping with a broom. And what it does is, it’s a script that you repeat or you can even just read it, and it helps—it’s very, very specific verbiage that actually befriends the subconscious mind in a gentle way to help it or encourage it to release this BS from the brain, from the subconscious mind, to then come to a better understanding of what’s true, which is, “I do matter. I could matter. I will matter.” Whatever it is to move away from that rule that we have that we probably learned when we were really little or perceived when we were really little, that I don’t matter.
And when you start to change the belief or the perspective, everything starts to shift, because if you go through your day believing you don’t matter, how can you find any semblance of being happy, of feeling content, of ambition, of joy? All of the emotions around our lives in one way or another does revolve around these beliefs that we have, or these perspectives. So if I can get somebody to shift from “I don’t matter” to “I might matter, I will matter, I can matter, I do matter,” everything in the body can shift from there.
TS: Can you go into more detail about the Sweep? Is it the kind of thing we could do together even if people may have different unconscious patterns who are listening—maybe someone’s thinking, “You know really, probably more likely at the bottom of it all, I feel unlovable,” or maybe they’re thinking at the bottom of it all, “I’m a screw-up,” or I don’t know what it might be. But can we learn how to do this sweep regardless of what that negative belief is deep down inside?
AS: Absolutely. Should we do it?
TS: Let’s do it. Yes, let’s do it. Let’s do it.
AS: All right, let’s do it. So I’m going to have everybody close their eyes and take a big, deep breath. And this verbiage is very specific to unlocking the subconscious mind in a really, really gentle way. So basically the subconscious mind and the conscious mind have to work together in order for you to heal completely, because we’ve probably all tried to use our conscious mind and we see that that might not have gotten us as far as we want to get. And so what we’re doing here is, we’re using this wording to help encourage the subconscious mind to get on board with what the conscious mind already knows, which is that we want to heal.
So let’s take something general that will work for anybody no matter what they’re working on, which is a belief, “I’m unable to heal,” or “I’m undeserving of healing.” And I’ll let our listeners decide which one feels most true for them. Which one is giving you the inner nod? I’m “unable to heal,” meaning I can’t heal, you don’t believe you can heal. Maybe you’ve tried five million things like I did and thought there can’t be anything else. Or “I’m undeserving of healing,” which means somewhere deep down, your body is giving you an inner nod to, you don’t deserve to feel better. Why you? Why should you get to have a good life? Why should you get to feel joy?
And I’m going to walk you through this. All you need to do is repeat after me, and I’ll help you with the rest. Even though I have this belief that I’m . . . and go ahead and fill in the blank with “I’m unable to heal,” or “I’m undeserving of healing.” I acknowledge it’s no longer working for me. I give my subconscious full permission to help me clear it from all of myself in all of my body, permanently and completely. I am now free to thank this old belief for serving me in the past when maybe I really needed it. I am now free to release all resistances to letting it go. I am now free to release all ideas that I need this belief in order to stay safe. I am now free to release all ideas that I need it for any reason at all. I am now free to release all feelings that I don’t deserve to let it go.
I am now free to release all conscious and subconscious causes for this belief. I am now free to release all conscious and subconscious reasons for holding onto it. I am now free to release all harmful patterns, emotions, and memories connected to this old, outdated belief. I am now free to release all generational or past-life energies keeping it stuck. All of my being is healing and clearing this energy now, including any stress response stored in cells. Healing, healing, healing. Clearing, clearing, clearing.
It is now time to install the new belief that I can heal, that I deserve to heal. Installing, installing, installing. Installing, installing, installing. And so it is done. And take a big deep breath, a couple of big deep breaths. And the reason we use the wording “I am now free” is because in all my testing, that was the one phrase that the subconscious mind didn’t resist. It resists being told what to do, being reprogrammed, being all of these different things, but no human resists freedom, and that’s where the magic of that phrase comes.
TS: Now, Amy, I want to address that person who’s listening. And maybe part of them thinks, “This is interesting. This might work.” And another part of them thinks, “Really? How could something like repeating a bunch of phrases for five minutes sweep out a deeply held belief and pattern like that from the subconscious mind? How does that work? I don’t . . . come on.”
AS: I love what a skeptic you are, and what a Devil’s Advocate you are, because I was the same way. And what I came to for myself, and what I tell my clients is, just try it, what do you have to lose? I have clients once in a while that will come to me, new clients and say, “Well, how do I know?” Well, it’s like, how do you know that it won’t work? I try really hard to encourage people to just be curious. Because for me, this kind of work, I created the Sweep during my own healing journey, but all of this type of work was my last resort. And so for me, I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose. This is virtually almost free. It’s the price of a book. It’s not—you don’t have to come to me. You don’t have to go to—it’s really the chance to explore if this stuff and your subconscious mind has been blocking you. And you really—as far as a time commitment and a cost commitment, there’s not that much risk.
And so I can tell all the stories of how thousands of people have used this, and how my work is used in hospitals now and it’s taught in medical facilities. I can say all of that, but I think the best thing that I can say is to just be curious if it could work for you. There’s no pressure. You don’t have to spend months and months and months, hours a day. I tell my clients, 10 to 20 minutes a day is enough. And see if the reason that things haven’t been shifting how you want is because there’s stuff stuck inside of you that is stressing your nervous system. And just imagine what would happen if a little bit at a time you release that, and how that would help the body come into healing mode.
TS: Do I have to believe in the effectiveness of the Sweep for the Sweep to be effective?
AS: That’s a great question. Mostly not. Mostly not. If you were so resistant to it that the entire time you were thinking, “This is bullshit. This couldn’t work. This is a waste of my time,” I would probably lean towards saying, come back a different time when you’re ready. But I do this work with kids, I do this work with people who aren’t all bought in. In fact, I wasn’t all bought in. When I first opened the door on this whole new world about how my thoughts, emotions, and beliefs could be contributing to illness, I was skeptical. I’m a person who, I’m such a science geek. I love lab tests. I love the science of everything. And to me, this was what I used to call woo-woo. I mean, who knew I would become one of these people? But I wasn’t all bought in. But I do think you need an openness and a curiosity to go there with this type of work.
TS: OK. And now let’s talk to that person who says, “You know, I’ve been doing this stuff. And to my surprise, it’s actually working. Amy, can you explain how is it working? How does something like that actually work?”
AS: Yes. So it all comes down to something that we do know from science, which is stress and trauma have a negative effect on the immune system. That is widely known at this point. And what this work does is help you to release the stress and trauma. And when we’re talking about stress, we’re not talking about, you had five million things to do, that you had to take your kids here and you had to get this ready for that and you had to do these 40 things for work. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about the deep stress that comes from not feeling good enough, feeling like you don’t matter, all of the patterns we were talking about before. Those stresses, which typically come from or are linked into traumas that you’ve experienced, those stresses and traumas, when they are released from the body, help to instigate the body’s healing ability.
So what we are doing by releasing this energy is not saying that if we release a trauma from the past, or a belief that you’ve had since you’ve been 10, that that’s going to miraculously heal a back injury. What we are saying is that we know when we release stress and trauma from the body, it helps the body to be in the best place possible to heal. So there’s a more indirect effect in terms of healing, where we are helping by releasing all this burden on the body to allow the immune system and nervous system to do their job. Does that make sense?
TS: It does make sense, actually.
AS: We’re taking the stress, we’re taking all of the burden, or as much of the burden as we can—and it doesn’t have to be every single thing. If I go today to try to find some stress and trauma I have missed that—I’ve missed in releasing, I will find plenty of it. But what it does is, it takes enough of the burden off the body so that the systems in the body can work again. And the systems in the body are our program to heal. And so it’s helping to bring the body into alignment with healing.
TS: Now, Amy, you’ve written a new book with Sounds True that’s on how to heal yourself specifically from depression when no one else can. And we’re going to get into that topic in a moment, talking specifically about depression. But in your new book, you talk about working with symptoms, whatever the symptom might be for someone—maybe their symptom is that they’re depressed, but maybe their symptom is something else, a physical symptom of some kind, or an emotional symptom. And you introduce this really interesting phrase, you talk about how often people have something that you refer to as the “loudest link.” You say that you were using that phrase as a play on the weakest link, whatever the loudest link is. So maybe someone’s listening and they’re like, “My loudest link is when I’m really feel I’m under stress, it’s my back. My back goes out.” Or “My loudest link is I have digestive problems.” Wherever it might be for someone. How do you view these symptoms, this loudest link symptoms? And how do you see symptoms in general?
AS: Yes. So, symptoms are the body’s communication system with us. That’s it. They’re not bad, they’re not good, they are the body’s communication system. And I will tell you that the body does not lie. If there is something going on emotionally in your system, your body will tell you about it, often before you recognize that you feel depressed, that you feel anxious. The majority of people that go in to the doctor and are eventually diagnosed with depression or anxiety—even if it’s a low level, even if it’s not something that’s stopping you from your life—first go in for a physical complaint because our body is, whether for better or for worse, is connected to our emotions.
And so one of the ways that I healed myself and that I help clients and through my work is to help them understand what their body is saying. For somebody who has digestive issues being the loudest link—meaning when things aren’t sitting right in your body or—either in your emotional body or in your spiritual body or your physical body, your digestive system acts up. It’s speaking to you. It’s trying to tell you that something is not in alignment in your life, in your body and your system. And digestion is often being unable to digest life—being unable to digest change, being fearful, being unable to assimilate and process all the things that are going on around you.
A lot of empaths who take on energy, the energy around them, have delicate digestive systems. A lot of people who have or who experienced stress on their nervous system, like being jarred easily, having difficulty with loud noises or bright lights, there is something called a gut-brain connection. And so when the nervous system and the brain become overwhelmed, that can affect the digestive system. And there’s actually an entire section in the book that goes symptom by symptom by symptom of all the symptoms I’ve decoded over the years. Because once you figure out what your body is saying, that’s almost a subconscious communication; then you know what to work on.
TS: OK. How could you help people without them using your system of “this symptom relates to these potential set of causes”? How can someone in their own experience inquire within and listen to understand what message their body’s trying to tell them with their symptom?
AS: Sometimes even just getting quiet and asking that part of your body, “What do you need? What am I missing? What am I trying to tell you?” will bring up a thought, a memory or an association that you can then use. Symptoms, physical symptoms, typically start within 18 months after a stressful event. Again, when I say stress, we’re not talking about you had too many things to do yesterday; we’re talking about maybe losing a loved one, losing a job. Maybe we’re talking about something you still feel guilty about. It could be anything.
But if you can ask your body, if you can ask your stomach, if you can ask your lower back or your right shoulder or your pinky toe, whatever is bothering you, if you can ask that part of your body what it’s trying to tell, a lot of times you will suddenly think of something that seems totally random, but it’s your subconscious actually pushing forward this information about what might be connected. And from there, you can often figure out what’s going on. What trauma do you need to heal? What thing are you believing that you might need to do the Sweep several times on? What is the thing that your body is trying to tell you through that symptom?
TS: All right, Amy, let’s talk specifically about depression. Why did you decide to write a book that focused on self-healing from depression? Yes, let’s start there.
AS: Besides it being one of the greatest challenges of our time—and how could I have ever known this book was going to come out when it did, but it couldn’t be more perfect timing—I have a view on depression that I had never heard anywhere else. And because of that and because of my own father struggled with depression, and because of my struggle with depression when I didn’t even recognize it as depression, this book was more important to me to write than any book I’ve written. And I know parents aren’t supposed to have favorite children, and I think sometimes they do; and I don’t think I’m supposed to have a favorite book, but this is my favorite book because it will help people understand depression in a new way. And depression is the literal depression of self. It’s what happens when we become buried under our own lives, our stresses, our traumas, our obligations. And it’s a way that our body is often unconsciously grieving for our unmet desires and needs. It happens when our true selves are depressed, literally suppressed.
And looking at it from that way is how I have helped people heal from depression, how I came out of my own. Now, I was never clinically depressed, but I went through a time in my life where I felt blah and teary and exhausted and suddenly thought, “Am I depressed?” And when I started to unravel it, I realized that I became buried. I had a terrible year the year before. There were all kinds of things going on. Many things caught up to me and I just realized I had become buried under my own life. And that’s what happens with depression. There is not something inherently wrong with people who experience depression. In fact, nothing is wrong with them at all, which nobody believes me when I first tell them. It’s not inside of them, it’s what has fallen on top of them that’s weighing them down.
TS: Now, Amy, you mentioned your father’s depression. And once again, I want to bring forward that person who’s listening who says, “Look, depression runs in families. This is passed down through the genes, and you’re saying there’s nothing wrong with me? Come on.”
AS: So it is true that depression can run in families. However, the way that I see it is that—and there’s actually a whole study on this now, is how energy is passed down, just like passed down through our genes. The very interesting thing about depression that I challenge people to look at is that modern medicine is getting better and better, yet the trends of depression are getting worse. Which has really shown us that the paradigm of how we look at depression—looking for behavioral, chemical, psychological glitches—isn’t the whole story. Everybody knows somebody out there who was diagnosed with depression, whether it be a chemical that was imbalanced or a hormone or whatever, and that thing was remedied. They were given that medication or that supplement, and the depression didn’t go away. Why? Because there’s more to depression than the biological glitch that we can find with testing.
And that’s why self-healing is such an important piece of overall healing. I don’t want anybody to stop going to their doctor, to depend on self-healing, to think they have to do it all on their own. No. Self-healing, whether it’s with depression or anxiety or a chronic illness, is making sure that you are participating in your own healing, and doing the work that no one else can do for you. Even if you want it—even if you need or choose to take the medicine, even if you’re going to therapy, even if you’re doing all these things, it doesn’t excuse you from doing the work that only you can do, which in my experience, makes more of a difference than anything else.
TS: I can imagine that contacting that inner sense of agency is particularly hard when you’re depressed.
AS: Oh my gosh.
TS: It’s built into it. It’s like, “Amy, I can’t even listen to you. I’m depressed, I’m depressed.” So I’m sure you work with this with people. How do you help people who just—the whole idea of being a participant, they’re flat out?
AS: It is the worst. I know it from experience. I know it from working with clients. And this is why, through the book and through my work, I teach people to make what I call micro-movements. You cannot go from being depressed to being happy. Most of the books out there are about how to be happy. Most of the things on Instagram are about how to tap into joy and how to see things differently. The way that I teach is to deal with emotions first, even if it’s two minutes at a time. And from there, your thoughts and beliefs will more naturally shift.
In the hierarchy of how things work in the body, emotions come before thoughts. And so all of the people who are out there depressed, trying to change their thoughts and listening to all of these things about changing perspectives and thoughts, it may not be working because without going to the emotions first, it’s a very, very hard hill to climb. So my work is all about doing tiny, tiny things. If all you can do—and there’s even a technique in the book about tapping for one minute or 30 seconds, or rubbing your ears, there are many acupoints in the ear—sometimes doing these little, like massaging the ears, will shift you enough to do the next tiny thing, which will shift you enough to do the next tiny thing. And let me tell you, and I think everybody out there will understand, when you feel even a little bit better, it’s easier to feel better.
So my goal through my work and the book is not to get you from feeling depressed and not being able to get out of bed and crying, to feeling happy. It’s to get you to the next step to feel just a little bit better, to get a little bit of relief in the moment. Because if you can get a little bit of relief in the moment, it’s easier to feel better. And when you feel a little bit better, you can feel a little bit better. And so that’s really my way of helping people move a micro-inch at a time if they have to when they’re in that place,
TS: I love this idea of micro-movements. And can we do, again, together, a micro-movement? You said we have to start with our emotions. So let’s do something that helps us with our emotions.
TS: A micro-movement.
AS: OK, we’re going to do it. So a micro-movement that can help you with your emotions is to first identify how you’re feeling. And you don’t need to know what emotion you’re feeling. In the book, I talk about the three big emotions, which are anger, fear, and grief. So if one of those resonates for you, you can use it for this exercise. If not, then I want you to describe just briefly in your head, what you’re feeling. It can be that you’re feeling like a black balloon. It can feel that you feel like a blue dinosaur. Whatever comes to you, I don’t care. It can be, like, that you feel like shit. That’s what my clients tell me, and hence the subtitle of the book.
But whatever you’re feeling, I just want you to momentarily focus on it, and just accept that it’s there. This is the first step in helping an emotion to move, is not to duck from it or deny it. The more you do that, the more you try to think happy and think positive thoughts, the more that emotion will rebel and become stuck in the system. So I just want you to acknowledge for a second that you feel like shit or that you feel like a blue dinosaur or a black balloon, and it’s OK.
And then what I want you to do is tap on your chest. Go from where you would—where a bow tie and would sit on your neck, and slide your finger about an inch below. Tap on your breastbone right there behind your breastbone—and you can just scrunch up the fingers of one hand and tap gently there—behind your breastbone is a gland called the thymus gland, T-H-Y-M-U-S. And the thymus gland is the master gland of your immune system. It is also connected to your entire energy system. And when we tap on this gland, we are able to release stress and stressful emotions from the system through this percussive effect of tapping. It sort of sends a force of energy through the thymus gland and the energy system to swoosh it out.
So what I want you to do is just tap there and focus on your emotion. And that’s it. This is the micro-movement. If you want to pair it with something, I like to sometimes say, “let go, let go, let go.” So you can go ahead and repeat that a few times: let go, let go, let go. And what you’re doing is, you’re acknowledging that you feel like shit. You’re tapping. And at the same time, you’re giving your body permission to let it go. You’re not psychoanalyzing it. You’re not hating it. It is what it is. It’s right there. And we’re using the access to the energy system to help shift it out.
This is what I teach in hospitals when I’m brought in. This is what I teach—I work with a group of women who are survivors of domestic violence. So it’s what I teach them to do before they go into court. This is what I teach little kids to do when they have anxiety. This is one of the most powerful techniques. And you can literally do it in bed without very much thought at all. So all you do is, you reach for your chest, you tap. And if you want to, you can say, “Let go, let go, let go.” Sometimes I lovingly tell myself, “Let that shit go. Let that shit go. Let that shit go.” So whatever works for you. But that is a micro-movement, that it’s something small you can do to help you feel a tiny bit better to get to the next place.
TS: Is there a good suggested length of time to do that?
AS: You can tap for 30 seconds to a minute. That would be my starting point. But you could certainly tap for longer.
TS: Now, you mentioned your father, and I read in the book, How to Heal Yourself from Depression When No One Else Can, that people in your family, in your generational line, were involved in the Holocaust, suffered from the Holocaust in different ways. And I wanted to talk specifically when it comes to addressing the healing that’s involved in generational trauma from one generation to another, how you see the techniques that you teach addressing that kind of inherited trauma and potentially inherited depression as well that you referred to?
AS: Yes. Thank you for asking about that. So, like I said, just the way DNA can be passed, energy can be passed as well. And I actually believe that a lot of people mistake learned behavior or genetic predispositions for—and when they’re really inherited energy. And just that stuff that gets passed down to us: those stories, the remnants of suffering of struggle, of fear, all of those things. And it can affect different family members different ways. So, I would like to say because I think that there’s an important distinction, that when there’s inherited trauma, I will most often see it only affect a couple of people in a family, which is really interesting because when I look at my own family, it greatly affected my dad and myself. Now, my brother and my sister had no health issues. My uncle, my dad’s brother, is in his 80s, no health issues, no depression. And he was 12 years old when The Holocaust ended. He lived through The Holocaust. He escaped the Nazis. My grandfather, same thing. Lived into his 90s. Escaped the Nazis.
So, it’s such an interesting thing, because when we talk about generational trauma, this is a distinction that I’ve been able to make, that when you look at a family, there’ll be a couple of people—one, two, maybe three that are really greatly affected by physical or emotional challenges, but the rest don’t seem to be so much. And the work that I teach, whether you’re healing for yourself, your own experiences from your own life, your own beliefs, or things that have been passed down is the exact same work. It’s not different work. We’re addressing it all. It does help to know what your ancestors went through so that you can be aware of the energy you’re releasing, but the techniques are exactly the same.
But I found for me that that was a very important thing to address, because there was so much, for me, inherited fear. And talk about an inherited fear about being who you really are, because during that time, you couldn’t be, that everyone was hiding who they really were. And so there may be certain things that people who are listening feel that they can relate to their own ancestors’ experiences. Maybe it won’t be the same as mine because their ancestors didn’t experience the same things. But it’s really interesting once you start to think about it, to see the connections between your life’s experience and how that could, how some of that could be from ancestors and from where you came from.
TS: And what’s your understanding, Amy, about how some people in a family—let’s say there’s a group of siblings, certain siblings can be quite sensitive to that trauma and others aren’t? What’s your understanding about that?
AS: I think as you know, people ask me this about “Why am I empathic and my brother doesn’t give a shit about anybody?” Or why am I—all of these things? And I think it’s just comes down to individuality. I think that some of us are—this was in some way meant to be our path; and not forever, not to struggle, but for a short period of time, maybe we were supposed to come upon this information in order to release it from the energy system of our family or the dynamic of our family. Some of us, I think, feel it more than others. This is true of empaths. There’s a couple of empaths in my family, the rest of everybody seems just fine with anything that goes on. But this is what I see. And I think it just comes down to our own individual reactions, perceptions, nervous systems, all of that stuff that leads us on a different path than others in our family.
I’m not sure there’s a great answer. I’m not sure there’s so much rhyme or reason, but I think it comes down to the individual energetic imprint—and possibly this is beyond what I’ve ever deeply considered, but our life’s path, like maybe this was just part of some contract we don’t know about or whatever. And I don’t believe that any illness, that any depression, anxiety, any ancestral energy that burdens that is forever. I don’t believe in life contracts in terms of that. But I do believe there’s probably something greater than we can understand about it. And so, what I tend to try to see it as [is] an opportunity for me to release that which others aren’t on the path to release.
TS: In your book, How to Heal Yourself from Depression When No One Else Can, you offer lots of different exercises, practices, energy, psychology, tools that people can experiment with, get curious about. Try this, try that. You’re very generous. You’re like, “If this doesn’t work, try this other thing.” What I’m curious about is, besides having an attitude of openness, a willingness to explore and try it, what else makes somebody like, “Oh, this person’s going to really get a lot out of these practices. They have the right attitude.” What is that attitude?
AS: I don’t even know if it’s an attitude. I think it’s a readiness. Had I come upon work like mine 10 years prior to when I did, I would’ve thought it was absolute BS because it wasn’t time. For me, and unfortunately many people like we talked about earlier, we come to a place of realizing that our inner landscape is important once we have fixed every external thing we can possibly fix. I and my family spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to heal my physical body. Much of it that we didn’t have, much of it that we went in debt for, much of it that we ended up having to fundraise from family and friends for over time, because our family was in such a bad position because of both my dad and my own physical and emotional experiences.
But I think there is a readiness. I think there is a readiness. And when you are ready to look at that piece, I think it can be life-changing. And if you are not ready to look at that piece, then there is no shame in that either because when you are ready, you’ll know it. And sometimes, unfortunately, we have to try every other thing or do all of these other things to realize maybe there’s something else we can uncover. And for me, it was really just a readiness. And I don’t even know if—I can’t say I had the most positive attitude in the world or anything like that. I tend to be an optimist, but I can’t say at all times. When I thought I was on my deathbed, did I have a positive attitude? Was I willing to try anything? I mean, not really. It was just at some point that my walls to looking at the scariest, biggest thing, which was myself, weren’t worth having anymore. And I think when people get to that point, that’s when it’s time.
TS: And at the end of the book, towards the end, you introduced this notion of three promises—that there are three promises that you’ve made in your own life and you invite the reader to explore making these promises in their own life. And I think this would be a great note to end on. What are these three promises?
AS: So the three promises are essentially: tell yourself the truth, lighten the F up on yourself, and take action. And let me just briefly talk about these. So the first one, which is tell yourself the truth is so, so important. Because for many, many, many years in my journey, in my illness, in my life, maybe most of my life, I lied to myself. About how I felt, about what I wanted, about who was good for me in terms of being in relationships, about everything I could think of. And we can get away with lying to others for a long time, but eventually lying to ourselves catches up to us. And so the first promise that I talk about is telling yourself the truth because once you tell yourself the truth, you know where to go from there. There can be no healing until you acknowledge the truth of what is and how you feel.
The second promise, which is lightening the F up on yourself—because the self-criticism that people tend to tend toward, those who experienced depression, anxiety, chronic illness, has to stop. A berated body will not heal. End of story. You cannot be mean to yourself. You cannot put the pressure you put on yourself and expect your body to relax into healing mode. It’s impossible. This is probably the most difficult thing that I work on with clients, and that I work on with students, which is, you have to lighten F up on yourself. It just the healing cannot happen with the level of stress that we put on the nervous system and the immune system when we beat ourselves up all day. It’s absolutely abusive to talk to yourself in a way that you would talk to nobody else, and your body feels it.
And the third promise is to take action. This one took me a while to come to, but it is very, very, very important. When I first came into the world of spirituality and emotional healing, and I’m learning about some of the principles of the law of attraction, I used them for everything. It was a new, exciting world for me to come out of this scientific brain and come into a place where I could tap into something that felt beyond me to learn how to trust my life’s path and to do work that would help me improve myself. But, but, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing takes the place of taking action. You cannot trust the universe, tap, or law-of-attract your way out of doing what you need to do to change your life within your ability.
I understand and am sensitive to, not everybody can turn their life upside down and move somewhere else, leave a spouse, do the job that they love. That is not what this is about. What taking action is about is being careful that you are not handing your life over to the universe when there are things you could do to help move your life forward. So it’s very important. And I love all of the principles I talked about; if those are things that resonate with you, I love that. You should do all the spiritual work. You should trust the universe. You should use the principles of the law of attraction if that feels to you. But you cannot excuse your own piece in free will and charting your own path.
TS: I love that. And here, as we end, let’s take action together one more time. And teach us a micro-movement we can do to lighten up on ourselves, lighten the F up on ourselves. Something we can do if we notice we’re being critical. “Oh my God, I should blah blah.” Is there some micro-movement we can do right then, when that happens?
AS: Yes. Absolutely. OK. So just like we can’t go from depression to pure joy and happiness and floating in the clouds, we can’t go from being mean to ourselves, especially if we’ve been doing it our whole lives, to thinking we are all love, light, and peace, which I have still not gotten into. But we can make micro-movements to get to accepting ourselves as real human people who sometimes F up and who move forward anyway.
So the micro-movement for this is when you find yourself beating yourself up, you need to find the next less shitty thing to think about yourself. So if you were thinking that you are the biggest screw up in the world because you forgot to do X, Y, and Z and now so-and-so’s mad at you, the challenge and the micro-movement is to find the next less shitty thing you can think about yourself. It shouldn’t be that you’re all love and light; that’s much too far of a leap. And for me, it’s too woo-woo; personally, my brain would not go for that. But are you really the worst person in the world? Are you really—was that really that bad, that you’re so unforgivable? What is the next less shitty thing you can think about yourself? And if you can grasp onto that, that will help you start to practice micro-movements towards self-acceptance.
TS: I love that. That’s very effective. I just practiced it while we were talking, I was like, “That works.”
AS: Yes, and it’s actually a really fun game. Like if you will find that you have a game to play with yourself all day because you’re probably being shitty to yourself all day, and it’s kind of like, “Oh, what’s the next less shitty thing I can think?” And you do. It’s very effective, but it is also kind of fun. It’s so much more fun than trying to be all love, light, and whatever all the time. Just try to think a little bit less shitty than you did five seconds ago. Easy.
TS: I love it. I love it. I’ve been talking with Amy B. Scher. She’s an energy therapist, teacher, and the author of a new book with Sounds True. It’s called How to Heal Yourself from Depression When No One Else Can: A Self-Guided Program to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t. Amy, great, great conversation. I learned so much. And thank you for making it so practical and giving our listeners so many good takeaways. Thank you so much.
AS: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.
TS: Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge. You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at soundstrue.com/podcast. And if you’re interested, hit the Subscribe button in your Podcast app. And also if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you, and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. SoundsTrue.com: waking up the world.