This is Dr. Valla’s second appearance on Grief 2 Growth. In May 2020, Dr. Valla and I spoke about healing our inner child within. In this episode, we focus on difficult life situations. The topic of this episode was inspired by the origin of Dr. Valla’s work, which is working with disabled children. Why would a person choose to have a disabled child? Why would someone choose to come to this planet disabled? Would we?
Rebecca is a Psychiatrist, has been a lifelong spiritual seeker, and has also been involved for nearly 10 years with IANDS, an organization devoted to Near-Death and related Experiences. She has worked extensively with developmentally disabled children and adults, both before and after her training as a Psychiatrist. There is a grief experience that is very common when a child is born with a disability. Sometimes, that child’s developmental problem isn’t known at birth but becomes known at a later time. The grief appears whenever loved ones realize that their child will have a growth path that is not as expected for most of their peers. Sometimes, their survival is not assured or is thought to be shortened for the long term. Sometimes they require a great deal of care both medically and to meet their basic survival needs at home, which requires intense adjustment on the part of family and others. Some situations require a decision at some point along the way, as to whether the child can best be cared for in the home. There may be talk of a need for “institutionalized” care. The poignancy of the pain of these families may obscure the opportunities for growth, love and connection, and joy. There is a process of healing and learning that demands work, and brings with it the experience of self-discovery and personal expansion.
Close your eyes and imagine
what are the things in life that causes the greatest pain, the things that bring us grief, or challenges, challenges designed to help us grow to ultimately become what we were always meant to be.
We feel like we’ve been buried. But what if, like a seed we’ve been planted,
and having been planted, to grow to become a mighty tree.
Now, open your eyes, open your eyes to this way of viewing life. Come with me as we explore your true, infinite, eternal nature. This is grief to growth. And I am your host, Brian Smith.
Brian Smith 0:47
Everybody This is Brian Smith back with another episode of grief to growth. And today I’ve got with me again, Dr. Rebecca Vala, making a return visit. She and I’ve talked several times, and we have a lot to talk about. So today we’re going to be we’re going to be covering another topic we didn’t talk about so much the last time. But first let me read her her short bio, she is a she’s a medical doctor. She’s a psychiatrist. She has been a lifelong spiritual seeker. And she has also been involved for nearly 10 years with ions, which is the organization devoted to near death for life experiences. She’s worked extensively with develop developmental developmentally disabled children, adults, both before and after training as a psychiatrist. She’s been a best guest on grief to growth, as I said in the past, where she spoke about her recent focus on inner child healing and self love. Today, I think we’re going to talk mainly about development disabled children and her work with that. So with that, I want to welcome Dr. Rebecca Viola.
Rebecca Valla 1:42
Thank you. Thanks.
Brian Smith 1:43
Yeah, it’s good to have you back. We had a great conversation last time. We’ve talked a couple times since then, I’d bet our mutual interest in things like what the near death experiences tells us about different things. And as you and I were talking, because we’re both presenting to ions coming up this fall, and we’ll talk about ions a little bit more with that is the International Association for near death studies. We’re talking about that. And you brought this topic of pre birth planning, which I’m really interested in, and especially as it relates to hardships like people who are developmentally disabled. So how did you come to being interested in that topic?
Rebecca Valla 2:18
Well, I was interested in developmentally disabled since I was in high school, I mean, volunteering with children
in the town that I grew up in, in New Jersey summers, and during my senior, I guess you’re a high school. And then ultimately, I worked the year after high school, I worked in a residential school for multi handicapped children, and most of them were cerebral palsy involve children, which, you know, is a very many people don’t really understand cerebral palsy, it’s a brain damage generally acquired at the time of birth. And in it, it can, it can lead children to have little or no speech, um, not be able to walk, not to have use of their limbs. But it doesn’t always impair cognition. So you can have very bright, very, you know, functional in terms of their intelligence, young people, as it was I was in a school who are so involved in terms of their motor impairment that they can’t feed themselves. And so I worked in that school for the better part of a year as a childcare worker, right out of high school. And so what I was doing was bracing, bathing, toileting, dressing, and feeding children in that school. And then later, then I went on to college, and I got a I double majored in special ed and in social work, and I went back to that residential school as a teacher. Wow, that was my first professional. Well, it wasn’t my very first but it was my main longest you know, post college, you know, job, right. Which was very, very intensive. It was a school that was, you know, residential. So, you know, they were always there and they always needed for teachers to be there. And teaching was it was a very stretching experience. A very, it was an opportunity for a lot of growth on my part was very difficult. I delivered the school when I was a childcare worker. Wow. But in any way that kind of got me started, and then I worked in a public classroom for children who had mostly autism. At a young age, they were four or five, six year olds. And so and then I then I went on to work in a vocational high school in Newark, New Jersey just before I went to medical school.
Brian Smith 5:11
Rebecca Valla 5:12
so I have pretty varied experience with that population. And then of course, as a physician, I actually worked with adults who had developmental disabilities and psychiatric issues, and I helped them as a psychiatrist.
So you this, that sounds like a really challenging set of circumstances. And then you said, you went to medical school, you became a psychiatrist. And, and you were also still working, I guess, with development disabled people? And then how did how did you tie spirituality and with with this, this situation?
Well, I mean, I don’t know that I necessarily did early on. Other than, of course, you know, what we know is that we’re all one, we’re all, we’re all interconnected to one another. And so no matter how disabled a person is, no matter how different they may see, in terms of not being able to, to converse with them readily, or if they seem to have very limited cognitive ability to even kind of know what they understand, we can still make a connection with them on a human level, on a heart level, and I can’t tell you how much fun it can be. And, you know, that’s hard, you know, that’s hard for most people to know, to understand how much fun it can be to be around disabled children. They, you know, they tend to be very, very free in terms of their own emotions, and they can be very funny. They can be very socially sophisticated and engaging. And they’re so full of life and love, and it’s very heartwarming.
Yeah, I’ve heard people that have had development, disabled children, you know, talk about what a what a blessing it is. And I think for a lot of us, we just look real quickly on the outside, and we say, that would just be so hard, and it would be heartbreaking. And we’d look at all the other negative aspects of it. But I’ve heard, I’ve heard many people say, it’s like, the best place I’ve ever had. There’s so
much to be learned and so much to be gained. Um, you know, I mean, I just, I have countless, countless stories, I so it wasn’t until, you know, my own spiritual development moved along, far enough to understand about pre birth planning, and to have an understanding of why there could have been a choice on the part of an adult to have a child with a disability on the part of the child to come into the world with a disability. And, and this is, this is the kind of thing, you know, it takes some real spiritual depth and understanding to wrap kind of wrap yourself around that.
Yeah, it’s, it’s one of those really, you know, it’s one of those really tough questions that we ask ourselves, when we look around the world, we say, why would a child be born like this? And it actually reminds me of a story in the Bible, where there’s a man that was born blind, and they came to Jesus, and they asked him the question, you know, who sent why would Why was he born like this? He was born blind. And, you know, we we still most of us don’t have a good answer for this. Is it random luck, to God? Is his punishment? Is it karma? Is it you know, it is a matter of sin? You know, we said, we, we go through all these different emotions, but with pre birth planning, you’re saying there might be a reason why someone would actually choose this. And that’s, that’s going to be a mind blowing concept to a lot of people.
Right. And, and, I mean, it’s not something to hit somebody over the head with when they when they just have a newborn baby. Right, who has, you know, been born with, you know, some serious congenital abnormality, you know, or defect of some kind related to their birth? You know, it’s not something to force on anyone. Right? Oh, it’s, it’s it’s kind of a truth that will be helpful. If and when it is the right time for them to embrace it.
Yeah, exactly. It’s one of those. I love the way he said, it’s one of those hard truths that we don’t want to hit someone with being and we don’t want to ever make anyone feel like well, this is my fault. You’re saying this is my fault. You know, I just think it’s something that we can offer to people As an alternative, if it helps you,
yeah, if they can come to it, and they probably will need time to come to it. Yeah, a lot in the beginning. You know, unfortunately, this is an example of one of those things that the medical profession has not done very well with at all. And they tend to want to, you know, they want to, they want to bring babies into the world that are whole and healthy. And when that doesn’t happen, they want to distance themselves from the whole, you know, the whole truth of it, the whole actuality of it. And, you know, at least a lot of the parents that I knew when I was working with young disabled children, and of course, this was in the 70s. So it was quite a while though, many of the parents had been told not to even bond with the children, to institutionalize them was the term. You know, they’ll never, you know, they’ll never grow into like a functioning adult, and, you know, making all kinds of very frightening, negative kind of predictions, right. And that’s really not helpful. And that’s not where the emphasis needs to be when someone is just beginning to understand file has disabilities, and they’re going to need to have special care. And, you know, they’re not going to just sort of go along the normal course.
Right, right. And, as you said, I was just thinking normals, overrated, right, we have this idea of the way things should be. But these these children can grow into adults, and they can have very rich, fulfilling lives, even though they’re not what we consider to be a, quote, normal life. And some of their life’s lifetimes might be shorter, but they could be full of rich experiences. I’m thinking right now about a friend of mine, his son was born with lissencephaly. And he was only predicted to live I think, to like two, and handed live until like, he was about 11. And it was a it was an eye. She’s told me it was a great experience for her family. And it was challenging. She had two other children that that was a real challenge. But just so much joy and love, I could see that she got out of this child, even though the doctors are like, don’t bother bonding with them. He’s never going to be able to speak he’s only going to live for a very short time. And I don’t know if she’s advised to institutionalize them or not. But you know, she kept him at home and had a great, great wife.
Yes, yes. You know, I mean, any of us, who’ve been parents, I think, can understand the idea that our children are our teachers. We may not know that from day one, but they are and as we learn and grow, you know, with them, and we see them for who they are on, they teach us so much. And that’s one of the you know, benefits and gifts of being a parent, whether it’s by biologically normal ways or whether it’s adoption or something. And disabled children, you know, what they call now Exceptional Children. That’s even more true. That’s even more true what they have HS it’s it’s it’s it’s a gift in its own way, but you don’t want to trivialize the huge adjustment and the burden that that is true, it is there. With with these children, it helps if you have other children who are not disabled. That helps everyone that helps the children learn. The disabled child learned in bond and everyone learns that, you know, we’re not all the same. And yeah, we love one another. And we’re a family,
Brian Smith 14:03
right? Yes, there’s
Rebecca Valla 14:04
a tremendous amount to be gained for a family having a child that’s exceptional. Well, soccer.
Let’s talk about that from both perspectives. So let’s first take the perspective of the disabled child, why would someone choose to come into this world and not be an able bodied person?
Well, I think that it’s pretty clear that they are bringing so much to whatever family they come into whatever caregivers they come to, I mean, they bring everywhere they go, they’re they’re bringing tremendous gifts of of learning and of greater, greater understanding of what it is to be a human being. As these are, these are little human beings who love life, as limited as it is for them. For them. They laugh They love, they think they think life is so great. They’re not they’re not. I mean, they may go through a time in their adolescence, depending on their cognitive awareness, where they wish that they were not disabled. But when they’re young, they don’t, they don’t have an awareness of how different they are. And they’re just who they are. And they’re so free to be who they are, and to bring their enthusiasm for life and their desire to be here. Even if they have to go through, you know, like, kids that I worked with in a, in a residential program, I had to wear braces on their legs, they had to go through operations, many of them, many of them have had multiple surgeries. And they were born with multiple medical issues. So they needed, you know, brain, you know, surgeries, if they had hydrocephalus, and they needed cardiac surgery, if they had some kind of major malformation, they may have had multiple, multiple surgeries, and then even as they grow, in terms of their motor, if they can’t move their legs, they’re at risk of contractures their arms and their legs. And so then they need surgeries, as they age, for those reasons, and they tended to be so unfazed. Really, why whatever life was throwing at them, it was they were just so glad to be here. So I think that, you know, when we cross over, and this is something that we learned from near death, experiencers we see clearly what was happening in this lifetime. You know, we’re, we’re on the other side of the veil, and we’re shown, um, and so I think before a child chooses to come into the world, they are well aware of that, it will be very hard and very challenging, but that it will be a very important gift that they give, to show other people what it is to be a human, you know, to be connected to each other to have compassion for one another, you know, to say there, but for Fortune, go I.
Yeah, yeah. And so footbed to the other side, why would someone agree to have a disabled child coming into this world?
Well, because there’s so much to be gained, you know, I mean, that I it’s very common for parents in the very beginning, to feel like they can’t do it, they’re very often they’re very overwhelmed and afraid, yeah. And they say, I can’t do it, you know, I, I don’t know anything about, you know, managing a child with this kind of disabilities, you know, I’m not a nurse. And I’ve, you know, I’ve not had experience with children who have so many different needs. And so that’s very common. And it’s very important for them to begin, just as you know, just take it easy, all you have to do when beginning is love your child, that’s all you have to do. And then it will unfold from there, there’s nothing more important than that. So the the parent is in a position to learn so much about themselves, and about their own capacity. And they had no idea that they had an in them to be able, you know, to parent, this disabled child and to be able to, you know, to learn so much, sometimes there’s so much to learn if their medical problems are complicated. Yeah. And they also know, very often if the disability is significant enough, that the child will probably not live a normal lifespan. And so they know, early on that they will probably lose that child before they might expect to lose a child that’s, you know, not not disabled. And so that’s another thing waiting for them, you know, that’s like, oh, my goodness, how long do I have the child? And you know, and I need to make use of my time because it’s, it’s possibly going to be shortened. Right? This trial, right? And over time, they, you know, they started to tell you, the adult parent starts to say, I can’t tell you how much this child has taught me how much I’ve learned how much bigger of a person I am now, you know, and they learn and they see things about what it is to be human that they would not have known and not have learned and bond and they learn they need other parents. And there’s a lot of richness in that. And then a lot of the people who are in the field working with disabled children, whether they be in the education part of Things or doing something more specialized speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, you know, they, they learn, oh my goodness, look at these people who are so dedicated to working with these children. And and they be there they get initiated right into a whole different world than they would have ever known if they hadn’t had a disabled child.
Yeah, yeah, it is a whole different world now, as you’re talking and thinking about my friend that that had something lissencephaly and, you know, we look I have a look at her and I just incredible strength and the things that she you know, the wheelchair traveling with, and he had, you know, a GI tube for feeding, and then the pain medications and the seizures and the knowledge that she gained and the things that she that she felt like she could do and what a strong person that made her and since she’s passed as his pass, she’s now a city council person, she’s advocating for the disabled. I mean, it’s just yeah, I think about her. And I just like, Wow, what an incredible person that she is, you know, and partly because of this, this little kid that came in that really pushed the whole family.
Yeah, I know. I know. It’s, it’s, you have to admire the people who are living with all of that. Because it’s a lot. Yeah, it’s a lot. But they’re also, most of them, they’re not asking to be, you know, praised or, you know, lauded or given anything, any kind of special recognition, because what they’re doing is from the heart, you’re following your heart. And this is about love, love in action, you know, I say, you know, it’s one thing to feel like you’re a loving person, it’s another thing to put your love in action. Yeah. And, and they’re doing it, you know, they’ve been doing it every day of that child’s life. So it’s, it’s very admirable. And there’s a lot to learn just from just from knowing these people who are parents of disabled children,
there is and to me, it’s kind of a microcosm of, you know, that they’ll question is, why is there evil in the world? Why is their lack and you know, one of the things I say to people is, we would never have an opportunity to practice compassion, if no one ever liked anything. So I think that gives us the opportunity to, as you said, put, put our love in action. And I’m gonna say, I’ll just interject this, you know, this is not completely academic. For me, my daughter was not disabled, but she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was like, 10. And it was pretty serious case. And I remember that feeling of like, okay, now we have to, I have to learn all this, right. And then I had to give her injections, and I had to give her you know, medications and going to see the rheumatologist and occupational therapist and those types of things. So, just a little bit of tiny glimpse of that. But, you know, I was happy to do that for my daughter, you know, it’s like you said, no one’s no one’s looking for any medals or anything. This is like, this is what we do for our kids.
Yes. Yes. Right. And, you know, and there are, there are mysteries waiting for us. And, and that’s true in life anyway, right? We don’t know what will happen, right? You know, we think we know and we try to plan, but you know, life is filled with unknowns. And really being here as a gift. And I think that’s one of the things that these disabled children teach us so much is that it’s a gift to be alive. And I want to stay, you know, they and they fight to stay. Yeah.
Yeah, that’s also really important point, it takes a lot of times, you know, we tend to focus on what we don’t have, you know, I figured for myself, I tend to focus on what I don’t have, and you might not, might not appreciate the fact that life is such a gift. And then you see a, you know, a kid that can’t speak or can’t walk or whatever, getting such joy out of, you know, just being in a swimming pool, you know, and seeing the joy in their face and just appreciating the what we call the small things in life.
That’s right. That’s right. And, and don’t think that just because a child is, you know, considered, you know, profoundly disabled, that they cannot love their family, because they can, yeah, they can.
Yeah, cuz you mentioned work with autistic children. I don’t remember details. But there was a, there was a girl who was artistic and somehow she learned to compete to communicate through a computer. And when she was able to do that, they realized she had these profound thoughts. You know, she was like, it was like, she just opened up and they, you know, sometimes we’ll look at people that are artistic and say, well, they’re just living in their own world. They don’t have any idea what’s going on. And when she was able to make that connection, it was it was just really amazing to find out what was going on inside of her.
Right. Well, you know, when I was working With the teenagers, which when I was a teacher and I went back to this special school, I worked with teenagers at that point. And so they were needing to learn to communicate with computers and, and it was just beginning, it was, like around 1979 or so. And it was all really the technology was just beginning. I think it’s advanced a lot since then. But so has the whole understanding of autism. When I was working with autistic children, which would have been like in 7273, maybe something like that, very little was known about how to help them how to teach them that, you know, even diagnosis was very slow, in calming. And now we understand this whole idea of what it is to be neuro, neuro atypical versus neuro typical, and the Asperger syndrome, and how unique and individual each of these children is. And yes, some, some are our savant. I mean, they have unbelievable abilities that we can’t explain. And, and there’s a lot that is being done with communication of various various kinds sign kinds of sign language kinds of things. And, you know, as you mentioned, computers, and it’s a whole burgeoning world now, the whole world of of these, you know, autistic, Asperger’s, children and adults, and there’s people writing books about it, you know, of their own experience being neuro atypical. And, you know, it’s, it’s very promising in ways that it, you know, we couldn’t even envision when I was working with those little ones. Yeah. You know, yeah, I
tell you, sometimes I wonder, not wonder, it seems to me like they’re bored, a lot more advanced than we are, and they just kind of Discworld just kind of, like, you know, too much for them. Because it’s this, you know, you have to be a little bit crazy to get along in the world that we live in. It does. It does show, right, some, you know, some ways of being in the world that just because we don’t understand them, doesn’t mean there’s not some real important meaning behind the behavior. Yeah. And you know, how complex we are as human beings? Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I like what you said also about, you know, everybody being unique and having a different, you know, different aspects. So, we tend to want to diagnose people with a lump people and say, Okay, well, they’re like this, and they’re going to be so therefore, they’re going to be like that. And then we find out, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s incredible. The range of human ability, you know, and different abilities. People have some people that, you know, can’t do one thing, but do another thing, just like, out of this world.
I know, artistic ability. It’s quite something. creative ability. Yeah. Uh huh. But, you know, even children who are, you know, profoundly, you know, disabled, and, you know, they can’t even sit up. Next thing. We may not be able to see, you know, some kind of creative abilities on their part, right? Like, the, the, the free and loving spirit comes through that little person spirit comes through, you know, animals usually combined very readily with them. Yeah. And with animals. You know, it’s, there’s, there’s so much, there’s so much to just learn to just see it, as you know, I’m going to take this in, and I’m going to learn everything I can, from what my life has dealt me.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I want to ask you as a medical professional, because you mentioned earlier medicines, not really great at dealing with situations like this. And so people, like I said, they want answers, they go to the doctors, why did this happen? So they’re going to give them some sort of a biological, mechanical, you know, reason why this happened. And then people are going to, you know, blame genetics or blame the fact that they smoked, or we know, whatever. How easy or difficult is it for a medical professional to bring this type of approach when you’re dealing with a parent that’s going through this?
Well, I just think, you know, it’s the luck of the draw, right? You know, people don’t know when they’re choosing an obstetrician, you know, when they’re going to have a baby. They don’t know what’s gonna happen and they don’t know how this doctor is going to manage that situation. Right. Um, there are of course, there are some doctors who just instinctively are, you know, able to match when they are really Going in an abnormal kind of a direction. But though they’re probably in the minority, so what parents need to do is they need to get from a very early point, they need to be asking, you know, who can I talk to? Who has an experience with, you know, children who are born, like my child, you know, my kind of my child’s kind of challenges, you know, and and they need to get to somebody pretty quickly who has experience? Yeah. And they need to use their intuition from day one, because so much of the parenting of these children is about navigating through all the the medical resources and and the world of rehab and, and therapy, specialized therapies, navigate what an advocate for their child, right. And you know, and a lot of that is an intuitive thing, you know, I don’t get a good feeling from this particular doctor or therapist, I don’t like the way they interact with my child. Hmm, you know, they don’t seem to have a real compassionate heart, in the way that they interact with my child, I don’t feel comfortable, I’m going to try to find somebody who has the skill that my child needs, and also has the ability to receive my child in a way that is, you know, showing compassion. And, you know, really regarding respecting my child as an individual. And see parents had to do that from the day one, they learned they have to be advocates. Yeah, in order to navigate all the complexities that their child is is going to need. So that’s one of the benefits is getting in touch with your own intuition. Yeah, now you know what’s good and right, and what just doesn’t, doesn’t seem right, the way that it’s going.
We’ll get back to grief to growth in just a few seconds. Did you know that Brian is an author and a life coach, if you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving his book, grief to growth is a best selling easy to read book that might help you or someone you know, people work with Brian as a life coach, to break through barriers and live their best lives. You can find out more about Brian and what he offers at WWW dot grief to growth.com www dot g ri, e f, the number two gr o w th calm. If you’d like to support this podcast, visit www.patreon.com slash grief to growth www.patren.com slash g ri e f, the number two gr o w th to make a financial contribution. And now back to grief to growth.
Rebecca Valla 32:53
Yeah, and that’s I guess that’s one of the challenges because especially in the medical profession, we’re really quick to give up our power. We’re really quick to say okay, well, this guy is the expert, this woman is the expert. So whatever they say goes, and we were looking for that. And I totally agree with you. Because I’ve again, I’ve seen so many people go against medical advice, and say no, I’m, I’m going to bring my child home, for example, or I’m going to do this or do do that. And it turns out to be for the best. And so we have to understand the doctors are only human. And they don’t know, they don’t know, they might know a lot about the body, but they don’t necessarily the best person make decisions for our families.
Right. Right, we believe and that’s something we have to learn in this in the world now, as things are in our world. Now. One of the important things that I think everyone is being challenged with is what is true for them. Each one of us has to decide, you know, what do I live for? What do what do I say yesterday?
Brian Smith 33:54
Rebecca Valla 33:55
And what do I say? No, I’m not, I’m not part of that. I’m not going to be, I’m going to I’m going to take my power, and I’m going to I’m going to use it for a you know, another purpose that I’m conscious and aware of, I’m not going to let somebody else, you know, take over or you know, influenced me in a way that doesn’t feel right. And each one of us has to, you know, we have to do that. That’s what that’s what this world requires.
Brian Smith 34:20
Yeah. I want to ask you as a medical professional, you know, in your training, are you encouraged discouraged? Or is it neutral in terms of bringing spirituality into your practice? Are you are you able to talk about spirituality? Are you able to introduce a concept like pre birth planning or something like that?
Rebecca Valla 34:39
Well, I do now, because because I’ve been at this for 30 plus years, but certainly no, it’s not pointed. I mean, along the way, it wasn’t part of my training originally. And I you know, and I’m a I’m a, you know, straight, trained psychiatrist. Right. Right. Thank you. You know, American Medical School in a well regarded residency in psychiatry. But back then, you know, I finished my medical training in 1990, my second psychiatric training in 1990. There was just just heard of whether spirituality was even relevant to psychological health. Yeah,
Brian Smith 35:25
Rebecca Valla 35:26
Yeah. Um, but then, you know, along the way, I worked as a medical director at a pastoral Counseling Center. And I was supervising these pastoral counselors, and of course, we were, you know, all, you know, advocating the importance of spirituality, no matter what a person’s spiritual, you know, Foundation was right, it didn’t need to be Christianity, or Judaism, or, you know, Buddhism or whatever. But that spirituality was very helpful and relevant, when someone is going through some type of a psychiatric crisis, or just, you know, life stresses and difficulties. And so I had more freedom there, to just talk about the subject of spirituality and its importance that on my own, you know, because of my own growth and leanings and, and my own my own sense of what’s true, and relevant. I just bring in spirituality. Now, not everybody is on board, right? And they don’t all want to hear about near death experiences or pre birth planning, or they’re just not on the same page. Sure. I so obviously, I have to respect that. And you know, I can’t go there with everybody. But whatever, wherever they are in their spirituality, we can we can work with that. Right? There. Someone who prays then yes, they can be praying, for guidance and for and for health and comfort with whatever it is that you know, they’re struggling. Mm hmm.
Yeah, you know, it’s as you’re saying this, and I have to tell you, because I love that you do have spirituality in your practice. And every time I talk to someone who says I need it, it’s like, I just, I’m gonna say, Go see Rebecca, because you’re the only one I know, that’s like that book. I went through a crisis myself when I was about 14 years old, about 20 years ago. Panic attacks, no, terrible, it’s out of control. And I realized, fortunately, that it was connected to my faith. So when I went to see someone, I, I specifically saw a Christian counselor. And I’m glad that I did because if I hadn’t, I’d probably still be in counseling. But we were able to get right to the root of what it was. And I was, I was with her about six months. And and that was okay. But that’s, uh, you know, I it’s fascinate me that that’s like higher chakras. Cuz I think we’re spiritual beings. And psychiatry, which is studying the mind kind of blocks that out. And it’s, it’s, I think it’d be a lot more effective if more people were like, you
know, well, thanks. But you know, I wouldn’t be practicing the way I do, if I hadn’t had a lot of psychotherapy help along the way, you know, and even now, I work with an energy healer, who, you know, she helps me in terms of, you know, the continuing inner child healing self love work, you know, expanded consciousness and wholeness then, you know, I’m, I’m all about So, but mostly what I have to offer my patients comes from what I’ve learned myself, in my own life, right,
right. Yeah, it just I just say I’m just kind of wishful thinking here that that we can become more holistic in our approach, because I was talking with a client just yesterday, who probably needs professional counseling, mental health counseling, but they’d like talking to someone like me, because I’m talking about their whole self and the higher perspective and soul stuff. And she’s like, I wish I could get somebody that could do you know, both of these things at the same time. So that’s, that’s where I think we kind of fall down as a society.
Right? Well, luckily, there’s a lot being done with spirituality. Now. I’m not necessarily with MDS and psychiatrists, I would say that the field of psychiatry seems to be moving seems because things can be happening kind of out of the mainstream that are going to make a big difference in what will happen down the road. But what seems to be happening right now is the brain is you know, we’re getting we know that psychiatrists are dealing more and more with drugs, and with the brain and with you know, with the material, the idea of material science, materialist science, right. And that just takes us away from the fullness of what it is to be a human being?
Yeah, I think I mentioned this to you last time that we spoke, there’s a book by a guy named Johann Hari. It’s called Lost connections. And it’s about why we are so depressed as a society. And he looks at like antidepressants and how well or not how well they work. And they’re not nearly as effective as some people think they’re very effective for some people, for periods of time. But I believe the mind, spirit connection is kind of a feedback loop. And I think the brain chemistry can affect our spirit and our spirit can affect our brain chemistry. And we only look at it this mechanistic point of view is like, oh, you’re depressed? Take this pill, you’ll feel better, as opposed to looking looking at why are so many people depressed, and that his book is called Lost connections? And basically, the theory is the hypothesis that we’re not connected to each other anymore. And that’s why so many people are depressed. Hmm, yeah, well, I’m just think about it from the doctor’s perspective. You know, if they’re just giving somebody a prescription, they don’t have to get to know that person, they don’t really have to spend a lot of time connecting to that person, and having great compassion for whatever that person has endured in their life. And, you know, and it’s easier for most doctors, because they’re not going at their work. And that has to do with training, as well as, you know, expectations, and, and, and, you know, cultural influences and all of that. We’re just not, we’re not really seeing each of the people who comes into our office as fully as possible, you know, right. in their minds, because I think this is true. No, hopefully, you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, but this guy was talking about, I guess, in the DSM at one time, you know, there’s a, there’s a definition of depression. And they actually carved out an exception for grief because they realize, if you someone dies, then you’re going to be sad. And so that’s not clinical depression, I guess. But I guess that happened for a while. And then they came back and said, Well, no, because now we’re betting that depression is caused by outside circumstances. And I think they took that exception out. So you could still be diagnosed as depressed. If you’re just in grief. And I bring this up, because I was seeing a doctor, this was a year and a half, two years after saying it passed. He said, How are you feeling? so stressed, I’m depressed, and he goes, What’s going on? I said, My daughter passed away two years ago. And he goes, Well, that’s normal. And he said, you know, do you feel like you need anything? I said, No, I’m fine. And so he said, Okay, great, because I’m like, this is what I’m going to feel when someone passes away. Now, I saw another young lady, she was a very young doctor, she’s Apparently, she looked like she was just having medical school. And I told her the same thing a little bit while later she says, We need to get you on medication. And I’m old enough now to say no, I don’t want or need medication for what I’m going through this is a normal part of being human. So I think the, the medical profession nice, I think, kind of backdrop said before few people as whole people and say, Why do you feel depressed? Is this a normal thing? You know, are you functioning okay? And, you know, are you that kind of stuff?
Right? Well, but that means doctors have to be whole people. Right? Like, yeah, like, just creates all kinds of issues. Because we, you know, we selectively choose people for medical school, who are very left brained, and they’re very focused on memorizing, and on, you know, whatever they can say, from a knowledge viewpoint. And we don’t, we don’t go a lot into I mean, people don’t have to have psychotherapy before they go to medical school, people don’t have to have some kind of psychological work on their own past, you know, what a become doctors. I mean, it’s, that’s just bypassed. Yeah. And as I say, what happened with me was that I started I went, I went to psychotherapy for five years before I ever went to medical school. And so sort of a no brainer that I would go into psychiatry. Yeah. And, you know, and then I, you know, I, I gravitated toward a certain kind of work, that was part of what I knew, and when I was, I felt most confident about and of course, it led me to do more and more, you know, spiritual work with people. And of course, not everybody who comes to me has really any interest in spiritual growth. Sure. So I have a wide wide range of, of people. But you know, I mean, we, we can finger point at doctors, but you know, we just have a problem with our culture, if we have a problem in you know, wider context. Right, right. You know, I mean, we live in a capitalist society and people are treated as commodities. Yeah,
yeah. And I don’t mean to finger point at doctors, because you’re right, it is a societal thing. And it’s, and you made a good point I hadn’t thought about before, because I was thinking it’s training, but it’s also selection, we select people who are like that, that they can memorize a whole lot of facts and regurgitate them. And not necessarily people who are compassionate or spiritual or even understand what psychotherapy is, or, frankly, even care what psychotherapy is. Yeah. Because they view us as biological robots. And, and even even the brain. It’s like, okay, you’re depressed, take this pill, you’re anxious, take this pill, and it’ll just switch that little thing off, and you’ll be fine.
I want to tell you all about another doctor you may not know about her name is Karen Wyatt. wy, att, yes. And Karen is an example of somebody who went to medical school, thinking that she was going to be able to put love in action. That’s how she was thinking about it, you know, I’m going to be a doctor, and I’m going to put love in action. And I’m going to be basically, you know, with my heart, I’m going to be coming towards each patient, and I’m going to be able to embrace and help them with whatever their needs are, whatever their pain is. And she found out very quickly, in medical school, nobody wanted to talk about love. And certainly they want to want to talk about loving your patients. Yeah. And they basically didn’t allow it. I mean, it was just, she understood that, you know, I mean, this is like, a revolutionary idea here. And she, um, she had to be careful, although she did find in her training that some doctors who were more advanced and, you know, supervising her work, would ask her to go speak to certain patients who were afraid, or were being resistant because of their fear and, and, like, talk to them and see if you can, you know, help them understand why we have to do this surgery or whatever. And so they did recognize that the way she approached patients was beneficial, but they didn’t allow it in terms of, they didn’t want to have to change, and they didn’t want to have to become loving doctors, oh, that’s not going to be comfortable. So she ended up over time, going into palliative care. And now that’s what she does, she works with dying people. And what she found is that when people are dying, everybody’s happy with me being all about love, you know, and we can all be about love as a team. And we can be about loving this person out of this world. And helping their family emphasize love, as they say goodbye. And that’s what’s most important, you know, to remember the love to repair where there’s been brokenness, in, in connection with family and others. And so that’s what she does, and she fits in very well. And now she’s writing a number of books on this subject of death and dying, and, you know, and helping people, you know, to the other side, so she’s, you know, I’m not the only one there are, there are wonderful doctors, you know, who are and, you know, Bernie Siegel, of course, people know, his medicine and miracles. And, you know, there were, you know, we’re learning about ways of being healers as doctors that don’t involve the body particularly, they involve consciousness prayer. intention.
Unknown Speaker 48:24
Rebecca Valla 48:26
Yeah, ration of the body,
right. Yeah, there are those people out there. And I’ve interviewed Karen, I’ve actually talked to a couple of times, she’s a fantastic person. And so the those people are out there, they’re kind of bucking against the system. Yeah. It’d be nice to maybe one day see us, again, kind of treat people as whole beings. Yeah. Have more of us doing that. And it was interesting, I was talking about that the two doctors experiences I had no pretty close together. One was very young, I said, pretty much just out of medical school. Yeah, there was an old guy, he’s probably about my age. And I guess he’d been around for a while and realized, you know, people are, you know, they’re more than just their bodies. And, yeah, you know, he really took the time to talk to me to find out what I was feeling and how I was doing. And I told him, I was okay. And I was fine with what I was. And he said, okay, but the young woman was just like, you know, in and out, like, and, you know, if I keep hearing this from you, then I’m going to put you on medication. I’m like, well, you’re never going to see me again. So that won’t be a problem. So because I did not go back to her.
Right. Well, you listen to yourself, right? your instincts. I wish people would do that more often, you know, and and buck the system, if you will. And, you know, I’m not feeling it to be here with this person. Is this not this that does not speak to what I need?
Yeah, yeah, exactly. So um, I want to talk to you because I know your speak you’re really involved in ions, and I’m really fascinated with your topic for the upcoming ions conference in September. on what the ego is and and How, how we should interact with our egos. So tell me a little bit about that.
Well, I’m going to be talking with David McKinley, who is a fascinating guy. He’s a chaplain. And he works up in Nova Scotia. And he works at a cancer hospital. And he himself has had cancer numerous times, I think four times, he’s had this cancer recurrence. And he’s also had a near death experience during one of those time. So he’s fascinating. And he’s written a great book called Beyond survival, which is really great if you know, if, if you’re talking to people who have a family member with cancer, or who themselves have something that they think might be terminal, and, you know, they want to, they want to face the, you know, the scary proposition that they might not live much longer. It’s a wonderful book. So we’re going to be talking, when he had a near death experience, he came back from that, and he uses this phrase called, The ego is my homework. So you know, near death, experiencers tend to talk about home being on the other side, and where they went, and they felt they were in a home in home, this was their home. And many times, most times, they don’t want to come back, because of how wonderful it feels, and how loved they feel. And often they don’t have a choice, they’re told that their time isn’t yet and they need to go back, sometimes they have a choice. So when they come back, they don’t call this place home. They know that home is the other side. Right? But they are good, they understand that they have come back because they have work to do. And the work is is growth work, you know, so it’s very interesting, what you call your podcast, right grief to growth, that they have growth work, spiritual growth work, if you want to really focus on that, and yet, it’s gonna take work because they have to integrate it into their life here on earth. And for a lot of the near death experiences that feels impossible, they just like living in my body, and living, you know, as a spirit, on the other side, you know, there’s no way I can, I can’t do that, I can’t do it in the body on Earth, I don’t know how to do that. And so of course, they don’t know how, because it’s going to take work, it’s not going to happen immediately, it’s not going to just happen, they have to find a way. And they have to process what they’ve learned. And they have to put it in the context of being a human being, you know, we’re spiritual beings and a human being a body on earth. And that’s a certain context. And so it’s going to take some translation, and some time, and some real effort. And part of that effort is, is the ego, right? Because our ego is our sort of our persona, right? You know, it fits into the world that we know, here on earth to kind of live out of your ego, and, and our ego is not our best self. Our ego is a, you know, sort of a mature version of, of our best self. And our ego is not the most spiritually informed part of us, our ego is not the most committed to the highest of human values. And we see that, you know, all around us, you know, people tend to be very self interested. They want what they want, they will hurt others to get what they want, or ignore others, or displays others to get what they want, or what they think they need, and make a lot of excuses for why
our best selves, our most compassionate selves, our most empathic selves are not the way we lead our heart based self. And we instead leading from ego is not is not our best self, right? It’s self interest. And I give I’ve given a talk for ions about self love, versus selfishness, because people are confused about the different way. Right. And, and ego is, you know, largely kind of caught up in selfishness. And it’s, you know, it’s a part of us, it’s not that we can somehow, you know, just completely remove ourselves from our egos. our egos are part of ourselves, but we need we need to make a commitment and make a choice, that our higher self is going to be the one that’s in charge, not our ego, self. It takes a while to be able to, you know, to get there, right? work with our ego. And there are other ways of thinking of it, you can think of your ego as your child self, you know, or your image your self, you know, you know, or automatic self that, you know, things that you might want to do or think about doing. And then you say, wait a minute, that would be very kind, that wouldn’t be who I really want to be in the world. And, you know, sort of take charge of yourself. But you know, so there’s realities about the ego, and there’s, you know, your allergies and what it is to be in human form here on Earth. Yeah. And but there’s homework to do. Right. And that’s what we’re going to be talking about.
Yeah, I think it’s awesome. You know, the thing is that, I believe that this world is, is a place we come to learn to grow to challenge ourselves, whether that’s for whatever reason that is. And so the ego, because it’s really, I think, it’s, it’s kind of complicated for me anyway, because we need our egos just so we can take care of ourselves also. Because if we literally had no ego, we would never, we wouldn’t take care of ourselves. But the ego can’t be in charge. So being human is difficult, it’s tough, you know, we’re this, this spiritual being, but we’re living in a very limited world, apparently limited anyway, it appears to be this from our perspective. And so it’s a challenge. And I like what you said, but the end of the year is talking about us being here to grow. And that relates back to our first, you know, when we first leapt off with his, why would I have these challenges and these challenges we can look at, hopefully, we get to a point, we can look at them as opportunities for growth, where we can, instead of saying why did this terrible, terrible thing happened to me, God must hate me, or I have the worst luck, we’re gonna start looking at and saying, What can I learn from this? How can I how can this make me a better person? How can I take this? What do you what do you believe spiritually, or not just what’s the opportunity for this exactly.
And if you are a spiritual person, then you can turn to your spirituality right away, immediately, as soon as you have this daunting, you know, prospect of Oh, I have a child with a disability, go to your spirituality and ask right away, asked to be helped asked to be guided as to be comforted as to you know, find the strength, and in and you will be asked, and it is given, you know, seek and ye shall find, that is really an experience of what it is to be a spiritual being in a human body.
Yeah, yeah, exactly. I think that’s a fantastic point, too, because we do often feel alone. And, and so so again, something like that, what you’re talking about here, that understanding, I was talking to someone the other day, and they called the small self versus the big self, or we could call the ego versus the the higher self, or whatever you want to call that other aspect of ourselves. That is a little bit beyond. It’s beyond what our ego is. And so many of us, were so caught up in our heads and our thoughts, that we totally identify with the ego. And we think that’s it, this is me. And it’s not you.
Yes, that’s right. And we’re you know, we have different parts of ourselves. And there’s different ways to talk about it. Different parts of myself. And there’s a book that’s coming out by a psychologist named Richard Schwartz who he founded something called internal family systems. And it’s a, it’s an understanding of how to work with people in psychotherapy. And his new book is called no bad parts. To try to help us to understand how we have different parts of ourselves. Yeah. And we have to find ways to you know, really, I mean, self awareness is a huge huge part of what it is to be alive it takes years. Yeah. And it’s not it’s not easy. Really to you know, become self aware.
Yeah, I like to I like that no bad parts because I don’t view any part of myself even my ego as as my as an enemy. It’s, it’s there to serve me and I need to live from my higher self and let the ego you know, serve that. But it’s not like I’m in a I’m not in a war with my ego. I that’s just the way that I choose to look at it. And you’re right, the self awareness thing. I mean, I’ve been working on for a while and I feel like I was talking with someone just the other day and he’s, I think he’s a little older than I am. I just turned 60 and he goes, I don’t really have we were talking about the Bible and questions and stuff like that. And I’m like, I’m so fascinated by it, is I’m over all that. You know, I don’t have those questions anymore. I said, I hope I never get to that point. There. There is So much to discover about myself and about the world around me. And I feel like I’m just getting to know myself even at this point.
Yeah, I mean, that’s part of self love, right? To really appreciate how much there is in being a human being. And, and how, you know, we change, we grow, we learn, we expand. And, you know, if we really are engaged with our lives, you know, it, it keeps calling it, you know, it pays its pays our, our way forward. Yeah. So that we don’t stop growing until we stop reading.
Yeah, absolutely. And even then, you know, it’s because there’s this, and I was gonna say, I mentioned this earlier, when we talk about the medical profession, you know, we’re, we’re taught, they’re taught, and we’re taught to view death as the enemy. Death is the ultimate failure. And as a doctor, you have a patient that dies, you failed, but the fact is, 100% of us die 100%. So, to view that, as a failure, just set you up for everything’s gonna end in failure. I view it as, as I know, you do as a transition into the next thing. So I want to get done, what I can get done while I’m here. But once I leave here, it continues things go on.
Right, and my understanding is, on the other side, we have opportunity to continue to learn and grow. It’s not just here. And so that goes on there, too. I guess we have some advantages to being here. That’s my understanding that we have some advantages to, to do the growing here on Earth, that, you know, it’s maybe I don’t know, it’s, it’s more, there’s some kind of evolutionary thrust that happens with being human beings.
So yeah, I’ve heard it put us there’s so much resistance here, that we can grow faster. It’s kind of like, it’s like when you lift weights, you know, if you’re, if you lift heavier weights, you’re going to grow faster. And I had a friend who was really this stuff. And he was saying that, you know, and if you’re Pleiadian, for example, you can learn as much in 10 minutes on Earth as you can 10,000 years being a Pleiadian. Hmm, because of because of the resistance that we have here. So that’s, that’s the reason why we choose to come here and have this. But there is continued growth. On the other side, I was talking with someone about the other day to ask, Is there a final destination that we all go to, like we were taught, you know, in Sunday school, it’s like Earth, and then heaven or hell, and we got to heaven. And that’s it. It’s perfect. We never go anywhere else, my understanding from studying and the ease and everything as we go from here to the next level, to the next level to the next level. And I heard someone describe it as like, If this is a dream, it’s like you wake up from this dream. And you wake up in another dream. That’s, that’s a little bit higher level than this. But then, you know, it’s, it’s a while before we go back to that ultimate thing if we ever do.
Yeah, I mean, I, I’ve got enough on my plate to figure out what to do with my time here. Exactly. No, I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about what’s going to happen when I’m beyond this earth.
Yeah, I know, people get really caught up in how many levels are there and like, I’m the same way as you. I’m like, let’s just figure this one out for now. And I’m just gonna, I’m just gonna accept the next one’s gonna be better. And I’m gonna leave it at that.
Well, it will be better in the sense that we’ll be united with our loved ones right now ones that we miss and that we longed for. So we know that’s waiting for us.
Yeah, absolutely. Doctor, well, it’s been really fascinating. Again, speaking with you, I really appreciate what you do. I appreciate your work with ions. I love your your holistic, well rounded view of human beings. I wish every medical professional could be like you and and hopefully we’ll get there one day. But any last thoughts? Before we wrap up today?
Um, well, I just want to encourage people that no matter where you are, no matter where you are, you are where you need to be. You just you just get started from wherever you are. And it doesn’t mean you know, if you feel like, you know, oh, I’ve blown it. I’ve made some bad choices. I have a bad attitude. I can’t, you know, I can’t like put my life together in some positive way. Yes, you can. It’s not going to happen overnight. But you can start from wherever you are. Doesn’t mean you can do it by yourself, either. You might have to reach out with some help.
Yeah, yeah. I think that’s really, really important, really profound because people have so many regrets about the past, but every day is a new beginning. Every day, you can start over to start over in this moment, and just just dedicate yourself to proving yourself going forward. Where can people reach you if they want to find out more about you?
Well, my website is rebeccasvallamd.com
I don’t you know, people ask, you know, do you do like virtual sessions and things so that, you know, they can reach me if they live out of my area. I really am not set up for that I have a full time practice of my in my office. But I will try to talk to people, if they want some guidance or, you know, they, if they want, I will try to point them in the right direction. And, you know, that sort of thing. Yeah, a lot of different books. There are books on my website that they can look at.
Okay, so resources are your website, and everybody can find you at lions this this fall.
That’s right, please come to our virtual conference this fall. It’s over Labor Day weekend.
Brian Smith 1:05:42
Yeah, I’ll put a link to that in the show notes. It’s not again, it’s really great seeing you again, enjoy the rest of your day. Thanks so much, Brian. Thank you. Bye. So that does it for another episode of grief to growth. I sure hope you enjoyed it. If you like this content, make sure you subscribe. So click on the subscribe button here, and then click on the bell to receive notifications and click on all that way you’ll be notified whenever I release new content. Thanks for watching and have a great day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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